“Come in,” I said to my vice president of acquisitions Bob Laudermilk as he entered my office. “Have a seat. Would you care for a drink? An Old Fashioned, perhaps? Maybe a martini if you prefer something lighter?”
Laudermilk waved off my offer and eased into one of the chairs opposite my desk. It had been just two weeks since he’d taken the brunt of a freakish vulture attack at Carver Consolidated Capital (C3), and his head was still a nightmarish amalgam of bandages, stitches, scabby flesh, and an eyepatch. I won’t lie to you; he was hideous.
“No thanks,” he said morosely. “Doctor said I shouldn’t mix alcohol with the pain meds and antibiotics.”
“Doctors,” I said with a grin. “What do they know?”
“Yeah,” Laudermilk said, gazing downward. “When you get right down to it, what do any of us know?”
“‘What do any of us know?’ What does that even mean? I know plenty, and so do you.”
He absentmindedly picked at a scab on the bridge of his nose and chuckled dryly. “Yeah, I used to think I knew some stuff. Now? Not so sure. Not sure about anything outside of the sharpness of vulture talons. Well, that and flying glass. I know they’ll both dig right down into your soul. Heh heh. Hrm.” His grin widened, and I think I heard a growl. “Yep. I know that for a fact.”
“Laudermilk, you are disturbing the living shit out of me,” I said, pushing my chair back a few inches. “What’s gotten into you? I’ve never seen you like this and frankly, I don’t care for it.”
“What’s gotten into me? What’s gotten into me? Come on, you know the answer to that. You were there! Remember? A goddamn pack of vultures, that’s what got into me!”
“Knock knock! Who’s there! Vultures! And they’re eating your face! They’re eating your goddamn face! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Oh god they ate my face!” Laudermilk’s manic laughter then transmogrified into heaving sobs. “Oh god,” he said, burying his face in his hands. “Oh god oh god oh god.”
I let him go on for exactly thirty seconds before interrupting. “So, uh, hmm. What is it that you wanted to see me about again? If it’s a raise, I’m sure we—”
“No,” he said forcefully. He extracted a blood- and snot-soaked handkerchief from his suit pocket, blew his nose carefully, and continued. “I don’t want a raise. I quit.”
“What? Why would you do that?”
“Because as counterintuitive as it might sound,” he said, gesturing toward his missing left eye, “this opened my eyes. Venture capitalists? We’re nothing but vultures. Evil, filthy vultures. We destroy lives and feed on the carcasses. And I’ve had enough.”
“Huh. OK. Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I find that to be insulting. Incredibly so. In fact, I’ve half a mind to jump over there and desk-stomp you, you son of a bitch!” I took a moment to compose myself, then continued. “That said! You’ve been a hell of an acquisitions chief, and I’d hate to see you go. Is there anything I can do to talk you out of it?”
He rose from his chair and shook his head. “No. I’m out of here. Have a nice life, Oz.” And just like that, he was gone.
In retrospect, I’m relieved. Ever since the accident, Laudermilk’s been depressed, creepy, and completely horrible to behold, so goodbye and good riddance. Besides, this means I can offer his position to one of Mitt Romney’s boys; they have the eyes of undead sharks and souls to match, making them perfect for the gig. Wish me luck.
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