Chapter 8

Beating the Dog

“You are about as useless as my damn phone!” Parker raged. He picked up his dead cell phone from his desk and waved it in Caleb’s face as he shouted. “Maybe less useful. At least this thing used to be a ‘smart phone.’ I’m fairly certain that you’ve never been anything but a dumb tool. God, man. Can you even dress yourself without getting orders?”

Caleb blinked twice, then continued to stare at the mahogany veneer of the wall behind Parker’s desk. Whatever crap Parker might pile on him at the moment, it was nothing compared to what Caleb had undergone in Basic, which itself paled in comparison to the guards at Pendleton. He had known that this job would require both a delicate touch and a thick skin when he took it.

“Do you hear me, man?” Parker screamed. He slammed the dead phone down on his desk so hard that the screen shattered and sent fragments of broken glass skittering across the desktop.

“I hear you,” Caleb said, his voice level.

“Then why the hell did you take that bitch’s computer and leave? I told you that I want her dead. Was I not perfectly clear on that?”

Caleb turned his eyes from the wall to Parker’s face, then glanced purposefully down at the half empty tumbler of bourbon in his boss’s left hand. Only noon and he was already at least two drinks into the day.

“Don’t you look at me like that.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean, boss,” Caleb said.

Parker’s face flushed and he drew himself up in preparation for another scream, but stopped, chewed the inside of his lower lip for a brief moment, then took another swig of bourbon. He swirled the alcohol around in his mouth contemplatively as he glared at Caleb for a long moment, then swallowed hard, turned away, and sank into his padded leather chair. He drained the tumbler and set it on the desk, then said, “I’m still waiting for an answer.”

Caleb shrugged and said, “It’s hard to hide a body.”

“So you acknowledge that you disobeyed an order?”

“I reinterpreted it to no longer include murder. Delvare is neutralized now. We have her computer and, unless she was incredibly cautious, we should be able to get access to all of her files.”

Parker leaned back and slowly shook his head from side to side, as if Caleb had just said the dumbest thing he had ever heard. “You realize she probably has backups? Cloud mirroring? Web based email? Any of these words ringing a bell or do I need to get you a dictionary?”

Caleb relaxed his shoulders and allowed one eyebrow to creep upwards, carrying with it the slightest hint of sarcasm.

“Well? You really think you’ve stopped her?”

“I didn’t say that. I said that she is neutralized.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning that she is no longer a threat. Delvare will know that we took her computer. She’ll also know that we could have taken her, but chose not to. She ought to take the hint and back off a bit. Who knows, a few months out and we might even be able to make use of her again, once she’s cooled off.”