The pressure from his fingers boeing inring in to his temples was as intense as a tire jack. His eyes were so wide they could reflect the glowing laptop screen in front of him. The screen saver should have come on by now but it hadn’t. It was just another glitch in his world now. Everything had come down in an almighty crash at the board meeting that morning that he had had to miss for personal reasons. The email now floating in the cyber world was short and to the point. By a unanimous vote, the board had voted in favor of removing its CEO. Someone as young, smart, and handsome as him should have never been removed by a board of old men. They had called him the company’s prized tycoon and now they had pulled him from his thrown and cast him down to the dogs.
He blinked before his eyes began to water. Outside the night life of Kansas City was buzzing with its Friday vigor. He was ignored now. The lights in his office were off. The only light was that damned email, softly floating for him to read again and again. He loosened his skinny black tie and untucked his well pressed shirt. He sat down and stared for just a moment more. His nerves choked his senses and he grasped his hair with both his hands, hissing an intake of breath. With a final defeated moan, he pulled open his desk and lifted out a bottle of clear, liquid mood-lifter and drank straight from its neck. The fire felt hotter this time.
Placing the bottle next to the glowing screen he wondered where he was going to go. The condo was paid for by the company. Maybe he could sneak in one more night. The car would have to go. That beautiful black Camaro. If only he hadn’t spent so much personal cash on that company promotion bash. He was supposed to have been refunded. If the old goats were sly enough to pass this vote and not inform until five hours later they surely were not about to send him a check for a nearly sixty grand. This was not a night to be alive.
Pushing away from the desk, he took his leather bag and marched out the doors one last time. No one was in the office at this hour. Even the custodian was gone. He let himself out into the garage and ignited the engine on the Camaro. He’d never heard it purr so deeply before. It was almost out of gas too. He felt around in his bag for his wallet and pulled out the company’s plastic. One last time.
Maneuvering down city streets full of entertainment vampires, he swerved around like a stunt driver into a Chevron. The lights were blinking and flickering like they do at night just to irritate the customers while they sat around waiting for their cars to finish devouring the hard earned cash in their wallets through rubber hoses. While he waited, a woman with dirty dread locks ambled toward to the station with a shopping cart full of dirty and smelly city-growth. Something smelled like it was decomposing. He coughed politely and pulled the wool collar of his long coat up to hide his face. She stopped walking, staring at him, and the steam from her mouth rising in slow beats.
The car could not fill fast enough. She began to shuffle towards him again, her one eye visible beneath her hair was wide and trained on his hand. That was enough gas. He pulled the pump out and gasoline sloshed all down his coat and pants. He swore quietly and jammed the pump back in place. He turned and she was not two steps from him. He twitched in surprise.
“Can I have a dollar? That’s all I need to buy my kids some McDonalds or something. Just a dollar. You got a dollar.”
It wasn’t a question. The honest answer was that he didn’t have a physical dollar and maybe not even an electronic one anymore. He tried to ignore her and shuffle around but she leaned into him.
“That’s all I need,” she repeated.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t have one. I really don’t.”
She took hold of his arm and something hard pressed in to his side. Her other hand was holding something close to his side just above his fifth rib.
“A dollar. That’s all,” she said through mossy teeth.
Looking down, he saw the shiny black neck of a hand gun was pressed in to his side.
“I don’t have a dollar. I really don’t.”
She growled and thrust her hand in to his pocket. With her distracted, he seized her gun with his hand and twisted and pulled to take it from her. She held on tight and cried out, using her other hand to push his face away. They struggled and the lights still flickered. She was strong for a homeless woman. Finally, he had the handle in his fingers and he yanked with all his might.
The report cracked and echoed off the ceiling and the stations store’s walls. Then the sound traveled down the street farther than it normally would have it the weather hadn’t been so cold. The woman fell to the ground, making a grunting gurgling noise in her throat. She began to shriek, louder and higher with every cry. She pointed up to him. Her blood was seeping out from under her, crawling towards him. He panicked and put his hand over her mouth to shut her up. With a growl like a cat, she sunk her brown teeth in to his hand. He cried out more in disgust than pain. The man the store was on the phone, crying and talking very fast with his hands.
He took the gun up off the floor and the woman screamed again. He covered his face from the store’s view and shot the woman in the face. The first time shut her up. The second time took her right eye and temple with it. The third sunk in to her skull and made her head jump.
Snow began to fall straight down without any wind to redirect its path. Down to the pavement where it started piling up. In the silent night, sirens began to call his name and wail for the death of the lady. He held his hands steady as he wiped the gun on his coat and ran in to the dark streets away from the hellish flickering. Winter air cuts through a person’s lungs like breathing frozen rose stems. He only made it to the bridge before the panting was too much for him. Grasping the rail to save his fall, he clutched it and his chest. Underneath him was a river running as if it could escape the ice. He looked over the edge, wondering. He was so cold already. Down the street was a diner that sold coffee at all hours. It was cheap, but it was warm. The walk there would be risky but he thought he’d be able to make it. Down the road the other way, he could see the blue and red lights dancing across the street.
He pushed himself up, his mind made up. A car sped down the street towards him, lights on high, and kicked up a load of slush and ice melt in to his face. At the same time, the driver had flicked a lit cigarette out the window. He only had a few moments to remember the woman before his pants and coat erupted in a blaze of warm, excited fire.