Bishop exited the black town car the company sent for him. Now surrounded by a sea of twenty-foot, floor-to-ceiling glass and ornate furnishings that would make Donald Trump proud, Bishop swam through the massive foyer of Omnivox Technologies.
His mind was still racing from the firefight when he saw the confident blonde, walking straight for him. About his same height, with a slender frame, she could’ve been an athlete or a model or both.
As she looked past him he couldn’t resist the urge to speak. “Can you tell me what floor Data Command is on?”
Charlotte Matthews quickly scanned Bishop from head to toe. First catching his light-brown eyes, she thought, sensitive, intelligent, and a spark of a fire. The next thing to to catch her eye was his jump jacket. Still new it was dirty and torn with black stains on the the left shoulder screamed blood.
Bishop had done his best to clean up at the hotel but hadn’t had time to change before the car arrived.
“It’s on the second floor. But you need an escort. Where’s your jump leader.”
“Where’s your jump leader, you need a level two clearance for Data Command?”
Bishop could sense the rising tension as concern bolted onto Charlotte’s face.
Without a word, Charlotte pivoted on her right foot while grabbing Bishop’s jacket just above his left elbow. She pulled him slightly off balance and his back stiffened as he lunged forward.
“You need to come with me.”
Already moving, Bishop complied. Worn from the stress of the firefight and taken by Charlotte’s beauty, he didn’t have the strength or will to resist her pull.
With every stride Charlotte’s gait grew longer. And by the time they hit the first elevator bank at the far end of the foyer, she and Bishop were nearly at a sprint. Swiping her ID card she pushed the up arrow.
“Where are we going?”
“To the top. He’ll want a full report and I don’t want you to have to tell your story twice.”
“I was told to report to Data Command.”
“Don’t worry, You will.”
Inside the elevator, Charlotte swiped her ID card again and pushed the buttons for both the 12th and 14th floor at the same time, a combination that gave them express access to the 12th floor. Bishop watched the floors tick by in rapid succession, 8 … 9 … 10 ….
Within seconds the doors opened onto a secure reception area for the Office of the Chairman. Charlotte took a step forward with Bishop’s left sleeve in her fist.
Too exhausted to fight, he knew this wasn’t the best way to meet the Chairman and CEO of a billion dollar corporation. The only consolation right now was the beauty, strength, and verve of his escort. A small shred of energy pulsed through his body, as he fought to stay alert. Whatever was about to happen, he hoped its wasn’t his last day on the job or the last time he’d saw Charlotte.
“He’s on a call.” The receptionist said as she looked up at the pair.
Bishop in tow, Charlotte walked right past the chest high marble desk. Grabbing the handle of the 12 ft. mahogany double doors behind her and to the left, Charlotte pushed Bishop through the door unannounced.
Looking up from his desk more than 100 feet away, the Chairman was barricaded by a series of ornate couches and chairs, in multiple sitting areas throughout his expansive corner office.
“Hate to cut you off. I have to go.” Skip Williams quickly hung up the phone.
“Charlie, this is a pleasant surprise.” Skip walked around his desk and maneuvered through the elegant furniture, as he locked in on the strain in Charlotte’s face.”
“Dad, Arnie’s dead.”
Skip’s shoulders and head dropped immediately. For a split second he stood motionless, staring at the floor as he tried to take in the news. A veteran jumper, Arnie was one of the first to enter the program. He was more than just an asset at OmniVox, he was a friend.”
“This is Arnie’s jump partner. I wouldn’t let him tell me what happened until we were here. I didn’t want…”
Charlotte paused, as she turned toward toward Bishop, “I’m sorry, what was your name?” In the shock in hearing of Arnie’s death, Charlotte realized she’d never gotten his name.
“Bishop.” Skip interjected. “Please sit down.”
Skip motioned to his left toward a pair of chairs and a couch near the center of the room.
“Just a moment,” he said holding up his index finger. Skip picked up the phone on the end table, and pressed reception as he looked at Bishop and his daughter Charlie. “Miriam, could you bring in fresh coffee, water, and …”, then looking directly at Bishop, “Would you care for anything else?”
“I’m fine sir.”
“Very good. That’s all Miriam, thank you.” Skip knew this might be a while. He sat in the chair facing the coffee table and farthest from the door. Charlotte was on his right, nearest him on the couch, with Bishop sitting next to her.
“I’ve seen your file. I review all the files of our jump teams. Paul Allen Bishop, but you go “Bishop.” Something to do with a nickname in High School. Dual major in economics and communications from Columbia. Four year letterman in Soccer. Parents passed away when you were four. You were raised by your aunt in South Florida if I recall.”
Bishop sat speechless. Having never met Skip Williams, he was surprised the Chairman knew anything about him. “Yes sir. That’s right.”
“I’m sorry we haven’t met under better circumstances. Please tell me everything you can about what happened on the jump. It’s important you leave nothing out.”
Bishop told Skip and Charlotte every detail he could remember. From landing in a firefight, lying next to Arnie’s bloody, lifeless body and then making his way through the clearing and finally into the protection of the woods where he waited for 45 minutes before the next jump window opened. Then calling Data Command the moment he hit his hotel room where he was told a car would be there in 5 minutes to bring him in.
Bishop laid the transponder and the carbon fiber backpack on the table as Skip and Charlotte sat stone faced. Skip broke the silence.
“I’m very glad you made it back Bishop. Most people need at least 20 to 30 jumps before they understand how to operate the transponder effectively. The fact your sitting here now is quite miraculous.”
Charlotte turned to Skip. “As an NGO we have a clear mandate for this technology. Our sole focus is to gather objective information for reporting and publishing purposes only. Why in the hell would there be coordinates that put Arnie and Bishop in the middle of a firefight.”
“I don’t know. But were going to find out.”
Skip reached for the phone. “Miriam. Get Mitchell on a secure line and patch him through to my office.”
“Yes Mr. Williams.”
Within seconds Skip’s office line rang. “Mitch, where are you?”
“Is Ellis with you?”
“Have him run a coordinate report for all jumps in the last 48 hours and then send it up as soon as he has it. Also drop what you’re doing, I need you up here now.”
“I’m on my way.”
Turning to Bishop with the calm demeanor of a loving father, Skip sought to reassure him they would do whatever it took to find out what went wrong.
“Mitchell Gent is our head of security. We’ve worked together since our days back at DARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for the Department of Defense, some 20 years ago. If anyone can help us get to the bottom of this, it’s Mitch.”
Just then Mitch came through the door. Skip stood up, gesturing him toward the center of the room as he turned to Bishop for an introduction. As Mitch closed the final distance to the three, a quick thunderclap and burst of wind enveloped the far corner of Skip’s office just steps from his desk. In shock, the group turned and looked as two black clad military operatives instantly appeared in the far corner of the office.
Still standing, Skip and Mitch never had the chance to move as a three hollow point bullets from a silenced assault rifle pierced the chest and head of both men simultaneously.
Charlotte screamed as she watched her father collapse in front of her while Bishop once again felt warm blood on his neck.
Without thinking, he grabbed the back of Charlotte’s right arm, pulling her down and toward his chest. He grabbed the transponder and carbon fiber pack off the table. With a twist of the transponder, he and Charlotte were sitting in the calm of his hotel room. The last coordinates programmed into the transponder from his jump with Arnie just hours earlier.
Author’s note: This week’s post is a revision of last week’s “Chased”. Why an edited version of last week’s piece? Three reasons: (1) the dialogue was stilted (stiff, self-conscious, and unnatural), (2) the reader new nothing “about” my main character, so why should they care about him? [both of these critiques came from Jinn and Dogwood during our last podcast], and (3) I don’t want to create an ‘Empire of Dirt.”
This line is from this week’s creative prompt. Toward the end of the song Johnny Cash says … “And you could have it all, my empire of dirt.” It’s a statement of regret. Regret for building something that doesn’t matter. I couldn’t get that line out of my head. So I used it to spur me on to fix my mistakes now. I spent a little time reading about dialogue, and how to show and not tell. And while I hope this is a bit better this week … one thing I did learn was that I have a whole heck of a lot to learn. Especially if I want to avoid creating an empire of fictional dirt.
Thanks for reading.
This week’s flash fiction prompt came from me…
Hurt written by Trent Reznor, performed by Johnny Cash
These weekly garage fiction posts are an ongoing project with two other writers: Jinn Zhong and Dogwood Daniels. We post on Fridays and dissect on Mondays via podcast.
WARNING: Depending on how Jinn and Dogwood are feeling, their writings, posts, or podcasts may warrant an R rating for mature content (99% of this comes from Dogwood).
This writer accepts no responsibility for what you may read or infer from the other two (unless its really meaningful, and powerfully impacts your life in a positive way).
Godspeed… and I hope you enjoy our project.