Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
“What the hell is this, John?”
John tsked. “Such language, boss.”
“Don’t try to side‑track me,
Just look at this phone log!”
She set it down on the desk, stabbing at items with her taut finger as she spoke. “ ,
one minute. Saudi Arabia ,
another minute. Yemen ,
fifty‑five seconds. Who’s charging phone calls against us?” Jerusalem
you should leave all
this detail work to me. It’s only a few bucks, after all. You shouldn’t be
worrying about it.”
stood up from her desk
and turned to look out the
large window of her office. When she turned back to John she was
calmer, but her hands remained balled
again, this time in exasperation. “Cliff
doesn’t think like that, Vickie. If he chose you, he won’t be breathing down
your neck. He trusts you.”
Vickie choked back a sarcastic retort and merely said, “I wouldn’t know.”
if you won’t trust Cliff, trust me.”
back in her
anger leaving her
suddenly like a deflated balloon. “All right, John . I trust
you.” ‘And, more fool me, I trust Cliff. ’
It was late that evening when the phone rang. The man in the chair knew who it was.
“Send the fifth shipment.”
“You’re still three weeks behind.”
“I know.” The voice on the other end, far from its usual wry
“Do you have access?”
“Yes. The tool you sent was perfect.”
“I didn’t send it. She did.”
A crackling silence. “Does she know?”
“Not yet. But things are approaching critical here.”
Another silence. “I still have to clear the communications net. I’ll let you know.” The third silence was terminated by a sharp click and the dial tone.
The man got up from his chair, rubbing his neck. He hoped everything would work out on schedule, but not for the first time, he had his doubts.
It was a warm Monday about two weeks later when John buzzed Vickie with the information that Cliff had called in from
He was spending two days in Moscow ,
and then he would be back. Paris ‘He’s
coming back to me. I don’t believe it.’ She was thrown into a panic and called a
meeting of her managers.
“I’ll need all the records of the project thus far. Not just the weekly progress reports you’ve been giving me. This is for the boss. Color graphs. New data flow diagrams. John, get me the latest numbers on the cost analysis, you know, percent complete, dollars expended, the works
I’ll need the updated diagrams for the
parts of the system we’ve finished. Include complete explanations for the
modifications we’ve made. June,
I want a compilation of the production investigation
we did on the chip. Make sure you mention that little problem we had with
F.N.T. Industries. Ray, write up …”
that she missed the glance
of concern between
Tess and June.
“Tess, put that away.” Vickie glanced at the other managers at the table
, embarrassed. She and
Tess had had their share of rubber‑band fights , and had great
fun at the time, but they were
at a different level now. Rubber bands were definitely not professional.
“Hey, let me see that,” John said. He reached over to take Tess’s rubber band, and Vickie
felt so ashamed, she could have died. Then
John said, “ Hey, you could decapitate someone with this,” and
shot it directly at her.
Tess turned on John
, saying, “You
can’t do that to my friend ,” and took
a stinger, a small, thin rubber band, and quickly cocked
and shot it. John took the hit directly on his chest.[MH2]
would probably be fired for it, but the look on his face was worth it.
Then Phil passed another decapitator to John, who prepared to terminate Tess.
He would have done it, too, had not
distracted him with a rubber band banked off his ear. Somehow, Tess had passed
a box of rubber bands to everyone in the room, and now there was a free‑for‑all.
Phil rushed over behind the potted palm, where he rained terror on the rest of
the room until June
picked up the white‑board and, using it as a shield, advanced to his fortress
and shot him down.
Then John grabbed Vickie with his arm around her neck, and attempted to use her as a hostage, but that simply got them both pelted. Ray hid under the table and sprang up from time to time to make a strategic shot on someone’s rear end. Vickie had never laughed so hard in her life.
John and Tess were dominating the scene at one point when they partnered, back‑to‑back, and got everyone else in the room to scatter. Then, partnership forsaken, they shot at each other.
grabbed one of the chairs and began wheeling it around the room, running over
everyone in her way.
Finally Vickie jumped in front of the conference table and pulled out a wicked‑looking decapitator. She cocked
the decapitator at June
and shouted, “Avast, ye scurvy knave!” June
cornered, faced her abruptly, and, seeing herself vastly out gunned, put up her
hands in surrender. She was promptly pelted by half‑a‑dozen rubber bands,
topped off by Vickie’s shot to her hairdo.
Tess clapped Vickie on the back, gasping with laughter. “Well done, Vickie. I think that deserves a large sundae with chocolate fudge.”
The others agreed. They took two cars, and all of them had chocolate fudge sundaes. After that they went out drinking, and then to a local movie theater to see a cult classic that Vickie hadn’t seen since college.
Completely relaxed, she marveled
again at how close they had all become
in such a short time. And how they could distract her from…now what was it that
had gotten her in such an uproar? Oh, well, John would remind her tomorrow. She
went to her apartment, home for the last three months, and promptly fell