Short StoryThe Ax By Chris Zimmer Snow was on the ground and the skies were gray. I was walking into the Waffle House for lunch when by boss, Greg McAfee, sent me a text that read, “Jim, meet me in my office at 2:30pm. We need to talk.” I relied, “Ok” and sat at the booth by the window. I ordered a coffee, omelet, hash browns, and toast. I am the stereotypical American who loves greasy food. While enjoying my lunch, I scanned over the news on my blackberry. SYRIAN REBELS SHOT DOWN, Boring. OBAMA VISITS PEARL HARBOR MEMORIAL, Does that guy every work? NEW CEO LAYS OFF WORKERS, Oh s***. The feed read: At the NCR Cooperation in Dayton, Ohio, current CEO Robert Mathis said in a press release this morning, “Our company has been hit by the recession to, we will being making big changes throughout our company… “So this is what Greg sent me a text about,” I told my reflection in the window. I left my unfinished plate, paid my bill, and drove back to the office. It was only 1:43pm, but this was urgent. I am about to get fired. I took the elevator up to the eighth floor where Greg’s office was. I told his secretary, “I have a meeting with Greg.” “I am sorry but-” I ignored her response and stomped into his room. After I burst the door open, I saw Greg smoking one of his many Cuban cigars and talking to our VP, Bill Zimmer. “Jim, you’re early! Take a seat,” said Greg. “How you doin’ Jim?” asked Bill. I sort of just nodded my head and sat in the spinny chair in front of his desk. Greg asked, “Bill, will you leave us for a moment?” Mr. Zimmer walked his fat ass out of the room with his fat ass cigar. “Would you like to tell me what this about Greg?” “Well Jim…I have a feeling you already know that-” “You’re giving me the ax?” “No, no, no, Jim-” “Out of the thirteen years I’ve busted my ass for this company you’re going to-” “God damn Jim! We’re not laying you off!” I sat there, staring at him, my combed over brown hair and eyes, against his baldhead and blue eyes. He kept puffing his cigar, while I was in shock. “Jim, we have an opportunity for you.” “You know I like my job Greg.” “I know but you have to listen to me on this. How long have I been your boss? Eight years? Here’s the deal. We’re laying off one thousand jobs by the end of the month. You were on the list, till I told them you were useful-” “Thanks for sparing my ass.” “Hold on-I’m not done. The thing is, it was either you get fired and we hire a bunch of new college graduates, or we keep you and do us a favor…” “What are you f*ing talking about Greg?” “You see Jim, me and Bill have a little side job we have been doing for the last two years. Its very risky, but very profitable.” “What are you doing? Insider trading? Embezzling money?” “No Jim. Bigger than that…guns.” We sat there in his office for almost two hours. He talked about how him and Bill got into the business. On a consultant-training trip in Cairo, they met a Brit named Henry Doverdale. He told them about how much money he made off from transporting firearms from Ireland to Egypt each season. Almost one million pounds! He talked them into bringing the business over to the states. They started by paying high school kids in the city schools to sell handguns on the streets. Then biker gangs wanted in on the market. They bought AK-47’s, M16’s, revolvers, C4 explosives, scopes…pretty much everything the military used. Within a year, Greg and Bill had more than double their salary. Now, it’s almost tripled. “Why the f*** are you telling me this Greg?” “Because your our new partner.” “I want no damn part in this!” “You don’t have much of a f*ing choice Jim.” “I’ll go to the cops Greg if-” “Quit your damn yapping and listen! You are only going to have to do one job for us. Our normal middle man overdosed on heroine two weeks ago and the Hell’s Angels need their shipment now or else our they will come into our office and shoot the damn place up!” I started to get out of my seat, “That’s a problem Greg. I-” He pulled out a 9mm handgun with a silencer on it. “Sit down Jim.” I stood there. I wasn’t going to take any bullshit. “Sit the f*** down!” He cocked back the gun. I slowly sat back down in the seat. He was whirling the gun around his finger, “Jim. This is a win-win situation. You do this one favor for us, you keep your job and you will receive a check for $25,000 when you come back.” I loosened up my tie and said, “What do I have to do?” “Good,” said Greg. “We’re on speaking terms.” My job was fairly simple. I was to meet at behind the office at 11:30 pm Friday night. I assumed they paid off the security guards, so that wouldn’t be a problem. They were going to load my trunk with all the s*** that the Hell’s Angels wanted, and then I would deliver it to them. All the money was wired electronically already, so I wouldn’t even have to get out of the car. I was meeting them on St. Route 47, forty-five minutes from Dayton, three miles from any town on the Ohio/Indiana border. I really had no doubts or worries about the job till Thursday night. What if I get killed? What if the cops show up? What if it’s a set up? I tried to fall asleep but failed to relax. Not even a few glasses of Smirnoff helped. I started looking at the optimistic side to it. If I get killed, well at least I have no wife or kids.. If the cops show up, I can say I was forced to do it. If it’s a set up, I’ll say the same thing. I fell asleep around 4:00am, and soundly got three hours asleep before heading to work. I walked into the office and everybody was looking crazy at me. “Rough night Jim?” “You sick Mr. Switzler?” “You need a cup of coffee?” I just ignored them and walked the three flights of stairs to my cubicle. I couldn’t focus at work even if my life depended on it. I was suppose to send in a rough draft of this quarter’s sales report, but I just kept staring at my computer screen, thinking about the job. My phone rang around eleven, “Mr. Switzler? Mr. McAfee wants you to come up to his office?” “Be right there.” I walked into Greg’s office with the “Don’t F*** With Me Today!” look. “Jim! Glad to see-” “Shut up Greg. What do you want.” “Whoa big guy. Need a cigarette or-” “No Greg. What do you want?” “Ok, ok. I was going to tell you there was a change of plans in tonight.” “What kind of changes?” “I probably wouldn’t have made a difference, but you will also be giving them one hundred kilos of marijuana along with the weapons…” “Damnit Greg! Why are- Oh f*** it. It doesn’t matter anyway.” “Just try not to look so shity Jim…” I walked back to my cubicle and worked till about four till I called it quits. I went home, drank a few beers, and fell asleep while watching golf. I woke up around seven and decided to get up. I took a hot shower, ate a sandwich, and went to Starbucks to get some caffeine in me. I was in the Starbucks till ten o’clock when the manager said, “Sir we are closing now.” I put down the newspaper, and downed my coffee. It was time to go to work. I showed up at NCR at 10:45pm. The security guard on duty was Regis. Our big black man hired to scare teenagers from vandalizing cars. I stopped the car in front of his booth. He said, “You’re early Mr. Switzler. Greg and Bill will be here shortly.” I pulled around back and turned off the car. Why did he call me Mister and the bosses by their first name? It must have been the respect factor. I saw Greg’s silver Cadillac Escalade pull in at 11:01pm. They parked next to my car. I opened the door till I heard Greg say, “No need to get out Jim!” I looked in the rear view mirror and saw him and Bill loading boxes into my trunk. After about seven or eight minutes, they walked up to my window. I rolled it down and I heard Greg say, “Ok Jim. Do your job. Don’t get caught, and everyone will be happy.” Bill was smoking on cigar when he said, “In other words, don’t f*** up!” The two chuckled and pounded the top of my car twice. Signaling me to go. The drive was pretty simple. Take I-35 west for ten miles. Get off on some County Union Road. Then turn right on to a dirt road that takes you into the woods. Good thing I have a GPS. I listened to my favorite band in high school, The Eagles. It did calm me a bit, till Hotel California came on. I arrived at the sight at midnight, on the dot. I turned off the car and waited. No one was there. No sign of trucks or bikes. I looked to be at an old abandon camp site. Even through the dark, I could see fire pits and grills. Along with designated grass areas for tents right next to them. I looked at my phone. No texts. No missed calls. It was 12:30pm. Next I heard a rumbling sound coming towards me. I looked down the dirt road and saw an army of bikes with their bright’s on heading toward me. They started to circle my car. I guess my 2004 Honda Civic doesn’t look tough now… After passing me like ten times, they came stop. A burley man with long black hair and a beard that almost reached his waist came to my window. I rolled it down. He said, “Pop the trunk.” I did so. I heard the man give a loud whistle, and the next thing you know truck came from behind us, and the men started to load their purchase into it. They unloaded it a lot faster than Bill and Greg. Probably because there were like fifteen of them and they looked a lot stronger. After they were done. They all circled around and pulled out their cigarettes. They were all smoking and laughing. Can I get out of here now? Don’t you guys have to leave to? I honked the horn and gave them a shrug that said, “What’s the deal here?” The burley man that told me to pop the trunk waved his arm at me. I unbuckled my seat belt and stepped out of the car. Damnit. I should have stayed in the car. I walked over to them and asked, “Are we good? Can I go?” There was a moment of silence, than an outburst of laughter. “Did you hear this guy?” said the burley man. “He asked to go?” They all started to crack up again. I grabbed him by his leather jacket and said, “Listen hear jackass! I didn’t want to do this job and was forced to by boss or else I was going to get fired-” He threw me off and gave me a shove. I bounced back ready to fight, till I realized I was out manned. The burley man pulled out a gun. “You know what this is?” he asked. “This is a Springfield .45 caliber. The gun I used back in Vietnam…” “That’s really touching,” I said sarcastically. “I’m leaving now. I walked back to the car until he yelled “Hold on! Your boss wanted to give you something.” I looked over, confused, and asked, “The money he promised?” “No,” he said. “He told us, to tell you were going to get the ax after all.” Then he popped six rounds into my chest, leaving me to die in the middle of nowhere.