ZDNet Australia is proud to bring you a serialised version of Phil Dobbie's novel The Incumbent. A new chapter will be published here as part of his blog each week on Tuesday. You can also buy the entire book by clicking here.
When Buffet saw Parsons walk into his office he hardly recognised him. For a start he was orange. Not just the orange of an English daytime TV chat show host, he was the colour of a citrus fruit and it stretched to every inch of his visible body. Even his nails were orange. They strangely blended into his fingers.
'The underworld is all about identity,' Spicer the Slicer had told him the night before. Ideally, he would have enlisted Parsons on a six-week intensive drama course, where he could be fully trained in character development, but he knew time was of the essence.
'You need to become someone you're not,' he'd said. He believed only then could someone adapt to life as a ruthless killer. You had to assume a persona that had no scruples and would do anything for money. It hadn't occurred to Spicer that, as a management consultant, Parsons was pretty much doing that already.
As a baby he had wriggled so much through his circumcision that the Mohel declared that he was allergic to the idea of being Jewish and decided to just cut his fingernails instead.
Spicer argued that you needed to ensure that the two personalities were very different, so you could easily detach yourself from the ruthless side of your life. Only then, he suggested, could you live with yourself. It's a technique he had seen used to great effect by people who worked in the tax office, for example. And the use of a prop of some kind helped in creating this new identity.
'Steel-legged Eddie, what do you remember about him?' Spicer had asked
'Steel leg,' offered Parsons immediately.
Spicer explained that outside his regular hours of crime, he'd take off his steel leg and replaced it with a less remarkable health-care model that didn't fit too well.
'The steel leg was his point of difference,' Spicer explained.
Nobody considered that the healthcare-limbed Eddie could be a killer, even though there had been a spate of recent murders that had all taken place in buildings with excellent disabled access.
Spicer had suggested a similar approach for Parsons, although both agreed it was a bit extreme to remove a leg.
'At least initially,' said Spicer.
'What do you mean initially? There's no way I'm having a leg taken off, ever.'
'Well maybe a hand,' suggested Spicer. 'You've got to distinguish yourself. You need a hook of some kind.'
'Well it's not going to be the kind you get at the end of your arm.'
Spicer didn't blame him. Personally, he hated the sight of blood. And the thought of someone sawing through bone repulsed him. In fact, the prospect of any form of surgery was too ghastly to contemplate. As a baby he had wriggled so much through his circumcision that the Mohel declared that he was allergic to the idea of being Jewish and decided to just cut his fingernails instead. Of course, Spicer's colleagues in the underworld were unaware of how squeamish he was. Most believed he was the meanest man who'd ever lived, although to put it in perspective, they'd never dealt with those people in the tax office.
'It's all about your personal brand,' Spicer had said, coming out with the sort of meaningless jargon that management consultants are all too familiar with. They'd been working through the night on the presentation they would be giving to Buffet and Parsons knew the VastTel chief loved trendy mumbo jumbo. If they could focus the meeting on reaching agreement on what sort of characteristics would form the personality of the new, underworld version of Parsons, they would buy enough time to consider how they were going to pursue the task at hand — the murder of Damien Woodburner.
In fact, the two men became so fixated with image, they forgot all about the killing. In part this was because they both doubted that they would really see it through. Parsons assumed, like with anything he did, circumstances would somehow change and the job would be cancelled.
'You're never going to be a rough diamond,' said Spicer, still working on Parson's underworld image. 'We can't make you look as though you're from the tough part of town. It just won't wash with anyone.'
It was true. Parsons wasn't even sure where the rough part of town was. He assumed it was anywhere with public transport.