Carol answered her desk phone.
“Hello. You’ve reached Carol Nor- ah, Carol Webster’s desk. How may I help you?”
Rod winced at the sound of her voice.
“It’s me,” he said. “I’m glad I caught you.”
“I’m at work. What’s up?”
“I only have five minutes.” He took a deep breath. “Look, you’ll have to get Toby from day care. Something came up at work.”
She was silent for a moment.
“Shit,” she said. “Not that. Rod, I have plans.”
“I can’t help it, Carol. This is my job.”
“What about your son?”
“Rod, I’ve been planning this weekend for at least a month. Do you know how hard it is to get everyone together with their schedules?”
“All I’m asking is-”
“When will you be back?”
“I don’t know that, Carol. I can’t know.”
“That’s not helpful, Rod. What if I did the same thing? What if one day I just up and took off because it was part of my job? Damn it.”
“Carol, don’t be so selfish.”
“Me? Selfish? I’m not the one who is bailing out.”
“I’m not bailing out. I’m going to work.”
“Like Toby knows the difference.”
“Rod,” she said, mocking his tone.
“You know I have to do this.”
“What? Go kill somebody? Can’t someone else do it? Can’t they just drop a bomb on whoever the guy is?”
“I don’t have much time.”
“You might not come back, right?”
“Well, excuse me if I don’t cry.”
“Carol. I don’t even know what to say to that.”
“Toby’s going to be heartbroken.”
“I’m doing this for him.”
“That’s what you told me too, way back when. ‘I’m making the world a better place.’ It never ends, Rod. You know what that means?”
“You suck at making things better.”
She hung up.
Rod dialed the daycare.
“Hello, and thank you for calling-”
“Hi, this is Rod North. Toby North’s father. I need to speak with him. It’s very important and I don’t have much time.”
“It’s nap time, do you want me to wake him up?”
“Yes. Please. Hurry.”
“All right. Hold on.”
Rod watched the timer on the phone’s display count up. It was at three minutes, thirty seconds.
“Come on,” Rod said out loud, putting the phone back to his ear.
“Daddy?” Toby sounded slow, groggy.
“Hey, kid. You having fun?”
“I was sleeping. It was nap time.”
“Listen, buddy, I won’t be able to get you. Mommy’s going to pick you up.”
“Mommy is going to get you, okay?”
“Why? Where are you going?”
“I have to do something for work.”
“What do you have to do?”
“If mommy gets me, can I see you for pizza and movie night?”
“I don’t think I’ll be home by then, buddy. We’ll do it later, okay? Some other time.”
“When I get back.”
“When will that be?”
The phone clicked off.
“Time expired,” was flashing on the screen.
“Hell,” he said. He dropped the phone on the table and pinched the bridge of his nose in a vain attempt to fight off a sudden migraine.
He rubbed his eyes on his shirt sleeve just as the door opened.
“Time’s up,” Addison said.
North was staring at the floor. He didn’t move.
“Come on, North.”
“I just said goodbye to my son,” North said without looking up. “Give me a second.”
“I thought you were an old pro at this.”
North slammed his hands on the table and sprang up. He brushed against Addison as he stepped through the doorway.
Addison closed the door behind him and jogged ahead, leading down the hall. He spoke as he walked, not bothering to look back.
“You signed on for this, North, so drop the attitude. It’s time to earn that huge paycheck of yours. Your son will thank you later.”
Addison stopped, blocking the hall. He turned and held out his hand. “By the way, you owe me a phone.”
North held the phone before him and clenched his fist. A snapping noise spat from between his fingers. He rotated his hand and dropped the device into Addison’s palm.
Addison looked down at the darkened and cracked screen.
“Did you just crush my phone?”
“Come on,” North said, walking past him. “You said time is critical.”
“You broke it.”
“You said it was done after five minutes. Now it’s done.”
Addison dropped the phone into his pocket. “It’s a violation of your contract to damage company property.”
“Then you better shut your goddamn mouth and keep moving.”
“You threatening me? I’ll make a note of that.”