I did it!
50232, and verified!
Surprisingly, although I've been doing this for 11 years, this is only my 5th win.
Most of it was on a serial we're submitting to Storm Moon soon.
For your entertainment, have a brief scene:
“Engel, your lawyer is here.”
Jason looked up from where he sat on the bunk of the cell. He'd been expecting the public defender for a while now. He couldn't afford a real lawyer of his own.
The guard shackled Jason and ushered him into the privacy room. He sat down at the table and waited some more. His life had been nothing but waiting for the past few weeks.
The door opened again and two women came in. The lawyer was a freaking amazon, well over six feet tall, and the heels made her even taller. All of that blue-black hair piled in a bun on top of her head looked like it was scraping the door frame. The severe brown suit she wore made her look stern, and the emerald green blouse matched her earrings and shoes. She set her briefcase on the table and glared at him with dark brown eyes with just a hint of almond shape
The woman in her wake was not quite as imposing, coming only to the amazon's shoulder, with her red hair caught into a braid. Her black slacks and sapphire blouse didn't intimidate like the suit, nor did the heels on her ankle boots give her any advantage of height. She settled in a chair right beside the lawyer, her cute little pixie face scrunched in concentration as she opened her briefcase.
Just his luck. He was being sent away to the all-boys camp forever, and the last thing he'd see were these two hot cock-teases. He squelched that thought real fast. Say shit like that and the high and mighty corpora-bitch would make sure he went away forever.
The redhead cocked an eyebrow at him like she could hear what he was thinking. Remembering specials and movies about mind-reading aliens, he started humming a stupid song in his head. She hid a chuckle in her paperwork.
The lawyer cleared her throat. “Jason Manfred Engel.”
He winced at his full name and silently cursed his family for having such an obnoxious legacy of a middle name. Why couldn't it have been something like John or Dennis?
She didn't seem to notice and went on. “You seem to be in a bit of a bind, young man. Why don't you give me your side of things? Right now, there seems to be a bit of a mob ready to hang you in the town square and four friends I would not spit on if they were afire.”
“We were hanging out one night, you know how it is. Nothing to do, nobody's gotta work the next day. I'd just got my baby up and running sweet, so I asked if anyone wanted to go on a beer run. We were getting low. Everybody came along, and I ran us down to the local quick-stop. My girl was making a rattle I didn't like so I stayed in the car to listen and figure it out while they went in for beer and cigs.” He took a breath. Here was where it all went straight to hell. “Next thing I know, there's gun shots and my friends are tearing across the lot like their heads're on fire and their asses are catching. They're yelling for me to drive. I don't know what the hell is going on, but they have the beer and they pile in so we peel out.” He covered his face. The next part was awful. “I never even saw her step off the curb. I felt us hit something and I felt it under the tires, but I thought it was just a dog or something. Everyone was shouting and pounding me and there were sirens and I just kept driving, foot to the floor.”
He took a drink of the water on the table. “The cops stopped us about ten miles out. I blew a point-one. And I haven't been outside of this cell since. I'm going to prison forever, ain't I?” He asked it matter-of-factly, hoping for an equally matter-of-fact answer.
“You fail to grasp the gravity of your situation, Mr. Engel. Your so-called friends are claiming you orchestrated the entire robbery, including giving orders to kill the Pakistani store owner and his family as part of a hate crime, and any customers to cover your tracks. That it was the owner's mother you ran over does not help the case! The fine state of Alabama has decided they will not be paying your room and board for the next sixty years. Not when an IV and a shot are so much cheaper and more effective.” She steepled her fingers and leaned on the table. “Unless, of course, you choose to ride the lightening.”
Jason slumped in the chair, feeling as if granddaddy's prize bull had just stepped on his chest. He couldn't breathe, couldn't think. The situation was just too much. The needle. He was going to get killed over a damned beer run.
She went on, inexorably. He'd heard the word, but never really knew what it meant. It felt like some giant boulder rolling after him, inevitable, intense and inescapable. She was rolling all over him with her words, leaving him too flat to speak.
“Have you ever seen someone electrocuted, Mr. Engel? No, of course you haven't. It starts hard and fast and they arch, wetting themselves. The smell of cooking pork hangs in the air where their wrists, ankles and scalp fry. The heart muscles spasm and you die from lack of blood to the brain. This can take several minutes for complete death to set in.”
Jason stared, his mouth hanging open. He finally got the air to gasp out, “I just drove a beer run. I don't wanna die.”
The redhead laid a hand on her boss' arm. “Maria, I think he grasps. And I am losing my grasp on my lunch.” She turned to Jason. Her voice was soft and sweet, after the hard words of her superior. She reached over and took his hand. “There is an alternative to all of this, Mr. Engel. Jason, may I call you Jason?”
He nodded. She could call him anything she wanted if she would just make sure he didn't die over two lousy cases of beer and a carton of cigarettes.
“We've been over your school records, and you employment history, and your trade school application. We find your abilities to be most remarkable.” She smiled. “And I've seen the car. She's a beauty. It's a shame she's going to be sold on auction or crushed to a cube. We'd like to put your skills to a more noble and far-reaching cause than you can possibly imagine. In return, there is a handsome paycheck, and we can make all of this go away...like the bad dream you so desperately hope it is.” Her smile widened. “We should even be able to get your car back.”
“I don't know anything about noble causes. I just don't want to die. Money and my car are just gravy.”
“Mr. Engel, we all die. It's simply a matter of when and how. And for what.” She let go of his hand and took papers out of her briefcase. He took them as she slid them across the table to him.
Near as he could read it, the contract said he was in the employ of Blackhall Security Consulting Corporation, answerable to Kathleen Gallagher and Edward Corelli. The contract could be extended past the year by mutual agreement. After the year, the contract would be considered fulfilled, and he would be relocated to any city of his choosing, with a new identity and any schooling or employment he wished.
He looked up from the dream deal in his hands and asked, “So, what's the catch?”
“You can never return home. You will never again have any contact with friends or loved ones. You can never tell your new friends what has happened. This is a new start in every sense of the word.”
“My folks are dead and I'm an only child. And every friend I thought I had just made me out to be the Grand Dragon to save his own hide.” Jason picked up the pen. “I'm in.” He scrawled a semi-legible signature at the bottom of the contract.
Maria stood up. “Very good. I'll arrange your release at once.”
“Thanks. I'd see you to the door, but...” He rattled the shackles that held him to the chair.
The smile that crossed the amazon's face made something deep inside Jason squeak in fear. He hoped the meep didn't come out of his mouth. The redhead's smile told him it might have, always assuming she didn't read minds like every other redhead he'd known. Every damn one of them was a witch.
She stuck her hand across the table. “By the way, we weren't properly introduced. I'm Kathleen Gallagher, your new boss.” She pulled herself across the table to whisper in his ear, “And it's only cock-teasing if there is no delivery.”
Jason stared as she bundled the papers into her briefcase and marched out the door behind her boss.