The Abattoir Project: A Ken Walker Adventure

by James Beattie Morison
© 2011 James Beattie Morison

 

A typical management consultant doesn’t need to worry that someone will try to kill him, but then, Ken Walker wasn’t a typical management consultant.

 

A Conversation in the Hall

Ken Walker’s shoes clicked as he followed Frank Lee. Dressed in dark pants and a black turtleneck sweater, Ken moved with an athlete’s grace. Some may have found it unusual that Ken wore dark shades, but he rarely took them off.

Frank huffed and puffed down the corridor, as his jowls swayed back and forth. Some of his employees looked at him with concern as they passed him in the hall. Frank took no notice. Frank came to a stop and leaned his hand against the wall as he caught his breath.“Sorry, I need a little rest. I hope you don’t mind”.

Ken said, “Take all the time you need”.

Frank looked up and down the hall.For the moment, it was deserted. He leaned toward Ken and spoke quietly, or as quietly as he could. “I am very worried Ken”. Frank paused. “Last night someone sabotaged the carbon dioxide system in the abattoir.”

“You suspect animal rights activists?”

“No. I fear not.” Frank glanced down the hall before he continued. “My people have been at each others throats for months. I think it has escalated.”

“That’s why you wanted me?”

“Yes it is. That is if you still want to get involved. I’m afraid events will get out of hand.” Frank saw an employee enter the hall and stopped before he said any more. Frank started down the hall with Ken just behind him. “Maybe I’m paranoid.”

“You needn’t worry about me. I can take care of myself.” Ken tried to calm Frank’s fears. “I find it hard to believe that people would resort to violence over office politics.”

“I hope you’re right.”


The Crowded Office

Frank’s office had papers piled all over the desk and in some of the chairs. Ken waited as Frank took a pile of papers off a chair so he could sit.

The three vice-presidents sat across the table from Ken. Robert Thomas wore an expensive suit. His immaculate look marred by the open collar that he adjusted repeatedly. Robert watched the man at the far end of the table. David Scott was dressed in old jeans and at-shirt. David watched Robert just as closely as Robert watched David. Neither looked happy. The third vice president, Joshua Allan, was the only one in the room with a smile on his face. He looked back and forth from Ken to Frank.

Frank wheezed. “Robert, when will the repairs be done?”

The big man shifted in his chair and the low rumble of his voice rolled across the table. “We have the crew back at work, but it’s still slow.” Robert turned back to watch David again and added, “The maintenance team could have been more help”.

David’s face flushed and he turned to Frank and Ken. “My people did a superb job under the circumstances. Frankly ,the abattoir crew were just in the way.”

David turned back to watch Robert ,then gave a bit of a start and turned back to his boss. “Sorry Mr. Lee, Frankly is one of my favourite words.” When he turned back to look at his rival, Robert had a big smile on his face.

“Let’s get down to work. I’ve brought in Ken Walker to help us improve our management.”

Joshua wagged his head up and down quickly. “Yes sir, I think you made a brilliant move to have Mr. Walker help us. You can rest assured that the accounting department will help him in anyway he needs.” Joshua smiled broadly. Ken imagined Joshua as a falsetto singer.

Robert watched David closely and added, “I agree that the maintenance team could really use the help.”

David watched Robert closely and said, “I think that Mr. Walker’s time would be better spent over with the operations group”.

Frank sighed. “I’m glad to hear that Mr. Walker can count on your cooperation.”


Outside the Abattoir

The Sun was warm on Ken’s face. He enjoyed the outdoors, even if it was in the middle of the city. He stood outside the abattoir. He took a deep breath, until a gust of wind brought some unpleasant smells. Ken ended his reverie and pulled out his cell phone. The phone buzzed three times before a voice of liquid gold came on.

“Walker and Clay ManagementConsultants, how can I help you?”

“Barbara, doesn’t the caller IDwork?”

“Oh yes it is sweetie. But, I just love to say our name.”

Ken smiled. Barbara had been with him since he opened the office and he wasn’t sure how he’d manage without her. Most people didn’t take her seriously, but Ken knew better.

“I met with Frank and his VPs.They didn’t kill each other, but I half expected it.”

“You have your job cut out for you then.”

“Don’t I know it.”Ken switched the phone to his other hand. “I suppose I could have them form a doo-wop group as a team building exercise; they have a good bass and a passable falsetto.” Barbara laughed.

Ken said, “I need you to do a little investigation.”

“Oh goodie. Sounds like fun.”

“They had some carbon dioxide equipment sabotaged here last night. Can you find out more about that?” Ken paused. “Frank thinks it’s an inside job, but we need to rule out animal rights groups just to be sure.”

“I’m all over it sweetie. What about you?”

“I need to find out more about the company. I’ll see Edward, he keeps tabs on the meatpacking industry. It’s not far from here, so I’ll walk over and enjoy the weather.”

“Take care. Ta ta sweetie.”

Ken smiled as he closed his phone and put it away.


A Pleasant Walk on a Sunny Day

The click of his shoes echoed off the building beside him as Ken made his way down the street. As he walked along, Ken ruminated on his new client. He frowned as he mulled over what theVice Presidents said.

Ken noticed a horn honk behind him and he wondered who was so impatient. He decided that someone must have to go to the bathroom real bad and he turned his thoughts to what he needed fromEdward. Ken hadn’t visited his investment advisor for a long time.

A car flew by. Ken jumped away from the edge of the sidewalk and out of the way. The car barely missed him.Ken thought that some people shouldn’t be allowed to drive.

Ken reached the intersection and waited for the light to change. He shuddered as he thought of the car that had almost hit him. He didn’t want to be in another accident.

The lights chirped, Ken stepped off the curb and walked across the street. He moved briskly but cautiously toward the other side. His mind warned him that something wasn’t right. Ken tried to think what it could be. Ken noticed the sound of a car engine. It sounded like the car that almost hit him, but it came from a different direction. He was puzzled, but didn’t think it was important.

Suddenly, the tires started to screech and Ken knew the car was after him. He broke into a run as he heard the car engine roar behind him.


Escape

Ken raced to the side of the road.As he stepped onto the curb, he reached out his hand and grabbed a light pole.He swung around behind the pole and let go.

The car’s tires squealed as the driver tried to stop before he hit the light pole. Ken didn’t wait to find out what happened. He put more distance between him and the road.He climbed over a fence onto a parking lot and slowly jogged across it.

Behind him, the car smashed into the light pole. There was a moment of silence then the engine came to life again and the car backed up, and then turned down the street.

Ken ran a little faster. He expected the driver would head for the parking lot entrance. He was close to the building when he heard the engine thunder as it thrust the car toward him.Ken was close to the entrance now and was sure he would beat the car.

A scream came from ahead. A woman chased after her toddler. Ken feared that if he continued toward the door, the car could hit the child. Ken turned 90 degrees and headed away from the woman and toddler.

The driver of the car was surprised and pushed his brakes to the floor. He turned and was back on Ken’s tail again. Ken was well ahead now and knew he would get to safety.

Ken’s foot slipped on a patch of oil. He stumbled to the ground. He landed heavily and his shades fell off. He fought to regain his breath, as the sound of the car grew louder behind him.

Ken jumped up suddenly and dashed toward the building. The car swerved to follow him. Ken reached the building wall, but then he went down again. The car smashed into the wall.

The driver got out of the car. He gave a high-pitched giggle when he saw Ken on the ground motionless. The driver trotted over to the sidewalk and lost himself in the crowd.


The Parking Lot

In the distance, Ken could hear the sirens wail as they came nearer. He felt pain in his legs and feared the worst. Slowly he sat up and reached out to feel his legs. He felt reassured that they didn’t appear to be damaged, just very sore.

Ken felt other aches and pains allover his body. None of those felt serious, so he decided to stand up. He started to push up with his hands and pull his legs under him. A man came up behind him and helped Ken up and over to a bench. After Ken thanked him, he pulled out his cell and called Barbara. He told her what happened and asked her to come pick him up. “And I need a new pair of shades”, he said before he shut the phone.

Officer Patrick Macdonald wrote in his note pad as Ken told him what happened. A small two-seater car pulled up nearby. All eyes were on the driver as she got out and began to strut across the parking lot. Slim and self assured; she wore a frilly lacy dress. When she reached Ken, she put her hands on her hips.

“Now just what happened to you sweetie?”

“I got up too quickly and fainted.”

“When will you see your doctor about that? You know it could be serious.”

“I’ll take care of it later.”

“You said that the last time too.”Barbara shook her head.

Officer Macdonald cleared his throat. “Excuse me sir, could you describe the driver?”

Barbara said, “He can’t. He’s blind.”

Officer Macdonald looked at Ken in surprise. Ken nodded his agreement and the officer said, “Well, that explains the tap dance shoes.”


Carbon Dioxide

After Officer Macdonald finished his questions and the paramedics pronounced him undamaged, Ken was free to go.Ken put on his shades as he got into the passenger seat of Barbara’s car. Ken groaned when Barbara got into the driver’s seat.

“Are you sure you’re OK Sweetie?”

“Just some aches and pains. No more than I’ve had before.”

Barbara started the car and drove off, headed for their office. “Who do you think was after you? Does it have to do with the abattoir project?”

“I don’t know. I can’t see that the situation at the abattoir would get anyone angry enough to kill me.” Ken thought for a moment. “I have other enemies you know.”

Barbara concentrated as she manoeuvred the car through some heavy traffic.

Ken rubbed his chin as he considered the possibilities. “On the other hand, Robert Thomas and David Scott seem ready to kill each other.” Ken paused before he changed the subject. “Did you find out about that carbon dioxide machine they have?”

“That was really cool. Apparently, it’s a new, more humane way to kill the animals. The carbon dioxide cuts off the supply of oxygen.” Barbara went silent as she swerved around another car. “The humane part is that, without oxygen, the mind becomes euphoric. The animals die in a state of bliss.”

Ken said, “I wouldn’t think the animal rights people would be opposed to that.”

“Some aren’t. Some are. It’s controversial.”

The car came to a stop and they got out. It was a short walk to the elevator. Ken was quiet, so Barbara kept her thoughts to herself. They got off on the second floor and Ken led the way to their office.

Suddenly Ken stopped and sniffed. “Something is wrong. What can you see?”

Barbara took a couple steps forward. She could see their sign WALKER AND CLAY MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS on the wall beside their door, but there was no door. She rushed over and looked in.The door lay on the floor and some one had trashed the office.


A Trashed Office

Ken picked his way across the office to his desk. Barbara stepped into her own office to find drawers pulled open, furniture upturned and papers strewn all over the floor. Barbara called out to Ken, “Sweetie, They went through the whole place. What a mess.”

Barbara returned to Ken’s office and inspected the remains of the door. “That wasn’t easy to knock down.”

Ken’s forehead furrowed as he puzzled over what happened. He stopped and his mouth dropped open. He quickly turned to one of the desk drawers, reached in, brought out a gray metal box, and placed it on the desktop. Barbara walked over and watched Ken open the box.Ken felt through the box and found their money. He took it out and counted it, then gave the wad to Barbara to check.

Barbara sounded puzzled when she was done. “It’s all here. If they didn’t want the money, why did they break in?”

“We need to find out what’s up soon, before someone gets hurt.” Ken rubbed his chin. “I don’t see any pattern.”

Barbara looked around the office again. “I had better arrange for this to be cleaned up.” She turned back to Ken and asked, “Should I call the police?”

“Of course.”

Barbara strode toward her office.The phone rang and she stopped to look back. Ken switched on the Speakerphone and gestured to Barbara to wait and listen in.

“Walker and Clay, how can I help you?”

“Stop your work for the Frank LeeAbattoir Company. You’ve seen just a little of what we can do to you.” The caller gave a high-pitched giggle. The speaker had used a voice distorter and try as he might, Ken could not recognise it.

“I always keep my promises.”

The phone was silent for a few moments, and then the caller said, “Frankly, I think you will regret your decision.” The line went dead.


Special Delivery

“Well, at least we know it has to do with the abattoir.” Ken sat down in his chair.

“But why you? Why not FrankLee?” Barbara asked.

Ken leaned forward. “I think that is a clue right there.” Ken drummed his fingers on the desktop. “What could it mean?”

Barbara started back to her office. “I’ll call the police and arrange for this place to get tidied up”.

Ken leaned back in his chair and quickly was deep in thought. So much so, that the courier had to call three times before he noticed.

“Sorry, my mind was a million miles away”.

The courier looked around the office. “Gee, what happened?”

“A break in. What do you want?”

“I have a package for Ken Locker.Is that you?”

“Are you sure it says Locker? My name is Walker.”

“It says Locker not Walker, but the address is the same.”

“Then it is probably for me.”

The courier hesitated. “I’m not sure about this.” He looked around the room for an answer, and then gave a sigh. “OK, but can you make your signature kinda messy?”

Ken laughed. “I like to make life easier.”

The courier made his way gingerly across the office to Ken. Ken signed the form and the courier gave him the envelope. The courier took one last look at the mess on the floor, and then left.


The Envelope

Ken put the envelope on the desk and waited for Barbara. He listened to her talk to a door company. It sounded like it would take a while.

Ken picked up the envelope and weighed it with his fingers. He could tell that there wasn’t much more than a page or two inside. He gave the envelope a shake, but there was no movement inside the envelope.

Ken sniffed the envelope. He could almost recognise the smell, but the source eluded him. He sniffed the envelope again, and then gave up.

He started to feel around the envelope. He got excited when he thought he could feel little bumps on the paper inside. Braille he thought. He found some more small bumps on the outside of the envelope. He started to scan his fingers across them.

There was a huge crash. Ken felt splinters of glass from the office window as they hit his back. He dropped the envelope on the desk top. He stayed motionless and listened. Barbara in the next room was silent.

The smell caught Ken’s attention first. A smoky sweet smell. Then he heard the faint hiss.

“A bomb!” Ken yelled out to warn Barbara of the danger, and then he leapt into action.

The room filled with sound and heat.


Trashed Again

Ken’s world was silent. He lay on the floor, still stunned from the explosion. He sat up, but still felt dazed. He reached over to feel the desk. As he expected, it was intact. This wasn’t the first time the desk had saved his life. He had it specially reinforced after someone tried to shoot him.

Ken smelled smoke and felt heat on the side of his face. He jumped up as he realized that there was a fire in the room. He stepped over to a cupboard and pulled out a fire extinguisher. He turned the nozzle toward the fire and began to spray.

His hearing began to return and he heard Barbara’s voice. Ken turned off the extinguisher. Barbara called out,“The cabinet is on fire”.

Ken sprayed the cabinet untilBarbara told him the fire was out. Ken put down the fire extinguisher and leaned against the wall. “How much damage is there?”

Barbara walked slowly around the room and inspected the damage. “Pretty bad. We’ll need new furniture sweetie.” Barbara stopped by the desk. “There’s nothing but charred paper on the desk. At least we didn’t have anything important out.”

Ken shook his head. “A courier just delivered an envelope. I don’t know what it was or who it was from. It could be important.”

Barbara looked closer at the desktop. “There are some fragments that look like they came from an envelope.”

Ken came to the desk and Barbara put his hand on the fragments. Ken picked them up and carefully examined them.“This is the envelope, I can feel the Braille.” Ken frowned. “All I can feel is the letter ‘A’. Can you see any more?”

Barbara looked closely at the fragments and shook her head, then said, “Forget it. No marks at all”.


Wires and Cardboard

Ken asked, “Can you see any remains of the bomb?”

“What should I look for?”

“Wires, maybe some casing material.”

“I noticed some wires on the floor.”She walked over to pick them up. She came back with the wires and some charred cardboard and handed them to Ken.

Ken felt the wires and cardboard.His expression remained perplexed. Ken brought the cardboard up to his nose and began to sniff. “Well it is from a bomb for sure, I can smell traces of explosive. Not quite sure what it is though.” Ken gave another sniff and his eyebrows rose. “I can just detect another odour, can’t say what it is yet, but it is the same smell I noticed on the envelope.”

Ken put the wires and cardboard down. “We better leave these for the police; maybe they’ll have more luck.” Ken rubbed his chin. “The envelope and the bomb are linked in some way, but are they related to the phone call and the car that tried to run me down?”

It wasn’t long until Barbara escorted the police out of the office and brought in the door repair person. She got her started on the door, and then Barbara joinedKen in her office.

“She said she’d have the door done in a half hour. The police want us to leave the rest until their technician shave a chance to go through it.”

Ken nodded. “Officer Macdonald has a little crush on someone”.

Barbara blushed, and then laughed.“Oh, he is just an old fan.”


A Fragrance Recalled

Ken sat in Barbara’s office. He mulled over the events of the day, in search of a pattern. He knew that time would run out if he couldn’t find out what evil was afoot.

In the next room, Barbara had paid the door repair person and was now in conversation with the landlord. The landlord wasn’t happy, but then he never was. He wanted to avoid the police and didn’t want to take the key so he could let them in. After she’d won an agreement from the landlord, she joined Ken. She flopped into a chair with a sigh.

“I’m sure that if I can identify that aroma we can solve our problem.” Ken had his head back as he tried to recall the memory of the smell.

“What kind of smell was it? Metal? Oil? Dirt? Food?”

Ken was motionless for a second then said, “food. Maybe. More of a spice smell really.” Ken rubbed his chin. “No, not a spice, a mixture of spices. And not spices that normally go together.”

“Yuck. Reminds me of the spice show I went to at the old bank building.” Barbara scrunched up her nose at the thought.

“I think I’ve lost the smell now.”Ken pause to reflect. “It’s late, what do you say we call it a day. Maybe tomorrow we’ll see it with fresh eyes.”

Barbara locked the door and followed Ken down the hall to the elevator. When Ken stopped suddenly, she almost ran into him.

“The old bank building, is it still open?”

Barbara thought for a moment then said, “It’s all shut up now. Has been for years.”

Ken said, “It could be the place we’re after”.

Barbara said, “Let’s go”. They rode down on the elevator, hopped into Barbara’s car and they were off.


Baldy, Long Hair and Adonis

Barbara parked in front of the old bank building. After a brief search, she found an open door in the back. Ken followed her in. They moved quietly into the main room, the tap of Ken’s shoes echoed in the dark. Barbara stopped to turn on the room light. Half way across the room, Ken stopped and put his hand up. Barbara stayed still while Ken listened.

“Someone is on the stairs over there.” Ken whispered as he indicated a door. Barbara moved quickly to the side of the door, and pressed herself against the wall. She pulled loose a brick from the wall.

Seconds later the door flew open and two men burst into the room. In the lead was a tall bald man, closely followed by a shorter man with long hair. A third man waited outside the door.He was a veritable Adonis, but a cruel smile distorted his features.

As Baldy neared Ken, Barbara hefted the brick and threw it. It smashed the light and plunged the room into darkness. Adonis slammed the door against Barbara and knocked her to the floor.

Adonis stepped forward as Barbara struggled to her feet. His grin quickly disappeared as Barbara’s fist knocked his teeth down his throat. He wasn’t the first to underestimate Barbara. In her five years as a professional boxer, she’d never lost a bout. She moved forward as Adonis stepped back. Barbara landed one punch after another, until he collapsed on the floor.

Baldy and Long Hair closed in onKen. Ken listened carefully to their motions. When Baldy got close enough, Ken stepped forward, and knocked his assailant back on his heals. Baldy gave an agonized cry.

Ken spun around to face Long Hair.His first punch landed, but made little impression on the shorter man. They grappled briefly. Long Hair’s greater strength gave him an advantage and soon he held Ken’s arms behind him. Baldy advanced again and swung at Ken’s belly.Ken doubled over with a huge gasp.

Barbara saw her opportunity, dashed over, and placed a small fist in Long Hair’s face. He let go of Ken and turned to face Barbara. She danced around to avoid his fists, while she connected several blows to his head.

Ken, still bent double, dove intoBaldy’s groin. Surprised and in pain, Baldy took his attention off Ken. Ken had just enough time to get the upper hand. Soon Baldy collapsed on the floor. Ken turned in the direction of Barbara and Long Hair in time to hear Long Hair hit the ground.

“Oh dear, there is a rip in my lace trim. I really liked this dress too.” Barbara walked over to Ken. “Are youOK Sweetie?”

“I’ll hurt for a while.”


The Stairway

Ken stood up after he tied up Baldy.Barbara had finished with Long Hair and she was almost done with Adonis.

“Where next?”

Ken pointed in the direction of the doorway. “They came from there, so that is where we go.”

Ken led the way through the door with Barbara just behind him. Ahead of them, a stairway led upward. They climbed the stairs quietly. Ken stopped to listen. He detected a faint hiss, but couldn’t place it. He heard Barbara stumble on the stairs behind him. He turned to ask if she was OK, but a sudden weariness came over him. He struggled to stand up.

“Carbon Dioxide! We need to get to fresh air.” It was too late. Ken didn’t care anymore. He collapsed on the steps.


The Giggling Man

Ken’s head swam. He slowly became aware of his situation. He lay on a table, with his hands and feet bound. He could still feel the effects of the carbon dioxide. He coughed.

“Ken?” Barbara’s voice sounded close.

“I’m a bit tied up now. How about you?”

“Just hanging out. What happened?”

Ken explained his suspicions. Ken tested the ropes that held his hands. He felt confident that he could work his way out and started to loosen up his right hand.

A sound came from outside the room and Ken stopped. A door opened and someone entered the room. A man gave a high-pitched giggle.

“Our guests are enjoying themselves I see.” He giggled again. “I’m sorry to put an end to your fun, but we have business to do.”

The man walked over to Ken’s table and Ken felt the touch of cold steel on his throat. “You have an item I want and I’m sure you’ll be happy to give it to me.”

Ken remained silent. He listened closely to the voice. He didn’t recognize it, although he was sure he’d heard it before.

“You have an envelope, right? It has no value; I just have an emotional attachment to it.” The man giggled again.

The knife moved across Ken’s skin.“My butchery skills are rusty; I do need to practice more.” The knife inscribed the outlines of meat cuts on Ken’s torso.

“The envelope was destroyed.”

“I don’t believe you. You have it somewhere safe, don’t you?”

The knife continued to trace lines on Ken’s body, sometimes the giggling man pressed a little harder and some blood dribbled out.

“Come come Mr. Walker. You will tell me eventually.”

Ken sighed and said, “Ok, I’ll tell you. That is, if you let us go.”

The man giggled again. “We’ll see about that. Come now, tell me.”

Ken felt the knife press into his flesh.

“We left it in the car. Out on the street.”

The giggling man was silent for a moment. “Do you really expect me to believe that? You are not such a fool to leave a valuable item like that just lying about.”

Ken tried to sound desperate. “We didn’t know it was valuable. We get a lot of mail.” Ken listened to the giggling man breathe. “What have you got to lose if you go check.”

The giggling man pulled the knife away from Ken as he considered Ken’s words. “You have a point there. It will be but a few moments.”

“I dropped the keys on the floor of the main room.” Barbara offered.

“I don’t need keys, one of my men can break the window.”

The giggling man walked over and opened the door. “Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be right back.” He closed the door and they could hear his giggle as it faded away.


What Would Your Mother Think

As soon as he was sure they were alone, Ken returned to the ropes that held him. Slowly he made progress. He could feel that the ropes were already looser. Suddenly an almost electric shock of pain jumped through his body. Ken fought to control his agony. He knew it was just a pinched nerve in his hand. He had endured it many times before.After the pain subsided, he pulled on the rope and felt a little more movement.It wouldn’t be long now.

Ken concentrated so hard on his efforts that he didn’t notice anything else until he heard Barbara whisper his name. He stopped to listen. Someone was outside the room. He quickly adjusted the ropes so it wouldn’t be obvious that he was almost free.

The door slammed open and the giggling man stomped in.

“Very funny Mr.Walker. There was no envelope in the car.”

The giggling man walked over toKen’s table. Ken felt the knife again. It moved gently down his body and then stopped just below his navel.

“Do you know what it is like to be disembowelled? It isn’t very pleasant to see your insides ooze out onto the floor.” The man giggled. “Oh, I forgot, I’ll have to put them where you can feel them ooze out.”

The knife pressed into Ken’s skin and he could feel his blood leak out. The knife moved over a few centimetres and made another little hole. Then a third and a fourth.

Barbara yelled, “What would your mother think?” The giggling man stopped. “Maybe she just didn’t care about you.”

The giggling man walked over toBarbara’s table. “Quiet! You wouldn’t understand!”

Barbara just laughed. The giggling man leaned over her and placed the knife to her throat. Barbara screamed.


Another Fight in the Dark

Ken heard Barbara’s scream just as his right hand came free. He reached over and untied his left hand. Barbara gave another scream. Ken sat up slowly to avoid another faint and began to undo the ropes on his feet.

“How does it feel Miss Clay? I thought you enjoyed pain. Why so upset?” The man giggled again. “Now see how you . . .”

The giggling man didn’t finish his sentence. Ken grabbed his arm and pulled the blade away from Barbara’s throat. Ken and the giggling man struggled over the knife. The knife came close to Ken’s face, but he twisted the other man’s hand and the knife fell to the floor. Ken pulled a hand free and punched the giggling man. As the giggling man stumbled backward, Ken dropped to his knees and felt around for the knife.

Ken jumped up with the knife in his hand and turned back to Barbara’s table. He started to feel faint. He knew he only had a few seconds of consciousness left. He struggled to cut the ropes that held Barbara’s hand. Ken felt the giggling man grab him from behind, just as Barbara’s hand came free. She took hold of the knife as Ken turned to face the man behind him. He pushed forward and the two fell. The world went silent for Ken before they hit the ground.

Barbara saw the giggling man as he tried to get out from under Ken. She cut the ropes on her feet just as Baldy and Long Hair came into the room. They were more cautious now that they knew what Barbara could do.

Barbara stood with the knife poised in her hand. Baldy and Long Hair moved apart to get on opposite sides of her. She didn’t have much time. She threw the knife atLong Hair. He ducked, but it distracted him long enough for her to make her move. Her foot hit Baldy’s head with a crack and his eyes glazed over. A couple more punches and Baldy was on his way to the floor.

Barbara spun around to see LongHair in full charge toward her. She waited a fraction of a second, and then stepped aside to let him by. He wasn’t that easy to trick and his fist slammed into her face. She recovered quickly and jumped toward him. This time she connected and Long Hair’s time was up.

She heard a noise behind her and turned to see the giggling man dash to the door. She ran to Ken’s side. He had recovered from his faint, but was still on the floor.She helped him up.

“Sweetie, are you OK?” Ken nodded.Barbara gave a sigh. “Look at my dress! I’ll never get those stains out.”

Ken moved toward the door. “We can’t let him get away.” The team burst through the door and started down the stairs. Ken stopped. “He’s released the carbon dioxide again. We have to wait until it clears.”

They opened some windows and it wasn’t long before they could go down the stairs. On the first landing, they found the giggling man, but it was too late for him.Barbara felt through the man’s pockets and found his wallet. “Joshua Allan.”

Ken said, “He is, or rather was, the VP for finance at the abattoir .”

Barbara searched further. “There is a diamond in a circle tattooed on the nape of his neck.”

“Another one!”


Some Questions Answered

Two days later, Ken and Barbara sat in their office. They had repaired the damage and the office was back to normal, or as normal as it ever was. Barbara wore her new dress, and it was as frilly and lacy as her old one. Ken had new shades and a new black turtleneck sweater.

“The only one that got away was that pretty boy I decked.”

“You should be careful. He may hold a grudge.”

As she shadow boxed the air,Barbara said, “Bring him on Sweetie, I’m ready .” She turned to Ken. “What did Joshua want anyway?”

“Apparently he ‘borrowed’ some money from the company and was afraid that I would find out.”

“Embezzlement?”

“Not exactly, he’d done it before and paid it back. Frank allowed that kind of thing in the past.” Ken rubbed his chin. “I guess Joshua didn’t know that.”

“Who sent the envelope?”

“I promised not to tell, not even you.” Ken paused. “As it turns out, it wasn’t related to Joshua at all. If he’d had left well enough alone, no one would have found him out.”

“What about those diamond and circle tattoos?”

Ken couldn’t answer. Much would happen before he could.

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