Three smartly dressed men sat on upright chairs in the corridor.
Suddenly the door beside them opened and a very attractive young woman came out.
‘Mr Cooper, Mr Belmont, Mr Gordon’ she said, with a dazzling smile. ‘I’m so sorry to keep you waiting but Mr McRoberts has been delayed for a couple of hours. He has asked me to arrange lunch in the meantime, so I hope you will bear with him, and enjoy your meal while you wait. This way, please, gentlemen.’
They duly followed her into a room furnished with three armchairs, and a conference table with chairs around it.
‘Please make yourselves comfortable’ she said. ‘ I’ll let you know as soon as Mr McRoberts arrives.’
‘Well this is a bloody nuisance ’ said the tallest man crossly, as she left the room. ‘I’m Mick Gordon, by the way.’ He extended his hand, and they both shook it. ‘Alistair Belmont’ said one and ‘Daniel Cooper’ said the other.
Alistair flopped down in one of the easy chairs. ‘So long as there is plenty of plonk to go with the food I’ll wait all day.’ He said. ‘ Pity we can’t smoke though.’
A waiter began to prepare the table for their meal. He was very quiet and unobtrusive, and they hardly knew he was there.
‘Any idea what this is all about ?’ said Daniel. ‘Do either of you know Mr McRoberts ?’
‘Not personally’ said Mick, ‘ but I’m a stock broker and we’ve had several dealings by e-mail lately. Always very chatty. Out of the blue he asked me if I’d consider taking six months off work to do a special job for him. He said he was conducting interviews here today, and would explain details then. Being curious, here I am.’
‘Similar to me then’ said Alistair. ‘ I’m a researcher, and he has been e-mailing me for a while, regarding a theory he is developing. Suddenly he offered me this interview today, so I thought I’d come and see what it was all about.’
‘I’m between jobs at present, so I’ve got nothing to lose.’ said Daniel. ‘ I know him through playing chess online, then he suddenly offered me this interview.’
‘Gentleman’ said the waiter ‘if you are ready….’
It was an excellent meal. The waiter was very attentive, making sure they all had their fill.
‘No more for me, thank you’ said Daniel, pushing his plate away.’ I’ll have some coffee though, please.’
‘That was magnificent’ said Alistair. ‘I’ll have another glass of the red wine though, and a brandy if you have any. I’d love a cigar, but that’s taboo nowadays. Bloody Government !’
Daniel laughed. ‘Good job too’, he said.
Alistair grunted. ‘I suppose that means you are one of those non-smoking bores are you? Personally I’m a 20 a day man and I like a good drink too when I get chance. I hope that red wine’s not all gone.’
‘Don’t start arguing,’ Mick said irritably, ‘ we’re all here for one reason only and that’s to interview for this mystery job. I wonder where that secretary’s gone, I don’t want to waste the entire day here’ he added, looking at his watch.
‘She was a tasty piece, wasn’t she’ said Alistair lecherously, and at that very moment, the young woman came through the door.
‘Have you all enjoyed lunch, gentlemen?’ she enquired. ‘I’m pleased to tell you that Mr McRoberts will be with us very shortly.’ She turned to the waiter. ‘You can clear away now, please’ she said’
‘Don’t take that wine ’ barked Alistair, and he held his glass out to be topped up. He slurped from the resultant large glassful. ‘Steady on Alistair’ said Daniel ‘you’ll be too drunk to be interviewed.’
‘Can’t say I’m bothered actually’ replied Alistair ‘got a free blow-out though, didn’t we?’ He slumped in an armchair.
‘I really think it’s a poor show, keeping us waiting like this’ grumbled Mick. ‘No doubt there is a good reason’ replied Daniel, ‘we’ll find out soon enough. I only complain if the excuses given don’t justify the inconvenience caused.’
At that moment, the young woman and the waiter reappeared.
‘Gentlemen, meet Mr McRoberts’ she said. The waiter shook each astonished man’s hand. They all sat down at the table, except Alistair, slumped in his armchair.
‘ I’m sorry for the deception gentlemen, but I needed to observe you away from the interview room.’ Said Mr McRoberts. ‘My wife and two girls, one of whom is in a wheelchair, are planning a six-month tour of America, and the job on offer is as driver-cum-chaperone- cum-minder-cum general assistant to accompany them. Mr Belmont’ he said, turning to Alistair, who was barely awake, ‘ your drinking and confessed smoking habits rule you out instantly, so you may as well leave now. Thank you for attending’ Alistair staggered to his feet. ‘Sounds like a rotten job anyway’ he muttered, as he stumbled out of the door, slamming it behind him.
Mr McRoberts steepled his fingers as he looked at Mick and Daniel. ‘Mr Gordon’ he said to Mick, ‘It’s not been easy, but I don’t think you are the man we
need. You have grumbled several times about being kept waiting, and you will appreciate that things will not run to a smooth timetable if there are delays because of Julia’s incapacity. I need someone with infinite patience. Thank you for attending.’ Mick stood up and took his leave of them, congratulating Daniel on his good luck.
Then Mr McRoberts addressed Daniel. ‘So Mr Cooper, the position is yours. You will receive a healthy salary, with a bonus at the end of the trip. I have noticed in our chess games that you are a very patient man, and you have demonstrated today that you are very tolerant. What do you say ?’
Daniel stood up. ‘ Thanks but no thanks, Mr McRoberts. Being at the beck and call of three females, twenty four hours a day is the perfect job for a saint, and I’m just an ordinary man. Surely the best person to accompany your family would be yourself, sir. Thank you for the lunch, and the opportunity. Goodbye’ and he left the room.
The secretary smiled. ‘Just what we have been telling you all along, daddy’ she said.