Read Cowboy Ending - Overdrive: Book One Online

Authors: Adam Knight

Tags: #fiction, #adventure, #murder, #action, #fantasy, #sex, #violence, #canada, #urban, #ending, #cowboy, #knight, #outlaw, #dresden, #lightning, #adam, #jim butcher, #overdrive, #lee child, #winnipeg, #reacher, #joe, #winnipeg jets

Cowboy Ending - Overdrive: Book One (4 page)

 

“Hmm?”
I shook my head briefly, clenching my teeth on another yawn.

 

More
silence.

 

“Well
Joseph, here at
Canada-Pharm
we have very high standards that are expected from all of our
employees. Not just the ones who feel like meeting those
standards.”

 

I contemplated
bashing my skull off the table in front of me as the too bright
halogen lights flickered overhead.

 

“However
we are sensitive to the pressures you are going through off-site,
Joseph.” Troy laced his fingers together and leaned forward against
the table, classic manager school comforting and understanding
pose. Inviting employees to meet them halfway and open up about
their problems. “
Canada-Pharm
is more than just an internet pharmacy, we try to be a family
to our staff. There are many different counseling options available
to you if you want to talk to someone. Also, financial advisors are
available if you need help with your bills.”

 

I snorted.

 

“Yes,
Joseph?”

 

“If
Canada-Pharm
really
wanted to help with my bills the CEO would jump off his wallet and
share some of the millions in profit he makes every
quarter.”

 

Troy blinked in
surprise and leaned back in his chair. “The wage provided to
Telephone Service Representatives meets industry standards.”
“Wouldn’t you like to make more than forty thousand a year,
Troy?”

 

Troy
blinked.

 

“Would be easy
to do, just have a more incentive based system in place for
employees. Give them a reason to work hard.”

 

Troy cleared
his throat. “The reason we’re here is to discuss your attitude,
Joseph. Not to debate the compensation packages provided by the
company.”

 

I sighed again
and rubbed at my weary eyes. “Just tell me what you want to hear,
man. I’m tired and have work to do.”

 

Roughly
half an hour and a cajoled promise to “try and be a more positive
employee” later, I meandered my way like a mouse in its maze back
through the cubicle farm that was the main floor of
Canada-Pharm
HQ.

 

While the
Internet Pharmacy boom had died off significantly after Obamacare
became viable in the United States, there was still a solid market
for Americans looking to save money on their medication. Thankfully
the Canadian healthcare system wasn’t quite as corrupt as the one
operated at arm’s length by the pharmaceutical companies bribing
their way to affluence south of the forty-ninth parallel. As such,
companies like
Canada-Pharm
were able to take prescriptions online to help save people a
few bucks on their road to better health and happiness.

 

Not that
the altruistic nature of this enterprise meant a tinker’s damn to
the CEO of this fine institution. So long as there was a steady
stream of undereducated and foolish people willing to do monkey
work for two bucks over minimum wage,
Canada-Pharm’s
profit margin was gonna stay well
above the sixty-percent mark.

 

I flopped into
my squeaky, undersized chair and booted up my piece of shit
workstation computer. It began its usual three to ten minute
warm-up process giving me ample time to flip through the patients
on my docket that I needed to follow up with.

 

There was a
sticky note plastered to my desk phone. CALL YOUR MOM in big block
letters.

 

Shit.

 

I crumpled the
sticky note and stared at the flickering screen of the ten year old
monitor and the “loading personal settings” window for a few long
seconds.

 

Voices on the
other side of my cubicle wall;

 

“I
started watching
Alias
on
Netflix last night.”
“Good show. Jennifer Garner. So hot.”
“I know, right? Total ass kicker. Don’t know why I didn’t get into
that show before.”

 

“That
show was fine, but its greater purpose served as a vehicle for J.J.
Abrams to move onto bigger projects like
Lost
and the new
Star
Trek
movies.” I raised an eyebrow at that voice. Fifty
year old career entry level job seeker and self-evident know it all
Michael Grabner had decided to grace the conversation with his
wealth of useless knowledge.

 

Never figured
him for a sci-fi aficionado.

 

“Dude,
Lost
sucked. None
of it made any sense!”

 

“Now
Kory, if you took the time to acknowledge the cinematography and
depth of storytelling involved in even a single episode of
Lost
you’d have a new appreciation
for the quality put into each and every scene as compared to
something more mundane.”

 

“Come on, man!
How do people stuck on a mysterious island go back and forth in
time all the time?”
“Yeah, and what was with all that Jacob and Locke stuff? Was one of
them supposed to be like, God or something?”

 

“Kory,
David the whole point of
Lost
wasn’t to answer all of your questions. It was to create
discussion and debate amongst yourselves. It was a higher form of
art than you are usually privileged to find on today’s reality TV
engorged landscape.”

 

Silence.

 

My computer
still hadn’t booted up.

 

I picked up the
handset on my desk and began dialing.

 

David
re-entered the fray. “You guys know that Sawyer guy? I think he was
on the pilot of
Angel
. Played
a vamp that got dusted like right away.”

 

“Dude why
were you watching,
Angel
?”
Kory asked dismissively. “
Buffy
was way better.”

 

“If
you’re talking the Whedonverse, gentlemen you simply cannot ignore
the brilliance of
Dollhouse
.
Much like his previous shows on FOX,
Dollhouse
was an achievement that was simply too
high-brow for executives to …”
“Hello?”
I tuned out the background geekfest.

 

“Hi Mom. How’re
you feeling?”

 

She laughed
weakly. “Oh, not bad I suppose.”

 

I leaned my
head into my free hand peering around self-consciously. “I didn’t
wake you this morning did I? I tried to be quiet.”

 

She
coughed in the background. A dry, raspy sound but muffled. Probably
covered by her hand or housecoat. “You were fine, Joseph. I’m
having a rough time sleeping as it is.”
My stomach dropped hearing that. I tried to make my voice cheerful.
“Gotta stop waiting for Colbert to finish his
Threat Down
every night, Mom.”

 

Didn’t sound
very cheerful to me.

 

She chuckled
gamely. “You know I prefer Stewart’s show. His interviews are
always better.”

 

Out of the
corner of my eye Troy was wandering the mouse maze, peering this
way and that. Checking up on his flock of lab rats with that
“managerial air.”

 

“So yeah, Mom”
I went on, keeping a watchful eye on the watchful eye. “Is there
something I can do for you? I love you and all, but …”

 

“Yes, I won’t
keep you.” More coughing. I waited for her to stop, my heart
sinking down to where my stomach was resting. “I am out of
medication. Can you get some on your way home?”
“No problem. Your script’s still good here. I’ll pop into the lab
on my way out.”
“You’re such a ..” Coughing. “Such a good boy, Joseph.”

 

“I love you,
Mom. Get some rest.”

 

We hung up.

 

My
computer finally booted up. First thing I did was put in an order
for my mom’s medicine and enter in my staff discount code.
Canada-Pharm
might have been super
stingy on employee wage and benefits, but being able to get all
doctor prescribed medication for free went a long
way.

Probably the
only reason Mom was still alive.

 

Chapter 3

 

Treadmills are
evil.

 

After
spending seven and a half hours feeling like a rat in a cage over
at
Canada-Pharm,
spending
another twenty minutes sweating my bag off like a hamster on a
wheel seemed both appropriate and irritating.

 

Sweat poured
off my forehead and down my back. My self-conscious nature kicked
in every time I felt my belly jiggle in time with my plodding jog.
Every pounding stride hurt my knees and back, but the elliptical
cross-trainers were being hogged by the ladies trying to get their
glow on before heading out on the town.

 

Okay, “hogged”
isn’t fair. There were a couple open ones nearby. I just don’t like
being around people when I am training. This is my place. My zone.
Being left alone so I can focus on the machine, my heart rate and
my stride is important to me.

 

Plus I didn’t
like the not-so-subtle looks of judgment coming from the ladies
when I got my fat ass within ten feet of them.

 

Hey. Big dudes
have feelings too.

 

Finally getting
into a groove I switched on the TV unit built into the treadmill
and tried to distract myself from the wheezing sounds coming from
my lungs.

 

“…
missing girls has increased to fifteen in the last few
months. Police are asking people to be on the lookout for eighteen
year old Candace Cleghorn who was last seen …”

 

Click.

 

“…
Paul …
You are not the father.”

 

Screaming
woman, dancing fool, irate crowd.

 

Click.

 

“…
Set
phasers to stun.”
“Aye aye, sir.”

 

Seen it.

 

Click.

 

“…
definitely a tragic story, Susan. We’ll have more information
on the rash of missing girls in Winnipeg after the break. But now
let’s visit with Cathy over at the weather desk. How’s it look
tonight, Cathy?”
“Thanks, Gord. Well it looks like we’re in for another brisk night
in Winnipeg. So if you’re heading out to catch the Jets game make
sure to bundle up. Let’s take a look at our long range forecast
…”
Yup. She’s still hot.

 

Click.

 

Click.

 

Click.

 

Fucking TV
screen died.

 

I sighed and
looked up from the built in monitor and into the gym, trying to
find a distraction from my strained body to focus on. Training at
the downtown YMCA had a lot of benefits but not for profit gyms had
a hard time keeping up with equipment malfunctions. Seemed like
every day I had an issue with one of these machines.

 

Irritating.

 

It was fairly
busy for a Saturday evening. Most people seemed to get in and out
before dinnertime on the weekends, bringing their kids in to play
on the climbing wall or the jungle gym. So most of the kids left
hanging around at this time of day were of the local neighborhood
variety. Kids from poorer families getting a chance to hang out in
a safe place off the streets.

 

A sudden squeal
and the sharp smell of burning rubber was the only warning I had
before being lurched forward as the treadmill band slipped it’s
rotors. I caught myself painfully by the forearms on the front
console, only slightly knocking what was left of the wind out of me
on impact.

 

The ladies on
the cross-trainers ahead of me looked back over their shoulders,
distracted by the noise. Seeing the sweat soaked lard ass clutching
the front of his treadmill console with both trembling arms must’ve
given them an off putting visual. I can only assume that going by
the scrunched noses and unhidden laughter.

 

At least I
didn’t face plant.
Today.

 

I stepped off
the treadmill and shook my head.

 

“You all right,
Joe?”

 

Tamara was a
bright bubbly ray of light in an otherwise dreary life. Trotting
over to me in a very appealing way in her bright red YMCA staff
shirt and shorty shorts. All of five feet and a few inches tall
with a cute bob of hair. Sporting her red librarian style glasses
and slim, strong legs.

 

Not that I was
noticing. Friends don’t do that.

 

I kicked at the
treadmills’ base with a snort. “Can you talk to maintenance, again?
I swear they’re something wrong with these things.”
Tamara hopped up onto the belt and started fiddling with the knobs
and buttons. She frowned slightly, her lower lip pursed as she
concentrated.

 

“There’s
definitely something weird happening with machines lately,” she
said, motioning down the long line of treadmills. “Seems like every
third one is on the fritz for one reason or another.”

 

The shoulder of
my t-shirt made a convenient facecloth as I wiped away some sweat
to hide a grimace. “Seems like every third one is the one I’m
trying to use.”

 

“It’s not just
you, Joe. Believe me.” Tamara hopped down off the now fritzed
treadmill and led the way over to the fitness center helpdesk.
Sparing the vile contraption one of my death glares I followed,
trying to hide the limp as my bad knee started aching. Sudden stops
give me grief and this one was no different.

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