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Part One.  1997

Chapter 1. Nigel – Friday 28th November 1997

Come on, come on,” I yelled as the old biddy in the ancient Austin Metro dawdled along. “For God’s sake woman, get through those lights before they change.”

She didn’t.

Although she was only feet from the line, she stopped when they changed to amber. I hit the brakes hard. Thankfully my BMW M3 stopped before I hit her. I slammed my hand on the steering wheel. What does she think she’s doing? Why can’t she keep off the roads while those of us with jobs to go to drive to work? She could do her shopping any time without getting in our way.

The lights change and she pulled forward, then stalled.

Bloody Hell. Why do they still allow old people to drive?

I had an important meeting to get to. My agency’s major client had appointed a new Marketing Director and we were due to present our ideas for a new product launch to her.

At last. The Metro pulls away. It almost reached the speed limit. If the road was wide enough, I’d have passed her — but it wasn’t.

Then she stopped again. This time at a Zebra Crossing. Jesus wept. What is she doing?

No, No, No! She wasn’t letting that bus out, was she? Yes, she was. I tried to attract her attention but, naturally, she wasn’t looking in the mirror otherwise she’d have seen me gesticulating.

Eventually, she pulled in and I could get past. I looked over at her and shook my head then turned my attention back to the road.

Just who was Mary Sanchez? I tried to get some background before meeting her but drew a blank. All I’d discovered was that she was British but has been over in the states for some years working for one of SeaCon’s competitors.

George, Marketing Manager at SeaCon, hadn’t been able to help either. Funnily enough, I hadn’t been able to get through to him since our golfing trip to Le Touquet. That was unusual.

I parked the BMW in my reserved space. I hadn’t done too badly for myself. Nigel Hall Associates wasn’t one of the big boys of the advertising world but it gave me a decent living — well it did as long as I could hold on to clients like SeaCon.

Having dropped my case in my office, I wandered down to the studio to check that everything was ready for the presentation. Bill and Jerry, the creative team, had it all under control. They were just about to take the work along to the boardroom to prepare for Mrs Sanchez.

On the way back to my desk, I confirmed that Nicky, my secretary, had organised the catering for lunch.

“Yes, Nigel. They’ll deliver at 12.30. And reception will call you as soon as Mrs Sanchez arrives. Now stop worrying. I’ll get you a coffee, shall I?”

None of the other staff would dare to speak to me so casually but we did have a special arrangement which my wife was, thankfully, unaware of.

I sat down, lit a cigarette, took a sip of the coffee, leant back and reviewed the position.

On the debit side was Mrs Sanchez’ lack of urgency to come and see us; the fact new people like to stamp their own style and she has been appointed over George. Against was her recent return from several years in the States so she didn’t have any relationships with any other UK agencies. Plus, the imminent launch of the new OceanMaster range. On balance, I felt we were safe — all other things being equal.

My reflections were disturbed by Nicky telling me Mrs Sanchez has arrived. I put on my jacket and took the stairs to reception to welcome her.

That’s when I realised all other things were not equal.

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