Authors: Dani Amore
Inside the van, Rocky is jumping around, celebrating. He grabs Java.
“We did it, boy! We did it!”
Java bites him.
School is just beginning. The kids are making their way to their desks and Ms. Calisi is at hers.
There’s a knock on the door. A woman waves to Ms. Calisi that she should join her just outside the door.
Ms. Calisi complies.
Just outside the classroom, the door partially ajar, Ms. Calisi talks to the woman.
“Hello Karen, how are you?”
“Okay, I guess,” the woman says.
“What’s the matter?”
“Well, we’re having a bit of a family situation, I guess you could call it.”
“What can I do?”
“Well, it’s very strange, but someone...kidnapped our dog.
“I wish I was. The dognappers admitted they took him, but haven’t said why or what we’re supposed to do to get Java back.”
“How sick is that?” Mrs. Calisi says. A look of concern crosses her face. “How is Molly taking it?”
They both turn and look at Molly who is standing in the corner of the classroom. She’s got a small rope tied to a stuffed dog. She’s pulling it as if she’s walking the dog, but it looks more like she’s dragging a dead animal.
“She’s the one who found the note. I sort of wish she wasn’t able to read.”
“I’m sure it will all work out.”
“I hope so. But in the meantime…”
“I guess we’re just trying to take it easy on Molly. She’s kind of out of it, right now.”
“Okay, sure. No problem. I understand. If there’s anything I can do, just let me know,” Mrs. Calisi says.
They part ways. And as Ms. Calisi opens the door, we see Lisa Goddard standing there. We can see by her expression that she’s heard the whole thing.
Tom is in Jack’s office. It’s even bigger and more impressive than Morgan's office.
“Welcome to the big leagues, Tom,” Jack says, handing Tom a glass of champagne.
“It’s good to be here.” He sips the champagne but all he can think about is Morgan Wolcott.
Where is he?
“You know how we think up here, Tom?”
Jack claps Tom on the back.
“Hah! Good guess. You’re quick. I like that. No, I’ve got a story to tell you. It’s what we do up here in upper management. Awhile back I went to our chief financial officer and mentioned that we should have the executive parking spaces carpeted. Sort of make them look more dignified.”
“That would do it,” Tom says.
“But then he told me that it was pretty expensive and the company wasn’t doing all that well. If we carpeted the parking spaces, we’d probably have to lay a few people off.” Jack is positively beaming.
“Uh-huh,” Tom prompts him.
“So you know what I said?”
Tom shakes his head ‘no.’
“Make it Berber.”
There’s a pause and then Jack bursts out laughing.
Tom smiles, trying to figure out if Jack is serious or not. He realizes that yes, Jack is serious.
“Come on, Tom, let me introduce everyone to Straun & Partners newest Vice President and Executive Creative Director!”
Morgan is sitting in a jail cell. The room is small and filthy. Morgan and a monstrously large man named Biscuit are the only people in the cell.
Biscuit gets up, moves across the room and sits next to Morgan. Morgan looks like he’s in the process of filling his drawers. When Biscuit talks, his voice is high and whiny.
“So I heard the cops busted you for some underage girl in a maid’s outfit, huh?”
Morgan can’t answer. It happened so fast. One minute he had finished making love to the sexy cleaning lady, an hour later he was in a squad car. Arrested.
“Also heard you were some kind of hotshot advertising guy. You write jingles and shit like that?”
Morgan is nearly incapable of speech. He finally chokes out a response.
“No jingles,” he manages to say. “Mostly commercials. Website stuff.”
“I love commercials,” Biscuit says. “You remember that old one with the guy squeezing the toilet paper? What the hell was his name?”
Morgan closes his eyes. “Mr. Whipple.”
“That’s right! I always liked the way Mr. Whipple squeezed those toilet paper rolls. It was sexy. He squeezed them like they were somebody’s soft white ass.”
Morgan can’t manage a response.
“They should have called him Mr. Ass Squeeze because that’s what he was doin,” Biscuit continues, a wistful look in his eye. “Or at least, that’s what he was thinkin’ about doin’. I sure wouldn’t mind getting my hands on some toilet paper-soft piece of ass right about now.”
Biscuit starts to put his arm around Morgan.
Morgan starts shaking and whispering. “Holy Mary Mother of God the Lord is my Shepherd-”
Tom walks out the doors of Straun & Partners Advertising. He starts walking toward his car, but then stops. He looks around. Then he walks with purpose toward a covered parking area with names above each space.
He gets closer and stops.
He looks down.
They are, in fact, carpeted.
Tom is drinking from a glass of wine as he brings the bottle to the table and pours his wife a glass. Lisa comes bounding in and plops into her seat as Michelle puts a big bowl of pasta on the table. She takes a moment to pick up her glass and she holds it up to Tom’s.
They clink glasses.
“We should be drinking champagne. My husband’s a veep and my daughter’s Tinkerbell!”
“What’s a veep?” Lisa says.
“Vice President,” Michelle answers with a smile.
“Cool,” she says.
Tom notices the look on his daughter’s face.
“Is there something wrong honey?” Tom asks.
“No, it’s just, I feel sorry for Molly. Someone kidnapped her dog.”
“Really, Lisa?” Michelle asks.
“Yeah! It’s the truth, Mom! I heard Molly’s mother tell Ms. Calisi!”
“That’s really weird.”
Tom has a strange look on his face.
“Lisa, was Molly the other girl who wanted to play Tinkerbell?”
Tom thinks about that. After dinner, goes to his home office and logs onto the Internet. He does a Google search of “Rocky Sutton.”
He drums his fingers on the desk while the computer searches.
At last, he gets a response.
“No results found.”
He stares at the computer.
Tom pulls up in front of the building where Rocky’s office is located. He stands in front of the office where Sutton Enterprises was located. A FOR LEASE sign has been hung on the door.
Tom tries the door. It’s unlocked. He goes inside to where Rocky’s office was.
It’s now completely empty.
He goes to the shelf where his errant golf ball had smashed a glass vase.
He sees glass shards.
He looks around, fear on his face.
Kelly’s house is a neat Colonial in a nice neighborhood. Tom knocks on the oversized oak door. Kelly answers looking burned out with messy hair, dark circles under her eyes and a cigarette dangling from her mouth.
“Tom,” she says, her voice flat and emotionless.
“Hey Kelly,” Tom answers.
She turns and walks back into the house. Tom momentarily doesn’t know what to do, and then he follows her in and closes the door behind him.
Kelly walks to the kitchen table where she has a laptop surrounded by a mess of books, notes, empty coffee cups and bags of food. It’s a mess.
She sits down and starts banging away on the laptop.
“Does your publisher have changes you’re working?” he asks, watching her type with a fervor.
Kelly barely notices as she keeps typing.
“I’ve heard editors can be assholes. Make you re-write everything ten or twenty times.”
Kelly keeps typing.
“And agents...I’ve heard–“
Kelly stops typing and glares at Tom.
“No editor. No publisher. No agent,” she says. “And no job.”
She starts typing again.
“But the book offer,” Tom offers.
Kelly stops typing and grabs the cup of coffee. Some of the coffee sloshes onto the table.
“You mean the bullshit book offer?” she says. “Yeah. The check bounced. I called the publisher, they’d never heard of me or my book.”
Tom is stunned. He doesn’t know what to say. “But how, who–“
“I was going to ask you,” she says.
Tom is blindsided by the implication.
“Kelly, I had nothing to do with your book deal,” he says.
She turns back to her typing.
“Bye-bye Tom. I got a book to write.”
Tom is at his desk in his new office. It’s a huge space with big windows and an enormous desk. Tom looks again at Rocky’s business card and the phone number. He punches the number into his cell.
“Rocky. How’s lunch sound? I’m buying.”
Two hours later, Tom is seated at a swanky Italian restaurant. Rocky, dressed impeccably, walks up and holds out his hand.
“How’s the V.P.?” Rocky says, a wide grin on his face.
Tom ignores the offered hand.
“How’d you know I was made a V.P.?” Tom asks.
“The receptionist told me when I called your office. Why?”
“Sit down, Rocky.”
Rocky sits down and looks at Tom.
“Something’s amiss in Goddardville,” Rocky says as he signals to the server.
“Let me lay it out for you, Rock. My boss has mysteriously disappeared. One of my competitors at work was fired for watching porn on his work computer. Another competitor quit after she got a book contract which turned out to be phony. And now my daughter got the Tinkerbell part in her school play because her competitor’s dog was kidnapped.” Tom’s face has flushed and his voice is getting louder. “What’s going on Rocky?”
Rocky calmly accepts a glass of white wine from the server. “Sounds like things are going your way at last.”
“No,” Tom says. “Things are really, really going my way. It’s like miracle after miracle. No one gets that lucky.”
“You’re starting to drink at the well of success, Tommy boy,” Rocky says. “For some, it’s an acquired taste.”
“I’m going to ask you this only once. And I want the truth.” Tom takes a deep breath. “Are you behind all this? Are you ruining people’s lives to help me get ahead?”
“And if I am?”
“Then you’re going to jail.”
“How come your office is suddenly empty? Up for lease?” Tom asks.
“I need bigger quarters. I’m expanding.”
“How come my friend Dylan says he never logged onto any porn websites? He’s got no reason to lie to me now.”
“Why? He’s already lost his job! Why would he lie?”
“There are some things people just can’t admit to themselves - let alone to their friends.”
“And Kelly’s book offer?”
“Must’ve been a prank. Or maybe she made the wrong person an enemy.”
“She said it was a well thought out prank. The joker knew the name of her novel, knew the publishers she’d sent it to. They knew everything. Who would go to such great lengths to convince her to quit her job?”
“Maybe she was too greedy. Someone pulled a prank and she wanted to believe it. They were supplying her with exactly what she wanted.”
Tom is stunned. “It was you, wasn’t it?”
Rocky doesn’t say anything.
“You’re fired. I don’t want to work with you. I don’t want to see you again. I’m going to the police.”
Tom gets up to go but Rocky grabs him by the collar and shoves him back into the seat. A few other diners look over.
“You’re not going anywhere, motherfucker.”
Tom goes pale at the change in Rocky’s personality.
“I spent all this time getting you to where you are. You’ve got everything. You’re a v.p. at the agency, your campaign’s going through, Lisa’s got the Tinkerbell part and sex with your wife has never been better!“
“The question you should be asking isn’t how did I do it, but what I could do to you if you...say...tell someone about it.”
“Is that a threat?”
“Is that a stupid question?”
Tom ponders that for a moment.
“Fuck you,” he says.
“One thing you’ll find, Tom. It’s lonely at the top.”
Tom watches him go, sitting there. He pays the bill, then rushes outside just in time to see Rocky in his car, leave the parking lot.
Tom races to his car, jumps in, and follows. He follows Rocky in and out of traffic, staying a few cars behind most of the time. Rocky goes to downtown Chicago, into a seedier section.
Tom follows dutifully.
Rocky pulls over in front of a crumbling apartment building. The sidewalk in front is littered with garbage and parks his car.
Tom pulls over and watches as Rocky gets out of the car and goes inside.
He continues past Rocky’s building, then circles back, parks, and enters the vacant building across from Rocky’s.
Rats scatter at his feet. He climbs, keeping an eye on the building across the street through the windows. Finally, he gets to the same level as the solitary light that must be Rocky’s apartment. He goes to the window and looks across the street into Rocky’s apartment. Tom squints and sees that Rocky’s apartment is a shithole. Crap everywhere. Gone is the suit, Rocky’s in a wife-beater shirt eating food out of a can.
Tom stares, then whispers to himself.
Tom paces around his office.
“Goddamnit!” he shouts. Tom had just received an email from Jack saying that Morgan Wolcott was under arrest for possible sex crimes.
Tom looks out the window. His phone is ringing but he doesn’t pick it up. Finally, he goes back to his desk and his gaze settles on a picture of his family.
He picks up his cell and punches in a number.
“Chicago Police department? I’d like to speak to the detectives in charge of the Morgan Wolcott case.”
Tom looks around his office while he’s on hold. He picks up the picture of Lisa and Michelle, smiles at it.
“Yes. My name is Tom Goddard and I believe Morgan Wolcott was framed by a man named Rocky Sutton.”
“Okay, just start from the beginning,” the cop says with a southern drawl.
“He’s nuts, Officer,” Tom says. “He’s supposedly a success coach but I think he’s a con artist.”
Tom explains the details as best he can.
“Okay, sir,” the cop says. “I’m going to arrange to have you come in and give a statement. And sir, don’t bring your lawyer, okay?”
Tom agrees and disconnects the call.
He puts his hands to his face and slumps forward on his desk.
“Oh, sweet Christ.”