Mike had got some friends from work to help him with the garden. Since he was their boss, they couldn’t easily refuse him, not without a good excuse. But even so, he was pleased with the turnout. He’d laid on free beer for the afternoon, and his wife Jill had prepared a cold spread.
Pete, Mike’s assistant, was helping with the organisation. He handed round the beers, and divided the volunteers into two squads, one for making the pond, one for the bark chippings. The pond needed digging, and the spoil wheeled down to the end of the garden. Although it wasn’t a huge pond Mike had in mind, it was surprising the amount of earth that needed shifting. Still, Mike reckoned that Ian, Raj, Charlie and Leo, four big strong lads from the warehouse, could get it all done in an afternoon.
Some wives and girlfriends had come along, and their presence gave the afternoon a party atmosphere. There were even a few children running around. Some of the girls who worked in the office had brought their partners to help with the heavy work. Brian was the husband of Brenda, who did some of the admin upstairs, and Stuart, a civil engineer in his late fifties, was married to Maureen, one of the cleaners. Mike knew Stuart quite well. He’d given Mike a lot of help a few years ago when Mike was planning his extension. Stuart knew all the building regulations, and practically designed the extension for Mike, as well as advising him on the planning application.
Mike wasn’t exactly frightened of Stuart. He wouldn’t have said that he was frightened of anybody. As his teenage daughter once put it, rather shockingly: ‘I ain’t scared of no fucker.’ (Not true, in her case, as beneath a streetwise exterior she was terrified of most people.) But Mike did