A Story by Knight in Armor

Steven Walter woke up a full hour earlier than normal Monday morning. He knew he couldn't be late for work again. If he was, his boss had already told him he would be fired. Steve really didn't want to be fired. He wasn't sure how much he really liked stuffing the envelopes at GenBio, but he was good at it. He had been able to stuff almost as many envelopes per minute by the end of his first shift as some of the most experienced envelope stuffers. Now, he was the best at stuffing envelopes in his entire branch, every branch in his state, and probably the entire company. He didn't know if he wanted to keep this job for the rest of his life, but he certainly did not want to be fired for being late for the third time in one month.
Steve had been late the first time, two days shy of one month ago, because he missed the bus connection he needed. He had stopped to tie his shoe, and hadn't realized the bus was pulling away until after he finished double knotting the lace. Missing that bus made him ten minutes late for work. The second time, just yesterday, Steve's alarm clock mysteriously died in the middle of the night. Even though it was plugged in, it refused to turn back on. Steve, of course, hadn't noticed and tried to adjust the plug until he had already woken up almost an hour late. He rushed into work, skipping breakfast and a shower, but was still fifteen minutes late.
Steve's boss, Jeremy, had pulled Steve into an unused office. Jeremy was a thin, balding man Steve guessed to be around 35, only five years older than Steve. "You look like hell, Steven. Why are you late?" Jeremy had asked.
Steve started to say, "Well, sir, my alarm clock die-"
Jeremy interrupted, yelling, "I don't want to hear any of your f*****g excuses, Steve!"
"Sorry, sir," Steve said meekly.
Jeremy glared at Steve a moment, then lowered his voice, "I'm going to be honest here, kid. If you weren't the best goddamn envelope stuffer I've ever seen, I'd fire you right here and now. This is the second time you've come running in late with excuses this month! Last year, you missed one day of work without even letting us know, which you claimed was because your grandfather was on his deathbed, and I know for a fact this is the third time you've been late in not quite six years of working here!"
"I'm sorry, sir," Steve said again.
Jeremy snarled, "Of course you are!" After heaving a huge sigh, he added, "But, if you're willing to prove yourself, show up twenty minutes early tomorrow and we can forget this whole conversation ever happened.'
Steve nodded, "Thank you, sir. I'll be here half an hour early."
"That's the attitude, kid! Now quit wasting time on the company dollar and go stuff the envelopes!"
Steven had left the office, stuffed envelopes as quickly as he could to make up for the lost time for the rest of the day, and then went to the store and bought a new alarm clock. He'd adjusted the controls on it for forty five minutes until he was sure he understood every aspect of it, then he'd watched the news and gone to bed.
Now, it was just past five in the morning, and the alarm woke him up with the steady beeping sound he'd chosen the night before. He allowed himself to push the snooze button once, then pushed himself out of his neat white sheets. He stepped into a pair of dark blue slippers at the end of his bed, then padded down the hallway to the bathroom. He opened up the cabinet to reveal a neat row of toiletries, grabbing his razor and shaving cream from the line.
Humming softly, Steve carefully shaved. He managed to nick his right cheek, but he didn't think anyone would notice. After gently rinsing his face off, Steve replaced the razor and shaving and cream and pulled out his toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash. After brushing his teeth, ensuring he brushed each and every tooth, and flossing with the same attitude, Steve poured a small amount of mouthwash into his mouth and pushed a timer. After exactly one minute of gargling, the timer beeped once and he spit into the sink and stepped out of the bathroom.
Steve padded back down the hall to his bedroom, where he opened a brown dresser drawer. Neatly folded shirts sat on the left side of the drawer, and pants on the right. After selecting a plain white, long-sleeved collared shirt from the top of the pile, Steve cautiously lifted the top pair of pants and pulled a plain black pair of slacks out from underneath it. The top pair creased. Steve swore, refolded them, and closed the drawer. He opened the next drawer down. This one held socks and underwear, with the socks sorted by color and the underwear by age. He wanted to make sure his underwear wore out evenly. He chose a pair of plain white briefs and plain white socks. He then pulled his watch from the top of the dresser, and a belt from a hook on the back of his door.
Steve organized his outfit in the order he would put it on, then left his bedroom and walked to the laundry room. Easily the messiest room in Steve's house, the laundry room held a spotless washer and dryer with a cupboard above where he kept detergent and fabric softener, two empty laundry baskets, one with five dirty items in it, and one with carefully folded clean towels. Steve grabbed the top towel, then walked back to the bathroom, put his clothes and towel on the counter, undressed, and stepped in the shower. After adjusting the shower to the perfect temperature, Steve turned on the water and washed himself. After he was certain he entirely clean, he turned off the water and grabbed his towel. Once he was sure he was completely dry, he got dressed. It was very important that Steve get dressed in a certain order: first, he would put on his underwear, then his socks, then his pants, then his shirt. If he didn't, his clothes would feel bunchy and strange for the rest of the day. After tucking his shirt in, and checking in the mirror that it was evenly tucked, Steve put cell phone and wallet in his pocket, then he walked to the kitchen.
Steve poured exactly one cup of cereal into a blue plastic bowl, then followed that by exactly one half a cup of milk. Steve wasn't very good at cooking, so he ate a lot of easy to prepare foods. These were lined up on the shelving unit between the windows by the time of day he would want them. All the cereal and oatmeal and other breakfast foods were on the top shelf. Nearly everything for lunch and dinner needed to be kept in the refrigerator and freezer, again arranged neatly in the drawers, though by type of food this time. The items that were for lunch and dinner that weren't in the refrigerator were on the middle shelf, which included macaroni and cheese, instant noodles, and minute soups. The bottom shelf was filled with beverages.
Steve finished eating his cereal, drank the milk in the bottom of the bowl, washed his bowl and spoon, dried them, and put them away. He yawned, then walked to the front door. In his shoe rack, he had one pair of sneakers, one pair of sandals, and one pair of loafers. He pulled the loafers out and put them on, tying perfectly even bows on each. On a hook hung one light jacket. To its right hung one heavier jacket. Steve grabbed the lighter of the two, zipped it, walked out the door, and locked the deadbolt. He glanced at his watch, and, even though he had plenty of time to take the bus, decided to take a cab, just in case. He had to be on time today.
He walked downstairs and hailed a cab. The first one to pull up almost looked gray instead of yellow, it was so streaked with dirt. A very old man grinned at him with a sinister, toothless smile from the drivers' seat. After looking at the mysterious burgundy stains on the cloth seats in the back, Steve waved to the old man and said, "Never mind!" The toothless smile disappeared, replaced by a disappointed frown, as he pulled away.
Steve counted to ten, then tried again. This time, a sparkling clean cab pulled up, as golden yellow as the sun, with gleaming leather seats and a beautiful young woman driving. Steve opened the door and jumped in immediately. The majestic lady turned her head, luminous black hair whipping around, and said in a voice like music, "Where to?"
Steve hoped his voice wouldn't crack as he said, "GenBio."
"Ooh, you work for GenBio? Impressive! I hear they're doing the best research in the world into ways to kill bacteria, viruses, and parasites!" the cabdriver exclaimed.
"I, uh, I don't really work in that department," Steve said. "I just work in mailing."
The woman smiled, "Oh, sorry. I'm Theresa, by the way, and I'll be driving you to work today!"
Steve attempted a relaxed smile back, "I'm Steve, and I'll be riding in your cab today." He realized his palms were sweating.
Theresa laughed, a surprised, tinkling kind of laugh. "Well, Steve who will be riding in my cab today, what exactly does your job in the mail room include? It sounds more interesting than driving all day, I'm sure!"
Steve cleared his throat nervously, "I stuff envelopes."
A tiny line appeared between Theresa's blue eyes, the only blemish on her otherwise perfect skin. "You stuff envelopes?"
"Well, they have two boxes, one of envelopes, and one of letters. The letters vary day by day, but usually they'e announcements for employees or updates for investors. I take whatever paper it is, put in the envelope, and put it into a third box. When I fill a box, I walk it down to the sealing room." Steve paused for just a moment, and said, "I rather doubt my job is anywhere as interesting as yours."
"It's definitely more fun! You have coworkers, reading material, and don't have anyone ever puke in your vicinity!" Theresa's light laugh sounded again as she spoke. She stopped at a red light and said, "Do you mind if I roll down my window for some air?"
Steve shook his head, and she rolled down her window. Steve began, "If I read the letters, it will throw off my stuffing. I have the best time of anyone who has ever worked at this branch, and even in anyone who's ever worked for GenBio in all of New York! Same reason I don't really talk to my coworkers. One thing you might find interesting, though, is that my only coworker has the same name as me. Jeremy, the boss, is the mismatch, who I have a meeting with today. The other coworker is Stephen, with a 'ph' instead of a 'v', and I think he's about to get fired becau-"
Theresa's lovely head suddenly exploded, leaving a ragged stump for a neck and pieces of her scalp littered across the front seat. Only a few drops of blood rained across Steve's face and neck, thanks to the partition. The lack of brain matter on him didn't stop Steve from wrenching open the door and running away screaming. After running at least a quarter of a mile in the opposite direction, Steve slowed to a walk and pulled out his cell phone. He called 911, still panting as a male operator answered.
"911, what's your emergency?" said the man.
Steve gasped, "A cab driver, something's wrong, her head exploded!"
"Sir, can you slow down and repeat that?" the operator asked.
Steve tried to control his breathing and said, "Yes, I think she's been shot or something! We were on Main, and, I don't know what happened! Her head, it just exploded! I just don't know what happened!"
"Okay, we've been receiving calls about this for almost two minutes now, so we already have someone on the way. Are you still in the area, sir?" the man asked.
"No, no, no, I ran away as soon as it happened. I just, I freaked out, and I jumped out of the car and started running." Steve said.
"Alright, sir, can I get your name, and is this a number I can reach you at?" asked the operator.
Steve took another deep breath as he said, "Steven Walter, and this is my cell phone."
"Can you spell that for me?" the man said.
Steven gasped again, trying to slow down as he said, "S-T-E-V-E-N space W-A-L-T-E-R."
"Steven, this is Ray. We have a lot of calls coming in, many of them about this, and we're starting to get backed up. Is there anything else you need?" asked Ray.
"No, nothing else," Steve said.
Ray replied, "Okay, thank you for letting us know about this situation. We will probably have to call you back in around a half hour, once things calm down here. Call and ask for Ray if anything else goes wrong, okay?"
"Okay. Bye, then," said Steve, closing his phone.
Steve was still hyperventilating, whether from shock or from his mad sprint, he wasn't sure. He was right next to a fast food restaurant, so he ducked inside and went straight to the bathroom, ignoring the hand lettered sign that read, "FOR PAYING CUSTOMERS ONLY!" He walked up to the sink, saw the blood spattered on his face, cursed, and began scrubbing it off his face.
After Steve had nearly scrubbed himself raw, he was fairly certain he was all clean. He looked himself over in the mirror, looked at his watch, and decided that, despite the time, the bus was a better option for today. The next bus he could ride would stop only about a block away in three minutes.
Steve carefully washed his hands, grabbed a paper towel and opened the door with it, and threw the paper towel in a trash he passed by on his way out of the restaurant. He walked a block even further from work to wait at the bus stop.
Steve stopped to wait the last thirty seconds, assuming his bus was on time, next to two girls, probably in their very early twenties. The two women were rather short, fairly attractive, and holding hands. They each had features that he reminded him of Theresa. The first had the same wondrous black hair and clear skin, though her eyes were a dark brown and she was just slightly overweight. The second girl had hair dyed a shocking purple and too much makeup caked on to see much at all of her skin. The second girl's eyes, however, were a blue, so dark they were nearly the same purple as her hair. She obviously had an hourglass figure, but draped it in loose fitting clothing, with a black t-shirt that said, in rainbow print, "I'M NOT A LESBIAN, BUT MY GIRLFRIEND IS" and plain black jeans that hung from her. Steve couldn't help but stare at the two as he realized if he were to combine them, he would almost come up with his beautiful cabdriver again.
"What the f**k are you staring at?" asked the girl with the purple hair.
Steve stammered, "I was, I was thinking of a, well, a friend."
"A friend you'd like to f**k, I bet. F*****g perverts all over this goddamn city!" the girl shrieked. The first woman put a calming arm on her friend's shoulder.
"No, actually. Well, maybe eventually. But it won't work out. You guys both look just a little like her, sorry. I'm just a little sensitive at the moment, not having a good day," Steve said.
The first woman glared at him, not trusting him at all, and launched into a rant as the bus stopped to pick them up. "Sure, this one seems nice enough, but they all do. You wanna know what happened with my last boyfriend? He and I had this amazing relationship! I was so goddamn nice to him, I would let him sleep with other women! Seriously, this girl, who wasn't exactly a girlfriend, she and I would only have sex if my boyfriend was okay with it, and they were even allowed to make out and stuff. And then I find out they're f*****g, and I was okay with it! I mean, you have to understand how hot they both are first here. He was actually literally a model, and he had a, I s**t you not, nine inch penis. And she, oh, God, she was so f*****g sexy, I mean, her n*****s were so damn perky all the time, I just wanted to lick them. You could seem them through her bra and shirt any day of the week, and when you rubbed them, they somehow got even perkier. So I'm okay with them f*****g, and we're all dating each other and we're happy, when they f*****g kick me out of the couple. They only knew each other thanks to me, and now they broke up with me? What the bloody f**k, am I right? So you see why I hate men right now? You aren't the only sensitive one right now, sugar."
Steve was rather uncomfortable. He was hardly used to discussing sex in anything but an intimate environment with a lover, let alone hearing kinky sex stories in public with a stranger while boarding a city bus. He hardly glanced at the bus driver, an elderly man, but could feel the man's eyes glaring at them all. Steve stumbled a little as he replied, "I, I'm very sorry to hear about that." He paused a moment while finding a spot to stand, which happened to be where the two girl sat, then raised a point that was bothering him almost more than the conversation, and, honestly, the day as a whole was. "Didn't your ex girl with benefits betray you just as badly as your ex boyfriend, though?"
The girl laughed, a much rougher sound than Theresa's, and said, "Well, I guess, but then Melody has helped me overcome my trust issues with women. All the men I've met since Rob have just reaffirmed my theory that all men are dicks."
Steve turned toward the first woman. "So you're Melody?"
The woman gave him a funny look, then said, "No, I'm Linda. Melody is Katie's girlfriend. Katie and I are just friends. I am one of Sappho's daughters, but Katie and I are not together. Why would you think we are?"
Steve squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them again. He said, "Weren't you two holding hands at the bus stop, though?"
Katie and Linda looked at each other a moment, then both looked at Steve. Katie said, "Just a sign of affection. Don't you ever hug your friends, or kiss them? Same thing here, freak. Why do you seem to think everything is sexual, anyway? You really a f*****g pervert. Or maybe more of a creeper. Either way, f*****g freak! Seriously, you're asking me for intimate details of my sex life? I'm not even eighteen yet! Well, I guess I am, now, since it's my birthday. Why the f**k are you harassing someone half your age about her sex life, on her goddamn birthday?"
"I, uh, sorry. Was that all, that, that, legal? If you weren't eighteen?" Steve stammered, growing more and more uncomfortable with this conversation.
"Look it up, dipshit! Seventeen is the age of consent in New York. All parties involved were at least seventeen when any and all sexual activity took place. I actually looked it up before I lost my virginity. Not all teenagers are crazy fuckers. Or, crazy douchebags. Poor choice of wording there," yelled Katie.
The bus was at its next stop. The old man stood up and wheezed as loudly as he could, "You three, all off the bus!" Before Steve could even open his mouth to protest, Katie began swearing at man, screaming that it was unfair. Steve sighed and got off the bus, again too embarrassed to even look at the driver. A moment later, Katie and Linda followed.
Steve gave up on the whole conversation, ending with, "I'm sorry to have offended you both."
Katie gave him a hard look, as if daring him to try to say more, then said, "Freaky old creeper." Katie then turned back to her friend Linda and gave her a lingering kiss.
Steve purposely turned away as he pulled out pocket hand sanitizer and carefully wiped his hands and wrists down, knowing that if he even glanced in their direction, they would accuse him of being perverted, and if he pointed out that making out was a bit more than friendly affection, they would again accuse him of being perverted. He really wasn't; he was just a confused man riding the bus near a young woman who insisted about talking about sex, then, when he tried to understand her points, accused him of being creepy and got him kicked off the bus. It certainly wasn't as bad as seeing his cabdriver's head explode, but it made him feel like his head might explode from the sheer absurdity of the whole day.
Steve's cell phone rang then, the tone the classic sound of a ringing telephone. "Hello?" Steve said.
"Steve, this is Ray with New York emergency. Sorry I had to let you go, we're understaffed and there have been a lot of very public emergencies. A highly public emergency, like the one you witnessed, can generate a hundred calls in just minutes."
"Yeah, I understand. Um, so what did you need?" Steve said.
Ray said, "I just need to ask a few questions. How far where you from the victim?"
"Uh, I think about two feet," Steve answered.
"Two feet? How... Where you a passenger in the victim's cab?" Ray asked.
"Yeah, I was."
Ray took a deep breath and said, "Well, it's urgent the investigators speak to you as soon as possible. Generally we prefer to talk to everyone at the scene, but sometimes that doesn't work. If you tell me your location, I can have a unit come pick you up and talk to you."
After a short hesitation, Steve said, "Well, I was just on the bus. I'll be late for work if I go down to the station, and, if I'm late again, I'll be fired. GenBio is famous for strict policies. My boss does not care about any outside circumstances. Can I do this after work?"
Silence fell a moment, then Steve heard typing. Ray said, "Steve, would you have time for a ten minute conversation if they dropped you off at work after that? If you're at the branch on 21st, they can easily do that."
"Wow, yeah, that would work out great! I understand, they want to ask me things while all the details are in my head still, right?"
Ray answered, "Correct. What bus are you on right now?"
Steve said, "I, uh, just got off, and I'm right by a McDonald's and a Payless on Steinway, and I'm not really sure what else, since I don't normally take this kind of route at all, you know and-" 
"Ah, okay, sir, I understand. Stay there, and a unit will be there very shortly. Stay calm, please, Steve. Is there anything else you need?" said Ray.
"No, I don't think so. Thanks, Ray. Bye," Steve said, and hung up. He walked into the restaurant and sat down, not buying anything for the second time that day. Only one other person, a young man, was in the restaurant. He was a thin employee with acne scars and a name tag that said, "McDonald's", then, one line lower, "Shift Leader", then, finally, "George". George glared at Steve, then said in a voice that cracked in the throes of pubescence, "Sir, we cannot allow loiterers to be here. You either have to buy something or leave."
Normally, Steve would have immediately left, but he was getting annoyed with life that day. "And what happens if I refuse?" Steve growled.
George, still glaring, squeaked, "Then we'll have to call the cops on you, sir."
Steve chuckled, and said, "That's who I'm waiting for, you know."
"You're waiting for us to call the cops on you?" said George.
"Nope, they're already on their way for me," Steve answered.
George began to look a little nervous, then said, "If you don't buy anything, you're forcing me to call the police."
"Feel free!" Steve said. He suddenly felt guilty, harassing a high school student, and added, "But you'll feel pretty stupid doing it when I'm planning on buying a hash brown."
George's face showed tangible relief as he said, "That will be one dollar and six cents, sir."
Steve slowly rose, stretching his complaining muscles. He was still sore from sprinting away from Theresa's murder. He walked up to the counter, pulled out his brown leather wallet and pulled out two one dollar bills. George gave him 94 cents back.
"Thank you for your business, sir," George said. "Your food will be up in just a moment." Steve nodded and grabbed two packets of ketchup and a napkin, then walked to the closest table and sat down. Less than a minute later, George said, "Order 283 is up," which seemed unnecessary to Steve. He was, for whatever reason, the only customer in the entire restaurant. George then said, "Sir, I'm going to step outside for a quick smoke, okay? If my manager comes in, can you say I went to the bathroom?" Steve nodded, and George thanked him profusely, then scampered outside.
Steve poked at his burnt, yet cold hashbrown, then decided the bathroom really was a good idea. First, however, he decided to toss his food in the trash, then he stepped outside to make sure the police hadn't shown up to question him yet. As the door shut behind him, he walked to the end of sidewalk and peered around. He didn't see any flashing lights.
He turned around to head back inside, but found he couldn't because he was too distracted by the smell of burning hair. He couldn't figure out why he was smelling burning hair, or why he was only seeing red spots as he looked around, and only hearing a dull ringing noise. That's when his vision cleared enough for him to realize that the McDonald's wasn't there.
Steve fell hard on his butt. The concrete was still cold, and it had sharp bits of warm glass on it. He blinked a few more times, and he realized the restaurant was still there, it just looked wrong now. The windows were blown out, and the interior was largely blackened, though a surprising amount of the tables and chairs were still upright, despite the flames on them. He also realized that there was a large piece of ash in his hair. After swatting it out, he realized he was quite lucky to not be hurt, other than his hair getting a little singed. He promptly turned and threw up into a nearby trashcan as he heard sirens approach.
The firefighters and paramedics and police all swarmed around him, but they didn't approach him until after he'd finished vomiting and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. A young paramedic then asked him if he was hurt, and shone a light into his eyes, and then yelled that he was fine to someone else, and that they better concentrate on the the next injured person.
Steve then saw George going by on a stretcher. George was conscious and yelling, but he'd obviously had something heavy fall on his leg. Then a man in a police uniform was asking Steve if he was okay. Steve nodded vaguely. He knew the police officer was yelling more questions, but Steve was trying to listen to two cops behind the yelling man.
The younger of the two looked like she was only around twenty, and had just started the job. Steve knew he was right, too, when he heard her say, "I know this is New York, but I just never expected this. In one hour, we've had a cabdriver shot with some kind of long range weapon, another cab stolen, then a bus full of people stolen twenty minutes later, and now a bomb in McDonald's!"
The other woman answered, in a raspy and world-weary voice, "Not every day is this bad, but they happen. My main concern is the witness to the incident with the cabbie. He was supposed to be waiting here. I'm thinking he's part of some kind of gang activity, maybe the mob or something. You think he made it out?"
Steve shook his head. He wasn't part of any kind of mob. He was just an envelope stuffer at GenBio! The cop who was trying to talk to Steve finally gave up and yelled, "Yo, Fenian! I'm getting nothing out of this guy, he in shock?"
The older woman broke off from her speculations with the rookie, and moved forward. "Sir? I'm Detective Jane Fenian. Are you hurt?" Steve shook his head. "Can you answer a few questions for us, then?" Steve nodded. "Do you know if anyone else was in the building?"
Steve cleared his throat. He said, "I think it was just the kid behind the counter. He stepped out to smoke, and I went outside to see if the police were here yet. I'm a witness to a crime that occurred about half an hour ago."
Jane's look became shrewd. "Are you Steven Walter?"
"Yes ma'am. I would answer all your questions any other time, but I have to get to work. I only have thirty minutes left to get there now!" Steve pleaded.
Jane turned and addressed the young cop and the shouting man quietly. "Smith, it was already agreed that he would get a ride to work. Are you able to handle the scene here if Canola and I question him on the way?" The shouting man, who was apparently Smith, nodded and said, "Yes, ma'am!"
Jane jerked her head at the young girl, Canola, if Steve had heard correctly, and turned back toward Steve. "Are you ready to go, sir?" she asked.
"Yes," Steve said.
Detective Fenian and Canola began walking at a brisk pace toward one of the many police cruisers around the building. "21st Street?" asked Canola, who, to Steve's surprise, was getting in the driver's seat. Detective Fenian was holding the driver's side back door open for Steve. Steve nodded as he climbed in the backseat.
If Steve was surprised when he was Detective Fenian wasn't driving, he was shocked when she went to the other side and got into the backseat with him. She smiled grimly when she saw his face. "Since you're not a suspect, it will be easier to question you while I'm right next to you," she said. Steve nodded. "Now, to begin the questions. Did you see anything suspicious at either scene? Anything that might link them together?" she asked.
Steve opened his mouth to immediately say no, but he shut it again. He couldn't think of what it was, but he knew he was forgetting something. He wasn't quite sure what to say, but he began, "I know there was something that I saw shortly before each bad thing, something... I can't remember. I feel like there's something important I'm missing."
"Okay, sir. We'll come back to that. Since these catastrophes only seem to have you in common, I'll need to ask you some personal questions next. Do you have any enemies who want you dead?" the detective asked next.
Steve  answered confidently, "None."
"Any ex-wives or girlfriends who want revenge?" Steve shook his head. "Do you owe anyone money?" Steve shook his head again. "Have you had any problems with a roommate or a neighbor?" Steve shook his head one more time. "What about a coworker?"
Steve started to shake his head, then said, "Well, my boss, Jeremy, was irrationally angry when I was late yesterday. I'm pretty sure that's irrelevant, though, because he's always irrationally angry."
The detective nodded, then asked, "Are you certain that he doesn't harbor a larger resentment toward you, sir?"
"Yeah, I'm sure. I'm actually the favored one at work because I'm more efficient," Steve replied.
"Does anyone seem to dislike you being the favored one?" Detective Fenian said next.
Steve thought a moment. "Well, my other coworker, who is also named Stephen-" he began, when Canola interrupted.
"Ma'am, did you hear that report? The bus that was stolen continued its usual route until about fifteen minutes ago, then it was abandoned full of passengers on 8th Avenue and 25th Street!"" Canola exclaimed.
Detective Fenian sighed. "And we're just at 23rd and 9th?" she asked.
"Yes, ma'am!" Canola answered.
Detective Fenian turned back to Steve. "I"m so sorry, but we're only a block away. We have to get it. You're two blocks from work now, but we'll get you there," she said. "Canola, pull off to the side of the road and let me and Mr. Walter out, please." Canola sharply nodded, then put on the siren and pulled off to the side. The younger woman jumped out and turned to let Detective Fenian out, then jogged around to the side of the car to open Steve's door.
Detective Fenian stretched, then hailed a cab. Almost immediately, a dirty yellow cab appeared. Steve couldn't hear what the driver said, but the detective yelled back, "I need you to take this man to GenBio at 21st Street and 10th Avenue, and I don't give a damn about your other passenger!" Steve cowed slightly as the Detective turned around and beckoned him, then he walked forward, ducking as she'd already opened the back door for him. "We'll be in touch!" she shouted as she slammed the door close and ran to climb back in the police car.
Steve nodded mutely, then said, "I"m sorry about that. They were supposed to give me a ride to work."
"It's alright," said the other passenger. "We were heading there already anyway."
"Stephen?" shouted Steve. "I didn't realize it was you in here!"
Stephen, Steve's only coworker, laughed, "I know. There's been a lot of things you didn't realize today. For instance, do you recognize our driver, my dear grandfather?" The driver turned back to give Steve a sinister, toothless smile.
Steve gasped, "You were the first cab!"
"And the bus driver, too!" Stephen added, his bright teeth shining against his tanned skin as he grinned broadly.
"He was?" Steve shook his head. "But why?"
Stephen giggled, a truly terrifying sound. "He was leading you to me!"
"What? Why?" Steve asked.
"So I could kill you, duh! You're not real quick on the uptake, here, are you?" Stephen stretched as he mocked Steve, his muscles straining against his polo shirt in sharp contrast to Steve's pale flab straining to escape his button up shirt.
Steve shook his head. "Why?" he pleaded again.
Stephen sighed. "Okay, fine. I'll explain this piece by piece. First of all, do you know that Jeremy got a promotion?" Steve shook his head again. "Well, he did. He's planning on firing me, since they're downsizing our department because you stuff more envelopes than five of the rest of us combined." Stephen stopped for a moment to glare at Steve, his pale blue eyes filled with contempt. "Once it's just you, you're going to get a nice pay raise and fancy new title, something like Executive Envelope Mail Person or something."
"So this is all because you're going to get fired?" Steve finally dared to ask.
Stephen groaned, "You don't understand. I need this job. I have almost a hundred thousand dollars in debt from going to college. This job pays well for the amount of work, and we have full health benefits, including dependents. I can't lose my grandpa's benefits!" After only the shortest pause, Stephen added, "Grandpa was in the Korean War, you know. He taught me everything he learned, though I didn't quite seem to catch on. That's why I missed you when I tried to shoot you after you rejected riding to the McDonald's with Grandpa, and then, when he kicked you off the bus right there, why I messed up the detonation. I was trying to wait until only you were there, but somehow the countdown was too long and no one was inside."
"You were trying to not kill anyone else?" Steve asked.
"Well, I'm not a monster. I'm just practical. I do feel bad that I killed that pretty cab driver. I thought I had the angle right so that she would be missed, but I guess I messed that up. Too bad, I would love to f**k that girl all night long-" Stephen's words were cut off by Steve tackling the much stronger man, despite the desperate odds and limited space. Somehow, Steve was winning.
The old man, who had continued driving until now, stomped the brakes and pulled off to the side of the car. Slowly and painfully, he pulled himself out of the car and began to walk to the backseat to help his grandson. Steve threw one final punch, then for the second time that day, threw open the door of the cab and ran for his life. They were less than a block from GenBio now. Steve sprinted as hard as his complaining muscles would go, and miraculously, Stephen was much too far behind to catch him as he finally made into GenBio, wrenched open the door, and sprinted to the mail area.
Jeremy was waiting. "You're late. You look like hell," Jeremy said.
"I'm sorry, sir. Stephen was trying to kill me! He killed my cabdriver and blew up a McDonald's and he's running after me!" Steve panted.
Jeremy stared at him. "Well, why don't you have a seat right here? Maybe relax a little?" Jeremy said. "You feeling all right? Been getting enough sleep?"
"I'm fine!" Steve gasped, hardly able to get words out, he was so out of breath.
"You know what? I'll go grab you a water bottle, and maybe I'll grab you some Tylenol, too," Jeremy said.
Steve was hyperventilating too quickly to try to protest now. He leaned against the desk, drawing in great painful gulps of air. About ten minutes later, Jeremy finally came back. "Sorry about that wait, Steve. Stephen got here. Turns out you're almost telling the truth. His grandfather was out to get you, and Stephen was there to take the fall. You should see the beating he took! Apparently his grandfather is a vet, and had some kind of bad flashback." Jeremy sighed. "So, since Stephen is confirming your story, you're not fired. I have two sets of bad news, though. One, I'm leaving this position. I've been promoted to GenBio Executive Mail Overseer. Two, since you were late, despite your reasons, I can't give you my job as a promotion."
Steve shook his head. "I don't care," he mumbled. "I just wanted to get here on time. That's all I wanted today," he added.
"Sorry, Steve. You didn't quite make it. Anyway, Stephen said he wanted a few minutes alone to apologize to you about his grandfather," Jeremy said.
Steve was too tired to protest as Jeremy walked out and Stephen took his place. After making sure that the door was completely closed, Stephen smiled cruelly. "Hello, my new underling. When the police pulled up after us when they realized that we were in the stolen cab, my grandfather 'confessed' to everything to save me. He really is a wonderful man. You see why I needed to make sure he was insured?" Steve nodded tiredly. Stephen continued, "Since I'm not only not fired, but got your promotion, I think I'll allow you to live. I don't think you're going to like working for me, though. First thing you need to do, go clean out all the old envelopes, sorting them by size. Then recycle any old letters. Next, wipe down all the desks and counters, and don't you dare forget to wipe the drawers out, too. Finally, you need to vacuum the entire room. Then you can begin working on the envelopes today." Stephen fired a wicked grin at Steve, which slowly faded as he realized Steve was laughing. Stephen snarled, "What, you think this is funny? I can come up with more tasks! Maybe you need to clean out the bathrooms, or-"
Steve was almost paralyzed with laughter now, but he interrupted to choke out, "I quit." Steve walked out of the mailing area, and never looked back.

© 2012 Knight in Armor

Author's Note

Knight in Armor
Anyone have an idea for a title?

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This was really good! I would take out a lot of the extra non important information though. You should trim it up a bit to what is important. Like the whole part with him pouring cereal, that was not the most effective scene(no offense). I enjoyed the plot though! It was fantastic. That and make sure you spell "Shift" and not "s**t", because I noticed that a few times.

Posted 9 Years Ago

Knight in Armor

9 Years Ago

Ooh, good catch on the "shift", thanks. And my goal with the whole process of him getting ready is a.. read more

9 Years Ago

How about "The Mailer"? And you can show how organized he is, but it does not feel effective. It fee.. read more
Knight in Armor

9 Years Ago

Alright, I will consider this. Thank you!

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Added on March 31, 2012
Last Updated on August 1, 2012
Tags: stuffing, stuff, work, job, sucks, hate, employees, coworkers, coworker, employee, boss, hates, envelope, envelopes, box, boxes, stuffed, murder, New York, New York City, taxi, McDonald's, explosion


Knight in Armor
Knight in Armor

Grand Rapids, MI

I'm Shining Knight. My profile picture is Marvin the Paranoid Android. I'm afraid that nearly everything else about me is classified information, unless you ask nicely. If you send me a read request, .. more..

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A Story by Knight in Armor