by Jake Christie

a story.

“I really think you're taking the term 'corporate espionage' a little too seriously,” said Jim. He made another attempt to stretch the ropes binding his wrists and ankles but only succeeded in sending waves of pain shooting up his arms and legs.

“I don't think so,” said the CEO, shaking his head. “Trade secrets are a serious business. Deadly serious.” He stroked his black cat with one hand and let the other hover, almost lazily, over a red button on the arm of his chair.

Jim shifted his weight but the pain kept radiating through his body. A bead of sweat began to crawl down his forehead. “You won't get away with this,” he said.

“Maybe so, maybe not,” said the CEO. “A pity you'll never find out.” His hand fell deliberately on the button.

The platform that Jim was bound to began to lower, just as the floor beneath him opened. He had wondered why the CEO had chosen to tie him to an elevated platform in the middle of his office, but now he knew: the floor below him wasn't actually a floor, but a pair of doors concealing a tank of very ravenous-looking sharks.

“They're very hungry,” said the CEO.

“You must have only been offering them your snack cakes,” quipped Jim.

The CEO leapt out of his chair in an explosion of anger. The black cat yowled and jumped away. “Joke all you want,” he said, spit forming on his mustache. “By this time next year, there won't be a child in America who isn't addicted to our snack cakes! Cherry, apple, bodacious berry blast – all of them!”

“Only because you're lacing them with methamphetamines!” said Jim. He chanced a glance past his feet. There were at least three sharks in the small tank, already circling and snapping their jaws. At least, he reasoned, the man in front of him assumed that his death was an inevitability. Jim could use that to wring a little more information out of the CEO. And if he could just get his watch undone...

The CEO swept his hand through the air dismissively. “Manufactures change recipes all the time,” he said. “'Now with reduced fat.' 'Twice as much flavor.' 'New richer taste.' You never see the actual changes themselves.” The cat had returned to his feet and was rubbing against his leg, purring. “That would destroy the magic of the marketing. And that's why you can't leave this room.”

Jim was close enough to hear the sharks' tails now, swishing and churning the water like mixers in snack cake batter. There was enough give in his bindings to get the metal clasp on his watch undone, but he only had a matter of seconds to get it into his hand.

“A nation of toothless methed-out kids isn't worth any amount of snack cake profits,” said Jim. “I'm not here to steal your idea, I'm here to stop you.”

“We're about to start selling snack cakes with meth in them,” said the CEO. “Nothing can stop me.”

“There is one problem with your recipe,” said Jim. He let his watch drop into his palm and armed the device with his fingertips. “I'm a secret ingredient you didn't count on.”


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