As I stood at an out of the way spot by where the receptionist sat, another person walked inside. His hair was smoothed back into a slick shell, glued down with buckets of gel, and his face reminded me of a rat or a weasel. “Hey, toots,” he said, walking up to the receptionist. She held her finger up to him, too, and I faintly heard the end of her previous phone conversation.
“Yes, thank you so much. I’ll put her on right now.” She flipped another switch. “Babe, you’re connected.” After that, she took off the headset and smiled at the man who was standing before her. “Hi, I’m Luca Rizzo, the receptionist. Can I help you?”
“Yeah,” he said, his Brooklyn accent turning his words slightly nasally. “My name’s Ollie Johnson. I’m here to speak to the POWER group.”
“All of them?” Luca asked, raising an eyebrow. From my vantage point slightly behind her, I could watch her computer screen as she opened a program and loaded up a file. She clicked over to the first section and opened it into full-screen mode. I could see it was a timetable; specifically, it was today’s timetable. Along the other sections, which lined the top of the screen, I could see that she’d labeled them with the name of each different POWER group Hero in different colors. She glanced down at the lower right hand corner of the screen to check the time- it was about eleven in the morning- and traced her finger down to that time. “I’m sorry, sir, but you aren’t scheduled for a meeting and, unfortunately, the POWER group is unable to convene,” she apologized.
“Then just give me a meeting with Psychico.”
She clicked her way over to the next section of the program and repeated the process of tracing her bright green nails down the computer screen. “No, sir, I can’t do that. Unfortunately, he’s busy.”
“He’s busy as well.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Johnson, but did you honestly expect to be able to walk in here and simply have access to the POWER group?” I ducked my head slightly, as this was exactly what I’d done. Stupid. “They are the only superheroes in Everground. They have things to do and people to save.” Luca smiled sympathetically at the man, as if she were sorry for you. “And there are people ahead of you in line to see them. If you’d like, I can make an appointment for a later time. The next free time that they all have to convene is in…December. Would you like me to reserve a date?”
“You know, Luca, I think we can work something out here,” said the rat-faced man, dragging his fingers along the glass countertop. He left a streak of grease behind, which Luca glared at now and rubbed at briefly with a tissue. “I mean, just saying. I honestly think there’s something you can do for me, toots.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Johnson, but you’ll have to wait until a POWER becomes available to speak with you. In the meantime, I’d suggest taking a seat.” The man’s frown deepened, and a second later, he jumped across the desk and grabbed the receptionist.
“I demand to see the POWER group,” he shouted to no one in particular, waving around a gun that he produced from the waistband of his pants and jamming it up against Luca’s temple. He held her in a tight chokehold and her hands clamped around his forearm as she struggled to breathe. “Now! Right now! Or I swear to God, I’ll fucking shoot her!”