All That Glitters
This story was inspired by an article I read in the Times and the personal conspiracy theory that followed. It is completely fictional and based wholly in my imaginings. I use real company names only because I'm terrible at making up fake ones.
Clark was not a runner. No one ever described him as a gazelle, or a cheetah - they’d sooner call him Cheetos - but when the first guns came around that corner, man, did he move. Self-preservation is one hell of a motivator.
It didn’t take long before his breath made new sounds, completely foreign to Clark. It rattled, it wheezed, and at several points it caught in undignified, duck-like honks. If Clark had a moment to think about it, he would have wondered if his lungs or his heart would kill him before a bullet could. He did not have time to think about it.
Clomping footfalls thundered after him down each twisting hallway, echoing back as he barreled into a warehouse. No one opened fire yet. But no one yelled for him to stop either. His shadows only followed him with the dogged focus of trained soldiers.
Clark weaved between shelves, ducking behind machinery to keep from becoming an easy target. He screamed as the first shot was fired, grinding his eyes closed as the bullet hit a shelf a few paces ahead of him. It caught a plastic tub, one of the hundreds lining the warehouse, and it burst in a shower of blue stars. The force of the impact threw the glitter into the air, creating a shimmering cloud before it settled into a thick sparkling mess on the floor.
Fear froze Clark where he stood, every muscle straining against his paralysis as he stared at the ragged hole in the plastic tub. His pulse threatened to break out of his throat, pounding so hard he felt the reverberations in his teeth.
“That was a warning shot,” a man’s voice called from behind the firing line. It carried a musical accent, though the English was clear and fluent. “Get on your knees and another will not be necessary.”
Clark swallowed between heaving breaths, resisting the urge to vomit as he mechanically obeyed. His knees hurt too much from the run to put his weight against the concrete, so he slid onto his generously cushioned bottom instead. Not knowing what else to do, he put his hands behind his head.
The gunmen came close, one keeping their weapon trained on Clark’s forehead, the other hauling him to his feet. With cool efficiency Clark’s arms were zap-strapped together behind his back. It was almost a relief to be able to catch his breath. Almost.
They led him back the way he’d come, straight into the office he’d been rifling through when an alarm had blared and started this whole mess. Who would have thought security would be so tight here of all places?
He was placed firmly in one of the seats facing the desk as a stern-faced Indian man moved to the other side. The man didn’t sit, but studied the screen of the big beige computer, a relic from the early 00’s. His frown deepened.
“Who are you working for?” His voice still held its musical quality, but the tune had changed. It held the same threat as Beethoven’s Fifth. The ‘dun dun dun duuuun’ was underscored by the rifles flanking the door. A symphony in AK-47 flat.
“No one! Literally. I’m unemployed,” Clark was pleased he’d managed not to stammer. Even sounding relatively calm despite his sudden need to wet himself. “I’m here out of personal curiosity.”
“What would possess a person to break into a glitter factory and find secure files? You can’t expect me to believe there is no profit for you to have risked this.”
Clark heard his mother’s voice in the back of his head. It was so clear and vivid he needed to resist turning in his chair to see her. Curiosity killed the cat, Clark. You should be more careful. A finger wagged at him through his memory and he sunk a little deeper into his chair.
“Have you ever been unemployed, man? You get bored. I read an article about this place in the Times and couldn’t help myself.” It sounded a little mad, but Clark hoped that honesty would prove the best policy here. “The spokesperson wouldn’t tell the reporter about your biggest customer. Made it into a big secret. I wanted to know.”
The man stared at him for several long heartbeats before sighing and rubbing the bridge of his nose. “We should never have agreed to that interview. It caused nothing but grief.” He slid into the chair behind the desk. “Was it worth it?”
“Hard to say before I know the full consequences.” Clark shrugged. “But I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting De Beers.”
The moment the name left his lips Clark felt the tension in the room double. Both gunmen shifted, the subtle sound of leather gloves on metal triggers mingling with the clicks of safeties being removed. Clark swallowed, turning his head slowly to find both barrels pointed at him.
“How much did you see?” The boss’ voice was a tomb door closing, his eyes hard and dark.
Desperation rose in Clark’s throat, cracking his voice as he squirmed under the surrounding scrutiny. Sweat was beading on his face and forcing his t-shirt to cling to his back. He tried not to imagine how they made the red glitter.