The Incumbent: Chapter 35

Summary:It's an intricate web of murder plots, government conspiracies and rampant tanning. Oh, and the future of the entire nation.

Duff, though, had much bigger concerns. The newspaper article could spread panic through the population, and thousands could soon be out on the streets fending for themselves. He couldn't allow that to happen. The streets weren't big enough for all of them.

'Take a look at this,' said Duff, some moments later, having summoned Ted Holton-Lacey to the breakfast table. Duff was so lost in the ramifications that he didn't even notice that his finance minister had arrived in his breakfast room, still in his pyjamas. He didn't think to ask why he had stayed over the night before, or, for that matter, most nights. Naively, he hadn't read anything into his wife's recommendation, years ago, that Holton-Lacey be promoted to finance minister. She liked a powerful man, and it hadn't taken her long to figure out who was really in charge. Holton-Lacey was the man pulling the strings, and now he was pushing her buttons, too.

'Do you think she slept with him? Reading between the lines, that's how it looks to me.'

He picked up the paper, and his eyes flicked directly to the Botherington piece. He was bound to; the article featured a photograph of the journalist alongside the headline.

'This is a disaster,' he said, when he stopped staring at the picture and read the article. 'It could wreck the economy.'

He read a few lines out loud. 'Jimi Jones believes cutbacks can happen with no impact on company revenue. Any savings will go straight to the bottom line, this young stallion told me last night, as he was thrusting himself deep inside me.'

Holton-Lacey put the paper down. It wasn't what you'd normally expect in the financial pages, although, as no one generally read them, who's to say? He made a mental note to read them more often.

'Do you think she slept with him?' he asked. 'Reading between the lines, that's how it looks to me.'

Duff looked at him. He wondered whether it was fashionable these days to wear a suit made of flannelette, with a white chord around the waist. Then he gazed out the window, where his wife was hanging their bedding on the washing line. He wondered, fleetingly, why she seemed to wash the sheets every day, sometimes twice a day. Then he thought a little more about Botherington's article, but the consequences were too enormous to contemplate. He decided, instead, to focus on breakfast.

'Wheety-bits or Honey-chuffs?' he asked, pushing a bowl over to Holton-Lacey.

The two men each poured a bowl of cereal, before starting work on how to limit the damage from the morning's news.

He had already hatched his sinister plan to finish off Jones, Botherington, the newspaper editor and anyone who read the section.

'We definitely need a strategy,' said Holton-Lacey, whose mind had already hatched his sinister redundancy plan that could be used to finish off Jones, Botherington, the newspaper editor and, if necessary, anyone who read the business section. 'There can't be too many of them,' he thought to himself.

'Yes, a strategy,' agreed Duff, 'but it needs to be practical.'

He unfolded a large sheet of paper on which he wrote 'DAMAGE CONTROL PLAN' in large letters. While they thought about what to write next, Duff drew several lines underneath the heading, made an outline around all the letters in a different colour, then tried to give the heading a sort-of three-dimensional extrusion.

'That's the heading done,' he said eventually. 'Now, where do we start?'

Holton-Lacey sat quietly for a moment.

'Well, we've made a start with a heading,' he said a few moments later.

'Yes,' said Duff, 'but what now?'

There was another pause, while the prime minister added a little cross-hatching effect inside each letter.

Topics: Telcos


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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