Even with her tied to the chair between the him and I, his expectations have not changed. Her contract has two weeks until it expires.

“You’re getting relationships and business fucked in your head, Yuri. This could and probably will cost you the promotion and maybe even your job – your whole fucking life. Do you at least understand that much?” Benton said, placing his hand on Greta’s left shoulder.

I thought of it as a non-issue. I wanted to talk about the fucking merger. Who was going to carry out the file transfers and conduct an audit on 53rd’s clerks and contractors?

Benton gripped Greta’s shoulder. “She was your assignment. Not your lover. You went on record and lied through the whole process quite convincingly. I have your fucking mess to deal with. Only a few ways to look at this situation and I’d rather not banter on about it for fear of sounding like a piss ass optimist.”

I tried to interrupt his thought process. “This is unreal. You’re not understanding the significance of having another building. No other chapter in our particular sector can claim that. If I fucked up so bad, don’t you think they’d take that away from us?”

Benton leaned on Greta’s shoulder, pressing her forward as far as the rope would allow. She groaned at the increased pressure on her sternum. He shook his head and chuckled. “You don’t know Harry.”

“I met him once or twice.” Benton knew that this was a lie. “Ben, you have to let me go down there.”

He relinquished pressure on Greta and crossed his arms. “You think I can forget about this? When I have to keep her locked up in my fucking office? While you go out to investigate a rather substantial increase in our market and contract base? I doubt that would go over well with the guys upstairs.”

He constantly referred to these guys upstairs. With his office is on the top floor of the building, the guys upstairs were his conscience.

“Besides, what the hell do you think you’re going to do at 53rd right now? Geraldo hasn’t even finished a reasonable agenda.”

A decent excuse to go to 53rd eluded me. “I want to get to know our future partners.”

Benton knew that this was bullshit. So he played along. “Harry will ask you to play cards. And Lucky will massage your scalp. That’s all you have to know about them.”

“Just two of ‘em?” I asked.

“Secretaries. A front desk lady. And that’s it.”

“No file clerk?”

“Never thought to ask. I guess they’d have one. Or allow their secretaries to deal with the files. As we should do instead of risking liability of another employee.”

Liabilities take up residence in a chair identical to that one, the one where Greta is bound. We never use a chair more than once. Every month we dispose of them. Even our desk chairs. The residue left behind by any transfer could disrupt the process of any future transfer. DNA kept pure enables efficiency. No other branch disposes of chairs. We caught onto this innovation years ago and never let out the secret.

We parked an eighteen wheeler out back to use once a year. We scoured the suburbs during the time of spring cleaning and brought back hundreds of chairs. If necessary, we purchased more. Every chair was individually sanitized in a vacuum by us, the contractors. It was my idea. Benton claimed credit for it in the file since I was a rookie back then. This was before I set records in the business for being the most productive contractor in our sector since Red Moyer.

Red and I had history in common. I tied his all time monthly record for transfers seven months in a row – the same amount of straight months that he succeeded in thirty-four transfers per each.

I would have made it eight, but Benton gave me the assignment of pacifying Greta and then a two week vacation after the assignment was complete and the file placed. I claimed that the transfer was conducted entirely by me in a period of time overnight so that I could take my break immediately. Geraldo signed off as a witness even though he was down in the file room the entire time. Benton assumed that Greta was now living her life as Pauline Stein in the Great Lakes region. We were never given the exact location of transfers. The reasons were obvious. We were never intended to be cold-blooded. We maintained the basic desires of everyone, even the people that we transferred.

I had no other urge than to share an experience with a person.

Her and I took the plane to London together in the morning. Benton saw no reason to check up on me. I wasn’t flawed before that night.

Now he stared at my face, not into my eyes as he would when he would be slightly miffed at me for not bringing him a cup of coffee or for leaving a file sit on my desk in the evening instead of locking it up. He was paranoid of being raided. This paranoia was ridiculous. No one knew that we existed. Branches that leaked any information to the public by accident are immediately imploded.

So Benton asked me what I told her that I did for all of this time that her and I were a couple.

“I told her that I was in exports.”

Benton eased off and laughed hard enough for his hand to find support once again on Greta’s shoulder. This is the first time that I saw her awake in three days. She moaned with a quiet rage.

“Your touch of irony in magnificent. But what did you tell her that you export in your business?”

I didn’t remember. He laughed with the same force as the first. I was beginning to think that every time that he laughed he had to fake it; he ever only learned to laugh so hard that he nearly fell over.

When he gathered himself, he kept this joke going.

“You didn’t tell her that you trafficked humans? That may have been too much for me to handle. Listen, buddy, I know that you and I became a little too close in this here branch… We’re partners and friends. But I’m your boss and don’t ever hide any two-toed cunt from me. Especially this one. She’s special. She’s Red’s. And for nearly eighteen months you succeeded in being a shitty employee.”

This moment was not the time to tell my angry boss all about my feelings. But I started into it anyway.

“She wanted to get married,” I said.

Benton crossed his arms again. I was getting damn tired of watching him lean over just to stand straight back up to cross his arms. But I knew this conversation had to happen before I could get on my life.

“You can marry her the next time,” he said. “This time she has to go.”

I wouldn’t love her then and we were now faced with the better chance that the situation would not be quiet the same.

Benton, quick on his careful words, added, “You should meet her sister. She’s in this building as we speak.”

“You must think I’m a real fucking idiot. I know that already.”

“I do. And you haven’t really met her yet. She’s working closely with Geraldo, learning the filing system.”

“Is Geraldo getting shipped out?”

No answer.

“Can I at the very least talk to Greta. Explain the situation.”

“She won’t remember. So you’ll have to wait for each other until the spiral comes to an end and repeats. Then you two can live prosperously and free in a cottage somewhere.”

I’ve been here far too many years to begin counting now. But I’ve never seen a spiral end. I didn’t feel like arguing about it so I only said, “Fuck off.”

His tone became sharper, “That’s love, right? Prosperity? A cottage? Coffee in the morning and tea at night?”

She never wanted the typical. If Benton would have read her file carefully, he would have already known that.

He glanced at his watch. “Look, we got to her early but soon she’ll start to deteriorate.”

I wanted to tell him that we could stop it somehow. It’s been done before when a mistake was made. I needed his clearance to do so and the whole ordeal would be done.

“Enough friendly talk, Yuri. I’m meeting Harry at the diner at three. You stay here. Don’t touch her. We don’t need an assault charge on top of this problem.”

Benton grabbed his grey sport-coat from the bamboo rack by the door and grinned.

“Why can’t I go along?” He knew that I was going to ask.

“Typically, I’d allow it. But since you’re no longer someone for everyone in our sector to look up to, you’re a fucking embarrassing rookie.”


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