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Where there`s a will

by  JamesAllen

Posted: Friday, January 7, 2005
Word Count: 2974
Summary: A bit of idle fun, here's a story of an enterprising young chap

“Mr Edwards will see you now, Mr Westerham,” said the pretty secretary. Will had seen no end of pretty girls walking to and fro in the past ten minutes. He had been watching this particular one closely, and now admired the way her shiny black hair brushed against the back of her fitted striped blouse as she led him through the agency floor. She was called Gina, and he loved following her.

He looked around as he walked: designers sat hunched behind massive computer screens, small groups of people sat around in clusters of sofas, chatting excitedly and sketching wildly into pads of tracing paper. Gina knocked daintily on a smoked glass door and poked her head inside.

“William Westerham to see you Charlie,” she said, and stepped back to allow Will to enter the office. Will quickly took in the room – spacious, minimalist, lots of glass – then focused on the fat, balding man seated behind a large antique desk. Charlie Edwards was just as he remembered from the interview, Will thought.

Edwards thanked Gina and beckoned for Will to take a seat opposite him. “William,” he began, “Good to see you again. Glad you could join us.” He adjusted his thick-rimmed black glasses.

“Thanks for asking me,” said Will.

“Before we start,” continued Edwards, “Is it William? Will, Bill?”

“I prefer Will.”

“Will,” repeated Edwards. “Will it is!” He leaned back in is chair, and Will copied him.

“Okay Will, we might as well kick off straight away. I’ve brought you in as an account manager, and there are a number of accounts I have in mind for you. I must tell you some good news first though, we’re almost through with negotiations to merge with another company, very complementary to ours. Long process you know, due diligence and all that.”

“Do you mind me asking which company, Mr Edwards?”

“Please – call me Charlie. I shouldn’t really tell you, but I suppose as we’re almost done it can’t do any harm. It’s an agency upstairs actually, called Palmer Thompson, don’t know if you’ve heard of them.”

Will rested his chin on his right hand, his forefinger stroking his top lip. “Hmmm,” he said, “Interesting.”

“You’ve heard about them then?” said Edwards, leaning forward, “What have you heard?”

Will straightened up. “Not good things I’m afraid, Mr Edwards – sorry, Charlie. Apparently their accounts are a bit dodgy”.

Edwards leaned even further forward. “Not from the stuff I’ve seen,” he said in a low voice, “But carry on,”

“That’s all I know, really,” said Will, “Creative accounting, you know,”

“And who told you this?”

“Can’t really say, Charlie.”

Edwards paused, and then leaned back in his chair. “OK, I can understand that you have to be discreet. I was sure they were above board but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to have another look at the figures.”

Will said nothing. Edwards stood up, pulled up the waistband of his trousers and made an attempt to smooth out the creases in his shirt around his stomach. “Right then Will, I suppose I’d better tell you a little about the accounts you’ll be handling for us. First off will be Atta-Gum Toothpaste. Familiar with it?”

Will nodded.

“Good, good,” Edwards reached over to a large white-board and took a black marker pen and wrote ‘Atta-Gum’ on it. “Sanderson, the company that owns Atta-Gum, is a real pussycat with us. They love the campaigns we’ve been running, and are mad keen on our current ideas. You’ll be working with Anton and Jules on that one.”

“Great,” said Will. “I actually use Atta-Gum.”

“Do you?” Edwards looked surprised. He clapped his hands together. “OK! Your other key account should be Apparello, the clothes shop chain. Now I say ‘should’, because we’re pitching to keep the account tomorrow. Things have been fine, and the advertising has worked, but the client’s putting pressure on us to reduce the fee for the work we’re doing.”

“Reduce the fee?” said Will, “And with Apparello doing so well! Do you mind me asking what they’re currently paying?”

“Not at all – fifteen grand a month, plus extras which probably take it close to twenty. What makes you say they’re doing well?”

Will shifted in his seat. “Oh, well, you know, I shop in there sometimes and it’s always busy. I think they’re raking it in. If I was pitching there’s no way I’d reduce the fee.”

Edwards chuckled. “If only it were that simple, son.” He wrote ‘Apparello – fee?’ on the board and drew a circle around it.

Will picked up a pen that was lying on Edwards’ desk. “That reminds me, Charlie. I think you should target Green Circle Gin – their advertising’s well overdue for a revamp.”

Edwards, who still had a slight grin on his face, now laughed out loud. “Would you still think that if I told you they’d been with the same agency for fourteen years? There’s no chance – absolutely no chance.”

“I think it may be time for them to change.”

“Look, no disrespect Will, but I think I should know. I’ve been in the business twenty five years. There are some things that never change.”

“OK Charlie, you know best.” Will passed the pen between the fingers of his right hand, watching it out of the corner of his eye.

“Like the idea though, Will,” said Edwards, “keep making suggestions like that and something’s bound to go your way sooner or later. Now, I want you to meet Jules, one of the team you’ll be working with.” He pressed a button on his telephone and waited, before saying: “Jules, it’s Charlie. Can you come and meet Will Westerham, the new AM? Thanks.”

Will leaned forward. “Charlie,” he said quietly, “I must tell you something quickly – is Jules the girl with the dyed red hair? Surname Clarke?”

“Yes, that’s her,” Edwards sat back down at his desk.

“I saw her while I was waiting outside. I could be wrong, but it sounded like she was arranging a job interview on her mobile phone. She said that she was going to ‘magic’ a meeting and be in the West End this Friday afternoon.”

Edwards’ eyes widened and his mouth opened. At that moment there was a knock at the door. Jules came in and sat down on a chair next to Will. She held out her hand.

“Hi William, nice to meet you,” she said.

“Thanks,” said Will. “Please call me Will.”

Edwards noisily pushed back his chair and stood up again. “Now, Jules, you and Will are going to be working on Atta-Gum and Apparello together, and I want you to show him the ropes. Will has a lot of ideas, he’s shown me that already, and as one of our most loyal” - he emphasised the ‘loyal’ - “people, I’m sure you will help him settle in and begin to add value to the agency’s work.”

Jules smiled at Edwards, and then at Will. “You’re in good hands Will, me and Anton will look after you.”

“I’d appreciate that, Jules,” said Will. “I’d also appreciate the chance to present some of the ideas I’ve been working on over the past few weeks while I’ve been waiting to start. Why don’t we sit down, say, on Friday afternoon?”

Jules’ smile tightened slightly. “Oh, no need to wait until Friday, Will, we can talk tomorrow.”

“Won’t be able to do that, Jules,” said Edwards, “You’ll be in the Apparello pitch tomorrow. Why don’t we make it Friday afternoon – I think I’ll join you both. I’m always keen to hear new ideas.”

Will clicked the pen in his hand. “That would be great, Charlie,” he said.

“I’ll have to check my diary,” Jules said. “I may have a meeting.”

Edwards wrote ‘Friday PM’ on the white-board and clapped his hands again. “OK Jules, that’ll be all for now. Can you ask Anton to be ready to spend some time with Will in five minutes or so? Thanks.”

Jules stood up quickly and made for the door. She looked down at Will. “See you in five,” she said. Just as she was closing the door, she checked back. “Oh Charlie, just to let you know I’ve been calling Bob Steinway all week and no luck.”

Edwards rolled his head back and looked at the ceiling. “I’ve been dying to get in touch with Robert Steinway from SWX Materials for ever,” he said, after Jules had left. “That guy is so busy it’s untrue, and he controls pretty much the most sought after advertising budget there is.”

Will still played with the pen he had picked up from Edwards’ desk. “Mr Steinway’s in on the fifteenth floor right now.”

“He’s what?” Edwards frowned as if he hadn’t quite heard.

“He’s on the fifteenth floor. In with Foster’s Solicitors.”

Edwards took off his glasses. “How the hell d’you know that?” he said.

“He rode up in the lift with me. Foster’s Solicitors occupy the fifteenth and sixteenth floors. Mr Steinway seemed in a good mood.”

“Ha!” Edwards was wide-eyed. “In the building and in a good mood! It must be my birthday!” He replaced his glasses. “OK,” he said, “Chat’s over. I want you to spend the rest of the day with Anton in creative. I’m going down to fifteen to find out what’s making Bobby Steinway so damn happy for a change. Have a good day.”

Will spent the afternoon with Anton, who Will thought extremely arrogant and superficial. They looked at the past series of campaigns for Atta-Gum, and then Anton went off to run though the Apparello presentation with Jules, leaving Will to carry out some internet research. Will was waiting by the printer when Edwards approached him with a grin.

“Will, you were certainly right about our Mr Steinway. I enquired of a secretary I know at Foster’s, and it turned out that Bobby was in with one of their top boys putting his signature on his divorce papers. I waited in the lobby for him and he came out looking like he’d just spent a week on a health farm. We pitch next week, Will, and I want you involved.”

Will put out his hand. “Great news Charlie,” he said.

Edwards shook his hand warmly. “I reckon you’ve earned an early finish. See you in the morning.”

Will arrived early the next day, and was making himself a coffee in the staff kitchen, when Edwards walked in clutching a copy of The Times.

“Ah, just the man,” he said. “Have you read this?” He waved the newspaper in front of him.

“Not yet Charlie,” replied Will.

Edwards opened the newspaper and rifled through the pages. “It says in the business section that Mark Palmer, the MD of Palmer Thompson, is being investigated for fraud! Apparently the company’s books are so full of holes that half the clients are threatening to sack them. I don’t know how you knew, but it seems you told us just in time. I was just able to stop our chairman from signing the final papers yesterday afternoon.”

Will smiled. “Glad I could help, Charlie.”

“So am I,” said Edwards. “I’ll see you later.”

Will poured himself a coffee and went over to his desk. The post was distributed first thing by the receptionist, who arrived before anyone else, and Will had a small pile of mostly industry magazines. He casually flicked through a few of the magazines, then switched on his computer and typed out a few emails.

He liked the office being quiet. Every job he had ever had, he tried his best to come in early – it was the best time to work. He looked around at all the empty chairs and blank computers. As far as he could see, the only other people that were Edwards, the receptionist, and himself. He heard a door slam and looked around to see Edwards approaching him, waving a large brown envelope.

“You’re on something of a roll, young man,” said Edwards, “check this out.” He handed Will the envelope.

Will fished inside and took out a letter. He scanned the contents. “It’s an invitation to pitch from Green Circle Gin!”

“Isn’t it amazing! They’ve probably sent this out to every agency there is, but I never thought I’d see this happen. That account was the safest there is. It’s not a great account, but we’ll go for it just for fun – want to lead the pitch?”

“I’d love to,” Will beamed. “As you say, it’ll be fun.”

“Definitely. There’s one other thing. I checked Jules’ mobile when she popped out of the office. There was no call on the register for yesterday morning. Good job you’re not right all the time.”

And with that Edwards returned to his office. Will decided to waste no time and began researching Green Circle’s competitors. Half an hour later Jules and Anton arrived together, said their hellos and went straight to Edwards’ office to prepare for the Apparello pitch.

They came out briefly to meet the Apparello executives at reception, and Will wished them good luck before they all went into the boardroom. The pitch was scheduled to last for three hours, so Will kept himself busy with more research and background reading on Atta-Gum and Apparello. Will was surprised when he read a certain document outlining Atta-Gum’s active ingredients, and resolved to buy an alternative toothpaste that lunchtime.

When it got to 12:30, Will decided to go out for lunch. The pitch had overrun, and he was too hungry to wait. He ran into Gina at the delicatessen on the bottom floor, and spent an enjoyable half-hour chatting with her as they ate their sandwiches.

When he got back, Edwards was standing by his desk, talking to Jules and Anton. Edwards waved when he saw Will approaching.

“Will! We were looking for you. We kept the account, as expected, but your hunch paid off – we actually managed to increase the fee! I decided we had nothing to lose so I stuck my neck out. Come with me, I want to show you the figures.” He started off towards his office. Will shook Anton’s hand and kissed Jules on the cheek.

“Congratulations,” he said.

In his office, Edwards was pacing to and fro in front of the window. He beckoned for Will to sit down.

“You’ve only been here two days, Will, and yet it seems like everything’s happened because of you. Bobby Steinway, Palmer Thompson, Green Circle, the Apparello fee. It really is uncanny.”

Will could not help but let out a chuckle.

Edwards also began to laugh. “What?” he said, “What’s so funny?”

Will took a deep breath. “OK Charlie, I’ll tell you.”

Edwards sat down. “Go on,”

“Before I started here yesterday, I had a week free. I originally intended to go abroad, see some friends in France, but I got a call from my brother-in-law. One of his workers had called in sick for a week, so he asked if I could fill in. I could see that my brother-in-law was in a tight spot, so I agreed. It was good money, as it turned out.”

“What does your brother-in-law do?”

“He runs a window-cleaning firm,” said Will. “And I spent last week cleaning the windows of this office building.”

Edwards’ eyes narrowed.

Will continued: “The first thing I saw was The Times headline through their window on the 14th floor. The layout team were putting the finishing touches to the story you read today in the weekly business insert. I couldn’t see the full text, but after reading the headline I certainly knew enough to warn you to check their accounts.”

Edwards sat back in his chair. “Of course,” he said, “And a good job you did. What else did you see?”

“Nothing else at The Times, but I did see something on the floor below – at York American, the accountancy firm. They’re currently preparing the final accounts and forecasts for Apparello, and I was able to make out that their marketing budget for next year was bigger than this year.”

“Brilliant!” exclaimed Edwards. “If only they knew! Tell me, how could you possibly have known about Green Circle?”

“Greatbatch Management Consultants on the twelfth floor. It seems they’ve been commissioned to advise Green Circle. I saw part of a presentation that recommended a change in advertising to alter its perception in the marketplace.”

“Jesus. What about Steinway?”

“Foster’s Solicitors’ offices on the fifteenth. Bobby Steinway’s solicitor sits in a huge office with his back to the window. He must be one of the partners to have an office like that. Anyway, I read an email he was sending to Steinway asking him to a meeting. That way I knew he would be due in yesterday.”

“So you didn’t see him in the lift?”

“Sorry Charlie, I didn’t know how to explain it at the time. I should say that I also lied about Jules. I didn’t overhear her conversation, which is why it didn’t show up on her mobile when you checked her call history. There’s a big recruitment agency on the seventh floor. I saw Jules’ CV lying on a desk with Friday’s date written on it.”

Edwards removed his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “I don’t believe this,” he said. “This is too much to take in. You stay here, I want to talk to you some more. Just as soon as I’ve spoken to Jules.” He got to his feet and walked out of the office.

Will leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling, and smiled to himself as he thought about the previous week. If only it were less cold out on the platform, window cleaning could be a very rewarding profession.