Dana looked up as Helen came into the lace-attach room.“Everyone to the warehouse,” she said for the second time that day. Only this time Dana thought she sounded strained, tearful almost.“OK, Helen?” she asked, stepping up to her as all the girls began to file down the stairs.Helen, however, just shook her head.“What is it?”But again Helen seemed unable to speak and, spooked, Dana looked round for Shelley.“Something bad has happened.”“Like what?”“I dunno, but Helen looks like she’s going to burst into tears.”Shelley paled.“Has someone died, do you think? Maybe it’s Frank! He leads a terribly unhealthy lifestyle, you know. I’ve never seen a man so devoted to his saturated fats. Why . . .”“Shelley, shh. It’s not Frank. He’s there, look.”As they filed into the warehouse she pointed to Frank, who stood at the far end looking very much alive, if rather pale and hunched.“Carol, then.” Shelley pressed. “Oh, Dana, what if it’s Carol? That would be like my own mother dying!”“Shelley!” Dana nudged furiously at her prattling friend. “We’ll find out soon enough. Look, that thin-faced bloke is going to speak.”Sure enough, the man stepped forward and cleared his throat.“Ladies,” he said, then paused. The factory workers waited, unusually silent, and finally he spoke again. “We have been very impressed by the ingenuity, dedication and resilience of all the workers in this, em, unusual factory. Those are qualities that will, I am sure, stand you in good stead in the tough times ahead.”“What’s he talking about?” Shelley hissed.“Tough times,” Dana murmured as, looking down the solemn line of managers, realisation dawned. “Oh, no!”“What is it?”“They’re closing us down.”“They can’t!”“Betcha they are.”“But my mum says . . .”“Shh, Shelley!”Mr Smythson was holding forth about machine efficiencies and production flow and retail pricing, but no-one was listening. Dana’s words were spreading, rumbling through the crowd louder and louder until Mr Smythson could ignore it no longer.“So,” he concluded rather hastily, “I’m afraid we have to close down Cardill’s.”“You’re right!” Shelley breathed. “How did you know? What is he saying?”“That we don’t make enough money.”“Too right. I barely earn enough to keep me in shoes!”“Not us personally, Shell. The company Cardill’s. We cost more to run than we make selling our goods. Our profit margin is too small.”“What do you know about profit?”Dana flushed and turned away.“Enough to know we’re all out of a job.”The noise in the warehouse was growing now and the three men at the front looked at each other nervously.“Reckon those three need flak jackets, not fancy tailored ones,” Dana commented as a barrage of questions rained down on them.She edged closer, just in time to pull Susie Renshaw back from hitting the smallest of the three with her near-legendary right hook.“That won’t help,” she hissed at her.“Won’t hurt!” Susie shot back.“You’d rather be sacked than made redundant?”Susie grunted at that but stopped struggling. Dana looked for Carol and found her glaring at the men.“You see,” she heard her tell Mr Smythson, “this isn’t some economic game you’re playing from your fancy desks. This is people’s lives my people’s lives.”He put his hands up in mock surrender.“What can I do, Mrs Jenkins? I have my orders.”“As, it seems,” Carol spoke coldly, “do I. You can go now.”She turned away and, catching sight of Dana, smiled tightly. Dana had seen that look before. It was the one Carol had worn for weeks after her husband Eddie’s death, the one that meant she was only just holding it all together. If that, Dana thought, was what this awful news had done for their endlessly capable manager, how on earth would the rest of them cope?