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The Ugliest Building

With friends like these...

By Mark GagnonPublished 16 days ago Updated 14 days ago 3 min read
Top Story - May 2024

Mark Twain called the building I work in, “The ugliest building in America.” I agree. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building isn’t the largest in Washington, D.C., but its imposing façade makes it feel like it is. I work for the Office of E-Government and Information Technology. I have a satellite office in the bowels of this monstrosity. Working in this building gives us quick access to both the President and Vice-President because they also have offices here. This access may be why I’m in this situation, or maybe it’s the project I’m assigned to, or both.

Every Tuesday, weather permitting, I leave my cubbyhole office for lunch at the Founding Farmers Restaurant. It’s a seven-minute walk up 17th to Pennsylvania Ave. I can get in some steps and enjoy the green space of Edward R. Murrow Community Park as I pass by. Today’s springtime breeze offered hints of the summer heat that would soon roast the city. My mind was in the clouds when I felt a bump from behind. I turned to see who it was when a second man joined the first and jostled me toward the curb. As I struggled to free myself, an unmarked van screeched to a stop alongside us, its sliding side door already opened. A third man reached out from inside the vehicle and within seconds, I was captured. We had just taken a right on H St. NW, when a thick black hood was roughly pulled over my head, and my world went dark.

Unable to see, I no longer had any points of reference. My sense of time and distance became scrambled. I tried silently keeping a running count the way many of the heroes in thriller novels do when they find themselves in a similar situation. After about two minutes of counting, I realized how useless the exercise was and stopped. Instead, I would try to remain calm, listen for any conversations my captors may have, and be ready to escape should an opportunity present itself.

Once my pulse stopped pounding in my ears, I tried to figure out why someone would want to snatch me off a public street in broad daylight. Yes, I have a top-secret clearance because my agency is involved in thwarting cyber-attacks, but we work as a team. One person would not have enough information to be worth risking a kidnapping. Maybe it was my access badge. No one can enter the building without swiping their badge and placing their hand on a fingerprint reader. Was that their plan? Would they take me somewhere secret, steal my I.D., and cut off my hands? While I was running various scenarios of what was about to happen in my mind, the van came to a halt and shut down.

The door slid open, and without saying a word, two of my kidnappers, one on either side, pulled me from the vehicle. My head still covered, they guided me through what seemed like a corridor and pushed me into an elevator. With no way of knowing what floor we stopped at, all I could do was follow their lead as we walked down another corridor. I had no idea what type of building we were in, but it felt eerily quiet. A door opened, and they pushed me through, pinning me against a wall. My heart raced and sweat oozed from every pore. I felt the zip ties being cut from my wrists. Reflex took over, and I reached for the hood, but powerful hands immediately restrained both arms. A raspy male voice croaked, “Don’t move.” Then, a door slammed shut, and I was alone, surrounded by deadly quiet.

Several minutes passed before I realized I was alone. I mustered enough courage to remove the hood. Scanning my surroundings, I saw it was an oversized closet, not a room. A single lightbulb hanging from the ceiling showed me where the exit was. Seizing the opportunity to escape, I made a dash for the door and tried the knob—it turned. With all my senses on high alert, I cautiously stepped out into a large, darkened area. Immediately, the overhead lights sparked to life and a chorus of Happy Birthday echoed throughout the room. Relief washed over me.

A coworker explains, “We know how much you like thrillers, so we put you in one for your birthday.”

It’s an ugly building, but it’s filled with beautiful people.


About the Creator

Mark Gagnon

I have spent most of my life traveling the US and abroad. Now it's time to create what I hope are interesting fictional stories.

I have 2 books on Amazon, Mitigating Circumstances and Short Stories for Open Minds.

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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Comments (21)

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  • Anna 6 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story! :)

  • Novel Allen9 days ago

    I must confess, being a Sherlockian, I guessed it was a birthday party 3/4 ways through the story. So proud of myself. I absolutely love this story. Congrats.

  • Hannah Moore10 days ago

    Jeez, worst birthday suprise ever!

  • JBaz14 days ago

    Mark I have been offline for two weeks and when I return to Vocal yours was the first I read and was absolutely pleased. You built tension and intrigue then took us on one of the best twists I read in a while Congratulations

  • Lamar Wiggins14 days ago

    Lol... Not exactly sure what I would do at first after knowing it was a prank. Probably barf on their shoes from relief. haha. Congrats, Mark.

  • Abhikk Abhilash14 days ago

    At first I thought it's a horror story from the name of the story "Ugly Building" while started reading it turned out to be thriller story (kidnapping) and in the end turned to be fun twist "Happy birthday" I loved that ending line. It's was good 👍 keep up ur writing Mr.Mark hope will see more stories same as this one,😊

  • Rachel Deeming14 days ago

    So glad that ended well but what a way to be surprised! I think I'd be less composed than him! Glad he appreciated it. Great story!

  • Shirley Belk14 days ago

    lol...they at least owed you a lunch to go with that birthday cake!

  • Daniel Mozaya14 days ago

    Wow! This was fantastic! I was bracing for the worst (especially in D.C.!), but what a surprising turn of events! It was an absolute joy to read. Well done!

  • Jay Kantor15 days ago

    So Mark, no Curb-Appeal, then? A Medieval Monstrosity Fortress. Even in the Art Deco era of the 30's they had angles-alcoves and a unique personality.

  • Caroline Craven15 days ago

    Ha! This was so good! I was fearing the worst (especially in D.C.!) but what a twist! A joy to read. Well done.

  • Belle15 days ago

    Congratulations on your Top Story, Mark! This piece quickly pulls you in and gets you anxious... but then fills you with relief afterwards. Beautifully written!

  • Back to say congratulations on your Top Story! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Donna Fox (HKB)15 days ago

    Back to say congrats!!!! I see "Bird Envy" and am headed over now!!

  • Christy Munson15 days ago

    Congratulations on Too Story! 🥳

  • Cathy holmes15 days ago

    Great story, Mark. Full of suspension with a fu twist at the end. Well done. Congrats on the TS.

  • Andrea Corwin 15 days ago

    Haha I enjoyed this especially since I retired from a Fed agency that manages the buildings.😁 good joke!

  • Hahahahahahahahaha this was awesomeeee! I wish I get kidnapped for my birthday too! 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  • Donna Fox (HKB)16 days ago

    This was such a fun twist to a thriller, I loved that ending line "It's an ugly building, but it's filled with beautiful people" Great work here Mark!!

  • D. J. Reddall16 days ago

    You pulled the same prank on your reader that the protagonist's colleagues pulled on him! Outstanding!

  • L.C. Schäfer16 days ago

    Very suspenseful! 😁

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