The Agenda

“For those of you who did arrive on time” he paused shooting Terence a glance, “the meeting today will be hideously punctuated by the untimely death of our colleague Terence. We are expecting the incident about halfway through the meeting, agenda item five.”

The Agenda
Photo by Israel Andrade / Unsplash

by Gavin Turner

Terence arrived about five minutes late. Just after the story had properly started. He sneaked into through the fire exit door of the meeting room trying to make as little noise as possible. Congealed egg stuck stubbornly to his stubble, and he had a corner of wayward toast in his shirt pocket.

“Traffic was really horrendous” he murmured to no one in particular. He was far too concerned with catching up on the plot to be bothered about the rest of the team tutting at him or indeed the withering glare from Mike at the podium. People need to chill out he thought, I am the protagonist after all. No story without me.

Mike Dean, Chief Executive continued grumpily with his opening remarks. “For those of you who did arrive on time” he paused shooting Terence a glance, “the meeting today will be hideously punctuated by the untimely death of our colleague Terence. We are expecting the incident about halfway through the meeting, agenda item five. Why don’t you all grab a coffee, and we’ll crack on.”

A slumping of seats and general milling took place as the thirsty but non-descript suits and ties made their way to the hot water geyser in the corner. Terence spent a couple of minutes allowing his commute frazzled brain to process the information he had just heard. He felt the potential for a queasy return of the boiled egg from breakfast. He awkwardly raised his hand.

“Erm, Mike, I’m sure this is some kind of mistake but did you just say, did you say I’m going to die?”

Mike sighed and rolled his miserable eyes. “Yes Terence, that is correct, if you’d been here on time, you would have been in the know.” He did that quote marks thing people do with their fingers.

“Traffic” Terence said.

“Yes, well if you had been here on time, you would no doubt have already seen the agenda,” Mike said tapping at the immaculate sheet of paper in front of him.

“I don’t suppose you have a copy of...” Terence started to ask before an angry looking Mike snapped back at him.

“Oh, for goodness’ sake here” Mike handed his own copy of the agenda to Terence and shook his head despairingly. “Try not to lose it,” he added.

Terence quickly scanned the A4 and inhaled quickly. There it was, at item five:


  1. Introductions and coffee
  2. Terms of reference
  3. Minutes of last meeting
  4. Story begins
  5. Terence is murdered in a really horrible
  6. Christmas leave cover/booking
  7. Christmas party
  8. Any other business

After a few seconds with the immediacy of fear and confusion subsiding, Terence began to see the absurdity of the situation. This was a normal every day team meeting, not an assassination attempt. Plus he knew he was the protagonist, the big P. He knew this more than he knew what he looked like. There hadn’t really been time to describe him fully yet. Surely that meant something. At the very least he felt he had the right to be a bit miffed about it all.

“Mike, it says I’m going to be murdered, and horribly. Who wrote this on the agenda?”

Mike offered a confused eyebrow “Well, I would think that you wrote it didn’t you?”

“Of course not, I’m the protagonist. Why in the world would I want to do a thing like that?”

“Listen Terence” Mike harrumphed whilst landing a sweated palm on his shoulder. “You can’t go around in life bleating excuses like ‘I’m the protagonist’. What about your colleagues? What about the story arc? Everyone else managed to get here on time. These constant distractions around plot synopsis and syntax were discussed at your last appraisal were they not?”

“Yes, but I - ”

“Terence, Terence. What’s done is done, accept it, life is a twisted pile of knots. If we don’t add a little zest, it gets rather dull and tedious frankly. If you must make an issue about things, why don’t you talk to HR? That is of course if you still have time” he smirked to himself. Mike’s moustache twitched. A further thought seemed to cross his mind. He folded his arms.

“I suppose if it bothers you that much why don’t you talk to him?”

Terence looked confused “Who?”

Mike rolled his eyes again “you know - that guy” Mike motioned with his head in my direction.

Terence turned away from Mike and looked me dead in the eye. Actually, let’s make that slightly to the left. I don’t like direct eye contact.

“So, what about you?  Sat over there with your stupid little typewriter, what are you going to do about it?”

“Pardon?” I replied. This had never happened before, normally they just kind of talked amongst themselves. I pretended everything that had happened thus far wasn’t really anything to do with me. If I was in control of writing this, how was he able to talk to me direct? I was unsure now whether that was even a rhetorical question. I was suddenly unsure about a lot of things.

“Listen, he carried on I’m the protagonist, you can’t just write me out halfway through the story, don’t you know anything?”

It was one thing to be talking direct to a character, even more shocking to receive their stinging critique. Surely it was my character to do with as I pleased. In any case Terence was starting to get on my nerves. He was so entitled. Admittedly a nice little character flaw but still, annoying. I half remembered something from a literary article I read recently about killing your darlings. I decided the best thing would be just to keep him talking for now. I continued to type.

“Who said you were the protagonist?” I fired back. Good question I thought.

“Well, you, we both did, didn’t we?” Terence said, but now he didn’t sound entirely sure of himself. I was at least able to cast doubt in his mind. I still had some control.

“Maybe Mike’s the protagonist?” I offered.

“Oh, come on of course he isn’t, no one likes Mike” Terence snorted, folding his chubby arms. I couldn’t really argue with that one. Mike was an awful person. Mike shrugged  and raise his hands as if to say ‘You got me!’ but he did not put forward an argument either.

“Jean?” I tried again with a different approach.

“Who is Jean? I’ve never heard of her, and what do you mean chubby arms?” I could see Terence was getting testy now. Testy Terence. I was starting to wish I had moved his ‘special item’ a little higher up the agenda.

“Well, Jean was here before you joined the story, actually it was before I wrote the story.  I haven’t written that part fully yet but, she is very likeable, she’s a good person. It’s like a sub plot, back story thing”

“Stop pissing about and change the agenda,” Terence retorted. I just held my hands up as if to say okay you win. I could always change it in the edit once Terence was dead. I might even change his name to Twain.

“And don’t try to edit me out later you little bitch,” he snapped.

I was beginning to see Terence’s true colours. This is what happens when you put characters under pressure. Such a little diva.

Terence turned back to the room and his seat, a little exasperated. He fumbled through his crumpled suit for his phone. Time had paused for the duration of the last conversation because of the whole multi-tasking thing. Obviously, I can’t develop plot and converse with the characters at the same time. The meeting was still only on agenda item two, still time.

“Are you with us now Terence?” Mike smirked. Mike had already decided he would be bringing this episode up at the next appraisal. Definitely.

“So, if there are no other comments, we can accept the minutes of the last meeting? Mike posed to the room, all remained silent. Great, let’s get on with the st…."

The faint tingle of glass was the only sound as the snipers’ bullet entered the room, briefly slowed as it entered and exited Mikes brain, then buried itself in the opposite wall. Jean, feeling at her most beautiful and dangerous, packed up her rifle quickly and efficiently. Wiping away a single tear, she made her way down from the rooftop of the building opposite and ran out into the oncoming traffic.

There was a brief moment of pause as the other attendees took in what had just happened. Breath was taken in. There may have been a bit of wailing. People were looking around for help, for guidance. Terence put down his phone. He had been typing something.

As the most senior team member left alive, Terence took charge of the meeting. “Ah, I think what’s happened here is that Mike was not following the correct agenda. If you check again folks…

  1. Introductions and coffee
  2. Terms of reference
  3. Minutes of last meeting
  4. Story begins
  5. Mike is gunned down horribly by Jean, his jilted lover
  6. Christmas leave cover/booking
  7. Christmas party
  8. Any other business

The colleagues in the room nodded at each other, a couple of them rolled their eyes. That Mike eh? What’s he like?

I didn’t know really but I was certain he was unlikeable and had a black moustache. There was also a bullet sized hole in his head and I was not sure who had decided to put that there.

Terence turned back to me and hissed ‘that’s what happens when you mess with the protagonist, let’s see you develop another character before the end of this story, bitch!’

I stopped typing for a second, trying to compose myself. At least I thought I had stopped, but the words kept appearing on the page. I wasn’t writing this story anymore, it seemed to be writing itself.  I was in it.

Terence popped his phone in his pocket and stepped up to the podium “Okay everyone, if we want to take a break there, grab another coffee. Steve and Phil can you remove the corpse please and ask Denise from domestics if she wouldn’t mind giving the room a once over after the meeting? Steve and Phil were not characters I knew or had developed, just names. They complied straight away. They were inconsequential characters, and they knew it.

There had to be a way to take back control. I was starting to worry about what could happen to me next. Terence’s dark imagination was far more impressive than anything I could come up with. I ripped the paper out of the typewriter and pulled a fountain pen from my pocket. I hoped there was some ink left for once.

Terence, meanwhile, was holding court in the meeting.

“And when we get back, we can have a look at the next item, Christmas leave!”

A vague cheer resounded round the room. Terence smiled to himself and sipped his cheap coffee. His head was pounding, and he felt sick, but the coffee was helping. Steve struggled to close the door behind him whilst maintaining a solid grip on the feet of Mike Dean, former Chief Executive. Just out of sight of the meeting attendees, Phil was eyeing up Mike’s expensive Rolex, and building the beginning of his own story. Terence turned away from the room and gave me a hideous nod and a wink, making the gun gesture with his dirty fingers. I gave a similar nod and a wink back and watched as the pounding aneurysm in his brain exploded, killing him instantly. I mimicked his gun gesture with my now ink stained digits.

The meeting room walls began to fade around me and the comfortable chair and writing desk reappeared. I think that item falls under ‘Any other business’ I said to myself. I leaned back in my chair and took a sip of the remains of Terence’s nasty coffee.

Gavin Turner is a writer and poet from Wigan, England. His short stories and poems have been published in Punk Noir Magazine, Voidspace and Roi Faineant Press amongst others. His debut chapbook, The Round Journey was released in May 2022. You can find more of his work via @gtpoems on Twitter and his website