The story so far:
Marty searched the desk for a nameplate, a signature, some way of identifying O.C.D.’s CEO. Finding none, he crossed his arms and cursed under his breath.
“Something wrong, Mr. Bish?”
“Yeah, dickhead. I’m sick of being jerked around like a puppet when I don’t even know who Gepetto is. You’re the Defenders of the Constitution? So what? I use my constitutional rights, same as anybody, and I’m pretty sure the fourth, eighth and thirteenth amendments are getting pretty **** violated.”
“Mr. Bish,” started blue eyes, but Marty interrupted.
“I’m not saying another word until I get some answers.”
They sat in the quiet room for an extended moment. Disliking the silence, Marty started to whistle. Billy Joel’s The Stranger felt appropriate.
The man behind the desk nodded at Marty, then at his henchmen. Suits closed on both sides. Then blue eyes spoke.
“You’re much more comfortable in the anonymity of your study, aren’t you? Somewhere you can edit your thoughts before broadcasting them. Because you appear to have firmly lodged yourself between the proverbial rock and a hard place. If you’re not going to,” he mockingly air-quoted, “say another word until you get some answers, how should I know what the questions are? Should I guess?”
Marty grew up with an older sister. He was willing to play the sarcasm game. He snarled a grin and pulled an invisible zipper across his lips.
“Fine, then. Question one. Who am I? Answer one. I’m Reese Fitzgerald. Question two. Why you, Mr. Bish? Answer two. Because I’m sick and tired of wasting the lives of valuable men when there are disposable people like you to do the same job. Shall I continue?”
Marty didn’t like where this was going. He licked his lips, but Reese’s wink rubbed him the wrong way, and he clamped his mouth shut.
“Question three. How is a hack and a pretender like you going to have an opportunity to meet the President of the United States?”
Reese swiveled his chair away from Marty and waited. Marty tried to whistle again, but sometime during answer two, his mouth went dry. He leaned forward, but the suits on either side of him placed their hands firmly on his shoulders and nonverbally recommended him to stay seated. Still, he refused to speak. This wasn’t nearly as stressful as the police interrogation when he was picked up for panhandling.
Finally, Reese pivoted back to his counterpart. “Well, Mr. Bish? Wouldn’t you like to know the answer?”
The first rule of the sarcasm game dictated to never give in. Marty performed an exaggerated shrug, lifting his shoulders to his earlobes and curling his upturned hands in front of his face. He studied his palms and feigned concern as he folded his fingers in, save the middle ones. Once satisfied, he straightened his arms and displayed a proud double-deuce.
“While the IRS might not have an idea about your primary income source, we’re familiar with your masquerade. You’re good at what you do, Mr. Bish. I’ll give you that.”
Somewhere beneath the anger and confusion, Marty felt a twinge of pride.
“Do you have any idea how many vagrants there are in our nation’s capital? I’ll bet you don’t. Nearly fifteen-thousand. That’s not merely people who report to shelters and soup kitchens. Those are people who have chosen, for whatever reason, to make a living as beggars. Pickpockets. Criminals. It’s illegal to be a bum, you know. Loitering might not be, but soliciting is. It might be romantic in other countries to support your lifestyle on the goodwill of others, but here in America, that’s the kind of activity that gets you put in jail.”
Marty knew. **** undercovers.
“Personally, I don’t mind providing an occasional handout. The great thing about the homeless is people don’t even look at them anymore. Drop a charity dollar in a hat or guitar case and go about your business.” Reese chuckled. “But why am I telling you this? I’m sure you know it better than I do.”
Yeah, he knew. It financed his house and car. There were sacrifices, though; despite two attempts, Marty wasn’t able to keep a wife. Seems it’s only cool to say “I married a bum” when women were joking about it.
Reese reached into his top drawer and produced a manila folder.
“Funny thing is, the homeless have library cards. I always thought you had to give an address to get one. Do you know what the library has?”
“Seafood.” Rule number two of the sarcasm game: if your opponent provides an irresistible setup, shove it in their face. Marty snorted.
“Public computers. With internet access. There’s quite a community of bloggers expressing their plight, et cetera. Some are actually surprisingly good writers. They’re not all uneducated. Not at all. It’s my belief that most of the bums are simply unmotivated. That’s where you come into play, Mr. Bish.”
Marty scratched his forehead with his middle finger. It wasn’t the most mature decision he’d ever made, but it sure felt good.
“Exactly. That rebel spirit of yours. It permeates your writing. Even so, you make some valid points quite convincingly. If President Boxwood stepped down, the most qualified individual would assume his position.”
Bill Yoder, Marty thought. Did the vice president coordinate the O.C.D.?
Reese shook his head slightly as if he was reading Marty’s mind. “We believe President Boxwood will not step down voluntarily, so we may have to pursue alternative means to help him evacuate his office. Here’s something else you might not find surprising: Washington’s homeless aren’t big supporters of the current administration. While they don’t vote – you can’t send registrations to shelters – they’ve expressed interest in doing something to change the way things are run.”
Marty’s brow dropped. “I may be a bum, but I won’t murder.”
Dammit. The sarcasm game somehow ended without a clear cut winner. Marty hated that.
“We’re not asking you to kill anyone, Mr. Bish.” Reese laughed freely. The suits remained emotionless. “What we’d like is a general. You have a unique position, both through your blog and your occupation, to tap into a virtual army. We’d like you to take some initiative with your writing. Perhaps express your support of the Constitution’s right of assembly to spark some change.”
“Spark some change,” Marty repeated. His blog signature. He liked the play on spare some change, but he never expected this interpretation. “And if I don’t?”
Reese Fitzgerald shrugged his shoulders all the way to his ears, extended his arms and double-barreled Marty. As he did, one of the guards pricked the side of Marty’s neck and again everything went white.