The Final Interview
WALTER: Hello, Greg.
WALTER: I just need to… Hang on, all this paperwork… (pause)
WALTER: Here we go. August 15, interview number three, psych evaluation. Applicant's name is Greg Bell, for the position of, uh, Senior Analyst, in uh…
GREG: R and D.
WALTER: Research and Development, right, thanks. Evaluation conducted by Walter Lapham, badge 6463. Okay.
GREG: Quite a mouthful.
WALTER: Yes. So, Greg. You're in the home stretch. Obviously you have the qualifications for this position, having survived the general and tech interviews. And there was a time when that was enough for companies like Shoreline Investments. But my employer prefers an extra layer of insulation, to screen for any personality traits that may hinder group dynamics or productivity…
GREG: Mister Lapham.
WALTER: You can call me Walter.
GREG: Walter, you don't have to justify your job for me.
WALTER: Well. Good, that's good. Shall we?
GREG: Let's begin.
WALTER: Why don't we start with your background. What made you seek out employment in Research at Shoreline?
GREG: I lost my previous job. Last year.
WALTER: Tell me about those circumstances.
GREG: I was the benefits coordinator for the Dallas office. I introduced new employees to the way the firm managed their 401k, their stock options, their direct deposit, health insurance, you name it. I was the guy they meet after they get past someone like you. They had been vetted at this point. It's important you understand that.
WALTER: All right.
GREG: Our main office was in Chicago, run by a man named Dan Koppelman.
WALTER: Koppelman? You worked at Arthur Andersen?
GREG: Yes. You know him?
WALTER: I met him, once.
GREG: You want to know the circumstances? Enron. Those were the circumstances.
WALTER: Right, yes. And you guys were Enron's financial auditor, correct?
GREG: Not me. Not "my guys." None of us in the Dallas office had anything to do with them. We didn't even know Enron was a client. But while we were reading about the price fixing, the trading schemes, and code names like Death Star and Double Blind, Dan Koppelman was up in Chicago with two account managers all weekend, shredding six tons of documents and deleting a gigabyte of email records.
WALTER: (pause) Yes. So this was around the time of the SEC investigation.
GREG: Around the time.
WALTER: Before Koppelman fled the country.
WALTER: And you were affected by the scandal?
GREG: You could say that.
WALTER: I'd rather you say it. We're here to see what goes on inside that brain of yours, Greg. Tell me what happened.
GREG: Well. You know. The company dissolved. We were all let go. All of us in Dallas, all of us internationally… (pause) Eighty-five thousand jobs. Koppelman could have stopped it in Chicago, he could have taken the fall with Nancy and Dave Duncan, but he took everyone down. He made the company a criminal.
WALTER: And you blame him for it.
GREG: Six tons of documents. You know how much email correspondence you need to take up a whole gigabyte?
WALTER: I'm sure it was, uh…
GREG: But my guys in Dallas blamed me. I was the one telling them their shares were worthless. I was the face of the big bad wolf. (pause)
Three months later I'm using credit cards to pay my mortgage because the company's payroll is frozen during the SEC case. My wife has been a stay-at-home mother for so long, it's hard for her to find even temp work. I'm getting hate mail from the guy who drove the company van. Loretta, our receptionist, was on maternity leave, and now she's calling me at all hours asking me how she's going to afford to keep her baby without insurance. I'm stepping out to death threats written in shoe polish on the windshield of my car. That same week Koppelman is acquitted of two criminal charges.
WALTER: That's terrible.
GREG: That's six months ago.
WALTER: (pause) Greg, for purposes of this interview my next question is important. How did you survive the next six months? What did you do, to make things right?
GREG: I went to our storage unit and opened my grandfather's trunk.
GREG: He fought in World War Two. I remember he brought home a Luger P08 pistol, stolen off some German officer. Smuggled it in among his socks. So it was untraceable.
WALTER: Wait did you say a pistol?
GREG: I took it out to the woods off Route Nine and practiced until I could hit a can at fifty paces. Then I took a long road trip. Rented a car, drove out to Lincolnshire.
GREG: Koppelman's house was one of those suburban mansions set back from the street. Part of a gated community, but it was easy to get in if you just followed someone. I parked across the street and waited. In the morning he would jog, I knew this from an article about him in The Economist. Like clockwork, he came out to the side of the road and I shot him in the neck.
GREG: Let me finish. I drove his body to a quarry four miles away and dumped him. I got to him just in time, too. The Smoking Gun reported he had just bought a home in the Caymans with questionable funds. He had a plane ticket for that Thursday.
WALTER: Is this a joke? Because none of this is funny.
GREG: I think it shows I have good problem-solving and risk management skills.
WALTER: You realize you're confessing to murder. In a job interview. Forget about the senior analyst position, Greg. Seriously.
WALTER: (pause) Okay?
GREG: Okay. I wasn't really gunning for the job, anyway. I lied just to get to this point in the process. Greg isn't even my real name.
WALTER: You… (pause) Why?
GREG: Two things: First, you met Koppelman once because you ran his psych evaluation for Arthur Andersen. You signed off on him as a "CEO mentally and morally capable of leading the auditing firm to a rewarding and secure future." That was a direct quote, from you. You let the monster into my house, Walter.
WALTER: Mister Bell, this is, you can't expect-
GREG: The second thing. Security measures. I like the metal detector at the elevator banks here, with the guard station and the card readers. Nicely done. But as an interviewee I'm not allowed past the lobby. Think about where we are. You came down to meet me. You took me aside to this soundproofed conference room where you meet with clients and job prospects who haven't earned their badge yet.
WALTER: (pause) What-what is that.
GREG: You like it? It's my grandfather's.
About the Author
Eric Heisserer has been writing short fiction ever since he began procrastinating from screenwriting. Then he adapted his first PF story "Hours" for the screen and directed it in April 2012, proving he can't hide anywhere from his Final Draft software. Eric also has an irrational fear of personal interviews, which is how this short story began.