By Mark W. Meier
Windowed The Soul
When a sailboat is pointed directly into the wind and unable to maneuver.
You were an hour late getting to work the next day. Though you knew your people had things in hand you spent the whole morning feeling like you were in irons. One of the hazards of having so many capable people is feeling superfluous.
You wanted to think about your sailing contest, but the situation in France kept you from concentrating on anything else. I was content to leave you stewing in your own juices. In fact, you used up the entire day and never accomplished anything of consequence.
I smiled to myself. When my clients do nothing I count that as a good day.
Your staff, however, managed to convince the Paris Police Prefecture to allow you to start the process of getting your property outside the city listed for sale. Lepine wasn’t happy, but Kristy Erickson assured him nothing would happen until the investigation was complete. Talvan’s International, the agency you’d be using, was fully aware of your needs as well as those of the police.
The following day gave you enough distance from the explosion that your mind could process other things. You were finally able to think effectively about the sailing race. Thursday afternoon your boat guy sent an email that indicated he’d have your new Neo at Polly’s Landing by Friday morning.
That brought you a thrill of anticipation. However, you couldn’t do anything more than go over the chart again.
As you perused the digital representation of your course, your desk phone rang.
It never rang.
Howe looked up in panic. “I’ll get it, Mr. Grambic.” He lifted his own handset and punched a series of buttons as the sound-dampening shield rose between the two of you.
Your phone rang a second time, and Howe stood. “I can’t pick it up, sir.” Only his head showed above the partition, and he looked wonderfully flustered.
You lifted the receiver in the middle of the third ring. “What?” Your phone shouldn’t be connected to the outside world. All calls were designed to go through the central switchboard and only be sent to your phone by Victor Howe. This call couldn’t be from anyone who deserved your respect.
“Mis-ter Gram-bic. Judge Boynton.”
Your jaw dropped. “What do you want, Boynton?”
The judge chuckled. “Not much, Grambic. I’ve heard of your setback in Paris and wondered if you were going to use it as an excuse to get out of sailing.”
Howe picked up his handset again to track down how a call could get past him.
“It’ll take far more than that.” You scowled. “I have people who will take care of everything.”
“Still planning on trying out your new boat? You call it Sell Short, don’t you?”
You couldn’t figure out how he’d known that. “Boynton, what do you really want?”
“To beat you.” He chuckled. “And to beat you badly. But I can wait until our official race.”
“Don’t sell me short, Judge.”
“Ha. You’re funny, Grambic.”
The line went dead.
“Victor.” You hung up the handset. “Get someone to find out how Boynton got through. If there’s someone at fault, have them fired.”
Howe stood, hand over his phone’s mouthpiece, to look over the noise shield. “Already on it, Mr. Grambic.”
“Is there anything else I need to deal with?”
“Nothing I can’t handle, sir.”
You glanced at the antique clock and guessed you could be at Polly’s Landing by two o’clock. “Call Isaiah. I want to check my boat this afternoon.”
“Very good, Mr. Grambic.”
“And buy yourself a pistol.” You stood and marched toward the elevator. “Take lessons on how to use it, then get a concealed carry permit.”
You didn’t even think of asking if Howe was interested. I knew you would fire him if he balked, and was pretty sure he knew it, too.
“Yes, sir.” There was no note of displeasure in his reply. “Mr. Schwartz will have your car at the elevator when you get to the basement.”
Ten minutes later you were safely ensconced in the back seat of your armored Audi, looking over a printed file your chauffeur handed you. The Paris Police Prefecture had relayed a few more details about the explosion. Apparently a terrorist group had taken exception to your company providing soundproofing for law enforcement interrogation rooms in France.
You scoffed and threw it aside, then began mentally planning your afternoon.
A ticking sound made its way into your consciousness. It had been there all along, but you hadn’t noticed.
You wondered if someone had set a bomb in your car. If an organization had obliterated your factory in Paris, why wouldn’t they plant explosives in the United States?
“Robert, pull over.” Your voice sounded an octave higher than usual. “Now!” The falsetto brought the chauffeur’s foot slamming onto the left pedal.
The massive SUV came to a halt on East Oglethorpe. You dove out the left door into the shrubbery between the eastbound and westbound lanes. Horns honked behind the Audi, but you ignored them.
Bob Schwartz stepped out and stared at you. “Are you okay, Mr. Grambic?”
“There’s a bomb in the car!”
A few passersby gawped at you and moved away from the area. Was it because you were acting insane, or because they heard the word “bomb?” You didn’t know, and I didn’t care. There was a surprise coming.
Traffic behind your vehicle detoured onto Habersham, and only minutes later a police cruiser pulled up behind your car, lights flashing. A police cadet’s jeep stopped at the intersection and the parking cop officially diverted traffic onto the cross street.
A police officer, eyes forever scanning the area, spoke briefly to Schwartz, then came to where you cowered behind a tree. “Mr. Grambic? Your chauffeur says you think there’s a bomb in your car?”
A second patrolman calmly ushered people away from the car and deployed yellow plastic ribbon to encircle the Audi.
“I heard ticking,” you insisted. By now, though, you suspected someone had played a trick on you.
The cop failed to hide a condescending expression. “You do know a digital timer doesn’t tick, right?”
When you realized what he was saying you could have kicked yourself. Nobody would use a clock that ticked as a timer for an explosive.
You headed back to your car, despite the anxiety. “Let me look.” The police didn’t try to stop you rummaging through your Audi’s interior. A small, fat, disc-shaped object, about the size of three stacked silver dollars, had been secured under the middle row of seats. It still ticked every second or so, but obviously didn’t pose any threat. You held it up for the officer to see.
He looked at the device and nodded. “Let’s pack it in. There’s nothing to worry about.”
The traffic cadet nodded and began pulling the caution ribbon from around your car.
You sighed as the last bits of terror faded. “I feel stupid.”
The officer nodded and put a consoling hand on your shoulder. “It happens, sir. Nothing to worry about.”
Though he seemed to understand, his tone was patronizing. You resisted the urge to punch him. Too bad. I could have used that, but my plan would accomplish what I needed.
“I guess I’m a little stressed.” Not to mention that another company’s CEO had been killed less than a year ago. You didn’t mention that, though, because it sounded like a lame excuse – even in your own mind.
“Would you come to my cruiser and answer a few questions, sir?”
You followed the police officer to his patrol car as the cadet finished cleaning up the area.
The cop motioned for your chauffeur to come, too.
The cadet reached to move the wooden sawhorse so traffic could flow again.
The officer reached into his car to retrieve a clipboard.
He turned to ask you a question.
An incendiary charge immolated the interior of your car. Tongues of flame shot ten feet out the three open doors, scorching the greenery in the median.
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