Em was in her boss's office when she heard a car-door slam out front. She knew it wasn't anybody who worked in the building, as staff parking was in the back. She also knew it was somebody who'd been cleared past the front gate, else the place would have erupted with alarms and mobilized security units. Yet it was too early for clients or vendors.
She walked to the doorway and peered across the reception area out the front window. A bulky form was moving toward the entrance. She dashed to the receptionist's chair and settled behind her desk, simultaneously pressing buttons on the slim silver modem in her hand that lit the room and unlocked the front door. Whoever had arrived did not bother to knock.
The man who pushed open the door was so tall he had to stoop to clear the frame without bumping his head. A dark green knit cap perched atop an apparently hairless spheroid, emphasizing the pink glow of a completely bald face, and a light gray overcoat hung over his shoulders, Draculaen style. His pinched features, expressionless except for squinting eyes, faced Em as if trying to adjust to the light. Without a word, with sheer physical deportment, the stranger had ushered in an air of chemical-scented danger, prompting Em to push yet another button on her modem, alerting security and opening a one-way communications channel that transmitted every sound in the room to the duty officer. The stranger stood just inside the door, seemingly composed and immoveable.
The expectant smile Em had constructed on her face to greet his entrance remained steady despite a growing chill that threatened to set her visibly shivering. She decided to speak first when it became apparent he was not about to introduce himself. She hoped her voice would not come out too high, betraying her fright. Inspiration struck as she parted her lips to begin.
“Uncle Roy!” she squealed, starting to rise from her chair as the stranger's upper body lurched backward and his face squinched a flicker before he regained his composure. He resumed his impassive stare.
“Uncle Roy, it's me, Melinda! How on earth did you find me? Is Aunt Irma with you? Oh! I'm gonna come right around there and give you the biggest old hug!” She climbed out of her chair and started around the desk. The stranger raised a gloved hand, motioning her to stop. She did. “Uncle Roy, it's me, Melinda Buckheimer,” she repeated, her voice drooping a tad. She replaced the smile with a chagrined pout.
“You don't remember me, do you. Oh, it is you, isn't it?” She sagged against the desk, bracing herself with a hand. “Oh, I'd be so embarrassed if it wasn't, but I just know it's you. Oh, goodness, am I supposed to pretend I don't know you? Are you still with the KGB? That's it, isn't it! But aren't we on the same side now? Isn't all that old enemy stuff water under the dam, or the bridge or however that's supposed to go? Huh, Uncle Roy?”
She hitched herself up on the desk, leaned back and grabbed the silver modem she'd left on the blotter. She held it up and pointed it at TV screen mounted near the ceiling. “We can watch some news while you're waiting for Mr. Seawell if you like? I always come in early so I can greet the early birds, like you. Have a seat. You make me nervous standing there staring at me like you don't remember me. OK, I'll pretend you're not really Uncle Roy if that's what you want. I don't really give a shit one way or the other.
“You liked it when I talked dirty to you, didn't you, Uncle Roy? You used to come in my room when mummy and daddy were asleep and put your hand under my nightie, you dirty old man. I shoulda told on you, but I didn't know any better. Thought, well, good old Uncle Roy will give me five bucks in the morning so what the hell. Maybe it's not too late to bust you, though, you filthy pig. You punkin head freak child molester. You stink, too, do you know that? You stink like a fucking chemical plant. What's wrong with you?
“I guess you're really not my Uncle Roy after all, are you, punkin head? Uncle Roy always talked a mile a minute. Couldn't shut the old fuck up, you know? Jabber jabber jabber jabber. But you don't say shit, do you? Haven't said shit yet, anyway. You do know how to talk, don't you, punkin head? Wanna say something? Wanna tell me how you got in here so early. Don't you wonder why the lights came on in this office just as you approached the door?
Huh? You big fucking stinking piece of shit...”
Em rattled these insults off at a rapid clip while she kept her eyes fixed on the stranger's face, watching for the slightest movement in her direction. At first the stranger merely stood, rooted in place, and stared without expression at her, registering no sign he even heard her voice.
She was ready the instant his feet left the floor as he sprang toward her with the quickness and agility of a jungle cat, his overcoat flapping open to reveal the suit jacket, white shirt, tie and pleated pants of a businessman. His pink, long-fingered hands were reaching clawlike at the ends of his extended arms as he flew through the air. Em raised the silver modem and pushed one of its battery of buttons, sending a thin green beam of light that seemed to penetrate the stranger's chest. A less-intense green glow suffused the white shirt and lower half of his pink bulbous head. He crashed into the corner of the desk as Em stepped back out of the way and watched him roll off onto the floor.
The stranger lay motionless beside the desk a heartbeat later when three uniformed security officers burst through the door, laser guns in hand.
“Dead?” one of them asked Em.
“I hope not,” she said. “I used Sean's new modem. The one I installed the stun feature in. This was our first live test.”