“The inability to feel empathy towards the wills and actions of others displayed by some of you in this boardroom sickens me,” Margot said, leaning her hands on the glass conference table.
“We’re a company Margot, not a hospital, not a charity or a non profit. A company,” Elderman responded. His cold, grey eyes looked bored.
“We are talking about people, Adam,” Margot said softly, fighting the tears and rising panic. “By god we are talking about people with kids. Partners to go home to!”
The panic, it seemed, was winning in her voice. Across from her a tableau of men remained motionless. Save for their breathing the entire room was a coffin.
Elderman snorted. He leaned his chair away from the table and looked to his fellow board members. “My god, Margot, you're acting like I’m telling you to pull the trigger.”
He loudly laughed and swiveled his chair to face her. “We just have to give up a couple names. An address here and there.” He jutted out his bottom lip in a mock pout but his eyes remained empty. “We don’t even have to give them all of the damn sons of bitches!”
Karen, from accounting, choked back a heaving noise. Her hand flew towards her mouth and her eyes flitted to Margot’s in a panic. Margot leant on the table with enough pressure for it to protest under her weight. “Oh, yeah of course, only some. Your plan is to only give up certain people. Let the panic hit the company floor then. Let them watch as suddenly Marco doesn’t come back from a meeting. John goes to deliver and then disappears. You're talking about letting people watch their neighbors disappear and hope that they aren’t next, Adam.”
Elderman shook his head and smiled. “You're talking about treason, Ms. Riverdale.”
“The last time this happened,” Margot said drawing in a breath, “they built camps.”
The lawyer on the board, a short Jewish man of about forty, winced, and moved his eyes to the floor. Margot stared at him feeling tears well up behind her eyes. She was begging. Him, Karen, anyone.
“We are talking about turning our backs on the extermination of an entire people,” she spat out. Tears, she could feel them now, sliding past the fake lashes and forty dollar foundation she had painstakingly applied this morning. “We can’t--We shouldn’t---”
“Ms. Riverdale,” Elderman interrupted, “we don’t know if that’s what’s going to happen. I read the brief, as I’m sure you did, it simply says to contain the threat.”
“Threat!” Margot exclaimed, bouncing herself from her position and turning to look out the glass conference room window. “What threat can they pose?”
“Ms. Riverdale, I warn you again, you are talking about treason. If you continue I think we will be forced to report you.”
Margot turned slowly around. “Report me?”
Elderman laughed, turning to face the board members again. “I believe someone should read our President’s briefs a little more carefully!” Then turning to look at Karen, “Karen you're pathetic. Get up. Go get cleaned up. For god’s sake Oliver raised you better than that.”
Tears were slipping silently past Karen’s face as she managed to pick herself up from her chair. Swaying slightly, she caught Margot’s eyes and held them in hers. Her chest was rising and falling rapidly. “My god, that’s disgusting. Stop by the infirmary, and get the janitor would you?”
Elderman shook his head in disgust. He leant back into the glass conference table and pulled a cigar from inside his suit. “Margot you’ve been here a year,” he lit his cigar off a match offered by a hand to his right. There seemed to be too many hands now, too many heads. They merged together and pulled apart all at once in Margot’s vision. “On the board I mean. You’ve been with the company for a good five, six years maybe?”
“Seven,” the lawyer corrected without lifting his eyes off the ground.
“Seven, fine. We can take certain...liberties?” He mulled over while tilting back to appreciate the cigar, “with your behavior. Hell, I can even set aside some of them for you, the workers that is, pick let’s say...oh I don’t know...ten?”
He asked consulting with the lawyer. The lawyer lifted his eyes at Margot, who wasn’t entirely sure how she was still standing, and surveyed her for a while before nodding. Once only and curtly before dropping his head back to his lap.
“Fine, ten workers. We’ll put them on a list. We won’t give them up. Hell, I’ll see to it myself,” he said placing a broad thick fingered hand on his chest. “I’ll fix them up so they can’t be taken at all.” He smiled and puffed on his cigar. “That should sate you.”
He patted the table as Margot panted in outrage. She shook her head minutely but didn’t respond. “Of course, you understand we are only doing this to secure your position with us? You're quite young, smart too. Your mother, however...I don’t think we’ve looked too closely into her standing.” Margot stopped breathing.
“Any further outbursts, or resignation notices, and well. They won’t be tolerated,” Elderman finished with a smile.
Margot’s head swam, her knees finally gave out, someone in a fit of compassion shoved her chair under them. They knew about her mother. She could feel snot run down her face and mix with her tears.
“I’ll need that list before noon tomorrow of course. And do be clear, dear, these people all use the same name! You know how it is.” Elderman laughed once more, looking over at Margot Riverdale. His eyes taking in the little girl, no older than twenty eight, who thought she could oppose him. Oppose this. He snorted again, her designer dress and well done nails made her look like a child playing dress up. “Come now. Clean up as well. Can’t have something as lovely as yourself soiled now can we?”
He turned to the rest of the board. “I think, gentlemen, we are done for today.”
He got up and was quickly followed. Margot Riverdale did not get up. She watched the boardroom empty of all it’s prestigious members. Accountants, Lawyers, Doctors, hell if the meeting had been called on any other day but Tuesday, the mayor would have been among them. But it was Tuesday and on Tuesdays, Margot remembered sullenly, the mayor golfed.
The Lawyer stopped before he exited, and looked back at her, but she was collapsed in on herself. Her skirt had hitched up and her face was a mess. But oddly, she was still. He looked at the ground before speaking. “You did what you could.”
The door slammed when he finally left. The sobs came eagerly then. Margot’s rib cage felt like it was being torn open. Ten. She had to choose ten people, with no guarantee, that they would actually be safe. That he wouldn’t take that information and use them as the first to be taken. To teach her a lesson. To make them disappear.
She had to sit there and take it. Or her mother, in her early fifties and already stooped and bent from experience, would pay for it. Because she was like them, or had been, until she’d met Margot’s wealthy father. Until money smoothed over her doubtful accent. Until money erased her last name and got a her new passport.
The blood, she thought letting her sobs bounce off the wall in the now empty conference room, was already on her hands. She was so lost in her sobbing and her worry that she had not noticed the conference room door open. The janitor, his name either Michael or Micheale, had wandered in and was now leaning on his mop. Watching the wealthy white woman sob in an empty room. He’d seen the other woman run in a similar state into the bathroom a while ago, she’d been sick and needed help, but no matter how much he’d tried to help her she shoved him off.
“Madame, pardon moi, Je suis désolé--eh, do you need help?”
Margot choked back a sob and shook her head rapidly, “No. No. I’m fine. Just had a dizzying spell.” He nodded. “It’s happening a lot then. Madame Karen she, um, she is sick too.”
Margot faked a smile as best she could. “Um. I’m sorry, what’s your name?”
Wednesday at exactly twenty minutes to noon, Margot Riverdale’s heels clicked against the company’s slick hardwood floor. They clicked all the way up the stairs to the landing where Elderman was overlooking the floor accompanied by a man in a dark suit who had two federal officers on either side. She smiled politely up at them; “Here’s the file you asked me for, Adam.”
Elderman grinned like a cat. Then dropped his smile as he turned to hand the file to the man in the dark suit, “For the good of the company Margot, I think you’ll understand why this needed to happen. Next time don’t interrupt me.”
“There won’t be a next time, sir.” She mumbled as she nodded, dropping her face to look at the floor. Elderman looked at the officers expecting them to start calling names. They didn’t.
“Ms. Riverdale, I would like you to know you’ll be handsomely rewarded for this,” the man in the dark suit said. She nodded and stared at her feet. He handed the file over to the officers. They looked doubtfully at one another but were nodded on.
The taller of the two turned to Elderman. “Sir, I think it’s best you come with me.”
“What are you talking about?” Adam said turning to face him.
“Sir, please, don’t make a fuss,” the shorter one said, bringing up a grip against his arm.
“Also sir, we need to see the rest of the board.”
“Except Ms. Donahue,” Margot whispered while lifting her face to look through, not at, Adam Elderman. “She was out of the room, when they discussed it.”
“Discussed what? What are you prattling on about, you brat?” Adam said making an advance on her but being shoved against the metal rail of the landing they were on.
The man in the dark suit whistled nice and low. “Conspiracy, talking against the superior President Elect, fallacy...looks like a long list here Mr. Elderman.”
“Treason,” Margot swallowed the word, “don’t forget treason.” Her eyes turned glossy but, she refused to blink.
He turned towards Margot, “You will be pleased to know we’ll take care of this. You won’t have to do a thing of course.”
He waved the officers on. They turned to drag Elderman away. “You lying bitch!” He turned this way and that as the officers tugged him down the steps. “You’ll pay for this one day, Margot. You and your crippled mother.”
The man in the dark suit shook his head. He was tugging on an expensive overcoat as he extended his hand to Margot who quickly turned to shut her eyes and wipe at her face before returning the gesture. “Captain Herald,” she nodded lamely.
“I do hope you enjoy your new company, Ms. Riverdale.”
“Well your offer's been quite generous, and Mr. Elderman has no heirs. Our leader has no problem reorganizing the current wealth, when it suits him.” He bent to kiss her hand.
He picked himself up and looked below him at the mass of workers and droning machines. “Not much to look at are they? And yet it looks like they are yours...I don’t think he’ll need anyone from their facility anymore.” He wrinkled his nose up in disgust, “Not after this.”
He dropped her hand and smiled. “Would it be imprudent to ask a lovely thing such as yourself to dinner?”
She swallowed before allowing her accent to thicken. “Oui. It would be.”
Carrillo is an angry twenty something who chooses to write instead sulk. She lives in a crowded house on the outskirts of Chicago with her three dogs, two fish, a rabbit, and her self doubt.