Word Count 500
By Sam McManus
It was an absolute frenzy on the fifty-second floor, at the office of Reinhart, Ford, and Waltham, as one by one the men from the IRS exited the elevator, all suits and ties and no nonsense. They descended upon the law firm like buzzards, ready to pick the flesh from the bones. A frantic scrambling ensued, as one by one the various associates spread the news from cubicle to cubicle. It wasn’t quite the end of the world, but it was the end of their world as they knew it, unless they could get rid of approximately five reams of paper.
In the room down the hall and around the corner from the elevator, the one usually locked up tighter than Fort Knox, the managing partner, Harrison Waltham III, hurriedly disappeared inside, his arms full of the very documents the IRS were there to commandeer. It wasn’t generally his job to get his hands dirty, but he was at his best when a crisis threatened. Besides, it was lunch time, and he always ate at his desk.
At law school no one had told him this day might come, perhaps because his law school professors saw things through rose-colored glasses. They were there to prepare young lawyers for the wide world, not the big bad world, but Harrison had been in the game long enough to realize this world was both at the same time. You did what you had to do to stay afloat, then in order to stay on top, then just because you’d done it for so long you had no identity apart from it. So he slammed the door closed against the onslaught of IRS agents, the penguins who were turning his firm upside down and inside out.
He had made concessions no one should have to make, all for the firm that had his name on its stationery. Harrison Waltham believed that his name mattered, that the successes and failures of the firm were inextricably linked with him, and him alone. It was a devastating way to live, always in fear that one scandal would undo the very bricks of his firm’s foundation, the very scandal that he was desperately trying to avoid at that very moment. Right then his associates were lying through their teeth, in order to save their own asses, and by extension to save his as well.
As he began to feed the incriminating documents into the industrial strength shredder, purchased from Taiwan, he thanked god for its silent feature, one he had paid dearly for but that was paying him back in spades right then. Fifteen sheets at a time were ripped apart as if they never had been part of a collective whole. Fifteen sheets at a time were saving him in a way his father never had, in a way his name never had.
He was still two files away from complete redemption when they began pounding on the door. He picked up the pace, and kept praying.