Ghost Case

Let’s face it, nobody likes a rat.

If Benny “Dogface” McGinty didn’t have a sister, probably nobody would care that he was missing. And if he hadn’t borrowed two hundred bucks from her before he disappeared I have a feeling she wouldn’t care that much either.

But he did and she does so she hired be to track down the lousy bum.

I agreed to do the job for fifty dollars, I told her that was way below my usual rate and I wish that were true. My last job was beating up some deadbeat dad in exchange for a hot meal and I don’t want to discuss the job before that.

The good news is that everyone seemed to know Benny, the bad news is that nobody who knew him had heard from him recently or had any inclination to speak to me. I had checked with my contacts in the in the local hospital but nobody matching Benny’s description had been admitted with or without a pulse. The information wasn’t all that reliable of course since my hospital contact was an meth head name Drongo who had somehow managed to get a job cleaning floors at St Lukes. I had a hunch that Drongo may also have some mental health issues but he was surprisingly good at keeping an eye on the hospital admissions. At least Drongo liked me. My contact at the police station was my cousin Frank and Frank has hated me since high school for reasons that may be justified. I don’t know why I keep using Frank as a contact as I’m fairly sure that if I just called the front desk and asked for the information I could probably find out what I need to know quicker and with less verbal abuse. The bottom line was that nobody knew or cared where Dogface McGinty was hiding.

I wouldn’t care much either except I wouldn’t get paid unless I found him.

After wandering the streets fruitlessly for four hours I decided that I could justify stopping for something to eat as long as I got a table by the window so that I could watch passers by, that way I felt that I was still on the clock, hoping that Benny would just go wandering by.  A glassy eyed  waitress took my order for Lemon Meringue pie and a diet coke and moved onto the next table mumbling something that I didn’t catch. I stretched back on the plastic chair and looked out at the well lit street.  A friend told me once that it was never truly dark in the city but I new better. If the streetlights and shop-fronts were any brighter I could probably catch a tan out there but there was more beyond the lights. I could see the opening of a dark alley. No streetlights down there, no outwards facing windows. The streets may never go dark in this city but the alleys were as dark as hell and twice as dangerous. I was kidding myself that I would see Benny walk past this window. People like Benny didn’t use these streets, they used the alleys.

The figure in the alleyway was the right size and shape but I wasn’t ready to believe that I was that lucky. The pie was tasty and I wasn’t ready to leave it to chase shadows. I hear the familiar sound of police sirens approach and watched the shadowy figure step back into the darkness but as the cop car hurtled past I caught a glimpse of the ugly visage of Benny McGinty bathed in alternate red and blue light. It was really him. I threw five dollars on the table and ran out the door and into the street. I saw the figure retreat into the alley and gave chase, ignoring the blaring horns and screeching brakes from the cars on the road.

“Benny. Wait!” I called out, dodging garbage cans and discarded boxes, “I’m not with the cops.”

The further I got from the street, the darker the alley got and I had to slow down, the last thing I needed was to trip over something and end up face down in a dirty alley. Again. I fumbled in my pocket for my phone. I could use the screen as a light.

“Benny. Your sister sent me. She just wants to know if you are okay.”

There was a chuckle from the shadows and I spun around trying to pinpoint McGinty’s location.

“Tell Angela to look in the Urn.” A voice called from the shadows.

A gunshot rang out. I dropped to a crouch. Another gunshot. Then silence.

I finally found the app on my phone that turned it into a flashlight. The alley was suddenly bathed in light and I realised that I was at a dead end, a few feet away from a tall wooden fence. McGinty was nowhere to be seen. He must’ve vaulted the fence somehow. Surely he couldn’t have sneaked past me and back out the alley? And what was with the gunshots? I had been shot at before and this felt different. Like the shots were aimed away from me. Some kind of warning shot.

Warning or not, I’d done my job. I had found Benny. It was time to collect my money.

Angela Andrews nee McGinty, Benny’s sister, had done alright for herself.  I had expected a rundown apartment but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I pushed open the wrought Iron gate and followed the winding driveway up to the colonial style house. There was an oversized knocker in the shape of a buffalo head and an ornate doorbell. I chose the bell and stepped back. The door was solid, tall and wide and I had a feeling that it probably cost more than a years rent on my apartment.  I was starting to feel underdressed. I reached up to straighten my tie, realised that I wasn’t wearing a tie and settled for scraping the crusted mustard off the front of my shirt.

 

The door swung open and my brain turned to mush. Before me stood one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. Her long red hair cascaded over her shoulders, framing her perfect face and her sparkling green eyes. In my head I was composing poetry that compared her eyes to emeralds, her lips to rubies and was moving to the curves barely hidden by the tight green cocktail dress but all I managed to say was…

“Dogface.”

“Sorry.”

“I mean brother. I mean Benny, your brother. I found him.” Smooth. Eloquent. No wonder women swoon before me.

Angela didn’t swoon but she did look relieved.

“Thank god. You must be Adam Malone.” She said, holding out her hand, “Angela Andrews.”

I shook her hand lightly and managed to compose myself.

“Sorry, I was expecting someone…. Older.”

“Benny is my big brother, there was a bit of gap. Where is he?”

“Gone. I chased him. Spoke to him but he got away.”

“Oh.” Her shoulders sagged and she stepped away from the door leaving me space to step into the hallway.

“I was hoping… But I guess you’ve done what you were paid to do. Let me get your money.” She closed the door behind me and wandered  back into the house. I wasn’t sure if I was expected to stand in the doorway like a tradesman or if I should follow her. In my defence, I am a detective and should not be expected to stand around when there opportunity was to snoop around. So I followed. She was standing in a large sitting room rifling through her purse.

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting you. I would have had the cash ready.”

“You have a beautiful home.” And by that  I meant, I should have charged more than fifty dollars.

 

“My husband’s family are… I’m very lucky.”

“I think maybe he’s the lucky one.”

She blushed and pushed a strand of red hair behind her ear, “This is all still new to me. I’m used to… I’m not used to this.”

“No. I’ve met your brother.”

“Of course. Benny loves the old neighbourhood, he’ll never escape the streets because he doesn’t want to. But he wanted better for me. He made sure I went to school, he made sure there was money for dresses,  for stylists, elocution lessons. And he did whatever he needed to do pay for all those things.”

“What a guy.”

“He’s a good man.”

“Maybe. But he doesn’t fit in around here. What does your husband say?”

“They don’t talk. I think Andrew would prefer just to pretend that Benny doesn’t exist. It’s easier for everyone that way. I’m sorry, I thought I had money in this purse. I’ll get you some from upstairs.” She put her purse down and crossed the room.

“Sure, take your time. Benny gave me a message for you. He said to tell you look in the urn.

She froze and her eyes darted to the large urn on the fireplace.

“Thank you. I’ll get your money.”

“Maybe he meant that urn there.” I walked over to it and leaned against the fireplace.

“No, he means something else. I’ll get your money. Please do not touch anything.”

I followed her to the door and watched as she climbed the stairs, she paused near the top and turned as if to make sure I was still there.

“I won’t be long.”

I nodded and smiled, “I’ll be right here.”

My plan was to wait until she was out of sight then check the urn but I was distracted my a movement at the end of the hall. It was Benny. He saw me and darted into the kitchen. I ran after him. The kitchen was empty but an open door looked like it led down into some kind of basement or cellar. I ran to the door and flipped the switch. At the bottom of the stairs a dim lamp flickered on.  I don’t exactly have a licence to carry a gun but that doesn’t stop me when I know there’s a chance I’ll need it. Visiting clients doesn’t usually call for it so my gun was back at home , hidden in a cornflake box. I ran back into the kitchen and grabbed a mean looking knife and followed the stairs into the basement.  Before I reached the bottom there were two loud gunshots and I jumped down the last few steps. Swinging the knife wildly I spun around on full alert. The cellar was empty. I checked the walls. No hidden doors. No windows.  Was I imagining things? If Imagined seeing Benny here, did I imagine it earlier? If I did then maybe I hadn’t really seen Benny and I didn’t deserve to take the money from his sister.  But then again, she could afford it and she really should have offered me more. I returned the knife to the block in the kitchen and made my way back to the sitting room, maybe there was still a chance I could check out the urn.

Angela was already back when I got there. She stood by the window, the furthest spot in the room from the urn.

“I have your money.” She said.

I crossed to the urn.

“About that. How about we renegotiate? What if I go back out there and take another look. I’m sure I could find him and talk him into coming out here to see. Let’s say… two hundred dollars should cover it.” I placed my hand on the urn.

“No, I don’t  think that will be necessary. Please take your money and leave.”  She held her hand out and even from across the room I could see her hands shake.

“I was thinking about Benny’s message and I can’t get it out of my head that he meant this urn.”

She started to speak but I snatched the lid of the urn and peeked inside. There was nothing but grey dust. It looked like it had been disturbed but I felt that reaching would have been pushing my luck to far.

“Andrew’s father’s ashes. Are you happy now Mr Malone?” there was a quiver in a voice but I couldn’t tell if it was from anger or something else.

I put the lid back on the urn and crossed to take the money from her.

“ Maybe I’ll keep an eye out for Benny anyway, it won’t cost me anything.”

As I plucked the cash from her hand I noticed a grey streak on her wrist. Ash.

“Thank you, Mrs Andrews. It’s been swell.”

My phone buzzed, it was Cousin Frank. It wasn;t like him to call me back, I swiped the screen and listened to what he had to say.

“Thanks Frank.”

I slipped the phone back into my pocket and turned back to Benny’s sister.

“What was in the urn, Angela?”

“Who was that?”

“It was the police. What was in the urn?”

“You’ve got your money. Please leave.”

“Was it a gun?”

“That’s enough.”

“Get out.” She moved to the doorway.

“A small, snub nosed .38 revolver?”

Her pale complexion tuned white, it emphasised her freckles and made her green eyes pop. I tried to focus.

“How?”

“I’m a detective. Where’s the gun now, Angela?” Stay calm and use their first name, text book psychology.

Her eyes flicked to her purse on the table but she said nothing.

“You realise that when you took it out of the urn, you got your fingerprints on it. If your husband had any sense he would have wiped gun down so now you are the prime suspect.”

“Andrew wouldn’t…”

“Wouldn’t what? Shoot his loser brother in law? Let you take the blame? Are you sure?”

Angela moved to the sofa and collapsed into it.

“Who was on the phone?”

“The police.”

“What do they know?”

“They found Benny’s body. He had been shot twice.” Two gunshots.

“But you said that you saw him.”

“I was mistaken.”

I recalled Benny, lit by police lights, running into the alley then again one hundred feet from here, running down into the basement. I remembered his laugh, his words, the two gunshots.

“It must have been my imagination.” I said.

She reached into her purse and I tensed, expecting her to draw the gun. She pulled out a crumpled pack of cigarettes. Her hands were trmbling.

“How did you know about the urn?”

“I’m a detective remember.” That seemed to land with her. She went silent.

She lit the cigarette and inhaled slowly.

I waited.

One puff was apparently enough, she crushed the cigarette out on the table. There was no ashtray but she seemed to be beyond caring. She looked at me with hard emerald eyes.

“What happens now.”

“You get yourself a lawyer. Make sure it’s your husband that goes to jail and not you.”

“What if neither of us went?”

I said nothing.

“If I get rid of the gun there’s no evidence.”

“I don’t think I can let you do that.”

“We would make it worth your while.”

“He killed your brother.”

“My brother’s dead, my husband going to jail won’t bring him back. But it will affect me… financially. Right now, I’m rich and I want to help you.”

“Help me how.”

She smiled and crossed her legs, the green dress slipped up her thigh. She knew what she was doing. For the first time, I felt sorry for Andrew Andrews.

“What would you say if I gave you fifty thousand dollars to walk away right now?”

That was more money than I had made in the last four years. I could pay my rent for the year, buy a tie and eat twice a day. I reached into my pocket and emptied the contents on to the table. My phone, six dollars and some coins.  The phone was an old model but it still worked fine. I thought back on the lemon meringue pie I had eaten earlier in the evning that was some good pie. And it only cost four dollars. I picked up the phone and clicked on the number for my cousin Frankie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Untitled short story

I pulled up outside the small laundrette and checked the address that the dispatcher had provided. The weather had kept most sensible folks indoors. The rain fell in huge, cold drops, punching holes in the snow. It would wash it away eventually but tonight it was turning the clean snow to slush and making the city streets a little more grim than usual. I slipped my official parking identification card onto the dashboard. A lot of fancy words that boiled down to, ”Real cop on duty, I park where I want” but in words easy for traffic cops to understand. There should have been a picture, just in case.

 

I braced myself for the cold and pushed open the door. The cold hit me hard but I could see the witness standing in his doorway so I pretended it didn’t bother me. Mr Han, Asian male, mid forties, wearing a green jumper with a giant reindeer face on the front complete with red nose, he was probably Korean if he lived in this area. A kid, probably his son, peeked out from behind him. Recording everything on his cellphone. I pushed out my chest and smiled brightly. I felt like I was on the TV show, Cops. Mr Han said nothing but pointed down the alleyway beside his store.

 

I indicated to the door behind him, a warm glow escaped the hallway and the smell of exotic cooking made me salivate. “For your own safety sir, please stay in your house and keep the door locked.” I looked down at the kid with the camera and winked, “I’ll take care of this.” Detective Brogan, on the case.

The alley was long and dark and filled with dumpsters. Unusually for this city, it didn’t smell too bad. Vents from the laundrette one side pumped the flowery scent of fabric softener into the air and there was the sharp tangy smell of Korean barbeque wafting from the restaurant on the other side. It would be pleasant if it wasn’t for the freezing rain dripping down my collar. I shivered and pushed a discarded shopping cart out of my way.

“Okay Doug, the games up. I know you’re in here. You got sloppy, and we got witnesses.”

I fumbled in my belt and pulled out a long Maglite flashlight. It would have been easier without my thick gloves but I didn’t want to get frostbite, not over a loser like Doug Appleby. I moved the flashlight across the scene just like they taught us in the academy, left to right then up and down.

“Listen up Doug. I’m cold and wet and I’m guessing you are too. Don’t stretch this out any longer than it needs to be.”

I heard the unmistakable clink of glass bottles being knocked over. From behind a dumpster. A face appeared, shielded from the light by a skinny arm.

“Chuck? Is that you?” Doug’s voice sounded weak compared to the last time I had spoken to him.

“That’s Officer Brogan to you. Step out into the open and keep your hands where I can see them.” I kept the light shining in his eyes to keep him off balance. If this all went well, I would be back in the nice, warm, precinct before the end of shift.

“Chuck. I didn’t do it. You know me. I couldn’t have done what they said. Not to Claire, not to the Browning girl either.”

“Not my problem, Doug. If you’re innocent, the court’s will decide.” Fat chance. All the evidence pointed to him. Beyond a reasonable doubt, as they say, “Now turn around and place your hands behind your back, I’m going to cuff you then walk you back to my car, where it’s warm and dry. Sound good?”

He said nothing. He had been on the run for three days and he looked terrible. His clothes were dirty and wet and the hair around his bald patch stuck out in every direction. His eyes were bloodshot and glassy. He didn’t turn around.

“I’m serious Doug, turn around.”

He stepped forward, “I’m innocent. I have proof.”

Dammit, this was the last thing I needed tonight,

“Stay back.” I said in a calm, authoritative voice and pulled my sidearm from the holster. I had forgotten about the thick gloves and the gun slipped through my fingers and landed in the slushy mess at my feet.

“Step back,” I said again but less calm and with less authority. I dipped the flashlight to search for the gun. Doug Appleby smashed into me, knocking me from my feet. I swung blindly with the Maglite but didn’t connect. I scrambled to my feet and scanned the ground. Too late. Doug stood with my service revolver pointed at face. His hand shaking.

I felt my heart hammering in my chest and threw my hands out instinctively to shield myself. “Whoa Doug. What are you doing?”

He blinked as if the reversal of power was as much as a surprise to him as to was to me. He shook his head, like he was clearing his thoughts but the only thing he said was, “I’m innocent.”

“I told you buddy. If that’s true then the courts will let you go. They let you go last time, didn’t they? They couldn’t find any evidence, could they?”

He shook his head and looked like he would cry.

I kept on, “If they couldn’t find any evidence against you with the browning girl and you didn’t take Claire, then you have nothing to worry about.”

“They didn’t find any evidence because I’m innocent.” His voice raised a few octaves, “And nobody believes me.”

“I believe you buddy. I always have. We’ve been neighbours for ten years.”

“Fifteen.”

“Yeah, that’s right fifteen years. You’re right. That’s a long time isn’t it? That’s a lot of Christmas cards and friendly waves. Don’t I give you a friendly wave every time I see you Doug?”

“You arrested me. You said that you found that bloody hammer in my back yard.”

“That’s my job buddy, you know that. What would you have done if you were me? It was your hammer, in your yard covered in the Browning girl’s blood.”

“But I didn’t do it.”

“I know that now. The courts threw the case out didn’t they? I was there when they did it. I was happy for you.”

The gun shook in his hands, I could see his hands blue with the cold and he probably hadn’t eaten for days. The revolver was a Colt detective special and weighed twenty one ounces, not all that heavy but not designed to be held out for long periods with one arm.

“Doug, just put the gun down. We can talk about this.”

Something changed in him, his eyes glinted, almost feral and he lifted the gun higher, “How could you even think that I could have done those horrible things to that girl?”

“She spent a lot of time at your house. People didn’t think it was proper. I saw you myself, from my kitchen window. She would laugh at everything you said. You would hang around them when they were sunbathing. It wasn’t right.”

“She was Claire’s friend. That was the only reason she was there. They grew up together. You know that. Didn’t you give her a friendly wave too?”

I didn’t like where this was going and needed to get him back on track. And I really needed him to put the gun down. I opened my arms wide as if surrendering, trusting.

“Are you going to shoot me Doug? You say you are innocent, and I believe you. I really do. But if you shoot me then you wouldn’t be innocent any more. You would be a cop killer. Then there would be no place to run too. What’s your plan? You say you didn’t do it and that you have proof. That’s great. Let me help you. If you shoot me and then find whoever took Claire, you still go to jail. Is that what you want?”

“I just want my daughter back.” He sniffed and lowered the gun slightly.

“Give me the gun and I won’t mention any of this. I’ll take you in and help you find a lawyer. Can you hear those sirens? Back up is on its way. We don’t have much time to keep this quiet.”

I had him. I could see it in his eyes. The light was fading, the fight was going out of him and he wanted to give up.

“Tell me about the proof you found, buddy. If it’s something that will exonerate you then I can make sure the DA gets it.”

That did it, he lowered the gun and fished something out of his pocket with his left hand. I considered rushing him and taking the gun but there was no point, I could end this without a fight.

He held his hand out and opened his palm to reveal a plain gold ring. A wedding ring, a man’s.

“Where did you get that?”

“It was in the sheets. In Claire’s bedroom. She must have put up a fight when he snatched her.”

I swallowed hard. The rain had stopped, and the clouds had moved letting the full moon light up the alley in a way that the flashlight could not. The slushy snow glowed all around us. I could hear the banshee wailing of police sirens getting closer. I took a step forward, “Let me see it.”

He took a step towards me and I smashed the Maglite into the side of his head, knocking him to the ground and kicked the gun out of his hand.

I grabbed at his hand and forced it open. It was empty. “Where’s the ring?” I screamed at him and punched him in the ribs. He wheezed but didn’t answer. I pulled of my thick gloves and slapped him across the face. “Where is the goddam ring?”

He groaned and muttered incomprehensibly. I dropped to my knees and searched in the snow around him. By hands burned as I scooped up piles of slush and sifted through like a prospector. Nothing.

“Doug. I need that evidence to prove that you are innocent. Help me find it.”

I staggered to my feet and pulled him up by the collar. I scooped up my gun and pointed it at him.

“In two minutes this place will be swarming with cops and we’ll probably never find that ring again. If you want to show the world you are innocent we need to find it now. Help me look.”

But he didn’t say anything. He stared at me, unblinking then looked down at my hands.

I pushed him back and placed the gun under his chin.

“You had your chance. Close your eyes.”

He just stared at me, his eyes dark with hatred. There was no fear in those eyes.

I stepped back and turned the gun on myself. I pulled the trigger and felt the bullet rip through my shoulder. A searing blast of hot pain almost caused me to drop the gun, but I had one more thing to do before my fellow officers arrived.

“Your fingerprints are all over this gun Doug. You grabbed it from me and shot me. I got it back and shot you in self-defence. And I’m the big hero for stopping a child killer before he strikes again.”

He muttered something as I levelled the gun at him.

“What was that?”

He whispered, “Is she alive?”

I smiled, “For now.”

He pushed at me and screamed, “Is Claire alive?”

I could hear the slamming of doors as my back up arrived. Time was up.

“Yes,” I shouted at him, “She’s alive, but not for much longer.” I shoved him hard. He landed on his back in the snow. I pointed the gun at his head but stopped when I saw him smiling at something over my shoulder.

I turned and looked up at silhouette of a young Asian boy looking down from the second floor window, and the red light of his phone blinking in the darkness.

Voices behind me yelled, “Freeze. Police.”

On The Line – Life Writing

On the journey of my life there have been several forks in the road, points where one little thing could have changed the course of my life. I have lived all over the country and in America and feel that this has broadened my outlook on life and shaped the person that I am today. When I visit my home town of Bathgate I sometimes run into friends from school who took jobs in the local council or banks and have lived their whole lives in the town in which they were born. That could have happened to me too and it almost did because of one missed phone call…

I’m sitting in a railroad station, checking up my destination. I look around at the other passengers and wonder who else can hear Simon and Garfunkel singing in their heads. I often wonder about these things, asking myself “Is it just me or…?” and sometimes I wonder if it’s only me that asks myself questions like this. I check my watch, then glance at my phone. This is  1990, the old days, so there is no clock on my phone.  It has been almost an hour since I had the interview and they told me I would hear from them before the end of the day.  It sounded vague but I feel that I did well.

Waverly Station is a cathedral for travellers, and pigeons, but on this day I am the only person praying. Please let me get this job.  I stare up at the domed ceiling with its opaque panes and mysterious stains and stop myself from making a quick sign of the cross. I don’t want anyone thinking that I’m crazy.  I glance at my phone again and I don’t like the way that the smallest of the little  black signal bars is flickering. Buildings from the mid nineteenth century are great places to shelter from a storm with their thick stone walls but they’re not ideal for mobile phone coverage.  The last bar flickers out, only to be replaced by a circle for a second or two before reappearing, nonchalantly steadfast on the screen as if trying to pretend it had never gone.

The smell from the hot food stand is driving me crazy. I skipped breakfast due to nerves and swear that Mr Grimley  (“Call me Des”)   could hear my stomach grumbling during the interview.  The only thing stopping me from grabbing a sausage roll now is the knowledge that my dinner will be ready when I get home, and the fact I don’t want to get any food stains on my good suit. Or my only suit if I’m being honest.  I look over at the girl on the other bench, she’s listening to music on her headphones and bopping her head in time, I can hear a faint buzz but can’t tell what she’s listening to.  We are both too young to care about hearing damage.  I smile at her but she doesn’t look up. She is probably shy because of my suit and tie. And my mobile phone. She probably thinks I’m someone important.

I enjoy wearing the suit and tie. It’s like a costume. Like James Bond. Maybe if I don’t get this job I could apply for MI5. The little voice in my head tells me that I would have more chance getting a job with MFI, building cabinets. A  ding, dong, ding noise bursts from the tinny speakers overhead and an accent-free voice announces something to do with London Kings Cross and platform four.  Not my train, I’m waiting to go to Bathgate. The cute girl sitting across from me – sorry I didn’t mention before that she was cute – pulls her headphones off and cocks her  head to better hear the announcement.  I watch as strands of her blonde hair fall  across her exposed shoulders while she looks up at the speaker and I recognise the tune coming from the orange foam covered  headphones as  Betty Boo wondering  where her baby is. The girl isn’t going to London apparently. She pulls back her hair and twists it  into a knot in a single, elegant motion then slips the headphones back on. All without looking in my direction once.  She’s very good.

I check the phone again. Nothing. If I get this job I will have to move to Leeds in West Yorkshire, and leave my family behind. I will be living on my own for the first time and eventually meet the love of my life there, but I don’t know that at the time; I only know that getting this job will be, in the words of Peter Pan, an awfully big adventure. I look up at the departure board again. Twenty minutes. There is a woman with a red hand bag standing by the photo booth and a man with a leather jacket and a dodgy looking moustache approaching her from behind. I consider what I would do if he grabbed the bag and ran for the exit. From my angle I could probably intercept him before he got away. If he tried to get away by jumping down onto the tracks I could run along behind him then drop down on to him and keep him pinned until the police arrive. I watch instead as he gently takes the bag from the woman and she hugs him briefly before the two of them head out together.  One day I will pour that imagination into writing novels but it also helps pass the time waiting for trains. In my head I hear the theme from the TV series Mission Impossible.

The music is not in my head, it’s the ringtone that I installed on the mobile. I flip the phone open

“Hello?”

A crackling noise on the line then, “Hello Gary? It’s Des.” Another crackle then a click.

I stare at the phone. No bars; just a circle with a line through it. I shake it. I hold it in the air; I smack the side of the phone. Nothing.

The other travellers must think I’m crazy as I run around in circles trying to get a signal. Nothing I try works and I consider smashing the stupid plastic phone against the stone walls. I spot the British Telecom phone box and run over to it, searching my pockets for change.  Of course, I have no change, it would have ruined the line of the suit. But I do have two pound notes in my pocket.

I ask the woman in John Menzies if she has change for a pound, waving the crumpled green note in desperation.

She explains that she can’t open the till without someone buying something and that I can wait if I like. I look around, the shop is empty. I grab a packet of polo mints and hand it to her. She asks me for ten pence. I grit my teeth as I thrust the paper into her hand and watch as she slowly counts out my change. As the last coin drops into my palm I am already moving back towards the payphone.

I call the number from the card in my wallet.

“BT Mobile Communications, Desmond Grimley’s office.” A perky voice announces.

“Hi, it’s Gary Pettigrew. I was there for a job interview earlier. Can I speak to Mr Grimley please? I mean Des.”

There’s a long pause.

“I’m sorry Gary. Des is quite busy just now but he will contact you as soon as he knows anything about the results. I’m sure it won’t be too long”

“No, no. Don’t hang up. He did try to call me but my phone died.”

Another long pause.

“Are you sure?” She sounds doubtful.

“Yes. Can I talk to him please?”

“Let me take a look and see if he’s free”

My imagination kicks in. Does she sound sympathetic? Is that a bad sign? Does she know that I have messed up the interview?  I know that there is a job vacancy with the Bank of Scotland which I could apply for. I can walk there from my parents house. That would be a lot easier.

“Hello Gary?” A man’s voice, it sounds like Mr Grimley.

“Des?”

“Yes. Sorry about earlier, I’ve no idea what happened.”

He pauses for a long time, as if framing bad news.

“I hope you’re packed, you start next Monday.”