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Friday, August 19, 2016

New Short Story: Roadkill,Snapchat, Murder!

When telemarketer Derek Braggs makes a call to an active murder scene his day goes south. 

 

Derek Braggs parked his Subaru in the only available patch of all day shade and cracked the windows a little before locking the car. He tossed an apple up, catching it in his palm as he walked. He looked back at the fresh paint on the driver’s side front quarter. They’d done a nice job, you really couldn’t tell.
He made his way across the parking garage roof and entered the top floor of a mostly empty office tower that hadn’t been full since the heydays of the oil boom, mid 80’s and hadn’t had fresh carpet or paint since then either.
It was home to an assortment of companies that needed table space that didn’t have to look good. The suite next to VisionQuest Marketing was filled with day traders, and the next floor down housed a collection of antique barber chairs. There were distinct benefits to showing up 15 minutes early, that was becoming obvious. He hadn’t scalded his ass on his car seat since summer started, and with the better leads he was able to collect for showing up early, he was neatly in the lead…
He stopped cold at the end of a short hallway leading into the phone bank. Instead of resting neatly at the top of the leader board, as it had been for weeks, his marker was hanging two spaces down, haphazardly. One magnet was not even making contact with the board as it swiveled. Two names appeared above his, Shaquita Williams and Donald Tunney, both night shifters calling the Australian leads, damn it!
He grunted with disgust as he squinted to focus on the prize next to his name. It was not, he noted, the Vegas plane tickets he’d been vying for in the top spot, but another set of cheap ass steak knives, the kind he’d given away as Christmas gifts to nearly everyone on his list last year, after coming in third six months in a row.
He knew he was lucky to even be in the dial-sales business anymore. Nearly every sales room in the nation now worked from automated digital dialers, with randomized leads that you were lucky to make your minimums off of. It was bad enough to be selling Internet-marketing services over the phone.
He hated agreeing with every smart ass that if their service was so great, they’d sell it on the internet, instead of calling people on the phone. Now, he’d been “promoted” to day shift, an honor they all fought desperately hard to avoid, because selling to their countrymen was notoriously hard.
Americans were too cynical, why not? He was. But he was also good at getting those 16 digits and closing accounts. The night shift had it easier; the Australian leads had been hot lately. In spite of that he’d sold over 150 units this month and was now being edged out by 4 and 6 units respectively.
He adjusted the desk chair to the proper height and slapped a dog-eared copy of “The Magic” off the desk and into the trash can. No time for gratitude today, it was time for blood.
He took a bite of his apple and snapped the rubber band off a stack of leads he’d been saving for just such an occasion. These were the “dead ends”, leads he’d made contact with three times and was technically supposed to have surrendered. Except that he knew, in this stack of 50, there were 12 really soft leads, just waiting for him to offer a price drop. Today was his day.
By the time the rest of the team began to filter in, Derek was on his seventh call, and had signed three contingencies. Once they were verified by a supervisor, he’d be on his way back up. Those three got him 1/3 of the way to what he figured was a safe lead and the tickets he’d been promising his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend if he didn’t win.
He ran a finger over her picture, perched on the corner of the desk. He really kind of owed it to her.
“Derek who?” the voice on the other end said.
“Just Derek, I’m with Social-ism.biz. We offer social media marketing, and I’m looking to speak with,” he squinted at the lead. He needed new glasses, “Charles Mandell.”
There was pause, then a rustle of pages, “Ah, here you are, Derek, how did you know the deceased?”
Derek chuckled, “What? Um, deceased? Are you serious? Wow, I thought I was having a bad day.”
“Yeah, I never kid when I’ve got blood on my little crime scene booties, son, so, you called him three times recently, what was your relationship?” the voice said.
“Um, who did you say this was?” Derek felt his throat tighten, and his head, which hadn’t hurt since yesterday, began to throb behind a shrinking knot he’d gotten somehow, night before last.
“I didn’t. This is detective Bronson, homicide, APD, now, can we get back to how you knew my stiff?”
“APD? As in Albuquerque Police Department? Gotta be some mistake, see, I’m trying to reach Charles Mandell, with Chuck’s Cars, in Carslbad California.”
“Today is your lucky day, because that is the name on my vic’s license, and I am only going to ask you nicely one more time, how did you know him?”
“I didn’t. I’m in phone sales, and wait, how are you answering his phone in Albuquerque?”
“Well, see, they got this new-fangled invention, called a cell phone, maybe you heard of it?” the cop was enjoying this, “And when I’m getting ready to put a dead man on a gurney and his phone rings, I get real curious about who it is. One more time, how…did…you… know him?”
“Look, he’s just a name on a sales lead to me man. That's all. I was calling him back, because last time he had a question. I got the answer about a new price, and I was calling back to enroll him in marketing services. I swear, that’s it,” Derek winced, he’d said more than he intended, he could hear Todd in his head, telling him to shutup. He was thinking about hanging up, when his supervisor came up and put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s the APD…”
“I know. I was doing my quality checks, heard the whole thing, do not hang up. He already knows who and where you are,” his boss whispered. He patted Derek’s shoulder then walked back to the office, where Derek saw him pick up a headset to listen.
“Right. See, thing is, you talked to this poor guy for forty minutes on your last call, and twenty five before that, and fifteen before that. So, either you’re the most persistent salesman in the world, this guy was the world’s nicest man, or my favorite possibility, you knew him, and you’re lying to me. I think I know the answer, what I want to know is. Why?"
Derek looked toward the office. His supervisor glared back, “Yeah, well, sometimes the leads have a lot of questions. It's just part of my technique. The longer they talk, the more likely they’ll say yes.”
The cop on the other end sighed, “Fine, where were you night before last?”
Derek didn’t answer.
“Don’t like that question? Let’s try this one, got a black Subaru Forester?” Bronson pushed.
Derek said nothing.
“I’m taking that as a yes. Tell you what. I’m giving you a courtesy here. You've got two hours to report to the police station there in Amarillo. If you’re not there in two hours to help us answer a few questions, I’ll be sending someone out to talk to you, okay?”

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