I went past the open-plan offices and into the kitchen. I made a coffee and steered it down the corridor, yawning.
The MD saw me from his office and beckoned, with a worried look on his face.
'What's the matter?' I asked casually. I sat on his brown leather sofa.
'I have decided to take your advice. We have resigned the $20 million Agricultural Bearings account.' He paused, then said, 'You were right. Mr Austin treated us poorly.’
He held up a small flat package.
'This is our letter of resignation – along the lines you advised, leaving in most of your, er, colourful language. It formally advises Agricultural Bearings that we will no longer handle their business – under any circumstances. I'm just waiting for the courier to pick it up and deliver it express.'
He looked quite pale, but I was quietly impressed at his determination to do the right thing. And to leave my strong language mostly untouched. At the same time, an incongruous thought came to me that Richards was more of a Bentley man. I wondered why he drove a Lamborghini.
'Good' I said. 'So what's the problem? You look like you've swallowed a horse.'
'There's no problem,' he continued, 'it's just difficult writing a letter telling $20 million to go away.'
'Go easy on yourself,' I said. 'It sounds like it had already gone, and you are just saying goodbye. So go and get another $20 million account. That's your job. You're the MD.'
I can be quite harsh sometimes.
'They are not that easy to come by,' he said.
Just then, a courier got out of the lift and came to pick up the express mail. Richards handed him the dismissal letter, and the courier placed some other articles on his desk. Then he went back into the lift and was gone.
One of the other articles bore the logo of the company we had just sacked.
'I had better open that,' I said, and for some reason I felt that tingle up my spine yet again.
'No, leave it to me,' Richards said.
He did. He inserted his letter opener into the envelope and sliced open the top.
He took out a single sheet. He read it.
His face froze.
He refolded the letter.
He looked at me, but not for very long.
He gave a sound that was kind of a soft sigh mixed with a half-suppressed shriek of panic.
He shoved the letter into my hand and ran for the elevator, which was not on our floor. He ran past the elevator to the stairs. The door to the stairs slammed with that odd banging echo they all have.
I walked to the window and gazed down to the street. I waited.
He emerged a minute later, which was probably a record for running six flights downstairs.
He ran towards the courier parking bay. Have you ever seen a fat fifty-something man, who never usually gets beyond a slow stroll, sprinting up the street, suit coat flapping, tie flying like a kite? He looked quite comical.
I went back to the desk, unfolded the letter and read it.
Dear Blake Browning BurnsI put the letter back down on the desk, handling it as if it were the Shroud of Turin.
An internal audit has revealed that our marketing director, Mr Austin - the man with whom you deal - has acted fraudulently and has stolen from the company. He has been sacked forthwith. I will now take over his duties and you will now deal with me personally from today.
Needless to say, the 'pitch' Mr Austin fabricated to cover his crimes is off the agenda. Furthermore, a new project he was meant to have initiated but didn't, will now roll out, effectively doubling your billings to approximately $40 million in the next financial year.
Please accept the apologies of Agricultural Bearings.
I look forward to getting together early in the week to discuss these matters.
Mr R. J. Morris
Chief Executive Officer
Agricultural Bearings Pty Ltd
I hoped the MD had caught the courier.