"Oskar!" Andi tried hard to sound pleased to see him, and to an extent she was. However, she would rather have dealt with the work at hand than reassure Oskar about whatever was worrying him now. Her outbox would not get any clearer until she'd determined why the secretary hadn't handled the paperwork.
"Andi." Oskar sidled in, looking a little grey in the face and holding one hand protectively over his stomach. "Andi, I'm sorry to bother you, as I'm sure you're busy. There's been a little accident--"
"You mean Michael? That's not an accident, that's the kind of murder that my brother can get away with. I will sort something out for the family, that kind of thing...."
"Happens all the time these days, Andi. I'm sure you'd never notice because it never occurs to you that anyone could try less than their hardest, but everywhere, people who work are having such accidents. One of the reasons we find it so hard to hire what you call good people is because they're already dying. They fall off ladders, they fall into vats, they fall under trains and they blow themselves up mixing gelignite for the railroads."
"You're being ridiculous!" Andi stared at Oskar who started to sidle back behind the door. "You make it sound like some vast conspiracy, some attempt to stop the very heart of American Manufacturing. My brother might believe this nonsense, Oskar, but do you really expect me to?"
"Not right away," said Oskar so quietly that Andi couldn't hear him. She started to tell him to speak up, but he had closed the door behind him as he left. She stared at it for several seconds, exasperated and infuriated in equal measure, and then sighed. It was madness to think that people would kill off anyone willing to work, anyone willing to make an effort. She could quite see why Oskar would be taken by this theory, it would explain the failure of their recruitment efforts without casting him in a bad light.
Again she paused, staring at the door. Could it be that Oskar was just trying to cover his own back, to excuse his own poor performance? Was he really so certain that she'd fire him if there weren't better staff showing up, being found, and retained? Well, was she so sure that she wouldn't fire him? She wasn't, and she knew it. Friendships were for children and people who'd never grown up or didn't want to go into business. If Oskar couldn't perform then she'd find him another job, somewhere where he didn't have to, but she knew, deep down, that she'd never see him again after that. It would feel too much like betrayal.
She turned the radio on. There was a squat, black bakelite one on her desk, tuned for the news station so that she could get up-to-date information on industries that interested her: steel, engine manufacture, and occasionally legislature. Static squealed briefly, and then resolved itself into a jaunty tune that had an oddly melancholic undertone. Thinking she recognized it she started to whistle along, but then it veered off in a different direction. Surprised, she concentrated on it, but it had ended already with a ringing endorsement for kidney-cleanser.
She'd replaced her secretary and had the new one clear her outbox before she realised why the jingle had sounded familiar. It was, without any doubt in her mind, the fifth advertising jingle that the composer Pietro O'Malley had written.
The only problem she had with that was that Pietro O'Malley had died two days after completing his fourth advertising jingle, which was now famous as the soundtrack to Splosh, the floor cleaner for beleagured housewives.