John had not slept well. He really hadn't slept at all, but had felt the need to try, to fortify himself. Quick shave in the bathroom. Ask portable Central American Virgin Mary in the closet for luck, intercession, whatever you want to call it, he needed it. Time to go to work.
"Where do you think you're headed, Temporary Employee John?" It was Floyd, sitting in the reception area. He was reading Performance Car.
"I was going to go down and get breakfast."
"The lease agreement stipulates that the use of vertical access assets, such as elevators and stairwells are currently off limits to temporary employees of the renter."
"I'll buy you breakfast and bring it back up"
Floyd pulled a fountain pen from his pocket and wrote something on a yellow sticky note.
"This rider constitutes a temporary use waiver for purposes of the meal period hereafter referred to as breakfast. Initial here."
John initialed the note.
"What do you want?"
"At this time the Management requests two egg bagels with country ham."
"I'd like to buy nine sandwiches, please." John was standing in front of the register for A GREAT SANDWICH.
"You want how many?" The sandwich lady was squinting from behind the sneeze guard.
"I want nine."
"You can't have nine."
"Why not?" One of the security guards was looking over at John from across the room.
"I've never sold that many. That's nine hundred dollars worth of sandwich. You know that's nine hundred dollars worth of sandwich? Only a crazy man eats nine hundred dollars of sandwich."
"What if I told you I was buying nine sandwiches, but I only wanted seven."
"That some kind of drug talk?"
"Hey buddy! What's taking so long up there? Sweet-talk the lady when I ain't waiting in line." It was an angry shipping clerk, further back in line.
"Listen close. What if I gave you the money for nine sandwiches, and you gave me seven? Right?" said John.
John discreetly slid a bundle of bills across the counter.
"And I want you to wrap one of the sandwiches in this."
John handed across a foil sandwich wrapper, folded in half and marked with a small black "M." The sandwich lady leaned forward, and whispered.
"You mean you want me to wrap one of the sandwiches that I'm not going to give you in this?"
"Hey buddy! Some of us work here!" said angry line man.
"Lady, I'm going to give you nine hundred bucks, you're going to keep two hundred and give me seven sandwiches, one of which you're going to wrap in this, OK?"
"Ok. Oh I got you now." The Sandwich Lady gave him a big wink. She's a sly one.
"Good morning, Ladies. Can I join you for breakfast?"
"You can take your business elsewhere, mister." It was Compass Shawl. The careful topiary of her hair had gone feral, branching out in non-Euclidean tufts. She and two of her underlings were splitting a single sandwich. With the plastic knife and fork in her hands, it was clearly a one-cuts-the-others-choose situation.
"That's none of your beeswax. I heard you weren't even supposed to be down here, Mr. Fake Engineer." The other women nodded in agreement. That was definitely the word.
"Matilda lost her Food Court Access Agreement when they made the emergency renters agreement." It was Compass Woman's second in command. She wore a shawl held onto her shoulder with what looked like a gold-plated protractor.
"It's because she's always bragging about her family's fancy sailing trips and how she's always sailing here and there and maybe some of us are tired of hearing about all her fancy trips." The third woman's shawl was clasped with something man was not meant to know, fashioned from new Mexican silver and turquoise.
"I said, Ladies, that it was none of his beeswax." said Compass Shawl.
"Well. I had this bag of sandwiches that I wanted to give her. I guess I'll just try and find her later."
The three women were all looking up at the bag.
John held up a finger. "Unless one of you all were willing to take it up to her?"
"I'd be more than happy to take it to her. Such a skinny little thing, she doesn't eat enough." Compass Shawl never took her eyes off the bag, reaching for it with her heavy hand. John leaned in, opening the top of the bag so that Compass Shawl could see inside.
"Matilda gets the one marked 'M', right?"
"Matilda gets the one marked 'M'."
Midnight. John was in the HVAC and maintenance space above the offices on 43. He was wearing a window washer's harness, clipped off to the steel joist work that supported the floor above. John had body jammed down three floors inside air duct, working his way down from 46. He hung under the skeletonized joist for a minute, catching his breath. Trusting to the harness, he leaned down to the drop ceiling below and pried up one of the acoustical panels to take a look. John could see Fletcher sleeping in a reception chair, head rocked back, face covered with Supergolf! magazine. Compass Shawl was sleeping on a sofa nearby. Light blue walls. Track lighting set on low. The building was in Sleep mode.
John consulted he floor plan he had sketched out. The ceiling tiles under him were three feet long. He moved twelve more tiles up, then five over. A dim light came from below, though the cracks. He pried up another.
John looked down at the handicapped stall of the women's bathroom. Mattie was crouched on top of the toilet, smiling up at him.
Reaching into a pack he had made from trash bags and duct tape, John began pulling out sections of a narrow ladder that he had constructed from red cubes. Ten sections later, the ladder was long enough to reach the floor and balance against the joist John was hanging from.
Mattie climbed quietly, in her bare feet. In her right hand were her shoes, those chunky little art shoes, and a sandwich wrapper. There was writing inside it, John's.
"Hi. I got your note."
On the top floor, moonlight filled white walls and bare concrete. John and Mattie stepped out of the cargo elevator into pale white light.
"We may not have long," said John.
"We'll work fast."
Around every entrance to the top floor, there were thick walls of red cubes. The stairways and elevators blocked in behind heavy, ziggurat-style bulwarks of staggered cubes, thick breastworks against intrusion. Only the cargo elevator was still open to the room, the only entrance left uncubed. John wheeled over the arm, right hand moving fast through the menus. It was time to cut themselves off from the rest of the building. Mattie and John needed no interruptions, from the entity known as Building Management, or anybody else, for that matter.
"PUT ME TO WORK! I LOVE TO STACK! I"M READY TO GO GO GO!"
The arm started its steady work. It was time to get up to the roof. There were things to do.
past Temporary: Cubesday
-:::- Temporary: Raceday future
start Temporary: Monday