The sales manager towered over him, hands on his hips. “Dennis, you better sell a car today, or you’re history!”
Dennis looked up at him and stuttered. “Yes, Mr. Franklin.” He hadn’t sold a car in a month, and his job was on the line. But what could he do? With gasoline being so expensive, the gas powered cars his company made were piling up on the lot. Nobody wanted them.
Dennis looked across the street to GE Motors. Plenty of customers there, buying electric cars. If only he could come up with a gimmick of some type.
He picked up his phone and called his wife. “Sue, can you meet me for lunch? It’s really important.”
“Dennis, you know I’m getting my hair done today. But, OK, I guess I can meet you.”
“Thanks. I’ll see you later.”
* * * * *
They met at the Mars diner on 3rd Avenue. The décor was the Mars colony red that was trendy now. They took a booth in the back.
Dennis shook his head. “Franklin’s really riding my ass now. If I don’t sell something, he’s going to fire me.”
Sue played with her hair. “I need a cut so bad... thank God I’m going today.”
“You’re not listening to me...”
She chuckled. “You worry too much. Franklin’s always threatening you.”
Dennis took off his glasses and wiped them nervously. “He means it this time. I haven’t sold anything in a month.”
Sue looked at her reflection in the mirror on the wall and pinched her side. “Do you think I’m getting fat? I’m working out every day... maybe I’ll have a salad.”
Dennis rubbed his forehead. “Sue, this is serious. If I get fired, you’ll need to go back to work.”
Sue’s head swiveled back to him, a stern look on her face. “Now listen, and listen good. I’m never going back to work. You better not get fired. So, whatever you have to do, do it. And quit whining all the time. It’s so boring. Now, let’s order lunch; I’m hungry.”
* * * * *
Dennis trudged back to his office at the dealership, his head down, his brain on overdrive. He had to come up with a plan and he had to do it fast.
An hour later, a customer walked into the showroom. Dennis went up to him and pumped his hand.
“Hi, I’m Dennis. Looking for a new car today?”
The customer, a middle aged fat man, looked slightly lost. “Actually, I was looking for the GE dealership, but I think I took a wrong turn.”
“Well, have a seat in my office here; let’s talk about what you need.” Dennis took a seat next to the man, blocking the door to his office. “Let me just get your name and address...”
The fat man looked around, trying to find a polite way to leave. “My name is Harry Reed, and I was looking for a new electric car.”
“Well, Mr. Reed, you’ve come to the right place. Here at Intrepid Motors, we have it all.”
Reed looked confused. “I thought all you guys had were gas cars...”
“Actually, that’s true. But that’s because they’re so much better...”
Reed shook his head. “I’m only interested in buying an electric car.”
Dennis pulled out several brochures and pushed them at the man. “Let me show you this... we have some great deals... all of our cars are on sale now.”
Reed stood up, the brochures spilling to the floor. “Listen, I see the GE dealership across the street. That’s what I want.” He pushed his way past Dennis, running out of the office.
“Mr. Reed,” Dennis pleaded, “We have some great deals...”
He watched the man get in his car and race out of the parking lot. He gritted his teeth, knowing what was coming next.
A minute later, Mr. Franklin came to his office, his beefy frame filling up the doorway. “I take it you didn’t sell that guy a car.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Franklin. I did the best I could.”
“That’s just not good enough, dammit.”
“But, sir. I need this job. I’ve got bills to pay...”
“Save it, Dennis. I don’t give a crap. If you don’t sell a car by the end of today, you’re fired!” Franklin turned around and stormed back to his office.
He took off his glasses and wiped them, his hands shaking. What would he do? If he lost this job, the GE dealership would never hire him. And selling cars was the only thing he had ever done. He was 47 years old, short, balding and scared.
An hour later, a tall man dressed in an expensive suit strolled into the showroom and started looking at the cars on the floor. Dennis bolted out of his office and nearly knocked the man down.
“Sir, we have some great deals,” he gushed.
“I’m sure you do,” the man said. “I like this one,” pointing to the XLR, their most expensive sedan. “I want to buy it now.”
Dennis took out a handkerchief and wiped his sweaty brow. “That’s great, Mr...”
“Call me Stark.”
“Sure, Mr. Stark. Let’s go into my office and we can go over the details.”
Dennis pulled out the brochures and paperwork, while taking a closer look at the man. Stark was impeccably dressed in a black suit; he was over 6 feet tall, slim, with a thick mustache. His eyes were bloodshot, as if he’d been drinking heavily, but the man sounded deadly sober.
“I’m sure you’ll want to take it for a test drive...” Dennis said.
Stark looked around the small office and adjusted his necktie. “That won’t be necessary. I’ll buy it now. Just write it up.”
Dennis smiled nervously. “All our cars are on sale now, so you’ll be getting a great price.”
“I can afford to pay the full price; I don’t need a discount.”
Dennis started coughing. “Sure, sure, whatever you say...” He hadn’t sold car at list price in ten years. He did an online background check on Stark and saw that the man was wealthy and had a perfect credit rating. He drew up the forms and they completed the deal.
Dennis grabbed Stark’s hand and shook it forcefully. “Thank you, thank you. You don’t know what this means to me.”
Stark’s face lit up in a smile. “Actually I do. Now, I do need you to do me a small favor.”
“Anything, Mr. Stark, anything at all.”
* * * * *
That evening, Dennis excitedly told Sue about his day. Told her about the strange rich man that bought the expensive car and saved his job.
“See, I told you you wouldn’t get fired,” she said while doing her nails. She was a very attractive woman, with shoulder length auburn hair and high cheekbones.
“It was a close call. If Stark hadn’t shown up, I would have been.”
Sue finished her nails and turned to Dennis. “I want to buy a new house. I’m tired of this one.”
Dennis felt a migraine coming on. “Susan, we’ve talked about this before. We can’t afford a new house. And I almost lost my job; we need to wait a while...”
Sue came over to him, her arms folded in front of her. “I’m tired of waiting. We’re going to buy a new house.” Then she smiled. “Now, since you did sell a car today, I’ll give you a reward. Let’s go to the bedroom. I’ll show you I’m not a complete bitch.”
* * * * *
Dennis was back at the dealership early the next morning. He was going over his finances, and the numbers weren’t pretty. Sue was a shopaholic. His bills were bigger than his income, even without a new house. He punched the numbers in his calculator again. It looked bad.
Dennis looked up from his desk and there stood Mr. Stark, dressed in the same black suit and tie.
Startled, he was at a loss for words. Damn, I hope he’s not here to cancel his order.
Stark smiled. “Dennis, I liked the car so much, I want to buy another one.”
“Oh, my God. You’re kidding, right?”
“I’m as serious as a heart attack. I want to buy the red sports car in the showroom.”
Dennis gulped. That car would make his quota for the next month. “Fantastic. That’s a great car. It’ll do 0 to 60 in 4 seconds. It’s faster than a Ferrari.”
“I’m sure it is,” Stark said. “Just write up the paperwork.” He smiled darkly. “And I do have another small favor to ask of you.”
“Anything, Mr. Stark. Anything at all.”
* * * * *
When Dennis got home that night, he grabbed Sue and twirled her around. “You won’t believe it. Stark bought another car today. The sports coupe. The commission on that is fantastic!”
Sue gave him a hard look. “Does that mean we’re finally buying the new house?”
“Yes, dear, it does.”
“Well, it’s about time.” Sue looked at him closely. “You look different; what’s wrong with your hand?”
“Look, your thumb’s missing. Oh my God, what happened to it? Did you cut yourself...?”
“No, don’t be silly. Don’t you remember, I was born without it.”
“Really? I don’t remember that. That’s strange. OK, whatever. Let’s talk about the new house. I’m so excited.”
“Yes, I knew you would be.”
“And Dennis, since we’re getting the new house, I thought we’d trade in my car. It’s so junky. A new car would look great in our new driveway. Don’t you think?”
Dennis gulped. “Well, maybe we could hold off on that for a little while...”
“You’re so mean to me... I never get what I want. My mother always said you were a loser!”
“Calm down, Sue. I’ll see what I can do.”
* * * * *
A week later, while doing some paperwork at his office, Dennis got a phone call.
“Dennis, this is Stark. I’m so happy with the cars I bought from you, I want to buy another.”
“That’s great, Mr. Stark. Which one did you have in mind?”
“I want the big SUV this time, the black one I saw in the showroom.”
“That’s a great choice. That’s our top of the line SUV. Let me work up a price for you and I’ll call you back.”
“Just write it up; I’ll take it.”
“That’s fantastic; I know you’ll love this car.”
“I’m sure I will. There is just one other thing.”
Dennis gripped the phone, knowing what was coming. Sweat beaded up on his brow.
“I do have another small favor to ask of you,” Stark whispered.
* * * * *
Over dinner that night, Sue chattered about the new house and the new car. Dennis nodded, as he picked at his food.
“So what do you think?” she asked.
“Dennis, I just spent 10 minutes talking about the new furniture. Weren’t you paying attention?”
“I’m sorry, dear. I must have been thinking about work.”
“Jesus Christ, I spend all day buying things for us, to make us happy, and you don’t even listen to me. What kind of husband are you?”
“I said I was sorry.”
Sue put her fork down and stared at his head. “You look strange... your right ear... it’s missing. Oh, my God...”
“Calm down, Sue. I lost my right ear in that car accident five years ago. Remember?”
She looked confused. “No, not really. OK, well, anyway, let’s get back to the furniture. Do you think the dark oak or the maple would be better?”
* * * * *
Dennis pored over the numbers, punching the calculator harder and harder. The new house, new car and new furniture bills were all overdue. His income just couldn’t keep up. What would he do? What could he do? His stomach churned and he swallowed more antacids. Finally he made a decision. He picked up the phone and made a call.
That evening, he drove upstate to Stark’s estate. There were walls all around the property and a security guard checked his clipboard before letting him pass the gate. Dennis drove through the wooded estate, the road winding for over a mile. From his research, he knew Stark had made his wealth from mining. But it wasn’t until he got to the mansion that he realized how wealthy he was. The massive house stood on a hill, overlooking acres of woods. It was a dark and brooding mansion, with only a few lights showing through the many windows.
Dennis was led into Stark’s study by a maid. The room was enormous, lit only by a roaring fireplace. He saw Stark, still wearing the same black suit and tie. He was seated on a huge sofa, surrounded by six beautiful women.
“Dennis, come in, come in. I’m glad you called me today. In fact, I was thinking of you. Let me get you a drink. We’re drinking bloody Marys. Would you like one?”
“Sure, Mr. Stark. That’d be good.”
“Have a seat. Now, tell me what you had in mind.”
“Ok,” Dennis said nervously. “I know you have a large mining company and that you probably use a lot of trucks. My dealership does fleet sales and I was wondering if you’d be interested in buying trucks from us. Our Rover trucks are on sale now. If you were to buy several this month, I’m sure I could get you a great deal.”
Stark sat on the sofa, sipping his drink. His eyes were even more bloodshot than usual. He turned to the women around him. “Ladies, if you’ll excuse me, Dennis and I have some business to discuss.” As they filed out of the room, he gave them an appreciative glance. “Women... aren’t they great?”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Stark.”
“Getting back to business then. I like you, Dennis. You’re someone who knows what he needs, and isn’t afraid to go after it. And you understand that in life you have to sacrifice certain things in order to get others. Yes, I’ll buy those Rover trucks. In fact, I want ten of them this month. And maybe ten next month, if I like what I see. How does that sound?”
“Oh my God, Mr. Stark, that’s fantastic. You don’t know what this means to me.”
Stark smiled coldly. “Maybe I do. But there is one thing. Since this is such a big deal, I’ll need a larger favor this time.”
Dennis gripped his drink. He wiped his brow with his handkerchief and nodded. “Yes, I understand.”
* * * * *
Dennis woke up the next morning, startled by the alarm clock. He usually woke before the alarm, but he was groggy from the bloody Marys. He punched off the alarm and rolled over on his side. It was strangely dark this morning. He switched on the lamp by his bed, but it was still pitch black. Damn, the bulb must be dead. He opened a drawer, took out a flashlight and clicked it on. No light. What the hell? Is nothing working this morning?
He heard Sue getting out of bed.
“Dennis, why did you turn on the flashlight?”
“The lamp’s broken. I can’t see a thing.”
“You’re so silly this morning. The lamp’s working fine, and anyway, the sun’s already up. Now, get up and get ready for work.”
Dennis felt as if a sledgehammer hit his stomach. His mind raced in panic, while his hands rubbed his eyes. Oh my God! I knew he wanted a bigger favor, but not this! What have I done? What have I done?!
Lee Gimenez is a science fiction writer. He has had twenty-five stories published in magazines in the United States, Australia, Canada and England. His stories have appeared in these magazines: Cosmos; Nature; Afterburn SF; Bewildering Stories; Fifth Dimension; Concept Sci-Fi; Escape Velocity; AlienSkin; Aphelion; Morpheus Tales; The Cynic; Abandoned Towers; Calliope; Arcane Twilight; Antipodean SF; New Voices in Fiction; Expressions; Skive Quarterly; Skiveflash; Green Wave. He is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), and has just completed a new novel, Azul 7. Some of his work is available on Amazon.com. Lee lives with his wife in Florida. Visit his website: www.leegimenez.com.