Double Windsor knots can be tricky for someone who does not wear ties regularly. Thankfully, Harold had a wife who was the perfect companion to make up for his shortfall. Jess turned the garbled mess of a tie into a proper piece of his attire. The plant was closing in a few months, but his family’s debts, were not disappearing. The need to have a replacement for his income was forcing him to hit the pavement in search of the safety net. Jess looked him over and plucked a few pieces of lint from his jacket. She knew he did not have any interview to attend. The fantasy that someone would see her hard working and well dressed husband applying for a job, and instantly offer him a high paid position, kept her mind off the impending troubles.
The suit had only made appearances at weddings and funerals. Harold once joked that either way it was a ‘death’ suit. The weddings they prepared to attend when he made that comment, earned him a quick jab in the arm. Jess knew he was happy. The comment was always taken as playful, as was the jab. Harold was happy in his marriage. The recent soon-to-be unemployment was a threat to that happiness for both of them. Jess looked him over once more. She wanted him to be the best representative of their family, even in the ‘death’ suit.
“You know I am only dropping off my resume?” Harold did not want to get her hopes up. He did not want to get his hopes up either. He had experience and a record to prove a hard work ethic. What he did not have was an education that employers seemed to crave. “Let’s take this one step at a time.” He could tell Jess was already dreaming of a possible interview today. Reality conflicted with desire in her wanting this obstacle reduced.
“Isn’t it better to be ready than be caught off guard and blow your chances?” She was dreaming but wanted to add the practical twist. The tone she held was wishful, but after the angry fit, she assumed she needed to be a little more positive. “You are a good man we will get through this.”
“We are hard working that is how we will get through this.” Harold felt it was the lesson he had lived with his entire life. If you wanted something you worked toward it. “It is just a setback. I would never have imagined it from the old man.” Harold like many of his coworkers felt the sting so much more because of the source. The workplace was not always a factory utopia but it was a place where the hard work was rewarded. The announcement told them all, that no matter how hard you work, someone could wipe it away quickly to make a quick buck. Harold needed to believe that hard work and loyalty were not outdated values.
“A little prayer would never hurt.” Jess held her own beliefs on the prescription to their dilemma. Jess leaned up on her toes and shared a deep kiss with her husband. The kiss held all her hope and faith in him. “And that was for good luck.”
Harold was speechless as he headed out the door. He knew there was no way he could let her down. The plan he had was simple. Give out every résumé and fill out every application to all the manufacturing companies in Northeast Ohio. He was going to put in the hard work for his family. He knew he had to find income. Still speechless from the kiss, Harold slipped into the minivan. If there was any sign that a man needed a job, it was driving a minivan Harold thought.
The sky was a blue grey hue which seemed to set a tone that Harold should have stayed home. He wanted a bright cheery day not one filled with the sense of gloom. The soon to be out of work father did not get a chance to wait for a better opportunity. He had to head out today. Waiting could mean losing out when others rushed the same markets he targeted. A lot of guys were going to wait until well after their benefits expired before they began their search. Harold bet on that. The less competition the better his chances were. The benefits would offer a safety net. It was not a net that was large or even close to what he had brought home, but it was something. The fall into them was something he had wanted to avoid. The drive did not improve his opinion of the sky as rain starting its warning in the form of droplets on his windshield. That warning increased in intensity the more he drove.
The gas tank must have had a hole in it he thought as the tank was getting to a dangerously low level. The second thought that chased his ‘hole’ theory was the reason he was pounding the pavement today. Jess was the activity shuttle for the kids. They were the ones counting on his diligence. The pressure took a physical strain on his shoulders as the truth of the weight hit him hard. Harold felt the strain before but the empty tank was just more proof of what was invested in his success.
A sigh escaped his lips as he recognized another of the gas station’s patrons. The new hire who had quickly become a friend was sitting in the pump ahead filling his tank. The way Antonio was dressed he must have read Harold’s mind and knew his plans. Harold went about the task ahead. He wanted to get it done and get a job as soon as he could. The idea must have been a good plan if Antonio, who Harold thought of as a bright coworker, was copying it.
“Look who is on the job hunt.” Antonio was excited to see his self appointed mentor doing the same as he had invested time in doing.
“Hey Antonio,” Harold did not want to get distracted from helping his family. “How goes the hunt for you? Any leads you want to share?” Harold did not want to come across projecting the desperation the empty gas tank had caused.
“It is a pointless venture so far.” Antonio hated to break the news of slow job market. The jobs that were out there did not seem to offer anything close to the income the tire plant offered. The jobs Antonio put pen on paper for did not seem to be more than just a waste of time. He could feel the cold eyes of the hiring agents or secretaries when he asked for an application. “Why don’t we call it a day and grab a beer?” He was frustrated in just a few applications submitted.
“It sounds tempting, but I honestly think I need to put in the leg work.” Harold made a promise to Jess. The very tight knot in his tie reminded him that they had counted on him. “Besides, maybe I can cover some places that you have not thought of yet.”
“If, and it is a big if, there are jobs out there they will be there tomorrow.” Antonio had the look that he needed to find a bar as bad as both men needed to find a job. “Let’s cut our losses and hit the bar before it gets full of miserable people.”
“Jess finds out I skipped out on job searching to get a drink I will be a miserable person.” The smirk was playful as his tone, though it held a bit of truth. The woman Harold had chosen for life was banking on him. He could not turn away from that to get a beer. “I may join you after I get a job then we can celebrate.” Harold was trying to carry some of Jess’s positivity with him. He was not as good as she was carrying it.
“I am telling you there is nothing out there. Save your gas and come with me.” Antonio was a bit insistent. The motivation was either to save Harold from wasted effort or to save Antonio from finding he was not worth a job. Harold could not tell for sure. The younger coworker was set in stone about getting someone to go to the bar with him. “I will buy the first round.”
“I need to try. I made promises that I would try.” No matter how many free drinks were at stake promises to Jess trumped them. “I am going to try a few places and I promise, no matter what, I will join you afterwards.”
“It’s your wasted time.” Antonio dismissed Harold’s conviction. “I cannot promise there will be any cold ones left.”
Cartoon characters smiled from the material of the backpack as the knife and bible slipped into the pouch. The next time they would see the light, it would be to plunge it deep into the chest of an evil man. The blood it would be fed would be tainted with pure greed. The Bible was marked with an appropriate bookmark. Research had taken some time to find the proper verse to highlight. The selected verse he felt reached out to the greed of the man for whom it was intended. There was some regret that the only backpack that was big enough to carry the deadly cargo was one he kept from his childhood.
A shoulder caught the strap of the backpack as he headed out the door. He had someone’s life to end. Judgment was about to be delivered. The time for planning had consumed his entire night. Sleep was sacrificed to make sure he had planned every detail. The knife was sharpened. Sketching the target zone helped him become familiar with the area where he would have to make things right in the world. He was not as angry as he was when he had initially decided on this course of action. It was just a matter of making a greedy man pay for causing others to suffer. Karma would take too long so the murder had to be done.
Mentally he had prepared for this day. It was just a matter of performing the deed outside his mind. The deliverance of judgment would not hold the guilt or terror now that he knew it was the right thing to do. It took a night without sleep to know this was the right thing to do. There would be no doubt he would be able to escape police attention. They had not solved any of the other murders in the city.
Tires kicked up loose stones on the highway in the rush to get to the location before the time was too late. The kill had to be today. Nerves had been prepared. It had to be today. The car swerved to fight the traffic. Fate had lent its approval to the task by keeping the roads somewhat clear. The kill had to be today. The drive was easy to take the mind away from any distractions that could pull the soon to be killer off path. He could focus on the steps that had to be taken to make sure the kill was today.
Dedicated parking spots made it easy to know where the target’s car was located. Parking the getaway car away from any prying eyes was a key, he figured well before arrival. Off the main strip but with a clear exit route, meant the moments that were saved, were moments to get ahead of the police or any other threat. The dusk was an ally. It would provide enough shadows that he could get close to the prey and deliver the killing blow. As the shadow crept across the parking so did the hunter creep closer to the prey. Hiding behind cars and trucks, made the journey easier.
Nathanial emerged from the building on time. Gordon sat behind his crouched position. It must be easy to destroy lives when the pay off was worth it. Nathanial walked without the guilt of a man that had condemned so many to poverty. Gordon armed with the cartoon character backpack was going to show him differently. The lesson would be that destroying others leads to demise on its own. The soon-to-be killer felt a bit poetic about it. He had been at varying levels of inebriation since the announcement. Soon the pain of failure would not hurt Gordon. The alcohol was supposed to suppress the pain but it had failed, like him. The advantage of the drink it gave the courage to be at this moment. The courage to kill is the only solution that felt it was worth the effort, and cure for the pain.
Nathanial’s stride was confident as he walked the cement path to his car. The dark painted sports car was one of a symbol of the success he earned. Gordon felt the success was off the sweat and suffering of those who reported to someone in his chain of command. Managers and directors should be concerned with the workers. As a union representative, Gordon felt it was his responsibility to provide a watch dog for those in power. He was supposed to protect those who were not in a position to battle the wolves that profited off their toils. The agony of failing that purpose had driven Gordon to the point he felt the punishment for committing a felony would not be as bad as continued torment.
Nathanial stopped in his tracks for a moment. There was something in the air. The executive grew intrigued by the feeling. The source escaped him for a moment as focused eyes scanned the parking area. Gordon watched him intently. The plan would fail if Nathanial had spotted the union representative before the task could be completed. Gordon felt the pausing in his mindless routine had already compromised the act. Reaching in the backpack, Gordon slid his fingers around the hilt of the blade. Nathanial just needed to proceed to his car and Gordon could pounce. The mantra of the kill had to be today kept Gordon focused on the task.
Hopelessness struck. Gordon stumbled back as the eyes seemed to catch him directly. There was no way Nathanial could see him in the shadow. The thought was silly to even make. But here it was, that the eyes of the man who had sold their jobs to an overseas market were staring directly at him. A smile crossed Nathanial’s face as he looked like he was tempting the knife to be drawn from the backpack. The stare locked for a few moments as Gordon had frozen in his tracks.
The pause in his actions had allowed doubt to settle in. He could no longer be sure of himself that he could strike another man dead. Even a man as horrible as Nathanial, did not deserve the violence he wanted to bring. The stare with the dark hearted executive, broke the second, Gordon released the blade and let it stay in the bag. The kill needed to take place today but it was not meant to be. The car door slamming snatched Gordon from his inner conflicts of the sanctity of life versus the punishment that should be handed out. The expensive sports car sped away, leaving Gordon with another failure.
It took only one stop for Antonio to be proven correct. Harold felt he should have saved time in that one stop by going directly to the bar. Instead, he had found a close factory and walked in to request an application. The receptionist, at the desk, cast eyes at Harold that will haunt him for even making an effort. She hated placing the effort to go through the motions of looking interested in giving him a chance to join the company. She had judged him unworthy to be a coworker despite his professional dress and manners. Harold wondered if it was due to his age or the fact he approached the company directly, making a cold call for employment. Whatever the case was, it had proven Antonio was correct.
The words of the new coworker kept Harold’s mind wondering if the plan had been flawed. Harold had his doubts the second the last bit of ink settled on the application. When he turned in the application, the hopeful family man knew it was a wasted effort. The feeling the application would be placed in the trash next to the secretary’s leftovers from lunch. As Harold finished going through the motions, something told him he was missed at the bar. At least there he was wanted. Imagining that other offices would be like this one, convinced him of that fact it was a fool’s errand. A bartender would not judge his death suit as inferior. A bartender would not judge his competence without a word being spoken. Alcohol would make the problems seem less pressing. Harold was not going to waste another moment.
A loud thud announced his presence to Antonio when Harold plopped into the stool next to him. “I should have listened.” Those words were his greeting. They held the sour feeling of defeat. Harold needed the drink to make sure he had the courage to face Jess with the results of the lost day. The thought of bringing worry to her precious face made him think it would take a few drinks to be able to face her.
“I tried to warn you. It is brutal.” Antonio was smug in pointing out he was correct. The hope Harold would find something never even was a moment’s thought. Antonio knew of the result well before attempt. He had successfully planted a seed and it had grown to the disappointment that sat next to him now.
“Yeah, no kidding, I thought maybe this was a sign that good things will come. You know the cliché when one door shuts another one opens.” The bottle was set in front of Harold and he was able to take a long drink. “I guess the door that is supposed to open did not get the message.”
The hours slipped by and the bar tab rose. Antonio made good on his promise and bought the first round. The money in their pockets dwindled fast, and soon, they owed more than they had ever drunk in any after work gathering. Antonio relayed the stories of his failed attempts to find a job. Finally, he got to the story that sounded too familiar to Harold. “I asked for an application and the secretary just shot me an evil look.” Antonio was talking about the lone attempt Harold had made to change his employment status. “The woman handed me the application then pulled out her lunch. I sat in the lobby and filled out in my most pristine handwriting every answer. It had taken a bit of time. I wanted to make sure I had given myself every chance.” Antonio kept his drunken audience intrigued. “So I finished and took the application back to the woman. That desk jockey sighed like I was ruining her day. She then pitched her lunch into the trash. I asked why she just threw out a perfectly good meal. She looks up at me and says I interrupted her lunch. Then the bitter woman gave a little snarky follow up with ‘if you need it I can fish it out of the trash.’”
Harold drank more as he thought about the look on the secretary’s face. “You know I hate the feeling of begging for scraps.” Harold took another gulp then pointed with the bottle still clutched in his hands. “We worked too hard to have to settle for scraps.” He was getting louder, without the excuse of even finishing one beer. “Who in the world thinks we only deserve scraps?” Harold finally slammed down the bottle.
“I will tell you who did this.” Gordon had slipped into the bar stool next to the other two. Night had fallen during their binge Harold and Antonio without either noticing. “Our very own Chief Financial Officer, good old Nate,” Gordon interjected with a bit of venom in his voice. He had failed in eliminating the man. The need to drown away the memory of not being to put the blade into Nathanial’s throat, was his priority.
“What are you drinking?” Antonio welcomed the company. He knew Gordon had been wronged and lied to, just like the rest of them. He could see the remnants of the bruises on his face that not everyone had seen it that way.
“Whiskey,” The answer was quick. He had been looking forward to this moment since Nathanial had driven away. “He had been planning on selling our jobs for profit for a long time.” Gordon and Mr. Stanley had worked to keep the board from demanding the move that was about to take place. Nathanial went behind their backs. Gordon felt Nathanial needed to feel a version of the pain that they all had felt. He knocked back the shot the moment the bartender placed it in front of him. Shivers were the reaction from the first drink. “Keep them coming,” he pushed the shot glass toward the bartender.
A fourth member of the drinking group appeared without any warning. He had a smell of sulfur like many from neighboring plants. The man appeared to be well put together; Gordon would even say he would be the type of man women would find attractive. No one had noticed him enter or take a seat but there he was joining in on the conversation. Gordon felt a familiarity to the new comer. The man seemed intent on Gordon, ignoring the other two. “Are you ready to make the deal?” The voice was one that was in the alleyway. Gordon had thought it was a dream but here was proof that hope was false.
“If you can guarantee results, I am all for this deal.” Gordon proudly said to the man as he chased the words with another shot of whiskey.
The words caught Antonio’s attention he was curious at the change in the conversation, “A deal?”
Gordon looked him in the eyes and smiled. “Don’t worry boys I am going to try to save our jobs or make good old Nate pay. I promised you guys results. I don’t break promises.”