Chapter 1

Brian woke up to the sound of the annoying buzzer of his alarm clock and quickly reached over to silence it. Squinting as he turned on the light, he sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes before looking at the clock to see his usual five o'clock wake up time glowing in red back at him. He sighed as he stood up and walked to the bathroom to start his normal morning routine.

He took stock of himself as he combed his blonde hair, looking at himself in the mirror as his blue eyes stared back at him. He thought he looked ok, nothing spectacular but not hideous either. He was in decent shape but probably too thin for his height of a couple inches over six feet. It wasn't a face or body to inspire swooning by the ladies but at least he didn't have a weight problem as he could basically eat anything he wanted and not gain weight. His overactive metabolism was passed down from his mother, who at 45 as still as thin as she was when he was a child. His height was passed down from his father, also a tall man, but more bulky.

He dressed in his usual business casual attire after having his customary bowl of cereal for breakfast and left his fifth floor apartment earlier than usual to take the stairs down to the garage. He got into his two year old Malibu and drove through the mostly empty streets, having avoided the usual rush hour traffic and parked the car in the outside parking lot, as he wasn't deemed important enough to park in the underground parking garage.

Brian was usually one of the first ones in the office, always arriving there much earlier than his colleagues' normal eight o'clock start time. He enjoyed the quiet and solitude which allowed him to get a lot of work done without being bothered by customers or colleagues. His work as a program engineer got hectic once eight or nine rolled around, so it was nice to get caught up on emails and paperwork before the personal interaction portion of his job kept him busy the rest of the day.

Brian walked into the headquarters of the Prescott-Simon Automotive Group and took the stairs up to the third floor, opening the door to the Engineering Department. He unlocked his office door and threw his lunch into the small bar fridge, grabbing out a diet coke in the process. He turned on his computer and had a swig of the coke while it booted up.

The office was pretty small but was better than the cubicle that he originally had when he was a CAD designer. The office didn't come with an outside window or any fancy furniture, but it was relatively private and quiet, especially when he shut the door and the blinds on the window facing into the open area. Other than a desk, a book case and the fridge, it was pretty bare, except for the table along the left side wall, covered with part prints. The wall above the table also had assembly prints as well as program timing charts half-hazardly taped or pinned to it.

Brian quickly cycled through all his new emails and started to respond to them where he could or forwarded the rest on to get answers from other departments, suppliers or customers as warranted. He was involved in two major programs for the company at the moment, handling engineering issues with the customers' engineers while also following up on progress of suppliers making the tooling, welders, fixtures and gauges that would produce the final assemblies that his company was to then supply to their customer.

Even with the major downturn in the economy and specifically in the automotive sector, Prescott-Simon still had new work that had been awarded last year and had to be finished for the customer's upcoming new model year. Brian was lucky he still had a job, but his supervisors liked his hard work and extra time put in so they kept him on and assigned him the program of the other engineer that they had let go. So he was busier than ever, trying to keep track of two major programs. Slowly the rest of the Engineering Department showed up and started their day while he kept working away inside his office.

"Working hard already as usual Brian, did you even go home last weekend?" asked a voice from the open doorway.

Brian looked up to see his friend Terry at the door and replied with a smile "Hey man, you actually made it on time this morning."

"Well, I can't have you showing me up by coming in early while I come in late. I'll be the one they let go in the next round of cuts" he said with a grin.

"I think your job is secure Mr. Simon" Brian retorted wryly.

"Well, you know Dad, he doesn't like to play favourites" Terry said. "So, how was the weekend? Did you have a wild date with a tall blonde hottie or did you work all weekend as usual?"

"Well, someone has to get this stuff done, and now that they dumped the P790 project on me I never have enough time to get everything done during the week. So yes, I was in all day Saturday and worked some more on Sunday at home" Brian replied.

"So you had not fun at all? Man, you got to try and enjoy life more. I need to set you up with some friend of Cynthia's" he said.

"I couldn't afford one date with a friend of Cynthia's and you know it, let alone actually get them to go out with me. They are after your other rich friends dude" Brian told him.

"You're probably right. I'll think of something though, we need to get you a girlfriend. Maybe I'll ask Heather if she can help, she's good at that type of stuff. Ok, got to check in, I'll see you for lunch ok?" Terry said as he quickly walked away.

"Ok Terry" Brian replied, shaking his head as he had already walked away without waiting for the answer.

Terry was the son of one of the partners, Dale Simon, who along with Peter Prescott owned the manufacturing company where they both worked. Brian had gone to engineering school with him and they had become friends, while Brian suspected that Terry was a friend with him mostly so he could have access to his assignments and help on tests. It worked out in the end as Terry was able to get Brian in as a CAD designer at his Dad's company when they both graduated. Now Terry was a program manager, one level higher up than Brian and actually his direct supervisor, but they both knew that Brian did most of the work on the programs for him.

Heather was his younger sister, who was just finishing her final semester of College, taking Business Administration he thought. Terry had introduced Brian to her at the Christmas party the first year he started and he was smitten with her as soon as he saw her. Being shy, he didn't have a long conversation with her but she seemed pleasant and made a point to come and talk to him at the next Christmas party. She even stopped by to say hi whenever she was in the building visiting her Dad. She was a nice friendly down to earth beautiful young lady and not at all like Cynthia, Terry's rich bitch girlfriend. She constantly tried to get Terry to stop hanging out with Brian, but Terry just ignored her as he knew who did most of the work on their programs.

Heather was constantly in Brian's thoughts but he could never get up the nerve to ask Terry if she was available, let alone actually ask her out for a date. He could barely talk to her when she did grace him with her presence.

Brian got back to work and started dealing with some issues with various suppliers. He had to get tough on the phone with a supplier's manager that was running late on a welder for one of the sub-assemblies, saying "Listen, you're a week late and the quality of the part off the welder is not up to par. So put some more men on it and get it done or we start deducting money from the final payment as the purchase order states we can."

"Well we just won't ship you the welder then" was the answer he received on the phone.

"I suppose you could do that, but then you don't get paid and your reputation in this company is shot forever. That's not something anyone wants to happen, especially in these times is it?" Brian responded.

"No, Brian, it isn't. Let me see what I can do and get back to you later today" he was told.

"That sounds like a better plan. Thanks" Brian replied before hanging up.

His morning went on in the same vein, putting out fires, getting answers for customers, dealing with suppliers that could go out of business at any time. The threat of bankruptcy for many of his suppliers was a daily thing lately so he had to make sure he got his equipment and tools before that happened. He figured that he better make a round of visits to them this afternoon to check progress and overall company health, as best you could visually anyway.

Terry knocked on the open door and said "Got time for lunch Brian?"

"Yeah, I think so, just give me a sec to finish this email and we can go. I'm going to do a round of visits this afternoon to all of our suppliers on both projects to see the progress and to check on their viability. You want to come along?" Brian asked.

"I don't really want to but I probably should. Let me check my schedule after lunch and then we can head out" he replied.

Brian finished up the email and grabbed his jacket as they walked out the door. It was early spring in South Eastern Michigan so it was needed. They took the stairs down to the garage, got into Terry's corvette and sped off to a nearby Chinese restaurant. They went in and had a nice meal and discussed the projects in more detail. This was where Brian usually kept Terry up to date so he could answer questions on them from his bosses. Brian didn't mind too much as Terry looked out for him and kept him employed in these tough times.

They finished up and were walking outside to Terry's car when two scruffy mean looking guys approached them. The white guy pulled a knife out of his jacket while the other black guy let a metal pipe fall out of his sleeve.

"Give us your wallets and keys man or you're dead meat" the guy with the knife shouted.

Terry bristled and replied "Not a chance assholes, you better get the hell out of here if you don't want to end up in the hospital!"

Brian looked at Terry for a second, not believing he had said that, before looking back at the carjackers. Terry was as tall as Brian, and more muscular, but as far as Brian knew, he had no formal self defence training. He didn't remember Terry ever getting into a fight at college either.

The two carjackers swore and came at them; the guy with a knife came at Brian and the pipe guy at Terry. Brian managed to avoid the first knife thrust and grab his knife arm before they both fell to the ground with Brian underneath, taking his full weight. Brian's head hit the concrete hard dazing him as the air flew out of his lungs, but knew he had to hold on to the hand with the knife with everything he had. The knife slowly crept downwards towards his chest as the guy leaned all his weight on that arm. Brian made a last ditch effort to push him off to that side and it worked except the knife slashed his arm through his jacket as the carjacker fell off to the side.

They both got up to their feet with Brian holding his hand to the cut on his arm as he also felt blood seeping down his neck. The tough guy smiled and then Brian had to quickly avoid another knife thrust by jumping to the side. Brian instinctively brought up his leg, kneeing the guy in the stomach when he overextended himself. The air whooshed out of him and he bent over gasping, allowing Brian to come down hard on his neck with an elbow. Brian rode him down to the ground and rammed his face into the concrete before grabbing the knife away. He staggered up and started turning around to see how Terry was doing when he heard him shout "Watch out Brian!"

The second guy had run away from Terry back towards Brian and his partner. Just as Brian got turned around he saw the pipe coming for his head and it smashed him before he could get an arm up to protect himself. He felt himself falling as everything went black.

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