Chapter 4 –
Well, that was an interesting encounter, Zach thought. He was suddenly a Starbucks convert. Plus, he had to admit, it was a damn good cup of coffee. But it was the girl who piqued his interest, of course.
Way too soon to tell. She had the little girl act down cold. Although he would probably never have children, he did have a certain paternal instinct under his his gruff exterior. He wanted to lavish love and praise on a deserving woman, and likewise reap the benefits such a close relationship could generate.
To be one girl’s foundation for a lifelong romance.
It was probably too much to ask. Hope for. Whatever. Zen had given him unrealistic expectations about the rest of the world. Thus far, he had refused to lower his standards. And, relatedly, he was, thus far, alone.
So be it.
Life was an all or nothing affair. Renee had taught him that, actually. He’d like to think that he’d taught her a few things, as well. Not many people could make that claim at this stage of her life. She really was an amazing woman. To an almost intimidating degree. Almost.
In a bigger sense, dating Renee would change his work dynamic. And work was all he had.
It was lamentable to him that men were the sum total of their careers and talents. He was no scholar. Not an artist. He did one thing, and he did it well. Zach tied things to cranes.
He tried to remember the last time he had actually rigged something. Three years ago. It was his last job before joining Renee and company for the retirement leg of his career. Money was never an issue. Now it had almost become a burden.
He did his best to conceal his wealth, but at the same time, he had very high standards. The best of the best was all he accepted. Seventy-five thousand dollar truck. Custom-tailored fire-resistant clothes. His home, although somewhat modest by the standards of his co-workers, was equipped for luxury and comfort. It was also exceedingly lonely, and only used for eating, sleeping, and sex. The majority of his time was spent at work.
Zach needed something more, to be sure. A real relationship seemed to be in order. Someone to share it all with.
At the gate, he rolled down his window and presented his badge to the guard, a vivacious fox trained in krav maga, Delta Force knife handling, and small arms. She rolled her eyes and waved him through. He did it every day. As did she.
Stilkl cradling his now depleted cup of trademarked Starbucks coffee, he strolled, nay sauntered, to where the action was.
As was his usual M.O., the chief workflow and efficiency officer sat in his director’s chair, observing, but not taking notes.
“Mornin’,” Asshole said, not looking up.
“What’s the word?”
“Stupid, lazy, time-wasting, useless pieces of skin.”
“So, business as usual, then.”
His entire job consisted of criticizing the work habits of others. He was well suited for the task.
Leaving him to his work, which didn’t really seem like work at all, to the uninformed, Zach walked from crane to crane checking on the progress and safety of each ongoing task. Between cranes, he passed by the bullriggers working in the racks, maneuvering heavy, unusual-shaped pieces of pipe through the steel beams.
Everything in his world seemed to be going well.
He was later delighted to discover a beautiful new hire was on site. She started as a flagger/fire watch/hole watch, as everyone with Zen Construction was required to do, from the mechanical engineers on down. She was a slim, delicate redhead with a beautiful, serene face, set with determination. Possibly the most beautiful girl in the world.
Unfortunately, her name was Johnnie.
This was unfortunate, because the port-o-let company Zen subbed with was named “Johnnie On The Spot”. For most of the employees, this was a few minutes of amusement, then it became a stale joke, at best.
Afterall, she was gorgeous, intelligent, diligent, hard-working, punctual, and dedicated. No one in their right mind would disrespect such a woman to her face. And, to their credit, the majority of Zen employees didn’t do so even in private.
The real problem arose when the wrong person made a comment in the presence of Renee.
It was, of course, a surly iron worker, the most irascible of the tradesmen. They generally didn’t give a fuck about anything but hanging steel, doing drugs, drinking, and fucking. Money was a mere corollary. They did the jobs most people weren’t crazy enough to do. Facing death on a daily basis tended to bring with it a certain loose, freewheeling attitude.
But when Renee heard someone, Porkchop, an intermediate level hand, say, “I’d piss on her,” she lost it. He was about eight feet away. She spun around and charged him.
Her gloves were off, and she hit him hard. She swung with her right hand, connecting squarely with is left jaw. His bones were brittle and weak from chronic methamphetamine abuse. Dirty, bathtub shake-n-bake, the really shitty red kind.
His jaw broke at the hinger, and his right canine was dislodged along with his front incisors. They flew to his right more than fifteen feet. In fact, the relative distance was later measured, and the location of his teeth were later recorded for posterity.
Things really went bad when he hit her back. As tough as she was, Renee went down. Almost before she hit the ground, the other hands in the area beat him to death.
It wasn’t pretty. Steel-toed boots, fists hardened by hard labor, and, most of all, a lifetime of frustration with the general inadequacies of the world bubbled to the fore. Every aggravation they ever had was inflicted upon him. He was dead in under a minute.
He was beaten for three.
When the ambulance arrived, Renee was already at the hospital. Her injuries were similar to his, with the exception that she only lost a single canine. It could have been reinserted or replace, but she instead elected to leave it out. Subjectively, it was her ony physical flaw.
Naturally, the paramedics were unable to revive him. They were barely able to find all of his body. After a lengthy investigation, it was ruled a justifiable homicide, and they were released from jail. Each testified that he had hit her first.
Renee took a week off in memoriam, and returned to work.
Before she did so, she took her accumulated savings, and using her remaining credit, bought Johnnie On The Spot. She destroyed all existing stock and rechristened the company ‘Fresher’. She improved the design. Patented. Profited.
But to her dismay, Johnnie had fled in embarrassment. They never saw her again.
It ruined Renee's year.