THE COMPANY MAN
Jose opened the waiting room door. Six men, wearing grey suits identical to his, were sat staring straight ahead. Their hands were palm down on their knees. Jose walked in and took a seat next to the reception desk. He put his hands on his knees and sniffed. He sniffed again.
‘Would you like a tissue?’ said Margot the receptionist, offering a box of lemon-scented handkerchiefs.
‘No thank you,’ said Jose, without looking at her. ‘It’s the bleach. I smell bleach.’
One of the men looked at his hands and sniffed them. Margot sighed and took out her iPhone. She put in her ear plugs, hoping to drown out the sniffing sounds with The Saints’ ‘Swing For The Crime.’
Fifteen minutes later, the red telephone on Margo’s desk flashed. She picked up the receiver and put it to her ear. She listened, nodding occasionally.
‘Of course, Mr Tipple,’ she said.
She hung up and cleared her throat.
The men all leaned forward and stared at Margot.
‘Jose please go through,’ she said.
The shadow of a smirk briefly crossed Jose’s face.
He got up and walked through a door marked The Director.
Mr Tipple’s office was dark. He sat behind his mahogany desk breathing heavily. Behind him was a large window. Its blinds were pulled down. Tipple switched on an Anglepoise lamp. He was well dressed, as always, and held a gold fountain pen in his hand.
‘Please take a seat, Jose,’ said Mr Tipple. ‘I’ll be two ticks.’
Jose sat and waited until Mr Tipple had finished signing a wad of papers. He pressed a button on his desk and Margot came into the room and collected the documents.
Tipple waited until Margot left and nodded at Jose.
‘The thing is,’ said Mr Tipple. ‘The thing is …’
He leaned across the desk and looked Jose in the eye.
‘The thing is, Jose, we have to let you go,’ said Mr Tipple.
He smiled, looking uncomfortable.
Jose blinked and said.
‘Please take this to Col in supplies and he will arrange everything connected with your … departure.’
Jose took the slip of yellow paper from The Director and stood. As he went to open the door, he turned and looked at Mr Tipple.
‘Thank you, sir,’ he said.
Mr Tipple nodded.
‘Good luck, Jose,’ he said.
Col’s office was small and cramped. It was stuffed with metal filing cabinets and cardboard boxes. Col was big and ginger. He smelt of Cuban cigars although no one in The Company was allowed to smoke.
Jose gave the slip of paper to Col who rubber stamped it and put it in a filing cabinet. He took a small wooden box from another cabinet and handed it to Jose.
‘Check this and sign it,’ said Col.
Jose opened the box. He took out the Glock, inspected it and put it back in the box.
‘It’s fine,’ he said.
Col gave him a sheet of pink paper. Jose signed it and gave it back to Col, who stamped it and filed it away.
‘Is this your first field trip?’ said Col.
‘Well, keep an eye on those expenses, eh?’ said Col. ‘We’re not made of money.’
Charlotte’s Bistro was dark and red. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons leaked from a small CD player. An old married couple sat near the window, holding hands and watching the rain soaked street outside. A skinny business man maniacally tapped at his iPhone.
Jose sat at a small table near the door. He had finished his spaghetti carbonara and was halfway through a glass of Maison Surrenne Cognac when Sir David came in, shaking his black umbrella and spraying the room with autumn rain. As the petit waitress fussed around him, Jose went to the toilet. Five minutes later he came back out and shot everyone in the room. Twice, just to be on the safe side.
As he left the bistro, he picked up his blood splattered bill from his table and put it in his wallet. He’d need that for his expenses claim.
(c)Paul D. Brazill.