Maybe this time would be different.
Lenny Hodge took a deep breath. He had to keep a positive attitude. He stood in the hallway, staring at the gold letters (outlined in black) painted on the frosted glass.
We’ve got the answers!
The door, the hallway with its greenish gray linoleum floor and glass light fixtures, even the old wrought-iron elevator that brought him up here, all of it seemed from another time and place. All the other temp agencies in greater Boston -- and he had seen close to a dozen -- were in brand new buildings, all state-of-the-art chrome and glass and modern art prints and attractive greenery; places that said “we’re the cutting edge”; places where he could fill out endless forms. So they could never call him back . . .
This place said something more like “welcome to 1962!” Not that it mattered. Lenny had passed desperate a long time ago. Nobody was hiring. He still went out on every interview he could find -- more from habit than anything else. Maybe an old fashioned place would give him brand new results.
He took another deep breath and opened the door.
Lenny stepped into a large reception room, as dimly lit and colorless as the corridor outside. The same greenish-gray tile stretched across the floor, no sign of carpeting anywhere. Grey molded chairs lined the walls and formed an island in the room’s center. Despite the many chairs, almost every seat was filled. At the far end of the room was a large metal desk. An older woman in a gray business suit sat behind it. Her gray hair was pulled back into a severe bun. He couldn’t imagine her having any expression other than her current frown as she shuffled papers from one pile to another. She certainly seemed too busy to acknowledge Lenny or the dozens of others in the room before her.
That was it; chairs, linoleum, harsh fluorescent light. Not a potted plant in sight. Some of those who were seated scowled at him over ancient magazines. The older woman barely looked up as he approached the desk.
“Over there,” she announced with a jerk of her head before Lenny could say a word. He turned and found an empty seat in the sea of chairs.
Those around him barely glanced up as he sat in their midst. He guessed now that, since the woman had acknowledged him, he was one of the crowd. Lenny also guessed he was in for a very long wait. From the glazed expressions on the others’ faces, they could have been sitting here since the day this place had opened.
His chair sat next to a small Formica table piled high with magazines. He glanced through them quickly. Colliers? Argosy? Divination Quarterly? The whole pile was the same. He hadn’t heard of most of these titles. He could swear that some of the others hadn’t been published in years.
Lenny realized he couldn’t let any of this distract him. This agency needed the right kind of answers and Lenny was going to be ready. He had to give them positive, motivated responses, as if he actually knew what he wanted to do with his life.
Lenny sighed. He was sure he had a lot of talent, if he was only given a chance to find it. Well, his resume could be a little stronger. In the last three years, he had had four jobs, none lasting over six months. Bad luck mostly. Like the massive sewage backup with the giant alligators that time he was working security. How could anyone blame that on him? And it certainly wasn’t his fault when the Russian Spy Satellite came crashing out of the sky, demolishing the Dairy Freeze five minutes before he was scheduled to open. And then there was the escape of the super-intelligent gerbils, just when he was cleaning up the lab. How had he known that when he accidentally switched the feed -- well, he didn’t have to talk about that one, did he?
Lenny looked up. He had barely had a chance to sit and get anxious. He stood and pointed at his chest.
“Yes, Mr. Hodge.” The woman at the desk nodded in his direction. “Ms. Siggenbottom will see you now.”
Lenny stood, so astonished he hardly noticed the angry stares of all those seated around him. He hadn’t filled out a form, he hadn’t spoken, and he certainly hadn’t mentioned his name to anyone.
A job was a job was a job, he reminded himself. Stay positive, no matter what.
The woman nodded at a door to her right.
He walked across the worn linoleum to the door, doing his best to breathe, and read the gold lettering (outlined in black) on the frosted glass as he approached:
HELENE WAXWORTH SIGGENBOTTOM
DIRECTOR OF PERSONNEL
Stay positive. Concentrate on what was important. He was going to get an interview.
He knocked. A woman’s deep voice told him to come in.
He opened the door, and saw a room that looked a lot like the waiting room, same gray metal desk, same gray plastic chairs. His attention was immediately drawn to the woman behind the desk.
She was almost the twin of the woman out front. Her hair was perhaps a little whiter, her severe business suit a little darker. And her stare was even more intimidating.
“About time,” she barked as she glared at him. “We were beginning to think you’d never get here.”
“Pardon?” Lenny felt like he had stepped into the middle of someone else’s conversation.
She waved him to the plastic chair nearest the desk.
“Have a seat, Mr. Hodge. Before we go any farther, I have a few important questions.”
“Yes, ma’am.” She was a ma’am if he had ever seen one. Lenny sat.
She glanced for an instant at the papers before her, then resumed her disapproving stare.
“Do you have any problem working with people who are different?”
What did that mean? Lenny searched for an answer.
“Aren’t we all different?”
She grunted and wrote something down on the paper.
“Now,” she announced, staring even more intently at Lenny than before.
Loud noises came from somewhere nearby, maybe the room on the other side of her office, just beyond another door of frosted glass. The sounds were high and quick. They might have been screams. They might have been laughter. Whatever they were, Lenny decided they were very odd.
Ms. Siggenbottom glanced at the far door. “That’s nothing to be concerned about. Are you concerned?”
“Should I be?”
She nodded as if that was exactly the answer she was looking for. “Duly noted.” She pressed a button on her desk. The noises stopped.
She looked down at her papers and began to read “A hippogriff boards a train in London, that proceeds north at 40 kilometers per hour. Fifteen minutes later, a traditional witch starts flying from Glasgow, going south five kilometers faster than the train. Midway between the two, the stationmaster is eating a sandwich. ...”
Lenny was having trouble paying attention. Where were the questions about his work goals and aspirations -- his strengths and weaknesses? It was like he had been rehearsing for MACBETH and then realized he was in the middle of WAITING FOR GODOT.
“--and the wind is blowing at seven knots from the west,” Ms. Siggenbottom droned on. Lenny realized he had missed something. “Now, Mr. Hodge, what color was the stationmaster’s cap?”
“Uh -- blue?” It was the first thing that had popped into his head.
“Blue. Very interesting.” She turned to her papers and wrote at some length, only looking up when a loud pounding began to Lenny’s left. Lenny glanced over to see something large and black pounding on the window, a hulking shape with glowing eyes. No, not eyes. What Lenny had taken for the thing’s face actually swirled with iridescent color, until it formed a single word”
“Interesting,” his interviewer said calmly, as if black shapes bearing glowing messages showed up at her fourteenth-floor window every day.
“What was that?” Lenny asked as he looked back to the Ms. Siggenbottom.
“Sometimes the wind can make funny noises in these old buildings,” she replied as she continued to write.
Wind? Lenny looked back at the window, out at the sunny sky. The black shape was gone. How? Why? Lenny was even more confused. Had he imagined everything?
Ms. Siggenbottom put down her pen. “Well, Mr. Hodge. Considering your past experience ...” She paused and wrote some more. Lenny remembered he still hadn’t shown anyone his resume. “And your very interesting answers,” she continued, “I believe we have only one course of action.”
Here it comes, Lenny thought. The same heave-ho he had heard a dozen times before.
Ms. Siggenbottom lifted her head to stare at Lenny once more. Lenny realized there was something different about her, especially her lower face. Her mouth had twisted upward ever so slightly, as though she were attempting to actually smile.
“I have only one more question,” she announced. “When can you start?”
Lenny did his best to keep his mouth closed and smile back. They were actually going to hire him? What should he say? It was a Thursday. He didn’t want to appear too eager.
“How about Monday?”
“Perfectly reasonable. We have something very special lined up for you Mr. Hodge. But I believe you’ll do splendidly. We’ll see you here at 9 am on Monday.” She glanced at his interview coat and tie. “Oh yes. And a suit is not required.”
She pointed towards the office behind her.
“It is better if you go out the back. It is best if you enter that way on Monday as well. The door has a buzzer. Just ring and someone will let you in.”
Lenny thanked her and turned to go. He had a job. Who cared what odd little rules went along with it?
He opened the back door and stepped into another room that looked almost exactly like the other offices. Except that the gray metal desk in here was occupied by a tall, pale man dressed in black. The cut of his suit seemed old-fashioned, almost Victorian. Lenny decided that if the man wore a stovepipe hat, he could pass for an undertaker from 100 years ago.
The man nodded as Lenny closed the door behind him.
So everyone knew his name? Lenny nodded.
“You are one of us, now, eh?” The man’s smile made his face look a bit like a skull. “We welcome you to the team.”
Lenny thanked him as the man returned to looking at the file folder in his hands. “We will see you Monday,” he called over his shoulder.
Lenny knew that was his cue to leave. He stepped out into the hallway, maybe fifty feet away from where he had entered. The door swung closed and locked behind him, but not before Lenny heard the man in black say two final words.
Lenny clicked off the alarm as soon as it started to beep. He hadn’t really been sleeping. The reality of Monday morning and a brand new job filled his head. But what kind of a job? And what was with that temp agency?
Lenny sat up and sighed. The initial excitement of someone actually wanting to hire him was long gone. Instead, the weekend had left him with an awful lot of questions.
Not that he hadn’t looked for answers. But Terrifitemps didn’t even have a website. His next step was to google their name -- but even then the citations were rare and sparse. Apparently a few people had found some well-paying short-term employment from the agency, and only regretted there hadn’t been more. Most of the comments were complaints about waiting in the Terrifitemps lobbies for hours. (They at least had some other offices, apparently in Cleveland and Boca Raton.) Lenny couldn’t find a single blog or bulletin board that mentioned skipping past the wait and getting hired on the spot. Or any further details of someone who actually worked there. In fact, all the entries, both pro and con, lacked detail. Everything about Terrifitemps was sort of vague. As vague as the way the agency had hired him.
People blogged about everything-- getting stuck in a line at the registry, breaking up with your boy friend, eating a ham sandwich -- everything but Terrifitemps. Was there some sort of non-disclosure thing at work here? Lenny shook his head. Non-disclosure for a temp agency?
So what had happened to the others like him, who had breezed right through the system? It might be rare, but he couldn’t be the only one. Were the others too busy to blog? Or had something else happened to them?
Because that wasn’t the weirdest thing about last week’s interview. He had never told them anything about himself, hadn’t filled in a form, hadn’t given them any information at all. Yet Ms. Siggenbottom knew at least his name and maybe even more. It was as if she had been expecting him.
Lenny took a deep breath. This was crazy talk. Terrifitemps had offered him work. He was just having a super case of new-job jitters. Not surprising, since it had been months since he had gotten a paycheck for anything.
This was the part Lenny didn’t like to think about. His job history was -- a little strange. And his love life? You needed money to have a love life. He thought about Sheila and the last time he had managed to have a steady girlfriend. They had met briefly the summer before, when he had gone back home to visit his mother. They talked about all the fun they’d had together their senior year of high school, and when they had reconnected that summer between semesters of college. At times, he thought there might still be something between them -- but that was another life, before he had been thrown out into the world, living in a threadbare apartment, unable to hold a job.
He rolled out of bed. Think positive. A job is a job is a job. Maybe they’d actually give him something long-term. Maybe he could meet someone like Sheila and start dating again.
What could happen in an office like that, after all? It was a temp agency, and an out-of-date one at that. What was the worst case scenario? They offer him a job cleaning elephant cages? It was better than sitting around his apartment with no money. If it was too awful -- hey -- he could always turn the job down.
Right now he needed coffee -- the cheaper stuff he made himself. He rubbed his eyes and pulled on a pair of pants, just in case his roommate had company. He walked into the living room of their shared two-bedroom apartment, decorated, as he liked to call it in “early poverty.” Bare wood floor, free posters tacked to the wall, a lumpy thing that might once have been called a sofa under the window.
A job is a job is a job, he thought again. So what if he hadn’t worked in months and months? Why was he so worried?
On Friday, he had decided he only had one recourse. He had set up the cardtable next to the couch, so that he could do the one thing that always helped him when he was stressed -- work on his stamp collection. His grandmother had helped him start it when he was eight, and he had kept it with him for close to twenty years, hauling it out whenever he needed to cool down -- like the day Sheila had walked out of their relationship, or the eternal waiting to see if he had gotten into his favorite college, or especially after a couple of those bizarre, job ending accidents that he’d suffered through -- who knew those scientists had developed a penguin that could actually fly?
This whole Terrifitemps experience, as happy as he was to get the job, had brought his stress levels up again. So he had brought out his stamp albums one by one and puttered through his stamps for an hour here and there until he was calm enough to do something else. Well, on Saturday, he had needed a couple hours at a time to center himself. Sunday, he worked from about 11 am until --oh -- about 11 pm. By about 10:30 on Sunday night, he had even looked at the prize of his collection, the Moldavian 3 slotznic first day cover, although he hadn’t taken it out of its mylar sleeve.
But that was all over now. Today he had a job. He’d have to put his stamps away -- as soon as he made some coffee.
Somebody rang the doorbell.
At quarter of eight in the morning?
“Bruce?” Lenny called, hoping against hope that his roommate was actually here for a change. As usual, no one answered. Bruce and Denise must be at her place. Bruce and Lenny had met each other in college, been friends ever since, shared their ups and downs -- except Bruce seemed to be able to keep his jobs. Not to mention a steady girlfriend. Lenny felt a sudden panic. He hardly saw the two of them anymore. What if Bruce decided to move out?
All the more reason to take this job.
It must be one of the neighbors. Not that Lenny and his roommate knew much of anything about the other people in the building, but -- Lenny decided to go see who it was. He stepped up to the door to look through the spyhole, and looked at someone he had never expected to see again.
He slid back the chain and unlocked the two deadbolts as quickly as possible.
“Sheila?” he asked as he opened the door.
His high school girlfriend smiled back at him from the hall. She looked much the same as the last time he had seen her this past summer. Her long blonde hair was shorter now, cut just shy of her shoulders, and her cream colored business suit spoke of a life in business rather than summers down at the beach. But her lightly freckled skin, her eyes that looked blue in some light and green in others, the warmth of her smile -- none of those had changed at all.
“Hi!” she said brightly, as if showing up at your ex-boyfriend’s door at eight in the morning was the most natural thing possible.
“Uh, hi,” Lenny replied. He had trouble coming up with what to say next. After standing there for a moment, he decided to try. “Uh, do you want to come in for a minute?”
She walked past him into the apartment before he had finished the sentence. By the time he closed the door, Sheila was staring down at the card table in the middle of the living room.
“You still collect stamps!” she called over her shoulder. “That’s wonderful!”
It was? He seemed to remember, back when they were dating, that Sheila had found the whole stamp thing boring, or annoying, or maybe both.
“Uh, yeah,” he replied as he walked over behind her. “Listen, I’ve got to go out in a few minutes.”
She turned and smiled again, looking straight into his eyes. “Here I go and show up without calling. I was in the neighborhood and -- impulsive me -- I just wanted to see you.”
“Uh, well, it’s nice to see you, too.” Lenny smiled back. How did she know where he lived? Lenny’s mother, most likely. She was always trying to get the two of them back together. And right now, Lenny realized, he was glad his mother had interfered.
“I’m glad you think so,” Sheila said, stepping closer. “I know, all those years ago, we said a lot of foolish things to each other. We were too young, really. Now that we’ve both seen a bit more of the world, it got me to wondering.”
Her face was only a few inches from his. Lenny had forgotten how much he liked to be this close. He just had to lean forward, and they could kiss.
“And, uh,” he said softly, “just what were you wondering?”
Her oh-so-kissable lips curled up into the slightest of smiles. She leaned forward.
Someone knocked on the front door.
“Somebody you know?” Lenny asked Sheila.
She frowned. “I have no idea. I came up here alone.”
Bum bum bum. The person outside knocked a second time. “Maybe I can get them to go away,” Lenny said.
He looked through the spyhole in the door and saw only shadows. The light in the hall must have gone out again.
Bam bam bam! The knock was getting louder.
“Just a minute!” Lenny unlocked the deadbolts and opened the door as far as the security chain would allow.
Two men in trenchcoats stood outside. At least Lenny thought they were both male. They were tall with broad shoulders beneath the coats. But with the light out in the hallway, their faces were lost in shadow.
“Mr. Mumblemumble?” they both asked together.
“Pardon?” Lenny asked.
“Mumblemumble?” They repeated. Or maybe they had mumbled something entirely new. It was hard to tell.
“There’s nobody with that name living here,” Lenny answered, hoping it had something to do with what they just said.
The second one stepped forward, but didn’t leave the shadows.
“Mr. Mumblemumble. Do you, by any chance, have a stamp collection?”
“Who are you?” Lenny demanded. This was an invasion of his private life. Especially now, with Sheila -- well, that moment was probably lost forever. And how did they know about his stamps? It was just like Terrifitemps. Did everybody know everything about him now? “What do you want from me?”
The two stood there for a long moment, staring at him. At least he thought they were staring. It was pretty hard to tell what was going on with their faces lost in the gloom.
“Sorry,” the one on the left finally spoke. “We must have the wrong place.”
“Yeah,” the one on the right echoed. “Wrong.”
They both pivoted away at the same moment and, with only a step or two, vanished down the hall into the gloom. Lenny had never seen the hallway so dark before.
He stood there for a long moment, gazing into the gloom. The lightbulb above his doorway sputtered back to life. A couple more flickered back on farther down the corridor, then over the stairwell at the end of the corridor. All the lights that had been out flared back to life. The hallway seemed almost painfully bright. And completely empty.
Even though he hadn’t heard them go down the stairs, Lenny saw no sign of the two who had stood there only a moment before.
Lenny stared at the silent hallway, then turned and closed the door. Who were those guys? Why had they shown up now? This could have absolutely nothing to do with the job. How could it?
“Uh, Sheila? I’m sorry about that. Who knows who those guys--”
He walked back into his apartment.
He had left the loose-leaf notebooks in two neat piles. Now the half dozen notebooks had been scattered across the table. His pulse racing, he opened the notebook containing the heart of his collection, and quickly flipped the pages. He stopped and stared at the empty Mylar sleeve. Someone had taken his misprinted Moldavian first day cover! He could still see his missing treasure; an envelope issued on the day the stamp was made public, with the blue and red ink plates reversed, so that half the image was upside down!
Someone had been working with those strange people at the door, on the morning he was about to start a new job. He felt his right hand curl into a fist. His life might have been filled with poverty, boredom, and lack of female companionship, but, until now, he had his stamps!
And where was his ex-girlfriend? Had the strangers done something to her? Lenny stopped mid-room, his every sense alert.
He heard snoring. He looked to his right, and saw Sheila sound asleep on the couch.
He gently shook her shoulder.
“What?” She opened her eyes. “Lenny? You answered the door. Everything got foggy ....” She leapt to her feet. “This is another one of those -- things, isn’t it? Like that rain of frogs at our fourth of July picnic? Or the time that sinkhole swallowed my Toyota?” She looked straight at him, tears in her eyes. “I hoped you had outgrown that sort of thing! Now I remember why it all ended.” She turned and grabbed her purse from the couch. “Goodbye, Lenny. I’m sorry I bothered you!”
She swept by him, out of his living room, out his front door and out of his life.
Lenny found himself very much awake. In a matter of minutes, he had lost both his most valuable stamp and the girl he thought he’d lost years ago! Should he call the police? After what had happened, Lenny wasn’t sure he could be coherent. And he couldn’t be late on his first day of work! The call could wait, along with the coffee. He decided to get dressed and out of his apartment before anything else happened.
Lenny hadn’t been out of his apartment this early in a long time.
The sun was bright, the air was crisp. And the subway was packed. Lenny grabbed one of the straps and did his best not to fall into anybody’s lap as the train barreled down the tracks.
He tried his best not to think of Sheila. Her visit felt more like a dream than anything real. So he thought about that missing first day cover instead.
Something that rare would be hard to sell. Once he’d reported it, every legitimate dealer in town would be on the lookout. Who were those strange people? Why had they stolen something that only really meant something to Lenny? How had they even known about his stamps? And why had they stolen it now?
Did it have anything to do with the new job? That was crazy talk. But why did he keep thinking that sort of thing over and over? Was he trying to sabotage himself before he even got started?
An image of Sheila asleep on the couch popped into his head; that moment when she was asleep on the couch, so pretty, so peaceful, as though that couch was where she belonged.
He looked up as the train pulled out of a station and realized his stop was next. Enough of stamps and Sheila. The morning rush hour seemed all too familiar. Once a commuter, always a commuter.
The train pulled into South Station and Lenny managed to extricate himself from the crowded car, following the moving throng towards the nearest escalator. He seemed to remember it being brighter down here. Shadows spread around the support columns. The sign for the donut stand in the corner barely flickered. The now departing train was the only source of light, its bright glow shrinking as it disappeared down the tunnel.
Lenny turned his head quickly. Was that a tall man in a raincoat stepping through the shadows? He couldn’t really see anything beyond the masses surging up the escalators and the stairs. Just his imagination. A lot of people wore raincoats. Why would someone follow him? Did they want something else from him? This couldn’t have anything to do with Terrifitemps.
No one barred his way. No one even approached him. His feet found the first step of the escalator, and he rose toward the light of day. He stepped out onto the sunlit street, a world away from the murky depths of the subway. He had to forget about the theft, at least for the next few hours. He had a new job ahead of him.
He looked across the street. Sheila was waving at him. Maybe he should just wave back and keep on walking. The pedestrian “walk” light was on to the other side. His feet led him across without conscious thought.
Sheila’s smile was more uncertain than before. “I’m sorry I stormed out on you like that. Somebody broke into your apartment. Why did I blame you?”
Lenny knew why. Odd things happened in his life. And, after that, really odd things followed. After a while, Sheila got annoyed. Twice. And, after a while more, she had left him. Also twice.
Sheila waved at the row of office buildings up the street. “I have an interview at Budwick, Budwick, Budwick and Klein. They’re looking for a legal secretary.”
“Uh, I have something new I’m starting,” Lenny replied. “I don’t know all that much about it yet.”
“Really?” Sheila was her old bubbly self again. “I’m glad we bumped into each other again. “Maybe visiting you this morning was the right thing to do. Maybe it will bring me luck.”
She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.
“I’ll call you!”
Lenny stood and watched her walk away. Maybe Sheila was back in his life after all.
The bank clock on the corner told him it was 8:53. Maybe he had better get to work.
He moved quickly to the building that housed the temp agency, crossed the lobby and jumped into a half filled elevator that rose quickly to the fourteenth floor.
The doors opened. He was the only one getting off.
Lenny walked around the corner to the door he had used for his exit the day before. Two words had been painted on the frosted glass. “No solicitors.”
Lenny tried the handle but the door was locked. He saw a small button by the side of the door, with an even smaller sign, “Ring for entry.” The door opened before Lenny could press the buzzer. The tall, sallow-skinned man from last Thursday stood on the other side.
“You are early.”
Lenny glanced down at his cell. “Two minutes?”
“Still early. Karnowski never lies!”
“Don’t pay too much attention to old Karny,” a woman’s voice called from somewhere deeper in the room. “He grows on you.”
Lenny stepped past Karnowski to see that a small group of people stood behind the tall man. One of them was Ms. Siggenbottom, the austere woman who hired him. To one side of her stood a very thin man wearing very thick glasses, while on her other side Lenny’s gaze was drawn to a striking young woman, not just for her artfully applied makeup but her totally tight, totally black costume -- suit, blouse, stockings and sensible heels. She looked like she was dressed in business gothic.
“These are all members of your team.” Ms. Siggenbottom began brusquely.
Team? Lenny almost said out loud.
“Karnowski he has met!” the tall man said with a deep breath of pride. “But he does not know my title. I am Karnowski the Ghost Finder!”
Ghost finder? Lenny swallowed those words as well.
The thin fellow stepped forward. He was wearing a heavy red sweater so bulky he seemed a bit like a turtle peaking out of his shell.
“You may call me Withers.”
Lenny felt like he should say something. “And I’ll be working with all of you?”
“All of them,” Ms. Siggenbottom agreed. “And one more. There is a team member we can only meet after dark.”
The others nodded as if this was only to be understood.
“But I have neglected to introduce our final member,” the older woman continued. “The young woman is named Lenore.”
The young woman stepped forward, her well penciled brow creasing with effort. Lenny found her strangely attractive -- where his old girlfriend was bright and bubbly, this Lenore had an air of the mysterious about her.
Her voice was a low whisper. “Say nothing.”
Lenny swallowed his hello. Her pale green eyes stared at his face with such intensity that Lenny felt she might see into his soul.
She spoke slowly, as if she had to search for every word. “You find me attractive -- and dangerous.”
Lenny frowned. She certainly was good-looking. Dangerous? Well, maybe. With all the black eyeliner, her face looked rather fierce.
She smiled slightly as she saw his reaction.
“You find everything strange. You’re not entirely sure of Terrifitemps. Ms. Siggenbottom is an enigma.”
Well, that was all true. Was she reading his mind? She was pretty good.
She took another step towards him, her dark red lips turned with the slightest of smiles.
“And your name is -- don’t tell me --”
She paused for an instant before she announced: “Lance!”
Lenny shook his head.
“Sonny?” Her smile was wavering. She snapped her fingers. “I know!” She pointed straight at him.
Hoppy? Maybe she wasn’t quite as good as she thought.
“Lenny,” he interjected helpfully.
“The very next name I was going to say!” Lenore cried triumphantly. “No man is a mystery to me.”
“She wields an awesome power,” Karnowski agreed. “At least some of the time.”
Ms. Siggenbottom clapped her hands brusquely. “The introductions are over. We have more important matters to attend to!” She turned back to Lenny. “You will need some basic instruction.”
Instruction in what? was the next thing Lenny didn’t say. With this group, he guessed a few days as a file clerk were out of the question.
“And we have not discussed salary.” She took a pen from the desk and wrote some numbers on the back of an envelope. “This should be your approximate take home pay.”
Lenny looked at the numbers as she handed him the envelope.
“Monthly?” he asked.
“Weekly,” she replied.
The number was three times as much as Lenny had ever made, anywhere. For that much money, he would clean elephant cages.
Lenny nodded. “I’m in.”
“I knew you would be.” Ms. Siggenbottom clapped her hands again. “Now to work!”
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