Roger slammed Fredericks’ report down, rattling the ballpoint pen lying on his desk’s blotter.
Gritting his teeth, Roger flexed the pages and glowered at the report’s concluding paragraphs. Another bellow began worming up his throat by the time his office door swooped open.
“Sir?” Maureen filled the threshold, her tweed pantsuit rustling. She raised both brows while keeping one hand on the earpiece inserted beneath a tumble of bleached blonde hair.
“Get me Fredericks, now. This is unacceptable.” Roger pitched the report toward the door. It skipped like a stone on a pond, and then thudded to a stop on the plush industrial carpet.
“Yes, sir,” said Maureen. Her façade never wavered as she walked forward on pointed heels and retrieved the document.
“And a fresh cup of coffee too.” Roger checked his Rolex and squinted at the early evening hour. “Decaf.”
Roger waved a dismissive hand and swiveled in his chair, absorbing the skyscrapers glittering in florescent illumination.
He scowled at the warble in Maureen’s tone. “What?”
“You have two visitors.”
“Are they scheduled?”
“No,” said Maureen, “but I think you should see them.”
“I think I should be deciding that don’t you?”
“Of course sir. But….”
Glaring at her reflection, Roger stewed over Maureen’s insistence. She was rarely so adamant without reason.
Smoothing his features, he firmed his voice. “Send them in.”
The door clicked shut. Roger heaved to his feet and set his hands on his hips, the hem of his suit coat fluttering. Staring at the array of lights twinkling in the city below, he worked up his response to Fredericks’ mediocre report. As he debated between a demotion and the complications of an outright dismissal, a knock smacked against his office door.
“Come in, Maureen.”
Dropping back into his chair, Roger swiveled, and plucked the pen, twirling it between his fingers.
“This way, gentlemen,” said Maureen, gesturing through the entrance with a graceful sweep of her arm.
Two men, both in crisp suits in opposite shades of gray, entered. The first, sporting a silvery comb-over and tie too wide to be of the present decade, strode slowly across the room and halted before the desk. The second, in a stylish charcoal jacket and slacks, nodded to Maureen.
“Thank you, Miss.”
Maureen pursed her lips together, and bobbed her head. Roger didn’t bother meeting her eyes when they darted to him. She exited, closing the door with a hushed snap.
The older of the pair widened his stance and pocketed both hands into his suit coat. “Good evening, Mr. Bertsham.”
Roger smirked and met the man’s spear-sharp blue eyes. “I’m afraid I’m not as well informed,” he said, hiding his irritation.
“Andy Landon, I’m from the IRS.”
“I’m sure you have some proof of that,” said Roger, cocking a skeptical eyebrow.
Landon’s smile quirked on one side. “Certainly.” He dug into a breast pocket and retrieved a leather wallet. “This is my associate,” he said, handing over the billet and thumbing at the man perusing the contents of the mahogany bookshelves. “Jeremy Masters.”
Opening the wallet, Roger skimmed over Landon’s glimmering badge, raised department’s icon, and the identification card’s textual details.
“This seems in order,” he said, offering back the wallet. “What can I do for you?”
Landon took his time stuffing the wallet away, and working up a reply. “We investigating into a particular account, a financial company with whom you’ve invested a great deal.”
Setting the pen down, Roger leaned back and folded his hands onto his lap. “I wasn’t aware the IRS does investigations.”
“We’re part of an elite branch,” said Landon. “One that looks into the most…interesting of situations.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to be more specific.”
“RW-42,” said Landon, accentuating each letter and number.
Roger’s stomach quivered, but he kept the ill vibe from showing in his features. “It may be in my portfolio,” he said with a heavy dose of nonchalance.
“I’m sure we’ll be able to confirm that.”
“Don’t you need warrants for those kinds of things?”
“Yes,” said Landon, “they’re pending.”
Roger grunted. “Well if you find anything out of order I’m sure you’ll be in touch.”
“I’m sure we will.”
Roger shifted in his chair, his nerves beginning to chip. “So how can I help you tonight?”
Landon swept his gaze around the room before returning with an intrigued air. “We’re surveying the situation. Getting a base for how things are. I’m sure you can appreciate the benefit in being thorough before moving ahead with any transaction.”
“Of course. But there’s also something to be said about showing your hand early.”
“Is that what I’ve done?”
“That would imply I have something to hide,” said Roger.
Roger bristled. “You can’t believe I’m going to answer that question without a lawyer present.”
Landon shrugged. “Sometimes I get lucky.”
“There are stupid people out there, Mr. Landon. I assure you I am not one of them.” Landon’s smile stretched again, irking Roger’s blooming exasperation. Tipping forward, he intertwined his fingers, and rested them on his desk’s blotter. “Is there anything I can actually help you gentlemen with or is your intent to waste my time?”
“I assure you, Mr. Bertsham,” said Landon, his mirroring words oozing, “I would never do something so hazardous to your wellbeing.”
“Then if you don’t mind, I have other matters needing my attention.”
“On a Friday night?”
Roger narrowed his eyes. “You don’t build an empire by taking the weekends off.”
“Must be why I’m still in a studio apartment.”
Landon extended his hand but Roger barely gave the man’s rough palm a glance.
“Been a pleasure, Mr. Bertsham.” Landon withdrew and stuffed his hands back into his coat pockets. “I imagine the next time will be even more memorable.”
Roger frowned. “Next time?”
“Oh, we’ll be back,” said Landon, his smile reappearing. “I’m nothing if not thorough.”
“Then I hope you get what you’re after. I hate to see my tax dollars misspent, and I can’t imagine you’ll find anything digging around here.”
“My imagination will astound you,” said Landon. He bobbed his head in farewell.
As he strode past his associate, Masters turned from his perusal. He offered a similar nod.
“Evening, Mr. Bertsham.”
Roger stared over his steepled fingers as they exited.
Maureen hovered at the threshold, and peered inside.
Roger held up a quieting hand and she froze. The duo’s footsteps thudded against the floor, making the frames of the art lining in corridor clatter. An elevator’s ding echoed, the hush of doors opening and closing finally taking the presence of his recent visitors from Roger’s floor.
“Get me Aspen.”
“But sir,” said Maureen, her eyes going wide and words rushing with uncharacteristic speed. “Mr. Jones’ secretary said not to call in the evenings.”
“I don’t give a damn,” said Roger, rising to his feet. “Get him on the phone, or you’ll be dealing with more than his pissed off secretary.”
Maureen scampered toward her desk, allowing the door to close on its own.
Roger stared at the sealed panel, his breaths coming in ragged inhales and exhales. Each strained his Egyptian cotton dress shirt already dampened with his sweat.
“Calm down,” he whispered to himself.
Grabbing the armrests, he lowered himself onto the plush cushion, hoping the chair would not fall out from under him. He braced himself against the desk, drinking in the stability provided by the weighty furniture. He had his breathing under control by the time the bulb winked on his blocky phone-unit.
“Get a hold of yourself,” he said to the crimson light. “You’ve gotten out of worse.”
He seized his nerves and snagged the receiver.
The typical silence replied.
“This is Roger. We’ve had a complication.”