This story was written in response to a Reddit /r/WritingPrompts prompt.
I stared at the 30 year old guy in front of me like he had inexplicably turned into a 20 year old woman. After a few uncomfortable minutes of this, I asked the question he had to know was coming.
“Why, exactly, do you want a job from me?”
He fidgeted and his eyes went all over the place. What a pro. He actually looks nervous. I bet his hands are going to be all sweaty when I shake them later. He manages a nervous smile and says, “Why does anybody want a job, sir? I need the money. I don’t care how.”
I had a file open in front of me that was supposed to be his, but was actually one of the other Joes’ files who was already working the floor. I couldn’t open his file in front of him — the boys had scrawled ‘NARC’ on every page. He works for the FBI — of this, we have no doubt. But to look at him, sitting in front of me the same way everybody who works the floor does when applying, you wouldn’t think it. Maybe Leo’s Oscar should go to this guy.
I sighed, realising I’ll have to put him through the hoops. Can’t have the Feds up my ass, can we? My own husband barely goes there anymore. I flip through the forms he’s filled up, and frown as I realise he’s omitted one very important detail. I walk over and hold the form up to his shifty eyes.
“You didn’t fill in your spouse’s phone number.”
“I-I-I don’t want her to be traced, sir, you understand, I hope?”
“Feds have tried, feds have failed. Fill it up.” I say, handing him my pen.
“Fill it up, or you don’t get the job. It’s how it is.”
He stared at the form like I had just asked him to decapitate his son’s puppy. He really is good. “B-B-But-people die here, don’t they? That’s why you need her number, notify next of kin?”
I realise he’s wired. Thank God I barely said anything to him. “Jesus, no. What kind of scum do you think we are?” The lowest kind, probably. Feeling’s mutual, assface.
“It’s how we roll, son. Now put her phone number on there.”
He reluctantly takes my pen and writes down a number. I grab the form from him and immediately dial it. After maybe twelve rings, she finally picks up.
“Yes, who is this?”
“My name is Jonathan Klein, I’m your husband’s new boss.”
“Oh. At the…the factory?”
Fake number. Perfect. I smiled. “Yes, at the factory. Sorry to bother you ma’am, just calling to let you know your husband’s got the job.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful!” Yes, you’d think so, you Fed piece of shit.
“I wouldn’t celebrate just yet, ma’am. I’m afraid I also need your cooperation for him to do his job.”
I watched the guy’s eyes go wide in surprise. Don’t they ever learn? On the phone, ‘Mrs. Peterson’ was saying, “M-Me? What do I need to do?”
“I’ll give you another call in fifteen minutes. Ta-Ta.” I hung up, and smiled at the Fed. “Well, Alan, let’s do a dry run.”
Fifteen minutes later Alan was hooked up to a basic version of the Extractor we used on the floor. I watched, smoking a cigarette, in awe of the machinery. Who would’ve thought? The most efficient form of energy known to man, and all we have to do is hurt people to get it.
“So…is this going to hurt?” Alan asked, nervously.
“Yes and no.” I said, exhaling. The boys had just given me the thumbs up to go ahead. I nodded and dialed ‘Mrs. Peterson’ again.
“What do you mean?”
I held my finger up to pause him. Mrs. Fed was quick to pick up this time. I gave her the instructions, whispering them so ‘Alan’ wouldn’t hear. After I was sure she understood, I handed the phone to Alan.
“Here you go. Talk to your wife.”
If I had a penny for every Fed that looked at me like that at this point, I wouldn’t have to keep the floor open every other day. “W-What?”
“Talk to your wife. About anything. Hey, Yankees game coming up next week, talk to her about that. You two enjoy baseball?”
He nodded. Now I was starting to see some real nervousness.
“Great!” I smiled. “Go ahead. Talk to her about baseball.”
He stared at me for a few seconds, then talked into the phone. “H-Hi, Honey.”
She didn’t answer, of course. I told her to ignore him.
You could be bleeding Hell right now, Alan my friend, but ‘Honey’ isn’t going to say shit. Alan’s getting frantic — either real, or fake, I don’t know, but after five minutes he was practically crying into the phone. At that point one of the boys looked at me and shook his head. I yanked the phone away from Alan and thanked ‘Mrs. Peterson’ for her time, then hung up. I stared at Alan for a good minute, trying my best to keep a disappointed face going.
“So, Alan, cheating on your wife?”
He was shocked. “W-what? No! I would never-”
“Lay off the act, Alan. She ignored you for a good ten minutes and we got nothing on our readout.” I waved at the boys. “Get this loser outta my sight.”
“W-wait a minute! Wait a minute!” In that bestial moment, while the boys unhooked him protestingly from the Extractor kicking and screaming, I got a glimpse of the real person behind the facade. “Isn’t this a pain factory?”
“Thanks, Alan, maybe the cops in the next state didn’t hear you.”
“But isn’t it?” He asks, while the boys drag him to the door.
“Pain is relative, Alan,” I explain. “Did you know that humans produce the same reaction as physical pain when ignored by someone they deeply care about? That person obviously isn’t your wife, Alan.”
As he’s thrown unceremoniously out the door, face first into the street, I stand in the doorway and tell him, “Get me the number of someone you really care about, Alan, or stop wasting my time.”
I closed the door and looked at the boys. “He’ll be back in a couple of days. Do another dry run with the new number, and if it’s good, trace the call. Then work whoever it is over.”
“Right, boss,” one of them said. “Hook up an extractor to them while we do it?”
“Of course. No sense in letting good suffering go to waste.”