To 'Auntie Lucy,
Woman Unlimited Magazine,
Dear Auntie Lucy,
My friend died a few days ago.
Perhaps I should explain that Im a chemist with the research
department of the Southern Geochemical Corporation at South Killingholme. A lot
of the work I do is highly confidential. James McNeill, my team leader, took me
and a couple of colleagues to visit Colona Chemicals, a foreign company. The
aim was to negotiate an exchange of information that could be mutually
While we were there, we were given a guided tour of their laboratories by
Johann Querkopf, one of their deputy directors. We spent quite a while in the
one in which our interest was greatest. We were a little concerned about a part
of the set-up they had there, to be honest. Wed already been through that
stage and hit some problems but managed to work them out. We explained this to
Johann, but he didnt seem to be at all worried.
We made a second visit the following day and noticed with dismay that our
advice had not been acted upon. Donovan Jardine, one of my colleagues, stayed
behind to chat with one of the researchers as they were running their pilot
It was then that he noticed a crucial design flaw in their equipment. He
also realized that, at that temperature and pressure, and with such high
concentrations of those particular chemicals, there was the real possibility of
a catastrophic explosion. He gave a warning but was ignored. It was rapidly
becoming critical. Without giving a thought to his own safety, he leapt into
the breach. The explosion was averted but the ensuing chemical leak did
irreparable damage to his lungs. He was rushed to a local hospital, but died
several hours later.
While we were at that hospital, watching Donovan slowly dying, McNeill
received a call on his mobile. We were all horrified to learn that that the
Director of Colona Chemicals had already contacted Gordon Hamilton, our M.D.,
complaining that Donny had sabotaged their most advanced system, and
threatening to sue. McNeill had a flaming row with Hamilton, who, on the
instructions of our parent company, was going to fax a letter of abject
apology, etc., etc., as we really needed the technology they had to offer.
Knowing the truth behind the 'sabotage, McNeill hotfooted it back to
Colona Chemicals. He demanded to see Herr Querkopf and gave him a right royal
rollicking not just about not telling the truth but actually collaborating in
the cover-up of their own incompetence!
Johann whinged about not having any choice because everyone else told the
'official story, but surely his word must count for something? I mean,
hes a deputy director, for crying out loud. Not that it made that much
difference. Donny died anyway. I think James felt a lot better for trying to
clear his name, and making it crystal clear to Querkopf that we were on to
Whatever he said, it must have hit a nerve with Querkopf, because a couple
of days later - the day before the funeral in fact - he came over to see
Hamilton. Hed stolen the software for the technology we wanted, and made
the Southern Geochemical Corporation a present of it by way of recompense. And
he gave Hamilton an oily smirk as if he expected him to be grateful. Like it
would somehow make up for Donnys death? My palm itched to slap him.
I cannot figure this guy out. He ignored our warnings, which resulted in the
death of one of my dearest friends. Then he tried to cover up Colonas
negligence by blackening the name of our friend. After a chewing-out from
James, he comes hopping across the North Sea with a 'gift of stolen
software, for which he expects to be praised, and now hes wanting to work
with us! Whats going to happen when Colona Chemicals put two and two
together and work out that their missing deputy director and the man -
criminal! - who stole their property are one and the same? And it isnt
going to take an Einstein to realize whos got their property when
weve incorporated their technology...
To crown it all, the people right at the very top of Southern Geochemical
Corporation actually like what hes done and are insisting
we employ him in Donnys position, as its now vacant. Querkopf
doesnt even work in the same field as Donny, and apart from the
breakthrough stuff he brought with him, Colona are way behind us
technologically. We have some excellent people of our own whove been
after promotion for long enough.
What am I to do, Auntie Lucy? I love my job and I dont want to leave
it, but I dont want to play nursemaid to this manifestly untrustworthy
guy who not only didnt have the balls to tell the truth, but went along
with destroying our friends reputation. He also smiles far too much,
which seriously gives me the creeps. Help!