by Katherine Fast
For your Christmas pleasure here is another Christmas mystery short story. The Holiday Bonus was first published in 2007 by NEWN (New England Writers Network) where it won a Flash Fiction award.
Hubert listened to Carol Sue singing off key in the shower. He slid open Buck’s balcony door and watched the traffic thirty floors below. “Accountant Jumps From Penthouse Love Nest!” headlines would scream. Did they still chalk an outline around the body?
He backed away from the railing. Dreaming. He’d never have the nerve.
Inside, he shrugged on his vest and suit coat. Buck’s “little woman” had promised plenty with sly touches and throaty suggestions at the Christmas party, saying how lonely it was at home in the afternoons. She’d been good, but not as good as the Reuben-on-rye from the corner deli. She wasn’t the bonus he’d planned on, anyway.
He knotted his tie. Yesterday morning, he’d expected a fat holiday bonus. Instead, Buck suggested he take a fall for the Feds: “Nine months. Country club prison. I’ll make it worth your while, Hubie. Think on it. Gimme your answer tomorrow.”
But afterwards, Hubert’s oncologist pronounced a more severe sentence: three to six months, max. No way he’d spend his last days in jail. This morning when he refused Buck’s offer, Buck nodded once and called Security. The guard took his passkey and escorted him from the building. After twenty years, a single nod and the bum’s rush.
The hair dryer whined. Hubert dropped his monogrammed cufflinks into Buck’s bedside table drawer. His calling card. He emptied a vial of pills into his hand, threw them into his mouth, and chased them down with two gulps of Buck’s vintage scotch.
No more, “Hubie, book me on the ten thirty, and get me a clean shirt. Pick up some Chanel for the little lady.” Hubert was a man of finance, not a goddamn valet. He reached into his pocket and removed a tiny computer thumb disk. He arranged himself on the bed, one hand gripping the disk and the other clasped over it, coffin style. The coroner would find it.
“Hubie, you got no ‘magination. No feelin’ for the game. Don’t worry your head. Jes’ line up the columns nice and neat ‘n’ leave the rest to me.”
Hubert smiled and closed his eyes. Numbers were his game. He fondled the little disk. So tiny and unobtrusive. So jam-packed with numbers, deals, arrangements, and loopholes.
His stomach churned. Bile rose in his throat. He swallowed hard to keep from throwing up, but the second wave was insistent. He raced toward the balcony but didn’t make it to the railing, heaving and splattering pills and lunch on the balcony floor.
The bedroom door flew open. Buck strode in and stopped short. His eyes traveled from the closed bathroom door, to messed sheets, and then to Hubert.
Hubert didn’t have a Plan B. “Great view,” he stuttered, backing to the railing. “Lousy lay.”
Buck howled and charged. His loafers skidded on vomit and pills. His arms pin wheeled. He crashed into Hubert, catapulting both of them over the railing.
Hubert looked into Buck’s startled eyes and nodded once: “My bonus.”
Check out Mystery section for several more Christmas mystery short stories!
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