"One Final Indignity"
by P. Orin Zack
Watching Rahila in profile against the row of storefronts beyond the sidewalk cafe, Samir noticed the tilt of her head change slightly in response to what the well-dressed man seated across from her had just said. A visceral reaction like that, he had told her, could sour the interview. She dare not panic and defer to him at this point, not after the build-up he'd just given her. Arranging an interview with a tech company's Chief Technical Officer had been difficult enough. Carrying it out professionally was essential.
"Mr. Goenka," she said unsteadily, "I do not regret how I handled that situation. Until the moment I was let go, there had never been a complaint about my work, and even then, the reason for my termination had nothing to do with my job performance. In fact..."
While she spoke, Samir shifted his attention and watched Goenka's body language to gauge how Rahila was doing. The grey-haired man had finally unlaced his fingers and relaxed his hands on the table.
One of the things he'd learned at the first meeting of the newly created single-woman support network was that the emotional triggers that brought on discriminatory treatment was usually accompanied by a tell. Recognizing a person's emotional state from such subtleties made it possible to use wordplay and body language to avert the worst of it. If he had known what to observe when his sister announced her plans to the family, he might have been able to stop their father from hurting her so badly.
As Rahila neared the end the narrative they had discussed, Samir noticed that Goenka's hands had tightened, so he started looking for other clues. The man drew his head back slightly, blinked a few times and peered distractedly at something that was between and behind them. Just then, something broke through the din of chatter and street noise. A hoarse-voiced man was shouting angrily, and from the sound of it, approaching quickly.
"Don't let this man fool you," hoarse-voice said, machine-gun fast. "He's a fraud. Samir Singh hasn't even--"
Samir froze. Not this. Not now, not when Rahila's chances hung by a thread.
"--known that woman for a week!"
Goenka pushed back against the chair, his expression edging towards panic.
"He's pimping for her in exchange for--"
Time dilated. Samir glanced at Rahila, pressed his eyes shut momentarily, and started to turn towards their accuser.
The clatter of Goenka's brusque departure abruptly reclaimed Samir's attention. He glanced over just as Rahila was reaching towards the receding executive in frustration. By the time he finally saw the intruder's psychopathic grin, the guy was tapping at the photo on his cellphone.
"I've got you," the man rasped, shaking the phone. "I've got proof that you've done this before. Mark my words, Singh, I'll ruin you and take that network of yours down, too!"