You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, Part 9

Posted: 17 January 2013 in fiction, writing, You'll Never Believe A Man Can Fly
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Chapter Five

The Guardian, 28th February 2003
A country diary, p16, Feb 17, was headed Heald Green, Cheshire. Heald Green is in Greater Manchester. The error was caused by nostalgia.

The dawn had barely broken when the Mercedes belonging to Andrew Patt pulled into the underground car park belonging to Doncaster and Monkton. And less than five minutes later, he, together with his two companions, the latter dressed in identical dark suits, entered the building. Patt, wearing a lightweight cream business suit, had swiped his ID card through the reader and was walking through the empty reception when one of the other two men called to him. Holding out his hand, he said, “Hold up, Andrew – let’s take a look at that.”

With only the briefest hesitation, Patt handed over the plastic card, with an almost apologetic air, the explanation for which became immediately apparent. The man who’d asked for it looked at the card in faint disbelief. “This is what you call security? This piece of rubbish?”

He handed it back to Patt, who merely grinned. “OK, it’s not perfect, but…”

The other man was 32 but looked younger. His employers were legally the Ministry of Defence, but like Andrew Patt’s curriculum vitae, the error was one of deliberate omission. Neither of them were recorded anywhere as members of the intelligence services (in Patt’s case, retired) but Monkton had long suspected that Patt had not retired from the army. However, the previous day was the first time Patt could recall that Monkton had ever explicitly said I knows, you know. It concerned him, but not overly so. He’d always known that sooner or later his cover would be blown. Fortunately, it wasn’t likely to lead to his death, unless the news circulated outside the office.

Patt had been with Doncaster and Monkton now for four years, and genuinely hadn’t ever expected to have to deal with his former employers other than, his pipe-dream, landing a public relations contract. The two men with him at the moment, however, were from his old Section. They dealt with security, which explained the disdain with which they obviously regarded the ID card.

Not perfect?” said Brendan Ross, the man holding the card, not bothering to keep the contempt out of his voice. “Not perfect? Christ, Andrew, even young Powers here could forge one of these.” He tossed it to his assistant, who looked at it doubtfully.

“Brendan,” said Patt, “it’s been half a decade since we worked together, mate, so leave it out, eh? This is a public relations firm – it’s not like we need additional security, is it?”

“Well, isn’t that what we’re here to discover?” And Patt had no real reply to that.

When they got to the boardroom, the two intelligence officers went straight to the table and stared at it before closely examining the chunk of it in the floor, Ross getting down on his haunches. Powers had opened his briefcase and taken out some measuring equipment and some electronic devices that Patt didn’t recognise, as well as a small digital camera. He was using the former now, taking the measurement of the hand-sized slice of table that was missing, and scanning the surface of the table watching the hand held device’s oscilloscope. He frowned, then scanned around the room. The signal didn’t vary, even when he played it over his body, and then the carpet.

“Well?” enquired his senior partner.

“Nothing. Nothing at all out of the ordinary.”

Ross grunted a non-committed sound and looked again at the chunk of table in the ground. “Go through it again for me, Andrew,” he instructed Patt, who was leaning against the wall, one foot placed flat against it. Patt stood upright and then paced as he spoke. Ross rolled his eyes at Powers, who grinned back in return. They’d both been to training sessions given by Patt and he was well known in the game as a pacer.

“Well,” Patt started, knowing what he was saying made no sense, “he was in the middle of a client briefing.”

“Ian… Davies, right?” interrupted Ross, standing and then taking a seat in one of the comfortable chairs.

“Yes, Davies,” replied Patt, mildly irritated at having been interrupted. “If I can continue?” he asked, letting the irritation show slightly. There being no response from either of the other two men, he took that as an indication that he might indeed, continue. So he did. “As I was saying, he was in a client meeting. Nothing special. A big client if we landed them.” He stopped for a moment, and showed a half smile. “From all accounts, it was profoundly boring until… it happened.”

Ross looked up at Patt. “Was this usual?”

“What? That initial client meetings are boring? Hell yes.” The half smile became broader. “Fully half of all client representatives could bore for England, were it an Olympic event. Makes sense, really, I guess. If they could put themselves over in an exciting and original manner, they wouldn’t need us.”

“OK, point taken,” conceded Ross.

“So from what I understand, and from what he told me, after a couple of hours, Davies was struggling to stay awake, a feeling that was shared by most of his colleagues. Then he saw a spider hanging from a web about to land on his hand. He knocked it off its web and slapped his hand down. There was a very loud BANG and well… then this happened.” He gestured towards the table. “What do you think?”

“Honestly, Andrew? I haven’t a fucking clue,” Ross said. “The only thing I’m sure of is that the story you’ve told me…”

“Story?” protested Patt. “Story? It’s what happened, damn it. You know me better than that.” Ross just stared impassively at Patt, who with a visible effort cut off whatever he was about to say.

“You know what I mean. The scenario you’ve outlined, better?” He looked at Patt questioningly and Patt nodded slowly. “OK, the scenario you’ve outlined just simply couldn’t have happened.” He raised a hand to forestall Patt’s inevitable protests. “Look, Andrew, no-one, and I mean no-one has the sort of strength and speed to hit a table so fast and so powerfully to slam a piece of wood six inches thick from this table. It’s impossible.”

“And yet… it happened,” maintained Patt.

“And yet… it happened,” repeated Ross. “So that’s our problem. Look, the best thing can do is to go back to the office, and report in.” He stood up and gestured for Powers, who’d been taking photographs of the table and carpet, to cease. Ross started for the door and then stopped, turning. “Just in case, though…”

Patt looked at him, the puzzlement clear in his eyes. “Yes?”

“Let’s put this Davies through the ringer. I take it you’ve his personnel file handy?”

Patt nodded vigorously. “It’s in the HR office,” he said. “I’ll get a copy sent over.”

Ross shook his head, a faint smile playing over his lips. It was rather touching really how quickly Patt had forgotten the rules. You never, never, allowed someone the opportunity to tamper with paperwork when you had the chance to prevent it. “I think I’d rather take a copy. Now, please.” For the first time that morning, Ross allowed a touch of authority to enter his voice.

Patt recognised the tone, and bristled before recognising the reason for it and with a mental shrug said, “Suit yourself. It’s in HR. This way…” and left through another door. Ross followed him, after instructing Powers to take a final set of shots.

They returned in a couple of minutes and Ross studied the papers for a moment, particularly Davies’ terms and conditions of employment. He was looking for something and smiled when he found it. “Nice one” he exclaimed, quoting from the document: “employees may be suspended on full pay pending a disciplinary board leading to dismissal for gross insubordination or for what this thing calls ‘gross negligence.’” He turned to Patt. “Fire him.”

Patt was stunned. “Fire him? On what grounds? For what reason?”

“Oh, come up with a reason. You’re in PR now, Andrew. You lie for a living. Though I’d have thought that the table gave you enough reason. Did you land the client?” Ross contrived a semi-interested look.

“No,” said Patt ruefully, “and we’re unlikely to.”

“Excellent,” retorted Ross. “Sorry, Andrew, but I do mean that. Nothing against your agency, but this gives you a reason to fire him. Well, suspend him, anyway. After all, if he hadn’t smashed the table, you may have landed the client, yes?”

“Well, yes… but why on earth do you want him suspended?”

Ross sighed loudly. “You’re slowing down, my friend. I don’t want him fired, I want him available. When he comes into work this morning, call me, then suspend him for negligence and we’ll have a tail on him from the moment he leaves the office.”

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

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