11:58. Nearly lunch time. Rebecca considered pretending she had already left.
It was a hectic day already. What were the chances that this phone call would be short and easy? Not great.
“Okay, okay,” said Rebecca to her empty office, as she resentfully picked up the phone.
“Protagonize Character Placement Agency, this is Rebecca.”
“Hey Bec. Not gone to lunch yet?”
“Obviously not. What is it this time?” Rebecca had talked to Alan much more frequently than usual this morning. Couldn’t he just spend the day scheduling appointments? Why were so many different things happening today? She was ready to go home, and it wasn’t even noon.
“Well... I’ve got a bit of a weird case for you,” Alan warned.
“His name’s Radovan. Have you heard of him?”
“I don’t think so... It doesn’t ring a bell yet. Where is he from?”
“He’s from Outsmart, but they haven’t introduced him yet. They just talk about him a lot.
“Oh yeah, I remember him. He’s the mysterious evil guy who forces the other characters to commit gruesome murders by threatening their wives and children, right?”
“That’s the one.”
“Hm. I’ve been curious about him actually. He seems like he’ll be an interesting character. How evil did he seem to you?”
“Well, that’s part of his problem. He doesn’t know how evil to be. Should he be a maniac with no rhyme or reason? Or will his motivations be justified? Should he be cold and calculated, or just bloodthirsty and mean? He’s frustrated with the authors for letting the other characters talk about him without allowing him to actually present himself. He thinks the readers are already making judgements about him, which may or may not reflect the truth about his personality. And he won’t know whether they’re right or wrong until the authors finally bring him in, but by then it may be too late to win the readers’ hearts. That is, if his character is supposed to do that. And he said he’d heard a rumor that the authors were considering not introducing him at all! Frankly the suspense is killing him. I'll bet it took a great deal of determination for him to decide to call me. It's not in his nature to ask for help. I mean, it won't be, if and when his personality is actually developed.”
It took a moment of silence for Rebecca to remember that she was still on the phone with Alan, and that he was waiting for her to say something.
“Sounds like you’re doing my job. Why didn’t you just schedule him an appointment with me?”
“I tried to, but I couldn’t convince him to see you. Now that the agency has its own story, for him to talk to you would be to introduce himself to the readers before he even appears in his own story. And if they see him here, angry and worried about his image, that would cause even greater confusion as to the true nature of his character. So for the time being, he prefers to remain an abstract evil entity with a name.”
“Wow. You’ve had a long day too.” Rebecca sighed. “Well what does he want us to do? If he won’t see me, I can’t very well counsel him.”
“Yes, I told him all that. He seemed to think it’s the authors who need counseling, not himself. Says he wants them to get a move on, and bring him into the story before he goes insane. That is, unless he’s supposed to be insane, in which case... Well, you know what I mean.”
“And you told him it’s not our job to help the authors write, of course?”
“Naturally. I wasn’t even going to bother calling you about him, but... er... he said he would unleash his werewolf on my daughter if I didn’t. He doesn’t really have a werewolf, does he? I haven’t read the story.”
“Um... Probably not. But I’m not really sure. That story is intentionally misleading. I’m glad you called me, just to be safe.”
In the silence that followed, Rebecca realized that Alan had probably been expecting a lighthearted answer like, “No, of course he doesn’t have a werewolf, that’s ridiculous!” Alan made a sound as if he were starting to say something, but Rebecca was faster.
“Look, just call him back and make him agree to an appointment. I can talk him through this if he’ll let me. And don’t be afraid to be forceful. Even if he does have a werewolf, there won’t be a full moon for another three weeks or so. We can calm him down by then.”
“Right,” said Alan. “I’ll get back to you on that. Go have lunch.”
“Thank God.” She hung up the phone and left.