Word count: 1,789
Christian stood just inside of Hullings' office, shoulders straight and hands behind his back. He'd been standing exactly the same way for three and a half hours.
Nothing happened in the office. Hullings read a variety of newspapers, checked his email, spent a little while filling in his daily planner. Christian wondered what the hell the man needed a guard in the room for.
A small buzzing noise sounded from a speaker above the elevator. Someone had selected floor number 23. Imbedded in the wall, on the opposite side from which Christian stood, was a flatscreen monitor. It flickered to life and showed the inside of the elevator. Christian adjusted his position ninety degrees to the right, so he stood parallel with the elevator doors.
A woman in a tight skirt-suit clutched a small stack of thick folders. Five-eight, probably a hundred and thirty three pounds. She hand a short, narrow nose. From the very top of her thundercloud grey silk blouse peeked out a delicate line of cleavage, only spotted through the aerial view of the camera lens.
Christian looked away from the screen and waited for the second alarm to sound, indicating that the elevator had reached Hullings' floor.
The doors parted and there she stood, her expression bored, though he caught the twitch in her fingers that gave away her anxiety. Her hair was pulled back from her face but hung loosely against her shoulders. She wore rectangular glasses, with thick maroon rims that offset the deep browns of her eyes.
"Ah, yes, I've been expecting you," said Hullings. "Let her on through, Brian."
The woman stepped forward. In small print, on the upper right corner of the top folder, it read: 1506 Rucker Ave.
Christian wondered who she was, and whose address was being passed on to Hullings. More so, why?
"I brought the files you requested, Mr. Hullings." She offered him the stack of cream-colored folders, some of the pages tagged with little neon markers. "I highlighted and annoted the sections you requested. The top folder is the one we discussed."
"Thank you. Are you busy right now?" Hullings set the folders on the side of his desk, not bothering to inspect them. Before she had time to answer, he continued, "Listen, my acquaintance here, Brian, and I are famished. Would you run and fetch us some lunch?"
Christian watched the brief tightness in her shoulders. Hullings' request irritated her. Her tone was calm, respectful, "Yessir, I was on my way for lunch anyway. What would you like?"
Hullings didn't even glance to Christian, but answered, "I will have filet mignon, medium rare, and some bruschetta on toast. I would like the steak from La Fontina, on 39th street. You know the place, I'm sure. Pick up my bruschetta from the small deli on the corner of 76th and 2nd. I can never remember the name of that place."
The woman didn't even have a chance to pull out a notepad, let alone scribble it all down. She didn't bother.
Hullings went on, "Pick up the pulled pork sandwich from that bar the janitor is always telling me about. That'll be for Brian. Grab us some fresh lemonade or something. That will be all."
And she was dismissed. Christian pressed the button for the elevator, and the doors pulled open as she approached the threshold. She looked up at him for an instant, from the corner of her eye, and was gone.
When the phone rang for the first time, Christian's hand was on his pistol before he even realized he'd moved. Hullings didn't seem to notice.
One long finger reached out to press the speaker button on the phone. "Yes?"
He kept his face a careful neutral, stiffling the prideful smirk that teased at his lips. The military implant in his ear amplified soundwaves by a hundred-and-fifty percent. If the person on the other line so much as farted, Christian would hear it.
"Hullings. How is development?"
"Everything is on schedule, sir," Hullings turned the page in his newspaper, his eyes never leaving the article he was reading.
"And the loose end?"
"Everything has been covered, sir." He sipped from his glass of lemonade.
"Are you certain of the new employee?"
"Fine. Call me tomorrow with the shipment details."
The call ended.
At exactly two pm, Hullings rose from his seat and stretched, curling his spine backwards and reaching with his hands for the windows behind him. "What do you say we call it a day, Brian? It's been a long one."
"Yessir, would you like me to scan the perimeter before you leave?"
"No, Brian, that will be unnecessary. Walk me to my car, and your shift will be over."
Together, they left the office. The elevator ride was silent, as was the long walk to the parking garage. At the car, Hullings tossed the keys to Christian and said, "Unlock it for me, will you?"
His hand was up to catch the keys before they left Hullings' hand. "Yessir," he said, "but if you don't mind, I'd like to check something first?" Hoping Hullings would take his assertiveness as a good quality, he didn't wait for permission to drop to the ground and check beneath the Volvo for any explosives.
He'd spent years tooling around in Autoshop, and the underside of a vehicle was as familiar to Christian as a fighting ring. He scanned everything he could until he was satisfied nothing was amiss. He pulled himself out from under the car and popped the hood using the button on the keyring. With practiced speed, he checked all the oils and fluids to be sure they hadn't been tampered with. The smaller key on the keyring told him the gas tank was locked, so it only needed to be checked for security.
Once he was satisfied, he unlocked the Volvo with the key.
"Very well done, Brian," Hullings said, the smile on his face rather shocking. "I knew I was correct about hiring you." He dropped into the front seat and Christian dropped the keys into his waiting palm. He said nothing else, only closed the door and started the car.
Christian waited beside the parking spot until he could hear the Volvo leave the garage. From a window, he saw it drive down the street. Christian went in search of his Jeep.
1506 Rucker Ave, he reminded himself. He punched the address into the GPS system, along with all three given addresses for the restaurants the food came from. Just because it had been mentioned in casual conversation did not mean it wasn't code.
The restaurants all turned out to be valid restaurants, or at least excellently pulled off fronts. 1506 Rucker Ave turned out to be a large house in a gated community about an hour outside of the city. Christian left the Jeep on a backroad two miles away, and changed clothes. He always kept a spare set of covert attire in a hidden box in the Jeep. He jogged through the wooded area surrounding the community until he could see the house.
The front yard stretched on for a few hundred meters, littered with large, leafy trees. In the backyard was a wide pool, surrounded by patio furniture and blow-up pool toys. He went around back, making sure the windows of neighboring houses were empty. The back door was ajar, and he let himself in, glad he'd thought to pull on a pair of gloves.
The door opened into the kitchen. The ceiling lights were on, Christian thought them unnecessary with the bright sunlight filling the room. The counters were clean, only a few dishes in the sink. The cabinets were closed, a dish towel hung from the oven door. Birdhouse wallpaper, blue and red place mats. Typical family kitchen, Christian thought, and checked the small five-foot by eight-foot room at the far end of the kitchen. A washer and dryer hogged up most of the space, one on each side, and a small bin of laundry took up the remaining space between them. An ironing board was strapped to the wall. Finding nothing, he moved into the living room, where more lights were on.
A photo was knocked off a table, left upside down on the carpet. The remote was left in the middle of the floor, the TV on, tuned into the Cartoon Network. The volume was still up.
He moved onward, into the den. All the lights were off. Everything seemed to be in place, nothing obviously disrupted. He returned the way he came, having had nowhere to go beyond the den, and made his way up the stairs between the kitchen and living room.
There was a small dent in the wall at the top of the stairs. Christian turned around the corner, checking the first room on the right and moving counter-clockwise from room to room. The first bedroom and the bathroom beside it were undisturbed. The second bedroom was a whirlwind of unsettled furniture and broken lamps, the television was on it's side on the floor, static flicking on it's screen wildly.
Womens clothes filled the hamper by the door. Posters of movies and musicians covered the walls. The first bedroom had been sparse, no personal touches or extra decoration at all. Probably a guest room, he thought.
The third bedroom was what made everything make sense. Two kids, one little boy and a teenage girl, were stretched across the little boy's bed, face up. Their arms crossed neatly over their chests, with a single bullet hole between each of their eyes. Blood splatters covered the walls, furniture, ceiling, and floor. Brain matter and bone fragments were spewed everywhere, as if they'd rained down from the ceiling.
He wished he could feel sick. Wished he could react to the sight before him the way anyone else would. Wished he could feel dark with rage, nauseated and disgusted.
He moved onto the master bedroom. The floor to ceiling mirror taking up a quarter of one wall was speckled with blood. Two more bodies, cold and blue, were lain out on the bed the same way the children had been. The woman's eyes were open, staring up at the ceiling. Unblinking and empty. She had three bullet holes in her chest. The man beside her was Culborrows, and his throat had been cut. Blood was everywhere, but what drew Christian's attention the most was the blood that covered Culborrow's chin. He walked over, careful of where he was stepping, and gingerly pulled Culborrow's mouth open by the chin. His mouth was full of blood, and the moment Christian opened it, the sanguineous fluid sloshed over Culborrow's lips.
His tongue had been cut out.