Her first night in Burbank—right after the flight attendant announced all passengers could use their cell phones, actually—Ru updated her Facebook status.
Here in Burbank, she typed. When she checked it for the eighth time before going to sleep, three people had liked it, one had asked what she was doing there, and one—a wiseass she knew from grade school—commented, here in Jersey not giving a shit you’re there in Burbank. Nothing from Tate. What had she expected? Cool. Let’s have coffee. Yes that’s what she expected. Here in Burbank, not giving a shit you’re also here in Burbank. Even that would have worked. It would have shown he was paying attention. But he didn’t even give enough of a shit to not give a shit.
Her company’s approach to drug testing was unconventional; equal parts disarming and intimidating, tossed in with a dash of sadism. Any business would have to seriously distrust, maybe even hate their employees to hire them. When Ru walked into someone’s office or cubicle or working space and exchanged pleasantries with them before whipping the cup from her satchel and telling them precisely what they had to do with it within the next three minutes or face suspension or maybe even termination, she felt just like one of those sexy decoys on Maury who made out with unsuspecting cheating boyfriends in the green room just before show time. And she saw their bosses as the girlfriend-wife-fiancee-
babymama on the couch, waiting to hear the dreadful results they one thousand percent knew were coming.
While most companies who outsourced random drug testing treated it as just that—random—the businesses who commissioned Ru’s employer, Accunostics, had specific employees in mind. They furnished Accunostics with these individuals’ names, work schedules and something Accunostics termed Testimony of Probable Cause. TPC was a documented list of a person’s off-the-clock activities as witnessed by their supervisor as well as statements from various co-workers who claim to have knowledge regarding the intended target’s alcohol and drug use.
Most of the time, tickled as she was by the look on someone’s face when they were literally about to piss themselves, Ru fit right in with the team of bastards who signed her paychecks. There were the occasional poor saps who pissed off their bosses enough to warrant disciplinary action in the form of random drug testing, or women who told their ball-scratching superiors to make their own coffee and thus were targeted with a twenty-page TPC, but Ru cleared her conscience by holding fast to the diplomatic belief that dirty urine was dirty urine regardless of how it was brought to your employer’s attention. And if one’s urine was clean and he was fortunate enough to have an attorney in the family, he might be on the threshold of one tambourine banger of a lawsuit.
One of today’s targets was loan specialist Davis Higgins and before entering the BurBANK(the person who came up with that one should have had a series of tests, the least of which concerning trace evidence of narcotics) branch located on East Magnolia, Ru sent Tate a message through Facebook.
Hey Tate, I’ll be in Burbank until Thursday. How about some coffee? Would love to see you and catch up.
She left her number at the end. Lucky for her there wasn’t a urine test for detecting infatuation and obsession.
Excuse me, Miss Porter, but we found evidence of lusting after a married man in your urine. Not only are you fired, but we’re going to notify Mr. Pearson and his wife of our findings and recommend that they kill you immediately.
She took a deep breath, checked her face in the rearview mirror and decided it looked good enough that if she and Davis Higgins were indeed in a Maury green room he would absolutely take the bait. She looked really good, actually. This California sun was making her glow. Damn, why couldn’t Tate see her now.
Davis Higgins stared at the urine collection container sitting on the edge of his desk. Ru’d had to put it back there; thirty seconds ago it was sitting in her lap, where he’d flicked it with spiteful fingers.
“Get the fuck out of my office.”
But she was still there. She wasn’t afraid of Davis Higgins. She’d been slapped by targets before, punched, kicked, shoved, spat at; at least he’d tossed the container at her while it was still empty. She couldn’t count how many times she’d gotten back into her car, hair soaked and reeking of piss.
She remained calmly in her seat, left leg crossed over the right, pen poised over the papers she held.
“Are you refusing to surrender a sample?”
Davis Higgins glared at her. She knew he wanted to surrender a sample all over her face. His kind always did. The guilty kind. It was rare that an innocent was subjected to these surprise attacks. Even the blonde cuties getting sexually harassed were guilty of a little smoky smoky-sniffy sniffy. The predators made sure of it. No one chose prey they couldn’t eventually catch.
Except Ru. She always seemed to chase that which would never get even close enough to her fingers to inevitably slip through them.
As if addressing that very concept, her cell chimed, signaling a new text.
“Oh,” she said, bending over in the chair, fumbling inside her purse. She wrapped her fingers around the phone, pulled it out and hit her hand on the arm of the chair, sending the phone bouncing on the carpet. It landed under the desk and near the feet of Davis Higgins. She crawled on her knees and snatched it up, doubled over herself under the desk, reading the display. It was from Tate, short and simple.
Sure, text me with when and where.
“Um, give me just a minute,” she called out to Davis Higgins, taking her time to read the message several more times, picturing Tate texting her, the expression on his face, what he was wearing, what he smelled like (her belly dipped at that one).
“Are you giggling?” Davis sounded appalled. She turned around quickly, eye level with his legs in their linen pants with a crease ironed down the middle, banging her head.
“Ow, God, fuck.”
She scrambled out from under the desk.
“Giggling? No, I, um—yes. Yes, I am,” she admitted with a firm nod. “There’s this guy I haven’t seen in almost twenty years and we’re going to meet up for coffee later.”
She turned the phone in the man’s direction so he could read it. “‘Sure, text me when and where.’ See. Right there.” She flipped it back around to read it again. “Yep. Right there.” She giggled again, slipping the phone back into her purse before clapping her hands once, a gesture to signify that she meant business.
“Okay. Davis. The cup. Time to piss in the cup.” She snapped her fingers. “Chop chop, I’ve got a date with Tate Pearson.”