Friday, January 27, 2012

Walter Wallace - Chapter 44

Mark sat listening idly to the reports of the local station manager. Something about never thinking this could happen and that he personally suspected sabotage. All Mark could think was why did this happen to him – he suspected it was personal sabotage. The rubble of Newport Haven Terminal sat smouldering in the floodlights of the camping reporters. They would be expecting a statement from CitaRail soon and Mark had no desire to give it; no idea what was expected of him or what he could say. His stomach churned with anxiety.

He had switched off his mobile phone in the panicked minutes that followed his final drink with Stevie. He was horrified at what he might hear if he answered a call from Boss. Sam Tank had heard him blurting about business and when Boss found out he would be finished. But the silence of his phone was almost worse. How many calls had he dodged? What would Boss do in retaliation to his desertion? He winced as the flood of worry washed through him again.

“Are you Ok, Boss?” the terminal manager asked.

“Where?” Mark said, almost cowering as he turned around expecting to see his brother.

“I says are you OK, chief? You look bout ready to lose your guts.”

His lingering headache pleaded for him to head back to the pub and kick on and he found it increasingly difficult to overcome his desire to escape. “I’m fine,” he said wearily, “I think I got the gist of it.”

The man studied Mark for a brief moment and then shrugged his shoulders. “OK, but what are we 'sposed to do for work tomorrow?”

Mark winced again and began mashing his palms into his eyes, “I don’t fucking know, do I?” he said, irritated. “Just- just me tomorrow and....and I’ll probably tell you the same fucking thing.”

“Well do we get paid?”

“Christ! What am I the fucking boss here?!” The fact that Mark was, indeed, the boss took the wind out of his anger but he continued on, irate, “Just call the union or something and if they say no then at least you know there will be plenty of construction jobs about to pop up in this shitty town.”

The terminal manager left silent but clearly flustered. Mark felt bad and thought he should apologise immediately - maybe take the man out for a drink or two at the pub. He let out a sigh and felt the sickness tickling in his throat. He imagined the bile in his belly’s pit searing through his internal organs and giving way to a void of gravity that sucked him inwards from all angles. He didn’t know if he wanted to vomit or shit his pants but he nearly did both when a woman approached him from behind.

“Mr Tanenworth, when is CitaRail or Citadel Inc. itself going to front up and present a statement?” The reporter stood holding her microphone to his face and the camera behind her was already rolling. Again Mark winced but in a flash of inspiration he decided to man up and get this over with. Like a soldier entering the warzone unarmed, he marched forward.

“OK, I’ll give a...what do you call it – a small statement before tomorrow we give a more uhh...formal, you know?”

“A preliminary statement?”

“Yeah – that’s actually better than whatever I forgot – OK a preliminary statement.”

“And this is on the record?”

“Fuck, I dunno. This guy’s recording isn’t he?”

“OK then. Let’s go.” The woman turned and faced the camera, “Can we get this out live?” she asked her cameraman while straightening her hair and jacket.

He shook his head, “They got Walter over at the hospital and then that kid that got shot.”

“Shit. Well let’s try do this in one take anyway. Work with me here Mark I need to make a story out of this. Three, Two...This is Nancy Hardwick reporting for Channel 73 news. I am here with the head of CitaRail and brother to Boss Citadel, the head of Citadel Inc., its parent company, Mr Mark Tanenworth, and we are about to get a preliminary statement on the catastrophe that has taken place at this small rural town.

“Mark, thank you for your time.” Mark nodded, awkwardly. “Tell me Mark, have we got an official death tally yet?”

Mark thought a moment; he did actually know the answer to this – more or less. “Well we know 392 people were on the train, staff included, and about 100 were pulled from the wreckage by the fireman-”

“-And the brave Walter Wallace.” Nancy added gravely.

“Yes and Walter. Around half of them were taken to the hospital-”

“-Including the lovely Lucy Blues.”

“Yes...and Lucy...” Mark said, a little thrown by Nancy’s odd antics. “So I guess that leaves...uhh...” Mark was never good at real time mathematics. The cameraman raised his left hand and held up 3 fingers followed by four fingers and then two. Mark was little slow to catch on. The cameramen pumped his hand to emphasise and Mark caught his drift. “uhh...three hundred and four...ty-two. Just a preliminary estimate for now.”

“And have you had any leads into the cause of the accident?”

“Uhh...well we have had some preliminary examinations and as yet we haven’t jumped to any conclusions.” Mark felt his face flushing. Why had he accepted this interview?

“So you’re telling me that even though the accident occurred at 11am today you still have no clue as to what happened?”

“Well it’s only nine-thirty; I mean that’s only...uh-”

“It’s ten and a half hours, Mark, but I’ll spare you any more maths lessons and round it up to half a day. Don’t you feel that the response time of an organisation as large and integral to the nation’s infrastructure should have procedures in place to deal with possible disaster situations? How long will it take to repair and have the train system back on track, so to speak? What will your employees do? What about the families of the deceased. There are severe liability issues at hand and you are still trying to count the dead with your fingers.”

Mark felt like a schoolboy in the principal’s office. He made jokes back then during maths class, but nobody seemed to laugh anymore. “We have actually entered discussions with the workers’ union.”

“Preliminary discussions?” Nancy shot back sarcastically. The cameraman snorted. “C’mon Mark, tell the people that you are in charge of the situation. Walter Wallace can’t rescue you from this one. What happened here and how are you going to fix it?”

“Well like I said the prelim- the uhh, early investigations were un...” Mark was beginning to sweat; he could really use a drink, “...conclusive. They suspect a malfunction or a person sabotage-ing or it could-”

“Sabotage!” Nancy exclaimed.

“Well that is to say the systems in place are designed to never malfunction or-”

“You’re suggesting this was an act of terrorism?!”

“I never said-”

“Is this why there have been allegations that a person or persons operating under the employ of Citadel Inc. have shot at a civilian?”

“No- What? Who got shot? I was just- the technician said-” Mark had fucked up royally. Even his lack of business acumen knew that he shouldn’t spout inflammatory statements like terrorism.

“Have the authorities been informed? Perhaps the victim at the hospital should be detained. Have you considered any of your responsibilities today or have you been off having a drink at the local pub? This is a disgrace.”

Fuck off, lady. Mark wanted to scream at her as his head pounded and stomach churned in excruciating harmony.

“Don’t you have anything to say for yourself?” Nancy demanded.

“I said fuck off, lady!” Mark shouted. He felt instant regret, but was still too flustered to make any apologies. He walked away from Nancy, clutching both temples with one hand.

“Is that still on the record, Mr Tanenworth?”

Mark just wanted to get away. The whole day was going horribly. He didn’t want to be in charge of any departments within Citadel Inc. – he never did. He didn’t care about the money or the family legacy. He only did it out of respect to his mother’s wishes. And now when his title finally demanded some true action out of him he was left trying to take a shower in a shitstorm. He didn’t want this anymore; none of it. He decided with grim determination, in the face of his splitting headache and compounding shortcomings that he would do the unthinkable. In his final act of personal sabotage he decided to call Boss.

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