The Leaving Do

It is the Thursday before the Bank Holiday weekend, and Josh Davis, his best mate Simon, and at least ten other close work friends (the ladies would join them later) are going out for Josh’s leaving drinks.
Josh has booked a table upstairs at a nearby bar and arranged for some drinks and a modest spread (bread, olives, houmous or guacamole, and a few bottles of wine).

Josh has a close band of mates in the office which he has formed fast friendships with since he started work there three years ago. They hang out together over lunch, go away together, joining forces to advise their fellow employees on a healthy work-life balance and the best ways to work and solve problems around the office. As a result, Josh and his gang have become enormously popular amongst his colleagues. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the, well, if not corrupt then definitely rather self-interested, middle management. Initially they appreciated Josh’s fixing, as they had less to deal with, but now that he is the one everyone goes to to sort things out, rather than them, they are considerably less keen. Worried that he could stir up resentment against management and lose them their bonuses, they have had meetings about how to deal with him. Perplexingly, Josh has never officially applied for a management role, which is on the one hand a relief, since they know he is more than qualified and they’d have little ground for turning him down. On the other, at least if he did they’d have an excuse to put him in his place.

Unfortunately, as it is, they can’t do much about it since the once self-sufficient company was recently bought out by a large conglomerate who, as well as taking the lion’s share of the profits, want all hiring and firing run past them first.

As it happens, Josh’s mum, María, who works in the building, started at one of the larger comglomerate’s office as a contracted cleaner aged 16. A Filipina teenager, who never went to uni or had anything much going for her except her ability to knuckle down, she was treated kindly by the CEO who, over the next few years, noticed her quiet hard work day after day. He made sure she had a permanent contract direct to him, a pension and maternity cover, which was much better than the zero hours one she had had with the cleaning contractors. When Josh was a toddler, political unrest and xenophobic attacks broke out in that part of the country, so the CEO arranged for a transfer to another office abroad. They eventually returned to his hometown, and after a short apprenticeship, Josh started working at the office too. Everyone says María is the luckiest cleaner in the world; others say she must have gained that favour by giving some sort of special favours of her own, if you know what I mean…

The CEO is a figure fairly poorly known, but is said to be generally fair and decent. He recently seems to have left the day-to-day running of everything to the middle managers. But some reckon he’s not as hands-off as he appears. They’re not wrong; in fact, the CEO has sent in someone close to him, in secret, to experience things out on the ‘shop floor’, from the point of view of the employees.

Unbeknownst to all but his tight-knit little gang (though strongly suspected by many others), Josh is that someone.