The next day dawns with no new revelations. Aside from being a little bit frayed at the edges, my cast doesn’t appear to be too badly damaged by the previous evening’s activities. Judging by the way my leg itches, though, some kind of rain ants have taken up residence. And as for progress in fixing things: it’s still raining, I still have to think about being rubber when I go outside, and all I’ve really learned is that this is apparently not a problem that we can solve like reasonable adults. I guess the presence of superpowers should maybe have clued me into that to begin with, but I’d been holding out hope.
About an hour into wasting my day with Netflix, I realize that the usual distraction of bad horror movies isn’t cutting it. The itching on my leg has died down, but I’m still feeling restless. I haven’t got any idea what I could be doing, though. My brilliant idea from yesterday was a bust, and I’m all tapped out on fresh thoughts right now. I need some time to unwind and let the problem percolate, and watching brainless movies is usually the best way to do that.
But despite my best arguments, I’m unable to convince myself, and after another half-hour I cut off the TV and reluctantly heave myself off of the couch. I waste another ten minutes or so finding the duct tape and wrapping it around the ends of my crutches to serve as makeshift grips at the bottom, but soon I’m out of reasonable ways to waste time around the house. So I get suited up against the rain, and I make my way to the bus stop again.
Although it has only recently entered my life, waiting in bus shelters has rapidly climbed to the top of my Most Hated Activities list, passing “cleaning out the fridge” and even “getting lectured by Edgar.” Part of it is the constant rain, of course, and the inability to find any spot in the shelter that’s totally safe from it. But it’s more than that, too. The benches are uncomfortable and weirdly placed, making them hard to sit on. The plastic walls are always covered in some sort of thin grime, probably from all of the people leaning against them because they can’t sit on a bench. When I’m all alone at the stop, I feel like a weirdo, and that only gets worse when someone else gets there. Ignoring them seems rude, but talking to them seems ruder. I’ve now spent so much time awkwardly staring at bus maps, pretending to be reading the routes, that I’m actually starting to learn them, even the ones I don’t take. I didn’t even know I had these social anxieties before, but apparently discovering these things about yourself is just one of the hidden joys of public transit.
When the bus pulls up, I get on without any clear idea of where I want to go. I’ve got a half-formed idea about returning to the scene of the crime to look for clues, but then I remember that it was really more my crime than hers, and also that she can evidently sense me a lot better than I can her, so I’m unlikely to catch her unawares. So it’s really more of a quarter-formed idea, honestly.
Still, I can’t seem to come up with anything better, so when the bus reaches downtown I hop off and traipse through the rain to the convenience store I saw last night. It’s one of those random no-name ones, not one of the chains like CVS or Walgreen’s, the kind that always has one of the lightbulbs in the aisles flickering and where you can’t see through the windows because of all of the signs for cigarettes and lottery tickets. This one’s called the V & R Mart, which technically means it’s not a no-name store, but you know what I mean.
The bell dings when I walk in, and the guy behind the counter looks up disinterestedly. He doesn’t even bother to say hi before turning back to the TV, so I wander around the aisles for a bit — where, sure enough, one lightbulb is flickering — before concluding that there’s no one else in this tiny store. I don’t know what I expected; to find her stocking cans in the back, maybe? Or just sleeping in the cooler? I downgrade the complexity of my idea to one-eighth-formed.
So as not to look like I’ve just wandered in to case the place, I pick up a can of Pringles and head back to the front counter. As the guy’s ringing me up, I suddenly have an idea.
“Hey, who was working here last night? Blonde girl, maybe mid-twenties, about shoulder-high on me?”
“You mean Regina?” he asks.
“Yeah! Yeah, could be.”
“What about her?”
“We had a, kind of a missed connection. I was just looking to take another shot. Do you know if she’s going to be working tonight?”
He half-laughs. “Doubt it. Boss came in this morning , found the store unlocked, lights still on. She ditched last night without closing anything up. Didn’t even turn off the OPEN sign. Lucky no one cleaned the place out; hadn’t been raining so hard, probably someone would have. Even if she’s back from whatever trip she was on, boss might not let her back.”
“Huh, geez.” So apparently when she took off when Peterson showed up, she really took off. I feel sort of bad for her, until I remember that she was doing her best to kill me and Brian. That tempers my sympathy a bit.
“Guess your missed connection’s gonna stay missed.”
I doubt that, in the long run. It’d be nice, but nothing so far has indicated that I’m anywhere near that lucky. I take my Pringles back to the bus stop and catch a lift home in time to get ready for work.
Edgar’s clearly in a rare mood. The guard desk has sprouted a half-dozen new memos, all neatly typed and taped up with military precision. Apparently the museum has had “lax standards” and employees have been “abusing the good nature of management,” both of which will now be rectified in the form of additional micromanagement of my job.
I snort as I read over the memos. Check-in timestamps will now be verified to ensure that the guard was at the appropriate area within a minute of the approved time. Videotapes are subject to monitoring. Strict adherence to the dress code is required of all employees, even those not traditionally expected to interact with the public. These might as well all say, “Dan, I will find a reason to fire you. Signed, Edgar.” I mean, Edgar’ll happily fire anyone else who gets caught in his new nitpicky net, but it’s pretty clearly designed with me in mind.
I’ve got no intention of giving him the satisfaction, of course. And I’ve got to say, it’s pretty sportsmanlike of him to give me such a detailed breakdown of how he intends to go about it. Now that he’s said, “Here are the areas in which I intend to catch you out,” I know what I have to do to be the perfect employee.
For certain values of perfect, anyway. I check in at every mark that night exactly on time, and I make sure that my uniform is neat and tucked in and that my badge is prominently displayed at all times. But every time I pass a camera, I wink and shoot it the ol’ finger guns, then hold that pose for six seconds. That’s long enough that I figure it should show up even when Edgar’s fast-forwarding through, looking for things I’ve done wrong.
And because I’m doing it for every camera, it’ll show up over and over again. Watching me wink at him from a dozen different cameras ought to be enough to keep Edgar seething, without actually giving him any basis to claim misconduct.
I could be more mature about this, but he started it.
This keeps me entertained throughout the night, and when the time comes to head home in the morning, I’m actually feeling a lot better than I was when I left for work, which is a deeply unusual state of affairs. I know intellectually that baiting Edgar isn’t anywhere close to on par with solving the storm problem, but emotionally, it just feels good to be winning something. Minor, petty and maybe even childish, sure, but a win is a win, and I’m just enjoying the feeling while it lasts.