Wednesday's Three Word Wednesday

The words over at Three Word Wednesday are corrupt, intellect and tension.

The Cleaner
The title was bestowed by gossipy workers who wore their tension like those stick-on nametags where you scrawl your name in Sharpie and try not to stand out.
The name, that was real.
Hackett worked in finance. There was no title on the door to his office. Just MR. HACKETT painted on the eggshell-steel door.
We all called him The Cleaner, behind his back – and in hushed tones.
He was one creepy fuck. And we all feared him. Immensely.
An accomplished feat, since he stood maybe 5 feet tall and weighed maybe 120 pounds.
His skin had this waxy quality, white, cool like marble. It made the blue of his veins pop from that skin. It didn’t help that his hair was a color a raven’s wing, course and parted harshly to the right, held tight with scentless pomade. The same pomade held down the dark mustache that was groomed daily with an efficient hand.
Think Hitler, but with a better tailor.
A beady intellect bore through you as he walked around the office, always watching through these massive aviator glasses that had no frames. Just curved lenses, like twin magnifying glasses.
I worked in the bullpen, a cluster of cubes where the walls didn’t go up far enough to hide a cruise around the Internet, or the folded up papers bearing that day’s Sudoku puzzle.
Eggshell enclosure with light gray cubicle walls, a directive on the day you started that allowed one personal picture, one plant, one company-issued coffee mug. The computers were eggshell, for chrissakes.
Jackets were to be worn in the office, even if you needed to hit the head for a piss. No colored shirts, no ties with cartoon characters on them.
This was a business, we all were told on that first day, you will look and act the part.
It was like a daycare, a soulless Romper Room where instead of a bubbly Miss Claire looking through her magic mirror, we had The Cleaner and his rat eyes boring through you.
We weren’t doing God’s work, I suppose, reversing mortgages on the elderly, buying insurance policies on AIDS patients, hedging the bet that they’d die and we’d get at least 80 percent return on the investment. Morally corrupt, but certainly not illegal.
The pay was bitchin,’ which is why you never carried the names home with you, like gum on your shoe.
Then Danny’s file landed in the in-box.
My best friend from grade school. Now dying of AIDS, a little gift he got from a 18-year-old transvestite hooker in the Philippines as part of a “gentleman’s sex tour” of the Far East.
Damn it, Danny.
The bullpen’s job was to adjust the rate of return vs. the lump-sum payout. On any given day, you’d work five or six “cases.” The client balked, you politely told them to take their business elsewhere. They’d call back, choked with tears, and in that hour of reflection, you’d lower the payout by a few percentage points.
He recognized my voice immediately.
“Hey, kid, say how’s it going?”
All conversations were recorded for training purposes.
“Mr. Dellicort, as a representative of Bender & Bender, I am authorized to offer you a generous, one-time settlement so that you may carry on your affairs with the grace and dignity they so richly deserve.”
“Dude, it’s Danny, man.”
“Mr. Dellicort, I am showing a deficient file here. There are two forms that need to be filled out before we can consider your application. Do you mind if I come by and drop off the required paperwork for your consideration?”
“Fifty-first and Belmont, be there in an hour.”
King’s Tap-Room, a greasy bar of the sort that cashed payroll checks for beers at 8 a.m.
Danny’s at the bar, nursing a beer and a shot. It’s 10 a.m.
“You know, if I could have reached through the receiver, I would have choked your scrawny neck,” he said, shaking my hand.
“Big Brother is everywhere,” I say, dropping off the eggshell envelope with all the new forms.
“What’s this?”
“My lovely parting gift, my man. As long as you’re going to get screwed again, I though it best to squeeze the maximum amount out of these guys.”
“I appreciate it.”
A week goes by and there’s no fallout from Danny’s file. I start to relax.
Hackett walks through the bullpen, points a finger at me, points at his eggshell door. I count the gray carpet squares, unwilling to look anyone in the eye.
Hackett’s windowless office is bare of personality. An aluminum table with two aluminum chairs. A desk farther back, high-back, black leather chair. There’s nothing on the desk but a blotter and a fountain pen. The only thing on the table is the Dellicort file, not in an eggshell folder but sinister red.
Hackett takes off his jacket, hangs it on a hook on the backside of the door, begins to roll up his sleeves.
The flesh just above those alabaster hands are a tangle of ink, grotesque tattoos of torment and despair.
“Let’s have a conversation about this case file, shall we?”
And in that instant, in the inside crook of his right forearm, I swear I saw three numbers.


angel said...

It may have been hard, but I liked it. That guy sounds rough!

Quin Browne said...

like hitler with a better tailor... excellent.

(hey, my veins show, and my skin is NOT waxy)

tumblewords said...

Ah, the boiler room. Excellent work - descriptive, full of tension and knowing.

Linda Jacobs said...

Wow, I couldn't stop reading this! There are so many cool details like Romper Room and the Sudoku puzzle.

lissa said...

I like the details/description, it adds to the story and the tension was done so well

I don't quite get the three numbers on the forearm, it is something to do with prison? not very intellect in these areas

ThomG said...

Lissa, I was going for a whole "number of the beast" thing as a way to drive home the evil. The three numbers being 666.