‘I gotta say, Mike,’ my boss said, clinging to his suspenders as he strutted into the emptied office. ‘This renovation is coming along much nicer than I expected.’
‘Thank you, sir,’ I said with a grin. ‘We had a great design, and got lucky with the contractors, so it’s all coming together quite nice—’
‘I need you to burn it down.’
I paused, mid-sentence, as my brain tried to process what I’d just heard.
‘Burn it,’ my boss repeated casually, as he asked for a cube of extra sugar in his coffee. ‘We upped our insurance when the renovation started, and that little golden parachute has been sitting there long enough. We’ll make a killing!’
‘But, but…’ I uselessly stammered. ‘We just installed the drop ceiling—’
‘Perfect!’ he clapped his hands together. ‘Easy for someone to forget they left a candle burning in one of those.’
‘A candle?’ I shook my head, still baffled. ‘What are you talking about? Sir, I’m not going to help you burn this building down.’
‘Oh?’ he raised an eyebrow at me, tugging on his suspenders again. ‘Is that right? I thought you were a company man, Michael.’
Not Mike anymore, I noticed with a gulp.
‘It’s just, our premiums will go up with the insurance company, and we’ll have to rebuild,’ I said, weakly. ‘I don’t know how much money we could possibly—’
‘Fifteen million,’ he said.
‘What?!’ my eyes blew out. ‘That’s… that’s a lot.’
Conditioned by the past month of renovations, all I could do was calculate how many affordable plastering repairs, local to Melbourne, that could pay for. A lot, was the answer my brain returned.
‘It sure is,’ my boss nodded, a greedy grin on his face. ‘Enough to make certain people quite… comfortable?’
I gestured at myself, hesitantly. My boss rolled his eyes and nodded.
‘Yes, you imbecile, I’m offering to bribe.’
‘Oh, okay,’ I said. ‘You were being very vague, is all.’
He tossed me a lighter and strutted out of the room.
‘Idiot,’ I heard him mutter to himself as he left.