“Joe, you know I hate to be late.  Tell the driver to speed up,” ordered the distinguished grey-haired man without looking up from his computer tablet.  He continued surfing news sites from his seat in the limousine which transported him and his young, male assistant across the gritty city.

“Yes, sir,” replied Joseph from the car seat across from his boss.  The suit-clad young man intermittently spoke into the wireless microphone that graced his ear.

“Sir, there’s a traffic accident up ahead.  The driver knows a short cut that skirts the jam-up.  We can shave off time, but it will be off-route.”

“Tell him OK, just get me there by 3:00.”  The leader of the free world continued to absorb the ever changing images on his tablet device.

“Sir, our crew has only been briefed about three alternative routes.  I’m pretty sure the route he’s thinking of isn’t one of them.  It’s way off the beaten track.”

“Just do it!  I told the CEO of Arlis Corporation I’d give the speech at 3:00.  Make sure we get there.  On time!”  Even while raising his voice, his focus remained on the tablet’s images.

“Hello, driver…. It’s a go.  Just make sure the whole entourage gets there at least by 2:45.”  Joseph shut his eyes, as he said, “Yes, I know.  Don’t worry.  If there are police, it’s no problem.  We’ll take care of it.”  He opened his eyes to report to his boss, “Sir, it’s all arranged.  The driver assures me that we’ll be there by 2:45.  No problem.”

“Joe, did you get a hold of the CEO of Ztilus Corporation about the luncheon tomorrow?”  His boss said while still viewing the tablet’s offerings.

Joseph responded to the bent-down head of the man he served, “It’s all arranged.  You’ll meet him at 11:45 tomorrow.  Depart at 3:00 to board the plane to California.  We’ve already scheduled your itinerary for three days in California.”

Unexpectedly, his boss looked up fully into Joseph’s face and flashed his iconic smile.  He said, “Joe, you’re great, even though you’re a Stanford guy.  What would I do without you?”

“Th..th…thank you.  I greatly appreciate being able to work with you these last six months,” Joseph stammered back.

“It’s good you stepped up when that good-for-nothing jerk walked out,” the photo-perfect smile collapsed into a nasty, snarl.

Joseph was about to reply except his boss turned away to become engrossed in his computer tablet still showing the most recent news coverage of his arrival in Baltimore.

As Joseph turned back to his tablet, he thought, I wonder how long I’ll last?

Except for the slight road noise outside the car, cold silence prevailed for another ten minutes.  Abruptly, the car sped upward onto a steep freeway onramp.  Traveling fast along the freeway, Joseph observed the city surrounding them; it was his first visit to this city of broken dreams.  Yet, his boss barely glanced up, even after the limo climbed the ramp and provided an unobstructed view of the city.

“Joe, get Senator Cash on the phone.”


Page one excerpt from Road Noise Short Stories To Thrill and Chill  2016 © Belinda A. Allen

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