Most Fridays brought about a sense of relief, as they marked the end of a hard week’s work. Today the day marked something more important. This Friday was the day the company would announce its intentions. Rumors had swirled for some time now but the intensity of them increased when the deadline was set. Tensions were on the rise as today would either be a sense of gloom or a sense of jubilation. The direction of the mood was not set leaving anxious energy no clear direction. Without a clear direction, the energy had no choice but to build and fester. The energy needed a resolution so it could have an outlet. In its current state, long time colleagues and friends would snap at every little perceived slight. Gordon watched his workers and settled the tension where he could.
Spilled coffee let the built-up frustration gain a temporary outlet. Words could quickly escalate when filled with the untamed energy. Several times employees had to be separated as they could not know their future. The lack of a clear option meant that a fear of losing their entire life and ending up below being considered human as a street dweller. The workers felt they had contributed their portion to the company. The company owed them an equal investment. The frustration that they were taking out on each other was just a direct retaliation of the company not being loyal to them.
Every hour that passed, without any word, created more and more tension. Gordon was having difficulty containing his own anxiety. He could not understand why the announcement was not the first order of the day. He knew someone was enjoying the torment the delay was causing. The union chief wanted to find who was causing the wait and take out that anxiety. It was harder to hold his position. Gordon wanted to be one of the loudest grumbling forces, being the position he held, meant he had to represent the calm side. Gordon knew if things went as he had hoped, he would be back at that table again.
Assurances had been made that he would help keep the cost of labor down. Gordon felt the painful agreement would lead to long term gain of keeping the jobs in place. It took much effort to get others to see that. The union chief knew if things did not guarantee the jobs he had promised to protect, his reputation would be destroyed. No amount of handshakes and speeches would put food on the tables of the employees he represented. For the first time in a long time the anxiety pierced Gordon’s psyche and created a fear. He could not place it but what if he failed? Failure meant those assurances would be for nothing except to humiliate an already troubled job market.
Gordon knew the passion Mr. Stanley held for all the plants he had built. He invested heavily in the cities where he drew his workers. He donated to colleges. He donated to charities and little league teams. He even began mentoring programs to allow gifted individuals a chance to pursue their goals. It was hard for Mr. Stanley to ever be cast as a villain to anyone who knew him. There were groups that tried. The environmentalists did not see the need for jobs in this area; they just wanted the pollution gone. Mr. Stanley was the subject to several cartoonist recreations, depicting him as a devil. The old man had withstood being vilified by the union, competition, politicians with agendas, and now his own conscious.
Gordon had to wonder what conflict was going on in the man’s head. There was part of Mr. Stanley that was very business savvy. He knew when to invest resources and when to stop a project that was just a black hole of those resources. The other part of the man was one who was dedicated to anyone who cashed a check with his signature on it. The internal struggle could not be easier when the board was chasing pure profit as they whispered in his ear. Gordon had been around the top brass long enough to know who the real discourse was with; it had all started with the promotion of Nathanial.
Gordon had always held contempt for Nathanial. Both men rose through the company about the same time. Gordon was part of the line. He had worked in the molding. Nathanial was sales. One man’s hands were calloused the other’s were soft as the day he was born. Nathanial made an income that Gordon could only dream about possessing. Gordon had to wonder what was the cost of acquiring that wealth. He did not have any proof outside of the rumors that Nathanial was a rich man. Gordon knew from the way he dressed and those who he kept company with the rumors were probably true. Gordon had no doubt that if the jobs went away it was Nathanial who called the moving company. He just prayed the old man pulled the reins in on his second in command.
Gordon hated going to Nathanial, after fighting against the belief that the wages should be kept commensurate with the income of the company. Gordon knew the workers felt they deserved the higher pay. The fight was to show them if they became greedy then they may price themselves out of a job. Some older veterans claimed he was just falling for a tactic that has been gaining steam. Gordon could not shake the feeling this was a real issue and not a scare tactic. Every part of him wished it was a scare tactic and at the end of the announcement he would feel a sense of relief.
The word, that all the work stations needed to stop for a major announcement at shift change, left even more anxiety. Gordon was wrong thinking any progress toward clarity would provide comfort to the masses. The fact that there was a set in stone time, meant no matter what the announcement the threat of relocation was not a scare tactic. No one would lose any amount of possible production just to scare a better deal out of the workers. The same older workers, who swore it was all to get the union to fold, were the ones who were most troubled. The feeling of gloom took hold of the masses.
Nathanial stood on a cross walk high above the fervor of activity that was the work stations below. He could feel the tension and dismay rise. He did not have to hear the conversations to know what they were discussing. The executive wondered if the workers truly knew what had been at stake. If any of them knew the numbers that were presented in chart after chart. Nathanial wondered if any of them would care. Naivety was a wonderful thing he surmised. The tormentor could see the knowledge of the reality was tearing the workers nerves apart. A rise enveloped him. The knowledge that there was no knowledge of the future created more suffering he noticed. The proverbial fork in the road, had rendered the workers catatonic with anger.
Nathanial heard desperation as the hour approached. He heard nothing. For the first time in his time at this plant, there was not a single machine running outside the broken vending machine in the break room. That machine itself could barely be counted as running. The soft grumbling was magnified in the sudden silence. The dark room that was the future desperately needed a light turned on. He watched as the workers assembled in groups and met up with the oncoming shift to trudge toward the loading docks.
A hard day of work was interrupted by the announcement Harold dreamed he would not have to fear. He could not understand why the plant would bring on new hires just to let everyone go. Was Antonio’s hiring a camouflage? Harold had too much at stake to walk away from this meeting with no job. There were too many mouths depending on his paycheck, too many school supplies yet to buy, and a roof that needed to be kept above the heads of those mouths. He needed to hear he would not be hunting for a job in a few days. There was no choice; Harold needed an income equal to or greater than the one he was currently earning. Jess kept the household running on that budget. Cutting even a dollar, would mean that something was going to be missed.
Harold felt the tension drown out all the clatter the closer to the dock they moved. The mass of people were a sad reunion without the information leaked. The mass of workers were either walking into jubilation or a trap. As the time of the announcement approached, Harold had watched his coworkers have a look of dread. No words he presented to them could erase it. He just wanted the announcement over and life to continue the way it had before this drama was introduced. Harold, felt he knew something the others did not. No company would bring in new hires just to turn around and let them go a week later. The time spent training them would be a waste of funds. Antonio’s presence meant this meeting was simply a scare tactic. Harold wished the others would see it.
The seemingly only relieved employee, Harold, watched as his coworkers tightened fists and jaws as they trudged toward the meeting. The sense of tension took on a smell of its own as it danced against the usually rubber filled air. Harold was relieved that if this announcement went as he had foreseen then smiles would explode. If it did not then he feared the chaos and repercussions immediately following. Harold knew there was no time to be lost in that dismal daydream.
The shuffling of the soon to be redeemed or condemned to the dock, slowed its pace. The pace and two shifts of workers created a bottle neck to get to their destination. Harold entered the journey calm; this delay was raising his temper. No doubt he would get there. Harold wondered how much anger he would pick up along the way. Getting bad news would be hard for them, but waiting to get it, would lead to Armageddon. Harold wondered how the executives here would be able to keep the masses in check. The slow trudging gave the group a chance to truly gain negative feelings about what awaited them in the dock. Harold wondered if cattle felt the same when they headed to slaughter. He feared they would be the next meal for the force driving jobs overseas.
Executives held a swagger as they entered the dock to the hastily erected make shift stage. By the smile on some of their faces and the look of disgust, it was not apparent what the message they were bringing. Four seats were placed in a straight line behind a podium. A large screen had been placed in front of the middle two loading dock doors. The company must be intending to make an announcement to the entire company at once, the on lookers surmised.
The closest seat to the podium was claimed by the plant manager. Many were amazed to see him out of his office or meeting room. The vice president for automobile tire production was next to claim a seat. The last of the men was the commercial tire vice president. The rugged look he held left no doubt he worked his way up from this very factory floor. The Vice President looked out of place in a suit and tie. He was a very casual dresser, but the situation was serious. The situation also demanded a suit and tie. The first three were as in the dark as the people they stood in front.
Denise Mitchell was the last to take the stage. She moved slower than the gathered mass had trudged into the dock area. Any person who watched the aged woman, knew she was aware of the possibility of bad news coming. Denise had a look of a young grandmother; that was how she was perceived by the employees. She spent so much time either at her desk or travelling plant to plant, fatigue was always present on her face. The look she held now was much worse. She had a look that mixed disdain for the words she was about to hear, and the pain for those who it affected. The cheery blouse she wore contrasted with the information that had bottle up within her. She dreaded it even more as the screen flickered to life.
Mr. Stanley’s appearance was stretched over the ten foot wide screen. The dark grey suit immediately informed everyone they were attending a funeral. The dearly departed would be none other than their jobs. He did not have to speak a word for the masses to know what the message would contain. Denise dropped her head as the pained voice of failure announced the news. To add insult to injury, the audio did not match the video feed. The facial expressions portrayed what the words would be seconds before they were spoken.
“The world is a changing place. We no longer can be just the providers of the best tires on the street, which thanks to your efforts we are. We must also find ways to keep attracting savvy investors. Stanley Tire and Rubber is bigger than all of us. The company represents trust of the consumers and innovation. Sometimes that innovation is painful.”
Gordon immediately filled with the next phrase. It had become so much of a cliché in modern times, that he despised the words that made the sentence. Mr. Stanley still spoke them. The face of a man who had lost to the board delivered the line. “In order to compete globally, we must relocate our manufacturing to Asia.”
Gordon always questioned what they were truly competing for. The prices, before and after the move, would remain the same, so the consumer did not gain. The only thing that would happen is men like Nathanial would have larger paychecks and homes, while men like him would have more problems. Money did not buy happiness, Gordon had kept that as his mantra, but it did keep sadness at bay.
Nathanial stood at the cross beam. He had won. The look of vehement faces told him he had made the right decision as he watched from a distance. There was so much despair because prior to Mr. Stanley’s words, there had still been a fair amount of hope. Nathanial believed the hope was still in Mr. Stanley’s voice too until he uttered the fatal words. The board had delivered the verdict he had wanted. Mr. Stanley held the company, but the board could seize that grip if he did not do the best for them or their shareholders. In the end, it was easier for Nathanial to convince seven than it was to convince the one who had to announce it. Part of him wished he had been there in person to watch Mr. Stanley. He wondered how much pain those emotions must have brought. Victory is only sweet to Nathanial if you taste the sweet defeat of your opponent.
News cameras seemed to be more of a hazard in the beginning of a crime scene than anything else. The veteran police officer knew they had a purpose to inform the public. He just felt the public could have waited a few hours to hear the news, and once the family had been informed. Everyone was aware a serial killer was on the loose, so the news would not be as much of a shock. People with this high of a body count just don’t stop. Clemmons knew the last fact. He wished the detectives working the case would have kept it quiet.
Clemmons knew, the line they set up was too close to the actual crime scene. The words that should had been kept away from curious ears were there in the open. He was not the first on the scene. If he had been he would have set up a perimeter about twenty more yards out. He would have set up a press area. The work that was in front of him now was that of a young officer. He could only shake his head and deal with the consequences.
He laughed as several reporters with six o’clock deadlines for local television news, tried to get him to give him a favor. Clemmons recognized some. The prettier ones he thought were always easier to recognize. He still had no intention of breaking the professionalism of the moment. A fair application of the law would pay off in the end. Silence at this moment was his tool for fair application.
He could confirm if he wanted to that the body had been stabbed. He knew there was a Bible beside the body. Clemmons could guess the same type scrap of paper was within a short distance away. It, like its predecessors at crime scenes, would had been the only hastily discarded clue that held any promise of good evidence. He could not provide any information. The Sergeant felt silence did not give the court of public opinion the evidence it craved. The court of public opinion would have a man, or woman if that was the case, found guilty before they had even changed to prison jump suits. Clemmons wanted no part of that.
Clemmons stood fast in his spot. He held a look of warning to anyone who decided they were not going to be held at bay by yellow tape. There was no reason that anyone needed to get closer than they were, especially as horrible as the crime scene had been staged. The lead detective or some higher official would be holding news brief soon. It had become common, Clemmons was afraid it was going to become instinct. The fact bodies were piling up, were only good news to the morticians of the normally wealthy victims. Clemmons began to wonder maybe they should be looked more closely into. They did benefit the most from the deaths.
As the evening news channels were beginning their broadcasts, the field crews were finding good locations to film the report, when the moment was right. The police officers, who were friends with the veteran, felt the same as he did regarding their reporting. They had come to hate any reporting that traded fear for ratings. It was even worse for the news channels that shamed fear for their own ratings. Clemmons knew life was what it was, moments to be taken without prejudgment or anxiety. He wondered how many viewers would turn off the channel if they only reported the facts.
A slender Black woman in a light blue coat captured the attention of Clemmons and a few officers at his post with him. She was attractive, and energetic. She carried her demeanor as someone who had intelligence beyond the simple field reporting. The woman had strong looking legs, Clemmons joked, probably from chasing ratings, which disappeared into a low hanging skirt that was slightly longer than the coat. Despite the current stoic look the viewers could see a permanent happiness behind her eyes.
“This is Maya Liberty reporting live from Edgewood Park. Earlier today another body belonging to the Biblical Butcher was found. The victim, who has not been identified, is rumored to be a nearby lawyer. Police have not released any information until they inform the family.” The woman wanted to sound official. Overcoming just another pretty face stereotype would take an effort, especially if she never left the field van. “Police still have no leads. An unnamed source has said the murders will continue until the killer is caught. He stated no one collects this high of a body count and suddenly quits. Stay tuned to channel 4 for more details.”
Clemmons heard the woman sign off as the camera was lowered from the cameraman’s shoulder. With a flick of her wrist along her neck, she ended telling thousands of viewers the words that would bring fear. Clemmons wished he had arrived earlier to set up a place far away from a loud mouth detective’s voice. Fear would cause an influx of ‘tips’ and home grown solutions to be called in. He shuddered to think channel four had just earned ratings by adding to the noise of fear. The tradeoff did not seem fair to Clemmons. His job just got a bit harder because this Maya Liberty because she wanted to climb the ladder of her profession.
Not enough beer to cover the bruises to his eye or his ego. Gordon sat in the dark bar as a man who felt betrayed beyond all other feelings. When the announcement was made about the plant closing along with all its sibling plants across the country it did not take long for the workers to turn on him. He gave everything to the same workers who caused his eye to swell. Gordon became the target of their ire, after he spent days convincing them they would be safe if they would just agree to make less money. Anger crossed and confused those who had in the moment to save their jobs, agreed with him. The loss of the job magnified the wound to their pride. They felt the agreement meant they were willing to beg and take scraps.
The begging was not good enough. The anger channeled toward Gordon who must have enjoyed making them look like fools. The fist struck out of the blue. Gordon laid on the floor wondering what went wrong. He wondered why Mr. Stanley chose the direction to put his family in harm’s way. The owner swore the company and its workers were always his family. The decision did not make sense. There could be only one person who would have betrayed the rest of his family. Nathanial had no connection to anyone. He valued none of the skill and experience the workers offered.
The fact that a man could do that to so many proved that evil did exist. Gordon felt there would be no one who would miss the loss of an evil man in the world. Karma took too long. Alcohol eased the pain in his eye along with his common sense. The only thing that was keeping Gordon from going to the oversized home and taking action was the law. Nathanial did not deserve to be protected by the laws designed to keep evil away. Another drink was needed to wrap his head around what good were the laws if they protected scum. The drink did not work so he ordered another. Soon that turned into four. Gordon glanced up with hazy vision.
The television usually showed sports but at this hour there was no sports just news. The bartender tended to put the television on mute, as nothing could be heard over the clatter of a full bar. Today the only customer was Gordon. The murder and loss of the jobs from his usual patrons meant the bartender had only one customer. The man who sat at the bar drowning his misery in alcohol. The bartender wanted to keep a bit of his own sanity so he kept the television volume on low.
Gordon was instantly intrigued by the young woman on the screen. She was the siren pulling his thoughts away from his hatred of society. The words were barely heard but the tone seemed to soothe Gordon. He was intrigued and absently sipped on his drink allowing some of it to spill out the corner of his mouth. The bartender knew the chances of Gordon remembering the trip to the bar would be slim. The headache he would suffer the next day would be a sharp reminder something had happened. The keys had already been collected and when the time came a taxi would be called. For now, the bartender was making the most out of a slow business day.
“Turn it up,” Gordon slurred as he pointed his glass toward the television. His finger shaking as he tried to point out the television. He had to get the action done quickly as he was unsure how long he could hold his arm up. The arm was getting tired, as he pulled it close to his lips and took another swig.
The volume was racing upward as the bartender fiddled with the remote and found the volume key. The soft sound that was the news became audible throughout the entire establishment. Gordon seemed happy as he slumped in the stool. The next line out of the woman’s mouth might have been intended for him as it seemed to make a solution to his dilemma of punishing Nathanial and falling within the law. “Police still have no leads. An unnamed source has said the murders will continue until the killer is caught. He stated no one collects this high of a body count and suddenly quits. Stay tuned to channel 4 for more details.”
Gordon had the solution. Copying the murderer in the news meant the clues would not lead the cops to his door. Justice would be served and he could be its tool. Gordon was not only drunk from alcohol but also drunk with his scheme. Normally, he was for murderers going to prison, but ridding the world of a man like Nathanial should not be a punishable event. He needed to get a Bible and a knife. Gordon stood ready to perform his mission. Maya Liberty must have known he was a man who was suffering and she showed him the path.
“Can I get you a cab buddy?” Seeing his patron ready to go, the bartender knew it was time to get the taxi here. Someone else would be able to make a little bit of money from the guy’s troubles. He did not need a drunk driver on the road or his conscious. So far, he had been doing this job for several decades and in that time, he made sure no one went to jail because of a drink he served. He was not going to break that record when it was just one customer.
“No, I am good.” Gordon stumbled a bit as he headed toward what he thought was the door. “You’re a good man though. Good men are rare in this world.” The words were harder to speak as Gordon readjusted after walking into the corner of a table. The man stumbled a bit but remarkably never fell. He could see the door when he stood. It had moved after he took his first step, but he was going to get to it. It would be the first goal he made and it was not going to be his last.
“Well I would hate for you to get into trouble, you seem to be a good guy as well.” Getting Gordon to take a taxi would make sure he would get home safely. The guy had a bad day, and a run in with the law for being drunk in public would be the final nail in a bad day.
“You know what I am a good guy.” Gordon shot up straight with the pride in his voice. “And as a good guy I am going to rid the world of an evil, evil man.” The words fueled the determination as he headed out the door, and began his plotting. He hoped he would be able to make Maya proud for giving him the idea.