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David North is a regular man who leads a regular life. So why is it that he knows impossible things?



David switched the phone to his other shoulder, listening to the client, another high-pitched human resources administrator, continue to ask the same questions over and over again. Rolling his eyes, he shuffled through the papers on his desk, preparing to read the same paragraph over and over like a script.

"No, Miss Arbogast, Initech's benefits administration package does not include the 401-K management suite. Our 401-K management is now run by Benefits Maximus, our sister company. If you would like me to transfer you to a benefits administrator... no, Miss Arbogast, we don't handle the 401-K suite at this office. No, ma'am, that's handled by our sister company... yes, Initech does manage your regular benefits package. Yes, that's right. Okay, I'll transfer you over."

David scrawled a quick note on his Initech-embossed note pad to ask Myron in Supply about getting one of those headsets like Eileen had. Of course, Eileen had only spent three years with Initech and didn't clock half the phone hours that David did, but she merited a headset somehow. Rubbing his sore neck, David North made another note to check if Initech's benefits suite included repetitive stress injury therapy.

And speak of the devil, there was Eileen now. Easily fifteen pounds overweight with the world's most obviously-dyed burgundy hair, Eileen had somehow managed to weasel her way into the position of office manager, despite being younger and... well, perhaps being younger and female and rumored to do great work on her back in the CFO's office after hours had something to do with it.

"David?" Eileen's forced politeness cut like a buzzsaw through the headache that was spreading behind David North's eyes. "I just wanted to see if you've got a moment to go over your vacation hours. It seems, well, you've hit the maximum."

Rubbing his forehead, David didn't bother to look up. "I haven't taken a vacation in..." How long had it been? He'd been with Initech... eleven years? He knew he'd been to Europe. After all, he spoke fluent French, German, and Italian.

Since when did he speak Italian? David blinked, looking at his calendar, each day neatly crossed off in red, courtesy of his Initech-embossed Sharpie. He must have been to Europe, then.

"No, David. You're at the maximum allowed accrual. You need to start using some of these hours, Mister Worky-Pants." Eileen's chirpy pronouncements may as well have been emanating from a speaker for all the sincerity her painted-on smile gave. "All work and no play makes Dave a dull boy, right?"

David North snapped his head up at that. "My name," he proclaimed in a flat voice, "is David. Not Dave. Not Davey. David."

David No-Middle-Name North, I live at three-six-four Costanza Drive, Apartment one-one-one. Unmarried, no wife, no children, no surviving parents. I have worked for Initech for eleven years, two months, and one day.

David blinked, his entire life summarized in less than three seconds. Eileen was still giving him that false smile, the one that didn't reach her eyes. "Well, David," she replied in her annoying falsetto, "you really ought to look into some time off, some travel, maybe. And maybe give Myron a call about getting one of those headsets? You're going to give yourself such a crick in the neck holding your phone like that."

David's hand brushed the phone cord. Standard type three insulated telephone wire, tensile strength of seventy pounds per foot. Three times wrapped around someone's neck, a slight lifting pressure under the second vertebrae, cricoid tissue collapses, death within six seconds. Quiet and clean. Eileen would need probably four wraps, David North postulated, just to make certain.

Why did he know that?

More importantly, why could he already sense what her body would feel like, giving those quick spasmodic jerks as the brain tried to send messages of self-preservation to the muscles? David could see her cheap Payless-brand pumps beating a tattoo into the cubicle wall as her body shut down. He knew that ten steps southeast and a turn to the left would put him at the emergency exit, and four parking spaces down was the Initech company car, with the spare key kept behind the license plate in a blatantly transparent attempt at corporate security.

Why was this all so clear, so easy, so instinctive?

My name is David North. I am a Benefits Package Administrator for Initech Services, East Coast Division, White Plains, New York. I work nine to six, I have a twenty-one minute commute. This is my life.

I could kill everyone on this floor in under five minutes, and not even have to fire a shot.


David No-Middle-Name North stood up suddenly, watching with an odd sort of amusement as Eileen's normally robotic smile wavered. Fear. Somehow, that made David happy.

"I'll be out of the office for the next two weeks," he announced firmly, shutting down his Initech-branded workstation and replacing his ring of keys on their Initech-stamped key ring on the hook next to his cubicle (second from the left, no window view, north wing). As he took his brown blazer off the rack, he could hear Eileen clear her throat.

"David, you know there's a process for leave, I know Bill's out for a meeting, but when he gets back, he can sign the request form, and we'll run the schedule through HR and then check the workflow charts-"

David North slid a hand inside his coat, fingers grasping empty air where he'd expected the cold metal handgrip of a silenced Sig Sauer P229 pistol, .30 caliber, the perfect size to balance mass tissue damage with a manageable weight/recoil ratio.

I don't own a gun. I've never owned a gun.

I have shot over seventy people.


"All work and no play makes David a dull boy," David North found himself saying as he walked towards the lobby of Initech's corporate building.

Ten steps, pivot on the left foot, drive his outstretched fingers into the fat security guard's throat. Kill.

Letter opener. Three steps, pivot, stab twice to the solar plexus of Herbert from Accounts Payable. Kill.

Stapler. One step, pivot, overhand blow to the temple of Milton in Dues Processing. Kill.

David North did none of these things on his way out of the Initech corporate lobby at eleven fifteen on a Tuesday morning.

The fact that he somehow knew that he could both terrified and thrilled him. As the summer air hit him like a tidal wave on his way through the parking lot, one thought entered his mind like a quarter-inch drill bit, and burrowed its way deeper.

This is not my life.

Then, he asked himself, whose was it?

David No-Middle-Initial North stepped onto the cross-town bus, intending to find the answers. Even if he had to kill for them.

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