Fear, focus, and the future. Here, C.M. Humphries writes about whatever.
If you're in the Plains or Midwest, maybe this is a good thing for you. Maybe not. Who knows?
All I know is that I'd almost forgotten to keep this short story going until I had an email inquiring about it. Well, the email itself wasn't performing any such action, but the emailer (Thanks, Jenny!) actually liked this story. It's another oldie from my first waves as a writer that I hope you enjoy.
To catch you up, Chance Black, freelance photographer working for the Long Brooke Sync, a tabloid publication of all goings-on around downtown Long Brooke, accidentally snaps a photo of someone and something he should have. Now he has to return the photos to a madman who cannot afford the risk of having another set of eyes on them. He either does that, or he loses his family.
WANNA START FROM THE TOP?
PART I - PART II - PART III - PART IV - PART V
That was a close one, Chance told himself inside of the elevator. He wondered if Steve and Bryant were still about, searching for their intruder.
Upstairs, the lights were completely off mainly because no one in the building was using that floor. It was designed for the reporters to work at their stations, or in Chance’s case, the photographers and writers. Gazing at his desk, Chance remembered how he used to write stories merely for exhibition after he became a photographer until he was caught one day. Embarrassed that he hadn't let go of the past, Chance spent less time at his desk and more time in the set-up room, or on the streets doing his work.
Brian’s office was only a few feet before him. He walked over and twisted the doorknob, although he imagined it would be locked. To his bewilderment, Brian had left his room unlocked, something that he rarely ever did, or actually as Chance thought about it, never had done before.
Along the wall was a light switch, somewhere along the wall that was. Chance couldn't seem to find it as he felt along the stucco wall. The texture of stucco had always bothered Chance. Besides the cost, or lack thereof, of stucco style painting, Chance saw no good reason to have more than the ceiling painted in that fashion. The thorniness of it did nothing but rip open flesh faster than a food gluttonous person could rip open a bag of Lay’s. With that in mind, Chance bit his lip as his fingers became endowed with small, paper-cut sized or smaller, cuts from the wall. Eventually his fingers came to the light switch and when they did, he knew that he would be giving away his location in the building by turning the light on, but he figured if he acted quickly enough, he wouldn't get caught. In a hurried manner, Chance ripped apart Brian’s desk in search of the original photographs.
“Ah-ha,” Chance whispered, holding the pictures in front of him.
As soon as he put the photos in his brown coat pocket, Chance turned off the light and headed for his desk, where he could use his Mac to delete the saved, digital versions of the photographs.
Chance looked around him to make sure he was not being followed before he sat down at this desk. As quick as the computer would allow him to, Chance got into his saved files and clicked DELETE on all of his pictures from the day. A small bar started turning red from left to right, showing how much of the deletion had been accomplished. It seemed to be taking too long for Chance’s comfort. Every second or so, Chance would look up from his desk to see if anyone was coming.
Finally, the files were successful deleted as the screen read and Chance immediately shut down his Mac. As he did, he heard a couple voices coming from the staircase.
Bryant and Steve!
“Shoot!” Chance said, quickly rising to his feet. To make a dash for it seemed like a good choice until he was able to see both men fully. Chance crouched behind a divisionary half-wall in order to stay in stealth. When the moment was right, Chance charged over to the staircase, the only choice for him since the two men were near the elevator doors.
“Who’s there?” Steve demanded to know, as Chance ran as fast as possible down the stairs.
Without much thinking, Steve and Bryant ran towards Chance’s direction and followed him down the stairs. A race developed between the three of them. Chance, though far enough away from the other two men to avoid being seen, felt as though they were always catching up on him so he ran faster.
“Who’s there?!” Steve said again.
Chance, in the middle of running away, dropped his phone from the side of him. He picked it up and just in time, Chance made it to the entrance floor and ran out of the side doors this time before the two men could even make it to the last stair.
Chance bypassed the parking lot and ran straight into the woods, where he had thrown the brick before he used it to smash the window of the Tab’s front door.
Inside the building, Steve and Bryant looked at each other, to say, “Were we just seeing things?” They despised making themselves look dumb, so they just shook their heads and went downstairs to continue with their work.
Meanwhile, in the woods, Chance caught his breath. “Man,” he gasped.
Chance pulled out the few photographs he had taken and his cell phone. He waited for it to ring. It seemed like the perfect opportunity for the caller to give the next set of directions. And just as he thought it would, the phone rang.
“What now?” Chance asked.
“You’re always in a hurry,” the caller said and then laughed sardonically.
Chance looked at his watch. He only had three hours left. That meant the caller was getting ready to hurt his son or wife.
“Well,” the caller said, “I’ve got good news for ya. Just because you did what I asked without hesitation or resistance, I want you to know that your wife and son are unscathed . . . ”
Chance sighed in relief.
“However . . . ” the caller continued,” I have a 9-millimeter pointed directly at your wife’s head right now.”
In the background noise of the call, Chance could hear his wife sobbing.
“Shut up!” the caller yelled in the background.
“You leave my wife alone!” Chance screamed at the top of his lungs into the cell phone.
“Look here, Chance, you’re not in charge of this game. I am. I suggest you just shut your fucking mouth before I blast your son and your wife.”
“I’m listening but you’ll be luck to make it to prison if you kill my family. I’ll turn the photos and this conversation to the police if you hurt them.”
“Well played,” the caller said. “Blackmail. I love it. And not only are you tough, but you know what I want with the pictures.”
“You’re throwing away gloves. I saw it when I looked again. You’re in the background throwing away black, leather gloves. No normal person would throw away a perfectly fine pair of driving gloves.”
“Again, well played. You have the photographs and deleted all the files. Good job. Now all you have to do is find me in less than three hours so we can make our trade.”
“How do I find you?” Chance asked.
“You keep on asking that stupid question. There answer should be obvious to you.”
“What? I don’t have a car either, thanks to you.”
“What a shame . . . ” the caller mocked and laughed again.
“How can I find you?”
Chance put his phone back in his pocket after the man holding his family prisoner ended the call once again.
“I’ll find you . . . ” Chance said under his breath. Somehow though, Chance actually believed himself. At the beginning of the day’s mess, he would have thought it a lie. Now wasn’t much different than then. He still didn’t know where to go, but the desire to find his family and end the horrible situation he was in, gave him a sense of certainty.
Time was ticking by quickly for Chance. It was either make a move now or suffer the consequences. The problem was, Chance had no idea what to do.
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