Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Up and Down (04/02/09)
TITLE: How Hard the Mighty Fall
By Diana Smith
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A stunned security guard held open the door as an ample man huffed past him. The office tower was still dark and the CEO had never been spotted arriving there before sunrise. Shadowed with a deep frown and leaving a sharp smell of sweat in his wake, Mr. Fox was almost unrecognizable draped in a wrinkled trench coat. He stamped straight to the elevators.
“Come on, come on,” he muttered through clenched teeth, plump finger poking the glowing button. With a glance at his Rolex, he willed the doors to open.
The car shook slightly as he stepped on and spun around, bouncing with impatience. His Rolex received another glare. “Lousy elevator, come on.”
Blinking digital numbers climbed with aching slowness. His penthouse office had never seemed so high and the hollow jazz music playing strung his nerves even tighter. The mirrored walls hurled a reflection at him, as if sneering and mocking at his frazzled appearance. A frumpy coat covered the unkempt suit he had not changed out of and his normally gelled-back steel grey hair stood straight up. Bloodshot eyes squinted from his stark white face. It looked as if he had seen several flocks of ghosts and could find no means of escape.
He strode down the dim hallway and swung open his office door with a crash. The first step was to ransack his assistant’s desk. Phone messages, memos, receipts – they could all incriminate him and must be destroyed. The silly girl could be bought or forced to keep her mouth shut, but the papers had to disappear. His manicured fingers shook as document after document ran through the shredder. Fear, dread and an intense survival instinct made a volatile cocktail coursing through his blood, forcing action beyond natural endurance.
His desk was next. After a swift rifle through the drawers, he spied the laptop perched on his walnut table holding virtually all of his records. It was scooped up violently to be hidden away and smashed to bits somewhere far from here. A quick phone call this morning had assured him a seat on the first flight out to the Cayman Islands – that would have to be far enough. Surely they couldn’t reach him there. Surely he and his money would be safe.
Fleshy jowls rose and fell with each deep gulp. They would be looking for him right now and any idiot could have guessed that he would come here. Time was short. His eyes scanned the room, falling on a framed snapshot. It was the former president and Mr. Fox standing on the ninth tee at Pebble Beach. They had often golfed there privately together, but this had been some sappy charity gig with photographers scrambling for photo opts. It wasn’t a particularly flattering shot of the men, but it sat prominently on his desk to remind others of who his friends were. That picture showed everyone how high Randall Fox had risen; how unreachable he was. Or so he had thought yesterday.
His wandering mind snapped back to reality and he finished his examination of the room. It would have to do - he had been here too long already.
The doors slid open quietly and he attempted to slow his loud, wheezing breath as he boarded the elevator. Clutching the laptop across his chest, he stared at the ceiling of the descending car. Hopefully that cabby had listened to him and waited around the corner with the engine running. The wad of bills Mr. Fox had flashed before stumbling out should have kept the taxi there - nothing made people pant like cold, hard cash.
The elevator shuddered as it landed on the bottom floor.
Steps away from escape, he strode towards the door with his chin tucked into his collar. A chilly whoosh sliding across the floor raised his eyes and he heard the security guard’s voice crack.
“May I help you gentlemen?”
Endurance sank into his toes with the sight of the dark suited men. It was too late.
They flashed golden badges and discreetly surrounded him. “Good morning Mr. Fox. We’ll need to have a few words with you please.”
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