Part 4 of 5. Sci-Fi , Image by "> Gamble 04 by Sailor Jim Johnston; short Part 4 of 5. Sci-Fi " />
Piker Press Banner
November 27, 2023
"Mes de los Muertos"

Gamble 04

By Sailor Jim Johnston

"But that's freaking nuts, Pol!" I finally blurted out. "I've made tons of mistakes in my life, bunches of wrong choices . . . hell, I damn near destroyed my life and everything I held dear by making bad choices!! Lost everything; family, friends, money, respect," I barked a laugh, "self-respect . . . my Dad stands to lose his house because of it!

"You lost three hundred, twenty-four thousand, eight hundred and fifty-three dollars through gambling, to be precise. Even though you always bet the smart way, with the odds and never backing a long shot, you managed to lose damn near everything you owned. Your wife, Ann, divorced you and lives with a lesbian lover in Utah (of all places), your daughter, Amy, didn't speak to your for almost a year, and your father, Winifred . . . " He paused to give me the look. Well, most did when they heard Dad's name. "Winifred? Well, he paid off your gambling debts, thus saving your fairly wretched life, by taking out a terrible mortgage. With a bank I own, actually, so stop worrying about him losing his house."

He looked over at me, and burst out laughing at my shocked expression. "Yup, been keeping close tract of you for almost a year and had investigators looking back further than that. I said you are a business precognitive, Ruck. Your problem was that your gambling had nothing to do with your business dealings! Nada, zip, swabo to the second power; you didn't even make any bets from your business phone or during business hours. Please note that, in spite of all the rest of your life going to shit, you were never fired. You quit in a burst of masochistic self abuse, even after your boss did her best to convince you to stay." He sighed and took a sip from his can. "I guess your ability doesn't keep you from deliberately screwing up. This means that you've made the usual number of personal mistakes and goofs, but nothing professionally."

He paused and gave me a sidelong look. "Actually, not just decisions dealing with purely professional matters, either. That time you decided to buck your co-workers and have lunch at your desk, rather than heading over to that new Thai place. They all got deathly ill and you didn't. Then there was the matter of Shirley in Accounting . . . " He held up a hand to forestall my angry outburst. "Okay, okay; I won't go into details, but you remember what happened to the guy who did end up with her that weekend, right?"

Yeah, I did. In traction for nearly five months, all because Shirley never bothered to explain that her 'departed husband' had only departed for three to five at the state pen. Well, he was back in the can doing ten to fifteen for assault, Frank in Shipping still tended to jump at loud noises and walk with a slight limp, and Shirley worked somewhere else.

"Both semi-professional decisions, or - if you'd rather - personal decisions that would have directly affected you, professionally." Pol's sobered up for a moment and glanced at the door separating his office from his assistants. "Although . . . this is somewhat disturbing, actually. You didn't catch Debra's little offer when she made it and I'm not sure what to make of that. It was made within the building and she is a co-worker, and I couldn't care less what she does to whom, so it wouldn't have had any professional impact on you if you'd . . . oh, well," he shrugged and grinned at me again. "Please consider the ten grand to be an advancement bonus and your Dad's mortgage covered as a personal favor from me. Tomorrow morning, you'll start as my Executive Assistant, with a salary and perks to match the position." He jumped to his feet and started walking. "C'mon, I'll show you your new office."

I followed him, still slightly fogged and trying to absorb everything he'd said. We walked back out into the lobby and turned right at the elevators. "As my Executive Assistant, you'll answer only to me. I'll turn you loose on various assignments, using your unique ability to separate the chaff from my wheat. You'll have a secretary, of course, and this will be her office." He rolled his fedora into his open hand and spun without stopping his brisk pace, gesturing at a smaller version of Debra's area, before throwing open a ritzy looking oak door, "And this will be your new cubby. What do you think?"

"Can I get it repainted?" I asked, walking in and taking a look around. Yikes. The room was substantially smaller than Pol's, but so were most concert halls, so it still registered in the 'Holy Moses' end of space. There was an executive sized desk and chair near the back wall, offset slightly towards the right rear corner, with couches facing it on three sides. The opposite corner had a mini-bar setup and a nice area for informal meetings. The rest of the office was empty, but looked about right for a half of a basketball court. I noticed a door to the left of the desk, about where I was considering putting the opposing team bench, and opened it. An executive bathroom, complete with Jacuzzi and soak; it would make a lovely locker room.

"What, you don't like teal?" Pol frowned, looking around.

"Sure, but not every shade, everywhere," I automatically replied. I sat in the leather executive chair and felt it mold itself to me. I peered out of the corner of my eye at the insane man grinning at me and juggling his hat. "You're serious, aren't you? You really believe I'm some sort of super-lucky business type and you decided to become my - you should excuse the expression - fairy godmother?"

He snorted a laugh and I sat back. The chair automatically started to massage my back. I closed my eyes in bliss . . . and came to the instantaneous decision that I wanted to be this person, the person who worked in this office and led this sort of life. Okay, the mega-rich wackado with the hat fetish currently beaming at me was out of his mind, but I'd have to crazy to pass this up. If I played along, I could cover my Dad's mortgage (waitaminute . . . didn't Pol already say it was covered?), pay off my school loans, maybe even maybe put enough away to put Amy back into college before he came to his senses.

I opened my eyes. He was still standing there, delightedly smiling at me and spinning his fedora in little passes through the air. "Well, Pol, I suppose I could force myself to work here. Hell, I might give up my apartment and simply move in." I reluctantly sat up with a sigh; that was a really nice chair. "Might be enough room in the bathroom for my bed"

Pol bounced over, took me by the arm and led me over to the huge window that mostly made up the far wall. He peered out and then pointed to a nearby skyscraper. "Actually, you'll be giving up your apartment and moving into the company sub-penthouse, there. It's only two blocks away and I keep a helicopter pad on the roof, just in case of business needs. I," he modestly coughed into his fist, "live in the penthouse, itself."

"You're kidding!" I stared out the window, my fantasy meter firmly buried in the red.

He glanced at me, frowned, then raised a hand to shade his eyes and looked again. "No, I'm pretty sure I live in the penthouse of that building." He briefly frowned. "Well, maybe it's the skyscraper next to it . . . no matter, my driver will know which one and so will yours."

"No, I mean you must be kidding . . . my driver? I have a driver?"

"Sure you'll have a driver! Comes with the digs and perks, don't you know? You'll have to be readily accessible whenever I need you, so you'll need a form of transportation where you won't have to deal with the concept of finding a parking space, or even being awake. Ouch!" He slapped at my hand. "What the hell was that about!?"

I'd pinched him. "Just checking to see if you were a hallucination. Okay, level with me; what exactly do I have to do to earn all this?"

"I told you already. I'll hand you various assignments and, after looking into them to your satisfaction, you'll give me a decision. For instance, I might ask you to review our Cleveland branch because someone there is embezzling. You'll look into it, maybe go to Cleveland to take a first hand look, then tell me who's stealing from the company. I might have you take over a project or two that's bogged down and decide what needs to be done to get them into production. I might have you review our entire line to determine what products should be discontinued and which should be pushed." He opened the mini-bar and pulled out another couple of soft drinks, and handed one to me. "Your assignments will depend on what the company (i.e. I) best need taken care of at the moment."

I sipped my drink and thought about it. Exactly how long could I keep the gravy train running until Pol woke up? How could I prolong the dream? Computers were a good way to stall. "I'll need good computer equipment, with total access and security."

"No problem."

I thought about it some more. "I'll need an advance on my first check to move."

"What? You need more than the ten grand you already have sitting in my office?" He chuckled. "Greedy, ain't ya? Anyway, you'll be completely moved in two hours after you agree to take the job, company expense. I have a truck and men outside your apartment building, just waiting for the word."

I looked it over from all angles and went for the gold. "Okay, I'll take it . . . but on one condition. I want a ten year contract, with salary and perks spelled out, and I want it written so that even if I'm not the Amazing Kreskin, I still have the job, and I want it written in regular English, not lawyer-speak!"

He walked over to what might become my desk and opened the center drawer, then walked back to the bar. I frowned and walked over to see what was in the drawer, not believing that he could be that sure of himself. Sure enough, one single sided page, six paragraphs of straightforward English; almost exactly as I just stipulated, except it was for fifteen years, rather than ten. No problem, I wanted job security (but the lone difference at least meant he didn't know me as well as he thought). I noticed that the starting salary would take care of my delinquent student loans with my very first paycheck and the schedule of raises cumulated in a yearly salary that would have been the envy of any CEO.

A little over an hour ago, I was worried about making the mortgage payment on Dad's house. Now I could buy Dad a new house at the end of the year or have one custom built for him by the end of the second. Throttling my still nit-picking conscience, I picked up the fountain pen from where it sat next to the contract and signed my . . .

"Only one thing," Pol muttered from where he sat, in a tone I hadn't heard before.

I paused, pen in hand; here it comes, the snake in the garden. "What?"

"You gotta take the office the way it is. Oh, you can have whatever gizmos and gee-gaws you want, but the teal stays." He looked at me and his pixy face had gone hard. I could tell that, for whatever inexplicable reason, this was not a negotiable point. "If you can't deal with teal, forget the deal."

To be continued.

Article © Sailor Jim Johnston. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-09-04
0 Reader Comments
Your Comments

The Piker Press moderates all comments.
Click here for the commenting policy.