“…and when I asked him if he had any banking experience do you know what he said?”
Toby grins. Waits for the punchline.
“He said… and I quote…” Alan straightens his tie, leans back for effect. “He said… I’ve had a savings account since I was fifteen.”
Alan Ward is not the kind of boss who waits for subordinate approval. He’s a table thumping, bellowing roar kind of a guy and stays true to form. “A savings account? If the little shit had managed a current account I might have employed him for the hell of it.”
Toby shakes his head. Rueful smile, thinks about what to say. Settles for an agreeable but flimsy “Savings account!” and another head shake.
“Where do they find these people Toby? And more importantly, why am I wasting my afternoon interviewing them?” Toby shrugs. Alan rolls his eyes. “Some help you are. Anyway I assume you wanted something? Some spreadsheeting crisis I need to avert? Some matter of international import like someone stealing your best pencil? Well? Out with it man! I haven’t got all day.”
Toby stands. “Your six o’clock is downstairs. Shall I send him up?”
Alan checks his watch. Six fifteen. “Why didn’t you speak up sooner Toby? And where’s Anna? ANNA!”
“She left at four thirty as normal Alan. That’s why it’s me telling you about your six o’clock. OK if I head out once he’s on the floor?”
“Yes, fine off you go. Leave me like the rest of the fleeing rats to man this ship alone.”
“If you need me to stay I can…”
“Oh lighten up man! I’m just pulling your leg. Working half days is in your contr…”
Both men turn at the sound of the door knocking.
“Sorry to disturb you gentlemen. Reception sent me up. I’m looking for Mister Alan Ward?”
Toby opens the door fully and extends a hand. “Pleasure to meet you Mister…?”
“Smith. David Smith. It’s a pleasure to meet you too Mister Ward I’ve been looking forward to this for some time and I’m truly excited about the position, in fact…”
Toby raises a hand. Cuts the flow of tumbling words. “Right office, wrong man.” Toby extends his hand back to the desk. “Mister Alan Ward. Goodnight Alan, see you tomorrow.”
“Yes, off you go.” Alan pushes back his chair and walks around the desk. “Alan Ward. Good to meet you David, take a seat. You found us alright then?”
David nods with nervy vigour. “Yes. Oh it was quite simple actually and I made sure I Googled the address last night to be sure.”
Another technology geek. “Ah yes. Technology. Marvellous stuff. Can I get you some coffee? Some water? TOBY!”
“No it’s fine thank you Mr Ward, I’ve…”
David pushes his thin glasses back to the bridge of a thinner nose. “It’s fine thank you… Alan. I’ve… I’m fine thank you.”
“Well let’s get started then.”
“I have to say David I’m impressed. That CV of yours?” Alan sits back, leans and drops the document into the shredder. “Not worth the paper it’s written on. It just doesn’t do you justice man!”
David cracks a timid smile. Two roses of colour dance on his cheeks. Alan waves a hand. “No need for such a modest look David, you have all the skills we need and more. I’m just pleased that Toby pushed me to interview you and that we have such dire need to recruit because that bloody CV of yours is a shambles. A legendary piece of underselling!”
Roses keep blooming. “Thanks Mister… Alan… I’m… well I’m over the moon!” David’s smile widens. “I’m sorry that the CV is such a disaster but, well… I hate overselling myself or coming across as arrogant. Rachael was always telling me I needed to be more confident. She was right about most things.”
“Arrogance has its uses. It’s taken me to the top. Do you know I was the youngest C level executive in the history of the group? Ha! You Googled it I’m sure. I work hard, I play hard and I’m not afraid to make the tough decisions.” Alan leans back further and places his hands behind his head. “You said was and I assume you are referring to your wife? Upped and left you for a man who could write a CV did she?”
The colour on David’s cheeks focusses to pinheads. “She died.” He closes his eyes, grits his teeth and breathes deeply. “A year ago.”
Alan sits forward. “Poor joke on my part. No offence meant.”
“It’s OK,” says David opening his eyes. “How could you know?” Another long sigh. “But perhaps today is where my life begins again. A change of fortune.” He lifts his small rucksack onto his lap, rummages around and pulls out a rounded blue Tupperware. “This will probably sound silly,” he says cracking each of the four plastic clasps in turn. “But I promised myself that if the interview went well today I would do something to remember her. She was forever sending people off with cakes. Take these to work David! And give one to your boss, it’s his birthday! She loved to bake. Coconut macaroons were her favourite.” David offers the tub. “I can’t claim to give the full Rachael experience but some of it rubbed off.”
Alan smiles. Oh goody, a bloody cake. You could have brought something useful like a bloody scotch. “Happy to oblige man, happy to oblige.” He takes the biggest and chews it in half. “Coconut?” he says round a mouthful of perfectly melting cake. “Delicious. You can add baker to your revised CV.” Belly laughter. Flying crumbs.
“Well hopefully I won’t need to update the CV for a while.”
“Ha! Good answer man! I knew there was some fire in you somewhere.” Alan stuffs the remaining macaroon half into his mouth. Chews. Swallows. “I do believe I’ll take another. We had a woman here a few years back used to bring in cakes on a Friday. Couldn’t file for shit as I recall but she could bloody bake.” Alan coughs into his sleeve. “Bloody stray crumbs, excu… ” More coughing. Alan’s throat turns a deep red.
“You fired her eighteen months ago.”
“… need water…” Bulging eyes. White knuckles on a pinstripe collar.
“Her name was Rachael Smith. Her filing was perfect. She was perfect.”
Alan’s body starts to spasm. Blood flecks his teeth and lips. He works his jaw but no sound emerges.
“She was three months pregnant when you fired her after she walked in on you with your secretary. She lost the baby two weeks later and never recovered. She killed herself a year ago today.”
Alan’s eyes roll in their sockets. Deep convulsions. “… to… bb… ” A wet croak.
“Don’t bother calling for my brother Alan, he left when I arrived, don’t you remember?” David places the Tupperware back into his rucksack and steps around Alan’s twitching form. “Nine for an outside line, nought for reception? That’s how it normally works isn’t it? Don’t bother to answer Alan I’ll give it my best shot. Hello? Yes, I need an ambulance. I think the man interviewing me is having a heart attack.”
David bends down, whispers in Alan’s ear. “They’ll never trace it. Chalk it up to experience.”
Header image: “Flickr – brewbooks – Aconitum columbianum – Monkshood” by brewbooks from near Seattle, USA – Aconitum columbianum – Monkshood. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flickr_-_brewbooks_-_Aconitum_columbianum_-_Monkshood.jpg#/media/File:Flickr_-_brewbooks_-_Aconitum_columbianum_-_Monkshood.jpg