The Badger and Coyote

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Short Story

It takes team work to flush out prey, in this science fiction detective short story.

Harold Gold, the Vice Royal of the East Lander West Corporation waited patiently in his corner office behind his synthetic mahogany desk for his rabbit to show up. A red light flashed from a small black box that was sitting on his desk next to a picture of Gold and his family in a resort in Jamaica. Gold reached across and touched the black box.

“Jason Brauck has arrived.” Gold's secretary said over the wired intercom.

“Send him in.” Gold paused. “And cease all audio and video recordings to this section.”

Three minutes later, Jason Brauck arrived, peaking around the corner of the door. Brauck was a tall, formidable man, dressed in a fashionable and expensive business suit. Even though, Brauck was known for his intimidating and aggressive behavior, in this instance he softly knocked on the door to Gold's office.

“You wanted to see me boss?”

“Jason my old pal,” Gold smiled broadly. “Please come in and sit down. I have not talked to you in such a long time.”

Brauck slowly walked into the large office and sat in the soft, red velvet chair in front of the desk.

Gold studied Brauck for several uncomfortable seconds before finally speaking.

“A few months ago did a visitor speak to you in the J Complex?”

Brauck looked at the ceiling pretending to recall the incident. The incident that he remembered in the smallest detail and that kept him awake with a volcano in his stomach ever since.

“What do you mean by visitor, Vice Royal Gold?” Brauck scratched his chin. “I meet with a lot of team members outside of J.”

“No .. no.” Gold shook his head. “He was not a team member. He was an outsider who appeared at the front door without an appointment and unannounced.”

Gold motioned for a monitor. The robotic screen floated off its stand and hovered between Gold and Brauck.

“Play incident 776 AZ.”

The monitor flashed on and showed a scene from the J Complex reception area. The reception room was small and square and completely empty except for a large black box in the middle. A few moments passed and then an older man wearing a trench coat are carrying an umbrella entered. He looked around, approached the black box and touched it. A red light appeared on top of the box.

“Welcome to East Lander West Corporation J Complex. How may I assist you?”

The man stared at the box for a second and then said, “I am looking for a Ms. Janice Lauder.”

The red light on the box faded and then slowly lit up again. “Okay, may I ask who this is?”

“My name is Benjamin Grafford. I am a compliance officer with the Guidance Directive Authority.”

The light faded again and remained off for several minutes then flashed on again. “I am sorry Mr. Grafford, but that person is no longer associated with the company.” The light stuttered quickly. “However, Mr. Jason Brauck has been alerted to your presence and will meet with you shortly.”

The video ended and the monitor hovered back to its station. Gold turned back to Brauck.

“We've been looking through our files and can find no other video associated with this incident. I was hoping that you could enlighten me to what this gentleman wanted.”

Brauck became visibly nervous. “Well, Vice Royal Gold, I know how sensitive the Ms. Janice Lauder situation is and I wanted to find out what the compliance officer wanted."

Vice Royal Gold sat up in his chair. “Go on ..”

“It was nothing really. Something to do with Janice's ex-husband and some unpaid taxes. I told him that I knew nothing about her ex-husband and that was it. He left.”

“Why didn't you report the incident?”

Brauck shrugged. “It was insignificant.”

“Insignificant” Gold repeated, “You think that a compliance office travels three hours in the pouring rain to Complex J and then asks one question that obviously has no reference to our company and leaves. And it is not significant.”

“I guess .. I mean, why else would he be there?” Brauck looked around confused.

“Why else?” Gold laughed. “Let me show you.” Gold waved the monitor back. “This happened just two days after you left for Argentina.”

The video on the monitor flickered on. There was the same reception room and the same black box. The doors opened and compliance officer Grafford stepped in. This time he was wearing a short sleeve white shirt with a thin black tie. He was quickly followed in by a tall women wearing a long plaid skirt holding a briefcase.

Grafford reached out to touch the black box but was immediately held back by the woman. She pulled him to her side and they waited. Three minutes passed and then a team member of Complex J walked in. She looked at Grafford and the woman, smiled, pulled out her team member identification card and swiped it in front of the black box. Two panels slid open, but before she could step through the door the woman stopped her.

“Please hold”, the woman said to the team member. “I'm Sylvia Modesto and I am Elective Council to the Directive. What is your name?” Modesto flashed her badge at the team member.

The woman stood for a moment stunned and Modesto pushed Grafford through the open doors.

Gold swiped his hand in front of the monitor. “Pause video.” The screen went blank.

“Before I continue the video,” Gold said. “I want to inform you that we looked into compliance officer, Benjamin Grafford and Elective Council to the Directive, Sylvia Modesto.”

Gold touched the top of his desk which turned into a giant monitor. He retrieved the file on Grafford.

“Benjamin Grafford has been a compliance officer for the Directive for fifteen years. He has a medium size cubicle on the second floor of the Directive Central Office. He has been offered two promotions in his career. Both of which he has turned down due to family issues.”

Gold swiped his hand up and the desk screen changed.

“Grafford is hard working, honest and is well liked in his section. He is seven years from retirement with a full pension.”

Gold smiled. “Not much of risk-taker.” Gold then swiped his hand across his desk. “Sylvia Modesto, on the other hand, is almost the complete opposite. She graduated law school at Allaheen University and immediately joined the Directive as an assistant clerk of law. She is aggressive and impatient. She has been promoted five times in seven yearr to the title of Elective Council to the Directive.  She reports directly the Loyal Prefect of the Directive and has an office seven doors down from her boss.”

“As far as we can determine, Grafford and Modesto had never met each other until three weeks ago. They have no associates, friends or family in common. Even their chain of command does not intersect before it reaches the Loyal Prefect.”

Gold turned off his desk monitor and looked directly at Brauck. “What can you tell me that explain this?”

“I'm not sure what to say Vice Royal Gold,” Brauck shrugged. “As far as I know, the Directive is interested in some personal tax issue.”

“I find that hard to swallow.” Gold said. “If I am to believe that you're honest, then that would mean that Grafford a mid-level compliance officer who has no desire for a promotion and is a few years from retirement, decided to travel three hours in the rain to barge into Complex J and ask one question about a minor tax issue and then leave.”

Gold put his elbows on the his desk and stared directly at Brauck. “And then after his encounter with you, he went back to his office and contacted directly an Elective Council who he has never met nor associated with and convinced her to travel with him to Complex J.”

Before Brauck could respond, Gold waved his hand and started the video playing from where it had paused.

The video showed Grafford stepping through the two open panels. The video immediately switched to another camera that showed Grafford entering into an enormous room filled with cubicles and offices. There were hundreds of team members, typing, talking on the phone, speaking with each other and busily going about the business of the East Lander West Corporation. Grafford cleared his throat and then in a loud and enunciated voice said, “I am from the Directive. I am looking to contact Ms. Janice Lauder.”

Everything and everyone in the office space stopped. Team members were like frozen statues. No one looked at Grafford and no one moved from their frozen positions. Grafford waited several seconds, then turned around and went back to the reception area.

The video switched back to the reception area. As soon as Grafford stepped back in, Slyvia Medesto released the team member who quickly scampered though the open panels.

Gold paused the video and leaned back into his seat.

“I grew up in a trailer in the Mojave Desert.” Gold explained. “There is a curious thing that happens. Sometimes a badger and a coyote become friends and hunting partners. It is to their mutual benefit. The badger is very good at digging and will work on a rabbit hole until it flushes out a jackrabbit. The jackrabbit is too quick for the badger but not quick enough for the coyote who waits a few feet from the hole and then ambushes the jackrabbit by clamping down on its neck.”

Gold swiped his hand in front of the monitor. The video is of the reception area where Modesto and Grafford are waiting silently. Suddenly the double panels slide opened and two men in business suits rushed in. They are visibly angry and frightened.

Brauck sat up in his chair. He recognized both men. They were friends of his and were directly involved in the incident.

“What the hell is is going on?” shouted one of the men.

Modesto smiled. “My apologies for the rude and inappropriate behavior of my colleague.” Modesto handed the two men business cards and said, “My name is Sylvia Modesto of the Directive and you are?”

The video ended.

 


Submitted: May 24, 2020

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