Patrick felt like warmed-over crap. Aches gnawed his spine. Coffee tasted like tar in his mouth. Betrayed by coffee. How was that possible?
Squinting at the ceiling, Patrick loosened a long and heavy sigh. “God, universe, whatever, please, please, change my luck for me. I seriously need a change.”
A small person at a gray desk floated in front of him instantaneously. She was about four inches tall, seated as she was, in a pleasant black suit with a white shirt. As he gaped at her and backed away, the napping black cat arose from his desk and hurried over, ready to pounce on the newcomer.
“Control your cat,” the little pale-skinned female with short gray hair said. “I don’t want to hurt it.”
Grabbing Loki, Patrick asked, “Who the hell are you? How’d you get here?”
A little disapproving cluck came out of the little one. “Call me Hortense. I’m with luck prayer services. You prayed for a change of luck. I’m here to address your request.”
Meowing, the cat squirmed in Patrick’s arms while keeping hot green-eyed focus on the little floating agent. “I’m never heard of…what’d you call it?”
“Luck prayer services. I’m Hortense, your account manager. You asked for more luck. Unfortunately, you’re out of luck. In reviewing your account, I see that you were born with a great deal of luck. Intelligent, talented, white, male, born in the United States of good parents…minor issues with them… No genetic issues. Yes, you were lucky. Unfortunately, you’ve used it all up.”
Tapping a keyboard, she leaned into the screen. “Several car accidents while drink driving in which you escaped unhurt and without legal repercussions. Tornados. Hurricane. Earthquake. Promotions. Stock purchases. Health. You smoked cigars for ten years and had no respiratory problems when COVID-19 struck. You realize how lucky that is?”
“I…yeah, yeah.” Patrick bobbed his head. “I know, I know.”
Loki broke free and leaped for Hortense. Something caught and held the cat in mid-air.
“Told you to control that cat, sir,” Hortense snapped. “If you don’t, I will.”
“I – sorry.” Patrick took Loki and put him in another room and closed the door. Hortense and her desk followed him throughout.
Turning and encountering her in the hall made Patrick jump. “Jesus, you.” He shook his head. “I’ve been thinking about what you said. It sounds like you’re telling me that my luck has run out.”
“I am, sir.”
“That doesn’t sound good for me.”
“Anyway I can get more?”
“Of course.” One thin eyebrow jumped on Hortense’s tiny face. “It would take more money than you now have but you can buy more luck.”
“That doesn’t sound promising.”
“A deal with the Devil is highly rated.”
“Yikes. Don’t think I’m ready to do that. Isn’t there anything else?”
“You can try to create your own luck. Some people have luck with that.” Hortense chortled. “Or you can steal some.”
Loki yowled at the door and vigorously clawed it.
“Are you seriously suggesting that I steal someone else’s luck?” As he asked, Patrick amended his thinking. “Can I choose my victim?” He was thinking, Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump both seemed pretty damn lucky. Or Soros. Gates. Musk.
“You can but that rarely works out. Hard for most to differentiate between good and bad luck. You might accidently pilfer their bad luck.”
“Well, I wouldn’t want that.” Patrick felt resigned, which oddly made him feel better. It was like, this wasn’t in his control. Knowing that relieved him of responsibility. Nothing he could do about it. “Is there anything else?”
“Well…yes. According to your records, you are eligible for employment.”
Patrick went still with thought. “Go on.”
“If you work for us, you can be compensated in good luck.”
“Who is us?”
Hortense smiled. “We just call ourselves The Bureau. Capital T, capital B.”
“You’re recruiting me.” Patrick suspected a setup. “So I do a job for you and The Bureau pays me in good luck.”
“I assume whatever it is won’t be easy.”
“They’re normally not. But let me tell you. With your luck, if you don’t take this offer, you’ll be dead in a year.”
That’s how Patrick’s career began. Hard to believe but now he was about to start his tenth mission.
He’d need all of his hard-earned luck to stay alive.