When Tony Weiss hinted he was planning something special for the bank’s New Year’s Eve work party, everybody’s first ironic thought was: A bomb.
There we all were on the dance-floor – swaying to the accompaniment of Wham’s ‘Careless Whisper,’ swirling disco strobes playing across a sea of drunken faces – when suddenly Tony’s slurred, amplified tones rose above George Michael’s in a blaze of fury interlaced with feedback: “Bastards, listen to me!”
The music and lights blared on, the dance-floor, however, came to a collective stop.
Tony was standing at the bar in a rented tux, holding a mic in one hand, yet another whiskey-and-soda in the other. As a direct result of the latter, the suit’s condition had transitioned from passable to shabby throughout the course of the evening. The exact same could also be said of Tony. His eyes were red slits, his thinning hair was damp with sweat, it clung to his head like pond-weed. Sally’s death, the year before, had left a marked change in him, but this was a new low. He was only twenty-six, for Christ’s sake! He stepped, swaying, from the bar. “I said, you bastards . . . listen to me.”
Careless Whisper faded.
Everybody was listening.
“I think we can all agree,” Tony continued, pleased at the lull, “that this company has . . . has had . . . a stellar year this year, right?”
“Get a grip on yourself,” hissed David Sharp from Acquisitions.
Tony’s eyes wheeled, failing at first to pinpoint the perpetrator, then. “Got a fucking grip, Dave.” He waggled the microphone.
A few disapproving gasps at this. Donald Hobson, one of our senior directors, locked eyes with me across the room. Bye, bye, Tony.
“So, you all pay close attention or . . .” He paused here to take another swig of whiskey, spilling the majority. This comical interlude provoked a few scattered laughs. Beady eyes scanned us – his co-workers, his peers, his superiors – with a distant, calculating expression, then all at once he retrieved the thread, and pulled his jacket wide. “. . . Or I’ll blow you up.”
That did the trick.