It took place
every Wednesday afternoon at 3:30 in the 12th
floor boardroom. Everyone had meetings, but this
one was different. It had been going on for four
Sitting in the
middle at the long table, her back to the window,
was the former director of human resources, an
angular face framed by too-red hair, retired
after 35 years and now a consultant, still
nonplussed that no one showed up for her
On her left
was the very large and athletic interim project
director who had been recruited for his precisely-articulated
and methodically-ordered plans, but who routinely
failed to secure budget commitments and spent
most of his time in an empty project office.
the former interim project director, now senior
advisor emeritus, a short but distinguished
raconteur and pitchman with an overused
repertoire of the risqué, whose self-promotion
and calculated liaisons had always ensured his
place at the table.
To his left
was the self-proclaimed American dissident who
had evaded an earlier Asian war but whose
professed anti-establishment views were
embarrassingly incongruous with his corporate
outlook as financial comptroller.
Next to the
consultant, at the far end of the table, was the
balding but still young and very ambitious senior
VP for sales and marketing whose only fault seems
to have been an overzealous attentiveness that
vacillated between the cloying and the random.
At the other
end of the table was the chief of technology, the
legacy of an ancient merger, whose occasional
outbursts, always irrelevant and usually
unintelligible, were tolerated, but just barely,
by his brother-in-law, the chairman.
at the head of the table sat the chairman, a tall
impeccably-dressed man of middle age, who had
directed the last 199 meetings. His secretary was
absent, so there were no refreshments, and there
was no one to take the minutes, not that anyone
protocol, the chairman greeted each member,
proceeding by rank, and then he stood up, excused
himself, and walked to the door.
When he opened
the door, a security detail of 12 poured into the
room and escorted the other six out to the
elevator lobby. In the lobby, the chairman,
without word, gesture, or eye contact, handed
each one an envelope.
elevator had taken the last group down, the
chairman walked back into the meeting room,
closed the door, sat down, and looked straight
ahead. Then came three knocks on the door.