Part 3: Die Hired

Now it’s a party, Bill Clay thought. This is, as my daughters might say, totally awesome.

For the past hour and a half or so, the company holiday party—held at the office, on the thirtieth floor of the company’s building in Century City—had been underway, and it was, if nothing else, tasteful. A chamber orchestra played classical music. Servers in tuxedos handed out flutes of champagne. There were... crudités? Canapés? Both, probably. It was a very fancy to-do. It was going to be fairly short as well, though—being that it was Christmas Eve and Mr. Takagi didn’t expect his subordinates to be at Nakatomi Plaza rather than with their families. And Bill Clay was glad about that. Because as sophisticated as the party was, it was also deadly boring.

Or, it had been, anyway—before the surprise (and welcome, as far as Bill was concerned) additional entertainers arrived. Before some men slipped quietly onto the thirtieth floor. Before one of them (dressed like a... henchman, Bill guessed would be the apt word) “fired” some “rounds” from a “machine gun” (or something; Bill didn’t know much about projectile weapons) to get the attention of the room, and another performer, playing the part of the “leader” of the “terrorists,” made a short speech about the Nakatomi Corporation’s “legacy of greed around the globe” and about teaching the company “a lesson in the real use of power,” to which they, the employees at the holiday party, would be witnesses. And then this man—dressed in an expensive suit (or a convincing replica of one), sporting a very neatly trimmed beard, and speaking with a charming British accent—theatrically determined which of the men in attendance at the party was Mr. Takagi himself, and then escorted the boss out of the room.

Of course that had to be accomplished, and right away, because Mr. Takagi, after all, had hired this troupe. Mr. Takagi wouldn’t be able to play along with the act, since he knew it was all shtick—as Harry Ellis might say—one of those interactive murder mystery party performances. You pay a bunch of actors to “crash” your party and pretend to kill someone, or at least take him hostage, and then the guests have to... well, do something to rescue the “victim.” Maybe they have to solve some puzzles or whatever. Maybe they have to work in teams. Maybe the team that wins the boss’s freedom gets a prize. Coupons for massages or movie theater passes or bottles of wine. Bill was psyched to play.

He noticed that the other employees were too. Most of them were doing a very convincing job themselves of pretending to be genuinely frightened by the “terrorists.” Even the chamber orchestra had stopped playing. Bill found himself wondering whether they would be able to take off, if they were being superseded as the entertainment. Or would they provide an appropriate musical score to the game? That would be really cool.

Some fifteen minutes passed, though, without any real engagement of the guests by the troupe. When the head “terrorist” and a couple of “henchmen” took Mr. Takagi elsewhere, Bill tried to get the ball rolling, so to speak, by approaching and speaking to one of the “henchmen” left behind to “guard” the “hostages.” But the terrorist only rebuffed Bill—and in German, no less—gesturing with his “automatic rifle” for Bill to get back and keep quiet. Fair enough, Bill thought. They’re not quite ready to begin.

Still, as much fun as this could be, we are going to have to get out of here sooner rather than later. Bill Clay made a mental note to call home at some point——

“...not a lot to ask,” someone was saying, Bill realized. He recognized the voice as that of the “terrorist leader.”

“Alas,” the dapper man with the British accent went on, projecting his voice, speaking to everyone assembled, “your Mr. Takagi did not see it that way, so he won’t be joining us for the rest of his life.” Interesting phraseology, Bill thought, but it gets the point across. And it only made sense that Mr. Takagi would have to be “removed” from the charade “permanently,” of course. Even though the man was interred during World War Two, he’d never played the victim, Bill thought, admiringly. Until now. Bill chuckled inwardly.

And maybe now the real fun will begin. The revels will commence. Bring on the challenges!

Also, we could use some more hors d’oeuvres.

Oh, to hell with this, Bill Clay thought.

Another hour had passed and... nothing! No games, no puzzles, no sing-along, even! The orchestra hadn’t been playing at all, in fact, that whole time, and all of the food was gone. Everyone was pretty irritable—including the “terrorists.” Maybe Mr. Takagi had privately expressed his displeasure with the troupe’s failure to really captivate the interest of the party guests... and maybe even threatened not to give them the money they expected to get from Nakatomi. Now maybe the “terrorists” were... well, acting out. Performers could be so temperamental.

Whatever the situation, Bill’s own patience had run out. His wife and daughters were waiting for him to join them for Christmas dinner, and he’d be damned if he was going to disappoint them. Ironically, it was when the “terrorists” finally did something to involve the party guests that Bill Clay made his “escape.”

At some point—about the time that Bill had earlier decided he’d wish his colleagues season’s greetings and a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year—an Asian “terrorist” herded the Nakatomi employees into a stairwell and directed them upward, perhaps to the roof for a group view of the nighttime Los Angeles skyline—undeniably a beautiful sight. Bill wanted to see his family instead, though... so when the “terrorist” wasn’t looking, Bill slipped away and walked downstairs. All twenty-nine flights. Then out the rear lobby, to the parking lot for his car. Then he drove home.

Read Part 1: Fly Hard
Read Part 2: Why Guard