Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Hundred Nightmares, Nightmare Four: Staff Problems

Horror stories on a Catholic blog? All is explained here.

Staff Problems

“He has to go. We can’t keep turning a blind eye”.

There were four men and two women sitting around the table. Five faces were taut with anger. Five pairs of eyes were turned towards the sixth at the table, a man with salt-and-pepper hair and a gentle smile.

He was looking down at his nicotine-stained hands, shaking his head slowly.

“No”, he said, finally, looking up at the Vice-President, Sheila Oakley. “Eddie has given three decades of exceptional service to Red Queen Biscuits. He put us on the map, Shelia.”

“And he got well paid for it”, said the pretty Englishwoman. “It’s not our fault that he drank and gambled and womanized it all away.”

“The pertinent point”, said a square-headed man whose broad shoulders made him look more like a builder than an executive, “is that Eddie is losing us money. I hate to boil it down to that, but that’s what we have to go by.”

“Bear with him”, said the man with the salt-and-pepper hair. “Eddie Hanrahan is a genius. He can put this company back on its feet again.”

“He can barely keep on his own feet”, muttered the other woman at the table, the dusky Miranda Peterson.

A chuckle ran around the table, and even the man with the salt-and-pepper hair gave a rueful smile.

“I’m sorry”, Miranda said, though she couldn’t help smiling at the response she’d drawn. “That was unfair. But really, Clive, he’s become an embarrassment. A public spectacle.”

“Gifted people are often troubled people”, said Clive in a low voice, shrugging.

“Goddamit, Clive”, cried a grey-haired man with a lined face, to Miranda’s left. “I can’t believe you’re sticking up for him. He’s always treated you like dirt. He ran a campaign against you becoming President. Complete with dirty tricks and rumour-mongering. Or don’t you remember?”

“I remember”, said Clive. “That’s just business, John.”

“What he needs is a holiday”, said Sheila Oakley, in a grim voice. “A compulsory holiday. A month or so to sort himself out. A real last chance. We can’t go on giving him last chances.”

“I second that”, said John, eagerly.

They voted. Sheila’s proposal was accepted. The sabbatical was to be two months, rather than one, and Eddie would be left in no doubt that things had to change.

But an air of discontent lingered in the boardroom. More than one board member wondered if Eddie Hanrahan would ever suffer the consequences of his behaviour, if the last chances would just keep coming. Clive Henderson was a soft-spoken man who always seemed to get his way in the end.

“Why don’t you come down to Kerry with us this weekend, Clive?”, asked Sheila as the little group moved to another room for coffee and biscuits. “You had such a good time last year. And you need some relaxation. It drives me crazy that Eddie gets a holiday when you’re the one who needs one.”

“Oh, I just like to potter at the weekends, Sheila”, said Clive, pouring tea into the Vice-President’s outstretched mug.

“Have you gone anywhere or done anything since Gillian died?”, asked Sheila, her voice softer now.

“I’m happy”, said Clive. “I have my cats and my books and my films.”

“Eddie Henderson doesn’t deserve to live on the same planet as you”, said Sheila, pressing a plate of biscuits on the President.

* * * *

Clive looked at the clock again. He was excited. A cat was purred on his lap, he had a glass of warm whiskey on the table beside his armchair, and a history of the Punic wars lay open before him. But the highlight of the evening was yet come; the best part of the whole week.

The doorbell rang. He rose to his feet, almost quivering with anticipation.

Eddie Hanrahan was standing at the door. He looked more haunted, more desperate than ever. His face was gaunt and his eyes were bright.

“What happened?”, he asked.

“Got you out of jail again”, said Clive. “And a two month sabbatical.”

“Thank you”, breathed Eddie, closing his eyes. “Thank you”.

“Come in out of the cold”, said Clive.

He led the Head of Marketing upstairs, to his bedroom. Together, they removed Eddie Hanrahan’s coat, jumper, and shirt, exposing a back criss-crossed with cuts, some of them faint, some of them more recent-looking.

Clive Henderson, President of Red Queen Biscuits, opened a bedside drawer and took out a carpet knife. He slid the blade forward, and smiled.


  1. So is Eddie Hanrahan some kind of freak experiment of Clives? I'm guessing Clive does something to him which is what makes him the way he is.

  2. It's much simpler than that! Clive is a sadist and he protects Eddie in return for getting to practice his sadism on him. Also, for revenge, since Eddie had been his enemy in the past. (I tried to mix up supernatural stories with "realistic" ones.) This one might have been clearer.

  3. Ah, I see. No it makes sense. Sometimes I can be a bit slow at picking up on something.

  4. Well, with horror stories you don't want to labour the point but you don't want to make it too oblique, either. I don't like stories that are enigmatic for the sake of it. So when the point of them isn't obvious it's not deliberate.