Chapter 12

Conrad had sat at his desk all evening trying to triage the situation and plan out the best outcome. At the very least, he was somewhat thankful this occurred on a Friday night as he only had to duck out on a few calls from concerned board members.

A few still pictures were recovered from the carnage, but they were from cameras pointed down the hallway. Useless. He would have headed home, if it wasn’t for the appointment he had made today.

In a rare act of thoughtfulness, Conrad had decided to reach out to Chuck’s estranged son himself and explain the situation. Honestly, he knew that a gesture like that would placate the board a bit. He wasn’t quite sure of what he’d say when his son arrived, or how he would react, but Conrad was comfortable he could wing it.

A knock at the door made Conrad jump a bit. His heart raced. “Come in,” he barked at the door. “Just come in.”

The door creaked open slightly. At it, stood a young man. Muscular, built like a linebacker. Sure of himself. Put together. He walked in tentatively, somehow exuding confidence.

“Hi,” he spoke. “I’m looking for John Conrad?”

Conrad stood up. He was tired. It took a lot to just stay standing. “Yes, that’s me. I presume that you’re Chuck’s son?”

The young man nodded. There was a hint of resentfulness in his eyes.

“Listen,” continued Conrad. There was a serious accident here last night and we’re afraid that your father may be dead.”

The young man was unmoved. He nodded. “Yeah, it goes with the career he chose.”

Conrad cocked his head in shock. He tried to recover and act as if he didn’t know what the young man was talking about. He was too tired to pull it off.

“Listen, John,”

“People tend to call me Conrad.”

“Whatever they call you, just know I’m not an idiot. I know my father was the guy who fixed problems. Serious setbacks come with the territory.”

Conrad didn’t know how to react to this. Still, he tried to steer the conversation on course. “It’s still preliminary, of course. In fact, we were hoping we could get some of your DNA to compare with the man we found.”

“There’s no need for DNA. Your guy was a cripple. Does the stiff have a metal hip and leg?”

Conrad was intrigued. This kid did his research. Totally a chip off the old block. He might even be pretty damn useful. He couldn’t believe nobody had thought to check for metal in the body. He made a mental note to bring that to security. He was no longer interested in offering platitudes. Instead, he wanted to know more about this kid.

“I’m gonna level with you kid. I didn’t even bother to learn your name. I called you here to offer you condolences, but I get the feeling that there’s so much more we can offer each other.” Conrad rifled through his papers before continuing. “Ah, here it is. Scott. You go by Scott, right? Anyway, I was just thinking you seem like a chip off the old block. If you’re half the man he was, I’d have a place for someone like you to help me get to the bottom of this.”

Scott nodded. He considered his words for a few seconds.

“Yes, it’s Scott. I appreciate the honesty. If we’re being sincere, the only reason I came today was to start to figure out what happened to my father. I don’t care who’s responsible, I’m going to make them pay.”

Conrad wondered if Scott would consider him responsible. He deflected. “Well, I understood the two of you weren’t very close anymore.”

“We weren’t. There was a pretty significant rift. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and he encouraged me to do something legitimate with my life. We never saw eye to eye on that.”

“Well, it seems like our goals align. I don’t have a clear picture and I need someone with your skills to get this sorted out.”

“Well, they might align. Unless I find you’re the responsible party.”

Conrad grimaced. Scott might become another problem, but he could use that kind of skill set. Playing around with a few possible scenarios, he figured that there would be a good chance that Scott would ultimately find Neil responsible. He had to take the gamble.

“Scott, I think it’s unlikely you’ll find me at any fault, but I’m willing to contract your services as an independent body to help me get to the bottom of it. I’ll offer complete transparency and a decent wage. In exchange, I want your skills and the benefit of the doubt if it seems like I was at fault. After all, your father and I went a ways back.”

“I’ll be open minded. But I have demands. I want full access. I want to attempt my own data recovery. I need to know the whole story, beginning with how a high school dropout like my father was both the head of security and the head of an applied physics department.”

“How far back do you want me to start? When I met your father?”

“No, I know all of that. I get it. He was an addict and you kept him supplied in exchange for complicated jobs.”

Conrad was taken aback by the kid’s direct attitude. “Wow. You don’t hold back, Scott.”

“No, I don’t. Don’t get me wrong, what you did was predatory and you’ll have to live with that, but he was the one working out his payment terms. He could have asked for cash and bought his drugs. He’s an equally guilty party. That’s on him. Getting angry at you won’t move this along. Just know that I get paid in cash, not drugs.”


“So, give me the rundown?”

Conrad considered how much he should spin the story. Was there anything he could hide or omit that would sneak past Scott?

“Years ago we had a brilliant physicist.”

“Neil.” Interrupted Scott

“Yes, Neil.”

“I know all about him and his accident”

“Yes, you mentioned the hip and leg. Anyway. He came back”

Scott interrupted again. “You blackmailed him.”

Conrad winced. This kid knew a lot of the details. No point in hiding anything.

“Yes, I forced him to finish a promising pet project of mine. And I knew he would be a pain in the ass, so I brought your father on board to keep him in line. Although that plan kind-of worked, his missteps started to tarnish my reputation, and his personal politics and flakiness got to me enough that I knew I would regret letting him live.”

“So, he finishes the project and that’s when my dad was supposed to take care of him? I get the feeling that went wrong and that’s why I’m here.”

“Last night, a number of successful tests were completed. Neil was stupid enough to reveal that he had mostly gotten a succession plan into play, so I arranged for the room to be empty. The plan was that your father would shoot him twice, load him into the weapon and vaporize the body. The official story would be that he got into the cannon to adjust something and it went off accidentally.”

“And that didn’t happen?”

“I don’t know what did. Instead of a tidy workplace accident, I wound up with a multi-million dollar boondoggle, years of lost R&D, one corpse charred past the point of recognition and no evidence to help me piece together what went wrong.”

With that, there was a knock at the door. Conrad shouted at the door, attempting to convince the person on the other side that he was busy. The person knocked a few more times. Conrad turned to Scott and apologized. “I’m sorry, I asked for no interruptions,” he assured. “I’ll have to see what’s going on.”

Conrad was about to ring his intercom before he realized that his secretary was not there. It was Saturday, after all. He got up and waddled towards the door, exhausted on his feet.

“You OK?” Asked Scott.

“I’m exhausted – practically impaired from the lack of sleep. I’ll be alright. Nothing I can’t handle”

Conrad made it to the door and opened it to see the chief of security from the night before.

“Sir, I’m sorry for the interruption, but you told me to keep you apprised - we’ve managed to recover a few still frames. As per your request, you’re the only person to see them.”

Excitedly, Conrad snatched the thumb drive out of the guard’s hand. Exchanging a quick thank you, he slammed the door shut and marched back to his desk, his energy renewed by sheer curiosity. Turning the monitor so both him and Scott can see the images, he inserted the disk and opened the folder.

As Conrad flipped through the sequence of images, he is both shocked, mortified and intrigued. He looks over to Scott and watches his face contort in rage.

“Well,” Conrad says, breaking the tension. “At least we don’t have to wait for the coroner now.”

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1 comment:

Richard Belzile said...

There will be notes/comments, at least my own, in the future, I swear.

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I am Sinewave: Spark

Written by Richard Belzile

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I am not a professional author, this is my novice attempt at creating a novel in an episodic fashion. Comments, critiques and compliments accepted.

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