|Of Sheep and Wolves
By Paul Bane
“What’s up sport?” Josh said, walking past Brian's cubicle with the gait of one who holds himself in high regard.
Brian glared at the monitor in front him, smoothing the pleats on his pants with one hand and balling the other
into a fist. The fluorescent lights overhead illuminated the contours in his forehead where veins threatened to
break through. Slowly, one finger at a time, his right hand released and he laid it on the desk palm up, looking at
the neat little crescents where his nails had bitten into his palm.
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,” Brian whispered, “For thou art with
me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.” The mantra faded from his lips when he felt his heart slow down
and the anger recede from his face. He turned back to the monitor and started typing again.
The office chatter rose on the other side. Like a prairie dog, Brian stood and looked towards the commotion. Of
course, he thought to himself, only one source for commotion in this place. Josh was telling one of his stories of
long nights and drunk maidens to anyone who would listen (which just so happened to be everyone in the
western hemisphere). Brian severely wanted to hit something. Instead, he glanced at the clock on the wall behind
him. Twenty minutes to lunch, I can make that, he told himself.
Brian glanced through his inbox, opened the account files that needed to be added to the system, set the
station on standby, got up and walked to the bathroom. Of course, in order to get to the bathroom he had to
walk through the Josh fan club.
“Sheep,” he muttered under his breath as he kept his head down and weaved through the cubicle aisles to the
He tended to the business at hand, rolled his sleeves up and washed his hands. He dried his hands on a paper
towel then used it to open the door. He stepped out and right into a blurred female figure. Instinctively, he
grabbed her shoulders to keep her from falling, in the meantime catching her auburn hair between his hands and
“Ouch, man!” she nearly shouted.
Brian released and stepped back, flustered.
“Sorry, didn’t see you there,” he said, suddenly recognizing her. “Oh, hey, Amanda.”
“Oh, Bri, hey, what’s up?”
He laughed, “Not much. You? How’s accounts receivable?”
“Same shit, different day.”
“You’re telling me,” he said smiling.
“Speaking of, I should probably get back.”
“Oh right. Well, I’ll see ya.”
“K,” she said as he turned and walked away. “Oh, hey, Bri?” He turned, eyebrows raised. “You might want to
cover those up.”
He looked down at his tattooed arms and rolled his sleeves back down.
“Thanks,” he said and walked back to his desk. From his vantage point, he watched her glide back to her seat,
grab a brown bag from under her desk, rise and head towards the elevator. He checked the time, grabbed his
own bag, logged off for lunch and headed towards the elevator. He had to quick-step it to make it there, but
managed to slide between the closing doors.
“Where you headed?” Amanda asked him.
“Just wondering if you’d mind some company?” he said.
She smiled. “Not at all. You up for a picnic?”
“Always,” he said, returning the smile.
12:30 p.m. brought about the migration of office workers from the cafeteria and surrounding corporate park
back into the building. For the most part, people traveled in small groups of two or three, except for one large
contingent, at the center of which strode Josh. Brian would have glared had he not been so preoccupied with
“That was fun, we’ll have to do it again,” she said, smiling and walking back to her desk.
Brian turned and went to his own, still watching. The second group—the Josh fan club—came out of the elevator’
s second trip and herded towards their respective stations. Only one departed, Brian, their leader. He left the
others to their own devices, much to their chagrin Brian was sure and headed across the office to where Amanda
“No,” he whispered, his hands balling into fists. “No.”
Josh put one hand on the back of her chair and the other on top of her hand as she maneuvered the mouse. He
was saying something to her and she was smiling and laughing. About what? Brian knew what. The only thing
they could be smiling and laughing at. And, as if on cue, Josh looked up at him, smiled, winked, then turned back
to Amanda and kept talking. If she wasn’t receptive of his moves, she certainly didn’t show it.
“No,” Brian mouthed, unable to actually speak. His hands were slick with sweat and blood that peeked around his
nails. “No.” He shook his head. This couldn’t be happening. How long had it been since he’d actually spoke to
someone other than his two constant mental companions? How long since he’d spoken to a girl? How long since
he’d had a girl speak to him? “No.” Of all the offices; of all the departments; of all the girls, why, God, why did he
set his sights on Amanda? Why? “You should have known better,” he said to himself, logging onto the computer
and resuming his menial job. “Should have fuckin’ known better.”
The end of the day came and went; as did the rest of the night. Brian made his required phone calls, attended
his required meetings, and read his required books. He said the 23rd. psalm, climbed into bed and fell asleep to
the image of the moon drifting through the slits on his shades.
Friday morning came to the sound of Brian's obnoxious alarm clock. He shut the alarm off, showered, brushed
his teeth, grabbed a banana and the lunch he had made last night from the refrigerator and headed out the
door. He took the bus to the stop at the entrance to the corporate park, got off with a few other people he
worked with but didn’t care to know and made his way into the building. He clocked in and started his daily
routine all over again.
He opened the email program, went through the account files and there, staring him in the face was one from
Amanda. He clicked on it. Only one line long, but it stung like a knife in the shoulder blade. Josh invited me out to
the clubs with him tonight, wanna come? He supposed he should feel better knowing that she thought of him
enough to want to include him. But what stopped that thought process before it even got started was the simple
fact that she could not only stand Josh, she actually wanted to spend time with him. She wanted to join the
sheep, the Josh-zombies. He deleted it and let it go.
Lunch time came and he found himself steeling his nerves against the anxiety gripping him to stand up and go
with her. No, he told himself, if she wants to willingly walk into the lion’s den as just another sheep, she’s not
worth your time. Sheep are sheep and wolves are wolves, he thought. According to public officials, Brian was
certainly not considered a ‘sheep’, nor could he stand anyone labeled as such.
“Hey, you, whatcha doin’ hidin’ back here for?” Amanda asked. He turned in his chair and looked at her with the
kind of lingering detachment. Her smile never faltered. “You wanna do lunch?”
Was she for real? This might just be your chance to save the sheep, he thought. This might just be your chance
at something better, something worthwhile. Maybe he could save her from the lion’s den.
“Sure, I’ve just had a lot of accounts to add today.”
She nodded as if she had any idea what he actually did on his side of the office and let him lead her to the
elevator. The rest of the Josh fan club had already left, and he felt secure enough to hold the doors for her and
pretend like nothing happened.
As they sat watching the geese splash around in the large pond at the center of the park, she asked, “So you
don’t read your email?”
“I sent you something yesterday and you haven’t sent anything back yet.”
Brian remembered the email. It all seemed like a year ago.
“Oh, right, sorry, just forgot about it,” he lied.
“I’d rather not.”
“I’d just rather not,” he said, turning away from her.
How do you explain loathing?
“Oh, ok. Well it just sounded like fun.”
“Not with him it doesn’t.”
“What do you mean, ‘with him’?”
“Let’s just say me and Josh aren’t on the best of terms.”
“Oh come on, you have to have a reason for not liking Josh. I mean everybody likes Josh. You’re the first person
I’ve met who…”
“Yeah, well there are firsts for everything,” he cut her off.
“Ok, then,” she said, getting up and walking towards the building.
He watched her go, regretting his words, but at the same time grateful he hadn’t lied about them.
The day concluded the same as any other, with Brian walking to the bus stop alone. The ride home was long and
lonely, as it always was.
A full week passed before the blatant manifestation of a relationship blossomed for the office to see. At first,
Amanda had given nothing away, but as the week progressed, however, Josh's touching increased in both
frequency and intimacy. Yet, at the same time, Brian knew that some piece of the puzzle lay hidden from view.
Something did not fit here.
Brian and Amanda had met on orientation day, more than two months ago. He knew they had hit it off right
away and was proud of himself for it. It was a step towards 'progress', towards 're-assimilation into society'.
Brian being, well…Brian, had not pursued her, but kept tabs on her and they talked off and on through email
correspondence. And while no intimate relationship had developed, Brian considered Amanda his friend; his first
new friend. And what he knew about Amanda led him to believe that Josh's advances were little more than an act
to make people believe he had secured another proverbial notch on his belt.
“That’s got to piss him off,” Brian said to no one in particular.
Then it happened. Friday afternoon, right before lunch…
Brian grabbed his lunch bag, logged off the computer and stood up. The office sat empty, devoid of any
employees other than himself; except for two others. Josh leaned against Amanda’s cubicle wall, talking to her.
She talked back. He bent down and started whispering in her ear. Brian’s heart began racing. He felt like a
voyeur, but couldn’t look away. Josh straightened up and looked around, saw Brian staring at them, winked,
smiled and took her hand in his. She rose to him and he led her to the storage room; the infamous storage
room. Josh had even gotten the supervisor, a late-fifties consummate professional no less, back into that
dreadful room, so was it any surprise that Amanda was willing? Yes, frankly, it was. That’s not who he knew
Amanda to be. Not who she was. Yet there she went, her hand in his, willingly following him into that
Brian sat down in his chair, gazing into the blank monitor screen as if for guidance. You know what to do, Xavier’
s voice echoed in his head. You’ve known what to do all along. You’re just too chicken shit to do it. What
happened to the Brian who trained me? The Brian I know?
“Shut up, just shut up. I can't go back. I can't go down that road again.”
That's right Brian, you can't, David said. You travel the road of the righteous now, the road of the forgiven. Say
your mantra Brian. Say it and go with God.
”The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” Brian began.
Oh quit with the God talk you pussy.
“He maketh me lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters.”
Oh Jesus H. Christ, get the fuck past the minister's bullshit and go be a fucking MAN!
“He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me in the paths of the righteous for His name's sake.”
Did you hear that?
Brian stopped. Yes, he had heard it. A muffled cry?
He's making you hear things Brian, you need to focus. Your nerves are creating this. An auditory hallucination
Brian, it's nothing. Nothing is happening. She's not yours, she's his. Let them be.
”She's hurt,” he mouthed.
But was it real? Or had he just imagined it? Had Xavier willed it from his conscious so that he would act?
The door to the storage room opened and Josh walked out. Brian heard this, but did not see it. Footsteps
echoed in the silent office towards him. They grew closer and then stopped behind him. Brian sighed, but did not
”You didn't think you could keep her from me did ya sport?”
Brian looked at the blank monitor screen.
Fuck this asshole up! Be still, be righteous.
“That's what I thought.”
Josh turned and left. Brian stood and looked to the storage room. Only one pair of footsteps had come out.
It's too late Brian, you're too late.
“What have I done?” he whispered, heading for the room. “What did he do?”
The door was unlocked and he threw it open, looking around for any sign of her. A turned over stack of reams
of paper, but that was about it. He stepped inside and sniffed the air. He could smell sweat and anger as if it
were tangible. Something's terribly wrong here, he thought, scanning the room. He looked at the storage bins,
grotesque images running through his mind. He grabbed a few and looked behind them, but found nothing, just
office supplies and dead space. Then where was she? He turned and left. Maybe she left before Josh, maybe she
left him there hanging in the breeze. Maybe he had been right all along, maybe she was exactly the kind of
person he knew her to be. Maybe she was his friend after all. Maybe she played him. But what if she hadn't?
“I'm going to kill him,” Brian told the room. “And I'm going to be very slow about it.”
No, Brian, you can't do that. You're rehabilitated! You're a new man! You are righteous! Don't be stupid, Xavier
spoke up, don't do it yourself. Make a phone call. You know who. Brian no! Don't listen to him. Recite your
psalm, go with God.
Brian bent his head. What could he hope to accomplish standing here? Even if he wanted to, Josh would probably
out muscle him. Xavier's voice was right, he could make one phone call and everything would be righted. No, you
can't do this. You can't go back now, you've come so far.
Brian walked out of the storage room and went back to his desk.
The rest of the day played out like a dream. Brian sloughed through his menial workload, trying to focus his mind
on anything but what had become of Amanda. The clocked ticked the seconds away into minutes, the minutes
into hours until the 5 o'clock chime sounded. He watched through callous eyes the clerks and service reps all
leaving, marching off towards another party. In particular, he watched Josh leaving with his crowd of adoring
fans. Josh turned and winked at him as he left and no one seemed to notice the missing AR girl. Not that they
would have cared anyway.
Desperate, Brian reached into his pants pocket and dialed the only number he knew could solve this whole mess.
Despite the clamor in his mind, Brian said what he needed to say to whom he needed to say it and didn't think
twice about either of the voices in his head. With that done, he scrolled through his contact list until he came
across Amanda's number. He pressed send and waited for the line to connect.
Across the office he heard a duck quacking. He got up and ran towards the noise, arriving at her desk. The duck
call stopped just as he pulled up, so he dialed the number again. The duck began again from inside her bottom
desk drawer. Frantic, Brian pulled the drawer open and found her purse and empty lunch bag. She's still here, he
thought, straightening up and looking at the storage room.
Josh never saw the Lincoln Town Car following him. Nor did he see two men emerge from it when he pulled into
his apartment complex and got out. He never saw them follow him into the unlocked building; they took the
stairs while he rode the elevator to the second floor. He never saw them come up behind him in the hallway; he
never had any idea what lay in store for him until they kicked his door open while he tried to shut it.
Brian sat motionless, listening to the passing of cars below and the slight moan of wind against the window
glass. He listened for anyone else in the office, but heard nothing. He relished the silence in his head, glad to be
rid of any sort of civil war that might occur there. Something moved.
His eyes snapped back to the storage room. It moved again. He walked up the aisle and down the other side
towards the storage room. It moved again, this time louder and with more effort. He tried the door and found it
locked. The puzzle piece fell from the heavens and clicked into place in his mind. He kicked at the door. It rattled
the hinges, but refused to give. He kicked again and again until the locking thumb tore free of its metal sleeve.
The door flung inwards. Brian stepped inside and looked around.
“Help.” It was barely above a whisper, but he heard it loud and clear.
Brian went to the back corner, near where the bins of office supplies were. One of the bins stuck out farther than
the rest. Brian went to it, knowing what he'd already find and still, he couldn't stomach it.
Brian pulled her out of the bin, grabbed the box cutter on the shelf and cut the packing tape that bound her
ankles and hands together. He grabbed a roll of toilet paper from the same rack and used it to wipe some of the
blood from her nose and mouth. He pushed the bin aside and found her torn slacks, and fumbling, helped her
put them back on. God only knew where her underwear wound up. Amanda buttoned her blouse in silence, tears
spilling down her swollen cheeks and stinging the open wounds on her lips.
Josh managed a garbled plea for his life through the congealing blood in his throat and mouth. The two men left
the apartment and locked the door behind them with Josh's key. They exited the building and left in their car
without anyone noticing as Josh fell off the chair that restrained him, the nine-inch nails protruding from his
knees clinking off the tile floor. His face struck one of the six fingers they removed and sent it skittering into a
gelatinous facsimile of his left eye and past what had once been his nose. Consciousness drained from his
remaining eye as the pain roared from the darkness and swallowed him whole.
Brian helped her into the passenger seat of his car, closed the door and walked around to the other side. They
drove in silence to the hospital, where they went in through a back entrance, led by an orderly and a doctor, who
promised to do everything in their power to make Amanda whole again. She looked through a swollen eye at
Brian, knowing being whole meant being with him. He smiled at her and took her hand as they loaded her onto a
“It's gonna be okay,” he told her.
His cell phone rang. He turned from her and answered.
“It's done,” the man on the other line said.
“Good. Any witnesses?”
“ 'Course not.”
“Is he dead?”
“He wishes he was.”
“What about your 'rehabilitation' and all that newfound goodness?”
“Old habits die hard.”
“It's good to have you back, boss,” Xavier said, pulling the Town Car into the hospital parking lot.