Butt-dialing the Billionaire: Chapter 7


Jaxon

New York City

SportyGoCo occupies the top three floors of a decrepit building in an unremarkable part of the Garment District. They apparently design and market sportswear to be sold in large stores. After a number of moderately successful years, their fortunes have plummeted precipitously.

God knows why my parents bought the place, though it’s far more likely that they didn’t know that they had. It’s hard to tell how much interaction they had with Wycliff Inc. beyond my dad using them as a captive audience for self-important speeches.

I report into the human resources office where a man named Derek has packets and forms for me to fill out with my new name—Jack Smith. He smiles at me but mostly keeps his eyes on the forms and the packets as a way of not staring at my mole.

Fucking brilliant.

He leads me up to the design department, my new home base, but they’ll share me with shipping, he informs me.

Perfect. Whoever tried and failed to identify the source of the butt-dial put the design department at the top of their suspect list along with shipping; this way, I’ll have interaction with both.

I can’t imagine this taking more than a day or two. People always give me what I want.

I’m told the CEO himself will bring me a binder. With that, I’m left at the design department, which is a large room with garish lighting and rows upon rows of cubicles like a movie set.

A woman with dark hair and a 1940s-looking outfit introduces herself as Renata and leads me back, saying things about the department that I’m not listening to, because the whole place is a sea of cubicles. People actually sit in cubicles? I thought that was just in movies.

The soundtrack is like a movie too, what with the low murmur of voices and the clatter of keyboards punctuated by soft beeps. Is this actually real?

Renata pauses to introduce me to a petite blonde woman with doll-like features and pencils stuck willy-nilly into her messy bun. “This is Jada. She’s our senior designer.”

Jada assesses me with a piercing gaze, spine erect, making the most of her short stature. Whereas Renata and the HR guy struggled awkwardly not to stare at my mole, Jada looks me clear in the eyes, as if to size me up. “Glad to have you here, Jack,” she says. “We’ve been so short-staffed—thank goodness they sent someone to help.”

I snort. “Someone to help might be overstating things.”

“Hah,” Renata says. “You’ll totally be helpful, I know it.”

“No, wait, I want to know what that means.” Jada fixes me with a big frown. “Might be overstating it? Are you not here to help?”

I fix her with a lighthearted smile. So I’ve met the resident humorless control freak, I think.

“Not if I can avoid it,” I say.

Jada’s delicious frown deepens to a moue of disgust. I should try to move on and meet the rest of the people, but I’m unable. It’s almost a physical impossibility. She is exactly the kind of person I cannot stand, and she can’t stand me, and it’s delightful.

I answer her frown with an even bigger smile, and her annoyance is a thing to behold.

“Great. Just what we need.” She takes a seat and goes back to it, tapping angrily.

“Oh, come on, I think you’re a big joker, Jack,” Renata says loudly.

Jada grumbles and keeps typing. Jada’s obviously not the butt-dialer, but Renata might be.

“Come on, then.” Renata leads me back to a cubicle a bit behind Jada’s and futzes with a computer from another decade. “I’m logging you into the intranet. Your username is your name with no spaces and your password is password, no caps.” She steps aside and looks at me expectantly. “Home sweet home.”

“This is where I sit?” I ask.

“Where else?”

“An actual cubicle,” I say.

Renata laughs. “Only the best here at SportyGoCo!”

“Guys!” Jada twists around and says something about an alert or being alert; that one short, sharp command has the entire office hushed up. That is some serious buzzkill control freak power right there.

“Look alert!” Renata tells me before settling into her own cubicle across the row.

Jada gives me an intense stare, then twists back around to her monitor.

It’s here I notice that a head of short dark hair has appeared at the far end, but that’s all I can see thanks to the fact that I’m in a cubicle of all things. The head approaches. Soon there’s a pair of beady eyes and strangely shiny cheeks.

Yet another office buzzkill—that’s clear right away.

My handler, Renata, pipes up. “This is Jack Smith, our new office-gopher-slash-delivery assistant. We’ve just been settling him in. Jack, this is your new boss, Bert Johnston, CEO of SportyGoCo.”

Bert glares at me and my mole in the most annoyed way possible, as if it is actively offending him. There truly is no end to the delight of my new mole.

“Apparently somebody from corporate saw fit to transfer you here, Mr. Smith, not that we have the need or the want, but here you are.” He slams down a three-ring binder. “Company Code of Conduct. I advise you to study it well. And if you take a look at the home folder on your desktop, you’ll find a PDF with the orientation materials and a link to the training video. I suggest you start there.”

He stares at me, seeming to wait for me to do something. “Got it,” I say.

Still he waits. “Any day now, Mr. Smith.”

Does he want me to look at these things now? I turn to the screen and identify the PDF in question and open it up, shocked to see that the thing is over 200 pages long. He points at a link on the screen. I open the video; it has a runtime of over an hour.

Is this some kind of a joke? Who reads things this long? Or watches things that long? Bert stands there still.

“Well? Have you prepared an executive summary?” I ask.

Bert looks at me incredulously. “Excuse me?”

“An executive summary. A shortened version that you would prepare with just the highlights for me to peruse,” I explain.

“What do you think this is?” he barks. “No, I did not prepare an executive summary for you. You will read through this entire package. You will watch the video on a speed of one point zero. Is this understood?”

I stare at him, torn between laughing and firing him. But it comes to me that neither of these are good choices if I want to conceal my identity long enough to unmask the butt-dialer.

“Understood?” he demands once again.

“Oh, very much so,” I say, trying not to grin. It’s hard with him so upset. This man is actually yelling at me. People do this?

“It’s not optional.”

“I can see that,” I say.

Bert scrutinizes me as if he’s waiting for something more. It’s excruciating, not so much in terms of pain, but just that I am allergic to authority figures and already this job has given me two of them—Control Freak Barbie and now this guy.

What now? What is he waiting for?

“Uh, that’ll be all, then,” I say with a wave. “You’re dismissed.” This is what I habitually say when I want people to get out of my face, but I know it’s the wrong thing even before the gasp goes up from the sea of cubicles, even before Bert’s cheeks turn an alarming shade of deep pink.

“Excuse me?” Bert thunders.

This is the wrong time to smile, but I can’t help it. He’s so angry! Charley was right. Blending into an office is no easy matter.

Bert stabs the finger onto the three-ring binder. “In the rules and regs binder, Mr. Smith, you will learn about demerits. If you get three demerits, you will be fired. The insubordination that you just demonstrated has earned you one demerit.”

“You just gave me a demerit?” Is it possible he’s joking? I’ve never had a boss, unless you count my father, though that usually ended in fists flying between us and me on the ground. Until I got into my teens, at any rate.

“And you’ll find yourself with yet another demerit if you don’t wipe that smile off your face,” he says.

“Wipe the smile off my face?” People say that?

“And there’s demerit number two. Are you going to go for three?”

I look past where Bert stands, over at Renata and Jada, who are both twisted around, staring, horrified.

It occurs to me here that this Bert really might be able to fire me, after all the work that Soto did to get me in here without letting anybody know who I am.

“Well, let’s get reading, then,” I say, and with an almost superhuman effort, I suck in my lips, point my face at the computer, and pretend to read the PDF.

Bert stands there a while longer, maybe sensing that I’m not actually reading it, sensing, perhaps, that the only thing stopping me from another demerit is the flesh-piercing pressure of my teeth on my in-turned lips.

Finally he walks off.

“Okay, then!” I say once he’s gone. “That guy’s a real asshole!”

The blazing eyes of Workaholic, Control Freak Barbie appear over my cubicle wall. “Do you want to get fired?”

I give her a smile that I know will annoy her. “Not at the moment, no.”

Jada comes to my cubicle doorway, as it were, and looms over me, all five foot two of her. “If you’re here to disrupt things, please just leave now. We need this department to function at peak efficiency.”

“An executive summary is efficient. That’s why they make them.” I say this all very casually, but my pulse is racing and I’m feeling strangely energized.

“Except you’re not an executive, are you? You’re a delivery assistant and office gopher who we desperately need help from, and you nearly got yourself fired on your first day.”

My pulse races. I’m having trouble processing the experience of somebody bossing me. First Bert and now Jada.

“I mean… ‘You’re dismissed’?” she continues. “What’s wrong with you?”

“What’s wrong with me…it’s a pretty long list, to be honest,” I say. “The specifics would vary depending on who you talk to.”

Jada’s scowl heats up. “Excuse me?”

I cross my legs and adopt a relaxed posture, but really, I didn’t expect this experience to be so enlivening. “The nature of the things wrong with me would definitely vary from person to person as well, but I’m sure there’d be overlap.”

“You think you’re funny?”

God, those hot, frowning lips. She’s nobody I’d ever be with, but it doesn’t matter—the hot frown is getting me deep down. It’s just how fiery she is with all of that bossy control mania. I want to stir and stir and stir those embers until they go full flame, and then I’d bask in her heat.

“Of course, wrong has its advantages,” I find myself saying. “There are scenarios where, it could be argued, the wronger, the better. If you know what I mean.” I lower my voice to a deeper register. “And I think you do.”

Jada’s color rises, and somehow, she’s even more delicious. “Oh. My. God. I’m gonna pretend you didn’t say that. We are struggling for our lives here and they send us Don Juan the Entitled Delivery Driver?”

“Don Juan the Entitled Delivery Driver?”

“That’s right.”

A nickname. “I like it.”

Her nostrils flare. “Whatever!” She storms back to her cubicle and sits. I stay at my cubicle, fighting the impulse to go after her.

Don Juan the Entitled Delivery Driver.

Renata shakes her head and gets back to work.

I read through the boring PDF. Clearly I do need some pointers if I’m going to blend in long enough to unmask the butt-dialer, but what I really want to do is go over to Jada’s cubicle and be Don Juan the Entitled Delivery Driver some more.

Ten minutes later, a figure looms at my side. I look up to see a young guy with slicked-back hair and a laid-back vibe that reminds me of the surfer boys along the French Riviera.

He introduces himself as Dave, eyes roving over my spiky, blond-tipped hair, glasses, and mole. He looks stunned for a moment, and then he waves a hand between us. “Dude, this whole thing you have going on. This whole presentation. It’s savage.” He keeps waving his hand between us. “Savage.”

“Thank you,” I say.

“The whole look, the attitude, the presentation,” Dave adds. “You keep on doing you.” With that he walks off, leaving me wondering what kind of place I’ve stepped into.

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