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The Greasy Pole (standard:other, 3254 words)
Author: red1holsAdded: Jun 12 2002Views/Reads: 2396/1513Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Life on the corporate ladder can spring the odd surprise. It's amazing the memories a face from the past brings and how you react.

Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

that a substantial pay-off in return for my resignation. To help me 
make up my mind it was made clear that the promotion would be going to 
my former friend, as would complete control of the project. In 
recognition of my other contributions and loyalty to the company, I 
would of course get an excellent reference. The response was expected 
by lunchtime. 

It didn't seem that I had any choice. I returned to my desk and wrote my

That was an emotional day. The anger I felt at the betrayal. The
bitterness I had towards those with selective memories of my numerous 
attempts to sort out the problems. The sadness at bidding farewell to 
the friends I had made during my time there. The humiliation I felt at 
returning home and telling my wife that I was out of work. 

I was brought back to the present by the realisation that I was
clenching my fists so hard that my nails were digging into the flesh of 
my palms and my arms were shuddering. The reaction surprised me. After 
all, I'm probably better off now than I would ever have been if I had 

The use of Logic did not restore composure. I decided that I would take
a walk to the small kitchen and get myself a cup of tea. Karen, one of 
the administration team was in there. 

"Hi Karen, I liked the new format for last months review pack, much
easier to read." 

I searched out a tea bag and a mug and filled the kettle. 

"Thanks Phil. Hey, are you alright? You look like you've seen a ghost."
She looked at me with concern. 

"I'm fine, it's just been a long week." 

Karen looked at me and smiled. 

"Well, OK. Better get back, the others will wonder if I am growing the
Tea." She placed half a dozen steaming cups onto a tray and left the 
kitchen area. 

Waiting for the kettle to boil, I found my thoughts returning to four
years ago. I remembered the three months I was on gardening leave. For 
the first month, my thoughts were never far from revenge. Not just 
against him, but everyone at the company. As time passed the thoughts 
of revenge came less often. When I re-entered the world of work, the 
thoughts of revenge against the company had almost vanished. Although I 
got that coveted Senior Managers job here at Empiratek, the thoughts of 
revenge against him still managed to burn their way through in 
occasional idle moments. 

Over the years, I maintained contacts with my old team. Once a month or
so we met up for a drink and talked about old times. They never raised 
the subject of that fateful day and although they talked about the 
project (which was unfortunately reasonably incident free), we never 
talked about him. It was only after I hired several of them into my new 
company that I found out he had been promoted and posted to a US 
subsidiary, a fact that had me brooding and sullen for several days. 
Although the reunions continued, soon none of us continued with the old 

The click of the kettle brought me back. I started to think about
completing the email again. The phrasing began to slowly form and the 
red mist thinned. I think I was almost smiling as I returned to my 
office, completed the final paragraph and triumphantly hit the send 
key. The whole episode was quickly relegated to the back of my mind by 
a couple of 'phone calls and a meeting. 

Afterwards, I returned to my desk in good heart. I filtered and then
returned my messages. As is my habit on fine days, I then went for a 
constitutional around the landscaped grounds of the site. By now, I was 
in a more positive frame of mind. My thoughts were on how well things 
had gone in the last four years. As well as the addition of a second 
daughter to the family, my time with Empiratek had been amazing. The 
company appreciated their employees and had provided me with an 
opportunity to work on some amazing projects and technology. Huge 
challenges were given to me and I had risen to them to such a degree 
that a few months ago I achieved my Holy Grail of a seat on the board. 
The financial rewards an added bonus. With a great job and a fantastic 
family, I could leave the past behind me and look forward to the 

Why was it then that I went back to my office via the reception? Why did
I feel the need to inspect the visitors' book? Why did my stomach lurch 
and tighten when I saw his name? 

I had to lean upon the chrome and glass counter and breathe deeply for a
few seconds. He had been here.  I checked the book again to see whom he 
had visited and was shocked to see the name of Andy, one of my own 
heads of department. I almost sprinted to his office. I managed to 
catch my breath and compose myself before I got there. Knocking gently 
on the open door and smiling as best I could, I walked in. 

"Hi Andy, how's it going?" I asked casually. 

Andy turned from his computer screen and smiled. "Hi Phil. I was going
to come and see you later. I think I might have found some one to be 
the new Head of Infrastructure." 

"Really?" I hardly heard my own voice above the sound of my heart
thumping in my ears. 

"Yes, Mike Grady. Do you know him? He used to work at your old place." 

"Yes, I knew him. Last I heard he was working in the States." My voice
was calm but my mind raced. 

Andy went to a pile of papers and withdrew the pale blue sheets. 

"Yep, he spent several years out there. He stayed out there for a while
travelling when the company was shut down, but has now returned to his 
roots. Do you want to interview him?" 

A wonderful picture formed in my mind as I imagined the face of the
backstabbing toad as he walked in and realisation dawned. What would he 
do? Would he stammer an apology? Would he continue as if there was no 
history? Would he make his excuses and leave? 

"Phil?" Andy stopped me savouring the choicest moments in my imagined

"Sorry Andy. How long was he travelling?" I tried to buy time to think. 

Andy consulted the pale blue papers again. "In all about a year. He had
a short term contract in Seattle sandwiched neatly between two stints, 
one in the US the other in Canada." 

"Do you think he is right for the role?" 

Andy thought for a second. "I think so, but you know him. Would he do a
good job?" 

"Oh yes, Mike does a good job. He's a touch cool, but efficient. But he
will be your section head. It has to be your decision." 

"OK, thanks Phil. I'll take another look at him." Andy looked genuinely
pleased that I gave him the responsibility. 

I could have blocked his application there and then. For some reason I
didn't. For the rest of the day, I kept asking myself why, but couldn't 
grasp an answer. 

The same thought kept me from sleeping that night. I lay staring at the
ceiling for what seemed for hours wondering what had held me back. I 
recalled his face, that fateful presentation, the day I was laid off, 
anything to try to evoke the emotions of earlier, but now the events 
left me cold. In the end, I decided that my earlier reactions must have 
been the result of the shock rather than a deep-seated passion. 

Work forced any thoughts of him out of my mind over the next few weeks.
Indeed, I had almost forgotten the whole episode until Andy lingered 
behind after my management meeting. 

"I interviewed Mike Grady yesterday. He looked uncomfortable when I told
him that you were my boss." Andy was looking at me, I think expecting a 

"Really? He was probably surprised I was a director here. I can't get
used to it myself" I casually responded and kept a poker face. 

"I was speaking to Terry, he reckons there is some history between you."
Andy was fishing, but I wasn't biting. 

"A little, but that is way in the past. Besides, I won't have to manage
him. You will. If you think that he is the person you want, then hire 
him, if not then don't. I told you before that it's your call. If the 
history is important he won't accept the offer, will he?" My calmness 
again surprised me. 

Again, Andy looked pleased that I hadn't interfered. After leaving him,
I had a few doubts. I hadn't considered Terry and the other guys I had 
poached. That evening I took them out for a beer to gauge their 
reaction. None of them seemed upset. They were surprised, but not 
upset. In the end, I decided to let events run, after all now he knew 
that I was in charge and would probably decline any job offer. 

I heard nothing more about the matter until the paperwork arrived on my
desk to sign. It was interesting that Grady's reference from my old 
company was almost word for word the same as the one I got. The company 
in Seattle apparently didn't give references. My new-found calm over 
the past meant I signed it and moved on without a second thought. 

When Grady started, I was out of the country. The day after I returned I
looked up from my computer to see him hovering at my door. He looked 
pale and uncomfortable. 

"Hello Mike. Come in and shut the door." I swear that he started to

He walked into my office a little unsteadily and closed the door. He
came over and stood in front of my desk. 

"Sit down. Just give me a second." 

There was nothing imperative about my work, but I continued on my
computer. For several minutes, I took some delight at he discomfort of 
the normally cool Grady. As I continued to type, he squirmed 
uncomfortably in the chair. 

"Sorry about that." I lied impeccably. "Welcome to Empiratek." 

"Thanks. When I found out it was you I didn't think I would get the job.
Because of what happened, I mean. The upgrade project. It was a stupid 
thing to do; I didn't think it through. Look, I'm sorry. Really, sorry. 
" The ice cool Grady was gibbering, a sheen of sweat covering his face. 

"It worked out well for me. In the end. I doubt I would have achieved as
much if I stayed and I learned from the experience." I spoke to rescue 
him, although I knew that by keeping silent I could have increased his 

"Phil. I'm sorry. God this is difficult. I've been through this a
thousand times in my mind. Rehearsed a speech, but somehow couldn't get 
it out. Can we start again?" 

"Sure Mike. Just remember that if you try any stunts you'll be out. OK?"


We chatted for about 15 minutes. He was surprisingly open. He told me
that he had fallen out with our former head of department so had taken 
the chance on a job in the States. How things started to go sour when 
his marriage failed. Shortly after that the company had been closed 
down and he was not offered a post back in the UK. He had hoped to stay 
out there but couldn't get work. When his visa expired, he tried Canada 
for a while before returning home. He even admitted that he wouldn't 
have considered our job offer if he hadn't been so deep in debt. 

By the time he left, I hadn't warmed to him, but I certainly felt that
he was no longer a rival. 

Grady hadn't changed much from the guy I knew. He was good at his job if
a little obsessive and distant. Andy was pleased with his work and I 
got what I wanted done. We didn't see much of each other and when we 
did, we only discussed work. There were still the old reminders of the 
old days. Like the way he left his keys lying around, his love for his 
classic Mercedes Sports Car and his passion for golf. Although, we 
didn't become friends, I certainly didn't discriminate against him as a 

Today, five months later, I sit in a darkened office, staring at the
paperwork that will officially terminate his employment. No one can 
understand how he could think he wouldn't be caught. His actions and 
the consequences have been the only subject of a firestorm of 
conversation throughout the office. 

Last week, some prototypes disappeared from one of the research labs.
According to the access control computer, only half a dozen people had 
been in there that day. The MD followed procedures and ordered that 
they and their cars were searched as they left the site. The prototypes 
were found in Grady's golf bag, along with CDs containing our customer 
and supplier lists, software and technical specifications. 

Our less reputable competitors would have paid well for them. Some
governments might have been interested in the software and 

The Managing Director held a crisis meeting. The question about his debt
was raised. I admitted that I knew he had debts, but expressed surprise 
at how large they turned out to be. The whole sorry affair was 
dissected. We called a halt after deciding to improve our vetting 
procedures for new hires, tighten up access controls, and improve 
search procedures. 

The scale and sensitivity of the theft meant we had no choice but to
call in the police. They are confident of a conviction and reckon that 
he faces a lengthy jail term. Grady is protesting his innocence. He 
claims that he has been framed. A police Inspector spent a couple of 
days interviewing Andy, and people in his department before declaring 
that they thought it highly unlikely. 

With a sigh I sign the papers and place them in the tray. 

On the way home, I stop at the River Bridge and look at the grey waters
below. I allow myself a smile. They say that revenge is like champagne, 
best taken cold. How true that is. I open my hand and watch a small 
bunch of keys fall and leave brief ripples. The baggage of my past sink 
with them to the depths. Returning to my car I wonder if jail will 
teach Mike Grady to take care of keys. 


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