The clumsy intern was just wasting his time, Graham thought. But she did seem eager
MRS PARKER stood at the office door and, although Graham was busy, he knew better than to ignore her. She might be a battleaxe but she was the most efficient secretary he’d ever had.
He looked up with a pleasant smile. “What can I do for you, Mrs Parker?”
He always addressed her as Mrs Parker, never Joan. He’d tried it once and had instantly regretted it.
She approached the desk. “Some letters for you to sign. And . . .” She gave a sniff of disapproval, “The work experience intern is here.”
“But we don’t take interns,” Graham said with a frown. “The boss doesn’t approve. He always says students are more trouble than they’re worth.”
Mrs Parker tossed her head. “Not this time. There’s been an email from head office about this young lady. Apparently her father plays golf with the managing director.”
Graham sighed. “Then I suppose you’d better send her in.”
Moments later Mrs Parker returned with a pretty girl in her early twenties. She was wearing a smart suit with a crisp white shirt, but the overall effect was ruined by a large coffee stain down her grey skirt.
“Sorry, I can’t believe I’m so clumsy,” she said apologetically as Mrs Parker withdrew with a tight-lipped nod.
The girl turned to face Graham. “Amanda West,” she said, holding out her hand and sweeping a photo frame off the desk with her handbag. The frame clattered to the floor and they bumped heads as they both bent to retrieve it.
Amanda’s blue eyes filled with tears. “I’m not making a very good start, am I?”
Graham produced a box of tissues. “There’s no harm done. Sit down and we’ll get you another coffee.” He nodded at the stain on her skirt. “Have you burnt yourself?”
She shook her blonde head. “No. I just feel like a complete idiot as usual.”
“Mrs Parker tells me you’ve come from head office?”
She nodded. “That’s right. I had a week in accounts then 10 days in personal finance. I was supposed to spend six weeks there but I think they’d had enough of me. They said I was taking up too much of their
time.” She gave him a trembly smile.
Graham tried not to show his dismay. He knew when someone was being fobbed off on him.
“Well, we’re very busy here as well but we’ll try to make you feel welcome,” he said. “I’m due to chair a meeting which starts in a few minutes but my assistant, David, will show you the ropes, okay?”
SOME hours later David filled Graham in over a lunchtime drink. “She’s clueless,” he confided, rolling his eyes. “She reckons she’s done a year of business studies but she could barely manage to switch on the computer. Easy on the eye but nothing between her ears.”
“Amanda’s father plays golf with Mr Muller,” Graham explained, taking a sip of his beer. “That’s how she got her foot in the door at head office and now they’ve foisted her on us.”
“Nice girl though,” said David. “And lovely looking. I wonder if she’s single.”
“You keep your hands to yourself,” Graham warned. “We don’t want Harry Muller coming down here breathing fire. That’s his golf buddy’s precious daughter, remember?” David shrugged. “You’re the boss.” Back at the office, Amanda had already incurred the wrath of Mrs Parker.
“What did she do wrong this time?” asked Graham, steering his irate secretary away from a cowering Amanda. “Pressed delete instead of print,” Mrs Parker hissed. “If I hadn’t backed up my files she’d have lost me a whole morning’s work.”
“It’s lucky you’re so efficient,” soothed Graham as David whisked Amanda away to spend the afternoon addressing envelopes. Amanda’s week went from bad to worse and on Thursday she cornered Graham just as he was leaving work.
“I really need some advice. Could you spare the time for a quick drink, Graham?” Her blue eyes glistened with unshed tears.
Graham looked at his watch. He and his wife were supposed to be going out for dinner with some business colleagues. He drew Amanda away from the watchful eye of Mrs Parker, who was taking much longer than usual to button her coat.
“Not today, Amanda,” he said. “I’m in a bit of a rush.”
“Please Graham, I need your help,” Amanda pleaded, her bottom lip quivering. “I think I’m making a terrible mistake.”
He sighed. “Go on. Just a quick one then.”
In the bar next door, Amanda sniffled into her white wine.
“My father wants me to go into banking but I’m not clever enough. I failed all my end-of-term exams and I haven’t plucked up the courage to tell him.” A tear plopped into her drink. “I’ve made so many mistakes this week. Everyone’s annoyed with me and Mrs Parker thinks I’m hopeless . . .”
Graham nodded, trying to conceal his impatience.
Amanda wiped her eyes. “What do you think I should do, Graham? Should I make an effort to try again, or should I just give up now?”
Graham looked sympathetic but secretly he hoped she’d decide to pack it in.
“Maybe banking isn’t for you, Amanda,” he advised gently. “But if you’re prepared to put some effort in, we can make a fresh start. If not, don’t waste any more time; make arrangements to try something else. I’m sure your father will be proud of you whatever career you choose. Have a think about it.” He patted her hand.
“I must get home. See you tomorrow.”
AMANDA arrived bright and early on Friday, red-eyed but looking optimistic. Graham gave her some undemanding jobs to do and, as she managed them without making any mistakes, he decided to build her confidence by giving her the task of inputting the weekly figures.
As the clock ticked towards 5.30pm, Amanda burst into Graham’s office.
“I was doing so well,” she sobbed, “but now it’s all gone wrong!” “What happened this time?” he said. “I’ve locked up my computer by putting in the wrong password. Three times.”
Graham couldn’t hide his annoyance. “Get the IT guys down to sort it out.”
“I tried but they’ve already left for the day. Please Graham, could I use your screen for 10 minutes while I retrieve the file?” Graham reached for his jacket. “Sorry but I must leave on time today, Amanda. I’m going away for the weekend.”
“I know you’re not supposed to leave your computer logged on but it won’t take long,” she said eagerly. “I saved everything in a folder just like you showed me. Please! I’d love to have the figures on your desk ready for Monday morning.”
Graham relented. “Okay. But make sure you log off and tell security to lock up when you’ve finished.”
Amanda smiled through her tears. “I promise.”
As Graham left, he made a point of switching off his work cellphone. After the stress of dealing with Amanda all week, he was looking forward to two whole days free of interruption.
WHEN he arrived in the office on Monday morning, refreshed from his weekend away, David was waiting, his face pale. “Graham! Thank goodness you’re here. I’ve been trying to call you all weekend. Mr Muller’s on his way down from head office. We’ve got a real problem.” “What sort of problem?” “Someone’s shifted a large sum of money into a private account and we can’t trace it.” David swivelled the computer screen so they could both see.
“How much?” Graham squinted over his colleague’s shoulder.
David swallowed as he scrolled the cursor down and highlighted an account. “Sixty-eight million.”
“That’s impossible!” objected Graham. “You need the passwords of three different managers to access that amount of cash.”
“But that’s just it! They had them. Two of the guys from head office and . . . and yours actually, Graham.”
“There must be some mistake!” Graham pushed David to one side and seated himself in front of the computer.
David shook his head. “Your authorisation was recorded at 5.45pm on Friday evening. Yours was the last one.”
“5.45pm? But I’d already left for the weekend . . .” Graham protested, sweat beginning to trickle down his ribs.
He looked up as Mrs Parker swept into the room, bristling with indignation. “There’s a message for you from that little madam on work experience,” she sniffed.
“What’s the message?” Graham whispered.
Mrs Parker flipped over her memo pad and read aloud. “She says you were quite right, banking isn’t for her and she’s made other arrangements just as you suggested. But she wanted to say a very special thank-you for all your help.”
‘Nice girl though . . . and lovely looking. I wonder if she’s single’