Book Excerpt

CHAPTER 2

Working Late

Vicky and Aug wound things up after that. It was now evening, and everyone but Frank and Aug had left. Frank and Aug were there discussing the future of Trove, where things were headed.

The plush had secondarily been a deal for the employees to give to friends and families. Aug always looked for deals for his staff. Some deals buy long-term loyalty. Some deals are rewards for a job well done. Some deals are just bad deals that one can’t do anything about. Both of them were dealing at the moment, and they both understood that it was both a good and bad deal. That made this a somewhat sad deal.

Many days when the warehouse closes for the night, semi-trailers are left locked up at the loading docks. This makes it easy for the crew to start working right away in the morning. Frank’s final deal of this night before he left was to load a skid of Big Black Dick goods into one of these semis and park the rig in the yard and lock it up. Aug had been out of the United States for a couple of weeks. He had paperwork and phone calls and e-mails to catch up on. He would stay and lock up.

The Wild East Asian Bistro was called for food delivery. Yummy Oriental food always does a condemned man good, and Aug was condemned to a night of work. But eating crab rangoon and happy family does take some time. This means break time, a chance to catch up on the activities of the state. To occupy himself while eating his food, Aug perused copies of Florida Today that Maria had dutifully left for him.

The back pages of a week-old paper contained a Pensacola byline story that caught his eye. Some poor banker was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was caught in a drive-by shooting. The poor man took it right in the skull among other places. It was the second tragedy in a week to hit the White Sands Bank. The paper noted that the White Sands Bank president had also died in the last week of a heart attack.

Aug thought about how funny this story was. What a difference a region makes. If this murder had happened in South Florida, then this story would undoubtedly be front-page news. The death would be number X in a series of annual drive-by events. For Pensacola, a drive-by murder was a back-page item.

The story of the deaths activated Aug’s brain cells. He thought about how only a small percentage of the population really want to consciously kill themselves. The rest of us all die by the hand of some fate. Some people die by an unfortunate deal of the cards. Depending on the game being played, some people are dealt a royal flush and are trumped by a lowly spade. Or maybe it was a heart or a diamond or both that clubbed these men. The banker’s life of money had disappeared in an instant, although an instant may not always be as quick as it seems to be.

Aug’s musings were interrupted as some bamboo shoots and snow peas became stuck in his throat. He was choking on his happy family meal. It took a minute to get his throat clear.

As Aug choked, his arms flailed about while he looked through the delivery bags for napkins to shoot shoots into. When he finished clearing his throat, he noticed then that he had received two fortune cookies with his dinner. Aug was curious. It was time to see what fate had in store for him. He cracked open the first cookie and read the fortune while eating the dessert. The first fortune read,

Your present plans are going to succeed.

Lucky # 7, 18, 32, 40, 48, 50

The fortune surprised Aug. He looked around his office. Was this a good omen? Was this a sign from God or maybe Buddha or Confucius? Now he was really curious. What did the other fortune cookie say? He cracked it open and read the paper.

Beware of lightning that strikes.

Lucky # 4, 11, 21, 30, 32, 46

This fortune disturbed him. Unease filled his body, and he involuntarily shuddered.

Aug stared at the fortunes. They mesmerized him. After a fashion, he folded them up and put the prognostications in his wallet. He thought, I’d better not mess with fortune. If fate is giving me lucky numbers, then I better buy some lottery tickets.

He looked at his watch. The time was about nine-thirty. It was time for a floor walk.

No matter the business, every good manager makes periodic floor walks.

The eyes see so much more than what the ears hear. In the computer room, he saw the security cameras rolling. At the doors, he saw that the alarm was set. He walked through the door into the warehouse. He walked down the aisles in the warehouse. The warehouse was looking good. The aisles were swept clean. The racks looked organized. He saw about half the plush left on the shelves. He saw drums of HCL that had been brought in for shipment consolidation. He saw skids of metals for the Upper Terra Mint.

Aug stopped and looked at the skids. They were an odd item to come through.

There were twelve skids in all. There were five skids of pewter. Each skid had a thousand pounds of pewter ingots. There were five skids of silver. Each skid had a thousand pounds of silver ingots. There was a small skid each of gold and platinum ingots. Each skid carried fifty pounds of precious metal.

A good businessman knows his customers. Mr. Valentine did not recall ever having processed anything for Upper Terra before. Nor did he recall having received or shipped metals before. Well, he thought, new business is always welcome. Aug continued on his way.

Trove was silent. The ghetto blasters were shut off. The phones were not ringing. No hi-los and semis were revving. No voices were over the PA. No one was yelling at each other to do something.

Aug turned off the alarm and opened up a bay door. He looked at the trucks in the yard. A smile crossed his face. His eyes gazed upon the sky, and he felt that they were “violet, more violet.” The stars were so bright. His baritone voice loudly sang to no one,

“Oh-oh, oh darling,

Little darling,

Did you ever see such a stormy sky?

It’s never been like this before.

I see it,

Can’t you see it?

Do you see it?

Feels like we’re in for a stormy night

But I can’t see a cloud in sight.” 1

His voice cracked a bit at the end, and tears welled up in his eyes as he saw the image of Laurie in the heavens. The past was remembered, and he wished he could have it back. A wounded puppy face graced his visage. Deep breaths were taken to restore his composure as he closed the bay door, reset the alarm, and turned his attention inward.

His destination was known, and it was reached. He was at the shipping office by the docks. He picked up a flashlight out of a wall holder, and then he walked out of the office over to the back cabinet of the Killer Beez game. Although the rollers were chocked, he was a little concerned about them giving way as he bent down to enter. The torch was activated.

The cabinet entrance was about five and a half feet high. Aug stood a little over six feet, so it meant walking in kinda bent over. About midcabinet, he found the spot he was looking for. It was a two-foot section of paneling in the cabinet that was set into the rest of the frame. He reached his hand over the top ledge and found a release. He activated the release. The paneling opened from the top out toward him. The two-foot section contained the treasure trove

inside Trove.

Nine plastic bags were inside a very large bag. Each individual bag contained gemstones. The gemstones were inside paper containers. The paper containers were labeled with the weight and type of stone contained. Three of the bags had one thousand individual papers. These were to be the one-carat diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. Three bags had five hundred small paper containers in them. These were to be the two-carat diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. Last were the bags with seventy-five papers. These were to be the five-carat or larger diamonds, sapphires, and rubies.

Aug opened up a couple of the large ruby packets and looked at the contents in the flashlight. They looked good, they were a good deal. They were a dream of reality. They were a reality that was hotter than Hades. The supposed market value was forty million, but because they were stolen, they cost a lot less. Aug did not know the final price that had been paid. He had not made that deal. His deal was to move the goods into the USA, and then a commission would be deposited into his Bahamian bank account.

What were these stones really worth? Did he even care? Aug thought it was a funny thing, or a funny tingum. One day a stock like Enron is worth a hundred dollars a share, and then months later, the stock has no value. Yet the way that the Enron management operated had not changed fundamentally from when the value of the stock had value. People will believe that something that has no value is worth investing billions of dollars on. Then, when their God fails them, they place the blame elsewhere for their own investment judgment. Same as the management of the failed corporation places the blame for the collapse of the company on something other than greed or bad management decisions.

Would these stones perhaps have no value someday? Like Enron, how much would this handful be worth tomorrow or the next day or maybe even a month or two from now? Aug smiled and closed up the packages and bags and prepared to exit the cabinet. Exiting the cabinet proved to be difficult.

Whoosh.

Aug’s head and right arm had come out of the cabinet first. The rest of his body did not exit by his own volition. He heard the quick whoosh of air but did not see the blackjack device that struck. He sure did feel it though.

The first strike upon his skull did not knock him out. It knocked him woozy. He struggled for a couple of seconds, trying to get his balance. His body bounced off the wooden cabinet like a pachinko ball dropping through a game. The bag and flashlight dropped out of his left hand to the floor.

Whoosh.

The second blow took him out completely. It was “destination ground” for him. His time travel to teen trauma took place before his body hit the cement.

 

1 Stormy Sky © Ray Davies

 

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