Authors: A.K. Lawrence
At Wit’s End
By A.K. Lawrence
Other Titles by This Author:
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to people, places or events is purely coincidental and unintentional.
I started writing this book before the NSA snooping story hit the airwaves. Neither I nor my Consultant were the least bit surprised by the news.
During the research for this book I learned many things that frightened me about online security. I made use of my Consultant for the technical aspects and every time I pulled a crazy idea out of thin air he would tell me that not only are those ideas possible but it’s likely someone is working on the prototypes now. Any errors made in regard to the technical aspects fall squarely on my shoulders.
Please, change your passwords regularly. Use words or phrases that are not tied directly into your life. Don’t use your child’s name, your birthdate, anything like that. Most sites will now let you use the symbols above the numbers on your keyboard. Make use of those when you can.
You can Like me at
You can follow me on Twitter: @AK_Lawrence
Thank you so much for reading and I’ll see you on the Interwebs!
This is dedicated to Tim. Just because.
Bradley “Wit” Witson was on a hot streak. He took a look at the closing numbers, did some quick math in his head and nearly chuckled at how easy it could be to make six figures. He shut down his work station and slid his laptop into a satchel. He wrapped the strap around his shoulder, shut off the lights in his office and walked with a definite bounce in his step to the elevator.
He whistled lightly while he waited for the slow car and thought about the night ahead. Some of his friends had come into town for a conference and they had a night of debauchery planned. It would start at one of the local nightclubs and could go practically anywhere from there. The last time they’d gotten together they’d had the bright idea to rent kayaks for the weekend and had ended up on a nameless island with no electricity or cell phone reception. The hang over had lasted 3 days.
Wit checked his appearance in the elevator’s mirrored wall. His dark tie was slightly askew and he’d unbuttoned his collar several hours ago. The dark Italian suit draped his body perfectly and with the slight five o’clock stubble and mussed hair he humbly thought he might just do for some lucky lady tonight. With a smirk he put on his dark rimmed glasses and considered the end product irresistible.
With his laptop locked in a special compartment in his trunk Wit savoured the growl of his sports car as it made quick work of the 6:00 Friday rush hour traffic. His lucky streak continued and he found a parking spot within shouting distance of the bar, something unheard of in New York. He could have used valet but having watched Ferris Buehler’s Day Off a few too many times he knew what valets could do with a car like this. Uh-uh, no way.
The bar was dark and the jukebox played something mellow at a tolerable level. Wit knew that wouldn’t last. In a couple of hours the place would be packed and a DJ would be spinning records in an attempt to make something original out of songs that had been played before. He hated it and loved it at the same time.
The waitress came through with a tray and Wit was reminded to order something for dinner. He’d skipped lunch to catch a meeting and hadn’t found time to make amends to the void in his stomach. James was seated
in a corner booth, arms spread across the back and wearing a smile that could never match the brightness of his shirt. The man had dressed like a pimp since high school and no one had the heart to tell him to stop. The gang chose to make fun of him instead.
Wit slid into the booth and nudged the leg James tried to thrust in his way. He
smiled at his friend’s loopy grin. “How long have you been here?”
“Long enough to get to know the bartender,” James replied and pointed to the three empty bottles in front of him.
“That’s just like you, making friends everywhere you go,” Wit grinned and gestured for a beer when the bartender looked his way. “How’s the job, man?”
“Same old. Got the boss crawling up my butt for something his kid was supposed to do and didn’t,” James groused
. “Somehow it became my problem.”
“You’ve got to be your own boss. That’s the only way to get away from that,” Wit told him.
“Not all of us can do what we love on commission or contract or any other number of options,” James reminded him. “My kinds of skills do not translate well to high finance or offices in buildings more than four stories tall.”
“What’s up, gentlemen?” Kevin nudged James further into the booth and sat down. He loosened his tie and looked over to Wit. “Did you see those closing numbers?”
Wit grinned. “Did I? I might be upgrading the car,” he laughed.
“Jesus, trust you to be on the right side of a minor economic collapse,” Kevin winced and it was obvious he’d taken a beating on the day’s purchase and sales.
“I warned you last week the high wouldn’t last. It was a bubble based on the announcement by the Fed.”
“Yeah, yeah and I spread everything around like you suggested. My boss micro-managed. He needs to remember the commission check he’s playing with is mine,” Kevin shook his head.
Wit shook his head in commiseration. “You’re never going to get ahead playing conservatively.”
“Are you two about done?” James interrupted. “I came here to drink away my woes, not hear about how much money you two made
or didn’t make today.”
Wit’s pocket vibrated an
d he pushed a button to send the call to voicemail. He had the weekend off and it was his time to enjoy. Everyone he wanted to talk to was here or on their way and that was good enough for him. His beer arrived at the same time as Ed and Will Lippert, identical twins who worked together for the software company that had sent them to New York for the conference.
The five friends had several beers and worked on getting caught up with each other’s lives. The bar filled up and the crowd grew noisier, along with the music. The DJ was standing behind the mixer and was about to start his opening spiel when Wit’s phone vibrated again. In annoyance he looked at it and saw it was his boss’s boss. With a wince he rose and walked to the door, pointing to his phone when his friends looked askance.
Wit ducked outside and welcomed the cool air. It had grown stuffy inside. He took several deep breaths and answered the phone while watching the line of people who waited to get inside. The music blasted out the open door and Wit couldn’t hear the man on the other end who was currently freaking out about… something. Wit didn’t get the gist before the music blared out.
He plugged a finger into his open ear and moved toward his car. The farther he walked from the bar the clearer the voice became and Wit assured his boss he would take care of that via email in 10 minutes, thank you, sir. As he paced around his car he noted a small man darting around the edge of the crowd. Wit didn’t know what made him watch the guy but he couldn’t take his eyes off
He tried to figure out what was bothering him while he listened to his phone with half an ear. The man’s jeans were too new, too tight and shiny. The shirt looked like it had wrinkles in it
from the wrap at the store. The muddy combat boots were an interesting touch. Wit wondered where someone found mud in New York City and if one had to pay for it. The guy needed a shower or at least a comb for his hair. It stood out in every direction like the cartoons of people who’d been electrocuted. Wit’s nose twitched and he just knew the man would smell like body odour if he were nearby.
There was a large green satchel over the man’s shoulder and he clutched at it possessively. A young lady dancing in line bumped into him and the man snarled at her and jerked the bag away. That kept Wit’s interest. As the man moved around the building Wit lost sight of him and he moved slowly down the street until he saw
the guy again in the alley.
The man darted looks over each shoulder and then banged on the access door twice. Wit wasn’t sure which door it was but he knew it went into the bar. He wondered if this man had a way in without having to go throug
h the bouncer and kept watching. He enjoyed learning new things and, though he didn’t mind paying the cover, sometimes he hated waiting in lines.
Nothing happened for a moment and the man banged on the door again. It was pushed open and another man, one who could have been the first one’s smaller and younger brother, poked his head out and looked around. He grabbed the bag from the man, held a finger up to his lips in a shushing motion and pushed the first man away from the door. He pulled it closed and the man ran off down the alley to street at the other end.
Wit tuned back into the conversation and was reassuring his boss one last time when his entire world exploded. The blast of the bomb pushed Wit into the street. His head hit the concrete hard enough to cause stars but he didn’t lose consciousness. He realized he was lying behind his own car and it was blocking debris from crashing into him. The car sat low but Wit did his best to crawl underneath it all the same.
He found out the next day that two bombs
had gone off in the bar as an act of domestic terrorism. The owner of the bar happened to be of Middle Eastern descent and for some idiots that was reason enough to blow up innocent people.
Three days after the blast he went to the quadruple funera
l and came to the harsh realization that every person he loved in this world was dead, four of them on the same day. Though he didn’t know why he’d been saved he knew what he was going to do with his time. The day after the funeral Wit left for Jamaica. He started drinking rum and walking beaches and he didn’t look back. He kept his passport and laptop with him and every time he started to think too much he hopped a plane and found new scenery.
Six months later
Marie Chase was officially approved for her loan. C U There, the party planning/catering company she’d been dreaming
of for three years was about to become a reality. Marie couldn’t believe it. She dropped her cell phone into her purse, pulled her dirty apron off and did a fast dance.
She strode out the door of the steakhouse she was currently doing time in and started thinking
about when to put in her notice. Now that her loan was approved it could take up to a month to square away all the paperwork. She would have some supplies to purchase and it was definitely time to start marketing.
She could put together small affairs in her current kitchen but she was looking forward to renting her own space and having a professional kitchen with all the implements. And an office, she nearly sighed at the pleasure of having an office instead of using her coffee table.
Marie decided she’d talk to Robert in two weeks and she’d give notice for two weeks. Then she
would have a month to help train the new sous chef. Her boss had known she’d applied for the loan and had given her his blessing so she wasn’t worried about disappointing the man who’d given her the first – and hopefully last – restaurant job she’d had.
Her phone gave its electronic jingle from her bag and she pulled it out. A smile crossed her face at the display. Marie had been dating Michael for nearly 6 months and she was sure she was falling in love though she didn’t want to rush anything.
“You’ll never believe what happened today,” she answered the call.
“Tell me,” Michael replied, a smile in his voice.
“A tiny purple elephant jumped out of a birthday cake and played The William Tell Overture on a fiddle while riding a unicycle,” she told him. “She was the luckiest just turned four year old in history.”
“Pictures or it didn’t happen,” he told her and they laughed. “What’s your real news?” he asked.
“I got my loan approval!” she nearly shouted it and looked around self-consciously. No one paid her a second glance, nor were they likely to in this town.
“Honey, that’s great! We should celebrate. How about if I open a bottle of wine and we start planning on ways to spend the loot?”
“That’s an idea. There’s veal on special at the market, I think I’ll stop and pick some up. I’ve had a recipe burbling in the back of my head for most of today,” she suggested.
“You know I love being your guinea pig. I’ll see you soon.”
They disconnected and Marie couldn’t help herself, she danced a jig right on the street corner. This time a teenager riding by on a skateboard spotted her and gave her a thumbs-up. It made her smile all the more and Marie realized the world seemed brighter today. Things were definitely on an upswing.
Marie spent the next several days in a fog of disbelief. She used the time she wasn’t
working at the restaurant to check out local storefronts that were for rent. She found it amazingly difficult to pick where her new company would live. She wouldn’t just be cooking there, though that would be the primary function, she’d also be meeting clients so it would have to look professional and be comfortable for long consults. Her head spun with the details of the properties she’d already looked at and those that were on her list for her next available day off.
Before she knew it a couple of weeks had passed. She signed on repeated lines to lease a place that had been a Mexican restaurant. The former proprietors had left behind most of their kitchen equipment and she had to decide if she wanted to risk using their
s or if she should buy new. She was leaning toward new.
She swung into the loft apartment she was essentially sharing with Michael. After their third month of dating he had been staying at her place so often she gave up precious drawer and closet
space. Marie couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept or even checked in at his own apartment. It wasn’t something she thought about often and she’d been ridiculously busy the past few weeks.
Marie dropped her purse on the table just inside the door and called out for Michael as she took her jacket off
and hung it on the hook she’d installed when she’d first moved in. She was still proud of her handiwork. When she didn’t receive an answer Marie moved through the apartment, cleaning up the few dishes they’d left out from the night before. She reached automatically for the dirty socks Michael always left in front of the couch and was bent almost to the floor when she realized they weren’t there.
“Huh, weird,” she muttered. From the first time he’d stayed overnight at her place he’d left his socks in the same spot. It annoyed her but she also found the trait oddly endearing. Shrugging it off she moved to drop the dishes in the sink and realized something looked off. She stared at the counter for a moment before it hit her.