Bernard sat at his computer tapping away at the keys of his mechanical keyboard. The thick clack filling the small studio apartment. Bernard’s nicotine stained fingers hovered above the off white keys. He took a deep breath as he slid his thick rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose. His hands returned to his keyboard and in a flurry of clicks and clacks completed the linchpin in his plan. 

{
System.Environment.Exit(0);
}

Taking a moment for soak in the significance of everything that curly bracket signified, Bernard stood from his desk and walked into the kitchen area. Resisting the urge to look at the empty space to the right of the refrigerator. It had been eleven months since anything of significance had a place there. Bernard grumbled to himself as he refilled his coffee mug. Big grey eyes appeared on the surface as the hot liquid poured in. Soon enough, Bernard thought.

Bernard returned to his computer putting his coffee mug, now covered by the face of a grey cat with white stripes, on his desk. The screen lit up as he removed the phone from his back pocket. A new message had been received. A small smile crept across Bernard’s face, parting his incoming facial hair as it spread. Sitting back in front of his computer, he switched desktops leaving the Windows desktop he used for programming over to the Mac. Within a few clicks his golden ticket appeared on the screen before him, “will definitely bring Buzzi to the resort tomorrow – total celeb hot bed. Have a fab time with future hubby 💅🏻💍 💅🏻💍 💅🏻💍 💅🏻💍 “

“Don’t jinx it bitch 😽😘 ‍ jk” 
“Check in is at 3. Make sure you stop at Starbis for a venti steamed milk. Foam. No whip. for Buzzi before you drop him off. He likes it fresh so pick him up first. I’ve laid out two outfits for him depending on the weather. His suitcase is packed and will be near the dresser in his room. I don’t want your voice on his live feed so just take a couple of seflies and meaningful shots of him for his Insta account”

The bile rose in Bernard’s throat. Ali’s friends were what the valley even rejected as inhuman – Miffi, Carli, Kelli, and Billi. He was sure there were more, probably all with some bullshit spelling of their names. The confirmation that one of the “Bimbis” was going take Buzzi to his luxury pet hotel cemented Bernard’s plan. The surprise limo was scheduled for eight am the following morning. Bernard had nearly spit his coffee when he saw that set up come through Ali’s texting. The specifications of the limo down to the interior color of the seat belts was laid out for him, and all wrapped up in a “wouldn’t it be the best if this limo picked us up at 7:59…” type message. Bernard could already see Blane calling and negotiating for a 7:59 pickup as anything else would “totally ruin the whole trip.” Closing out of Ali’s phone, Bernard returned to his Windows system and checked his notifications. 

Two of the guys needed to talk to him about various projects, and the marketing department needed another blurb about something technical their company produced. His clear diamond blue eyes rolled back into his head. They didn’t know he was planning a major coup, it was 3 pm during the work day. Composing himself, Bernard fired back instant messages and a half ass blurb to the marketing department. It wasn’t as though they could barely tell the difference between IT and AV, let alone C# and JavaScript.  

Bernard’s interoffice instant messenger went off. “Hey, can you doublecheck the blurb you sent over? this one is about the utility tools we’re releasing next month, which we can use next time. Can you send over the one for the web panel?” At least half of the marketing department had a brain. “Sorry. Lots going on today. Can I get it to you tomorrow?” 

Ava was typing. “No problem, just before noon please.” 

“👍🏻”

The tension in Bernard’s shoulders dropped. The program he wrote was perfect, the plan was already in motion. If he had confided in Ava, she probably would have helped him. She was already proving to be a reinforcement of his alibi, unbeknownst to her. The rest of the day went by in a blur of Python, and unfulfilled trips to the kitchen. Tomorrow wouldn’t come any faster no matter how many times he opened the refrigerator. Bernard closed his computer down at 6:00 PM. Stopping behind the patrician into his bedroom Bernard took off his thick black work t-shirt and threw it into the hamper. Replacing it instead with his lighter, black t-shirt for everyday wear. His thick, faded demin straight leg jeans quickly joined his work shirt in the hamper along with his dark blue boxers. Taking a near by bottle of baby powder, Bernard freshened himself up and put on a pair of grey boxer briefs followed by his dark blue skinny jeans. 

Bernard grabbed his well read copy of a Franzen novel from his nightstand and walked back into his living room to tucker himself into the couch. Reading until the lights automatically shut off as they were programmed to do, Bernard got up and returned the book to the nightstand. He pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose as he stood next to his bed. His toes wriggled in his white cotton socks. The red line across the toes waving at him, had he bothered to look down. He went to remove his shirt. His fingers twisting themselves into the hem of the fabric.

For minutes Bernard stood there. Frozen. Like a toddler with his hands tucked under the edge of his shirt. Casual clothes were not to be worn to work, and certainly not to bed. Alternatively, work clothes were not meant to leave the house, unless he was called into the office, in which case he would wear his traveling work clothes. He could not execute the plan in pajamas, work clothes, or traveling work clothes. He looked past his reflection, through the mirrored doors, and into the closet, visualizing what remained. Exactly three casual outfits, one work outfit, and two – unused – traveling work outfits. There was no way around it. 

Unless, Bernard thought to himself… 

Returning back through the living room to the kitchen, Bernard made himself a pot of coffee. If he stayed up finishing the Franzen and perhaps starting the only other book he owned, another Franzen novel, casual clothes would be permissible. He watched as the coffee percolated. 

Yes, he thought, that’s the solution. 

Bernard grabbed a flashlight from under the kitchen sink before making his coffee. Walking back into the living room he set up a light reading area in his usual reading spot. For hours he read and refilled, until there was no more coffee and very little book. His alarm sounded starting the automated program he had written years ago. Lights, coffee, action. 

He stood in the doorway of the large metal door labelled “Maintenance.” Leaning into the room he appeared to be very busy analyzing the rack where countless lights blinked and winked at him. He had already logged into the building’s security cameras, altering the store settings from 72 hours to 0. The footage of him entering and exiting the building would be gone before he would reach the end of the block. 

Ali’s heels clicked closer to Bernard’s nesting place in the hall. Pulling back slightly, Bernard angled the burner laptop toward the door. Ali’s distorted reflection turned on her heel as her designer sunglasses slid onto her face. Behind her Blane held the door open, their luggage stacked beside him. His head moved side to side as his eyes followed Ali strutting down the hall.     

Bernard watched as the door closer kicked in, the heavy door slowly gliding forward in response. In movement similar to a cat, Bernard slinked down the hall and into the apartment. Curling himself up behind the long, winter coats in the hallway closet he waited until he heard the door open. Incoherent sounds of zapping electricity and a man mumbling “oh you mother…” filled the entrance way as Blane’s shoes thudded down the hall. “Utility workers,” he grunted to himself. The sound of keys scraping against a marble counter competing with the dinging of Blane’s phone. “Just my passport,” he read in a mockery of Ali’s voice. His voice trailing around the corner. 

Moments later the padding of feet came back. “just going to keep it with mine. Who keeps a passport in a wine…” Blane’s mutterings were cut off by the sound of the front door opening. This time air whooshed out of the way as Blane forced the door closed. The lock tumbled closed and Bernard began unfurling himself. With in minutes he was at the computer; his thinly gloved fingers tapping away across the keyboard. Too concentrated to smile, the dull ache of joy starting humming the back of Bernard’s head.

“We are sorry to inform you…” The air near Bernard’s feet stirred. He kept typing. Refusing to lose his focus now. “His remains have been…” something brushed against Bernard’s pants. “Thank you.” 

In a flurry of keyboard strokes, Bernard closed everything and opened iMessage.

“Don’t worry about Buzzi – Blane arranged the VIP treatment for our petit prince. He’ll be picked up by one of his assistants, white glove service, and brought in limo #royaltreatmentonly to the resort. He also got the marketing assistant so Buzzi’s posts will be viral before he even arrives 😽😻”

Bernard sent the message as a text, waiting for it to be “delivered” and then deleted it from Ali’s messages. He would be on the lookout for the reply later, from the comfort of his desk.

Standing up, Bernard opened his chest, pulling back his shoulders. Quickly he removed the plastic gloves from his pocket and a small brownish treat. Looking down sparkling grey eyes met his. As Bernard opened his arms, a gorgeous cat jumped into them. Rewarded with the treat and an Eskimo kiss, David Glen snuggled into his best friend’s arms.

“Time to go home, David Glen,” Bernard whispered to his confidant, “no more of this Buzzi bullshit.”

The two left the apartment, heading directly into the maintenance closet. There, Bernard removed a package and slid David Glen into the cavity of the bag. “Just until we get home, Dave.” The cat nodded as he seemed to fold his body into a snuggled ball. Pressing a few keys on his laptop before unplugging and packing it up, Bernard gently slid his backpack onto his bad and made his way into the hall. Delicately he left a box filled with the ashes of another cat packed into a cherry wood box outside of Ali and Blane’s door.

Walking into his own apartment, Bernard’s eyes immediately found his computer screen running the program he had carefully crafted. His phone pinged on his desk. Placing his backpack on his chair, Bernard unpacked his dearest friend and looked at the Slack message from Ava, “good morning! Don’t forget to send over your blurb for the web panel. Remember, I need it by noon!”

Rubbing David Glen gently behind his ear, Bernard typed back “should already be in your inbox.”

“Hmm… standby.”

David Glen hopped off the desk and started walking the parameter of the apartment.

“It was in my junk! 8:32 this morning – someone’s an overachiever today.”

“Figured it was better to get it over with before I wanted to get some real work done.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you’re secretly into marketing.”

“Feel free to write a LinkedIn post all about it,” he typed back. Laughing, he looked over to David Glen stalking the area where his water dish used to be. “It worked Bubby,” Bernard said walking toward the kitchen area, “looks like you’re home to stay.”

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