(This Story is 4,500 words long, reading time is approximately 18 minutes. For Part 1 of the Mr. Green series, click here.)
Charles Benson leaned forward at his desk and ran both of his hands through his thinning hair. It was much more grey than black these days. His top two advisors sat in black leather chairs on the other side of the office.
All three of them stared at the flat screen TV that hung on the wall. The 10 o’clock morning news segment had just begun. A young woman with the back posture of a flagpole took her seat behind the news desk, arranged a stack of papers, and began in a somber tone:
“Investigators have yet to ascertain any serious leads in the collapse of a major intersection in downtown Singapore over the weekend. A subway tunnel collapsed, causing the streets aboveground to cave in. Whole sections of roads, sidewalks, and even buildings were pulled into the hole caused by the tunnel collapse. The death count is currently at 92 and still rising. The number of injured is over 300.”
A video in the top right corner showed a helicopter’s view of the disaster. The intersection was barricaded off on all sides by police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances. It looked like a black hole had opened up beneath the city and swallowed everything in it’s reach. Whole sections of nearby buildings had been broken off and pulled into the gaping hole, like a flooding river pulling off chunks of the river bank.
The woman continued, “The infrastructure collapse in downtown Singapore comes just one week after the bombing of the East Asian Trade Center in Tokyo. Officials have yet to ascertain any suspects in either case, but assure the public that they are investigating all possible leads, including any possible connection between the two horrific events.”
Now a large picture of the Singapore Chief of Police filled the screen. The recording of a phone interview played, and the dialogue scrolled across the bottom of the screen:
“It is still unclear whether the intersection collapse was the result of a well-orchestrated attack, or whether it was caused by a series of flaws in the underground support system, which altogether caused the failure of the support structures. Fortunately, no trains were in the effected area at the time of the collapse. Even though the media has been quick to label this as an act of terrorism, the evidence has yet to determine if this is the case. Our dearest sympathies go out to the victims and their families.”
The screen cut back to the news reporter, saying, “For some citizens, the disaster recalls memories of a building known as ‘Hotel New World’ which collapsed just over 20 years ago. The accident killed 33 people, and caused the city to -”
Charles Benson hurled the TV remote across the room at the wall. It broke apart and the batteries clattered across the wood panel floor; one of them rolled against the shoe of Dave Sanders.
Dave sighed, got up, reached to the side of the TV and switched it off. He walked to the window and looked out at Downtown Sydney, laid out below. They were in an office on the 52nd floor of the Comm-5 tower. It was a clear, cloudless day in Sydney – no surprise there. But Dave took little pleasure in seeing the opal sky, or the iconic view of the harbor in the distance. The mood at work these last two weeks had been anything but sunny.
He said, “We’re fortunate the press hasn’t made a big deal about ‘Benson Holdings’ offices being targeted in these attacks. But it’s only a matter of time before they do.”
“And I can handle those questions when they come,” said Marshall, Charles Benson’s other top advisor, “But the bigger problem is, what’s coming next? Is this… Mr. Green… really going to follow up with another attack?”
The two advisors now turned and looked at their boss, the majority partner and longtime head of Benson Holdings Incorporated. Charles was still leaning forward with his elbows on the desk. But his eyes were cloudy and vague, his thoughts far away.
“God, who is this psycho?” Dave asked to no one in particular, “Who could possibly…”
“I told you I don’t know.” Said Charles slowly, “I don’t know anybody by the name of Mr. Green.”
“What did he say again?” Asked Dave, “He said you ruined his life, his family?”
Charles said flatly, “I’ve made plenty of enemies over the course of my career.”
“Yeah,” said Dave, “But not this kind of enemy.”
Charles slammed his hands on the desk and looked up, “What I need right now is solutions. Not some gloom and doom bullshit from my own top advisors.”
Dave turned and looked out the window again.
“OK, let’s look at this from another angle,” Marshall cut in, trying to be the voice of reason. He was a bright, young PR expert who had risen quickly through the ranks; he had the confidence to solve any puzzle, and the skill to back it up. “This Mr. Green called you on the day of the attack. But we failed to trace the number, correct?”
“Yes,” Charles sighed, “It was an unregistered number. And now it’s disconnected.”
“And we have data teams digging through past accounts, looking for any reference to anybody named or connected to a ‘Mr. Green’?”
“They’re working day and night on it,” Dave cut in, “but these people are engineers and accountants – not detectives.”
“OK, good” said Marshall, “Well, I should also report that, as of this week, we’ve doubled down on security at every location, pending one or two. Getting extra support in Hong Kong has been a pain in the ass because of the Global Leadership Conferences going on this week, and the Dubai offices won’t receive extra man power until Tuesday, but all of our other locations have received double or even triple security.”
“Jesus,” said Dave, “why haven’t we gotten the feds involved in this yet?”
“I told you” said Charles, “As soon as we go to the police for help, we give them permission to jump down our throats. They’ll want access to everything.”
“I agree,” said Marshall. “We’re doing the best we can until the threat subsides.”
“Or until the next attack,” said Dave.
Charles stood up and glared at Dave once more, but just as he opened his mouth to speak, his phone rang. The piercing, electronic ring tone filled the room and quieted the three men.
Charles picked it up, “Yes, what is it?”
Dave and Marshall watched uneasily as their boss’s face turned to ash, “What! When did this happen?”
There was rapid talking on the other end of the line.
“And you’ve already called for backup?”
Charles ran his free hand through his hair.
“Take the family to the cellar OK? And keep them there. I’m on my way. Now get out there and figure out what the hell is going on!”
Charles lowered the phone from his ear. For a second he stared down at the desk, his eyes darting quickly back and forth. Finally he said, “Something’s going on at the Ranch.”
The advisors exchanged a look. Marshall asked hopefully, “The one in Manly?”
“No,” said Charles, “Elanora Heights.”
“Your family is there? What’s happening?”
“Yes they’re there. Security has them. Everybody’s safe. But something suspicious is going on. They’re saying that the rear entry gate has been knocked down, that a vehicle has entered the property. But they don’t know who or where yet… I’ve got to get over there.” He stood up and grabbed his jacket off of the coat rack.
“I’ll come with you sir,” said Marshall.
“I’ll stay here,” Dave offered, “keep things running.”
“No,” said Charles, “Get everyone out of the building. If this Mr. Green bastard really is here in Sydney, I want all operations closed down until we find him. I want the whole building shut down.”
“You mean -”
“Right,” said Dave, “I’ll see that it happens.”
Charles was already throwing the door open. Marshall was scurrying close behind. Right before they disappeared out of sight, Charles yelled back at his advisor, “Send any spare security to the ranch. But keep a team here with you. And for god’s sake call the cops!”
The door slammed. Dave nodded. It was the most sensible thing he had heard his boss say in weeks.
The pavilion in front of the Comm-5 tower was bustling with commuters. Lunch hour was almost over. Business men and women walked in every direction across the wide, concrete walkway, past the dried up fountains, around the iron grate park benches… They hurried past the solitary street performer, who was either ambitious or bored enough to begin his juggling routine on a weekday morning.
A white, non-descript service van sat innocently enough on the street nearest the pavilion. The van had no rear windows, and the front windows were heavily tinted. No one paid the van any particular attention, though it did contain a quite peculiar man.
Mr. Green sat motionless on a small bench seat at the back of the van, his eyes closed as if asleep, his breath calm, leaning his back against the rear hatch doors. His long, lean frame fit rather awkwardly into the cramped space of the van. His knees were bent at acute angles, and he was forced to slouch his hips forward on the bench in order to keep his bowler hat from scraping against the ceiling.
There was one other man in the van, who by contrast was much smaller and much less relaxed. He spun in his swivel seat to look at the set of monitors behind him, and used a hand to brush the curly black hair off of his forehead. He pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose and said, “Ahem, sir?”
Mr. Green’s eyelids rolled open. “Yes?”
“Charles Benson and his advisor, Marshall Thompson, have left the building. They just went past us and they’re headed for the freeway.”
“Hmm, a bit early,” Mr. Green observed his silver plated watch with the brown leather band. “What have we heard from John and his team?”
“As of 10 minutes ago, they didn’t think they had been spotted. But they did say that security was heavy at the property. And they also confirmed that Charles’ family was in the the house – wife and all four kids.”
“Tell them they need to evacuate the property. Police will be on the way.”
Allen was about to reply when something on the security monitors caught his eye. “Um, sir?” He said, “It appears they are evacuating the building.”
“Interesting,” said Mr. Green, “Just Benson’s work force – or the entire building?”
“Looks like… the entire Comm-5 tower,” Allen replied, his eyes darting rapidly across the screens.
“In that case, I’m going in,” said Mr. Green, “We won’t have much time. Let me know what you’re seeing.”
“Will do sir,” said Allen.
Mr. Green bent forward and popped open the latch for the side door of the van. With a hefty shove the door slid open. The bright, afternoon sunlight flooded inside, causing Allen to turn away. Mr. Green slammed the van door behind him, and Allen was alone.
“Alright,” he said, cracking his knuckles, “Here we go.”
From Allen’s view from the security cameras, Mr. Green looked quite odd, walking against the flow of the crowd of people pouring out of the building. As usual, he stood a head or two taller than anyone else. But no one appeared to notice him; they were too busy leaving. All they knew was that, for some undisclosed and terrifying reason, their building was being evacuated immediately. Most of them had seen the images of the Trade center in Tokyo that had been turned into a smoking chimney. Many of the “Benson’s Holdings” employees had even made the disturbing connection between their branch offices being targeted in Tokyo and now in Singapore as well – and rumors were beginning to spread. If tensions weren’t already high, they would be after today.
Now, on another screen, Allen could see that Mr. Green was in the lobby. Allen watched as a woman in high heels came scurrying across the marble lobby floor. She was clutching a purse and another bag to her chest. She pushed her way through the door that Mr. Green had just come through, and then the lobby was empty – save for one security guard at the front desk.
Allen held his breath as he watched Mr. Green crossing the lobby floor. As he neared the security guard, his hand reached to the inside of his jacket for his pistol. But suddenly the security guard ducked down behind the desk and came up holding… the receiver of an office phone.
Mr. Green turned sharply away from the distracted guard and went to the elevators. One opened for him, and he pushed the button for the 52nd floor.
Dave Sanders propped his feet up on his boss’s desk and said, “You’re a real kick in the ass, Jones. Sounds like you should be running this division instead of Bernie.”
The security guard raised his hands over his head in mock surprise, “I’m telling you Dave. How does nobody see this but me? It’s just a matter of time ’till this freak makes his way to Sydney. Benson should’ve shut down operations immediately after Tokyo happened. He should’ve halted everything, gone to the police, and begun a world-wide witch hunt for this nut job.”
Dave smiled and recrossed his feet. It felt good to be sitting in the boss’s chair. It felt more than good – it felt right. He said, “You know Jones, I actually agree with you this time. And that’s exactly what I’ve been advising him all along. If he had listened to me sooner, maybe we wouldn’t be in this… unfortunate scenario… where the terrorists have found their way to Charles’ home for god sakes!”
Jones shook his head. “This is insane,” he said, “It should never have gotten this far…”
Outside in the hallway, Mr. Green stood with his ear pressed against the office door, listening to the two men. Now he turned away and whispered into his earpiece. “Allen, what do you see in there?”
Back in the van, Allen focused on the monitor that showed Charles Benson’s office. He said, “Two men. First one – I believe it’s Dave Sanders – is at the desk. Desk is on your left as you walk in. Also one guard pacing around the middle of the room, straight ahead of the door.”
“Tell me when he gets close,” said Mr. Green.
Allen bit his knuckle as he watched Mr. Green rap sharply on the office door.
Dave Sanders straightened up and put his feet on the floor. He and Jones exchanged a look. The Guard rested his hand on his gun holster. He called out, “Bernie, that you?” But there was no answer.
“2 meters away,” said Allen into his headset.
Mr. Green drew his pistol out of his vest and pointed it at the door, about chest high.
Jones made a motion for Dave to stay where he was. He kept his hand on the holster at his hip and stepped slowly toward the door.
“1 meter,” said Allen.
Mr. Green waited patiently. He stepped sideways, away from the door, but kept his arm outstretched and the pistol pointed straight.
Dave Sanders watched closely as Jones reached for the door. Suddenly Jones lurched back, as if he had been punched in the gut. The sharp, muted ring of a silencer rang through the office. Dave watched Jones stagger and slump backwards. He fell slowly into a seated position, and finally all the way onto his back, arms outstretched. A crimson flower grew through his shirt on the right side of his chest.
The door swung inward and thudded against Jones’ body. Mr. Green stepped swiftly inside with his pistol leading the way. He stepped over the guard and approached the desk, saying, “Dave Sanders, I presume?”
A minute ago Dave had felt on top of the world – had imagined moving his own things into this office, had imagined running the company himself, his own way, the right way, running the show from this very desk – but suddenly he wished he were anywhere else in the world besides sitting in Charles Benson’s chair.
Dave gulped and said, “Listen, whatever you need, I’ll give it to you. Don’t do anything rash here. I can help you. I’m the head of-”
“I want the names, bank account information, and contact information of all of Charles Benson’s top clients, associates, investors and stockholders,” Mr. Green interrupted. He reached into his jacket pocket and produced a USB drive, which he tossed on the desk. It bounced and fell into Dave’s lap. Dave flinched as if the thing was on fire.
“And I’m in a hurry,” said Mr. Green, “It’s a simple task, but if you can’t handle it, I’ll kill you and do it myself.”
Dave picked up the USB drive a shaking hand. “OK, OK,” he said, his mind racing, “it might take a minute to find all that, let me see if I can get access…” The computer monitor was already open and running. Dave clumsily jammed the USB into one of the ports, and then grabbed the computer mouse and shook it violently.
Allen’s voice came over Mr. Green’s earpiece, saying, “Okay boss I just got word through the dispatch – the cops were called. They’re four minutes out. Maybe three.”
Mr. Green observed the watch on his wrist. Then he said to Dave, “One minute begins now.”
It didn’t take Dave long to locate the files. He thanked God that the desktop was already unlocked, and that his boss kept everything immaculately labeled. He watched with a fascinated horror as the files copied from the computer’s hard drive onto the external drive. This was more than enough information to potentially sink Benson Holdings Incorporated – or at least turn the company on it’s head.
“40 seconds,” said Mr. Green. While he waited, he observed the large, sparsely decorated, immaculately clean office space. This was the castle bower, the room from which Charles Benson puppeteered his enterprise. Like Benson, the room was cold and efficient. No frills. No pretenses.
Allen’s voice came over his ear piece again, “Heads up boss. Two guards coming up the elevator. I think they’re headed your way.”
Mr. Green nodded. He knew that Allen could see him on the video feed. He turned his attention back to Dave and said, “10 seconds.”
“Here you go, here you go!” said Dave, scrambling to pull the drive out of the computer, “It’s everything, all of it, everything you asked for.”
Mr. Green held his hand out and accepted the gift. Then he said, “Get up now, you’re coming with me.”
Dave Sanders stood up slowly from the desk.
“Leave your phone here,” said Mr. Green, “empty your pockets. Let’s go.”
Mr. Green waited as Dave came out from behind the desk. Together they passed around Jones’ lifeless body, who even in his current state was doing a fair job of guarding the door. They went out into the hallway together.
The numbers on the elevator display were flashing silently: 29…30…31…32…33…
“Step back down the hall, that way,” said Mr. Green, motioning with his pistol. The two men stood on opposite ends of the hall now, waiting for the elevator to arrive. The silence was deafening. Then the pleasant chime of the elevator dinked and the doors slid open.
The two guards stepped out, completely oblivious to the threat, and were instantly felled by two calculated bullets from Mr. Green’s pistol.
Dave flinched and let out a muffled yell. The bullets were headed his way, and might have hit him, had they not been interrupted by the heads of the two guards. The guards slumped to the floor on top of one another. Mr. Green motioned for Dave to get inside the elevator.
Dave recognized one of the young men that had accompanied him on their most recent trip to London. The second man he couldn’t place… And then he had the sickening realization, as heavy as a train, that any second he might end up on the floor just like them.
It couldn’t happen. He couldn’t possibly die today. He had to do something.
Mr. Green pressed the button for the 1st floor with the barrel of his pistol. Then he stood behind Dave and pressed the gun to the small of his back. Classical music played softly from a speaker in the ceiling, and the car began it’s downward descent.
“Give me an update,” Mr. Green said into his microphone.
“Huh?” said Dave, thinking that Mr. Green was speaking to him. Mr. Green ignored him and listened for Allen’s reply.
“Wait,” said Allen, “Hold on… Shit!… Okay, bad news boss: I just got word that a patrol unit was nearby. They’ll be here Soon. The cavalry is still three minutes out.”
Mr. Green thought for a second, then said, “I need you to pull the van up to the front door.”
“Run over the fence,” said Mr. Green. “The van will fit easily through the gap between the fountains. Pick me up at the front. I’m on my way.”
Allen hesitated. “Christ,” he said, “OK, Copy that.”
After what seemed like an eternity to Dave, their car reached the 1st floor.
Mr. Green did not hesitate. With his left hand he grabbed Dave’s shirt collar, and with his right hand he jabbed the pistol into the small of Dave’s back. He pushed them both out into the lobby.
Bernie, the head of security, looked up from behind his desk. “Mr. Sanders, what’s-” He made as if to stand, but he didn’t get far. Dave yelled as Mr. Green’s pistol exploded again, this time firing right near his ear. Bernie slumped forward in his chair, a look of surprise plastered to his chubby face. Dave stared, horrified, but Mr. Green was already steering him around the corner and toward the front doors.
“Don’t kill me,” Dave said, “Jesus don’t kill me. I promise I can help you. I’ve got kids. I’ve got a family. Jesus don’t kill me, please don’t kill me.”
Two more shots rang out. Dave cringed. He heard the glass panels of the lobby wall shattering and falling to pieces on the lobby floor, and outside on the sidewalk. He patted his chest and stomach and realized that he was still unharmed.
Then they heard a loud crash, and a horrible screeching noise. A white van was careening across the promenade, heading straight for them. The van swerved wildly to avoid hitting a park bench, and in doing so, barreled through a plastic picnic table and set of plastic chairs. One of the chairs became pinned beneath the nose of the van and was bulldozed forward until the van came to a screeching halt, just outside of the shattered glass building front.
“Stop!” Someone yelled from behind them.
Both Mr. Green and Dave were taken by surprise. They froze. Then Mr. Green spun ravidly around so that Dave was in between him and the new voice.
“Put the gun down!” The guard yelled, the tension in his voice palpable. “And let him go. No one else has to get hurt.”
The guard had just come around the corner and was standing near the front desk, next to where Bernie lay slumped forward. Dave should have been happy that a guard was coming to his rescue, but all he could think about were the two guns: Mr. Green’s, pointed at his back, and the guard’s, pointed at his front.
Mr. Green spoke next. “Here’s what going to happen,” he said, “l’m going to let Mr. Sanders here go… and then I’m going to leave. Do you understand?”
The guard kept his gun trained at both of them. He bit his lip and tried to gauge whether or not he had a clear line at the tall man in the suit and bowler hat.
“Put the gun down and then we’ll talk,” the guard said.
Mr. Green lifted his pistol from Dave’s lower back, higher and higher, until it was pointed at the back of Dave’s head.
Dave threw his hands in the air and looked at the guard desperately, “Do what he says, goddamnit!”
The guard sighed. Slowly, carefully, he placed his weapon on the ground.
“Good,” said Mr. Green. “Now kick it toward me.”
The guard did as he was told. The gun spun across the marble floor, the metallic sound echoing loudly through the empty lobby.
Dave eyed the gun as it slid near his feet. He wondered how fast he could…
But now Mr. Green was spinning him around. They were face to face. He could see the sandy blonde hair below the hat, the expressionless look on the man’s face, his perfectly positioned tie. For some reason, Dave could only think about how this man was definitely no American…
Mr. Green held a small, black flip phone in front of Dave’s face. He said, “I want you to give this to Charles Benson. Tell him that I’m going to arrange a meeting. It will happen very soon. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Dave trembled. His vision was going blurry. He tried to keep his composure. “Um,” he said, “you mean a meeting with… You and him?”
“When I’m ready,” Mr. Green said, “I will call him on this phone, and we will discuss more details at that time. All you need to do is give him this, do you understand?”
Suddenly Mr. Green turned and put two more shots through the glass walls, bringing them completely down. Wth just a few long strides he was across the floor and now he was outside. The rear door of the white van was being thrown open. A curly haired man with glasses was screaming something. But Dave couldn’t focus. He heard footsteps running up behind him, and he watched as the van door closed, and the tires spun and the van lurched forward. Someone grabbed hold of his shoulders and tried to support him. Dave heard the blare of sirens in the distance, and then his world went black.