"Jesus Christ," Pete mutters. "I'm just having a cup of coffee with my friends-"
"Get back on the line!" Sarah bellows.
Pete hands his coffee mug back to Magda with a sigh. "I gotta go," he says. Then he hefts his picket sign, and returns to his place in the circle around the giant rat.
"This," Magda says, as she watches protesters shuffle past, as animated as the undead in a zombie flick, "is not good."
"Tell me about it," I say. "I better go watch the desk. Bring me a bagel?"
"With the works?" Magda asks, the works being code for full-fat cream cheese and, I'm sorry to say, three strips of bacon.
I've made myself at home at Pete's desk (after removing what I can only assume is a very old and very stale doughnut and not, in fact, a door stop from his middle desk drawer… although I can't help noticing the trash can into which I deposit it has not been emptied in some time, and realize Julio and his crack housekeeping staff aren't around… a realization that, more than any other, depresses me), and instituted what I consider the beginning of Heather's New World Order-All Residents Will Stop and Show ID Long Enough for Me to Examine the Photo Closely, since unlike Pete, I don't know every resident by sight, a fact which appears to annoy them no end… but not as much as they're going to be annoyed when I launch Throw Your Own Trash in the Dumpster Outside - when the "guy from the president's office" Magda mentioned reappears. He's a flunky I've never seen before in an expensive suit, and he's accompanied by a much larger guy in a much less expensive, but much shinier suit.
"Are you Heather?" the guy from the president's office wants to know. When I say that I am, he proceeds to inform me that Mr. Rosetti-the man in the shiny suit, which happens to be coupled very charmingly with a lavender silk shirt and several very attractive gold chains which lay nestled among some wiry graying chest hairs, along with multiple gold rings, one on each of the man's not unsausage-like fingers-is going to be supplying "security" for the building, and could I please inform him of any special security concerns of which I might be aware that are unique to Fischer Hall.
At which point I kindly inform the man from the president's office that Fischer Hall's security needs are taken care of for the foreseeable future. But I thank him for his concern.
The man-whose name, he has informed me, is Brian-looks confused.
"How is that possible?" Brian asks. "The college security force is out on strike. I'm supposed to be overseeing getting replacements in all the buildings-"
"Oh, I've already taken care of that here in Fischer Hall," I say… just as a tall, spindly kid comes rushing into the building, tugging off his backpack, out of breath but only one minute late.
"Sorry, Heather," he pants. "I just got your text. I was in Bio. I'll take the ten to two shift. Are you really paying ten bucks an hour? Can I have the six to ten shift tonight, too? And the ten to two tomorrow?"
I nod as I rise gracefully from Pete's chair.
"The six to ten tonight's already taken," I say. "But the ten to two tomorrow's all yours. If of course," I add, "this whole thing isn't settled by then."
"Sweet." Jeremy slides into the seat I've vacated, then barks at a student who's just entered the building, flashed his ID, then strolled by without waiting to be acknowledged, "Stop! Come back here! Let me see that photo!" The student, rolling his eyes, does what he's told.
Brian, on the other hand, looks more confused than ever. "Wait," he says, as I stroll to the reception desk to mark Jeremy's name onto the schedule I've made up. "You're having students run the security desk?"
"Work-study students, yeah," I explain. "It only costs the college a few cents for every dollar an hour we pay them. I imagine that's a fraction of what you're paying, um, Mr. Rosetti's firm, and my student workers know the building and the residents. And I have something like ten thousand dollars left in my student worker budget for the year. That's more than enough to see me through the strike. We've been pretty thrifty this year."
I don't mention that this is partly due to my tendency to steal paper from other offices.
"I, uh, don't know about this," Brian says, whipping a Treo from his suit pocket and banging away at it. "I need to check with my supervisor. None of the other buildings is doing this. It's really not necessary. The president's office has already budgeted for Mr. Rosetti's firm to fill in for the course of the strike."
Mr. Rosetti spreads his bejeweled-and quite hairy-fingers and says, philosophically, "If the young lady does not need our services, the young lady does not need our services. Perhaps we can be of use elsewhere."
"You know where I bet you can be of use," I say to Mr. Rosetti. "Wasser Hall."
"Excuse me." A middle-aged woman with a mom haircut has come up to the desk. She is wearing a dark green sweatshirt with a quilted-on picture of two rag dolls, one black, and one white, holding hands, on the front. "Could you tell me-"
"If you want to call up to a resident"-Felicia, the student worker behind the reception desk, doesn't even look up from the copy of Cosmo she has snagged from someone's mailbox-"use the phone on the wall. Dial zero for information to find out the number."
"Wasser Hall," Mr. Rosetti says. "That sounds good. Hey, kid." He pokes Brian, who is calling someone on his cell phone. "Whatever your name is. Let's go over to this Wasser Hall."
"Just one minute, please," Brian says, in an agitated manner. "I'd really like to get through to someone about this. Because I really don't think this is an approved allocation of work-study student funds. Heather, did your boss approve this allocation of work-study student funds?"
"No," I say.
"I didn't think so," Brian says, with a smug look on his face. Evidently having been able to reach no one on his cell phone, he snaps it closed. "Is your boss in? Because I think we'd better speak to him."