Incandescence (Part I)

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Truth and Lies

I entered the Boardroom ready for our weekly meeting. I was genuinely glad Leonard had given me a heads-up and that he agreed to my plan; but I was still a little apprehensive as there was a chance our plan could backfire. Greeting everyone at the table with a smile and a ‘Good morning’, I took my seat.

As always, Mr Salvatore opened the meeting and made his way through each Manager asking for updates and reports. As Mr Salvatore made enquiries about the particulars of next Monday’s Staff Retention Event, Jackson spoke up before I could comment ‘About that, Leonard has something he’d like to address’.

All eyes shifted to Leonard. ‘Jackson raised some concerns with me regarding the validity of this Event’ Leonard started, all the while maintaining a stern look at myself. I could see from the corner of my eye Jackson watching intently with a smirk on his face. ‘After close analysis and discussing the matter in detail with Bradley, we reached an agreement whereby this Event would proceed; but with some tweaks.’

I watched Bradley closely as Leonard spoke. Initially it looked as though this topic had taken him by surprise, but he quickly narrowed his eyes, gave a slight smirk, allowing his brother to continue. ‘Jackson we agree with your conclusion; having the Executive Committee away for this event, even if only for a day, will be disruptive to our business operations. This is why Bradley and I have decided this event will only include staff; our Executive team are no longer required to attend. In addition Tori, we will be limiting this to a maximum of 4 employees per department. We hope this doesn’t disrupt your plans too much, but we believe these changes are in the best interests of the Company.’

I watched as the smirk on Jacksons face was quickly replaced by a grimace. ‘What about the cost of hosting this?’ Jackson declared whilst looking at Mr Salvatore ‘Do you really think we need hire out a beachfront function centre for a team bonding activity?’

‘Jackson, I appreciate your concern regarding expenses, particularly as you are our Chief Finance Officer’ I finally spoke up, holding Jacksons stare before continuing ‘However, I am friends with the owners of the establishment and they have offered us use of their facilities free of charge. Other than Morning Tea, Lunch and Beverages, there really are no additional charges that will be incurred by our business’.

I then turned my attention from Jackson ‘Mr Salvatore’ I smiled as I addressed him ‘In response to your initial question, our Staff Retention Event is under control. Understandably, I have some adjustments to make; however, I will work around the clock to ensure these changes don’t impact the days overall success’.

I then looked over to the other Managers seated at the table before addressing them ‘I appreciate your cooperation with this Event. I hope you can all understand the merit in retaining quality staff. This Event is so much more than a team bonding exercise’ I paused as I stared down Jackson ‘It’s an opportunity for our Company to learn, to understand where our weaknesses are, to improve the overall morale in our workplace which in turn will result in increased profitability for the business.’

I kept my gaze on Jackson, Jackson was staring at Leonard, Bradley was watching me like a hawk and Leonard kept his eyes on Bradley. We sat is this position not moving, I could only wonder what everyone else in the Boardroom thought of our little Mexican Stand-Off.

Breaking us from our fixated trance, Mr Salvatore thanked me for my efforts before moving on to the Marketing Department. The rest of the meeting went smoothly enough. There were the odd stare-downs, but it was clear everyone just wanted to get out.

As soon as Mr Salvatore closed the meeting, I promptly exited the Boardroom and made my way to my office. I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me; and no thanks to Jackson, this Event had to be a success.

As I sat down Bradley entered my office, closing the door behind him. ‘What was that about?’ he all but growled at me; loud enough to make me jump in my seat, yet quiet enough that if anyone were outside my office they wouldn’t have heard him.

‘I take it you’re discussing the Staff Retention Event?’ I asked, hoping he would do the talking.

‘I know you and my brother are up to something. You didn’t look at him once the entire meeting. I’ll ask you again, what is going on?’ I was surprised at how perceptive Bradley was, but why was he angry at me and not his brother.

‘Bradley, if anything, I should be asking you that question. You know how hard I’ve been working on this, yet you and your brother have made last minute changes that I’ll now need to work around the clock to remedy.’ I stated, trying to deflect things back on him. But he was too clever and saw straight through me.

‘I gave you the opportunity to be honest, but if you can’t then I’ll speak with Leonard’ and with he stormed out of my office and went straight to the elevator, presumably to the 7th floor.

I had no idea what Leonard was telling him, or if Bradley was still with his brother. He had been gone for over 2 hours and I wasn’t sure why, but this concerned me.

I shifted my attention back to the employee files of all ex-Accounting personnel. Looking at my list of 28, I started crossing off the names of the girls that had messaged me on Friday night. I looked at their start and finish dates and what I noticed was that of the seven statements I’d received, the employment dates of the women didn’t overlap. In theory, they were strangers; the only thing in common was BL Corp. Initially, as all stories were somewhat similar, I had considered the possibility of the girls teaming up to sabotage Jackson’s career. But now, this theory didn’t seem plausible.

I checked each of their Facebook accounts; none of us shared mutual friends. Was it possible Jackson really was a serial manipulator and predator? The thought sent a shiver down my spine. I knew I had to keep my investigation under wraps, so I locked my files in my cabinet and went to the cafeteria for lunch.

After lunch I noticed Bradley was back in his office. I wanted to go in and apologies for my earlier deceit, but not knowing what he and Leonard had discussed, I decided the smarter option was to head back into my office. Before unlocking my door, I noticed the Accounts Department was empty.

I made my way over to Bradley and asked where everyone was. ‘Jackson decided to hold a meeting with his department, it’s only a short meeting so they should be back shortly’ his tone was very matter-of-fact, I could tell he was still angry with me, but at that moment, I didn’t care

‘That manipulative bastard’ I was seething, momentarily forgetting I was in Bradley’s office.

‘Excuse me?’ came his reply, but before he had a chance to comment further I slammed my hand on his desk and exclaimed ‘Can you not see what he’s doing? He is a manipulator, he’s probably with his team right now telling them to not cooperate with me next week.’

Bradley smirked, he looked at me as though I had gone mad. ‘Tori, Jackson runs our Accounting division; our business isn’t performing as well as we should. He’s probably in there rallying up his division, making sure reports are made and targets are achieved. Do you really believe he has called a meeting to tell his staff not to participate in your event? Do you really think that little of him? Do you really think your little event is that important to Jackson?’ Bradley’s argument was rational and at that moment I found myself second guessing my actions.

‘You’re probably right’ I muttered as I exited his office and made my way back to mine. Sitting at my desk I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed at my earlier outburst. Whilst lost in my thoughts, the Accounts Department returned from their meeting. Every employee from that department walked straight past my office, no one even dared to glance my way. Jackson may have pulled the wool over Bradley’s eyes, but I knew I should have never doubted my instinct.

Jackson was trouble and I was determined to be the one to bring him down.

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