Corporate Man is called in to investigate reports of vile, unethical business practices at Great American Business Company. What he finds there just might destroy him (except we all know the ending to The Tragic Death of Corporate Man so it should be fairly obvious that it can't really destroy him, though it can come close).
Enslaved by the Bonus Whores is an all new Corporate Man Adventure Serial. Chapters will post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Enslaved by the Bonus Whores:
A Corporate Man Adventure Serial
The events masterfully described in the following story are entirely fictitious and should in no way be attributed to, or suspected to be about, any person or persons living or dead. Any resemblance to real life persons, places, or things should be considered entirely coincidental. The following story concerns the events of an economically themed superhero. That should have been your first clue as to the fictionality of its nature. The use of the word fictionality should be further evidence of the madeupedness of the following. However, if you should feel that your actions and or attitudes align with some of the more deplorable characters described in the following story, especially where business practices are concerned, perhaps it is time to reevaluate yourself and consider making a few changes. Just what sort of horrible person are you anyway?
He stumbled into his office that night, tired, and more than a little sore. The case of the Corporate Mind Hive had ended badly and all he wanted was a hot meal and some sleep. He would get neither.
There was a woman at his desk, sitting in the dark, back-lit by the street lamp outside. Her body silhouetted against the horizontal blinds, her hair an orange volcano pouring down her shoulders.
“This is a little cliché isn’t it?” he said, walking past the desk toward the small refrigerator in the corner. There was no beer in the fridge. There should be beer, he thought, if only to maintain the overused formula of this particular type of meeting. But he didn’t like beer. He was a juice man. And besides, you weren’t supposed to drink at the office these days and he was always working. He was the epitome of an office worker.
The business executive.
“Your secretary told me you needed a break from corporate intrigue and thought a little economic mystery might help,” she said.
He flipped on the lights.
“Well, it won’t,” he said lifting a carton of milk from the refrigerator. “What I need is a break. Period. By law I am entitled to those.”
“Every couple of hours or so, I am told.”
Behind thick, black-rim glasses, his eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched. He was on the verge of saying something, but after a long moment he simply turned, opened a cupboard door, fished out bowl, set it on the narrow counter of the impossibly small kitchenette, opened another cupboard door, and grabbed a box of cereal. Cap’Tal Gains. A high fiber, multigrain cereal, in a variety of fun, currency shapes. On the box an explosive, text-filled, star shape advertised, “Look inside for a chance to win a real gold bar!”
He shook the cereal into the bowl. A mix of shapes – circular, rectangular and dollar-signed – fell in a cascade of wholesome browns ranging from tan to umber. He poured milk over the cereal and then hunted around for a spoon. Not just any spoon. The spoon. The silver spoon. It was difficult amongst the stainless steel flatware but he found it. He took a bite and crunched noisily through the first mouthful.
Then he took another.
“Alright,” he said once that second bite was down, “what can I do for you?”
The woman took a deep breath, tears wet her eyes, and she began.
“I work for a relatively small company,” she said, “I’m currently in the accounting department of the home office, but I started out at the branch level.”
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Oh, sorry, Corporate Man. I’m Tess Adams.”
“Call me Don, Miss Adams. So this company you work for, is that why you’re here to see me?”
“Is there some sort of trouble there? Some fiscal misconduct?”
“I’m not sure,” Tess said wiping tears from her eyes. “I’ve been with the company a long time. We started out very local and slowly expanded into a regional powerhouse. That region is admittedly small, and our growth was always slow, but it was unshakably steady. Recently though…”
Corporate Man waited patiently for her to finish.
“It’s just different now,” she said.
“In what way?”
“We’ve been getting a lot of new people. Executives from competing businesses. They don’t… They don’t… I know people say that when your company gets big things become more corporate, but why does that always seem like a justification for short sighted greed and callous behavior? We lost our former CEO a few years ago. You would have liked Jack. He was the kind of guy who always knew everyone’s name. If there was extra work to do, he’d be right in there with you. Getting his hands dirty in a manner of speaking. The company picnics were huge, and fun, and made you feel… like coworkers instead of subordinates. Like family.”
Corporate Man grabbed a juice from the fridge, unscrewed the cap, and passed it to Tess. He sat down in chair by the desk, his cereal bowl left on the counter, unfinished.
“Jack earned a huge salary, but he was always generous with his money. If he saw you out at a restaurant he paid your bill. If he got wind that your had fallen on hard times, he’d cut you a personal check.”
“He does sound like that kind of man I would respect,” Corporate Man said. “So once he left, I take it that’s when the company began to falter.”
“I don’t know if the line was as fine as that,” Tess said. “He was pretty old when he retired. As our company grew our competitors shrank and people from their organization would apply for positions with us. We hired from within when we could, but, as we grew, more and more corporate types wormed their way into our organization. Jack got tired of fending them off I think. He stepped down as CEO but stayed on with the company for a long time after that. I think he was trying to keep his successor on the right path, so to say. Anyway, we’ve continued to grow, but our work force seems to shrink.”
“Expand on that,” Corporate Man said.
“Well, a small branch office used to have a minimum of twenty-five employees. They now run with about ten or eleven, eight if the manager’s a real ass. The excuse is always that things are so much more automated these days that you don’t need as many people. But that’s crap. Branches typically have three or four times the number of accounts than they used to. There is no less work now then before. In fact, there is more to do than ever.”
Tess took a drink of her juice. She was trembling.
“So what happened?” Corporate Man asked. “What changed?”
“Well that’s the problem. No one wants to talk about it. I mean, people talk, but that’s just speculation and grumbling. It’s been happening at the head office since Jack left. Slowly at first, but the same pattern. I have a cousin that got fired a couple of years ago. He was a branch manager when he got the ax and he said there was this new incentive program being rolled out. It had something to do with trimming employee wages, thinning out the payroll. I couldn’t get him to talk about it. I don’t know if he actually understood it or if the whole situation just disgusted him so much. He says they fired him because he wouldn’t get on board with the program.”
Corporate Man stood up, walked over to the counter, and took a bite of his Cap’Tal Gains. The crunch was just as resolute as when he’d first poured milk into the bowl. He slowly ground the cereal into swallowable bits.
“I wish I could say I haven’t seen this kind of thing before,” Corporate Man said. “It’s all too common in the Corporate World.”
He took a few more bites. Tess sipped from the bottle of juice.
“Miss Adams,” he said, “I need to get hired on at your company. Are there any positions available at present?”
“Tess. I need to see you in my office,” the bosslady said as she drifted by the cubicle of the hard working Miss Adams. As usual, she did not dirty her eyes with an actual glance into the cubicle, suffering her peripherals the unwanted task of verifying whether or not Miss Adams was at her desk.
She was there, of course. Where else would she be? The bosslady had not given permission for, nor set a task that would require, her to leave the area. Still, you couldn’t leave it chance. These lowlifes were always trying to filch extra breaks. Getting water to drink, going to the bathroom. Doing it all on company time. If the bosslady had it her way, all cubicles would be equipped with giant water bottles hooked over their carpeted walls with stainless steel nozzles jutting out from the bottom, located somewhere near the computer monitors so these vermin could rat-lick the tube without the need to saunter down the hall to the water cooler. That damned water cooler where they chatted like hens, clucking about her and the rest of the executives. Not that she cared if they talked about her. She liked to think that their discussions revolved solely around her in fact. It was just that they were stealing company money when they did it on the clock like that. Giant hamster bottles would end that water cooler crap real quick.
And each desk would come with a special chair. A toilet seat. Except the plumbing would be rather expensive. A Port A Potty. Yes, that was better. That way they had no excuse to leave the desk unless they were on their unpaid lunch breaks. Or diapers. That might be more economical. In a fiscal year, how many diapers could one of them go through? What would the overall cost be in comparison to the initial investment of a Port A Potty? She’d have to figure in the cost of service calls to empty the portable toilets. If the first diaper was issued for free and all subsequent diapers had to be ordered from a company catalog… That would create an entirely new revenue stream!
The bosslady sat at her desk and began typing up the diaper proposal.
“You wanted to see me,” Tess said from the doorway.
“Not now!” the bosslady shouted. “I’m onto something!”
Tess flinched and then slunk from the door.
“Oh wait!” the bosslady called out. She did not stop typing but multitasked her fingers and her mouth. “I do have something I need to discuss with you. Please sit down.”
Tess sat. The bosslady typed. Tess fidgeted. The bosslady giggled, low and impish. A few minutes later her fingers stopped moving and she looked up at Miss Adams.
“Tess,” she said and paused for an uncomfortably long time. “You’ve been with the company for a long while now.”
“Yes. I haven’t been with the company as long as you have–”
“Less than two years,” said Tess.
“Right. I know we like to hire from within and I know you really wanted the supervisor position, but sometimes another applicant comes along and we just can’t afford to pass on him or her. Their talents are such that should we fail to add them to our team it could be detrimental in the long run.”
Miss Adams lowered her head. Good. This was good. The bosslady loved it when subordinates were subservient.
“I know you’re disappointed, but this man, Donald Jackson, will be a pleasure to work for. He’ll do good things at this company. He’s just the sort of person this corporation needs.”
“Thank you for the cover ID, Miss Pension.”
“Not a problem,
That Donald Jackson person you had me cook up is a real piece of work.” Corporate
“He had to be or they wouldn’t have noticed my resume.”
“I suppose. Half of his financial credits are for companies he bankrupted and the other half for corporate giants who laid off half their workforce during their most profitable years. It’s sick, if you ask me. And if what you suspect is true… I mean, it sounds like The Greed all over again.”
“I’m not so sure,” Corporate Man said. He set a file folder in a black briefcase and snapped the hasps closed. Then he walked over to the Coffee Maker in The Breakroom at The Office (the secret mountain base of The Union) and poured himself a cup of efficient black. “This is something new. Something a little different.”
“What’s the name of this place you’ll be working?”
“Great American Business Company.”
“Never heard of them,” Miss Pension said. She picked at her lunch. A battered paperback lie, unopened, beside her plate.
“Nationally, they’re invisible, but they’re number one in their region, and for all the right reasons. But now…”
“The Greed. Gotta be. We’ve seen it before.”
Corporate Man shook his head and sat down at the small break room table. He sipped his coffee.
“I don’t like it that you’re going in alone.”
“Can’t be helped. Business Woman is working the international market. John Q Public is still off grid after that business with The Crash. Normally I’d send Junior in ahead of me but–”
“That matter with the Corporate Mind Hive. Yes. Junior Executive is still recovering. I wish you’d wait for back up.”
“I don’t think we have time. Something’s insinuated itself within the walls of Great American Business Company and, from what I gather, it’s spreading fast.”
“You’ll check in daily, yes?” Miss Pension said.
“You know I will.”
A quick report with basic facts concerning The Union and The Office.
Corporate Man belonged to a group of economically themed superheroes called: The Union. Members have included such names as Business Woman, Junior Executive, The Dollar Man, Miss Pension, the twins Supply and Demand, John Q Public, Captain Credit, Donkey, and The Elephant. Each member had his or her own unique business related talent. The purpose of the group was to identify dangers to the economy and combat fiscal irresponsibility wherever it appeared.
The group fought against the likes of The Greed, Professor Inflation, Deal Breaker Dan, Mr. Outsource, The Crash, and many others.
They eventually established a secret mountain base called The Office. It was a refuge away from the city where they could meet, make plans, rest, balance their books, and hold office parties.
To this day, members remain tight lipped about what really happened with the copy machine.
The bosslady was smiling. Not that forced smile she usually used on her subordinates, but one of genuine pleasure. She loved doing this. She loved serving them what was basically a shit sandwich and presenting it as though she was doing them a favor.
She gathered them in her office to introduce their new supervisor. A man who would probably eliminate the positions of more than a few of them.
“Everyone. I’m very excited to introduce you to your new supervisor, Donald Jackson,” she said. Then she clapped and encouraged applause from the vermin as well. When they reluctantly joined her she cut back in. “He’s going to do great things here at Good American Business Company. We’re growing and he’s just the man to get us through the coming transition from a small regional business to a national corporation.”
She instigated more applause and then said, “Donald?”
Donald Jackson cleared his throat, huge white-toothed grin on his face, and said, “What a great place. Just awesome. It really feels like a family here. Everyone seems to care about everyone. And that’s the most important thing, I think. That’s what I want to preserve as we grow and that’s part of what I’ve been hired to do. The other part of my job is to take advantage of growth opportunities and take this place national. We’ve got a chance to crush it, people. And I think we can. No. I’m confident… that we will.”
The bosslady led the claps again.
“I hope you’ll bear with me in the coming weeks as I settle in. I’m going to sit with each of you so I can see what it is you do and, together, we’ll look for ways you can do it better. I’m really excited. I hope you are too.”
Inside, the bosslady was giddy. Her rats, these vermin, these absolute parasites were eating it up. They were eating up the shit Donald was shoveling. All but a few at least. She glanced around and took note of the lowlife workers who were smiling, but not with their eyes. They were the ones she’d set Mr. Jackson on first.
“Alright,” she said. “Meeting over. Feel free to visit with Donald for few minutes and then get back to your stations. If you need me, I’ll be in my office. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but as you know, my door is always open.”
She loved saying that. The open door thing. She made it a habit to close her door frequently to confuse them.
When she got back to her desk there was an e-mail waiting for her. The subject line read: re: Employee Diaper Proposal.
The body of the e-mail had a two line response: Sounds great. Double check the numbers and submit them for final approval.
“Take me through your week, Tess,” Corporate Man (aka Donald Jackson, also known as Corporate Man without the glasses) said. She was the third employee that he’d sat with today and, like the others, he had his legal pad open, ready to jot down notes. “Remember, you don’t know me. In fact, when you talk to the others you should probably express suspicion in regards to my motives. Gather info from the others and report back to that number I gave you.”
“So the first thing I do when I get here everyday is…” Tess started in a normal, if slightly louder than usual, voice. In between her audible-to-the-public sentences she whispered covertly to
“There are two or three girls were can probably trust, but I haven’t
told anyone what’s going on, and I don’t plan to.” Corporate
“That’s good. And this is the last time we should chance talking like this. Any information you need to get to me can go through Miss Pension.”
He spent another forty-five minutes at her desk and then moved on. From what he could gather, there hadn’t been cuts, exactly. No one had been laid off or fired. But there hadn’t been any new positions created either. With the amount of growth Great American Business Company had experienced in the last five years alone, he figured a minimum of three new positions should have been created in this office alone.
That night he made the first of his nightly reports to Miss Pension.
“I need you to arrange something for me,” he said. “I want to see what happens when someone in the office leaves the company. I want one of them offered a job that is too good to pass up. A courier will have all the employee files to you in the morning. Use them to make a selection.”
“Shouldn’t be a problem,” Miss Pension said. “Tess reported in. Seems like your cubicle visits panicked some and excited others.”
“That was the intention.”
“I’ll focus on the panicky ones. Should be simple to get one of them to abandon ship.”
Two days later Tess reported that Gladys had stumbled upon a job listing and was tidying up her resume. The following Monday Gladys announced that she was taking a position with another company. There were tears and heartfelt moments.
And cake. These things always required cake.
Thursday morning Donald Jackson received an e-mail from the bosslady. Subject Line: My Office ASAP. There was no text in the body of the e-mail.
Corporate Man smiled. He sauntered out of his office and walked over to hers ten minutes later.
“You wanted to see me,” he said poking his head in the office door.
“Yes, Donald. I wanted to discuss the Gladys situation with you.”
Corporate Man sat down. Other than her desk, a file cabinet, and a couple of chairs, there wasn’t much in there. No framed photos of tropical locales, no family portraits, no office plant. There was a door on the back wall. A closet? No, probably a private bathroom.
“Right. A shame really. She was a real asset to the team. It will be difficult to replace her,” Corporate Man said.
The bosslady grinned and said, “I agree. In fact, we probably shouldn’t even try.”
Corporate Man shrugged and said, “She was kind enough to give us three weeks. If we hire from within it shouldn’t be a problem. If we go outside the company, I think we can still manage our workload while we bring the new person up to speed.”
“Oh? You think we might be able to… redistribute her work around while find the right person?”
“Sure. Not an issue.”
“How long do you think they could manage?”
“Well, I’m new here, but I’ve been around the block a few times,” Corporate Man said. He paused for a moment, and then continued, “If we work these people to capacity, I don’t see why they couldn’t manage indefinitely.”
There was a flash in the bosslady’s eyes and the grin became a predatory smile. She blinked a few times and the spark was gone. After a few steady breaths she said, “Tomorrow’s payday.”
Corporate Man made no response to this non sequitur. He knew she was leading into something and so would a man like Donald Jackson. So he let her come to it in her own time.
“When you interviewed, when you were hired, were you made aware of the bonus structure?” she finally said.
Corporate Man nodded his head nonchalantly. “I was. Nothing too specific, but I’m familiar with the concept.”
“Company policy states that you won’t be eligible for bonuses until after a probationary period of three to six months. The time frame to be determined by upper executives.”
“I’m fairly confident that I’ll be earning bonuses after three months.”
“And I would tell you that you are wrong in your assumption,” she said, that gleam returning to her eyes. Again, Corporate Man made no reply. “Your recommendation in the Gladys matter will put you in the bonus category far sooner than you think.”
“And how soon will that be?”
“How about tomorrow’s paycheck?”
“Impossible. Those checks have already run.”
“Yes. Technically, you won’t see anything official on your pay stub until the next cycle. But there will be something on your paycheck tomorrow, I can assure you.”
“Hello and thanks for calling. No one can come to the phone right now, so please wait for the tone. Then leave your name, phone number and message. Deet-do-deet-do-deet.”
“Made huge progress today,” Corporate Man said. “They’re approving me for the managerial bonus program. I don’t have any additional information on that, but I’m pretty sure it’s the root of what’s gone wrong at Great American Business Company. I had some face time with the bosslady today and I gleaned a bit of information from her while we were talking. I could’ve sensed more if I’d managed physical contact, but her lust for this bonus that she’s so eager to dangle in front of me is off the chart. I had no problem picking up the broad strokes of it. She’s raking in at least fifteen percent of her wage from these bonuses. There’s potential for an even twenty-five percent if she cuts the departments staffing enough. Anyway, now that I’m part of the program I should be getting the details soon. You know, if I can keep this pace up, I’ll be back at the Office by the end of next week. If you get a chance to visit Junior, tell that I wish him well.”
Corporate Man knocked on the door to the bosslady’s office. It was already open, but he always gave a courtesy knock. She looked up, her grim, sallow expression morphing into a something not quite pleasant but far more amiable.
“Yes, Donald,” she said.
“Told you so,” Corporate Man said and smiled.
“Told me so what?”
“That it was too late to affect this check.”
“What do you mean?”
“You said there would be something on this paycheck relating to my newly acquired bonus.”
She took a moment to look perplexed, almost pained. “Are you sure?”
“Yep. Nothing,” Corporate Man said, gesturing toward his pay-stub.”
“And there was nothing else in the envelope?”
Corporate Man tipped the enveloped upside down, stuffed a few fingers inside, and flared them wide. A sift of white paper-dust drifted over his hand, but nothing of monetary value fell out. The bosslady held her practiced expression and then shrugged.
“I’ll check with payroll,” she said.
“No need to bother. I was just having a little fun.”
“Oh? Oh!” she feigned surprise, and the laugh that followed was not a comfortable thing. The feeling that that sound inspired in all those who heard it was something akin to placing a well traveled quarter on one’s tongue. “Funny stuff. Well then, back to work.”
Corporate Man walked back to his desk. Apparently efforts to employ humor as method to gain further information about the bonus would not work with this one. He sat at his desk, intending to fire off a couple of e-mails, but when he reached for his mouse, a strange tingling sensation skittered down his fingers. He balled his hand into a fist and the flexed his fingers. His whole hand when numb. He shook it. Pins and needles raced up his forearm.
Corporate Man gripped his elbow as if he could stop the sensation from making its way up into his shoulder. Prickly pain flared at the area of contact and Corporate Man sucked air through his teeth.
And then it was gone.
He flexed the fingers again. All seemed fine. So he took a couple of deep breaths, reached for his mouse, but did not open up an e-mail window. There was a new icon on his desktop.
Managerial Bonus Program.
His whole body ignited. His pulse quickened. He licked his lips. And he clicked on the icon.
He read through the document and scanned the attached spreadsheets. The hairs on his neck prickled. This was insane. There was no way this kind of bonus program could be healthy for a company. It would be far too easy for employees to fall victim to The Greed with incentives such as these. He ran some numbers in his head and calculated the increases that the elimination of Gladys’s hours would yield. It was staggering.
Corporate Man pulled up a spreadsheet listing the allotted hours for his department. Were there other positions he could dispense with? He considered some methods that could be employed. Things that might urge an employee or two to transfer to another department.
He blinked, a little shocked at the line of thinking. It was so insensitive, so heartless. It sickened him. But he felt compelled to continue along this selfish path. For research purposes only, of course. He needed to discover the possible moves his opponents would make, and to do that he’d need to think like them. Also, there was this crazy competitive urge to dream up the most effective plans, the most underhanded schemes.
“Thanks, Tess,” said Miss Pension. “Just hang in there, okay?”
“I will. And tell Corporate Man that I hope he’s feeling better.”
“He wasn’t in today. I assumed he was out on some sort of reconnaissance, using that flu that’s going around the office as cover.”
“No,” said Miss Pension. “He’s there to gather intel and infiltrate Great American Business Company. If he was out of the office today then he’s either sick, or something’s gone wrong.”
Corporate Man’s fever broke in the middle of the afternoon resulting in a tremendous puddle of sweat. He didn’t have time to relax in the salty pool, however, and quickly found himself racing to the toilet, wracked with violent heaves, donating the partially digested contents of his stomach to a porcelain charity.
A long moan rumbled from his throat as one hand searched weakly for the toilet’s handle. Something was wrong. And not just common cold or shared flu sweeping through the cubicle Petri dish that is the office environment kind of wrong. This was something more. He never got sick. He was the ultimate employee. He was the perfect executive. He was… throwing up again.
His fingers were shaking.
His whole body was shaking.
Corporate Man rinsed his mouth out and crawled back to bed. His skin was gooseflesh and his teeth chattered like rattling change. He buried himself in blankets and endured the chills for quarter hour; for a fiscal year. And then he was on fire again. Apparently his fever hadn’t broken. A sickly sweat ran from his pores, thin and acrid, like gasoline or some backwoods distilled spirit.
After that it was all fever dreams. Repetitions of hourly employee profiles and job descriptions. Operating hours and percentages and increased efficiency programs.
Over and over and over again.
“Where have you been?” Tess asked, her voice a hushed whisper.
Corporate Man hadn’t even settled into his chair yet, his computer was still loading programs. He shrugged. “I was sick.”
“You’ve been out of the office for two days.”
“Yeah. Would’ve been nice if someone had brought me chicken soup. Or cleaned up the mess.”
Corporate Man held up a hand to silence her. He shook his head minutely. Not here, the gesture implied. Tess nodded. “Well, I was worried about you.”
“We all were,” said the bosslady, appearing suddenly at Tess’s side. “You never called in. I was beginning to think you’d abandoned your post.”
“Sorry about that,” said
“I couldn’t find the number in my day planner and, apparently, our
offices aren’t listed in the phone book.
I didn’t look until this morning.
I was too sick to comprehend what was happening to me the last couple of
days and ‘calling in’ never actually entered my mind.” Corporate
“We’ll let it go this time,” the bosslady said. Then she glanced coolly at Tess. “Miss Adams I’m sure Donald appreciates your concern, but he does have a lot to catch up on. As, I imagine, do you.”
Tess scampered off, eyes cast downward.
The bosslady stepped into Coporate Man’s office and shut the door. “Don’t worry. It happens to us all.”
Corporate Man shrugged.
The bosslady tossed a legal-sized envelope on his desk.
“What’s this?” he asked.
“Your first bonus,” she said.
“Payday’s not until the end of next week.”
“For them,” the bosslady said, casting a dismissive head gesture toward the outer office. “We at the executive level like to calculate our bonuses on a more immediate basis. Instant gratification and all that. The decision to eliminate Gladys’s position and redistribute all her work has been implemented. Done. The fruits of your labor await. If you have any questions, stop by my office.”
She crept to the door, opened it quickly as though she were trying to catch eavesdroppers on the other side, and slid out of the room.
Corporate Man picked up the envelope. There was more than a check inside. It was thick with papers and there was some sort of object in the bottom. He opened a desk drawer, retrieved a letter opener, and slid it along the top of the envelope, splitting it open revealing an unmistakable shade of green.
And quite a bit of it.
He pulled the bills from the package and started counting, though he instinctively knew the exact amount as soon as he saw the stack. It was mesmerizing. His fingers tingled as the bills passed from one hand to the other. He was halfway through the stack when he remembered the object at the bottom of the envelope. He set the cash on his desk and pulled the envelope open.
Inside was a syringe.
It was cold to the touch; metal and glass. He picked it up by the cylinder and held it in front of him. The metal was golden, the glass like crystal. There was a runny, oily liquid inside. A translucent but familiar shade of green.
Corporate Man walked into the bosslady’s office and closed the door behind him.
“I’m a little busy just now,” the bosslady said. She seemed to be opening and closing programs at random.
“What is this?” Corporate Man asked, gesturing with the bonus envelope.
“Your bonus. Like I said.”
“Not the cash,” Corporate Man hissed. He pulled the syringe from the envelope and said, “This.”
The bosslady never dropped her gaze and said, monotone and slow, as if repeating herself to a stupid child, “Your bonus.”
“What is it?”
“Are you going to make me say it third time?”
“Is it a drug?”
“It’s not a vaccine or a vitamin shot.”
“I don’t do drugs.”
The bosslady shrugged. “You do now.”
“No. I don’t,” said
His heart was racing and it felt like time was passing a little slower,
or perhaps his mind was operating in overdrive. Corporate
“That’s odd. Your eyes are dilated and–”
“They aren’t dilated you crazy–”
“How are you feeling? Pretty good?” she said cocking her head slightly. “Elevated heart rate, slight sense of euphoria? Is the light behaving… unusually?”
Corporate Man froze. The light was more sparkly than usual. And the colors a bit more vivid.
“I’ll bet the colors, especially the greens, seem a little more… well, a little more. And there’s a sense of confidence, almost an arrogant, unstoppable feeling that’s setting in. Am I right?”
Corporate Man took a step back. The world… tilted. Slightly, but it was there. Everything was askew. “What have you done?”
“Oh it’s not me, it’s the bonus,” she said.
No. Had he? Corporate Man looked at the syringe. It was still full of greenish fluid. An impressively attractive green fluid.
“Oh, that’s for later,” the bosslady said. She opened a desk drawer and removed a small emerald colored vial. She unscrewed the cap, shook a small pile of powder onto her finger tips, and rubbed them together in that instantly recognizable sign for money. The powder was almost white, veering in hue toward that familiar money green.
Corporate Man looked at the package of cash. He pulled the bills out, and shook the envelope. A light dust sifted to the floor.
“You can snort it too, and it’s designed to absorb quickly through the fingertips,” the bosslady said. “Quite effective in its powder form, but the liquid state is the truer variety. And it is wickedly addictive.”
“I wasn’t sick.”
“Nope. You were unknowingly kicking your new habit. It’s harder the second time. Next to impossible now that you know about it and have access to the cure.”
Corporate Man sat down. “What is it? Cocaine? Heroin?”
“It’s called Bonus,” the bosslady said. “It’s the future of capitalism.”
Every cell in his body felt alive. His blood felt like liquid rubies and his mind of molten gold, racing with crazy, lucrative ideas and inventive corporate strategies. He could not seem to focus on his predicament though. Nothing practical or clever, unless it was fiscally strategic.
The bosslady continued, “You’ll receive your supply of Bonus with every paycheck. Today’s unscheduled payday was unique. Think of it as inaugural, an initiation if you will. It won’t happen again unless you exceed expectations and create new financially advantageous opportunities for the company. As your monetary bonuses increase, so does your supply.”
“I won’t do this.”
“Sure you will. It’s got a hold on you now. It’s in your blood. And you’ll get another taste of what it’s like to be without it. You might be able to portion that syringe into two, maybe three doses, and the cash has enough powder on it that you could triple-count the bills and get another one that way. I assure you though, that by the time payday rolls around again, you will be in terrible need of a fix.”
Corporate Man stood up. The room jittered and slight tracers blurred the lines of everything. He closed his eyes. That proved to be a big mistake. Dollar signs and graphs and P&L reports swam at him through the dark and he staggered. When he opened his eyes it took a moment for the room to stop moving. He shook his head. This did nothing to clear his mind. Everything went rubbery for a moment and the sound of commerce rang in his ears.
“I won’t let you get away with this?”
“Oh no? And who are you? Donald Jackson, guardian angel of business ethics and fiscal morality? No, I’ve seen your resume. I know what you’ve done. You might be angry at being tricked, but that won’t last. There are other benefits to Bonus that you have yet to discover. Think of it as a business super serum.”
“I’ll barricade myself in a hotel room somewhere and kick this junk and then report you to the Better Business Bureau,” Corporate Man said. The thought of another two days of chills and body aches and fever and vomiting and diarrhea was not encouraging.
The bosslady laughed. “Oh! That’s rich. The BBB. Impotent weaklings!”
“Maybe,” Corporate Man said. “But it would be enough to cause in depth inquiries. Disrupt your Bonus supply, maybe.”
The smile slipped from her face like a stock market crash. Her cheeks reddened and her brow pinched in a severe scowl. A slight tremor shook her upper lip. And then she took a breath and her demeanor relaxed.
“I have contingencies,” she said and pressed a button on her phone. A blinking, rose colored light, throbbed from beneath it.
The door at the back of the office, the one Corporate Man thought was a private bathroom, creaked open. A pink light poured out and filled the bosslady’s office. A woman, dressed in skin-tight hot-pink vinyl, matching gloves and stiletto heels, and a domino mask stepped over the threshold. In one had she held a black clipboard and in the other, a leather whip.
Corporate Man recognized her and almost said her name.
In the archives of the
Union, stored in the file cabinets at
The Office, there is a dossier on Pink Slip.
It makes for some interesting, if unpleasant, reading. She’s responsible for a number of economic
atrocities including but not limited to:
termination, intimidation through threat of termination, destruction of personal
financial security of millions of families due to termination.
Where she walks there are tears and panic sweats and hastily cleaned out desks. She is the eager pet of crooked tycoons; a Doberman Pincer in pink. Bankers lust for her and fat cat Wall Street types casually toss her around like a flirty hand grenade. She is ruthless and emotionless; like broken glass.
She is terribly attractive and this makes her all the more deadly.
“Don’t run,” the bosslady said. “You wouldn’t even get the door open before she cut you down.”
Corporate Man had no intention of running. He knew what Pink Slip was capable of. He also knew that he wasn’t prepared for a physical confrontation either. He’d only faced her on his own once before and he was still surprised that he’d survived the confrontation.
“Who are you? What is all this?” Corporate Man said.
“This… is Pink Slip,” the bosslady said. “She’s insurance.”
“Yeah. Who are you? You’re not just some small time executive for Great American Business Company. You’re something more.”
“Ah… How refreshing. A man recognizes my worth,” the bosslady said. She sifted some more powder onto her hand and sniffed. “I’m something new. There will be more like me, you can be sure about that. Male and female. In vast multitudes as the conglomerates continue to grow. But I am the first. I’m Corporate Whore.”
“Not the most flattering of names.”
“No? The oldest profession? That’s not notable? Not respectable?”
“Of course you wouldn’t, man-ling. How dare a mere female enter the boy’s club of corporate finance. Women belong in the home. Let’s forget that the first business, that oldest of all professions, was started by woman.”
“You’ve no proof that–”
“And that business is still thriving today!” she shouted over him. Then she paused for a moment, allowing the silence to stand as evidence of her victory. “Now. You will go back to your office and spend the rest of the morning working on strategies to maximize our bonuses. You may have the afternoon off to struggle with your new addiction.”
Corporate Whore raised her chin. Her head cocked to the side almost imperceptibly. Pink Slip’s whip cracked out, the tip popping inches in front of Corporate Man’s face. He stood up, obediently, and walked out of the office.
The bonus envelope and its shady contents gripped tightly in his hands.
Corporate Man sat at the desk in his Donald Jackson office, mind whirring like a cash counting machine. It had been over an hour since the bosslady sent him out of her office. In that time he should have been able to come up with a clear strategy to take her, and that butcher Pink Slip, down.
So far… nothing.
So far the only things he’d been able to keep his overly active mind focused on were ways to trim hours in his department.
So far the best he’d come up with netted only a three percent increase in four weeks. Would that be enough?
He slapped his face and shook his head. Focus! He needed to alert Miss Pension about the situation. Maybe get the
in here to clean up this mess. No. He had time.
If he could just focus on this Corporate Whore situation he’d have it
fixed by the end of his shift today.
What if he told Tess that he needed her to resign? Told her that it was all part of his plan for Great American Business Company. It would free up another forty hours. What kind of increase would that generate in the bonus structure? His fingers flew across the ten key, receipt tape clacking out the callous percentages.
He ripped the paper from the machine, crumpled it quickly, and tossed it into the trash. Why was he wasting time with such thoughts?
Focus! Come on! Focus.
If Tess left the company then all her work would be dumped on the others. One of them would surely crumple under the strain. He or she might ask for a reduction in hours, or quit outright. That would–
He stood up, grabbed his jacket, and left the office.
He would go back to his apartment. He would place a call to Miss Pension ahead of schedule. He’d get all available Union members on this.
As he walked to his car the euphoria of the drug called Bonus noticeably diminished. It was like the moment when prolonged hunger finally turns to nauseous pain. He patted the pocket of his suit jacket, almost absentmindedly.
The pouch of money was there. And the syringe.
He felt comfort in this.
Twenty-five minutes later he was home, phone in hand, knuckles white, several digits of Miss Pension’s special line dialed in. His breath was ragged in his chest and cold sweats appeared on his brow, his palms, his feet. Even his upper lip.
He put the hand set back in the cradle, walked to the bathroom, splashed water on his face, and rubbed the back of his neck. His hands started to shake and a chill set in. He needed to call someone. To get some help.
This was going to be rough.
This was going to be worse than last time. This might kill him.
This was entirely avoidable.
He needn’t shoot up. All he had to do was finger the money in that envelope. Direct contact with the powder that laced those bills would set him right. Then he could focus on the task at hand. Get a call in to Miss Pension.
No. He couldn’t do that. Couldn’t let her see him like this. Addicted. No he needed to suffer through this by himself. The indignities he was about to face were all but unbearable. And super gross.
And he needn’t face them at all. Just one little touch. Simply run a fingertip across one of those powdered bills. That would fix him up. That would stop the nausea, the pain, the shakes. All of it.
But it would start again later. He knew that. Might as well get it over with now, right? Suffer the withdrawal. Get clean. But there was Pink Slip to consider. He would be too weakened to fend her off. What if she came when he was bent over the toilet retching? His head might end up in the bowl. Drowned or decapitated.
He sat on the toilet seat and rubbed his eyes and tried to think.
When he opened his eyes again he was on the couch, syringe in hand. Light glinting seductively off the greenish fluid inside the glass cylinder. Corporate Man was so shocked by the sudden switch that he nearly dropped it.
He rolled the syringe back and forth between his fingers. This was stupid. He didn’t even know how to do this properly. How hard could it be? Just find a vein and go for it. He shook his head. No. He was no junkie. He was
Cramps doubled him over and his bowels nearly let go of their festering contents. He itched and he ached and, above all else, he yearned for that greenish fluid.
Just this once. Just use it to get well and take that whore out. Just find a vein and slip it in and–
A prick of pain flared in his arm, just below the elbow. And the needle was in. His thumb pressed on the plunger and a few milliliters of Bonus scorched his veins. It felt like fire, like electricity, racing up and down his arm. He nearly screamed, but the pain was gone almost as soon as it had come.
The ecstasy, the absolute dirty pleasure of it, raced to every extremity of his body. It was as if all his cells were humming, were vibrating like crystals. His vision blurred, replaced by unlimited golden light.
Golden light glinted off champagne flutes. This was the day of the announcement. The celebration of the merger. All the employees were excited and all the decorations were gold, from the place settings and serving platters to the bowties of the wait staff. Even the light bulbs had been changed out for special imported jobs that cast a golden glow over everything.
Corporate Man stood at the back of the room. He was the only one not smiling. Something about this merger hadn’t sat well with him. There’d been far too many signs. Evidence of The Greed and other fiscal villains. And the numbers he’d seen for this deal were far too perfect. He didn’t trust such boastful figures.
A golden knife clinked against a champagne glass and the owner of the company mounted a small stage for the obligatory hurrah-speech. Corporate Man felt a lurch in his stomach.
A whine of feedback cut through the room as the owner picked up a golden microphone. When he spoke his voice was nasally and asthmatic.
“Well, it final. All wrapped up,” he said. A chorus of cheers erupted from the crowd. “And I think this will go down as the most lucrative merger in the history of finance.”
Another round of deafening cheers.
“Unfortunately for most of you, the benefits will not be quite as mutual as we led you to believe.”
Uneasy silence gripped the room.
“In fact,” he said with a raspy chuckle. “Come tomorrow I’ll be soaking up sunshine on my private beach while you’ll find yourself among the unemployed.”
A few of the quicker ones in the room shouted, or wailed, or cried. The owner waived them off and said, “Consider this your notice. With a Pink Slip to come.”
The lights went out
Panicked shrieks followed.
Then a pink spotlight picked out a woman in the far corner of the room. She wore a short skin-tight pink dress with tall, pink leather boots. A pink mask, part domino and part bandana, obscured her face. She tapped a clipboard with a pink pen and when total silence fell on the room she said, “It looks like… we have to make a few cuts.”
She dropped the clipboard and unsheathed a pink katana. Before the first screams escaped the throats of the jumpiest of them, several former employees were relieved of extraneous limbs and superfluous blood supply.
Pink Slip went through the unemployed congregation like a lawnmower through tall, plump grass. Men and women in business casual were turned to mulch. Fingers, hands, arms, legs, and heads fell wetly to the floor, piling up like so much lawn clippings.
Corporate Man dropped down in front of the pink dervish, his well polished shoe delivering a well placed kick to her midsection. Pink Slip stumbled back. Corporate Man’s necktie fluttered over his shoulder and he adjusted his glasses.
Pink Slip drew herself up, her sword held slack at her side rather than in front and at the ready. Red fluid dribbled down the pink blade.
“Now listen here–”
The stroke came so quickly that Corporate Man didn’t flinch until the blade had already flicked past his throat. A streamer of red fluttered to the ground and came to rest in a scarlet pool at his feet.
“That was my favorite necktie!” Corporate Man said, the first syllables cracking and the rest of his sentence a higher pitch than he would have liked. Pink Slip raised her katana and pointed the tip at Corporate Man’s face. They stood there, neither of them moving, awash in the horrible pink light.
The light flashed from pink to one-hundred watt white as Corporate Man’s eyes snapped open. He was staring directly at the bulb of his desk lamp. Other than the painfully bright light he felt wonderful. Confident. Ready to take on the financial world.
He sat up. His head didn’t even ache and his mind was clear; razor sharp. On his desk was a yellow legal pad. Frantic notes and tables scratched across line after line. He flipped through the pad. There were dozens and dozens of pages filled with his handwriting. An overly excited version of his handwriting, but his handwriting nonetheless.
His hope that these notes might contain some brilliant plan, some strategy he could use to take down Corporate Whore, faded quickly. The word “bonus” appeared frequently and several graphs and tables looked like percentage calculations based on decreasing payroll hours.
Corporate Man read through them. What he found both sickened and delighted him. The unscrupulous nature of the work was distasteful, but the wily innovation was admirable. The ideas would not only work, but many of them could be implemented within the next or two. The Bonus increase on his next check would–
What was he doing? He needed to get out of this situation. He needed to take down Corporate Whore. He needed some more Bonus. The cravings wouldn’t stop. He understood that now. What he needed to do was build up tolerance to the stuff. That would work right? Just get used to it and then he could function better. And if he could build up a supply then he wouldn’t be reliant on his paycheck. In order to do this he’d have to increase his bonus percentage.
“No Tess, I haven’t heard from him,” Miss Pension said.
Tess twirled her fingers in the chord of her phone. “He asked me to resign today. Said it was part of some plan he had. I can’t just quit. Do you realize what I’d lose if I did that? Did he mention this plan to you?”
“No, but like I said, I haven’t heard from him.”
“You can’t know that, Tess.”
“I can feel it. And there’s something wrong with him. He was… jittery and his eyes, I swear they were dilated or something.”
“And he was out sick before,” Miss Pension said. “Corporate Man is never sick.”
“I need some help out here. He needs some help.”
“There’s no one available.”
“No one? Don’t you guys have a bunch of members?”
“Yeah, but the
Union is stretched pretty thin right now. Our last campaign hospitalized a few of our
members. Hang in there, Tess. I’ll try to think of something.”
He had his pants around his ankles, to throw off anyone who came into the bathroom and peeked under the stall door. He had a needle in his arm, the plunger pushed all the way down. This was the last of his supply. Hot wet bliss washed over him and he writhed on the toilet seat, hands clawing at the stall walls. He would regain his senses momentarily, but for now there was no time, there was no place, there was no Corporate Man.
There was only Bonus.
Sweet luxurious Bonus.
His head lolled back and his feet twitched. And then it was over. He pulled up his pants and went back to his desk. He called Betty into his office and informed her that, with Tess leaving, he was going to have to increase her work load, almost double it in fact. She didn’t cry. Not yet. He admired her for that. She would save those tears for her cubicle. She didn’t protest either and for that he detested her. No spine. Perhaps she deserved this. And maybe it would help her in the long run. Make her stronger. Yes. Despite everything, he was still doing good work.
The itch came upon him near the end of the day, followed by slight tremors. His mouth went tangy and his spit went thick. Payday was three days away. There was no way he could make it that long.
He paced his office for twenty horrible minutes. He chewed his nails and scratched at his neck. Several times he took his shoes off. His socks were damp. Things were wiggling between his toes. He was sure of it. But when he took his socks off there were no worms, no beetles, no fleas.
He blinked at the light and at the sweat trying to run into his eyes.
He blinked and his office was gone. He was in cubicle land, marching toward the bosslady’s office. Toward Corporate Whore. He didn’t bother knocking when he arrived. Part of him hoped that she would jump a little when he burst in on her. She did not. She was behind her desk, arms crossed, staring at the door. As if she expected him.
“I was expecting you,” she said. “You lasted a lot longer than I thought you would, actually. Where are you shoes?”
“In my office. With the sock worms.”
“Fleas, spiders, whatever. Don’t try to confuse the issue.”
“And what issue would that be?”
“Yes, I meant to commend you on your work. This paycheck should see our largest bonus yet. Thanks largely to you.”
“Look, I’ve done my job. I need you to front me a little to get me by.”
“So let’s negotiate terms. What’s a reasonable rate of payback? Two to one?”
“That’s capitalism. The law of supply and demand.”
“Right. What I wouldn’t give for their help right now,” Corporate Man muttered.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Nothing. Two for one. It’s a deal.”
Corporate Whore smiled and slid open the top drawer of her desk. She produced a small green bottle between her thumb and index finger. “There are ten doses in here. You owe me twenty on payday. Which shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve seen the figures. Even after you pay me back you’ll have more than enough for the next two weeks.”
Corporate Man grabbed the bottle and stormed back to his office.
He still had two doses left when Corporate Whore handed him his pay packet.
“I’ve already appropriated the twenty you owe me,” she said. “You can run the numbers and double check me. No doubt it will be the second thing you do.”
She turned, not waiting for a reply, and walked out.
Corporate Man shut his door and ripped open the package. Several vials and small bottles spilled across his desk, glittering like emeralds. His heart sang at the sight. Then he gathered them greedily, tucking them away in secure locations. Once this was done he sat in his chair, got out his syringe, and stabbed the needle into the rubbery cap of the green bottle measuring out one of the remaining two doses.
He stuck his arm, injecting the Bonus, and quivered as it raced through him. He lost track of his body feeling instead like a jellyfish electrified by its own stinging tendrils. Spasms tossed him about like eddies in a tide pool. When it was over he collapsed in his ergonomic office chair, arms spread wide, neck practically pouring over the back of the seat.
The office door clicked open and he sat up with a start.
“Oh. So sorry, Mr. Jackson. Just here for the trash,” said a vague blur of a man standing in the doorway. “I can come back later.”
“No. No, Uh…”
“Hector. Yes. That’s probably right,” said Corporate Man slowly regaining focus. “Been a long week. Just catching a little cat nap.”
“I understand, Mr. Jackson,” Hector said, approaching the desk. “You work so hard and it’s Friday. Time to relax a little.”
“Boy you said it.”
Hector’s face came into focus. In the instant before the chemical-damp cloth clamped over Corporate Man’s nose and mouth, he thought he recognized that face.
There was something about the Executive Lounge that Corporate Whore found distasteful. Even after the expensive remodel with the elaborate columns and waterfall walls, an air of judgment still clung to place. It was like Jack’s ghost hovered around in here, repulsed by the shady business tactics on display and the voracious corporate greed that gripped the entirety of Great American Business Company’s executive team.
The Waterfall Walls were her idea, parenthetically. Dual paned, tempered glass, with rivulets of a slightly azure water endlessly cascading down from the ceiling to the floor. She’d argued for drainage leading to the sewer, but lost that fight to the recycler-pump pussies. True, the amount they saved on water had a slight effect on her bonus, but she still felt that the added expense was worthwhile. Perhaps that Jack-specter wouldn’t have lingered in a space so blatantly wasteful.
“Is that you, Whore?” one of the man-zecutives asked from the other side of the water-blurred glass. They knew she despised the truncation of her name. She thought she’d trained them better than that. Perhaps this one was new. Or maybe someone felt the need to be made an example of.
“So, what do you think?” she asked the room as she stepped into the lounge area. There was Mr. Truncator, in the love seat. Young and smug, obviously overcompensating. “Has the subtle blue lost its appeal?”
Conversations in the room halted. The young one looked around, trying to mask that jittery electric feeling that just lit up his nerves. When no one spoke up, she continued, “I think we need a change. Something to invigorate us. Something a bit more vivid.”
She slid between couches and excessively comfortable chairs, oozing indirectly toward the love seat, toward the young one.
“Perhaps a shade of sapphire?” one of the older executives suggested.
“That would be pretty,” she said, settling into the love seat. “Though I was hoping something more symbolic. Something to better illustrate the cutthroat nature of the business world.”
Somewhere between the words cut and throat, a literal example of their combination occurred as Corporate Whore flicked her diamond card beneath the young one’s chin. A spray of arterial red fanned across a waterfall wall and ran in red rivulets down the smooth glass.
“Hmm. That does look nice, don’t you think?” Corporate Whore asked, her gaze fixed ponderously on the dribbling fluid. The young one spasmed on the love seat, waves of scarlet draining over his expensive suit, mimicking the waterfall walls quite nicely.
“I think you may be on to something,” the older executive said, sipping a something dark and long legged from a brand snifter. “Though, honestly, I come here for the tranquility. In the board room, perhaps?”
“I think you’re right,” Corporate Whore said, turning away from the spattered glass wall. A low gurgle rattled around in the young one’s throat. All those present associated the sound with the bonus increase that Corporate Whore had just netted them. The young one’s portion would be divided amongst them.
Not equally, of course, but it would be divvied.
“So…” said another executive. “
“That’s what they tell me,” the older executive said.
Corporate Whore had no idea what they were talking about. Perhaps she’d missed a memorandum. She hated be uninformed. Still, she was not shy about asking the ignorant question. Better than cowering under the pretense of foreknowledge.
“I’ve been away from my desk,” she said. “Bring me up to speed on this
situation.” How about that? Not even a question. More like a requisition.
“A retreat,” the older executive said.
Corporate Whore said nothing. He was obviously fishing for a question about the nature of the retreat. After her power play requisition, she was not going to lower herself to subordinate inquiries.
“Go on,” she said and thought she detected a slight grimace on the older executive’s face. Nothing overt, just hint about the eyes and the corners of his sagging mouth.
Another executive chimed in, “It’s basically a full blown party weekend, plenty of Bonus to keep us lit for a week, but it’s being organized as a memorial to Jack. Honoring his legacy and such.”
Who organized it, she wondered. One of these twerpy suits? Shareholders? She shivered at the thought.
“We’ll also be singling out your new recruit,” the older executive said. “Donald Jackson was a real find. I take it he’s one of us now.”
Corporate Whore nodded, “Hooked and fully on board.”
“The numbers do attest for his endorsement of the bonus structure.”
“And the two sick days should illustrate his chemical initiation.”
“We heard he was quite upset.”
“That Pink Slip intervened.”
“What would you expect from a strong minded business man?” she said.
“Well, if he’s not one hundred percent convinced yet, he will be after
There was nothing left except for the dry heaves.
Corporate Man was chained to a toilet, which was good in one respect since he’d spent most of his conscious hours puking into it. Unfortunately, his captor had not left sufficient slack in the chain which would have allowed him to assume a seated position and account for the ample losses he was enduring on the other end. This bathroom was not equipped with a tub, but the shower stall was close enough that he could maneuver his lower half inside. The idea was to make use of the drain. This was only partially effective since he couldn’t reach the fixtures and turn the water on.
And now, dry heaves. At least three hours of them. It was almost as though his body would not desist until it managed to turn him inside out.
“Knock, knock,” a voice chimed in unison with a cheerful rap on the door. There was no pause for reply. The door opened. “You hungry?”
Corporate Man responded with more dry heaves.
“Didn’t think so. You think we can get some water in you?”
Corporate Man gingerly shook his head and shrugged his shoulders.
“Stinks pretty bad in here,” the voice said. “How about I rinse out the shower?”
More dry heaves. These lasted through the entire rinsing process.
“Who…” Corporate Man tried when the retching subsided.
“I’m a friend,” the man said.
Corporate Man shook the chain. It rattled loudly against the porcelain and he thought his head might explode.
“That was for your own good. They’ve got you on some serious junk. This seemed like the only way to ensure–”
Another bout of serious gagging interrupted this last bit. When it passed the man squatted down and put his hand on Corporate Man’s shoulder. “It’s almost over. You’ve been here since Friday night. Tomorrow’s Monday. But I don’t think you’ll be ready to go in to work.”
Corporate Man’s eyes finally focused on the man’s face. The custodian. What was his name? Hector? But no, this man was no custodian. He was something more, something far more. And Corporate Man recognized that face. It was quite familiar. Through cracked lips and with a dry tongue he spoke the name associated with that face.
He was not at his desk. This was an outrage. An outrage!
Corporate Whore slammed her office door. She wanted to break something. Where was he? Could he have used the weekend to kick the Bonus? Impossible. She glared at the bare walls. She needed some artwork in here. Something that would shatter into thousands of satisfying pieces.
She dialed Donald Jackson’s home number again. It rang and rang and rang. She slammed the phone back in the cradle. That felt good. Perhaps she’d call him again in a minute or so to give her an excuse to repeat the exercise. She picked up the phone and hammered it against the desk a few times, to hell with the pretense, and then returned it to the cradle in the same cathartic method as before.
She took a deep breath, checked her hair in a pocket mirror, and then pressed the special button on her phone. The one that blinked with powerful pink light.
The door at the back of the office whispered open casting a rosy glow into the room. Corporate Whore did not bother to look back. She said, “Can you track him down?”
“Of course,” Pink Slip said.
“Am I bringing him back?”
Corporate Whore hesitated for a moment. She bit her lip and then said, “Yes.”
“All of him?”
This brought a hint of a smile to Corporate Whore’s lips, and diamonds twinkled in her eyes. Then the smile slipped from her face and the light ceased its iris dance. Corporate Whore said nothing for a long while. Then, ever so slightly, she nodded.
Seconds later she turned to make sure her affirmation was understood.
Pink Slip was already gone.
Junior Executive removed the chains from the toilet late Sunday evening. He managed to get some water into Corporate Man and in the early hours of Monday morning a few crackers went in and stayed down.
Corporate Man slept on the bed, all but dead to the world. Junior Executive shackled Corporate Man’s foot to the bed, just to be sure, though he really doubted that his mentor would be waking up any time soon.
At some point, before the sun came up, Junior Executive fell asleep on the couch.
The thing that brought him out of his dreams of financial uncertainty was barely perceptible. It was like a whisper of silence cutting though the soft, ever present, background noise. His eyes flicked opened. A second sound cue, something not quite a whistle and little more than a sigh, triggered a reflex reaction that ejected him from the couch. The final thudding noise that followed was the result of a black throwing axe lodging into the wooden frame of the couch, precisely where Junior’s blissful, sleeping face had been only seconds before.
Pink Slip stood in front of the bedroom’s open door. A second black axe gripped in her left hand. Was she coming from Corporate Man’s room? Had she just killed him? There was no blood on the axe she was holding. But the axe sticking out of the couch cushions could’ve been used to do the job.
“Hmmmm,” she purred. “You move well.”
Junior Executive did not acknowledge the compliment.
“Too bad I’m on the job or I’d make time to play with you.”
There was no hint in her body language that the assault was coming. No twitch in her fingers or flare of her eyes. And when she moved there wasn’t even a noticeable weight shift in her musculature. She’d covered half the distance between them, which wasn’t much to begin with, before his brain even registered the change. And the axe no longer dangled at her thigh. It sliced down at his face.
Junior Executive flinched away and thrust his arms up defensively. The axe struck his forearm. The force of the blow slammed his wrist into his face. Blood sprayed from his nose and stars burst in his eyes. There was no blood where the axe had struck. No chunking sound as blade buried into bone. Instead there was a metallic clang.
Pink Slip did not seem to notice. She was already three moves ahead in her mind. While her left hand dealt damage to Junior Executive’s arm and face, her right hand snagged the handle of the axe imbedded in the couch. As the left-hand-wielded blade rebounded off the defensive forearm with the incongruous metallic clang, the right hand swung the recently retrieved couch-stuck axe into Junior Executive’s upper ribs.
The sound this time was hollow and thudding.
Pink Slip’s lips curled like spooning lovers. And that’s when the metallic clang registered and her eyes shifted to Junior Executives forearm. Most of the shirt fabric of his custodial uniform was shredded from wrist to elbow. The protective gauntlet underneath was almost fully uncovered. Her eyes had only strayed for a moment, but before they could flick back to her opponent’s face, his forehead slammed into the bridge of her nose. As she stumbled back his wrist gauntlets smashed together, her ears and temples caught in between. Something rammed into her stomach and another something hammered into back, just below her neck.
If there were subsequent blows, Pink Slip was far too unconscious to feel them.
Junior Executive yanked the axe from his side. For a moment he considered dropping it to the floor. He also considered returning it to its owner in a very direct manner. Finally, he settled on holding it at the ready as he unzipped his uniform down past his stomach and pulled something from an inside pocket.
It was a small book, nearly cleaved in two. On the cover were the words:
Below this was a rounded graphic that incorporated the scales of justice, a briefcase, dollar signs, percentage symbols and the words:
International Association of Economic Superheroes.
Corporate Man’s mouth felt and tasted like it was full of copy machine toner. Every part of his body ached. If someone told him that he’d been up all night using dirty dollar bills to paper-cut his own eyes, he would have believed them. And there was something so wrong with ass that his mind simply would not permit it much attention.
Someone groaned. The sound was like a vibrating pager on a conference table. After a few moments he realized that the sound was coming from his own throat. He stopped groaning because it hurt to groan.
“Don’t try to move too much,” Junior Executive whispered. “I’m going to put a straw to your lips. Take small sips. Then go back to sleep.”
“We’ll talk later. It’s early evening. Monday. When you wake again we’ll get you showered and fed. Then I’ll fill you in on the details. Pink Slip’s in custody. Business Woman stopped by with a small committee and took charge.”
“She had to fly back out. Said for me to tell you she’s sorry she couldn’t stay, but things are about to split on this case she’s working. I’ve put together a plan on the Corporate Whore thing, but I’d like your input. Anyway, sleep for now. You need to regain your strength.”
Corporate Man, never having opened his eyes, needed to carry out no further action in order to slip back into unconsciousness.
Corporate Whore paced her hotel suite. Her hand was powdered white and her pupils danced around in a manner which they were not biologically intended to. Her heart rate, if she could be bothered to check such a thing, was dangerously high. If not for the euphoria dazzling every circuit in her brain she might be uncontrollably homicidal.
Pink Slip had not only failed to bring her Donald Jackson, but she hadn’t reported back at all. She’d disappeared. Unprecedented! Unfathomable! And lots of other exclamatory un-words her brain might be able to produce were it not so amped up on Bonus.
The weekend’s festivities were scheduled to begin in a few hours. Executive weekends often began on Thursdays and ended late on Monday night. The board would expect Donald Jackson. The Shareholders too.
There was a soft knock at the door.
Good. That would be room service with her breakables. She’d ordered several bottles of champagne and dozens of glasses. If that did not sate her urges she would ask for plates.
A cheer rose up, spreading across the floor of the casino. Jack had arrived. Good ole Jack. Everyone loved Jack. He was scheduled to make a speech in ten minutes. It would take him twenty-five just to reach the podium with all the handshaking and pleasantries and easy conversation.
Jack knew everyone and everyone knew Jack.
As he mounted the steps to the little stage he waved and pointed and smiled. Lights from slot machines twinkled off his thick silver hair and danced in his warm, caring eyes.
He had to ask for silence several times before the attendees gave it to him.
“Wow. That… That was an amazing reception. Does Great American Business Company have the best people or what?”
A roar of applause.
“I see some new faces out there. New faces in some very nice suits. Well, welcome to family. Just remember that this is a family. We look out for each other. That’s why we’re successful. Individuals don’t make a company great. It’s cooperative effort. Everyone working toward a common goal. All of us helping each other succeed.”
Jack paused again and let the fervent cheers settle.
“They tell me that this party is in honor of me and my so called legacy. I’m not really comfortable with that so let’s use this opportunity to honor everyone who has ever contributed to our growth and our accomplishments.”
Everyone loudly honored themselves.
“I know I’m technically retired, but I’m always glad to lend a hand. Don’t hesitate to call upon me if there is something I can help with. And that brings us to another bullet point. They’ve tasked me with the privilege of introducing one of our newest employees. A real find I’m told. A wise investment for our company’s future. Donald Jackson. Don, would you please come up here and join me on stage?”
The crowd clapped and whistled. Slowly this clamor gave off to an uncomfortable silence. Corporate Whore strode up to the microphone. Everyone shifted awkwardly, wondering why anyone would fail to come to Jack’s call.
“I apologize,” said Corporate Whore. “It’s seems as though our–”
“There he is!” someone shouted.
A spotlight shifted away from the stage and scanned about until it secured the person in question. Donald Jackson lifted his hand as if to wave. He shrugged as he walked toward the stage then he shook Jack’s hand and went to the microphone.
A glare, so intense and so full of rage, threatened to spontaneous combust Corporate Whore’s eyeballs. The heat that might have resulted from such an ignition would’ve been on par with an especially malevolent laser, one that could easily reduce Donald Jackson to an embarrassing briquette.
“Sorry, I missed the cue, Jack. I was in the middle of some lucrative negotiations,” Donald Jackson said. “I know, I know, I shouldn’t be working right now. I promise I’ll delay any further deals until Monday. I’m just so excited to be a part of this company, so eager to further its growth.”
A chorus of cheers filled the room.
“I won’t keep you from your revelry, but before we dive into the festivities, let’s remember why we’re all here. Jack. An individual might not be responsible for a company’s success, but one man, this man, set the course. One man, this man, was resolute that a business where the entire group works together to ensure the achievements of all, is a healthy, profitable business. One man, this man, took the time to get to know everyone here, and to care about all of us. Like a family.”
It was uncertain whether Donald Jackson, Corporate Man, would be able to quiet the crowd after that. He never really did. Instead, the decibels came down to a level where his shout of, “Let the celebration commence!” could be heard over the din.
The executives, managers, and supervisors broke like a stormy sea onto the blackjack tables and the slot machines. In the tumult, Corporate Whore gripped Donald Jackson’s arm and hissed, “For now, I don’t care where you’ve been. We’ll sort that out later. Right now, you are accompanying me to a conference room for a little meeting with the board of directors and the upper executives.”
She flashed a liquid smile at Jack and said, “We’ll be back momentarily, Jack. Just a couple of last minutes to sort out before we can indulge.”
A white powder, tinted a slight shade of dirty, desirous green, disappeared up the nose of man in a suit so expensive that its cost would easily match the monthly income of all of the man’s subordinates.
“Tear it up!” another similarly dressed man shouted. A roar of approval from all the other well-attired executives filled the room. One woman slid a needle into her arm and injected a heavy dose of Bonus. She slumped in her chair and shuddered; bass-heavy trance music pulsed from top-of-the-line speakers. Two men were dancing on the conference table in front of her. One could not perceive the room and thought he was dancing in a shower of gold. The second man was grinding on the first man’s leg in a way that was a little bit professional stripper, and a whole lot labrador retriever.
There were stacks of cash everywhere, golden plates piled with powder, and ampoules of Bonus filled Dublin Crystal buckets.
No one heard the metallic click as a key unlocked the door, but when it opened they all turned to holler a greeting to Corporate Whore and her new recruit, Donald Jackson.
It took a few moments for those in the room to realize that two men had walked in. The less inebriated were shocked to see that one of these men was Jack. That he was among them, strolling around, and all this Bonus was lying out. The others giggled and thought it was extremely cool of Hallucination Jack to join the party. He really was the best, wasn’t he?
Jack shook his head.
Half the party trembled. The others thought that cool guy Jack was doing some sort of dance.
Jack turned and said, “Lock the door.”
The man that had come in with Jack did as he was asked.
“Good idea, Jack,” one of the overly inebriated men said. “Keep out all the riff-raff. So they can’t get to our Bonus.”
“Everyone, please take a seat,” Jack said.
Those furthest from sobriety eagerly sat. Not all of these individuals believed that Jack was going to show them a really trippy video, but a majority of them did. Those who had yet to overindulge, and those already settling back into normal mind space, took their seats in terror.
“Thank you. I hope you don’t mind this little interruption, but I felt that an intercession was vital to the company’s future. This is my new associate,” Jack said, gesturing toward the man he’d come in with. “He’s called Junior Executive.”
Junior Executive nodded toward the conference table.
“Hey! That was my promotion! Did you hire outside the company?” a twitchy executive said. Jack ignored him and seconds later the twitchy man was distracted by his own fingers.
“Junior helped me set this up,” Jack continued. “The special chairs…” Restraints snapped into place on the armrests of all the chairs, locking the executives to their seats. “The reinforced doors and windows that will prevent your escape. The cameras, hidden in the walls to document everything that goes on in this room for the next several days.”
Shrieks escaped the throats of those sober enough to comprehend Jack’s words. Those who remained silent wondered when Jack was gonna start the movie already.
“You can’t do this!” a suit shouted.
“It’s… It’s illegal.”
Other suits backed up the first. “Yeah. Against the law, Jack.”
Jack shrugged and said, “Should the authorities visit this room, whom do you think they’d accuse of wrong doing?”
“We did nothing wrong.”
“Really? All these drugs, all this cash?”
“All we did was make money,” one of them said.
“Yeah,” chimed another. “Like good Americans.”
“You made money by exploiting your subordinates,” Junior Executive said.
“That’s what bosses do. They leverage those beneath them for financial gain.”
“No,” said Jack. “That’s what short sighted money grubbers do. Any manager or executive worth anything takes care of his or her workers. Treats them well, helps them succeed. Those workers will come to the job motivated. You idiots are asking them to do extra work with no additional compensation.”
“You make their work-lives worse,” said Junior Executive. “Who would possibly be motivated to work harder if the only reward was more work? Upper management reaps the benefits of the extra effort in the form of big fat bonuses. Only you bonus junkies could possibly believe that anyone would want to work harder so you could accumulate more.”
“That’s just what happens when companies get big,” one of them said.
Jack shook his head, “No. It happens because shitbags like you get greedy.”
“Hey, if it’s possible, then you should do it. Nothing wrong with making big money.”
“You’re almost right,” said Jack. “I’m a very wealthy man. I made, and still make, an obscene amount of money. But I don’t have to be subhuman to do it. There’s a point where you do not need any more money. And far beyond that is a point where it’s simply monstrous to continue to horde wealth while others are scraping by. While people are sick, and starving, and dying.”
“It’s not our fault that some people choose to be poor.”
“Choose?” Junior Executive said. “You think they chose to have people like you steal money from them? For big businesses to buy politicians and get laws passed that further benefit the wealthy?”
“Not my fault if they aren’t smart enough to earn money. That they keep popping out kids and smoking crack.”
Jack smiled. “You think it’s easy to just pull yourself out of squalor? Simply get yourself educated when you come from nothing? To kick a habit and rebuild your life without anyone to help you?”
Up until the final sentence, the seated executives were nodding their heads. But this last question rang a little differently in their ears. Perhaps it was the piles of highly addictive powder, or the ampoules of habit forming narcotics, or that earlier mention of cameras in the walls. Whatever it was, things began to click into place for most of the men and women strapped to the chairs.
Jack nodded at Junior Executive. Junior walked to the door, unlocked it, and held it open.
“There’s a sink in here,” said Jack. “So you won’t die of dehydration. Unfortunately I can make no assurances, especially with a crop of individuals such as yourselves, that you will all survive what is to come. For those of you who do make it through, you will have a chance to rebuild your lives. You will be given new identities. Criminal backgrounds, low credit scores, poor work histories. Then you’ll see how easy it is to make something of yourself when the cards are stacked against you.”
Jack turned and walked out of the room. Junior Executive followed.
All exits were then barricaded and the restraints on the chairs released.
It took some time for the howling to begin.
It took even longer for it to stop.
“This is the wrong floor,” Corporate Whore said when the elevator door opened.
Corporate Man stepped out and said, “No. I think this is right.”
“How would you know? You don’t even know where I’m taking you.” She reached for his arm and tried to pull him back to the elevator.
He took another step back and said, “I’m pretty sure I want nothing to do with that conference of yours.”
“How did you…” she trailed off into silence. Then her jaw flexed and a blast of air rushed from her nose like a bull. She stepped into the corridor. The elevator door eventually slid shut behind her. “I take it we’re not here to discuss the bonus structure.”
“That would be accurate.”
“And I assume that I am being forced to move to Plan B. To activate my contingencies.”
“I’d find it completely acceptable if you didn’t.”
“I also assume that you are not who you say you are.”
“And who are you?”
“I’m Corporate Man,” he said, and slid on a pair of thick, black frame glasses.
“Oh,” she said, almost taken aback.
“No. It’s nothing.”
“What is it?”
“Well, it’s just… Corporate Man, Corporate Whore. A coincidence is all. I wasn’t copying you or–”
She slashed out with her diamond card. Corporate Man flinched back. A white line gouged across the lens of his glasses and he stumbled against an inconvenient potted plant.
Corporate Whore sprinted down the hall. She reached into her purse and pulled out a gray, bulky device with a blackish stick, the width of a pencil, jutting from one end. She pressed numeric keys along the length of the portable phone as she sped around the corner.
Corporate Man chased after her. He could hear her screaming something into the phone but couldn’t make out all the words. He was fairly certain that one of the words was contingency. When he rounded the corner Corporate Whore was halfway down a long corridor. He ran faster. His red tie flapped over his shoulder and billowed like a triumphant banner.
Corporate Whore entered a large auditorium. She hated plays. She had to find a way out of this monument to artistry. She hated music. She ran down the center aisle toward the stage. She hated debate teams. When she reached the stage she jump-rolled up onto it and sped toward a door just behind the curtain on left. She hated stage-left.
Corporate Man dropped down from above, red tie flittering over his shoulder. She’d like to choke him with that tie. Unfortunately his outstretched arm was balled into a fist and that fist was introducing itself to her face in a most impolite manner.
Corporate Whore’s feet betrayed her next by going out from under her at a very inopportune moment. When she hit the stage all of her air abandoned her lungs. Her hands slapped the floor and her diamond card deserted her like a skittering little bitch of a thing. These treacheries enflamed her anger to a white hot peak and she sprang to her feet and was lunging at Corporate Man’s throat before she’d even managed a gasp for breath.
Her thumbs squeezed his stupid man-apple and her fingers clawed his neck-flesh. She opened her mouth to scream a scathing disparagement. “Gwaaahhh!” is all she managed as she sucked involuntarily for air. This biological need caught her off guard and her grip around Corporate Man’s throat slackened. He pivoted, grabbed her wrists, and flung her away.
It was a prosperous turn. He’d flung her directly towards the stairs she’d been running toward. She let the momentum carry her through the door and up the first few steps before she really poured it on, fully committing to the climb.
Corporate Man slowed as he near the top of the stairs. There was a door up there. A sign proclaimed that it lead to the roof. Corporate Man sighed. The problem with the top was that there was only ever one direction to go once you’d made it there. He did not foresee a pleasant ending to this business.
He opened the door.
Corporate Lackeys, mindless human drones in cheap suits, grabbed his arms and yanked him through the door. They flung him across the roof to another pair of Lackeys. These had their hands locked together and were attempting a clothesline maneuver that was ridiculously avoidable when telegraphed in a two man team. Corporate Man slid beneath the attack, grabbed hold of his bumbling attacker’s forearms, and used them as a makeshift parallel bar to reverse his direction.
The effects of this tactic were unorthodox, but ultimately successful. Corporate Man cast himself up and over the clothesliners, heading feet first into the original two Lackeys. The clothesliners were pulled together with tremendous force and slammed face first into each other. The result was four unconscious Lackeys.
Corporate Man kept his footing and strode forward as the four settled to the ground in a chorus of “oof”s.
“You truly are everything they say you are,
” Corporate Man.
Corporate Whore stood against the edge at the far side of the roof, brushing her hands together.
“I figured it out, you know?” she said. “When you failed to show up for work, and Pink Slip disappeared, I retraced the events that led up to your employment. It was Tess.”
Corporate Man continued to advance toward her, saying nothing.
“She recruited you in an effort to take me down.” said Corporate Whore. “She was my Plan B. Unfortunately, you can’t count on Corporate Lackeys to do a job right.”
Corporate man paused. “What are you talking about?”
Corporate Whore shrugged and grinned, as though what she were about to tell him was just the darndest thing. “I ordered them to bring Miss Adams up here, tie her up with some rope, and hang her over the side of the building. I wanted to use her as leverage against you. A sort of ‘back off or I drop her’ kind of arrangement.”
Corporate Whore shrugged again but did not continue.
“They hung her. She’s dead. On top of that they fastened her to the building with some sort of slip knot and she dropped to the pavement when I tried to pull her up. She’s down on the street right now. Causing a big fuss it seems.”
He wanted to scream but would not give her the satisfaction. Then he screamed anyway and ran at her. He covered the distance moments, shoved Corporate Whore aside, and peered over the edge.
On the street, thirty stories below, a crowd gathered around something. He couldn’t see the body, but there was a lot of blood. He screamed again and turned toward Corporate Whore, intent on killing her. She was quicker at implementing her plan and slammed into him from behind yelling, “Bypassing Plan C. This is Plan D.”
Corporate pitched over the side of the building and plummeted toward the pavement.
Corporate Whore ran toward the stairwell. Her Lackeys were writhing on the ground and still nowhere near upright. Her blood was sour, diminishing the thrill of killing
She needed to get to the conference room. To the piles of Bonus stashed there. Corporate Man.
Corporate Man dropped down from above, red tie fluttering over his shoulder.
He kicked her. Hard. A few ribs splintered.
Corporate Whore flew back, rolled across the rooftop, and sprang forward before Corporate Man could register that she’d regained her feet. Her attack was wild though, undirected, and he sidestepped easily. As she rushed past him he slammed his hand down between her shoulder blades and she hit the gravely surface in a vicious, skidding belly flop.
All the air went out of her and something horrible happened in the area of her fractured ribs.
Corporate Man grabbed her wrist and picked her up. It was slick with chemical sweat and he nearly lost his grip.
“I should kill you,” he said. “But I wouldn’t want you to miss out on your big withdrawal.”
This put some fight back into her and she twisted and scratched, trying to free herself from his grip. Her glance flicked toward the stairwell door.
“It’s all you can think about, isn’t it? Your bonus?” Corporate Man said. He shook his head and wrenched Corporate Whore’s arm behind her back. “A short term gain at the expense of decent, hardworking employees. You not only sully your name, but that of your company. Employees resent you and clients eventually abandon you over inconsistencies and downright service failures. And for what? Nothing. You really are nothing but a junkie whore.”
Corporate Whore snarled and spit blood. A gurgling ripped through her midsection and she howled. The sound was cut off by a horrible retching vomit that stank like a portable toilet and sprayed like a pressure hose.
“There goes your dignity,” Corporate Man said. “What are you left with now?”
Corporate Whore sucked in a few hoarse breaths and wheezed something inaudible.
“What was that?” asked
There was a loud popping sound behind
He jerked his head around in time to see what
looked like four gleaming red serpents twisting across the rooftop. It took a moment for his mind to grasp what
his eyes were actually witnessing.
Explosive devices had detonated inside the Corporate Lackeys ejecting
their skulls in four separate squirming directions, blood geysers chasing
ping-ponging heads. Corporate Man.
Only one of these heads traveled in a direction that was vaguely towards Corporate Man, but the distraction was enough for Corporate Whore to make her move. She stomped down on his foot and then threw her head back, catching Corporate Man’s chin as he bent forward. She spun around and tried to knee him in the groin, but he was stumbling backward and her blow glanced off his inner thigh.
She raced toward the stairwell door and yelled, “I’ve got plans within plans, Corporate Man! Deathtraps everywhere! I take no chances.”
She flung it open and raced inside. Corporate Man chased after her, fighting through the pain that flared with every footfall of his left leg. He hesitated at the door, poking his head inside and then yanking it right back out, just in case she was there. She was not. She was at the elevator door at the end of the corridor. And it was opening.
“Stop!” Corporate Man yelled and he charged toward her.
Corporate Whore spun around, eyes wild, vomit trailing down her chin and chest. She smirked, tossed a mock salute in Corporate Man’s direction, then backed into the elevator.
The scream, when it came, was delayed, and then truncated by a deep, meaty thud. There was a quiet moment; a heartbeat or more. Then the elevator doors whispered closed.
Corporate Man stood frozen in the hallway, his face betraying the overwhelming confusion he felt. He walked up to the elevator doors, pressed the down button, and the doors slid open. There was no car waiting inside, just an open chute, with some greasy cables trailing down into blackness.
On the wall across from him, spray painted in that ever familiar shade of green, were the words: Plan C.
“You sure you’re going to be okay,” said Business Woman.
Corporate Man nodded and took a deep breath.
The two of them stood at the back of a large gathering of black clad mourners. Jack stood next to a simple casket and was finishing up the eulogy for Tess Adams. The sun was out and the surrounding grounds were full of green. A far more wholesome green than Corporate Man was used to seeing.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to help you,” Business Woman said. “There are some international entities forming that are cause for fiscal concern. I... I should have made time.”
“Oh, don’t do that, Tanya. None of us could have known.”
Business Woman nodded then looked away.
“…have purchased the land adjacent to our home office and will build a park upon the site,” Jack was saying, “The Tess Adams Memorial Park. It will serve as playground to our daycare facilities and be the future site of the annual company picnic, which will be reinstated to its former glory. We will also gather there…”
Business Woman turned back to Corporate Man and asked. “So what happened to all those executives locked in that conference room?”
“Not sure. Junior won’t tell me. He admits that not all of them survived and he assures me that none of them will be a problem in the future. Apparently, the video tapes are really horrifying.”
“And Corporate Whore? What happened there?”
Corporate Man sighed and said, “What always happens with these money hungry types that plot and scheme for dirty dollars instead of working for the benefit of the team. She lost track of all her plots and plans and became a victim to her own machinations.”
They stood in silence for a moment and then Business Woman said, “Do you think we’ll see more like her?”
“I’m not sure. I hope not. Could you imagine what the world would be like if the market was overrun with bonus junkies and corporate whores?”