The hardest thing about being dead is definitely convincing people that you’re not really dead. I ran into this problem head-on. I made a few stops on my way back north. The first stop was at Walter Jensen’s home. Walter had been an accountant for years for Trystix while I had been there. Apparently something had changed. The usually tidy Walter was asleep on a couch when I got there, with an empty bottle in his hand and pizza boxes everywhere. It looked like he hadn’t left his small home in weeks…Except to get pizza.
Walter had been an extremely valuable employee to Trystix. His numbers were always on, and his numbers were always good. He came to work early, left late, and even worked holidays. He wore nice suits, was always clean-cut and trim, and was always just a small twitch from a smile. His kind demeanor was completely genuine. The heavy-set, shaggy-haired man on the couch was definitely not who I remembered. He was obviously lonely and depressed. He had a wife, but rarely saw her. Judging from all the empty picture frames around the apartment, I’d say she had left him. Apparently, Walter had lost a lot lately. Like his common sense; the door wasn’t even locked, and this was Chicago.
“Walter. Walter. Hey man, wake up.” I shook him as I spoke.
“No, Mr. Trystix. I haven’t finished the write-up yet. I’ll have it on your desk first thing tomorrow.” His speech was slurred. Alcohol will do that to you, I guess.
“I’m not Trystix.” Walter opened one eye, then closed it. Suddenly, both eyes shot open.
“Holy shi-…Jared? Jared? You’re dead!”
“You could say that…But I’m here nonetheless.”
“Are you a ghost? Am I haunted? Oh no…I’m dead! Are you my angel?”
“No. No, I’m not an angel. I’m really here. I’m real.”
“Oh man. I’ve really been drinking too much.”
See what I mean about convincing people you’re not dead?
“C’mon, Walter. Sit up. I need to talk to you.”
“Sure. Sure. I’ll just sit right up and talk to a ghost. I’m definitely not insane.”
“What happened to you? Why aren’t you at work?”
“Gotta have a job to go to work, Jared.”
“You got fired? Why?” I asked.
“Trystix decided I knew too much. At least, that’s what I think. He gave me some bogus ‘budget cut’ excuse.”
“And your wife?” His face darkened at the mention of his wife.
“Left about a year ago, right before I lost the job. Just happy for my severance checks.”
“Wow. I’m sorry to hear that.”
“She said I’d left her the minute I started working for Trystix. She’s right you know. I never treated her right.”
“Walter, I need your help. You say you got fired because you knew too much? That’s exactly why I need you. How’d you like to help a dead man get even with Trystix.”
“Definitely. I just hope you’re not the vodka talking.”
I rolled my eyes.
“You know more about Trystix’s finances than anyone. How was he doing before you left? Financially, I mean?”
“As well as ever. Somehow, that bastard found a way to profit from the damn virus. It might have something to do with that Raiden guy. I bet he’s involved.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Pharmaceuticals have dropped in price, yet Trystix is still making money from his stock in them. Raiden has to be manipulating the output of the drugs, otherwise there would be no way to profit from it. It just doesn’t make sense unless someone is fabricating the numbers.”
“Interesting. Could Trystix be doing it somehow?” This was a curious perspective.
“Trystix is smart, brilliant even. But I don’t think he has that much stock in Raiden’s company. It would have to be someone who has control in Raiden’s camp. I just assumed it would be Raiden himself.”
“Could be, I guess. I was under a different impression of Raiden’s involvement. Definitely worth looking into though. Where does Trystix keep his records?”
“In a filing cabinet, in your old apartment. On top of the rug, covering up your death threat.”
“Death threat, huh? Is that how he took it?”
“He was scared to death of you. That’s why he gave you all that money. Hoping to buy you off. I always thought it convenient that you died a night later.”
“More than convenient. Planned. It was murder. But here I am, the walking dead.”
“Well, I imagine he’ll get his now, eh?”
“Only if you can tell me how to get in to the Tower unnoticed.”
“Easy. A keycard. I can help you. He fired some security personnel, too. You remember Big Stu?”
“Big Stu? Why’d he fire him?” Big Stuart Jones was next on my list of people to find.
“Stu told him he needed a raise if he was going to be working the twelve-hour shifts and doing the overtime. Trystix had even made him take his work home with him. He was making security clearances and watching the cameras at home. Trystix didn’t like the idea, so he sent him home early. Then Trystix cut his salary, then his hours, then just fired him. Stu lost his home, his car, everything. I guarantee he’d help settle the score.”
“Poor Stu. So you think he’d still have the right tech to get me in?”
“Absolutely. I’ll call him tomorrow.”
“Great, Walt. But he can’t know I’m alive. Not yet. The fewer that know the better.”
“Fine.” Walter had a mischievous glint in his eye.
“You gonna kill him, Jared? Trystix, I mean.”
“Yeah, but not yet. He has some pipers to pay first. One more thing…Think I could crash here tonight? I haven’t had time to find a hotel yet. I’ve been…busy.”
“What’s the matter, Jared? No grave to crawl back into?”
Walter had always had a great sense of humor. He nodded and led me back to a spare bedroom. There were papers and calculators everywhere. Looks like Stu wasn’t the only one taking work home. Walter brushed off a dusty couch, grabbed a blanket, then excused himself to find a pillow. I told him I appreciated the hospitality. I went out to my bike and grabbed my things. I reached into my bag and pulled out the small black box. I squeezed the latch and opened it. The gun sat on top, the bullets off to the side. I pulled it out and set it aside. My lock pick set was next, then the picture of Liv. I held the picture in my hands for a moment. I missed her. I missed my niece. But I’d see them soon. Finally, I pulled out a small yellow notepad from the bottom.
I had worked on my plan at the few stops I took on my way to Chicago. I checked off Walter and Stu’s names on my list. This took care of finding the records and the security issues; that left identification and getting the money and bonds out. The next name on my list was Johnny Michaels. Johnny had been a janitor and knew every nook and cranny of Tryst Tower. I’d have to find him tomorrow. The last name was the most important one; Olivia Donovan Trystix.