The city was big and bustling, just as any respectable city should be. People rushed left and right, heads bowed and hoods thrown haphazardly over themselves against the wind. Chatter flitted about the hurried atmosphere, words sharp in the unrelenting wind.
“And then he said that she said that his brother’s wife’s cousin’s aunt said that…”
“When I looked up, there was this huge duck –”
“Could you believe it? The nerve to say that –”
“The fifth project I’ve worked on all –”
“So anyway, Pedro, I — wait, WHERE’S PEDRO?!”
“But you have to go! I already promised him that –”
“You wouldn’t dare –”
“It was ah-may-zing, don’t know why you didn’t just ditch your chores and come along too –”
Despite all the distractions, Jacques kept a low profile, never looking too much, never being seen. He felt as if everyone was more important and experienced than him, that he didn’t stand a chance. And guess what? He was probably right, too.
“So this would be your first job, Mr.” — the portly man glanced at his poorly written resume — “Bradinsky?”
“That’s right, sir,” he said humbly, adding the last word as an afterthought.
“Hmm…” the man murmured, leafing through the pages. Jacques had decided to try to apply for a simple job at a local McDonald’s in the assembly line. He hadn’t thought this merited for a proper interview, but had come anyway. “What were you doing before this? Got any education under your belt?”
“Well, I was born to a poor couple. The woman at the orphanage said they couldn’t really afford me, so I lived there until I was ten. I have a fourth grade education, though.”
He frowned. “Hmm… you left the contact section blank.”
“Yes, I don’t have a phone,” Jacques said sheepishly.
“You can drop by on Monday, then. I’ll see you there.”
“Er… OK.” He stood up and walked to the door, muttering, “Bye, sir,” on his way out.
“What about your grades?”
Jacques felt himself heating up, but he tried not to show his panic as he quelled the redness. He had been hoping that no one would ask that. “Straight B student, ma’am.” Her eyebrows were scrunching up together; he knew he’d blown it now.
“And the smell of sulfur nauseates you…” she murmured, extracting a pen and scribbling something over his form. He could easily picture her drawing a big X over his name — his qualities certainly wouldn’t help him in the gasoline station. What had he been hoping for, anyway? “Well, if you would return on Thursday, I’ll let you know how you did.”
Jacques nodded and left, almost forgetting his resume in his wake.
“Where’s that maid, Butler? She hasn’t taken out the garbage.”
“My apologies, Artemis, she was dismissed. An infiltrator,” Butler explained levelly, as if this were common kerfuffle. His master sighed in response, shaking his head and navigating to a fresh tab.
“I suppose we’ll have to go about looking for a new employee,” he muttered under his breath, scrolling through a list of applicants. There were plenty of hopeful faces, as per usual. No one with any real experience in cleaning whatsoever, just a torrent of nosy college undergraduates who wanted to either weaken the Fowls through espionage or through demanding multiple pay raises. Artemis needed someone who would bend easily, ask for little, and work efficiently. An excellent combination, but like all excellent things, a rare one as well.
“We’re sorry, you didn’t get the position. I wish you luck on your next tries, though. You were very close to our final choice –”
“We believe that you are talented, young man, but your skills are best suited –“
“I’m sure that with your abilities, you’ll find work somewhere else. Your future… it just isn’t here, but you should be able to –“
“There’s no one out there, Butler! No one here can hold a spray bottle the right way up!”
“The position was taken by someone else, my apologies –“
“All of the spots have been filled –“
“I asked him if he knew the proper way to sanitize a jacuzzi, and he asked what ‘sanitize’ meant. Once I explained it to him, he asked me what bleach was! Absolutely impossible –“
“You didn’t get the position you applied for, but I think you would have potential as a –“
“Couldn’t even tell a mop from a broom, or a disinfectant from a democrat for that matter –“
“It’s not right for you –“
“You didn’t quite fit our requirements –“
“Our policy states that our employees must have a proper living address –“
“You’re too young for this sort of –“
“Had short term memory loss; how would she be able to remember the Manor’s layout, or her orders, for that matter? I ask you –“
He sat, back hunched, by the gutter in an alleyway. Should he visit Reese again, perhaps allow himself to be taken in? Jacques instantly scolded himself for his thoughts. Of course not. His interviewers had been right; those jobs had not suited him. There was hope in other places, and he’d find it, light it, use it to get an occupation.
What job was right for him then? What skills had he obtained and nursed through selling decrepit little shells by the shore? His previous “work” only lined up with an archaeologist’s, which certainly wouldn’t work, seeing as they worked with much higher quality things and wouldn’t take him in. The worst part was that he wasn’t sure exactly what he planned on doing; all he knew was that he needed work, and needed it now.
Biting his lip, Jacques stood up and walked briskly to a pay phone. He pulled out several coins from his pocket, slightly warm from his body heat, and inserted it in the slot before carefully dialing Reese’s cell phone number.