Bad Seed: Chapter Nine

The CEO’s office more resembled a twelve year old mad scientist bedroom than a corporate titan. Counter tops were lined with beakers, microscopes, burners, and lab notebooks. One wall was covered with white boards and a periodic table, while the wall behind his desk displayed ten colorful skateboard decks. All were collectors items that spanned the years from his first Jason Lee board to the latest Andy Anderson innovation. A complete skateboard was tucked under his desk that he fiddled around with while on a boring conference call. By far, the strangest thing in his office this morning was either the sulking executive in the hot seat or the stack of Lucky Charms boxes on the corner of the conference room table.

Walter stood up from the conference table, tightened his Brooks Brothers’ tie, and motioned to the door. Kevin wasn’t taking the hint that the conversation was over, and continued to drum his fingers on the armrest. The man’s smug and direct gaze unnerved Walter. Kevin’s tie hung loose in his oversized shirt collar that didn’t hide the huge, welted acne on his neck. He looked like a boy playing office in his daddy’s clothing. Although the office didn’t have a strict dress code, or any dress code for that matter, Kevin was still an odd man out. Under the loose knot of his tie, the top button of his oxford shirt wasn’t buttoned and the tie boasted pictures of cartoon characters like he was working the bar at a theme restaurant. It took everything in Walter not to comment on the man’s apparel or his attitude. 

Kevin was the lone thorn in Walter’s side. Today they were addressing the accusations and evidence of bullying. Previous meetings had been about Kevin’s loud, inappropriate music, tardiness, and misuse of resources when he took a company truck on a coffee run because he forgot to put gas in his personal vehicle. Walter had personally recruited Kevin during his senior year at Iowa State University. While he wasn’t at the top of his class, he presented himself as passionate and dynamic. Now he looked like a beaten dog mad at the world. He slumped in his seat, shoulders rolled forward.

Kevin started at Granum as a college intern. He thrived that summer and streamlined their communications about the test crops. They hired him as Associate Vice President of Experiential Farming, but his performance was never back to the level they’d seen that summer. His title changed multiple times, demoted from an executive office to a cubical in the bullpen where he terrorized the employees he oversaw.

Kevin glared up at Walter from a deep furrowed brow with his chin on his chest.

“Wyatt deserves your respect.”

Kevin scoffed as if Walter had told a fart joke.

“This level of harassment will not be tolerated,” Walter said. “Is that understood?”

One shoulder rose and fell like a sulky teenager unremorseful about breaking curfew. 

Walter’s desk phone beeped. “Sir, the police are here to speak to you,” his secretary announced.

Walter held the door open and peered into the outer office. One uniformed police officer and a man in plainclothes with a badge clipped to his hip looked at him. Walter had a busy day ahead to prepare for his new second in command joining the company on Monday, loose ends to tie up before he dedicated himself to orienting his newest colleague.

The plainclothes cop and Kevin eyed each other as Kevin slunk back to his cubicle. Like two prizefighters sizing up their opponent during weigh-in: they puffed their chests, thrust their chins, and narrowed their gaze to a sneer. 

“Gentleman,” Walter said. “How can I help you?”

“We need a minute of your time,” the plainclothes cop said. His face was solemn, his mouth in a straight line without a trace of a frown or smile. The uniformed officer offered a brief, consolatory smile.

“Please come in,” Walter said and stood back from the door jam to allow them entrance. Rather than sit behind his desk and create a divide between him and the officers in some sort of power move, he motioned them toward the small conference table near the windows. Walter wanted to ask what this was about, but he’d discover that soon enough, and he didn’t have the upper hand here. Although this office and business were his domain, they had handcuffs and guns.

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