The Hu Factor – Book 2 Chapter 1
Here is the next installment. If I am posting these too slow for you, you can buy the entire manuscript as a pdf from me at http://garden.vagobond.com/purchase-the-hu-factor/
And I am archiving the chapters at http://vagobond.posterous.com Please share this, plus one it, and help me to find an agent and a publisher so that I can feel good about continuing the series…and feed my family while I do it. Who knows maybe Syfy will even make a series of it that survives longer than one season. As always…I strongly encourage you to give me feedback whether it is editing, plot holes, emotional response (cool, that sucks, I love that guy) or even “I love it” (and that last one is especially good for us writer types – it’s like crack – we can’t get enough of it)
Book 2: Union Matters
The man’s brown eyes looked up at her. They were desperate, pleading, and filled with terror. That was exactly the way she wanted it.
“Okay, Mr. By-The-Book, are you gonna play ball or do I have Jimbo let go?” Emma never got tired of this part of her job. She looked at Jimbo and gave him an almost imperceptible nod. Jimbo shifted his grip on H. Nathan Price, the chief postal inspector for the State of New Jersey, just enough so that Price could feel the gravity that was pulling at his chain encrusted, padlocked legs. It was only about thirty pounds beyond his usual weight, but combined with not being able to use his legs, it meant that if Jimbo did let go, Price was destined to become a permanent attraction at the bottom of the Ocean City pier.
The problem wasn’t with Price himself. He was a pretty nice guy and for the most part the interactions between he and Emma had always been very pleasant. This wasn’t about personal relationships however, this was Union business.
The United States Postal Service was more than just a part of the government that got letters from here to there. The USPS had become one of the top ten economies in the world. The USPS, by itself generated more income than nearly all of the countries in the world. Mail was big business and big business means big money. So of course, in a business that was pulling in so much cash, it was only fair that the employees get a fair amount of it. To make sure that happened, the Postal Employees Union was willing to take some pretty drastic measures. It was what kept postal workers from blowing each other away in one of the highest stress business environments the world had ever seen. Sure, sometimes they weren’t able to get the concessions they wanted, and sometimes a disgruntled worker managed to get a semi automatic rifle past security. That was life.
But, the Union did everything they could to make sure that those kind of situations didn’t develop. Hence, H. Nathan Price, Chief Postal Inspector of the State of New Jersey, found himself dangling off the end of the pier in Ocean City while Emma outlined how he had managed to put himself in the precarious situation he now found himself in.
“So Price, maybe you don’t know exactly what is happening here? Let me summarize it for you. The Union has been negotiating some very tricky legislation that would allow certain aspects of the USPS to become privatized. As an organization which represents nearly half a million postal workers, our Union leaders have determined that privatization of certain aspects of the postal service would allow workers to earn more, work less, and overall, enjoy a higher standard of living. Key to making this all happen, is letting those pricks at Capital Hill know that this move would be good for the security and safety of the American people. There have been a lot of people that spent a lot of time on this. A lot of Union money has gone into this too.” She looked at Price, not sure if he was listening, but seeing that he would agree to just about anything right now.
She looked up at Jimbo, “ You okay there Big Guy? You’re not going to accidentally drop him are you?”
Jimbo just laughed. “Can I Boss?” He laughed more.
It was too much for Price. “I’ll do it. I’ll do whatever you want. I swear, I didn’t mean to cause any problem to the Union. I’m a member for Christ sake. Please!”
Emma lit a cigarette. She knew it was deadly. It had killed her last husband, may he rest in peace, but she liked smoking. Especially at times like this, when she was working.
“But H. Nathan, what does the H stand for anyway?” She took a drag, savoring his panic.
“Hornblower. It stands for Hornblower.” Jimbo started laughing again. Emma wanted to laugh, but she knew it would be like taking a step backward. She kept her game face on.
“Hornblower? Are you serious? A guy like you? A whistle blower and your name is actually Hornblower? You can’t be serious?” She liked the gravel sound of her voice against the deep rumble of Jimbo’s laughter. They worked well together.
“I swear. My mother was a huge fan of C.S. Forrester. Horatio Hornblower. I swear. Please, please, bring me up.”
“Okay, not quite yet Hornblower…I was about to tell you why the Union is a little upset with you.” She took another drag from her Lucky Strike. “See, we’ve gone to all this trouble to make the world a better place for our Union members, and everything seems to be going smooth, and suddenly, we get word from one of our lobbyists that you have been contacting some people on Capital Hill about a few statutes that might have been bent by some of our largest customers, and about how you may have suggested to lawmakers that the security of the United States may be at risk by turning over aspects of the Postal Service to private enterprise. We think that’s a pretty silly accusation, don’t you?”
It was windy as hell. As always, she was very appreciative of Jimbo’s staunchness in the face of adverse weather. The waves were actually coming up to nearly high enough to hit Price, Hornblower.
“So let me ask you again Hornblower, are you ready to play ball or what?”
“I’ll do whatever the Union wants. I swear. I swear. Please, just get me up out of the water.” Maybe he was feeling the waves after all. No doubt that he was feeling the ocean spray.
“Okay, but you know Hornblower, if you don’t do like you say you will, the Union is full of people that aren’t as sensitive as I am. I admit, that a part of the reason I’m listening to you, is because of the personal working relationship we’ve developed over the years. I like you, Hornblower.” She looked at Jimbo again and nodded for him to pull him up. It was amazing to watch the ease with which Jimbo pulled Price onto the pier and laid him down on the wet planks that made up the surface.
The weather was giving her a serious case of the creeps. There was a greenish color to the sky that reminded her of hurricanes. She would be happy to get off this dock and back to her warm little condo in Atlantic City. The waves were actually getting bigger. A couple of them actually made it up over the top of the eighteen foot pier. Jimbo was unlocking the padlocks that held the chains on Hornblower Nelson Price’s legs. A huge gust ripped her cigarette from her hand and sent it flying towards the shore. Yeah, she would be glad to go home all right.
“Seems like the gumbo’s about to hit the fan, Boss.” Jimbo liked to use colorful phrases. Most of the guys that worked with freight did. It was one of many reasons why she preferred to work with them instead of the candy ass carriers and clerks who worked inside all day.
“You can say that again. Let’s get the bejesus out of here.” The chains were unlocked finally, it would only be a matter of a few minutes unwinding them and then they could drop Price off at home and head back up the coast. Unfortunately for Hornblower Nelson Price, that sequence of events was washed away from reality as a tugboat that had been blown from it’s mooring, smashed into the pier, carried by a windborne twenty foot wave.
Somehow, with an instinct that was born of working in dangerous situations where one might get crushed for nearly his entire life, Jimbo managed to grab Emma and leap at least ten feet, just far enough away so that Emma saw the tug shear the top off the pier and carry wood, pilings, and H. Nelson Price to the turbulent water below. Jimbo tossed Emma over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and kept moving up the pier as Emma watched Price disappear from sight. The tugboat, wasn’t so quick to go. Instead, it was drawn back by the water and picked up by another wave. It came crashing towards them again, barely missing the shattered pier.
Suddenly, it was Emma wondering if she was going to die. She didn’t have long to think of it.
“Here it comes again, it’s coming straight at us!” Emma screamed out as she watched the boat on a wave that seemed even larger than the last coming towards them.
She didn’t know how he did it, but with some sort of superhuman effort, Jimbo managed to throw her the remaining distance to the shore. She saw the boat about to smash the pier out from under them and then felt herself flying through the air. She tried to get her feet under her, but it was too much for a fifty year old woman to suddenly become an acrobat. She landed head first on the cement and everything went completely black.