SILHOUETTES - Tenth instalment - Chapters twenty-one, twenty-two, and twenty-three. For more information on this novel, click Here. Next instalment coming next week.
French toast was one of the few things he made well, and he made it with gusto, plenty of eggs, that was the secret, and unskimmed milk, none of that new interfered with stuff for intolerant lactates. He made a full eight slices before sitting down to eat. Everything was going to be alright, a bit of panic earlier, but just goes to show the benefits of keeping calm. He had distracted himself by filling out his report and nipping out to mail it at the post box at the end of the street. This report had been quite lengthy, details were important, and although it was painful stating how he had lost his subject temporarily, he knew nothing but the facts would do, and had ended with a promise of more vigilance and dedication from now on, he was sure the subject was still not aware of him and it would not happen again. Eight pages of A4 had to be crammed into the small reply paid envelope, surreptitiously addressed to a car insurance company, so he had to reinforce the gum seal with sellotape to ensure it would arrive intact, or even worse, opened to view. His employers no doubt had people in the Post Office though, in case such events occurred. He had never heard of any discoveries of such secrets being uncovered by some random member of the public, but better to negate the possibility by applying a little tape.
Although he had enquired about the acquisition of Suzi, and was almost one-hundred per-cent sure this had been fully authorised, he couldn't for the life of him actually remember off-hand if it was, in actual fact. Obviously it wasn't something he had done on a whim, so he must have been given the go ahead. Sometimes he did forget stuff though, and other times, it was all so blindingly clear.
'His was not to reason why,
His was just to do or die',
This was the instruction from Tennyson. In other words, don't think, just do. They were the words that always came to him whenever he began to have doubts. All his life he had been told to think for himself, and most of his time on this Earth had been miserable due to that maxim. It was far easier and less complicated by far if he just did as he was ordered and left the thinking and the consequences to others. Thinking for himself only ever got him into trouble. His parents were responsible, at least initially. They were forever at him when he was young to work things out for himself, then more of that same stuff at school by teachers who should know their place was to instruct kids on what should be done, not have them all in a tizzy unsure what the right or wrong answer was. Was it any surprise the education system was a mess? It was no wonder he had a bit of a setback? They blamed it on ill-health, of the mind, they blamed it on puberty, they even blamed it on his parents, and he supposed they did get the wrong end of the stick when he was born. They tried hard, he knew, and perhaps they even did love him. Well, perhaps at first. His mother hated him towards the end though, and it wasn't such a surprise when one day he caught her with his teacher. He was subsequently informed what a hindrance she was to him, and she had to go.
In the course of a week, he lost both his parents to a house fire, was sexually molested for the first time, in a temporary care home, and then transported halfway across the country, from his birth home of Dumfries, to the home of his elderly uncle Shamus in Govanhill, Glasgow. For a boy of twelve this was a serious upheaval of life, and when he thought back, he did sometimes wonder if he might have been better staying with his parents till he was older. He did regret more than he would ever admit, that they died in such a fashion. Especially his father, it was a terrible accident for him. But such was life, and death, and ultimately, it didn't really matter now, it was all in the past. Life goes on, no need to panic.
He finished the French toast and switched on the television for the ten o'clock news. There was a political debate on about the Scottish independence referendum. Alex Salmond, the Scottish First Minister, was outnumbered three to one, but was holding his own in the debate, despite the pro-union bias of the mediator, some low-punching mutterer favoured by the BBC, who wouldn't allow a straight answer to a straight question, without interrupting the flow, just as the First Minister of Scotland was getting to the salient point. Simon hoped the Scots got independence, but it was irrelevant to him, he wouldn't vote one way or another, his was a higher calling, his was a planet wide conspiracy war, as opposed to a local skirmish of national political views, which may or may not benefit a small part of the human race. His was about saving the whole of mankind from the aliens.
The debate ended with a straw poll of the Edinburgh audience which the mediator reluctantly conceded was around two to one in favour of independence. The news followed, and he patiently flipped and sparked his Zippo lighter, almost involuntarily, while it droned on about topical international affairs, till the local news began. The shock hit him like an iron bar when he saw the image of himself, grainy, black and white, poor resolution, but still his face, looking back at him from the television screen. He dropped his lighter.
Oswalk watched herself on the TV in her office, Hartless sitting across from her with his mucky feet on her fucking desk.
'...like to stress we're only looking for this gentleman as he may have witnessed events which may have a bearing...'
Her voice was kind of droning on camera, and she spoke a bit too quickly, thought Hartless, though he would never tell her such. They had decided to put the mug shot on the local TV in the hope of finding the bastard quickly.
Due to the fucking crime wave that seemed to be keeping everyone who hadn't the sense to keep their head down busy, Oswalk and he had been landed with this when some plod got excited about a spill of goo. The plod's sergeant passed his enthusiasm up the chain till Chief Inspector Lang got to hear about it, and they were nominated to go and check what all the fuss was about. They thought at first it was a straight forward mugging of a pensioner, but when they had got to the scene, it was clear something was far amiss there. Oswalk was of the same mind. Forensics were called, there was a smell of death in the substance found all over the dog, the pavement, and splattered over the old man who, with no consideration of others, took a fucking heart attack just as they were hoping to question him. He was taken away to be pampered in hospital, but with the information received from witnesses it was clear it was not a mugging, but someone in the process of dumping something in the river being disturbed in the act. A boat team was summoned and they recovered the coffee tin. This was taken away for analysis. There was no one willing to take a guess on the substance the tin had contained, but it wasn't normal, therefore, thought Hartless, it probably wasn't legal.
It was holding them back from the main enquiry though, which was the disappearance of the student Suzi Tanner, so they requested the presence of a TV crew at HQ, and Oswalk made a brief comment in front of camera. The crew were given some CCTV stills of the man wanted to assist them with enquiries, to add to the film they would edit and screen on the local news bulletins. They had been lucky with the footage, the bastard had run right past a camera aimed down the very street, and luckily it was in working order and recording merrily back to the CCTV Security Suite at HQ.
The phone was answered within two rings.
'Tony,' said a dull monotone, 'Everwatch Security.'
'Er,' said Ben nervously, 'My name is Ben Frisk. A friend mentioned you were looking for staff and gave me your number.' Then Ben remembered he was told on no account to mention where he had got the number from. Dave had insisted he would not get the job if he did.
'How soon can you start?' asked the monotone.
'Tomorrow?' asked Ben.
'Great, meet me outside the old Telcomcal offices on Grimeforth street tomorrow morning at oh-eight-hundred, understand?'
'Yes' mumbled Ben, before he had worked out eight in the morning, tomorrow. 'Er, what about an interview?'
'I'll give you one tomorrow when you sign the forms. Bring a lunch, you'll be working till eighteen-hundred, understand?'
'Ok, eight tomorrow, bring a lunch.'
'You know where Grimeforth Street is?'
'Yes, know it well,' said Ben, looking out the window at the very street.
'Ok, see you then,' the monotone rung off.
Well, that was painless, mused Ben, thought it was hard to get a job these days, he smiled to himself. The guy didn't even ask for his work history.
At that exact moment, a uniformed man walked up the steps and entered the reception of the office block across the road from the pub Ben was sitting in. A few minutes later Tony walked out, turned left, and stomped heavily down to where he had his car parked, whistling softly, thinking how lucky it was to have one numbnuts replaced with another without having to dip into the company funds to advertise. He hoped the idiot tomorrow morning would be the same size and build as the idiot who left, save the company on a uniform as well.
Ben decided he could have another few celebratory pints before heading back to the flat. He would buy some biscuits on the way. Good news always went down well with biscuits.
Next instalment coming soon...
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