Daniella’s boss had insisted that they talk ‘in private’, in the team room, never a good sign. It was the room where the company hosted the dreaded training courses or the even less appealing one-to-one remedial coaching for those who had transgressed the endless list of company instructions, rules and regulations. The Shape Up or Ship Out Room. Or as it was colloquially known, the SUSO. Time in the SUSO was never good.
‘Mr Brian,’ Daniella said as she sat down behind one of the school desks that gave the room even more of a teacher/pupil vibe, ‘I—’
‘I’ll do the talking,’ he said, cutting her dead.
Kevin Brian was five years younger than Daniella. On the company’s fast-track management programme, he was one of the shooting stars who the board fawned over. He had a guardian angel in the Operations Director, a lech called Stephen Crammond. Kevin could do no wrong. Bulletproof. Knew it, used it and abused it.
‘This is serious, Daniella,’ Kevin said, perching his skinny arse on the lecture table at the front of the room. He didn’t speak directly to Daniella, preferring to stare out over the car park beyond the windows – checking, as he did a dozen times a day, that his fresh-out-of-the-wrapper Porsche Boxster was safe and sound.
‘Mr Brian,’ Daniella said. ‘I thought it was a crank call.’
‘And, Daniella,’ Kevin said. ‘That’s where the problem lies. You “thought”. And what do we say about that in JustU?’
‘Don’t think, ask.’ Daniella sighed as she repeated the sickening management mantra.
‘Spot on. Don’t think, ask. And you didn’t ask, did you?’
The urge to stand up and smash Kevin’s head into the desk rose as a living breathing monster in Daniella’s mind.
Stand up quickly.
Three steps forward.
Grab both ears by the lobes.
Connect his forehead to the desk.
Crack it like an egg.
With a smile.
‘Okay, Mr Brian,’ she said. ‘Shall I pack my bags?’
Kevin turned his attention away from the car park and looked at her. ‘Is that what you want, Daniella? Can you afford that?’
It was exactly what she wanted to do, had been for an age. She wanted to sling on her coat, pick up her bag, flick a double-handed V at the entire floor and make for the exit, and do it all with velocity. But her lifestyle, poor as it was, couldn’t stand the salary amputation and Kevin knew that.
‘I want to know what you want?’ she said.
‘Me,’ Kevin muttered, returning his gaze to his car. ‘Well, I want to put this little episode behind us. For you to get back to your job. For you to say nothing about what has happened and then to join me for a drink this evening.’
Daniella snapped her head up. ‘A drink?’
‘Eh . . .’
‘I’m a member of a small club that’s open late. They have some very nice private rooms.’
Daniella got the game in an instant. She was in the Shape Up or Ship Outroom, only now it was the Shut Up and Put Out room.
‘I think I’m being quite reasonable, given what has happened,’ Kevin said, eyes still ranging over the silver paintwork of his Porsche. ‘I mean, I really should call the police.’
But you won’t. Not yet.
‘I know that people make mistakes,’ he continued. ‘And I’m a forgiving soul.’
No, you’re not.
‘And a quiet evening with just the two of us would be lovely.’
It bloody wouldn’t.
‘So, are we good to go?’ he asked, eyes now counting the ceiling tiles.
Something stank here, and it wasn’t the sexual blackmail that Kevin was throwing around like a fire hose. If this guy, Freddy Barclay . . . Her head slammed on the handbrake. Barclay? Freddy Barclay. The guy on the phone hadn’t told her his surname. He’d refused to give it. She thought back to the conversation with Kevin at her desk.
‘Freddy Barclay told you he was going to be killed. And you said, and did, nothing.’
That’s what Kevin had said as he’d hung over her shoulder. How did he know the guy’s name was Barclay?
The stink in the room was getting worse. Kevin looked at her expectantly. Clearly he thought he had enough to force her out for a drink with him.
She stood up. ‘I’m out of here,’ she spat at him.
‘Daniella,’ Kevin said as she headed for the door, ‘if you’re not up for a drink then maybe it would be better if I called in the police right away. It’s entirely your choice.’
READ PART 5 HERE
Behind the Scenes of Death Insurance … the authors reveal it all in our exclusive interview.
Douglas Skelton was born in Glasgow. He has been a bank clerk, tax officer, taxi driver (for two days), wine waiter (for two hours), journalist and investigator. He has written eleven true crime and Scottish criminal history books but now concentrates on fiction. His novel Thunder Bay (2019) was longlisted for the McIlvanney Award. Douglas has investigated real-life crime for Glasgow solicitors and was involved in a long-running campaign to right the famous Ice-Cream Wars miscarriage of justice. The second book in his Rebecca Connolly series, The Blood is Still, is available now!
Here, Gordon Brown is writing as Morgan Cry. Gordon has written six crime thrillers to date, along with a number of short stories. He also helped found Bloody Scotland, Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, is a DJ on local radio (www.pulseonair.co.uk) and runs a strategic planning consultancy. His new thriller, Thirty-One Bones publishes in June 2020 and you can pre-order it here.