The Water Cooler Conspiracy
by Michael D. Brooks
Today was the day Marty Danite and his coworkers had been waiting for, praying for, planning for. It was the day that would change the lives of everyone in the company.
It was mid-morning and Marty was alone in the far corner of the staff lounge by the water cooler. He was pouring a cup of water and cheerfully humming when Wilbur Thornton, a timid little man with a balding pate and nervous eyes approached.
Marty heard Wilbur’s footsteps click across the linoleum and he cautiously stood erect to greet him. Marty was built like an NFL front lineman and seemed almost threatening standing next to Wilbur.
Marty’s gaze glanced past Wilbur’s head before he asked, “Is everything set?”
More nervous than usual, his eyes darted back and forth before Wilbur hesitantly replied, “Yeah, everything’s set.”
“Good. Finally, the bastard’s going to get what’s coming to him.”
Wilbur began to stammer. “I... I’m not so sure if we’re doing the right thing.”
Marty figured Wilbur would be the weakest link in their plan, so he admonished him for his trepidation by reminding him of why they were about to do what they had been planning. “Do I need to remind you that just yesterday the old geezer yelled at you like you were some kid in front of everybody?”
Wilbur’s entire demeanor suddenly changed. Marty detected a flash of anger behind those normally anxious eyes. So he continued to press the point, “And what was the reason for his tirade?”
Wilbur’s anger manifested itself in his complexion as his skin took on a dark pink hue. When he spoke, it was with a renewed confidence and determination. “Because I was five minutes late,” he spat out. “I even called and said I’d be late because there was an accident on the expressway, but the prick didn’t want to hear it so he docked me a whole hour.”
Marty was certain that Wilbur was angry enough to shoot the “old man” without giving it a second thought had he placed a gun in his hand that very moment. He was certain that Wilbur was back on board with their plan, but he decided to make sure Wilbur didn’t develop any second thoughts. So he continued with his querying, not waiting for any replies.
“And what about Eloise, huh? Suspending her for a week without pay because she went to the hospital when her son got hurt at the day care? And how about Delante? Being written up for insubordination because he tried to explain what happened after the son-of-a bitch told him he didn’t want to hear his side of the story after that run-in with the customer. Or when he fired Penny for not walking the mail to his office before she went to lunch?”
Those were just a few of the many humiliations their boss subjected everyone in the company to. And they were the less severe castigations. Satisfied he’d made his point, Marty asked Wilbur to go back to his desk and wait until it was time. Randall, from purchasing, would give the signal. Wilbur obediently turned and left the lounge with renewed vigor and purpose.
Nearly everyone was involved in the planning and implementation phases of the plot to get Mr. Wilson. From drawing up falsified papers, to calling contacts in the District Attorney’s office, notifying the IRS of improprieties, to the filing of a paternity suit, every contingency was considered.
The planning took place at a clandestine location and the participants took part in it like a group of generals at combat strategy sessions. It had taken months to plan and weeks to put all the pieces together.
Others had tried to bring the man down, all had failed. Those who had not actively participated in the operation, either knew about it and covered for those actively pursuing the plan, or they were kept out of the loop for their own protection or because they couldn’t be trusted.
The plan had actually been put into motion days before, like little pebbles coming loose allowing the great boulder to break free and roll down the hill toward its objective. Not enough for Wilson to be worried about losing his health, life, or business, but enough to give him reason to be concerned.
He was observed drinking more and smoking more heavily. He was even staying longer hours in the office going over the books and anything else he could think of that would get the various government agencies from investigating his business dealings. Some had even seen him popping more prescription pills than usual. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get him off his employee’s backs, but that was about to change. The pressure was on.
Marty was finally about to sip his cup of water when he saw Rose Tuttle approaching. Rose was a cute kid fresh out of college. She had freckles and red hair; a vision of innocence with her whole life ahead of her. She was one of the few who had been kept out of the loop for her own protection. She usually had a bubbly attitude, but Marty could tell she was anything but bubbly as she walked closer.
Rose spoke first. “Marty?” she practically whispered.
“I need your advice.”
Marty was everyone’s “go-to” guy. Whenever anyone had a problem or question about something, they would go to him. He never fully understood why, but apparently, he was trusted by his colleagues. He was the only one who never let Mr. Wilson get to him. He always remained cool and unperturbed when everyone else lost their composure under pressure. He attributed his level-headedness to growing up on the streets on the wrong side of town.
“Have you ever been so angry with someone that you wanted them dead?”
Marty was surprised by the question but pretended he hadn’t heard it. “Huh?”
“Have you ever wanted someone dead?”
“You mean like dead dead?”
“Yeah.” Rose apprehensively looked around the lounge then focused her attention back to Marty. “Keep your voice down.”
“Sorry,” he apologized.
Marty matched Rose’s whisper level. “Well, hypothetically, you could say so.”
“What do you mean, hypothetically? I’m not talking hypothetical here.”
“By dead, do you mean like literally or figuratively?”
“So you really mean dead when you say dead? You’re talking about actually wanting someone dead?”
Marty analyzed her facial gestures and body language trying to understand where her line of questioning was coming from. He could tell she was pissed. He had never seen her so upset before. She was literally shaking. “You mean like killing someone yourself or by letting God kill them?” He finally sipped from the paper cup of water he had poured before his conversation with Wilbur.
“Doing it myself. Now stop farting around and answer my question, dammit.”
“Do they deserve it? I mean what have they done to deserve being killed?”
“Is it work-related or family?”
“Work-related. He’s the meanest, nastiest son-of-a-bitch I’ve ever known.” Rose become animated and raised her voice slightly. She caught herself as her speech got louder. She paused, took a deep breath, regained her composure, and then continued talking. “I don’t know if I can take his abuse anymore. I want to quit, but I need this job.”
“It wouldn’t be Mr. Wilson by any chance, would it?”
“Well, yeah, it is. How’d you figure out who I was talking about?”
Marty ignored her question. It was readily apparent to him that Rose was speaking on an emotional level rather than a logical one. Otherwise, it would have occurred to her that what she had just told him could be easily figured out by anyone at the company. “What did he do that would make you want him dead?”
Rose’s face took on a blank look as her inner eye recalled the moments. She was seething. She started clenching her fists and grinding her teeth. “The bastard just locked me up in his office and tried to rape me.”
Her response was one Marty was not expecting. Even he was astonished at the revelation. Of all the things Wilson was guilty of, attempted rape was a new all-time low even for him. Seduction was within his character, but rape was totally out of character. The old man might just be starting to cave under the pressure, but his behavior was getting more abusive. They needed that boulder to fall, and soon. “He what?!? When the hell did he try that?”
“Just a few moments ago.”
Marty was accosted by a mental image of the shriveled up old prune trying to force himself on Rose. The image of a naked Wilson was repulsive enough. “Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not okay. I’m mad.”
“Well, what the hell did you do when he tried to, you know?”
“I kicked him in his balls and ran out the office. I know he’s going to get me back somehow for the kick, but I don’t care. Right now all I want to do is kill him”
“Join the crowd. You’ll have to take a number and stand in line if you want to off the old bastard.”
“Really?” Rose was genuinely surprised that others felt the way she did.
“Yeah. Almost everybody in the company wants him dead. If he was ever killed, the police would probably drop any investigation because there’d be too much evidence and too many suspects to narrow down. Sort of like Murder on the Orient Express.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve never read the Agatha Christie story about this guy who pissed off so many people that they all killed him?”
“No. So what happened?”
“Well, this cop who investigated this guy’s murder — it took place on a moving train — found out who killed him. It was everybody on the train. But what he couldn’t figure out was who actually killed the guy because everyone thought they were the one who murdered him.”
“So nobody got charged?”
“Yeah, you could say that.”
“Wow! Too bad that won’t happen to Mr. Wilson!”
Marty finished drinking his water, tossed his cup in the trash, turned to face Rose and asked, “What makes you think it won’t?”
Copyright © 2008 by Michael D. Brooks