Book 2, Chapter 023

When Doom reached the break room, he received an unpleasant surprise.  The room was occupied – but not by Rachel.  Instead, at one of the back tables, Fred was eating a microwave meatloaf.

"Fred?" Doom squawked.  "What are you doing here?"

Fred finished chewing, swallowed, and gestured at his meal with his spork.  "Lunch."  He said.

"How long has this been going on?" Doom demanded.

Fred quirked an eyebrow.  "I’m pretty sure I’ve been having lunch since about the time I grew teeth," he said.

Doom sputtered incoherently.  This was bad – very bad – for his plans.  Fred was definitely dumb enough to try and pursue Rachel.  Plus, Fred wasn’t involved in any of the company’s IT departments.  Fred worked in human resources.  Which meant dealing with people, a lot.  Plus, given how rarely Fred stayed even a few minutes after work to keep working, Doom suspected he might have a social life.  Or at least experience with one.  Which made him a particularly dangerous rival.

"Don’t be facetious," Doom snapped.  "I meant: how long have you been eating your lunches here?"

Fred shrugged.  "Oh, for the past week."  He glanced around the room and grinned, correctly divining the source of Doom’s discomfort.  "The coffee girl’s kinda cute," he confided in a stage whisper – and then he laughed at Doom’s poleaxed expression.  "Don’t feel bad.  I can understand why it took a geek like you so long to notice it:  Took a couple of days for me to realize it, myself."  He frowned slightly, as if trying to puzzle that out – but the frown passed quickly.  "I might not have, if she hadn’t almost gotten Ean fired over the whole harassment thing.  Interviewed her over the phone, so I didn’t even know what she looked like until I checked her picture on the database."

Doom stammered briefly, then marshaled a defense.  "I am not here to gawk at the girl!" He yelled.

"Really?" Fred asked.  "Because you don’t normally come here for lunch – and I should know, since I have been."

"I’ve been busy," Doom snarled.  "In case you don’t remember: she was supposed to be on my team.  Now I have to pick up the slack!"

And that’s when Doom realized a plan to get Fred out of the way.  Stiffly, he turned to the coffee pots at the back of the room, and poured himself a cup.  When he turned back, Fred was eyeing him warily.

"Don’t you have work to do?  I know I’ve been busy enough, since you got rid of my help." Doom said calmly.  There was something cathartic about throwing a drink in someone’s face.  It was something he hadn’t been able to indulge in since Ean had gotten fired.  It was odd how one missed the little routines, even when they revolved around a reviled jackass.  Plus, Fred would have to go to the hospital or to change his shirt or something.  That would get him out of the way.

"Uh…" said Fred.  "You know, I think I do."  He beat a hasty retreat.

Glumly; Doom sat down.  No coffee girl, and now no one to take out his frustrations on.  This was turning into the worst day ever.

Et Alia, Book 2: Black Magic, Secret Agents, Shakespearean Tragedies and Interoffice Dating

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