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#1 Charles Gull

Charles Gull

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Posted 25 June 2017 - 12:44 AM

Beyond door 47, I’m greeted by a spartan little office of the now familiar dull grey. A man, somewhere in his 30s, sits behind a desk. Though darker than his plain white shirt, his light grey suit shimmers ever so slightly in the low light.

There is a brief moment of embarrassed silence before he stands and, holding his hand out across the desk, introduces himself.
"Ah, g-good you're here, my n-name is D-D-Diamond, Bill Diamond. N-no relation of J-Ja-Jack!" This well intentioned and self-effacing quip is, no doubt, intended to put me at ease. Instead the combination of his stammer and my slightly bewildered mind means that it takes a little while for it to sink in. Another embarrassing pause kills any chance of passing the situation off with a polite laugh.

My blank stare throws Diamond into another fit of nervous confusion. He drops my hand quickly and makes a show of searching for something on his desk. What he is intending to find is quite unclear. Apart from a neat sheaf of papers directly in front of him the desk's top is quite bare. Eventually, he’s able to calm himself and look back up. “Oh d-dear w-where are my m-manners?” he motions to the chair in front of his desk, “Pa-please sa-sit down so that w-we c-can begin.”

I eye the chair with some suspicion. It is a very plain office chair of bent chrome tube with a stretched black meshing seat and back rest. There is no conceivable way it could pose an active threat of any kind. I still don’t like the look of it.

“Pa-please!” Bill insists, indicating the chair with as much authority as his jittery disposition can convey. Sliding the bag off my shoulder and onto the floor next to the chair I sit down cautiously. The chair takes my weight easily enough and the firm meshing adds to the impression of simple sturdiness. The chair receives the benefit of the doubt for the moment. Bill, however, is remaining on my mental list entitled ‘Objects of Concern’. I watch him as he shuffles his small pile of papers once more before setting the re-ordered pile down in front of himself again. “S-so, h-how have y-you fa-found it s-so f-far?” I’m at a loss as to how to respond.
“Found it?”
“Ya-yes, fa-first d-day in a n-new j-job. Eh-eh-,” his eyelids quiver shut as he forces the word out, “eh-exciting?” His stammer seems to be getting worse as his nervousness increases. I get the distinct impression that he is anticipating the approach of something. I don’t like the idea of that in the least.
“I am beginning to think that this has all been a terrible mistake.”
“Sa-second tha-thoughts already?” He looks a little like he might find it a good thing if this were true. I bite my lip and glower silently. I’m not sure I can trust myself to answer without the use of an obscenity.

Bill notices this and decides to indulge in some more therapeutic paper shuffling before something on one sheet appears to catch his attention. “Ah, eh, oh, eh, yes! I eh, I eh, I s-see!” He opens a draw in his desk and considers the contents briefly before looking up again. Once again he tries to muster a re-assuring smile, again the result is far from convincing, “Fa-fa-forgot a-about this, hmmm aw-aw-awkward,” again a glance into the draw and again the ill-fated smile that I’m really beginning to think he should just give up on, “I-I-I-I’m sure y-ya-you c-c-can ah-ppreciate wha-wha-wha-what w-w-w-w-ith the sur-circumsta-sta-stances a-and all, bu-bu-bit o-of u-unple-pleasantness I’m I’m a-afraid.”

I’m having difficulty imagining how much more awkward unpleasantness there can possibly be, when he reaches under the table with his left hand and presses a hidden button. The dull clack of a heavy dead-bolt shooting home in the door behind me is unsettling enough. However, the fact that he is now pulling something with a heavy pistol grip out of the draw with his right hand is an order of magnitude more disturbing. Tensed, I hold me breath as I wait for what is to come.

Then I exhale.

Contrary to initial appearances the pistol grip is not followed by six loaded chambers and an oversized barrel. Instead, the object in Bill’s hand reveals itself to be more like a powerful flashlight or signalling lamp. He points it at me. “Juh-just re-re-relax th-tha-this w-won’t t-take la-long.” And before I can remark that he is in way more need of relaxing than me, he pulls the trigger.

The flash that follows, though certainly bright, is by no means blinding. Nevertheless, I do get the strongest feeling of disorientation. It is as if another deadlock has just moved. This time, however, it has opened rather than closed. More significantly yet, it is not in the room around me but rather located somewhere just behind my forehead.

My ears re-fill with that droning hum but this time the bees are bright and joyous and very confident. Colour bleeds into the room and I look across the table at Bill’s stylish blue shirt. Bill gives me the sincerest of smiles. “There you go. You see. Not so bad after all. And anyway, like I said, and I’m sure you agree, quite understandable, given the circumstances and all.” My brain reels and I can only blink at him dumbfounded. “A glass of water perhaps?”

He indicates a tray with two glasses and a jug of water. They are standing on top of a filing cabinet against one wall of the office. I blink at it. Where has that come from? He gets up and pours two glasses before bringing them back to the desk. He places his next to the vase of flowers but has to move a desk lamp and a pot of pencils to make space for mine. I blink at the bright springtime flowers and then at the pencils. They’re colourful too.

My mind is such a morass of questions that I can’t even pick one at random to ask first. Bill sits down and raises his glass. “Sip of water? Do you good!” He holds out his arm and jiggles his glass slightly in encouragement. Ice cubes clank. I lean forward and pick up my glass. It is a ridiculously laborious task. I sit back heavily. “Excellent! Cheers! Down the hatch!” and he sinks his glass in one gulp before putting it back on the desk. He looks at me expectantly whilst crunching on an ice cube in excitement.

I raise the glass to my lips and take a cautious sip. The cool liquid slides smoothly over my tongue and down my throat. It does indeed have a surprisingly refreshing affect. I take another sip. “That’s the ticket!” Bill beams. “Down the hatch!” My brain is beginning to settle and a single identifiable question is finally separating itself from all the others. It elbows its way to the front of my consciousness.
“What do you mean, understandable under the circumstances? What circumstances?” Now it is his turn to look a little bewildered.
“I dare say it’s difficult to imagine, but we don’t generally get many unsolicited job applications, you know, us being so secret and all! Nonetheless, your credentials seemed impeccable and so we thought we’d give it a go.”
“Are you nuts?” I can’t help exploding. “I didn’t apply for this or any other job. I was forced into coming here!” Bill looks genuinely startled. He sifts through his papers again.
“You are Agent Jane?”
“Yes”
“And this is your letter of application?” He holds out a sheet of paper. It is clearly a hand written job application letter. At a distance it’s difficult to read the contents but one thing is obvious. It is written in my hand writing. I snatch it from him and study it more closely. “Well?” Bill presses for a response.
“No!”
“No?”
“No, this application isn’t from me.”
“You didn’t write it? You are sure? It certainly is a quite unusual choice to write by hand in this day and age. It is quite distinctive hand writing too, so if you are sure you didn’t write it, well then, there has obviously been some kind of a mix up. Quite unfortunate, I’m sure.” He gestures for me to hand the letter back. I look up at him. My brain is stubbornly trying to batter the facts into something that resembles a rational explanation.
“No!”
“No?”
“Well, yes really.”
“Sorry?”
“Look it is quite clear that this application is from me.”
“It is?”
“Yes, as you yourself say, the hand writing is quite distinctive. But, like I said, I didn’t apply for this job.”
“So you wrote the letter of application but didn’t apply? Are you suggesting you posted it by mistake?”
“No, I couldn’t have posted it by mistake because I didn’t write it.”
“You didn’t write it? Why did you just say that you did?”
“Because OBVIOUSLY I did,...” I clamp my eyes shut, trying to force my mouth to do the same. I fight back the words. I know I’m going to say them but I desperately don’t want to. Completing the sentence is going to be a capitulation, an admission of defeat. I bite my lip but it’s not enough. The words jump the fence of the mental prison I have hastily erected for them and escape anyway. “...even though I didn’t!” Like an irritating baby sibling, a slightly manic little whimper trails along behind the words. There is a pause as we both re-considered the situation.


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