The Pearl River Excursion (Part 1)

“If you look here,” said Carol, pointing with her pen to one of the graphs on the screen on the wall, “you can see the increase in online sales in the last three years. And then here. Based on market trends, this is our projection going forward. That’s second quarter… third, and so on. We understand the value this company places on its workers, but, realistically, your current business model is no longer sustainable.” She set her pen on the long, oval conference table. “One of our recommendations is that you close a third of your branches. Within the next six to twelve months.” 

Around the table murmurs circled. A few people swiveled their chairs slightly and glanced at Harry, sitting at the other end, to gauge his reaction. His chest rose with a slow deep breath. He raised a hand to his cheek and twirled one of his thick sideburns. “Alan’s not going to like it,” he said, more to himself than anyone else. He sighed and nodded to Carol. “Go on.” 

“Well, if that’s the direction you decide to take,” she said, “difficult as it may be at first, it’s actually going to open up a whole new realm of opportunities with regard to—” 

“Harry!” called a voice in the hall. Racing footsteps thudded outside the room, and then a short, sweaty young man with a huge wave of dyed black hair appeared in the doorway. “Harry,” he said, then doubled over, out of breath. He held up a thin folder in one hand and thrust it into the air triumphantly. 

“Ewan,” said Harry. He leaned forward in his chair. “What are you doing here? How did you get in?” 

Everyone in the conference room turned and looked at the man in the doorway. His face beamed with a wide smile. He whipped off his sunglasses with their thick, gold coloured frames, stood up straight and held out the folder. “I found him,” he said. 

Harry scowled. He glanced apologetically at Carol, and then turned back to the man. “Ewan, you can’t keep doing this. We’re having an important meeting here.” 

“No, it’s real this time,” said Ewan. 

Harry shook his head. 

“No, please,” said Ewan, holding out the folder. “Just take a look.” 

Harry thumped his hands on the table, his fat gold ring clunking against the wood, and stood up. He pointed at Ewan. “Enough! Get out of here now, or I’ll—” 

“It’s a fingerprint match,” said Ewan, still holding out the folder. 

Harry froze. His finger, extended at Ewan, trembled, and the fury drained from his face. His lips moved slightly, as if to say something, but he made no sound. 

Ewan nodded. “It’s him.” 

The people around the table stared at Harry. 

“Is… everything okay?” asked Carol. 

Harry blinked. He looked around the table. He lowered his hand. “Um… We’ll uh…” His voice faltered. “We’ll come back to this… pick it up later… I have to…” 

“Uh, Harry,” said a woman seated at the middle of the table, “Carol and Graham have flown in for this meeting. They’re only here for the afternoon. It’s probably best that we—” 

“Get out,” said Harry softly. His gaze was lost somewhere in the distance. 

Everyone looked at him. 

“Now,” said Harry. “Get out now. Everyone leave.” 

A couple of people around the table chuckled nervously. 

The focus returned to Harry’s eyes. He slammed his fist on the table and bellowed, “Get out!” 

The chuckling stopped. Those nearest Harry backed away a little in their chairs. After looking around at the uncertain faces staring at him, he picked up his own high-backed office chair and hurled it almost the entire length of the conference table. It crashed onto Carol’s laptop at the opposite end, skidded off the edge of the table and onto the floor. A few people jumped from their seats. 

“Whoa, Harry,” said Colin, seated near the middle of the table, “take it easy.” 

“Get out!” shrieked Harry, storming around the table toward Colin. “Get out!” 

People started rushing for the door, and Ewan stood aside to let them by. As Colin stood up from his chair, Harry grabbed him by the collar and tried to shove him over. Colin held Harry’s arm, and in the struggle the two of them tumbled to the carpet in an awkward grappling match, all the while Harry screaming in a high-pitched voice, “Get out! Get out! Get out!” 

Colin kicked himself free and scrambled up from the floor. He ran for the door, yelling, “He’s crazy! Somebody get Alan!” 

Once the final footsteps vanished down the hall, Harry lifted his head and looked around. He stood up, dusted himself off and straightened his tie. Ewan stood by the doorway; Harry’s eyes locked onto the folder in Ewan’s hand. “Show me,” he said. 


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