The chapter 1 I posted the other day was terrible, which is why I pulled it. I think I got it right this time. Please comment and be honest!
It didn’t take Sam Harman more than a minute to decide that being fired sucked.
As the security guard escorted him to the front door Sam did his best to ignore the stares. People he’d known for years avoided making eye contact. Others whispered to each other.
“Isn’t that Sam Harman?”
“He’s been here forever.”
“What did he do?”
“I can’t believe it.”
The security escort was standard procedure, he’d heard. The official reason was that a fired employee (or, in corporate-speak, terminated team member) was now a security risk and could not be allowed any opportunity to access privileged information. Knowing how this company operated, and the attitudes of some in management, Sam felt the real reason was to embarrass the victim and possibly send a message to those who remained. Either way, it sucked.
The guard showed him out the front door and suddenly Sam was on his own. His now-former boss had said she’d call him in a week so he could pick up his personal items. Not even allowed to clean out his desk. Fifteen years thrown out the door just like that. All because of a few mistakes…
Okay, maybe more than a few mistakes but his job was hard. HomeQuest was one of the nation’s leading mortgage companies. In addition to generating its own business, the company made a lot of money buying up mortgages from smaller lenders and bundling them into security packages for investors. Sam’s job was to review and setup these loans on the systems. The problem was the level of detail involved had grown exponentially over the last few years and Sam had a hard time keeping. The mistakes grew and grew and despite his best efforts, became too numerous for management to overlook.
Standing there in front of the HomeQuest building on 17th street, Sam suddenly felt very alone. Soon he would have to tell his wife what had happened. He’d been upfront with her about his troubles from the beginning and to her credit Tracie had been nothing but sympathetic and supportive. She’d felt partially responsible since she’d helped him get the job in the first place.
As he walked to the parking garage down the street Sam wondered how they were going to pay for it all now. Oh, he’d go on unemployment until he found another job but that wouldn’t replace all his lost salary. Then there were the medical concerns. Noah had had drainage tubes put in his ears three times since infancy and it looked like it would have to be done again soon. How was he supposed to pay for that?
He got in his car and just sat there, thinking. Lord, he thought, I could sure use a way out of this mess. This brief little prayer was genuine. For months Sam had prayed about his problems at work. Things had continued to get worse, though. He hadn’t lost hope that God would make it all right, but he was more than a little discouraged.
Sam pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. He should call Tracie. No, that was a bad idea. Better to tell her in person. He would tell her tonight when she got home. He put the cell phone back in his pocket, started the car, and drove out of the parking ramp. His parking permit was good through the end of the month. It would come in handy when he came back downtown to go job hunting.
He drove across the river towards his part of town. Once he was across the bridge he reached a decision and put his Bluetooth headset on. He hit the speed dial and waited for the answer.
“Marty? It’s Sam,” he said.”They went and did it.”
“Fired me,” he said.
There was a brief pause. “Sam, I’m sorry,” he said. “Does Tracie know yet?”
“No,” Sam replied. “I mean I just…I just don’t know…”
“Where are you?”
“I just crossed the bridge,” he said
“I’m at the church,” Marty replied. “Come on over. We’ll talk and we’ll pray.”
Already feeling better, Sam turned at the next light. He had no idea that he was being followed.
Steve Bennett, a private investigator, hung a few cars back from Sam. Surveillance was pretty boring most of the time but every now and then something interesting would happen. Like this, for example. Sam Harman worked 8 to 5 every day and only occasionally left the HomeQuest building for lunch. Bennett, who had been watching him for a week now, was surprised to see him leave the building a mere half hour after arriving for work. Obviously something had happened. Had Sam been fired, or had there been an emergency with one of his kids? He supposed he’d find out soon enough.
He was even more surprised when, instead of going to his kids’ school or the day care his youngest attended, Sam pulled into the parking lot of the Chester Avenue Christian Church. Bennett knew that the Harmans were members and had been for several years but why would Sam come here on a Tuesday? Bennett parked his Ford Mustang down the street from the church and took out a pair of binoculars as Sam went inside. There was only one other car besides Sam’s Dodge Avenger. Bennett read the tag number of the other car and entered it into his smart-phone. The answer came back in seconds. The car was registered to Martin Lovell, who Bennett knew was the pastor of the church. Curious, he made a phone call to a friend who worked at HomeQuest.
“George?” he said. “Steve. What’s up?”
“The usual,” George replied. “Something wrong? You never call me here.”
“Need some information for a case I’m working,” Bennett said. “You know Sam Harman, right?”
“Yeah,” George replied, sounding surprised. “What going on with him? I heard he got fired this morning.”
Word travels fast, Bennett mused. “You know that for sure?” he asked.
“As sure as anything is around here,” George said. “This place has a rumor mill that would put Jefferson High to shame. But a couple of people I know saw him escorted out of the building so I’m pretty sure it’s true. No idea why, though.”
“That’s okay,” Bennett said. “You told me what I needed to know.”
“What’s this about?” George asked. “Why are you interested in Sam?”
“Can’t tell you that,” Bennett said. “He’s not in any trouble, though, so don’t worry. Give me a few days and I’ll explain everything, okay?”
“Sure,” George said. “I understand.”
“And see if you can find out why he was fired,” Bennett added. “It might be important.”
Bennett said his goodbyes and hung up. Then he made another call.
“Yes?” A voice answered.
“It’s Bennett,” he said. “It looks like our friend just lost his job. I don’t know why yet but I’m working on it.”
“I see,” the man replied. “Where is he now?”
“At his church,” Bennett said.
The man at the other end chuckled. “If he only knew,” he said. “I suppose we’d better move things up. Keep an eye on him, Bennett and make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid. I’ll fly in tomorrow and then we’ll have our little talk with Mr. Harman.”
“Will do,” Bennett said and hung up. He flipped open a laptop and paged through the file he’d accumulated on Sam Harman, including scans of the documents his client had provided. Boy was this guy in for a surprise.