The return of James Pond – the mystery of the CIPS dinner

M sat behind her desk in a dingy yet somehow intimidating office, somewhere in the bowels of an unmarked Westminster  office block.  She looked up as someone approached.

‘Come in James’, she said.  ‘Agent Pond, I believe you familiar with the world of purchasing’?

‘Yes,  I am, I even have a license to bill – you may know the story...’

‘Yes, very good, no time for that ’ interrupted M.  ‘We have a job for you. Have you heard of this organisation’? She clicked her mouse.

A picture of a country house appeared on the wall behind her desk.

‘This is the HQ of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply. CIPS, as it is known to some. It is a shadowy organisation, not much is known about it, although we believe most of what it calls its ‘members’ are Chinese. And we’re talking tens of thousands of people’.

‘Wow’, exclaimed Pond. ‘Scary’.

‘Exactly. And we believe they are planning something. Look at this’.

A newspaper cutting appeared on the screen. “Institute of Purchasing to change name to Institute of Procurement” it said.

‘We believe this is a front  - we can't believe this Institute would go to all this trouble for such a seemingly minor change – there must be more to it than that’.

‘You don’t mean...’

‘No, I don’t mean anything. We just don’t know. But this could be... the big one. So we need you to infiltrate the annual dinner of this organisation, this week in London. It could be dangerous -  we don't know what they are capable of. That means you'll need help – meet Agent X’.

A short, undistinguished man slipped quietly into the room.

‘He may not look it, but he is the most deadly hand-to-hand combat man on the Organisation’s books. You may need him at the dinner,’ said M.

‘Hello’ said X. ‘Do you like Beyonce'?

M sighed.  ‘OK, so he’s not the brightest agent on our books, but that shouldn’t be a problem mixing in these circles’.

‘That's fine’, said Pond, as X stared vacantly at a bookcase.  ‘But we can't just turn up and wander into this dinner.’

‘We have a plan’, smiled M.  ‘Look at these’.  She clicked her mouse and two head shots appeared on the wall.

Pond flinched. ‘Good heavens’, he cried, visibly shaken.  ‘Are they the evil masterminds behind the Murmansk massacre’?

‘No. That is two Past Presidents of CIPS – known as Peter and David Smith. There are rumours they are brothers, originally brought up by crypto-Leninist nomads in Mongolia and planted as sleeper agents in the UK during the 1960s, but we’ve never proved that.  They could just be procurement managers.  But anyway, you and X are going to the dinner disguised as the Smiths’.

‘But won’t they be there’?

‘No, we’ve made sure that none of the corporate sponsors and hosts invited them - you know we have our methods. And there is no way two senior procurement people would pay for their own tickets’, laughed M.

‘Don’t want to be a Smith. Can’t I go as this Past President’?

Agent X was pointing to a copy of a crumpled Supply Management magazine he had extracted from his trouser pocket.

‘No, you can’t go as Paula Gildert’, replied M.  ‘We’ve had this conversation about dressing up as a women before, haven’t we?  Only when the situation demands, X, only when the situation demands’.

Pond frowned. ‘But what if people ask us questions about Purchasing? Won’t they spot we’re fakes’?

‘We've prepared a few phrases for you to use. Just say this if you get into conversation’.

M pressed the mouse again and words appeared on the wall.

"The professional implementation of strategic sourcing, CatMan and systemic automation of mundane P2P processes has driven competitive advantage effects in major corporations for the last 20 years highlighting the professionalization of  supply management globally".

‘Just say that whenever things get a little hot’.

‘I’ll never remember that’!  wailed X.

‘No, so this is yours’. New words appeared.

"Can I buy you a drink, mate"?

‘That should be more than enough to keep people happy. Let’s face it, by the time they sit down to eat,  most of the guests are drunk enough they're not sure which dinner they’re at.  Oh, one other thing - the after dinner speaker  is Cherie Blair, the wife of the ex Prime Minister of the UK’.

Pond gasped. ‘So she must be mixed up with this somehow -  I mean, why would she speak at an event like this? There must be an ulterior motive’!

‘Exactly. Now, let’s have you back here tomorrow at 12 noon. It is going to take several hours to get the prosthetics and ageing make-up right’.

‘’Jane Gibbs’?  Said X hopefully. ‘Shirley Cooper’?

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Voices (3)

  1. Jason Busch:

    Agent Ethan Punt will be infiltrating the annual ISM conference on this side of the pond … stay tuned. This comment will self destruct in …

  2. Dave Mischief:

    Are we allowed to guess which of the Smith’s is being impersonated by the not very bright, short, undistinguished, cross-dressing Agent X?

    1. Peter Smith:

      That is classified information I am afraid that the Organisation cannot release unless you have the appropriate (DV level) security clearance. To gain that accreditation, you are required to send me all your banking details, PIN numbers etc. Otherwise you will have to draw your own conclusions…!

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