-Herman Haggerty, Harriet, Hailey
-Human Resources, Hawaii, Honolulu
-Hologram, hero, hand, hookah
"To Honor a Hangman"
At precisely half-past eight in the morning, Herman Haggerty strolled into his new office. The coy young receptionist grinned and nodded to him as she prepared incoming files for the day and sent them to his tablet.
Herman snapped his fingers, and the holographic screen appeared in his vision. It had been nearly a week since his promotion, but so many people still sent him congratulatory messages. Herman scrolled through them with a roll of his eyes, basking in the mingled envy and awe expressed by these employees.
He had earned this spot. Because of his ruthless initiative, Peres Corporation would break ground on the island of Hawaii to set up a fully-automated distribution center right smack in the middle of that most-coveted vacation destination for those with credit to blow. Because of his cleverness, they would do it without the additional "worker welfare" tax typically levied on stores with a minimum staff of ten people. Herman had figured out how to automate the whole store so that just nine programmers could keep things running smoothly. Without the added tax, and the development of android clerks to man the store, Herman Haggerty had just secured a round-the-clock revenue source, just on the brink of the holiday season. Everyone was happy for him.
He made his way down the hall as one by one each manager came to the door and greeted him. Just outside his office, the personal secretary he'd chosen from the Executive Escort pool smiled and stepped forward to accept his jacket.
"It's good to see you, sir," she chirped.
At her cue, the line of managers began applauding. Herman executed a perfect turn and raised his hand to smile and wave his acceptance.
In the flurry of adulation, one man stood out. Herman's eyes scoped him out instantly, the old man at the back standing with his hands folded.
The moment ended, and Herman refocused on his supportive fans. He gave them another wave, turned, and entered his office.
"Harriet?" He called over his shoulder as the secretary entered behind him.
"I liked that entrance. Notify all staff that we'll do it again tomorrow."
"Right away, sir."
Herman was a benevolent man. Maybe the old guy didn't understand who he was. Maybe he felt a little awkward about applauding. Well, he'd know for sure by the end of the day!
The next morning when Herman walked in, every employee stood waiting for him. A rousing bout of "Huzzah" echoed and repeated the whole way down the hall. Herman shook hands with the managers like a celebrity on the red carpet. He turned around to give them a wave again—
And there was the same man! Still standing stoically next to the door, still staring at him with the same mild expression.
"Harriet," Herman hissed as the managers dispersed, "who is that man?" He pointed down the hall.
"What man, sir?" She asked softly, glancing toward the managers.
Herman gripped her arm and pulled her close. "That man!"
"I can check files with Human Resources for you."
"Do that!" Herman plopped at his desk and tried to focus on his goals for the day.
He had just gotten off the phone with the foreman in Honolulu when Harriet requested entry. Herman allowed it, and she stated, "Sir, I've found the man."
"Great! Send me the file," Herman replied, waving her off.
It arrived on the hologram, and Herman eagerly scanned the file.
"Hmm, Nick Carson, eh?" He glared at the photo in the top corner. "I'll teach you to scorn me..." he checked the Employment History section. He winced at the headache crawling into his temples. "Integra? Well, that explains it." Peres had overtaken that company more than fifty years ago, yet there remained a few holdouts who clung to backwards ideals and strange philosophies of professionalism. Most of them were pretty harmless, but that wasn't what bothered Herman. Nick Carson needed to be taught a lesson, and it needed to be soon.
But how was he going to justify going after just one man?
The issue hounded him all afternoon. It followed him into the lounge that evening where he met his wife, Hailey, for dinner. He should have been enamored with her. After all, she wore a new outfit in the style that showed off every inch of her exquisite, curvy body. She had spent all day at the spa getting her face and hair done in the latest style. Rhinestones gave her eyes an extra glimmer, and a dash of glitter graced her neck. He knew it would be the flavored kind. She liked to taste good, just for him.
She took a long drag on the hookah they shared and blinked slowly at him.
"What's on your mind?" She whispered warmly.
Herman took the pipe and inhaled, willing the vapor all the way into his sinuses. "Trouble at work," he muttered.
"Trouble?" Hailey echoed, leaning closer. "Didn't you just get promoted to Assistant Director?"
"It's been a couple weeks, but yeah."
"I heard about the memo you sent out, that everybody needed to stand and cheer when you arrived in the morning."
"Yeah, and most of them do." He thought of Carson and his gut twisted again.
"There's just this one guy who never budges an inch."
"Then have him demoted."
"It gets better: he's one of the Integra holdouts." Herman paused to fill his eyes with the twisting, sparkling dancer on the stage behind him. She, at least, did what she was told. He wondered mildly if Harriet had been trained to do any of those moves. He leaned over to sniff deeply at Hailey's shoulder.
She tilted her head to expose her neck to his lips. "I see," she said. "So you don't want to look bad when you complain about this one guy."
"Right," huffed Herman between kisses. "I mean, Integra probably doesn't exist anymore, but those idiots are famous for how good everybody thinks they are. I need to teach him who's boss, but I need some kind of cover to help me keep my reputation."
"Well," Hailey mused as Herman enjoyed the flavor of her neck glitter, "What if you were to come up with a way to implicate all the Integra holdouts still actively employed? He wouldn't have anywhere else to go, where he could be untouchable."
Herman paused his kissing. "But what could I use, though?" He muttered.
Hailey leaned back, and her facial jewels winked at him. "Your authority is much higher than it was when you were just the CEO, isn't it?"
Herman nodded. "That's why it just frustrates me that a guy like him won't give me the respect I deserve! After all, President Parisian chose me to be his personal protege! How much higher do I need to be to warrant any kind of honor from those people?"
She still smiled. "Do you still have those secret files from back in the day? The ones you assigned to Integra employees under the table?"
Herman squinted at his wife. "Yes; what do you expect me to do with those?"
She laughed. "Oh honey, don't get so nervous! I'm just saying, what if you were to alter those files, removing your involvement—"
The implication of her plan began to take shape in his mind. "If I removed myself from the equation, and filled in the name of an Integra import instead—"
"The blame rests squarely on their shoulders," Hailey finished, giving him a small peck on the cheek.
"Ohhhh," Herman gushed, "President Xavier would not be happy to see those files with all those names."
Hailey nodded, "And with all of Integra taking heat, nobody's going to notice a doddering old programmer. You could do to him whatever you wanted, and everyone will think he deserved it. You'll be even more of a hero."
Herman wagged his head as he kissed Hailey's full, soft lips again. "You're hot when you play dirty, you know that?" He whispered.
Nick Carson was going to hang, and Herman Haggerty would gladly do it with his own hands, if he had to.
This excerpt is based on the projected plot for "Focal Point", a future novel in the ReBible series, based on the book of Esther. As a contextual reference, for those who know the story: "Nick Carson" is based on Mordecai--his real name is Mike Decker, and he remained in the corporate city owned by Peres Corporation (aka the Persian Empire) and took on a cover identity, along with his daughter Vanessa, who takes the cover name of "Tricia Carson" when she is forced to participate in a televised contest to become the personal assistant (much like Harriet in this scene) to President Xavier (King Xerxes). Herman is, of course, Haman, who has it out for the "former Integra employees" (the nation of Israel being represented in this story line as a small business called Integra Communications). Follow the hyperlinked text for previous excerpts--some of which may not end up in the novel at all, since only recently I've been inspired with new ideas to add to contribute to the setting. Enjoy!
Also in the A-to-Z Challenge Series: ( * Continuations of Suggestion Box installments)
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