Part 3 – Not for Love, But Maybe for Money
Doctor Braun Verne was a good looking man and he knew it. He had a debonair about him, a flash, a swagger that just drew women (those who liked men), and men (those who liked men) alike.
Three women stood around as he lay under another woman’s car. The owner stood next to the car worrying her fingers while the other three stood back far enough to get the view they wanted.
"What's he doing?" Gladys, a full figured accountant asked Eloise, the woman whose car was being possibly upgraded.
"Who cares?" Marge, a woman in a power pant-suit said.
The women admired Braun's faded blue jeans and cowboy boots sticking out from under the car. In a fluid movement he pulled himself out and lifted himself up to a standing position. Braun lit a cigarette and let it dangle from his lips.
“There Eloise, next time you gas up your tank should be the last time you need to,” he ran a hand through his thick, wild hair. The women unconsciously but audibly sighed.
“I don’t know what it is about him. I mean, I can’t stand smokers,” Gladys whispered to Marge. Braun heard them and siddled up to Gladys. She thought he smelled so good and, "manly.”
“This is no ordinary cigarette. I get my smokes from a friend of mine, Fred Neal. They’re vitamin and pheromone cigarettes.” He exhaled smoke past her ear.
Mary, the youngest and newest admirer leaned toward Eloise, “Isn’t this the janitor?”
Braun leaned toward Mary and flashed one of his thousand watt smiles, “Stationary Engineer actually.”
"What's that accent, French?" Marge asked Gladys.
"German I think."
"Are you Australian, Mr. Engineer?" Marge asked.
"If you'd like," Braun smiled at her and started to walk away.
"What did you do, exactly?" Eloise asked, though Marge gave her a hard nudge for making Braun turn around.
"I can't tell you exactly, and I would certainly never tell you a tall tale about cold fusion." He lifted his sunglasses and winked, then returned them and left.
"Cold fusion?" Eloise muttered. The four women turned and approached the car. It was just the opening Braun was waiting for. He pressed a button on his tool belt and was instantly transported to his basement work room.
"Mr. Verne!" Bob Ellgie was standing by the workbench with a device in his hand when the transportation alcove flashed like a lightning bolt party celebrating new years and roared like a train crashing into another train that was at the same time being crashed into by an airliner.
Braun stepped out of the cloud of steam the alcove had generated, his clothing and hair crusted with frost, "That’s new"
"What is that contraption?" Bob roared. Bob was a large man in height and girth. He had been an NFL offensive lineman before his knee went. He was the hair-trigger tempered regional manager in the office.
"That thing with the lights and noise and smoke."
"That's not smoke, it's vapor. I know what you're thinking, is vapor really safer than smoke. I mean, they say it is, but aren't they just trying to sell you something and wouldn't they-"
"What are you talking about?" It really looked like Bob's tie was going to pop right off his neck.
"Oh," Braun suddenly realized what Bob had in his hand when he noticed the big man's squeeze getting tighter on it. "You really don't want to be squeezing that." He stepped forward and gingerly tried to pry it out of Bob’s hand. Their finger war was brief, but it gave Bob enough time to calm down. Once his rage passed Braun was able to get the device loose and slipped it away.
“What was that?”
“What brings you down to my humble work area, Mr Ellgie?”
Bob didn’t know where the device had gone, but he knew enough that if Braun didn’t want him to touch it, it was probably something incredibly dangerous, and Braun would be verbaly as slipery as a greased pig if he tried to ask about it. He let the matter slip and focused on the reason he was down there.
“Wh-, wha-, what?”
It was the first time Bob had ever seen Braun speechless. He savored it a moment and chuckled under his breath. He rarely got the better of Braun with words and had never knocked him on his ass like this. He felt a moment of pity.
“That’s not actually true.” Braun relaxed his shoulders and gathered himself to rise again. Bob realized he had to keep the initiative.
“You are let go, your position has been eliminated. The company has decided to outsource the engineering, maintenance and housekeeping functions. It was all done several levels over my head and is strictly financial in nature.” His rapid fire sentences peppered Braun keeping him from getting to his rhetorical feet.
“As soon as I found out I called everyone I knew and called in every favor, but it was too late. I’m sorry Braun.” He crossed his arms in finality.
Braun nodded and ran his tongue around his teeth. He pulled out a cigarette and lit it.
Braun held up a hand, took a long drag and blew out the smoke, "I'm a victim of my own success." He shrugged and looked around the room.
"Upper management does feel that everything is running so smoothly they can hire an outside vendor to keep it at this level for a third the cost of-"
"Of me. I get it." He nodded.
"I am sorry to have you leave. As much as you were a pain in my behind, I can tell that you were the one responsible for lowering operating costs 75%."
"How long do I have?"
"Today will be your last day. You have until close of business to collect your things and leave."
"You will have to leave all company property of course. You can take any personal tools, but you signed an intellectual property clause."
"Meaning anything I designed and built for the company is company property."
"Anything you got a patent for yes. It would technically be the company's patent."
Braun nodded broadly and dragged on his cigarette, "You have no idea what that is?" He hooked his thumb over his shoulder at the transportation alcove.
"And that device you had in your hand; no idea?"
Braun smiled cautiously. He pulled out his cell phone and called his friend, "Hey Fred, Braun here. About that job offer…"
Braun patted Bob on the upper arm, "I'll be out by lunch. I'll just have to say goodbye to some of the ladies."