by Luckie 🍀
Welcome to the era of exposure. Maybe now you'll think twice...
Tamlin/Paige Construction was the worst contractor in the metropolitan area. Guy Tamlin was mostly to blame since he was always cutting corners on supplies and forging building permits. Using the trust fund his parents had left behind, his business was only afloat because he had free money to pay the monthly bills.
People had warned he and Buddy the business was a bad investment since they had no idea what they were doing, but they were determined to prove those people wrong.
His partner and best friend, Buddy Paige, had recently died in a gruesome car accident and Guy was left to glue the pieces back together. It had only been a week since the funeral and Guy was ready to yank out his hair.
There was no way in hell he could juggle his time between drawing up blueprints, managing the employees, and making bids for new jobs, along with a laundry list of minute tasks that Buddy was usually in charge of.
Guy awoke earlier than usual Monday morning. His goal was to get to the office as soon as possible to catch up on invoices and pending bids before the secretary clocked in. Even though his company was not reputable, he depended on the penny-pinchers of the world who had no choice but to hire the lowest-price bidder.
Golden light made brilliant by the sunrise flooded the city as Guy cruised to the office in his Cadillac.
Located in a small outlet mall, the space he rented to do business was one tiny segment between The Gap and Pfaltzgraff.
As he pulled into the lot, he noticed that his car was the first one there. His gait was a long-legged stride that covered a lot of ground as he walked swiftly to his office.
The glass door at the entrance didn’t look official, at all. Instead of a vinyl label for the front, there was only a piece of printer-paper taped to the inside of the door that read Tamlin/Paige Construction in printed handwriting. He let himself in and locked the door behind him.
In the back office of the building was a heavy, solid oak desk, stained a cherrywood color with a matte finish. On it, sat Buddy’s PC.
Guy thought it would be a good idea to comb through it to acquire the information he needed, in order to pick up where Buddy left off. Flicking it on, the tower made typical whirring noises as he left it to boot up while he made coffee.
Returning with a fresh, hot cup, he keyed in the password and was ready to go. The Aeron desk chair gave a swoosh as he sat down, ready to get to work.
Since he was new to this, he had to teach himself a few things about where all the necessary business-related files were stored and what programs to use.
He opened the My Computer icon.
Overwhelmed by the number of subfiles, he decided to try a different method. Clicking the mouse pointer over the text field search Windows (C:), he typed Buddy.
Jolene’s bath filled with steamy, hot water as she sat in the tub crying. The running water was intended to muffle the sound of her cries, but it was no use. Her wailing was heard throughout the house, sure to wake her husband and, now an only child.
Heartbroken at the death of her son, she held her phone at just the right angle for her near-sightedness to allow focus. Onscreen was a selfie of her and Buddy, taken the day of his high school graduation. She was immensely proud of him and his achievements, though she questioned his goals, thereafter.
She didn’t approve of that incompetent friend of his, Guy, and she tried everything she could to prevent them from starting that hell-on-wheels contractor business. Secretly, she sent her lawyer to find a way to blame that idiot for his death, but the legal system proved his innocence.
What seemed like an ocean of tears poured from her eyes. Infuriated, she threw the phone across the room as she screamed at it, bringing her knees up to her chest as the water inched closer to the edge of the tub.
Guy’s inquiry brought up two results: file folders named Buddy’s Fun and Buddy’s Work. Without delay, he opened on the first one.
A list of over 200 .mp4 video files had popped up, along with a couple of other subfiles.
Taken aback by the abundance of archives, he looked at the names of a few random ones close enough to find that they were titled with time/date stamps.
At first, he hesitated, not wanting to pry into his friend’s personal life. Then, he remembered his friend was dead. So, when in Rome, he thought, justifying his decision as he double-clicked on a random file.
Everything looked normal for the first couple of seconds. He paused it, studying the image on the screen. His nose nearly hit the monitor as he physically zoomed in closer for a better look. He felt as though he’d been gut-punched when he figured out what he was looking at, and quickly closed the window.
His breath quickened; he didn’t want to believe what he had seen. Damning his curiosity, he chanced opening another file, hoping it would be something different.
His wish partially came true. The “where” was different, but the “thing” was not. This time, when he paused the video, he came to recognize the women’s bathroom at a gas station his crew had just recently finished remodeling.
Against every moral fiber in his being, he continued to watch the video and witnessed several women using the facility over the next 10 minutes.
He’d seen enough, closing the media player window and resting his face in his hands. Thoughts paraded through his mind; Guy stared blankly at the floor hoping to find answers within the fibers of the carpet. A thought came over him that he needed to investigate.
In what other locations had Buddy set up these spycams?
Clicking on another random file, he recognized it to be the men’s bathroom at Baby Ray’s, a gay club in the middle of downtown. Another video, he thought, looked just like the job they did in the bathroom at a nearby elementary school.
Coffee flavored vomit regurgitated up his esophagus. He couldn’t believe that all this time his best friend of 10 years, since ninth grade, had used their business to plant secret cameras and spy on random people, (even children), going to the bathroom.
Another question popped up in his mind. What were those other subfiles? He only caught a glance of them and couldn’t put his finger on the titles. Exiting the video window, he scrolled up to the top of the original folder window. There were two folders that read Screen Shots and Mom’s Room.
Guy clicked on Mom’s Room.
This folder only contained one item: a video surveillance program.
The mouse vibrated beneath his hand as he trembled nervously, double-clicking the icon and opening the program.
Guy’s swiveled his head around to look behind him and his pupils darted back and forth, now paranoid he was being watched.
Turning his attention back towards the LCD, several monitoring screens popped up featuring Buddy’s parents’ bedroom, walk-in closet, and down at the bottom was the master bathroom. Movement on the screen told him someone was in that one.
The bathroom shot looked foggy, possibly because someone was…
He looked to the right at the next monitor screen.
The angle was obstructed, with two jagged lines covering the edges, giving it a vertical panoramic view. He double-clicked the image to zoom in.
The fog made it incredibly hard to see, but he could swear he was looking directly through a crack in the wall down into Buddy’s mom bathtub, who was taking a bath at this very moment.
Guy had a sudden flashback to a time when he was younger, suffering through puberty like all the other teenagers in ninth grade. He had spent the night at Buddy’s house one Friday, whose dad was out of town for a business trip.
Earlier in the evening, after dinner, he had noticed that Jolene had taken a substantial dose of pills, which he managed to get his hands on later so he could read the labels. May cause drowsiness was all he needed to see, and it was printed on all three bottles.
In the middle of the night, while everyone else slept, he tiptoed out of the living room and snuck into Jolene’s bedroom, crawling under the covers with her.
A racket out front brought him abruptly back to reality. The sound of clacking high-heels told him that Stacy had just shown up for work. He frantically began closing window screens.
She waggled into the back office with a friendly “Hey, Mister T.”
Guy threw a nearby magazine into his lap, as he said coolly, “This is my computer, now.”
1499 Word Count
Written for "SCREAMS!!!"