Chapter Seven: Personnel, The Uninspired Country
Perched on the top of the filing cabinets, Roj watched the women of Personnel at their work. She considered that they must have been carefully screened at their hiring, so that only the slowest and least motivated made it to the final round of hiring. Four of them did the work of one, and every desk had a stack of backlogged folders. Typically, they would file the paper stuff, make a note of the name on a tablet, and at their leisure, pull the file out of the cabinet to update information on the computer. As the computer data were finished, the name on the tablet would be crossed out. All four of them did their lists the same way; which of them was the originator of this brilliant methodology, Roj did not know.
At about a quarter to ten, the women began to talk more and type less, standing and stretching their arms. They visited the restroom in the hall one at a time, the remaining three chatting familiarly as though catching up on news after weeks apart. Roj toured their desks, noting that not one of them had signed off her computer; that could be turned to an advantage. At ten o'clock exactly, the ladies sighed with relief and commiserated about how long a morning it had been so far, left and locked the office and went to the break room down the hall.
Shaking her spectral head with disgust, Roj inwardly expressed gratitude that she had not been hired into this office, and got Garrison's wallet from behind the potted plant.
It held his drivers license, a medical insurance card, two gold and two platinum credit cards, a BevMo Club card, a membership card to the very exclusive Hightower Country Club as well as one to LipLock, the members-only strip club atop the Domino Building. "You're a real high roller, Garrison, my pal," Roj muttered. "Let me look up where you live, and I'll bet I can find your Social Security Number, and then we'll play Father Christmas and Happy Halloween with your accounts. Oh! How will you like it if I cancel your automotive insurance and then wreck your car?"
"Don't do that," said Desai.
"Because it is only maliciousness, and will assist you not at all."
"We'll see. Maybe it will. It was just a thought, anyway. I can't guarantee anyone would hear me if I made a phone call. So far the only people who have actually heard me were a kid, a druggie, and Matt. Say, how did that druggie hear me?"
Desai declined to answer.
Roj plied the copy machine and made copies of the front of the cards, and the backs. She tucked the cards back into the wallet, and examined the bills in the money pocket. "Holy cow, he packs three hundred fifty-six dollars just to go to work? When I was killed, I only had about four dollars in bills and coins in my purse." There was a slim side pocket in the money side of the wallet, out of which Roj teased a piece of torn legal pad paper with fifteen numbers written on it in blue ink. She copied that, also, thinking she could call the numbers and learn a little, even if she wasn't able to question them. On a whim, she took the original paper and stuffed it into a random file drawer, all the way to the very bottom, where it would only be found by archeologists in several thousand years.
The copies themselves Roj folded and placed behind the radiator where she could get to them easily when she needed them. The wallet she returned to the potted plant for concealment.
Going to Mavis Buchwald's desk and computer monitor, Roj typed in Matt's name. His file came up showing "LOA" but that seemed odd, as her funeral had been days ago and the usual time allotted for grieving and funerals was about three days. She scrolled down to the next page, found no information that was helpful, then the next, and the next ... nothing. In the file cabinets, she found that his file had been removed. Great, I'm going to have to go through the stacks on these dimwits' desks to find out what's up with Matt.
She looked at the clock, seeing that she was running out of time. How had she made time seem to slow when she was watching Garrison go nuts? She could not remember, and now scanned the stacks of files on the desks, looking for a "T."
There it was, "Trapester, Matthew K." She pulled it out and opened it, flipped through it to the last page of stuff. Leave Of Absence, approved, signed by some illegible signature, Return to Work: dependent upon mental state, subject to review.
"What does that mean?" Roj asked the air.
Desai appeared beside her. "It means when he recovered consciousness, and found you dead, he tried to commit suicide with his sidearm. His fellow officers prevented him, but he did spend three days in the hospital under observation."
"Ah, Matt," Roj sighed. "You dope." She stuffed the papers back into the folders, tucked it back in the stack. "So he's off the force until the shrink clears him."
"Is the shrink in on Garrison's game?"
"I don't know that."
"So, who are you, anyway?" Roj asked. "You know an awful lot, but also an awful little, or maybe you're just keeping it secret to have an upper hand."
"I am Desai. I have told you that."
"And you're here with me because ... Come on, Desai, answer this for me or take off and quit bothering me."
"You are in my charge."
"You are in my charge."
"What if I don't want you to be in charge of me? Will you go away?"
"No," Desai said, with some kind of sorrow that held no tears. "I have been assigned, and I will stay with you."
"Assigned?" Roj sputtered. "By whom?"
"By the Most High, of course," Desai said. "Who else?"
"You mean God."
The door to the office opened and the four ladies trooped back in, cackling and lamenting how long it would be until their lunchtime two hours hence. A patrolman with an armful of folders followed them in. "Where do you want these, ladies?"
"Just put them on the counter, Sweetie. We'll take care of them from here."
"You hear about Danny Chuster?" the youthful patrolman said -- Furhman, she thought his name was, Jim Furhman -- "they found him in his apartment, drug overdose."
"Oh, my," said one of the women. "And he was just up here, what, last week to check the computers, the same day that Mr. Garrison had to send emails? Wasn't that when? And then after that your computer had that virus Danny had to scan for, and print out all those copies to make sure it was fixed?"
Well, that solved one little mystery, sort of, as she had no idea what Danny had done to access Garrison's emails. But Garrison was using Personnel computers to send his nasty little messages.
"He was a fat young thing, but he did know how to make sure my computer was running smooth," said the woman, who had to have matched Danny for weight. "My, God, doing drugs like that, what was he thinking. I'll never understand this generation."
"The file drawer was out and his file was on top, open, when I came in this morning," said one of the other ladies, her eyes wide. "Did any of you leave it out?"
They all answered in the negative, looking at each other in alarm, like a bunch of chickens in a coop, trying to determine from the flock whether or not they should be scared.
Roj realized she had left the computer on Matt's file, and flew across the room before Ms. Chicken Number Three had time to get to her desk. She right-clicked on the window and closed the application.
"No," said another of the hens. "I was the last one out, and there were no file drawers open. Isn't that odd?"
"Do you think -- I know it's crazy, but do you think he might be haunting the precinct?"
"Danny? Whoever heard of a fat geek ghost?"
Danny, what if I impersonated you? Would you mind? It would draw some of the heat off Matt.
Desai. Danny was gone, and Desai, she thought, was still just watching to see what she would do.
The woman with the computer and desk farthest from the door got up and went to the woman closest to the door to whisper something about files and Danny Chuster. Roj moved in to her station like a tsunami, and moused the display fervently, Flag, Shut Down. The computer obligingly shut off.
When the heavy-set woman came back to her desk, she exclaimed, "Oh, what now? The stupid thing turned itself off."
Roj watched her closely as she turned the machine on again and typed her password, opened the department program and with its own necessary password. Thank you so much, sister.
Another patrolman came into the office with an armful of folders and a stack of junk mail. Roj grabbed Garrison's wallet and hid it near his arm as she floated alongside him down the hall to the elevator, to the ground floor. Roj dropped the wallet near Hennessey's desk and shoved it beneath, but not before removing the money. That she wadded up into a roll and taped to the bottom of Hennessey's desk for the time being. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do with it, but she did want to antagonize Garrison and cause trouble between him and his grimy little chums.
"And now what are you going to do?" Desai asked, beside her.
"I have no idea."
"Are you ready to move on, then, and forget about Matt and your murder?"
"No, I'm not. What are you, a taxi driver? You're hoping for a fare to the next stage, whatever that might be?"
"No, no, no, I'm with you to the very origin. But you seem weary, as though you are tired of this effort."
Roj looked at Desai, the face, the clothes, the halo of goodness that surrounded him/her.
"Desai, it seems like there's no way to win. Where there's not outright evil, there's rampant stupidity and laziness and ignorance. Yeah, that makes me feel tired, like there's no point to trying to right wrongs, like that dirt bunny by the steps of Matt's apartment said."
"Let's look at what you want to happen," Desai suggested. "You want Matt to escape this targeting action. What all has to happen before that takes place?"
Roj tried to focus on cause and effect. "Well, part of that has already happened, with the psych papers and his forced LOA."
"So there's no real need for his opponents to kill him while he's crazy."
"No. So beyond Matt's personal issues, there's the meth highway through the city, that made Garrison target Matt."
"Roj, what can you do about that? Many people have tried to stop the use and sale of that poison."
"I know that, but there has to be something I can do. Are you going to stay with me?"
"Of course. I am with you permanently.
"Ewww. That's like saying you're a leech."
"Don't be stupid. I require nothing of you."
"Then why would you be with me?"
"Because you are," Desai said.
"That seems odd to me," Roj told him, her, whatever. "Because I never asked for a partner in this adventure."
"I'm not a partner."
"But you're here with me, talking with me, helping me, what the hell do you call that?"
"Certainly not Hell. And not your partner."