No one knows where the Sinister, LLC people are. Apparently, they left early in the morning from the left coast to get to the Estate, but no one has their itinerary. There's a rumor that flights are delayed because of an outage in New York's ATC radar, but no one knows what flights they took. No one knows how they expect to get to the Estate from the airport. No one knows if they even know where the Estate is. No one has seen the presentation they are due to give. No one knows if they took a projector. Efforts to get someone else at Sinister to see if a projector was missing resulted in the answer: "Three projectors are missing." Now there is a witch-hunt for projector thieves raging in the Sinister hallways. To find the missing projectors, the head of IT for Sinister has been calling every employee into his office one by one and pretending he's a main character in the TV Drama Law and Order.
Unconcerned with the projectors, Armin has instead devolved into calling everyone he can get to answer the phone to grill them about the location of the missing executives. It is Armin's habit, in circumstances such as these, to vent to me and poll me repeatedly for my opinion. My challenge, in this circumstance, is to totally avoid rendering an opinion. It is all downside for me, this rendering an opinion business.
If I echo his present disdain, it is just as likely as not that he will reverse his position and seem apologetic on the subject for a solid week. (It won't stop him from just as apologetically firing someone's ass, but it makes me feel like a callous old heel). If I counter it, then the firing he does anyhow becomes the physical manifestation of my error. Not to mention that if I render a strong enough opinion I actually have the quite dangerous potential to spur drastic action on Armin's part. I think two executives were the unwitting collateral damage related to my learning curve on how much power I had, inadvertently, been wielding. Of course, I could also be roped into "solving" the problem, if I gave any sign that I agree there is one. No, it is better that I try to remain neutral.
"This is very rude, you know," he starts, standing at the doorway of the library, which is one of my sometime-unofficial workplaces at the Estate. Uh oh. I keep my nose buried in a stack of financials. I resist the temptation to murmur. It is hard to make a murmur neutral sounding. (Try it. No really. No one's watching. Try to murmur without conveying a value judgment. Anything that sounds neutral gets mistaken for agreement with the speaker, I think you will notice). So, I sit silently. Trying not to even turn a page for fear it will keep his attention.
"They are guests in my home and I have no idea when or in what number to expect them," he delivers this as if he is talking about a flock of sheep, or the Wehrmacht or something.
"There are three of them." Fuck. I couldn’t help it. I should have kept my mouth shut. He sucked me right in. Armin - 1. EP - 0.
"What? How do you know this? You spoke with them?"
"Well, yes. Yesterday. I..."
"Do you have their schedules? Why didn't you tell me?"
"I do not have their schedules."
"Then how do you know there are three of them," he demands, suspicious that I am hiding critical information from him. I can hardly blame him. He was a CEO of a Fortune 500 company in the 1980s. I bet all his subordinates feared to give him bad news. And since you couldn't really determine in advance what the CEO would think was bad news, it was safer to just keep your mouth shut. Sort of like I am right now. I would be ashamed if I wasn't prone to be really vocal with respect to pending deals, negotiations and valuations. It is just these petty daughter firms, particularly the ones that predated me, that just don't hold my interest. It is not that I do not want them to do well, it is just that I don't have any real emotional stake in them. I'm such a snob.
"Well, there were three of them on the conference call."
"So does that mean there are three of them coming?"
"No," I admit. "I guess not." For a minute I think I've escaped. There's a long silence.
"This is outrageous." That's it. Now I know someone is losing their job. "You do not behave like this. It's entirely unprofessional." He's moved off of "angry" and into "resolved." Someone's head is already on the floor. The body is still twitching around. Blood everwhere. Whoever it is, they don't even know they are dead yet. At this very moment they are probably happily sipping wine in a leather covered business class seat trying to determine if the flight attendant will sleep with them and if so how they can swing meeting her later after the pesky meeting they have to attend in the morning. "I want you to speak with them. I want you to find out what the hell they think they are doing. And then, I want you to call me."