In the morning, Billy quietly showered and left before I got up, leaving me to check around for any lingering Pontiffs. I found a couple hiding under his bed, but they were tiny. I snatched them up and stuffed them into the disposal. I didn’t really feel like carrying some crying popes around with me while I made my way to the office.
I caught up with Billy at the Coffee Stand downstairs in his building, he was nursing a chai tea and watching the floor intently; no doubt on watch for more minuscule ministers. I ordered a house blend with two creams and two sugars and sat in a chair at his table. I pulled out my notebook and surfed for news for a while, until Billy broke the silence.
“Hey Man, do you think I could move in with you?” he whispered over his tea.
“Uhh, I dunno, my place isn’t any bigger than yours and I don’t think my disposal could handle all the extra work” I didn’t look up; but I know Billy wouldn’t have smiled at that one. I had been carefully ginning up the level of stress around the Popes for the past couple of weeks, and it was really showing. Billy was still taking care of his appearance, but his shirt was sloppy and his jeans looked like they hadn’t been washed in a while. He didn’t stink, but he was starting to give off the impression of an emotionally disturbed person who should have been in long-term care.
“Oh, yeah, yeah. Sorry Man, I know. How about just over the weekend? So I could sleep, you know?” he sounded like he was going to plead, “just Friday, Saturday, okay?”
“Sure Billy, we can hit a show or something then crash at my place. Hey, are you done with your part of the project? I turned in the last of the code for section 2 last night. As of this morning, I am out of the project.” I leaned back and waited.
“No way! I’m about a week away, you know I can’t work after hours like you. I don’t even know how you do it.” Billy was crestfallen, we had been working at about the same pace until about a month ago, when the popes started popping up with so much frequency. “Maybe I’ll spend Sunday on it and get caught up, or something”
“Sure, Billy. Do you wanna head into the office?”
We gathered up our crap and left a tip in the karma jar on the counter. I winked at the waitress who had served Billy and I, she smiled and gave me a little thumbs up.
As we walked to the subway, Billy was counting something, under his breath. I didn’t ask. Better to let him stew and work it out on his own. I felt bad for what was going on with Billy, he was cracking and we really weren’t helping matters. It was just much more important to the Project that we kept him “on edge”
I caught the eye of the Ticket Booth lady and paid for Billy and I. Billy put on his headphones and nodded off; I tapped out a few notes about his behavior on my Cell phone and sms’d them to Mitzi. Mitzi was keeping track of Billy’s behavior and the Popes. Mitzi’s notes kept track of what was going on with Billy.
Billy snored a bit beside me and his head tipped back. I snapped a shot of him and sent it off to Mitzi, he’d get all of this once we were out of the subway and I could connect to the network again. Mitzi’s notes were surprisingly detailed, he had people all over watching Billy, like the waitress at the Coffee Stand and a couple of the people in his building. Billy was probably only slightly less surveilled than your average Colombian Drug lord.
At our stop I shook Billy and he sleepily followed me out of the subway and into the office. When Mitzi showed up to congratulate me on a job well done, he gave me the secret “hey” nod that meant “I’m going to call you into my office to talk about the real Project, be ready”
Billy had thrown himself into his work, in an effort to banish his problems from his head. He ignored me when I got the call and left to speak to Mitzi.
“So, he’s popping out Popes like sweat now, huh?” Mitzi was more than excited. “When do you think we can start moving on to other things? I’d really like to start him on Pokemon or something, we can sell those!” Mitzi was actually rubbing his hands like a cartoon villain. He was the Gay Blowfeld, better dressed, tanned and with better caps. Mitzi kind of looked like a svelte Jim Jay Bullock, but about as moral as Gordon Gekko. “Every time I look at Billy, I see a big money bag like Donald Duck’s uncle carted around, with a Dollar Sign on the side and gold dollar coins falling out of it.” Mitzi was obviously lost in his fantasies about money.
“Mitzi, I’m not sure we can MAKE Billy produce what we want; it all seems to be totally unconscious, he doesn’t make the popes appear, they just do. I’ve been considering that it isn’t even his subconscious. I found some popes this morning, and none of them were familiar. I had to dig around some history sites to find out that they were “False” popes from the middle ages. That’s a really obscure subject, no wiki pages or anything. Billy might be the center of these things, but he doesn’t seem to be making them happen”
Mitzi slumped back in his chair and tented his hands in front of him. “How about this, we introduce him to a conspiracy that seems real, start prodding him with a convincing conspiracy of things that could make us cash, like the Knights Templar or something?”
“I don’t know. I think once we start publicly talking about these or selling them Billy will catch on, he’s paranoid, not naive”
We both surrendered to silence for a bit while Mitzi considered what I said, I concentrated on his family photos and vacation shots. Mitzi was so proud of his family, they had always supported him, but he was in love with money first. Mitzi was a great administrator and had a savvy way of squeezing every buck out of the other divisions when we did work for them. His accounting plans had been fleshed out across the firm and had earned him a great deal of respect at the board; but they were a bunch of old prejudiced farts who wouldn’t let him rise above middle management, due to his flamboyant nature. One of the HR reps referred to Mitzi as “Machiavelli in Loafers” (except that Mitzi never wore loafers).
“Okay, let’s let him in on it!” Mitzi stood up and led me to the door. When he opened it, Billy was standing there holding what looked like a Yellow Toy rat, “pika-poo” it squeeked and dropped a duce in Billy’s hand.
“Did you guys want to tell me something?” Billy Asked.