THE NEXT MORNING. I sent Gina several articles and short stories I’d written over the past couple of years. Okay, most of the work was plagiarized, but I’m running on a timeline. It’s not like everyone at the Seattle Times is innocent of plagiarism. I’d read several articles that matched the New York Times’ content verbatim or even the Washington Post.
I sat at the computer, tapping my fingers on the desk, waiting for Gina’s phone call. For some reason, I thought she’d call right away. I mean, she had the proof that I’m a good writer, at least better than most. I switched between drinking coffee and clasping my hands as if to pray.
“Hello!” I said, fumbling the phone to my ear.
“Woah… Been expecting a call?” Gina laughed.
“Get my files?”
“I did. You got the job.”
I held the mouthpiece inches from my face to let out a sigh. “That’s good news.”
“We will need a resume and references for your employment file, though.”
“Sounds good, Gina.” After I hung up the phone, I copied and pasted a resume I’d found online. I just switched the names. No way in hell I’m giving this bitch my real information.
“Hey, babe?” Pam said.
“I didn’t hear you come in,” I said.
“I want you to meet my daughter, Angie.”
The girl was 18-years-old and drop-dead gorgeous. I swallowed a lump in my throat, and we exchanged pleasantries. I caught a glance of Angie anytime Pam ranted about some bullshit at work or gossiped about a friend. I remember thinking I’d never want to be on the other end of her gossip. Angie gave me a cocky wink and a confident smile. I thought she was interested in me and it was just plain wrong, right?
TWO WEEKS LATER, Pam introduced me to her parents. We chatted about my past, which I totally made up when a breaking news report popped on the screen. Investigators found a mother and her four children murdered in an upscale home in the suburbs of Chicago.
“Oh, my god,” Pam said, throwing her hand to her mouth.
“Maybe he just got tired of hearing the bitching,” Steven Parker (Pam’s dad) said.
“Dad, you’re horrible!” Pam said with a half-smile.
I tried to sink out of the conversation.
“Mark,” Steven said. “What do you think they should do to the son-of-a-bitch once they find him?”
“Give him a trophy.” I joked.
Steven laughed harder.
“You guys are sick,” Pam said, crinkling her eyes. I wondered if she’s catching on to me. I pushed my glasses upright. Ever since the news broke, my face burned and my stomach tightened. I wasn’t going back to prison for anybody, not even Pam. I caught side-glances of her fold her lips under her teeth.
“I’m only kidding,” Steven said. “I don’t know what would drive a guy to kill kids.”
I uncrossed my legs and crossed them again. “I’m sure the man felt he had reasons,” I said.
“He should have shot himself,” Pam said.
“He probably didn’t take that into consideration. When people do things like this, maybe there’s no reason.”
Steven shrugged. “So, tell me about yourself, Mark.”
“There’s not much to tell,” I said. “I grew up in Chicago and went into the Army.”
“Thank you for your service.”
I hated hearing thank you for your service, bullshit. But I politely thanked Steven, anyway.
“What did you do after the Army?”
“I tried my hand at teaching, ” I said. “And then I wrote for the local newspaper. It didn’t pay much, but it was enough.”
“A teacher and a writer?” Steven looks at Pam. “Sounds like you’ve caught a keeper.” Steven returns his eyes to mine. “And your parents…”
“Dad,” Pam said. “Mark’s parents are dead.”
“How’d they die?”
“Dad!” Pam said.
“A car crash,” I said. “They died in a car crash.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“It’s been years ago.”
“Here,” Steven said as he threw me a cold tall-neck Rolling Rock. The guy had a mini-fridge beside his lazy-boy chair.
“I don’t drink,” I said, winking at Pam.
“Now, that’s a good man.” Steven folded his arms across his chest.
“Ever since my parents were killed by a drunk driver, I haven’t had so much as a glass of wine.”
“I didn’t mean to stir up any memories.”
“Do you go hunting often?” I asked, taking notice of the rifle on the wall.
“Are you kidding? I go every year.”
“I’ve never been…”
“I’ll have to take you some time,” Steven said.
“I’d like that.” I nodded.
Pam jingled her car keys in her hand. “Time to go, Mark.”
TWO WEEKS LATER. I started at the Seattle Times. I look well put together in my three-piece suit. My pieces usually got rave reviews.
“Mark,” a voice behind me said. I didn’t have to look to know it was Gina asking me for my past references and social security number for the files. I swiveled my chair around.
“We still haven’t gotten those…you know…papers for this file,” she said, holding an empty manila folder in the air.
“I’ve been so busy,” I said, slapping my forehead as if I’d given a single thought to those damn papers.
“No worries, but we do need them soon.”
“I’ll get them by tomorrow.”
“Sounds good,” Gina said.
I had no idea how I was going to get ahold of employment records. I’ve gone by so many different aliases through the years, I couldn’t pin one down. I’d went through a dozen families and killed them all. I need to find files somehow, somewhere.
After work, I drove the long way home. I had to think of a way to find papers at the library or someone anywhere other than the family computer where someone could check the history and find that I’d been searching for fake references and information that would otherwise be shady as fuck. I sat in a library, both searching for references and a social security number to steal, but making sure no one saw me. I hadn’t felt this much stress since…well…since killing my family. I picked someone’s resume and switched the names on it, and bought a fake social security number. This should shut her up, I thought.