Gavin found the process of sacking Karen immensely satisfying; he parried her every reaction with a controlled and profoundly irritating calmness. It was the perfect antidote to the lost battle with his mother the night before, and his growing obsession with the domination of Sally and the ultimate defeat that lay within his power. Ben’s reassurances about Ruby had helped him to regain his cool and deal with Karen in what he knew to be an effective and extremely competent way. The security guards he called in had been employed for their bulk, and their ability to intimidate but not for their intellect. As a consequence, they were able to follow orders without question, especially when it was pointed out to them by a more intelligent colleague that Gavin was someone Very Important who had the power to hire and fire anyone.
Karen was handed her coat and handbag; the rest of her belongings were in two cardboard boxes. As a precaution, and as a further intimidating measure, Gavin took out the contents of both boxes in order to check that Fiona and Cheryl hadn’t put in anything belonging to the council by mistake. This involved the display of several items that obviously caused Karen further embarrassment and pain; the security guards smirked behind their hands at the boxes of feminine hygiene products, a packet of condoms, and the printouts from computer dating sites. Gavin removed the printouts as further evidence of Karen’s transgressions and told Karen to pack her belongings back into the boxes.
She had moved away from anger and threats; truly in the zone of choking sobs and beyond words. Her hands shook as she replaced the items that had formed a part of her daytime world for several years; small cuddly toys, a mouse mat with a picture of herself wearing a Kiss-Me-Kwik hat – a memento of a trip to Blackpool with Cheryl and Fiona last summer, and several other small items of what Gavin sneeringly referred to as ‘tat’. He sat at his desk and watched her, drumming his fingers against the arm of his chair as he waited. Eventually, when her life was packed back in the two boxes, Gavin got to his feet and opened the office door.
“You will now be escorted out of the building by these colleagues from security and myself; you are not to talk to anyone as you leave the building. You are being dismissed instantly on a charge of gross misconduct due to fraudulent use of council equipment to access inappropriate Internet sites, and dereliction of duty because you were accessing these sites during your working hours. You have also been falsifying your clocking in and out times in order to arrive late, leave early and get long lunch hours. You will hand over your ID badge, lanyard and access fob now.
“But – but – isn’t there supposed to be an investigation?” Karen stammered.
Gavin smiled. That thin-lipped sneering smile that struck fear into Karen’s heart, and had caused many other employees to crumble in Gavin’s previous occupations.
“That would typically be the case but Ben had an IT audit done on the team, and your report came back with such overwhelming evidence that there is no need for any further investigation. Such a shame you didn’t pay more attention in all those HR training courses you booked yourself on. Time to go now.”
Karen walked through the door followed by the two security guards carrying her belongings and Gavin, making sure that she didn’t have the opportunity to speak to anyone. A silence fell on the office as they watched her go; a silence that continued until she had been taken down in the lift. She was escorted out of the building in front of a large group of visitors in the reception area, then into the car park where the boxes were put into her car, Gavin removed her car parking pass and advised her that she needed to drive away within five minutes or she would have a parking fine as well.
Not surprisingly, she stalled the car; Gavin and the two guards stood by and laughed until she got the car started and drove shakily out of the car park. Once she was out of sight, Gavin shook hands with both the guards, and went back into the building, feeling proud of his accomplishment and ready to wreak some more havoc.
Joanna was sitting at her desk, looking very pale and distressed. Gavin stopped at his office door. “Are you okay Joanna?” he asked.
“Yes – yes – of course. Just a bit shocked about Karen – well we all are.” she replied.
“It just goes to show you that when there are cuts to be made, no one is safe and transgressions will be discovered. We all know the rules and we must adhere to them or run the risk of being sacked.”
“Yes Gavin, thank you.” Joanna ducked her head down and carried on with the report she was typing up for him. Ben had been over to have a quiet word with her about the online gambling in her lunch hour. He told her that he would not be reporting her on this occasion because she was visiting the site in her own time, but she was still breaking the rules by accessing a site that was on the council’s black list. Joanna was very grateful for Ben’s advice and also for the very kind way he spoke to her. His timing was immaculate; Joanna was already scared by the way Karen had been dismissed, and took what was said to her extremely seriously.
Cheryl and Fiona; already upset by the sacking of their friend and having to collude in her removal by packing up her belongings, were also spoken to by Ben. He made it clear to them that although their computers were clear of any blacklisted sites; he and everyone else in the office was aware that they had spent time when they should have been working, helping Karen on her dating sites. They were given a verbal warning on the spot, and advised that they would have to be scrupulous about the use of their computers and the network in the future. Cheryl wanted to ask about Mandy, knowing full well that Mandy was the worst offender in the office, far worse than Karen. Something in Ben’s face made her hesitate however, and she kept silent throughout the discussion.
When Gavin returned to the office, he was gratified by the stunned silence across the room, secure in the knowledge that it was his actions that had caused this reaction. By way of celebration, he threw some very unpleasant egg mayonnaise and Branston pickle sandwiches into the bin, and told Joanna that he was going to nip out for lunch at noon but to say that he was in a meeting if his mother called. He looked meaningfully at the discarded sandwiches, and Joanna knew that she would also have to lie to his mother about having seen him eat the sandwiches.
Gavin didn’t care that his mother had made the sandwiches for him, or that she would wonder why his sandwich box did not have his left-over crusts in it. He would walk up to town and go into one of the various coffee shops for a caramel latte macchiato and a panini. He was Gavin Slime! He could sack people and have them escorted out of the building with a click of his fingers. He could strike fear into the souls of those around him. He felt all powerful as he locked down his computer, pulled on his jacket and told Joanna that he would be gone for the next hour.
Walking up the High Street, Gavin felt like a giant amongst all these insignificant little people. His stride lengthened as he neared the coffee shop and went inside. Whilst queueing at the counter, he spotted Ruby and group of her trainees over in the corner of the room. He debated whether to go over to her and make himself known, but decided that he had achieved quite enough for one day. He took his food and coffee to a table near the window where he could see people rushing to leave his office building to get their lunch, and slowly walking back in to resume work.
Ruby and her trainees didn’t stay long and they left the coffee shop a much quieter place. Gavin was a bit put out by this; he had enjoyed observing Ruby from a distance. He could understand why Ben was attracted to her. She was very lively and animated; her trainees obviously liked her and found her very entertaining. While he was thinking about Ruby however, the vision of Sally floated into his head; he couldn’t help remembering the photos he had put together the night before, his fantasies about her, fantasies about domination and Sally’s eventual subservience to him.
Gavin finished his coffee and the last of his panini, and left the coffee shop. His mind was still full of Sally, and everywhere he looked he saw women who reminded him of her. Even when he was safely back in the building, he was sure that he had seen her walking down the corridor. He knew that she could not possibly be there, she had no building pass and no reason to be there, but he still felt that she was close by, and he wanted her, oh how he wanted her!
Safely back in his office he spent some time going over the initial reports that Ben had compiled on the members of the team. He felt pleased with Joanna and Peter, who appeared to be taking their responsibilities seriously at least. Ben’s comments about Mark’s lack of computer access whilst in the post room, and the possibility that the other person in the room might need to be looked at more closely, prompted Gavin to send Ben a brief email confirming that Mark’s ex-colleague was well within HR’s remit, and to get a report run on her. Gavin was less pleased with the long lunches and early finishes that formed the very similar reports on Fiona and Cheryl. He felt that they might be in the next wave of dismissals, but that he would give them time to buck their ideas up and feel safe before he let the axe fall on them.
Mandy’s report however, was one of the most damning he had ever read, and worse even than Karen’s. The fact that she was a manager made her abuse of the authority policies and codes of conduct even worse. Mandy was hardly ever in the office, and when she did turn up, apparently it was with the main object of ordering her shopping and doing online gambling. He could see that, if he dealt carefully with the situation it could end up looking as if Margaret, as Mandy’s line manager, had condoned her behaviour for at least two years, by not noticing what she was up to.
He locked all the reports away in his drawer with the exception of Karen’s, and set about writing the report that would justify her immediate dismissal. By five o’clock the report was drafted and saved, ready to be checked and sent off the next morning. Gavin phoned his mother and told her he would be home a bit earlier than usual, and was relieved to hear that she sounded almost pleased at the prospect. Ben, Peter and Mark were still at their desks when he left, Cheryl and Fiona were deliberating about going for a drink and Joanna had her coat on ready to go home.
All in all, Gavin thought it had been a very productive day.
Karen sat alone in her bedroom. She had moved back in with her parents after the failure of her short-lived marriage. Her parents were both out playing bowls at the club, so they had not witnessed the sight of their daughter returning home with bloodshot eyes, and the two cardboard boxes that contained the detritus of her employment.
Hurrying upstairs, she had thrust the boxes in the back of her wardrobe, and sat down on the bed to have a good cry. It wasn’t long however until the tears had dried up and Karen began to feel that she had been victimised.
By Gavin, by Ben and by Ruby.
It was Ruby that bore the brunt of her initial rage. If Ruby hadn’t wormed her way round Ben, Karen would have been able to work her magic on Ben and prevented him from writing the report on her. It was Gavin who gave Ben and Ruby permission to see each other, and Gavin who had humiliated her in front of people that she thought were her friends.
She was still in debt because of the wedding expenses and the boob job, she had no job, and her friends had deserted her. Karen felt that she had two choices in life; giving up or fighting back. Throughout her life, she had never been a person who could accept when she was beaten, and this was no exception. Throwing the pile of used tissues in the waste paper bin, she got up from the bed and sat in front of the laptop set up on her pink frilled dressing table.
This was Karen’s insurance. When she had returned from having her boob job, she had downloaded some carefully selected HR files onto a memory stick and taken them home – just in case. As a consequence, she had personal details of a number of staff members, and had added Gavin and Ben’s details only a week ago. Despite her laziness at work, Karen was actually quite good at systems and how to access them. Contrary to what Gavin had said, she had paid attention in the HR training courses; with no Fiona, Cheryl or eligible young males to distract her. Karen had acquired some very useful information about how the processes worked, and that is why she ensured that she had sent this information home, in case she ever needed it.
There were definitely cases of dismissal where what looked like an open and shut case of gross misconduct had been overturned by managerial sloppiness; nearly everyone in the HR department was aware that this defence played a large part in Sally’s employment tribunal. It was well known that most of the allegations had been dropped because the staff in HR’s failure to do their jobs properly. That, of course, was Mandy’s fault. If she had been a better manager, none of this would have happened. Karen added Mandy’s name to her list of villains, strategically forgetting that Mandy had allowed Karen in particular a great deal of leeway. Karen had threatened to tell Margaret that Mandy had been seen drinking in the pub when she had told everyone that she was out at a meeting – on more than one occasion.
When Karen came back from her unconsummated marriage, she had also been to see her doctor about her feelings of depression since the wedding. She wept and wailed until the doctor gave her a repeat prescription for some antidepressants, and told her to go home and get on with her life. She hadn’t really needed the pills but decided to keep them – just in case they might come in useful.
By the time Karen’s parents had returned, she had repaired her make up, concocted a story to explain her presence at home, and had begun to draw up a strategy for getting her own back on the people she believed had wronged her and played a part in her downfall.