It was a cold winter night. The wind seemed to penetrate the bones in their body while they slept in the park. They huddled together for warmth. Jonathan, Jeffrey, Chasity, and Chrystal were brothers and sisters, and they were runaway children. Jonathan, aged twelve, was the oldest of the brood. Jeffrey was ten, Chasity was eight, and Chrystal was six. They had been living on the streets for the past month with no one noticing they had no adult supervision, or maybe no one cared. Who would bother wasting time talking to smelly, dirty kids, dressed in rags? How did they become runaways, anyway?
Their story began one stormy day. It started as a sunny morning, but had turned overcast, threatening a downpour. Then the rain poured, the wind became gusty, thunder rolled, and lightning flashed.
“Mom, we’re home,” the children yelled as they put their backpacks on the floor. The district forced all the schools at all levels to shut down due to the inclement weather. The school bus took the students home early before the storm became severe. The children found their father sitting on the sofa waiting for them. From the way he looked, he had been crying.
“Dad?” the children asked.
Their father hugged them and cried. Between sobs, he told them their mother passed away early that morning. They lost her to a long battle with cancer. She was only thirty-five. The children knew their mother was sick, but they didn’t think she had cancer. They didn’t know what it meant, but they could have looked it up if they had known about it. Maybe they could prevent it. Perhaps they could have saved her. Now it was too late, and all they could do was cry.
It devastated James and didn’t know what to do. His wife, Martha, had always been the decision maker in the family. He earned the money, but his wife handled the finances, the budgeting, taking care of the children’s school activities, checking their homework and everything else without complaint. Now that she was gone, there was no reason for them to stay in Toledo. It was time to move on.
James and the children started a new life in Bridgeport, Connecticut when James college roommate offered him a job there. James was the executive chef at an exclusive country club in Toledo, Ohio, but he needed a fresh start, so he accepted the position of a supervisor in a textile mill.
Moving was tough for the children. Their apartment was cramped two-bedroom rental on the second floor of an old building. They had a tiny kitchen with a small dining area, a living room and only one bathroom. The children didn’t like it one bit. The only good thing about their move was they met new friends in the neighborhood; most of them were going to their school.
James first day at work was a success. Everyone welcomed him warmly. James made his round to the warehouse and shook hands with everyone introducing himself as their new supervisor. Soon, he became well-liked by his team because he treated them fairly. If anyone needed time off to take care of a sick child, wife, or parents, he would cover for them. They had such high respect for James. They became happy workers and eventually increased their productivity.
James had no vices. He had no thirst for a drink or cravings for smoking. As soon as the alarm went off signaling their shift was over, James would stop by at the grocery store to pick up something for dinner he would prepare for his children. He liked to cook healthy food for them. His children were happy as could be, and anyone who knew them would say James was a perfect father to his children. He was a role model.
A few months had passed and James popularity at work became a problem for one coworker. Diego had always been jealous of him. He had competed with James since he worked for the company. Diego expected a promotion, but they offered the job to James instead. He had despised him ever since.
One day, the general manager assigned Diego to give a tour to a few investors of the company. Diego was ecstatic. He thought it was his time to shine. Diego did his best to answer all their questions and tried to charm the women. However, he was not a people person. In explaining some of their issues and concerns, Diego offended some and made a few others uncomfortable. It so happened, James was in the warehouse at that time talking to the delivery guys. They were laughing and having quite a conversation. When Diego and the investors entered the area, one of them recognized James. He walked towards him and shook his hand. James introduced himself to the rest of the visitors and welcomed them to the facility. The investors asked him questions, and James answered them with grace, honesty, and politeness. They followed James as he walked around the warehouse explaining the machines and equipment and what they used it for.
When everyone left Diego alone standing in the room, he gritted his teeth in anger. He went home early, sulking and angry. Diego was so furious at James he wanted to get even and disgrace him. He concocted an elaborate plan to discredit him publicly, and once he had done that, he was sure they would fire James and promote him.
His plan came at the right time. The company had just landed a multi-million-dollar account from one establishment of the New York Garment District. James was in charge of the details—manage the suppliers, oversee the delivery, and make sure he was in contact with their vendors at all time. James assigned each of the workers their duties to ensure everything went smoothly. He assigned Diego to inspect all incoming and outgoing deliveries.
One night, when everyone had left work, Diego stayed behind and went to James’ office and accessed his computer. It wasn’t hard to get in because he had observed James for several days and he’d memorized his password. James was too trusting; he didn’t realize Diego was cunning. Once Diego knew the password, he decided tonight was the night to put his plan into action. He accessed the work order file and canceled ten orders scheduled for delivery on Friday, two days away. He turned off the computer and wiped off his fingerprints from the keyboard before leaving.
As Diego expected, his plan worked. They did not make the delivery, and the owner had an unflattering outburst of temper.
“What happened, James? I left you in charge to make sure everything would go smoothly. Do you know what you’ve done?” he said rather loudly.
James tried to explain that he had spoken with their delivery driver, and he assured him it would arrive on time.
“James, I just spoke with him, and he said we canceled the orders two days ago. How do you explain that?”
“Canceled, sir? I didn’t cancel the orders.”
James quickly went to his office and checked his computer. His boss was right. It showed he canceled ten deliveries.
“Someone here is trying to derail me,” he said. “I didn’t do this.”
“Why would anyone do that to you, James?” the owner asked. “Instead of you accepting responsibility for your mistakes, you are pointing the blame at someone else. This is unacceptable. You cost this company and me a great deal of money. I want you to pack up your things and leave. You are fired!”
Diego’s lip drew back in a weird, evil smile. His heart rejoiced upon hearing it. He got rid of James. He was sure he would get promoted now.
“But, sir,” James tried to reason with his boss, but he didn’t want to hear any more.
“You heard me, James. We lost our biggest contract because of your stupidity. Now, get out before I call security.”
No matter how much James tried to explain himself, his boss didn’t want to hear any more of what he had to say. With his head low, he walked to his office and put all his belongings in a box. He walked out the door, dismayed at how everything turned out. Who would do such a thing? Why would anyone sabotage him?