BRAD TAYLOR WAS casually dressed in a brown tweed jacket and tie as he stepped off the busy escalator inside the massive new Superland Mall shopping complex, which was an imposing, towering structure of steel, glass and concrete.
He moved down the hall briskly at a steady pace through a set of glass sliding doors that read “Social Security Annex 102,” and sauntered into the spacious room with the usual effervescent smile, passing by worker’s cubicles while exchanging greetings with a few of his fellow co-workers.
Most women found him attractive, modest, and genuinely caring.
Connie Jordan, a large heavy-set, black co-worker in her mid-thirties noticed Brad coming and flagged him down as she was completing an interview with an elderly pensioner.
“Come ’mere lover-boy... or should I say good lookin’?” she joked.
Brad glanced down at her and grinned, “Down girlfriend... You know I’m a married man.”
“Don’t ya know extramarital affairs can be good for you? I’ll be gentle. Gotta put some black in your back.”
Brad gave her a peck on the cheek, snuck a bite out of the baloney and cheese sandwich in her hand. “I’ll keep that in mind. Gotta go.”
He continued down the hall where he found Karen Newgaard walking by. Karen was a lovely aging hippie in her late forties, wearing silver wire-rim glasses with a peace symbol on a chain hanging on her neck.
Looking at him coming her way, Karen tripped in the hall over a rubber floor mat, and her files and papers went flying out of her hands.
Brad stooped down and helped her pick them up then grabbed the worn out old mat and tossed it into the nearby stairwell.
“I’ve been tripping over that damn thing for a week,” she said in a huff. “You’re just the man I need to see. We got problems with the Martinez case. Main Division won’t approve their food stamps again because old man Martinez is still an illegal alien.”
It was not what he wanted to hear. “Well, why don’t you take him over, register him with the Alien’s Bureau?” he said going into his office.
The phone rang and he picked it up, just as another female co-worker came in and laid a pile of files on his desk. He glanced up at the woman irritated, and continued talking on the phone, with a large political poster behind him on the wall that read: “National Committee for Non-violence – Get Involved!”
Back on the phone Brad was arguing with his supervisor. “Give the woman a break, will ya, Herb? – So she’s got nine children, doesn’t believe in contraceptives. It’s her prerogative. If we were all alike, it’d be a pretty boring world, wouldn’t it?”
There was a pause as he listened to Herb’s reaction on the other end.
“Oh come on, have a little heart. Don’t cut her off. I mean, what am I working my ass off for when you guys are tossing my paperwork in the crapper... I’m gonna quit, I tell ya!”
There was another long pause.
“Ah, that’s better, Herbie! That’s what I like to hear. Okay, new business... Karen Newgaard asked me to see what I could do about the Martinez case.”
Herb was heard garbling some vile expletives over the receiver.
“Yeah, well fuck you too, Herb!”
Brad slammed the phone down, cursing under his breath when Karen popped her head back in the door.
“Better start unloading your refrigerator,” he told her.
“No go, huh? Shit. Herb is such a prick – Guy’s got bad karma.”
She walked away from the door jamb, dejected.
Connie stuck her big head in and handed Brad the morning paper and a nice hot cappuccino. “Take a look at this headline. High school shooting leaves five dead! Parents is too easy with kids today.”
Connie noticed Brad’s hand right trembling slightly after seeing the newspaper. The phone rang again, and Connie left as he answered.
“Taylor here... Hey Ed, how are you? – Sure, I’ll be at the club Saturday – See you on the target range, buddy.”
In the next moment, a metro policeman walked into the office with more files in his hands. The cop was Sergeant Phillip T. Lucas, a tall and imposing figure of a man in his thirties around Brad’s age, but big and muscular.
Sergeant Lucas placed the files on top of a mountain of other papers on Brad’s desk, and when he noticed Brad’s trembling hand, he did a second take, bent down to Brad’s desk, opened the side drawer. He took out a bottle of pills, opened it and handed Brad one.
“Christ, you forgot to take your meds, Bradley.”
Brad side-glanced him, popped one in his mouth.
“Here’s some more food stamp fraud cases for you,” Phil added. “Don’t want you to get bored, do we?”
“Jesus, Phil, don’t do this to me. It’ll take me a year to get through the stack I already have.”
Phil shook his head, indifferent. “They’re your people, buddy boy. I just keep the law…Now, you and Paula coming Saturday or what?”
“Yeah, yeah we’ll be there. I just spoke to Ed about it.”
“Great, I can’t wait to dance with that sexy, gorgeous wife of yours!”
Phil chuckled and left as Brad went back to his paperwork.
That’s when Karen came in and slammed another file down on top of his pile. “That’s it! I’ve had it. Martinez is all yours. I’m quitting! I mean it this time. We live in the richest country in the world, spend millions on Homeland Security anti-terrorism, and I’ve got a family starving – This sucks!”
Brad sympathized with her. He knew they were being over-worked and underpaid.
“Cool it,” he cautioned. “You can’t go, I need you here... Tell you what, I’ll go over to the Martinez place myself and take the report downtown...How’s that?”
“Really? Okay, I owe you one.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah...”
The phone rang again.
“Yeah, Herb, what the hell is it now? – Oh, sorry, Dad. I thought was about a case I’m working on...”