ZDNet Australia is proud to bring you a serialised version of Phil Dobbie's novel The Incumbent. A new chapter will be published here as part of his blog each week on Tuesday. You can also buy the entire book by clicking here.
Buffet was starting to doubt Parsons' ability more than ever. Until now, not being able to deliver on a promise hadn't been a problem. He was, after all, a consultant and the purpose of hiring a consultant was to spend a lot of money producing a thick report to table at board meetings and to mutter those words 'due diligence' that company directors loved to hear.
The plan to kill Damien Woodburner was the first time the consultant had been asked to actually finish something, yet all he seemed to be getting were presentations on how it would be done. As far as he was concerned the least he knew the better. Rather he needed the task carried out quickly, with nothing that could incriminate him down the track. In that regard, a project name, frequent emails and scheduled appointments, plus numerous hard copies of slide presentations, were far from making this a covert operation.
And there was a sense of urgency that Parsons had failed to grasp. Buffet knew that Woodburner was building up evidence to have him forced out of the organisation. The pressure was on, but Parsons wasn't feeling it. Hence, Buffet was quickly coming to the realisation that he had chosen the wrong man, but not knowing who else to turn to, he decided to give Parsons one last go. Perhaps the involvement of Spicer the Slicer, colourful underworld identity and corporate motivational speaker, would help him get the job over the line.
Unfortunately, for Buffet, Parsons was having the same doubts about his own ability to carry it off. Could he be as cold and calculating as the project demanded? Could he really kill someone? His only hope lay in his new identity. He reassured himself that The Tan would do anything for money. So long as he held on to this persona, he could cut himself off from the terrible atrocity he was about to commit.
'Hello Parsons,' said Grugelberg from accounts, as The Tan stepped into the lift for another meeting with Buffet. Such instant recognition wasn't helping. The short, grey accountant had seen Parsons dropped off outside and walked just a few paces behind him across the foyer. He was curious about the skin problem, but decided to keep quiet about it.
The Tan, annoyed about being recognised, said nothing. Today he was the strong silent type. Assassins always were. They were loners, misfits — people seeking revenge on a society that had treated them cruelly. They lived their lives in an impenetrable vault of despair. The Tan didn't know that for sure, of course, but it seemed likely.
'Come in, Parsons,' said Buffet when The Tan appeared, unannounced, at his office door. 'Bugger it,' thought Parsons, The Tan's identity quickly slipping away.
The chief executive looked into his outer office to see if Spicer was with him. No, he was on his own. Parsons had decided that he needed to act independently, to see if he could stay in character the entire day. Then, perhaps tonight, he could carry out the deed.
'Take a seat,' said Buffet, pushing a plate of biscuits to the edge of his desk.
The Tan said nothing. Instead he stood in the doorway for a good minute or so. He didn't like being told what to do unless, of course, he was being told to kill someone. Parsons, though, was eyeing the biscuits. They were cream caramels, his favourite.
Buffet looked at him strangely. Why was he standing in the doorway for so long? 'Pins and needles?' he asked.
'I prefer to stand,' said The Tan, but only after leaving a suitable pause for effect. Spicer had passed on to him the importance of timing.
'Suit yourself,' said Buffet, finding the whole encounter a little strange. He took a biscuit for himself.
'So how are the wife and the kids?' he asked, trying to lighten the mood.
The Tan waited a few seconds before he answered.
'Dead,' he said dryly.
Buffet was shocked. No wonder the poor chap seemed out of sorts. This news was devastating but, he quickly suspected, not entirely accurate.