Chapter XX:

Proxy Season

Somehow, and Cassidy wasn’t even sure exactly how, some proxy interviewees lost their shot even before they’d taken their seat. All they needed to do was walk through the door and Cassidy would feel an instant distaste for them, a repulsion in the back of his throat, and his partner in the interview, a man named William, agreed with him wholeheartedly each time. It was like they could both see something just past the point of visibility, and it was happening everywhere, not just in the interview room, only it was here that Cassidy and William were in a position of professional power, where they could take it out on the Quixotes as they saw fit. And that’s what they were: Quixotes, for some reason or another.

There was something feeble about them, something that begged to be abused. They made his blood boil.

One of them, a smartly dressed youngster not too far removed from Cassidy in age, had barely opened his mouth when Cassidy interrupted him and told him that was enough, the interview was done. The crestfallen look that overtook the youth was worth the price of admission. There was a flash where Cassidy thought he saw that which he had seen everywhere, a dark figure in place of the slightly built young man, there and gone again, arousing Cassidy’s anger instinctively.

When the young man left Cassidy asked Bill if he felt he’d made the right move.

“You did,” Bill answered softly.

“You saw it too, huh?” Cassidy asked.

Bill nodded.

“Not fit to work on this floor.”

“Nope.”

Of course, they were seeing it everywhere, and the reactions the Quixotes inspired in normal people like him were the proof in the pudding. Outside the office building people were getting hurt. Cassidy had seen it on TV, Quixotes everywhere being hounded, chased and beaten. Some of them were even being murdered. You could see it with your own eyes on the streets outside.

Luckily, for Stigel, Lewis, Inc. at least, there was only one Quixote on the 32nd floor, aside from Leon, who had left early yesterday and was inexplicably absent today. Like Leon, the other Quixote barely left his office any more.

Things were changing up here and out there. The non-Quixotes were on the ascendance. They despised the telepathic pressure the things exhibited. They would rather fight than become one of them.

Cassidy stood up and went to get the next prospect from the elevator lobby, a man named Greg Waters, who grinned up at Cassidy from the couch he was sitting on. He was tall, young, big shouldered. Cassidy could see immediately that he was not a Quixote.

“Mr. Waters?”

“That’s me.”

“Good afternoon, come along please.”

Cassidy shook the man’s hand and led him into the Stigel, Lewis domain, walking a few steps ahead.

What did people see when they saw himself? Cassidy wondered. He liked to think they saw what he liked to think of himself as: a fighter. It had been partly his doing, he believed, that Leon had left work here, a development about which no one was sure how to feel, which was why the other Stigel, Lewis Quixote had become so isolated. No one liked him for what he had done to Leon. Cassidy didn’t mind though. Cassidy was glad Leon was gone, he with the Box-Mart account.

Was it the chicken or the egg? Cassidy wondered as he walked Greg Waters to the room Billy was waiting in. Had Stuart become a Quixote first, or had he become one after everyone became unhappy with him? It was impossible for Cassidy to say. It was not a gradual thing. Either way Stuart, like Leon, was, professionally at least, a threat to no one.

They reached Bill’s office and Cassidy took his place sitting beside him, motioning for the interviewee to sit across from them. Greg did so, still wearing that hard smile.

“So,” Cassidy began, “thanks for coming in today. My name is Cassidy Standhal, and this is my associate William Bevel. We picked your application out of a stack of them quite literally inches thick, so may I start by asking what makes you think you can work successfully for a firm like Stigel, Lewis?”

Greg Waters looked at them blankly, but still wearing his smile; before long it began to impress them as having been permanently fixed to his face.

“Give me five words that describe your professional attitude,” Cassidy narrowed it down.

“Well, let me think about that,” Greg began, feeling the heat.

“Don’t think too hard, just blurt it out.”

“Professional, hard-hearted, methodical, clever and fair,” Greg blurted.

“Good. We liked hearing three of five of those words.”

“Yes we did,” Bill confirmed.

“Tell us what you think your job will entail,” Cassidy continued.

“Well, I’m not too sure. There seemed to be research, word processing and editorial aspects to the position. I could tell that you want someone who has an eye for details, and someone who can smell bullshit, if you’ll pardon the phrase.”

“Someone who can smell bullshit. I’ll pardon that phrase,” said Cassidy. “That’s exactly what we want.”

“I’m a hard-hearted person,” Greg went on. “I know how to say what I feel.”

“The last person we interviewed sure didn’t.”

“All those people out there waiting after me, you’re not going to like any of them, and I’m not just saying that.”

“Maybe we won’t, Mr. Waters. Maybe we won’t.” Nope. No Quixote here.

“Bill, why don’t you give Mr. Waters the low down. What exactly is it that the Research Proxy does here?”

Bill began to explain the role of the Research Proxy, that is, reading through corporate press releases, financial documents and yearly reports in order to identify key phrases and generate shareholder voting recommendations based on the findings. They also trouble shoot for corporate corruption or irregularities with the structure of the company, and advised the shareholders based on their findings whether their interests were being fairly represented.

“Sounds interesting,” was Greg’s response.

“I wouldn’t call it interesting,” Cassidy said, “but it sure is detail-oriented.”

“When can I start?”

“Patience. Patience, my son,” Cassidy grinned. “We haven’t even hired you yet.”

“Based on what you just told me I’m ready to go yesterday.”

“Unlike all of your competitors waiting in the elevator lobby?”

“Unlike every one of them.”

“I believe you.”

“Thanks for that.”

“Bill, do you have anything further for Mr. Waters here?”

Bill shook his head. He had a faraway look in his eyes. Cassidy hated to see that. It was the look of a non-Quixote wondering what had happened to the state of things. And the answer? People like Cassidy had happened to the state of things, and people like Stuart, sorry little loser that he was.

“We’ll let you know,” Cassidy said, rising from his chair. “I’ll walk you out.”

Greg followed behind Cassidy through the low-register hum of the working office, full of non-Quixotes just like him, full of angry people.

“Something’s different,” he breathed, more to himself than to Cassidy.

“About the office?” Cassidy shot back.

“Sure.”

“Nope. It’s the rest of the world that’s changed,” Cassidy insisted.

Mr. Waters, having reached the elevator lobby, did not hazard to reply. He left the interview, Quixote or not, with an uneasy feeling in his stomach, like there really was something wrong with the 32nd floor, and with everyone else by extension.

“So,” Cassidy said to the elevator lobby, crowded with young Quixotes. “Who’s next?”

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