The rain in the forecast never materialized. It had turned into a perfect day. Sunshine, a light breeze with a few clouds, and 74 degrees. Once again, the entire park area of Universal Biotech’s headquarters was being used for the company picnic. As usual, the games included softball, volleyball, egg toss, water balloon toss, and the ever popular, (and ridiculous), three-legged sack race.
There were, of course, Frisbees everywhere.
The head of the company appeared an hour late, with Janet Riker ushering him out the door. About the only thing unusual was the big man’s mood. He and his new consultant came through the cafeteria doors, laughing and chatting away like two boyhood friends who had just met up at summer camp.
Jason was at a buffet table, filling a couple of plates for Sarah and Alison, when Schimmel and Thompson came by. Jason hadn’t met Jack yet, but it was common knowledge that Schimmel had retained him as a consultant. Jason also knew the two were old friends. In a place as big as Universal Biotech, information flowed like water through the company grapevine.
“Jason, I’d like you to meet a very good friend of mine, Jack Thompson. Jack, this is Jason LaCost.”
Jason set down one of the plates and offered his hand. Thompson shook it with measured enthusiasm and a smile.
“It’s good to meet you Jack.”
“The pleasure’s mine Jason. Your boss here, speaks quite highly of you. If half of what he says is true I would strongly recommend,” Thompson paused, glancing over at Schimmel, “running like hell in the other direction. This old man can be a real horse’s ass to work for!”
Jason just kind of stood there, while the two of them burst out laughing. He had never seen Bob Schimmel behave quite like this. Neither had anyone else. Jason looked over at Janet for some kind of explanation, but all she did was shrug her shoulders as if to say, “Don’t ask me.”
“I’ll fill you in about Jack tomorrow. Be in my office at nine,” Schimmel explained, briefly recovering some semblance of his normal business-like manner. “Right now, I’m giving him the two-dollar tour.” And then quickly changing gears, “Which is about what he must have paid for that shirt!”
The two of them immediately burst into laughter again and continued on their way. Jason kind of shook his head for a moment and picked up Alison’s plate from the table. It felt good to see his boss enjoying himself like this. A little strange, but good. About halfway back to the girls, his good mood was interrupted. He delivered the food, and quickly excused himself.
“Where are you going? What about lunch?” Alison asked.
“I’ll be right back,” Jason answered. “Go ahead and start eating.”
“Jason, wait. Jason.”
It was too late. He had already taken off. Alison wondered what the big rush was, but she figured he’d tell her when he came back.
When she sat down at the table, she saw it, that look on Sarah’s face. “What is it sweetheart? What’s wrong? Is it uncle Jason?”
She shook her little head yes.
“Can you tell me what it is?”
It took Sarah a moment. She was definitely frightened.
“I’m scared for him mommy.”
Listerman’s wife had refused to bail him out. She considered this the last straw. She packed a bag for herself, one for the kids, called her parents, and was gone before he came home. The cops were nice enough to allow him more than one call. One of his good time buddies bailed him out, but only after Listerman promised to pay him back as soon as the bank opened in the morning.
By the time he was released, Fred Listerman was past the point of being scared over the D.U.I. and was well into the denial and blame phase of his alcoholism. He had experienced alternating periods of self-pity and hating the world for his rotten luck before, but getting himself arrested seemed to put everything into high gear.
His attorney was confident, that with no previous record, he would receive probation, although it would end up costing him about eight thousand dollars, effectively draining his bank account, and no, they didn’t take credit cards.
Fred Listerman’s transformation, from heavy drinker, to hard core alcoholic, was now complete. The few friends he had, had long since disappeared. His world was now filled with new friends. Friends who were just as angry, just as self-obsessed, and just as addicted as he was.
Jason had to catch up to Schimmel. There was a group of five men headed straight for his boss, and it didn’t take a psychic to figure out their intentions. They were bullying their way through the picnic, pushing everything, and everyone, out of their way. The guy in front was brandishing a baseball bat, threatening anyone objecting.
The commotion caused Schimmel and Thompson to turn around at about the same time this group caught up to them. Jason arrived as the conversation started. He immediately recognized the guy with the bat. It was Fred Listerman, and he had obviously been drinking.
“Well, if it isn’t my old boss Mr. Schimmel, or should I say Mr. Shittle.”
Listerman smiled, pleased with his little insult.
Schimmel, unflustered, took a step closer to Listerman. Thompson casually positioned himself on a forty-five-degree angle, between his old friend and the group. Jason was nervous, but held his ground beside his boss on the side opposite Thompson.
Schimmel spoke directly to Listerman, ignoring the others.
“Fred, no one here wants any trouble. Why don’t you just go home and sleep it off.”
Listerman turned to his buddies, who were lined up behind him.
“You hear that boys? Mr. Shithead here wants me to go home,” he replied, getting louder, and apparently much braver. “What if I don’t wanna go home. Who’s gonna send me home, you and scientist boy? Or maybe your friend here, with his fancy Hawaiian shirt. What do you say Hawaii man? Do you want me to go home too?”
As Listerman spoke, he waved the bat threateningly near Thompson’s head. Thompson remained motionless and said nothing. He just smiled. Schimmel continued, his voice firm and steady.
“Fred, in a minute or two security will be here. Nothing good can come of this. You’re only going to make things worse for yourself. Go home.”
Just for a moment it appeared Listerman had changed his mind. He turned as if to leave, but then muttered under his breath, “Things couldn’t get any worse, ass hole!” He turned back around surprisingly quickly and raised the bat to strike. He didn’t care anymore. His life was screwed up beyond repair, and this bastard was going to pay.
Two security officers were approaching with their guns drawn. Janet had called them the moment she saw what was going on, but they were over a hundred yards away. There was no way they would arrive in time to stop this.
Sarah sat there scared, not talking. Alison sat beside her, put her arms around her, and rocked back and forth. She just couldn’t think of anything else to do. She was scared too. She wanted to go to find Jason, but that would mean leaving Sarah alone.
Now there was the sound of some kind of commotion, coming from the direction of the volleyball games. Some of the people at the picnic were running in that direction, to see what was going on. Others were running from there. It was right where Jason had headed.
Alison looked up and saw two security police running toward the commotion with their guns drawn. What was going on? She hugged Sarah a little tighter and rocked her a little faster.
And then, as quickly as it had come over her, it stopped. Sarah was suddenly OK. Alison could feel her relax. She instinctively relaxed as well.
“Sarah, are you alright baby?”
Their eyes met, and she saw her little girl smile.
“I’m fine now mommy.”
The bat never came down, at least not in the way Listerman had intended. The moment it reached its apex, Thompson attacked.
His left hand shot up, grabbed the hand with the bat at the base of its palm, and pulled hard on it in a sideways motion. At the same time, his other arm struck just under the same spot with a violent forearm blow in the opposite direction, immediately breaking Listerman’s wrist. With his right arm then in a cocked position, and his elbow elevated, turning his shoulders for leverage, Thompson threw an elbow punch directly into the bridge of Listerman’s nose.
The nose cracked, and began spurting blood, even before Listerman let go of the bat. It dropped harmlessly to the ground. Then Listerman dropped harmlessly to the ground. It all happened so quickly no one had time to react.
Thompson instantly adjusted his balance and kept his full attention on Listerman’s four companions. They did not move. It was eerily quiet for a full fifteen seconds, until the two security men arrived to deal with the would-be attackers.
Schimmel broke the silence. He addressed the head guard, but was looking at the figure, motionless and unconscious, on the ground. The face was covered with blood, and the wrist was cocked at a dreadfully unnatural angle
“Get on the phone and call an ambulance for this man,” he said, motioning to Listerman with a nod. “Then escort these four gentlemen off the property.”
“Yes sir,” the head guard replied. “Hands on your heads all of you.”
The four men just stood there, nervously looking at their companion. “Now!” the guard shouted. When they all complied he holstered his gun and called 911. His partner kept his gun pointed.
“All right boys,” the first guard said, putting his phone in it's holder and pointing towards the east gate, “let’s go.”
Schimmel thought about, and rejected, the idea of telling the four of them to not come back. There was really no need.