Dogsbody peered from behind the corner of the brick building. The coast was clear, so he exited the alley and made his way south on Fourteenth Street.Every now and then someone passed him walking in the opposite direction, but he covered the scars around his mouth well enough with his coat collar that they didn’t notice.
It was forty minutes before he arrived at his destination: a brick building disappearing into the sky above his head. A building that appeared identical to the one which he had spent the past six nights sleeping behind. While the two were built from the same blueprints, the differences were made clear by the contents within. Dogsbody pushed the revolving glass door open and entered the main lobby, cringing in apprehension.
He worried for nothing, however. The receptionist gave him a warm smile as he stepped onto the carpet in front of her desk.
“Who are you looking for, sir?” she asked without the slightest tinge of disdain for the poor sot slouching in front of her as he tried to hide his face with his dirty coat collar.
“Mr. Walker,” Dogsbody answered, speaking directly into his collar.
The receptionist was well-versed enough in her duties and practiced enough in providing them to unusual clientele that she easily understood what Dogsbody said and directed him to the seventeenth floor. Her eyes followed him shamble toward the elevator bank before she reluctantly returned to the phone ringing to her left.
Dogsbody pressed the up button to call the elevator, and noticing the smudge his finger had left upon it, rummaged through his coat pockets for a clean bit of fabric. Finding none, he swiped at the button with the side of his fist, enlarging the smear. He quickly glanced around to make sure no one had seen him. The receptionist was the only other person in the lobby, and she was busily answering her phone, so he relaxed a bit, looking down at the tips of his worn leather shoes.
The dinging of the elevator’s arrival called him back to the here and now, and he took a step backwards in case any bigwigs were exiting the elevator, but the doors opened on no one. He stepped in, turned to face front, and pushed the button for seventeen, this time without leaving any residue behind. His hand crept back up to his collar, tugging it over the scars out of habit, even though the elevator walls were a matte finish, and he couldn’t see himself in them.
No one else called an elevator between the lobby and seventeen, so the ride only lasted a few seconds. Dogsbody’s stomach grumbled angrily as the doors opened on seventeen. He winced in pain and embarrassment, but again, not a soul witnessed his predicament.
He was standing in the middle of a great hall, but only a single door led from the hall to anywhere else. A discreet sign placed on the wall at eye level read simply Mr Walker. Dogsbody shifted his weight from foot to foot as he stood in front of the door, unsure of whether to knock or simply walk in. He ultimately chose the former, and his knuckles landed on the wood with the mildest of raps, the sound absorbed by the thick, solid wooden door.
It was enough. The door eased open as if of its own volition, and Dogsbody entered. He half-expected another receptionist, perhaps the twin to the one who had greeted him so warmly downstairs, but that was not the case. The entire floor was one large open space, with a modest desk placed not far from the door, a single chair waiting in front of his for a single guest to be seated.
“Have a seat, Dogsbody. I’m going to make you an offer,” Mr. Walker gestured at the empty chair with his open hand.
Without a word, Dogsbody approached and took a seat in the chair. He listened ever so carefully to what Mr. Walker told him over the next six and a half minutes, and when Mr. Walker was done speaking and staring expectantly, one eyebrow raised, Dogsbody nodded once, slowly.
“Yes, sir. I’ll do it. I’d do anything to be a person again,” he said.
Mr. Walker clapped his hands together and interlaced his fingers. “Very good, Dogsbody. I’ll see you again when the job is done.”
Dogsbody knew his time was up. He stood without another word and brushed the dandruff of the back of the chair as he left. He planned to finish this job for Mr. Walker or die trying. He was so tired of trying to make his life worth living when it never was.