Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Chapter 4 - Truth is stranger than fiction

After he left for the day, James felt more like himself, accepting the situation but also knowing that what he was working on may reveal more about Fergan’s intentions. James couldn’t help but feel vindicated knowing that Fergan was rorting the system and covering his tracks. James though, had worked long enough to know that these sorts of issues ended badly and if raised, the revelation may backfire not only on him but more, concerningly upon Yvonne and he wasn't about to allow her to be fired.

Despite his concerns, he slept soundly and the next day he arrived at work ready to update Yvonne.

As he walked through the building towards East Wing, James saw Jamie approaching. As they passed, Jamie stopped, and said "Hello James." After greeting one another, Jamie announced he enjoyed working in the Executive Suite. They stood silently and Jamie then revealed he was lonely in the big office. He asked after Yvonne and said he missed his paper run.

James nodded without speaking. Haltingly, Jamie continued, ".....I know that they know ....that ....I’m not quite right.” James didn't immediately respond, thinking more about Jamie's negotiation skills that gave staff a rostered day off each month.

He then responded, more deliberately, “Jamie, people will always say awful things but be assured that all of us, one way or the other aren’t quite right.”

James moved away and Jamie called out, "I really belong in East Wing, when do you want your office back?” 

“Soon enough,” replied James.

Yvonne was already in and when he appeared she said morning. James told her he had the report and she said they’d go to a room to talk it over.

“Ok,” said James, “I confirm the figures are different compared to the approved figures. It’s cleverly prepared so no discrepancies show. It’s only when you dig, you can see anomalies. For each total, the rounded cents have been harvested. Where they're going is unclear. While we suspect Fergan, it may be that he is working with one other to separate himself from…..it…...He's covering his tracks, so he doesn't get caught. Before speaking James lowered his voice and said, "We have to be very careful how we manage this Yvonne.”

He paused, before continuing, “I have concerns that if we raise this, it might backfire. The consequences are dire...not only for me but ......for you as well.”

There was silence as the pair mulled this over.

“Yes,” said Yvonne, “I have been digging and I came across a linked account only visible when you drill down into the electronic records. Only a few people have access and the cents are being transferred and processed to display as travel allowance. It’s a very complex process.

She stopped and whispered,
"and our suspect as you say, has certainly covered his tracks very well.”
The revelation hung in the air as they both absorbed this finding and its consequences.

James broke the silence and said, “I’m not prepared to risk it, not prepared to risk jobs over this, Yvonne.”

“Yes,” said Yvonne, “it's now tricky.”

Deliberating for a moment, James, slowly spoke, “Yvonne, I have an idea. “I spoke with Jamie today and he expressed interest in returning here. Since he negotiated 1 day a month off in lieu of pay, you could bring him in under the premise of special projects and we could work it so he initiates an internal review of Fergan’s budget documents with audit. That way we aren’t involved and there is no way Jamie would lose his job coming in under special measures. It's such madness, it may well work. An internal review would pick up the discrepancies and it would be dealt with through the system as opposed to us getting... implicated.”

Flashing a smile, Yvonne, said “Brilliant. James, this is the reason you’re Executive material.”

The seasons changed from summer to autumn and as winter approached, litanies of colour adorned public spaces where people gathered, rugged up against winter’s icy fingers, perpetually searching for flesh to leech on to.

It was a time of consolidation - Jamie started back in East Wing with special projects. At his departure, James’ office remained empty. There were no staff announcements, so James assumed his role was not filled. He thought to approach the suite but decided against it since no-one had spoken to him since he’d been well, exiled. Instead, he showed up at East Wing each morning.

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