She handed him a document — a Treasury document — titled 'VastTel: State of Play'. It had today's date on it, and Holton-Lacey's name as the report's author.
'So, a number two at the sides and thinning out on top?' said the woman.
Musson assumed that would be alright. He had never paid much attention when he got his hair cut, so his barber tended to use him for experimentation. This woman, he noted, seemed more skilled at her craft. For a start, when thinning out his hair she didn't resort to the painful process of removing large tufts with a big pair of tweezers.
As she worked on his hair, Musson flicked through the pages. There were lots of graphs, largely meaningless to him, but he could see that without exception, the lines were heading downwards. Any figures mentioned were negative.
'You are the new CEO of VastTel...'
'Would you like some product in your hair?' asked the lady, after 45 minutes of turning a bedraggled mess into something quite shapely and fashionable.
'He doesn't need any of that metro-sexual crap.'
They both turned round to see Holton-Lacey walk in. He was carrying a suit, again considerably more stylish than Musson's customary look.
'Try this on, and we'll get you off to VastTel,' he said.
'Could you tell me what this is all about?' said Musson.
'Hasn't anyone explained? I am sorry,' said Holton-Lacey. 'You are the new CEO of VastTel.'
Musson was, understandably, surprised.
'I hope you don't mind.'
He didn't know what to say.
'You didn't seem to like the way it was being run, so we thought we'd give you a go.'
'Did you write this?' asked Musson, pointing to the document resting on his knee, the pages now covered in tiny hairs.
She smiled and handed a card over to him. 'Annette Choo: hairdressing and embalming'.
'Yes. I thought you needed to be across what was going on.'
'Can this company really be rescued? It looks like it's in a state of total turmoil.'
'Well, see what you can do. I'd like you there as soon as possible. I have plans for the place.'
Holton-Lacey tried not to smile as he said those last few words. Only he — and now Jimi Jones — knew what those plans were. He'd been working on them for some time. If he was going to enact the Redundancy Plan, he wanted to make sure it took all evidence of the VastTel plot with it, so he could start afresh, with a new phone company, even more inefficient than anything that had ever gone before. It seemed expedient to have Musson go the way of everyone else in the company.
'Same time again in a few weeks?' asked the Chinese hairdresser.
'I wouldn't have thought so,' said Holton-Lacey, whispering in her ear, 'unless you do embalming.'
She smiled and handed a card over to him. 'Annette Choo,' it said. Underneath, in a fashionable serif typeface, were the words: 'hairdressing and embalming'.
'I work with a lot of old people,' she explained.
'Well,' said Holton-Lacey, 'this could be a very busy month for you.'
The Incumbent is Phil Dobbie's first novel and these excerpts have been used with his permission. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. To purchase the entire novel in digital format, click here. It is also available in printed format ... for more details click here.