FlashFic: The Cost of Doing Business

Dylan walked into the space that smelled and felt of home.

It began as a typical Manhattan loft, an open space with industrial windows. When Renee was done, there were rooms, some with a few stairs leading up, all with walls reaching toward the high ceiling. Their bedroom had little lights and prismic glass ornaments hanging, giving it a magical feel. Everything with Renee was magical. She baked happily. He smelled her amazing apple pie cooling even now.

When she designed his office, she gave him a corner space. “The corner office you deserve,” she’d murmured and kissed him. The office was barely visualized, walls staked out with string. He insisted they christen it in a loving manner. A blanket, laughter, and champagne filled his office. When it was ready, Renee handed him a key.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“It’s a key,” she smiled.

“Yes, I can see that, silly. A key to what?”

“It locks your office. It should be a private space. You don’t just walk into my studio, right?” Her eyebrows danced into curves with her question.

“No, I suppose not,” Dylan agreed. “But you don’t lock it.”

“Let’s just say I’m giving you the option.” Her face was almost solemn. He gathered her into his arms and held her, murmuring into her long, fragrant hair.

~

The bills fanned out on Dylan’s desk. His dark hair stuck up at odd angles from running his fingers through it. His gaze went from the red accounts book with the right numbers to the green one used for the public. Ironic, really. The book was red and so were most of the numbers in it. The company was hemorrhaging money. Dylan’s job these days was keeping investors from getting curious. He kept them looking elsewhere, such as the green book with its impressive numbers.

He looked up sharply at the knock. “Just … uhm… be right there, Renee!” The bills got stuffed into the red book. Dylan shoved the books into a drawer and locked it. When he opened the door, his breath caught. She stood there in a sheer nightie, her black hair streaming over her shoulder. She held a tray with his favorite hot apple pie, vanilla ice cream trickling down the sides. “Just this once,” he grinned, “the pie will wait.”

~

The company officers grudgingly decided they had no choice. Dylan drew the short straw. He and their security chief went to the Russian tea room on the river. Dylan tried not to think what the Russian mob did, the river so close. Chin high, he made his way past the various men with harsh accents. It took a half hour before a burly fellow escorted Dylan to the corner booth. By all accounts, Rudolf “the Fish” Karpinsky was a charming host. Those same accounts included his impatience and volatility. Dylan smiled quietly and managed to make suitable arrangements. For a hefty fee, Rudolf would be a silent but generous partner.

Not long after, Dylan noticed things moved on his desk. He couldn’t be sure, but didn’t he leave that pen in the cup with the others? And the post-its. They seemed in the wrong place. “Renee, honey,” he called out. She came to him, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel. “Did you need something from my desk earlier?”

Her eyes sparkled. “Even if I had, the door was probably locked.” Good point. “I got home not long before you, Dylan. Been getting supper ready ever since.” He kissed her forehead and shook his head.

“My mind playing games on me, love.”

But it wasn’t, he knew it just as sure as he knew who’d been in his office. Rudolf’s men. In a panic, he checked the lock of the drawer with the accounting books. No marks. Would there be marks? His heart beating in his ears, he checked the other drawers. There it was. A life insurance policy for two million dollars on Renee with him as the beneficiary. It even looked like his signature. It was dated a year ago. He filed it with the important papers. It seemed the thing to do while he sorted it all out.

~

He was up all night trying to figure out the right approach with Rudolf. Offense and irritation would not do the job. Curiosity perhaps. Yes, curiosity followed up by reasonable discussion. They would cancel the policy. Feeling better, Dylan headed for the corner Starbucks. Dammit, his wallet. It was on his desk. In his unlocked office. Exhaustion gone, he raced back to the loft. Renee stepped out of his office as he neared it. Pretend there’s nothing wrong, he told himself. He reached out to brush his knuckles over her cheek. It was barely noticeable, but she flinched at his touch. He pulled back his hand and stared into her eyes. She knew.

“I’m sorry,” she stumbled. “I needed my birth certificate to renew my driver’s license.” The same folder as the insurance policy. Dylan felt sick.

“Not a problem. Did you find it?” Renee nodded, her expressive face frowning as she turned away.

“I’d better get to the DMV. You know how the lines are.” She couldn’t escape quickly enough. That was the last Dylan saw of her. Her things disappeared when he was downtown the next week. He couldn’t blame her for not leaving an address or number.

~

Winter gripped Manhattan. It seemed to grasp hold of Dylan’s soul. The contracts dried up as the economy died. Rudolf loomed, a constant reminder. They were unable to pay, of course. Rudolf whispered in Dylan’s ear. “The papers, my friend. Say the word and all will be solved. She is gone forever anyway.”

The remaining partners met after Walter’s suicide. Overcome by grief and guilt, they left without solace. It was time. Dylan punched in the number. The end justifies the means, he reminded himself. “Da?” He winced.

“Yeah, it’s a go.”

© 2011 JC Rosen

This story uses two #storystarters, both written by @CliffordFryman (formerly @Selorian). Thank you for the inspiration, Clifford.

Do you need inspiration? Search #storystarters on Twitter. Writing prompts with some bite to them!

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13 thoughts on “FlashFic: The Cost of Doing Business

  1. Icy Sedgwick July 22, 2011 at 6:47 am Reply

    If you play with fire, someone will always get burned.

    Good build up of tension.

    Like

    • JC Rosen July 23, 2011 at 5:39 am Reply

      So true, Icy. Who know what lies in Dylan’s future? Thanks for your reading and your comment.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  2. johannaharness July 22, 2011 at 8:06 am Reply

    The authorial distance mirrors Dylan’s detachment from his own life and the consequences for his choices. So sad.

    Like

    • JC Rosen July 23, 2011 at 6:00 am Reply

      Thank you for that, Johanna. I’m glad it worked. It was important to punctuate the tragedies all around.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  3. John Wiswell July 22, 2011 at 9:38 am Reply

    I should probably go get something to eat. My mouth watered with the opening and I was left irrationally invested in the characters.

    “It’s a go” indeed!

    Like

    • JC Rosen July 25, 2011 at 6:31 am Reply

      I’ve spent the last week craving apple pie, so I understand. “Irrationally invested” is good, very good. Thank you for that, John. I appreciate your reading and commenting.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  4. John Ross Barnes July 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm Reply

    This one was hard for me. Something about love betrayed, Business and self chosen as a matter of course. The Maciavellian(sp) “End justifies means” Dylan rationalized by as though a Universally accepted “Given” for all life’s equations.

    The hardest part perhaps was that it all rang So true to life, a testiment to your superior skills at story craft.

    Thanks much for this.

    Like

    • JC Rosen July 25, 2011 at 6:39 am Reply

      You’re very kind, John, thank you. I agree with you in many ways. That Dylan was able to respond to the one he’d seen as a necessary evil’s whispering in his ear, “She is gone forever anyway,” in such a way is chilling. It echoes back to the days he and Renee were happy together, trusting one another, and brings them into question. “Business and self chosen as a matter of course,” you wrote. Well said. Thank you for stopping by, John. It’s always a pleasure.

      Take care
      JC

      Like

  5. flyingscribbler July 23, 2011 at 6:41 am Reply

    You built the tension nicely in this story, slipping in great details and atmosphere. There was only one direction this story was heading in, but that did not detract from the whole. I got a bit confused about the policy? Was that done by the russians?

    Like

    • JC Rosen July 25, 2011 at 6:43 am Reply

      Thank you, words a writer’s heart sings to read. You’re absolutely right about the policy. I dithered over that. A simple phrase would have made it clear it was a Russian mob ploy. The truth is, I was already cutting 300 words from the rough draft and words were getting scarce. By the time I made room for the phrase, I’d lost the thought of it. Mea culpa. It teaches me to make better notes for my own use as I edit. Thanks for dinging me on that one!

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  6. Raven Corinn Carluk July 24, 2011 at 7:58 pm Reply

    That’s a dark ending. I like.

    Like

    • JC Rosen July 25, 2011 at 6:44 am Reply

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I appreciate it.

      Take care,
      JC

      Like

  7. adampb July 29, 2011 at 8:23 am Reply

    It’s a dark space he’s locked himself into. Great tension, with a chilling ending.
    Adam B @revhappiness

    Like

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