No Choice at All
By Russ Towne
Daniel Hansen was angry, something he rarely felt for long. He’d gotten a flat tire on his way to the most important meeting of his career. It didn’t help that it was a dark winter night. Daniel changed the tire, threw the flat in the trunk, and slammed the lid. He remembered the tire iron was still lying in the dirt where he’d left it. Daniel grabbed and set it on the seat beside him as he got in and sped away.
“Damn! So much for having extra time. I’ll still be okay if I don’t have any more delays. Maybe even have time to find a place to wash my hands.” His employer’s founder Harrison “The Dragon” Dunsmuir was a stickler for punctuality and many other things for that matter. Several people swore they actually saw fire spew from his mouth when he was angry. While Daniel had seen a bit of Dunsmuir’s temper, thankfully, it had always been directed at someone else. In every case, the young executive had felt The Dragon had been tough but fair.
Daniel began working for the company right out of college twelve years ago. He’d rapidly risen through the ranks and had recently turned a poorly performing division into a well-oiled machine. While it was located far from headquarters, his successes had apparently come to the attention of Dunsmuir.
When the top executive of the division that was the crown jewel of the company announced his retirement, Daniel was asked if he’d be interested in being considered to replace him. He jumped at the opportunity but knew the competition for the job would be fierce, and it wouldn’t take much to be knocked out of consideration. Something like showing up late with dirty hands might not only ruin his chances for this job, it could put his future with the firm in jeopardy.
Daniel increased his speed. His headlights tore into the darkness. The curves calmed him a bit as he got into a rhythm with the road. He noticed surprisingly few cars on the road. It had been perhaps twenty minutes since he’d seen a vehicle in the other lane.
He rounded a curve and sped toward two cars parked on the opposite side of the road. The dome light of the front car was on as he approached but went out as he was nearly abreast of it.
Daniel continued on his way. “That’s odd. The light went out, but the car’s doors were open. Well, there could be good reasons for that.” But, as Daniel thought back to the scene, other things hadn’t seemed quite right. A couple of men were on each side of the car. They seemed to freeze as he drove past.
“Did I see a woman in the car? Yeah. A woman in the car with four men acting strange on a dark road in the middle of nowhere. Maybe it’s just kids having fun. No. The driver looked old enough to be their mother, and the men looked more like twenty-somethings than teens. Don’t overreact. It may be nothing. Something innocent. Maybe they’re helping her fix her car. And don’t forget your interview. You stop now, and you can kiss the promotion and maybe even your job goodbye. What a choice!” Except he knew it was no choice at all.
(To be continued…)