Joe has made up his mind that the current timeline is not the right one. He is holding out hope that he’ll find the stadium seat and be able to travel back and correct things once again.
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Joe and Mike were enveloped in silence during the trip home. They were both lost in thoughts, but the types of thoughts were very different. Joe pretended to be thinking of strategies for getting out of the merger or, at least, out of Provenza’s control. Actually, he was thinking about the quickest way to find out what storage area had his memorabilia from Maxwell Stadium so he could find the stadium seat.
The flight was smooth. As they taxied to the terminal, Joe retrieved his overnight bag from under the seat and prepared to set to the task at hand as soon as he could get off the plane. He and Mike strode through the terminal and said their goodbyes as they entered the parking garage. Mike didn’t question his urgency as he felt it as well, but for different reasons. Mike was anxious to get back to the office and make sure that he could slow down any access requests from Provenza or F, O and M to the firm’s data. Mike’s staff was usually very accommodating and efficient. He needed to get to them and slow them down a bit so they could stall until Joe came up with something.
Joe climbed into the BMW and headed for home. He would have gone directly to the storage unit that held his memorabilia, but there was one problem. He didn’t know where it was. Langerton had several. He would have made Mike suspicious if he had asked him. He, instead, planned to go home and look through his bank account records to find payments to the facility. The streets on the way home were quiet and Joe was there in less than 15 minutes. He navigated the SUV into the garage and went directly to the computer in his office.
Luckily, his scheme for creating passwords was the same on this timeline and he used the same bank for his personal finances. He looked through the transactions over the past month. He found cable and other utility payments, his mortgage payment, which was a bit staggering, and finally a payment of $142 to Langerton Deluxe Storage. It didn’t take him long to look up the address. Within minutes, he was back in the SUV heading across town to the storage facility. Once he arrived, he realized that he had additional hurdles to overcome. The entrance was blocked by an electronic gate that required a code to get in. Even if he did get in, he didn’t know which unit was his. He parked in the space near the office and walked up to the door. It was locked. The sign on the window said that the hours were from 7 to 7 every day. It was now 7:45. There were no lights on in the building. Joe assumed there was some type of electronic surveillance, but there wasn’t a human anywhere to be found. Joe had no choice but to come back in the morning when the office was open.
When he got back home, he made a sandwich and flipped through the television channels trying to distract his thoughts. The morning couldn’t come soon enough. He tuned in ESPN and watched Sports Center. As he settled back into the sofa, he began to drift off and was awakened when he dropped his plate to the floor. He took this as a sign that he should go to bed. The day’s activities had worn him out physically and mentally. He settled into bed and fell asleep again almost immediately.
Joe woke up sitting in his chair at his desk in the Romano, Provenza and Bianchi accounting firm. He had an overpowering pile of paper on his desk and was facing a blank computer screen. As he looked around, he was back in his old job. Carmela was at the reception desk. People were milling around just as he remembered and had actually lived through just days before. As he looked down the aisle, two familiar figures were headed his way. Johnny Provenza and his (deceased?) father were walking toward Joe.
“McClean. Do you have the numbers I asked for yet?” the younger Provenza asked. “I need to turn them in to my dad and take credit for them.”
“Yes, Joseph. I need you to do my son’s work for him so that I can be impressed and promote him in the company while you sit at your desk and go nowhere in the firm. It’s a family business, you know.”
Joe didn’t know what to make of this. The Provenzas were openly abusing him, in loud voices, in the middle of the office and no one seemed to be reacting to it. They just continued on as if this scene were not taking place.
Joe began shuffling the papers looking for the numbers that the Proveenzas were requesting without an earthly idea what they were referring to. The problem was, every piece of paper was blank except for a single number in the middle of the page in bold font, 2007. He had no idea what it meant, but every piece of paper in every stack was the same.
He looked up at the Provenzas to explain what he was seeing and they just pointed at him and laughed. In fact, as he looked around the rest of the office, everyone was pointing at him and laughing. He started hearing a buzzing noise in his head. It started softly but seemed to grow in intensity. He put his head down on the desk, covered his ears with his forearms and pressed his hands into the back of his head. He squeezed his eyes very tightly shut in an attempt to shut out what was around him, but the buzzing would not go away. It seemed to intensify. When he opened his eyes, he was sitting up in bed. His alarm was buzzing. It was 6 A.M. and he had been dreaming. The dream was so vivid and the thought of it chilled him to the bone. He wasn’t big on interpreting dreams, but the meaning of this one was obvious to him. Provenza would be back controlling his life just as he had on the original timeline. There was no avoiding it unless…unless he could find the stadium seat.
Joe got out of bed, pulled on some jeans and a sweatshirt and brewed some strong coffee. By 6:45, he was out the door and driving the SUV back to the Langerton Deluxe Storage. This time, the office lights were on. Joe opened the storm door and the wooden door inside and was immediately struck by the smell of cats mixed with perspiration. There was a man who closely resembled Jabba the Hutt munching on a fast food breakfast sandwich sitting in a struggling chair behind the counter.
“Help you?” Jabba asked.
“My name is Joe McClean. I have a unit here.”
“McClean,” the man acknowledged. “You here to pay your bill?”
“No. I’m here to pick up something from my storage unit.”
“So, why do you need me?” Jabba asked.
“I’ve forgotten the code to open the gate and, it’s kind of embarrassing, but I haven’t been here in so long, I don’t remember what number my unit is.”
Jabba looked annoyed. He hoisted himself from his chair. The chair made noises of thanks as he relieved it of his weight. He walked over to a rusted file cabinet and opened a drawer about halfway down, presumably the one with the information filed under ‘M’. He shuffled through a number of folders and finally, with some effort, straightened up.
Joe waited as patiently as possible and was startled when a disheveled cat jumped up on the chair and began finishing off the breakfast sandwich.
“Bandit, get off of there,” Jabba shouted as he rescued his sandwich and put the last bite in his cave of a mouth. Then he turned to Joe.
“Pardon,” Joe said.
“I need some ID before I can tell you the number and give you the code.
“Joe was surprised, but understanding, at the security measure. He fished his wallet from his pocket and handed Jabba his driver’s license. The man looked at the license and then glanced up at Joe.
“Yup, you’re him. Your unit is number 57,” he said showering the counter with breakfast sandwich debris.
He then scribbled the unit number along with the gate code on the back of a Langerton Deluxe Storage business card and handed it to Joe.
“Thank you,” Joe said as he turned to leave, but then a thought occurred to him. “Is there a lock on the unit?”
The man let out a sigh.
“Locks are supplied by the person renting the unit. When’s the last time you were here, anyway?”
“It’s been at least a few years,” Joe said. If there’s a lock on it, I don’t have a combination or a key.”
“I can cut the lock off for you and sell you a new one to put on it.”
“That would be great.”
“It will cost $150 cash or $175 on credit.”
“Can’t you just bill me?”
“Nope. Cash or credit.”
Joe realized the man was likely running a side business. He peeled three 50s from his wallet and handed them over.
“I’ll meet you down there in five or ten minutes,” Jabba said.
“Thanks,” Joe said as he acknowledged he had just been ripped off, but he was desperate.
He got back in the SUV and maneuvered his way past the numbered storage units looking for number 57.