A Pillar Of The Community: Part Six

This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 1120 words.

On the Thursday evening before her weekend away, Lucy was packing. She had transferred some savings to cover the cost of the trip, and treated herself to some lovely new underwear, as well as a few items of adventurous make-up. The small lakeside hotel was almost one hundred miles south of the town, so no chance of her being recognised there. She had left her credit card number when she made the reservation, but had informed the clerk that she would be paying in cash. It had all made quite a hole in her personal finances, but two nights with Eduardo would be worth it. And she couldn’t very well ask him to chip in, as he had only just started to receive the full rate of pay after his re-training.

Tom Henderson watched Karen sleeping on the sofa. She was soundly asleep, and it seemed unlikely that he would be able to get her into bed later. He was on call tomorrow for the first time in three weeks, and was dreading it. If only he had someone he could ask to come and watch his wife, if he had to go into work. But their friends had deserted them long ago, and the remaining family members were all too old or infirm. He would just have to trust to luck that nothing happened that required him to investigate, otherwise he would have to give Karen a sleeping tablet. On top of her anti-depressants, that would guarantee she slept for so long, she might not miss him after he left.

Don Sinclair made the last checks on his motor-home. Oil, water, windscreen wash. He would fill up at the supermarket on the way to the motorway, as the fuel was much cheaper there. Despite the age of what he called ‘the bus’, it still soldiered on, and had given his family many happy holidays over the years. Jean had been in there earlier, putting up the freshly-washed curtains, dusting around, and stocking up the cupboards. She had also cooked some meals for Allan to heat up in the microwave. Lunch and dinner for Friday and Saturday, and a snack for Sunday, as they would be back in time to eat together that night.

Eduardo threw some creased clothes into a sports bag, along with a new toothbrush, and a can of deodorant. He deliberately left out anything smart or formal. When they got to the hotel, he would pretend that he hadn’t been aware he would need any smart clothes, and was sure Lucy would drive him into the nearby town to buy him something nice. He was looking forward to a couple of nights staying somewhere nicer than his stuffy rented room, and hoped there would be a mini-bar, and complimentary toiletries. He had heard about Room Service, and was excited to think about being able to order what he wanted, and have it delivered to his room. Almost twenty-five years old, he had never once stayed in a hotel.

Allan Sinclair didn’t like it when his parents went away and left him. It wasn’t that he was scared of being in the house alone as such, but he did fear loneliness. He liked to have his Mum and Dad around, as it helped to know they were just downstairs, or next door in their bedroom. But he was too old for trips in the motor-home now, and found it dull and familiar. He never told them he hated to be alone, as he didn’t want them to feel that they couldn’t go away on their short holidays. They provided everything, looked after him, and never demanded too much of their son. They had worked with him to keep his secret too. Nobody knew that he had gone to a ‘special’ school. Friends and neighbours were oblivious to his learning difficulties, poor writing skills, and extreme shyness. As far as anyone knew, he made the commute into the city every day, and went to the Technical School there. Nobody close to them had children at that school, so it had been a good cover story. Mum had driven him to his very different school in the mornings, and once he had been old enough, he would get the bus home. He always sat in the same seat, looking at nothing, talking to nobody. But school was over for him now, and an uncertain future lay ahead.

Music was his salvation from everyday life. He could lose himself in the regular beats, not having to think about what would happen when he was older. He was unlikely to ever be able to work. In addition to the poor reading and writing, he was barely able to communicate with people other than his parents. He worried that Mum and Dad were ashamed of their son, but nothing they ever said or did betrayed anything except love and affection. They were proud and private people, not about to discuss the limitations of their son’s intellect with friends and neighbours, however pleasant they seemed. They maintained the facade of normality, with carefully constructed excuses and lies. For his part, Allan kept away from most other people, lest the truth become evident, and the lies discovered. Mum would sit on his bed, stroking the hair that was always a little too long. “Just the three of us, Allan love. That’s all we need”. He had heard her say that so many times. Comforting, reassuring.

Alexander Conroy was in a very good mood on that Thursday evening. All being well, it would be done tomorrow. The sooner the better, as he didn’t want to chance the possibility of Don and Jean returning home unexpectedly early, after a change in the weather, or a problem with the motor-home. Lucy had chatted excitedly about her trip to the city, droning on about the chances of earning a good part-time income from a franchise in the slimming club. He had wondered why she would bother. After all, he earned enough that she didn’t have to work, and she only worked with the animals because she couldn’t have pets at home. She also claimed that she liked to have her own money, and didn’t want to have to ask him to transfer funds into her account. He was unconcerned about this new idea. If she got another part-time job, she would be out more often, and that was fine by him.

Before they went to bed that night, he had to calm himself down.
He could not allow juvenile excitement and emotion to divert him from the job in hand tomorrow.

To be continued…

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Thinking Aloud on A Sunday

Signals.

Much of modern life depends on signals. Those received by mobile phones, Internet modems, Wi-Fi, 4G, and via satellites. As well as things like Internet surfing, receiving and sending texts, or using satellite navigation systems, we also depend on them to be able to watch television.

Living in Norfolk, you might expect that we wouldn’t have issues with signals of any kind. It is one of the flattest places in Europe, and outside of the two cities of Norwich and Kings Lynn, few buildings exist that can obstruct the passage of any signal. I certainly made that assumption, before I moved here. And I was wrong.

Despite the flat landscape, and absence of high buildings, this county is a notorious black spot for signals of all kinds. After years of getting ‘Emergency Only’ mobile phone signals, we had to threaten to leave our provider until they gave us a booster that enhances that signal. But that only works in the immediate area around the house. Make a short journey, and you will soon see the annoying ‘no bars’ appear on the screen of your phone. And you can forget about going online when out and about. The signal is rarely ever strong enough to connect to the Internet, when using a smartphone.

It used to be the same with the home broadband connection. Erratic at best, too slow at worst. I am relatively lucky, as my PC is connected via a direct cable into the modem. But using laptops or tablets on Wi-Fi was a cause of constant frustration. Then we got a fibre broadband connection. Speeds almost doubled, and the Wi-Fi was more stable, except at the times of peak usage. That meant we could connect the TV to the Internet, albeit through a monthly-fee smart box, from Now TV. Slowly but surely, Norfolk seemed to be dragging itself into the 21st century.

My idea that the flat landscape and small buildings helped proved to be well off the mark. All these signals depend on powerful transmitters, and booster masts that have to be close to the equipment you want to use. Because of the relatively small population of Norfolk, investment in such infrastructure has been sadly lacking. Some parts of the region still have 56 kps dial-up connections, and many more remote areas have no connections at all. Imagine that. Life in 2018 with no Internet, and an unusable mobile phone. They tell us things are improving. Churches are being paid to site masts on high spires, and new-build estates have underground cables already laid. But any retro-fitting is difficult, and no new transmitter towers are being built in the foreseeable future.

This has now begun to disrupt our TV signal. Often previously affected by the weather, and interfered with by short power cuts, it is unable to cope with the number of new channels arriving all the time, and the constantly changing frequencies sold off by a greedy government. Some of these frequencies are so close together, the TV receiver cannot differentiate between them, so picture break-up and interference is a daily part of our viewing (or not viewing) experience. We frequently have to resort to using online ‘catch-up’ services to watch anything, with the irony that the TV box connected to the Internet is one of the reasons why the picture breaks up in the first place, as signals clash, and fight each other for the dwindling space available.

Isn’t progress wonderful?

A Pillar Of The Community: Part Five

This is the fifth part of a fiction serial, in 1054 words.

Alex looked over at the calendar hanging on the wall by the desk. Three weeks. He would love to be able to mark the date. Circle it in bright red, and spend the next twenty days crossing off each day that led up to it. But he knew better. That was for books and films, or fools. And he was no fool. Instead, he started to think about the repercussions, once the deed was done.

Allan would be found when his parents came home. There would be high drama. Police cars and ambulances, probably. Scenes of Crime officers, undoubtedly. Distraught parents, wailing and tears, followed by the inevitable investigation. There would be door-to-door enquiries, possible witness statements taken, and a detailed search of surrounding gardens. CCTV would be examined in detail, and every part of Allan’s life would be dissected. His male friends, girls he might have known, his extended family; everyone would be considered to be a suspect, until ruled out.

Then local criminals of course. Burglars, Robbers, Drug Dealers, all would be questioned, perhaps detained for a while as alibis were checked. Fingerprints, DNA samples, photographs. The whole circus of crime would arrive in his quiet street. And the press, naturally. Not only the town newspaper, but the city papers, and TV stations. Probably national coverage too, given an unexpected murder in such a quiet town. There was a great deal to consider, not least his perceived reaction, and the public face he must present to the world. As for clues, he would leave none. A rough estimate of the potential clues he might leave behind reached well over fifty items, and he would make sure that nothing would possibly point to him. At least nothing that could be considered worthy of subsequent arrest, and prosecution.

He knew only too well that many criminals escaped justice for a variety of crimes; for lack of witnesses, and physical evidence tying them to the crime. Even when the investigating detectives were certain they knew who had done it, they could not proceed without evidence that would convince a jury. No prosecuting authority wanted to leave themselves open to a verdict being overturned on appeal, or later charges of wrongful arrest. Alex smiled at the irony. In their efforts to protect people wrongly charged and arrested, they had handed the careful criminal a licence to get away with their crime. As long as they covered their tracks properly, as he would.

It was tempting to look on the PC for the weather forecast for that weekend. Weather might play a part. If it rained, mud and tracks would have to be taken into account. A dry day would be preferable, and that might make all the difference to the time he chose to act. But he was not about to do anything on his computer that could be checked later, so he would watch the seven-day forecast on TV, nearer the time.

Detective Tom Henderson hated having to work over the weekend. Karen always seemed to get worse when he was on call. The usual five days was enough for her to be left alone, and if he was called in for something at weekends, he always worried that she would have a crisis. But this weekend was a case of so-far so good, and no detectives had been called in by the uniforms for anything they couldn’t deal with. He checked the rota on his email, and he wasn’t on call again until three week’s time.
He made them both a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch, and sat with sad eyes, watching his nervous wife nibbling the food like a rodent. It would probably take her an hour to finish one half, and she might well leave the rest. Since Janet’s accident, she had to be cajoled to eat anything, and he could now see the bones in her skull. She was no longer the woman he had married, but he had always known it would be for better or worse.

Lucy couldn’t wait until she went back to work on Monday. She muted the volume on her mobile phone, and sent Eduardo a text.
“He said OK to a weekend away! Can’t wait! We can arrange it next week XXX”
Eduardo stretched out on his bed in the small room, and read the message. She had been too easy. So easy, he had suspected something at first. But she kept coming back for more, and seemed to be well and truly hooked. She was married to one of the big-wigs in the town, and Eduardo guessed that he must be rich. He had seen photos of the house, and though not as grand as he had expected, he knew it was paid off, and worth a lot, as property prices rose every year in the town. Lucy had also mentioned his pension, which would be a great deal more than he would ever earn for working as an animal nurse. And she would get at least half of everything, if not more. He replied to her text.
“Wonderful news my darling. I can’t wait either. I love you. xx”

Lucy grinned at the reply, before deleting both messages. When they finally got away that weekend, she would tell her handsome boy that she loved him too, and they could discuss the exit strategy from her marriage to Alexander, and a new life together. Through the bi-fold doors, she watched her husband busy in the garden. By the side of the shed, he was enlarging the vegetable patch. He wasn’t much of a gardener, but he did get some satisfaction from growing vegetables. It occurred to her that he still looked good, considering he was forty-nine years old. He had kept his figure, and his hair was reasonably thick, though now a salt and pepper colour. Such a shame he hadn’t been more romantic.
She would miss him, but not everything about him.

Alex loosened more earth next to the shed. He was surprised how the short time digging had made him feel tired, and a little breathless. Easy to forget he wasn’t so young anymore. He would have to remember that in three week’s time, and adjust his plans to take that into account.

To be continued…

The London Grill

‘The London Grill’ is a regular feature on ‘Cabbieblog’. Contributors have to answer a prepared list of questions about London, and the answers are featured on David’s blog. The questions are always the same, but the answers vary widely, as different people obviously have their own views about that great city.

I am pleased to have been featured on the most recent ‘London Grill’, and grateful to David for the opportunity to choose my own bests and worsts about the capital city of England.

This is the outline, from ‘Cabbieblog’.

“We challenge our contributor to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat will face the same questions that range from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out just what Londoners really think about their city. The questions might be the same but the answers vary wildly”.

And this is the feature, with the questions, and my answers.

PETE JOHNSON spent 60 years living and working in London, mostly in the Ambulance Service and the Metropolitan Police. In 2012, he retired to Norfolk, where he now writes, blogs, and walks his Shar-Pei dog. For some strange reason, he has never missed London at all, and has no desire to return to the city of his birth. Instead, he enjoys the silence and dark nights of a trouble free life in Beetley village. His blog can be found at beetleypete.wordpress.com

What’s your secret London tip?
Go south of the river to see some real history, away from the usual tourist hot spots

What’s your secret London place?
Highgate Cemetery

What’s your biggest gripe about London?
Litter, and chewing gum on the pavements

What’s your favourite building?
London University, Malet Sreet building. (Art Deco) Or Bibendum.

What’s your most hated building?
Royal College of Physicians, Albany Street, NW1. (Out of context)

What’s the best view in London?
From the middle of Waterloo Bridge, looking east

What’s your personal London landmark?
Tower Bridge (Unique!)

What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
London. (1994) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110377/

What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
The Grenadier, Wilton Row, SW1. (Tucked away)

How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Go to Greenwich. Visit the park, Observatory, Cutty Sark, and enjoy the views.

That is the whole text, but if you would like to see the original post, and more of that interesting blog, here is the link. http://www.cabbieblog.com/the-london-grill-pete-johnson/

One Film, Three versions: The Omega Man

In 1971, I went to see an unusual science fiction film starring Charlton Heston. It was about a man, Robert Neville, who thinks is the lone survivor of a biological warfare accident that has killed off human life on Earth. He spends his days driving around, going to watch the same film in a cinema, and helping himself to anything he needs from the deserted shops of Los Angeles. But he has to be back home by nightfall, as the city is also home to plague-affected survivors known as The Family. They cannot cope in daylight, but at night they constantly try to attack Neville, and he has fortified his home against them.

In his comfortable house, Neville plays chess against himself, and tries to keep his mind active, to prevent going insane with loneliness. He relies on generators for power, keeping his house well lit against attack, and has a large supply of weapons to use to defend himself against the marauding Family members. One day, he finds another person, a young woman unaffected by the plague, and she tells him of a group of others that live outside the city. He was one of the doctors who worked on the original vaccination against the contagion, so decides to replicate the drug, to help the group of young people survive.

This was imaginative and exciting, and despite Heston’s usual rather wooden style, he was ideally suited for the role, with his strong physique, and determined nature. The Family, led by Anthony Zerbe, are quite scary, and suitably obsessed with destroying Neville, as well as all the technology that they blame for the apocalyptic event. Set pieces are very good, but the star of the film is the deserted streets, empty shops, and the ghostly, eerie atmosphere that comes across so well.

I later found out that this was a remake. The second adaptation of the novel, ‘I am Legend’, published in 1954. The first film had been called ‘The Last Man On Earth’, released in 1964. and starring Vincent Price. But I hadn’t seen that film, and still haven’t.

In 2007, a second remake was released, now called ‘I Am Legend’, like the book, it starred Will Smith as Neville, the ‘last man’, and the story is much the same. Though Neville now lives in New York, has a dog, and The Family are known as ‘The Darkseekers’. Of course, it benefits from modern technology like green screens and CGI, so some very nice effects are delivered as a result. But that polish makes it feel flat, and less affecting as far as I am concerned. And Will Smith only ever plays Will Smith, so we knew what to expect.
I still like the 1971 film, and I am sticking with that, until I see the Vincent Price version.

A Pillar Of The Community: Part Four

This is the fouth part of a fiction serial, in 1098 words.

When Alex got home, Lucy was out. One or other of her slimming clubs she would go to straight after work, no doubt. A note on the kitchen worktop was weighted down with one of the ornamental owls she loved to collect.
‘Back by 7, dinner cooked, just have to warm it up when I get home. See you soon. X’
He went into the room annoyingly referred to as his den, and placed the protective suit under some old files in the bottom of his filing cabinet. Relaxing on the leather-upholstered captain’s chair, he pondered for a while on his favourite subject. Murder.

With the method still to be finalised, and the motive non-existent, he did need the final element, an opportunity. Some short time-window when Allan would be alone in the house, and more importantly, when Alex could be completely sure he would remain so for a while. He couldn’t even think about asking Don and Jean what their plans were, as that might be remembered later, and considered to be a clue. But he was confident that his neighbours would make at least one trip in their motor-home, before the season came to an end, and bad weather set in. He would just have to hope that they went away sometime in the next six weeks. The absence of the huge vehicle would be all the clue he needed. They never took it off the driveway unless they were going somewhere for at least one night.

Lucy chased Eduardo around the back office at work, her pendulous breasts wobbling as she ran. “Give me my bra back, come on, I have to go”, she squealed. The young veterinary nurse laughed, dangling the lacy garment just out of reach. Lucy folded her arms, and tried to look serious. She knew if she got close to him, they would end up doing it again. She couldn’t resist his passion. He had arrived just under a year earlier, fresh from his re-training in the city. He had been fully qualified in the Philippines, but had to do more to get registration here. After less than a week, his outrageous flirting had led to touching, and trying to kiss her. Lucy had been surprised, but very flattered. She was twice his age, and as far as she could see, the good-looking young man could have had anyone, but he wanted her. He really did.

She had never really felt wanted, not once. The few men before Alexander had seemed to want just one thing, then moved on as soon as she gave it to them. When her handsome boss at the Town Hall had asked her out, she couldn’t believe her luck, but deep down she hoped that he didn’t just want the same as the others. He had proposed, and she had been ecstatic. The marriage had been like a dream, and moving into the lovely house with a kind and considerate man had been more than she had ever expected from life. But he didn’t really want her, she could tell. There was no passion in his embraces, and when they had sex he seemed remote, almost clinical. Alexander always had his mind on something else, and Lucy suspected that it was his job. After the first few years, it just stopped altogether. Lucy made the best of it. After all, she would never get a better option.

So young Eduardo’s advances rekindled something in her, and made her feel attractive and desirable, perhaps for the first time in her life. She was self-deprecating, naturally. She asked him why he would fancy an overweight woman twice his age, and one who admitted to not being good-looking, by any estimation. But he seemed to really like her, overcoming her objections with genuine compliments that finally made her believe that he liked chubby older women, though part of her never believed a word of it. The first time had been in her car, after he asked for a lift home. The second time in his rented room, and after that whenever they could find an excuse to stay after work. Alexander didn’t seem to care if she came home late, and despite her excuses that she was going to diet clubs and exercise classes, he never questioned the fact that she hadn’t lost an ounce. The main thing that surprised Lucy was that she had no guilty conscience about it whatsoever. That had come as a shock.

After wrestling her bra back by giving her lover one last kiss, Lucy dressed and hurried home. Eduardo had been talking about them getting away for a weekend together, some place where the wife of the town’s highest official would never be recognised. The idea appealed to her a lot. Two nights in a proper bed, the chance to feel completely at one with the young man she was beginning to fall in love with. She had thought up various reasons why she might need to be away, and would test one out on her husband during dinner.

As usual, Alex seemed distracted, hardly looking up as he ate the pasta bake, and sipped his wine. Lucy looked at the clock on the wall, wanting to get it over with before he stopped eating. She was running through some dates in her head, realising that his birthday celebration was coming up, so it couldn’t be then. She introduced the subject casually. “Oh, I saw Jean in the supermarket the other day. She told me that her and Don are going off for two nights soon. Might be their last chance to get away in reasonable weather”. Alex nodded, then turned, suddenly interested. “When is that then? Lucy didn’t even question why he would care, she already had her next line on the tip of her tongue. “Funnily enough, it’s three weeks time, from Friday night, back Sunday evening. The same weekend that Claire asked me to travel to the big Weight-Watchers Bash with her”. We are thinking about starting up our own group in the city, and they have a seminar for people looking to franchise. Would you mind if I went with her?”

Alex had stopped listening after she told him it was three weeks away, but had caught the last line. “You and Claire, going away? Sure, why would I mind? I hope you have a great time”. As she cleared the plates away, Lucy turned and smiled. Behind her back, her husband was smiling too.

He had his window of opportunity.

To be continued…

A Pillar Of The Community: Part Three

This is the third part of a fiction serial, in 1173 words.

Most of the other cops called him ‘Old Tom’, but he wasn’t really that old. He had just been around a long time, and had struggled to make the grade to detective. Even after all this time, he was still only a detective constable. His sergeant was ten years younger than him, and the Inspector leading the team was fifteen years his junior. Tom Henderson was a plodder. He got the job done in his own fair time, and didn’t rush around like the new blokes. Unlike so many of his colleagues, he wasn’t divorced, didn’t drink much, and had never had an affair. Nobody ever saw him at a night out, not even the Christmas party. He did his work, put in the hours, and then went home to Karen.

She needed him around, relied on him. After his daughter Janet had been killed in that horse-riding accident when she was just ten years old, his wife had never been the same. She couldn’t work, hardly ever went out, spent her day in a dream, dazed by her anti-depressants and pain-killers. Money had been tight when she stopped working, and they eventually sold the big house, trading down to a small flat at the edge of town. Too many memories in that old place anyway. A child’s laughter, her first steps along the rug in the hall, and dancing in front of the TV, watching a pop video. The new-build apartments were ideal. No garden to get neglected, good security, and his own parking space. The other residents liked having a police officer living in the small block. He supposed they thought it put off any criminals.

Not that there was that much crime in that town, nothing too serious anyway. In fact, there was talk of shutting down the big old police station in the town centre, and moving everyone out to County Headquarters, in the city fifteen miles to the east. His sergeant had told him he was sure it would happen, just after the new year. Tom had examined his options when he heard that news. He had almost thirty years service, enough to go with a full pension, and an unblemished record. No need to face the upheaval of the possible move to the city, with a longer commute, and a wider area to cover. He could just put his papers in, and retire. But then there was the thought of spending twenty-four hours a day looking at his damaged wife, or the prospect of a part-time job doing something he wasn’t interested in. Maybe he would forget about retirement for now, see how things worked out after the move.

Inspector Mullins kept giving him all the burglaries. He would bring over a file, and cheerily announce, “This one has ‘Burglary Tom’ written all over it mate”, before slapping it down on the desk. When some out of town hard men robbed the main Post Office at gunpoint, Tom had been miles away, looking into the theft of some medals and jewellery from an antique shop. But he never complained. He was good at what he did, and tried hard to investigate the burglaries, for the peace of mind of those victims. He knew the locals prepared to fence stolen goods, and most of the few burglars who regularly plied their trade in the town and surrounding villages. His clear-up rate was above the national average, and though it was hardly exciting, he found some satisfaction in his success.
_

It wasn’t unknown for Mr Conroy to do a snap inspection. Though hardly frequent, he sometimes appeared with his briefcase and clipboard, ready to check stocks, outstanding orders, and the general tidiness of a specific department. There were lots of underlings who could be sent off to do that for him, but he was known to be a man who liked to show his face to the employees on occasion. So it didn’t really surprise Sheila when he turned up at her office in the Cleansing Department, close to the end of the working day. She was in charge of anything to do with the town’s cleaning and refuse services; from rubbish collection, to street-sweeping, and even the cleaners who kept the Town Hall tidy. Although she was classed as Senior Management, she was always careful to call Alex Mr Conroy. If nothing else, she wouldn’t mind his job one day, when he retired, so it wouldn’t hurt if he liked her, and spoke in favour of her application to replace him.

He followed her around the various store rooms under her control, nodding as she outlined the stock situation, or advised him of staffing issues. In one large underground garage, many of the small carts and cleaning vehicles were parked, and he pretended to inspect those too. At the back of the big space was a room with a sign on the door that read ‘Contagious and Infected Stores’. This was where everything needed to deal with things like decaying corpses or fatal road accidents was stored, and in one dusty corner was a shelf marked ‘CBRN’. Not that the town had ever had cause to to deal with a Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, or Nuclear incident, but it was always best to be prepared for that possibility. As Sheila started to drone on about something to do with outstanding orders, Alex suddenly stopped her. “Sorry, Sheila, I have forgotten my clipboard. I must have left it on your desk. Be a love and get it for me would you? I need some of the stock sheets fixed to it”.

Sheila smiled, muttered “Of course”, and left to make the considerable walk back to her office. She checked her watch as she walked, less than five minutes to going-home time. He always cut it fine. Alex opened the empty briefcase, and removed the waste paper that bulged it out. Reaching right over to the back of a shelf, he removed one of the one-piece suits used by the unfortunate people employed to clean up after dead bodies had been removed. He checked the size. M for medium, just right for his build. The suit was bright orange in colour, and included a hood, as well as large foot coverings that easily fitted over shoes. He slipped it into the briefcase, before leaving the room and throwing the waste paper into a rubbish skip next to the parked vehicles.

Sheila returned with the clipboard, slightly red in the face. Alex smiled as she handed it to him. He looked at his watch, and shook his head. “Sheila, I just realised how late it is, I’m really sorry. You must be wanting to get home to your family. We can do this another time”. Sheila thanked him, and they walked back into the main office complex together, nodding to the security guard as they made their way to the car park.

Once in his car, Alex patted the case, and smiled. He had the suit.

To be continued…