It had been two years since Maxwell's mother Alicia Diederich had lost her battle with breast cancer, and still it surprised him that the one thing that managed to bring him and his father back together was the bond a father and son could have over losing a wife and mother. The relationship between Maxwell Senior and Maxwell Jr. had never been a one that ever really stood on solid ground - Maxwell's father was a man who was old fashioned. He cared about the old ways of life, he cared about the old ways the family company ran. “It’s the right way to run the company,” he always said, much to Maxwell’s constant protesting that their competitors were going to ruin them. “We have to stick to what our customers know and love.” It was a constant struggle between father and son, and it was a struggle that tore between the two of them. There was no normal family bond between the two of them. There was only stubbornness and fighting, and Alicia between the two of them, trying to help her husband and son get along.
Both men had taken Alicia’s death hard. Despite both of them trying to deal with the loss on their own, they ended up gravitating back towards each other, eventually deciding that this was what Alicia would have wanted. She would have wanted the two men most important in her life to get along and to make the most of the time they had together. Maxwell knew there had been too much time wasted fighting with his father, and instead they needed to work together. Work together to make their company great, and to make their family stronger. Maxwell had no siblings, and he technically was the last of the direct Diederich line -- though the threat of his Uncle trying to take the company over for himself was always looming. But in the two years since Alicia passed away, Maxwell and his father got along.
In fact, they got along well enough that his father started to listen to Maxwell’s ideas. He had an idea to bring them into a more ‘green’ era, and the more they worked together the more the Diederich line of cars and products grew. They made a bigger profit working together as a team than they ever had working apart. By 2006 came around, on the two year anniversary of Alicia’s death, Maxwell’s father honored his son with a promotion well earned: “Son, you’re the president now. You and I, we will run this company together, as a family, as a team, as we always should have.”
So in 2007, almost a year after the promotion and two years after Alicia passed on, the men were working late. Being late January, there was of course yet another winter storm coming and while most people had already headed home to their families and to relax for the night, the two Diederich men were still in the office finalizing plans. There was plenty to do with an upcoming shareholder meeting coming up, and neither man was good at finding a good place to stop working. It was one of the small weaknesses that seemed to run in the family, not that it was a terribly bad thing. Maxwell had always been a workaholic - on top of being the President of the Diederich Motor Company, he was finishing up his PH.D at Harvard. His father had never been more proud. It was strange feeling for Maxwell to have; a sense that his father was actually proud of the accomplishments he had, the level that he would go to prove his worth. For the first time in a while, there was a feeling that his life was leveling out in the best possible way.
“How about you say we go get some dinner before we head home for the night?” His father finally asked, and Maxwell nodded. It sounded like a good idea, and honestly he was starving. They worked on packing up their things and got their coats, saying goodbye to whatever janitorial staff was still wandering the halls as they made their way outside.
By the time they reached the front doors, it was already starting to snow. It wasn’t a hard snow, but there were flurries, and it would only be a few hours before the city was covered. “Where’d you park?” Maxwell asked his dad, and the older man shrugged, “Decided on the lot across the street today.”
Maxwell rolled his eyes - his father always tried to seem like he was an every man, but yet called his driver to take him everywhere. “You didn’t drive yourself, I don’t believe that.”
His father looked at him and shrugged, and took his keys out, “Test driving one of our new trucks, do you really think I’d let Jim get the first crack at it?” He asked, laughing, as he mentioned his long time driver. Maxwell finally gave in and just gestured for his father to lead the way towards the truck. Maxwell himself had already sent his driver home for the night to be with his family, he knew he could just get a ride home with his dad.
“So what are you feeling for food? We could do that new mexican place that opened up? Or are you thinking italian?” His father rambled on, and Maxwell looked to be considering his options.
Maxwell shrugged, as they got to his father’s truck and the older man went to unlock the car, while Maxwell stood behind. “I could do mexican, I hear the place is--” Suddenly a gloved hand covered his mouth and a gun was aimed at his head.
“Congratulations, gentlemen,” The masked mugger laughed, “This is a mugging.” Before the man could say more, Maxwell swung his suitcase back at the mugger hard and managed to get away, as he ran over to his father.
“Dad, get in the truck and drive!” He screamed, as he stared the mugger down, the man cocking the gun and ready to shoot at Maxwell. The mugger was saying something that Maxwell couldn’t hear, but before he knew it, the gun went off.
It felt like a blur, it felt like everything went in slow motion. The gun was fired, Maxwell felt frozen, and then he felt someone - his father - shoving him out of the way. He watched in horror as his father took the shot that was meant for Maxwell, and his father fell to the snow covered pavement, instantly dead.
Time sped up quickly though, as the mugger fumbled to reload, Maxwell charged at the lone man at full speed and punched the man straight in the jaw, sending the mugger to the ground. As the mugger fell and hit the pavement, the newly loaded gun went sliding out of his hands. The men struggled against each other, fighting for the gun, fighting for the upper hand, but Maxwell seemed to win out.
He slammed his fist into the man’s face again, and the man blacked out long enough for Maxwell to reach the gun. He aimed the gun directly at the muggers face, and pulled the trigger.
The bullet went right between the eyes, and the man’s blood spilled into the pavement.
Immediately, Maxwell threw the gun and quickly took steps backwards, but hit a patch of ice and fell on his ass. Still shocked, he managed to go back over to his father, and screamed out to no one in particular, as he tried (and obviously failed) to wake his father somehow. Because somewhere in his mind, he thought that he could somehow save his father. If there was a way he could have somehow deflected the bullet. If there was a way he could have somehow stopped the gun from firing. If there was a way somehow that he could have helped his father. Or, even if he could have taken the bullet himself.
He stayed there, with his father in his arms, his father’s blood all over him, as he called 911. He stayed there, trying not to break down as the police came and started to close off the scene. He stayed where he was on the ground as the EMTs took his father from his arms and onto a gurney, placing a white sheet over the older Diederich. It was a blur. A blur of emotions that he wasn’t registering. A blur of voices and people and policemen trying to talk to him, but he couldn’t really understand.
What he did understand was that he took out his anger on the mugger, but the mugger was still coming after him. It was self-defense. He shot the man in self-defense. He shot the mugger who killed his father, in self-defense right across the street from the headquarters of Diederich Motor Company. Where he had been planning an event with his father only moments before. Where he had left with his father to go get dinner, because they needed it. Because they were finally getting along, all the ways that his mother had always wanted her two best men to get along.
After today, there would be interviews with the police, and there would be press hounding him as the police did their investigation. The investigation would be ruled in self-defense, and Maxwell wouldn’t be charged. He’d be hailed a hero, because he did what he could to make sure that man never hurt another human being again. Maxwell then would hate being called a hero, because he didn’t feel like one, because he couldn’t do anything to save his father. He’d eventually step in as acting chief executive officer of the company, but would refuse to be just given the title, he would request that there be a vote from the board as there always was before. The board would eventually vote him in, though there would be a moment where his Uncle might have taken the position, and Maxwell would eventually move into the CEO office, and throw himself into work even more so than before. Maxwell would do anything to prove that he could take his father’s company, his family’s company and lead it in the right direction. Work would become his life. He would find no real joy outside of it, minus small glimmers here and there, though those would eventually die out (due to his own mistakes) on their own through the years.
But right now, as the snow started to fall harder and faster now, the police are doing all they can to preserve the crime scene, and Maxwell finally stands up. He looks down at his hands and realizes for the first time that his father’s blood is all over his hands, his coat, his pants. His suitcase is on the pavement, but it’s now considered evidence as it has blood on it.
He stays for a few more hours, answering as many questions as possible, and lets the police know that the parking lot is monitored by security cameras. “You’ll have full access to it, here’s the number to call my security team,” He hands over a card, because he doesn’t want to stand in the way of the police investigation. He just wants to go home. But he needs to go to the station, he has to hand over his clothing covered in blood, he has to follow protocol.
By the time he finally is allowed to go home, it’s around 11:40, and he walks into his empty apartment at 11:53PM. There is a feeling like he should call someone, but there is no one to call.
All he can do now is shower, go to bed, and hope that sleep comes.
He won’t have a full night sleep for a month after today, but this he doesn’t know. Instead, he showers, he gets into bed, and he stares at the ceiling.
Today marked the end of an era, an end he didn’t want, and it bothered him just how sudden it was -- and how he couldn’t stop it.