The sound of jet engines blared in the tiny rooms. Victor plugged his ears and waited for the howling to stop. He really hated to be the one to do this. But there was really no one else.
Those Servers needed rebooting, and that’s all there was to it.
He pulled his fingers from his ears. The worst was over. Soon the Servers would drone into the back as just white noise. Now the tune of John Denver’s Country Roads – that was a sound he could never ignore.
He pulled his phone from the belt clip. It was illuminated by Mary’s photo. She wore an exasperated smile and black strands of hair hung in her face. It was the first photo he snapped on the phone; she had just woken up from a nap.
Victor sucked his lower lip, his thumb hovering over the big red Decline button. He walked over to the window behind his desk. The phone reported no bars, and the call disconnected. He clipped the phone back to his belt and his hand went instinctively to the white band around his finger. He twisted the skin between his thumb and forefinger — his personal worry stone.
He rested his forehead on the windowpane. It was damp with cool condensation from the mist hanging in the air. He almost wished he could stay here forever. Opening his eyes, he could almost make out the distant lines of Sweetbrook Hospital, a wraith in the distance. The blinking blue light of the heliport told him where he was.
This was his lighthouse. If he ventured too close, he’d wreck himself on the rocks. Mary would be getting off work right now. If she pulled the night shift. No. He would stay over here. His office was on the upper floor of what used to be a Haelig Meyer department store, its floor cluttered with deceased computers. He’d stay over here in MIS. That’s where they preferred him anyway.
“My friend,” said a voice from behind accompanied by a hairy brown hand landing on his shoulder. “I got you tickets for speed dating at Sharkie’s. They have karaoke!”
“I’ll have to pass… my heart will always belong to Mary.”
“That is the most melodramatic thing I have ever heard,” Ramir scolded. It always amazed Victor — the only place he’s ever actually seen the cliché Indian systems admin was here in the Falls, of all places. “And yet they make fun of arranged marriages. Look, they work. The secret is that the husband and wife lead separate lives…”
Victor chuckled. “Hey, want to take a ride today?”
“And if the hospital needs us?”
He patted the pager on his hip. “They know where to find us.”
It always surprised people to find out that there even was an IT industry in Ichor Falls. Half of the town was still on AOL, assuming they had any Internet at all. Even facilities the size of Sweetbrook Hospital were wired. There were no actual paper trails with medical records, thanks to Bill Clinton and HIPAA. Some nurse left a senator’s STD screeen out in the break room one too many times.
The real issue here is that prior to 1998, Sweetbrook had no records.
Victor pulled his truck into the dirt lot in front of Amaranth Mental Hospital. Ramir whistled when he dropped out of the passenger side. Victor couldn’t blame him — even at high noon it was creepy as hell. He decided the mist might actually help the old folks in the New Haven Rest Home right across the hospital. Wouldn’t have to look at the thing.