"Is Dan there?"
Don't people say 'hello' anymore, thought Dan. "Who's asking?"
"Name's Johnson. Is Dan there?"
"What's this in reference to?"
"I have an important matter to discuss with him. There's money involved. I'd rather not discuss it over the phone, so I'd like to arrange a meeting."
"I don't know anyone named Johnson. Well, that's not true, but you're not that Johnson."
"So is this Dan?"
"Where would you like to meet?"
"Aramingo Diner. Tomorrow morning, eight o'clock?"
"8:00 am sharp. See you there."
The next morning rolled around and Dan was more suspicious than curious. Something he didn't like in Johnson's voice, something seductive, made him wonder if he should even show up. But Dan didn't have a lot going on lately. He'd never met this Johnson, but somehow he knew just where to sit when he saw a grey haired man alone in a booth.
"Coffee, black," he told the expectant waitress.
"Daniel, it's nice to meet you."
"What can I do for you, Mr. Johnson?"
"Please, just Johnson."
Dan nodded and took a sip of his coffee, which the waitress had delivered within moments of his order.
"Until recently, you were employed at LDS Products, is that correct?" asked Johnson.
"And from what I understand, your departure from LDS wasn't made under the best of circumstances?"
"Being fired usually isn't."
"I didn't want to put it so harshly, Dan, but no, it usually isn't."
"So what do you want with LDS, or with me?"
"I'm sure you're aware that one of LDS' largest accounts is a certain retail chain with a presence in thirty seven states?"
"Of course I am."
"We have it on good authority that a top man at LDS has been bribing a top man at that retail chain for many, many years. Were you aware of this too?"
"No," Dan lied, "but it doesn't surprise me."
"I'll cut to the chase. We want you to blow the whistle on LDS."
Dan took a long, deliberate sip of his coffee.
"Why would you want me to do something like that, Johnson?"
"Fair question. Without going into specifics, I represent a firm that can offer a nearly identical product range to this retailer. When you blow the whistle on your former employer, they'll lose the account, and the company I represent expects to step in and take it."
"If you have the goods on LDS, why not blow the whistle yourselves?"
"Another fair question, but one you could surely answer on your own if you gave it some thought. One reason is that if the information leak were tied to the company I represent, this could hurt if not ruin their chances of winning the account in the aftermath of the scandal. Nobody likes to give business to people who cause trouble, and the leak could raise questions my clients don't want to answer. Another reason is that it'll all sound better if it comes from a former LDS employee, and you're in a unique position to be that man."
"So I do the dirty work, and your clients ride in to save the day."
"I could easily guess the name of the company you represent."
"Maybe, but don't bother because I won't confirm it. And why should it matter to you anyway?"
"You're right, it doesn't matter to me. What does matter to me is what you're offering."
Johnson smiled and removed a pen from the pocket inside his suit jacket. He wrote down a number with four zeroes on a beverage napkin and slid it across the table top.
Dan looked down at the napkin and then back up at Johnson. "I know how large that account could be for your clients. I think the number you wrote down is missing a zero."
"Check, please," Johnson told the approaching waitress. He waited for her to walk away. "Dan, we're talking about cash. The amount we've offered is significant. Give it some thought."
"I've given it enough thought already. Add a zero or find another ex-LDS man to sink their ship."
Johnson smiled again as the waitress brought their tab. He removed a few bills from his wallet and stood to leave and extended a hand toward Dan. They shook.
"I'll speak with my client and get back in touch with you. Good day to you, sir."
Dan sat and finished his coffee. He had no doubt that Johnson would meet his demand, a pittance compared to the profits his clients would make if their plan were to work. "Waitress," he said, "I'll take some eggs and scrapple and white toast. And more coffee." He added, to himself, "I'm celebrating sweet revenge."