Frank reached out and patted him on the shoulder. He seemed to like doing that for some reason. Gary found it a little patronizing, but he didn’t complain. For what he was earning here, he could take a few pats on the shoulder from Frank.  Nor did he come across remotely as a threat.  Just one of those kinds of guys.

“See,” he said. “Best man for the job. You can start with the main directory. There’s a publication guide at the top, read through that to familiarize yourself.”

Frank returned to his side of the divider. A phone call came in. From Frank’s side of the conversation, it did seem there was something strange going on a beach on Lake Erie near Toledo.

“So, even though he died ten years ago photos of him on the beach taken last week showed up on Pintrest?” Franks was saying. “What’s the location. Echo beach? Got it. We’ll put in on the burner.”

Gary turned back to his screen, chewed on the end of his pen.

Everyone in the office did seem a little idiosyncratic when he thought about it. It was clear Benny and Frank had been working together for some time, given their coded speech, winks, nudges and nods, although the couldn’t have seemed more different. Frank came across as an affable slob, overweight, scruffy and often had a stain of some sort on his shirt, pants or jacket or tie.

“The wife’s kind of given up on changing me,” he noted once. “She concentrates now on making me the ‘bad’ example for the kids to keep them on the straight and narrow.  Seem’s to be working so far.”

Benny on the other hand came across as rather unexcitable. Unlike Frank who seemed to talk just a little too much, Benny was practically laconic, although his curiosity did come out sometimes. He also had the unnerving tendency to sneak up from behind and just watch what Gary was doing. The day after Frank had given him the assignment, Smelling hazelnut, he suddenly turned around to see Benny there, just standing with his coffee in hand.

“Can I help you?” Gray wanted to know, a bit unsettled at the man’s sudden appearance.

“Not yet,” Benny offered in reply. “Just thought I’d come over with these.”

He was holding a couple of file folders in his other hand.

“They needed to be faxed to the French Embassy in Barnako – Mali,” he explained. “Our machine is down. Can you take them down to the Value Mart? That’s what we use when that happens.”

Gary took the files. They looked like dossiers on a man and a woman. He glanced back up at Benny.

“Couldn’t we just scan them and then send an email?” he suggested.

Benny leaned closer.

“To many ways to intercept,” he said in a low, conspiratorial tone. That sounded a bit paranoid. “And you’re the new guy, so you get the job.”

“What are you working on?” he asked.

Benny shrugged.

“NDA,” he said. “Although it pretty interesting so far. How about you? How goes the collating of crazy?”

Gary stared at him, then sighed, put the folders down.

“This is pretty weird,” he admitted. “I’m surprised people think that stuff is anything but science fiction. Walk-ins, portals, Bigfoot.”

Benny chuckled at that.

“Yeah,” he replied. “That’s a good way of looking at it. Don’t let Frank freak you out to much either. He tends to take these things a little too enthusiastically some of the time. That’s what happens when you’re a frustrated writer.”

“I can hear you,” Frank called from the other side of the divider. “And unless you’ve proven parallel worlds don’t exist, then don’t mock me, or Scientific American.  Scientific, remember?”

“See what I mean,” Benny offered, nodding in the man’s direction.

Gary nodded. Then Benny cocked his head at him.

“You’ve been here a week, what do you think so far?”

“Beat’s working at Big Lot’s” Gary replied.  He’d had to get out of there.

“Yeah,” Benny replied. “But, you don’t still have you’re employee discount card, do you?”

“I think I do,” Gary replied, surprised at the change of topic.

So, Benny wasn’t quite as Zen as he came across. Just a cheapskate like everyone else.  Gary could appreciate that.

Go to Chapter Nine

Go to Chapter Eleven

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