Chase Your Bone
Robbie Paloma stood slack-jawed and frowning in the sexarium, tapping at the built-in stereo’s touchscreen as water trickled down his face from the rainfall ceiling. A moment earlier the stereo had filled the room with the glorious pleas of Pavarotti, but now the speakers had fallen silent, the display gone black. Biting his upper lip, he slammed the screen with a measured hit from the butt of his palm. The plastic housing cracked, and he barely caught the whole unit as it fell out of the wall, leaving him standing there with a wet pile of electronic guts in his hands.
“Baby, I think the shower stereo needs new batteries,” he hollered, looking down at the mess of circuit boards. “Or something,” he muttered to himself. Though he tried to project confidence, he had no idea if the stereo even took batteries. Knowing this house, it might be solar. It could be powered by the moon. He contented himself that at least he’d remembered to say shower instead of sexarium, though even that had been an innocent enough mistake - the glass and tile enclosure had room for six people, with even a cedar bench for timeouts, so he still felt like he’d been set up when he asked for her draft picks were they to bring in a third.
When Nelly didn’t answer, Robbie opened the glass door and stepped into the bathroom relishing, as always, the exquisite warmth of the radiant heated floor. That floor would dry you between your toes while you stood and shaved.
There are luxuries in life such as you might never guess at. Then, after you experienced them even once, you'd forever be doomed to stand on a regular floor with your soggy toes disgruntled and hard done by, though you know you’re getting soft when even your feet have opinions.
He didn't stop to shave now. Nelly hadn’t answered him, which suggested she might have crawled back into bed. That had only happened once before, but it still made for an A-Class fantasy start to the day. Wrapping the towel around himself, he tiptoed to the bedroom like a commando on a mission behind the lines.
She was not in bed. In fact, she'd made her side of the bed already, and he had to chuckle at that - bitching at him without even being there. And folded on his pillow sat another of her little fucking notes.
He plopped himself down on the bed and passed the note under his nose. The paper carried a faint scent of her perfume, though it never smelled as good as it did on her skin. He gave the note an exploratory lick and popped it in his mouth. He’d only chewed once before it occurred to him that it might be something important - an address for a party tonight, or instructions to finally get an exorcist for her yappy five-pound dog. He slipped it from his mouth, folded it open, and read, the words all laid out in that delicate little handwriting of hers that looked like lace lingerie and made you crazy with the thought of sucking on the very fingers that wrote with such elegant curves.
I can’t do it anymore. The lies were exciting to me at first, but now I see I’m only lying to myself. It feels like this business wraps itself around me like a snake, until I can’t even breathe. And I was so scared. If we had a child, I’d be trapped forever. First my father, then Motor, and now you. I’m sorry, but I can’t surrender my life.
P.S. I changed the codes for the burglar alarm. It will turn on at noon. So please be gone by then.
Robbie read the note over three times, stunned and flaccidated by the unfairness of it. They’d finally made up last night after a huge effort on his part, but already she'd changed her mind again. Over nothing, too. Because the doctor said she’d never been pregnant in the first place, and false alarms happen. Not that even a doctor’s word counted for anything. He was still stuck wearing two condoms, like his sperm had watched too many Houdini videos.
He heard the low buzzing of her garage door opening, directly below the master bedroom. With no time to think, he bolted up and ran to the sliding doors which led out onto the front balcony. Vaulting over the railing, he slid down the cedar shake roof on his heels, then flipped over onto his belly as he reached the gutter. He dropped onto the pea-gravel driveway, landing firmly on two feet like an action hero.
A naked action hero as it turned out, his towel caught on the roof, mocking him as it waved back and forth.
Nelly’s Mercedes had already backed halfway down the driveway, and she had her face turned away from him facing the road. He charged over on tippy-toes, the pea gravel hurting his over-sensitive feet. Drumming his hands over the hood of the car as he scampered over to the car, he pulled the driver’s side door open.
The car stopped, and Nelly shrieked – first with surprise, then anger. She was thirty-five and Chinese, and absolutely radiant when she flushed with emotion.
“Robbie! What the hell? Oh my God. You’re naked!” she yelled, looking all around the quiet Shaughnessy street of mansions to see which of her neighbors might be witnessing this scandal.
“Listen, baby,” Robbie pleaded, shaking the note, “can we at least go back inside and talk about it?”
She took a deep breath and looked straight ahead, refusing to let him in her field of sight. “There’s nothing to talk about. I already made my decision.”
“I can’t just walk out. You gotta give me a bit of time. Motor needs me. He relies on me.”
It was no good, he could see that. He worked his tongue around his mouth, but it refused to help him out. Words had never been his strength. He had a thousand moves, but there was only one that had the slightest chance of working here. “So, what was last night about? Was that really so awful?”
She still refused to look at him, but closed her eyes and bit at her lower lip. “Yes, okay. It was kind of wonderful, but…”
He tucked a finger beneath her chin and gently led it toward him. And then her eyes. There they were, her eyes, flitting like there were little birds captured in there, living a full life of their own.
“Come inside. We can kind of wonderful in the sexarium while we figure all this out.”
Shit. She blinked, and he knew that he’d lost her. She blinked again, and it was overkill.
“Damn you,” she said, shaking her head. “How you always do that to me?”
“No. You’re a good man, Robbie. But now you have to, I don’t know, go chase your bone somewhere else.”
With that, the car lurched backward, fast enough he had to spin to get out of the way. The driver’s door slammed shut and the tires squealed as she ripped along the quiet street, lined with stately residences and cherry trees like spring’s cheerleaders with their pink pompom blossoms. In this neighborhood. Jesus. Even he knew better than that.
A neighbor popped out of the mansion next door, Chinese, in her fifties and wearing a luxurious purple velvet tracksuit with matching flip flops. She didn’t confront Robbie’s nakedness with her eyes, but advanced across her lawn in a huff to a rose bush and trimmed it while repeatedly clearing her throat in a manner reminiscent of a furious llama he’d seen on NatGeo.
The front door was locked. The roof entry was doable, but right now he couldn’t afford some neighbor telling Nelly about the naked man climbing on her roof. He hunted around until he found what he was looking for: an upscale remake of a paper lantern hanging above the front garden. He pulled out one of the ribs - a springy piece of wire - and wiggled it until it broke into two pieces. Giving one end of the wire a sharp bend over the letterbox, he fashioned it into a crude pick and rake. Not an ideal set of tools by any stretch, but he managed to spring the lock on the seventh try.
His shelf in the fridge didn’t offer much in the way of breakfast - condiments and cold cuts. He took the last wad of capicollo, wrote ‘fuck it’ on the top slice with squirt-bottle mustard, and wolfed it down in three bites. Your boss is never going to tell you to get a new girlfriend, so why should it work any different the other way around? The way it was looking now, he might actually have to follow through with the accountancy school thing.
Flipping open the garbage can lid to dispose of the deli wrapper, he stopped. Laying there on top of the garbage was what appeared to be a voodoo doll, split in half right down the middle. With a chill running up his back, he retrieved the broken figure and studied it more closely, fitting the two halves back together. It was made from a single piece of fibrous wood, or maybe a root. Though it lacked any facial features, its petite voodoo boobs were about Nelly’s size. The thighs were grossly huge and lumpy, which struck him as somebody just asking for it. The legs thinned down to two dainty feet.
He brought the doll upstairs while he got dressed, occasionally glancing over at it as he pleasured his suit with a quick steaming. Nelly had no enemies he was aware of. Whatever bad juju existed in her life came to her through her family, which was why Motor had assigned Robbie to watch over her in the first place.
But if somebody had threatened her, that could explain her breaking up with him. She was always trying to protect him, even though their relationship was supposed to be the other way around. If somebody was out there making threats, Motor would be the first to know.
That settled what he needed to do. He’d go in to the club early, and hope that the boss man was around.
After getting dressed, he walked the block to where his car was parked, in a garage he rented from a retired dentist out of an abundance of caution. He pulled his cellphone out of the glovebox – an abundance of caution again – and called Nelly’s cell. It went to voicemail on the first ring. She always blocked him after a big fight, but he was surprised she’d set it up already. He told her voicemail a sexy story about her toes. She hated her toes. It was her biggest flaw, and she was always dumbfounded he could find nice things to say about them.
But she’d always listen.
Elsie Goes Down
Waiting at a red light on his way downtown, Robbie pulled the accounting school’s business card from his wallet and studied it again. Green print, same tint as American money. When he dialed the number it went straight to a recording. Two voices, a man and a woman, playing good receptionist bad receptionist with him. Telling him he was important, then warning him he was a nobody without a career. He tried to remember the talking points Gabe had given him, asking about getting credit for professional experience. He did collections sometimes. Apparently, this was considered an actual legitimate skill in the straight-up business world, where it was called accounts receivable. He did payouts too, accounts payable, though that wasn’t a topic you could talk about much without getting snuffed. But the truth of it was, handling accounts was his least favorite job. It was barely interesting even when you stood the chance of getting busted or robbed. The thought of doing that all day without even the threat of jail—he had no idea how people did it. Or, for that matter, why he’d suggested accounting in the first place. She’d caught him off-guard, asking him in bed if he could be anything - anything in the world - what would he choose to be. The kind of question there’s no incorrect answer for, but he still managed to choose wrong, saying a grizzly bear. What followed had been a whole night of tears, with Nelly accusing him of having no plans for the future, no life beyond the Triad, no future but prison.
Just like her father, rotting in a Chinese cell the rest of his life. It wasn’t as if her answer was any better – she wanted to surround herself with ‘little people’, and help them grow in peace and harmony.
A woman finally answered the phone, her voice light and cheerful. “Yeah,” Robbie said, pulling into the right lane and slowing down – Vancouver etiquette for chatting while driving. “I was calling to find out about your programs.”
She asked what he enjoyed doing. A trap question, but one he had prepared for. “I like order. Precision. Knowing that things are in the right place.” He’d randomly stalked accountants in the club for weeks before he’d gotten that answer, because even accountants knew better than to come out and say they enjoyed accounting.
Interests? “I like animals,” he said. Everybody likes animals.
“So, maybe something like veterinary science? Have you considered perhaps becoming a veterinarian assistant?”
“Nothing to do with sick animals. Just the, you know, the healthy ones.”
“We offer a meat-cutter certificate. Do you know what an abattoir is?”
Robbie winced. That was all he needed. Nelly would think he’d gone full pscyho, killing fucking innocent animals. The car behind him honked, so he stepped on the gas and snarled. It wasn’t as if he’d stopped intentionally.
“Not killing. The opposite, even. Looking after them, protecting them.”
She let out a sigh. “Okay, animal husbandry then. Does the idea of farm work appeal to you?”
They were getting closer, though he didn’t like the idea of being stuck in one place. A man still needed to drive and roam around.
Her tone flipped on him, developing an angry edge. “Is this a joke, or are you seriously expecting that we offer programs in becoming a cowboy?”
Flushing with embarrassment, he broke down and asked her straight up about accounting instead. That got her talking. It turned out there were more flavors of accountants than Robbie had ever dreamed of. Even forensic accounting. But before he could ask her what a murdered guy would need an accountant for, she was offering to email him an application form and a program guide. He had a spitball of inspiration, and convinced her to fax it to Nelly’s office instead, figuring that might shave some points off his handicap on its own.
He was climbing onto the Burrard Bridge headed downtown when a silver Jag swerved in from his left, forcing him right up against the edge of the bridge. In one swift motion he disconnected the call, popped the hidden compartment open and had his nine wrapped in five. He sped up to catch the Jag, hoping through his gritted teeth that this was somehow connected to the voodoo doll. It wasn’t likely, but who knew? Maybe he could put some sleazebag down and be back in Nelly’s good books by lunchtime.
When the Jag stopped at a red light on the north end of the bridge, Robbie slowly pulled up alongside while rolling down his window, his pistol tucked discreetly between his left arm and the door. When he looked over, a dog jumped at the Jag’s front window and started barking at him. A little purple dog with a full-body afro. The old lady in the driver’s seat reached out and grabbed the poodle, propping it up on her lap with its front legs over the wheel like the mutt was driving. The dog looked over at Robbie, snarky as could be, and snarled. It took an inhuman amount of restraint, but Robbie flicked the safety back on and rolled up the window.
The parking lot behind the club was almost empty. He pulled up to his own personal spot, as indicated by the ‘Robbiano’ written on the brick wall behind the stall in elaborate tagger script. That had been Gabe’s idea, Robbiano, on account of Robbie’s Italian heritage. He liked the sound of it, tough but elegant, serious yet classy. Or ‘Robbino’. So long as it wasn’t Robbioli, making him sound like a noodle, all bloated and limp.
The club was empty at this early hour, but Gabe was behind the main bar futzing with the light display. Gabe managed the club, a position which he kept trying to parlay into more of a set designer role. He neglected everything about the rest of his staff - bartenders, waitresses and bouncers. He couldn’t give a fuck except for their attire. Gabe was the only full-fledged Triad member who worked for the club. He was also the only gay guy in the Vancouver operation. Robbie figured this had something to do with why they got along so well, since he himself was the only non-Chinese. Both he and Gabe were outsiders, or at least Gabe was generous enough to make Robbie feel like they had a special bond.
“Motor in yet?” Robbie asked, nodding toward the back offices on the second floor.
Gabe looked up from his electrical work for the barest of moments. “Move slowly. Avoid making eye contact.”
Robbie slumped and grabbed a bottle from behind the bar. He poured himself a shot. That was all he needed. His stomach churned as he looked toward the stairs.
Motor wasn’t a big guy. There was no logical reason why Robbie should feel even the slightest degree of physical intimidation, but Motor could fly into a rage like an undersexed bull pumped full of steroids after a cow-porn marathon. More than once, Robbie had seen genuine tough guys reduced to openly weeping by the sheer primal force of Motor’s presence, though the man stood all of five foot six. It was no great mystery why the Golden Dragons had chosen Motor to head up their West Coast operations. You didn’t get to be one of China’s biggest Triads by being gentle about it.
Robbie took a deep breath. “What’s it this time?” Hoping it was nothing he’d done.
Gabe frowned, still focused on his lights. “The bears hit Elsie last night. From his mood, I’m guessing he lost ten million. Maybe more.”
The Bears. Robbie found it difficult to keep track of it all sometimes. The Lotus, Big Circle Boys, Triple Eight, along with all the local gangs and the Hong Kong Triads. But the Bears? He’d never heard of them. He checked his phone, pleasantly surprised but mystified to see that nobody had called him in. He slammed his fist on the bar top. “So, we gonna hit ‘em back, or what?”
Gabe’s eyes oscillated between confusion and mirth, confusion starting out the stronger, but mirth coming in hard and overtaking it. He let out a full gut-born laugh and shook his head. “Elsie’s the stock market, Robbie. The London Stock Exchange? What are you going to do, beat up every broker on the planet?”
Robbie flushed. This fucking day already. London Stock Exchange. It served Motor right. A man’s money should sleep when he did. It shouldn’t be out gallivanting halfway across the world, getting into who knows what kind of trouble. He poured himself another shot. It tasted disgusting, like cotton candy in a bottle. He checked the label, reading with his face all puckered up. Sure enough, it was a candy floss liqueur. Fucking kids these days.
Gabe took the bottle from Robbie’s hand and slid it back into its rightful place behind the bar. “Hey,” he said, “what are you doing in so early for? If you want some extra action, Khan’s looking for some guys.”
Gabe was the one guy in the Triad who knew about Nelly, the one guy Robbie could tell. Robbie’s eyes drifted to the floor.
“She broke it off with me.”
That got Gabe’s full attention. He straightened his back and couched his lips in a warm smile of bittersweet empathy.
“That’s such a relief. Listen. You might not feel that way now, but you are one lucky man. You’re a lucky, lucky man.”
“Listen to me. Now that it’s over, Motor never has to find out. You dodged a bullet. You dodged like thirty bullets, and a rusty knife. And a corkscrew.”
Robbie pounded his fist on the bar, grimacing as he sucked back the last taste of cotton candy out of his mouth.
“You’re right. It’s all for the best.” He looked up the stairs. “It’s all hunky dory.”
He could hear Motor yelling from the top of the stairs already, even though he was separated from Motor’s office by two solid doors and fifty feet of carpeted corridor. Nobody else was talking, the target of his wrath having wisely gone mute. Robbie knocked on the door and entered, finding Motor on the phone, sitting behind his sleek mahogany desk the size of a boat, wearing nothing but an undershirt, his suit hanging on a butler rack beside the desk. He was barking orders into the phone. Robbie didn’t speak Mandarin, so he didn’t have a clue what was being said, other than when Motor said “my nigga”, and gave him a wink. For the longest time, Robbie’d thought “my nigga” was Motor talking about him. It had pissed him off. It had hurt, being honest, but he hadn’t said anything - not until Nelly called him “my nigga” too, and he’d found out it meant something different in Mandarin. It meant “I’ll take that.”
Motor spat “my nigga” into the phone and threw it on his desk, breathing heavy. He groaned in frustration. “When a man gets too much wealth, he sometimes forgets who he works for.”
Robbie gestured toward the phone and popped a shoulder. “This something I can maybe help with? Pay this guy a visit?”
Motor laughed. “Sadly, no. Unfortunately, my broker is very good at what he does. I am sending him on a holiday. I’m hoping he’ll regain his perspective when he returns.”
This wasn’t the Motor that Robbie was used to. He’d gone soft. “Maybe I should screw up,” Robbie said. “It’s been a while since I had a holiday.”
And there it was, Motor’s eyes bright with malice, riding over a repressed smile full of vicious appetites. “I’m sending him to a three-day retreat at a survival camp in Kansas. No internet. No phone reception. Just white supremacists and guns. Those people do not even read. Perhaps once he meets the sort of people an economic collapse will unleash, he will learn to protect our assets better.”
Robbie chuckled at this, though he still figured it would be simpler to break the guy’s arm.
“I’m actually glad you came in early,” Motor said. “I don’t need you for my cousin’s security any longer, so I have a new job for you. You’ll be running the bank smurfs.”
Robbie felt dizzy. This was all happening too fast. And driving smurfs around was the worst job ever. He held up a finger, like a drowning man with a snorkel. “Wait a second. Who’s looking after her then? Not fucking Boots.” Boots had introduced himself to Robbie as Big Circle’s senior forty-nine - the number indicating a genuine-made Triad soldier. The problem with this was there was no such thing as a senior forty-nine. Nobody was forty-nine and a half, forty-nine and a quarter. You were forty-nine and that’s it. But since Boots had been around longest, he considered it an insult if he didn’t get first refusal on a gig. Only problem was, Boots was over forty years old now - ancient for a soldier. He was still decent with a pistol, but worthless in hand-to-hand, and the clubs Nelly liked to frequent didn’t let anyone pack, no matter who you were.
“Nobody is looking after her. She came by this morning to get her passport from the safe. She’s flying back to Guangdong today. Horrible timing. I asked her to wait a couple days, but she can be quite stubborn.” His voice trailed off, and he squinted at Robbie. “Would you know anything about this? Did something happen? Something to make her want to go home?”
Robbie tightened his throat, not trusting whatever might come out, and stood there dumb with his mouth open. The other problem with Boots: he constantly ogled Nelly in a way that made you want to pop his eyeballs out. This day kept getting worse. He loosened his tie and shook his head, cleared his throat.
“Hey, would you have something else I could do? Anything. Thing is, I can’t understand most smurfs for shit.”
Smurfs were almost all old people, often first-generation Mainland Chinese with little English beyond “money, condo, house”. The thing about smurfs was, China busted serious balls about taking money out of the country. The max you could take out legally was fifty grand a year, and to do even that much you had to file a bunch of paperwork whose sole purpose was to draw attention to yourself. A lot of money wanted to cross that border, and that’s where the smurfs came in.
The easiest way to get a fortune out of China was to break the cash up into chunks of under ten grand each. On the China side, you’d get a whole crowd of people - smurfs - to each deposit one chunk into an account. On the Canadian side, you’d repeat the process in reverse. For a transfer of a million bucks, it meant driving over a hundred smurfs to the banks in China, and then the same number back in Canada. Since smurfs were old people, they mostly looked at a trip to the bank in a nice car as an outing - forget the twenty bucks they earned for their time. And every single one of them had a side trip they wanted to make.
Motor nodded and raised his eyebrows. “I have one other thing that I could use you for. Could be a chance for you to upgrade your skills.” He got up from behind his desk and stretched. Beside the t-shirt, Robbie could now see the man was wearing striped boxer shorts and socks. He led Robbie out of the office and down the hall, moving with the wide-legged gait of a self-contented man or maybe hemorrhoids, and beckoning with a curled finger. The beckoning wasn’t necessary - Robbie had liked everything about the sound of a skills upgrade, and followed Motor so attentively it’d put a duckling to shame.
Motor led Robbie toward the rear offices, which went mostly unused these days. The office closest to the fire escape had once played host to an endless mahjong game, but that had only lasted until the Triad’s security freaks visited from Guangdong. They’d covered up all the windows with deep tint and sheet metal armor, and blocked off the fire escape with heavy iron grating. After that, it felt more like a prison than a place you could chill out in. A piss-soaked prison, thanks to some disgruntled forty-nine who relieved themselves against the grating as a protest against the loss of his smoking patio on the fire escape.
Motor produced a key and wiggled it in the lock of an office door, Robbie excited enough he wanted to bust the door down. Finally the key turned, and Motor turned toward Robbie with a proud smile.
“This job should keep you busy at least a month. After that, we’ll see how it goes.”
A month? Robbie’s level of intrigue perked up even further. He’d always tended toward the more in-and-out kind of jobs. As far as he could recall, he’d never had a job that took a whole month before. His record was shy of three weeks, hunting down a bad gambling debt. He’d travelled to Reno, then Vegas and Florida, a casino in every city and a comped suite in every casino. Robbie had even stretched the gig out a couple of extra days after he’d found his guy. But a whole month? Then he remembered they had huge casinos in Asia. He’d never been to Macau.
Motor swung the door open and waved Robbie in. Robbie tried to keep the glee off his face as he walked into the little space, expecting maybe a map room detailing the known movements of his high-value fugitive, along with a wall of surveillance photos. She could even be female and hot for that matter.
There was no map, no photos. In the middle of the room stood a machine the size of a punching bag. It had some cables coming off it, leading to a laptop perched atop a cheap foldout table. Other than some boxes piled in the corner, that was it. And tube fluorescent lighting flickering above it all, casting the room with a sick yellow tint, like the whole world had jaundice.
While Robbie stood quietly taking this all in and trying to decide how he felt about it, Motor slit open one of the boxes. Inside was a bunch of smaller boxes, one of which he also slit open. And inside that, even smaller boxes. It reminded Robbie of those nesting Russian dolls, the tiniest one with a condom inside, which Russian girls used as a traditional way of letting you know when they were up for it.
Motor opened the tiniest box up and pulled out a piece of plastic, which he handed to Robbie. Not a condom, a credit card. A blank credit card. Robbie studied it closely. No name or dates on it. It had the hologram and the security chip, but was otherwise a virgin piece of plastic, giving off that subtle pornographic vibe - use me, don’t be gentle.
“This is huge,” he said, flipping the card over in his hand. He squinted, recalling something that troubled him. “But I thought the Toronto crew ran the plastic game.”
Motor snatched the card back with zero decorum, reminding Robbie that bringing up the Toronto crew was a perilous move at the best of times. Toronto was like Boots, figuring they deserved some kind of seniority. The Gold Dragons had roots in Toronto stretching back to ancient history, the seventies. But the big shots from Asia were never keen on visiting Toronto - a tendency that Motor had become adept at exploiting. When a powerful visitor flew in from across the Pacific, he’d get them drunk and stash them aboard a luxury motorhome. They’d wake up somewhere in a luxurious mountain lodge. They’d shoot a deer, catch a fish or two, ride a helicopter up to an isolated mountaintop brunch, and never mention Toronto again. They’d return home to China fat and happy, saying fuck Toronto, buy me a house here.
Motor pushed a button on the punching bag machine and a tray opened up. He deposited the virgin credit card on the tray, and gently slid it closed. After moving back to the computer, he typed Robbie’s name. Robbie watched mesmerized as the dropdown for card status toggled over to Platinum. New golf clubs, baby.
The punching bag machine made the faintest of queefs, and the tray popped open. Motor reached for it, but Robbie slapped his hand away and extracted the card himself.
“Robbiano Paloma”, it said, with an expiry date five years worth of shopping orgies away. The quality was incredible. Hell yeah, he thought. He could sell these things. He could sell them no problem at all.
“I’ll do it,” he said, flipping open his wallet to accept his newest and most favorite child.
Motor caught him by the wrist. “Slow down. You can’t actually use it. We didn’t even hook it up to a real account”. With zero ceremony, he took a pair of scissors off the desk and cut the card in half. Robbie looked at his wallet, flaps still wide open like the beak of a baby bird - a baby bird that would starve to death now, and so much for new golf clubs.
From his vest pocket, Motor produced a sheaf of papers which he smoothed out on the desk. “Every day we’ll get a list of fresh accounts. Once the numbers come in, it’s important we work fast. These numbers go bad faster than a seafood buffet.” Chuckling to himself, he shoved the papers at Robbie, who stared down at them in utter bafflement.
“Whoa,” Robbie said, once he’d figured out the conversation’s general trajectory. “You want me to do the computer stuff? I mean, let’s take a step back here. I don’t even type.”
Motor stretched his back and fixed Robbie with a level glare. “You’ll manage.” Saying it without moving his jaw.
Robbie tried another tack. “Motor. Let’s step back and look at this picture here just a second. On the one hand, you got me. A guy can squat six hundred pounds. A guy can put five rounds in five inches at fifty feet in five seconds. A guy who’s got twenty years in martial arts. I wear a three thousand dollar suit, I can get nine out of ten assholes on the street to piss themselves just by looking into their eyes and thinking about what I want for supper. You really want me programming some computer?”
Motor sighed. “You’re forgetting one thing. There is only one skill I demand from all my people. Tell me - do you have this skill?”
Talking about doing what they were told. Robbie hung his head and nodded like a kid getting reamed by his coach. Motor snorted in triumph, and slapped him on the back.
“Good. I’ll come back in a couple of hours. See how you’re getting along.” Leaving Robbie alone in the cramped little office, under this flickering yellow fluorescent like the room itself was ready to die.