Touched Up by Leo Dufresne


No one should smile before the sun rises. On the happiness scale, content is about as good as you can get to in these dark hours. I wake early most every morning because content works for me. Since becoming the father of two, this tiny portion of the day is all the me-time I have left. If people were honest, which they mostly aren’t, I think they would admit to wanting more time alone. It’s 5:47 AM and I’m sitting quietly in the kitchen, where there are no responsibilities, no guilt, and no unmet expectations. Simply silence.

Mitch Pederson, a forty-something executive in the high-tech world, made no allowance for blackmail in his comprehensive plans to ascend to the top of an electronics company. His carefully ordered world quickly unravels into a chaos that threatens everything he cares about. As he puts the pieces of his life back together he discovers something about himself that is much more than the sum of the parts.

It’s a small blue envelope, the kind you’d include with a bouquet of flowers. I look around to confirm that my car is the only one tagged. Signs are posted throughout the parking lot forbidding solicitation. Coming closer, I notice that my first name has been typed on the outside of the envelope. I remove the little card from inside.

Oil and Water. Home and Business. Some things just aren’t made to mix. Maybe you should consider again the contract you agreed to? Your time is running out. Do something soon or your wife will know you really don’t care about her.
I spin around quickly and scan the parking lot again. This time I take in the nearby surface streets. Looking for anything out of place. Two gardeners, Mexicans, at work on the landscape surrounding the parking lot, a mechanical engineer, can’t remember his name, been here a couple of years, is getting out of a blue Volvo sedan on my right, a young man and a woman having an animated conversation on the sidewalk across the street. A crow starts cawing loudly somewhere to my left.
This is a business district. What is a couple doing on the sidewalk? I struggle to keep my pace beneath a run as I move in the straightest path toward them. My hands form into fists and I crumple the note. The hell with being coy. I start to run, keeping my eyes locked on them.
They’re facing each other, hands on their hips, bent forward at the waist. Two roosters squaring off for a showdown. I’m still too far away to make out what they’re saying, but their mouths are moving rapidly. When the distance between us nears fifty feet the woman turns her head in my direction. The man follows her lead and twists his upper body toward me, hands remaining on his hips. I recognize him as one of our marketing types.
As I approach to within twenty feet, he speaks, “Can I help you?”
“How long you been here?”
The man’s face contorts, “Almost two years.”
“Not with CommGear you dumb ass.” I come to a stop with just under five feet between us and point violently at the sidewalk he is standing on, “Here! How long you been here!”
The woman, blonde with a blue dress cut too short for this neighborhood, moves closer to the man. Sweat has caused her make-up to smear into an odd-looking mask. Her entire body is taut. The roosters are both facing me fully now as we each wait for the first act of aggression.
Wrong bogey. Before they can answer, I reverse course and sprint back across the street. The gardeners have stopped their work and now huddle together. I veer in their direction, not reducing my speed. As I near them they stare at me and take a couple of steps back. One of them mutters a word in Spanish I don’t recognize.
The younger of the pair, bigger than his partner by over a foot, is holding a rake. He turns it over in his hand so the business end is up and facing me. The other man grabs his arm and steps forward. He begins to speak rapidly in Spanish. With every other word he seems to pick up his pace. It’s been over two decades since my last conversational Spanish class. If he asked me where to buy a blue plate or when the library closes, I might be able to understand him. I turn again toward my building. As I head off I hear the voice of the other man. Many of his words I do know and they weren’t learned in a classroom. 


About the Author

Leo’s  Website / Goodreads / Facebook
The son of a career Air Force serviceman, Leo spent his childhood living the nomadic life of
a military brat. Having survived the constant uprooting, Leo draws upon the time spent in the four corners of the US as well as Europe to develop his characters.
Leo has finally settled down in San Diego, California with his wife of over thirty years. Aside from writing, and engineering (the necessary day job), he enjoys time with his children/grandchildren, running distance races and all things baseball.
"I write contemporary novels where I stress a character's beliefs to the point of breaking and then I follow along for the ride.My goal is to offer readers a pause in their lives to think about what they believe and why."~ Leo Dufresne

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