- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
In the darkness I feel terrible pain in both my legs, as I lie sweating profusely on the filthy floor strewn with debris and excrement. Somewhere behind me I can make out several voices, scared and subdued, hiding from the bedlam outside. A loud explosion shakes the building, and a scream shatters the dark. The smell of fire, a sudden burst of heat, and my breathing is labored.
From the dark, terrified voices whisper in fear.
"Don't be afraid, baby. We goin' to be all right. I saw soldiers comin' down the street when we came in here. It's goin' to be all right."
My head is aching, and my ribs are on fire as someone begins sobbing uncontrollably.
"Why they doin' this, Mama? Why all the killing?"
"Can't tell you, child, but there's a whole lot of hate out there. That's why we're stayin' here."
Muffled, the sobbing continues, and I can feel myself growing weaker from the blood slowly oozing from my legs. Every so often I hear someone running by or shouting as the chaos continues. The pop, pop of gunfire is punctuated with automatic magazine rounds, and the yelling never stops. One step from delirium, I feel like slipping away, but invariably I'm jolted awake.
"Hey you, motherfuckers, get that fucking car. Take their shit and beat that bitch into the street."
Minutes pass, and then a major fight breaks out just feet from wherever I am. The sounds of sudden pain, screams of anger, and shouts of anguish close in on my senses. More feet shuffle by just inches from our hiding place. Sirens punctuate the din, presumably helping someone before it's too late. It's hot, and a fire continues to rage next to us. I pray that God will somehow find a way to save us, because I can't move. I make a feeble attempt to tear a piece of my shirt to wrap around my right leg, which seems the worse. The struggle is almost overwhelming, but my frantic sense of survival drives me to succeed.
Again more gunfire, and this time it sounds like someone is shot as several slugs slam into the walls just above my head. The sobbing stops, I can't hear anything anymore. Tears come to my eyes, but I dare not move. Casualties of this crazy shit come fast and furious. I'm cold; I'm hot, as I wait anxiously for an end to the fear that grips my heart and mind.
Outside a shout: "Shit, man. Watch your punk ass."
"Who you talkin' to, motherfucker?"
"Back to the church, nigger. They're bringin' in tanks. Shit, man. Let's barricade the church with these white-ass mothers' cars."
"Hey, T. J., back that truck up to the TV store."
"Shit, man. You crazy. They're on us."
It sounds like thunder and something strikes a nearby building, blowing everything in its path to the heavens. I hear the remnants of metal and glass and whatever debris clattering against the pavement. Feet running in every direction and the slow, rolling sound of a tank as it moves past me toward a distant target. Only God's grace has kept that shot from my door.
I'm trying desperately to remember how I got here. Any minute someone might burst through the door and end my life. My legs are numb now—not a good thing. I can't figure out how much time has gone by. The sweating is getting worse, made more so by the heat of the flames still consuming whatever is next door. How can God ever forgive me? How can he forgive any of us? Surely I'm no better than the assholes running these streets. A sudden bang as the door flies open.
"Terrell, let's hole up in here."
Another threat breaking my self-flagellation. I'm limp as two young Negroes, one with a gun, throw the door open.
"Shit, man. There's a dead guy in here."
"T, how do you know he's dead?"
"Look, man." The kick in the side sends pain shooting through my chest.
"See. He ain't movin'."
"So that means he's dead?"
How 'bout I finish it for real."
Then, from outside, "Hey, T, come on. Let's make it to the Coney. Maybe there's some food."
The door slams closed, and my heart settles back into what's left of a rhythm. Weakness is beginning to overtake me, and I'm losing the here and now, drifting to a different time. I'm fighting to stay upright leaning against the wall. Something scampers across the floor. In the distance I see a vision of my wife and hear her voice, and darkness takes me over.CHAPTER 2
"Jack, Jack, you're going to be late. It's nearly seven."
In my confused state, I could see Joanna standing at the end of the sofa. Recognition came slowly, but I knew something was wrong.
"Shit. I've got meetings in an hour. Why didn't you get me up?"
Joanna turned toward the kitchen. "You figure it out, Jack. I have children to take care of who are smaller than you."
I found my way to the breakfast table. Max and little Tyler were already chowing down, and Joanna was finishing eggs and looked up to see me sit down. She seemed distant as I reached out to touch her hand. Preoccupied, I spoke without thinking, forgetting my late-night rendezvous with Zeke.
"Morning, sweetheart. What's for breakfast?"
Joanna, with her blonde hair tied back and a harried look, was to the point. "How about pancakes and eggs?"
Her mood gave me pause. Once again I had let my work take precedence leaving Joanna and the kids with a sense of disappointment. A beautiful wife and loving mother, Joanna's expectations were ultimately becoming the challenge in our relationship. I made a face at Max.
"Hi, kids. Those cakes good?"
Tyler looked like he was wearing his.
"Yeah, Dad," offered Max. "Mom made good pancakes."
"Well, then cakes it is."
I flashed back to our college days. Joanna, tears in her eyes, confiding in me her disappointment with a divorced father's broken promises. I was hooked on her vulnerability then and my own need for connection. It was hard to believe that we had been married for three years, but here we were, ready or not.
Joanna looked serious for a moment.
"Did you see about the three young boys in Mississippi yesterday?"
I must have seemed surprised. "No, I guess I've been out of touch."
"Seems they disappeared trying to help some Negroes register to vote, and now they think they're dead."
As concerned as I wanted to be, the problem seemed remote. Her issue, while real, was a deflection. She was irritated with me coming home late again. As always, I took the bait.
"You can't be surprised. This is a hundred years in the making. The South isn't the only place with issues, Joanna. Look around. This country seems destined for trouble. Teen hippies live in squalid communes. Free love is the counterculture. People using drugs, LSD or whatever."
She combed her hand through her hair.
"Well, I guess the FBI is involved now."
She was silent for a minute, worry shaping her Nordic good looks.
"What time did you get in last night, Jack? I waited until 11:30." Joanna moved effortlessly about the small kitchen as I tried to anticipate her mood. "I've been feeling really tired lately. I just couldn't take it anymore."
I watched her pour a cup of coffee while I thought about my answer.
I didn't want to add to her aggravation.
"Zeke and I went to the hotel downtown for a few drinks after the operations meeting to talk about staffing next week."
She gave me a concerned look.
"The meeting wasn't enough to solve your problems?" Joanna wiped Tyler's face as she waited for me to say something. "Who, by the way, is Zeke?" She cleaned Max up next. "While you're thinking about that, what's your plan for tonight? Should I make dinner?"
She seemed anxious.
"Yes, sure. I'll be here between five and six. Zeke is the foreman on one of our contracts, and he'll be training new transfers in the next few weeks. Obviously we had things to discuss that couldn't be handled in the meeting."
"Jack, I'm not sure why that's so obvious." Her face was flushed. "Try sitting at home night after night. Your kids miss you. That's obvious." She stood there for a minute, annoyed by my casual manner. "Be careful you don't turn into my father."
I needed to say something reassuring at that moment, but I didn't. Instead I began to gather my briefcase and head for the door. I couldn't draw the parallel between her father and myself. I guessed the haunting image of the little girl waiting endlessly for him to pick her up never left Joanna's mind.
"I'll do my best to be home tonight. I promise. Maybe we can go out to dinner tomorrow."
With that I kissed the boys and Joanna.
"Let me know, please," Joanna implored, "if anything changes. I have a meeting today at the church, and I'll make arrangements accordingly. By the way, Bev is in town next month, and we're going to lunch and maybe dinner one evening."
I stopped at the door momentarily.
"Sounds like a winner. See you tonight."
Her voice echoing in my mind, I found myself absorbed in what was in front of me. I barely remember leaving the house. If her college friend was coming to town, that would be a distraction. Bev, the "Rockette," had made the most of her looks in college. Hopefully she was a little more settled by now. Like it or not, I could only handle what I controlled. Today that meant finding a new assistant and working through the union shit that Zeke and I had discussed last night. Word was Laughton might also have the inside on a major deal with the navy. Our F-4 Phantoms were to be upgraded for combat in Vietnam. Not only would they see combat against Russian MiGs, they needed to land on carriers at night and in bad weather.
I drove the winding entrance to the Laughton Aeronautics complex, its impressive image filling me with a sense of importance. In a way, I hoped the war continued for a while. The development of aircraft technology was big business. Laughton included several landing strips for jet aircraft and a research facility. We were one of the nation's premier manufacturers of aircraft instrumentation. The firm competed for extremely sensitive equipment that was open season for industrial spying. Reorganizing departments meant moving highly trained technicians, some with security clearance, into the right positions without jeopardizing important information. I was honored to be a part of it, knowing we were contributing to the country's effort in Asia.
My reverie faded quickly as I approached the office. My boss, Don Mason, was waiting for me as I stepped through the door; on top of that, there were a half a dozen candidates for the assistant job sitting in the reception area. Shirtsleeves rolled up, tie loose around the collar, Mason seemed apprehensive as he crossed the hall from his office. Although he was smiling, I could see the concern in his eyes.
"What the hell, Jack? I'm on my second cup of coffee. This isn't a part-time job. When will you be done with the reclass for the Stockton project? Derrick's been up here already with a shithouse full of grievances. He's threatening to file an unfair labor practice if we can't resolve their seniority crap."
My frustration started to show. I pushed back, doing my best to seem in control. "Don, we've been over this, D. J.'s yanking your chain. I'll be ready for him this afternoon. You see I'm interviewing. I should have someone in place by week's end. I've met with Zeke, and he's ready to go as soon as the assignments are finalized with D. J."
Mason slipped his glasses off for emphasis and fired back.
"Have you seen anyone named Denning?"
I drew a blank.
"Denning? No, I don't think so. Is there something I need to know?"
The big man seemed frustrated.
"No, not at the moment."
I tried to be reassuring.
"I'll be done with the candidates in a few hours. The union shit is next. Give me some space, and you can forget we ever had this conversation."
Mason shoved his glasses in place.
"Don't try to bullshit me, Jack."
I was starting to get pissed off.
"No bullshit. You can take it to the bank."
Mason, for some reason, didn't think I shared his sense of timing. Large and affable, he could be a pain in the ass, but he seemed resigned to my plan as he backed out of the doorway.
"Good luck, Jack. I've got other things to worry about. Make something happen." And with that, he disappeared into Karl's office down the hall.
He was gone, and I was left with my overrated self-confidence that often drove me to extremes. The next few weeks would be demanding, and time would be no object. I assumed Joanna understood and that her increasing comments were a temporary cry. If I was successful, then Joanna was successful, like the cheerleader for a winning football team. Yet her parting comment wasn't lost on me either. It was a yellow card in the match. We needed to talk, and dinner seemed right. I would never be her father, failing to be there for my family. But, for the moment, I needed to focus on my job and find an assistant to mentor the Stockton project.
The interview process went well enough, but as the morning wore, on nobody had emerged as a standout candidate. As all the faces began to run together, I took a break and ran into Bill Terry, the company pilot, who was getting ready to take George Branston and a few hotshots to a meeting in Virginia that afternoon. Tall for a pilot, Terry had the dark good looks that go with black, wavy hair and blue eyes.
"Hear you're looking for an assistant, Jack. I talked to Mason. That is, he talked to me, and I suggested someone whose father works here in the instrument design area, name's Lora."
I thought a moment. Why would Mason talk to Terry about my assistant?
"You talked to Mason? Her last name wouldn't be Denning?"
"Yeah, he knows the father real well. He's a major player in our prototype design." Curiosity was getting the best of me.
"Just for the hell of it, why did Mason come to you?"
Terry appeared puzzled.
"Well, he just asked if I knew anything about her. I got the feeling he was fishing for something."
I took a different path, as Terry was obviously clueless.
"What does she look like? I'm down to my last interview."
Terry's face lit up like the running lights on a yacht.
"Trust me, sport. You won't miss her. She's tall with short, dark hair, green eyes, and legs that don't quit."
I couldn't help my skepticism.
"You sound like you're pretty good friends. Is there anything I need to know?"
Terry laughed. "We're just friends, for now. I'll see you at McGuire's one night, and I'll let you know how it's going."
I went back to my office and what was left of the candidates before having to deal with Derrick and all his union bullshit. When the last candidate came through the door, it was unquestionably Lora.
Maybe it was the smile or her easy manner that got my attention. Tossing her hair to the side, she extended her hand.
"Mr. Bishop, I'm Lora Denning. My dad works here, but you probably know that. He thought I should apply for the new assistant opening. I'm hoping the position is still available."
She glanced around the office as she effortlessly crossed the room to a chair directly in front of me but positioned far enough away from the desk that I had a full view of her. Clearly I was uncomfortable around this lovely woman who seemed so self-assured. As she sat there in front of me, I couldn't help but wonder how much of a distraction she would be, not only for me but also others in the office.
"What kind of work history do you have, Lora. Do you have a résumé?" She handed me a file. I paused momentarily, trying to think objectively about her as an employee. Her portfolio was impressive. "Your résumé suggests ... that you've been administratively responsible for managing production work groups and the implementation of corporate policy at Bane Electronics. Tell me a little about yourself and some of your major accomplishments."
Her eyes danced as she sat forward in the chair.
"I've organized a lot of production cycles for existing product. But my biggest effort was the development of a chip used to activate ignition systems in cars and small aircraft." She brushed her hair from her face. "I'm married, with a son, and my husband works for a major auto parts distributor here in the city. I like stock cars and racing. I'm very involved with my church. I've been known to tackle tough jobs. And, seriously, that's why I'm here."
It was apparent that Lora was not only easy to look at but well prepared. In some ways she was overqualified, but, in my enthusiasm, I pushed that aside.
"Can I assume that you're able to work late hours if we're meeting bid requirements or contract deadlines?" Lora struggled with an answer, and I sensed her discomfort. "Don't take that the wrong way. It's just that, around here at contract time, we're often pressed into unusual situations."
She smiled, a disarming softness in her eyes.
Excerpted from THE DARKNESS BEHIND ME by T. J. SHANNON. Copyright © 2014 T. J. Shannon. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 4, 2014
The setting is in Detroit during the 60's and takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of an adventure following business man, Jack Bishop, through a tumultuous time in our history. Lots of corporate intrigue as the main character has to ferret out who is stealing company secrets and slowly killing off key witnesses. An easy read with lots of twists and turns to keep you turning the pages.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.