Poor maintenance kept the lights flickering as they should have been replaced long ago. The strobe effect of the lights allowed the shadows to dance with gloom. It was an especially late night for the high paid errand runner. Even without the lights playing their game with his imagination he kept a wary almost frightened vision of everything around him. Kristopher hated late nights. After his last stop to a southern city near the capital, he had no choice. When he returned, it was already way past his normal departure time.
Cool night air had made his breath create a vapor from the warm breath. He had a dozen keys on his key chain. Being an older model car to avoid attention two of the keys belonged to the automobile. Those two seemed to hide on the ring that held all dozen together. It always caused a delay in leaving for anywhere. Every time he was delayed, he thought of getting them a separate key chain. That thought was quickly dismissed as it would create another item for him to lose.
Hooded sweatshirts were practical in two ways. On nights like this, they provided the extra warmth needed to get from the building to his car. It also proved a camouflage of his wealth when he travelled to less trustworthy locations. Problems arose only when he had to look more professional. Tonight, he was pulling every bit of warmth out of the sweatshirt. He guessed with some of their business it was probably a good thing they had no larger finger print.
“I am telling you, hitting the parked cars is a smart move.” Antonio was adamant in his target selection. Holding tight to a can of gas he was ready to spring when Harold gave the word. “It is close to their offices. It won’t harm anyone. And it will create a discomfort for all those who work in the nearby office. The same people who had no problem putting us on the street.”
Clear lines in Harold’s mind could not trace how it would hurt the company with the fire in a parking lot. The damage would be minimal. It would not even cost much funds to repair what was destroyed by the fire. Structural design made it impossible to destroy in a simple fire. “So you want to burn something that will be hard to burn?”
“No, I want to destroy it.” Antonio snapped back. “Just like they destroyed our life, piece by piece chipped away.”
“With one can of gas?” Harold had a bigger idea of how to hurt the company. This plan seemed to have more risk than reward for minimal damage.
“No with this,” Antonio peeled back his jacket. The revealing of three sticks of dynamite taped together with a long fuse.
“Okay, I guess you are dedicated.” The sight was startling. “Where did you get those?” Still the shock having never been this close to explosive, Harold was stammering over his words. Somehow, the dynamite placed a level on their actions that Harold had not realized. He knew they were going to after Stanley Tire and Rubber with everything they had. They wanted to make a stand. The thought of crossing into terrorism was a step Harold did not think he would take. It was amazing those brownish red sticks represented a reality of the situation. A reality where the News would not dismiss their actions as accidents was harnessed in those sticks.
“Do you really want to know?” Antonio was a man of means with connections Harold did not know about. Harold knew how much Antonio’s life shadowed his. Harold was told Antonio’s wife took his kids shortly after Jess took Harold’s. The layoffs hit them both the same day. And the jobs they applied for were always the same. Antonio was essential in the plans they made up until this moment. Still there was so much Harold did not know about his friend. He did not know the criminal side. He did not know the side of Antonio that fed into other schemes.
“No, I guess you handled logistics before I even thought of them. As long as you can keep that supply line open I don’t need to know.” Harold resigned to the fact he had to trust others to do their jobs. It was hard not doing and planning every part. He knew the job he was capable of doing. Leading his movement was the first real leadership Harold had ever done. Even in his family, Jess for the most part, made the hard decisions.
“Don’t worry I got your back.” Slapping Harold on the shoulder, Antonio was ready to move forward. “Now let’s go get on the front page.”
Sharp eyes had taken over monitoring the cameras. Sienna was beginning her shift and complacency had not yet set in for the day. The other shift was still present and her supervisor still had not hid in the back office. She had unloaded her lunch into the refrigerator and took up the better chair.
Eight incredibly boring hours awaited her. There were always two chairs in the computer room. The padded one stolen from an office cubicle, and the cheap folding chair, bought to satisfy the contract. Sienna had been in the company long enough to know the good chair. She knew how to get it, when to arrive and who to talk to get the chair secured. It usually cost her a homemade treat but it was well worth the cost.
Images shifted over the eight screens. Each screen representing a property under their eyes. Cameras were always recording. The eight screens changed views in a timely manner. Rotating along their preprogrammed routes the view scanned along the paths to give the on shift officer an eye almost everywhere. Along with the alarms and other prevention techniques gave many possibilities for an issue to happen. Unfortunately for the late night shift those possibilities never paid off.
The alarms misfiring made watching the abandoned factories a necessity. Missing one alarm that turned out to be a real incident would mean finding new employment. Leniency was not something that described any action from her supervisor. The whole point of her job was to watch over, to know what alarms were real and which ones were fake.
Coffee was the only thing that could get her through the later hours, she needed to keep her mug full. Sienna feared the day where the caffeine no longer affected her. Once again, the shift prior did not make a pot. Courtesy was not a daily occurrence in the workplace. Sienna figured there were others still around that could cover watching the cameras while she made another pot. Being one of the older guards she knew more about making coffee than the prior shift. Coffee she could drink, and not just try to get down to deliver caffeine.
Sizzling as the last few drops finished the brewing process and fell into the pot. Sienna was about to finally get her first mug. Anticipation over something so trivial, gave her pause to wonder what her life had become. She whispered to herself that her kids were right, she became lame. Just when she was ready to harvest a cup the shift supervisor pulled her away to go over some instructions. Sienna mumbled about how it is always something. She just wanted the one thing before she gave the company one hundred percent of her effort.
Disappointment and frustration hit her in the face the moment she returned. The previous shift officer was filling his thermos with the entire pot. “Thank you for making a pot, now I don’t have to stop at home.” The short man from the previous shift announced, not sure who left the pot full. Sienna wanted to raise a fuss. It would not have done her any good the man was already heading out the door. She would have to keep her lips shut on yet another travesty at work. Everyone had things they kept bottled up she justified. Sienna thought the late shift had more things they had to accept because they were not the star employees. They were not in the spotlight unless things went wrong. Blame was easy to pass to them. The office workers barely ever saw any of the late shifts. They were simply names to the ones who made decisions.
Part of her memory made the single mother wonder if she was the only one who knew how to do anything. She did the cooking and cleaning at home. She did the laundry. She helped with homework. At work, Sienna made sure the supplies were stacked. Coffee seemed to be only made by her hand. If there were extra tasks to the guards to accomplish they were left for her. The whole process was tiring. With the coffee finally made again, she sat down to drink her reward.
Slowly the day was starting as the hot coffee hit the back of her throat. The caffeine fix did not cheer her up past the frustration of the shift, the coworkers, or her children’s dismissal of her contributions to their lives. She was thankful that she at least had Harold. Sending him a quick text message over her phone would brighten her day. He always knew when to reply. It was not what he said, it was the fact he replied at all, no matter the time was what she needed. To be thought of by anyone would be a welcomed change.
The screens in front of her had distracted her from her phone. Daily patterns told her the parking deck should be empty this time of night. Instead, there was a young man in a hooded sweatshirt taking a long time at a car. Sienna wondered, should she call the police or if this would give her an opportunity to get away from the prison that was the security room. If the man truly was a thief stealing the car, he would probably be gone by the time she got there anyway. There seemed to be no real danger. Besides she wanted to get away for a bit. “Hey watch the monitors I am going to check out lot three.” She did not give her boss an option, Sienna was going.
Finally finding the key Kristopher breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Air around him turned into an even heavier cloud of steam. The cloud of relief meant he could finally go home. Days like today were ones he would think about when he started to love his job. They would be a reminder of the bad that went with the good. A heavy payday might make him forget days like today, but it would have to be an amazing amount to get his mind clear of this memory. Turning the key the door became unlocked, and Kristopher took one last deep breath before getting ready to get in. The cloud of fresh steam moved to join another cloud slightly behind him.
Before he could react the knife tip burst through his sweat shirt. His heart instantly pierced the messenger’s muscles contracted, arching him back. Yancey caught Kristopher before the body hit the ground. Blood soaked a circular pattern in the sweatshirt turning the grey material crimson. The urges had been met. Kristopher had paid the price for his role in poisoning the weaker willed.
Yancey could go into work now without them harassing him. The only thing he had left to do was place the body into the car behind the driver seat to delay any watching eyes. When the urges subsided, he had a great sense of accomplishment. Yancey could not help it. He had justified the mental disorder that his ancestors suffered were genetic, and it was just smarter to give into it. Shutting the door of the car, he closed the memory of the kill.
The plan would be to place the gasoline fire on the top floor and the dynamite on the bottom floor. A fire would draw attention while they lit the explosive, and then ran away. Harold was quite proud of his plan even if it was made in haste. Since Antonio had more experience with explosives he would have him find the main support column to target. Harold wanted nothing but rubble left. If they were going to make a statement they were going to make it loud.
He started the walk up the ramps with the gasoline in hand. A pocket started to vibrate and chime loudly, informing Harold of the text message. The buzzing of his phone would have attracted anyone within ear shot. Only one person would text him at this hour, and she was too essential to the next step to ignore. Harold sent a quick reply. Sienna’s trust was too vital to be lost on a missed text. Today’s message would be loud but the plan she was providing intelligence vital to the next major step.
Harold reached the top without another message being sent or received. He assumed that work must have taken her attention away. The plan called for him to pour the fuel along the decorative walls along their base. The fire would then appear from the outside as bigger than it was. There was one problem to his plan.
Harold noticed right away the car sitting on the deck. Moving closer to investigate, it struck Harold odd that anyone would still be at work. He assumed the car would be empty. Most likely it was left overnight by some worker who had other plans. As he closed the distance the old phrase that went along with ‘assuming’ hit him hard. It hit hard enough to knock his plan out.
There sat someone on the driver side. Signs of wear and tear on the car hinted that the person was probably living in the car. Harold knew what it was like to have to struggle and live in your car. The last decade had been rough on him. An instant kinship was bonded with the man sitting in the driver seat. The plan would have to be cancelled.
When he reached Antonio, Harold broke the bad news. “We have to postpone it man. Not that it isn’t a good plan, I just am not sure we can do it without casualties.” Harold relayed about the man in the car.
“Just tell him to leave.” Antonio had thought of all the details prior to this obstacle. He had taken ownership of the plan before he sold it to Harold. The fact that a homeless man was the reason for cancelling it, made him irate.
“If we show him our face, he will go to the authorities the second the fire starts. That is if he makes it out before the explosion. If not we are murderers. Are you ready to be a murderer?” Harold’s temper was growing to match his partner-in-crime’s anger.
“Fine, but one day we may have to weigh what is an acceptable loss.” Getting ready to walk out with Harold he stopped a moment. “Hey I am going to get the dynamite, you go get the car. No need to waste anything.” Antonio disappeared into the shadows. As Harold headed to where they staged the car.
Any gasoline the late shift used would always be questioned. It was a cost that management hated to justify. Sienna justified it by keeping her sanity. Justification and truth were two things she could not report. Reporting this expenditure would be wrapped around possible trespassing. She had been taking notes already. Any report of the incident would take some time to write. That time would be more time away from the monitors. Days that broke up monotony were rare, Sienna cherished how long she could drag this out.
The blue jean jacketed man ran out the entrance of the parking deck. Sienna could not recognize him or the object he was carrying. Something struck her imagination that it was dynamite but she dismissed the thought. Who would blow up the parking deck at night? It would be a waste of time. The thin man looked to be slightly younger than Harold, but had similar features.
People who lived on the street would sometimes take refuge in the stairwell. The rushing man most likely had been scared away from doing the same thing. Sienna felt a bit of pity if the story described his purpose for being there. He only was wearing a jacket. Tonight might be okay if he could find shelter but it was going to get worse. Lake effect snow in northeast Ohio made the next few months deadly. Sienna was not going to pursue the man. She would pray he would find shelter.
It took a few minutes for her to get to the top floor. The car was still in the same place. She could tell the hooded sweatshirt man had slipped into the car. Sienna did not truly care if he parked there overnight but had to by law give him warning. Checking the activity off the procedure list meant she had done everything within the limits of her job. Sienna had a bit of sympathy but not at risking her family’s income.
She parked her vehicle with the headlights aimed directly into the side of the older car. The light would provide better illumination than any hand held flashlight. Plus, keeping the truck running meant keeping the heater running. Sienna hated being cold, she even stated she would rather burn in a fire than ever freeze to death.
Closing the distance, Kristopher’s unblinking eye caught her sight first. A haunting look on his face scared the security guard. She stumbled backwards a bit before going back to the truck. There was not a need to look down at the growing blood stain to know he was dead. The question on whether to call the police earlier was answered. The mundane shift went from routine to one which could never be forgotten.
A memory of the man running had become a more important vision in her mind. The blue jean jacketed man was to be the killer. He was dressed for just a short time, time enough to become a murderer. He would not need anything heavier. The running was probably to get away before he was noticed. Details of his face were becoming clear. When the police arrived she would make sure they got an accurate description. The dead man would have his justice. Sienna felt she already solved the man’s death. The police just needed to pick up the killer.
Once again thank you to the photography of Rick Rupert (Rupertrick@gmail.com)