Straight Down the Line

Morning folks,

little piece of flash fiction this morning. Hope you enjoy and as always, comments welcome!

***

Trevor sat on the metallic chair, elbows on his knees, staring at the floor. There were lights in the room, but none shining into his face. Not yet, anyway. Instead, up-lit lamps clung to the walls of the office, spilling soft yellow light onto the ceiling and down onto the table in front of him. There was no sound other than the low thrum of the aircon system, and Trevor had to raise his head intermittently to check that the two guards were still in the room with him. They were.

Hanging his head once more, Trevor heard it – the sound that all three men had been anticipating. Both guards straightened their backs against the wall and stared impassively past him, their lips as thin and straight as the creases in their trousers. Trevor rubbed his sweaty palms together as he counted the steps echoing in the warehouse. The factory was huge and the array of equipment that stood hulking in the airy darkness distorted the sounds.

The footsteps halted, and after two sharp raps on the door Mr. Mitchell, the duty manager, entered the room. Trevor raised his head again to see that, although immaculately turned out, he had the heavy-eyed, jowly look of a man recently roused from sleep. After conferring briefly with one of the guards, the man took out a tablet and dragged a metal chair to the table. He sat down on it heavily before tapping away at the screen in front of him. It was some time before he spoke.

‘Trevor Gillian?’ Mr. Mitchell asked, not looking at the man opposite him.

‘Yes, sir.’ Trevor stared at his hands.

‘Chip board fastener on production line E?’

Trevor nodded. This answer seemed to satisfy the man for a while; there was more tapping and swiping on the small screen.

‘Been with the company for eight years?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Second highest level of security clearance?’

‘Yes.’

‘Happy at your work?’

The man’s eyes flicked up from his tablet for the first time.

‘I…yes, sir.’

‘Can you tell me why I’m sitting across a desk from you in a deserted smartphone factory at three in the morning?’

Trevor said nothing for a moment before gesturing towards a sprawling pile of glass, plastic, and gleaming copper wiring that was heaped on the desk in front of them.

‘That’s right,’ said Mr. Mitchell, leaning back in his chair so that the metal shrieked. ‘We’ve had thefts before, and we’ve certainly had leaks of proprietary technology, but nothing as brazen as this. Nothing as downright…stupid.’

Trevor shrugged.

‘Well,’ said the man, getting up from his seat and buttoning his suit. ‘I’m afraid only one course of action remains, Mr. Gillian. We always prosecute, and we always seek damages – it’s the only way we can ensure we remain at the leading edge of smartphone technology. Once they have been searched, you’ll have your belongings sent to you at your home address, or your custodial one.’

He motioned to the guards, both of whom placed a hand underneath Trevor’s arms, raising him to his feet. Putting his tablet back into his briefcase, Mr. Mitchell paused.

‘Just out of interest,’ he said, his brow furrowed. ‘What on earth possessed you to dismantle the phones before you left the warehouse?’

Trevor considered the value of what he was about to say before shrugging once more and muttering out of the corner of his mouth.

‘I’m sorry,’ said the man. ‘I didn’t catch that.’

Trevor rolled his eyes.

‘I said I wasn’t trying to steal chipboards.’

‘Well then,’ asked the man, smirking. ‘What were you doing with a rucksack full of proprietary tech at three in the morning?’

With two men restraining him, Trevor was no longer able to avoid eye contact by staring at the floor. Instead, he chose a spot over his questioner’s left shoulder.

‘I was looking for a diamond ring.’

The aircon was the only sound in the room once more. One of the guards shifted his feet.

‘My girlfriend, Lyndsey, she works down the line at quality checking,’ continued Trevor, resigned to telling his story now. ‘The idea was…the idea was that I would put an engagement ring in the phone casing, and that she would get an abnormal weight alert and check inside.’

There were still only blank faces.

“A proposal,’ he spluttered. ‘It was supposed to be a proposal!’

Trevor shook his head, as though he himself was having trouble giving the story credence.

‘I’m sorry,’ said the manager, massaging his temples. ‘I still don’t understand what the pile of electronic detritus in front of us has to do with your proposal, which by itself constitutes a breach of contract and which will…’

‘She went for a bathroom break!’ said Trevor, pulling his arms free and grabbing tufts of his own hair. ‘Of all the times to go, she went then. Whoever was covering for her mustn’t have been paying attention, and the phone was passed as fit for sale.’

The manager looked down at the huge pile of components.

‘You mean…’

‘That somewhere,’ Trevor wiped his moist eyes with his sleeve. ‘Somewhere amongst this pile is a ring which cost me six months’ salary.’

Trevor saw the manager’s eyes flick to both security guards. Mr. Mitchell put down his briefcase before retaking his own seat.

‘I’m telling the truth,’ said Trevor sullenly.

‘I believe you,’ Mr. Mitchell replied before taking off his jacket and rolling up his sleeves. He motioned for the guards to do the same. ‘Now, what colour stone was it?’

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Straight Down the Line

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