“What are you doing in my office?”
I started at the sound of the voice behind me. Slowly stood up from my crouch over the drawer I had opened at the bottom of the desk. I turned around. Don Irving was standing at the doorway, unshaven, hair a mess, jeans and a loose leather jacket replacing the snappy suit I was used to seeing, his right hand in the jacket pocket. Not his usual well-dressed look. He was a big man and his bulk seemed to block the pale early morning light which filtered into the room from the small reception area adjoining the office. I stood there as my stomach started to churn.
“I asked you a question. What are you doing in my office?”
I looked at him. My boss. His office. Six in the morning. His desk drawer open. Not just any drawer but a certain drawer. We both knew what was in that drawer.
“You know. You can see what I’m doing.”
My voice felt more confident than I might have expected. My stomach was beginning to settle. I had worked for him for a couple of weeks and, now that the inevitable confrontation had happened, it felt almost like a relief. The forced tone I had adopted in that time - ‘yes, Mr Irving, no Mr Irving’- had dropped from my voice as if I had shed an uncomfortable jacket. My own voice had returned.
He paused. Looked down at the drawer, then shifted his gaze back to me. His eyes fixed on mine.
“I guess I do. You’re robbing me. It’s been you, hasn’t it? I’m down nearly eight thousand.”
I put my hand on my pocket. Felt the solid bulge of the notes in it. “Make that twelve.”
“Put it back. Now. Do it.”
“Not happening,” I said. I was amazed at my confidence. It was as if a month of subterfuge, of pretending, of playing a role had washed away. I knew I could I could go through with this.
“Why do you think I’m here so early? I knew whoever had done it would be back for more. That’s why I brought this.” He pulled his hand from his pocket and I saw that it held a small pistol - short-barrelled, snub-nosed and, at this distance, deadly-looking. It was pointed at me. I had never had a gun pointed at me before. I looked at the little hole at the end of the barrel and felt a stab of fear. Forced it down and looked up at him again. Locked eyes.
“You won’t use that. You haven’t got the guts. You’re a coward and a bully - not a killer.”
“You think? I could be defending my property against a thief who broke into my business. Maybe you threatened me - attacked me - we struggled - the gun went off. Self-defence. And how did you get in here anyway? It was all locked up.”
“The same way I opened the drawer – with your spare keys. You even left your alarm code with them. Dumb move! You’re really careless when you’re drunk. It wasn’t hard to watch you and see where you keep them. And the money. I found your little stash.”
“That’s my money.”
“Sure. I’ve had a look through your books. That’s what secretaries do isn’t it? Check the books? This doesn’t get a mention. This is all cash. A little something the tax man doesn’t need to know about? Anyway, it’s not stealing. I guess we could call it compensation. You know, you weren’t very thorough when you hired me - you really should have asked for some better ID. My real name is Page.” He started. “ Yes. That’s right. Page. Sophie’s sister. You remember Sophie, don’t you? Of course. How could you forget? She told me you had a little hidey-hole. I just had to watch and wait.”
“That was - a misunderstanding. Your sister was too - sensitive.”
Misunderstanding. Sensitive. The words hung in the air.
“A misunderstanding?” I said. “Actually, several - misunderstandings. I’ve got a list of them. She wrote it all down. She’s always kept a diary since she was little. Used to write nice things in it for years - early morning ideas, plans, memories - stuff like that. Nice things from a good kid. Then she started working for you. Now the stuff in it isn’t so nice. Things that happened here - right in this office. Not such good reading. She showed me. I told her to see a lawyer but she said a lawyer would cost too much. Well, that problem’s solved now.”
“It's all crap. Whatever she says, it’s not true. I didn’t do anything wrong. You can’t prove anything.” His voice seemed less assured and the gun had dropped to his side.
“Let’s see. I’ve got a sister who can barely leave the house. Who has nightmares. Who’ll be lucky to ever trust another man again.” The words started to pour out. “Trust. That’s a good word, isn’t it? She trusted you because you were her boss. Her first boss in her first real job. At first she liked it here. ‘That nice Mr Irving’ she’d say. Then you started. I know all about it. I’ve read the diary. Many times. After a while you stepped it up. Went from saying things - what do they call it? inappropriate comments? - to touching her. And more. Then you cornered her in this office. When you’d had your fun, you sacked her - without all her pay. It’s all written down. In her diary. I’m not a lawyer but I’d call that proof. I said she should go to the cops but at first she didn’t want to. Wasn’t sure she could go through it again. Said they probably couldn’t do anything. I think I’ve got her to change her mind about that.”
“You can’t prove anything.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll see. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? Your money paying for her lawyer. And get rid of the gun - you look pathetic. We both know you haven’t got the balls to use it. You don’t need a shooting on top of what my sister could tell the cops - you’ve got enough to explain. I’m leaving now. Don’t try to stop me.”
I moved around the desk towards him, pushing him out of the doorway, though I could barely bring myself to touch him. His flesh through the leather of the jacket felt soft and flabby. He didn’t resist. I walked across the lobby and opened the front door. I turned and looked at him.
“We’ll be seeing you.”
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Ah, a vengeance story. I like that. And the family loyalty, and revenge. Good story. Thanks for this.
Thanks Tricia - glad you enjoyed it - comment is appreciated.