COPYRIGHT Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder. All Rights Reserved. Sharing not permitted.
Around seven that evening I checked out of the Trion building, as usual, and drove home. I got a fitful night's sleep.
Just before four in the morning, I drove back and parked on the street, not in the Trion garage, so there wouldn't be a record of my re-entering the building. Ten minutes later, a panel truck labeled J.J. RANKENBERG & CO—PROFESSIONAL WINDOW CLEANING TOOLS, EQUIPMENT, AND CHEMICALS SINCE 1963 pulled up. Seth was behind the wheel in a blue uniform with a J.J. Rankenberg patch on the left pocket.
"Howdy, cowboy," he said.
"J.J. himself let you have this?"
"The old man's dead," Seth said. He was smoking, which was how I could tell he was nervous. "I had to deal with Junior." He handed me a folded pair of blue overalls, and I slipped them over my chinos and polo shirt, not easy to do in the cab of the old Isuzu truck. It reeked of spilled gasoline.
"I thought Junior hates you."
Seth held up his left hand and rubbed his thumb and fingers together, meaning moolah. "Short-term lease, for a quickie job I got for my girlfriend's dad's company."
"You don't have a girlfriend."
"All he cared was, he doesn't have to report the income. Ready to rock 'n' roll, dude?"
"Press send, baby," I said. I pointed out the D Wing service entrance to the parking garage, and Seth drove down into it. The night attendant in the booth glanced at a sheet of paper, found the company name on the admit list.
Seth pulled the truck over to the lower-level loading dock and we took out the big nylon tote bags stuffed with gear, the Ettore professional squeegees and the big green buckets, the twelve-foot extension poles, the plastic gallon jugs filled with piss-yellow glass cleaner liquid, the ropes and hooks and Sky Genie and bosun chair and the Jumar Ascenders. I'd forgotten how much miscellaneous junk the job required.
I hit the big round steel button next to the steel garage door, and a few seconds later the door began rolling open. A paunchy, pasty-faced security guard with a bristly mustache came out with a clipboard. "You guys need any help?" he asked, not meaning it.
"We're all set," I said. "If you can just show us to the freight elevator to the roof ..."
"No problem," he said. He stood there with his clipboard—he didn't seem to be writing anything down on it, he just held it to let us know who was in charge—and watched us struggle with the equipment. "You guys can really clean windows when it's dark out?" he said as he walked us over to the elevator.
"At time-and-a-half, we clean 'em better when it's dark out," said Seth.
"I don't know why people get so uptight about us looking in their office windows when they're working," I said.
"Yeah, that's our main source of entertainment," Seth said. "Scare the shit out of people. Give the office workers a heart attack."
The guard laughed. "Just hit 'R,' " he said. "If the roof access door's locked, there should be a guy up there, I think it's Oscar."
"Cool," I said.
When we got to the roof, I remembered why I hated high-rise window cleaning. The Trion headquarters building was only eight stories high, no more than a hundred feet or so, but up there in the middle of the night it might as well have been the Empire State Building. The wind was whipping around, it was cold and clammy, and there was distant traffic noise, even at that time of night.
The security guard, Oscar Fernandez (according to his badge), was a short guy in a navy-blue security uniform with a two-way radio clipped to his belt squawking static and garbled voices. He met us at the freight elevator, shifting his weight awkwardly from foot to foot as we unloaded our stuff, and showed us to the roof-access stairs.
We followed him up the short flight of stairs. While he was unlocking the roof door, he said, "Yeah, I got the word you guys would be coming, but I was surprised, I didn't know you guys worked so early."
He didn't seem suspicious; he just seemed to be making conversation.
Seth repeated his line about time-and-a-half, and we replayed our bit about giving the office workers heart attacks, and he laughed too. He said he guessed it kind of made sense anyway that people didn't want us disrupting their work during normal working hours. We looked like legit window cleaners, we had all the right equipment and the uniforms, and who the hell else would be crazy enough to climb out on the roof of a tall building lugging all that junk?
"I've only been on nights a couple weeks anyway," he said. "You guys been up here before? You know your way around?"
We said we hadn't done Trion yet, and he showed us the basics—power outlets, water spigots, safety anchors. All newly constructed buildings these days are required to have rooftop safety anchors mounted every ten to fifteen feet apart, about six feet in from the edge of the building, strong enough to support five thousand pounds of weight. The anchors usually stick up like plumbing vent pipes, only with a U-bolt on top.