“So Andrew, what do you think? Is this a place where you could prosper?” Howard Davis sat across from Andrew. Howard placed the resume in the manilla folder with the other paperwork and closed it.
“Mr. Davis, I would love to work here.” Andrew’s face flushed, his eyes sparkled and all his teeth showed in his smile.
“Good to hear.” Howard stood. “This was your third of three interviews and there was one other candidate. I have to consult with the rest of the team and the background check should be finished shortly.” Howard extended his hand.
Andrew swallowed hard and his eyes darted left then right. Taking the proffered hand, Andrew pumped it with a solid grip twice. “Thank you. I expect to hear from you soon. Tomorrow, I hope.”
“That is a high possibility,” Howard said.
Howard escorted Andrew out of the office and to the receptionist.
Andrew returned his visitor badge and entered his time out on the sheet. He smiled, waved, then left the office.
In the car, Andrew sat still for a few seconds. “YES!” He dragged the smile to it’s widest and pulled both fists up in tight fists. “I can stop being a lackey. Finally. That two years I did, I finished my masters degree and now I have regular job.”
Andrew started the car and drove home. He patted his jacket pocket at random intervals. The hard cased ring box, and it’s contents, were the last vestiges of the money he kept in the box at the back of his closet. After purchasing the car he was driving and fixing up his house, there wasn’t much left, but he knew what he wanted.
Arriving at his house, Andrew saw the message light blink. Opening a beer he tapped the voicemail button.
“Andy! It’s Roy. Job. Call me.”
“Yeah, Roy. I’ll get right on that.” Andrew pulled three heavy swallows from his beer and walked through his house. The smell of new paint and construction lingered from two months ago. He nodded as he looked at the pictures, furniture, and other decorations he put up.
Andrew finished his beer, burped, then snatched the phone from it’s cradle. A quick press of the buttons and he placed the phone to his ear. “Roy, it’s Andy.”
“Good. You’re the first to call me back.” Roy paused a few seconds. “Wreck is setting up preliminaries. He has a major gig in four months. The preliminaries are…well, preliminaries. You know what that means.”
Andrew sighed. “Yeah, Roy. I do.”
“Are you up?”
“No. I have a new line.”
“Oh, really? Big time?”
“Steady? What the hell does that mean?” The speaker emitted Roy’s voice at a higher volume.
“Steady. Regular. Normal.” Andrew punctuated each word. “I’m out. Out of all of it. I did my time, I’m done.”
“You have got to be kidding me?” Roy’s voice carried the laugh he was famous for.
“You’ll get bored. When you do, call me.”
“Fine. Thanks for understanding.”
“Yeah. Good luck, man. Honestly.” The line went silent.
Andrew put the phone back in the cradle. “Honestly? From a thief? I don’t think so, Roy.”
The next morning, Andrew went to the gym. This was a habit he developed in prison. He enjoyed how he felt with the physical exercise and just kept at it.
Nine-thirty his phone rang. On the second ring, he saw the name, Ianthe Chemical.
Snatching the phone and pressing the talk button, Andrew answered in a clear voice. “Hello? Andrew Samson speaking.”
“Andrew. This is Howard Davis. I have good news.”
Andrew tossed the phone to his sofa.
“YES!” He jumped and slapped both palms on the ceiling. “About time!” He skipped about his house and continued to celebrate.
Calmness covered him and he set about to organize for his first day. He set up a clothes hanger with a button-down shirt, put a grey suit next to it and laid a navy tie over it. He checked his shoes and touched up the polish.
“Now, I have to find something to do for the next four days.”
Saturday afternoon and Andrew picked up his phone. He called his long-term girlfriend. “Soon, it won’t be girlfriend.”
“Hello handsome!” A woman’s lilting voice sounded over the phone.
“Wendy! Lunch. One o’clock. I’ll pick you up.”
“Andy? Wow! Sure. I’ll be ready.”
“Excellent. I’ll be there.”
“I love you.”
“I know. Cause I love you, too.” He hung up.
“Now to get ready.” Andrew darted to his room.
Andrew mowed his lawn, cleaned his car, and showered. He checked and rechecked the ring box. Before leaving to pick up Wendy, Andrew called the restaurant to check on his reservations. They were for one o’clock and everything was ready.
Wendy jerked the door opened. Her outfit was perfect and her hair defied gravity.
“You look amazing, Wendy.” Andrew reached for her hand.
“Where are we going?” Wendy closed her door as Andrew pulled her along.
“You’ll see.” He winked at her as she sat in the passenger side. He patted the ring box again and drove off.
The restaurant was a fifteen-minute drive and Andrew couldn’t keep the smile from his face. This smile was contagious and Wendy followed suit.
Pulling into the parking lot, Wendy gasped, “Andy! How did you? What is this?” She slowly exited the car, Andrew holding her hand as she wobbled to her feet.
“I got this.”
The couple walked in to the restaurant. “Yes, Andrew Samson. Reservation at one.”
The Matre’d jerked to a stiffer position. “Ah, yes, Mr. Samson. Right this way.” He led the way to a place off the side of the main dining room. A small table with a setting for two.
Andrew held the chair for Wendy, who sat.
“Enjoy.” The Matre’d walked off.
“Andrew, this is unexpected.” Wendy glanced around, her eyes wide, her mouth open, and her cheeks flushed. “What is going on?”
“Simple,” Andrew said, sitting down. “I have a job.”
Wendy looked at Andrew. The smile vanished and her eyes narrowed. “A job?” The words were slow and deliberate. She cocked her head to one side.
“Yes, Wendy,” Andrew answered. He snapped his napkin out and laid it in his lap. “A job. A nine-to-five, honest to God, real job.”
Wendy’s eyes flashed open and her mouth followed suit. The smile crept back on her face and she inhaled, covering her mouth with her fingers.
“That’s right, Wendy. I start on Monday. I will be a Lab Technician at Ianthe Chemical.” Andrew picked up his class of water and sipped it.
“Andy! Thats…thats…thats…Oh. My. God.”
“I know,” Andrew cracked a smile and held back from laughing out loud. “I wanted to celebrate and break the news to you. I will spend the very last bit of my special money on this, so I wanted to go out with a bang.”
“And what a bang it is.” Wendy kept looking at Andrew. Even when the server showed up with plates of food instead of menus. She caught herself three bites into her dish when she realized what was happening.
“I know you and ordered ahead of time.” Andrew winked at her. “Plus, it adds to the surprise.”
The heat from Wendy’s face could be felt across the table.
A few minutes of eating passed, and the server came and removed the plates. Another server came behind the first and deposited a bottle of champagne and two fluted glasses.
“What is this?” Wendy stared wide eyed at Andrew.
“I think you know what this is.” Andrew pulled the ring box out of his pocket but kept it out of sight. “We have been together for several years. You have stood by me through the worst times, and now I want you there for the best times.”
Andrew slid from his chair and knelt beside Wendy. Presenting the ring box, he pulled the lid open. The ring was elegant, with a tasteful setting that bordered on the size of a thumbnail.
“Wendy, will you marry me?”
Wendy gasped and covered her face with both hands. The wait staff and the few patrons within three tables of the proposal stopped what they were doing. Andrew’s ear rang with silence as he stared at the gently sobbing woman in front of him.
Wendy gripped her left hand with her right in an attempt to keep it from shaking. Andrew placed the ring on Wendy’s finger, kissed it, then kissed her.
The waitstaff and patrons of the restaurant applauded loudly. A few even cheered.
Andrew stood and waved, his face beaming.
On the drive home, Wendy asked, “This job at Ianthe Chemical, did they do a background check on you? You have a record.”
“I held nothing back,” Andrew answered. “It never came up on the interview. The application had the block, and I filled it in.”
“Wow!” Wendy stared at the engagement ring.
“I see this as a good omen, and I want it to work.” Andrew drove the route home. “The salary is better than I had hoped. There is a minimal commute, and they have amazing benefits.”
“You really have done your homework on this.” Wendy gazed at Andrew as he drove them to his house.
“Yes. I told you I wanted to go legit and have a regular life. No more henchmen or villain work for me.”
“Good.” Wendy smiled. “I don’t think I could take six months, let alone another two years.”
Sunday was a pleasant day for Andrew. He had made room in his house for Wendy and they both casually moved some of her stuff in. The discussed how to arrange the furniture and what kind of cooking equipment they would need, then the topic of kids was broached.
Andrew wanted two, Wendy wanted more. They agreed on three.
Monday morning came and Andrew woke to his alarm. He moved with practiced quiet as he departed for the gym. An hour later, he came home and got ready for work.
Wendy packed his lunch and ate breakfast with him.
A peck on the cheek and Andrew left for work.
Howard Davis greeted him in the lobby and handed him his work id card. Andrew filled out the HR forms and was directed to his workspace.
Around ten-thirty, while he was reviewing the research for his newly assigned project, Howard came in.
“Andy. It’s good to see you fitting in.” Howard checked on a few of the benches and talked to the other lab techs that were working.
“How is that bio-bond spray coming along, Davis?”
Andrew looked up. An older man walked in. His bearing was that of an experienced manager, and his build was solid. The suit he wore was tailored and displayed not only style, but strength.
The dark classes and the facial hair looked familiar to Andrew.
“Mr. Henderson.” Howard moved over to the new man. “Yes, the project is coming along nicely. We are experiencing some issues with the deployment device, it doesn’t hold more than two doses.”
“Perhaps a replaceable cartridge, then.” Mr. Henderson extended his arm and flexed his fist down. He moved his arm back and forth in front of him. “Like a handgun. Press a button and the spent one is ejected and I can slap in a new one.”
After hearing the man talk, seeing him move, and a good look at this face, Andrew recognized him. Dr. Graves. The arch-villain and nemesis to the super hero group, Shining Vengeance.
“That sounds like a great idea. I’ll get R&D on that ASAP.” Howard pounded on the table.
“You do that. I have other projects to check on.” Mr. Henderson whirled and left in the same hurried fashion he arrived.
“Excuse me, Mr. Davis?” Andrew stood and walked towards Howard. “Isn’t that Dr. Graves, the super villain?”
“Andrew, you, of all people, should know the value of code names. That was Mr. Henderson. He is one of our benefactors and board members.”
“But this is a respectable business. How can we make devices that someone like Mr. Henderson would use?”
“Andrew, Ianthe Chemical is a legitimate business. We make many things that the common person uses and buys.” Howard shifted to face Andrew squarely. “We also make other things that other people use and they pay us too. In fact they pay us more. Is this going to be a problem?”