Michael Turnbull stood at the plate glass window. From up here on the 50th floor he had a commanding view of the capital and on a crisp autumn day like this you could see all the way to canary wharf. It was a view that he had enjoyed many times in the past, but today his mind was elsewhere. There was a muffled thump from the floor directly below, or maybe even below that.
"Mr Wakefield is here for your 3:30, sir," the voice on the intercom buzzed. Michael knew full well that he had no 3:30 with Mr Wakefield, but he was fully aware of the series of codes he and his secretary had worked out not 9 months ago and what the implications of this message were. He crossed to his antique oak desk and sat heavily in the old leather office chair.
"Thank you Marjorie. I trust you know the procedure?"
A curt "Yes sir" followed and he turned once again to the window, trying hard to ignore the bank of monitors set into the wall behind his desk. He didn't need to see what was going on there; he could well imagine the scenes playing out across the other 49 floors of his own personal business kingdom.
It had seemed like such a genius idea at the time. He supposed most disasters are begun in such ways. He had been a rising star in the business world, a real up and comer. It was only a matter of time before he was head hunted to join one of the big boys, and when the time had come he had had the choice of not one but three companies, desperate for his hand on their rudder, so to speak.
Another thud sounded from below, this one making the floor tremor slightly through his expensive Italian leather brogues. He leaned back in the chair and laced his hands behind his head. It all began with a theory, and this one sounded like just the kind of theory that people would hear and say 'why didn't I think of that?' Of course, now he wasn't so sure, but back then it had sounded like the best idea he had ever had.
It hadn't taken too much brainpower to accept the offer from EasyTec Solutions. Not only was their financial package substantially better than the other offers, but they had more clout in their field and were offering him a free hand as head honcho of the whole operation. He could do as he pleased with only minor involvement from the shareholders, who he quickly realised, would pretty much say yes to anything he suggested. And so it had begun well; minor tweaks here and there to flex his business muscles before implementing the BIG PLAN.
"Mr Yakomoto on line 3, sir." Michael closed his eyes and thought for a second.
"OK Marjorie, send in the receivers."
"Yes sir." and Marjorie signed out again.
Now it came to it, he couldn't quite remember where he had heard it first; was it a documentary or an article he had read somewhere, but it all boiled down to one fact. When tested, all of the really successful businessmen; the ones who strove for greatness, the ones who went the extra mile, the ones who didn't care how they got that target, all had psychopathic tendencies. He had applied that fact to his own personal experience and could see it reflected again and again in his peers. They were the ones who didn't care what you thought of them, they wouldn't stop until they had achieved their goals and dreams, no matter who they had to walk over to get them. Not a desirable trait as a friend or partner, but imagine a workforce lead by them. Every business had a few in their number, and it was mainly down to these individuals that the business might have gained whatever successes they had gained, but a whole company with one of these super businessmen heading each and every department? They would rule the world.
And so it had begun. He had carried out his own surreptitious psychological testing on the existing workforce and had been pleasantly surprised how many were already in key positions within the framework. All it took was a few months of clever planning, relocation and one or two fabricated gross misconducts and he was free to hire whoever he pleased. Rather than go through the whole rigmarole of holding interviews and hoping to net a suitable psychopath, he had had another genius idea; why not go to the source?
A couple of the chaps from his lodge were medical consultants, and they were only too happy to pass on the names and numbers of a few candidates for his perusal. He hadn't shared his secret with the shareholders, but with the success of the company and their rising share prices, they continued to award him bonus after bonus and pat him on the back at every opportunity. Without exception they had settled into their roles like a duck to water, and all had been plain sailing since then. Until now, of course.
It had been a perfect storm of a board meeting. He had gathered all his heads of department together for their monthly debrief. It was something they had done many times before now without incident and it was a chance to iron out any problems face to face, a chance to bring each other up to speed with new and exciting developments, and a chance to blow off steam in a friendly boardroom environment. However, today's meeting had not gone to plan. Firstly, Mr MacTavish had apparently 'stolen' Mrs Sweeney's favourite chair, Mr Chivers thought he had heard Mr Lovejoy referring to him as, quote, a 'fucking plum' in the corridor outside just before the meeting started, Mr Coppick had intercepted an E-mail from the research department that contained a meme labelling all from the development department as wankers, and, worst of all, Mrs Easton had taken the last chocolate chip muffin. He had been lucky to escape from the ensuing chaos with his life, and now he could only imagine the carnage that was spreading through his empire.
The sound of glass breaking tore him from his memories and on walking back over to the window and craning down, he could make out the shape of a filing cabinet in the centre of a group of shocked pedestrians, most of which were gazing up at the hole in the side of his building where reams of paperwork was still streaming out into the chill breeze. He forced himself to glance at the dozen or so monitors and wasn't surprised to see the lobby camera centred on a pile of sofas and chairs that had been expertly piled to block the only entrance. A blur across the bottom of the screen showed Mr Murphy, head of security, bare chested and wearing his tie around his head, stalking to and fro while wielding a pair of nun chucks he had obtained from somewhere.
Elsewhere in the empire, scenes of devastation abounded. Floor 23 looked as if it had been turned upside down; not a desk or a table was still upright apart from one where young Jonny was arm wrestling Mr MacTavish for a pile of staplers. Floor 17 showed a ring of wastepaper baskets filled with burning paper surrounding a figure in robes that looked suspiciously like Mr Whittaker head of marketing, while outside the ring, all the other marketing colleagues bowed in praise. Floor 36 was the typing pool, and in a surprising turn of events, it looked as if young Tracey Spinks had seized control, sitting as she was on a throne of printers with the inert body of Mrs Garmen the head of department lying face down at her feet. Here and there were scenes of fighting in the boardrooms, gangs prowling around the corridors and the innocent fleeing for their lives. He flicked on the screens that showed floor 50 and the corridor that lead to Marjorie's office just outside his own. The figures creeping along looked to be a joint enterprise from development, testing and research departments. A little part of him felt proud that they could still work together. The intercom buzzed again.
"Mr Turnbull, I have your wife on the phone. She wants to know if you would pick up a pizza on the way home."
Michael sighed. He had been afraid it would come to this. He had never married.
"I understand Marjorie. Thank you for all your hard work. I couldn't have done it without you. It's been a privilege to work with you and I wish you all the very best of luck."
"Thank you sir. Same to you too."
With that, the intercom went dead, but Michael heard Marjorie's voice carry through the heavy wooden panel of the doors.
"All right you miserable sons of bitches, who wants a piece of me?" she screamed, followed by the sound of splintering doors and heavy fighting. The sound didn't die away, but merely seemed to intensify. Slowly and with purpose he slipped his designer jacket off his shoulders and hung it in his cupboard, rolling his shirt sleeves up in the process. With great reverence, he removed his tie and re-tied it around his head. Briefly kneeling in front of his filing cabinet, he bowed before pulling the bottom draw completely out and gently lifting out a Japanese Samurai sword that Mr Yakomoto had presented to him just the previous summer. He unsheathed it in one fluid movement before bringing it around in several intricate arcs and settling into a ready pose. A smile spread across his face as he thought to himself; you don't get to be the big cheese without being a bigger psychopath than all the rest. He started towards the door…