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Can’t Get Much Worse, Chapter 5
My entry for The Great Substack Story Challenge, Part Two
I’m so excited to participate in The Great Substack Story Challenge, Part Two! Along with nine other writers, we are completing a short story in 10 chapters. Though we voted on the writing prompt that would start the story, all of us are reading the chapters as they are released and have only one week to add our chapters to the canon when it’s our turn.
The story so far concerns Kate who has made a bet with her husband to spend the entire day without being negative once—she’s calling it her “silver lining challenge.” Naturally, this is turning out to be the worst day ever. Catch up here: Chapter One by > Chapter Two by > Chapter Three by > Chapter Four by .
Here’s chapter five.
I can feel their judgment. We’re standing in the park on our lunch break—a double date to grab burritos turned into, what? A crime scene? I do not have time for this.
Arnold and Lauren look scandalized—probably because my son just robbed the bank Lauren works at, got in a car accident on the getaway right in front of us, then, as his friends were being gunned down, had the nerve to walk right up to us, take off his mask, and call me mom.
I taught him better than this.
First, everyone knows the getaway driver is the most important hire—getting in an accident after only one block means he’s cutting corners. Second, he just gave both of us up in front of witnesses. Why would he make his identity known after everyone just saw him flee a crime scene, and implicate me in the process?
I take a deep sigh. I’m so tired of cleaning up after my son’s sloppy mistakes—this is why we parted ways a year ago.
I can’t let him compromise my position, especially when I’ve been working this con for five years. I’d finally worked my way up to CFO at the bank when I discovered one of our cleaners, Lauren, was taking classes in cybersecurity. A low-wage job plus an interest in the finer arts? Perfect combination of desperation and skill.
All it took was two well-placed allies—her boyfriend Arnold (one of my associates) and her best friend Nichole (who we paid off—and was very expensive I might add). When we realized Lauren was losing interest in Arnold, we brought Nichole in to seal the deal. We couldn’t have foreseen there would be a third party trying to take advantage of her access: my own son.
I looked at my husband—did Eric know about this? He was always trying to help my son become better at the gig, often to the detriment of our own. Why couldn’t he see Drew was a lost cause? That he didn’t have the instinct? And he certainly didn’t have the discretion. Surely this whole charade was proof of that. Eric at least had the good sense to look sheepish.
In any case, I have some damage control to do. And I have to win the contest with my husband while I’m doing it. Our handler often puts us on the same jobs so we find ways to compete within them. Today my husband dared me to see the silver lining in everything, and maybe that’s because he knew about our son’s job and wanted me to be happy about it. Maybe he was trying to get me to forgive him. Again.
But I’m too good at my job to miss a step now. I turn to Lauren and Arnold who are still clutching one another. “Lauren, Arnold, I am so sorry,” I plead, hoping it sounds genuine. “I knew my son was a bad egg, that’s why we stopped talking, but I could never have foreseen he would stoop to robbing a bank—our bank, no less! I can’t help but feel responsible. He must have broken into my laptop while I was working from home.”
Lauren sputters. She knows it’s not my laptop but her own transgression that let him in. Good, her guilt will come in handy later, and make her even more beholden to me when I need to ask for a favor this afternoon. “It’s ok, you couldn’t have known.”
She’s too trusting, it’s almost made this job too easy.
“Let’s get back to the office,” I say. “We need to find and secure the CEO’s laptop before word gets out we’ve been robbed. World governments rely on our bank to finance their military operations. We can’t let that information be compromised—just think about what could happen!”
Her eyes open wide. She looks scared now.
The CEO will force me to resign over this mixup—it’s not a good look for the CFO’s son to rob the bank she works at. But I’m going to get what I came for before he does. We’re so close to changing the whole world. All I need is access to that laptop. And thankfully, I’ve got a cybersecurity expert ready to do whatever I want.
As Lauren and Arnold walk away, I flash my husband a smile. “Call the police honey. We’re so lucky Drew showed his true colors today—now we can finally turn him in.”
Next up: Chapter Six by> Chapter Seven by > Chapter Eight by > Chapter Nine by > Chapter Ten by .
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