"I really don't care. Just get me that money!"
Andrew Allen's angry, loud, growling, voice, trumpeting down his expensive mobile, shook the corridors of the Allen & Associates office. Heads craned in the direction of the bellowing, the employees unsure how to react to their boss's anger, and a shiver ran down their spines as silence hit the firm's main base with a disturbing eeriness.
In a police identity line, Andrew could fit in perfectly as a stereotypical stressed businessman; his tie was scruffy and loose from his unbuttoned collar, his shirt was not fully tucked in as was normally his strict preference, and large, noticeable sweat-marks were darkly distinctive under his arm pits. Once highly successful as an accountant, Andrew Allen was now on the verge of losing everything.
"Yeah, well, thanks for nothing," he exasperated down his telephone. He pressed angrily on the 'OK' button, sat down, and tried to gather his thoughts, running his hands through his wet long hair. "Susan?"
A middle-aged plump woman plodded dumpily through from the adjoining room and peered through her string-held glasses, curiously but as positively as she could muster. In lighter times, Andrew would, to himself, comically relate her to a penguin. But these were not light times.
"Any word from the financial agency?" he asked wearily.
"Not as such," came the reply, which could quite easily have been "No", but
Susan had been the secretary for the accountants for nearly twelve years, and Andrew knew she didn't want to agitate him further. As if there was a 'further'.
"Egotistical bastards," said Andrew, although the frank answer from Susan was hardly unexpected. "I expect they've got it all. Their CEO is no doubt sunning himself in the Bahamas with bikini clad women," he sneered.
"Oh, come now, that money can't have gone far, and I can't believe that the agency would have it, let alone spend it."
Andrew tensed up. "Money doesn't just disappear, Susan. It's not like it does a little magic trick and suddenly poof! it's gone. What would you think it."
"Alright, alright, no need to go all sarcastic on me," she sighed. "Maybe if you paid me a bit more..."
He stared at her. "A couple of million goes down the drain, and you're asking for a rise?!" he snapped. "Don't even think about it." He sighed and went back into his office, slightly regretting letting his anger out on Susan. Things were tough for everyone. Most of the employees were no longer working to pay their way, but just to keep the business alive. For some, it would be too late.
A stunned silence greeted Andrew's announcement. "It's going to be weird without you guys. I'm truly deeply sorry it has to come to this." He had never let any of his workers go for any reason other than behaviour. Now he had just made some genuinely strong-willed and hard-working employees redundant. It felt awful.
One man returned to Andrew's office before he finally left. "Bob, what can I do for you?"
Bob coughed hesitantly. "Listen, mate, I'm sorry things aren't working out, and
I'm gonna miss working here. Just promise me one thing though?"
"Get that bloody money back." Andrew put on a weary smile and watched his colleague and close friend leave the building for the last time. He finished his coffee, cleared his desk, and began working at his laptop, a determined sense propelling him.
Susan squinted through the office window and looked at her boss. She laughed. Not an unpleasant laugh, an evil cackle, but a sort of giggle. As if she had been told a joke. As she walked through the exit, she could be sure, Susan thought to herself, of three things: Andrew would still be at his laptop by the early morning; she would, purely by her own will, not return to work the next day; and her bank account would be several million pounds larger.