The Goddamn Story
• • •
“The interview went great. Better than I expected. Better than Mister Graigo even expected. That’s the first thing he said to me the day I started as his bodyguard, that he didn’t expect me to convince him I should get the job. But it was like he said, looks can be deceiving.
“About a year after I was employed, TICC infected Wuester. Graigo delegated the Bur City division to his Vice President, a ‘man named Taylor Cummings whom I met once, maybe twice. He was nice enough, put in the time to do the work that needed to be done, but he wasn’t anything like Mark Graigo. Had I met Cummings in the parking lot that day I would have decked him just like I decked Graigo, but Cummings wouldn’t have gotten back up. Probably would have called the police, too, instead of handling the matter himself. Cummings was soft in that way, not that there’s something wrong with that. Not necessarily. He did his job well enough despite the softness. But Graigo? Mark Graigo was a hard ‘man. A good ‘man, but a hard ‘man.
“Anyway, when TICC expanded into Wuester, Graigo was chosen to lead the ship. The construction of the original facility took about three months – they didn’t always operate out of the Compound ‘neath Atacama, that would come a few years down the line, right around the time I found myself searching for new employment – and Graigo was granted a sabbatical for those three months, as he already devoted a fat chunk of his life to helping TICC spread throughout the country like the virus it is and they wanted to show him a bit of gratitude. You know how he spent that sabbatical? Go ahead, Knox. Take a guess.”
“Uh… I don’t… did… did he go backpacking?” Jonathan Knox guesses, making a poor show of it. “I haven’t the foggiest idea, Cody.”
“No, he didn’t go backpacking. Why would y–… nevermind. He spent that time overseeing the construction of the first TICC facility in Wuester.”
“He did so for a couple reasons. There was the obvious – he was very involved with the company and he wanted to make sure the new acHe-Que was set up correctly, that no corners were cut during construction; every time you cut a corner you just make two more, Jonathan Knox, you remember that and remember it well – but he also wanted to make sure I had a job to get up for in the morning. He was looking out for me, seeing to it that I didn’t waste my time getting drunk and high with the bois and sinking my dick in whatever backho would open her legs for it. At first I hated it, to tell you the truth. I was in my early twenties, the only things on my mind were sex and drugs, but he taught me better. He taught me that a lot of folks are just grown kids, that they never really mature into adults. He taught me that becoming an adult takes real work, that true adulthood doesn’t start until the age of thirty, and even then it won’t start unless you’re prepared for it. He told me there would be plenty of time for sleeping about and celebrating when I was an adult and had something worth celebrating, and… well, things didn’t exactly work out for me that way, as you can plainly see, but I don’t regret listening to him and knocking off the bullshit. Had I not, I might not be here telling you this story today.
“But I keep going off my route. The first day in the Wuester acHe-Que was the day I met the guy who more or less serves as the first antagonist in my little tale here. Graigo had a slew of meetings scheduled, one after the other all day long, and I was stationed outside of his office. I had a list of folks who could come in and out, and if someone came up trying to get into his office and they weren’t on the list, I had free rein to contain the threat in whatever way I saw fit. Granted, we were on the top floor of the building, and there were at least four security stops between there and the front door, but Wuester is a backwoods hick town, and hicks are crafty in a way that most folks just aren’t. In a way most folks might not expect, anyhow. What I’m saying – what he was saying to me that day, rather – is that you never know who might show up.”
“I hear what y’re sayin’, Mister Graigo, but I know jus’about every yokel in this town. Some folks are uppity about TI– uh, about The Internet Culture Company moving in and whatnot, but they’re only openin’ their mouths to hear themselves bitch. Nobody’s out here gunnin’ for ya. Nobody who could lay a finger on ya, anyway.”
“I understand that, Sully,” Graigo assured him, “despite the fact some of those words weren’t words.”
“My bad, boss,” Sully apologized. “I’m workin’ on the speech. Y’got’a admit, I’m gettin’– eh, getting better.”
“Yes you’re, and I’m proud of you for it. Were your diction a lacerated foot, you might be able to set weight on it; that doesn’t mean you could take a stroll without a pair of crutches, though.”
“I know. I’ll keep at it.”
“And I believe you will. I also believe you’ll keep any and all unwanted guests out of my office today, Sully. To be clear with you, the citizens of Wuester are not the cause of my worries.”
“Then what is?” Sully asked. “I ain’t–… I’ve never seen you jumpy like this before. I, I mean, you ain’t–… you are not acting jumpy, per se, but y’re definitely a bit on edge.”
He was, too. Mark Graigo was usually the type to keep his cellular shut off and locked in the hotrod’s glove box, but today he had it on him so he could neurotically slip it halfway out of his pocket and check it just about every five minutes. Sully kept catching him peeking down at the parking lot on their way up here, too – The Internet Culture Company’s cardinal Wuester facility was a tower with an exterior glass elevator, because of course it was – as if he was expecting an armored vehicle to show up spewing gunmen strapped with blazing armaments any minute, any second, even.
“It’s not important that you know specifically whom I fear may show his face here today, just…” He sighed. It was the first time Sully Donovan ever saw a sigh escape the mouth of Mark Graigo. “If they’re not on the list, they don’t come in. If they give you trouble – any trouble whatsoever, Sully; if they so much as breathe the wrong way, you have full authority to detain them in whatever way you need to. Even use lethal force, if it comes to that.”
[to be cont’d]
This has been the start of the fifth subchapter of the third chapter of the book Over the River: The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox. Here is everything you need to know about it:
Over the River
The Emancipation of Jonathan Knox
Over the River is the third book in a trilogy called The Fall of the Seven Earths. I’ve also released that trilogy as a single book called The Fall of the Seven Earths. Here’s everything you need to know about it:
The Fall of the Seven Earths
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