Thursday, September 17, 2015

Termination Man (novel serialization) Part 15

Below is the latest installment of the serialization of Termination Man. To access previous installments, please see the Serials page (or consider the option of obtaining the entire book from Amazon.)




View Termination Man on Amazon.com


Chapter 3 (continued)

Kurt Myers had thick silver hair, broad shoulders, and a flat stomach that is extremely unusual on a man past sixty. In the early nineteen-seventies he had been a college football player of some renown—or so I’d been told.  Kurt happened to be seated; but I knew that the man towered to a height of nearly six-feet-four. One thing they won’t teach you in business school is that there is a measured correlation between height and the rate at which people move up the corporate ladder. All things being equal, the tall man or woman will always be promoted over his or her shorter counterparts. This is not exactly logical—and not exactly ethical—but that’s the way it works. Group dynamics favor the tall and the physically imposing.

Kurt’s ne’er-do-well son, Shawn Myers, slouched back against his chair. He seemed to be bored and mildly amused by the proceedings. How old was Shawn? In his early to mid-thirties, I guessed. Around my age. He wouldn’t have been in this room if not for his father, and everyone present knew it—though no one would have dared to voice this realization.

“Craig, Craig,” Kurt Myers said. He was the first to rise and shake my hand. “You’ve done an excellent job,” he declared with an ear-to-hear smile.

“Thank you,” I said, submitting to Kurt’s viselike handshake. As if on cue, the other members of the TP Automotive management team rose in unison, and I began shaking their hands as well.

“The test came up positive,” Beth Fisk informed me. Of course it had.

“More than positive, actually,” she went on. “Kevin Lang’s THC reading was unequivocal. Off the charts, you might say.”

This was the sort of thing a person might say when gloating; but Beth did not permit herself the slightest hint of a smile. I knew from our earlier consultations that Beth had arranged to have the test results completed within an hour. For a routine, run-of-the-mill drug test, two to five business days is the norm. But most labs can have the tests complete within an hour—if you pay an additional surcharge and arrange to have the blood, urine, and hair samples transported to the lab via courier. This keeps the advantages of time on the company’s side. It prevents an employee who knows that he’s going to come up positive from lawyering up or contacting his local civil rights organization.

A printout of the lab results—probably emailed to Beth in PDF format—was placed face-up on the surface of the table. There was manila file folder as well. I knew that TP Automotive had even nastier—and more personal—surprises in store for Kevin if he decided to put up a fight. 

“The case against Kevin Lang is absolutely airtight,” Bernie Chapman added, referring to the printout from the lab. “He has absolutely no leg to stand on.” The corporate lawyer was a weak-chinned man with a beard that looked incongruous in a TP Automotive setting, where clean-cut male faces were the unofficial rule. 

Chuck Gaskins merely nodded at all of this. He was a figurehead at Great Lakes Fuel Systems and everyone knew it. Chuck was past his prime and would retire within five years, as soon as the market recovered and TP Automotive shares regained their pre-2008 values. Two thousand-eight was the year that the automotive industry—along with housing, banking and almost everything else—had gone to hell.

They sat back down, and Bernie gestured to one of the empty chairs to his left.

“Craig,” Bernie said. “We would like you to remain, but only as an observer.”

This was the polite corporate way of telling me that I should shut up and let my client do the talking. This was fine with me, in fact. It wasn’t my job to speak in a meeting like this. My sole purpose in this meeting was to assess Kevin Lang as a future security risk. There was no way to do that without sitting here in the meeting and actually observing him. I would estimate the likelihood that Kevin would do something stupid in the wake of his firing. In a worst-case scenario, that would mean violence—the sort of incident that dominates the news for weeks afterward, and produces a lot of handwringing about the dangers of the modern American workplace. Some men live one step away from the edge of their mental breaking points; and the loss of their jobs can be the trigger that sends them over that edge. 


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Serial to be continued. Visit the Serials page for links to more of Termination Man, or purchase the entire book from Amazon.com.