Inspection #371: Getting a Life (Installment 1)
by Grey Bard
Okay, so it wasn't exactly what wasn't exactly what I expected out of a den of mutant superheroes. That was no reason for me to be prejudiced, but still. None of the people I saw there looked like superheroes much except the scary looking short guy with bad hair that answered the door. The rest? Odd, yes, but superheroes? Doubtful.
No, they didn't have a neon sign saying "superheroes live here" over the front gate, but to us locals they might as well have. There only so many times you can believe in repeated gas leaks and mysteriously forgotten days or weeks before people start to talk. Most of us don't really mind, though. Their rate of destruction has put every construction worker in the area's kids through college, and Harry's bar needs a huge fight every once in a while just to force the proprietor to clean the place. These people had made quite an impression on Salem Center, but I had never thought that I, a minor bureaucrat would ever see them, much less their house. What business could they ever have with me? Imagine my surprise when I did, and my further amazement at what I saw there. Or rather, what I didn't.
It is a very nice house, but it looks just the same on the inside as the outside. Like something built by a rich Victorian and lived in by many people. Dark walls, tasteful furniture, and many many photographs that I tried very hard not to look too closely at. I, of course, had to seem professional. I wish now that I had given in to curiosity. From what I saw of it though, it was... ordinary in a mansion sort of way.
Like I said, the people I passed on my way through the front hall were unusual, even if they weren't what I expected. Besides the short hairy guy I mentioned there was a black woman with stark white hair, a nasty looking older man with a prosthetic hand, a woman with a stripe through her hair, a bored looking Chinese kid in a raincoat and not one but two men wearing sunglasses indoors. Looking back, I'm starting to think that it wasn't too hard to see them as mutants, come to think of it. But the man I came to see? He was the oddest one of all because he looked so normal.
I mean really normal. Not just guy next door normal, but absent-minded guy next door that forgets to return your hedge clippers normal. Sturdy build, average size, light brown hair and goofy smile. We are talking third grade teacher normal, here.
So anyway, I had been standing there in my business suit, trying not to gawk like a tourist, when a cold hand came down on my shoulder. I spun, and there he was. "You're the lady they were sending over?" he asked, grinning and shaking my hand vigorously.
"Robert Drake?" I asked, caught off guard.
"The one and only." he answered motioning for me to follow. "Don't just stand there, come on in."
We went into a cheerful and rather used looking kitchen and sat down at the big table. "I'm afraid this is a rather unorthodox living situation, Mr. Drake. Can you prove..."
"Of course!" Drake said and handed me a pile of papers from the table. A very large pile of papers. "Written permission from Charles Xavier, owner of the property, license papers, three letters of recommendation, description of the activities of the Xavier Institute, a signed promise not to allow harmful medical experiments, a clean bill of heath from my doctor and proof of U.S. citizenship."
"You're pretty serious about this, aren't you?" I asked, taken aback.
"Yeah, why wouldn't I be?" he answered obligingly, then lapsed back into the grin, sheepish this time. "Oh, all the paperwork. Sorry, professional response."
I couldn't restrain myself. "Professional?" Maybe I was missing something about the world saving business.
"I'm an accountant." he explained. "Says so on page five. This is nothing compared to April."
Of all the possible people here, I'm assigned to the accountant. It figured. In a house reputed to hold mutant superheroes and fabulously rich geniuses, I had to work with their accountant. I guess somebody has to deal with paying for the property damage. At least he was nice, as accountants go.
I flipped through the impassive packet I had been handed. "These all seem to be in order." I admitted. "The official forms?" I was handed another set of pages, impeccably filled out.
"You'll want to see the rest of the place?" Mr. Drake asked, getting up and opening the door when I joined him.
I looked doubtfully at the halls we passed through. He must have noticed, because he started up again. "It's already well prepared. No breakables on ground level, the carpets are all tacked down and washable and the furniture is much stronger than it looks."
We finally came to a large window. Hardwood frame, double glazed; durable. Good. What I saw through it, though was the spectacular part. This wasn't just a yard, these were gardens and grounds. The kind you usually have to pay admission to visit. Broad lawns, hedges, a forest in the distance and flower borders everywhere. It was like looking at Faeryland with a pool and a basketball court. "Don't worry," said my potential prospect, worriedly as I stood agape. "Nothing there is poisonous. Those are all kept in the greenhouse."
I looked at the elegance around me and the simplicity incarnate before me. "Let's finish this now," I said, finally. "To be frank, Mr. Drake, you aren't in the demographic we usually favor. You're a young single man in a communal living arrangement. How do we know that everything won't change the next time you fall in love?"
The cheerful person I had been dealing with deflated a little, but still looked earnestly determined. "I know." he said apologetically. "I'd never do that, but I don't know how to prove that to you. Isn't there any chance?"
I relented, as I planned if he had passed. "Right answer. In light of your good references and obvious commitment, all objections are waived. Congratulations, Mr. Drake, stop by the animal rescue center tomorrow. You have a dog."
I don't think I've ever gotten a kiss of such enthusiasm and happiness before. Superhero's accountant or not, I couldn't help envying the dog.