Being inspired, maybe – 52

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

The carpark was as empty as my life had become.

My own fault.  I just didn't understand the modern world.  Did anyone?

I was sitting in the car, a manila folder on the seat next to me.  Seven photographs and a piece of paper.  The photographs were of me, and the piece of paper, my resignation.

It was, by all accounts, fait accompli.

How did it start?

Wilber Jenkins up and died on the tennis court one balmy Sunday afternoon.  He was the General Manager, Administration, a role looked upon by many as one of the best positions in the company.

Not because it required hard work and extreme dedication.  Just have an extremely competent second in command.


When I first heard the news, I felt sorry for his family.  Jenkins was not that old, but he did smoke, and drink, and play hard, so it was not unexpected.

Later in the day, after I'd been summoned to the Managing Director's office, and told that in normal circumstances, the position would be mine, but the board had decided to canvass other applicants within the company.

I suppose I should have felt outraged, but I was not that sort of person.  My wife was very angry when I told her, but as I said to her, and others, the board of directors could do as they pleased.

Then a colleague, from one of the other departments asked me to lunch several days later and said he'd heard on the grapevine that one of the director's son's, Olaf Johannson, wanted the position.  He was currently languishing in the warehouse, but it was well known he had aspirations elsewhere and a lifestyle that needed to be funded by a better position.

I didn't believe him.  I'd known all the board members, including the father, for many years, and had no reason to expect they would indulge in nepotism.

Nevertheless, not a week later, I was told that the board was considering two candidates.  Myself, and, yes, the son of the board member, Olaf Johannson.

The following Monday, I came into the office to find that my usual personal assistant, Angelique, had been urgently called away by a sick relative, and had been replaced by a new woman, well, more of a young woman, with the name Margaret.

I thought it odd because in all the six years I'd known her, Jennifer had never mentioned any relatives, sick or otherwise.  I made a call to Human Resources, and they confirmed the details.  She had, indeed, gone to Scotland after requesting three months leave of absence to look after an ailing aunt.  She was neither of Scottish descent unless there was a branch of her French family living there and that the one discussion we had about family was to tell me her mother was an only child and had died when she was five years old.

But, I could be, and probably was, wrong.

Margaret, of course, was very efficient and was a quick learner.  Had I been more observant, and suspicious, I would have realised she was priming herself to become the new General Manager, Administration's personal assistant.

And that her fussing over me was not because she was simply polite and respectful towards the senior staff, and in particular, me, but with more sinister overtones.  But, again, I was not the suspicious type, it was not something I'd ever had to deal with.

So, early on, when she invited me out to dinner, for the purpose of getting to know more about me and the role, so she could better perform her duties, I didn't give it a second thought.  Not in the way she flattered me, not in the way it would seem she was more than just a personal assistant, and certainly not when she gave me a kiss on the cheek in thanks for a wonderful evening.

It was an award-winning performance.  With the photographs to prove it.  The same photographs sitting in the manila folder on the seat next to mine in the car.

What's that expression, there's no fool like an old fool.

We'd met again, at this hotel, a long way from the bustle and prying eyes of those in the city, where she laid out the damning evidence, and how I could avoid a great deal of trouble at work and at home, from a sexual harassment complaint.  My only course, she said, was to resign.  She'd even typed the letter and brought it for me to sign.

Of course, the moment I saw the photographs I knew who was behind it.

In that week leading up to the dinner, the word was he hadn't a chance in hell of getting the position, and that the Managing Director was about to name me as the new General Manager, Administration.  
Or would have, before he got my resignation letter.  I had no doubt it was in his hands before the ink had dried on the dotted line.

I sat through a passing shower, and outside the car window, there was an inky blackness, punctured only by the struggling street lighting.  Wind buffeted the car, a whistling sound erupting through a gap caused by one of the windows not closing properly.

It was cold, and I shivered.

Fifteen minutes passed before the phone rang.  I was surprised it took that long.  The Managing Director, the caller ID told me.  I was expecting it.


"Got a copy of your resignation letter.  You didn't send it, of course?"

"What makes you say that?"

"You and computers, any sort of computer for that matter, don't get along, Fred.  The IT man is forever going on about how you have no idea.  Even that phone of yours.  Only sends and receives calls.  Who sent it?"

"Perhaps I may have improved, sir."

He laughed.  "No.  This is something to do with Olaf and his girlfriend Margaret, I'll be bound.  I got HR to check into her credentials.  I suspect she will be in for a surprise when she goes home."

"You knew what was happening?"

"Not really.  Wilson, over in accounts, was given an address to mail Angelique her final pay cheque and went to see her.  Not a pretty story, but he put the pieces together.  He said an old trusting fool like you would be easy prey. and he was right.  But, no harm done, resignation letter torn up, and two employees fired, and with dates with the police.  Don't be late tomorrow, will you."

© Charles Heath 2019


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