Boss ushered Karl into his office and extended a beefy hand:
"Congratulations, Karl, you're getting a raise."
Karl's expression remained vacant.
"And hey," Boss jokingly punched his arm, "don't tell that idiot John, 'cause I'm not giving him squat."
"You're the boss," said Karl.
"That I am." Boss smiled, removing a cigar from his desk drawer. "You can go back to work now, and while you're at it, send that idiot John into my office."
He lit his cigar and waved Karl out of his office.
* * *
John emerged from Boss's office red-faced: "That bastard didn't give me a raise. I told him to go screw himself, Karl. Was that wrong of me?"
"Not if it made you feel better."
"Well, actually I feel worse 'cause now he fired me." John lowered his head into his hands. "I haven't even paid off my holiday bills."
"Speaking of which," said Karl, "I've been meaning to thank you for the New Year's card you sent me with the photo inside."
"Don't worry about it," John mumbled.
"I put it up on the wall."
"I'm very worried, Karl."
"I do so admire the low-cut dress your wife is wearing..."
"I have nowhere left to turn."
"...which shows off her large breasts very nicely."
"I'm going to lose my mind."
"Has she ever considered a career in pornography?"
"Cut the crap, Karl!"
"Relax, John." Karl leaned back in his chair.
"How can I relax when the bank is going to foreclose on my home? Where am I supposed to live?"
"Find a nice motel like I did. I'm very comfortable."
"I don't want to live in a motel, Karl. I want to keep my house."
"But you just said that this is not possible."
John groaned: "My wife is going to kill me."
"No she won't."
"Who are you to tell me?" John snapped.
"Your wife will not kill you, John. I will."
John stared up at Karl as he approached bearing a brass paperweight in the palm of his raised hand: "What in the Hell do you think you're doing, Karl?"
* * *
He was washing his hands in the bathroom sink when Andy walked in:
"Hey Karl, what'd you do for the New Year?"
"I stayed home."
"Don't you live in a motel?"
"And you call that home?"
"It's where I live," Karl answered, simply. Andy stared at him closely, but his expression remained unreadable.
"Right!" He finally said and walked quickly past.
* * *
Boss emerged from his office and whispered to Karl: "Did John tell you?"
Karl kept his eyes on his desk: "Tell me what?"
"He got angry when I didn't give him a raise so I fired him." Boss chuckled.
"If only they were all like you, Karl. Where is John, anyway?"
"He's around here somewhere."
"...probably slacking off, the idiot." Boss hitched up his pants and walked away.
* * *
Several days later, two detectives swaggered into the office, displaying badges:
"We're here to investigate a missing person's report for a John O'Donnell."
Boss paled as they pointed at him: "One of us will question you and the other will question him."
They indicated Karl, who sat impassively at his desk.
"Did your boss dislike John?" The detective who had been assigned to Karl asked.
"Boss frequently called John an 'idiot.'" Karl answered.
"I see." The detective narrowed his eyes. "What else you can tell me?"
"Do you smell it?"
"The scent of rot..."
The detective sniffed the air: "Well, now that you mention it..."
"It's been getting stronger every day since John disappeared."
"I'll be right back." The detective raced down the hall.
Boss came out of his office, his massive hands shaking: "They're trying to nail John's disappearance on me, Karl."
"I have a feeling that John will turn up soon, Boss."
Boss snorted: "Well, it's not like I'm hiring the idiot back."
"Do you have any work for me, Boss?"
"No. You can go home."
"I have no home."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"I live in a motel."
"So go there."
As Karl was leaving, the detectives passed him with snarling, panting dogs.
* * *
Karl took over the executive office following Boss's conviction of murder. He sat at the oversized desk smoking a cigar and staring out the window down to the street below where people milled about with silent purpose. Someone knocked.
"Come in," said Karl, not bothering to turn around even as Andy walked in and sat opposite him.
"I trust you appreciate that I've made impressive gains for the company this year."
At the sound of Andy's voice Karl swiveled his chair around to face him: "I'm sorry but it changes nothing. You're not getting a raise."
Andy leaned forward: "Tell me something, Karl, why would anyone who earns your fat salary live in a motel?"
"Do you have something against motels, Andy?"
"It's just that unless you're visiting somewhere, you normally only go to a motel to screw a hooker or some other crap."
"I see. I would tell you to file that thought under 'some other crap' Andy, but instead I'm going to relieve you of the veil of mystery that surrounds me and tell you the truth: I'm a visitor here."
"No kidding? When will you be heading back to wherever you come from?"
"Right now!" Karl stood and tossed his cigar into the garbage.
"Who's taking over your position?"
Andy raised his eyebrows: "You're giving it all up just like that?"
"Yes. I've become homesick and it's time to move on."
"Cool!" Andy smiled lopsidedly and sat in the swivel chair behind the executive desk. "So long, Karl; have a great life."
"You too, Andy, and while I'm at it, please keep this as a memento from me."
"What is it?" Andy reached out.
"My paperweight: It's always brought me good luck, but I won't be needing it any longer."
"Hey thanks, Karl."
Andy was still nestling the paperweight in the palm of his hand as Karl closed the door behind him and headed down the hallway. On the way out, he passed the same two detectives he had encountered quite some time before. They were deeply engrossed in conversation:
"...Wrongly accused. But now we know the murder weapon. It won't be long."
Andy was staring out the window of the executive office, cradling the brass paperweight to his chest. He had no idea why he was so fond of it, when it held little to no monetary value. There was a knock on the door... probably the next employee due for a performance review.
"Come in," he said, but kept his eyes fixed on the street below. He didn't really care who it was, because in any case, he wasn't giving out raises today.
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