2016 Flash Fiction Challenge: Blood Money

Hey, I received an honorable mention in the 2016 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge! You can read it in its entirety right here:

Blood Money

It had been months since Edward French had set foot on the trading floor, and he was nervous. “Was,” in the strictest sense of the past tense; a quick bump in the cab ride over had put his nerves to rest. Now all he felt was exhilaration, a flashback to the time when he was just another ambitious trader eager to get his own set of triple-weight eggshell engraved business cards.

Much had changed in just a few short months – he’d gone with ecru instead of eggshell – but Edward was hungry as ever. His sights were simply higher now. He had a corner office, sure, but why settle for a corner office on the 17thfloor when Jim McConnell had his on the 18th? And how could he rest, period, knowing someone else’s name adorned the building?

No, Edward French knew what he wanted. Which explained the surge of frustration – he had long since set aside childish emotions like embarrassment and sadness – when he realized he would be picking up Frederick Mayhew’s slack.

The whole situation infuriated him. Edward wasn’t Freddy’s boss, sure, but Freddy was still a junior. Freddy had a plastic desk, not a mahogany one. Freddy’s business cards came from Kinko’s!

Yet here Edward was, waiting for the trading floor to open alongside twenty-somethings in cheap suits. He couldn’t believe that Freddy’s secretary had called him, specifically. As though he could just “fill in” like some junior broker in off-brand Brooks Brothers.

Had he not perfected his power stance? Was he signaling weakness? Perhaps one of his colleagues had suggested he might not be cut out for the executive track…?

He decided cocaine was making him paranoid.  Edward forced the matter out of his mind and busied himself, pretending to read the Wall Street Journal. He really just enjoyed dropping the pages to the floor and watching interns scurry to pick them up – it was one of the few joys to be had before the opening bell.

As he dropped another page, a pair of Chanel pumps caught his eye. He followed them up to shapely Wolford-clad calves, then to the hem of a tasteful scarlet Christian Dior skirt suit. If he had to hazard a guess, which his imagination was delightedly doing, he would expect nothing less than La Perla underneath. He forced his gaze upward to a pair of ruby lips, beguilingly parted, and bright blue eyes tastefully rimmed with kohl. Her blonde hair was upswept, but he pictured it down and flowing around her shoulders – preferably while she was wearing nothing but the La Perla.

“Frederick Mayhew?” she asked in a warm voice.

“No, I’m Edward French,” he said. He couldn’t resist adding, “Senior broker. He’s out sick today and I thought I’d see how our accounts are doing first-hand. Is there something I can do for you, Mrs…”

“Ms.” she said firmly. “Ms. Dawn Weiss. I was supposed to shadow Mr. Mayhew today to learn the floor, but…”

She was a broker? It’s the 1980s, Edward, he reminded himself. This is the world you live in now.

“I can’t stand seeing a beautiful woman upset. Why don’t I show you the ropes?”

“Oh, would you?” She beamed at him. “I’m a quick study – I did lots of research before coming here.”

“So you know about our pharmaceutical holdings.”

“The focus of your portfolio,” she said. “I found your past work with Bauer to be of particular interest.”

“The lawsuit,” he laughed. “Everyone thought I was crazy to buy during that disaster.”

“But you knew it was a good buy,” she said.

“I knew they would win their case, he said, winking conspiratorially. “I had a hunch.”

“A hunch that made you senior broker.” She smiled amiably and made a note in an embossed Smythson agenda.

“Great agenda,” he noted. “You’ve got killer taste.”

“It’s really more a scrapbook,” she said, snapping it shut. “Shall we go to where the real action is?” He nodded, and they made their way through the bustling crowd of traders on the floor.

“It’s a shame Freddy won’t see this again,” she sighed.

“Drop out of the rat race? Freddy?” Edward laughed at the thought. Even with his misguided use of a sick day, Freddy was no slouch.

“His illness is terminal,” she said.

“Did his secretary tell you that?” Edward was slightly alarmed at this development, but mainly irritated the secretary hadn’t told him.

“Oh, no. I just saw him this morning. He won’t be coming in again…ever.”

“But…”He faded off as she began unbuttoning her suit jacket, revealing not La Perla but a bloodied undershirt.

Edward recoiled in horror, but was prevented from moving. He thought it was the crowd until he felt a sharp pang in his arm, where Dawn Weiss had just withdrawn a syringe of…something.

“It took a long time, but I finally pieced it together. Would you like to know what I found?”

He was silent; he found he couldn’t form words.

“It just didn’t make sense that Bauer would win their case. So many people had died; my husband among them. The evidence was there. And yet the jury still voted to acquit. You know why?” She caught him as his legs faltered. “Because you paid them.”

“You’ll never get away with this,” he choked.

“I don’t intend to. Actions have consequences. Or at least they do now.”

He blinked hard, to keep darkness from clouding his sight.

“I will admit I had a morbid curiosity. I wanted to feel like you; to wear a fancy suit and kill people. But I’m afraid after all this I just don’t see the appeal.”

Blood and the raucous peal of the opening bell flooded his ears. Edward French slid to the ground, eyes unfocused. Dawn slid a manicured hand into his pocket, withdrawing a single engraved business card. The last thing Edward French saw was a perfectly lacquered finger pressing it into an impeccable Smythson, directly below that of one Frederick Mayhew.

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