The urn boiled and bubbled as the sales department took their seats and Mr Cooper stepped into meeting room 6c.
“Okay. Morning everyone, glad you could all make it along to this session.”
Mr Cooper tried a winning smile, but it just looked like he was in the midst of a mild seizure.
“Now as we know, profits are down, big time, and so we’re bringing in a troubleshooter. Everyone’s got their own theory about why we’re losing out, and whose fault it is.”
Sue raised her hand.
“Is it maybe because of the massive financial meltdown and global downturn?”
Mr Cooper smiled again and nodded.
“Or that our product is dated and stale and no one has any money to buy it?”
“There could be all sorts of reasons, and all sorts of people to blame,” said Mr Cooper, “but the last thing we want to do is turn this into some kind of witch hunt. So let me introduce the troubleshooter who’s going to sort things out…Matthew Hopkins, The Witchfinder General.”
Matthew Hopkins swept into the office, his black cape billowing stylishly in the gentle breeze of the office fans.
“This is an unholy place. The stench of Satan oozes from every wall.”
“Actually” said Sue “that’s probably the tea urn. The water’s been lying there a few days so…”
“And who is this Whore of Beelzebub?”
“Hi.” said Sue, “It’s Sue.”
“I see.” said Matthew Hopkins, having clearly met her type before, “Excuse me one moment madam.”
There was an impressive swish of the cloak, quickly followed by a thud and a scream from Sue.
“See!” cried Matthew Hopkins, “See how the stapler has drawn blood.”
“Of course it’s drawn blood. You’ve just stapled me. Right under the nail as well.”
Matthew Hopkins was not about to back down, his Troubleshooter’s eyes had spotted…trouble.
“Burn her! Burn her and profits for this quarter are sure to rise.” he cried “She has hexed your financial structures with a most foul magic. Burn the witch!”
Mr Cooper looked a little uneasy. Plus he had read in a book that you really were supposed to attempt to stick up for your staff team in situations like this.
“Are you sure Matthew Hopkins? Sue’s been instrumental in setting up many of our most successful initiatives.”
“Well the profit share index, the free trade expo, the…”
“ No…I…I was y’know shouting ‘witch!’.”
“Oh. Oh right sorry. Carry on.”
Sue was giving Mr Cooper ‘the face’, he could tell he wasn’t getting a muffin brought in at the next senior management meeting.
Matthew Hopkins was pacing theatrically up and down the office space.
“There is one more test which can prove her guilt beyond all shadow of doubt!”
“Oh really?” said Sue “And what’s that?”
“The ducking stool! Will this damned harlot sink or swim.”
Mr Cooper was now pretty sure he was going to get a formal complaint from Sue about this situation, ‘harlot’ had not been an acceptable office term since the nineties.
“The ducking stool!” laughed Sue “Don’t be ridiculous.”
“We don’t actually have a ducking stool Matthew Hopkins,” said Mr Cooper, “we relocated a lot of our resources towards the end of last financial year so…”
“Fear not…I have fashioned a new ducking stool out by the water cooler, using a filing cabinet and some buckets.”
Matthew Hopkins gestured to the jumble of office equipment out in the main suite.
“How would that even work?” asked Sue.
“It…is not foolproof.” said Matthew Hopkins, “Some of the water has spilled out a bit but…we shall know of her guilt! Bring her forth!”
Two of the junior managers grabbed Sue by the arms, the intern began slowly banging a drum.
“Sorry Sue, but if you’re innocent you’ve nothing to fear in the eyes of God.” said Mr Cooper.
The sales department marched purposefully towards the filing cabinet ducking stool, the mournful beat of the drum echoing around the open plan office.
“No. Get off!” shouted Sue “Look, we keep losing money for one very simple reason. We keep paying these terrible black arts consultants thousands of pounds to come in and tell us how to do our job instead of just doing it ourselves.”
Matthew Hopkins was fiddling with one of the buckets.
“No! Shut up! See how she peddles her evil jibberish. Hurry…into the filing cabinet with you. Come on.”
Sue shook off one of the junior managers and turned to face Mr Cooper.
“Like when you decided to put a voodoo curse on our competitors and Baron Samedi turned up with all that chicken blood for us to drink.”
“Ah! But did our competitors lose business?”
“No!” said Sue “We were just all off sick from having to drink chicken blood and production was down eighty percent.”
Mr Cooper winced. He’d had to take everyone out for nandos and bowling to make up for that.
“That was regrettable…”
The drum had stopped beating, an awkward silence had fallen across the office, broken only by the rustling of snack-a-jack wrappers.
“Listen, do you want me to do this ducking stool thing or not?” asked Matthew Hopkins.
Sue glared at Mr Cooper.
“No…I think we should probably leave it.”
“What if I just set fire to her?”
“If you could just leave Matthew Hopkins, I’ll ensure your cheque is in the post.”
“I prefer BACS but okay. Bye then.”
And with that, the Witchfinder General swept out of the office, onto his next appointment with a lacklustre marketing department somewhere in Surrey.
The microwave pinged for someone’s soup.
“Sorry about that Sue.” said Mr Cooper, “That wasn’t the right way to go.”
“No.” said Sue, “It wasn’t.”
“No. Personally, I think the real problem is that we’ve built the office on an old indian burial ground, so I’ve arranged for a wee tiny lady to come in and exorcise it.”