I've been working on a rewrite of a short story. I have just, grudgingly, gotten rid of my third man. I really wanted there to be three men. I wanted there to be three men because in an important bureaucratic moment, there would always be three representatives in attendance. Nobody in business would ever show up for something critical with just two people. My third man didn't need to *do* anything. He just needed to sit there in a mediocre suit and occasionally shake hands.
Can't be done in a short story, I fear. My third man took on all kinds of unreasonable importance. I tried giving him a line or two, but the lines took on inappropriate weight. When he was silent, there was tension in the lack of words. He was mystery. He was the cipher. All the gravity of the story flew away from my other characters and stuck to him.
So now he's gone. Third man, RIP.
It irritates me. Sometimes there is just a third man in the room. Sometimes he isn't important for anything except being that third person. And I'm not good enough to find a way to include him in the story without making that into the story.
Not yet, anyhow.