The Monday morning after Jinnie’s new restaurant opened she was in her office trying to work out how she could best tell ‘C’ that the American she had been asked to plan the insertion of into Munich was a waste of time and effort. On meeting the agent he had proved to be bright and intelligent, but his German accent was awful. The more they talked, the more she heard Georgia. That southern accent was coming through in his German and she was certain that if he wasinserted into Germany he would be in the hands of the Gestapo within days. As she sat contemplating how best to tell this to ‘C’ her internal phone rang.
Picking up the phone she said “Hello” without looking at the display. Still thinking about the Yank, she was surprised to hear Emma say, “Hi again Jinnie, can you spare ‘C’ a few minutes, right now in his office? Jinnie was suddenly alert. To get an instant summons was unusual and it usually meant a new job of some sort. “Of course,” she replied, “On my way, be there in a few minutes.” Getting up from her desk, she stuck her head around the ‘General Office’ door and told Greta and Carol she had been summoned and didn’t expect to be long, before heading for the lift.
The lift doors opened and the Director of Planning stepped out with a face like thunder. Without acknowledging her he stalked off in the direction of his office. Jinnie stepped into the lift and pressed the button for the executive floor. As the doors shut she was still pondering her American problems and didn’t really think about the Director, he was renowned for being grumpy and ignoring his staff. Emma greeted her with a big grin and a conspiratorial wink and, not giving Jinnie a chance to ask what was happening, sent her straight into ‘C’s office.
‘C’ was on his computer typing with two fingers and said, ‘Sit down Jinnie, I’ll only be a minute.’ Emma appeared with two cups of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee and Jinnie relaxed, you didn’t get the boss’s best coffee if you were in trouble. As Emma left the room she gave Jinnie a thumbs up hidden from ‘C’s’ vision. “What the hell is going on?” thought Jinnie.
‘C’ stopped typing, took a sip of his coffee, and started talking. “Do you remember the PM telling me about the deadwood in the service that needed culling?” Jinnie’s heart sank but she replied brightly, “Yes Sir.” ‘C’ continued, “Well today I have started the sort out, swinging the axe at the time servers and useless. I have already got rid of the HR Director and her deputy, the Liaison Director and the Planning Director.” ‘That explains him when getting out of the lift’ thought Jinnie. He continued, “I have brought in a new HR Director from industry, promoted the Liaison Director’s Deputy and now it’s your turn. How do you feel about taking over as Planning Director? You have shown great promise in planning operations and in the field. I discussed it with the PM and he fully agreed with me, you are ideal for this job. Of course, you will not be able to get involved in the field very much, but I have my eye on your sister to take on that role once she finishes her degree in May. Of course, you can keep your inner team and the Deputy is quite good but he has been held back by the Director and is not ready to take over yet. I will be speaking to him shortly and explaining what is happening and that I have full faith in him, but I don’t think he is quite ready yet. In a few years under you, he will be ready for his own Directorship.”
Jinnie was speechless, she had never considered such a rapid promotion. She had been aware that something had been in the air at Vauxhall Cross for a while. Emma had said the Boss was being extra secretive recently and had been interviewing several outsiders and joked they looked all like HR people. The scuttlebutt for a while had been several big names were for the chop, now things were falling into place. ‘C’ added, “Before you accept the job can I add, the salary is £250,000 pa, there is a non-contributor pension and a Jaguar with the post and your expense account is virtually unlimited.” Jinnie thought for a moment then realised she couldn’t really refuse so she simply said, “Thank you, Sir, I accept.”
‘C’ stood up and walked round his desk and shook her hand vigorously saying, “I forgot to mention, you get a key to the executive loo and can eat in the executive dining room, if you can bare to give up eating lunch with Emma. Actually, as my personal assistant, she is entitled to eat there anyway but I doubt it is anywhere like half as good as your restaurants. Now you can stop calling me ‘Sir’ and call me ‘David’ just like the other Directors. Now I would appreciate it if you returned to your office and didn’t mention anything until the official announcement is circulated on the intranet about 3 this afternoon. Director Lelean is clearing out his office at the minute and you can move in tomorrow if you want but give it a few days and I will have it redecorated.”
Jinnie walked out of David’s office and closed the door, only to be hugged by Emma who said, “Congratulations, you deserve it.” Jinnie asked, “How long have you known?” Emma looked at her watch and said, “About half a hour, he has played this very close to his chest.” They agreed to meet for lunch in the canteen as normal, but Jinnie wondered if she would be able to swallow anything.
Back in her department Jinnie slumped behind her desk and realised she still hadn’t mentioned the Yank’s accent. Greta put her head around the dividing door, took one look at Jinnie, stepped into her office closing the door behind her and said, “Gosh, are you OK? You look odd.” Jinnie replied “I’m OK, just a bit shocked. Don’t ask me why, I can’t tell you. But it will all become apparent later this afternoon.” Greta said nothing and just fetched Jinnie a cup of coffee.
Jinnie and Emma found a little table in the corner of the canteen and with difficulty Jinnie managed to eat a cheese and pickle sandwich. Emma told her five directors and two deputies had gone all with a big payoff and enhanced pension and all would be out the door that evening. The new HR director had brought her deputy with her from her old Job and was already in place working in a meeting room finalising the details of those leaving. She would move into her new office tomorrow. She continued that the new directors and deputies were all now appointed. Some, like Jinnie, had opted to have the office decorated and she had got the orders for the maintenance and IT departments locked in her desk ready to issue once David had finalised his announcement. Then she added that tomorrow morning the HR director would be sacking a number of middle managers and promoting others. They didn’t rate high enough for a chat with ‘C’.
Jinnie heard the intranet ping to announce a new message just after 3 and breathed a sigh of relief now she could talk about it. She read through the message. David started by saying that over the next few days a number of changes would be happening to improve the service as over the years some departments had grown complacent. The announcement he was making today was the high-level changes and further announcements would be coming from Ms Anne Herlihy, the newly appointed HR director. Then followed a list of the other four new directors and 2 deputies. Jinnie read it twice ‘Director of Planning – Mrs Jinnie De Luca’, and finished with the message that the new positions were now active and he expected everyone to give the new directors their full cooperation.
The interconnecting door to Jinnie’s office crashed open and Greta and Carol burst in both talking at once. They congratulated her, but basically they wanted to know what was happening to them. Jinnie said, “Nothing, you will be coming with me to the main office. But I have been thinking about it, I still want a Special Missions Group and I still want you in it as my personal assistants. I think we may need to get some extra office partitions putting up but I think we might be able to buy some decent modern furniture instead of this second-hand rubbish we have now. My office is being redecorated before I move in so we will be here for a while yet.”
The next person through the door was her new deputy, Alan Dawson. They knew each other by sight but had never spoken. Alan said he had been told by the old director to do his best to ostracise Jinnie, but to tell the truth he had never had any need to speak to her. Jinnie was impressed, he was a likeable chap and was speaking honestly. Jinnie told him she was going to be leaning heavily on him in the next few months as she re-built the department into an effective organisation.
Alan smiled and asked if she was open to suggestions as he had a few ideas she might like to consider. Jinnie said, “Of course, I want to put a plan in place for ‘C’, so can you put your ideas on paper and I’ll do the same? Then we can sit down together and pick the best bits and we’ll present it to ‘C’ together.” Alan went away happy.
Jinnie started to sketch out a family tree of the department she wanted. She put herself at the top and drew a rectangular box around her name then she drew a vertical line to another rectangular box and wrote Deputy Director Dawson. Under that she drew a short vertical line down and a horizontal line across the page from its bottom and started to draw a series of lines down from it. She suddenly realised she had no idea how many sections the department was divided into and who ran them, this was where she needed Alan’s knowledge. But there was one more thing she could add. Halfway between her box and Alan’s, off the vertical line she drew another line, this time horizontal to another box. In this, she wrote Special Missions Group and Personal Assistants, Greta James and Carol Franks. She thought for a moment and then added Special Assistant 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. thinking that’s were I can put Dirk, Willie, Steven or anyone else. She sat back and reviewed her attempt at a departmental tree, she was happy. It showed her old friends reporting directly to her and everyone else reporting directly to her deputy and him to her.
She met Emma and they made their way to Finsbury Park and their train to Hadley Wood. Emma wanted to know how she was doing, was she still in shock? Jinnie explained she had met with Alan Dawson and he seemed to be pretty useful. Emma replied, “David thinks a lot of him, says he’s going places.” Jinnie replied, “Well, on first impressions he could be right. Jinnie beat Paolo home and decided to cook one of her personal favourites, sausage toad, and it was nearly ready when he arrived. Jinnie had put a bottle of Soave in the fridge and asked Paolo to get it and pour them glasses as she served up the toad with a generous helping of baked beans. Paolo looked at the wine and asked, “What are we celebrating?” Jinnie said, “My promotion,” and told him the story of her day.
The De Luca’s were on their second glasses of wine when the front door bell went. It was Emma and Freddie with a bottle of Champagne. Emma said, “I told Freddie and he said let’s get one of those bottles of Champagne left over from the wedding and go and congratulate Jinnie.” They sat down and Larry joined them, he hadn’t been around when Jinnie had told her tale to Paolo so he was trying to work out what the celebration was all about. He got there just before Emma and Paolo went home.
On the platform the following morning Jinnie’s phone rang, expecting it to be Nigel, she just said “Hello”. But it wasn’t the PM it was Dirk ringing to congratulate her. Jinnie thought, ‘How can he and the PM always know what is happening?’ As soon as he rang off the mobile rang again and this time it was the PM offering his congratulations. Jinnie said, “I understand I have you to thank.” “No,” said Nigel, “you have worked for your promotion, risking your life, now it’s time to enjoy your job and plan for others. The more times you go into the occupied territories the chances are higher you will be recognised and the more dangerous it gets. I don’t want you going on any more missions that others can do.” Jinnie remembered Peter Dobiecki saying to her not to get too good at mission planning if she liked action, it looked like he had been right.
Jinnie’s first visitor to her office was Alan. He even beat Greta and Carol so Jinnie had to put the coffee machine on or go to the vending machine down the corridor. The vending machine lost and Jinnie put a jug of filter coffee on to brew. As they waited for the water to boil Alan said, “I was up late last night drafting my plan. Can I talk to you about it before I finalise it?” Jinnie replied, “Of course”.
Alan explained, “I want to suggest a big change in the department organisation. Until now we have been arranged in “teams”. The problem is that new missions are allocated to teams in turn with no thought of the team’s ability. For example, if we need to insert a team into say Brazil, the next planning team in line may be full of French speakers and have no one who has ever been to South America. Likewise, a team can have no military experience or no travel specialist. I have studied your missions, you brought in your own specialists to plan, advise and assist and you succeeded every time. I reckon about half our missions fail, often for something simple like someone misreading a Serbian bus timetable.”
“Go on” said Jinnie. Alan continued, “First I thought about geographic teams, but then I realised it wouldn’t work we would need a team for virtually every country in the world! Then I realised what we needed was everyone in a single pool with all their abilities recorded on a database. We need a Mandarin speaker, the database will identify them, an IT specialist, an expert in ballistics, we can quickly build a team to sort out the mission for the agent. If we don’t have someone in-house we use MI5, the SAS, SBS, SRR or anyone else appropriate. Who cares where the expertise comes from, it’s the mission that counts.”
“I like it,” said Jinnie, “Now you point it out, that’s how my SMG works, we supply the leadership and call in or use specialists. So I suggest we designate permanent team leaders on their ability to manage and put everyone else in that pool. Include me and my SMG team in the pool although I expect we probably be calling on the pool for our special missions rather than contributing to it. Don’t tell people what we are thinking about, unless you need specific advice. Then only tell them as much as you need to complete your plan.”
With that Jinnie pulled her family tree from last night from her drawer and said, “I think that sits on top of your idea nicely.” Alan looked at it and said, “Yes but you have nearly everyone reporting to me.” “What wrong with that?” Jinnie asked, “You are my deputy!” “True,” said Alan, “But I have never been allowed to manage the teams, the old boss kept me out of the management line, I was more of a personal assistant.” “I don’t need another PA, I already have two.” Said Jinnie, “What I need is a good deputy, who knows how the department works and can run it when I am busy doing something else or on holiday, someone who can think for themselves and make decisions without running to me every five minutes. I think we are going to get on just fine.”
Jinnie told Alan to go and write up what they had just decided. She said, “I want to run the new database past the IT Director, but not without you so I will try and make an appointment for late today. One other thing, I understand the next level of changes will be announced about two this afternoon so I would like to meet the department about 3 this afternoon can you get them together in the biggest open area we have, please. I will try for a meeting with IT about 4, failing that it will have to be tomorrow morning.”
Jinnie got her 4 o’clock meeting and asked the IT director to have his top database programmer present. Then she took a call from Emma. Maintenance were tied up for at least three weeks, they were remodelling the HR Director’s office and her complete department. Apparently she didn’t like the colour scheme, the furniture, the layout, the carpet, the lighting and even the shape of the air conditioning vents. To get her on board, ‘C’ had promised she could have a complete makeover of the department and she was making the most of it. Jinnie thought, ‘A month before I can get with my department that might be OK for some directors but not for me.’ “Emma, is David free at the moment? I need ten minutes,” she asked. Emma said, “Yes I’ll warn him your on your way up.”
‘C’ welcomed her in and once she was seated he asked, “Settling in OK?” to which Jinnie replied, “Yes and no. I think Alan Dawson and I are going to get on well. He has some excellent ideas which I will want to run past you once we have got them bottomed out and ensured they are practical, but I am liking what I am hearing. I am going to meet the department this afternoon.” “That sounds all good,” said David. “So what’s the ‘No’?” “Well,” said Jinnie, “This might be a bit unusual. I understand that Ms Herlihy has collared all the maintenance resources for the next month. I can’t wait that long to move into the heart of the department so I want permission to bring in an outside team.”
David sucked his Biro and said, “Well, in theory that should be possible, but it would probably take a month to get security clearance.” “Well I think the people I have in mind may already have been vetted by Special Branch. The husband of the owner was a Colonel in the Paras and an Equerry to the old King when he was Prince Charles. If the owner and her principal workers wasn’t checked out then I would be mighty surprised. Oh, and Dirk Scholz knows him and is putting him forward to work with the SAS and us.” “Ah,” said David, “Now I know who you are talking about and I am pretty certain Brian and Belinda and her daughters have been positively vetted and Brian will definitely have signed the Official Secrets Act. I will find out who in the company has been vetted, it’s only a phone call to Special Branch. But if Belinda can get a team together of vetted people what makes you think she will be able to do this job?” “Well, that’s simple.” said Jinnie, “Her company is working at the Italian Embassy and I have a bit of influence there.”
As she left David’s office Jinnie stopped and to speak with Emma. Jinnie said, “I haven’t forgotten your birthday. I hope you don’t mind but I have reserved a table for four at Trattoria Trevi so you and Freddie can be my and Paolo’s guests for the evening. Alberto has swapped the table reservations around a bit and given us what we consider the best table in the restaurant, from where we can see the whole room. He tells me he is expecting a TV news presenter, a Premier League footballer, a minor politician and a well know female singer that night. But we also have reservations for four ‘Mr Smiths’ that night so who knows who else will be there. Get glammed up and tell Freddie to put on a suit, no jeans and trainers. I’ve booked a taxi to pick us all up at 19:45, so pop round just before then.”
© WorthingGooner 2022