"Hi, this is Sonya, David's PA, and he's got some stuff he wants me to sort out before he gets back."
"Is that his name? He doesn't have a PA."
"He does now. He read how good they are at clarifying..."
I switch off while the benefits of PA-dom are explained in full. I'm a little concerned as this means the boss has been reading management periodicals during his recovery from non-specific stress disorders.
Surprising how some people react to a couple of hundred volts administered to the testicles through the seat of a wheelie chair...
Sadly, the appearance of a PA on the scene has put a rather large spanner in the works of the PFY and I, who were planning to use the boss's absence to steal a foot of his office to lengthen the computer room - a simple job when you have a team of builders that owe you a favour.
"How can I help you, uh..."
"Sonya," she snaps, a little miffed that her name has already slipped from my short-term memory. (Just using mental-cache wisely.)
"Of course. Now, how can I help you, uh..."
"SONYA!" She snaps again. "David wants me to audit the purchases he's signed off, to make sure they've all been delivered."
"That would have been done when the items were delivered," I've already sussed the boss's plan. Lacking the bottle to find out if the PFY and I have been stealing the equipment we've ordered, he's put some new blood on to it - someone who doesn't know what happened to those who've gone before. Mind you, she could probably visit a couple of them when she goes to see the boss.
"He thought it best to make sure, so if you could just run off a printout of the orders..."
"Well, I'd like to, but unfortunately the database had a major disk fault, and we lost everything."
"When was this?" She asks. "Because I was only on the database 10 minutes ago and it seemed all right - though I don't have access to the purchasing stuff."
"As a matter of fact it just happened," I say as I hand the PFY the rubber panel-beating hammer we keep especially for emergency disk failures.
"What about a previous printout from back-up?" She asks.
"All old printouts go to security shredding services once they've been used, and the back-up system has a tape jammed in its drive," I say, passing the PFY a suicide cartridge (full of epoxy resin) as well.
"So there are no records?"
"The boss - David - has printed records, and stores have an inwards goods printout. I'm sure you could match those up - it's a bit of a job, but it'd all work out in the end."
A sniffle sounds on the earpiece as she puts the phone down.
"Something terrible has happened!" the PFY cries, in mock horror, as he enters the room.
"I'm sure it has," I reply, as I plan the future. First things first, I dial in to the private institution that's looking after the boss and figure a way into their server. 'Freud', the third administrator password attempt I try, works...
I make a couple of modifications to the boss's patient record, changing 'history of violence' from 'nil' to 'extreme', and, the real killer, changing his 'charge to' field from 'medical insurance' to 'NHS' - guaranteeing that he'll be strapped into an iron bed in the budget basement wing in no time at all. Sure, he'll be released back into the community, 'cured', after three ECT sessions, but what the hell!
He misses out on the expensive NHS treatment when I find that it's not a quid per volt - NHS might have gone as high as 10K were that the case...
While I'm at it, I toggle the 'allow visitors' field - he'll probably need his rest.
"What's the problem?" the PFY asks curiously. "I thought we weren't nicking any kit this quarter?"
"We're not, but a careful perusal of the books might find that a lot of kit has been paid for twice - once by our department, and once by the department it was destined for. It was when they were changing cost centres around and no one knew who was supposed to be paying for things..."
"So you kept the dosh?"
"No, no - that would just draw attention to ourselves. No, I got two lots of kit and used the second lot to update all the machines in the data pool."
"The same all-women data pool that sent you the birthday card and cake?"
"With the invite to birthday drinkies?"
"Yes, that rings a bell for some reason."
"The day after which you arrived to work, late, in a cab with a couple of the aforementioned women?"
"Yes, yes, I suppose so! Was there a point to this?"
"Oh nothing," the PFY mutters, wandering off.
The next day, who should arrive at work but the boss. By his glazed expression I can tell he certainly got the NHS's money's worth of electricity, which just goes to show that the mental health situation isn't as bad as everyone says it is. As luck would have it, he's in a signing mood, too - if you hold his hand and arm for him and stop him dribbling on the ink before it's dry. So we write his PA a nice reference letter, give her two weeks' notice, and order the data pool a whole set of gas-operated chairs - what the hell, it's the PFY's birthday soon.
I just love happy endings.
So much so, I plug the boss's chair back into the 24 hour timer...