a short story
by Austin Mitchell
Alton Daniels was all ears as his boss came up to introduce the new Chief Accountant.
“I’d like you to meet Stan Strachan, your new head of the department,” Mark Findlay, Managing Director of Dennison and Sons, hardware merchants, addressed the accounting department staffers. There were cheers all around as staffers welcomed their new boss to one of the largest hardwares on the island.
Stan came up and said a few words.
“I’d like to thank the staff for coming and am asking them for their cooperation. I’d also like to thank Mr. Findlay for giving me this opportunity and I wish to assure him that I won’t let him down.”
There was loud cheering before a senior staffer came up and welcomed Stan on behalf of the staff after which everybody returned to their posts.
Mr. Findlay also told them that Stan wanted to meet with each of them. As
Chief Accountant he could after reviewing their files and job performance advise him if their work was up to the standard required for their jobs.
“My new boss is a man, whom I don’t trust?” Alton told a friend on the weekend.
“Why?” Kevin, his friend asked.
“There is something about him that I don’t like.”
“All I tell you is to watch yourself. Anyway, you don’t know how he got this job.”
“I suppose you’re right, Kevin,” Alton said as they parted.
“But Alton, look how many recommendations you had to get and interviews you had to go through before you got your present job,” his mother said to him one evening a week later.
“All I tell him is to watch himself. He’s been there less than six months. Try and make sure you keep your job and stop worrying about this new man,” his father in turn said.
The following weeks, Stan pushed the staff hard. He wanted to get the end of
first quarter results finalized before the deadline. This was sure to impress his bosses that he was a no-nonsense type of person, who knew how to get a job done.
By the first week after the end of the quarter the results were out and Mr.
Findlay congratulated Stan for a job well done.
Stan had a meeting with his staff. He reminded them that in his first
meeting he had told them to be prepared for an evaluation. However, he had seen
how hardworking they were, so he had thought of dispensing with the evaluation
and only do it at year end. However, he said there were one or two shortcomings he
had spotted and while he could readily identify those employees he didn’t want
anybody to feel that they were being unnecessarily singled out, so that he would
evaluate everybody in the department. In all, ten employees were to be evaluated in two weeks.
Stan put up a roster of the times for each employee attending the evaluation.
Alton wasn’t scheduled until Tuesday of the second week.
Meanwhile, staff members continued to work harder and rumors began
to circulate that some of them would be fired. Several staff members returned from
the evaluations smiling gleefully, satisfied that they had passed. Others returned with long faces, saying that they were awaiting their letter of dismissal.
Finally, it was Alton's turn and he arrived that Tuesday morning wearing his
best shirt and tie.
When he went into Stan's office at ten o'clock he was fidgeting. Stan got up
from around his desk and greeted him with a handshake.
"Alton, come and have a seat."
"Thank you, Mr. Strachan."
That was all Alton could say above the beat of his heart.
"I've gone through your file. Howard gave you some high marks in the short time you’ve been here.”
Howard Livermore had been Stan’s predecessor.
"You’re doing some accounting examinations so I'm going to vote for you to continue in the department.”
"Thank you, sir."
Alton stood up and shook Stan’s hand.
He then went out to his colleagues, his head held high in the air.
The evaluations over everybody awaited the results which wouldn’t be out
until the next week Friday.
When Friday of the next week came Stan left early in the morning saying
he had an all day conference to attend. The personnel manager, Mrs. Sewell, would
hand out the evaluation results for him.
At around three o'clock that afternoon, Mrs. Sewell came out of her office
and started handing out the reports. Alton and Debra Sinclair, a junior accountant like himself, were the only two persons not to receive their reports. Mrs. Sewell summoned them into her office.
"Alton and Debra, the news is bad, Mr. Strachan said that both of you are poor workers."
Alton knew that he and Debra had joined the firm about the same time.
Both of them stared, shaking their heads in disbelief.
Mrs. Sewell handed them their envelopes and Debra burst out into tears.
“I knew he didn’t like me.”
"He said I was doing a good job," Alton said."I just don't understand.”
"I've spoken to Mr. Findlay; he says that he has to go by what his Chief Accountant recommends.”
Alton was wondering why Stan had done this to him.
“He said he was going to make sure that I continued in the department,” he said.
Staff members were up in arms over the dismissal of Alton and Debra.
Several of them said that they should have joined a union. Others were threatening to march on Mr. Findlay’s office.
Alton examined his check. He had been paid his salary up to Friday plus
notice and leave pay. He read his evaluation report. It was nothing like what Stan
had told him and he passed it around. He wondered what Stan had against him. Their paths had never crossed before. He shook his head, it was all a mystery to him.
Several staffers from other departments decided to have an informal send off party that evening at Leta’s Hideout in Half Way Tree.
“I think there is more to this than we know about,” Kendis Swaby, a senior accountant declared.
“Are you sure you didn’t do Stan anything or that you didn’t know him before, Alton or Debra? I just don’t understand why he just picked on both of you,” Madge Ennis, a senior secretary stated.
Everybody shook their heads, they didn’t understand what had happened, but now it was too late to do anything about it. They all agreed that they just had to be on their guard from now on.
Alton didn’t pick up a job until three months later. He wrote a lot of applications and must have attended at least a dozen interviews before he landed a
junior accountant’s post. It was paying him less than his last job, but he was satisfied and the job was easy. He had put all thoughts of Stan behind him as he had decided to treat that episode as a piece of bad memory.
Alton became deeply involved in his church. He was leaving church one evening about six o’clock a year later when Debra came up to him.
“Alton, I’m returning to my old job.”
He greeted her with a hug, still puzzled at the news.
“I thought you were working somewhere else.”
“Yes, I was but you haven’t heard the news about Stan.
Apparently Stan had hatched a scheme with the two new employees, he had brought in to replace them. The heist had cost the company thousands of dollars and it was only the quick thinking of Mr. Findlay why it hadn’t cost more. He had never been satisfied with Debra and Alton’s dismissal. He had gotten even more suspicious when Stan refused to have anybody else sit in on the interviews with their replacements.
Stan and his two new associates had set up two fraudulent companies from which goods were ordered and payments made. Mr. Findlay became suspicious when his sales and purchasing managers reported to him that Stan was taking over their positions. He denied that he was doing any such thing and Mr. Findlay called in his internal auditors. Their investigations revealed the extent of what Stan had done. Stan and his associates denied everything but the evidence was there and all three were fired and arrested for fraud.
Alton was still puzzled, even if Stan was a fraudster, what did that have to do with him?
“I wish you good luck, Debra. I’m all right where I am.”
They shook hands before going their separate ways.
Five years later Alton now a fully qualified accountant and an ordained Minister had just finished preaching a sermon when he noticed a man at the back of the church hall. It was Stan Strachan!
Alton guessed that he would be about forty years old. He certainly looked much older.
After church was over, he came up and shook Alton’s hand.
“Alton, how are you?” he asked.
Stan begged his forgiveness. He explained to him that he had spent four years in prison and had accepted the Lord there. He had to repay the money he had stolen. He had forged all the recommendations from his former employers. It was because he feared that Alton would have exposed him. Alton told him that he didn’t know what he was talking about. Stan said that after going through his file he saw that he used to work for the same audit firm, Benjamin & Coxe, that exposed him in a previous job. Alton said that he couldn’t remember anything and told him when he left the audit firm.
“Oh, God, I’m sorry, Alton, you left them six months before it happened.”
“I just saw that you worked with them and that you would know about me. I’m sorry about Debra too.”
Alton knew now that Debra had been made the scapegoat. Stan had simply picked on him for what he thought he knew about him. He felt sorry for him.
Stan said that since coming out of prison, he had started a small company and now knew how Mr. Findlay and his previous employers had felt as one of his trusted employees had defrauded him of a considerable amount of money.
Alton thanked him for coming to see him. He assured him that he had forgiven him. Stan left, a relieved man. Alton hoped that he wouldn’t backslide but he assured him that he would pay his church a monthly visit. The End.
Adapted from a collection of short stories: Waiting to Cross the Bridge
Austin's blog: stredwick.blogspot.com