When Dale McElroy emerged a few minutes later from the lone elevator adjoining the lobby he looked much better than he had the night before. Cokey remembered a red-faced man panting and near collapse. Dale was not about to win any beauty contests but he was wearing his broadcast blazer; a brown corduroy suit jacket with reinforced elbows, a white dress shirt, a simple black tie, and slightly baggy blue slacks. He also didn't look nearly as disheveled, although he was still nervous and obviously surprised by Cokey's appearance.
"Howdy." Dale shook Cokey's hand, pretending not to notice that it was slightly sticky.
"Thank you for this opportunity," Cokey replied in a rehearsed fashion.
"Well, uh, you're welcome. Are you okay? Did you have an accident on the way over here or something?"
"Yeah," Cokey replied simply. "I knew I was late though so I just came on anyway. I didn't want to waste your time."
"Alright, well, come with me to my office and we'll talk about what you might be able to do for us here."
Cokey and Dale rode shoulder to shoulder in the elevator, staring at their distorted reflections in the polished chrome trim without exchanging conversation. The doors opened on the fourth floor into a second and much smaller reception area. Dale lead Cokey through this and along a wide room partitioned with cubicles. They reached the door to the "Action 7 Weather Center" and Dale held it politely open.
"Have a seat," he said, gesturing to a chair opposite his junk-piled desk.
Cokey complied, remembering her manners and carefully holding her long dress beneath herself as she sat. Dale looked at Cokey over the top of a pile of smudged inkjet printouts of various maps of Area 51, trying hard not to focus on the large stain that marred her dress.
"I run into computer problems a lot here," Dale began, "and it can be hell to get through to tech support at Dell."
"Well, I probably can help with that," Cokey offered. "I don't own a computer but I was pretty good with them at school. I could usually fix 'em when the teacher couldn't."
"That's a good place to start!" Dale jumped up from his chair and took a few steps back. "I still can't get this thing working and I need it for the lunchtime forecast in-"
Dale glanced at his wrist watch.
"Shit. In a little over an hour." He could sense Cokey's hesitation. "Look, Cokey was it? Look, I'll give you twenty dollars right now if you can get this thing up and running."
Cokey looked at the computer's monitor, dark and silent. She could use twenty dollars, but her grandma wanted her to get a job, not do chores for the weatherman.
"Okay Mister McElroy," she said as she stood up. "I'll give it a try. But if I fix it I want a job."
"Fine, fine fine." Dale waved her off. "I'll figure something out. If you can get that thing working as far as I'm concerned you start tomorrow."
It took Cokey all of three minutes from the time her butt hit Dale's well-worn chair to diagnose the problem plaguing his computer. It was literally choked on startup by the immense weight of spyware he had running in the background. She downloaded a copy of Adaware on the other, non-AccuCheck, computer in the room and in five more minutes was running a scan that would solve all of Dale's problems.
"You visit a lot of strange sites?" Cokey asked as the scan ran on the computer.
"Oh, well," Dale stammered, thinking about the Free Facial Archive he had browsed three days earlier. "Not really."
"It looks like you got all this junk running in the background, stuff that installs automatically. When this scan is done I'll restart your computer and mess around with your security settings in Internet Explorer."
Dale had very little idea of what she was talking about. Even though he maintained his "FEMA L-watch" website, he did everything through Word and saved it as an HTML file. Sometimes he added in MIDI files or animated pictures. He thought those really spiced up the site, kept people coming back.
Cokey was about to explain something else when the door to Dale's office swung open. Chet DeMark entered with a spring in his step.
There's no easy way to put this, so I'll tell it like it is. Bouillon is died. He went missing before the weekend and yesterday I found his skeletonized remains at the bottom of the #3 soup vat during one of my swims. I thought the cream of mushroom soup had an especially nourishing taste, and a lot more clumps of fur and skin than usual.
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