“Ms. Sharp!” Howard Boseman jumped when he stepped into his office. He walked in and discovered the company’s owner sitting behind his desk.
“Mr. Boseman,” the dark-haired woman raised an eyebrow. “I expect your tardiness today doesn’t hint at a habit.” The portly man vigorously shook his head. Two weeks ago he decided coming in 15 minutes late wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Now he realized he had been letting himself come in a bit later every day since completing the project. Howard wondered if Ms. Sharp had been waiting since two hours ago when he was supposed to be there.
“No, Ma’am! I had a-” He began an excuse, but she interrupted him.
“You’ve wasted enough of my time. I’m here because of the top-notch work that went into the soul-node interface,” Ms. Sharp explained. Howard puffed out his chest by sucking in his gut and stood up straighter. Howard was beyond excited when he submitted the technical reports. He expected Ms. Sharp’s attention, but every day that passed without a response pushed it a bit further out of his mind.
“Thank you!” He glowed with pride. “I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into it.”
“Right, it’s a good thing you mentioned your contribution,” Ms. Sharp said. She stood from his seat in a graceful motion then walked around the desk and encouraged him to sit in it. “I like to ensure that all efforts are rewarded, who else worked on the interface with you?” She asked. Howard couldn’t have hoped for better circumstances. He’d practiced various excuses and wordings in his mind, but she asked him directly. He strategically edited to report to focus on himself, but he deliberately left the project lead’s name in once.
“Well,” Howard gave a dramatic sigh. “Lana Shapiro was the project manager…,” he shrugged. “…in title only. We were old friends and I was more lenient than I should have been.” Howard opened a desk drawer and pulled out a folder. He opened it on his desk in front of Ms. Sharp. He spread out the papers showing different dates. “I wrote up all these reports, but I was always too sentimental to follow through and submit them,” Howard said. The truth was he wrote them all up the day the project was completed. The day he fired her.
“I managed to finish the project, despite her lack of participation but she threatened to destroy it. She threatened me with violence, then when I had security escort her off the premises she threatened me with you.” That was true. She vowed to go straight to Ms. Sharp. Howard felt smug being able to mention that concern before she brought it up. “I guess she got to you if you knew I didn’t finish the project alone,” Howard said. “I took her name off the report before I submitted it.” Howard glowed inside; he was happy with how smooth everything was going. He was able to give his side a sympathetic spin and give a plausible excuse for deleting Lana’s name. Ms. Sharp nodded.
“I’m going to assume you have some sort of evidence about these threats of physical violence?” Ms. Sharp asked.
“Unfortunately our security team was performing maintenance on the security cameras,” Howard said. He paused long enough to see doubts on Ms. Sharp’s face, then he continued. “But, I did manage to record some on my phone.” He clicked his mouse, then turned his computer monitor around to face Ms. Sharp. She watched a tan, brown-haired woman shouting obscenities at the person recording. The clip only lasted about 10 seconds before she knocked the phone out of his hand.
“I see,” Ms. Sharp stood up straight and crossed her arms. “I came here with doubts, but you’ve satisfied all my concerns. Now, about the reward…,” she smiled. Howard sat up straighter in his chair and listened with an eager smile on his face. “I had several companies trying to draw energy from souls. You’re-“
“The first? I’m the first one, right?” Howard interrupted. Ms. Sharp’s dark, cold eyes glared at him. He sat in uncomfortable silence for several seconds until he realized what she wanted. “Sorry, Ms. Sharp. Go ahead.”
“You are not the first to succeed, but the solution detailed in your report is the most elegant so far.” The sound of the office door opening interrupted Ms. Sharp.
“I’M IN A MEETI-” Howard started to yell but caught himself when he recognized Ms. Sharp’s assistant. “Sorry, Melody. Didn’t know it was you.” Then he noticed a head of brown hair step into the office behind her. “Lana?” The tan woman stepped into view. “What are you doing here??” Both women ignored him and Melody turned to Ms. Sharp.
“It’s her,” Melody said.
“What? What’s she lying about now??” Howard yelled. Ms. Sharp nodded at Melody.
“Send me Janet, then give Lana whatever she wants.” Melody nodded then made a gesture at the air. A tall, black portal opened and Melody stepped through. Lana followed her in, but made a rude gesture at Howard on her way out. Then the portal disappeared.
“What about me??” Howard pleaded.
“I don’t have a favorable view of those that try to take credit for the work of others,” Ms. Sharp said. Howard believed she was bluffing; he felt confident in his planning.
“Then why are you letting her take credit for my work? I told you my side,” he pointed at the monitor. “I showed you her behavior but you’re still trusting her over me?” Ms. Sharp rotated the monitor toward Howard. He looked down and saw himself on the screen. The video showed him hunched over his desk filling out several incident reports, each one with a different date.
“Your security crew can only turn off the cameras they know about.” Before Howard could reply a small black portal opened on top of his desk. A black cat with a red patch of fur on its head walked out of the portal and sat down facing Ms. Sharp.
“Send me home,” Ms. Sharp said, then she made a dismissive gesture at Howard. “Then abandon him somewhere interesting.”