64. Staff meeting

The business phone stayed quiet which was both predictable and a blessing. It was now the full-on cold-and-rainy season and people were staying put, the way they do when they don’t want to break up right before Christmas or move house in a howling gale.

As a concession to Jesse, George deferred the ‘Inaugural all-hands meeting’ until three days after his beating, and scheduled it for half an hour after sunset.

Jesse had made the best of his ‘time off’.

Kelli, one of Jesse’s women friends, had brought herself and her entertaining carpetbag along the next day, only to stand in the doorway in perplexity at the story his bruises were telling.

Rather than demanding sex, which he had been expecting, she had tended his wounds with arnica and his many aches with judicious, gentle massage, and left him tucked in bed, blasted, with the earphones in and his favourite mix tape going. She hadn’t slept over, and he hadn’t heard her leave.

He called Lark the next day. Lark was dumping him, mostly by avoiding any communication, and he felt grisly about it. The concussion made him irritable, nauseated, and weepy.

I almost died. Whyyyyy won’t she talk to me. But why give a shit that one of your girlfriends is dumping you when your other girlfriend is being A PAL, Jesse thought. There was sarcasm in there, but it was drowned in self-pity.

He called Raven, who came through the door determined to be full of bustle and cheer, only to burst into tears when she saw him.

“That bad?” He laughed at her expression and burst his lip open again.

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

“‘Cause George helped himself to some of the stuff they were trying to steal.”


“Also, my phone isn’t technically legal, or even technically possible, and George has made it clear that I gotta smash it before a cop gets hold of it.”

“You have a concussion and you’re working for a thief who steals from thieves.” She took a deep breath, and stared at him with narrowed eyes.

“Mebbe, but he was smart enough to put a tracker on the truck and figure out I was in trouble, otherwise you might be arranging my funeral right now,” Jesse said. He fell silent and lay back.  Raven got him to eat something nourishing and inoffensive, and gave him a two litre jug of lime flavoured fizzy water, and then left for her shift.

The head pain was a staircase made of broken glass that he scaled to rational thought at his peril. The nose pain had settled into being crappy instead of overwhelming. It amazed him that with all this pain, he could still clearly distinguish the head bash from his broken nose. He felt resentful that he hadn’t gone to hospital, and also very relieved. He knew that for unicorns like him, hospitals were places where well-intentioned and underpaid people got carte blanche to make fatal mistakes.

George had tended to him, roughly and effectively, even if he’d sauntered off with all the g.d. opium, which seemed paternalistic after they’d looted it fair and square. He knew what George was doing and it pissed him off.

He was on T3s, sourced god knew where, brought by George the next day. George told him not to move or watch TV for at least two more days.

Kelli hadn’t made him move that much, since he’d had the sense to tell her he was concussed. She had complained about him not going to the hospital either.

Jesse thought suddenly of his mother, shoving her face in his face, screaming, screaming, but never hitting, because that would be wrong. 

It was men who’d hit him; tied him up and hit him.  He didn’t mind that they’d hit him, strangely, but every time he thought about them tying him up so he couldn’t defend himself, he could feel his blood pressure rise so that his nose pulsed in agony.  Michel called him and said the whole affair was the stupidest thing he’d ever heard.  He must have heard about the beating from George; there was no way Jesse was going to call Michel merely to listen to him Monday morning quarterback his way through everything he’d done wrong. He hung up on him, with a cold, “This isn’t helping me recuperate, you wad,” and Michel had had the decency not to call back. His voice sounded stupid to him, and he couldn’t really breathe through his nose yet.

It was an alien who’d cared for him, somewhere he felt safe.

He couldn’t concentrate.  His thoughts stammered and pinned themselves to trivia.

He was pleased the meeting was taking place on his terms, and annoyed that everyone would see his bruises. He considered himself to be a meek individual, although stubborn if crossed, and wondered if his unevenly colourful face would hurt his chances of making friends or being taken seriously.

In the event, he was fine.

Colin he already knew. They nodded to each other without much change of expression. Michel was sitting on the balcony next to a large blue bucket, which appeared to have something splashing in it; he looked back at Colin, who raised his eyebrows and micro-nodded. So that was Kima. He was finally going to meet her.

He was introduced to Avtar, who was a ‘communication specialist’, and a native guy named Sparrow, who was a fisherman with a sideline as a water-taxi moving aliens around the Salish Sea.