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Welcome to my story blog. I will post one new story here every day. You are welcome to comment on any or all of them. Enjoy!
                   --Lee Pound

Day 31 Story - Crash and Burn

John was always busy.

If you popped your head into his office, he’s be on the phone or typing away on the computer. Or he’d be looking something up or making notes on a tablet.

Most days if you asked him out to lunch, he’d say no, too much work to do, and wave you away.

Nobody knew exactly what kind of work he was doing. We all just knew he was busy. He rarely turned in reports and he rarely attended company meetings. Too much work, he’d say.

One day John was transferred into my department. “I like the fact that he works hard,” my manager told me. “However, he’s often late with reports and it can take days for him to get back to me if I ask him a question. Find out what’s going on.”

I didn’t know much about John. None of us did. He kept to himself most of the time. The day after he was assigned to my department, I knocked on his door and walked in. He was busy typing. “Got a minute?” I asked.

He looked up. “I’m pretty busy.”

“So am I. This’ll just take a minute.”

“Okay. You got a minute.”

“John, since you’re joining my department, I need to know what projects you’re working on.”

“Can I get back to you with that?”

“Just tell me now.”

“You don’t understand,” John said.

I stood. “Have it on my desk before you leave today.”

John turned back to his computer without saying a word. I walked out and closed the door behind me.

That evening I stayed late. John continued to work, almost daring me to leave before he did. Finally, at 7 p.m., he turned off his computer. As he closed the door, he glanced in my direction then turned and headed for the elevator. I stood as the elevator door opened and he jumped inside.

Something’s wrong, I thought. I waited five minutes before taking the elevator down to the garage.

I arrived early the next morning. John wasn’t there yet. I waited an hour. No John. This was odd. He was always on time. Enough of this, I thought. Time to find out what’s going on.

I took the elevator down two floors to the personnel department. The clerk quickly pulled John’s file.

“He started with us as a sales trainee three years ago,” she said. “According to his application he’s worked at two prior companies and left on good terms. He was promoted once a year ago to sales associate. We’ve had no complaints about him. He meets his quota but not much more. Just average performance.”

“Yet he works hard,” I said. “He’s on the computer all the time. Never has time for meetings or lunch.”

She shook her head. “This is all I’ve got.”

I returned to my office. As I stepped in, the phone rang. “This is Sgt. Dickinson at the police station. We just picked up a guy who says he works for you. Name is John.”

“Was he in an accident?”

“Tried to rob a bank. Botched the job so bad security caught him carrying a water pistol. He won’t talk.”

“I’ll be right down.”

At the station, Sgt. Dickinson briefed me on what had happened. About five minutes after the bank opened, John walked up to a teller, pointed the water pistol at her and demanded all the cash. The teller laughed at the water pistol and pushed the alarm button. Against the rules but John must have looked very silly.

He argued with her and demanded money. Two security guards approached him from the rear and grabbed him. He didn’t struggle. Police arrived a few minutes later.

“Maybe he’ll talk to you,” Dickinson said.

I walked into the interview room. John sat at the table, head down. “Nothing’s working,” he said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I needed the money,” he said. “Sales are down at the company. I tried to make it happen but nobody bought. My wife left me a month ago. I’m about to lose my house. What else could I do?”

I took a deep breath. “Nothing now,” I said. “I’ll get you an attorney. Don’t say anything else.”

Outside, Sgt. Dickinson stopped me. I said, “We should have paid more attention to him. He’s got big problems and flipped out. He’s harmless. I wouldn’t charge him but that’s up to you and the bank.”

Back at the office, I stared at John’s empty office. We should have noticed. We should have acted. Yet we didn’t. He was just a bit odd to all the rest of us. Inside he was hurting badly. I guess it wouldn’t have taken much to help him, to at least try. We didn’t and his problems become too much for him to handle and he crashed and burned.

I wish to hell he’d asked for help. I wish to hell I’d given it to him.

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