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Fiction Contemporary Drama

[Adult Content] “I can see it now.” said Todd Malone, an athletic, 44-year-old. His eyebrows low, nostrils flaring. “You fucking bastard, admit you did it!” He yelled with spittle flying from the corners of his mouth. His brow furrowed with sweaty creases. The smell of alcohol pungent on his breath. He held a gun in his trembling hand.

In the lobby of the Malone Perkins law firm, in downtown Houston, at nearly midnight. Brian Perkins, eyes wide open, with his forehead wrinkled, a handsome, but selfish 45-year-old, dropped to his knees, quivering and sobbing. Forced into submission by his partner. His face in his hands. He peered at Todd through his fingers. He murmured, “Please, calm down.”

Todd held a magic eight-ball so tight his hand almost numb. “I should crack your skull open before I shoot you!”

Brian's voice cracked. He cried, "Come on, don't do anything stupid."

Todd threw the ball, smashing it on the floor next to Brian’s head. It shattered into hundreds of pieces of plastic and glass. Causing tiny cuts across the side of Brian's face. Blue-tinted alcohol sprayed from the broken ball. The 20 sided answer die clattered across the floor. Stopping with the answer: Outlook not so good.

Two days earlier. Todd was reviewing a deposition from one of their witnesses in a wrongful death case. Brian in the conference room, interviewing another potential witness. A tap at his door. “Yes.” he said, looking over his red rimmed glasses.

“This package just arrived for you by courier.” their legal clerk, Kate, said, stepping into the office.

Todd thought nothing of it. They often received special delivery packages during the discovery process. “Just put it on the table.” He said, glancing over to see her put down a small square box. Not a manila envelope with discovery documents as usual.

Curious, he stepped over to examine the package. A five-inch square box wrapped in white paper with a handwritten address. He ripped open the package to find a magic eight-ball. Under it was an envelope with his name on it. He snickered to himself and put the ball on his desk. Someone’s idea of a joke. He thought. Sitting down at his desk, tearing open the envelope. He pulled out a folded notecard. It read:

Reckless divide like tinder to separate 

No trust or faith share you with your workmate

You’ll see more clearly using this ball of eight

A channel for your brother to communicate

The hair on the nape of his neck stood up as a chill trickled down his spine. “What the hell is this?” He said aloud, jumping from his chair and throwing open his office door. Leaning out, he said, "Kate, who sent this?"

“It came by the regular courier. He didn’t say who it was from.”

He turned and slammed the door. Reaching for his cell to call the Courier Service. The phone rang. A woman answered, “Kempker Legal Services, how may I help you?”

“This is Todd Malone, at Malone and Perkins. I need to know who sent a package to our office, about an hour ago.”

"Sure Mr. Malone, please hold." After a couple of minutes, she returned. "The Courier team says it was dropped off by a man, who paid cash. On the form, he printed anonymous for his name."

Todd watched as Brian escorted his potential witness through the lobby. “Brian, can I see you in my office for a minute?”

Brian gave him a scowling look, “Sure.”

Brian stomped into Todd’s office with his eyes narrowed and brows lowered, “What is it?”

“Did you have anything to do with this ball and poem?” Todd said, shaking the eight-ball in front of Brian’s face.

Todd’s older brother, Keith, died in a hit-and-run almost a year ago. Brian never agreed to Todd joining the firm. But Keith had insisted, and the three of them worked for six years to make a name for the firm. Achieving several successful, newsworthy settlements and attracting some talented associate partners. Despite, Todd and Brian being quite a team in the courtroom. They seldom agreed on much else. Especially after the incident between them at the bar, a couple of months back.

Growing up, Todd and his brother Keith were very close. Todd wanted to follow in his footsteps. When Keith got into baseball, so did Todd. When Keith went into law school, Todd set his sights to do the same.

 During Keith’s second year of law school, he brought his roommate Jack home for spring break. During the visit with the family, he shared his sexual orientation and feelings for Jack. Their father became hostile, and their relationship was never the same. Despite their father’s opinion, Todd always defended Keith. The brothers grew even closer. Keith and his partner Jack often visited Todd and his family. But, shortly after Keith’s death, Jack moved back to his hometown of Seattle and disappeared. No one had heard from him since.

Brian blinked excessively as Todd shook the eight-ball in his face. “What the hell are you talking about?” Brian said, pushing the ball down and away from his face.

“Somebody sent me this eight-ball and crazy note.” He said picking up the note. 

“Why would I do something like that? You’re pompous, but — give me the note? … That’s just some pissed off plaintiff who likely lost a shitload of money because of you. I’d keep an eye over my shoulder.”

“Is that what you think?” Todd snapped.

“Give me the ball.” Shaking it, he said, “Did I have anything to do with this ball coming to Todd?” Brian said, flipping it over to read the answer, My sources say no. 

“See, there you go.” Brian shoved the ball into Todd’s chest and started walking away.

Todd looked down at the answer window, it read: He aims to intimidate you. Todd slammed the ball on his desk and picked up the deposition. While reading, he kept glancing frequently at the eight-ball.

Later that afternoon, Brian stormed into Todd’s office and said, “Did you authorize the deposition of Jamie Franklin in the Morris case?”

“Yes, I did.”

Stepping up to Todd’s desk, and leaning in over him, Brian said, “I’m the senior partner here, and she's my witness, I’m moving it back. Stay the hell out of my cases.” slamming the door on his way out.

That night at home, Todd, and his wife Christy, chatted over a glass of wine. “I’m just not sure who sent it or why.” Todd said.

“That poem, or whatever it is, is creepy, and I don’t like it. If there’s someone out there trying to scare you. It worked on me.” Christy said, her face tight as she took a final gulp of wine. “I don’t want that ball in this house or around the boys. Take it back to the office.” she said, walking up the stairs, her jaw clinched, lips straight. “I’m going to bed.”

Todd went to the kitchen, grabbed the Jamison and poured himself a stiff drink. Tossed it back and poured another. He took the bottle into the family room and stood staring at the eight-ball on the coffee table. He sat the bottle down and picked up the ball. What’s with this damn thing? He thought. Staring at the black eight in the white circle and shaking it.

“Where did you come from?” Todd hesitated for a moment before turning it over

It read: The other side. 

Todd was home in bed the night his brother died. Keith had scheduled a meeting with a potential witness at a small bar in a remote part of town.

“Todd, think you could tag along and listen to what the witness in the Travis case has to say?” Keith asked. “She just called and said she wants to meet in some out of the way bar off of Louisiana Street.”

“Man, I told Christy I’d be home to tuck the boys in tonight, check with Brian.” Todd said, looking over his shoulder and stepping out of the office. That was the last time Todd saw his brother alive.

At the witness’s request, Keith parked a block away and across the street. After the meeting ended at about 11:30pm, a speeding vehicle came around the corner. Deliberately swerving to hit him just as he stepped off the curb. Almost three hours later, a police officer spotted his body. Keith was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. Todd never forgave himself for not tagging along.

Now feeling the effects of the Jamison, Todd poured another. With the drink in one hand, he looked over at the ball, picked it up and shook it. “Keith are you there?”.

The answer read. Yes.

Todd said, "Is it really you?"

Yes brother, it's me. Todd began to hear his brother's voice inside his head.

"Tell me something only you would know about me."

From here I know everything about you.

"Like what for instance."

I know about your curiosity.

"What do you mean?"

The night at the bar. I know what happened between you and Brian, and that he holds it over you.

"Oh my gosh, yes he does"

I know how he upsets and frustrates you.

“How is it you come to me through an eight-ball?”

My psychic reader channeled me here.

“Why?”

I knew you would never go see him. I asked him to send me to you through an object. Only you can gather the evidence to solve my murder.

"I need to know more about what happened that night."

It was a white pick-up truck, I couldn't see who was driving. But, from here, I know.

 Todd sat the ball and glass on the table and rubbed his eyes. His body shaking, he started to sob.

Downing the drink, he grabbed the ball again. “Who drove the pickup truck?” He slobbered through the tears and snot.

It was Brian, He killed me to have Jack.

Todd threw the ball down on the sofa and held his face in his hands.

Six months before Keith’s death, Jack went to the office to meet Keith for lunch. Jack, a lean, handsome broad shouldered Hispanic man, worked in the DA’s office.

“I expect them back any minute now.” Kate said.

Jack checked his watch and said, “No worries. I have plenty of time.”

Brian stepped into the office lobby. “Oh hey Jack.” Brian said, his eyes sparkled and dilated. “Keith’s going to be a few minutes late.”

Jack’s phone dinged with a text message, breaking the gaze. ‘Sorry, I will miss lunch. This deposition is taking much longer than I expected. See you tonight.’

“Well, there goes my lunch date. Keith’s not going to make it.” Jack said with a sigh.

“I’m free for lunch.” Brian said.

Jack's eyes darted around the lobby, then stopped to look at Brian. “Why not. That sounds good.”

“Yeah, we haven’t had a chance to catch up in a while.” Brian said with an open smile. His cheeks dimpled. “My treat. Vic & Anthony’s work for you?”

“Absolutely.” Jack said with a coy smile.

When Keith returned to the office later, he glanced in Brian’s office. “Where’s Brian?” He asked.

“He and Jack went to lunch, I’ve not seen him since.” Kate said, never looking away from her computer screen.

Keith looked at his watch. “It’s almost five.” He pulled out his cell phone and dialed Jack’s number. It rolled to voice mail. Ending the call without leaving a message, he immediately dialed Brian’s number. It rolled to voice mail.

“Did they say where they were going.” Keith asked.

“Brian mentioned Vic & Anthony’s”

“In the Westin?” Keith said, looking down, his eyelids drooped and lips straight.

Todd stepped out of his office. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” Keith said.

“Jack and Brian went to lunch, and they’re not back yet.” Kate said.

“Again?” Todd said with a chuckle.

“You stay out of this, Todd, understand.” Keith snapped.

On their third bottle of wine at Vic & Anthony’s, Brian put his hands on Jack’s. Leaning in across the table, their noses almost touching. He said, “Come on, I know you want this as much as I do. We can make it work.”

“No, I won’t do that to Keith. I’ll never cheat on him. Ever.” Jack said.

 Brian, selfish and manipulative as always said. “What do I have to do, to get you in bed?” Showing no empathy whatsoever for what it might do to Keith.

Slamming his napkin on the table, Jack stood. “Topic closed Brian. You’re undoubtedly the most selfish, self-centered man I’ve ever met.”

“Well, you came on to me.” Brian snapped as Todd started walking to the door.

Over his shoulder, “Thanks for lunch.” Jack said, walking out the door.

“I’ll get Keith out of this picture one way or the other.” Brian whispered to himself.

Todd yelled, “Brian killed Keith!” He jumped up and grabbed his cell phone and dialed Brian’s number. As soon, he answered, “Brian, I need you to meet me at the office right away.”

“It’s almost 10 o'clock, can’t it wait until tomorrow?” Brian snapped.

“No, it’s time critical and urgent that I show you the Landry case discovery files tonight. Before we’re in court tomorrow.”

"I read over those before I left the office tonight. For all I know, you're just trying to get me alone again. So, no, I won't meet you at the office in the middle of the night." He cut off the call.

Todd dialed him right back. "Come on, Brian, it's critical. If we don't get this right, we could lose the case."

"I told you no. Should I call Christy and let her know how you were acting in the bar that night? Think she'd be okay with you grabbing my crotch and kissing me?"

"Brian, you know I had had too much to drink, and I wasn't –"

"Wasn't what, it was a lucid moment, Todd. You knew exactly what you were doing."

“Okay, so what if I told you I know you were driving the pickup that killed Keith? Or better yet, how to find Jack? All I’m asking is that you meet me to talk. Okay?”

“What are you talking about? How do you know how to find Jack. Alright then, I’ll meet you at the office in 30 minutes.” Brian said, cutting off the call.

The cleaning team, in the office, dialed 9-1-1. “Yes, it’s in the law offices of Malone and Perkins on the 15th floor.”

“They're on their way.” The 9-1-1 operator said.

The police kicked open the door of the Malone and Perkins law office and there stood Todd Malone standing over Brian Perkins with a gun to his head. Brian’s face red with blood and covered in blue ink.

“Sir, put the gun down now!”

Todd dropped the gun and fell onto the lobby sofa. He dropped his head into his hands and began to sob heavily. He murmured, “He killed my brother.”

Later at the hospital. The doctor explained to Brian that the shattered glass had cut his face, allowing for the blue ink to sink in. Unfortunately, it was like a tattoo, it could be removed but would leave a scar.

She handed Brian a mirror. He looked at his face. A large blue eight all long the side of his face.

July 01, 2022 00:13

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4 comments

Dave West
02:22 Jul 07, 2022

Your self-appraisal is very honest and brave. Well done. My own view is that it needs a bit more work, but the basic idea is sound. It moves at a good pace. Writing to a prompt with weekly deadline makes it difficult to step back from a story, spot the weak points, and rewrite them. Putting words on paper is relatively easy: taking them out, polishing them and putting them back needs time.

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Chandler Wilson
03:18 Jul 07, 2022

Thanks, Dave, for taking the time to read and comment on my story, I very much appreciate it. This one has caused me to pause and think a bit be before I simply take another prompt and run with it. I'm sitting this week out and reassessing my aspiration to write. Thanks again!

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Tommy Goround
05:49 Jul 01, 2022

clapping. Everyone hates lawyers.

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Chandler Wilson
04:07 Jul 02, 2022

Thank you Tommy, for taking the time to read and comment on my story. I have some bad ones, but personally, I think this one is one of my worst. I lost sight of the plot but kept going. Not sure where I landed. Thanks to anyone willing to give it a read. The fact that everyone hates lawyers is it’s only redeeming value.

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