The phone rang. She picked up the receiver knowing it would not be good. Evelyn Blackmon had become too much of a problem. She knew too much and stirred the waters too loudly. Now Kevin Emile and her lackey Kate Sanchez were putting their noses where they did not belong.
“This is Bianca Devore’s office. Who’s this and how may I help you?”
“You know who this is,” the inhuman voice said from the other side. Phone apps could do amazing things to disguise one’s voice. “We are highly disappointed on the project’s current course, and we are highly disappointed in you, Ms. Devore.”
“I have very little to do with it,” Bianca answered. “Evelyn used the project to snoop around and she got too close. So I discarded her.”
“Evelyn has been a thorn in my side for far too long,” the voice said. “Perhaps it is time to take her off the board permanently.”
“I agree,” Bianca said. “She crossed the line. The FBI is now involved. She’s sidetracked the project for too long. I’ve already contented the cleaner to wipe the stain. Can you handle the feds for me?”
Bianca heard coughing in the background. “Already done,” the voice answered. “Agent Fisk and Wingright will no longer be involved. Their superior was none too happy about their visit to our fair city. They won’t bother our plans. Are Sanchez and Emile becoming a problem?”
“Not yet,” Bianca answered, “but they may soon.”
“I have plans for the boy,” the voice said. “It’d be a shame, Bianca, if he got in the way. Tell me he’s not in the way.”
“I doubt it. The boy’s a dreamer. He’s spineless and without direction. He just needs the proper focus and incentive.” Her lips curved into a predatory smile. “I’ll handle him.”
“What about the Sanchez girl? She’s a wild card. Wild cards are very dangerous.”
“I’ll send her message she can’t ignore. If she does not get the message, I’ll have the cleaner take care of her.”
“That is satisfactory. We need the project, “Topeka Is Awesome”, to go without a hitch. A lot of money is riding on this. Bring Kevin up to speed with the plan. He doesn’t need to know everything. Just enough to get the job done.” More coughing was in the background.
“He will soon be in my office. I know what needs to be done.”
“Don’t fail us. We have high hopes for you.” The phone clicked.
Just then, someone knocked at the door. “Come in, Emile.”
Kevin Emile walked in nervously. He shut the door behind him. He stood there awkwardly. He eyes focused on the carpet on the floor.
“Please, have a seat.” Bianca pointed to one of two nice black leather chairs in front of her mahogany wood desk. “This conversation will go much easier if you look me in the face, Emile.”
Her voice was cold and hard. It reminded him of his mother when he was caught doing something wrong. Was he in trouble? He looked up.
Bianca Devore had a pretty face. She wore her dirty, blonde hair in a bun like you’d see in Little House on the Prairie. Thin rimmed glassed rested on the tip of her long, sharp nose. She wore red hot lipstick but little else for makeup. Still, there was something about her that was cold and hard like her voice. On second thought, she was creepy.
“Do you think I’m pretty?” she asked softly, her voice almost a purr.
“I guess so,” he answered nervously. Who was this woman?
“Is that the best you can do?” she asked seemingly annoyed. She tapped something on her desk.
“I think you’re beautiful, Ms. Devore,” he said with more resolve. Definitely creepy.
“That’s better,” she replied. “What do you want, Emile.”
“I want to move away from this miserable town, possibly get a job somewhere in California. Live the dream. Have a happy life. I don’t know. I’d love to be anywhere but here.”
“It’s a good thing you chose the West Coast, Emile. Cities like Boston and New York would chew you up and spit you out in the bat of an eye. Now tell me why you are here in my office?” He was too easy, already playing into her hands. She controlled the conversation and therefore controlled him. He simply allowed it. Weakling.
“I don’t even know where I’m at,” he responded. “And my name is Kevin.”
“You have to do something great or incredibly bad to get an invitation to my office. Guess which one you did.”
Kevin raised a finger as he answered. Nothing came out of his mouth. He lowered his hand in shame.
“You were given a simple task, complete project 3A799-2 ‘Topeka is Awesome.’ This is the ticket to all your dreams, yet you’ve been dithering this away with that intern.”
“Her name’s Kate, by the way. I just wanted you to know.”
“I don’t care what her name is. I could call you Emily if I wanted to and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“How’d you know about that?” Kevin asked. That was the name kids used to make fun of him growing up. He hated that name.
“I know everything about you, Emile. I know when you wake. I know when you sleep. I know you slept with a stuff dog in your bed until you were eighteen. There is nothing you can hide including your mishap at the intern’s home.”
“Who are you?”
“I represent the true power in every state in this country.”
“The governor,” Kevin answered even though there was no question.
“Politicians come and go. Republican and Democrat, they both mean nothing to us. We are always in control. We are the bureaucracy that makes or breaks a city, a state, or a country. We are the true power, not the people. People may fight us, politicians may try, but we always win. My supervisor has plans for this city, and you are a big part of it.”
“What do you want from me?” Kevin asked angrily.
“We want you to finish the job that you’ve been assigned. We want it done right. We can all benefit from a job well done.”
“I didn’t ask for this job. This was Evelyn Blackmon’s project. You should have let her done it. Why did you fire here? I don’t get it. What’s with the stupid manuscript? Why is the FBI after it?”
“Those answers come with a price. I’ll give it to you, but you can’t tell anyone. The moment you know is the moment I own you body and soul. Are you ready to pay? Do you really want to know? Is it really worth it?”
Kevin Emile paused. There are choices one makes that forever will dominate the course of one’s life. This was that choice. Curiosity killed the cat, and he knew he was a dead cat. His mother was going to kill him. “I want to know.”
“Evelyn Blackmon was fired for the racist manuscript found on company hardware,” Bianca Devore answered.
“Wait a minute,” Kevin interrupted. “She called Kate and told her the manuscript was useless. Which makes no sense because the FBI wants it.”
“It is useless.”
Bianca Devore lips curled back into the predatory smile. Kevin was scared. Every instinct in his body told him to run out of that office and never come back. Unfortunately, his curiosity held him in check.
“The best lie is always the one grounded in the most truth. I planted that worthless manuscript in her computer to get her fired. Evelyn Blackmon was a whistleblower, or at least she wanted to be one. Project 3A799-2 was her attempt to blow the whistle on our operations here in Kansas.
“She foolishly believed that all her snooping went unnoticed. Even our rival noticed her. To compound her mistake, she put all her evidence in her computer. She planned to sell it to a publisher in California and make a fortune on our misfortune. Too bad we’re smarter than she was.”
“Why do you keep referring to her in the past tense?” Kevin asked not really wanting to hear the answer.
Bianca Devore’s cell phone vibrated. She clicked a button and read the message. “Evelyn Blackmon has been neutralized,” she read aloud.
“What do you mean?”
“Poor, poor, Evelyn,” she said, her voice sounded soft and sympathetic. “After being fired for her racist points of view, she tried to turn her boss in to the fed. After a quick but thorough investigation and pressure from the FBI brass, the FBI dismissed her claims as one of angry, bitter woman. No one believed her. With no help, she sunk into despair and ended her life on Sunday night.”
Kevin Emile clenched his fist with anger. “You won’t get away with this.”
“I already have,” Bianca Devore said with confidence. “You won’t do a thing.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, Ms. Devore.”
“You’re the one that is wrong, Kevin.” She pressed a button.
His voice came over the speaker again and again. That was his voice, his words, but not what he said. It was horrible. How did she do that?
“I told you that I own you, Kevin Emile. Sexual harassment alone would make it hard for you to get another job; but with the child pornography found on your computer (nicely planted by an underling), you’ll become a pariah, un-hirable.”
“I know. That’s the price of doing business in this world. If I go down, so do you.”
Kevin Emile slumped in his seat, defeated. He buried his head in his hands. Still there was Kate. She might figure it out before it was too late. “What do you want from me?”
“I want you to focus, Emile. Topeka is Awesome.”
“I hate this city. How am I supposed to sell it as awesome?”
Bianca Devore rose from her seat. She walked to where he sat and placed her hand softly, almost tenderly, on his shoulders. “That’s your problem, Kevin. You are a dreamer; but you lack vision. If you did the research, you would know that money magazines predict the Topeka is a top 10 city to watch in the next ten years. Investors are flocking here. Bimbo Bakeries is stationed here. Mars Candy Company is moving here. Topeka could be the future. That’s why we want you to succeed so much.”
“What about the 5k run?” Kevin asked.
“It’s a good idea,” Bianca Devore answered. “I don’t know what Evelyn Blackmon’s end game with run was but it can be useful. Every major city has a marathon. This could be our way of making a mark in this country.”
The light bulb turned on in his head. “We could start it or end at Shawnee Lake. Run through the Capitol. Maybe we can visit the historic old town district near Potwin. Gage Park could be the other end.”
“Now you’re thinking,” Bianca Devore said. “Keep it up.”
“What about Kate Sanchez?” Kevin asked. “People were following her.”
“I mentioned a rival. They are not as clandestine as we are. I’ll do my best to take care of them. Things are volatile. Explain to her how explosive things are here around the office. Tell her to keep to herself or things might blow up in her face. I think it best if she just keeps chasing after those ghosts if you know what I mean.”
“How do you know I’ll cooperate?” Kevin asked.
“Because you’re going to do what I tell you when I tell you. Your first test is tonight. You will take Miss Sanchez out to dinner. Go to Boss Hawg.”
“I know everything, Kevin. She’s been dying for some good barbeque since before she took the job. We’re done.”
Bianca Devore sat back in her leather chair and watched Kevin Emile leave her office. She pulled out a portable red flash drive. It contained Evelyn Blackmon’s life work. Now it was her insurance policy in case something went wrong. She couldn’t understand her supervisor’s sudden soft spot for some tech-head. He would not be her downfall. She had the power. That was all that mattered.
Kevin left the office scared and excited. He had some answers but gained a whole lot more questions. As soon as he saw Kate, he filled her in on all that happened.
“That’s heavy.” She sat at the computer and typed.
“What are you doing?” Kevin asked.
“Nobody threatens me and gets away with it. I’m hacking into the system to find the dirt on this Bianca Devore.”
“Where did you learn that?”
“I picked it up from a computer geek I dated my sophomore year in college.”
“Is there any type of guy you haven’t slept with?”
Kate stopped. She glared at him. “First off, you don’t know me. I’m not the kind of girl who kisses and tells. It’s none of your business who I have and have not slept with. I don’t like you insinuating I’m a slut. I’m not the 30+ southern girl demanding the government pay for her promiscuous life. Finally,” she looked him over, “I draw the line at wuss.”
“I guess I deserve that.”
The next few hours went by in silence. Each worked on their own projects. Kevin mapped out a possible route for the 5k run. Kate researched the only ghosts she was now interested in, Evelyn Blackmon and Bianca Devore.
Kevin looked at his watch. “Are you hungry?”
“What do you think about going for some barbeque? My treat as a peace offering for me being a stupid guy.”
“I’m in. I’ve been dying for some KC barbeque. Where we going?”
“First off, KC barbeque is not all its cracked up to be. Where we are going is better, Boss Hawg?”
“You mean like the Dukes of Hazard, Boss Hog?” Kate asked
“No. Trust me; this place has the best sweet sauce you’ll ever have. I guarantee it.”
“Do they have anything spicy, Kevin?”
“I don’t really like spicy.”
“You’re such a wuss, Kevin.”
“But a wuss with good taste.”
Bianca Devore picked up her phone. “How did it go?” the voice said.
“He’s motivated. And for the first time, I believe he might succeed.”
“And the girl?’
“She’s still snooping.”
“The girl is trouble. Send her a clear message about the dire straights she is in. If she doesn’t get it, kill her.” There was more coughing in the background.
“I understand,” Bianca Devore said. “She will get a heated message tonight.”
Kevin put his small pick-up on park. They sat in his truck just outside Kate’s house. She looked pretty tonight.
“I used to think Tony Roma’s was the best barbeque in the world,” Kate said. “Boss Hawg’s beats them hands down.”
Kevin laughed. They had a good time tonight, together. “There’s one thing we know in Topeka, and that’s how to eat, and we eat good. From Chuckburgers on 6th to Carino’s just past Wanamaker by the movie theater, we got the best food in the world.”
“It’s a shame you can’t do a Taste of Topeka like Chicago does.”
“We could add it to the 5k run. We burn the calories and right after put them right back on.”
“I like it.” They both laughed.
“What did my mom tell you about Evelyn,” he asked.
“She told me to forget about that busybody and get back to the task at hand. Her son’s career was on the line. I think she doesn’t like me.”
“That’s because your female. No one is ever good enough for her baby boy.”
Kevin opened his door and quickly ran around to the other side to open her door. She smiled at him. This was a good ending to a very miserable day.
Bianca Devore’s words echoed in his mind just then. He led Kate to her house. Then it all made sense. He pulled her back to the truck.
“What are you doing?” she screamed. Her house exploded.
Kevin knocked her to the ground. He covered her with his body. He hoped it was enough to keep her safe. He looked into her terrified eyes.
She looked back. For the first time, she really noticed him. He was kind of cute. He just saved her life. Maybe he wasn’t such a wuss after all.
Something inside Kevin snapped. With grim determination, he looked at the burning house and back at Kate. He felt fury for the first time in his life.
“I didn’t sign on for this,” she said.
“Don’t say that,” Kevin said. “We got to stop her. She can’t get away with this. We got find out who she works for, who this rival is, and what this is all about. They all have to go down. This has got to stop and we’re the only ones that can do it.”
Bianca Devore received the text, “The message was sent and received.”
She smiled. That should motivate Kevin to get the job done. “It’s a shame that your success will ultimately lead to your destruction.”
About the Author
George Ismael Feliu Jr. was born in Brooklyn, NY, the only child of Jorge and Jeannette Feliu. He gained a thirst for reading and learning at International Christian School of Brooklyn, NY, where he graduated and later taught for five years. He graduated from Hyles-Anderson College in 2000 with a B.S. in Secondary Education with a major in history and minor in English. An avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction, he currently resides in Topeka, KS where he has completed the four volumes of Guardians of Havenshire series. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His books Guardians of Havenshire Book 1: The Fall and Book 2: The Rise can be bought at Createspace.com, georgefeliu.com, and amazon.com. They are also available on Kindle and Nook. This winter look for the third volume Rebel and the fourth Triumph and Tragedy next spring.