The Seeker (Chapter 9)

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Chapter 9

No Cure for the Itch

“Justin, I expect you to follow the new format just like everyone else! Efficiency doesn’t just end when it comes to the management.” Dave scorned, as he poured himself a cup of coffee in the room that was supposed to pass for a kitchen at the back of the office. Dave paid meticulous care to pour in the right amount of cream, and spent much more time than necessary shaking his sugar. Justin was sure it was to avoid looking at him.

Justin cringed, Dave never used to scold him in front of the employees before. They both saw it as a bad sign towards workers to fight amongst themselves in public. But Dave had been very, very different the past month. Upon returning from the Holder of the End, Dave hadn’t said anything. He didn’t allow Justin to either. It was like he was able to sense when Justin was going to bring it up, and would give him some pointless lecture, or send him on some dull errand that any of the workers could have done.

Dave was a whole different person these days. He came in with tired, suspicious eyes, and rarely had any enthusiasm for what he did. He picked up smoking again, even smoked in his office. He did use a air filer, but Dave would never have violated the rules so blatantly before his absences. Now, it was as though he didn’t even care.

It was true, that although the two had founded the company together, sixteen years ago, Dave had been the brains behind the operation. He was the one who could manage the paper side of things. Justin was better when it came to people, and the two of them ruled over their respective fields. Dave would have never thought to have told Justin what to do, or given him orders. These days, Dave even kept Justin out of the corner office. Justin just thought Dave was disturbed with what he had seen, at first. After a month, Justin was nervous that his friend blamed him for what happened. That Dave felt Justin had somehow pushed him into the Holders. After being alone for a month, Justin secretly agreed with him.

Justin opened the bottom left drawer of his desk and pulled out a rather disheveled old binder. The thing was cheap, and was coming apart, but the information it housed was much more valuable. It was the papers Dave had tried to throw away after his return, the research conducted by Justin on the Holders. Justin stared down at the papers, silently cursing them. He regretted ever having egged Dave on, regretted ever encouraging the exploration. He regretted even sharing the story at work. It was costing him his oldest friend.

Justin looked towards Dave’s corner office. The blinds where closed, but enough sunlight passed through the window for Justin to see Dave’s shadow pacing back and forth against the blinds, the light, ethereal cloud of cigarette smoke passing from between his flat lips. The shadow-Dave stopped for a moment. Then shook its head, began to pace again.

Clutching the binder in his hands, Justin meditated on a way he could help Dave.

Dave paced his office, over and over again. He used to pace often when he was thinking about something particularly burdensome, like the future of the company. Now he did it because he couldn’t do anything else. He was filled with energy. A nervous, scared energy, but a drive nonetheless. He also had no where he could direct it. His work was meticulous and detailed. Boring, now that Dave thought about it. Dave stopped pacing, his mind drifting to the dark corners of his mind. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Dave resumed pacing.

“Mr. Sebring, a representative from Global Maxx is here.” Amanda, his secretary chirped over the intercom. Dave scowled. While Amanda had been with his company for several months now, Dave found himself getting more and more irked by her presence. He silently wondered whether or not he could trust her.

“So? You take care of this, all he is after is a donation.” Dave stated into the intercom. He would never yell or shout, but the coldness in his voice hurt Amanda just the same.

A month ago, his secretary was hardly necessary. She did little more than keep track of Dave’s appointments, and act as a greeter. Now, she handled the bulk of Dave’s work. Dave did little of his work anymore. Dave did little of anything anymore except pace. Dave looked at the clock. It was 3:30. He still had an hour and a half before he should leave. Still, he needed to get out. Dave grabbed his jacket off the chair. Although it was still a little too warm to be jacket weather, Dave found himself constantly chilly these days. Dave muttered some excuse to Justin, and headed out the exit.

Dave went to his second home, his secret sanctuary. The Tapdancing Dragon was a British pub in town that had all but floundered due to its poor placing and its worse impression of a British pub. There was rarely anyone in the restaurant, and the bar was filled with people like him. People who kept to themselves. There was a few people, office workers just like Dave, from the looks of them, who hung out in a booth and talked a little too loudly for Dave’s taste. Other than that, however, the Dragon was still the Dragon. Ignoring the advances of the disheveled redhead to his left, Dave signaled the bartender.

Dave fished a prescription bottle out of his pocket. His leading troops in the fight against anxiety, the bottle read “Lexapro, 50 mg. Do not mix with alcohol.” Dave smiled a little at the irony as he chased down the little white pill with his drink.

He sat there listening to the problems of those around him. The redhead to his left had just gotten through a messy divorce with her ‘dirt bag, cheating husband’, adding with a not so-subtle wink at Dave that she was now on the market. Two men to Dave’s right had just been fired from a car company that they had worked at together for almost twenty years. Dave smiled quietly to himself. These people thought they had problems. The redhead to his left saw this as a good sign, and tossed her hair back. The men to Dave’s right thought he was laughing at them, and one of them, a skinny, bald fellow with worn clothes, stood up.

“An’ jus what in the ‘ell is your problem” The bald one stated. “Yew think this is funny?”

Dave looked at the man, contempt filling his eyes. “Sit down.” He stated, his voice toneless and level.

The man was about to protest, but something in Dave’s eyes led him to do otherwise. The man sat down next to his friend who muttered “Shoulda kicked his ass.” when he thought Dave wasn’t listening.

Dave stared straight ahead, vaguely aware that he should have been afraid of such a confrontation. Never in his life had Dave been in a real fight, and always avoided violence. With a mental shrug, he tossed the thought aside, then, with a physical shrug, he tossed the redhead’s arm aside. She had snuck it around his waist sometime after the confrontation.

“Hi, I’m Sheryl.” The redhead claimed, tossing her hair back again.

“Sheryl, huh?” Dave asked, rolling his eyes. Sheryl didn’t get the message, pulling him close. With a heavy sigh Dave encircled her hand, and jerked it away from his body. The sudden motion caused her to fall to the ground, as her stool shot out from beneath her. Those around to see it happen burst into laughter. Dave didn’t catch whatever happened next, as he turned his attention back to his drink.

Dave stayed at the bar until around 5, the longest he found he could sit down. He threw down a two dollar tip for the whole afternoon, and headed out the door. Dave took his time heading home, dreading the night of sleeplessness and questioning that was bound to lie before him.

From across the bar a man hidden in the shadows of a corner booth watched Dave leave with sad eyes. He had followed Dave here, and watched him destroy himself from within. Dave was too afraid to seek his drug, but his addiction raged on, tearing him apart from within. The man in the shadows knew what was happening. Knew that Dave need a cure for his itch. He just need to discover a delivery method. At the bar, in the shadows, Justin began to formulate a plan.
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