There was quite a list of things that Click disliked about his weekly visits to the Fire Brand Records building. The first was the three hour drive. The second was having to report directly to Matthew Cooper about his progress monitoring the excesses of his charges. This was by far his least favourite thing to do in the whole world. The list of failures and intricately layered screw-ups grew each and every week, while Cooper would always respond in a similarly disappointed manner. Their usual system to follow would be Click begging for more time, more money and more help, with Cooper just shaking his head and lamenting the fact that he would ever employ such a nervous and eager to please employee. Now, of course, it was far too late.
Unfortunately, these were only two of the three things that he hated most. The third was the narcissistic harpy that would typically sit behind Cooper's receptionist desk, wearing a sneer and a pair of glasses. Julia was Cooper's cousin, which was the only reason that she had the job. To call her employable was much too gracious a compliment to give her.
"Back again for another list of grievances?" Julia asked upon Click's entrance into her little office between the corridor and Cooper's own. "Honestly, I do wonder why you even show up for work anymore when you're obviously so very poor at it."
She followed this up by pushing the little buzzer underneath her desk that linked in to Cooper's office. At first, Click hadn't noticed her doing it. Thankfully, once he had been informed that there was a button under there, it became one hundred percent noticeable. This was Cooper's advance warning - his first line of defence against time wasters.
Her words were not painful after having heard them so many times, but they always made him wonder just what was likely to come next. Cooper, though always a very lively and enthusiastic man, did not seem to like Click at all.
"Is he in?" he asked, trying to evade Julia as smoothly as possible.
She paused in her reply to allow some small glaring time. "He comes and he goes," she offered vaguely. "I've long since given up on the idea of monitoring his every movement. He's not exactly exciting, and there are some things he does which I don't think anybody would legally be allowed to watch."
"That's an odd way to answer a question," replied Click. As ever, the woman made him very unsure of how to act.
Thankfully, he was quickly rescued from further conversation by the opening of the office inner door. The slight build, the messy hair and the glimmer of excitement in his eyes said everything that anybody could ever want to know. For such a ridiculously successful man, Cooper has always refused to grow past the age where enthusiasm was crushed by experience and responsibility.
"Now here's the part of my day that I always look forward to," he began with a wide smile. Click quite literally felt himself quaking when faced with the latent aggression that completely failed to exist behind Cooper's eyes. "We get the ultimate pleasure of Josh's reel of excuses bounding around the room, but never get getting into our ears because of the mumbling and the shifting and the sweating. Has he started sweating yet?"
"I've seen a few beads, but they haven't started falling off his nose yet," responded Julia, while Click only managed to open his mouth and push a few stray noises out. "I like that part of it. It's a lot of fun seeing him squirm. I have the report for you."
Before they continued, she pulled two pages of paper from her eternal deskful of paperwork and passed them over to Cooper. Click was lucky enough to manage a passing glance at the contents, and the high monetary units on it guaranteed its meaning.
"So you maxed out a six thousand pound credit card in a month," stated Julia with a twisted smile. "That's a very high amount, especially when you consider that you only spent ten percent of that on yourself and three quarters of them. What on Earth was so important to Dim that he needed five thousand, three hundred and sixty seven pounds spent on him?"
At first, Click was unsure whether or not he should even answer the secretary, but one glance towards Cooper made it obvious that he was waiting eagerly. "Well," Click started, before stopping again to consider what words might actually come out if he didn't spend time thinking. "It's not easy to keep Dim in check. It's his band, and we all know how eager he almost always is to just stop putting in any form of work. I've had to do a lot of bending over backwards to accommodate his excesses, but if I didn't then chances are we'd be in a much worse situation when he quits and the whole band breaks down."
"So you're intentionally setting him no limits, am I right in this assumption?" Cooper asked, in complete confidence and complete accuracy that he was correct.
Scrutiny and mockery was something that Click was inherently familiar with, especially from his superiors. That didn't stop him from feeling as though his heart was close to beating itself right out of his chest though. He deepened his breathing in the attempt to keep himself calm, but that just made Julia laugh when she noticed it. He could already feel the trickle of sweat beads falling down the back of his neck.
"It's hard to do that when he's do childish about getting what he wants," he eventually decided on. He could tell that Cooper wasn't buying it, but that was nowhere near adequate reason to stop trying. "I try to keep him from going completely overboard, but it's bad for business when the owners of these venues keep hearing his voice shouting at me, or they see Jerry coming out to play with a black eye and a limp. I'd really appreciate being moved on to another band. I keep trying to get him under control, but the little things always creep by."
"Report says that three grand of that money went to an escort website," Julia announced, her eyes back on the paperwork in front of her. Evidently, she had printed herself a copy of the report out as well. "I'm sure that's a little thing that just happened to creep by when you intentionally signed up to a website, browsed through fourteen different potential girls and then picked somebody with a name like Harmony. Funny thing is, she's been seen at almost every show since. Do you really think that's a good use of company resources?"
Again, having Julia ask the questions was not something that Click was used to, but he tried his best to gather enough confidence to answer succinctly. He had been caught out, and he knew it. "Unfortunately, that wasn't really my choice. Dim was over my shoulder and barking out orders and pacing around all angry."
"So you're still scared of him then?" Cooper inquired.
"I'm not scared," Click managed to stammer out. Of course, as much as he looked back and forth between his two superiors, he could tell that they didn't believe him. He didn't even believe himself, but he still tried all that he could. "I'll admit he's a bit intimidating, but I don't do things because he's scaring me. Most of the time I'm doing all this just to keep the bastard quiet. It takes a lot of time, a lot of money and a hell of a lot of effort to keep him happy."
Cooper sighed to himself, followed by Julia sighing to Cooper in an attempt at mockery. "So you're doing everything he could possibly want, and then complaining because he isn't doing what you want him to do? This doesn't sound completely stupid to you?"
Click tried to pull together a reply, but the words slipped out of his mouth as quickly as they slipped in. Instead, he remained standing there, his mouth slightly open and trying desperately to come up with something to say.
Watching him, Julia began to laugh to herself. Click could feel sweat on his face now, and the steady trickle was likely the reason, but to wipe it off now would only cause him further embarrassment. He could feel his job slipping further and further away, as though it simply did not want him and wanted somebody far better.
Cooper walked a little closer, pulling his office door shut behind him. "I haven't bothered to make time for you this time Josh, because I know exactly what I'm going to say to you. I have another meeting coming in about fifteen minutes downstairs, and you're nowhere near important enough for me to really bother with anymore. Anyway, the point here is fairly straightforward. I've looked the other way far too long, and even I'm starting to want to fire you, so here's the deal. It's a fairly simple one too. I'm not going to give you a fresh credit card; so you have absolutely no more money for food, travel or bloody escorts. If the band falls apart then we're okay with that. By now, they've managed to cost us more money than any other band on our roster and make pretty much nothing. We're getting bored with them. If it all falls apart, then we'll pass Jerry on to a new band somewhere and everybody else can do whatever the hell they want. Then, of course, we decide what to do with you. I can only hope you manage it, because when you come here next week I'm hoping for good news. If you don't have any, you might as well not come back."
"I can do it," Click through back, his fear so obvious that even he could hear it. "I won't let you down this time; I promise."
"Why do I feel like I've heard that before?" asked Cooper sarcastically. "Leave the card with Julia and then bugger off; I have somewhere to be."
With no more words, Cooper swept straight by Click and out into the corridors beyond. A little stunned, and feeling close to tears, Click stayed still for a little and wondered what life might be like without a job. There would certainly be a lot less stress.
"Give it up, kid," said Julia, holding her hand out, palm up, in front of her.
Taking deep breath after deep breath to try and keep himself steady, Click pulled his wallet from his back pocket, carefully extracted the Fire Brand VISA, and handed it over to Julia.
"Good, now get out."