Short stories


By Guy Blythman

“He’s done this to spite me,” said Joanna Straker, head of Finance at the UK branch of IPL. 

 “Who has?” asked Caroline Kent, the new head of Personnel, as for the moment it was still called. “And done what?”

 “Nick Wright took those documents and he did it to spite me. Of course he’d say it was his prerogative as head of Admin to see them at some point if he wanted. Fair enough, I suppose.” As head of Admin the idea was that Wright was in overall control of things under the MD, Hennig. “But he never told me. He’s the only other person who would have had access to them or any reason to consult them. So unless they’ve just vanished into thin air he must have them. He’s virtually stolen that file, and later he’ll probably pretend to have lost it. Anyway, it’s causing a whole lot of problems.”

 “Wouldn’t that get him into trouble, if he was thought to have lost them?” someone pointed out.  

 “He’ll survive.” Hennig had never shown any interest in getting rid of Wright in the past, nor had other members of the Board. Probably he, Wright, had something on them.  

 Caroline felt herself stiffen with anger. Joanna was a decent person, she didn’t deserve this. Why would Wright have done it? Caroline could only conclude it was because of the complaints Joanna had been making recently to the Board. Maybe he wasn’t taking any chances. Whatever the reasons, it was rendering it hard for Joanna to settle into her new post, placing her under a lot of pressure as her face and her often subdued manner showed. Caroline worried about her.   

 “We can’t prove anything,” said another executive, Chris Barrett. 

“No,” sighed Joanna. 

 “You remember what he was like before, shouting at everyone and trying to bully them. The way he went on at Lisa when she said she needed some time off.” The employee who had spoken shuddered at the memory. “They had to do something.” Wright had been a bit more careful after that. But there were plenty of ways of causing trouble.  

 “He frightens me,” Joanna shivered. “He’s the sort who’d sneak round to your house and lob a brick through your window if you crossed him.”

  Later that day Caroline called one of the junior clerks, Tristan Lockyer, into her office. He was a nervous, awkward young man and she could see how his unease might communicate itself to others, making him unpopular. Nor was his work record, his timekeeping plus his general performance when he was here, particularly good. He was inefficient, forgetful and unsociable. But he was far from unintelligent and she sensed that if he was treated right he might develop into a useful member of the team. So she gave him a pep talk, making sure he understood that since he’d only been here for a few months, he wouldn’t have much protection, despite her best efforts, should the other managers decide they wanted him out. One person in particular had been on his back almost from the start. They both knew who it was. 

 Disciplining Lockyer was Caroline’s job but Wright didn’t seem to think so. Technically he was her superior. But it went against convention. He didn’t need to take such a close interest in the matter, he was just pulling rank.  

 As for his treatment of her; the constant carping behind her back, or not behind it for that matter, was wearing and she felt it undermined her authority. She recalled the suggestion he’d made to her not long after she’d first joined the company. And what his interest had turned to when it was clear she didn’t intend to oblige. 

 She could conclude that it was unlikely the management would sack her; she had made herself indispensable to them. They didn’t want to discourage young, dedicated and talented high-risers. But she could still go under. A long battle lay ahead, and not only for her, unless…

She sat down and thought. 

He’s the sort of person who’d lob a brick through your window…

 Caroline got out the Yellow Pages, leafed through it until she found what she wanted, then picked up the phone. 

 “And it needs to be done so no-one knows it’s there,” she told them.

 “That’s possible,” they said. “But it’ll add to the overall cost.”

“By how much?” They gave her a quote.

 She made a calculation. “Alright then. How soon can you do the job?”

“Is it urgent?”

“Well, for various reasons I’d like it done as soon as possible.”

“Within the week?”

“Yeah, that should be alright. Thursday?”

“Fine.” They agreed on a time.

 The day after the work had been carried out she went to see Wright in his office, the pretext being personnel matters. Most of the conversation concerned Tristan Lockyer. It developed into a vigorous, indeed heated, discussion on where exactly the demarcation line lay between her responsibilities and his. “I’ve had enough, Nick. I really have. I have to say your behaviour has been quite unacceptable.” He leaned back in his chair with a broad grin, saying nothing. “And I’m going to do something about it if I can.” 

 He remained unimpressed. “Make as much fuss about it as you like, darling, you know it won’t do any good. All I’m trying to do is make sure things are done properly, and the Board know that. That means letting people know where they stand, if ever they’re tempted to step out of line. I don’t take any crap from anyone – got that?”

 Her face froze into a mask of rage, the eyes cold as blue ice. “You’re an arrogant slimy toad, a heartless devious bastard. A sociopath. God knows the psychological reason why you feel you need to control everything, but I bet you’re glad we don’t. Although I think I can guess. It’s because you’re trying to shut out the voice inside your head telling you how pathetically inadequate you really are.”

 His face and body stiffened. She could feel the hate burning itself into her. She turned, and left him without a word. 

 That night she was sitting relaxing in her living room, listening to something soothing on an I-Pod, when she heard the sound of shattering glass. She also heard, as she went to investigate, the sound of a car racing off into the night. 

 She found something to nail over the window. Then, smiling, she went back to her I-Pod, letting tomorrow take care of itself. 


 “They got him by the number plate of the car,” said Decker, a senior executive who eked out the days until retirement discussing company business in the canteen with a colleague of similar vintage, Reece. “They searched his house and found those accounts. Along with the illegal hardcore porn mags. Needless to say Hennig had to do something. Can’t say I’m beside myself with grief, nor can a lot of people.” 

“But Wright’s gone.”

 “Yes. He’ll probably try to wriggle his way into a high-profile job somewhere else, but he does have a criminal record to live down. Most likely his replacement here will be George Watson-Dove. Not that much of an improvement but infinitely better than Wright.”

 “She’s got time to straighten Lockyer out now. He’s got promise, I reckon, despite everything. Just as well from his point of view that Wright’s finished, though, as he was just about to be sacked.”

 “I was thinking,” said Decker. “You don’t suppose…I mean, CCTV that can see that well in the dark…it does exist but…she went to a lot of trouble to…” 

 And there had been something about Caroline’s expression these last few days. Of course everyone had been delighted while trying not to show it. All the same.

“You don’t think that she…” They exchanged glances. 

A grin spread slowly over each of their faces. 

 “I wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of her,” Reece commented. 

 “Well I can tell you one thing. With someone like that at the company, and destined I reckon to go places, things are going to be interesting. Very interesting.”

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