When I arrived at the studio, I noticed a few extra cars in the underground car parking lot that were assigned to visitors. Jean’s and Peter’s cars were both there and the others looked familiar—I couldn’t quite place them. I soon found out.
As I crept passed the busy receptionist, trying to avoid a conversation, she called me over. It wasn’t that I didn’t like her, but I preferred to miss the usual drawn-out chat we usually had. My priority was to get a few things organised and to read up on some stories that were bound to come up on my shift.
‘Are you miffing out on me Garry?’ June said. The glint in her eye was the one I recognised when things were up and she was the recipient of ‘knowledge.’ I quickly changed my mind.
‘Nah---- my head’s elsewhere lately—what with all this crap going down.’
‘Guess who’s in the meeting room?’ Oh my God--- she’s gonna play that game. That’s all I need. Now I’m not going to get anywhere until I’ve played her silly game.
‘I’m not in the mood for the Katherine Tate Show June. Just spit it out.’
For a second or two I thought she was going to go into that pouting thing she does so well, but she didn’t. She motioned me closer, as if the news she was about to share was world-breaking and I’d be the first to hear. I shimmied over, bringing a barely suppressed giggle.
‘Shush--- they’re right next door,’ she said.
‘You’re the one making all the noise dearie.’ I said. Damn--- now I really do want to hear what she knows.
‘It’s all the Shift managers, plus some of the executives from the main office. The head money crunchers is here too and he’s got one hell of a smile on his face. I took coffee and muffins through about twenty minutes ago--- guess what they’re talking about?’
‘Ah--- maybe the latest automated receptionist robots,’ I ventured with a semi-straight face.
‘Oh you---- stop teasing me.’ Her face turned serious for a split second---- but then--- back to the possessor of great knowledge. ‘They are talking about you Garry. Just as I was leaving, I overheard something about the show going viral on the internet. Hehehe--- you should ask for a raise honey bun.’
‘Thank God I haven’t got face book then,’ I replied.
‘You should Garry---- everyone will be hitting it if you do.’
‘And when the hell would I find time to respond to them all--- Have you thought about that?’
‘You wouldn’t have to Garry--- the station would hire someone to do it for you.’
‘What a load of bollocks--- that’s so dishonest.’
‘Do you really think that all those stars do their own thing? It’s all about money Garry.’
The buzzer went on June’s desk. ‘Yes Peter?’
‘Is Garry in the building June?’
‘He’s just come in--- do you want me to send him in?’
‘yes June-----‘ June left the switch on----- ‘Right when he comes in--- don’t lay it on too think---- we don’t want the bugger thinking he’s God’s gift do we---- shit the fucker will be asking for more money then---- and he doesn’t k now we’re bloody rolling in advertising revenue----‘ June belatedly cut off the conversation. Her face was bright red or was it from trying not to giggle too much?
‘You did that on bloody purpose didn’t you June?’
‘What--- me----- do that? ---never,’ she said, unable to stop laughing. ‘It’s not often we get one over on them eh?’
I went through to the meeting room, which is a rather pretentious name for what serves as a kitchen and lunchroom and the occasional use as a sick room. An old couch that someone had thrown out long ago served as a resting place for anyone needing a quick lay down. Of course the very nature of the set-up did little to encourage regular use; they either soldiered on or took themselves home.
The remnants of muffins on paper plates and cold coffee dregs were scattered around the table, where six people sat. They looked up at me----- I knew their little secret. I would use that knowledge when and if it suited me. For now, I sat at a vacant seat.
‘Here’s the man of the moment,’ the number-cruncher said. God--- he looked like one too. His balding head, cheap suit and beady eyes fulfilled all of my prejudices. The other simply smiled, apart from Jean, who had this other unexplainable look. Was she going to be a bitch? I thought, or would that other almost caring side be in ascendency? No---- she looked like someone had told her to go easy on me. Maybe I could rark her up later.
‘I believe you wanted to see me before I hit the air-waves,’ I said in my most professional manner.
‘Yes---- we wanted to see the man of the moment,’ a middle-aged lady said. Her voice dripped of money and old-school. A few years back, I would have called her one of the ‘blue-rinsed brigade.’ Now, I guess she would be more ex-yuppie.’ and definitely Botox material. Bottom line---- watch out for her. Peter came to the fore.
‘We all, think you are doing remarkably well. It seems that with every hour you are on, our audience out there increases. They seem to find out really quickly, once you start.’
‘The marvels of instant communication Peter,’ I replied. My friends have told me that the lagoon is even on Utube---- gosh someone even took a few shots of the ladies and our dogs. I’m not sure they are very comfortable with that.’ Jean seemed to have sat on a stone or something, or was it a bundle of notes she had just counted from the revenue boost.
‘So you are coming under the spotlight a bit then Garry,’ one of the other guys said. He was younger--- stuffed if I knew what his ties were to the station. He had this smug look and screamed----‘just keep the money rolling in boyo.’ I decided a little drama was in order and put on a stressed look. That entailed a little wringing of my hands and moving about in a pseudo-nervous manner.
‘I think if you had to listen to the crap that prick throws at me, you would be asking for a new BMW and extra stress-leave, somehow---ooops I’m sorry I don’t know your name.’
There was a distinct moving about of multiple bums as they took in my response. Man that made me feel better. Maybe, I should push it further. ‘Damn--- I’m hardly sleeping and everywhere I go, I seem to be looking over my shoulder.’
‘Ah, I’m Jonathan Taylor and this is Camilla Sternbrook--- I believe you know the remainder of our team, Peter Jean and Eugene, our ever suffering shift managers---- oh and our Advertising executive, Tom Nottingham. I must say you are doing a sterling job Garry--- keep this up and I’m sure there will be a little something in it for you.’
There--- he had said it--- but little? He needed a bit more prodding. ‘Actually my doctor is worried about the stress-level--- he wants me to take some time off, until the police get to the bottom of this.’
That hit the spot. The room’s temperature seemed to have gone Arctic. The looks on their collective mugs was almost comical, except I hadn’t made a joke. Well it was funny for me though. I guess they could see their golden goose flapping off for greener pastures and the station’s income going decidedly miniscule.
‘Garry--- is there anything we can do to make this work?’ Jean--- my caring wonderful Jean. I couldn’t tell if she was genuine. Let’s face it--- our stand-offs are so regular, it’s hard to know whether we’re fighting or playing a silly game.
‘Look--- I haven’t told you this –yet---- But I arrived home to find an envelope with what I can only say is a threatening note in it from our lula caller.’
‘Garry--- you can’t speak like that about our callers.’ It’s the yuppie talking.
‘Would you like to swap places then, Princess?’ I said scathingly. Jean sent a look that should have curdled the milk, but said nothing. Camilla on the other hand, almost froze. She held her tongue--- for a second or two.
‘I’m sure you are exaggerating Garry. You don’t even know if he is the one who killed that poor man. All you need to do is keep him talking. It can’t be that difficult.’
‘Perhaps you should come and talk to the ladies I walk with. Believe me--- they are starting to feel it too. I’d love to know how you’d respond if you found out that every move you make is being observed.’
‘You are been most unreasonable Garry,’ Jonathan interrupted. He didn’t follow through; indeed he looked decidedly uncomfortable. He seemed to have caught Camilla’s butt problem.
‘I think I can hear a cash register banging away in the distance---- oh its jammed.’
Peter tried to suppress a grin, but I saw it. The others didn’t know where to look. Maybe I had riled them enough for one day, but I think I had made my point.
‘Look--- you may not have much to do, but I need to prepare for my shift. You don’t want me talking shit on air do you?’ Without even a hint of a backward glance I left them to it. I could feel their eyes boring into my back. Oh they wanted to fire me,’ I’m sure. If they can play the money game, then I would join them. I hoped like hell the bugger would ring in again. I had some ideas about how to handle him, but boy---- was I nervous--- and a little scared.