"You must reach the top!" These inane words rang in my head as I raced up the winding staircase, hearing my heart's pounding drown out the howling storm outside. I really needed to get in better shape for these reoccurring emergencies; you'd think living in a lighthouse
I'd have done all the necessary body maintentance
. As usual, the blasted rotation motor
was on the fritz
, and I needed to go up and crank it manually for any ships lost in the storm. The staircase seemed endless as I jumped over a few missing planks and snagged a gold coin
, and the lighthouse alarm's chiming was incessant and ... then I realized it was my phone ringing and woke up.
I yawned, awake but not quite alert. What a stupid dream. Mario
in Erectile Dysfunction
Land, Part 1. As I unwillingly left the comfort of my bed for my chilly apartment and blearily trudged to the kitchen, I briefly thought about what Freud
would have had to say about my dream about a lighthouse
that didn't work
. Fortunately I knew that particular aspect of my ego
was just fine, since I had it turned off a few months ago for a case
, and never bothered to go in for reversal. Silly Freud, you are no match for modern brainworks. I should really lay off the retro gaming
, though. I shook my head bemusedly and picked up the persistent caller, glancing at the clock.
I grunted "Yeah?" into the phone, figuring that was all the early hour deserved. As usual, I left my visual off; you never know who might be calling
. "I would like to speak to Mr. --- regarding a case," the caller was a primly dressed man in his 30s; a small, pursed mouth and a slight, probably unconscious frown gave him a disapproving look. It was an expression that should have been licensed as a deadly weapon (Disapproval
, Grade A, Single Target
, Considerable Psychic Anguish
- 300 bucks a year) if it wasn't for his eyes. They were small, watery - which made him blink a lot - and occasionally darting side to side; his face as a whole made him the poster boy for Webster 1913
. I learned a long time ago not to judge clients by their appearances - it was really what was in their heads that counted - but old habits died hard, and you could still gain at least some ideas in only a few seconds' worth of contact. For example, there was the simple fact that he didn't have his twitch fixed. Although there could have been a number of causes (too poor, too practical, or the problem was beyond the skill of bodychoppers), each one had to be considered. A small fact could solve the case for you sometimes.
"Go on, I'm listening," I replied. I listened as he explained; it sounded like a standard cleanjob
, perhaps even simple enough so that a dive
wouldn't be necessary. The only detail I didn't really like was the motive; the guy's profile, which has finally download
ed, made him out to be your regular working class contractor
, with the usual string of successful jobs and an occasional early dismissal due to project cancellation - nothing unusual, so why would anyone bother infecting him? Sure, it could've just been a case of a random spam
ming, but in my experience these were more rare than MicroNorton Media
would have you think.
"I'm not really taking cleanjobs at the moment," I replied after deliberating for a while. I reached out to terminate the call when the man softly said "That's not the impression I got." I paused; was this just a ploy to keep me talking or actually something pertinent? "Oh?" I tossed out. "Well, it appears that you, ah, node
..." he trailed off, seeming embarassed as his Grade A Disapproval bored into me, even despite my vid being off. I sighed, switching the visual on. This guy had to be a bit above the average if he could not only figure out who I was on 'thing
, but also bother to look there in the first place. It implied disconcerting insight. "Very well; we will talk in my office at 8:30 tomorrow morning." I disconnected, feeling satisfied that I got the last word in, despite the fact that the Disapproval was still there, a glowing afterimage behind my eyes. Damn him anyway.
January 12, 2004 | February 1, 2004 | TCB