Missed the start? All installments can be found here.
Or go back to part twenty-three.
This was first posted on Silk Screen Views.
PART TWENTY-FOUR – THE BOARD MEETING
The following morning Tamsyn dressed with extra care, using make-up to hide the dark circles under her eyes and the pallor of her face. Andy nodded his approval, though he still shook his head at her lack of shoes, and she felt as ready as she’d ever be to face her executive board.
On the trip to the office she found herself wondering why she had never thought to modernise her board of directors – bring in some new blood and some more women – but deep down she knew she had never even thought to mistrust her father’s old friends. Now she was on her way to face seven white, fifty-something males who apparently didn’t trust her as much as she’d trusted them.
When she walked into the boardroom at five to ten they were all already there, whispering among themselves, and she looked at them with new eyes, noticing things she had never seen before. Jim McMurphy glanced her over, and she saw a glimpse of both disdain and lecherous desire which made her skin crawl. Robert O’Donohue – whom her father, as a fellow Irishman, had always favoured – had an air about him that suggested he was indulging her by being there, but felt he had more important things to do. Of all seven men, only Albert Moore seemed the same, kindly gentleman he had always been, and Tamsyn hoped fervently that he at least would back her up, so she wouldn’t have to fight this fight on her own.
“Morning guys,” she greeted them. “Sorry for calling you up at such short notice.” She had never insisted on formality, and saw no reason to change that policy now, even if it might have been an advantage.
“That’s fine, Tamsyn,” Albert said. “I must say I’m glad to see you; we’ve not been able to reach you all week.”
There was enough of a question in his voice that Tamsyn took it as one, and she gave him her best effort at a smile. “I felt I was long overdue for a holiday, Albert, so I went and hid for a few days. I figured you wouldn’t miss me for just a week.” Especially not since you’re happy enough to conduct transactions behind my back anyway, she thought.
“So, why are we here?” Jim asked.
Tamsyn took a deep breath and met his eyes. “Interesting that it should be you asking that, Jim, since in a way it was you who instigated this meeting.”
“What? Me?” he said, taken aback, then looking at his colleagues in confusion.
Tamsyn dropped her casual tone. “I found out yesterday that the Somerset project is being done on contract with the Donnan brothers. Normally I know I can trust all of you implicitly in matters such as the acquisition of new contracts, but I can’t help but remember a rather… explicit e-mail to all of you after the last building project we did for them.” She opened the folder she had brought in, took out a sheet of paper and slid it across the table towards Jim. “This is a copy of that e-mail. Please, Jim, read it out to all of us.”
Jim looked at her as if to say something, but bounced off on her icy glare. Instead he cleared his throat and read, “To: all members of the Board of Directors. Subject: Donnan & Donnan Real Estates Ltd. Message reads: Donnan contract finally resolved. If anyone, I repeat, anyone ever tenders for contract with these motherfuckers again, they’ll find themselves on the street so fast that their arse won’t even touch the fucking stairs. Love, Tamsyn.”
In the quiet that followed she heard several coughs. She didn’t know whether they were embarrassed coughs or coughs to hide laughter, but neither did she care. She kept her gaze fixed on Jim, who made as if to slide the paper back to her, but she gestured at it again. “Kindly check the date on that, Jim. When was it sent?”
He cleared his throat again. “Six months ago.”
“Six months ago,” she repeated. “I understand that the current contract we have with Donnan & Donnan was brokered by you. Is that correct?”
“Yes. Yes, it is,” Jim replied stiffly.
“Right, so here is your one chance to give me a good reason not to have your arse out on the street, because I really don’t think that e-mail could have been any clearer as to my feelings on this subject.”
He looked around for support, but everyone studiously avoided his eyes. “Well, we… we kind of thought that message was a joke, really,” he stammered.
“Really,” Tamsyn snapped. “Do tell.”
“Well, the language…” He trailed off and Tamsyn sighed.
“Guys, what’s going on? We’ve never minced our words with each other, and I’ve always encouraged you to be honest with me. You think that mail a joke? In its wording maybe, but that was only because I thought the contents were so obvious I didn’t need to state it in more serious terms.” She leaned forward and jabbed a finger at the paper. “Two years, Jim. Two fucking years it took us to get our money out of those Wiltshire cunts. What the fuck possessed you to tender to them?”
At that point Robert butted in. “Company policy states that we tender for all contracts above a value of–”
“Company policy my arse, Rob.” Tamsyn whirled on him. “Company policy is not to do business with fucktards, and the Donnan brothers are worse than fucktards.”
“But the size of the project, the prestige…” That was Ronald Wessington, and he too flinched when Tamsyn turned her gaze on him.
“Value. Size. Prestige. Is that what you base your decisions on these days? Because my father always went for honesty, value for money and benefit to local communities and companies.”
“Paddy has been dead two years now, Tamsyn,” Rob said, trying to sound gentle.
“I am aware of that, Rob. He was my father after all. And his last wish was for me to continue in his footsteps and to uphold his values and beliefs. I thought I had your support in this.”
“You have, Tamsyn, but…” Ronald said, trailing off when she glared at him.
“But? I didn’t think there was room for a ‘but’ in there. You either support me or you don’t. If you find that you suddenly have difficulty with the values I’m trying to uphold, I’d appreciate it if you told me so now, rather than simply bypassing me and doing things behind my back.”
Jim cleared his throat again. “Tamsyn, the Donnan brothers represent the single biggest real estate company in the Somerset and Wiltshire area. Not dealing with them means that we’re unlikely to ever do any projects in that area of the country again.”
“I fail to see the problem with that,” Tamsyn said through clenched teeth. “We operate all throughout the UK and have even done building projects abroad. We’re one of the biggest building companies in Britain. We’ve been increasing our profits for the past five years. What need do we have of two measly fucking counties?”
“Tamsyn, we simply feel that in certain areas we have more… experience than you,” Rob said. “We were never trying to bypass you.”
“Funny, because that’s very much what it feels like to me. As for experience, I’ve been following dad around since I was seven. Oh, I’ll admit that a seven-year-old child doesn’t have a clue about what’s going on at a building site, but dad never failed to explain things to me, and he’s taught me everything he knew, on top of the education I got. If that’s not enough for you, then please give me one example, just one, where I’ve gone wrong. Just one example where I’ve failed to get Moriarty & Co. the best deal possible.”
There was silence all around the table, because Tamsyn knew very well that there were no examples to bring up. Then Jim’s cough echoed through the room again. “Tamsyn, you’re so young and so…” He hesitated, waving his hand vaguely as he looked for the right word.
“Female?” Tamsyn suggested with ice in her voice.
“Well, you have to admit that this business asks for a certain amount of… ruthlessness sometimes.”
“And because I’m young and a woman I can’t be ruthless?” She met him stare for stare, and Jim was the first to look down.
“You want ruthless?” Tamsyn said, and she now spoke quietly enough that the men on the other side of the table had to strain to hear her. “I’ll give you ruthless. I would have given you another chance, Jim, for the sake of the long friendship between my father and you, but I see now that that would be too weak, too feminine of me. So have it your way: you’re fired. I’ll pay you your notice, but I do no want to see you in these offices again after today. Am I clear?”
Jim had gone pale, but he took the hit with dignity. He nodded and stood up, then gave Tamsyn a calculating look. “Don’t think I’ll take this lying down, Tamsyn. I’ll see you in court for constructive dismissal, and then you’ll see what ruthless really means.”
“Please do,” Tamsyn said with a nonchalant gesture. “I’ll look forward to it.”
He gave her another long look, then left the room, ramrod straight and never looking back. Tamsyn turned back to the others and met six apprehensive stares.
“Well, that was unpleasant, but necessary,” she said. “Before we wrap this up I’d like you to know that I’ve taken the liberty of hiring a team of solicitors and auditors to go through all Moriarty & Co’s files with a fine-toothed comb. They’ve taken copies of everything as is. If there is anything of specific interest in there that you feel I might want to know about, you have one week to tell me about it yourself. I’m sure I don’t need to explain this any further. Good day.”
With that she turned on her heels and left the room. Andy was waiting for her in her office, tapping away on his computer, and when he saw her he jumped up and winced at the look on her face. “I take it that didn’t go too well then?”
She sighed and plunged down into a chair, resting her feet on the edge of his desk. The remaining board members were just filing past and stared at her, wide-eyed, as if they’d only just noticed she was barefooted. “Close the blinds, will you? Stupid fucking glass offices.”
He did, and closed the door with a decisive click that shut out the rest of the office, and only then did Tamsyn answer him. “Whether it went well is a matter of opinion.” She rubbed her eyes. “I had to fire Jim.”
Andy whistled. “I’d say that’s bad.”
“You’re probably right, especially as he says he’s going to sue for constructive dismissal.”
“Ah. Um, exactly what did you fire him for?”
“Technically, because he blatantly ignored a company directive that told everyone not to deal with those Donnan arses again. In reality, because he suggested I wasn’t ruthless enough, so I had to prove him wrong.” She sighed and stared ahead of her, suddenly despondent. “What am I doing here, Andy? Why am I doing this? All that time I spent learning this shit, and now this. I’ve got no friends, I’ve always lived for my job, and now I find I’ve been stabbed in the back by my own board of directors. Why am I here?”
Andy gave her an apprehensive look. “I’m your friend, Tam,” he said.
She gave him a wan smile. “I know, but you’re the only one. Jim McMurphy certainly won’t count as one after today.”
“He goaded you, Tam,” Andy said, feeling back on safer ground now. “I’m sorry to say that it probably means you don’t have a leg to stand on.”
“Oh, I agree with you. But you know what? I couldn’t give a rat’s arse, because I have far more pressing priorities. Where have you got to with buying that site and your research into nature reserves and endangered species?”
Andy gave a small smile and showed her a few links on his computer. “I reckon if we go for two species we’ll be about right. That’s enough to make the situation pressing, but not too much to push it into the unbelievable. So I’ve picked a bird and an orchid.”
“A red-backed shrike?” Tamsyn said, raising an eyebrow. “Never heard of it, but then I’m not an ornithologist. Why that one?”
“Not been spotted in the UK since 1970, but they found a breeding pair earlier this year in Devon, so this could be seen as another step towards them re-establishing themselves.”
Tamsyn nodded her approval. “And a lady’s slipper orchid.”
“Yep. Common in other parts of the world, but endangered in Britain. I picked this one because they like boggy soil, and there’s a patch of that on the site which is due to be drained as part of the project.”
She patted him on the shoulder. “Two species that could conceivably have cropped up naturally, and will be able to survive in the area. Perfect. Now we just have to hope that Radagast can work with that. Come, let’s see if he’s woken up yet.”
Will Radagast be able to help with the endangered species? Find out in part twenty-five!