The Trattoria Trevi board gathered, as agreed, on the Monday afternoon and after a short discussion during which Brian repeatedly reassured the directors that they had sufficient funds for both projects, Jinnie pointed out that the sandwich business was a very cheap project which was ready to go and would be up and running, and making money, by the time Trattoria Trevi Windsor had planning and building regulations permission. She pointed out that they would have to pay a 10% deposit when they placed an order, but then the first stage payment wouldn’t be due until about a fortnight after work started.
The first thing was to authorise Brian to procure the building leases and negotiate ‘licenses to alter’ with the freeholders. In the meantime Brian suggested sending ‘letters of intent’ to Belinda agreeing to pay a set amount for design work prior to placing an order – the agreed sum to form part of the overall final cost. The board agreed this path and Brian hurried off to complete his talks with the estate agents for the leases and to start talks with the freeholders for ‘licenses to alter’. It fell to Jinnie to phone Belinda to tell her that Trattoria Trevi (Holdings) Limited had accepted her two bids, but because these buildings were to be leased they were not yet able to place orders. Instead she was to receive ‘letters of intent’ that would reimburse her for money spent on work done in obtaining planning and building regulations permissions, to be set against the final contract, just as soon as their legal people could raise the paperwork.
Belinda then reported to Jinnie, and subsequently the board of DKL, that the Wright Refurbishments were to receive two ‘letters of intent’ for contracts ultimately totalling nearly £800,000. Jinnie and Belinda saw the funny side of this because as a 50% shareholder in DKL Trattoria Trevi had just given itself an order. They then discussed who should put out the press release, DKL saying their construction division had now received orders potentially worth £3,700,000 or should Wright Refurbishment put out the release directly. Eventually, they came to the conclusion that it was probably better that Wright Refurbishment put out the announcement as they were still playing down that DKL’s construction division was doing better than its parent.
Miranda put out the press release the next day. It was pretty vague as for security reasons they couldn’t reveal which government department had given them the order and for commercial reasons they couldn’t say where the Trattoria Trevi was casting its eye. But there were quotes from Alberto saying Trattoria Trevi was delighted to be once again working with Wright Refurbishment on its next restaurant, it biggest yet, and on a new project which would be revealed shortly and from Belinda saying that they were happy to announce the signing of their biggest ever order, from a government department. Of course, all the Trattoria Trevi directors were put under pressure by the media to reveal where they were expanding to but no one cracked and revealed it was Windsor.
Miranda and the prime minister’s PR officer agreed the opening ceremony and No 10 put out an announcement that the PM was delighted to have agreed to perform the opening ceremony of the DKL group’s new headquarters and the first three dark kitchens on the Manor Royal Estate in Crawley. That he would be greeted at midday, by the DKL board of directors, be taken on a tour of the offices and kitchens and at 12:50 would make a short speech, officially open the site and have a buffet lunch with the DKL board. The BBC would be providing pooled TV pictures. Reporters wishing to attend the ceremony contact the DKL PR department. By the end of the day Miranda’s little group had taken requests for accreditation from over 40 reporters and had started to write handouts to give the press explaining DKLs structure and business.
The sandwiches, pies and cakes the two Trattoria Trevi kitchens were already producing were proving to be very popular in the DKL staff restroom, so Jinnie didn’t hesitate to commission them to supply the buffet for the grand opening. It was only the best for the PM, directors and senior staff in the boardroom. No meat pies or mini-burgers for them, it was finger rolls and crustless sandwiches. The press were invited to eat with the staff in the staff rest room where an enormous buffet for all the other people on site was laid out. Jinnie had insisted that they supply the staff buffet to everyone including the lowest cleaner and Richard’s construction crew, even the people from the SuperBurger kitchen were invited.
In Mendoza, the agents ate a fairly early dinner in the hotel restaurant. This time Steven asked the evening receptionist for recommendations for a club for them to visit. He received a list of three clubs. He pressed which one of the three was best and the receptionist said that they actually preferred the second one on the list best, so Steven said they would find a bar for a drink first, and then head on to that club later. Once again they programmed the Sat Nav and headed off in its direction but as soon as it was established they were not being followed they turned towards the missile factory.
It was dark when they arrived at the vineyard but not knowing if the CCTV cameras on the fence had infrared capability they parked behind a low hill out of their sight. Penny took the night sight from the sniper rifle and belly crawled to the brow of the hill and observed the main buildings. She quickly reported they were all illuminated and there appeared to be work going on in the building attached to what they believed to be the assembly building. There was another two-storey building, but it was dark. Penny speculated that it was an office block and unlike the other buildings, the staff were not working a shift system.
Meanwhile Steven was checking out the helicopter drone kit. It consisted of two mini helicopters in a combined carry case and charger. The case plugged into a car laptop power socket and was capable of charging a drone in 30 minutes giving it a 45-minute flying endurance. The idea was you could fly drone number one out over the target and replace it with the second drone while the first flew back and recharged. By alternating the two drones a good operator should manage continuous cover of a target provided it was not too distant from the launch point.
Both drones were fully charged out of the box and Steven sent drone one straight out there into the site, above the CCTV coverage. The pictures from its three onboard HD cameras were broadcast back to an adapted iPad, that with a plug-in controller allowed Steven to see what the cameras saw, while flying the drone and a countdown timer told him how much flying time he had remaining. He headed the drone into the complex switching between the forward-facing camera for navigation and to one of the two downward-facing cameras, either the normal camera or its IR partner to view what he was flying over. Les had a similar iPad which displayed Steven’s choice of camera, but the fingerprint recognition button when pressed took and stored a screen grab. As the almost silent drone approached the ‘assembly building’ Steven saw a row of skylights all open a few inches. Steven hovered the drone over a skylight but the glazing was tinted and neither downward-facing camera couldn’t see through it.
On the spur of the moment Steven flew the drone in through the narrow opening revealing what looked like a complete missile laying on its side on a long multi-wheeled vehicle in the brightly lit building. From above, the camera showed only a few white-clad men working on the rocket. Several pairs seemed to be working on the missile’s innards through access hatches. Steven zoomed the camera in on one pair who appeared to be swapping a printed circuit board. Next to him Les was frantically taking screenshots and asking if he could get in any closer.
Les explained that the rocket was on a transporter erector vehicle and pointed out the large square base that the missile’s motor nozzles projected through a hole in. Les explained that somewhere out among the vines was a concrete launch pad that would include a big square hole that the metal base would fit over. Ducts from the hole would vent the rocket exhausts sideways, rather like the American Firefly rocket. Penny had no idea what the American Firefly rocket was but nodded along anyway.
Steven checked the elapsed flight time and said he needed to launch drone two. While leaving drone one hovering, he flew drone two in a loop before approaching the assembly building by the doors in its end. Les called, “Yes, there it is,” as the drone flew over what looked like an empty square swimming pool. With drone 2 on station, Steven flew drone one back. He said to Penny, “Here it comes,” but it was so small and silent that she only located it at the last moment as Steven piloted it into her hands. With drone one on charge, Steven piloted drone two around the building. There were windows at high level in the wall between the assembly building and the building next door.
Steven swung the drone around so that the forward-facing camera could see through the dirty glass and on the far side was a busy workshop with men operating all sorts of machinery. As they watched the picture everyone suddenly stopped work and headed for a door. Penny said she was sure she heard a siren and glanced at the watch, which read 01:20. “Ah,” she said, “shift change.” With the assembly building now empty Steven took advantage of flying the drone helicopter down low and looking in the open access hatches while Les grabbed screenshot after screenshot. He then flew the drone around while Les took screenshots of drawings pinned to the wall and laying on workbenches.
Steven, realising it was nearly time for the new shift to come on, flew the drone back out of the skylight and back into Penny’s hands. After a quick discussion they decided that they weren’t going to learn a lot more in the assembly building but Steven suggested one last flight using the now fully recharged drone number one, trying to look in through the office block windows. While he sent off drone one on its second flight of the night, Penny dragged out the satellite phone, found the MoD bird and prepared for a flash transmission.
Steven worked the drone down the row of windows all of which were closed. However, once again he focussed in on several drawings pinned to walls. There were also drawings laying on workbenches, but the angle proved to be impossible to get a very clear picture of them. However, in what appeared to be a meeting room a whiteboard hadn’t been cleaned and was snapped. Penny shook her head, not cleaning a whiteboard was a disciplinary offence at the Cross. As the drone was flown back by Steven, Les ran the data compression package and then the encryption package before sending the pictures on their way to London. All he got back was a single tone to say, “Received.” They quickly packed up, did a last walk around to make certain they hadn’t forgotten anything and drove off back to the hotel and sleep.
The PM’s Jaguar pulled up on Manor Royal opposite the gate in the fence, which was on this occasion open but guarded by a policeman. Nigel and the deputy PM Richard approached the front door and Julie pressed the button to open the sliding glass doors. The DKL directors were all drawn up to greet them with Alberto, as chairman, leading the line. The BBC camera watched Nigel greet him like an old friend having dined in the Trattoria Trevi several times. Of course, Nigel knew nearly all of the directors from the Trattoria Trevi side, only the other Nigel was new to him. The directors appointed by SuperBurger were all new to the PM but he had done his research and obviously knew a little about everyone.
Jinnie was the director appointed to show the PM around as she knew him best. The party headed to the 1st floor and through the breakout area into the main office area, all the time under the all-seeing eye of the TV cameras. Nigel stopped and spoke to several workers before reaching the row of directors’ offices. Having asked Jinnie which her office was he headed straight to Ro’s office and shook her hand saying, “I understand that, but for you, this HQ building would not be ready yet. Please join us for the rest of the tour.” The party went through the fire doors into the kitchen space and Nigel let out a gasp. “I thought that office big but this space is huge,” he said. He was shown around one of the Trattoria Trevi kitchens and introduced to its manager. Then he met the SuperBurgers kitchen manager before being introduced to Richard from Wright Refurbishment who he chatted to for a while. Next stop was the call centre, before heading down to see dispatch and a walk-in freezer and a walk-in fridge.
The PM looked at his watch and said to Jinnie, “It’s nearly ten to one, I need to give this speech if I am going to get it on the lunchtime news. Can we head to the Dias now?” Jinnie led the party across the car park to the Dias and thought, ‘Ro has done a fine job on that background.’ The background was a lattice of the logos of the companies on site, but the most prominent was DKL and its website. Jinnie thought it was just like the background behind those footballers Paolo watched being interviewed on the TV and it should clearly show on TV wherever the PM stood.
The BBC had two cameras covering the dias, one straight in front for closeups and one a little to one side to give a wider shot. Jinnie didn’t waste a lot of time on introducing the PM, everyone already knew him. She simply said how delighted she was when the PM had agreed to open their new HQ building and the first of the new batch of kitchens before handing over to him. Nigel started by saying how happy he was to officially open this new venture. How he had known the MD for many years having first met her and her younger sister when they were campaigning for her father who was standing as a councillor for his party. How she had impressed him with her knowledge and intelligence, had worked for a government department and had helped him from time to time.
The PM explained how he had first eaten at the Trattoria Trevi in Potters Bar when Jinnie had married Paolo and how impressed he had been and that it had become his favourite restaurant. Consequently he was delighted to be invited by the joint venture to perform this opening ceremony, especially as it enabled him to combine the official opening with an announcement of his own. The crowd of workers and guests fell totally quiet. Of course Jinnie knew what was coming and realised that Nigel had lost none of his ability to play a crowd.
Nigel continued, “But enough of that for now, I will make my announcement once I have cut this ceremonial ribbon.” He now had everyone’s full attention and Jinnie wondered what was happening in the various TV companies taking the BBC’s picture. Alberto offered the PM a pair of scissors on a royal blue velvet cushion and Nigel cut the ribbon saying how he hoped the company would be highly successful and prosperous.
Nigel replaced the scissors on the cushion and said, “Now that is done, I better get on with my news. As you will all know there is a general election coming in the spring and I have decided that I am tired. I have loved my time as PM and party leader but I am getting old and I have decided that I am going to retire at the party conference in late September. I want the party to endorse my deputy, Richard, as the new party leader and consequently PM as I am certain we will be returned at the election. I shall also not be standing again for my Finchley constituency and I did hope to tell you that I have found the perfect replacement for me, but she has preferred to become the DKL managing director! Who knows, perhaps by the spring I will convince her to change her mind. Of course you are going to have to put up with me for a little while yet, my retirement house is still to be built, in fact it only received planning permission yesterday.” With that he stepped down off the dias and headed for the steps up into the staff restroom with Jinnie and Alberto at his side.
As they walked through the restroom Nigel looked at the huge buffet awaiting the media and staff and commented, “My, that looks good.” Jinnie replied, “Wait until you see what’s waiting in the boardroom.” Glancing over her shoulder Jinnie saw a BBC reporter doing a hasty piece to camera and chuckled thinking, ‘I bet there’s a panic in the newsroom.’ Entertaining the boardroom Nigel said, “I think that went rather well, I don’t think they had any idea what was coming.”
Miranda was waiting for them and had the giant boardroom TV tuned to the BBC ready for the ‘One O’clock News’ and said, “I thought you might be interested to see how they report the ceremony, I expect it will not get very high billing.” Realising that Miranda had no idea what the PM had just announced Jinnie said, “I bet you we are the lead item.” Jinnie would have won the bet, the BBC led with pictures of the PM’s speech and a voiceover saying, “The PM has just made a very significant announcement.” But Jinnie was more interested in the clear view of the company’s logo and web address.
Nigel listened intently to the news of his forthcoming retirement while tucking into the buffet. Once the BBC moved on to other news he turned to Jinnie and said, “Well that went just about as well as I could have dreamed and the BBC seems to have accepted Richard will be a shoo-in as my successor. Now all I want is the media to pick up on my hints that I want you to be my successor in Finchley and I will have had a perfect day. Talking of perfect, where on earth did you get this buffet, it’s absolutely fabulous.” Jinnie ignored the Finchley remark and replied, “It’s all from our in-house ‘Artisan Sandwiches’ business.”
“You don’t intend to open a Westminster branch any time soon do you?” Asked the PM, “No,” answered Jinnie, “But we are looking at opening a stand-alone sandwich business in Windsor very soon.” “Ah,” said Nigel, “The king did wonder why you were taking two places in Windsor. He said one was too small to be a money-spinning restaurant. I will be able to tell him at Wednesday’s briefing!” “Please do,” said Jinnie, “I would love to be able to supply sandwiches and cakes to Windsor Castle. A Royal Warrant would look wonderful over the shop door.”
In Chapter 15 – The rocket goes up
© WorthingGooner 2023