Short Stories

The Fraud

He was charming. Not in a cheesy or fake sort of way. It’s what attracted me to him as a friend. Everyone enjoyed being around Pete. We were friends before there was an in-crowd. He invited me into his inner circle once it had formed. Who was I to say no? Pete was a smart guy. Hooking our train cars to him seemed like a good idea at the time.

Pete was more than intelligent; he knew how to have a good time. There were office parties and happy hours. Everyone who was anyone wanted to be on the express this guy was building. I remember when our numbers grew to one hundred. We were on our way. Pete would pull us together, and inspire us to do more, build more, sell more, be more. He claimed to be the smartest man in the room, and nobody would argue with him.

The company continued to grow. More ‘A’ list talent rolled in the door. Whatever Pete was doing, it had to be amazing. I would hang around with people from top-notch universities, and the smartest minds in their field. Technology, logistics, marketing, the list goes on. Everyone wanted to be on board the Pete train. One day, we all felt our train cars jostle.

Water cooler rumors that the money was not coming in. Other whispers echoed in the hallways, subjects too obscene to mention. Maybe the train was heading off the rails, or perhaps the tracks were about to end. Pete and his buddies kicked a few off the train. Sacrificial lambs to save face and readjust thinking.

Then more rumors and adverse financial reports. Rumblings of Pete selling off his train of success. Then rumors Pete was a little too close to some of the crew. The party was beginning to end. Top talent started to leave. Then the buyout came. The light shined on the truth. Pete’s train was millions in debt. Debt that he managed to hide even from the new owners.

The inner circle. Those of us who believed in Pete and stood by him. The ones who kept shuffling the coal. The ones promised a piece of the prize when the train sold one day. We were all left in the cold. Everything we thought we had vaporized into thin air with the stroke of a pen. Pete had sucked millions from the sale and had left everyone else behind.

Some stuck around after that. Pete may have been a fraud, but talented people maintained the train. Eventually, it sold again. It was uncoupled and merged with other train cars. Some remained and rolled down the tracks of the new, stable company. Most of us have only memories of Pete’s train to success and his fraud.

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