Nic was the first to wake up the next day. He made his way to the front door quietly, taking the newspaper from the step and making his way to the kitchen. He had brewed some coffee for them all. The aroma of fresh coffee was responsible for waking Wallace up. He was sleeping on the living room sofa. Nic had left the light off on purpose. He knew Wallace would have a fit if the light was shining on him like that. Anyone would go ballistic if they were blinded by the light while trying to sleep.
Wallace yawned and settled down at a chair across the table from Nic. “What’s new?”
“Want some coffee?” Nic asked, no traces of sarcasm or hostility at all. In fact, Nic had been unusually nice to Wallace since last night when they returned to Nic and Angela’s house.
“I’ll go brush my teeth first,” Wallace said, dragging himself up from his place and making his way to the bathroom.
Ten minutes later, Wallace came back to see Nic pouring coffee for them both. He realized Nic was wearing casual clothes. He was still wearing the t-shirt and pants Nic lent him. He was glad they wore the same size. Going on a shopping trip was not on his mind last night.
“You’re still working on your latest?” Wallace asked, taking a sip of coffee. He knew Nic was working on something lately.
“No,” Nic replied. “I’m done. Been done. Just need to get it released.”
“Oh.” Wallace did not mean to sound that clueless. But he was. He did not care to cover it up anymore. Not after what happened last night. He was too worn out to play that cool game.
Nic got up. “You going to drop Angela off at the shop or me?”
“I can do it.” Wallace picked up the newspaper Nic abandoned. He checked the market first.
“How many you want?” Nic asked all of a sudden.
Wallace looked up to see Nic at the stove. Nic was making breakfast. He did not realize that. How could his mind be so slow that morning?
“Two,” Wallace said quickly before returning to the newspaper. He flipped to the front page again. Then his alertness shot up. “Damn.”
“What?” Nic asked, turning to Wallace.
Wallace’s expression was intense. Beyond that. Livid? Beyond that even.
“Damn,” Wallace repeated. “I’m going to snap that traitor’s neck.”
“What are you talking about?” Nic pursued. He had turned the stove off. He was making his way toward the table again. Then he saw the article. He read it earlier. “Just a new software releasing.”
“Not any software,” Wallace gritted. He got up from his seat and began pacing.
“What’s the big deal?”
“What’s going on here?” Angela’s voice asked.
Nic turned to see her all dressed. She must have gotten up and dressed while the guys were talking.
“I don’t know either,” Nic answered.
“What’s wrong?” Angela asked, placing a hand on Wallace’s shoulder.
Wallace turned to her in alarm. As if he just saw her for the first time in his life.
Wallace did not answer. He just pointed at the newspaper in his hand.
Angela took it from him. She read the headline where he pointed. She returned her attention to him. Her face still clueless.
“Someone sold this out,” Wallace said, still not making sense.
Things registered for Nic. He turned to Wallace. “You mean it’s yours?”
Wallace turned to Nic. He nodded. “I don’t know who that person is, but I will tear his skin off and…”
The others could see him crumbling the newspaper with one hand. He had taken it back from Angela.
“This isn’t the first time,” Wallace mumbled. His look was vengeful.
Nic knew that feeling. A creation gone to the dust just because of a traitor. He exchanged a look with Angela. Though he knew the feeling, it was not like he knew how to reassure Wallace. Angela took another step toward Wallace, attempting to calm him down. But before she could, he leaped into Nic’s bedroom and was out in five minutes all dressed up for work. It was Nic’s professional clothes anyway. He grabbed the keychain on the coffee table before racing out of the house.
“Where are you going?” Nic asked, rushing after Wallace.
Angela was tagging behind them.
“I have to get back to the company,” Wallace hollered, not turning back to face them. “You can take Angela to work.”
Nic placed a hand on Angela’s shoulder, stopping her as she was making a move toward Wallace’s car. She turned to him.
Nic shook his head. “It’s his company. He can handle it.”
Angela knew he was right. She could only stare as Wallace pulled out.
“Let’s get going,” Nic said, making his way back into the house. He was glad he had turned off the stove earlier.
They did not need another disaster.
Cyndi walked toward Wallace as soon as he got out of his car. He did not bother to notice that Cyndi was breaking one of the top rules–never put her hair up. He had more pressing matters than that.
“Are they all in there?” Wallace asked, maintaining his rapid pace toward the entrance.
“Not all,” Cyndi replied timidly. She had detected the beyond livid expression. It was hard not to.
“Lex, Brian, and…Sylvie.”
“It’s not Lex.”
“How could you be so sure?”
“Because…” He opened the door and entered.
The room became quiet in record time. Everyone was at their desks, waiting for him to speak up. He scanned the room once, twice, looking for a nervous sign or two.
Someone stepped forward at that time. “Boss…”
“Sit down, Chris,” Wallace ordered.
Chris had no choice but to resume his place.
“Give me one good reason not to fire all of you,” Wallace said after another scan of the room.
Some gasps were heard among the employees. Cyndi turned to Wallace, trying to detect the signs on his face. Yet it was passive at that moment. He was all business. No point in searching. His mask was already on the minute he entered the shop. She was standing at a distance from him. She too did not dare to approach him either.
“Just one,” Wallace echoed in that same tone.
The front door squeaked at that time. Everyone turned in that direction. Wallace was watching the door as well, but he did not linger. He returned to scanning the room. Cyndi had risked a step toward him.
“What are you doing?” She mumbled to him.
He ignored her. “What is there to stare at?”
The others resumed their attention on him. The person who just entered was Lex.
“Boss, I…” Lex began, making his way toward Wallace.
“Sit down, Lex,” Wallace instructed in the same way that he dealt with Chris previously. His eyes never leaving the rest. “Tell me.”
“Brian went to the meeting,” Lex jumped in, misunderstanding Wallace’s words.
“I’m not talking about that,” Wallace gritted his teeth. “You all have been fired since two minutes ago. Start working on your case to undo that.”
“What?” Lex jumped up from his seat.
“You don’t need to worry about that,” Wallace reassured him–though his voice indicated otherwise.
The others finally unfroze their statue state and exchanged looks all around. They had on their faces the same expression. It was that of partial treatment.
“He’s still fired but he doesn’t have to worry about his financial as the rest of you,” Wallace clarified. He turned to Cyndi at last. “Ling Ling, check the list so no one would accuse me of being unfair within the next hour.”
“What list?” Cyndi mouthed to him, her expression confused.
“Project,” Wallace whispered as he walked by her. He settled in his desk. “There are thirty of you here, five worked on my latest software. But all of you know about it. You five, state your case for security measures. What have you taken toward it since I handed the files over?” He glanced toward Cyndi’s direction. “Read their names off.”
“Lex,” Cyndi began.
“Locked ‘em in my drawer,” Lex replied.
“What form?” Wallace inquired.
The questionnaire continued into the next two hours. They were only allowed to get up for coffee breaks but were not allowed to turn on a computer or even leave the room. Their cell phones were all placed at one corner of their desks where Wallace could see. Brian returned from the meeting Lex mentioned earlier–and was cut off–to find Wallace investigating everyone. He stayed put and waited for his turn. They were only relieved around lunchtime.
“Ling Ling,” Wallace called out when Cyndi was still jotting down notes.
Cyndi looked up.
“My car,” He said.
Cyndi followed him to his car and they drove to Angela’s shop.
“How has it been?” Angela asked the minute she changed the sign of her shop.
“None of them did it,” Wallace informed her. His expression was more relaxed than when he was in the shop.
“How do you know?” Cyndi asked. “I meant they sounded like they rehearsed their lines.”
“I knew it wasn’t them the minute I stepped into the shop.”
Cyndi wrinkled her face. Not the confused one. It was the one where she was getting ready to strike.
“You can’t expect me to act nice to them, right?”
Then it hit Cyndi. Her expression turned serious again. Not the intense one. The worried one. “That means it’s Sylvie?”
“Sylvie did it?” Angela exclaimed. “I meant we don’t like her because she used her connection to your mom to enter your company. But it doesn’t mean she’s the one.”
Wallace shook his head. “Do you think I’m that petty?” He pointed a warning finger toward Cyndi’s smiling expression. “Don’t you dare say it or I’ll fire you.”
“Off work, remember?” Cyndi returned, her expression cunning.
Then it finally sank in for him like it sank in for her. “Why is your hair up?”
“It has been up all morning.”
“And why is that?”
“As soon as I read the reports, I rushed to work. Who in the world would remember such things?”
Wallace nodded. “True.”
“I thought we’re serious here,” Angela jumped in. “Why are we talking about…”
“Don’t worry,” Wallace reassured her, taking her hands into his. “I got a plan to trap her.”
“Taking every single person she sold my software to down as well.”
“They wouldn’t even leave a trace,” Cyndi reminded him. “How are you going to pin them? You weren’t successful the last few times in tracking down evidence, right?”
Wallace shook his head. “I was thinking with my heart those times. Now…” He stopped on purpose and just smiled.
“What?” Cyndi asked anxiously.
Wallace did not reply. He got up from the seat he had been occupying and led Angela out of the shop. Cyndi tagged behind them.
“Let’s go shopping,” Wallace said when they were in his car. “I feel too weird wearing your brother’s clothes.” He shivered slightly as he was fastening his seatbelt.
Angela smiled, exchanging a look with Cyndi. Cyndi sent her a look that said something along the line of, “That’s the Wallace we know.”
© Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
Posted: Friday, March 25th, 2011