Copyright© 2021 by Lazlo Zalezac
The door of Magus’ office opened and a middle aged man stepped out. He paused and looked at Claudia. He shook his head and started to take a step. He paused once again. Finally, he said, “That is a brilliant man.”
“I agree,” Claudia said. This wasn’t the first client of Magus to call him brilliant.
“A year ago a friend of mine in Washington D C told me to take my problem to Solutions Incorporated. I took my friend’s advice and went to visit Magus. I gave him ten dollars to solve a problem for me. He took my money. After listening to my problem, he said that he would work on it, but he couldn’t make any promises on finding a good solution. I didn’t hear back from him. I didn’t even know that he had moved here from Washington. I just figured I had wasted ten dollars on another Beltway Bandit and forgot all about it,” the man said. “Today he gave me back my ten dollars ten thousand times over.”
“Congratulations,” Claudia said.
“Amazing,” the man said. He shook his head and looked back in the office. “The world needs more people like him.”
Claudia watched the man leave the office wondering what Magus had done for him. The fact was that she was curious about all of the kinds of things that Magus did. It seemed to her that he was always busy even if no one came into the office for weeks at a time. Her job was pretty boring and she wondered why he bothered to have a receptionist. She wasn’t going to complain about being bored. The job was helping her get through her divorce.
She sighed and looked at the clock wondering if it was too early to head out for lunch. Her thoughts were interrupted when a man entered the reception area and stopped in front of her desk. He said, “I have an appointment with Magus.”
Claudia pointed towards the door and said, “Go right on in.”
“Aren’t you going to announce me?”
“Magus, your appointment is here,” Claudia shouted.
Magus shouted, “Send him in.”
The man looked at Claudia for a moment and then shook his head in disbelief. He entered Magus’ office and closed the door. A minute later, he opened the door and leaned out. He said, “Magus wants Stephen to bring the Marks manuscript with him.”
Claudia shouted, “Stephen. Magus wants you to bring him the manuscript.”
“Which manuscript?” Stephen shouted back.
“The Marks manuscript,” Claudia shouted.
“Okay,” Stephen shouted.
The man stared at Claudia and asked, “Haven’t you ever heard of an intercom?”
“Yes, but Magus prefers an old fashioned bellow over a new fangled device,” Claudia answered.
“If you say so,” the man said shaking his head in disbelief. He figured that she couldn’t figure out how to use the intercom system.
“I bet you thought it was a blond thing,” Claudia said holding out a lock of her hair.
“Not at all,” the man said looking away from her.
Claudia asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you’re a lousy liar?”
“Not lately,” the man answered.
“You are a lousy liar,” Claudia said. She opened her desk drawer and pulled out a nail file. She made a rather big production out of filing her nail.
Stephen walked up carrying the manuscript. He looked at Claudia and asked, “Did someone treat you like a dumb blond?”
“What do you think?” Claudia asked. She looked up at him while filing her nail madly.
“I’d say yes based on the fact that you’re pretending to be an airhead,” Stephen answered.
“I didn’t say anything to imply that she was a dumb blond,” the man said.
Stephen asked, “Has anyone ever told you that you’re a lousy liar?”
“Yes,” the man said looking over at Claudia.
Stephen handed the man the bound stack of papers and said, “Here is the manuscript.”
“Thanks,” the man said. He stepped back in the office and closed the door.
Smiling, Magus pointed to the chair and said, “Have a seat, Mr. Benjamin Franklin Kite.”
“How many times do I have to tell you to call me Ben?”
Magus said, “I just really like saying your name. It must be the patriot in me.”
“What’s the deal with the manuscript?” Ben asked taking a seat.
Magus said, “I need you to read it. I want you to return in twenty-four hours and give me your honest opinion of it. I want to know if it is ready to be published as a book.”
“I publish a newspaper; not books,” Ben said.
“You know how to read, don’t you?” Magus asked.
“Yes, I know how to read,” Ben said rolling his eyes.
“Then read it and give me your honest opinion about it,” Magus said.
“You were squirrelly when I met you in Chicago and you’ve gotten a thousand times worse since then,” Ben said.
“I blame it on the fact that you stole my receptionist from me by marrying her,” Magus said. Rhetorically, he asked, “How low can a man go to get good help?”
“By the way, Bernadette sends her regards,” Ben said.
“Does she still dream of me?”
Ben said, “She still has the occasional nightmare. The therapy has been quite successful. She doesn’t quiver upon hearing your name any more.”
Magus laughed. He said, “You can still dish it out. Give her my love.”
Holding up the manuscript, Ben asked, “Is this the only reason you called me over here?”
“Yes,” Magus answered.
“Is this the favor I owe you for getting me set up as publisher of the Five Millville Times?” Ben asked.
“What is it?” Ben asked.
“This is the Quo. Tomorrow you will get the Quid Pro,” Magus answered.
Ben stared at Magus for a second trying to puzzle out what the man meant. “I get it — Quid Pro Quo. What have you got for me?”
“I’ll tell you tomorrow,” Magus said.
“Has anyone told you that you’re a pain in the ass?” Ben asked.
“Yes. My receptionist tells me that quite frequently,” Magus answered with a smile.
Rising from his chair, Ben said, “That alone tells me that she’s too smart to be a natural blond.”
Magus grinned and waved. He said, “Have fun reading.”
“Yeah,” Ben said.
After waiting until Ben reached the door, Magus said, “By the way, you might want to send some flowers to Claudia when you get back to your office.”
“Why?” Ben asked.
“If you don’t, she’ll stab you with her nail file when she sees you tomorrow.”
Ben stepped out of the office. He looked at Claudia and said, “He wants me to come back tomorrow at the same time.”
“Okie Dokie,” Claudia said. She twirled a lock of hair with her finger while batting her eyes at him. She blew a bubble with her bubble gum.
Magus shouted, “Claudia!”
“What?” Claudia shouted back.
“Tell Igor that I need a dolly,” Magus shouted.
Ben leaned over to Claudia and patted her hand. He said, “My condolences on having to work with him.”
“Thanks,” Claudia said. She shouted, “Will a Barbie Doll do?”
“Not that kind of dolly. I need the kind you carry stuff on,” Magus shouted.
Claudia was returning from lunch when she noticed three very large men following her. The men were wearing dark suits, sunglasses, and highly polished shoes. She was pretty sure that they were carrying guns. She quickened her step and practically ran into the office. Sitting down at her desk, she picked up the handset of the telephone and prepared to call Phil to tell him about the men who were following her.
It was about that time when she noticed the package stashed away behind her chair. She hung up the handset and had turned to examine the package when the three men stepped into the office. She nearly jumped out of her chair at finding they had followed her into the office. The oldest one said, “We have an appointment with Magus.”