"How can anyone be that obsequious?" said Laura, taking a sip of the coffee Mrs Hughes had just handed her. "Oh, that's good, Mrs H. I can't believe we ever used to drink that horrid machine stuff."
Mrs H looked quietly satisfied."There'll be home-made cake as well this afternoon," she said. "My Sarah's dropping it by later. There's nothing quite like a home-made cake, is there, for making the world seem a better place?" And with that she rattled away.
"I'm with you on that one," I told Laura. "Not about the coffee - I mean, it is good coffee, obviously - but I meant about Wonderboy, our new salesman. I've never seen a display of fawning like it. He makes Uriah Heep look big-headed."
What's particularly puzzling about it is Rory's response. Although he's not averse to a bit of flattery from his underlings, it's hard to believe Simon's extreme grovelling isn't having the same effect on him as it's having on the rest of us.
"I feel sick," Laura said. "Look, he's just bought Rory smoked salmon sandwiches for lunch." On the other hand, Simon may be serving a useful purpose.
After a run of temporary secretaries who found themselves flummoxed by the complexities of Rory's love life and filing system, our big boss has tempted his former PA Gill back. With her has returned the list of "People Rory Does Not Take Calls From" on the whiteboard where we write market info for the sales team - and it's extremely long.
There are at least 20 female names, bookies, wine merchants, taxi firms, the works. Even in the thick of his marriage break-up last year, the list was never this all-encompassing. Whatever Rory does in his spare time, it doesn't include paying bills or keeping appointments. Having Simon around could be a valuable distraction and, you never know, Wonderboy might even make a good bodyguard.
Mind you, the way things are going, he may need a bodyguard himself soon. Laura has already said she's planning to create a new list called "People Laura Does Not Talk To" especially for him. She's even dug out our old file, "Ways to Kill Neil", and has added Wonderboy's name to the title.
Simon, of course, is blissfully unaware of all this. He hasn't noticed the way Laura's hands clench on her lap when he asks her whether she can price something up or whether it isn't perhaps too complicated for her.
He's failed to spot the way the phones on the trading desk miraculously become busy whenever he walks over for a chat with me or Findlay. He hasn't even stopped to wonder why Jaap has taken to sitting in the goldfish bowl of a side-office instead of at his desk.
"How's the new boy getting on?" Mrs Hughes said as she handed out the home-made cake later. "Still giving you bother?"
"Don't ask, Mrs H," I said with a sigh. "I mean, it's one thing not to see through people at interviews. Everyone knows interviews are a game and pretty much pointless. But you'd think Rory would have seen through him by now."
"Oh, well, people see more than they let on, dear," she replied, and she rattled off.
Rory came wandering over with his cake and coffee. "How's tricks?" he asked, and we told him what was happening in the markets and he nodded and looked pleased. "By the way," he said, "drinks on me tomorrow. One of the brokers bet me a case of champagne I couldn't get anyone to laugh at the story of me, the rabbit and the lap-dancer. Simon's just about to win it for me."Reuse content