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Authors: Steven Jenkins

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Fourteen Days

BOOK: Fourteen Days
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Cover

Title Page

 

Fourteen Days

Steven Jenkins

Barking Rain Press

Copyright Page

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events described herein are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Fourteen Days

Copyright © 2014 Steven Jenkins (
www.steven-jenkins.com
)

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Edited by Narielle Living (
www.narielleliving.com
)

Cover artwork by Sue Mydliak (
www.suesart.wix.com/illustratingservices
)

Barking Rain Press

PO Box 822674

Vancouver, WA 98682 USA

www.barkingrainpress.org

ISBN print: 1-941295-11-8

ISBN eBook: 1-941295-12-6

Library of Congress Control Number: 2014940654

First Edition: July 2014

Printed in the United States of America

9 7 8 1 9 4 1 2 9 5 1 2 0

Dedication

For Freya

Also from Steven Jenkins

Burn the Dead

www.steven-jenkins.com

Prologue

H
e sat on the edge of the bed and convulsed back and forth, staring at the door handle.

After several minutes of dead silence, with only the sound of his heartbeat thumping, he heard gentle footsteps on the landing, outside the door. His shallow breath and his narrowing vision had brought him to the edge of passing out. He struggled to stay focused, watching for signs of movement under the door. Helpless to move from the bed even to hold the door shut, he sat, his muscles clenched to the breaking point.

The footsteps from the landing vanished, but Richard was nowhere nearer to moving. He had never been so petrified in all his life. Nothing before today could compare to it. Everything else seemed trivial, a walk in the park.

Suddenly it occurred to him: he was no safer inside the spare room than he was on the landing. Surely she could move from room to room without the worry of closed doors. The notion made him examine the room, corner to corner, ceiling to floor, for signs of her.

The bedroom was deserted.

All that dwelled there was a single bed, several boxes of junk, and a small wooden chest of drawers. In addition to the sound of a car passing outside and a dog barking in the distance, he could smell the damp old clothes Nicky had stuffed into a charity bag.

And taste the rancid fear in his mouth.

He began to slowly crawl backwards onto the bed, all the way to the headboard, to gain a better view of the room and door. He pressed his bare back against the cold surface of the wooden headboard. But the ice-cold sensation on his skin didn’t bother him. His only concern was the door.

Tap…Tap…Tap.

Did he just imagine it?

Did his petrified state plant the sound in his head?

Or was
she
still behind the door? Still waiting?

Taunting him?

His body tightened even more, and he bit down hard, unconcerned with chipping his teeth. His frantic breathing was now confined to his nostrils. His vision started to blur as his breathing become more and more erratic.

Please leave. Please leave. Please leave
.
Please leave. Please leave. Please leave. Please leave

The light of the room faded into darkness, and he passed out.

Chapter 1
Day 1: Tuesday

R
ichard Gardener was wide awake, watching the clock on his bedside table turn to 5:59 a.m. Despite being a workaholic, he hated the sound his alarm made. He would always wake just before it sounded and switch it off. But today Nicky had purposely failed to set it.

He watched the digital display turn over to 6:00 a.m., with no horrid alarm wail. The silence was deafening. Staring at the time, he couldn’t help but remember the events of yesterday. At the office. That morning from Hell. He tried to shake off the memory, but it was embedded in his mind.

He could see himself sitting at his desk, trying to concentrate on the screen. He remembered how much his eyes stung as he punched the data into his computer, and the screen blurring every few minutes, causing him to rub his eyes with his palms.
Focus!
he screamed in his head. He remembered every hour passing so rapidly.
You have to focus! What’s the matter with you?
Leaning back in his chair, all he could hear and think about was the tick-tocking of the large clock hanging on the wall next to his desk.
Come on, Gardener, get it together

you’ve only got three hours to finish this. Move your ass
. Clutching his coffee cup, he remembered that it was stone cold. He stood, adjusted his tucked-in shirt, and as calmly as possible walked over to the coffeemaker. As he reached for the pot resting at the top of the machine, he noticed his trembling hand. He clenched his fist tightly to stop it. Turning his head, he checked if any of the telesales staff had noticed—they hadn’t. Suddenly feeling light-headed, he grasped the wall for support. He closed his eyes, waiting for the feeling to pass.

After a few seconds his head began to clear, so he seized the coffeepot handle, ignoring his still trembling hand. Pouring its hot contents into his mug, he rescanned the office for onlookers—again there were none. As he started for his desk, his vision blurred again. He stopped, but the room began to spin. His stomach somersaulted as he felt hot coffee splash over his ankle. The office filled with loud echoes, like the sounds of a swimming pool. He could hear the muffled voices of the telesales staff speaking to customers, the noise of fingers clattering against keyboards, and distorted laughter coming from Leah’s office.

Then dead silence. Not even the sound of his coffee mug smashing against the hard carpet could be heard. Nothing. The next thing he saw was Leah standing in front of him, mouthing something, with a look of worry. He tried to hear but it was no use. His knees began to buckle, and as if a time-lapse had occurred, he fell, hitting the back of his head on the desk.

And then he remembered the darkness.

The sound of Nicky rustling beside him pulled him out of his daze, so he rolled onto his back. Staring up at the ceiling, he wondered how on earth Leah was going to cope without him. He tried to think of another subject, like movies, or sports, or even what to have for breakfast, but thoughts of the website and the missing files continued to seep through.
How am
I ever going to relax?
he thought.
She’s never gonna cope without me. Give her three days and she’ll be begging me back to save her ass. But I’ll just have to decline. Tell her I have to relax, put my feet up. Doctor’s orders.

Nicky shuffled again, and then popped her head up to look at the clock. “It’s a quarter past six, why aren’t you sleeping?” she asked, eyes half-shut.

“I’m trying. My body clock’s all messed up. I’m not used to sleeping in.”

She rubbed her tired-looking eyes and yawned. “How you feeling today? Any better?”

“I’m fine. I think.”

“Not feeling light-headed or anything?”

“No, nothing. Probably just a one-off.”

He turned his head and kissed her cheek. “Get some sleep. You’ve gotta get up soon.”

“Love you,” she said, barely audible.

“Love you, too.”

He listened to her heavy breathing as she slept beside him. Gently stroking her long brown hair, he stared up at the ceiling, trying desperately to block out thoughts of work.

No such luck.

Richard had been up since 6:45 a.m., unable to sleep. Nicky was standing in her underwear at the other side of the living room, ironing a dress. He glanced at her slim, sexy body as she ironed, trying not to be late for work again. It made him smile. No matter how early she was up from bed, she would still always manage to be in a mad rush.

“How’s the bump?” she asked, still focused on her dress. “Is it still bleeding?”

Richard prodded the cut at the back of his head, and then checked his hand for blood. “No. It’s fine. It’s dry.”

“Thank God. Lucky you didn’t need stitches.” Nicky sighed. “Or worse.”

“Worse? What’s worse than being carted out on a stretcher…in front of everyone in the office? It was bloody humiliating.”

Nicky stopped ironing her dress and scowled at him. “You could have been
killed
.”

Richard chuckled. “That’s a bit overdramatic, babe.”

“No it’s not. You could’ve smashed your head on something worse than a desk. You could’ve had brain damage.” She returned to her ironing, clearly irritated. “Don’t know how you can be so calm about it.”

“Look, Nic, there’s nothing I can do now. The doctor said it was just a nasty bang on the head. Maybe a little concussion. So there’s nothing to worry about. Honestly, I’m fine.”

She slipped the dress on and then unplugged the iron. “Well, make sure you call me if you start to feel unwell. Or better still, call the doctor.”

She walked over to the couch, almost running, and kissed him on the lips. “Right, I’m off. See you later. Don’t forget what I said.”

“Okay. Don’t worry. Just have a good day,” he replied, getting up to follow her out.

Standing at the front door, she kissed him again. “Don’t stress yourself out today. No heavy lifting. No work stuff. And no coffee. Just take it easy. Promise?”

“I promise. I’ll be fine. I’ll phone you if there are any problems. Don’t worry about me. I’m just gonna chill out on the couch. Nothing stressful.”

She left the house and headed across the street toward her car. “Love you.”

“Love you too. See you later.”

She gave one last wave goodbye and drove off.

Watching her as she vanished down the street, he had a sudden feeling of loneliness. This was the first time he had been alone in the house since moving in five months ago. His work schedule had become almost unbearable, even for him. He sat back on the couch and began watching the news again. Nothing registered. His mind only had room for one thing: work.

He glanced at the phone on the coffee table next to him.
Should I call Leah, just to ask how she’s coping?
he thought.
No, I shouldn’t
. The time at the corner of the television screen read 7:45 a.m.
The office isn’t even open yet
, he realized.
What the hell is wrong with me? Get a grip, Gardener. Enjoy two weeks of lazing around the house, with no one to bug you. Come on, forget about work. They can manage.

No they can’
t. Not without me
.

Trying to ignore the temptation, he could feel the lure of the phone pulling on him like a drug, or like the desperation for chocolate. He focused on something else: what to have for lunch. But it was futile; the enticement proved too much as Richard picked up the phone and dialed the office.

Ashamed of his lack of willpower, he waited for the call to go through. After a few seconds the sound of Leah’s voice filled his ear.

“Hello. TSH. Leah speaking. How can I help you?”

“Oh, hi, Leah, it’s Richard.”

“Hi, Richard. How are you feeling?”

“Yeah, great. Thanks. Just a little hazy. Other than that, pretty good. Feel a bit stupid after yesterday. All that fuss about nothing.”

“Richard, it wasn’t ‘nothing’. You collapsed.”

“I just fainted. People faint all the time. There’s nothing to worry about.”

“The doctor seems to disagree. He said that your blood pressure was through the roof, that it was most likely stress-related. That doesn’t sound like something you should be brushing off so lightly.”

“I might have been a little stressed, but who isn’t these days?”

“Look, Richard, I understand the pressure that you’ve been putting yourself under—I really do—but what I don’t understand is why you kept it from us? I mean, over some bloody missing files? I told you it didn’t matter. It was nothing to get so worked up about. We all make mistakes. You could’ve told me you were stressed, taken some time off, instead of bottling it all up. I’ve said time and time again to take it easy. Skipping meals. All that coffee. Sooner or later something like this was bound to happen.”

“I didn’t keep anything from you. Don’t be so dramatic. It’s no big deal.”

“It
is
a big deal, Richard, you need to get some rest. And you shouldn’t be calling the office. We can cope fine without you.”

“Yeah, but I don’t need to be stuck here for two weeks. It’s ridiculous. I’m not sick. We’ve got too much to do. I feel like I’m being punished for something.”

“Look, Richard, don’t be so paranoid. I’m not suspending you.”

“Well, that’s what it feels like.”

“All we’re saying is for you to use up a couple of weeks of your holidays… to relax. That’s all. You haven’t used a single day since you started. It’s too much. It’s not good for you. Everyone needs a break once in a while. Recharge the batteries. Maybe take Nicky somewhere. You’re no good to me all worked up and stressed. I need you to be on top of your game. And after two weeks, you’ll feel like a new man. I’m sure of it. And then you can put all this behind you.”

Richard sighed. “I’d be less stressed if I could finish the website.”

“Look, I appreciate your concern, but David’s more than capable of finishing the website. So there’s no need to fret.”

“Jesus Christ,
David
? How is he meant to finish up? He doesn’t know what he’s doing. At least let me come down so I can bring him up to speed.”

“Absolutely out of the question. You need to calm down. And stop working yourself up so much. This is exactly why you need to take some time off. You’re gonna give yourself a heart attack if you’re not careful.”

“I am calm, Leah. I just need to—”

“Goodbye, Richard. I’ll speak to you in a fortnight.”

“What if I just talk to David over the phone?”


Goodbye
, Richard.”

The phone went dead. “Leah?” Richard threw the phone down on the couch in anger. “Bitch.”

He stormed into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and stared at its contents.
Food
, he thought.
Need something to eat. Anything
. He grabbed a packet of bacon and a pot of margarine, and placed them on the counter. Opening the small cupboard behind him, he reached in and pulled out two slices of white bread.
Can’t beat a bacon sandwich.
He popped the bread into the toaster, put the bacon into the microwave, and waited.
David. What the hell does he know? Jack-shit, that’s what. I bet he
’s gunning for my job.
I bet he’s been having cozy little meetings with Leah.
Behind my back
.
Jesus Christ—I bet he’s been sleeping with her.
Richard chuckled as the microwave pinged.
Well, who the hell cares!
Not me. Let him try to take my job. See how he copes with the pressure. Doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m the one at home, chilling for two weeks,
while they’re stuck in work all day, slaving in front of a computer screen.

BOOK: Fourteen Days
5.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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