‘OK. Denise will send round an email with the main points we’ve discussed and detailing the items for action. That will be all.’ There was a rustling of papers and scraping of chairs as we prepared to leave.
‘Jack, can I see you for a moment?’
I closed my teeth on the groan rising from my stomach. ‘Of course, Andy.’ I said, sitting back down. Smile, lean back in the chair, relax. ‘Do you need more information on the Europa project? I can shoot the data file across to you this afternoon.’
‘No, it’s not that, although I would like to see the full data file. It’s about your expenses.’ Andy leaned forward, his clasped hands resting on the polished table between us. ‘They don’t add up, Jack.’
Match his body language. ‘How do you mean?’ I asked, leaning forward in my seat. ‘Should I pop along to accounts? Have a chat with Barbara?’
‘Don’t be obtuse, Jack. You know what I’m talking about.’
‘I really don’t, Andy. I keep very careful records and all my business expenses go onto a separate credit card. Is there’s some sort of irregularity?’ Eyes wide, hands open. ‘I’m sorry if I’ve claimed for something I’m not entitled to. I’ll reimburse the company, of course.’
‘As far as I’m aware, you haven’t claimed for a single thing you shouldn’t have. Your expense claims are consistently the lowest in the company, by a large margin. What’s your secret, Jack?’
Shit! Keep breathing, nice and steady. ‘There’s no secret, Andy. I do my job, I put in my travel claims, same as everyone else.’
‘Come on. You hardly ever claim overnight expenses.’
‘I like to go home to my family when I can. Is that a problem?’
‘No, no. That’s not the point. Your hotel expenses are low, your restaurant bills are low…’
‘That’s because I have dinner when I get home and breakfast before I leave in the morning. I still don’t understand.’ You’re starting to sweat. Get a grip!
‘You’re never late for an appointment, no matter how far you’ve had to travel and your petrol receipts are minimal.’
‘I make sure I leave home in plenty of time if I’m meeting someone. And I’m a careful driver. My car’s one of those hybrids – very economical.’
‘Something doesn’t add up, Jack. Are you under claiming because you think it makes you look good? Are you trying to make the rest of the team look bad? Because if this is some sort of scheme to get a promotion…’
‘There is no scheme, Andy. I don’t see what the problem is.’ You need to get out of here. ‘Can I go? I’ve got a meeting with Steve at Chadwells this afternoon that I need to prepare for.’
‘OK, but I’ll be keeping an eye on you.’
I stood and picked up my papers. ‘I’ll email the Europa data by the end of the day.’ Shoulders back, steady pace, don’t let him see you’re flustered.
Once I was out of sight of the boardroom door, I slumped against a wall, the fingers of my free hand scrubbing at my scalp. All that time keeping my nose clean, head down, just doing my job and now, this. Stupid!
Pull yourself together. You don’t want anyone to see you like this. Walk back to your office as if nothing’s happened.
Back at my desk, I carried on as normal. I checked my emails, got the papers ready for my meeting, and looked over my expenses claim for this month. You can’t do anything about that now. It would be too obvious.
I picked up the wireless headset for the telephone and dialled a number I knew by heart. ‘I need to do something. Andy’s getting suspicious.’
‘There’s no time now. A truckload of chemicals is out of control on Welbeck Street. It’s heading straight for the square. It’s market day, the place is heaving.’
I leapt from my chair, locked the office door and closed the blinds covering the internal windows. Undoing my trousers with one hand, I opened the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet with the other. I dragged out the red boots and pulled them over my shiny green leggings.
Don’t forget your papers for the meeting,’ the voice in my ear reminded me. I stuffed the documents into a holdall, along with my suit and shoes. With the bag secured across my body, I dropped a heavy satin cape over the top. As I stepped off the window ledge, he said
‘…and for pity’s sake, just because you’re flying to Chadwells, there’s no reason not to claim the mileage!’