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Authors: Helen MacArthur

Tags: #Contemporary Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Contemporary, #Romance, #Inspirational, #Women's Fiction, #Literature & Fiction

Minnie Chase Makes a Mistake

BOOK: Minnie Chase Makes a Mistake
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Contents

 

Copyright

Dedication

1 - Jones & Sword, London

2 - Into the night

3 - Worst fears

4 - Heathrow (LHR) to San Francisco, CA (SFO)

5 - San Francisco, California

6 - Internet chatter

7 - Mayor votes with her feet

8 - Hello, Dr Levchin

9 - Pacific Heights

10 - Second chances

11 - Road trip

12 - An audience with Greene

13 - Million little pieces

14 - Pillar Point Harbor

15 - Silver Star Grill

16 - The trick is to keep breathing

17 - Freak radicals

18 - Under the bridge

19 - Nothing but the truth

20 - The only easy day was yesterday

21 - Goodbye, Jackson

22 - Show me the money

23 - A kiss is just a kiss

24 - Stop, Minnie, I love you…

Acknowledgements

About the author

The right of Helen MacArthur to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not be by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the author’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental. 

 

Cover design by ignitestudio.co.uk

 

Minnie Chase Makes A Mistake (First Edition)

Copyright © 2014 Helen MacArthur

All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Tim and Libby Larkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Jones & Sword, London

 

There are different sounds of silence in an office. There is the syrupy quietness of concentration that hangs over heads when deadlines loom. The silence can also be a noiseless hum during snatched lunch breaks when food is consumed and thoughts start to wander. Then there is a rubbernecking hush as eyes strain to witness an impending commotion that threatens to disrupt the dead calm. 

This particular Thursday, at the end of June, the disruption started with an instruction barked across the office floor.

‘Minnie Chase! Boss wants to see you.’

Minnie looked up, distracted. She had too much to do and not enough time to do it. She certainly had no time for interruptions. Her hesitation was not appreciated by the messenger, Ross Brown, the boss’s personal assistant, who obviously feared repercussions should he not deliver Minnie with immediate effect.

‘Now!’ he shouted.

He made a beeline towards her. He acted like a pet robot; a slavishly-devoted drone that scooted around the office following the constant commands from above without question.

Minnie stood up and glared at him. 

Ross Brown was a reasonably good-looking man but he was also one of those people whose physical attractiveness fell off the face of the earth once you got to know them. Minnie believed he went out of his way to be purposefully abhorrent – she had visions of him casually kicking puppies.

‘Quick,’ he hissed. ‘She’s waiting.’ Flecks of spittle gathered in the corner of his mouth; flotsam and jetsam as the words left his lips. 

Minnie didn’t utter a word. She fixed her eyes on the office door ahead and felt her stomach take a theme-park dip into painful apprehension.
Have no fear
, she thought. She was aware of people’s eyes watching her, some furtively, some eagerly. They followed her steps as she marched towards the glass-panelled executive room where her boss, Ms A.A Jones, co-founder of software firm Jones & Sword, sat waiting, motionless and silent. 

 

A.A Jones’s face was expressionless, which was not surprising considering her dedicated attention to personal grooming and anti-ageing pursuits. She had a signature chocolate bob with power fringe – solid not wispy – and severely whitened teeth that had a curiously bright, moonlit luminosity. Minnie was certain that if the earth was suddenly plunged into total darkness, A.A. Jones’s pearly-white veneers would glow and guide a disoriented population through the remains of the day. 

A.A stood for Amelia-Anne, but no one called her this except for those in the upper echelons of business or anyone who could lay claim to an annual salary of around £5 million and above. For Minnie, and the rest of the office, it was A.A Jones. Like a new-age Industrial Average.

Minnie did her best to walk confidently into the office, fighting the urge to fiddle with her waistband or grapple nervously with her hair as she approached the desk where A.A Jones waited. The air was heavily scented with freshly cut flowers that seemed to have sucked the oxygen out of the room.

Minnie wasn’t invited to sit down. Her boss fixed her with an intimidating stare and ordered her to re-open the door Minnie had shut on the way in. The whole office would now be able to listen to whatever followed next. 

‘Dinner at The Savoy,’ A.A Jones opened the conversation in a quiet voice. 

Minnie nodded, knowing from experience it was best to always agree unless the numbers didn’t add up. 

‘Tomorrow night,’ added her boss.

‘Yes,’ confirmed Minnie, although there was a never a chance she would forget. 

A huge corporate event had been planned. It was intended to be a major schmooze-fest to welcome and pander to one of the world’s most visionary CEOs who was just about to sign a lucrative deal. A lucrative deal that would land this office a considerable windfall with huge bonuses for everyone. To add an additional sparkle to this glittering event he would be accompanied by his glamorous American fiancée who was currently riding high in the American political charts as the acting mayor of San Francisco. The ultimate power couple was coming to town. 

‘You will leave immediately after dinner,’ instructed A.A Jones, voice rising to red-alert level. 

‘Oh.’ Minnie wasn’t expecting this. 

‘This is a risk-assessment decision. You will not jeopardise this deal. Do you understand?’

Minnie forgot to nod. She had been instrumental in bringing this deal to its fruition. Months and months of work, overtime and analysis had gone into this event. Now she was to be dismissed with the dessert wine. 

The no-response pause immediately incensed A.A Jones. ‘Do you understand, Miranda? There will be no careless comments or inappropriate actions. Take this as a final warning. Third strike and you are out.’

Minnie had no desire to revisit the past. 

A.A Jones, however, was keen to remind Minnie and the rest of the eavesdropping office.

‘We had The Jane Pollard Situation.’ She made it sound like two countries in a territorial dispute with civilians dodging bullets. Minnie had suggested that a senior partner, Jane Pollard, spend less time in the office and more time at home with her family. A.A Jones had witnessed the whole horrible scenario. The suggestion had blown up spectacularly. It clearly hit a nerve with Pollard who took out her frustrations on Minnie and then threatened to quit the company, taking her clients with her.

Minnie found herself, once again, desperately attempting to defend herself. ‘Jane was miserable and asked me for advice.’

‘No. She. Didn’t,’ hissed A.A Jones. ‘She said, “What can I do?” It was a rhetorical question – a throwaway comment. It didn’t warrant an analytic response that questioned the happiness of her home life.’

Minnie heard her words being twisted and said, ‘Jane Pollard is a brilliant analyst under-performing because she misses her family. There could be readjustments that would benefit both…’

‘That’s enough, Miranda!’ snarled A.A Jones. ‘These opinions are
way
above your pay grade.’

Minnie held her breath and waited for the second strike: The Fork Fiasco. 

She had dug a dessert fork into the crotch of an investor who decided it was perfectly acceptable to enhance a business lunch by thrusting his hand up Minnie’s skirt. He hit the roof when she stabbed him and practically accused Minnie of attempted murder. All the while, he had made a point of pawing over his stunning young girlfriend, thus effectively saying:
why would I lay a finger on you when I can have this?
 

It seemed as though the other diners were in agreement: prime steak versus pork chop.

‘You can understand why I am
extremely
nervous about letting you near cutlery and valuable clients,’ said A.A Jones. ‘The Fork Fiasco could have cost us a fortune.’ She rehashed the event as though it were on the same alert level as a currency meltdown in a financially stricken country. 

A.A Jones was warming to her theme. ‘You are a brilliant embarrassment.’ She had a Scottish accent that chugged around the room like a tractor engine. The Rs reverberated off the surrounding glass walls threatening to leave hairline cracks on the polished panes: brrrrrrrilliant embarrrrrrrassment. 

Minnie felt prickled indents on her skin – killed softly by consonants. The words had a viral ring to them. She shuddered and could see them following her through her lifetime and, ultimately, being carved on her headstone:
Here lies Miranda Chase. Brilliant embarrassment and daughter of Faith and Winston Chase. 

‘I have never met anyone who is so smart and yet so spectacularly dumb,’ continued A.A Jones. She was warming to her theme and clearly enjoying the moment. 

The name calling struck a chord. Minnie could feel a familiar panic rise up from her stomach and she struggled to control her breathing. She had a flashback to school gate horror and helplessness but managed to bring the conversation back on point. ‘I am aware of what is expected of me tomorrow night. Is there anything else?’

‘Tie up that awful hair. Wear a simple black dress. Your usual look is absolutely
not
acceptable on this occasion.’

A.A Jones was always vocal about Minnie’s ‘usual look’, forever commenting that Minnie dressed like someone from a Fleetwood Mac tribute band, freakishly devoted to chiffon and shawls. 

‘Despite my great reservations, you will be seated with eight influential people including Ashton Greene who is investing millions in this natural gas project. Greene insisted that he meet the analysts closely involved in this project and you, well, you…’ she couldn’t continue. It clearly pained her to acknowledge that Minnie’s input had been key to the whole operation.

She added, ‘Bear in mind that Greene is a… sensitive character; don’t overwhelm him or intimidate him. Laugh at his jokes. Listen and look enthralled. Don’t be you. Be more like me.’

Minnie stared ahead, waiting for A.A Jones to run to the end of her character-assassination check list. 

‘I’m warning you, Miranda. The weirdo inside does not come out.’ She spoke with excruciating precision. ‘Oh, and for heaven’s sake, introduce yourself as Miranda not Minnie. Responsible grown-ups who want to be taken seriously in life do not use frivolous retracted versions of their names.’

Initials such as A.A were the exception to the rule, obviously.

Minnie managed an imperceptible nod. 

‘What’s the mantra?’

‘Be less like me and more like you,’ whispered Minnie.

‘Think how I think. Act how I act. Use words that I would use. Do
nothing
that comes naturally to you.’

Silence somehow sounded louder than insults as A.A Jones turned her attention to a thick document on her desk. 

‘Is that all?’ asked Minnie, aware that the whole office was deathly quiet. This time it was the cringeworthy kind of silence. Even the phones had stopped ringing. 

A.A Jones answered without looking up. ‘Isn’t that enough?’

Minnie knew from experience that there is no graceful way to exit an office when you’ve just had a bollocking from the boss. Colleagues stuck their heads into work and quickly took calls to spare Minnie further embarrassment. She had no choice: put one foot in front of the other and power back to her desk – chin up, spirits down. 

Sympathetic glances were worse than supercilious smiles. People being nice to her confirmed her worst fears: hopeless loser.

Think before you speak. This had been suggested to her many times but her head had a mind of its own. On another note, she had let her boss speak to her as though she
was
a hopeless loser. 

Minnie groaned. What the hell was she thinking when she repeated the A.A Jones’ mantra?
Be less like me and more like you
. The critical self-help voice in her head berated her:
Stand up for yourself. Command respect.
 

BOOK: Minnie Chase Makes a Mistake
3.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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