Saturday, July 31, 2010

Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 5

  Sharon glanced from the buzzing phone to Hexom, wondering what she should do. He had an odd smile, somewhere between smirk and…jealousy? “Why are you looking at me like that?”

  The smile vanished, replaced by concern. “I understand where you’re at right now. This is all a big surprise, it doesn’t seem real, and you mostly want to just get up and walk away like none of this ever happened. But I know there’s a certain part of you that find’s this rather intriguing. Because it’s different, yes? Something new.”

  Sharon offered her own strange smile. “You’ve got me there. Of course, there’s this business with you dying that I really don’t relish.”

  Hexom sighed. “That’s really not important. Well, it IS, but not at the moment. You need to focus on your own honest reactions to everything that happens. The whole game depends on you doing that, especially the outcome of the game. Understand?”

  Sharon nodded. “I think so.”

  Hexom nodded back. “Then answer the phone.”

  Sharon paused, then snatched up the phone, flipped it open, briefly studied the unfamiliar keyboard, hit a button, then held the phone to her ear. “Yes?”

  The disturbing voice was instantly there. “I don’t like to be kept waiting.”

  “Really?” asked Sharon, an eyebrow arching. “Then try THIS.” She slammed the phone shut and set it on the table.

  Hexom chuckled. “Oh my. You’re a feisty little tooter, aren’t you.”

  Sharon’s eyebrow remained arched. “I’m just getting started.”

  The phone rang again.

  Sharon let it ring exactly ten times, then picked it up again. “Did you like that?”

  At first there was no response, then “Perhaps you fail to understand how imperative it is that we communicate in a timely manner.”

  Sharon made an exasperated noise. “I don’t understand ANY of this, but I do know that there’s no reason for your rudeness and arrogance. I’m not sure if you aren’t getting laid enough or you’re just an asshole. But until I do something that is really worth getting upset about, and I assure you that’s coming, pull whatever it is out of your butt and BE NICE!”

  There was a pause.

  Hexom’s eyes were wide enough that ships at sea could navigate by the whiteness.

  Then a sound came from the phone, hearty laughter, strong enough that it temporarily overrode whatever voice-disguising thing he was using. Throaty and rich. And slightly chilling. Then the program took control again, and the genderless monotone was back. “Well, then, Miss Horizons, it appears that we’ll get along just fine. Are you ready for the first stone?”

  Sharon actually felt a small thrill to hear this, excitement budding. “Certainly, Mr. Roboto, ready and waiting.”

  “Get your hair cut. Select Salon. Call for an appointment. Ask for April.”

  Sharon, expecting something much more mysterious and thrilling, was a bit disappointed. “That’s it? Get my hair cut.”

  “Oh, it’s much more. But we’ll pretend that’s all it is at the moment. Now, Miss Horizons, I would normally abruptly terminate the call at this point, in order to establish my dominance and ensure anxiety-based cooperation. But as you felt compelled to introduce a new rule concerning phone etiquette, and I don’t see why we shan’t be cordial, I will instead depart by wishing you a pleasant afternoon.”

  Sharon laughed. “Why, thank you, Mr. Roboto. And I hope that the removal procedure at your posterior wasn’t too painful. Good day.”

  Sharon set the phone on the table once again. “He’s on my nerves already. I’ll need to be drinking the next time he calls.”

  Hexom was surprised. “Are you sure it’s a man. I’ve never been able to figure it out.”

  “Of course it’s a man. Women are never that rude.” Then Sharon turned and screamed across the room. “Potter! Get your ass over here right now or I’m going to cut you!”

  There was a yelp from the foyer of the restaurant, and then the rumpled man who was finally off the floor, clutching his wrinkled papers and battered briefcase, staggered his way to the booth, knocking over three innocent chairs and sending a small child sailing through the air. (A husky fellow at one of the tables leaped to his feet and caught the child, hollering “Two Points!” while doing so. His girlfriend immediately broke up with him out of embarrassment and left the building.)

  The accountant stood before Sharon, quivering.

  Sharon, grimacing slightly, said “Dewey, this is Hexom Breen, Hexom, this is Dewey Potter. Dewey works for me when he can remember exactly what it is that he does. Something with numbers, it’s not clear to either one of us. I only keep paying him out of sympathy.”

  Dewey looked at Sharon, crestfallen. “But we’re family!” he whined, in a voice that reminded one of miniature dogs that crave Mexican fast food.

  Sharon sighed, lighting yet another cigarette. “Dewey, we are not family. Just because your parents and my parents made some type of foolish satanic pact when they were youngsters at Camp Whateverthehell in the drug-addled 60’s, it does NOT make us blood. I keep trying to tell you this. I am NOT your sister, physically or socially.”

  Dewey pouted.

  Sharon ignored this. “Now, what do you need? Why did you want to meet? And who bought you that tie? You should no longer speak to them.”

  Dewey glanced down at the apparently offending material around his neck, decided that the reference was just too much to comprehend, and looked back at Sharon. “There’s something going on with your Papyrus stock.”

  This finally got Sharon’s real attention. “Papyrus? And what is that?”

  Dewey looked confused. “It’s your art supply company. The people with the paint and the pencils?”

  Sharon stubbed out her cigarette. “Dewey, thick boy, I know what Papyrus is. I bought the damn thing. Can we focus? What did you find with the stock?”

  Dewey glanced at Hexom and then back. “Can I sit down?”

  “No, you cannot. Stay there. That way you can leave more quickly when I’m done with you. Now speak.”

  Dewey cleared his throat and shifted about uncomfortably. “Some of the filing papers are missing.”

  Sharon sighed. “That doesn’t surprise me, what with your typical ass-over-head entrance a bit ago. Did you check under the slutty hostess that’s standing there, on the verge of getting pregnant at any second?”

  Dewey shook his head. “Not missing here, missing at the office. The paperwork from when we took the company public is not there, and it should be. I called you immediately.” He smiled sheepishly, perhaps expecting a gift for his expedient reportage.

  Sharon did not offer one. “Did you check with anybody in the office. Those other boring people who are always sitting around in their horrid outfits, reading Sylvia Plath and waiting to die? They might know something.”

  Dewey frowned. “Oh. Well, I didn’t think to ask. I just thought you should know. You know, because I didn’t tell you right away that time I accidentally ordered 3,000 cases of kumquats and we had to rent the Cotton Bowl.”

  Sharon nodded her head. “I see, yes, that was a very trying time for me. And there’s a slim possibility that you might be on to something. But why don’t you go back to the office, assist one of the glum people with her suicide, and make sure you know what is really going on before you call me again.”

  Dewey nodded his head. “Yes. I will do that. Right now.”

  “Then leave. Right now.”

  Dewey turned and made his uncoordinated way to the front door. The hostess and two nearby servers, immediately turned in their notices and ran screaming from the building.

  “Well, then,” said Sharon, gathering her things and throwing them into her bottomless purse. “Let’s get out of here as well. We’ve been sitting in the same restaurant for five chapters now and my ass is numb.”

  Hexom stopped her, placing his manicured hand on hers. “Not to excite you unduly, it may be nothing, but you really should take the stock thing seriously. After you fire Dewey.”

  Sharon looked at him quizzically. “Can’t fire Dewey, long story, my cross to bear. But the stock? What do you mean?”

  Hexom looked into her eyes intently. “The host really does know a tremendous amount of people. People who know things. And can get access to things. And change things. Like your life.”

  Sharon shook her head. “He can’t have that much power.” Then she studied Hexom. “Can he?”

  In the foyer, Dewey trips over the same pocket of air and tumbles once again, taking two nuns and three members of the St. Patty Hearst Reform School Girls’ Choir with him…

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Click Here to read this story from the beginning.

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