This is one of a collection of stories that are like “Final Destination” meets “The Monkey’s Paw” (W. W. Jacobs, 1902). As such, they are tragedies more than either mysteries or horror, and would appeal most to readers who enjoy the inexorable pull of a story arc that leads to doom. In each story, a protagonist makes a wish that comes true with fatal results for someone, often the person making the wish. Nothing supernatural, but just how things work out. (Or is it?) The technical details surrounding the fatal (or near-fatal) event are drawn from real cases in the US OSHA incident report database and are therefore entirely realistic even if seemingly outlandish. The plots draw lightly from cultural beliefs around actions such as pointing at someone with a stick or knife, wishing in front of a mirror, or stepping on a crack.
Brett was an ill-tempered fusspot, and a manipulator. He had a pampered sense of entitlement originating from being a peevish only-child of wealthy parents, and it had been channeled, elevated, and amplified by a long career in medical administration. His job as the chief operating officer for a chain of clinics and care facilities gave him latitude for myriad little temper tantrums that were well camouflaged as attention to detail, high standards, and being meticulous.
Brett inflicted upon his own team, the facility caretakers, and especially the clinical staff, a constant barrage of micro-aggressions, but his chief aggression lay in cost control. Brett had annexed the quality improvement team and then wielded it like a sword—sometimes like an epee to poke holes in expenses, plans, and requests, and sometimes like a two-handed Scottish Claymore to slice budgets, programs, or roles. He had outsourced units, terminated programs, and deleted entire positions, all in the pursuit of improving raw profit. From the use of outsourced facility cleaning, to eliminating the staff on-call rooms, Brett’s cuts had made the “right” revenue ratios glow. He didn’t just attend to administrative items though; Brett rooted out the higher cost items in the in-house formulary and doctor’s preference cards and had eliminated medical director, librarian, and patient-care technician roles. His genius for cost control extended even to claw-back schemes, such as charging staff for scrubs, beverages, and parking. No detail was too fine to escape his microscope; from cheaper furniture polish for administration offices to cut-rate tissues and toilet paper on the lower floors.
Where Brett was scrupulous in rooting out potential cost savings in other people’s lives, he was affable and generous when it came to his own. His office, for example, was a virtual shrine to style and bureaucratic class. From the luxurious executive chair to the regal desk, his office exuded a sense of status, wealth, and prestige.