By Sean Patrick Reardon
Terry's head did the shimmy shake when the ammonium carbonate assaulted his nostrils, eyes rolling around like Ray Charles without his shades on, trying to focus on the two light bulbs above his head as they normalized into one.
He wasn't sure what made him piss his boxers first; seeing his dead Siamese cat hanging by its neck from the unfinished attic's rafters, or the guy in the Santa suit wearing the Scream mask looking down at him.
Saint Nick's face dripped blood from the forehead, somehow staying inside the mask, while Terry's heart used up a months worth of its lifetime beats in the fifteen seconds it took him to realize…this isn't a dream. Last thing Terry remembered; some asshole plowing into the rear end of his Jeep as he waited at a red light. Two guys getting out, wanting to make a deal, keep it off the books.
Terry knew this would be the last United Investments Christmas party he'd be attending as he approached the CEO, ready to ask him for a minute alone to discuss the deal he was about to offer. The terms were simple. Lawrence Tannenbaum III would give him one million in cash, or United, and Fuckstick Larry, would be the poster children for the first market timing scandal in the industry.
Terry's wife, Nicole, following Tammy Wynette's instructions, had encouraged him, even helped him rehearse his approach, Taxi Driver style. 'Carpe Diem', she told him.
Now, he was in the zone, downing the last of his sixth Kamikaze, putting a hand on Larry's shoulder and getting a "who the fuck are you?" glare in return.
Terry put out his hand. Larry shook it, wondering who the drunken shithead was trying to commit occupational suicide.
"Terry O'Brien, I work in the technology services department. Is it true you have a butler who brings you special toilet paper when you hit the can?"
"I think you ought to-"
"Shut the fuck up. We need to talk Lar…now."
Terry guided him over to a corner in the Hyatt ballroom, the band playing "Mele Kalikimaka", while Terry brought him up to speed on the call recordings he'd listened to that put him on the trail. How he'd copied them, but hadn't included them with all the other recordings the compliance auditors had requested as part of the annual true up mandate.
Larry saying, "It's not what you think it is, you got it all wrong." Terry telling him, "Don’t fuck with me asshole. It's exactly what I know it is. My wife's a trader with Pacific, dickhead, knows a lot more than me about such things. Says you're fucked if gets out."
Terry let him savor it, started whistling "Yankee Doodle", knowing Larry was intimately familiar with the Whistleblower Protection Act. The rat bastard act is what Larry had called it on the recordings.
Larry scanned the room, trying to see how many prying eyes on were on him, telling Terry to be in his office at nine tomorrow morning to make the arrangements. He mustered up an aw-shucks face, started playing twenty questions. "Where does your wife stand on all this? Can she be trusted? It's just the two of you, correct?"
"She's on board." Terry grinned, patted him on the arm." No worries there Lar. Just take care of your end, everyone's happy. Now how about you buy my drink to celebrate, seal the deal."
"My pleasure Terry, but I really have to use the restroom." He smiled, looked around the room, his hand making a visor over his eyes like a sailor staring at the horizon. "Where the hell is Jeeves?" Larry winked, told Terry to meet him over at the bar.
Terry laughed as he watched Larry walk away, thinking about the poor bastard on fourteen that Uncle Lar shit-canned for cooking microwave popcorn in the break room, stinking out the floor right before the Trustees meeting.
Larry tried to remember the last time he used a payphone as the front desk lady broke the twenty for him, four quarters along with the small bills. He lifted the handset thinking, fifty-cents for the first minute, Jesus, fucking inflation. Buddy can you spare a half buck?
Terry gave the valet a ten, got behind the wheel of the Grand Cherokee and called the wife, told her the latest. Nicole, talking dirty, telling him to step on it, she'll be waiting with a special reward for him.
Terry, nice and cozy, three miles from home after an hour on the road, listened to Sinatra sing about fancy ties and granny's pies, waiting for the red light to change. He saw the headlights in his rearview right before the impact, thinking they were getting a little too close for comfort, some brakes would be nice.
Psycho Santa held out the CD case, the gun barrel resting on the slack-jawed, lipless mouth of the mask, letting Terry know it was not the time for talking, or moving. Terry shivered on the plywood floor, his frozen breath vapors disappearing when Santa unscrewed the light bulb. Santa put the disc in the side pocket of the red suit, pulled a flashlight from his boot and pointed it toward the right side of the attic. Terry heard it click on and his eyes followed the light beam that ended on Nicole's naked body, dangling at the end of a yellow nylon rope.
Santa looked up at Terry, telling him, "You've been a naughty boy. It's a damn shame how depression sets in for some people during the holidays. Fucks up their mind, makes them do irrational things to themselves…and others."
Terry, pleading, getting nowhere, watched as the black leather boot kicked the chair out from under his feet.
Sean Patrick Reardon is from Boston, Mass and is the author of the crime thriller Mindjacker.
His stories have been featured in Killers,Thrillers 'n' Chillers and A Twist of Noir.