Goodmans Hotel (Chapter 2, page 1 of 10)


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After the holiday Peter did not invite me into his office or walk across the floor to my workspace to greet me. During the first week I saw him once in the distance heading for the lifts, looking straight ahead; if my existence did register on the edge of his field of vision he ignored me. Evidently he had decided to freeze me out. For several days I sat ever more uneasily at my desk, afraid whenever the telephone rang or an e-mail message arrived that retribution for my pretended illness in France was imminent.

The familiarity of the files, forms, manuals and directories on the shelves above my desk and in the drawers of my cabinet was reassuring in a way, but they represented a world of low profile routine tasks, not likely to bring me to the notice of those with influence over my career. As though to reinforce my descent from grace, no correspondence or messages of any importance awaited me, no crisis had occurred that needed my particular talents, whilst a plague of tedious minutiae had accumulated, irritating queries, petty niggles, and circulars that were barely worth reading.

Even a routine small order for a software package that should have been placed during my absence was back on my desk, not sent off on the feeble excuse that the supplier was keen to send a sales representative to visit. Anyone in my little team ought to have known that hearing another lot of sales patter would be about as welcome as the computer going down during a demonstration. We were supposed to be software and network engineers, not excuse engineers.

There was to be no swimming session the first week of my return because of the partners' quarterly meeting. The following Thursday would be the first significant test of whether Peter was sufficiently annoyed to bar me from attending. If he really wanted to embarrass me he might even make the arrangements without letting me know, leaving me to learn from his secretary that she had issued the invitations but been told not to inform me.

On Tuesday, half expecting a rebuttal, I sent her an e-mail asking if the session was to go ahead. The return message contained a rebuke the seriousness of which was difficult to judge: Peter says yes, meet 12.30 at reception, if you're absolutely sure your health is up to it !!?!! Presumably he had asked her to use those precise words, but were they a jibe not ruling out the possibility of forgiveness, or a warning that a death sentence was imminent? At least for now I was not completely banished from his presence, and as normal I contacted the other swimming partners, all of whom confirmed they would attend.

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