Fraidel Rose (4)

Javin Akers was sitting on his desk. Legs dangling. Kicking a little. Sitting on the other side of the desk was Fraidel Rose.

Neither got up.

“Hey, Pete!” Javin said. “Man, you did great work. I wasn’t sure there was anyone in the world who could find our Freidel, let alone bring her back. I think you deserve a little bonus.”

Freidel’s eyes sparkled. But they usually did that.

“Thank you, sir,” I said. “It was a fun assignment.”

“I never realized you could have so much fun in Siberia,” he said, not to me.

“You have to know where to look,” said Fraidel.

And be heavily armed, I didn’t add.

“Well, as I said, I cannot thank you enough-”

“It’s my pleasure,” said Fraidel, extending her hand and then letting it be shaken.

“I’ll send you my executive reports for the last year,” he said, “and every subgroup year-end, as well as analyst projections and our internals.”

“I’ll get right on them,” she said. “Get back to you ASAP.”

“I couldn’t appreciate it more.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Fraidel said. “A girl always likes to be wanted.”

My internal slot machine came up straight question marks.

She got off the desk, Javin followed, and they shook hands again. Fraidel was smiling. She was positively beaming. She was an entirely different woman than I had seen before. It was really unsettling. I had the urge to turn to my kids and say “Go inside the house and lock the door.” Except I didn’t have kids.

“And thanks for the loan,” she said. “It should only be few weeks.”

“My pleasure.” He looked at me. “Peter won’t mind, will he?”

“Of course not,” I said, because I was pretty sure my opinion didn’t matter.

“I’ll be in touch soon,” Fraidel said. “Let’s follow me, Mister Hardingfel.” And she turned and left.

I looked at Javin Akers, he stared at me, I wished I hadn’t looked at him, I turned and followed Fraidel outside.

She called an elevator. I followed her inside. She punched the bottom floor, counted backwards from five, then pressed the STOP button.

“Boychick,” she said, “your employer, the employer of sixty thousand people in America alone, is absolutely well and roundly fucked.”

She wasn’t smiling anymore.

“Good to have you back,” I said.

“I cannot – nice suit – not possibly convey to you how disappointed I am at the person who was chosen to succeed me. He is smart, funny, of pleasant demeanor, calming of manner and charismatic of mein. He is a tennis coach in a retirement village in Boca Raton. And he has been placed in charge of a company with gross earnings greater than those of ninety-three of the nations of this earth.

A hiss of static filled the elevator.

“This is building security,” a voice said. “Are you in trouble?”

“Fuck off!” Fraidel shouted.

The line went silent.

The line went dead.

“I am not disappointed that he is a golden retriever,” she continued. “I am disappointed that he is fucking stupid. He thinks his company is in trouble. He does not realize that he is the company, that the reason it is in trouble is A his responsibility B his fault, and C clear proof that he should not be in this business and should really consider a lucrative career in teaching cash-for-gold seminars at an airport Radisson. He does not realize that he is bringing me in to do his job for him, which means he does not understand what his job is, which means that you, Mister Hardingfel, have about the same job security as an abacus-maker.”

“Didn’t know abacus-makers had to dress this well.”

“Fortunately – shut up – I have arranged for you to be seconded to my service. For the next few weeks, Captain Akers thinks that you are going to be managing my affairs while I come in and teach him how to manage his. Instead, you are going to assist me in taking the helm of the Titanic.”

“You make it sound so appealing.”

“Don’t I?”

I looked away and thought for a moment. Then forced myself to think a moment more.

“No,” I said, “sounds great.”

“Really? Why.”

“You’re really a very annoying woman.”

“You will answer me or you will die in this elevator.”

I knew the real answer. Before I could think of a reason not to, I said it.

“I like doing weird shit,” I said. “And you, lady, are a walking gyre of weird shit.”

She nodded. “I can work with that.”

“I also like the suits.”

“And the watches, I trust.”

“And the watches.”

“Good.” She looked at my wrist. “Some advice, Mister Hardingfel?”

“Oh, would you?”

“Do not – yes, indeed – do not betray me, try not to disappoint me, do not be afraid to tell me when you’ve fucked up beyond all possible repair, do speak up when you think I’m wrong, and do not, do not ever, let me start daydreaming about wristwatches.”

She leaned over and pressed LOBBY, and a moment later we were back into the world. The Creighton Leigh lobby. People in bad suits ate croissandwiches and sat in folding-chairs. A woman that had just been shit on by a pigeon was laughing and taking a selfie.

“So where do I go?” I asked.

“Home. The courier will bring you a dossier describing the state of the company. Let me know what you think. Go in blind and see what you see. When in doubt, write it down. Use all the cleverness you have and all that you can borrow.”

“I thought Javin was going to send you-”

“Undoubtedly. But in the time that it took you to make your way home, I have compiled better intelligence than he is capable of comprehending.”

The time it took to get home-

“Right,” I said. “Incidentally. What the fuck was up with-”

“My dear Mister Hardingfel, you didn’t like Pyongyang?”

“Shut up and answer my question.”

“Why did I send you on a merry goose chase halfway around the world?”

Yeah, that pretty much summed it up.

“To test you,” she said. “To observe your behavior under pressure. To test your ability to handle great lengths of boredom punctuated by moments of extreme stress and great uncertainty. To provide you with a feeling of adventure. To show you, Mister Hardingfel, that I am more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

She held my eyes until I was lost in them. Stuck out her tongue at me, held it there, then put it away and turned and left the building.

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~ by davekov on 28 December 2016.

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