"Excellent," the new Boss burbles as the PFY updates the 'days since last workplace accident' sign (put there since the last IT decimation). "Ten days since the last accident."
"I think you'll find that's a binary number," the PFY says.
"Still... 10 days," the Boss counters to much rolling of eyes.
"And that's only because we don't count disappearances as accidents," I add.
"Or people who don't work here."
"Or disappearances of people who don't work here."
"So what are you keeping track of this for – if that's not a silly question?"
"Oh, that's not a silly question!" I say. "A silly question is, 'Why don't the MP3 files I email myself from home turn up in my inbox?'"
"Or, 'Why aren't you adhering to the purchasing policy for blank media which insists on buying the cheapest CDs money can buy?'" the PFY adds.
"Or, 'Why's my desk on fire?'"
"So that sign doesn't take into account people that don't work here?"
"Correct," the PFY says. "Otherwise we'd have to take into account everyone who tripped on the pavement outside, entered the building by mistake thinking it was the pub across the road (after several drinks), etc."
"Not to mention Inland Revenue people," I add.
"True," the PFY says.
"Hmmm?" the Boss asks.
"Inland Revenue people – they disappear on or around the premises on occasion. It's like the Bermuda Triangle for them around here."
"And they're disappearing because... you're evading your taxes?" the Boss gasps, putting two and two together and coming up with 22.
"Of course not!" the PFY blurts. "I don't pay taxes!"
“Of course you do!”
"No he doesn't," I say. "My assistant is contracted to the company out of an exceptionally tiny contracting agency at an overseas location with very lenient tax laws. Not only that, he managed to rent accommodation in the embassies of a couple of African nations who will be exceedingly wealthy if the price of dirt ever follows the oil trend. Meantime, however, my assistant is their non-UK-tax-resident paying-guest."
"I... And what about you?" the Boss asks, looking to me.
"As a registered charity I'm not really required to pay that much tax either – so no financial nightmares waiting for me in the closet either."
"A registered charity?"
"Don't ask," the PFY cautions, not wanting to hear once more the heartrending tales of women who've crossed the line to depravity..."
"So, if it's not you two... then who's getting rid of all the Revenue people?"
"No one knows," the PFY says. "We've had one of their cars in the basement for a couple of years now and there's a whole stack of briefcases in security's offices."
"And no one's tried to contact Revenue about it?"
"I think it's a case of not wanting to draw attention to yourself," the PFY says. "Almost all the security staff are moonlighting other jobs, half senior management have some undisclosed 'consultancy' role somewhere that keeps them in holidays, and all but one of the cleaning staff are under the table."
"And not just cleaning there," I add for the Boss' benefit.
"So what you're actually saying is that if Inland Revenue were to cast their gaze over the company..."
"...The prison sentences would look like a Terry Waite package holiday..."
"Well, from what I've heard about you I'm surprised you've not availed yourself of one of the incentives that Revenue have to offer from time to time," the Boss mumbles thoughtfully. "You could have earnt some kudos - sometimes they even offer cash!"
From the expression on the Boss' face I can see that his thoughts are moving from the theoretical to the practical...
"No, like I said - half the company is trying something on. If one of us them went down they'd take others down with them and the whole place would go down the gurgler. Instead, however, we'll just sit astride this gravy train and see where it takes us."
"Yes, yes, I suppose you're right – don't want to rock the boat as the new guy." the Boss nods.
"I smell a derailment," I say to the PFY. "Time to keep an eye on him."
"Why?" the PFY says. "I'm watertight – and your charity thing seems to have some prima facie semblance of legitimacy."
"Like I said, when one goes down, they'll all go down. Before you know it someone will be questioning your non-resident status and suggesting that I don't have the best interest of those stringfellows women at heart. Worse still, I have a sneaky suspicion that this isn't going to be able to wait till he trips into the path of an oncoming taxi..."
"What are we going to do?" the PFY whines, starting to get agitated.
"I don't know!" I snap. "Security are watching us like hawks since the last decimation of IT staff, so I don't want to risk a simple electrocution or stairwell fall. WE NEED A PLAN..."
...Five minutes later...
"I DON'T HAVE A PLAN!!!" the PFY sniffs.
"WE NEED TO THIN..." I say, stopping as the CEO enters Mission Control, and flips the chart from 10 to 00.
"I'm terribly sorry to be the bearer of bad news," he says. "But I'm afraid your manager's had a nasty accident. He was just now telling me about some apparent tax dodginess when he accidentally tripped and wrapped my phone cord around his neck several times. I tried to get to him but must have tripped as well and knocked myself out. Next thing I knew security was reviving me to find that he somehow managed to end up with his head in the fish tank..."
"Terrible business," I say. "Which just goes to show that it's not just cellphones we should be afraid of. You'll be needing some alcohol wipes then?"
"Oh, just to wipe the phone cord and fish tank down with – wouldn't want any of those forensic people catching security's germs off them."
"Yes... Yes... Good point. Uh... give us a couple, I might do my desk and the visitor's chair at the same time."
So at least we didn't have to do EVERYTHING ourselves...