ONE. The pounding in my head marching on with a steady beat. TWO. The beating of my heart in my ears. THREE. The rhythmic clanking of the weight machine as I work through my daily routine. FOUR. The almost audible strain in my muscles as the weight goes up and down. FIVE. The final gunshot that doesn’t stop ringing in my head… REPEAT.
At 24, I was one of the youngest officers on the force tasked to the drug control unit. However, I later became the youngest to be “suspended until further notice” without officially losing their job... This has left me with a lot of time to keep my mind occupied at the gym and rack up debt for my Los Angeles apartment. For the first month I lived off some meager savings and the hope that I would get that call ending my suspension. Now, another 2 months later with the banks knocking on my door, it looks like hope will have to take a back seat as I start my stereotypical “ex-cop” job in private security. I will be the personal guard for Tony Renchette, the 19 year-old son of some Millionaire who flaunts his money in the face of his other rich neighbors. Luckily compared to being a cop, as an over qualified babysitter I’ll be making up for the lack of a moral code in cash.
With today’s workout done, I get myself prepared to meet the Renchette family for the first time. I hop into my clown car of a 2012 civic and begin driving towards the rich end of town. If everything goes well, I’ll officially be starting as Tony’s body guard. I don’t know why the Renchette’s would ask for a failure like me but I can only hope this job is more mind numbing than working out all day (which has been my life for the last three months!). If this kid turns out to just be annoying and rich, I’ll be able to ignore him and not have to think about anything all day. Although, I won’t be able to start if I can’t find the god damn place… You would think finding a mansion would be easy, but this road is too long and pointlessly curvy. Why did these rich guys have to design The Hill’s like this? Just driving my little beater of a Honda down this road every day will give me an inferiority complex. I finally find it, and of course the Renchette’s live in the last and largest house on this crazy road. Their mansion gives off a manicured aura so different from what I’m used to it feels like my car with get towed for just parking in front of it. Well, work is work…
I park my Honda where I hope no one will notice it and walk up to the door. Just as I’m about to knock the door is opened by a well-dressed man in a suit. He greets me and ushers me in, much more politely that I would expect of Mr. Renchette. He seems a lot quieter than I would expect of someone with his type of money. Maybe I don’t have to be so worried about what type of people the Renchettes are after all.
“AWESOME! You’re actually HIM and not some old dude with a beer belly!” Comes a loud voice from right above me. “Have you ever killed anyone before!?!”
“Master Tony! Please refrain from acting so childish at your age. This man is here to protect you, not to act as some exotic species in a zoo.” Wait, this guy is a butler? People actually have butlers? It’s the rich who are an exotic species… “I am grievously sorry for Master Tony’s attitude. I have been trying to teach him proper etiquette since he was young but it never seems to stay taught. If you would kindly follow me to the study, Mr. Renchette has been eagerly waiting to meet you.” I quickly follow the butler getting only a quick glance back at the boy who I would be protecting. He has a surprisingly charming smile for an annoying loud mouth, is all I could think before turning a corner and walking into possibly the most intimidating space I have ever been in.
It wasn't the deer heads or weapons on the wall that intimidated, but the man who sat behind the mahogany desk. The room felt twice as small as it should have just because he seemed to take up all the room. Not physically mind you, he looked quite similar to the butler. He filled the room with an unwavering confidence in himself, possibly bred from massive wealth, or more likely the cause such massive wealth. I can’t image any of the criminals my unit had arrested being put in the same room with this man and coming out on top. The silence wasn’t broken until he spoke.
“It’s nice to meet you Nicolas, please have a seat. Oh, and Charles could you bring a glass of water for our friend here?” With that the tension left the air. The butler, Charles I take it, went to fetch me a glass of water. I took the seat opposite Mr. Renchette, shook his hand, and greeted him in turn. It’s hard to believe the feeling I just had about him as everything seemed to return to normal. “I’m Noah Renchette, feel free to call me Noah. I just have a few questions then feel free to consider the job yours.” My heart is pounding in my chest from the nerves, but I calm down and try to remember the interview process for the station. This is bound to be easier than all that… Just the normal questions like, What is your biggest strength? What do you think you bring to the table? What would you do if… etc. I’m ready for anything.
“I’m going to be blunt here Nicolas. Have you ever had sex with another man?” Startled, I think he must be joking! But just before a nervous fit of laughter becomes my response I see his face, and it says he isn’t… I stumble for words as I shrink into my chair. Mr. Renchette stands up and my chair tries to eat me even more. I’d let it just to get out of this situation. “Well Nicolas? It’s a very straight forward question,” he says as he moves out from behind his desk. Leaving me with no hope for escape he walks to the doors and the room is once again swallowed up by him. “Yes or No?”
“That wasn’t so hard. Thank you for being honest with me, I really appreciate it.” He comes up behind me and puts his hand on my shoulder, “Here’s that water I promised.” Oh right, the water… I thank him as politely as I can and he let’s go of my shoulder, but his fingers linger just a little longer. Grateful to have a glass I can fiddle with, I focus all my attention on inspecting the quality of the crystal I hold. Mr. Renchette, rather than going to sit back in his chair, decides to lean on my side of the desk standing so close to me our legs almost touch. The situation sends jitters down my spine and I down the water to try and calm down. “You know, for a man of your build your surprisingly shy.”
“I’m sorry! My nerves seem to have gotten the better of me. Please don’t worry about it.” I lie. “I just desperately need this job! I’ve already had to give up some of my pride to sign up for private security work as it feels like I won’t get the chance to be a cop again… That was always my dream, you see.” I surprisingly add in the unfortunate truth.
“You don’t have to worry that much either. From the second you walked in my door you were more than I was expecting. When the private security agency showed me your file I knew it would have to be you to take on this job.” I couldn’t look up… I never knew crystal glasses could be so shiny. It just reflects my shocked face back at me. It “had to be me”? My resume isn’t even that impressive. Actually, it’s awful now that I’m on indefinite suspension… So why? Before I could think anymore, Mr. Renchette leaned in towards me. He brought his mouth right up to my ear and whispered, “Did the agency tell you why you were chosen for this job?” The smell of his cologne clogged my brain even more than it already was.
“No…” was all I could whisper in reply. He grabbed my chin and pulled my face up to meet his. His hands were stronger than I expected and they held me there until I looked into his eyes. I’m sure in my eyes he could see desperation for work conflicting with conscience. His lips began a slow decent towards my own, but in his eyes I couldn’t see anything… There was no passion, nor even any desire. And then it dawned on me. Before he reached my lips, I pushed on his shoulders gently and he buckled. There was no resisting my refusal and he simply backed off, allowing me to stand.
“Excuse my French, but that is a fucked up way to interview someone. Using this whole interview as some moral test?”
“I’m sorry? What are you…”
“You can drop the act! Please… My heart can’t take any more of this. I honestly thought that you wanted me to work as a gigolo, but if that’s why you had hired me then you would have at least wanted to kiss me just now.” There I said it! I refuse to believe that I would be hired simply based on looks and the lewd desires of some pervy rich man. At least, I really hope that’s not the situation…
“So… Your saying that I am feigning my interest in your sexual orientation, and your chiseled features to make sure you won’t fall prey to some misguided fantasy while on the job? That I would go so far as to try and kiss you just to see if you were fit for this job despite your lack of experience in the field?”
“Yea! That’s exactly what I’m saying…” When he says it like that it sounds really stupid.
“Well done, you are 90% correct. An excellent deduction based on your observational skills and ability to stay true to yourself.” So he says as he stands there with some idiotic smile on his face. His demeanor changed too! The stiffness in his joints loosen and the powerful posture he held degenerates into a lazy slouch. All the presence he forced into the room is gone, leaving just a plain guy standing in its wake. “The only thing wrong with that sentence is in saying you have no experience. It really is your impressive skill set that was recognized by Mr. Renchette. You graduated from high school a year early with highest honors in your class, went on to turn down numerous scholarship opportunities for both sports and academics in order to enter the police academy. You graduated at the top of you class again and became the youngest man to be awarded with the Life Saving Award for your actions in multiple gang related turf wars. And above all that, your coworkers had nothing but the kindest words to say about you. Other than that one recent mix up, you were on the fast track to police stardom. Please don’t doubt yourself like that again.”
“Wow… you really did your research on me.” This is kinda terrifying. I know that not all of that was in my resume. “I appreciate the uplifting speech, but I just have a quick question. Why did you just refer to yourself in the third person?” I didn’t just imagine him saying “Mr. Renchette…” right? What else could be going on here in this crazy place?
“Oh, my apologies. I am your boss in the Renchette household, Regis Hauffner. I work intelligence and organize the security staff. I was assigned by Mr. Renchette to look into your background and assess your qualifications for the job. With a 90% on my test, and lots of room to learn, I deem you fit for work.” He says, still wearing that idiotic smile. I can’t believe this place… The rich really are exotic creatures. “Please proceed out of the study and back to the front door. Charles will be waiting there to take you to meet the real Mr. Renchette now.”