The security guard straightened his tie and buttoned his uniform jacket before knocking on the managing director's half-open door.
"You wanted to see me, Mr Bignoise?" he said, peering inside. "I'm Jim Jones."
"Oh yes, Jim, thank you," the boss said, gesturing from his chair. "Come in. Come in. Sit down."
Bignoise reached into a desk drawer and extracted a file as Jones sat down on the chair at the other side of the MD's majestic blackwood desk.
The file was contained in a manilla folder and the words Personnel - Private and Confidential were emblazoned across the front.
Jim Jones had suspected that something was wrong for him to be called to the boss's office; he had one look at the file and he now he knew it.
"Mr Bignoise, if it's about those boxes I didn't finish packing last night," he spluttered, "I can explain. There was rather a lot of them, and I worked like crazy all shift but just couldn't complete the job. I'll finish them tonight, I promise."
"Boxes?" said Mr Bignoise. "I know nothing about any boxes, Jim.
"Why would you be packing boxes? You're the night security guard, aren't you?"
"Well, yes," said Jones. "But some years ago, a decision was made to better utilise the time of security guards on the night shift and remove the perception they didn't actually have anything to do."
"That's ridiculous," said Mr Bignoise, who had only been in the job for some months and was still feeling his way and trying to negotiate his way around the effects of past idiotic decisions. "Security guards are employed to provide security, don't you agree? We have a lot of goods in our warehouse that equate to a lot of money we can't afford to lose."
"Yes," said Jones. "But we've never had any trouble, Mr Bignoise."
"Until last night," said the MD grimly. "It seems, Jim, that while you were stacking boxes, a gang of thieves broke into the west wing and removed $220,000 worth of goods on the back of a semi-trailer."
"You're kidding me," said Jones.
"I wish I was," said Bignoise, pulling at his hair with his left hand, while he gently waved his pen with his right hand.
"Well, I didn't hear anything, " said Jones. "My hearing-aid HAS been playing up, but I certainly didn't see anything."
"What times did you do your rounds to the west wing?" the MD asked.
"Oh, I didn't have time for that," said Jones. "I was too busy packing boxes. There were lots of them - many more than usual. We've never had any trouble here before, though, so doing rounds is one of the corners I sometimes have to cut if I am going to meet deadlines."
"Mmm, yes, I see," said the MD, flipping open the folder and chewing at the end of his pen thoughtfully. "It says here, Jim, that you've only been with us a couple of years."
"Oh no, that's not right sir," Jones said. "I've worked for this company for a good 22 years."
"Oh," said the MD. "This file must be wrong then."
Jones peered across the desk at the file. He spotted the mistake straight away, even reading upside down.
"I think I know what's happened," he said. "Personnel has started a new file on me using the name I go by now."
"Isn't it your real name?" asked the MD, puzzled.
"Well, no sir - actually it's James. Rhys-Jones. "But it's probably an honest mistake. When I worked in the big office, the name suited me. But then I got moved sideways, and people started calling me Jim. Then I was demoted two or three rungs and I thought it best to drop the Rhys. Less prententious.
"I've hit rock bottom - you can't go much further down than a night security guard who packs boxes, can you? - and most people just call me Jonesy now."
"Oh, I see," said the MD.
"You certainly HAVE been around the place, Jim. Um, do you mind if I call you Jonesy, too."
"Well, actually sir, now that I'm back here, albeit briefly I expect, I was rather hoping
I could be called James Rhys-Jones again. It's still my legal name, you know."
"Of course," said the MD. "I didn't realise you worked up on this floor."
"Oh yes," said James Rhys-Jones. "In this very same office, in fact. It's more or less exactly how I left it, too, when I was removed as managing director, two MDs ago.
"I expect my initials are still engraved at the side of the desk, eh?
"I remember carving them with a pen knife - "J.R-J was here" - the same day I made the decision to give the night security guards more to do during their shifts.
"Bloody blackwood. It took me half the damn day."
©May 31, 2001 John Martin. All Rights Reserved