THE STALKER 2. (The Dickens Challenge)

“My father would turn in his grave.” Benicio Marques, Security Solutions’ general manager, stood under a cluster of palm trees strung with Christmas lights and frowned up at the space above the Tumon Bay Mall’s main entrance. There, wedged between Welcome to Micronesia’s Largest Mall and a row of illuminated wreaths, the red-and-green Pickle Kisser almost managed to blend into the festive color scheme.

“Your father turned in his grave a long time ago.” Mason stared at the red penis towering over the glass doors. He was pretty sure Ben’s father would have reconsidered leaving his security company to his oldest son if he’d known Ben would ask Mason to join him as a business partner.

After his separation from the Army, Mason had taken his specialized skills to Malaysia, becoming a casino and hotel security manager. When Ben, his boyhood friend, had gotten in touch with him he’d been ready to return home to Guam. It hadn’t taken much effort on Ben’s part to convince Mason to help him with his father’s small security company, a business on the verge of bankruptcy.

Months later, they’d founded Security Solutions. Whereas Ben’s father had provided monitoring systems, Mason and Ben offered uniformed guard services. Today, their employees protected small businesses, industrial buildings, and a few of the many hotels. They patrolled the grounds of the University, kept library visitors quiet, and roamed the mall during business hours. Occasionally they dealt with graffiti.

“If you squint just right, it almost looks like a candy cane.” Lourdes, dressed like Mason in black cargo pants and a black Security Solutions polo, narrowed her eyes at the defaced façade and snorted. “Pickle kisser, can’t say I’ve heard that before.”

“I have.”

“Well, that’s good then.”

Mason hiked a brow at his nightshift supervisor. Ben gaped at the woman.

Lourdes shrugged. “I’m assuming you have the number of the asshole who called you that. So let’s give him a call and see what he did at 5 o’clock this morning.”

“Please tell me it wasn’t The Smile who called you that,” Ben said before his friend had a chance to answer. “I’ve just started going to bed without thoughts of that man ruining us.”

Lourdes’s dark head swiveled in Mason’s direction. “The evil father-in-law? It’s that time of year, you know. In-laws and holidays are never a good combination.”

“He’s bad news any day of the year,” Ben grumbled.

“It wasn’t Buchanan.” Like Ben, Mason still expected reprisal where James “The Smile” Buchanan was concerned. The four months since the events that had made them public enemies had done nothing to assuage Mason’s dislike of the man.

Lourdes frowned. “Is that good or bad? I can’t tell.”

“Bad. At least we know where Buchanan is and what he’s capable of, but I have no idea what ever happened to this guy.” Mason jerked his chin at the mall entrance. A muscle jumped in his jaw. “He ruined my career once. He’s not going to do it twice.”

[I am so very, very glad that I know this is only a first draft and word count will exponentially increase with each subsequent draft.]

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