He raised the glass of water to his lips. A sip before he prepared to walk through the door to face them. Inside he was mildly aggrieved he still had to do this. He did not need to pretend to be accountable. We all have a role to play. If he had genuinely been at fault, he would have already paid. He had not. He had been rewarded. He grew sick justifying himself. No matter what he said the message would never sink in to some of them.
He did not like to face them like this. He preferred it when he had complete control of the questions. Here, the selected questioners would ask their own interpretation of predetermined questions. He knew the benefit. But he always preferred to work to a tight script. Especially when reputations depended on it. This improvisational style left room for error. He might rush. Slip up. He spent years mastering the art of controlling the narrative. They were there for one reason and one reason only. To convey his message.
He understood why the report was written. There was traction in the whispers, and they had started to take root. It was agreed months before. The author had done his job. Ultimately no one was culpable and no one important would face charges. It appeared to be damning. It seemed to vilify, yet at the same time it exonerated him. There would be some fall out, but he would be free to continue. He was given assurances before the process began.
The more scathing content was diluted by the exorbitant word count. Funny. No one had yet questioned why it was not edited down in the years it took to publish. No real substance could be extracted, cross checked, sourced and established, before a thousand other saga’s edge the agenda forward.
The author was in the club. A long way down, but he took the oath. There was never going to be any real questions to answer. The timing was perfect. Right in the maelstrom. It made him smile. Sometimes it made him laugh. The thought of it now excited him. It awakened the nurtured animal.
He would feed it later, now he was getting into character. Greasepaint had been applied. He now appeared pallid, strained, slightly gaunt. They would speculate that perhaps the pressure was finally taking its toll. He watched the mirror, transformed from well healed to haunted. He remembered how great actors throw on their characters with their costumes, then leave them both back on the rack at the end of the performance. His smile waned and retreated to the wings.
A sincere, humble man stepped forward. He walked to the door, a murmur behind the timber and varnish anticipated his entrance. He stopped and looked down. He took two breaths. In. Out. In. Out. The words of his coach at final rehearsal resonated. Take your time. Don’t race. Leave long pauses. Add gravitas. Remember who you are.
The last phrase could have been a question. He remembered. He was enjoying his reward. He would always have to keep working. Keep on giving. So many acheivements. The goal was now palpable. He would always keep giving. I’ll be with you whatever.
He opened the door. The room hushed. He walked to the podium and began to speak.