Welcome to the final installment of Once Upon a Friday. If you want to read the rest of the story, the links are here:
As a side note, I expect to publish a collection of these Wednesday Fiction stories sometime in the New Year, adding another layer of polish to them and some new information, along with a few short stories that haven’t yet seen the light of day. I’ll fill you in on the details as it approaches.
David and Noah waited in silence, breathless, as Chip loomed outside the conference room. Noah idly wondered who might have given them up, for he had no doubt that someone had told Chip their rough location. Had it been the woman down the hall?
Another tap on the glass, and Noah jumped, just barely containing a surprised shout.
Chip leaned against the glass. “Come on. I know you’re in there.”
Noah felt like vomiting. A not-unnatural reaction, he thought.
Chip jiggled the door handle and muttered a curse when he found it locked. “Come on guys. I just want talk.”
Noah was quite sure the “talk” would be safe and friendly and have nothing to do with the gun in Chip’s hand.
David tapped him on the shoulder and whispered, “maybe we should open the door.”
Noah looked back to the colossal idiot in his presence, his eyes wide. “Are you out of your mind?”
He shrugged. “What if he tries to shoot out the glass, and the bullet goes wide?”
Should he even dignify the question? Sadly, he didn’t have much choice. He shook his head. “Uh uh. Not happening.”
Chip rendered the conversation moot by bashing through the glass with the pistol’s butt. The glass shattered, falling in a cascade of shards that pelted the mustard yellow carpet. Chip poked his head through, reaching for the door handle on the inside. “Ready or not!”
Acting on pure instinct, Noah rose from behind the conference room table, hands up. “All right, you got me, dude.”
Chip unlocked the door and stepped through. Noah noticed right away that he hadn’t pointed the pistol at him once. He hoped that meant he would be safe, but he didn’t have any delusions that things would stay the same, especially if Chip figured out that David had hidden in there as well. “It’s Jenkins, right?” he said.
Chip kicked at the pile of glass. “You seen that son of a bitch? Somebody saw them coming this way, but I can’t find him.”
So whoever had spilled their guts had talked about David, but not Noah.
Interesting. “I think I saw him heading for the elevator.”
Chip glanced over his shoulders at the elevators, then back toward Noah, narrowing his eyes. “I don’t think so, buddy. He couldn’t have gotten there without me seeing him.”
Noah tasted the aluminum of fear in the back of his throat. “You sure? I saw him running past the door.”
“How’d you see that from over there?”
Oh, fuck. “You know he’s going to get away, right?”
Chip glanced around the room, licking his lips. “Yeah, I don’t think so, dude. Where is he? He’s here, right?”
Noah shook his head. “I don’t know where you…”
The pistol made a thundering sound in the room when Chip raised it and plugged a shot into the conference room table. David squeaked and rolled out from behind the table, hands raised over his head as he got to his feet.
Chip laughed. “Well, well. Lift a rock and all sorts of bugs scurry on out.”
“We don’t want any trouble,” David said.
“That’s not what you were saying this morning, dude. This morning you were all about bringing down the thunder on yourself, weren’t you?” He raised the pistol, approaching David. “You were a real fucking man, huh? King of your domain, Alpha Male of the corporate jungle.”
Noah lifted his hand toward Chip. “Hey, come on, don’t do that. You could hurt somebody.”
Chip grinned at him. “You think? Gee, it’s almost like I want to hurt somebody. But why would that be?” He looked at David. “Huh? Can you think of a reason?”
“It wasn’t my fault,” David pleaded.
Chip took another step and Noah came between the two of them, raising his arms. “Come on. Seriously. Let’s just slow down and think about it.”
Chip’s eyes flared. “Yeah, why don’t we think about it? Why don’t we think about not being able to keep a roof over our family’s head? You really going to do that when your job is safe?”
“I know today has been shit and you have every right to hate Jenkins – ”
“Hey!” David protested.
” – But this is only going to make things worse.”
“You’re wrong. It’s the only way.” Chip raised the pistol. “I don’t want to have to do this, man.”
“I’m telling you, it’s not necessary. It’s the opposite of necessary,” Noah said, raising his hands again as if they could stop the bullet.
“Get out of the way, dude.”
Noah shook his head. “Can’t do it.”
Chip ground his teeth and smashed his free fist against his temple. Noah could see the start of tears in his eyes. “You don’t get it. If he gets away with this, the assholes win, and I can’t let that happen.”
“But if you go to jail, the assholes also win.”
Chip smirked. “Who said I’m going to jail?”
Nausea rose in Noah’s stomach again. “Oh, come on. No. You can’t do that. What about your family?”
“What about them? He sure as fuck didn’t care about them, and besides, they’ll have the insurance to take care of them. It’s a hell of a lot better than having a broke, useless father.”
David cleared his throat. “Actually, our life insurance doesn’t pay out on a suicide.”
Noah whirled and glared at David.
Chip was a step ahead of Noah, though, and tried to push him out of the way. “Are you fucking kidding me?” When Noah resisted him, he tried to aim the pistol around him and seemed to have just enough of a bead to wing David. Noah winced, waiting for the shot to go off in his ear, but something struck Chip’s hand first.
Chip cried out and took two steps backward, fumbling with the pistol.
Noah winced and threw his arms up. It only seemed a matter of time before his finger slipped and the bullet exploded from the chamber.
Thankfully, nothing came before Chip dropped the pistol. Regaining his momentum, Chip went to retrieve the pistol from the carpet, but a voice from behind stopped him:
“Uh uh. Not another move.”
Mike. Oh thank God. Noah had never thought he would be so glad to see the bastard.
Mike had his own pistol, and he pushed it up against Chip’s neck. “All right. Come on, we’re walking out of here and taking you downstairs to the cops. No one’s dying.”
“Can’t do that, dude,” Chip said.
“You’ve got a gun to the back of your head. Game over.”
Noah spoke up. “He wants to kill himself.”
Mike narrowed his eyes. “What? For real? Where’s your head?”
David pressed ahead of Noah, going for the pistol, but he took a hesitant step back when he saw the fire in Chip’s eyes. He looked to Mike. “Where is security?”
“Last I saw, they were escorting the poobahs out from the ninth floor, of course,” Mike said, and pressed the pistol against Chip. “Now come on. Let’s go down there together like good kids.”
Chip shook his head. “Can’t do it. How do you know your job wasn’t next?”
“Uh, ’cause I’m a hell of an employee?” Mike said.
“Actually…” David said, but Noah gave him a death stare. He shut up, pulling away from the group.
Chip took advantage of the confusion and began lowering himself toward the pistol, his eyes shining with focused rage.
“No, man, dude, what are you doing?” Mike said.
Chip said nothing; he kept kneeling, slow and deliberate, body language just daring Mike to take the shot.
Mike’s eyes were a study in panic. “Dude. Come on. That isn’t how this works. You’re supposed to be scared of this.”
Chip scoffed. “You won’t shoot me.”
“I fire this thing every weekend. I’ll do it.”
“Chip…Mike…” Noah said, feeling like he should say something to stop this slow-motion train-wreck but unable to summon much more than that.
As Chip’s hand touched the pistol, Mike squeezed the trigger. Chip cried out and fell forward, dropping the pistol once again. Noah cringed and flinched and David screamed as a spray of crimson flew from Chip’s back.
Noah noticed a problem right away: Chip hadn’t gone down. In fact, he stood right in front of Noah, a look of dazed confusion on his face. He reached back and touched the spot where Mike had shot him, his hand coming back red.
He turned and looked at Mike, extending the hand toward him. “Dude, did you fucking shoot me with a paintball gun?”
Of course. That’s how he got a pistol inside the building, Noah thought. Then something else occurred to him: he had to act; this was the one shot. This wasn’t a matter of words, more a matter of adrenaline and purpose that sent him forward. He elbowed Chip as he passed him, scooping up the pistol by the barrel. He extended it toward Mike, grip-first, in one motion.
Bewildered, Mike took it, looking between the two pistols. At last he raised both weapons and pointed them at Chip. “All right. Two to none. What do you have to say now?”
Chip’s answer? He turned and slugged David in the mouth.