Nothing was happening.
Eric looked at the clock. Just past midnight. Another six hours before even the early morning cleaners turned up. He yawned.
Looking at the desk, his mug was empty. Time for another drink.
He picked up his radio and buzzed it.
“Marco, where are you?”
There was a brief hiss of static.
“Polo, I’m over at East Tower,” the radio crackled. “Just patrolling.”
“I’m gonna make coffee, want one?”
“Yep. If I’m not there, leave it in the kitchen.”
He replaced the radio back on his belt and headed off to the employee kitchen in the West Tower.
Eric yawned and flicked the light switch. The old fluorescent lamp in the ceiling flickered a little when he turned it on and then bathed the kitchen in the slightly jaundiced light that used to pervade offices everywhere. Why they hadn’t as yet got around to doing the same in the offices in the mall, despite having done it in most of the shops, he didn’t know, but he had a theory: making money is always more important than keeping the staff happy.
He filled the kettle and grabbed an extra mug from the cupboard. Instant coffee powder went in to both – no point turning on the big machine, risk forgetting about it and have to get it repaired. Leroy did that and they made him pay for it.
He pulled out his phone, leaned up against the counter, and started looking through things. No text messages, no emails – nothing new. As to be expected, this time of night. He opened up a game, and started to play quickly while he waited for the kettle.
Eventually it clicked off and he put the phone on the kitchen counter and turned back around. As he turned round, the lights flickered and a shadow appeared in the door.
“Hey,” he said. “Done already? That was fast.”
He looked back to the door but the shadow had gone.
“Trick of the light,” he shrugged and went to the fridge. There wasn’t enough milk for two. He pulled the radio again.
“Marco,” he said. “Not enough milk for two here.”
The usual hiss of static and then the signal came through.
“Polo,” the radio said. “Leave mine black, I’ll check for milk in the East Tower kitchen.”
“OK Suzie,” he said to the radio. “Thanks, owe you one. Out.”
He picked up his mug, flicked the light switch back off and carried the hot coffee out to the landing and stood there, looking out.
One night, when he was bored, he’d sat at the front desk with one of those map brochures, and counted everything. There were a hundred and seven units in this mall now, since the furniture store expanded. Some of the smaller stores had five staff, but some of the larger bordering on twenty. And the supermarket, which was most of the east side, underneath the tower, employed maybe forty. Allow for some office staff and security guards, and all in all, he thought, there were nine hundred people working here. Not bad.
“And they say malls are destroying jobs,” he muttered to himself, sipping his coffee.
“Marco”, buzzed the radio. “I just saw something on the CCTV.”
“Polo,” he said, grabbing at the radio. “What did you see?”
“Looks like a shadow or something, I can’t really tell. Might be that cat again from last month?”
“OK, will keep a look out for unauthorised purring. Kitten patrol out.”
Eric finished the coffee and grinned. He went back to the kitchen, washed the mug and placed it upside down on the draining board.
He checked his watch again: five past. There wasn’t much happening.
He turned the other way from the kitchen and headed up the stairs to the offices.
As expected, the offices were dark, cold and empty. The torch didn’t throw much light – probably the batteries needed changing. But a scan around didn’t reveal anything out of place, although there was a dark patch on the floor.
Frowning, he turned on the light.
“Ah come on,” he hissed under his breath.
On the floor was a large puddle.
“Marco,” he said to the radio.
There was no answer.
He shrugged. Suzie was probably in some place where she couldn’t hear the radio, or the signal was bad. If she was still in the East Tower offices, that could happen – it was just enough distance and enough walls between the two radios that they didn’t work. Still, this had to be investigated. The water had to have come from somewhere, and that meant the floor above.
He climbed the stairs to the top floor and turned on the lights. The carpet tiles in the centre of this office were dry.
“Must be a burst pipe or something,” he sighed. He turned off the light, trudged down both stairs and went back down to the front desk..
He pulled out his phone and sent an email to facilities services, telling them about the water in the West Tower office.
The night settled then into its usual routine – patrolling around all the shops, looking for any signs of anything unusual or suspicious, seeing which shops had changed their displays during the day, who had a sale on, where the sales had just finished. He stopped by one of the clothes shops to admire the leather jacket in the window. He’d already reserved one, ready for payday. He turned the corner and outside the cookware shop, spotted another puddle.
“Ah rats,” he said to himself. “Looks like I’ll have to report another one.”
He finished his round, heading to the West information desk. By now it was nearly 2am.
“Time for more coffee,” he said, heading back to the kitchen.
The light was still on. He filled the kettle again, and switched it on.
“Marco,” he said, trying to raise Suzie on the radio. “I’m making coffee again, did you find any…”
His voice trailed away, looking at a mug of cold coffee on the counter.
“Marco?” he said into the radio. “Marco? If you’re there, Suzie, reply to me. Marco?”
Frowning, Eric walked out of the kitchen, ignoring the kettle boiling behind him. He walked over to the east side of the building – Suzie’s territory.
“Marco?” he called.
In the distance, a door slammed, and Eric froze, waiting for it to repeat, trying to pinpoint the direction of the sound.
It happened again, behind him and to the right.
He turned, and began walking stealthily towards the sound.
Again, the door clanged.
“Blowing in the wind,” he muttered. There weren’t many places a door could be open and actually blow in the wind – the swing door at smoker’s corner was the prime suspect.
Walking a little less stealthily now, he approached the door.
“How much rain must there be out there?” he wondered, walking through a large puddle. “In the middle of summer that’s gotta be wrong.”
He turned the corner and saw the door to the smoking area opening and closing, slowly. Cursing softly, he started walking towards the door again.
“Hello?” he shouted. “Anyone there?”
Only echoes answered his voice.
Grabbing the door handle, he pushed at the door, looking out onto the moonlit scene.
To his surprise, the planks outside were dry. Wet footsteps led to the railing. He looked over the side and screamed.
Looking down at the ground he saw her lying there, her head at an unnatural angle. What looked to be a pool of blood extended out from under her hair.
“How am I going to explain this to her little girl?” he whispered, the thought surprising him. “We’re supposed to be the ones keeping everybody safe.”
There seemed to be a shadow beside him. He turned, startled, and slipped on the water in front of him.
Everything raced before him, as he fell to the left, his chest hitting the railing and then – somehow – he was over the railing, holding on with one hand, feet dangling into empty air.
Eric wanted to throw up with fear, but couldn’t.
He looked up, trying to see the railing in the moonlight, but a shadow somehow lay in the way.
And then the shadow seemed to have hold of his hand – if that was even possible – and it was cold, oh so cold. After a while he couldn’t feel his fingers. And then the world went black.
The post “Security” first appeared on simoncollis.com and is Copyright © Simon Collis 2018. All rights reserved.