THE BIG FLASH
By Zachary Lutz
A master of deceit and a wearer of dark suits, the detached operative from Nightmare, Indiana transfers to Kent to exercise his strengths. Accepted into the Kent branch of an unknown organization, he is given a map with pin-pointed areas of interest and the number to a hotel. Here, the Nightmare Op records his nightly exploration of the Kent State campus and surrounding area in the midst of corruption and the seething mystery of blue and gold.
I knew that was coming. I shifted my eyes and gave Dolores a real nice grimace, to show her that I was sorry, even if I wasn't. But I noticed she gave my briefcase a glance and saw that I had Samuel balled up like a handkerchief over the back of my right hand, and she giggled. She said I had a nice smile, and generally seemed to act like I was supposed to know what to do next, which I really didn't, and I suspected that she might not even remember who I was. She had a glazed pale over her face that was unsettling, apart from her wrapping paper dress, which was surprisingly floral in contrast. For a moment, while she looked at me, I thought she might be asleep. There was something biotic and altogether conflicting in her demeanor.
"He's expecting you."
So she was not asleep. I gave McGilvrey's office door a forceful thump, but not too forceful. Just enough so as he would hear me there and be surprised. He told me to come in, which I did, even though I wanted him to open the door for me. Psychology: I always had an interest but never figured out how to formulate a disconnect to cover any ground. If someone wanted me to do something, and they were all but straight-forward about it, I tended to do it, and think about it later. Tricks, maybe. Mind tricks, like me opening the door myself so McGilvrey could look important.
He looked important, though. The office was different, I could tell that when I walked in. It was like when you wake up and you think you're facing one way but you're really facing the other. I think it was the desk, but I couldn't be sure.
"Roll-top. Had it installed just yesterday." McGilvrey saw me giving the thing a long eye.
His nose was a downturned thumb. He was glaring again. I knew I had to show him some words, or else he was going to get angry. There was distance between us, so I decided to walk over to the desk and touch it, and pull at the hood of the desk to show that it was a keen buy. The guy watched me do it, but he didn't say anything. He coughed.
"Well, I didn't call you in here to play with it."
"I know, sir." I laughed. "It's just, it's a helluva nice desk. Bet you wouldn't find a nicer desk in a church. Antique?"
I was confused. They don't make roll-top desks like this anymore, at least ones this sturdy. Maybe he found it in the university, I thought, buried in the corner of a building. Another library, maybe.
"It's brand new. Had them fit it for this space, here, see? So it fits in the center and doesn't run past these tile lines."
McGilvrey was pointing at the floor, and I saw what he meant. The behemoth roll-top desk sat like a fat ship in the exact middle of the office on the back wall, plum underneath a black-framed picture. When I met him the first time, he was facing the door. But this time, his seat was turned away from the desk because the desk was facing the opposite direction.
"You're precise," I said, hoping to compliment him.
"I am. A gentleman cannot afford otherwise."
"Is there something funny?"
"You got a report?"
He looked at the calendar that rested atop the desk, which was curled up around the edges. This meant he had a habit of flipping the calendar into the future to look at dates, and I thought that was a little funny too. But I held the laugh in. He didn't look as mean as I thought he'd be. His grey hair was combed to a perfect part and puffed at the left side in unison with the comb which emanated an air of hygiene. I was getting a little anxious about my own hair.
"Well, what do you think of the city, then?" He asked.
He was wearing the gold tie: "There's your first problem. Short language. That's not what you're here for..."
"...Don't interrupt me, you know?"
I was watching the wrinkle in the shoulder of his suit.
"Elaborate, kid. You've got the badge, and the badge's got you. Now you've got to communicate with the thing. You'll excuse me for talking now for quite some time and you won't interrupt me."
"Look, I've been through a number of operatives and they never seem to stick. They shuffle in from who-knows-where and shut off and don't report, and I get these transcripts and contracts from around the globe that require me to house an operative during their off-season. It's like a hotel I'm running here, and I'm tired of it. If the board wants to write off Kent State and make it a summer home, that's alright with me. But what I'm working on here, you've just got to help out."
He straightened in his chair and I started to pace, looking real cool in my suit and squinting my brow so as to appear interested. I was interested, but I often don't look it.
"Do you understand what this means? I haven't had any kind of reputable staff for years, let alone an operative worth his stuffing. And I've never had an operative request transfer to Kent. I figure, if a man's got an idea to move here, he must be clued in. Secede from the organization? It's a secret anyways, right? You stay on and give me some heavy elbow grease, and I'll make it worth your while. Heck, Kent will make it worth your while. We're our own Department of Campus Aesthetics, at least if we can make a go. You study this town and give me something real, and well turn this whole organization inside out. You get me, kid?"
McGilvrey was talking awful heated and getting all red and bothered about the face, and I saw when his hair shook out of the part that he meant it. And he got me kind of riled up too, when I thought about it. I'd never seen this kind of act in Nightmare. He had a passion and a fury that worked like twin muses on his person, McGilvrey did. And so I got my face straight on his and said:
"Let's get moving."