This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Who do you think you are?
You try to liver forever, but you won't get far.
I wait behind the door.
It makes no difference if you're rich or poor.
Though you're weary and afraid
Still, you try to flee my blade . . . - Kerry Livgren
He sat shaking in his chair. The years had come down to this one moment in time. Guilt-ridden and fearful, it all seemed so surreal. Time moved in slow motion. Life's greatest trick had been played. The beginning of the end was about to begin.
In a single, flashing moment, John Black recalled the years it took to get him to this place. The jury entered the courtroom. The judge read the verdict - guilty of first-degree murder. John was removed from the room, in the same shackles and prison garb he had been wearing for the last eight days. Something had gone wrong - very wrong.
John's eye flooded with tears. His mind, with confusion. It made no sense to try to make sense of the situation. It was beyond sense. His thoughts went back to when it all started, hoping he could find an answer. Yesterday's choices are the road that leads to today.
"John, meet me in my office in five minutes . . . "
"Sit down, John." He knew by the tone of Max Keller's voice something was wrong.
Max continued. "The company is missing $93,000. You're the accountant. Where is it?"
No explanation was forthcoming. John couldn't find the words. Finally, he offered. "I have no idea. I checked the books last night and everything was accounted for.
"I really don't want to do this, but if you have no answer, I'll have to let you go. Clean out your desk and Jerry will escort you to the door. Good-bye."
John sat in shock. Thousands of dollars were missing on his watch, and he had not so much of an inkling what happened to it. He gathered his things and left for home. No, he couldn't go home. Maureen would want to know why he was home so early. After working sixteen years at Keller & Barnes he couldn't tell her. They closed on a new house two weeks ago. This changed everything. It was to be their dream home. He would figure out a way to deal with it later, but right now, his job loss would be his secret.
The desk remained. The contents didn't. John loaded it into his car and drove to the dumpster. Everything he worked for, for so many years instantly became trash. All except an old journal that fell to the ground. He picked it up and read through it. Memories flooded his mind as he re-lived some of the entries. He pulled out a pen and wrote:
How can this be? After all the years of faithfully serving my company - after all the friends - after all the work - after all the victories. Tomorrow there will be no job. No more money. How long will it take to empty the savings account? What's next? Maybe someone has a better plan for me. Maybe.
John carried on a one-sided conversation with himself as he drove through town. "Yes, that's it! This is just a detour. Something better lies ahead. There's another opportunity out there with my name on it." Then he broke into tears. "What if I can't find it? What if I'm kidding myself? Maureen and the kids need food. We need a roof over our heads. What if we can't make it financially . . . or as a family?" The what-ifs trailed off into depression.
Jumping on the interstate, John continued to drive. Three hours until quitting time, and he couldn't arrive home a minute early.
Over and over his mind rebuked him. "You lost $93,000. You don't have a clue where it is, but that's not the worst part, you loser. Your family depends on you. Look what you've done. You've thrown away your respect. They won't believe you. They won't accept there's no explanation for the lost money. They'll blame you and want nothing to do with you. You might as well not even go home. They won't miss you anyway, They'll never even notice."
The taunting didn't stop as John pulled off the highway and onto a dirt road. He got out of the vehicle and screamed for the voice to shut up! It did. He sat by a stream and looked into the clear, blue water reflecting only a single cloud as it passed overhead. He could see his face, wrinkled by the gently tumbling waters. What had he become? He couldn't look at himself as the ridiculing started again. "You really screwed up this time, Johnny boy. It's time to get home and face the music - or the fire.
He returned home at the same time as any other day.
- Black - Part 2
Black is in trouble. He just doesn't know it yet.
© 2020 William Kovacic