Illustration by Idiots’Books
Tjan met her at Logan and took her bag. “I’m surprised you had the time to meet me,” she said. The months had been good to him, slimming down his pot-belly and putting a twinkle in his eye.
“I’ve got a good organization,” he said, as they motored away toward Rhode Island, through strip-mall suburbs and past boarded-up chain restaurants. Everywhere there were signs of industry: workshops in old storefronts, roadside stands selling disposable music players, digital whoopee cushions, and so forth. “I barely have to put in an appearance.”
Tjan yawned hugely and constantly. “Jet-lag,” he apologized. “Got back from Russia a couple days ago.”
“Did you see your kids?” she said. “How’s business there?”
“I saw my kids,” he said, and grinned. “They’re amazing, you know that? Good kids, unbelievably smart. Real little operators. The older one, Anushka, is running a baby-sitting service—not baby-sitting herself, you see, but recruiting other kids to do the sitting for her while she skims a management fee and runs the quality control.”
“She’s your daughter all right,” she said. “So tell me everything about the Westinghouse projects.”
She’d been following them, of course, lots of different little startups, each with its own blogs and such. But Tjan was quite fearless about taking her through their profits and losses and taking notes on it all kept her busy until she reached her hotel. Tjan dropped her off and promised to pick her up the next morning for a VIP tour of the best of his teams, and she went to check in.
She was in the middle of receiving her key when someone grabbed her shoulder and squeezed it. “Suzanne bloody Church! What are you doing here, love?”
The smell of his breath was like a dead thing, left to fester. She turned around slowly, not wanting to believe that of all the hotels in rural Rhode Island, she ended up checking into the same one as Rat-Toothed Freddy.
“Hey, Freddy,” she said. Seeing him gave her an atavistic urge to stab him repeatedly in the throat with the hotel stick-pen. He was unshaven, his gawky Adam’s apple bobbing up and down, and he swallowed and smiled wetly. “Nice to see you.”
“Fantastic to see you, too! I’m here covering a shareholder meeting for Westinghouse, is that what you’re here for, too?”
“No,” she said. She knew the meeting was on that week, but hadn’t planned on attending it. She was done with press conferences, preferring on-the-ground reporting. “Well, nice to see you.”
“Oh, do stay for a drink,” he said, grinning more widely, exposing those grey teeth in a shark’s smile. “Come on—they have a free cocktail hour in this place. I’ll have to report you to the journalist’s union if you turn down a free drink.”
“I don’t think ‘bloggers’ have to worry about the journalist’s union,” she said, making sarcastic finger-quotes in case he didn’t get the message. He still didn’t. He laughed instead.
“Oh, love, I’m sure they’ll still have you even if you have lapsed away from the one true faith.”
“Good night, Freddy,” was all she could manage to get out without actually hissing through her teeth.
“OK, good night,” he said, moving in to give her a hug. As he loomed toward her, she snapped.
“Freeze, mister. You are not my friend. I do not want to touch you. You have poor personal hygiene and your breath smells like an overflowing camp-toilet. You write vicious personal attacks on me and on the people I care about. You are unfair, meanspirited, and you write badly. The only day I wouldn’t piss on you, Freddy, is the day you were on fire. Now get the fuck out of my way before I kick your tiny little testicles up through the roof of your reeking mouth.”
She said it quietly, but the desk-clerks behind her overheard it anyway and giggled. Freddy’s smile only wobbled, but then returned, broader than ever.
“Well said,” he said and gave her a single golf-clap. “Sleep well, Suzanne.”
She boiled all the way to her room and when she came over hungry, she ordered in room service, not wanting to take the chance that Rat-Toothed Freddy would still be in the lobby.
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As part of the ongoing project of crafting Tor.com’s electronic edition of Makers, the author would like for readers to chime in with their favorite booksellers and stories about them in the comments sections for each piece of Makers, for consideration as a possible addition to a future edition of the novel.