What the miscreants specifically did is not important. In this short piece I wanted to define the one word I picked as my title and lay it out, take it apart and differentiate its varied aspects in story form.
HENRY'S EYED POPPED open. His head turned to view the laser projected hour on his bedroom ceiling. 6:00 a.m. Time to get up. He rolled out, sleep done. For forty years he’d had no need to set an alarm. He attributed it to his genetic makeup. Perhaps in some way it connected to his eidetic memory. He could study his research on it at will, but not now.
Today he knew exactly what he would do and precisely when. He did not wonder why he became a banker. From the day he entered Princeton he knew he wanted that vocation for life and he followed his path without looking back. Over the years he plied his profession he rose in pre-considered, pre-planned steps within his organization and when he became Senior Vice-President he set his sights on the presidency in three years, not one or two, but three.
He'd allowed twenty minutes for this meeting. As the second hand of his frugally purchased but highly accurate Timex watch reached nine a.m. CEO and President Henry Toltec rose from his position at the head of First Bank’s corporate Board of Directors table. Before he spoke, he looked at each Board member. His mild gaze passed lightly over their faces, stopping for a brief moment to take a mental picture, his look no more than the click of a camera.
The ten sitting consisted of four women and six men. They comprised top management at the bank and its many subsidiaries. He noted four members showed stress on their tightly controlled features. Two were women, two were men. The two women and four men who remained, also tightly controlled, but as by their nature sat relaxed, yet alert and intelligently involved.
All members of the Board had financial interests in the bank. All were directly involved in its business. Four had caught no winds of change through the corporate grapevine. As the CEO had called an extraordinary meeting for this morning, they sat puzzled. The rumor mill, usually unreliable but with hidden truths one could ferret out by studied analysis had produced no sparkling information, no apocalyptic hint for the stressed ones. Conversely, the other six corporately tested faces knew it promised to be a most interesting meeting.
Without preliminary, Toltec began. “Twenty-five years ago I came to First Bank. I became president and CEO three years ago, as well you know. The bank’s fortunes, due to wise and frugal management of our locations and assets have increased fifty-fold during that period. Much of our success came from carefully choosing our top management. Living with the rules of good banking has made the difference…until now.”
Toltec stopped for a long moment. He shifted his gaze to the four nervous ones and his mild eyes turned withering. From his briefcase he took four folders and laid them out on the mirror reflective Board table side by side. He picked up his cell phone and pressed #6. Now he focused on the managers whose names appeared on top of the folders.
His normally controlled voice began to rise. At a thunderous level he said, “Branch Managers Houser, Smith, Valerie and Brendt, you are accused of dereliction of duty, grand theft and criminal enterprise. How do you say?”
The two women, Houser and Smith jumped up, astonished that their CEO would embarrass them in front of their fellow Board members, overrode reason and a wild, hunted look came into their eyes. Valerie and Brendt sat immobile, but Valerie began to quiver.
Now in a deadly calm voice, Toltec said, “You two sit down.”
They did not. They screamed at him.
“Lies! Lies!” one shouted. The other began to curse him with language unbefitting a professional woman.
Toltec lowered the hammer. “Silence! You have been investigated. The evidence is before me. I have polled the remaining six members unbeknownst to you and to a man and woman, they have agreed to support my decision. You are summarily fired!”
The four subsided, shock registering on each. The CEO said, “It’s not over.”
At that moment, a hard knock came at the boardroom door. It opened and two uniformed police officers walked in, followed by four mid-grade bank employees.
“Charges have been filed and you are under arrest. I am sorry you took your duties and responsibilities so indifferently. Crime, you will find, stopped paying you at this meeting. Now you will atone for your crimes through jail time, loss of reputation and loss of livelihood. You will pay restitution for as long as it takes for the bank to recover what you took from it. Shame is not a word you appear to know, but you will now acquire its intended meaning.”
Toltec looked at the officers. “Take them away.”
In a few minutes the four were handcuffed and led out. Henry, once again the mild mannered and studious head of a large corporation spoke to the remaining Directors. “Some of you know the new Directors personally and some know of them only from their dossiers. Let me introduce Amy Powers, Director of the Vermont Group, Hans Rien, Director of the New Hampshire Group, Shirley Geddart, Director of the Rhode Island Group, and Holly Siebert, Director of our Massachusetts Group. Please take your seats.”
Without a word, the new Directors sat in the recently vacated seats.
“You might wonder what the theatrics were about,” Toltec said to the four new Board members. “I’ll tell you now. Public humiliation might not be enough to stop a person from crossing over to the dark side. Temptation is part of the human psyche and cannot be removed. It can be contained. You have seen what I can do and it would be well to know that I see everything and my recall is total.
“You have free reign in your jurisdictions. I will not interfere. Simply know that I will come down on anyone in my organization like the Wrath of God who strays from the path of structure in how you fit into this organization, regularity in your daily application to your jobs and precision in addressing the little things that make it go smoothly. In a word, I want this institution to run like clockwork.”
Toltec glanced at his watch. Nine-twenty a.m.
“The meeting is concluded.”