“Good Morning, Mr. Patel. How are you today?"
Jessica Simmons flashed her choicest smile, as the Finance Director for The Partum Group entered the building. The vertically-challenged septuagenarian nodded curtly in response, as he placed his small briefcase on the airport-security style X-ray scanner. 'The man is inseparable from that vintage brown attaché case of his, except when he had to pass through the scanner. He protected it as if it held the keys to the country’s nuclear weapons.' she thought, watching him pick up the case and slowly walk towards the lifts.
She watched him walk over to the lift in the middle and wait impatiently for it to arrive. There were two other lifts which had already arrived and were empty. But having watched Mr Patel for years now, she knew that he wouldn’t use them. The man was a creature of habit and very predictable. Rumour around the office was that he was extremely superstitious and his astrologer had advised him that his lucky number was 2 - hence the preference towards the lift labelled ‘2’.
Letting out a chuckle, Jessica turned her attention back to the Sudoku column of the newspaper. For the past five years, she had always greeted everyone who passed by her desk in the morning. After all, hers was the face that most people who entered the prestigious Partum tower saw first. Though her official title stated Senior Executive Assistant, her roles varied from getting coffee for the bigwigs to making sure everything in the office functioned properly. Being the Jill-of-all-trades, Jessica was constantly in the thick of things. The 15-storied beautiful curved glass building housed over 1000 employees and she was frequently in the know about all the gossip across every department. From who slept with whom to billion-dollar settlements, Jessica and her team of confidantes ensured that she was in the loop.
So, she was the first ‘outsider’ to know when Thomas Partum Sr., the co-founder of Partum Industries, had a cardiac arrest while in the middle of a board meeting. She was also in the know when the board decided that Partum Sr’s Harvard-educated grandson would be the best person to take the helm and lead them into the future. And since nobody outside the board seemed to know much about this prodigal grandson, Jessica took it upon herself to ‘research’ and keep everyone informed about him. What she didn’t realise was how hard it would be to locate even the tiniest bit of information about this mystery Partum.
It was just after Thanksgiving weekend, and most of the office was still on holiday, recovering from a bad case of having over-eaten during the festive weekend. But not Jessica. Rumour was that Partum Junior was expected to make a surprise appearance today. And Jessica wanted to be there when the new Managing Partner arrived. She was a firm believer in first impressions and wanted to make sure she escorted him to his new office. After all, she was due a promotion soon.
As she continued to work her way through the Sudoku column, she heard a commotion near the entrance. Tyron, the security guy, was trying to stop a tall man from entering the building. Pushing her reading glasses on to her forehead, she walked over to the security gate. The man in question was over 6 feet tall, with long, unkempt hair and at least a month’s worth of grizzly facial hair growth. He wore a black round collar tee and a pair of jeans that were faded and ripped. His boots had frayed laces, and the brown leather was creased and slightly caked with mud. But his eyes - they glistened brightly; cold and metallic, rivalling the most well-polished suit of armour. And there was something irresistible about them.
“What’s going on?” she asked, in a deeper baritone than she intended to.
“This man says he has a meeting with the VP, David Gilbert. But when I asked him to show me his confirmation, he says he hasn’t got any” said Tyron, eyeing the man suspiciously.
“You can call his assistant to confirm if you want.” said the man, pointing towards the phone on Jessica’s desk. Jessica frowned. The VP’s assistant, Ramona, was a firecracker and one of the few people that she did not get along with. If she had a choice, she would not call her. But, despite his shoddy appearance, the man seemed genuine. And she really needed to get him out of the foyer before Partum Junior made his appearance. She could not imagine the talking to she would get from her boss if the new managing partner crossed paths with such people.
“Let him through, Ty! I’ll ring up Ramona to confirm,” she muttered, as she turned around and sashayed back to her desk. Watching the man out of the corner of her eye she dialled the extension for Mr Gilbert’s office. Strangely, the call went unanswered.
‘That’s odd’ thought Jessica, as she redialed. She may have had issues with Ramona in the past, but she was a very good assistant. And she was certain she’d seen her earlier that morning. After the third attempt, Jessica hung up the phone. She turned around to address the man.
“What was your name again ….sir?” she enquired, carefully scanning him from head to toe and expressing her disapproval.
“Henry..Henry James” he replied candidly, with a smile that revealed slightly yellowish teeth.
‘My, isn’t that quite a posh name for someone who looks like a hobo’ smirked Jessica to herself.
Someone was going to have to escort this man upstairs. She looked around to see if she could locate one of her team. Whoever he was, he probably wasn’t important enough for her to chaperone him up to Mr Gilbert’s office. Additionally, she needed to be at her desk when Partum Junior arrived. She let out a loud sigh when she realised that they were all on leave. She was going to have to escort this man herself.
Asking Tyron to watch her desk for a bit, she started to walk towards the lifts. The scruffy man followed her, slightly limping. As the lift barrelled towards the top floor, Jessica observed the man. “That beard and awful hippie-like hair” she thought, shuddering lightly. “Why can’t people just practise some self-grooming?” she thought, as the elevator chimed out its destination.
Jessica quickly jumped out of the elevator and pointed out the reception to the man. Ramona was hunched over her desk with her headphones plugged in. ‘Aha!’ thought Jessica, ‘She’s been caught red-handed!. No wonder she didn’t hear the phone ring!” she muttered, making a mental note to send Ramona’s boss a memo. She contemplated staying up there for a few minutes to see how long it took Ramona to notice that they were there. But she decided against it. She needed to rush back downstairs to her desk. Partum Junior wasn’t going to see an empty welcome desk when he made his first appearance.
Waiting for the lift to come back up, she couldn’t help but glance over the shoulder towards the reception desk. To her surprise, Ramona was standing up and had a wide, plastic smile plastered on her face. She was also gesturing quite animatedly at the scruffy man. As she entered the lift, and pressed the “G” button, she heard Ramona loudly exclaim, “It’s lovely to finally meet you, Mr Partum. He’s expecting you!”.
As the doors to the lift closed, Jessica’s jaw dropped as she heard the scruffy man reply, “Pleasure’s mine, Ramona. Just call me Henry!"
Today is Day 4 of the #BarAThon. The prompt is : Caught Red-Handed