SILHOUETTES - Eighteenth instalment - Chapter thirty-four and thirty-five. For more information on this novel, click Here.
Although he should be thinking positive about the job, as he approached his new place of work on Grimeforth Street, nerves began to eat at him. Too many days on the booze, he recognized the signs and held out a hand to see if he could keep it passably steady. The building looked massive, but he had been told it was just a caretaker position, a watchman, he would not be interacting with anyone, the building was closed for business at the moment. That suited Ben, should ease him into the job gently, no one to bother with except himself.
A large man in a wrinkled suit was pacing up and down the glass front of the building before a double entry door. He carried a briefcase and was smoking. Ben wondered if he should have worn a suit or something less casual, but as he began up the small flight of stairs to the door the large man turned.
'You the new guy, Ben Frisk?' he asked.
'Ok, c'mon,' the man opened and held a door for him to pass through. 'The wee office on the right,' he pointed.
They both entered the office, a desk, two chairs, a kettle on a windowsill, and a microwave on a low table next to a filing cabinet. A combined phone and fax machine was on the desk along with a couple of hardback notebooks, one titled 'Daily Action Log', and the other titled 'Daily Occurrence Log', there was also some gizmo plugged into a charger at the back of the desk. On one of the chairs was a large wrapped bundle. Through the clear plastic cellophane, Ben noted this was a uniform.
'I'm Tony, Tony Smithe with an e. I'm your Area Manager and contact for everything.'
'Anything you need, any problems you run into, give me a bell, number one on the phone goes straight through to HQ.'
Ben nodded again.
'Bit of paperwork here,' Tony delved into his briefcase and pulled some forms out. 'Job Application form, terms and conditions of employment, wages info, form for the bank transfer of pay, etc. Sign the first and second forms at the bottom of the page just now, you can fill in the others during the course of the day and fax them over this afternoon, we'll send back a copy for your own records.'
Ben picked a pen from a desk tidy and signed where required.
'Any questions just now?' said Tony.
'Er, what do I do?' asked Ben.
'Well, nothing much,' Tony laughed half-heartedly. 'Uniform there, it should fit, last guy was the same size as you, more or less. You've got to wear it when on duty, legal requirement and job requirement.'
'What's that?' Ben pointed to the gizmo on the charger.
'Ah, on every floor at the end of the corridor from the stairwell is a magnetic strip. You use this.' Tony pulled a rectangular plastic rod from the charger. 'Run it along the strip, it will give out a bleep to show it registered. When you go around the building take that with you, run it down every strip, and it proves you've been active and checked out the building. Do this every couple of hours and that keeps everyone happy.'
'Is that it?' Ben asked.
'Are you a reader, Ben? This is the kind of job for someone who likes reading.'
'I'll bring some books tomorrow.'
'Good lad, now I've got to go, Tracy at the office will fax over a work rota and such sometime today. Pay's monthly, so end of this month you'll get half a month's wage, depends on hours worked of course.'
'What's the rate?'
'Minimum, I'm afraid, £5.70 an hour, but I have a bit of leeway, if you last and are punctual and reliable, I can maybe negotiate a bit more after a period of time.'
With that Tony had his briefcase closed up and was heading out the door. When he got to the main entrance he turned.
'Keep this door locked at all times. Your relief will be here at eighteen-hundred hours, and he'll be here till you come back on duty at oh-eight-hundred tomorrow.'
Once Tony had gone and he had locked the door behind him, Ben went back to the office. He opened both books and scribbled examples of previous entries under today's date and signed his name. He had the shakes now he noted. He felt bad, nauseous in fact, but he couldn't risk nicking out for a drink, not on his first day. He tried the phone for an outside line, but it had been programmed only to dial the numbers on the speed dialler. HQ, and the police. He put the kettle on thankful he had some teabags with him and a pot noodle for lunch.
He had a rake about in the desk drawers and discovered a supply of pornographic magazines and a small portable radio, perhaps belonging to his relief. He tuned it into Radio Scotland and placed it on the desk, feeling a bit brighter as The Proclaimers sang about a Letter from America.
At Abingdon he drove around the centre till he found a large shopping mall. A multi-storey car park would've been better, but the town didn't appear to be large enough to require such. He parked as near to the store fronts as possible, the busier the less chance of the pick-up being detected, though he knew once they entered the details for the satnav into the system, it would be tracked to within a few hundred meters. He couldn't waste time disarming it, so the best thing to do was swap vehicles often. He parked next to a large van. In the passenger footwall of the truck, he emptied out a scruffy looking hold-all of the junk it contained, various farming related paperwork. He kept some plastic ties that were in the bag. He placed in the kitchen knife from the farmhouse, and his Swiss army knife. From a toolkit, under the seat, in the pick-up, he removed a few items, one a large flat screwdriver, the other a small, but adequate file. He put these in the hold-all along with the bag of clothes he had changed out of at the farm. He would dump these in the first handy trash bin. He wiped his prints from the inside of the truck and left, leaving the keys in the ignition. With a bit of luck, some other sucker would steal it and lead the authorities off on a tangent.
He found a quiet seat outside a storefront on the mall where he could watch vehicles arriving. He passed the time discreetly whittling the edges of the screwdriver down with the file. Within twenty minutes he spied what he was looking for, a middle-aged woman with an elderly relative with a walking stick, perhaps her mother, got slowly out of a small Chrysler. They should be occupied for a while contriving their way around the stores inside the mall, plenty time for another two or three hours of distance using their vehicle. When he was sure they were out of sight and in no danger of returning for a forgotten item, he approached the car. It was aged enough not to have a decent alarm. A quick look around, then he forced the screwdriver into the driver's door lock, levered it left and right with enough force to wreck the lock, not even a pretence of care about damage, bits of the lock shattered, sheared, and fell to the ground. Within seconds he heard the click of the mechanism, and he was inside the car, he repeated the process with the ignition and steering lock, in under a minute he was driving out of the mall, strangely, there was a Pink Floyd disc in the CD player, he listened to Us and Them as he turned on to the highway out of town. He followed directions for Interstate 81, took the slipway heading south-west. Knoxville was his destination, he would be there early evening and he could plan his next move.
Next instalment coming soon...
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