A COMPLETE novel for businessmen today. It is written as a multi-choice questionnaire in which you will have to guess what the hero will do next. Or, as you high-fliers would say, evaluate his action potential. So here we go with:
YOU are Wesley Brockbank, head of a huge firm called Webro International. Webro is very rich indeed. You are not entirely without sentiment, however; once a year you go to lay flowers on the grave of your ex-chauffeur, who died in an accident while you were both on the way to a meeting, though nowadays you are very busy and have to get your assistant, Freeman, to do it for you.
One day, you are walking to an appointment when you realise you have left your watch at home. You need to know the time precisely. What do you do?
a) Ask someone.
b) Offer someone cash to tell you the time.
c) Ring Freeman and get him to make a take-over bid for a small clock-making firm in Switzerland, then ascertain the time from your new purchase and ring you back.
d) Use a nearby cashpoint to get some cash, knowing the time is printed on the receipt, and throw the money away.
You opt for the cashpoint and although the receipt duly tells you that it is 11.23am, there is other, perhaps more interesting, news on the slip of paper. You are broke. Yes, there are no funds to cover your paltry request for £100. This is lunatic: you know for certain there is £50,000 in that account to cover your day-to-day expenses. And yet the computer says you are broke. What do you do next?
d) Fire someone.
You fire someone, of course – that’s always a tycoon’s first reaction in a crisis, to show that the blame lies elsewhere. So you go into a phone box at 11.26am and ring Freeman to give him the bullet. To your amazement a voice says: ”Conrod Holdings here – can I help you?” With your financial experience, what do you immediately assume?
a) Your empire has been taken over by Conrod while you were out, Freeman is on the dole and you are about to be.
b) Freeman has formed a new company called Conrod in your absence and has taken you to the cleaners.
c) You have phoned Conrod without thinking because you are having a passionate affair with a woman who works there.
(She arranges the flowers)
d) You have a wrong number.
“Sorry, wrong number, “ you say and hang up. You dial again and get straight through to Freeman. You are about to dismiss him, when he cuts you short.
“It’s absolutely urgent, sir” he says. “We’ve just has a threat against your life. The police are taking it very seriously.
“We had to get in touch with you immediately, so as I knew you’d have to withdraw some cash soon, I took the liberty of closing your account temporarily. I knew that you’d ring me to fire me.”
Ingenious, you have to admit. But what’s all this about a threat on your life? Who do you assume is after you?
a) Your wife?
b) The Monopolies Commission.
c) The husband of the girl who does the flowers at Conrod.
d) Almost anyone you double-crossed on your way up, and that could be almost anyone. The threat, however, is anonymous.
Freeman then tells you the address of a safe haven where you are to be within half an hour. (It is now 11.36).
At 12.06, in fear and trembling, you ring at the bell of the address given and Freeman lets you in. Freeman gives you a funny look and says: “The police don’t know about this, sir. You see, the death threat came from – me!”
It turns out that Freeman is the son of the chauffeur who died on the way to Exeter. He is convinced that you were doing the driving and caused the crash, thus killing his father. You decide, as he raises his gun, to tell the truth as follows.
a) “Yes, I was driving. Your father was a drunkard and I was looking after him!”
b) “I was not in that car. It was stolen by your father!”
c) “Your father never died in the crash! It was staged to allow him to start a new life in Brazil, after he had accidentally run a man over!”
d) “The man who died in that crash was Wesley Brocklebank! His identity was taken over by the chauffeur! Yes, son, I am your father!”
However, Freeman believes none of your explanations and raises his gun again. Pulling the trigger, he – oh, sorry, I’ve run out of space. You‘re on your own now.
The Independent 23rd February 1989