The elevator stopped and the doors opened. Behind the elevator doors was another door, covered in red leather. Alexa knocked twice and looked at Buddy with a wink and a smile.
“Seriously, pal, don’t worry. Artie only brings people down here he trusts, or needs for something.”
The door opened and a somber-looking gentleman peered at the pair. He stepped into the door frame to block them from entering the room beyond. He crossed his arms and stared, not making a noise. Buddy felt even less comfortable than he had already. This man was over six feet tall and wearing sun-glasses. He wore a black three-piece suit and wing-tipped shoes. He was also wearing an ear piece.
“Oh, come on Jeff, you know you’re not fooling anyone, right?” Alexa pushed Jeff out of the way and walked past him. Buddy followed cautiously. Jeff raised his arm to block Buddy from passing.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he said in a deep imposing voice.
“Seriously, Jeff, you know who he is. We don’t have time for this today.” Alexa grabbed Buddy’s arm and pulled him into the room. Buddy kept his eye on the man his companion had spurned. Jeff followed the pair, looking incredibly annoyed.
The room Buddy entered was another foyer. Yet this room, as opposed to the off-white colors and Greco-Roman design of the other, was covered in bright red colors and extravagant wood trim. It looked more like a lounge found in a country club than the foyer to a business. In the middle of the room was a large circular bench, also covered in red-leather. On the bench sat several men, also wearing black suits, sunglasses, and ear pieces. They all kept their eyes on Buddy as he followed Alexa across the room.
Jeff caught up to Alexa and placed his hand firmly on her shoulder, turning her to face him.
“Alexa, your visitor has to sign in before getting to see Mr. Flores.”
“Jeff, you know as well as I do, this isn’t just some visitor. This is him, the one your dad’s been waiting for. I don’t think you want to be the reason their meeting is delayed, do you?” Alexa brushed Jeff aside once more and continued walking.
“I don’t care who he is, Alexa, he still has to follow the rules.”
“You know as well as I do, this is important. I’m not wasting time with your stupid sign-in process.”
“But, Alexa. . . “ Jeff’s voice squeaked with a high pitched squeal as he began to whine.
“Jeff, you’ve really got to lay off this stupid power-kick, okay. You know who this is and you know what he’s here for. You can fill out the stupid paperwork yourself.” Alexa reached the door on the other side of the room. This door, like the others in the room, was covered in red-leather. Buddy wondered how many animals it had taken to supply this room with its wallpaper. Alexa knocked twice and the door opened. She entered the room, dragging Buddy behind her. Jeff followed.
Inside the room was further extravagance. This office was decorated in the same fashion as the foyer outside, with red leather and wood. In the center of the room was an ornate wooden desk and behind that desk sat a man Buddy instantly recognized as Arthur Flores.
“Ah. . . Mr. Jackson,” said Arthur, “I’m so glad you were able to make it on such short notice. Jeff, if you would please shut the door behind you.”
“I tried to get him to sign in, Daddy, but Alexa-”
“Jeffrey, don’t be silly. This man is our guest, not some common visitor perusing the grounds. He is free to enter my office as he pleases.” Jeff dropped his head, disappointed in not being able to get Alexa in trouble. Arthur stood and walked around the desk to greet Buddy. He shook Buddy’s hand vigorously and patted him on the back with three heavy pats.
Buddy couldn’t believe he was actually in the presence of Arthur Flores. This man, who was his employer until very recently, was the most powerful man in Sun City. Although Buddy recognized him, Arthur looked different than he expected. He was a large man, both in height and width. His head was enormous, hiding his neck from view, if there was one at all. He wore a pin-striped suit and walked with an air of confidence, as though there was nothing in this world able to hurt him. Buddy realized this was probably true.
Although Arthur had a strong public image and was constantly talked about in the media, Buddy realized he didn’t know too much about him outside of his current work in policing the city.
“Um. . . Mr. Flores,” Buddy stuttered, “it’s, uhh, an honor, sir.”
“Oh, Mr. Jackson, there’s no need to be flustered in my presence, I’m only a man, like you. Please, have a seat.” Arthur gestured to a leather-covered chair as he walked around the desk to his place behind it.
“Thank you, sir,” Buddy responded while sitting.
“Would you care for a drink, Mr. Jackson? If I’m not mistaken, Tennessee whiskey is your beverage of choice, correct?”
“Uhh. . . yeah, sure, that’s right.” Buddy’s stuttering reappeared.
“Jeffrey.” Arthur gestured towards Jeff and Jeff begrudgingly walked to the table beside the door to fix Buddy’s drink. “Now, Mr. Jackson, I’m sure you are very curious to know why I invited you here today.”
“Thank you,” Buddy said to Jeff, as he was handed his drink. Jeff scowled at him. “Um, yes sir, I guess you could say that.”
“Jeffrey, I believe you are making our guest uncomfortable. Why don’t you return outside and play your game of gatekeeper some more? I’m sure you’ll find plenty of people who will sign in for you.” Jeff looked angrily at Buddy, but did as his father said. “Now, Mr. Jackson, like I said, there is no need to be uncomfortable around me. I’m here to ask for your help, not to judge you. I’m sure you’ll find we have much more in common than you think.”
“I find that hard to believe, sir.” Buddy laughed nervously.
“I feel confident you’ll believe differently soon enough, Mr. Jackson. But let’s get right down to business shall we? It was brought to my attention you were involved in a situation a few nights ago of particular interest to me. An event the government is trying to keep quiet. An event culminating with you being placed under a doctor’s care, if I’m not mistaken.” Buddy realized this man was never mistaken.
“Yes sir, you’re talking about the night that monster came–”
“There’s no need to elaborate, Mr. Jackson, my associates have kept me well informed on the events of that evening, even with the government’s attempt to cover it up. If my information is correct, you survived the ordeal with very little injury to yourself.”
“Well, they did have to–”
“Yes, yes, the doctors performed some rudimentary repairs on you, but the need for such medical involvement appears to have been unnecessary considering how quickly your injuries healed, don’t you think?”
“How did you–”
“It’s neither here nor there how I happen upon my knowledge of things, Mr. Jackson. But it is true that you yourself have questioned how quickly you recovered from your injuries, am I correct?”
“Yeah, I’ve kinda wondered about that, sure.”
“And of your days in the, um, boxing ring, is it true you were never seriously injured in all of the sporting events you were featured in?”
“As far as I know.”
“Right, I suppose your memory is a tad fuzzy on that. No matter, we’re getting off topic. Right now I am particularly interested in the John Doe you were on your way to visit before Ms. Rose picked you up. Do you happen to remember having ever seen this man before?”
“No, not that I’m aware of.”
“That’s unfortunate, but to be expected.”
“I’m sorry, sir, but is there some sort of point to all of this?”
“Yes, yes, I’m sorry. I’ve let my curiosity get the best of me. You see, this man is of great importance to myself and the cause I support. And it would appear someone is trying to keep his existence a secret. Because of this, I have had a very difficult time verifying the identity of this man. This is where you come in.”
“So, what? You want me to get a copy of his driver’s license or something?”
“A picture of the gentleman in question should suffice for the purposes of verifying he is whom I fear him to be.”
“Sounds easy enough. I don’t have a camera on me or anything, I mean, my sister keeps bugging me about getting a cell–”
“Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson, I don’t believe those who are hiding this man from the public eye would be too keen on your coming into their facility with any form of image capturing device. We are, however, prepared for such an event as this.” Arthur pressed a button on his desk and there was a buzzing noise.
“Yes, Daddy?” Jeff’s voice came from a speaker hidden somewhere on the desk.
“Jeffrey, please come in here and give Mr. Jackson the covert imaging device.”
The door to the office opened quickly and Jeff entered. He reached into his interior suit coat pocket and pulled out a pen. He held it in his hand, hesitant to give it to Buddy.
“Jeffrey, give the pen to Mr. Jackson. It will be safe with him, I promise.” Jeff gave the pen to Buddy. Buddy looked at both Jeff and the pen in confusion.
“Don’t be fooled, Mr. Jackson. What you hold in your hand is not a common writing utensil, but actually a streaming video device. This device has been specifically designed to circumvent all attempts to determine it is anything other than a pen, even when sending out a live stream. Simply put this device into the chest pocket on your jacket and when you are inside the room with Mr. Doe, click the pen and it will begin transmitting.”
“Okay, so, get in the room, click the pen, and then I can leave. Sounds easy enough.”
“Well, actually, there is one more favor I would like to ask of you.” Arthur reached into his desk and pulled out a photo of Buddy from his days of boxing. The photo had been widely available during his years of fame. “Would you be so kind as to autograph this for me? I like to have such reminders of my interactions with those of renown.”
“Sure.” Buddy stood, took the picture and marker Arthur handed him, and quickly scribbled his name across it.
“Thank you, Mr. Jackson. I had always been a large fan of yours. Now, Ms. Rose, would you be so kind as to deposit Mr. Jackson at the hospital. It would also be greatly appreciated if you could await the completion of his task and provide the man with a ride home. He is being so kind in doing this favor for us that this would be the least we can do. We’ll be in touch some day soon, Mr. Jackson. Jeffrey.”
Jeff opened the door and Buddy followed Alexa. As Buddy exited the room, Jeff spoke in a soft, squeaky, voice.
“I’ve got my eye on you, Buddy.”
“Jeffrey! Shut the door and be quiet!”
Alexa led Buddy to the parking garage. Neither talked until they reached the rickshaw.
“What was that all about?” Buddy asked as he entered the vehicle.
“I don’t know. Artie never really lets me in on his schemes. I just do whatever he asks, you know. But he sure seemed to like you, Buddy. I’ve never seen him take to someone quite as quickly as he did to you.” Alexa lifted the front of the rickshaw and once again the world blurred into a mix of colors and lights.
“I’ve gotta get me one of these,” Buddy said.
“This piece of crap, why would you want this?” Alexa asked, turning around to look at Buddy as the world sharpened back into view.
“Well, you know, to get places faster.”
Alexa laughed. “If you want to get places fast, you’d need one of these, not one of those,” she said as she gestured at herself. “And there aren’t too many of these to go around. We’re a limited edition.”
Go to Chapter Seven