My Poster Girl

I’m a stock analyst. That’s my title anyway. In reality, I push paper and delude people into thinking that my stock recommendations are the best around. I’ve done all this work, and I know what I’m talking about. Yeah, right. I just do what the Home Office directs me to do. And, in the process, I’m supposed to make money—not for me or my clients, but for them, the guys at the Home Office.

All of my fancy analysis comes from the weekly company newsletter. It lets me know which stocks are the hottest. I pass that information along to my clients as though I had been analyzing data for days. If I’m convincing enough, they buy the stock and we all make a little money. In short, I’m nothing more than a salesman.

My name is Trent Jensen. I’ve been working for Hawes, Hawes, and Dawson for six years. Well, next month will be six years. I don’t really like my job and very few of my co-workers, but the gig pays the bills and puts food on the table for my family.

I’ve been married for five years, and my wife is six months into a pregnancy that will deliver us our second child, a boy this time. Our daughter, The Blonde Demon of the Jensen family, turns two next week. We’ve got a big party planned for the event. The entire neighborhood is invited.

It has always amazed me that adults throw a large party for small children when all the small children care about is the gift wrapping, and, of course, the cake. I suppose it’s a time when all the parents can get together and show off their progeny. Oh well, if it keeps the wife happy, then we’re having a party.

My office is on the third floor of the Mayberry building. Ha, Ha, and Da owns the building. I don’t know where the Mayberry name came from, but as far as buildings go this one is pretty good. It’s centrally located downtown, and has assigned underground parking.

My office is better than most. It’s not spacious by any means, but it’s all mine. Some of the other guys have to share an office, but I’ve been here long enough that I get a “room with a view” all to myself.

Next month I suppose there will be a party here, in the office. Abbie, Abbie Norquist, and I will be celebrating six years with the company. Six years is the threshold year. If an employee makes it that long with the company, then their stock options become all their’s.

That’s what sold me on working here. Hawes, Hawes, and Dawson is good to their people. Better than most other companies in this line of business. Each year, based on your productivity, the company invests in a stock fund in your name. It’s a pretty sweet deal. I haven’t put a dime of my own into the fund, but already it’s well into six figures. In three weeks and four days it’s all mine. The company will keep investing in my name, but control is turned over to me.

Jessie, that’s my wife, and I have already decided that we are going to use some of the money, and the equity in our current home, to buy a larger house. We’re going to need the space with Trent, Jr. soon to arrive. If we do this right, we’ll be able to keep our current home as a rental and still afford a new one.

Plus, at six years with Ha, Ha, and Da I’ve reached the tenured point of employment. My job is not guaranteed as such, but I will have reached a new plateau within the company. It’s a stepping stone to greater things. My life is definitely looking up. Another couple of years here and I’ll have a client list that might even allow me to start my own business.

Yes, life isn’t too bad. And, it got better last month.

You see, where my office is I can look out the window into the downtown plaza. Surrounding the tree lined area are several other buildings. Ours is not the tallest, nor is it the shortest. At seven stories, I would say it’s right in the middle.

Directly across the plaza is a five story building that the local bank owns. Atop the building they erected a billboard about four years ago. It’s been advertising Toyota cars ever since. Until last month, that is.

Grays Ammunition and Optics took over the billboard. I’m glad they did. It was getting old looking at cars everyday when I had the time to stare out the window and daydream. I’d dream of places that I could go in the newest model Toyota. They weren’t exotic places, but they were away from here.

Jess and I would travel to San Francisco and spend the day driving around the City on The Bay. We’d have lunch in North Beach and then drive Highway 1 north to Oregon. There we’d spend the night in some little motel on the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean before driving to Portland where we’d take a day and sample as many beers from local breweries that we possibly could.

Out next stop would be Seattle. Oh, I can taste the coffee now. A drizzling rain would keep us in bed until late into the morning. We’d stroll hand in hand along the streets, just window shopping.

Then there was the time I drove from St. Louis to Denver. Toyota had just put up an advertisement for their new 4-Runner. I did that drive all alone. What a great trip it was exploring the vast openness of the prairie. What started out looking like a storm brewing on the horizon in the west wound up being the snow topped Rockies. I never imagined mountains could be so large. They just kept getting larger and larger the farther west I drove. I may have lost a client that day. I let several phone calls go to voice mail, and there were one or two hangups. I couldn’t help myself.

The blue Prius Jessie and I took to Malibu was a great trip. I’m not sure about the car, but the destination was well worth the journey. I let Jess drive most of the way. She loved the car, the quietness of it all. I enjoyed the sound system.

Well, my automobile dreams took a different turn when Grays took over that billboard. The company was smart. They didn’t advertise guns like you thought they would. That might have been great if they had, though. Just imagine. I could be a big game hunter going after the mighty tiger deep in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Maybe I’d just spend a day quail hunting, or a cold, crisp morning in a duck blind waiting for a mallard or two I could bag.

I might join a fox hunt in jolly old England, or a pheasant hunt in a cornfield in Kansas. My favorite adventure, though, might be winning the gold medal for my country at the Olympics in the biathlon. I would set the world record. I’d be heralded a hero on my return home.

No, Grays Ammunition and Optics didn’t allow me the pleasure of those dreams. They had something else in mind for me. What they did was advertise in a very subtle way. The words “Let Grays Help You Look Into Your Future” were accompanied by a photo of a young lady peering through binoculars.

This is just an ordinary young lady. She could have been anywhere in age from 20-40. She is standing profile, in a sleeveless green t-shirt, holding a set of binoculars up to her eyes, staring off into the distance. Her skin coloring is not dark, nor is it light. She has a glow about her, as though she has spent some time in the outdoors.

She is slender, with long black hair, and looks fit. Not the kind of fit you get from exercising in a gym, but the kind of fit you get from outdoor adventures. Her face is mostly obscured by the binoculars, but you get the impression that she is not beautiful in the model kind of way, but beautiful in the natural kind of way. She has that inviting aura about her, as though all you want to do is rush down to Grays just to meet her. And, while you’re there you would spend some of your hard earned cash.

Three weeks ago there was a lull at work. I looked out at the new billboard across the way. I always have music playing softly in my office, and Eric Clapton was singing Layla. That day, the girl on the poster took the name Layla. A beautiful name for a beautiful girl.

I began dreaming of Layla, where we might go and what we might do. In the past, my daydreams were left at work. Layla began to accompany me everywhere I went: during work, after work, and while I slept. I became obsessed with my poster girl. I just know that one day we’ll meet and walk away into the future together.

Last week Layla and I went to Paris. We toured the Louvre, saw the Eiffel Tower, and walked, hand in hand, through the streets of the City of Love. After a leisurely dinner in a quiet restaurant we retired to our hotel where we made love until the light of day.

Three days ago we watched a show on Broadway. We were in the city that never sleeps, and neither did we. Champagne and a bubble bath was followed by sweet love in a king sized bed. My poster girl knows how to please a man, and her man is more than happy to please her.

Yesterday my love and I strolled the River Walk of San Antonio. We ate some of the best Tex-Mex that I’ve ever had. Layla pulled me back to the hotel where we spent the afternoon in each other’s arms. That night we danced under the stars and made plans for our future together. Argentina or Portugal. Maybe six months in each country.

Eight days ago I went down to Grays thinking Layla might be an employee there. Small businesses do that, you know. To save money, they’ll use an employee in an advertising campaign. Layla was not there, but while I was in the store I purchased a  H&K .45, and signed up for shooting lessons. I convinced myself that I need this firearm as protection for my family. I’m not sure how Jessie will take it, but I’m pretty sure I can convince her, as long as I get a gun safe to keep the thing in.

I picked up my purchase today at lunchtime, and had my first lesson. What a rush. There will definitely be more of that in my future. Maybe Layla will even stop by when I’m there. I’m positive that Grays will have to update their advertisement and my poster girl will be a big part of their promotion. Who can resist such a beautiful creature?

Two hours ago I was called into my supervisors office. It seems there have been a couple of clients that have complained about my work, and my numbers have been slipping over the past few months, especially the past three weeks. The market is tight, and the company just can’t retain marginal employees. That’s what I’ve been labeled, a marginal employee.

What am I going to tell Jessie? Our dream house is gone. I’ve got a son on the way, and a daughter that is going to turn two next week. How will I support my family?

Not only that, but what about Layla? I may never see her again. No longer will I be able to glance up from my work and see my poster girl. Ha, Ha, and Da has taken her from me. That’s not right.

I walk down into the garage and pop the trunk on my Taurus. I open the new box that rests comfortably behind the left taillight. I reach in the bag next to it and pull out the half empty box of shells. As I slowly load the magazine that I know fits snugly into the handle of the semi-automatic that I fired for the first time a couple of hours ago, I think about that son-of-a-bitch that has forever destroyed my life. My family will never be the same. And I think about the love of my life he has taken from me. He’s going to pay.

I shove the magazine into the handle of the pistol I hold in my left hand. I jack a round into the chamber and slam the trunk lid. I slide the H&K into the back of my pants and pull my coat down to cover it. I walk to the elevator and push the up button. Now, we’re going to let this instrument of death do what it was designed to do. The elevator doors slide open. I step in, and push the button for the fourth floor. The doors slide shut.

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