'Can't you consider how I might be feeling right now, rather than worrying about yourself? All you want to do is rip this company off. You are nothing more than a parasite.'
Parsons had never been spoken to like this before. To everyone else in the organisation, his approach had been perfectly acceptable behaviour.
Jones glanced at the paperwork.
'What's this?' he asked, pointing to the words 'notional hours' printed on the time sheet.
'That's the hours I would have worked if I'd done the job.'
'It looks like Woodburner could be causing you some trouble. Maybe I could help you get rid of him...'
'But you haven't done the job. We only started talking about it half an hour ago.'
'Well, that's hardly my fault,' he explained. 'I would have done it.'
Parsons normally won these arguments quickly. Few people could follow his line of reasoning, and most gave up trying.
'No,' said Jones. 'I won't sign it. Not until you've done the work.'
Jones looked at Parsons and Bunkle, who were eyeing him as though he was quite mad.
'And for the record, I am not going anywhere,' he said, sounding a little like a spoiled brat who wasn't getting his way. 'I am still CEO of this company until the board decides otherwise.'
Parsons had to admit, he was impressed by the young man's resolve.
'Perhaps I can help you,' he said.
'Help? With what?' asked Jones doubtfully.
'Well, it looks like Woodburner could be causing you some trouble,' he said. He moved closer, so Bunkle was out of earshot. 'Maybe I could help you get rid of him.'
His plan was to revisit the assassination job initiated by Buffet. After all, he had done all the preparatory work, and he still hadn't been paid for it. He was still fairly uncomfortable with the idea of killing anyone, but not as much as going un-remunerated for the work that had already been done on the project. Besides, it wouldn't be him conducting the murder; it would be his alter ego, The Tan. And he reckoned if Jones kept his job, he would be so grateful he could be guaranteed consultancy gigs for the rest of his natural life. Obviously, with Jones gone, who knows who would be next? Someone even more business-like, perhaps. That could be the death knell for his relationship with the company. And without VastTel, he was finished. He knew he wouldn't survive a billable hour in the real world.
'Buffet had trouble with Woodburner, too, you know,' he explained.
'Really?' said Jones, wondering again whether any disagreement between the two men could have been behind the rocket attack. He quickly dismissed it. What a ridiculous notion! Unless, he considered, Woodburner had tried to murder Buffet to get rid of him from the company, but make it appear like a terrorist attack. No, that was too farfetched. But then again, everything that went on in the company seemed a little unbelievable.
Jones decided he needed to be careful how he dealt with Woodburner; the man might be deadlier than he appeared.
'Woodburner can be a tricky character. But maybe I can get him out of your life,' said Parsons.
He gave a little wink, which he hoped would look sinister, but really just seemed like a nervous twitch.
'Are you offering to kill him?'
Jones considered what the consultant was saying.
'Are you offering to kill him?' he asked bluntly. Bunkle looked round. She hadn't been paying much attention, but now the conversation was getting interesting.
'Let's just say you won't be hearing much from him in future,' Parsons whispered. He was being deliberately ambiguous, not because he didn't want Bunkle to pick up on what was being said, but mainly because, as a consultant, he never gave a definitive answer to anything, just in case he made a promise that he failed to deliver on.
'You are offering to kill him!'
'Well, I wouldn't be expecting any birthday party invitations from him,' came the hushed response.
'Because he will be dead?' said Jones loudly, trying to push for a more concrete answer.
'I think you'll be surprised at the range of services my consultancy provides,' he said, pushing the paperwork for the redundancy work across Jones' desk.
For reasons he couldn't personally fathom, Jones signed off the hours and agreed to meet Parsons the next day to discuss the 'other project' more fully. Then the consultant went home to prepare his plan. By 8pm, his alter ego had returned. After a few hours on the sun bed, The Tan was back, ready to finish Woodburner off. Same target, different client. And a different shade of orange.
The Incumbent is Phil Dobbie's first novel and these excerpts have been used with his permission. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. To purchase the entire novel in digital format, click here. It is also available in printed format ... for more details click here.