Thursday, June 06, 2013

THE REZ (Chapter from a work in progress)

I'm blazing away on the new novel. I want to get this one in a finished state and to my agent. It's really flowing along at a good rate.

Trademark and copyright 2013
By James Robert Smith
Chapter Three

The boss was angry.

That was always interesting, but it was also generally scary.

Boyd Withers often just kept his head low when the Chief was blowing through the building like a hurricane in the Gulf. If you were on the edges of that storm you could generally watch in either horror or with some humor, glad that you weren’t in the worst of it. But if you were close to that low pressure point, hiding was probably the worst thing to do. If Hauser noticed you cowering, there would be Hell to pay.

“What in the Night of the Goddamned Living Dead do you mean?” That was a new one. Boyd hadn’t ever heard that one before. That meant that the Chief was particularly angry, so there would probably be some things worth writing down for later. To tell your grandkids. If you survived. “You can’t find him? We’re the goddamned Bureau! We can find anyone! We could find Jimmy-fucking-Hoffa if I told you to do it!”

Boyd heard someone trying to make an excuse. The voice was muffled behind the Chief’s partially opened door and the thick panels of at least two cubicles. Boyd didn’t know who that was on the receiving end, but he obviously didn’t know the top cop very well, because the man purely hated excuses. All he wanted were the facts, and if you tried to equivocate then you were toast.  Young Withers reached for his hat—he was just about the only agent in the office who bothered to wear a hat—and he was actually thinking of pulling it down over his ears to try to blunt the wind that he just knew was about to blow.

And, yes, it came roaring up out of those cigar-stained lungs like the release of a dinosaur’s rumble.

“I don’t give the first molecular speck of a rat’s shitty GOTT-damned ass about that lame crap.” Boyd didn’t know what that lame crap referred to, and would make it a point to never find out. “But I’m telling you to discover that motherfucker and nail down his location so that I will know exactly where he is.” There was a very brief pause while the object of the Chief’s wrath probably thought he was safe. He was not.

“I am giving you just half of a fucking hour to find his location and bring it back to me. Right here. Don’t phone it in. Don’t send a proxy to tell me. And whatever you do, don’t you fucking GOTT-damned email it to me. You come and stand right here!” Boyd rose from his seat to try to see who had made the boss so terribly angry. But all he spotted was Hauser’s gigantic shoulders and the back of his baggy, rumpled trousers and those huge size fourteen brown shoes he always wore. The man had the biggest feet Boyd had ever seen on a man who did not play pro basketball.

Hauser was pointing at the floor at an area that Boyd figured was between the feet of the man cowering before him. “You see that spot? Huh? That’s not a hole in the ground! It’s a fucking spot on my office floor! Do you know your ass from that spot? Yeah, that’s right! That fucking spot! In thirty minutes you will be standing on that spot telling where the FUCK that bastard is hiding out! NOW GET THE HOLY ROMAN FUCK OUT OF MY FUCKING OFFICE!”

The guy must have fled, because when Boyd looked again, Hauser was slamming the door shut. But not before the boss caught a glimpse of Agent Boyd Withers trying to get a peek at what was going on. He knew that because Hauser’s voice suddenly boomed over the PA system—like the voice of God, or of Lucifer—and he heard his name.

“Withers! Now!”

Sighing, he marched through the little maze of cubicles until he was at the door of the office of Chief Grady Hauser. Realizing he still had his hat in his hands, Boyd put it on his head. For some reason, Hauser liked for men to wear hats, even inside the office. He was pretty sure that fact had saved him from a couple of Hauser’s rages and maybe had something to do with the fact that Hauser liked him. Of course there wasn’t a lot of difference in how he treated people he liked from people whose guts he would like to spill.

Withers went in and closed the door behind him. In contrast to what had just occurred, the room was very damned quiet. Hauser wasn’t even breathing hard. The man probably had the constitution of a bull gorilla, which frankly speaking wasn’t too far off the mark of how you would describe him.

(Terrible Turpin created by Jack Kirby, copyright by DC Comics.)
 Hauser seemed to be wearing the same old rumpled suit that he always wore. People in the Department used to wonder if it was the same one, but it couldn’t be. He obviously had ten or twelve of the things and just liked the look. Because, bull ape aside, what Hauser really looked like to Boyd was one of those pugnacious cops that Jack Kirby would draw in those old Silver Age comic books that Withers collected. Hauser looked just like that—down to the loose, rumpled suits, trench coat, and chomping a big cigar. Withers had always kept that analog to himself, because none of the other agents seemed to read old comic books and there probably wasn’t anyone within a mile of him who even knew who Jack Kirby was.

“Chief?” His voice was low, and Boyd tried not to let it crack.

Actually, Grady Hauser’s proper title was Director. But he couldn’t stand being called Director. He’d been a police chief in two large cities (Atlanta and Chicago) before he’d been appointed two years before as acting Director of the nation’s new domestic espionage division. That had all arisen from the various storms of shit that had hit the fan in the years since the Rez had been constructed and all the world’s horrors tossed within its unbreakable borders.

Or almost unbreakable.

Someone had been sneaking in and then sneaking back out, with former inmates in tow.
This pissed off the folk in charge of the country, which meant that it was a problem for the Director to solve, which meant that it made Grady Hauser pretty goddamned cranky.

“Boyd,” he liked using an agent’s first name, especially if he liked that agent, or especially if he hated that agent and wanted to crush him like a fat bug on his office floor.

“Yes, Chief?”

The concrete block of a man turned to face Withers. He reached up with crowbar fingers and extricated the smoldering cigar from his James Cagney lips. He looked at the half-smoked cigar for a second, stuck it back in his mouth, and took a deep drag. Then he blew out the wonderful smoke and considered the world around him for a couple of more seconds.

“What do you think of us using the Rez as a prison?” Cigar now clenched firmly in his jowly mug, he glared at his young, blonde-headed, otherwise average-looking agent.

“That’s not for me to say, Chief.” Silence and cigar smoke descended around Boyd.

“It’s not?”

“No, sir.” He cleared his throat. “I’m an investigator for the Department of Internal Espionage and it’s my job to follow orders, to discover if laws are being broken, and to occasionally enforce those laws.”

“You don’t think we’re Fascist bastards, Boyd? You don’t think we’re all part of a burgeoning police state bound and determined to put our jack-booted heels on the throats of America?” To emphasize, he planted one of those enormous size-fourteen shoes firmly on the pale tiled floor of his office. If ever there had been a man born to jam his jack-booted heel in the collective throat of America, it was Grady Hauser. “According to the liberal fucking press we’re a bunch of dirty Fascist bastards intent on destroying our precious fucking freedom.” He blew another stream of smoke. “Do you agree with that?”

“No, sir, I do not.” Actually, though, Boyd figured the liberal press might have a point.

“You know what I think?”

“No, sir. Would you like to tell me?”

“Yes, I think I would.” He grinned, and seeing that was kind of scary. The guy was a great Director and a great police Chief, but damned if he wouldn’t have made a better actor. Monster movies. He wouldn’t have needed any makeup, either.

“What I think is that it doesn’t fucking matter if we’re Fascist bastards or not. Because we’re here, we’re in charge, and we have a fucking job to do. And, hell.” He stared at the floor, trying to recall the precise spot where he had told the agent to report within thirty minutes with that information. Because he wanted that guy to stand exactly where he had told him to stand. “I don’t really know what a Fascist is. Do you, Agent Withers?”

“I know the official definition, Chief, but I don’t really think that anyone knows exactly what they mean when they say the word.”

“Precisely, Withers. You’re a smart fucking kid, and that’s why I fucking like you.” That and the hat. The Chief walked over to his desk, located an ink marker and tossed it to Boyd.

“See that spot on the floor, Agent Withers?” He pointed one of those enormous sausage fingers at the tiles.

In fact, Withers knew exactly the spot, because he’d seen where the Chief had been pointing when he’d been covering the invisible agent with his breath and spit. “Yes, sir, I do, sir.”

“Take this pen and draw an ‘X’ there. Not too big. Someone’s gonna have to scrub it off later. But draw an ‘X’ on the floor and then get the high holy hell out of my office.” That was a new one, too. Boyd would have to make a note of that one.

“Yes, sir, I will sir.” And Boyd crouched, put the mark on the floor, returned the pen to Hauser’s desk and exited the office.

Outside, safe, he felt his anus unclench.


dogboy443 said...

I've looked forward to reading it way back when you sent me the synopsis.

James Robert Smith said...

I never could get the right handle on the project. I struggled with it for ages. And suddenly hit me how to make the project work. I canned almost everything else I'd written on it and started new. 10K words into it, so far.