By Mark W. Meier
Windowed The Soul
A wind shift towards a sailing vessel’s bow.
The factory was engulfed in flames. Someone had set off a series of explosives typically used by demolition companies. Six people were dead.
You returned to Grambic Tower just as Howe would normally be shutting things down for the night. Instead, you went to your conference room on the eleventh floor.
Multiple phone calls were in progress when you arrived, one with a French liaison officer from the Paris Police Prefecture. As soon as you entered the room your employees on cell calls turned toward the sound dampening walls of the room to allow you a clear conversation.
“This is Michael Grambic,” you announced to the speaker phone. “To whom am I speaking?”
The accented voice spoke clear English. “Liaison Roger Lepine, Mr. Grambic.”
You imagined him as a bald-headed man, similar to a ball peen hammer, to remember his name. “Can you tell me what’s happening over there, Monsieur Lepine?”
Lepine’s frustration indicated he was repeating himself. “A series of explosions has killed your maintenance staff and night guards. The building itself will most likely need to be razed. At the moment firefighters are searching the facility for hot spots, bodies, and any fortunate survivors. They are not hopeful, as the damage is extensive.”
One of your lackeys whispered. “The French army fire team was called in.”
Lepine must have heard. “Your underling is correct, Mr. Grambic. The Paris Fire Brigade has already made the decision to condemn your entire facility as unsafe. Commandant Papon has said only a miracle has kept the structure standing.”
You considered options for a moment. “Please keep my people informed, Monsieur Lepine. I appreciate what you’re doing.”
“My pleasure, Mr. Grambic.” Lepine’s tone of voice told you he found dealing with overseas owners a hassle.
One of your people picked up the handset. Since you’d never met the man you didn’t know his name.
You turned to your assistant as numerous people around the room murmured into their phones. “Looks like we’ll be here for a while, Victor.”
“Yes, sir. I’ve made arrangements for everyone here, and called your home staff to have a meal brought to your office.”
You nodded. “Have people from Legal, Finance, and Human Resources meet me there. Tell my chef to bring enough for all of us.”
“Very good, Mr. Grambic.” Howe turned to a corner of the room to make the phone calls.
I could probably have manipulated more chaos from the situation, but why bother? Humanity, for the most part, needed very little help in destroying their own lives.
By the time you settled at your desk the sun had gone down. As twilight faded to night the city lights came on, setting up a dark and light patina outside your window. Eventually even the dimmed lights inside your office made seeing outside impossible.
The elevator dinged and the doors opened to show your assistant. “Mr. Grambic, I’m sorry, I forgot to fog the windows.” He hastened to his desk and turned the proper control. Another twist and the lighting increased to normal levels. “Your people will be here momentarily.”
A muted hum told you the elevator had departed to collect senior members of your staff to deal with the tragedy.
“What happened in Paris, Victor?” You couldn’t believe someone would blow up a factory making ceiling tiles. You shook your head in frustration and sorrow over what some families would be feeling. You knew firsthand about the loss of family members and sympathized instinctively.
I’d make sure you felt even more than loss in the very near future. Even the anticipation of it pleased me.
“Some people just don’t like Americans, I guess.”
You nodded. “Six dead, probably more injured.”
A signal must have illuminated on Howe’s desk. He checked a video monitor, then okayed access to your floor. The elevator dinged again, and three department heads stepped out. Three assistants followed, each already tapping away on mobile devices.
You motioned for them to take seats at your conference table. “First things first. For any of the deceased, match any insurance payouts. If they have none, average out the ones who do and pay that. People are more important than cash or property.”
Patrick Strutt from Finance nodded. “Done.” The subordinate behind him made a note.
You turned to Kristy Erickson from Legal. “Find out what our obligations are in France. Close everything down as soon as possible with the minimum of fuss.”
Erickson replied, “We’ll be out by the middle of March.”
One more decision to convey. “Susie, find out if anyone currently employed with Grambic Tiles in France wants to relocate to Canada. Give them a moving allowance, and provide an additional incentive to people who are valuable enough to warrant it.”
Your director of Human Resources nodded, and the assistant standing behind her tapped away on his phone.
Howe must have been notified of an elevator arrival. He noiselessly moved to his desk to check who it was, then allowed the doors to open. Your home chef and two other women pushed carts into your office.
“Supper is served.” You knew it would be a late night for everyone. “Help yourself when you get the chance.”
By the time everyone left at midnight everything had been arranged. Paralegals would come in early to deal with the preliminaries of decommissioning and selling your property in France. Accountants would begin the search for insurance policies and payments, and Human Resources workers on the overnight shift had already called employees who might want to move to Canada.
You rolled into bed about an hour after leaving Grambic Tower, knowing you had capable people taking care of what needed to happen.
That night you dreamed of sailing Sell Short on Lake Marion. It exploded.
Not only did you die, you lost your race to Judge Boynton.
If you appreciate this story, please consider supporting the author's ability to write more stories by purchasing The Brotherhood, available in print and on Kindle. Please share on social media, and leave a review on the page linked above.