Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Gossip/Rumors (either or both) (10/28/10)
TITLE: Guilty as Charged
By Kate Oliver Webb
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Kevin pushed past me after nearly breaking my door down. Thankful my bed was close to the door, I collapsed on it in shock.
I started shaking.
“What happened?” I kept my voice low, hoping no one had heard Kev’s loud racket.
“Charlie, he died getting hit by a car on his way to work.”
“You mean he had an accident driving to work?”
“No—don’t you remember, he lost his car. He’s been walking to work.”
“That’s right,” I remembered his run of bad luck lately. I’d heard from my mom that someone saw him putting confidential work files into his briefcase and taking them out of the building. The funny thing was, when they checked up on that story, the confidential files were right where they belonged, and nothing that was not Dalton’s personal stuff was found in his briefcase or his apartment.
But the Board had put him on probation (just on the basis of the report—false or not) and took his company car. If all went well, and a thorough internal investigation revealed nothing further in the next three months, Dalton would go back to being the second in charge of the complex IT department of Broughton Memorial Christian University.
I looked up at Kevin. “What’s gonna happen now?” I whispered.
“Well, they think you’re involved, man.”
“Involved in what?” I nearly shouted at Kevin. “And sit down, Kev; you’re making me nuts.”
Kevin perched on the corner of my desk and gave me a baleful look.
“Word is—and this is what the cops are talking about, man—you wanted his job, and had to get him out of the way.”
“That’s not true!” I felt tears stinging my eyes—from fright and frustration. I mean, Dalton was a friend for heaven’s sake. And I had my own secure job; the last thing I wanted was the headaches of Dalton’s position in IT.
Kevin was silent for a moment. Then he lifted his head and stared right at me.
“Who did you tell about Dalton taking those files, Charlie?"
“Wasn’t me, my friend. I didn’t know anything about it until my mother told me last month.”
I thought back; well, I did mention something about it to Beryl Hahn in Human Resources. We’d had a dinner date a few weeks ago, and the conversation drifted to work-related stuff. But I didn’t give any details. Did I? And besides, I’m sure we discussed the fact that nothing had been proven, and after all, Beryl worked in HR where everything is confidential, right?
I was trying with everything in me to justify the words I’d let slip about a good friend. With shame, I recalled exactly why I chatted so easily with Beryl about it: I wanted to impress her.
After an uncomfortable silence, Kevin slapped me on the shoulder, said “See ya,” and was out the door. I lay on my bed and stared at the ceiling. Dalton was certainly much too young to die; he had so much living ahead.
Had I really caused my friend to be killed? Was I even more involved in his death than I remember? Why were the cops after me?
BANG BANG BANG! I drug myself off my bed and went to see who was rudely hammering on my door. I flung it open, and there was Kevin.
“Hiya, Charlie. Ready to go pick up Dalton?”
“Huh? Whaddya talking about, Kev? Didn’t you just tell me Dalton’s dead?”
“You were dreamin’, man. Sit down and tell me about it.”
Since I trusted Kevin probably more than anyone else in my life at that point, I related everything that I thought had gone on in my room that very morning.
“You were dreaming, Charlie, and I can guess what it was all about.”
I wiped my sweating brow, and said, “Okay, great guru, lay it on me.”
“Did you or did you not discuss Dalton’s little issue at work with Beryl?”
“And she passed along information to that human sieve she likes to call her BFF, right?”
I hung my head, waiting for the big hit.
“That kind of talk can ruin a person’s whole life, Charlie. In some respects, Dalton might as well be dead, since his reputation is ruined.”
“What can I do?”
“Fix it. Now. While Dalton really is still alive. But let’s pray first. You’re gonna need professional help,” Kevin said, looking up toward heaven.
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