We crammed into Meeting Room Four. It was early. There were no set hours here anymore. When the Company called, you came. Absolutely no-one wanted to get fired or made redundant by their own employer. I grabbed a seat at the back. Nathan slid into a seat next to me. The chair in front was occupied by some nervous looking newbie. I stared at the back of his head for a moment. The guy was glaring at his feet probably hoping this day would go away. I remembered my first day in The Company. Only two years ago. Felt like hundreds. I was nervous too. Who wasn’t? Who isn’t? I felt them even now. The trick was not to let your fear show.
“Hey, Gobby!” someone shouted to me across the room.
It was Rupert. His blonde locks glared over the hues of brown and hazel between us and I could see his hands running up and down the lapels of his new suit. Charlotte stood at his shoulder. I’d fancied her for ages, but Rupert got there first. I wasn’t worried. One thing I learned in College was ‘wait: your time will come’. If I made sure I wasn’t sacked, fired or made redundant, everything was possible.
“What?” I said.
“What do you think?” said Rupert.
“Nice,” I said.
“Where do you think I got it from? Hey? Hey?” he said. Newbie looked up. He was as white as Rupert’s shirt.
“Don’t know. Primark?” I said.
“Bond Street, you dick. Bespoke.”
“What did you buy that for?” I said.
“Do you want to stay at this level all your life? I don’t. Make an effort and get yourself noticed. Get up there,” he said, nodding towards the empty stage; “with the managers. That’s where it’s at.”
Nate leaned across and whispered: “Hope that worm gets sacked.”
“Rupert’s okay,” I said. We started the same day at The Company, were even at the same College but not the same course. I liked him.
“Yeah, for someone who wants it all, and has most of it,” said Nate, then poked newbie’s shoulder: “Hey, newbie,” he said: “Do you like your Team Leader’s new suit?”
“Y-Yeah. It’s great,” said newbie.
“One day you might be able to afford one just like it,” Nate said: “If you last long enough.”
Newbie looked around but before he could answer Area Manager Bowman burst through the door followed by Deputy Area Manger Drake, Regional Manager Mandrel and Manager Michelson. They made their way onto the stage. A hush descended and we stood as one waiting.
“Sit down, please, ladies and gentlemen. Your assignment today is more acquisitions in the finance and manufacturing sectors.”
There were a few groans. One of the whingers was Sheryl sitting two rows forward of me to my right. Never liked her. It wasn’t that she kept turning me down, but she was so negative, always complaining, whining, never constructive. Her time would come, I was certain of it. To my left there were plenty, like Rupert, who wanted this type of assignment, needed it, in fact; a few good old-fashioned aggressive take-overs. The more we grabbed, the better the likes of him looked. The better he looked, the higher he would go. The higher he went the further away Charlotte would be from me. I neither groaned, nor applauded.
“We’ve done a lot of this lately,” Bowman said, slipping his thumbs behind his lapels, “which means we’re on the up. You are on the up. You’re doing a great job. Last week you had a good performance. But we need more, and more. Then there’s no reason why the Bonus can’t be achieved.”
Typical Bowman: always ending his speeches on a positive to quieten any dissent. I must admit it had me going for a minute.
“Right,” said Bowman, “get your assets from stores and assemble in the car park. Your Team Leaders will give you all the details. Good luck, and remember: never take no for an answer.”
The meeting broke up. I sauntered down to Stores and joined a queue. Once I’d signed for my asset and its accessories, I loitered with my colleagues in the car park. Rupert, our Team Leader, informed us we would be heading along the main highway towards the centre of town. The Brass had set our target as five take-overs by the close of business. There wasn’t a moment to lose and we set off in good order and high spirits. We’d been doing well lately, as Bowman said, so our confidence was high. We knew what we had to do, and how to do it.
It was just after eight am. We reached our first target on the corner of High and Main. It was a small office complex with manufacturing and stores out back. This was an acquisition from the Manufacturing Sector. We approached from the side and split into two groups: one moved into the yard, the other through reception. The Yard Squad made the first offer and caused a diversion. I was in the Reception Squad, in the lead group. Our offer was made hard and fast. The Receptionist was caught completely off guard and made redundant immediately. We moved upstairs asset striping as we went. I found the Director in his office. He agreed to our take-over bid and we put him and his employees on the dole. Our first acquisition was in the bag.
We regrouped in their offices. Some of our people cleared the Director’s desk while others raided the coffee machine. I walked through the admin pool checking if everyone had left. You never know, there might be a cute secretary hiding. Alas, everyone had been laid-off. I did find newbie sitting in a chair cradling his asset like it was a lifebuoy.
“Hey, how’s it going, mate?” I said.
“Yeah, yeah… okay,” he said.
“What’s your name, mate?” I said.
“Jackson,” he said.
“Look here, Jackson. The nerves will pass. Trust me. I’ve been where you are. Remember what they taught you in college, listen to your Team Leader and you’ll be fine. Rupert’s a good bloke, a top leader. He always sees us right.”
“Sure,” Jackson said. He didn’t look convinced. Or maybe he was having second thoughts, you know, like he’d accepted the wrong job.
“Hey, Gobby,” said Rupert, striding through the office with Charlotte in tow, “take a fag-break out front. And keep someone with you.”
“Yeah, sure,” I said, looking longingly at Charlotte and knowing what she was about to get. They were off to clear a desk and I would have given almost anything to be in Rupert’s shoes just then. Unfortunately, Rupert’s shoes were filled with Rupert’s feet until someone made him redundant. Then my chance would come to fill those shoes. Then and only then. And it would be up to me to make the Brass see I was capable and a team player. I walked through Reception and took up a fag-break position. I’d called Liala with me. She was cute. Having a fag with her gave me a chance to get to know her. You have to keep your options open in The Company. You never know. Charlotte might get fired some day.
During our fag-break we kept looking up and down the road. You never knew when another company might make an offer. But nothing moved. I slung my asset over my shoulder and turned to Liala.
“Do you smoke?” I said.
“Yeah,” she said, grinning; “What have you got I can puff on?”
“I’ve got a nice big fat cigar. Fancy it?” I said, looking her in the eye. Man, she was saucy and hot. Just the thing to boost a man’s ego on a cold morning.
Before I could get her to know me better, Jackson joined us. He fumbled in his jacket for a fag and lit it up.
“Feel free to light up, Jackson,” I said, and winked at a smirking Liala: “But don’t feel you have to offer anyone else one.”
“Have you been here long,” Jackson said; “with The Company, I mean?”
“Two years,” I said: “Jackson here’s feeling the pinch.”
“So I see,” Liala said, stifling a laugh: “I’ve been here a year and half.” She was fit to burst. So was I, but for a different reason. I wished Jackson would move on.
“Is… is that all?”
“That’s all,” I said: “Why are you on a fag-break?”
“Section Leader Quillon told me to get out here if I was just gonna sit in an office.” And damn right too, I thought.
“When did you graduate?” said Liala. My moment had come and gone. I pulled on my fag as I stared down the road, Jackson said; “Last month. This is my first job. My first acquisition.”
I glanced over at Liala, as she said teasing: “Just lost your virginity then, Jackson?” I wished I could’ve lost something in her just then.
After nine-thirty we moved on to our next take-over bid. This one was tougher. They were expecting an offer and resisted it for ages. It put us way behind. I reckon someone from the first place had slipped away and tipped them off.
Again I was in the group that made an offer through Reception. Jackson was with me, so were Liala and girl called Chloe. Chloe was fit as well. Someone in HR knew how to recruit women. Liala and I walked into the building. At first everything seemed normal. The Receptionist looked up from her computer and said, “Good morning. How can I help you?”
Before either of us could speak she pulled up her asset and blazed away. We dived for cover behind a plush leather sofa. It wasn’t as substantial a barrier as the Receptionist’s desk. She continued to refuse us entry, but Liala got in a good enough burst to terminate her contract. We rushed the stairs, this time Chloe and Jackson followed. However, a Sales Team was ready with a counter-offer and blocked us. They held us for a good quarter-hour until Rupert brought up some extra assistance. With more assets we out bid them. A couple Tuped over to us, but most got made redundant. Those that came with the take-over we asset stripped and put on the dole. The day wasn’t won yet. Some secretaries and directors still held out in the back offices. They declined our offers again and again. It took ages to serve notice on them, but eventually we acquired them. I was annoyed, really angry. We all were. I was spitting blood as my jacket was ripped and there were stains on my shirt. This could also cost us our Bonus. One secretary tried to Tupe to me. A cute little brunette she was. Chloe and I vented our spleen on her. After asset stripping her, Chloe and me gave her a full body search and cleared a desk with her before Chloe made her talk French to me. As she propped herself against a radiator, I sacked her through the head at close range. Boy, she made a mess.
By some toilets at the top of the stairs Jackson got his notice. On my way back I saw First Aider Williams with him. Williams did his best but Jackson’s contract expired. They laid him out next to Sheryl. So she was redundant too. About time, I thought.
It wasn’t even lunchtime and I’d had day of it. I sat in some manager’s office. Next-door I could hear Rupert and Charlotte clearing another director’s desk. Liala strolled in, her blouse unbuttoned to half-mast. She had a bottle of whiskey in her hand.
“Fancy a drink?” she said. I noticed her suit needed a visit to the dry-cleaners too.
“No, but I wouldn’t mind something to eat,” I said.
Liala laughed and sat on the desk directly opposite me. I pushed her knees further apart as she said: “Another take-over. Two down, three to go before the close of business.”
“Yeah, sure,” I said, as I began clearing the desk with her.
We assembled again in the car park in front of our new acquisition.
“Where’s Jackson?” Liala said to me as Rupert read the fire-register.
“He got made redundant,” I said.
“Pity. He was cute. There were a couple of girls who would’ve liked to clear a desk with him.”
“Who are you talking about?” Rupert said, coming over to us.
“The newbie Jackson. The guy I was speaking to this morning?”
“Don’t remember him,” said Rupert, “All newbies look the same to me. We’ll get a replacement from college soon enough. Come on, let’s move out.”
I looked at him, his bespoke suit spattered with dust and blood. This was it, this is what they taught us in college: don’t get attached. Don’t look backwards. Always move forward. So we moved forward, on to our next target, our next take-over. Always moving, never stopping, unless it was to asset strip, or body search, or clear a desk. We moved, and eat and drink on the move. The targets were set and the Bonus was everything. It was our ticket out of the rat race.
We filled our assets with accessories and headed for the third target reaching at one pm. It was another small company, this time in insurance. Our first Finance Sector take-over was an easy purchase after we made the first offer. We were in and out by two-thirty. However, the fourth was the toughest nut of the day. In spite of a good start at the close of business we finished with just four acquisitions. We returned to our office with twelve colleagues made redundant and no Bonus. Rupert called us in for another early one tomorrow when we would try again for that illusive boon.
Well, as they taught us in college, tomorrow was another day. And after that it was the weekend.
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