Chapter Thirty-Nine

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Zeke closed the door, hung up his jacket and walked over to the counter, chucking his keys down on the worktop. He opened the refrigerator door, selected a beer from the top shelf and downed the amber liquid in one. He immediately reopened the door and removed another. Spying an aluminium container, he took that out, also and removed the foil-lined cardboard lid. The aroma of the four-day old, chilli and rice didn't yet smell offensive, so he grabbed a fork from the drawer ate it cold. A red flashing light caught his attention, so with his meal completed in five mouthfuls and two further beers downed, he decided to listen to his phone messages.

"Mr Matheson. This is Marie from HR. Could you please call me to arrange a meeting to discuss the next...?" Zeke pressed delete.

"Zeke, It's Mark. I tried getting you on your mobile today. Can you call me ASAP? We need to arrange numbers for Thursday. Briggs wants an update on Tuesday. Not sure what he has planned, but he has told me to use the entire division. Do you know what's happening?"

Zeke pressed save and listened to the message again. What the hell did Briggs have planned? The current embargo on information was working surprisingly well. Normally the odd nugget of information would always slip out, more often than not from Briggs' closest aids, but this time everyone was remaining tight lipped; this worried him. He pressed for the next message.

"Zeke!" Shit! "Your daughter wants to know if she's ever going to see her father this month. I am sick to the back teeth of providing excuses on your behalf. Sort it out or stay away...permanently!"

Zeke pressed the machine off. He turned to look at the picture of Emily on the near-by shelf. With three baby teeth missing, his little girl grinned back at him. She was wearing a sugary pink ballet costume, her hair tied up in a bun. His heart ached as he remembered the day the photo was taken. She'd been so nervous and yet the nerves had been completely unwarranted. Emily sailed through her dance exam and bounced out of the classroom, excited.

"Daddy, I did it."

"Well done baby girl, I knew you would." Zeke remembered squeezing her tightly as he inhaled the sweet scent of honey in her hair. He'd then picked her up and placed her over his shoulders. As they bounded out of the dance school, Emily squealed with delight. At her request, he took them to her favourite restaurant right across the street and they pigged out on burgers and strawberry milkshake. He also remembered the reprimand he'd been given when he dropped Emily back at her mother's. Apparently, lateness and sugary treats were a crime these days.

Zeke looked at the picture a while longer and promised himself he would ring her tomorrow. It'd only been nine days since he had seen her last, but contrary to his ex-girlfriend's belief, he felt every passing hour and it hurt being separated from his daughter. The job demanded almost everything from him, always had and always would, if he didn't make changes. He couldn't just walk away from his work, especially now.

Trying hard to shrug off his parent guilt, Zeke reclined in his favourite leather armchair. The warm glow from the side lamp, gave his apartment an illusion of warmth, but all Zeke felt was cold and alone. He reached for the television remote and flicking back and forth, not finding anything remotely interesting. He paused on the nightly news report.

"We are told that Thursdays' announcement comes on the back of the yearly financial review. Several commentators have suggested that General Briggs is sure to announce further austerity measures, in the wake of recent events. One thing, viewers, you can be sure of, is that whatever measures General Briggs decides to take they will be in your best interests. So let's go over to Suzanne Chung for an update on the anxiously awaited SPR test carried out today."

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