Nan looked at the case files on her desk and sighed. There was one last folder remaining in the ‘A’ Pile. But the ‘B’ and ‘C’ piles were smirking at her like the sneaky villains she knew they really were.
Once she opened up a two page report with glee, the usual ones were at least five pages deep, but her smile quickly disappeared when she noted the ten references to external reports for the actual data.
Nan looked outside the window beside her desk. The snow was still falling steadily. She pulled her coat collar more tightly around her neck. She never really seemed to feel the cold until she was ,Looking at the snow.
Someone bumped into her desk. It was Jeff, aka Mr. Annoying.
He sniffled and rubbed his nose with his shirt collar. (Oh yeah, add Mr. Gross to his title).
Nan leaned back and pretended to reach for something on the far side of her desk, away from him.
“It’s after 5. Shouldnt you be heading out? I mean everyone else is.” Jeff said sucking mucus from his nose to the back of his throat.
Nan’s involuntary protective mechanisms kicked in. She pushed her rolling desk chair back so fast she nearly lost her balance. She hoped over to the small office kitchenette and reached for the coffee pot.
“Thanks for the concern...” I think, “... but I have one more file to complete before I can go home triumphantly.”
“Will someone speak some sense into her please. The snow is coming down. It could get bad. This building has poor insulation.” Jeff piped out between snorts.
“I have no idea why you push so much Nan. Another stack of files is just waiting to replace that one. I for one am leaving right now. ” It was Anna. Anna had worked at the department of social services longer than any of the other five in that office. She came in at 9am and left at 5pm. She took her lunch hour, exactly 60 minutes each day. She did not volunteer for extra duty and she had her retirement date marked in red on her desk calendar.
“There, you see. Anna is a great example Nan. You don’t need to save the world. Just save yourself. No one is giving any medals here.”
Nan poured a steaming hot cup of coffee she had just brewed and went back to her desk. Jeff was now pestering Peter and Molly to leave also.
Nan opened her final file and began work.
It was...well gosh...it was much later when Nan lifted her eyes from the computer screen and looked outside. It was blanket white. The snow was pouring. She looked around. There was no one left in the office, not even Jeff- the gross.
A small panic began to set in.
“ Wait, wait, wait just one darned minute. Am I a kid?” Nan laughed aloud and the sound echoed in the office.
Nan clasped her hands over her mouth and cowered...like a kid.
She rose gingerly from her seat, grabbed her purse and headed to the stairs. The social services department was on the second floor just above the records and archives department. She descended the stairs slowly. The whole floor was in darkness. Nan moved gingerly, using the light from her cell phone to guide her.
The front doors were closed, barred and chained.
“What the hell? Nobody works late anymore?”
The sound echoed.
She looked at her watch hastily. It was 8:00pm. The office normally closed by 5pm.
Nan ran her hands through her hair and tried to think.
She straightened up from her stooped position and moved slowly back up to the office. It was the one place she was comfortable. There were other rooms on the second floor but workers were not given access.
Nan stood at the entrance of the office. No wonder she got left behind. The only light was a tiny desk lamp that sat away from the window and her computer screen...which she left on in her haste.
Nan shivered as she looked outside. Blanket white.
“Well, I better start with coffee” Nan whispered to herself. She went to the kitchenette and searched for a new coffee pod. There was none.
“That’s not going to work for me. I need coffee while I try to figure this out. Storage rooms. There has to be something in one of those rooms.”
Nan went back in the hallway. There were 4 rooms with closed doors. She had never entered any during her 4 hear tenure. Nan tried the first door. It was locked. She tried the second also locked. Nan tried the third...it opened.
She turned the knob and it opened easily. She flipped the light switch. It was a storage room with filing cabinets. Though everything should have been tidy. There were three cabinets that were open and papers were laying messily on a desk beside it. Nan walked over.
“This is odd. I thought we were the neatest department in the bureau.” She almost laughed...but stopped when she saw the content of the material.
“What is this? Social security cheque contracts? Well where are the cheques?” Nan checked the file folder. This was odd. She had never seen the contract without signatures, unless the cheque was still attached. There were 5 other contracts on the table.
Nan gathered up the files. Someone should know about this. She shivered. There was a cold breeze coming from behind her. Nan turned to see a door ajar. It was connected to the previous locked office.
“What’s going on here tonight. I just wanted coffee.” Nan held the files in her hand and moved to the door.
She opened it up and was about to enter when she noticed. The door had been forced open and there were splinters jutting out.
She took a step back.
Am I in trouble here. This is looking very strange. What if am not alone in here? What if...?
Nan’s thoughts were interrupted. There was an unmistakable sound of footsteps but the kind that was sneaking.
Nan opened the door without thought. It was the supply room and she immediately spotted the stacks of pumpkin and vanilla coffee pods on a high shelf. The room was in a disarray as though someone was eating. Then her eye caught a boot attached to a leg running out the door.
”You are Caught You Fiend!” To this day Nan will confess that she does not know where the inspiration came from. She sprang after him. Why? Who knows. She certainly did not. Perhaps it was four years of sense of duty to the Social Services Department.
He ran toward the stairs. Nan followed. Then a funny thing happened.
He turned to face her as he ran. Nan saw his face. She immediately slowed down. But it was too late. She was already running faster than he was. When they collided. She fell to the floor just before the steps. Jeff- the gross , was not so lucky. He toppled down the stairs with a shriek, a cough and something else not to be repeated here. Then he landed with a thud. Silence.
What the heck is Jeff doing here.? Wait a minute? The files?
Nan rushed down the stairs ready to interrogate but...
Jeff lay on the ground with one hand tucked under his chin. And ...he was snoring.
That is just the way the police met him in the morning. It turned out that Jeff- the gross was also Jeff-the thief. He had used the guise of a snow storm to rob the department and many innocent people of their money.
Nan explained the details of the night over a hot cup of Pumpkin Spice Coffee with the officers.