Business as usual

Submitted into Contest #44 in response to: Write a story that starts with someone returning from a trip.... view prompt



He slowly loosened his tie and let it fall to the bed. It landed next to his unopened suitcase. He knew he should be unpacking his things. It was past midnight – courtesy of a delayed flight – and his alarm was set to go off in less than six hours. Instead, he just stood there. Staring down at his trolley suitcase – tightly packed to maximise the available space and avoid having to check in any bags – and his silk tie, its deep maroon colour contrasting with the white of his cotton sheets. At the very least he should move his suitcase to the floor, so he could get some sleep. He scoffed. The adrenaline was coursing through his body, and his thoughts were racing; there’d be no sleep for him tonight.

           He needed to act, needed to do something, but found himself practically frozen with indecision. This was unlike any situation he’d ever found himself in, and if he messed up he’d be in more trouble than he’d be able to handle. There were too many variables, too many things to consider. And he didn’t know where to begin. He rubbed his eyes and started to pace around the room. Perhaps the first thing to do was to figure out who knew. He stalked over to his desk, pulled open a drawer with a little more force than necessary – nearly dislodging it entirely – and rifled through its contents until he found his notebook. He slammed the drawer shut again, sat down, shoved his keyboard aside, and cracked open the notebook. The fountain pen on his desk at thus far mostly been used for decorative purposes, but this required pen to paper, not fingers to keyboard. If everything went wrong, a literal paper trail would be easier to get rid of definitively than anything digital. He needed to cover his tracks.

           The tip of his pen hovered over the piece of paper for a moment, before he wrote down the first name. Henry Bright. The second name was written with more conviction: Larry Brown. He paused. He’d never fully realised how much he actually disliked Larry. Years of putting on a polite, but jovial, professional face had removed any substance from the relationships he’d formed with his colleagues. He hadn’t thought it’d be a problem. He had plenty of friends outside of work, and had never felt the need to find more among his colleagues. Maybe that’s why he’d never examined his feelings about Larry – or anyone he worked with, really, now that he thought about it – too closely. Who cared if he didn’t want to hang out with Larry after work? They could do business together just fine. And they had.   

Brian sighed, and finished his list of names. He ended it with a question mark, because there really was no way to tell right now who else was in the know. It was something to look into though. He turned the page of his notebook. This next bit was trickier. He needed to write down all the facts, the indisputable truth, but he was worried how it was going to look. There was no denying he was going to burn some bridges, but he wanted to burn the right bridges. As it stood, anything he wrote down might very well implicate him in something he wanted absolutely no part of.


The events of the last two days were playing on a loop inside his mind. The trip had started out as any other; business class flight – paid for by the company, of course; inconsequential chatter about last night’s game (which only half of them had probably actually watched, while the others had glanced through the sports news on their phones); inappropriate jokes from Larry about the flight-attendant; an uneventful cab ride to their hotel, and setting up at the conference room for their meeting later that morning. It was routine. They’d done it a thousand times before. But this time, Brian had managed to stain his trousers on the flight over, causing him to change them immediately after getting to his room, but forgetting his phone in the pair that was now bundled up in a sack to be picked up by the hotel staff to get dry-cleaned. The second he realised his mistake, he’d rushed back to his room, thankfully in time to rescue his phone from what would have been a costly mistake.

           On his way back to the conference room, he’d heard a familiar voice coming from a hallway. He’d paused. Another familiar voice had joined in. Henry and Larry had been discussing things which had decidedly not been on the official agenda, and it had stopped Brian in his tracks. The laid-back way they’d been talking about their schemes, plus the fact that they seemed comfortable enough to discuss them in a hotel hallway, made him think that this was hardly the first time they’d been using their position to scam their clients out of more than just a little money. One could call it a shitload. Long after his colleagues’ voices had drifted down the hallway, Brian was still frozen in place, trying to process everything he’d just heard.

           He had not been much use in their meetings that day, he had to admit. His mind kept going back to everything he’d overheard, and he’d spent the entire trip trying to figure out who else was involved, and how deep – or high – this thing went. The few things he’d managed to unravel, had only made him feel worse.

He’d followed Larry to the bathroom once – he hadn’t actually thought that’d result in anything, but the phone call he’d overheard Larry make had been nearly as enlightening, and quite possibly even more horrifying, than the previous conversation he’d stumbled onto.


He looked at the blank page of his notebook. Fraud, he wrote down. And embezzlement. He included a few clients he suspected to be victims of this. Then he wrote down Larry’s name on a new page, and added blackmail. He didn’t quite have enough information yet to prove the next bit, but he wrote it down anyway. Sexual assault.

           He wished he’d had been smarter about the whole thing and had thought to record Larry’s phone call. Or even that first conversation. He did, however, have a recording of Larry and Henry’s next meet-up. Matt had even joined in. He pulled his phone out and hit play. The sound quality wasn’t great, but it was good enough to hear Henry say:

           “Look, they haven’t caught us yet, because we’re good at what we do. Plus, they trust us, because they’re idiots.” Then they’d all laughed.

           It wasn’t much, but for now it would have to do. He looked at his clock. Two a.m. He might not be able to sleep, but he needed something to do to kill the next few hours, because he had work to do in the morning. Not at the office, but he needed to get himself a meeting with the feds. He got up to make himself a cup of coffee; the caffeine would give him another shot of adrenaline soon, but the smell of the beans actually had a calming effect on him. He’d have to lie about why he was missing work tomorrow, but he wasn’t too worried about that. They trusted him.

June 06, 2020 00:53

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Lynn Penny
22:24 Jun 07, 2020

Awesome story! You built the scenario perfectly, the characters were great.


20:06 Jun 14, 2020

Thank you! :)


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