[Edge1.1.21] Billion Dollar Burgers – Dave Bailey

[Edge1.1.21] Billion Dollar Burgers

“I’m sorry,” Art said. “Here take it.”

He pressed the phone into her hands. His fingers brushed against hers. They were soft and warm. He let them linger for a moment.

Carla looked at the phone but wouldn’t accept it. “It’s not my brother’s phone. Just the number remains the same.”

“Maybe the phone carrier transferred it to someone else when it wasn’t in use.” Art suggested.

“No,” Carla replied. “I kept paying his phone bill just in case he had been kidnapped. I thought he might need to contact me someday.”

“Sure you aren’t confusing the number. Check it again.” Art said.

Carla sighed in exasperation. “It’s saved in my contacts, Art. I don’t need to look at the number.”

“So, what do you think happened to him?” Art asked.

“I have no idea,” Carla said and threw herself down on the couch. “It’s the ultimate mystery in my life right now.”

“What did your brother do here?” he asked.

“Paul used to work for the research department. He didn’t talk about it much though. They were under some kind of non-disclosure agreement that he wasn’t allowed to talk about. So, I never really pushed him for any information.”

“Did he ever seem guilty, like they were doing something wrong?” Art asked.

“My brother was always moody, so it’s hard to say. But I could tell he came home stressed out a lot. I just assumed it was pressure from his boss.”

“The person who called me on this phone said that there was something really terrible going on here. And the woman who gave it to me was with a group of men inside a surveillance van outside. It was really weird. Then someone put a gun to my head and threatened me yesterday. So, maybe your brother tied up in something pretty messed up.”

“No, but my brother would never hurt anyone,” she said as she put her hand to her mouth and shook her head. “He was a good man.”

“I don’t mean he was doing anything wrong. Maybe he just discovered what they were doing, and they threatened to silence him.” Art continued.

Carla’s eyes moistened and teared up. “Do you think they killed him?” she asked.

Art didn’t know what to say to that. He wanted to lie and say no, but he knew she wouldn’t accept his false hope.

“Maybe you can use your job around here to do some digging around. Go to the sectors where your brother used to work. You have access to the building. Talk to people and find out what’s going on.”

Carla’s eyes lit up. “Yes, I will find out what happened to him. And I will get my revenge.”

Art sighed. That sounded ominous. Based on the way she treated her boyfriend, he wouldn’t put anything past this girl.

“Well, I need to get going. I have a lot to do tonight still. So, I better get moving, but it was really nice chatting with you. I’d love to talk some more with you sometime.” Carla said.

“Sure. That sounds great. We’ll keep in touch and set something up. I’ll be around for a few more days at least.” Art replied.

Carla smiled warm, easy smile and hugged Art briefly before leaving. Art smiled and raised his right hand in a quick wave as he left. He watched her prance down the hall pushing her cart.

“Evening, Mr. Costa. My name is Bill, and I’m the guard on duty for tonight. Would you like me to order something for you or have someone bring you something to eat? We have an in-house chef on duty. If you like, she can come down and prepare you something to eat.”

“That would be great, Bill. Thanks. I am starving. It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve eaten anything.”

“Okay. I’ll have something sent down for you. Feel free to raid the fridge. There should be a few things in there for a snack to tide you over till supper gets here.”

“Great. Will do.” Art said and gave Bill the classic thumbs up signal.

Bill nodded curtly and walked back out the door. Art meandered into the kitchen and opened the fridge. There several bottles of pop and various assortments of cheeses. There was a pie and a few other things as well. It was nicely stocked, but nothing seemed to jump out at him.

Art opened up the cabinets that surrounded the fridge and found all kinds of delightful things to eat. It was chock full of chips and granola bars and boxes of cereal. He didn’t know what half of them were. Things that he had never seen sold in Brazil.

He was tempted to grab a few and start tasting them but resisted the urge. He didn’t want to spoil his appetite before supper arrived. And he figured he’d have plenty of time to try everything out. No need to make himself sick on the first day.

Art grabbed one bag that looked interesting. He looked at the lettering. Salt & Vinegar chips. That sounded like a strange combination but figured he would give it a try. He walked back in the living room and sat down in front of the TV on a plush chair. The whole room reeked of richness. He smiled to himself as he popped open the bag, careful not to let anything drop on the couch. He could get used to this kind of life.

He couldn’t wait till he had his own house and could decorate it with his own furniture. His mother could help with the decorations. She had always been good at that kind of stuff. He wasn’t worried about brand names or buying the most expensive products. He just wanted to make sure he got the nicest, most comfortable furnishings available.

But Art definitely knew that he wanted a Lazy Boy chair and a Jacuzzi in his bathroom. He had only been here a day and was already spoiled rotten. He sighed with pleasure and leaned back in the chair. It was so comfortable, he almost fell asleep right there.

“Mr. Costa? Hello.” he heard a voice in the distance through his daydreaming.

Art sat up and looked around. Had he been dreaming. He leaned back and picked up the bag of chips that was still half-opened. He opened it the rest of the way and took a sniff. He almost gagged on the smell.

He heard a noise in the kitchen and got up to go take a look. There was a petite, redheaded woman looking into the fridge. She had a long, white apron on over a white uniform.

“Hey,” Art said.

“Ah!” the woman screamed and spun around. She clutched a bag of carrots to her chest and breathed heavily. Art tried not to snicker at her. That would have been rude.

“Oh, hey there,” she said. “I called, but no one answered. I thought I was alone. Sure wasn’t expecting you.”

Art smiled and apologized. “Sorry,” he said. “I drifted off there on the couch and didn’t hear you knock.”

“Oh, it’s okay,” she said. “Bill told me you were around. I just get spooked easily. Especially after hearing all the rumors around here.”

Art chuckled and started to ask what she meant by that, but she turned around and started busily putting the rest of her bags and containers into the fridge. He needed a moment anyway to control himself and not burst out laughing every time he looked at her. The look of pure terror on her face had been delightfully funny. He had always enjoyed scaring people, and especially his mother when he was a child.

“Well, Mr. Costa,” she said.

“Please, call me Art.” he interrupted her. “What’s your name?”

“Sure, Art. My name is Joanne. So, what would you like to eat tonight? It’s been a busy day, so everything I had prepared has already been eaten up. Which is a good thing, because you get yours fresh.”

“Oh, I could eat anything right now. I’m as hungry as a bear. I tried munching on these chips, but they smell like old socks.”

Joanne laughed and grabbed a few chips from the bag. “Salt & Vinegar chips are a unique flavor that have to grow on you. But once you get addicted to them, your mouth waters just thinking about them.”

Art took one and nibbled on the end of a chip. He made a surprised face. It didn’t quite as bad as he had imagined it would. He grabbed a few more out of the bag.

“Well, if you’re hungry and want something quick and dirty, I could make you some Chinese Stir Fry or my specialty gourmet hamburgers with just about any toppings you want. They’ll take about twenty minutes to make. But if you want something fancier, we aim to please.”

“Yum, hamburgers sound great,” Art said as he licked his lips and rubbed his belly for emphasis.

“Great!” Joanne said. “How does a fat, juicy burger with caramelized onions on an Australian bun sound.”

“Whoa,” Art said and made a face of extreme satisfaction as he grabbed his belly.

Joanne laughed and started slicing up a pile of onions.

“You like pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese on your burger too? Anything you don’t like?”

Art shook his head. “No, ma’am. I ain’t picky. Pile it all on.”

Dave Bailey

Dave Bailey started writing short stories when he lived in Brazil to help his students learn English. Now, he lives in Florida again where he continues to write fun and inspiring sci-fi and fantasy fiction stories. You can read his weekly short stories here on his blog. Make sure to join his advanced reading crew so you know when new stories become available >>> https://davebailey.me/go/crew