Contingency Plan - Chapter 5 - Job Interview
Updated: May 26
I slept only for a few fitful hours after I had discovered Yuri’s treachery in the form of the copper-polluted gold bars. It wasn’t the thought of his treachery that kept me from sleeping, however. Nor was my insomnia caused by dark thoughts of fake-Wendleburr’s miraculous escape from the restraints that held him directly under the nozzle of the enormous rocket engine. No, I was wide awake hours before dawn because I had no criminal activities to plan. No masterfully orchestrated scheme to relentlessly pursue.
I have never been able to do nothing. I need a plot, the more complex the better, to give me a reason to get up in the morning. I need to immerse myself in a scheme built of wheels within wheels within ambitious engineering efforts within more wheels. Frankly, unless I am actively engaged in pursuit of world domination, or at least the domination of eighty-five percent of a large continent, I am bored with life.
I sat up in bed and slid my feet into the soft leather of the pair of David Balzaics I had designated as my work shoes. I stood and stretched in the dark bedroom. For my next scheme I decided, I would plot … my REVENGE.
No. A revenge plot wasn’t interesting enough. I plodded to the bathroom, stepping over the debris from the hole I created in the wall to retrieve my debased gold. Revenge can be entertaining, but it is rarely profitable. And, given my current living situation, profitability had to be my priority. Besides, Yuri, fake-Wendleburr, and everyone who had betrayed me or failed me had probably been killed in the explosion. Revenge was unnecessary.
I used the toilet in the dark and stepped back into the bedroom, crunching over smaller bits of debris from my gold retrieval operation. Instead of revenge, I thought, I would plot my comeback. THE WORLD HASN’T SEEN THE LAST OF ME! (I shouted this out loud in the dark of my bedroom) I WILL RETURN!
But how? What high-profile, high-profit, high-complexity crime could I commit in Harlan’s Creek? I had no idea. A form of writer’s block had installed itself in whatever lobes of my brain were responsible for creative criminality. Perhaps something would occur to me as I became more familiar with Harlan’s Creek, my new home.
I wandered into the kitchen. A small breakfast counter separated the narrow kitchen from the living room. I squinted into the dark living room. For the first time since I arrived, I was minimally interested in the furnishings and décor. The floor was covered with cheap beige wall-to-wall carpeting. Two sofas with floral patterns created a cramped space that appeared to be optimized for watching the television that sat next to the door.
If I was temporarily confined to a single-width mobile home, I reasoned, I could at-least make myself feel a little more comfortable by converting it to a modest command center. I opened a fresh bottle of Domaine Leroy Corton-Renardes, unbuttoned the lower button on my Gieves & Hawkes jacket, tightened the laces on my David Balzaics, and got to work.
By the time the sun had risen, I had converted my living room from what I assume was intended to be a chamber dedicated to beer-guzzling and NASCAR-watching into a rudimentary command center. I had removed the carpet and the padding, revealing the plywood subfloor. The subfloor was not ideal, but it would do for now. And, come to think of it, I liked the contrast between the opium-den look of the subfloor and the stylish elegance of the wardrobe Yuri had left for me. I dragged the sofas into the bedroom, and stacked them next to the window. Through expert use of the lug wrench, I removed the breakfast counter from its original position and relocated it to the center of the now otherwise empty living room.
Satisfied with my placement of the breakfast counter, I paced around the room, admiring its new look. A few slight changes to the lighting and the space would be perfectly adequate for commanding henchmen.
I thought briefly of Ehrlich. He would not be satisfied with the space. I imagined him complaining about the splinters from the rough plywood subfloor sticking in his yoga mat, and the placement of the counter interfering with his krav-maga.
Torn strips of carpet, along with pieces of under-padding, and broken pieces of the tack-strips I pulled up sat in a heap by the front entrance. I opened the door and the cool Appalachian morning air spilled into the living room. Correction: the cool Appalachian morning air spilled into my command center, as I began transporting the debris out the door and over my front porch railing.
A few minutes later I was leaning against the railing, admiring the small hill of carpeting and debris that I had dumped into my meager front yard when I noticed my next-door neighbor also admiring my handiwork. He wore dark blue work clothes – heavy duty clothing suited for mechanical labor. An embroidered white oval on the front of his shirt announced that his name was Stan. Stan appeared to be in his late thirties, yet had a haircut suited for a child in middle school – his unkempt hair spilled chaotically to his collar. Stan’s hands, vaguely dirty from grease and oil, were wrapped around a steaming coffee mug.
“Hi!” he said. He gave a small wave and walked briskly down his front steps, across our two lawns, and up my steps. “Name’s Stan. I’ve been wondering when you’d finally move in here. The place was unoccupied for so long.”
“My name is Wilcox,” I said, using my false identity. “And I couldn’t move in right away, given that my plans were … volatile.”
“Volatile. That’s a good way of putting it.” Stan nodded knowingly, although what he thought he knew, I had no idea. “I hope you don’t mind if I ask you a rather odd question?”
“Please, feel free,” I replied, expecting him to make a comment about the pile of junk that I just placed onto the lawn.
“You wouldn’t happen to know how to weld, would you?”
“Stan, of course I know how to weld. I can walk the cup on titanium!” For operational security reasons, I didn’t tell Stan about my recent welding work for aerospace and nuclear applications.
“Wow. Well, that’s just awesome. My guy, Hank. He got another DUI last night and he’s not going to be coming to work for a while. I have this job doing three trailer hitches that I need done today, so I’m sort of in a bind here.”
“Am I to understand that you are offering me a job as a welder?”
“Well, it’d be just for today. But if things work out, then maybe longer.”
“I must contemplate this. Please come inside for a moment.” I entered my command center and held the door for Stan. I walked to the breakfast counter, now relocated to the center of the large main room, picked up my tie – I had taken it off while pulling up the carpet – and began to tie it carefully.
“I can pay you two hundred for the day’s work, assuming you get all three hitches on good. And then…” Stan’s voice petered out as the uniqueness of my decorating scheme began sink in. He knelt to inspect the surface he was standing on more carefully. “What the – is this just the subfloor?
As he knelt on my command center floor, coming to grips with my décor, I rapidly considered his offer. The apparent legality of Stan’s proposed arrangement bothered me. Performing a legitimate task for pay was not my style. But I wanted to eat solid food, and possibly acquire some underpants. The wages my new neighbor offered would certainly allow for that.
“I’ll take the job, Stan,” I announced.
“You will?” he said looking up at me in surprise. “That’s great. I can drive you in right away.”
“Excellent.” I smiled. “Most excellent indeed.”