The Gate Keeper Chapter 28 (In which all is right with the world)
by Andrew Miller TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande is an agency in crisis. Their ‘basket of boutique services’ strategy has bombed. Only a massive new project can keep the doors open – all eyes are now on the corporate tent at Mangaung. Far in the background, an emergency replacement executive PA with decades of experience makes important decisions. Interns rise, board members take unexpected steps and things begin to change…
Blackmail is casually executed, SMS notifications are received and long term worries are set to rest…
In which all is right with the world
Simon Shone wanted to be in Mangaung. He did not want to be at the office writing integrated chewing gum campaigns. He looked over the desk at Phil the graphic designer and wondered – not for the first time – how he seemed to be so calm about it all. Simon Shone kicked his desk forcibly and decided he needed to start smoking weed. Instead, he started composing a love poem – a strange act, considering he had no lover, nor even an object of affection, save for Vati, who was more of an obsession than an endearment. And where Vati was concerned, Simon Shone wasn’t at all sure whether he was smitten or aggrieved. He was even less sure where he stood with Phil – the object of Vati’s desires. Could he call this guy a friend? Did the fact that he spent more than ten hours a day in his company not automatically make them mates? And what was the rule with friends and girls anyway?
I hate love
and that’s the trouble…
Simon Shone deleted his first two lines. They were rubbish. And he felt guilty as hell. Trying to nick your mate’s chick was one thing, but ripping off his creative genre of choice in the process… well, even the sour hearted have limits.
Phil the graphic designer leapt a full five feet out of his chair as Simon Shone kicked the desk. No one would ever have noticed (no one, save for Vati and Simon, and more recently Tim Broadbent, seemed to have noticed Phil’s existence at all, ever) but he was out of his mind with tension. This was the grand escape. He and Vati were quitting advertising for a while and going to India, together. And now was the time. It was happening – or not – right this very second. This was all well beyond his normal bounds. Phil was used to taking orders, not mounting blackmail revolutions. Now, with her in Mangaung, he felt naked and exposed. He wished she would return. Then he wished he had never met her. Then he wished he had the balls to ask her to marry him. Then he wished he worked with someone who didn’t violently kick the desk on a recurring basis.
In Mangaung, Isaac Ndimande was shocked. Not lightly shocked, mind, but actually the most shocked he had ever been in his entire life. He read the blackmail note again, shaking his head, while Nonhlanhla Mofokeng and Arthur Harris watched him intently
“Well I always knew Tim had balls,” he eventually said. “I just had no idea they were this big.” He shook his head again. “They’ve put their bank account details right here, on this note.”
“I called around,” Arthur Harris said. “It’s for real. The conference is set. I know of at least ten journos who are going.”
“What do you think, Isaac?” Nonhlanhla appeared to have lost all cognitive ability. She was waiting to be led.
“We have no choice.” Isaac Ndimande dropped the note onto the table. “Someone needs to get into that Escrow account and pay these f*#!ers now. The way Tim has been the last few months we can be sure he’s not joking. Either that or we call the cops, the public protector and all that.”
Sizwe cleared his throat and spoke. “You can’t choose when to play the game. We started it. We designed it. We knew the risks. Just because someone has played better than us we can’t walk off the field. If we do we’re in Jabu Pule country.” Isaac winced at the clumsy metaphor as much as at Sizwe’s sudden sage wisdom, but conceded the point. Nonhlanhla nodded angrily and left room.
Nonhlanhla nodded angrily and called the accountant. “Horace,” she barked into her Blackberry. “We need to make an emergency payment. From that Escrow.” She held the phone high in the air for three seconds, and then yelled out loud, without bringing it back down. “I know it’s not legal, but listen to me honey, this is all our salaries for the next three years!” Flecks of dry, angry spittle gathered in the corners of her mouth. “It’s a lot of money, and it needs to go through now. Like this very second.”
Three hours later Tim Broadbent and Vatiswa Magubane turned right onto the M1 highway and headed for Joburg. Vatiswa was shaking so much she couldn’t handle the buttons on her mobile. She was trying to tell Phil that he could leave whenever he wanted, but the words wouldn’t take shape on the screen. Eventually she threw the phone down at her feet and squealed like a wild pig. Next to her, Tim Broadbent beamed a smile to crack the sky. He had made many, many millions in his life, but none nearly as satisfying this. This little campaign would be the crowning achievement of his time on planet earth.
Tim dropped a still squealing Vatiswa at the front door of TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande, parked his luxury vehicle and headed inside to chat to Mama E
Well, this is it. A few more days and then this job is over. I can’t say I’ll miss the whole thing. I think I am too old for this business.
I can’t imagine what we are going to do now, however, money wise. The simple fact is that we have nothing. Gerald is, as I speak, teaching himself how to build web sites – he says maybe there’s something in that for an old guy who no one wants any more. Me, I just don’t know. To be honest I’m scared out of my mind. Retirement used to be my fear. Now I don’t know we will make it through January.
Melinda Ensworthy felt a light tap on her shoulder. She broke off her writing and tried to cover her screen as she looked up to find Tim Broadbent beaming creepily down on her. “Melinda,” he said. “Check your bank account when you have a moment.”
Tim Broadbent went to his office for one last look, and then walked out of TBW Smith Jones Wallace Broadbent and Ndimande via the front door, got into his car, and drove home to his family. For the first time in a very long time, the sky was blue.
He could hear the birds singing over the hum of the traffic.
All was right with the world.