In Defence of the Realm

Chapter 6

Bill waved at me as he picked up his coat from the rack and put it on. He was always the last to leave.

I grinned as I waved and said goodbye. Sometimes I don’t understand why people put up with the things they do. His real name was Vance, but I suppose everyone has to have a nickname; Vance was the offspring of Mr and Mrs Posters – but he never seemed to mind.

Now he’d left, I walked over to the time cards and clock. I checked all the cards and everyone had punched out except for me.

I locked everything, including the building’s front door then turned to Mr Brizelthwaite’s office – and stared at it.

I could see the lever-arch folder on the shelf, sitting there, taunting me. I really didn’t want to go through with this, but I knew I had to know what the contents were.

I reached for the handle of his office door. I looked behind me, listened, and almost removed my hand. I shook my head; then twisted the handle. It didn’t make a loud click as I thought it would. The door swung open and I stepped into his office.

Although I’d been here for my interview, although I’d been here for meetings, the inside of this glass office felt very different from those times when people had been buzzing around outside, getting on with the day to day tasks of processing mail. There was a strange feeling of otherworldliness. Although the furniture was modern, I felt like I’d stepped back two hundred years or more.

I mentally booted myself up the arse. The quicker I got this over and done with, the quicker I would feel better.

I stepped behind Jacob’s desk, lifted the folder from the shelf, pushed the framed picture of a woodland landscape to one-side and placed the folder on his desktop. Again I paused before taking the next step.

I quickly grabbed the lid of the folder and flicked the cover open. There were dividers in the folder, numbered by year. The first divider was labelled “2003”. The section was further divided into two months; July & August each.

I looked up. I was sure I’d heard the building door slam shut. I shut the lid of the folder and wandered out into the sorting room.

“Hello?… Mr Brizelthwaite?… Bill?” There was no response. I listened intently and the building felt as empty as it was silent.

I took a notebook from my jeans’ pocket as I walked back into Mr Brizelthwaite’s office.

There were about ten letters for each month in 2003, the last ones being sent on 26th July and 21st August, respectively – I made a note and skimmed through the letter headings, marking down the dates, for each of the years in the folder. There were no dividers for 2005 or 2007, but each and every other year was covered from 2003 to the present.

Another rattling sounded, breaking my concentration. I knew I couldn’t risk being here in Mr Brizelthwaite’s office any longer, though I didn’t think he would be back.

I closed the folder and placed it back on the shelf in exactly the same place I found it and left the office.

I was gutted I’d not had the time to see any of the contents of the letters. Perhaps there would be another time. But enough was enough and I’d done way too much, risking the friendship I’d found and the only job I had.

“Tomorrow is another day,” I consoled myself as I shut up shop.