There was one way to resolve the Goodwin problem. It was an easy solution in terms of execution, but not one by any other practical stretch of the imagination. At one-thirty in the afternoon, lunch came up and Isadora contemplated her options as she ate the light, vegetable-only sandwich. She was no vegetarian, but scarcely ate meat in order to maintain her health. Also, meat was terribly expensive. To raise livestock, one needed a field, which would have to be placed outside the city where no protection whatsoever could be offered. The zombies, while partial to human meat, were known to eat cows, chickens, and anything else they came across. They, however, were strictly carnivorous. Isadora thought on that. In a world where the dead live and eat anything they see, this solution to Goodwin should not have seemed so barbaric. Nevertheless, it was. It was also the only plan she could think of.
Isadora Fleming contemplated murdering Peter Goodwin.
She could do it too. All it would take was a well-placed shot to the head or even a few dabs of some of the rather potent poisons Steelewood kept. At Isadora's belt was her Walther P99 .40 S&W pistol complete with a sound suppressor. It was the perfect weapon for the job. She had the means.
Getting away with the murder, however, was a completely different story. If she were caught executing her vice president, there was no way she would keep her job. She could sic one of her assassins on him, but no doubt some trail would be left that came right back to her. If this were to be done, only Isadora could pull the trigger. But if she used her Walther, then that might be traceable to her as well.
To do this, she would need to acquire another person's weapon and then return it without them noticing. If she did this, she would also have to pin the murder on that person. There were certainly plenty of people at Steelewood with a distaste for Goodwin, but very few whose disgust ran deep enough to kill him. And then Isadora realized that hers certainly did not. She considered this murder out of necessity for preserving her control over Steelewood.
Perhaps it was time to relinquish control. Perhaps retirement had finally come. Isadora could turn in a resignation and have the whole ordeal done before it even began. But such meant giving the company, and basically the world, to Peter Goodwin and this was not, under any circumstance, an option.
And neither was outright murdering Peter Goodwin.
The only course of action, therefore, was to wait and figure out Goodwin's next move. If this was a coup, as the message said, then it would be a single event. It was likely more mutiny than an actual coup, but there were several ways he could do it. For one, the board of directors could vote Isadora out. Or he could use military superiority to assert his dominance. Or perhaps Goodwin meant to kill Isadora. But the text message used the word “coup” and that last option was completely unlikely, even for Goodwin.
Isadora finished the last bit of her sandwich and set aside the plate. She checked the time: 2:02 PM. Stanley said earlier that she was to meet the board of directors at two-fifteen. Time to move. She got up from her desk, slid on her jacket, and grabbed her messenger bag. She made her way into the elevator went down two floors. Once there, she went to their most luxurious conference room, which had leather seats, a mahogany table, and several LED screens. It was at 2:11 that Isadora entered the room to find their Chief Financial Officer, Ben Duckett and their Chief Operating Officer, Anton Orumov. To arrive later were Goodwin and Tony Sullivan, their communications director. The rest of the board were unavailable for a smattering of reasons.
Of those four, Isadora knew only that she could count on Orumov as an ally. Sullivan clung to Goodwin like glue and Isadora found reliance on him unlikely. Duckett, however, could go either way....
“Anton, Ben,” Isadora said as she hung her coat and set down her bag. “How have you been?”
Duckett, who was also English, answered, “I've been well. How was Kingston?”
“Hot,” Isadora answered the question the very same way yet again. “And you, Anton? How are you?”
“Good, good,” Orumov, who was Russian, replied. “Been very, very busy, but good.”
“Excellent,” Isaroda said.
“Do you mind if I ask why this meeting's been called?” Duckett asked.
Goodwin and Sullivan came into the room together and exchanged greetings with everyone in the room. Once the executives took their seats, Isadora said, “Thank you all for coming. I called this meaning for two reasons. One, I'd like to touch base with operations since I've been gone, two I'd like to discuss the Fujikawa Network and how we are to approach it. To start, let's hear what you have to say, Ben.” She sat down.
Duckett stood and gave a brief, but optimistic summary of company finances. Following this, Orumov reported that all of his branches function either adequately or very well. Sullivan had nothing to report beyond that he did good work. Finally, Goodwin let Isadora know that life had been uneventful for the two days she visited Jamaica. All-in-all, this was exactly what she expected.
Finally, Isadora stood once again and said, “I know we've discussed this before, but I want to make it abundantly clear: we are not to touch the Fujikawa-Mitchell Line, the Fujikawa Network, or the S.S. Holdsworth. The board ruled on this last month and there is to be no change in that policy.”
“Ma'am,” Goodwin interrupted. “Yes, I realize we've made the ruling, but I'd like to bring up the fair point that we can still change our minds. I'd also like to point out that I am unequivocally in favor of doing so. That network is a resource and we should take it. Our company would be able to manage it much better than the ragtag crew of the Holdsworth. They're glorified pirates.”
“It isn't ours to take, Peter,” Isadora fired back. “And you can't possibly know that. Who's to say, based on proven fact, that we could run a completely novel networking system better than they could.”
Goodwin scoffed, “Yes, it's hypothetical, but just look at our company. We've run like clockwork for decades. No one is better suited to run anything at all than we are.”
“I'm gonna have to agree with Goodwin,” Sullivan said, his Bostonian accent in full swing. “We can't let 'em foul this up, it's too damn important.”
“If I may interject here,” Duckett leaned forward and pointed a finger, “are we talking about stealing the network from its owners?”
“That's exactly what they're saying,” Isadora answered for them.
“It's not stealing, per se,” Sullivan argued.
“And how isn't it?” Duckett asked.
“Well, I mean, for one, it isn't exactly just their property-”
“Sullivan, if you think this morally justifiable, then you're an idiot,” Duckett said. And then retracted, “Oh, no offense.”
“How the hell can ya call me an idiot and then say, 'oh, no offense'?”
“Enough,” Goodwin stopped them. “You two can have your cat fight some other time. What do you think, Orumov?”
“Eh, I'm with Ms. Fleming,” Orumov replied nervously.
“This isn't a vote,” Isadora stated firmly. “This meeting isn't about that anyway. I called this meeting to discuss how we are to proceed once the line goes online. Once it is activated, they promised us a sizable portion of their bandwidth. I would like to discuss how we are to distribute it.”
“Well, my department needs the most,” Sullivan said. “I am, after all, communications.”
“Mine will need much as well,” Orumov, the COO, said.
“It'd be nice to have, but I suppose my department takes smaller priority than theirs,” Duckett said.
“I want you and Orumov to draw up a few proposals for distribution,” Isadora said to Sullivan and the Russian. “The board can vote on which one they like best. Meanwhile, I agree, your departments should take priority.”
“Yes, that sounds fine,” Goodwin stood. “Is that all?”
“It is,” Isadora nodded. “Thank you again for coming. I'll see you all on Saturday at the board meeting.”
Orumov, Sullivan, and Duckett gathered their things, said their goodbyes, and left. Goodwin, however, stuck around. Isadora asked, “Is there something I can do for you, Peter?”
“Yes,” Goodwin bit his lower lip. “I wanted to apologize for this morning. I came onto you angry and stupid, and it was wrong of me.”
Isadora nodded, “Apology accepted. Thank you.”
“Don't want there to be anything between us,” Goodwin lightly tapped his nose, which was one tell common to those who told lies. Isadora knew he was lying. The bastard.
And in that split-second, a spot at Isadora's hip burned. It was not pain, nor was it anything remotely medical. It was, however, her pistol calling to her. She could it then and there. She could shoot Peter Goodwin and be done with it. As Isadora grew ever closer to convincing herself, her phone suddenly beeped. “Ah, that's my phone,” she said awkwardly.
“I'll talk to you soon, ma'am,” Goodwin said as he left.
Isadora pulled her phone out of her bag and checked the message. It was from a blocked number and read, “MUST MEET TONIGHT. BACK OF OLD PARKWOOD WAREHOUSE @2AM. COME ALONE. WEAPONS OK.”