A New Job
Three weeks after the death of Brianna Samuels, Bob Wexler, Stoddard Williams, Karen Rothman, and Christine Hansen were all enjoying after-dinner coffee and cocktails on the patio of Stewart's. It was a lovely fall eve. Williams had not rented the entire restaurant on this occasion; he only reserved a table. As usual, the COO of DreamGame, Inc. was dressed in his less-than-executive attire, which made Bob grin a bit. He was also having his second double of a very expensive, single-malt scotch. Moreover, the man looked overworked.
"Listen, Bob," Stoddard began. "DreamGame has been taking it on the chin, big-time, over this whole affair. We're addressing the problem, but we need help."
"How is one burnt-out, washed-up detective supposed to help?" asked Bob.
"I'm putting together teams," said Stoddard, "all sorts of people. This thing, and the expense of fixing it, will cut heavily into our profit margins for the next three to five years. But it has to be fixed. We're hiring the best people. Scientists, engineers, hell, even religious folk. We're going to find the underlying cause of why people are stuck in the game and what happens when they are stuck. In the meantime, we're tightening the game up. Putting in newer, and rougher rules. Making it impossible for people to game for sixteen hours at a stretch. Until Flanders is healthy, we've got a tough job ahead of us. But the psychiatrist assures that Flanders will be ready to go in about three weeks. I want as many people in place as possible when we get Flanders back to work. The company is not going to drag its feet on this thing."
"So why am I here?"
Stoddard Williams signaled for another scotch. When the waitress arrived, he took two sips and smiled. Then he reached into his left-side jacket pocket and pulled out a sealed envelope. He handed the envelope to Wexler.
"It's a job offer, Bob. It's good for one year, starting today. Will you consider it?"
"I'm no computer or game techie," said Bob, smiling. "But I am flattered. Thank you."
"Listen, Bob," said Stoddard, rising to the occasion. He was in full executive persuasive mode now. "You are anything but a broken-down, washed-up cop. You're good. Real damn good. You went into DreamGame and found a bug, and very serious bug at that. I want you in the game, finding people who are stuck and can't get out. Hell, Karen, here, my best troubleshooter, couldn't find the Infinity Crew. But you found them. And their leader. I want you in game. Promise me one thing?"
"At least think it over," said Stoddard. "Take some time and give it some thought. Then get back to either Karen or me. Fair enough?"
"Deal," said Bob, and he shook hands with Stoddard.
The four made polite conversation for the remainder of the meal, and then Bob escorted Christine to his battered Tata for the ride home. The couple rode home in silence. When they arrived at her apartment, she invited Bob up for tea.
"So, are you going to consider the job?" she asked, over her mug.
"Hell, I don't know," said Wexler. "Let's see what Bill is putting on the table."
Bob Wexler took the envelope out of his coat pocket and opened it up. He slowly began to read the letter. Christine smiled when she saw Bob's eyes get very, very wide. He must have read the part about compensation.
"DreamGame has very, very deep pockets," she remarked. "More tea?"
Bob nodded yes, and Christine poured him another mug. Bob read the letter a second time, folded it, placed it back into the envelope, and placed the envelope into his jacket pocket. He looked up at Christine, but his mind was elsewhere. Then he drank his second mug of tea in one gulp.
"Well, I'd best be going. I'm tired. Thanks for the tea," he said.
"Let me walk you to the elevator," said Christine, standing up and joining him. She had, throughout this entire affair, begun to admire and respect the man. He had an excellent mind, was very thorough, and was sensitive and considerate. Perhaps Stoddard Williams and Karen Rothman had also detected those qualities in him as well. She was a bit sad; something told her this was the last time she would see Robert Wexler.
When they got to the elevator, Bob pushed the button. Then he turned and took Christine by the shoulders. He was wearing a grin that a cat wears after it just ate the canary, feathers and all.
"Up for some Holmes and Watson?" asked the grinning Bob.
"Who are Holmes and Watson?" asked Christine, quizzically.
"Ah! You see, but you do not observe, Hansen!" said Wexler, still grinning. "I'll give you some reading material. Think it over."
With that, he kissed her, entered the elevator, grinned again, and departed.