Finding Jack

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Chapter 9

If Jack ever had to delete his memory again, he was leaving himself detailed instructions and then he was going to program everything he wanted his poor dumb self to find into GPS. With how he was going from place to place, following little clues like they were nuggets of gold...well, his other self was proving to be a real dick. Why he couldn’t have just said “Go there, dumbass” was proving to be a huge bone of contention with Jack. He just wanted to know what the heck he was doing and get on with his life.

As it was, 621 Construct was a place, or so Jack believed. It had taken some exploring, but he had found every place with 621 in the address and had narrowed it down to a building in Brooklyn that had a much longer address, but it seemed to fit the bill. It had been a boys and girls club, but they’d been evicted and it was under construction, slowly being gutted by the city to later be rented out as office space. Or so that was the plan. Nothing was going on at 621, though. Apparently all construction had been stalled due to asbestos being found in the ceiling. It was serious stuff to worry about, according to the secretary he’d spoken to when he’d called to enquire about the state of the building and what the nature of the holdup was. The foreman was adamant that there was no asbestos and that everything going on was complete and utter bureaucratic bullshit, but he couldn’t do anything about it. A Mr. John Gibson of the Health Department had put the stop work order through and every attempt the foreman had made to get a hold of the man had gone straight to voice mail. If that wasn’t a glaring neon sign pointing him in the right direction, Jack didn’t know what was. After a quick Google search at an internet cafe, he’d discovered that there was no John Gibson at the Department of Health and when he’d dialed the number the secretary had provided for the man, it had been disconnected. Jack may not have known why his past self had made up an asbestos scare, but he’d managed to get an entire construction site completely shut down. Clearly there was something in that building that was hidden and would have been discovered if the construction had gone ahead as planned. It was there, waiting for John Gibson to go and find it. Seeing as how he still had a wallet full of John Gibson’s identification, Jack would just have to go and take advantage of it.

Maybe being a dick had its pluses.

That was how Jack came to be standing outside 621 three days after getting the address from the sports bag. He adjusted the shoulder bag he was carrying and tried to look as official as possible, clutching at his clipboard more tightly. Really, though, he should have made himself an alderman or something, seeing as how he felt ridiculous in this get up – more like a census taker than a government official. He’d gone out and bought himself a plaid shirt and a suit jacket, along with a pair of non-prescription glasses to sell the idea that he was dorky enough to work for the health department. To be fair, he couldn’t remember actually ever meeting someone who worked for the health department, and for all he knew, they were the most kickass department out there, but he was playing it safe and going for nerdy. The only hard part had been distracting the clerk at Kinkos so he could create the official laminated photo ID badge that he’d need to get onto the site. He wasn’t expecting much resistance. The city and the crew both wanted construction to get back underway, so they’d probably be eager to give him a tour and have him rescind his stop work order. Heck, they might not even look at the badge. That would be a shame. It was a beautiful piece of forgery, if he did say so himself. Finally, a talent from the life he couldn’t remember that would come in handy at some point. Maybe he could get himself into somewhere cool, like The White House.

As it turns out, he didn’t have the chance to even pull the badge out of his shirt pocket. The foreman met him at the gate and practically snarled at him to get a move on. The man was surly and he looked like he hadn’t bathed in a week or so. He was probably filthy from working with the muck and mud that went along with the construction business, again something Jack knew nothing about. All he knew was that the man smelled like sweat and every time he looked at Jack it was to glare. He imagined he’d have had a more enjoyable time with a grizzly bear.

“So, you’re Gibson. How in the hell did you come to believe that there was asbestos growing on my site?” the man asked, stubble covered second and third chin wobbling as he talked.

“Well, we took samples and they came back as positive,” Jack replied, shoving the glasses back up his nose, legs stretching to keep pace with the man as they approached the building.

“Right. You’d have to have actually been on the site to have gotten samples.”

That was actually a fair point. He highly doubted that his counterpart had bothered to show up and do his own legwork. No, he’d probably done everything over the internet or a phone and now Jack was in this situation. Well, it could have been worse. As far as situations went, this one wasn’t terribly bad. After all, he had ended up in a tub full of ice not too long ago, having fried his own brain like it was chicken. Not a lot trumped that.

“And I was,” Jack replied. “If you want I can leave.”

He paused, thumbing towards the exit as if he were really considering leaving. It was a compliance tactic, his brain helpfully supplied. If the foreman wanted to get anywhere with this, he’d cut the attitude or Jack would leave. It would have probably been easier to have searched the building on his own after work hours, but if he got caught doing that, well, than then there was no way he could talk his way out of it. This was so much cleaner and official. He knew as well as this other guy that John Gibson – no matter how believable – had to stay and conduct an inspection or this building was never getting back underway, and should he have to break into the site, now he’d established an alibi.

The foreman glared at him again, looking for all the world like he was ready to just shoot Jack and get it over with. He was probably even thinking about where he could hide the body under a fresh coat of cement. Clearly he thought better of it, because a minute later he was grunting again, waving Jack along. Jack followed, eyes taking in everything about the place. It was a three story building that had been taken right down to its bones. There were few walls still standing and it looked like they were the next to go. The first floor was mostly done and Jack was sure that the crew had been ready to start rebuilding the level. The foreman didn’t seem interested in letting him explore the first floor or the second, instead leading the way to the elevator and bringing them up to the top floor. Jack was a bit peeved that they’d completely skipped a level, but he supposed that he’d just have to investigate it later.

The top floor was one large room. It had been mostly gutted and Jack figured that this was where the stop work order had found the workers. The east wall was lined with windows and the space was bright and vibrant in the early morning light. Jack let his eyes take in the room, picking up on several things. First was that one wall was all mirrors and waist-high railings. The floor was hard wood and the lighting was suspended overhead. Clearly it was a dance studio.

“Your report says this ceiling here is the one loaded with asbestos,” the foreman informed him, gesturing at the roof. “Like I said, how did you get a sample if we haven’t even started on it?”

Jack sent the man a glare of his own. Really, Jack held the guy’s livelihood in his hands and he was goading him? That was either very ballsy or very dumb. He was tempted to give this guy a whole roll of red tape. He may not be a real health inspector – or he could have been before this memory loss hubbub happened – but he didn’t appreciate the attitude and he could make it happen.

“We did our own investigation before you started in on the site,” Jack replied evenly. “We follow standard procedure to the dot.”

The foreman huffed, giving Jack another unimpressed look. “Well?”

“Well, you have asbestos. Anyone working in this building is going to have to wear the proper PPE and everything that comes down from this ceiling will have to be disposed of properly.”

Which was all common sense, but that was the basis of a good lie. You started with common sense or a well known truth and you ran with it. This was Jack running with it.

“We know all that, Einstein. Now, can I get my work site back on track?”

Jack was tempted to tell him no, but right then something caught his eye. There was a stencilled ballerina on one of the walls. Well, there were a whole line of them jumping, leaping, and twirling along. The last one looked out of place. Where all the former ones were purple, the last was black. It looked like it had been done by a freehand, as well. It was the kind of little thing that stood out to someone looking for anything that was out of place. He’d need to get over there for a closer examination when the man wasn’t hounding his steps. He’d just have to make sure the building was nice and clear.

“I also want all of your men to take tomorrow and get their lungs checked before they come back to the site. I don’t want anyone who’s been compromised to further hurt themselves.”

“Your concern is touching,” the man deadpanned, clearly not all that convinced by Jack’s lie. “Now, if you’re done?”

“I’ll make sure the paperwork gets put through upon my return to the office, and once the reports on your men come back, you’ll be off to the races,” Jack replied, writing something on his clipboard in scrawl that would put most doctors to shame. If the foreman insisted on reading it, he didn’t want it to be anything the man could throw up a red flag about. As far as Jack knew, he was writing down the recipe he’d seen on late night TV for beef wellington. He didn’t know if he’d like it, but it was something to try at some point. When his life was less crazy, he planned to do a lot of cooking, after all. All the junk food and diner food he’d ingested, not to mention what passed for food at the hospital, couldn’t have done his insides any favors. He wanted to try things like risotto and pate and prime rib that were actually cooked to gourmet standards. Eating fine foods was just the tip of the iceberg, though. There were a lot of things he wanted to do.

Mostly, he wanted to find out exactly why he was there. With any luck, whatever it was would be behind the black ballerina dancer. He couldn’t imagine what he’d decided to stash in the building, but at this point he wasn’t asking questions anymore. Clearly his mental process was either random or made to look random enough to throw off anyone else who tried to follow it. Jack was nearly ready to throw in the towel and tell anyone else trying to follow it to have fun.

“It’s about time,” the foreman groused.

Jack couldn’t agree more.

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