Description: Jillian Kendall, Centurotech’s corporate attorney, hopes that the strange events which have been turning her formerly peaceful life upside-down since she arrived in Calgary, Alberta, are a product of her over-active imagination. But as she implements the merger between Centurotech and Hunter Electronics, she is drawn into the web of deceit that has been spun around her. There is only one way out, and it involves asking Code Hunter, founder of Hunter Electronics and childhood friend, for help. The problem is that Jillian is not certain that he can be trusted. And he is just as wary of her!
Jillian forced one last burst of speed from her rubbery legs, then twisted in mid-air. Her shoulders and back connected with the metal-clad walls of the building, eliciting a small gasp. Her chest was on the verge of exploding, while her heart slammed repeatedly off the interior of her ribcage with resounding thumps. Was it possible for it to beat in double-time?
She clutched the metal struts and did her best to blend in, hoping that she looked like a small irregularity on the exterior of the structure. She sucked in deep gulps of air as she tried to picture the real property report for Hunter Electronics. As corporate counsel for Centurotech, she had spent some time during the early stages of their take-over of Hunter Electronics going over the real property report and the site maps. If only she had paid more attention! She was almost certain that this building was used as a hangar.
The struts were cutting into her palms, so she relaxed her death grip. The brisk spring breeze was helping her overtaxed body to cool down, but her face felt like it was on fire! Every step she had taken during her dash through the parking lot and down the sidewalk to her present position had echoed in the stillness surrounding her. While her new boots set off her suit perfectly, they were not ideal for active wear.
Equally disconcerting was the realization that her butt had bounced with every stilted stride. It was progressing rapidly from almost passably firm to irreversibly flabby.
So here she was, second day on the job as Corporate Counsel for the new company, plastered up against the hangar and obsessing about her behind! This wasn’t going to help with the growing mound of paper already threatening to take over her desk. She had arrived at 5:47 a.m. this morning with the best of intentions. Okay, maybe she had taken a moment to admire her reflection in the large dark glass windows of the office building directly in front of the spot in which she had parked her car. Anybody else would have done the same.
It was then that she had heard the unpleasant, jarring pitch of argumentative voices. While the voices had been too faint for her to follow the discussion, her heart had nearly stopped when she heard her name! Then she had spotted what looked vaguely like human forms scurrying across the parking lot some distance behind her turned back. Her survival instincts had kicked in, and she had run for cover.
She scanned the parking lot from her vantage point, which was between the office building and a edifice that had the Hunter Electronic logo emblazoned upon it. There was only one other car in the parking lot in addition to hers besides hers, and it belonged to “the boss“. She doubted if he would be standing out in the parking lot arguing with someone at 5:47 a.m. Since there were no buses this far out of Calgary, the two individuals had gone to a great deal of trouble, and even done some planning, in order to be here at this time.
”Stop it!” Jillian ordered sternly. Sure, she had heard voices. But they could’ve belonged to maintenance people arguing about who was to clean the bird droppings off the surface of the building.
“Why is this the last?” The voice, though faint, was strident and demanding.
“Too risky!” was all she could make out of the reply as the tone degenerated into whining.
Okay, cleaning up bird waste could be risky, even dangerous, if proper safety precautions were not employed. But something told her that wasn’t the subject of the argument!
Had she been spotted? She didn’t think so. She quickly took her cell phone out of her pocket. She hesitated. Who should she call? 911? It wasn’t really an emergency, at least not right at this moment. Security? It seemed that checking nametags and waving employees through the gate was about all that on-site security, consisting of one tired, lone rent-a-cop, was capable of.
The voices seemed to be growing louder, as if the individuals in question were moving closer to her location.
“I want this lawyer broad’s butt put in a sling! She comes in from Toronto, pulls the hotshot routine, and thinks I’m going to roll over and play dead? Ain’t happening! You either work this out, or both of you will get an …adjustment.” The voice dropped lower, and became even more menacing. “Believe me, it won’t just be your attitude that gets turned inside-out!”
Then the first speaker’s voice erupted into a string of epithets, along with a reference to lawyers in general, that had her clenching her jaw. She’d heard it all before. Listening to loud-mouthed idiots seemed to be a regular part of her job. Maybe she should have gotten a psych degree instead of going to law school.
“Don’t you think I’ve done my best to straighten her out? I just do what she tells me,” whined the second voice. “She thinks it’s becoming too dangerous. Somebody tipped off the cops, and they’re getting suspicious. She wants out.”
Jillian sidled closer to the corner of the building, and stopped when she was flush with the edge. What was this woman allegedly supplying? Who was she?
Her stomach did a fast roll as a realization slammed into her line of thought. The woman had just arrived from Toronto, as had Jillian. She was a lawyer. So was Jillian. The churning of her stomach stopped long enough to allow fingers of ice to extend through her midsection. It had to be just a coincidence! She wasn’t supplying anybody with anything, and she was certain that she had never seen these people!
So why was her intuition continuing to insist that the two perpetrators were talking about her?
“Yeah, well, she’s not getting out,” snarled Mr. Thug. “This is the best quality for the cheapest price I’ve ever had. I can’t afford to lose it!” The statement was concluded with several demeaning euphemisms, this time limited to female lawyers and what he would like to do to them. His voice faded steadily as he spoke.
Back at you, she thought. She was going to find out exactly what that piece of slime was up to!
Jillian peered cautiously around the corner. She squinted behind the dark lenses of her sunglasses in an attempt to tone down the glare accompanying the pink and purple hues of the early morning sky, but she was only able to make out the barest of details. The two men were standing by a small exterior door of the building. The sun glinted off what must have been a piece of metal in his hand.
What was he doing with a key? An inside job, thought Jillian. Mr. Whiny was obviously the one connected with Hunter Electronics. His speech pattern and general demeanour made him more likely to fit in with the corporate sub-culture. Conversely, everything about Mr. Thug screamed “career criminal”.
She had to get a list of employees and contractors who had been issued keys to this facility. But first, she needed to get a good enough look at Mr. Thug and Mr. Whiny in order to make a positive i.d. when she called the Police.
The door was closing slowly. She took a deep breath and dashed the length of the building. She grasped the door handle just before it slammed shut, and slipped inside. The voices were fading and the footsteps retreating.
It took her eyes a moment to adjust after she removed her sunglasses and clipped them to the scoop neck of her silk tank top. What she wouldn’t give for a pair of running shoes! She had to tip toe in order to keep the sound of her footsteps to a minimum. She heard the click of what she assumed to be the second set of doors, and then could no longer hear the voices. Mr. Thug and Mr. Whiny must have moved into the hangar area.
Were they planning to steal a plane? Would they have to have a pilot’s license to accomplish that? They would probably have to file flight plans, or something, if they were planning to fly a plane in broad daylight.
Questions raced through her mind at a rate of a million per minute. She crouched as she approached the double doors with small glass windows. She didn’t want to be sighted, but she still had to get a good look at Mr. Thug and Mr. Whiny. She peeked cautiously through the window. The lights weren’t on, but there was some natural illumination from the large windows set into the upper quarter of the walls. She could pick out the outlines of three planes plus tarp shrouded hulks of various sizes. She hoped that the regulations dealing with the storage of hazardous goods, such as airplane fuel, were being complied with. She would have to check that.
Jillian depressed the door lever, and eased it open. She swallowed hard, wishing she had a piece of gum to erase the metallic taste in her mouth. She could hear the voices again, but couldn’t really make out what they were saying.
Then her heart froze and lodged in her chest. Her throat constricted so rapidly that she couldn’t even take a quick breath. Her mind, however, registered the details with startling clarity.
There was something or someone just behind her right shoulder! Not only could she feel a presence with her sixth sense that had obviously failed her until now, she could hear breathing. Loud breathing. Her mind began to slide into panic mode.
Oh no, she told herself, this wasn’t a situation worthy of panic. They caught her. So what? She began to turn around, about to offer up some sort of explanation, when she felt pressure on her shoulder.
How dare they!
“Get your paws off me,” she hissed through clenched teeth as she turned to face her antagonist. Time stood still and iced over as her conscious mind slammed into panic mode.
There was a real paw on her shoulder! A very large, very hairy paw, attached to a very large, very hairy body!
A scream of pure terror lodged in her frozen larynx! Her mind was unable to make sense out of the scene being played out. All she could think was that she had to get as far away from this beast as possible.In one economical movement, she twisted, ducked, and scooted backward. The safety bar on the door slammed into her lower back and the door hit the wall behind it with enough momentum to create a resounding thud!
“Calm down! It’s okay,” said the squirrel, its voice hedged with concern.
A squirrel? It was furry, had big brown eyes, and sported a slightly ratty tail that curled above its head, making it at least eight feet tall. And it could speak human!
Her inner self called off the five star panic attack, but her autonomous nervous system wasn’t quite convinced that she was safe. Her legs were unable to keep up with the velocity generated by her sudden flight.
The squirrel lunged toward her, and she finally released the loud ear-splitting shriek that had been building since her first glimpse of him. His paws settled on her shoulders as her centre of equilibrium changed. They twisted in mid-air while she struggled to push him away. She felt a reverberation through his body, and experienced a fleeting moment of relief. It would have hurt if the hangar floor had made contact with her back instead of the squirrel’s.
Jillian was dimly aware that she was stretched out on top of him, and that he felt like a lumpy cushion. She tried to lift her head and get her bearings, but her face was pressed into his furry chest at an angle. An odd smell, akin to mildew and dampness, tickled her nostrils. She hoped it wasn’t squirrel body odour. She sucked in a lungful of air, and her world exploded with a loud sneeze.
“Stop it, Jillian,” the squirrel gasped. “Hold still!”
“Can’t help it,” she mumbled into what she thought was his elbow, “I’m allergic to dust and mould.” The squirrel’s grip slackened enough for her to lift her head and push up. He groaned. She locked her elbows and quit struggling. He did seem to be in some pain.
Impressions followed at the edge of her receding panic: his ragged breathing, the pain of her lower back where she had hit the door, the press of her sunglasses clipped onto her shirt, the fact that he called her by name.