My latest client, Lisa Abernathy, has hired me to do this a million times before, so she keeps cool when her secretary pokes her head in the door and announces, “Ms. Abernathy, the board of directors from Dengle & Raithborn are asking for your opinion on their latest prospectus. What should I tell them?”
She stifles a gasp and calmly replies, “That I want thirty-eight percent or it’s no deal! And tell them to think long and hard about their answer, because it could very well make the difference between expanding Mr. Dengle’s summer home portfolio by another ten properties, or just another yawn-worthy trip to the Hamptons.”
The secretary nods. “Yes Ms. Abernathy.” She closes the door.
Lisa Abernathy, alpha soccer mom and the iron hand behind Strategic Global Solutions Inc., cups a hand to her mouth and yells, “AND GET ME A TRIPLE-SHOT MOCHA LATTE, FOUR TABLESPOONS OF RAW MILK WITH THREE TEASPOONS OF EL DUARTE CANE SUGAR. GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOUL IF SO MUCH AS AN OUNCE OF IT ISN’T ORGANIC AND FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED!”
The secretary’s voice may be dampened from being one room away, but it’s still audible: “Yes, Ms. Abernathy!”
I’m on my knees under Ms. Abernathy’s desk, my head between her thighs. She looks down at me and smiles. “You can come out now, Kent.”
I bang my head against the bottom of her desk. “OW!”
Goddammit—it happens every time.
Lisa knows it too. She laughs and says, “One of these days I’m going to get someone to cushion the underside of this desk. Until then, how about I just tip you extra?”
I scootch out from under the beautifully crafted bocote-wood surface that serves as her workspace, get to my feet, and give her an easy grin. “That’d be swell, Ms. Abernathy. Whatever you think is appropriate.”
An evil gleam lights in her eye. “I don’t pay you for what I think is ‘appropriate,’ Kent. You and that tongue…my God!”
I look off to the side and smile bashfully. “It’s just a matter of practice. In Man Whore training, we had to do fifty tongue push-ups before every meal.”
“Well it definitely shows; I could feel each fucking push-up.” She kicks her feet up on to her desk and crosses her ankles. I adjust the bowtie and booty shorts that she likes me to wear, and barely manage to catch the wad of hundreds that she flings toward my chest.
“Get out of here, you filthy slut,” she says affectionately.
I respond with a happy grin. “Yes, Ms. Abernathy.”
As I begin walking out, she says, “Ah ah AH! You know what I want—DANCE your way out, bitch!” She claps her hands twice and the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” starts blasting through her wall-mounted speakers.
I shimmy, shake, and slink my way towards the exit, giving her my best Man Whore wink and smile as I slip out the door.
I walk down the white-paneled hallway, lick my right index finger, and begin counting hundreds using practiced flips of the wrist. Man—Ms. Abernathy is so kind! There’s more than enough here to pay my bills, sock away a few grand, and then plunge into a sumptuous feast at Sizzler’s!
In my head I’m chanting: We goin’ Siiiizzler’s. We goin’ Siiizzler’s. We goin’—
And at that exact moment, I see him at the end of the hall.
He gives me an evil smile.
“Man Whore Kent Wayne. It seems that life has been quite kind to you.”
I freeze in place and lock eyes with an Agent of Accounting. His smile widens and he squeezes his hands into fists. I can actually HEAR his crocodile leather gloves squeaking and rubbing as he does so.
I tuck the money into a velcro pouch sewn into my booty shorts (no true Man Whore carries a wallet on him; that’d require too much clothing), and return his gaze. “I discontinued my education at the College of Accounting. Tell your Cthulu-worshipping masters that Kent Wayne is a free man.”
He laughs, cracks his knuckles, and begins pacing toward me. “Once you start down the Path of Accounting, there’s no going back, Kent. You WILL be an accountant.” He stops walking and throws a disdainful wave at me. “Look at you. Bowtie? Booty shorts? What the hell kind of joke is this?”
We begin circling, matching each other step for step. I reply through gritted teeth, “My penis has brought inexpressible joy to legions of women. There’s no place for my hirsute physique outside the sex industry.”
He scoffs. “Your body is simply a random configuration of bone and muscle; it doesn’t dictate your destiny.” He wags a finger at me. “You also have an eidetic memory, an unheralded talent for building and refining iterative systems, eloquence that unites shareholders and technicians, not to mention upper management…face it, Kent: you were born to be an accountant—not a cheap, tawdry harlot.”
My fists clench harder. “Tell your masters to find another well-polished cog to fit into their boring-ass corporate clockwork.”
We become still and lock eyes.
Then he kicks off the wall and lunges at me with a Superman punch. I block with two straightened forearms, slide toward him and go for a behind-the-back compliance lock. He spins into it, closing the gap between us, and headbutts me when his shoulder touches my chest. As I clutch my nose, he spins away and transitions into a vicious wheel-kick. I duck it and drop to a kung-fu back sweep. My ankle catches his, both of his legs fly skyward, but as soon as his back hits the deck, he kips back up and thrust-kicks my chest.
I stagger backward and reassume a fighting stance.
“You’re good,” he pants. Then he grins. “But I’m better.”
“We’ll see about that, acorn-dick. Come and get you some.”
His eyes narrow. “You KNOW that insulting an accountant’s cock is hitting below the belt.”
I return his glare. “So is threatening a Man Whore in his place of business.”
He turns his head, spits, then comes charging at me. His stride lengthens as he gets close, transforming into a pair of giant, lunging steps, setting up for a full-force roundhouse kick that flits up then down, chopping toward my neck. I barely manage to get my arms up in time, blocking a shin that feels like the end of a steel baseball bat. The impact knocks me through the wall, and I hear employees screaming as I stumble through cubicles, coated in wood fragments and powdery drywall.
The accountant follows, throwing a vicious serious of elbows, knees, and straight punches. Our hands blur together in traps and counters that blend moves from Wing Chun, Krav Maga, and Escrima. I backpedal furiously as his crocodile-leathered hands come at me from a thousand different angles. Papers and stationary fly up around us—I barely manage to avoid falling as I topple cups that are emblazoned with phrases like “World’s best dad” or “That’s my stapler.” He surprises me with a double-leg shoot, lifts me up, and bulldozes me toward the hundredth story window. We bang off it, spider-webbing the pane, and he hits me with a chain of elbows, changing from crouch to standing and back again, Keysi Fighting Method style. He finishes by side-kicking me in the chest. I burst through the window in a shatter of glass, but before I can fall, his hand shoots out and grabs my bowtie.
I lean back, gasping and panting. The wind whistles past me and I reflexively pinwheel my arms. Somewhere in the distance, I hear the cry of a hawk.
“Last chance Kent: join us, or die.”
My mind flashes back to Return of the Jedi, when that jerk-off Jabba said the very same thing to Luke. The Force Theme begins playing through my head and I instantly know what to do.
I lock eyes with him and rasp, “Never.”
Then I kick him in the groin and jab him in the throat. As he lets go and wheezes in pain, I lock both hands around his waist and lean back, causing both of us to tip out the window. There’s an electrified moment where we droop toward the void…then we’re falling. Glass-paneled floors blur past us as we rush toward the earth.
He screams, “YOU’VE KILLED US BOTH YOU IDIOT!”
I reply with a grin. “I beg to fucking differ.”
Then I reach in my pocket and open my eReader to Echo. Magic flash.
I see a tiny black speck in front of the sun, morphing into a distinct shape as it screams toward us: it’s Bitefighter, my loyal buddy and 10 lb. Terrier Extraordinaire, piloting the Bite-Glider.
As he gets close, I see reflections from high-rise windows flit through the lenses of his tactical doggles. He presses a button on his forepaw-mounted interface, and the wings of the Bite-Glider fold inward. The rockets on its back fire up, and he doubles his speed, shooting toward us like a diving falcon. His little mustache ruffles furiously, blown into a wild flurry by the merciless slipstream.
He presses another button on his interface. Hans Zimmer’s Dark Knight theme blasts from his speakers, and I can’t help but smile.
When he gets close, he raises his interface and a plume of gas erupts from its end. An instant later, it’s followed by a reinforced cable that zips toward me, entwining around my body and forming into a harness. I hear a quick series of mechanical clicks and whirs, and then his end of the cable detaches and hooks to a carabiner mounted on the Bite-Glider. He tilts his doggled eyes skyward, and we transition harshly into a steep climb. As I fly away, I see the accountant falling to his doom.
His eyes are insane with fury as he shouts, “DAMN YOU KENT WAYNE! THIS ISN’T THE END! TONIGHT WE DINE IN—”
I finish his sentence: “Tonight we dine at Lombardi’s, bitch!” Then I look up at Bitefighter. “What do you think? Street pizza puts me in the mood for REAL pizza!”
Like a couple of cops from a seventies TV show, we start yucking it up.
*cheesy 70s Bitefighter and Man Child theme song*
What if YOU’RE doing what you love and suddenly you’re faced with the prospect of working for a soul-crushing, corporate juggernaut??? Fight off their assassins as best you can, but if you need a Hail Mary, there’s always Echo! Get Echo Vol. 1 on Kindle here: Vol. 1 on Kindle. Vol. 2 on Kindle here: Vol.2 on Kindle Vol. 3 on Kindle here: Vol. 3 on Kindle #kindle #kindleunlimited #sciencefiction #scifi #books #novel #book