By BJ Bourg
“Why aren’t you happy?”
“You don’t look it.”
“See?” Otis Redman forced a smile and pointed to his face. “I’m happy.”
Claire threw the plastic stick across the room. “I understand your dad just died, but you don’t have to be such a prick!”
“It ain’t about that.” Otis shook his head and threw his hands in the air. “I lost my job this morning.”
Claire’s mouth dropped open. “Your--what happened?”
“Nothing? Something had to happen.”
“Nope. I walked in and Ricky said things weren’t working out. Said he had to let me go.”
“You’ve been there four years, without a problem.”
“I know, but ever since he took over--”
“You have to get your job back. What about health insurance? The house note? The car?”
“Baby, I know all that.”
“ Bethany ’s birthday’s next month. We promised her Disney. What are we supposed to tell her now?”
“We’ll just tell her we can’t afford it.”
“Yeah, a two-year-old will understand.” Claire sank to the sofa. “My mom warned me about this, told me you wouldn’t be able to keep a job.”
Otis felt a pain deep in his chest. “It wasn’t my fault.”
“Really? I’m sure your record had nothing to do with this, did it?”
Otis stormed out the door, jumped in his truck and sped off. Music blared from the radio but he didn’t hear it. Traffic buzzed by on the busy streets but he didn’t notice. There was only one thing on his mind--getting his job back.
Otis parked next to Nelson Bailey’s Lexus and stared up at the miniature mansion. “What I wouldn’t give for the change in his pockets.”
He walked up the cobblestone drive, pressed the buzzer. A short Spanish lady, mid fifties, answered the door. He nodded. “I’m here to see Mr. Nelson.”
She led Otis to a spacious office, then scurried away. Nelson Bailey looked up from a large oak desk. “Hi, Otis.”
“Mr. Nelson, I have to talk to you about my job.”
Nelson pursed his lips. “Ricky told me he had to let you go.”
“Well, he fired me. This morning.” Otis wiped sweaty palms on his Dockers. “He didn’t even tell me why.”
“Well, your past has been an issue.”
“Not to you. Never to you. That’s why I’m here. Ever since Ricky took over the business, you know, people say he’s not like you. You’re a good man, compassionate. I need this job. My little girl, she’s not even two yet and…” Otis rubbed his face and hung his head. “I just found out my wife’s pregnant. She’ll have to take maternity leave, and with me out of work, we’ll lose everything.”
“You’ll find another job, don’t you worry.”
“All I know is selling cars.” Otis shook his head. “I’ve been to every dealership in the city today. No one will touch me.”
“You were convicted of a felony, son. You have to expect people will be a bit leery about hiring you.”
“You weren’t. You gave me the job straight out of prison.”
Nelson sighed and put his glass down. “I did it as a favor to your dad. He saved my life in Korea . I owed him.”
Otis’ heart pounded in his chest as realization slowly sunk in. “What are you saying?”
“What, now that he’s dead you don’t owe him anymore?”
“Son, Ricky runs the business now. His decisions are final.” Nelson pointed to the door. “If that’ll be all.”
Otis clinched his fists. “No, that won’t be all. You can’t just fire me because my dad died. I understand you hired me as a favor, but I’ve been busting my ass for your company. I’ve earned my way.”
“Otis, if you please? I have a function to attend.”
Otis stood and gritted his teeth. “Sir, I’m not leaving ‘til I get my job back.”
Nelson’s eyes narrowed. He stepped forward and put a hand on Otis’ chest. “You, get out of my house this instant!”
“Not until you call Ricky and tell him to give me back my job.”
Nelson leaned forward and shoved Otis against the wall. The impact caused him to lose his breath. He gasped.
Nelson seized the moment and grabbed Otis’ left arm, pulling him toward the door. Otis quickly caught his breath and braced his feet. He jerked his arm away from Nelson and pushed the older man to the floor.
Nelson’s face turned to crimson. “You bastard! How dare you come into my house and push me around!”
“I’m sorry. I just want my job--”
“You’re going back to jail, where attempted murderers belong!”
“I’m sorry. Look, I’m leaving. I’ll never come back, just please don’t do it.”
“It’s already done!” Nelson crawled to a mahogany table and snatched up a cordless phone.
“No, please don’t!” Otis rushed forward and dove for the phone. His right shoulder made contact with the back of Nelson’s neck and Nelson’s head smashed into the corner of the table. Nelson collapsed under Otis’ weight and both men fell to the floor.
Otis scrambled to his feet holding the phone. Nelson’s body convulsed, blood trickling from a gash in his temple. “Mr. Nelson, are you--”
A piercing scream shook Otis to his core. He turned. The maid stood slack-jawed, a hand on her chest. He brushed past her and ran to his truck.
When Otis pulled into his driveway, Claire ran to meet him. She jerked the door open and screamed, “I did it! I did it!”
Otis just stared straight ahead.
“Baby, it’s okay! Look, don’t be mad. I went to the dealership and talked to Ricky. He understands! He’s giving you back your job!”
Sirens sounded in the distance. They drew nearer. Otis turned to look at his wife for what little time he had left.
A puzzled look fell over Claire’s face. She pointed to the cordless phone in his hand. “Where’d you get that?”
BIO: BJ Bourg is a career law enforcement officer who writes mystery fiction and manages an online mystery magazine called Mouth Full of Bullets in his spare time. He’s had over ninety stories published in over twenty different venues, including several anthologies. The latest anthology, “The EX Factor”, is available through www.kobocapublishing.com. For more information, visit his website at www.bjbourg.com and his online magazine at www.mouthfullofbullets.com.