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The Bone Factory
By Nate Kenyon
Dorchester PublishingCopyright © 2009 Nathaniel Kenyon
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDavid Pierce walked into the office expecting the worst. A loud, balding man in an expensive suit, or an old bastard with nothing on his mind other than to keep a young guy like him from getting a job. The past few months he'd run into both; one he couldn't stand enough to work with, the other wouldn't give him the chance.
Third time's the charm. I wonder if they give out awards for this stuff? World's Greatest Ass Kisser, Professional Job Searcher. As long as they paid him, he'd be willing to get called just about anything.
But the guy was all right.
"Welcome to Hydro Development, David. Michael Olmstead. Call me Mike." He stuck out his hand, and David took it. The hand was smooth and dry, but the grip was firm. "Glad you could make it."
Olmstead released his grip and flipped through a file folder on a neatly organized desk. "Please, sit down."
David smiled and nodded, keeping his expression as neutral as possible. Showtime.
He sat in the wide, comfortable chair offered to him, and waited until Mike settled down in the leather seat behind the massive oak desk. He took a quick glance around, admiring the dark wood of the walls, the soft lighting and thick carpeting. Lots of money here.
"Let's get right down to it. Wewant to know what you can do for Hydro." Mike leaned forward and put his elbows on his desk, hands steepled in front of his sharply defined nose. Every little detail of this man is sharp.
"Well, I've worked on two other hydropower plants, one right out of school, and one for six years, which ended last July."
"That's right. I was involved in development with them, primarily doing research on the possibilities of pumped storage and overseeing the reservoir construction plans."
"Well, this job will be overseeing exactly that kind of thing. We've been a little old-fashioned in the past, but now it's time to take the big plunge, so to speak." Olmstead smiled.
"You're going to harness a portion of the St. John River through an underground storage facility."
"Done some research? That's good, we appreciate the initiative." Olmstead tossed a folder across the desktop in front of him. "There's a lot of hydro activity up in Quebec and New Brunswick, make no mistake about that. Most of the rivers coming off the north coast of the St. Lawrence have a big dam or two. But a lot of that power goes to the pulp mills. With the Jackson project, we want to supply New Brunswick with all the power it's going to need for years. Down into Maine too. And pumped storage is a safe and effective way to get that power. It involves quite a bit of manpower, but if we can pull it off, this will be one of the largest successful underground pumped storage hydro facilities ever. If you do work with us, you'll be getting all you can handle."
David flipped through the folder's pages, past engineer's notes, schematics and technical summaries. "Selling to Canadian Power and Light. Big company."
"That's right. You'd be involved directly with the planning and development of the lower reservoir and tunnel, and getting us back on track."
They discussed the plan details for a while before Olmstead took the folder back and stuck it in a desk drawer. "There are plenty of men working on this thing already, but most of them are at our branch offices in Quebec City at the moment. This is a major project, and we want to make sure everything's done right. After that, there would be an opportunity to stay on in the area and work with maintenance and the lease agreement-that and figuring out how to keep the damn tunnels from icing up. That is, if you're not bored to death by that time."
"My wife and I are easily entertained. We both read a lot, watch movies. And Jessica-she's our little girl-she's got three or four make-believe friends by now, I think. Maybe this would give me some more time to spend with her. I don't do that enough."
That seemed to make an impression. "I know how it is. I was going to ask you about your family. It does get lonely up there, or so I hear. A close family unit is really important to us. We need to know you're intending to stay around for a while. Anyway, this place is pretty isolated. Bitch of a winter too."
"Yeah, I read about the problems you guys had keeping it going." This seemed for an instant a little too critical, and David winced.
Olmstead just smiled, running a hand through his patch of well-groomed hair and sitting back in the relaxed pose of the successful businessman. "You got that right. What we really need is someone to be smart and work with people, not against them. We'll have a big crew on-site eventually, and they all have to use each other to get things done. Know your stuff, and take advantage of it. Frankly, I think you can do it, looking at your job experience and schooling. You've been in and out of the business for what, ten years? You know what makes a plant tick by now. You've worked with pumped storage development. And your references are good, with the exception of the EPC job."
There was a sudden, uncomfortable silence. David cursed silently. Of course he knew it would come up, had to, but still he hadn't been prepared to face it so soon.
"I'm not going to lie to you. Your boss at EPC had some pretty loud ideas about how you handled yourself there."
"Look, I can explain all that." David paused, and found Olmstead had leaned forward again, studying him closely, waiting. He didn't look away. "The guy was a prick."
Olmstead raised one eyebrow in an almost comical expression of surprise, then laughed. "I admire your courage. I spoke with your supervisor myself, and frankly, I'd agree with you. Now I hope I'm reading this right. You had a difference of opinion, got tired of waiting around for real opportunity and decided to go out and get it."
David nodded. "That's about right."
"Again, I admire your courage. Not exactly what I would have done, not with the economy the way it is, but I understand. I think that shows some initiative that could be put to use. Of course, I'm not the only one that makes the decision."
David forced a smile. "I hope you'll put in a good word for me. I really want this job. I know what it takes. I worked in Alaska on my first project, so I've had experience with the cold. As far as Hydro goes, this has always been the place I've wanted to be." I just got three million interviews in other places for kicks. "And working in Canada might be just the thing for my family life."
"Could be. And the scenery's beautiful, believe me. I went up there to check the spot out before we started construction last summer. Thick pine forests and lots of wildlife. There's a hell of a lot of logging going on too, but you'd never know it in most places. And the water coming off the peaks is just about the most pure thing you've ever tasted."
"Sounds great." Of course, he would be spending the winters there too. Not saying much about those, are you?
"Listen-" Olmstead stood up and stuck out his hand. David took it. "I have a couple other interviews, but I can say that you are the most impressive so far. If this works out, we'll need you to start right away. The place has been completely shut down for months, but we need someone to evaluate the current situation and advise on next steps. We'd take care of getting you a place to live, as soon as something opens up, and, of course, we'll pay for it. Salary's more than fair, but the benefits are fantastic-full health, dental, the works. Not that there are any dentists within a hundred miles of that place."
Olmstead grinned, and David felt a momentary touch of revulsion-just a touch, but nonetheless it was there. That grin had reminded him of the Cheshire cat in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
"I'm ready. Thanks for everything, and give me a call if there's anything else you need to know."
David thanked him and left. The interview had gone pretty well, he thought. He had liked Olmstead, not counting that quick moment of distaste; nerves really, that was all. He had already dismissed it. His history with EPC was bound to come up, and with all the problems he had run into before, this time was a pleasant surprise. Olmstead didn't seem to care much about what McDougal had to say, which was lucky. McDougal could be a real son of a bitch.
As he walked out the doors and into the bright sun, he considered Olmstead's last comment. A hundred miles-a little exaggerated, maybe, but it got the point across. A skilled doctor could be fifty miles away for all he knew. What if someone caught the flu, or worse, broke a leg? Thinking about the possibilities made him nervous. If he got this job, he'd have to make sure Jessie understood the rules. Have fun, kid, but don't play in the woods.
Excerpted from The Bone Factory by Nate Kenyon Copyright © 2009 by Nathaniel Kenyon. Excerpted by permission.
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