A modern re-telling of the Old Testament book of Esther.
Originally published as a short series, I am reprising my modern re-telling of Esther’s story as a single post, in a week in which my church is reading from the book of Esther.
Chapter 1: Vash Deposed.
The dinner seemed to be going well. The guests were in a good mood, the food being enjoyed and the wine flowed freely. The only person who didn’t seem to be enjoying the company’s 10th anniversary celebration, was the president and, as of the anniversary, non executive director, Ceres King.
Vash, Ceres King’s wife was hosting her own party that same evening, much to her husband’s annoyance. He’d wanted her at the company celebration to display a united front to his guests.
Amongst Vash’s guests, as well as her own friends and acquaintances, were wives of some of the attendees to her husband’s company’s anniversary celebration. Vash was part owner and a director of Kings Property Enterprises, though her husband never mentioned this to his colleagues and business associates.
Ceres already considered his wife’s non attendance at the company ‘s event reflected badly on himself and the company. His irritation growing to annoyance by the time dinner was served, and anger as the evening progressed and his intake of wine increased.
Next morning still angry, not helped by a hangover with a splitting headache, he was in the company solicitor’s office demanding to know what he could do about, what he considered ,his wife’s poor behaviour. Her failure to accompany him, he thought, reflected badly on the company in front of investors and shareholders.
Legally, the solicitor informed Ceres King, he could remove his wife’s directorship, though this would need to be done with some care and a suitable pretext, since Vash was a shareholder in the company. However, the lawyer reminded Ceres, the company articles would require him to appoint a new director in Vash’s place.
Before the end of the day in which he had spoken with the solicitor, Ceres kIng had the personnel department drafting a letter to be circulated to some of the main executive recruitment and headhunting agencies.
Chapter 2: Esther supplants Vash.
When applications and referrals began to arrive from the recruitment agencies to fill Vash’s position, Ceres King took little interest to begin with, content to leave matters in the hands of his personnel department now that his initial irritation with Vash had subsided, at least until a shortlist could be put to him.
When the shortlist of potential candidates had been selected, they were all invited to a residential selection process which would culminate in selection of a single individual to fill the vacant directorship. Selection would take place at a country house hotel, owned by Ceres King’s friend Thomas Heggerty, hired for the purpose. The candidates would be allowed the full use of facilities at the hotel including sports, leisure and beauty treatments during their stay.
Matt Mortlake or Morti as he was often called, an under manager in King’s business empire, thought that the position in Ceres King’s company might be suitable for his cousin Esther, who had recently finished a business studies degree. He had raised her after the death of her parents, a result of a road accident.
Esther wasn’t on the shortlist of candidates, nevertheless Morti persuaded King’s personnel manager to let her fill the place of a candidate who had failed to arrive for the selection process. The personnel manager wasn’t hard to persuade. Esther charmed him as she seemed able to charm everyone with her wit and beauty.
When Ceres King met with the candidates for the directorship, like everyone else he was charmed by Esther. He immediately wanted to hire her but for the sake of appearances continued to interview the remaining shortlisted candidates. A week later, Esther was summoned by Ceres King and formally offered the position his wife had previously held.
While Ceres King had been interviewing the candidates for the position in his company, Esther’s cousin Morti had chanced to overhear a conversation between two high officials of the company. Bingham and Taplin were apparently plotting to depose Ceres King from the presidency of the company he had founded.
Morti told his cousin Esther of what he had heard and she in turn informed Ceres King. King immediately sacked Bingham and Taplin without either severance pay or references.
One of Ceres King’s business advisors, Adrian Hammand, seemed to have King’s ear more than other directors and company officials. Most directors, and other officials within King’s company deferred to Hammand, usually with the hope of ingratiating themselves through Hammand with Ceres King. Matt Mortlake, unlike the other directors and staff did not try to curry favour either himself or vicariously through Haman.
When Matt Mortlake’s refusal to accede to Hammand’s views on business came to his ears, Haman set about plotting to get Mortlake sacked. Hammand wanted not only rid of Mortlake but also members of the trade union, of which Mortlake though not a member but was known to listen to the union officials. Haman would dress his plan as efficiency and money-saving measures to improve the company balance sheet.
Laying out his idea before Ceres King, Hammand didn’t find it hard to secure King’s approval to the prospect of boosting profits and efficiency. Keeping the details between himself and King, even excluding the other directors, Haman had letters prepared to all the regional managers. They were to find excuses, under the guise of rationalisation within the company, to make redundant all union members. Such a move would destroy Mortlake’s support within the company, effectively forcing him out.
Matt Mortlake had been escorted off of company premises and banned from re-entering. He stood at the company gates in protest at the sacking, under the guise of redundancy for efficiency, of all the known union members in Ceres King’s company.
Officially no one in the company was allowed to communicate with Mortlake, though he did manage to get a message through to Esther. When she heard that Matt Mortlake, cousin Morti, was at the gates, she asked her assistant Heather to go and talk to him and find out what had happened. Esther couldn’t go herself without risking it being discovered that she was his cousin.
When Heather returned she explained to Esther everything her cousin Morti had passed on. Heather told Esther how Hammand was using the excuse of efficiency savings and an increase in company profits as an excuse to terminate the employment of workers in the company who were members of the union. Cousin Mortlake wanted Esther to go and talk with Ceres King, to find a way of keeping the employees.
Esther sent a message back to her cousin, that she would talk with Ceres King when she could, and when he seemed less pre-occupied with Hammand’s ideas. It was hard to get past Hammand to speak with King. Hammand had managed to get King’s secretary dismissed under false accusations and supplant her with his own choice.
When he received Esther’s reply, Mortlake reminded her that her own position would not be safe within the company. Sooner or later it was bound to be discovered that they were related. ‘I will find a way to see King.’ Esther sent her reply. In the mean time, you must contact all the dismissed union members and prepare them.
After Esther received cousin Morti’s message, she contrived a way to speak with Ceres King. It wouldn’t be easy, with Hammand’s coconspirator in place as King’s secretary. Fortunately the floor on which King’s personal office was located was a little old fashioned. King’s secretary was in an anteroom to King’s own office, which did not afford a good view of the rest of the floor.
Esther found excuse after excuse to visit the floor outside King’s office. On one of her visits three days later, Esther was able to catch King’s eye as he came out of the lift to go to his office. Under the pretext of getting to know both King and the company policy and ethos better, Esther invited King to drinks that evening, suggesting that he might like to bring Hammand along too.
Whilst chatting over the drinks later, Esther tentatively hinted that she might have some ideas that would benefit the company. She invited King and Hammand again the following evening to a dinner party she was giving, suggesting she would be able to tell them more after a little more time to fill out some details.
Hammand seemed pleased that he’d been invited, with Ceres King, to drinks and then dinner with Esther. His good mood was short lived when as he left the company that evening for home, he spotted Matt Mortlake by the company entrance.
Hammand was back in a better mood later that evening, when he boasted to his family about Esther’s invitation, that he was the only person in addition to Ceres King who had been invited. Though he still wasn’t back to his usual composure knowing Mortlake was still around.
Together with his wife and family, Hammand spent the rest of the evening plotting how to get rid of Mortlake once and for all.
Sometimes at night when Ceres King couldn’t sleep, he would read over old company records. On one particular night, flicking through some, so he thought at the time, inconsequential papers, King discovered that Matt Mortlake had foiled a plot to unseat King from his position as company chairman.
The next morning, now doubting that Mortlake should have been banished from the company, King was wondering how he might make amends for the apparent mistake of Mortlake’s exclusion. ‘Have you any thoughts’, King asked Hammand, ‘how we might reward someone’s loyalty and exceptional service?’
Hammand could not know then what King had discovered in the old company documents, nor would his ego let him suppose King intended to reward anyone but himself. ‘A promotion perhaps’, suggested Hammand ‘maybe a better car and a bonus added to this year’s salary.’
‘Go and arrange the car Hammand.’ King instructed, ‘A premium brand. Mercedes perhaps. I’ll have the company secretary prepare the remainder of the reward package. ‘There’ll be a dinner too, at which to give the presentation. Perhaps you’d do the presentation to Mortlake yourself ,now he’s been reinstated.’ ‘Mortlake!’ stammered Hammand, taken aback. Ye …s, of course I’ll see to it.
After Hammand’s unexpected encounter with King, he rushed home to tell his wife what had happened. While he was still explaining a taxi arranged by King arrived, to take Hammand to the dinner that had been arranged.
On the night of Esther’s invitation of Ceres King to dinner. Esther made sure there was plenty of wine for her guests. King, even after slightly too much to drink was no fool, ‘Why have you invited me here,’ he asked Esther. ‘What is it you want to ask me, or maybe ask of me?’
Sir, I want you to keep myself and the union members on in your companies. They are good, skilled workers. Making them redundant might save the company money in the short term, but you will also lose skills that are hard to replace. You will need to recruit and train new artisans. the plans are flawed.
‘Who planned this?’ ‘Hammand” replied Esther to King. ‘He plotted to get rid of Mortlake and improve his own standing and power in the company.’ Angry, Ceres King stalked out of the dining room and into the garden considering what to do about Hammand.
When King returned to the dining room, he walked in on Hammand pleading with Esther. But when Hammand saw King’s expression on his return, Hammand knew that King had already decided his fate, no matter what Esther said.
Drawing his mobile phone from his pocket, deliberately switching it to speaker so that Hammand could hear the call King phoned the company security officer. ‘Harper, this is Ceres King. Sorry to call you so late. I want you to ensure that Hammand is only allowed on company premises to collect his own personal belongings.’ King continued, ‘He is to be escorted by one of your officers at all times until he leaves the premises, after which he will not be allowed back in for any reason.’ I’ll take care of it sir.’ replied Harper.
‘It would be unwise for you to request a reference, Hammand.’ King told him with an icy calm edge to his voice. ‘And if your name should appear on any other board of directors.’ King left the threat hanging in the air as Hammand turned to leave.
With Hammand in disgrace and sacked from the company, Esther, to her surprise, was offered by Ceres King Hammand’s former seat on on the board. During the meeting for her appointment, Esther took the opportunity of revealing to King her family relationship to Mortlake, having decided it best not to keep any more secrets.
Mortlake, under King’s instruction, was re-instated into the company. His former position had already been filled, by a good man that there was no reason to remove. Mortlake was therefore appointed to Esther’s former position, now that she had taken Hammand’s seat in the company’s boardroom.
In her new seat of authority, Esther once again raised with Ceres King the matter of the dismissal of union members and affiliates from the company. ‘You have authority in that matter.’ King informed Esther, ‘You and Mortlake can draft a letter to all the appropriate managers in the company rescinding redundancy notices. Send it letter on my behalf. That way there can be no argument about it or managers who will question it.
With union members reprieved or reinstated, there was a general air of celebration in many of the company’s offices and factories. There was also a degree of concern by those employees who had not shown support for the union members. Some viewed it as a chance to improve their own prospects within Ceres King’s company. There was also a considerable number of new recruits to the union, as a result of Ceres Kings change of heart and dismissal of Hammand.
Chapters 9 & 10
Now that the union members of the workforce were reinstated in Ceres King’s industrial empire, and Matt Mortlake was back in a position of authority, production began to return to normal. Trust and cordial relations with the workforce was slowly being rebuilt, but not all the employees were happy.
More workers signed up to join the union. Those that didn’t started to find it harder and harder to do the jobs Ceres King employed them to do. Some employees who had not shown any degree of support for the dismissed, albeit now reinstated, union members were almost invariably subjected to non-cooperation, some sent to coventry. Some resigned.
A little later, it was discovered that Hammand wasn’t the only member of his family working in Ceres King’s company. Hammand’s sons, his brother and nephews were also employed. Little by little Hammand had been manipulating and and bribing various managers and other influential employees, to advance his relatives within the company. They were all offered the chance to resign, with a reference but without a severance package, or be sacked. Without exception they resigned.
There were celebrations by the union members that they all had jobs again. As a gesture of conciliation and good will Mortlake and Esther, with Ceres King’s agreement, arranged from company finances to share the cost for the celebrations. In future years, on the same day so that events would not be forgotten and no one might be excluded from the company provided they could do their job, the celebration became a company tradition.