"Damn that Victoria! What the hell is she doing? She's screwing everything up!" My people are used to me grousing and squawking to myself. They know to tune it out so why in Heaven's name has Benton turned around in his chair (his desk is next to mine) and why is he staring at me like that?

"What?" Now my ill temper is directed at him. "What are you looking at me for?"

"Um," he looks embarrassed. "I'm sorry, I just . . . "

I sigh. "My fault, Ben-ee-shore. But that Victoria is just driving me nuts."

Strangely, he doesn't relax and feel better after my apology as he usually does when I snap at him like that.

"Something wrong?" As if he'd tell me. Still I have to make the effort.

He looks sad. "It's just . . . I knew a Victoria once."

"You think it's the same one? Was she in our Minsk office?"

Did I say he looks sad? Try tragic. Barely audibly he says, "She could be in Afghanistan by now."

"Newsflash. We don't have a mission in Afghanistan. We've got Tajikistan. We've got Uzbekistan. We've got . . . ." Then I decide not to be silly at him, poor man. I'll be straight. "It's Victoria in Belarus, the Minsk office. She's got everything all messed up. Imprest fund reports, clearing accounts, nothing of hers makes any sense and I majorly don't have time to straighten her out."

Then, I have a brainstorm.

"Ben-ee-shore, I'm going to have you work with Victoria, have her fax you all her stuff. You're just the man to get her on the right track."

Why is he giving me that look? He doesn't even know Victoria in Minsk. Never mind, I'll do what I can to make him feel more comfortable.

"Tell you what. I'll call Victoria and tell her to give you her full co-operation. OK? I'll tell her to do whatever you say."

If I felt like he looks now, I'd have to commit suicide.

"Let me guess. This other Victoria you once knew, she didn't give you her full co-operation, did she?"

He drops that sad face into his hands. I reach over and pat his shoulder. Back home in Canada he could have me up on sexual harassment charges, but this is Europe.


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