Finance: The Trader - It's the black bin-liners...

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THE LAST we saw of Rory, he was off to the monthly strategy meeting with all the other honchos, saying, "It'll be the most boring afternoon of my life." The next thing we know, someone from Human Resources has given Gill, Rory's secretary, a fistful of black bin-liners and suggested she shoves the contents of our top man's desk into them and sharpish. Plainly not such a boring afternoon after all, then.

Quite where Rory is while this is going on is a mystery. He isn't allowed back to clear up his own things for the obvious reason that he may be feeling a little disgruntled, and disgruntled employees have a nasty habit of taking revenge by destroying inanimate objects. But I can't see him going home without his possessions: the special "Far Side" mug he keeps his pens in; the gold paperclip to keep important documents together; the spare Hermes cufflinks; the membership cards of dodgy Mayfair drinking- dens.

"So they must have him in the banking-world equivalent of a holding cell, with someone making sure he can't make any internal phone calls," I say to Laura. "Yes. No. What?" Laura replies; then, "Oh, sorry, I'm just really shocked. I mean, I wouldn't have this job if it weren't for Rory." This is no false modesty on Laura's part; she started here as PA to Rory, who realised she had an instinct for trading and fought prejudice and Personnel to get her promoted.

We look over to where Gill is stuffing Rory's things into the hateful black bags and trying not to cry. Even Marlene looks a little tearful, and there's no banter from Freddie's and Marco's corner. Neil is quiet, too, but looks slightly smug, as if he knows something we don't and that the something is entirely to his own advantage. "Anyone would think," I say to Laura, "that he expects to be installed in Rory's place."

No sooner have I said it than my blood goes cold. Neil has, after all, been making rather a point recently of saying he's not in the least bit political. That can only mean one thing: he's been politicking like hell.

Laura and I gaze at each other in horror. Could the odious Neil really be on the brink of being our next boss? "Cyanide pills," Laura says. "That's what we need."

"A suicide pact," I agree. "It seems a bit drastic, though. Couldn't we just resign?"

"Oh, they wouldn't be for us," Laura replies. "Don't you remember? It's number 231 on our list of ways to kill Neil. Cyanide in the almond-flavoured caffe latte."

"Oh yes. Mind you, at this rate, we won't need to bother," I say. "You can practically see his ego inflating. If his head swells much more it'll burst, and that'll be the end of him."

"You're forgetting something," Laura replies. "Men in the City have specially reinforced skulls. Their egos can swell almost infinitely without damage."

We go back to gazing mournfully at Gill, who's just removed the last bit of Rory's gear and handed it over to the vulture from Human Resources. As the black bags disappear out of the door, Gill's self-control snaps and she bursts into tears and has to rush off to the ladies'. So she's not around to see one of the top dogs blunder on to the floor and ask us to gather round.

"Rory has left the bank," he says, only partly accurately. "His replacement is..."