Six hours later I dragged my sad carcass out of Pharmaden's basement and into the hot cab of my Escalade. Even with the sunshade in place the thing was an oven under the hot L.A. sun.
I threw it into gear, cranked up the air conditioner and popped Cream's Disraeli Gears into the CD player. Out on the street I hit typical mid morning L.A. traffic which meant it took me forty-five minutes to cross into the San Fernando Valley where DataTEK had its offices. My fingers bounced off the wheel as I kept time to the music and looked for openings in traffic.
I got my share of startled looks as I strode through the dove gray hallways to the boardroom where I knew Petey was holding some kind of last minute emergency staff meeting.
Petey broke off in mid harangue when I pushed the heavy oak door open and stomped into the room. He had a whole cadre of glassy-eyed managers from different departments staring blankly at his presentation. I recognized several of them from my years at DataTEK. Hastily he set down his laser pointer and waved me into a seat. Jane, his faithful secretary, scampered to get me a coffee.
"Chris." The single word held as much question as a dozen paragraphs. He looked hopeful. It almost would have been funny to tell him I'd failed, that Pharmaden's systems were still lying at the bottom of a toilet and no one was going to save this mess. But I like the part of my job I can control and the bonuses paid for my extravagant lifestyle so - almost.
I nodded curtly. "Contract complete. Everything was humming along smoothly when I left -" Quick glance at my watch - "fifty four minutes ago."
Petey visibly relaxed. Even his hair seemed to subside from its busy pompadour and fell even flatter over the bald spot in the center of his head.
"Excellent," he said as though the outcome was never in doubt. He smiled around the table at the other managers. The genial boss pats a deserving underling on the back. "As usual, Christopher, you exceed expectations."
Only my sex life does that, you pompous ass. I nodded again. "I'll be at my desk documenting my findings if you need me for anything else."
"Don't you have a meeting with the Tilton Group today to go over that migration?"
"Two o'clock sharp."
Petey chewed on his inner lip for awhile as he figured out how to phrase the next question.
"Do you plan to go home before that?"
I played dumb. "Home? I'm not sure I'll have time for that. Too much to do, so little time."
"You don't plan on changing?"
"Into what? I didn't think to bring a change of clothes I'm afraid. You don't think this will impress the Tilton powers that be?" I scratched the less than pristine T-shirt with a picture of Bono and the rest of the U2 gang interspersed with holes and rips I had acquired from one too many trips diving behind the server closets in Pharmaden's basement.
"Go home, Chris. Take the rest of the morning off. Just make sure you get back here before two."
"Gotcha boss. Want anything while I'm out?"
Petey ground his teeth. His dentist must love me. I'm sure I've bought him a few Beemers over the years.
"No, that's okay. Thank you anyway."
I went back to my cubicle on the Tech floor and picked up my notes for the Tilton meeting, in case I wanted to go over my proposal before two o'clock. Doubtful. This one was a no-brainer. It was so straightforward even the fresh prince could have handled it without screw up.
On the way out I ran into Tex, another systems analyst who had been around nearly as long as me. He warned me that one of our clients had called in to report a relay had been set up at their site and he suspected it was being used by spammers to blitz email holders all over the world.
"How'd that happen? I remember setting up a firewall on that system myself."
"Somebody took it down. Their tech guy said it was slowing WAN traffic. Now their email server is down to a crawl and they're screaming."
Their tech guy was apparently related to the fresh prince. I shook my head while Tex grinned at me. It was my call what to do since I was senior analyst. I rubbed my temple where I felt a headache coming on.
"I'm going home. I'll take care of it later. If they have to wait for their emails for a few hours maybe they won't be so quick to mess with the system next time."
At that bit of news Tex got this all too familiar funny look on his face. Why is it straight guys are obsessed about how obsessed gay guys are about sex? Straight guys go home and get to watch golf on TV or have friends over for a backyard barbecue and a few beers, but gays? All we ever think about is who we can fuck next. Like we've got them all lined up in our mind and it's only a matter of scheduling. And it's always the straight guy in the next cubicle who seems to bear the burden of our unending lust.
Personally I couldn't be bothered to pursue anybody at work. Even if there were a few cute guys around, it wasn't worth the potential hassle to mess around on my home turf.
The bottom line is I'm the company's cross. The office fag. When the job's too rough to handle they give it to me. I suspect they're trying to get rid of me, but without doing anything that would give the ACLU something to chew on or would upset their own lawyers. So they gave me all the scuzz work. Someone forgot to run backups and the system crashed and they need that data yesterday, and oh by the way, we already blew our budget on the office Christmas bash so you have to get us back on line, better than before with all our data intact on a shoe string. Did we tell you we need this by noon today? For those jobs you call Chris Bellamere, office fag.
When they weren't calling me faggot they called me the miracle worker. Though usually not too loudly. They didn't want me to get a swelled head. Probably think it would lead to a swelled cock and I'd invariably go out of my mind with faggot lust and try to fuck the whole male half of the office.
Maybe the female half too. You never know about that faggot lust, or where it might lead.
Back in the SUV with Jim Morrison and the Doors wailing about a storm coming I wheeled across surface streets to my place on Beverly Ridge above Mulholland.
It was almost ten-thirty by the time I climbed into the shower and washed away a night time worth of frustration. I was satisfied with the job at Pharmaden, they had a system now that, barring an act of God or the fresh prince, would keep chugging away for the next while. I couldn't even say I was too unhappy with last night. Bobby had delivered on his promise and I gotten what I went after when I decided to cruise West Hollywood.
So why did it all seem so unimportant afterward? I felt empty, drained and it wasn't the good kind of drained you get when the sex has been spectacular and left you feeling deliciously enervated. How long had it been since I'd had that feeling?
Middle-age crisis. Shit, I'm only twenty-nine. How can that be middle-aged?
"Get some rest, Bellamere. This shit's for fools."
I changed the sheets on the king-sized bed and slipped between the crisp midnight blue percale. Set the alarm for one in case I dozed too deeply.
Sleep came almost instantly. I guess I was just tired after all.
[More to come]
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