Etta and Kate burst into the room with mischievous grins and a handful of papers, startling Bertie from his hydrangea-induced reverie.
“Guess what Kate and I found in the archives!” Etta sang, “Roger’s personnel file!”
“No way.” Bertie gasped, “Kate?”
“It’s true.” she grinned, “From before he was stationed on Watchtower 10.”
“Is it okay for us to read that?” Bertie asked as if he wasn’t also burning with curiosity, “Roger wouldn’t like it...”
“Guys!” Etta exclaimed with delight, already halfway down the first page, “His middle name is Warren!”
“Warren?” Bertie laughed softly, rolling the name around on his tongue, “It suits him.”
“Here’s an employee review from a manager at a movie theater!” Etta said excitedly, practically bouncing in glee.
“Read it to us.” Kate grinned, “Was he always this grumpy?”
“Mr. Kaplan is a fine example of work ethic and studiousness.” Etta read aloud with a series of giggles, “Though his attitude towards customers could really use some work. My only true complaint would be his-“ she broke down into raucous laughter, unable to continue.
“Etta, don’t keep us in suspense!” Bertie laughed as Kate took the paper from Etta to continue.
“His insistence on sending outdated memes through the group chat for what I can only assume is a method of torture.” Kate laughed brightly as the other two erupted into peals of laughter.
“Roger? Using memes?” Bertie struggled to catch his breath, “Why don’t we get to see him use memes?”
“I would definitely recommend Mr. Kaplan for promotion, but he is uninterested and refuses the offer each time I ask.” Kate managed to continue, “In addition, he is extraordinarily bad at hiding when he is unhappy. And he is almost always unhappy. Understandably, this makes the customers feel just a bit unwelcome.” Etta shrieked with laughter at that and snatched the paper back.
“Oh this is too good!” she laughed, her eyes scanning the page.
“What else is there, Etta?” Bertie asked eagerly, previous hesitation forgotten, but Etta had fallen silent, “Etta?”
“Uh... guys?” Etta was staring with wide eyes at the paper, “Is... it possible for these things to be wrong?”
“Why?” Kate asked curiously, moving to look at what Etta was seeing. When Etta pointed it out, her eyes widened, “What the hell?”
“What is it?” Bertie asked worriedly, “Guys?”
“Roger’s birthday.” Kate replied, “It says it’s October fifteenth-“
“Yes! Now we can celebrate it!” Bertie cheered.
“-1967.” and the room fell silent.
“Nineteen what?” Bertie’s eyes went wide, “Tell me you read that wrong.”
“It says he was born in 1967!” Etta yelped.
“That’s impossible.” Bertie shook his head, “Impossible! That would make him... fifty one years old!”
“He looks fantastic for his age!” Etta exclaimed.
“He told me he was in his early thirties.” Kate said, eyes narrowed at the papers, “Why would he lie?”
“He really is a crotchety old man.” Etta said helpfully, “Fifty one, wow...”
“This is insane, it has to be a typo!” Bertie felt sick, “It has to be. He’s not fifty one, he can’t be! He looks too young, and I-I-“
“You have a crush on him, and if he’s fifty one that means you’re a weirdo and it would never work.” Kate supplied helpfully, causing Bertie to flush brilliantly.
“No! No, that’s not-“
“What the hell is going on here?” Roger’s annoyed voice made everyone freeze. They looked at him like deer caught in the headlights, and Roger’s scowl deepened, “Well?”
“Uh, Roger?” Etta asked nervously, “How... old are you?”
“What kind of stupid question is that?” he scowled.
“Answer it, Roger.” Kate said calmly. Roger’s eyes darted between them, narrowed suspiciously.
“I’m thirty one.” he said, “Kate, I’ve told you this.”
“What year were you born in?” she asked, piercing eyes never leaving his.
“Why do you care? What’s this about?” he demanded.
“Roger, please answer the question.” Kate asked firmly.
“No. This is stupid. Why are you interrogating me about my age?” he crossed his arms.
“Please, Roger?” Etta implored with big pleading eyes.
“Fine. I was born in Nineteen-Mind Your Own Damned Business.” he said rudely, unmoved by her puppy eyes.
“Is that my file?” his dark eyes sparked with anger as they fell on the papers in Etta’s hand, “What the hell do you think you’re doing with that?”
“Roger, hold on-“ But Roger marched over and snatched it from her hand. He gave it a cursory glance, shoulders tense.
“This is what you’re all freaking out about? The fucking typo?” he snapped, “You have any idea how much trouble this damned thing has caused me? Obviously I’m not fifty one, I thought you’d all be smarter than this!”
“We’re sorry...” Etta looked genuinely remorseful, staring guiltily at the floor. Even Kate had the decency to look apologetic, if still a little suspicious, “It’s an official file, we figured...”
“And Bertie, I’m surprised at you.” Roger turned that glare on him, “These two nosy miscreants I understand, but you?”
“Roger, wait!” Bertie tried to explain, distraught at Roger being angry at him, but Roger turned away from him.
“Never go through my files again.” he ordered, “If you see something pertaining to me, put it back. Respect my privacy, or I swear that chocolate fountain of Etta’s is going into the ocean.” Etta squawked indignantly, but Roger’s glare was too scary to protest against. This wasn’t Roger being Roger, he was truly angry this time.
“Why haven’t they fixed that yet?” Kate asked quietly, “If it really has caused you trouble?”
“Hell if I know. I’ve been bugging them about it since I saw it.” he scowled, “Just forget about it. All of you.”
“Yes, Roger.” they all chimed morosely. Roger stared them down a moment more before turning on his heel and storming away, probably to go brood on the balcony again. The silence he left behind was awkward and heavy, the three of them shuffling awkwardly., none wanting to be the one to break the silence.
“See? A typo.” Bertie said after a moment, giving in, “Nothing more.”
“A typo...” Kate echoed, looking deep in thought, “Right.”
“Kate?” Etta asked worriedly. Kate seemed to shake herself out of it, giving Etta a reassuring smile.
“I’m fine.” she smiled, “I just need to visit the archives again.”
“But Roger said-“
“Not to read about him.” she waved, “Just... following a hunch.”
“A hunch?” Bertie questioned. She gave him an indecipherable look in return.
“Chasing treasure.” she replied enigmatically, “Doubloons, to be exact.”