Precisely 23 – Conclusion.

My apologies for the delay on this opus. Illness and bandwagons got in the way.

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Mark tagged the mouse button for the sixth time in four seconds. The computer seemed to have slowed down unreasonably. To those at adjacent desks, Mark had sped up to his old pace, but seemed to have kept it together compared to his outburst a few months previously.

He did feel better, especially since the medications had all done their jobs and he had been able to dispense with them. Same thing for his psychiatrist, a woman he viewed as a major impediment to his well-being. He’d let her go with a very nice summary of all her flaws just two weeks previously. Since his employer hadn’t taken any formal action against him for his loss of control, the doctor was under no obligation to let them know that Mark had probably gone off the rails once again.

The alloted time for sitting at his desk was now over, his phone had vibrated announcing the arrival of his break. Route “C” today as he checked things around the office. Seven minutes later he’d verified the proper placement of each and every item in the public areas of the office, including the bulletin boards: 23 tacks precisely, all neatly aligned.

Janice and Jorge had never been identified by management as Mark’s tormentors. Neither had they identified each other. Each knew that there was another involved in the project, as both knew that too many things had taken place that they had no clue about. But that had faded into the past. Each, however, kept a weather eye on Mark: as astute observers they had noted his swing back toward the manic. Subtle, yet quite pronounced if you knew what to look for in his behavior.

Lunch came and went, popcorn and sandwiches, burgers and fries, a pizza, and at least two people with gigantic gyros from the foodtrucks on the plaza below. A gentle fug of grease and garlic wafted over the room. Mark hated the smell. He resented his fellows slipping away to the plaza below when they should be working. He watched each and every one of them as they gloated over their misdeeds.

At 2:18 precisely Shanique, the administrative assistant, walked down the aisle next to Mark’s desk, headed for the far side of the office where her cube was snugged far away from the lunchroom, but adjacent to the printers and shredding machines. As she passed she rattled a glass jar in her left hand. In her right, she carried a pile of papers.

Mark vaulted from his chair, and in a move that would have put the late John Belushi to shame, he landed on his feet facing the opposite direction.

His suspicions were confirmed: the bulletin board was devoid of content – and thumbtacks. Both of which were being carried along the aisle by Shanique. At long last his assailant had a face and a name.

Swooping to his left, he grabbed the bowling ball from it’s perch on Eric’s desk, and with a grace unexpected from anyone as uncoordinated as Mark, he hurled the ball, overhand, directly at Shanique’s back. Any olympic shot-put competitor would have been proud.

Shanique turned to her right when she got to the window, which undoubtedly saved her life. A split second later the bowling ball whistled past her head and shattered the floor-to-ceiling window at the edge of the room. In shock, she turned to see what had happened just as the air pressure difference between the building and the windy urban canyon on the other side equalized. With a thundering roar, the window gave way and imploded in toward the occupants of the room.

It was so loud that it nearly drowned out the banshee scream of Mark Alveson as he charged won the row, took a face full of glass shards, and tackled Shanique around the waist. Both vanished from the 27th floor as the last of the glass landed on the carpet, and the two of them raced toward the egg roll vendor on the plaza below.

Jorge and Janice both rushed toward the window opening. Halting a few feet short, they stared at each other. Janice broke the silence, “That certainly didn’t work out the way I planned.”

Jorge nodded slowly. “Too bad. I really liked those chicken egg rolls.”

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