After reading both chapter one and chapter two, if you are interested, please leave a comment expressing direct interest in writing chapter three. If you’re the first to ask, the writing baton is bestowed upon you. Clock’s ticking, though! You have three days from the point you’ve asked to participate to write the chapter and send it back to me as well. However, if I don’t hear back past three days, I will be looking for another participant to write the chapter.
Please do not submit to the form without commenting your interest in writing the next chapter. As well, only one author per submission, meaning if you submitted a chapter and it is accepted, you cannot submit again for a different chapter.
The minimum word count is 500. The maximum word count I will accept is 5,500. After commenting your interest in writing the next chapter, submit your continuation here where I will then review and edit it. The day after you submit your continuation and it is accepted, the chapter will be posted and the process starts all over again.
You can read chapter one here along with the background details of the story collaboration and the guidelines I have set out. Remember, nothing discriminatory, sexist, racist, homophobic, or anything that is harmful or threatening to a group of people.
Note: I will be re-posting this to attract different readers and writers of different time zones internationally. If you reblog this and I re-publish the post, the link will lead to an error message. The way to fix this would be to update the link on your end.
Chapter Two by Liyona
I blink twice and close out the article. Something wasn’t right. This wasn’t protocol. My supervisor had been clear about one thing. “No deathz, pleaze.” The ‘s’ of every word making a zed sound. His accent really could only be heard in the ‘s’.
I wiped my face. “Damn it.” I knew what untimely deaths meant. Paperwork. And a lot of talking. No one at the head office wanted to hear about your sad, sloppy story of an excuse. They wanted facts. Cold hard facts. Normally, this wasn’t a problem. I worked entirely in numbers. Every day my life was filled with facts. Numbers, data, places, times, people. All shifted into little one’s and zero’s so the world could be a better place. But this morning Stephen “friggen” Richards was found dead and that was something that would have to be addressed.
I stood up and got ready for the morning. Today at the office, it would be hell. But no mind, I figured I would proceed as usual. After dressing myself for the day, I glanced at my reflection. My smooth skin and sharp features looked hollow in the dim bathroom light. “Not as hollow as Richards,” I said sardonically.
Then I took my commute to the office. You would think that since I work in data incrimination that I would have a fancy home set up. Or maybe you could imagine that my office was a secret lair where masterminds gathered with expensive gear and passwords to enter. Instead, I pulled into a nondescript parking garage next to a nondescript office building. Beige bricks lining the walls. As I pulled in, the security guard scanned my ID and let me in. No bells and whistles, nothing fancy. That’s the thing when engineers and data hackers are at the heart of the operation. They see no need for theatrics. And you know what, fine by me.
As I got out of my car and closed the door, I heard a soft “Hello?” from behind. I turned to see a face and wagging arms four cars down, glasses glinting.
“I thought that was you,” Cracker said, walking toward me. This was my colleague “Cracker.” I didn’t know their real name because that’s how things worked at the office. Cracker was short, small like a mouse with mousy hair, bland clothes, and bland taste in music. They liked ska.
“Good morning,” I said turning toward the elevator. “Wait up! Charlie Chocolate!” Craker squeaked, running swiftly behind me trying to catch up. I cringed at hearing Cracker’s nickname for me. Why the Chocolate? Why not just Charlie, which is what everyone else in the office called me. Unfortunately for me, Cracker was one of those people who loved embarrassing moments and insisted on remembering them. There was a work incident where I ate moldy chocolate which made its rounds in the gossip mill and Cracker was never going to let me live that stupidity down.
“Chocolate, did ya hear about the Richards case? Blew up the Times this morning. What a load of bullshit. Wouldn’t have wanted that to be my case.” Cracker wheezed as they waited for the elevator. Their body frame was not fit for cross country sports.
“Yeah,” I mumbled. “Sucks to high heaven for that bloke.” We weren’t legally allowed to divulge our work cases for obvious reasons even among co-workers. Data leaks were too easy on collaborative projects. It is ironic that there were things that I was legally bound to uphold in this company when the entire operation didn’t operate within any lawful bounds.
“I think Kevin’s the one on this case,” Cracker said as we entered the elevator. I slid my ID into a card slot and pressed “6” on the button panel. Down we went.
“You know,” I said after a pause. “I think it’s really not good to speculate cases and things. In my experience, that’s what gets you into trouble.” Cracker had been at the organization half the amount of time I had been there. I thought it a benevolent deed to give them a few pointers.
“Whatever mate,” Cracker leaned against the elevator wall. “All I’m sayin’ is that’s a whole lot of stinking garbage for someone to clean up and I’m just glad it’s not me.” They pushed their large glasses further up their nose.
I said nothing. We exited the elevator onto the sixth floor underneath the parking garage. The hum and buzz of the computers filled our ears and the smell of old sneakers and dust hit our noses. Cracker and I walked together to our desks. I was the lucky chap who sat next to Cracker at the end of the cubicle aisle.
“Well good day to ya, then,” Cracker smiled and waved. “See ya at lunch.” They sat at their desk logging into the databases. I followed suit and logged on. The first few windows on my screen were the case files for the Richards agenda. I left these open so I could easily fill them out after everything had been squared away. But now with Richards dead in a warehouse, I couldn’t close out the paperwork. After securing a remote computer with a unique VPN, I started to conduct my own investigation into Richards’
It seemed that all the police would say was that the death was suspicious and they suspected foul play. After accessing the internal police records, I found that a police officer had questioned the pub owner. He had stated “Richards had left to use the bathroom and a friend followed. Couldn’t say anything about how the guy looked. Just a bloke with a coat.” Nothing too incriminating. Annoyingly, the pub owner remembered me though. I scanned through the forensic photos to see if the body would give any indication to who the killer was. Forensics had seemed to do a rush job because no matter how hard I searched, there really was nothing to gain from the photos.
I heard a click as my desk phone speaker started to buzz. “Hello?” I asked.
“Charlie. It’z me. Pleaze, come to my office. I need to discuss zomething with you.”
“Okay boss. Be right there.”
I looked up to see Cracker raise their eyebrows at me. I shrugged. There wasn’t anything unusual in me going to the boss’s office. I consistently worked on high profile cases that required delicacy and consistent meetings. I got up to walk down to the office. As I lifted myself from my chair, I heard a high pitched whining sound in my left ear. Rubbing my ear slightly, I realized the sound wasn’t going away. Instead, the sound got louder. Painful even. I started to turn and realised that I felt paralyzed to where I stood. My arms could still move, though, and I pulled them down from my ears to see red on my palms. Blood. The piercing ring still cut through my ears. I looked over at Cracker. They were staring at their computer. Headphones in, oblivious to the scene in front of them. My heart raced. What was happening? In what seemed like slow motion, Cracker turned their head toward me.
“Chocolate?” They asked.
I blinked. Suddenly, the sound vanished and the pain dissipated. “Fuck,” I swore bending over, drooping my head. I patted my hands to my ears. Nothing. No blood. What just happened? What is going on?
“Excuse you, asshole. Don’t you need to be heading to the boss’s office?” Cracker smirked returning to their work. They seemed to be unperturbed by my ear patting and quizzical staring.
“Yeah,” I responded knowing full well Cracker no longer could hear me through their concentration. When Cracker got in the zone, they could make magic happen. Birth a unicorn. That was what us hackers called it. If someone was able to attain that one vital piece of information that led to a huge payoff in the end, it was as likely to happen as someone birthing a unicorn. Hence the expression. But, you know what? Cracker could do it. Even in their short time at the company, they had made a name for themselves and worked like a dog to get there. As much as I hated small talk with Cracker, I respected their knowledge of the craft.
I left my desk and headed to the boss’s office. I was still a bit dazed by the weird hallucination that I had just experienced. So, I walked slowly and meandered a bit to think more about the Richards case before I had to explain myself. Once I got to the office, I was confronted with a dark black door and silver handle. I knocked once and then let myself in.
My boss sat at his large oak desk filled with large monitors, wires, papers, and random computer parts. “Pleaze Charlie, zit down.” I sat down in a chair facing my boss. The man had long features and long hair to match. Long fingers typed on his keyboard before he turned to me. “I believe zome conradulationz iz in due. Iz it not?”
I blinked. Not registering everything fully.
My boss continued, “You seemed to have fully zquared away the Richardz case by your own meanz. I congratulate you. Zir, you have birthed a unicorn as I hear your colleaguez zay.”
I blinked again. Did the boss think I killed Richards to complete the case?