by Kevan Youde
Pride, envy and avarice were Greg's engines and they had taken him far. As his car glided to a halt outside work, it did so in a parking bay that was separated from the main entrance by only four other spaces. He was working on moving into the top spot.
He liked his car. It was a premium marque, the kind that teenagers have on posters on their walls. The model wasn't the bottom of the range that was for losers even if it had a six-figure price-tag. Nor was it the second cheapest that was for mugs who paid a twenty percent mark-up for a five percent improvement. He'd chosen one from the upper-middle of the range. It had stretched his budget but it was worth it to make a point: here was a man who knew what to do, how to do it and when to do it.
Those qualities were going to get him The Old Man's job when he retired soon. The race to replace him was two-horse and Greg was the favourite. The other runner was Rosenthal, whose bay number six was still empty when Greg arrived. Bays two, three and four were old-guard: the same generation as The Old Man. If they'd been the right material to upholster the top chair, they would have done it ten years ago.
The Old Man said that leaders needed the three I's: the intelligence to see what was happening, the imagination to decide what to do about it and the incisiveness to do it. Rosenthal had intelligence and imagination in bucketfuls. In fact, he was double-first, batshit-crazy bright. But he came up short in the third criterion. He danced on the grey line between analysis and paralysis, didn't know when to stop thinking and start doing. Greg had no such problem. He was master of the down-and-dirty, sweaty-balled business of the bank. 'Incisive' meant 'cutting' and when Greg cut, somebody bled hard and long.
In the office, his team were in a knot by the window.
What's all this? Have we already got enough money?
Morning Greg. We were looking at Rosenthal's new car. It's a beauty.
Veronica smiled. She was new, talented and beautiful so a few months ago Greg had established dominance by taking her out for a meal that had turned into a borderline date-rape his fourth. If she smiled, he shouldn't. Greg looked down to see bay six filled by a sleek new car: the same marque as his but the model two places up in the range.
Rosenthal had made a move. He'd come onto Greg's home turf and shat on the lawn. Rosenthal was letting The Old Man know that he could make it to the top. This could not stand.
Greg and Rosenthal met in the restaurant at lunch.
Saw your new car. Very nice. How much did that set you back?
More than I could possibly afford, said Rosenthal, smiling. On my salary.
There was a significant pause between the two halves of that sentence. Rosenthal was spending the money that he'd earn when he moved to the top floor. Greg's place in the bank rested on him being Jack The Lad but Rosenthal had laid a queen on his jack. Now Greg had to ace it.
Two days later, Greg parked his new car and got out, pale and sweating. He'd bought the top-of-the-range model: a barely road-legal monster more suited to the racetrack than the London streets. His calf twitched with the effort of controlling the car's psychopathic power. He looked at the monster and wondered how he was going to pay off the loan he'd taken to get it. As he did, Rosenthal arrived, driving his old, sedately luxurious, executive saloon.
Nice car Greg. Must have cost you a bit.
What happened to yours?
This is mine. I told you I couldn't afford that other one. I liked the look of yours so I hired one for a day just to feel what it'd be like.
Someone was going to suffer and the first person that came to mind was the man who'd sold Greg the monster. There was only one dealership in town and the salesman had said that he'd sold Rosenthal the car...as good as. Greg drove with difficulty to the dealership where he found the salesman holding forth to a group of acolytes.
So this geezer Jewish as a bar mitzvah buffet comes in with a contract; all legal. Tells me that if I don't sell a Rampant in the next week he'll give me five grand. Now, if I sell a Rampant I make twenty-g in commission straight in the trouser, not to mention a shit-load of kudos for being the only bloke outside Dubai to sell one of the bastard things. So I can't lose. All I have to do the four-by-two tells me is sign the contract to say that if someone asks me if I've sold an Excelsior, I've got to say that client confidentiality means that I can't confirm that I sold one to a little Jewish geezer last week.
Greg drove back to work a broken man. On his way out that evening, he met The Old Man at the lift.
Evening Greg. I hear you've got a new car. There's no way you can afford it on what we pay you. I hope you haven't done anything reckless, Greg. I wouldn't like to think that you'd been taking any of my forthcoming decisions for granted. There's no I in reckless, Greg.
No I. You remember the three I's?
Oh yes sir.
There are another three eyes that you need in this game you know, Greg.
And what are those, sir?
Two to watch where you're going and one to watch the guy behind you. Goodnight Greg.
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