“Justin, Matt would like to see you in his office.”
Justin hit a few keys on his keypad, got up eagerly, straightened his tie and walked briskly out of the small office that three of them shared.
“Ooh, Justin, Matt wants to see you in his office,” mimicked Richard Fuller once Justin was out of earshot. “I mean, if there’d been a mirror in here, he’d have checked his hair before he went out.”
“What’s your problem with Justin?”
“It’s just that he’s a twat. Always cosying up to the boss, trying to please, yes sir, no sir.”
“He’s just a kid making an effort in his first job, that’s all.”
“Making eyes at Fiona, you mean.”
“Ah, there we have it. Fiona. She given you the brush-off again has she?”
“Just playing hard to get. Nothing wrong with that. Made for each other, me and Fiona.”
“You only say that because she’s made it clear she wants nothing to do with you. If she’d have said yes, you’d have tired of her soon enough.”
“As I said, she’s playing hard to get. He’s much too young for her anyway.”
“Justin’s what, 22?”
“And she’s 25. As I said, much too young for her.”
“My dad’s six years younger than my mum.”
“Yeah, but they’re older aren’t they? In their fifties. No, what Fiona needs is someone more mature, someone older who knows his way around.”
Callum sighed, shook his head, not stating the obvious, that his dad had just been 19 when he’d met his mum. He turned back to his work, trying to shut out the drone that was Richard in full flow.
“Hey, he’s not so perfect after all, Look.”
“Mr Peter Perfect. He’s not locked his PC properly. Hit CTRL-ALT-DEL, but didn’t click to actually lock the screen. Now, let’s see.”
“What are you up to?”
Richard had moved over to Justin’s PC and was working away at the keyboard.
“Richard, what on earth are you doing?”
“There, that’s it.” Richard then locked Justin’s PC properly before moving back to his own desk.
“What have you done? Oh no, don’t tell me. I don’t think I want to know.”
Justin came in soon afterwards, glowing, breathless.
“Everything okay mate?” Richard asked, with the emphasis on mate.
“Yes thanks,” Justin replied. “Mr Cooke just wanted to ask me how I was getting on, that’s all.”
Richard smiled to himself.
The following day Fiona popped her head around the door.
“Justin, Matt wants to see you again.” She sounded serious.
Justin locked his PC, stood up, straightened his tie and followed Fiona out.
Richard began to snigger. “Okay, Callum said, what’s going on? What did you do on his PC yesterday.”
“Just bought a load of worthless land, that’s all. Got an email that it was up for sale for a song. Here, I’ll forward you the link. There you go. Absolutely worthless of course, not fit for building or anything, but I thought Justin would appreciate a little investment.”
“What? How much did you invest?”
“Well it was only a 1,” he said sadly, “but I forget how many zeros were on the end.” And he collapsed laughing.
“What? You could get him the sack for this.”
“Serves him right.”
“Why? What’s he ever done to you?”
“Well, it’s obvious he’s Matt’s blue-eyed boy. If there’s bonuses and promotion in the offing, I should get it. It’s about time.”
“But you don’t make any effort mate. That’s why you’re stuck at the bottom of the ladder still after five years.”
“So are you.”
“Yeah, but I’m happy with my lot. I don’t necessarily want all the hassle and pressure that goes with a position like Matt’s. And I do all right. I do my job well.”
Justin came back in. He seemed close to tears.
“What’s up mate?” asked Richard, in a condescending, caring tone.
“I don’t understand. It was going so well, but I seem to have made a bad investment.”
“Yeah. Thing is, I don’t really remember making it. Not at all. It’s not even anything I’ve heard about.”
“What was it?” asked Callum.
“Some land,” Justin said. “It had been bought by a real estate company, but they found it was unsuitable for building, so they wanted to sell it on.”
“And you bought the lot?”
“Yeah, seems like it. But I can’t remember buying it at all.”
“And it’s worthless, right?”
Justin gave a sad shrug before excusing him and leaving the room.
“You’ve got to tell him,” Callum said.
“You’ve got to tell him it was you bought that land. Poor kids in bits.”
“Well, he deserved it.”
“What is it he’s done that’s so bad that you hate him so much? Eh?”
“Cal mate, don’t you understand? This is our chance to get rid of him.”
“Don’t you mate me. Unless you say something, you’re no mate of mine.”
The rest of the day was awkward. Callum did his best to comfort Justin whose professional world seemed like it was ending even before it had begun. He was back on probation with only the minimal of tasks to perform while his actions were reviewed.
At the end of the day, Richard said “Coming for a drink Cal?”
“No thanks. I’ve got some paint that needs supervising while it dries.” And he walked off, leaving Richard, never happy unless he was in the company of others, wondering what he would do that evening. For some reason Richard could not fathom, others didn’t want to know either.
The following morning, though Justin was still quiet, Callum seemed brighter. Richard carried on with the usual banter, especially when Justin left the room. Callum said nothing.
It was another two days before Justin was called into Matt’s office again. He looked worried. “You’ll be fine,” said Callum reassuringly before he went out.
“Thanks,” said Justin in a small voice.
“Heading for the departure lounge with any luck,” snorted Richard with a grin after he’d left. “Now, Callum, how are you for a pint this evening?”
“Sorry, busy this evening.”
Justin came back in the room, a look of disbelief on his face. A bit of a disappointment to Richard who knew that any dismissal was instantaneous with people being marched off the premises.
“So,” asked Richard, “what’s the verdict?”
“The land. It’s…”
“What’s the problem Justin?” Callum coaxed. “What about the land?”
“It’s got oil. A vast reserve underneath, apparently.”
“That’s brilliant mate,” said Callum. “Well done.”
“Hey, hang on a bit,” interjected Richard, “I thought you didn’t buy that land?”
“I don’t remember buying it, but somehow I did. And now it’s worth a fortune. I’m going to get a big bonus.”
“Great stuff,” said Callum. “Look, I’m going out with some mates tonight for a drink. Care to join us? Make you a proper member of the gang.”
“Yeah, okay. That’d be great.” A wide grin spread across Justin’s face as he sat back in his seat, wondering how he’d managed it. “I really don’t remember buying that land you know. Do you think Him up there had anything to do with it?”
“You never know, Justin. Maybe He did.”
Justin left the office to get a coffee. “Hey Callum, what’re you doing? I thought you were busy tonight? Anyway, that bonus should be mine. I was the one that invested in that land, not Justin.”
“Oh, so you’re willing to let the poor kid carry the can for some mean little trick you played, but now the tables are turned you suddenly want to own up to it, do you?”
“Well, it was me who knew about the land. I mean, you’ll back me, won’t you mate?”
“And how are you going to explain how you tried to get Justin fired because he annoys you?”
“Well, I’ll say it was just a joke. You know, like an initiation ceremony.”
“Since when do we have that sort of initiation ceremony here? We’re investing people’s money, Richard. You don’t play games, you know that.”
“Yeah, but it was me that knew about that property in the first place. I can prove it.”
“And if you’d looked at that email properly, you’d have seen a note at the bottom that it’s be worth getting Kyson’s involved to investigate the land further.”
“Kyson’s. Whoever sent you that email suspected that there was something worthwhile on that land, and you should have had it investigated.”
“The source of that email was doing you a favour, though God knows why they’d bother, and you had to use that information to try and stitch up an innocent kid just because you don’t like the way he parts his hair? See, if you’d have been doing your job properly, you’d have had that bonus, friends, drinks tonight, and Justin looking up to you with those adoring puppy eyes. Maybe even Fiona. As it is…”
Fiona popped her head around the door. “Richard, you’re to go in and see Mr. Cooke immediately.”
Richard gulped. He was always Matt, big friendly Matt, never Mr. Cooke – unless.
It was about 10 minutes after he’d left that Gerry from IT came in and unlocked the PC before shutting it down properly. Callum knew that Jerry must have changed the password to be able to do that to prevent Richard getting back in. Shortly after Fiona came in and picked up Richard’s bag and coat and took them out.
“What’s going on?” asked Justin.
“Oh nothing. Just Richard’s decided he’s got to leave us, that’s all.”