In this week’s 60-second read we meet Orin Varneys, Director of OSSIS (the Office of Special Strategic Intelligence Services), and get a look into the formative relationship between him and protagonist Bobby Austin.


Director Varneys’ office was impressive by anyone’s standards, but Varneys radiated such imposing authority and gravitas that he overshadowed it. Orin Varneys stood five feet seven inches tall and appeared to be in his mid-forties. Although portly now, his build was still so broad and thick that no one would be surprised to learn that he went through college on a wrestling scholarship. His almost square head was far too large for his body and looked suitable for mounting in a hunting lodge. Thinning black hair was oiled and combed straight back, and his small dark eyes were set wide on his head, almost like a fish. His mouth was a long lateral slit with no discernible lips and his ears were large, swollen looking items. While his teeth were peculiarly small, he appeared to have many more than was usual and they were badly stained, probably from too much cigar smoking.

Varneys rose from the chair behind his ebony Louis XVI desk and motioned perfunctorily to Uhlman and Bobby to take the two seats in front of him. They sat down, as he did, and Varneys proceeded to just stare at Bobby. He said nothing to him. He just kept staring intently at him with his shiny dark eyes. He propped his left elbow on the desk, rested his chin in his left hand and then stared some more. When a seemingly inordinate amount of time had passed, Varneys said, “So, finally, I meet Robert James Austin. John, why didn’t you let Austin and me get together years ago? Shame on you.” Varneys laughed. Uhlman managed a mechanical smile.

“You know, director, on the trip to D.C., I was thinking how strange it is,” Bobby said. “You’re a person whose had such a major influence on my life, and yet we’ve never met or even spoken with each other. You came into my life at age five and now I’m twenty. All these years have passed. That’s quite extraordinary when you think about it.”

“I prefer to be behind the camera. That’s where I perform best.”

“I see. You’re the wizard behind the curtain. The puppet master.”

“I don’t see myself that way. But I understand the analogy. I have a job to do and I try to do it as effectively as possible.”



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Related: August 1: 60-second Read from Miracle Man