It’s still not fully uploaded. I’m going through this carefully as the book is too much fun to approach in a slapdash fashion. However, it’s taking a very pleasant shape and I’m genuinely enjoying revisiting the story again.
Below is Chapter Six of the novel. And, below that, is a link to how Chapter Six will sound in the audiobook.
As soon as the clock shifted past five-thirty, Becky’s stomach clenched and her bowels grew tight. It was hard to explain why, but being in the office after normal hours seemed somehow strange, different and wrong. In the minute between the clock creeping from five thirty to five thirty one, Becky could feel the shadows lengthening and the room’s light changing to a more sinister hue. She thought the effect was like being in an empty house without the owner’s permission, or being in a cemetery when there wasn’t a funeral.
“This is the biggest and best skive going,” Shaun said cheerfully. He was a broad-shouldered office boor. With a shock of dark hair contrasting with his pale complexion, and sharp dark eyes appraising her in an overly familiar fashion, he managed to appear both attractive and repulsive in equal measures. “We get to sit around doing fuck all and we get paid time and a half. What could be better than that? Apart from sex?”
Becky tried to match his enthusiasm but the knot of unease tightened in her belly. The effort of smiling was an arduous strain and the urge to grab her coat and bolt from the offices of Raven and Skull was almost irresistible. It didn’t help that Shaun’s language was offensively colourful – richer than she cared to hear. It also added to her discomfort that he was blatantly leering at her breasts whilst he spoke. She was a cuddly size sixteen, blessed with a chest size that was not disproportionate for her large frame, and Shaun was staring at her cleavage as though her breasts were tattooed with next week’s winning lottery numbers.
“The only thing you’ve got to watch out for is Harry Shaw,” Shaun told her breasts. “He’s got a habit of trying to get his hands on every new recruit to the overtime gravy-train and you’ll probably be prime pickings for him during this first month.”
Becky nodded and said nothing. She didn’t consider herself worldly but she had heard enough stories in her time to be aware that Shaun was building up to some sort of fib. She also wasn’t sure that either of her breasts wanted to hear about Harry Shaw, whoever Harry Shaw might be.
“Right,” she agreed. “Harry Shaw. I’ll watch out for him.”
With that said she took off from Shaun’s desk and joined Nicola and Chloe by the water cooler. She knew the two girls as casual acquaintances from her days in the office and from the occasional girls’ night out with the rest of the office staff.
Nicola looked to be the taller of the two women but that was only because she was so anorexically thin. Outside the office, Becky had seen Nicola wearing a pair of hipster jeans that were no larger than a size two and cut low enough to reveal a stomach that was so childishly flat it was almost concave. In the office, she wore the traditional uniform of a black skirt and white blouse but she made the clothes look as though they had been tailored to fit her stick-like figure. Chloe, big breasted and blessed with the sort of curves that made Nicola look like a boy, wore identical clothes. Despite their Laurel and Hardy size difference, Becky knew the two women were inseparable friends. Outside the office, seeing them together was more common than seeing them apart. Inside the office, it was unheard of for them to be away from each other.
Chloe and Nicola welcomed Becky with obvious sympathy when they saw she was trying to escape from Shaun. Nicola made a hospitable gesture whilst Chloe snatched a fresh plastic carton from the water cooler’s dispenser and began to pour Becky a drink. They chatted easily for a moment; Chloe explaining that they had to drink water during overtime because the use of a kettle wasn’t allowed; Nicola saying that the only unlocked lavatories in the building during overtime were those situated in the basement. Becky took all this in and grimly accepted that the world of overtime was drastically different to the normality of the office life that she had grown to know and understand.
“What’s Captain Creepy up to this time?” Chloe asked. “I saw him getting an eyeful of your rack.”
Nicola threw a disdainful glance in Shaun’s direction and said, “He’s not trying to show you his cock again, is he?” She shivered theatrically and said, “How any man can be proud of three inches of spotted dick is beyond me.”
Chloe handed Becky a carton of water. “I’ve spoken to Tony about that arsehole. I swear, if he doesn’t do something soon, I’m going to put in an official report to human resources about sexual harassment. I might even go to Roger Black about the situation.”
“He wasn’t trying to show me his… his… anything,” Becky whispered. Although she didn’t like Shaun she didn’t want him to know she was talking about him. “He was just telling me to watch out for someone called Harry Shaw.”
Chloe rolled her eyes.
Nicola cast another disparaging glance in Shaun’s direction.
“I swear,” Chloe began, “if that cock-focused pillock isn’t taken off this overtime rota I’m going to get my boyfriend to sort him out properly.”
“You’d do that?” Nicola sounded surprised and enthusiastic.
Becky watched the exchange with growing bewilderment.
“Your Kevin is pretty tough,” Nicola went on. “He’d snap Shaun into small pieces.” She lowered her voice to a conspiratorial whisper and said, “I’m serious, Chloe. Your Kevin could genuinely kill someone like Shaun. Genuinely.”
“And wouldn’t that be a great loss,” Chloe muttered.
“Who is Harry Shaw?”
Chloe and Nicola exchanged a glance. “Get sorted with your work for the night,” Chloe said. “Let Captain Creepy go through the process of telling you what you’re supposed to be doing. Me and Nicky have a water break every hour or so and one of us will come and find you. Then we’ll fill you in on Harry Shaw.”
Becky thanked them both.
“Go on,” Nicola said, nodding in Shaun’s direction. “Go and give him his fifteen minutes of glory as he explains that overtime is just playing catch-up for the constant backlog of paperwork that comes from customer services.”
“And,” Chloe broke in, “if he starts off with his Harry Shaw bullshit, tell him you’re not arsed about his fucking ghost stories and you just want to know what you’re supposed to be doing.” She said the words in such a loud voice Becky knew they would be carrying across the office towards Shaun.
Glancing at him, poring over a ream of paperwork, she saw his smile tighten to an unpleasant grimace. His eyes were small, dark and mean. His fat fingers clutched tight around a thick pen.
“I’m so fucking serious,” Chloe told Nicola. “I’m so tempted to get Kevin to meet him in a dark alley one night.”
“If Kevin wants an alibi,” Nicola said, “I can always get Don to say he was round at The House of Usher.”
Becky remembered that Don was the head chef at a restaurant called The House of Usher. She smiled at the way Nicola always managed to slip the name of her boyfriend’s restaurant into every conversation.
“All we’d need to do is get his credit card there and, with Don and his waiters backing up the story, it would look like he’d spent the night at the restaurant.”
Becky stepped away from them. She couldn’t decide whether their planning was serious, or whether it was just typical overtime bravado and banter. Sauntering back to Shaun, sipping at her carton of water, she asked, “What am I supposed to be working on?”
“You want to be careful hanging round with those two bitches,” Shaun sniffed. “They’re a pair of poisonous cunts.”
Becky swallowed. She couldn’t think of how to respond to such a vitriolic exclamation. “What am I supposed to be working on?”
Shaun pointed at her desk. “There’s a night’s work in your in-tray. Geoff Arnold wants us to do some work getting his department’s books ready for the year-end but he can suck my big fat cock. The stuff in your in-tray comes from a Customer Services backlog. Get started on that. If there’s anything you don’t understand go and ask one of those whores.” He flicked his head towards the water cooler where Chloe and Nicola still stood. Raising his gaze from the work on his desk he glared at Becky and said, “If you end up getting caught by Harry Shaw, don’t bother asking why I didn’t warn you about him.”
Who the hell is Harry Shaw?
Becky didn’t ask the question. Instead, realising Shaun had dismissed her, she started towards her desk. It was only as an afterthought that she made the grim discovery that the strangeness of working overtime was now a minor consideration. The shadows had stretched to breaking point. The office windows were darkened to a deathly pall that overlooked the grey remnants of the world’s end. And, with other considerations to worry about, the environment now seemed terribly normal.
Raven & Skull will soon be available as an audiobook.