Twenties Girl

Page 19


“Anyway,” I say with more vigor. “Never mind. I’m fine now. Were there any messages?”
“Yes.” Kate reaches for her notebook with a super-efficient manner. “Shireen kept calling all yesterday. She’s going to call you today.”
Shireen is our one piece of good news at L &N Executive Recruitment. We recently placed her as operations director at a software company, Macrosant; in fact, she’s about to start the job next week. She’s probably just calling to thank us.
“Anything else?” I say, just as the phone rings. Kate checks the caller ID and her eyes widen.
“Oh yes, another thing,” she says hurriedly. “Janet from Leonidas Sports called, wanting an update. She said she was going to ring at nine a.m. sharp. This’ll be her.” She meets my panicky eyes. “Do you want me to answer?”
No, I want to hide under the desk.
“Um, yes, you’d better.”
My stomach is bubbling with nerves. Leonidas Sports is our biggest client. They’re a massive sports equipment company with shops all over the UK, and we’ve promised to find them a marketing director.
Rephrase that. Natalie promised to find them a marketing director.
“I’ll just put you through,” Kate is saying in her best PA voice, and a moment later the phone on my desk rings. I glance desperately at Kate, then pick it up.
“Janet!” I exclaim in my most confident tones. “Good to hear from you. I was just about to call.”
“Hi, Lara,” comes Janet Grady’s familiar hoarse voice. “Just phoning for an update. I was hoping to speak to Natalie.”
I’ve never met Janet Grady face-to-face. But in my head she’s about six foot three with a mustache. The first time we ever spoke, she told me the team at Leonidas Sports are all “tough thinkers,” “hard players,” and have an “iron grip” on the market. They sound terrifying.
“Oh right!” I twist the phone cord around my fingers. “Well, unfortunately Natalie’s still… er… poorly.”
This is the story I’ve been spinning ever since Natalie didn’t make it back from Goa. Luckily, you just have to say “She’s been to India,” and everyone launches into their own My Horrendous Traveling Illness story without asking any more questions.
“But we’re making great headway,” I continue. “Really marvelous. We’re working through the long list, and there’s a file of very strong candidates right here on my desk. We’ll be looking at a top-class short list, I can assure you. All tough thinkers.”
“Can you give me any names?”
“Not right now!” My voice jumps in panic. “I’ll fill you in nearer the time. But you’ll be very impressed!”
“OK, Lara.” Janet is one of those women who never waste time on small talk. “Well, as long as you’re on top of it. Best to Natalie. Good-bye.”
I replace the receiver and meet Kate’s eyes, my heart thumping. “Remind me, who do we have as possibles for Leonidas Sports?”
“The guy with the three-year gap in his résumé,” says Kate. “And the weirdo with the dandruff. And… the kleptomaniac woman.”
I wait for her to continue. She gives a tiny apologetic shrug.
“That’s all ?”
“Paul Richards pulled out yesterday,” she says anxiously. “He’s been offered a position at some American company. Here’s the list.” She hands me the sheet of paper and I stare at the three names in total despair. They’re all no-hopers. We can’t send this list in.
God, headhunting is hard. I had no idea. Before we started up the company, Natalie always made it seem so exciting. She talked about the thrill of the chase, “strategic hiring” and “up-skilling” and “the tap on the shoulder.” We used to meet every few weeks for a drink, and she was full of such amazing stories about her work, I couldn’t help feeling envious. Writing promotional website copy for a car manufacturer seemed really dull in comparison. Plus there were rumors we were going to have big layoffs. So when Natalie suggested a start-up, I jumped at the chance.
The truth is, I’ve always been a bit in awe of Natalie. She’s so glossy and confident. Even when we were at school, she always had the latest slang and could blag us into pubs. And when we first started off the company, it all worked brilliantly. She brought in some big bits of business for us at once and was constantly out networking. I was writing our website and supposedly learning all the tricks from her. It was all going in the right direction. Until she disappeared and I realized I hadn’t actually learned any tricks at all.