Chief of Operations

A quick bit of flash fiction from the prompt “Here’s to You”.

The pop of the champagne cork sounded like a click through the phone’s speaker. Inspector Mustapha Alawi watched again, handed the phone back to his partner, shrugged. “Get promoted to the executive suite, come home and get shot in a home invasion. Welcome to Atlanta.”

Detective Diana Siddall rolled her eyes. “What home invasion?” She walked around Tyler Graham’s cooling corpse and pulled a drawer from the dresser.

He looked over his reading glasses to see a fat roll of cash and the glint of gold and diamonds. He shrugged again. “Okay. Well, assassination narrows the list of potential suspects.”

“You’re the silver lining in my life.”

Graham’s wife Cheryl hadn’t been at the banquet. “He loves that world, all that back-slapping one-percenter shit,” she said between bouts of sobbing. “I stay away so I don’t turn into the screeching harpy. He lets me do what I want, I let him climb over bodies up the ladder. Uh, not real bodies.” The book club ladies confirmed her story: if they had conspired with her to murder Graham, they’d have been smart enough to take the cash and jewels.

Graham’s ex Daphne looked like a better suspect, especially once they found records of the domestic-violence call from years ago, but she was on a plane to Chicago during both the banquet and the murder. “Man, that sucks,” she said, almost convincingly. “I find texts from Sydney, I go ballistic, he tells me Sidney is a man. Didn’t know it could be a man’s name. Turns out he was screwing Sidney anyway. As long as he was on top, y’know?”

Graham’s boss Charles Reynolds, the CEO, seemed human. “I should really be thinking about Tyler’s family, but here I am, thinking of the work I put in to get him to the executive level.” At Mustapha’s eyebrow, “This high up? It’s all politics. Now I owe a lot of people favors.”

If there’s a winner in a corporate power struggle, there’s a loser. Heather Jacobs was a case study in conflict. “Tyler was a rival, not an enemy. I had an escort with me at the banquet and after: you want my alibi, I’ll call her. I ought to be next in line for that job, but Charlie shit-talked me all up and down the C-suite because he wanted Tyler there.”

Mustapha shrugged. “The pay raise’ll help with your feelings.”

But nothing clicked until they got Daphne back from Chicago and had her flip through photos. “Oh, that guy,” she said, pointing at a picture of Reynolds. “Tyler hated him. Y’know what I said about being on top? There was a fraternity thing: Tyler took a lot of abuse from him. Like, abuse abuse.”

In the interview room, Reynolds was at ease, not even sweating. “Why would I kill Tyler? I promoted him.”

Diana showed him a grainy image on her tablet. “Because in his safe-deposit box, we found an old VHS tape. You haven’t aged a day, but I hear tell rape’ll keep you young. You keep your enemies closer.”

The smile of the true sociopath. “He played the game well.”

“And you… well, didn’t. Your leased Ferrari you drove to his house has a GPS tracker.”

Not even a blink. “I drove him home.”

She showed another image. “He took Lyft. It’s such a pity that you’ll probably do well in prison.”


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