The Daring Adventures of Riley Justice!
Riley Justice, the hard-working (or is it hardly working) accounts-receivable cog helping to keep the corporate machine grinding on, while occasionally foiling Corporate Raider’s sinister plots.
Riley Justice, Another Day at the Office
Where Riley Justice Attempts to Stop an Activist Investor’s Slashing Attack on the Bottom Line
Accounts Receivable is as seemingly endless as the cosmos itself. Walking its maze of corridors, filing rooms, and cubicles one could only theorize what lies at it’s perimeter. If the last lonely desk is found, does the junior accountant there fold in upon himself? Just as light is bent by the overwhelming gravity of a black hole, do the laws of finance bend upon a budget surplus?
Accounts Payable, on the other hand, has known boundaries. It’s like a small city state of medieval times. Too small to do anything of note, too insignificant even for it’s surrounding larger rivals to bother with. The head of Accounts Payable is well aware of his little fiefdom’s shortcomings. His stunted staff works tirelessly in the fields of past-due invoices.
At department-head meetings he complains that he’s undersized by a factor of three [there is no truer truth]. He details the backlog that seemingly has no end. He relays scores of complaints pouring in from all communication avenues.
His bosses nod and make idle promises. He raises his voice and bosses’s bosses are forced to comment. And every three months bosses’ bosses pass on a critical mass of vendor complaints that reach the Vice President of SomethingOrOther.
Groans are loud and frequent as some Accounts Receivable staff are taken from their dual monitors and well-ordered file storage, and transferred to Accounts Payable.
The department the office forgot.
There they are confronted with stacks of boxes full of month’s past due invoices, supporting documentation, and a dizzying amount of receipts.
Riley Justice, as nimble on the analog adding machine as its digital cousin, is temporarily placed in a cubicle literally made of those month’s past-due invoice boxes. Formerly white boxes yellowed by age, marked by ancient water stains, coffee rings, and blotches from too-many lunches eaten at the desk. Or, as it were, lunches eaten on a makeshift table of old boxes.
It was time for those boxes to be emptied, invoices to be paid, and vendor complaints neutralized. Hundreds of complaints, perhaps more, certainly thousands of invoices. And just a half-dozen accountants.
It is task worthy of some beleaguered third tier ancient god. Like Precipice or Dauntless.
If those are even gods.
Riley Justice doesn’t know. Riley Justice can’t remember much of the world outside the prison of boxes. Riley Justice has seen sunlight for only a few slim minutes this past week. Riley Justice is going a little stir-crazy, speaking so much in the third person in that prison of boxes.
Boxed meals are brought three times a day, bathroom breaks given four times daily, and promises of overtime are frequently hinted at, but never committed to. Each day is the same, never-ending, no different than before.
Then, sometime in that early-afternoon, post lunch sleepy time, the rhythmic chatter of adding machine calculations is broken by the shattering of glass. It’s those fancy plate-glass doors breaking!
Screams of “Stop Immediately!” carry through the Accounts Payable department.
“I’m an investor!” In strode a smartly-dressed middle-aged man. He looked mid-forties, but was probably an easy-living fifty-three. His hair was well cut and sharply combed. His clothing, though it didn’t so much look it, almost certainly costs more than yours.
“Oh, I know who you are.” Riley stood up to confront the interruption ot the day. “You aren’t fooling anyone with your tailored blue jeans and crazy expensive blazers! You’re an activist investor.”
“That’s right, I’m an Activist. And what of it? Nobody has a problem with activists who want to save the whales or hug some trees. Well I’m even better! Because no one seems to care about people anymore. Well, I look after the best interest of the common investor. I’m looking after the bottom line! Something this company doesn’t seem to be doing. Why are they giving away all this money?”
“They’re way past-due invoices.” Riley replied with a shoulder shrug and eye waggle that said, DUH.
But the Activist was blind to visual cues, he only understood quarterly profit reports. “I will put a stop to this.” He made a threatening movement toward the stack of invoices on Riley’s desk.
“Watch out! I made brown belt.” Riley’s hand poised to strike.
“Transcribe this fool. I’m a Sigma 6 Ninja!” He jumped into the air and delivered this old-guy with a bad-back watching-his-cholesterol kick. Honestly, it was kind of lame. He played it off and lunged for the invoice in Riley’s hand.
Nimble Riley Justice laughed and leapt onto a stack of boxes. “Come on and get a foot-full of Justice!” Riley prepared to deliver the ultimate crane-kick blow to the Activist. And he seemed to walk right into the Johnny trap, but just as Riley’s hammer-foot came up, the box pile gave way, sending Riley onto the floor.
Riley’s leg was hurt, the Activist poised to strike. But the tumbling boxes had knocked over a whiteboard that had been blocking a tunnel in the mountain of boxes. What luck! Riley crawled in.
The Activist tripped over an adding machine and grumbled about his knee.
Riley crawled on. There was a string of lit Christmas lights strung along the side of the tunnel. Back a few more feet, there was a small pillow and one of those space foil blankets. ‘Did someone sleep in here?’ The Riley’s hand touched a pair of old dirty socks. “Gross.”
“Aha!” The activist, old-guy back and all, was hot on Riley’s heels.
Riley crawled to the end of the box tunnel, but was trapped! It was a cubicle partition! And before Riley knew it, the Activist Investor snatched away the invoice and immediately tore it up. “No! Stop! It’s only for three-hundred dollars. What’s it matter?”
“I’m looking after the bottom line.”
“What? There won’t be a bottom line if word gets around we won’t pay invoices. It’s nine months old for comma’s sake! Even with our ridiculous Net 150, it’s still four months overdue.”
“I only need one more quarter.”
“One more quarter and the profit margins will force the stock prices to gain 23% at minimum! I’ll make millions!”
“You’ll ruin the company though!”
“I’ll make the common investor so much more money than your Board can.”
Riley though for a moment. “Wait. We’re not even a publicly traded company.”
The Activist only said, “Riley, Riley, Riley.” As if lecturing a child. “Riley? Riley?” But it wasn’t the Activist.
Riley’s eyes blinked open. It was the head of Accounts Payable. “Riley?”
Riley woke up in the tunnel of boxes mumbling. Either Riley doubled in size, or the tunnel halved. ‘Was that real?’ Riley’s hands fell on the old dirty socks. “Ugh. That’s certainly real.