The phone rang in the middle of my meeting.
“Sanders speaking,” I barked into the mouthpiece.
“Sanders!” Mr. Rippley shouted, so loudly I almost dropped the receiver.
“What kind of editor ARE you, approving that Holloway article for publication?”
“Forget it! I’ve heard enough excuses. If you publish one more of Holloway’s terrible articles in my magazine, you’re fired! Do you hear me? Fired!”
The click of the phone and the humming dial tone sounded ominous.
“That does it,” I said to my colleagues. “We have to turn down Hangman Harry Holloway’s article.”
“But Sandy,” Travis whined, “do you remember how angry he got when you tried to refuse him? He threatened to pulverize you.”
“He probably would have, too,” Delia added, “If I hadn’t called the police.”
“Now don’t panic,” I said. “I’ve been working on a plan that should stop Hangman Holloway.”
Suddenly Delia gasped. “I see him!” she said, staring out the window. “Holloway’s coming! He’s right out front.”
“Battle stations!” I cried, pulling out a walkie-talkie. “Francine,” I said into the speaker. “Do you read me? Over.”
There was a crackle of static, then Francine’s voice. “Francine here. I’m at the front desk. Over.”
“Is the elevator out of commission? Over.”
“Yes, sir. Jake shut it down this morning, just as you ordered. Over.”
“Perfect. Holloway has been sighted. He mustn’t be allowed upstairs. Over.”
“Yes, sir,” Francine said. Then, “He’s here! He’s coming in. Over and out.”
We waited in silence until Francine reported back. “The elevator trick didn’t stop him. Now he’s taking the stairs. Over.”
Delia shook her head. “I’m out of here,” she said, retreating through the door.
“Fine!” I shouted. “But I’m not licked yet.” Then I yelled into the walkie-talkie, “This is Sanders calling Jake. Do you read me? Over.”
“Read you loud and clear,” Jake replied.
“It’s time to execute Plan B. Over.”
“No sweat,” Jake said. “I’m on the second floor. I just finished waxin’ the set of stairs leadin’ up to the third level.”
“Perfect,” I said. “Is Holloway coming? Over.”
“Yep. I can hear him poundin’ up them stairs, comin’ this way. I’m gonna hide in the closet and see what happens.”
“Careful,” I warned, but Jake couldn’t hear me. He’d left his button down, blocking communication. Travis and I stood there, listening. In a moment I heard a muffled crash, yelling, Jake shrieking, and silence.
Then a deep voice, not Jake’s, said into the walkie-talkie, “Sanders? I know you’re there. This is Holloway. I’m coming up.”
“No!” I yelled, flinging my walkie-talkie against the wall.
“Travis!” I cried, “Get out there and stop him. Don’t let that man into this office!”
“What are you going to do?” Travis asked, bewildered.
“Hide,” I said, crawling under my desk.
I heard Travis give a muffled sigh. “Alright,” he said. “You’re the boss. But you’re going to have to face him sometime.”
I heard the door close, and I squeezed my eyes shut. “What should I do, Father?” I asked.
“Love him,” a voice whispered to my heart.
“But how?” I pleaded.
Sounds of scuffling filtered in from the outer office. A crash. Then the door opened, and Hangman Harry Holloway said, “Sanders? What are you doing under that desk?”
I peeked out. Holloway stood in the doorway, glaring at me. Travis was nowhere in sight.
“What’s this all about, Sanders,” Holloway growled. “I came here to talk about my article. I want to know when it’s going to be published.”
“It’s not,” I said, trembling.
“What?” The big man shouted. “But you said….”
“I know,” I interrupted. “But the truth is that your writing style is awful. Terrible. We can’t accept any of your articles.”
“In that case,” said Holloway, making a fist.
“Now wait!” I cried. “That doesn’t mean you can’t BECOME a better writer. You have a great imagination, Holloway. You just need more practice.”
The big man eyed me doubtfully. “Do you really mean that?” he asked.
“Because,” he said slowly, “I’ve always wanted to an author … more than anything.”
Suddenly I saw the meaning behind his tough-guy stance.
“I’d be willing to help you myself,” I said tentatively, “Under one condition.”
“That you won’t punch my lights out when I point out your mistakes.”
Holloway’s lips broadened into a huge grin. “Agreed,” he said, offering me Jake’s walkie-talkie.
Travis peered in through the doorway. “All clear?” he asked.
“All clear,” I said, shaking Holloway’s hand.
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