Amazingly, not only are Eden Baylee and I still writing stories together but we’re still friends. If you’re a regular visitor, thanks for your stamina and support and, if you’re new to the stories and enjoy the idea, there are plenty more of them back to the beginning of 2021.
Prompt: He swore on his mother’s grave, but then he swore on just about everything.
Parts 1 and 3 BK
Parts 2 and 4 EB
When things started disappearing at work – iphones, laptops, invoices, – everyone knew that Bernard was involved in it somehow or other. He’d started as a junior clerk less than a year ago but he was so bad at lying that his reputation was soon fixed, and new disappearances were greeted with shrugs and renewed decisions not to trust him with anything of value or significance. He always protested his innocence, of course, and nothing was ever proved but there wasn’t much room for doubt. If anyone ever confronted him directly, even with the merest hint of an accusation, he pretended to be deeply hurt, denied all knowledge of it, swore on his mother’s grave, but then he swore on just about everything. And when Tommy Simpson said that, anyway, he knew Bernard’s mother had been cremated, Bernard made up some story about that not being his real mother and that he’d been adopted.
In the end, it was the Head of Personnel, Sally Hughes, who sorted it all out. Mind you, she had to. Either that or she herself would be fired because she – or someone – had ‘mislaid’ the files of two of the company’s best customers, including all their account details.
George Willows sat on the board, even after he’d stepped down as CEO. The tech company hired Bernard sans interview. That he was the former boss’s only son was supposed to be a secret, but someone talked. That’s how it goes when you pull in a salary for doing nothing. It pisses off the oldsters in the company. Still, despite a fat pay cheque, Bernard couldn’t satisfy his shopping addiction.
On the Friday before going on vacation, he sat in his cubicle and scrolled through Ebay. Those first few hours dragged until lunch time. How he loathed the mornings! He didn’t need anything, but as usual, he always found something that jumped out at him. And on this day, a set of headphones did just that.
Apple AirPods Max.
They looked sleek, came in different colours, and a pair (or two) would come in handy for his trip. Before he pressed the BUY button, he stood up and looked around the maze of the open concept office. All he saw were heads down, tapping on keyboards. He locked his screen and decided to take a walk. Why pay for the headphones if he might find them in the storage room?
The colleagues he passed at their various desks no longer even bothered to look up at him. Somebody somewhere would have to deal with him at some point, and it shouldn’t be any of them.
Unbeknown to Bernard, however, one pair of eyes were closely focused on him. Peering through the slats of the blind in Sally Hughes’s office window, George Willows watched his son weave his way through the desks. Thinking she had nothing to lose, Sally had dared to contact her ex-CEO to report the company’s plight and ask whether, given his close relationship with the principal suspect, he might be able to suggest a diplomatic solution to the problem which might be less injurious both to Bernard and the company’s professional standing.
As Bernard, at the door to the basement stairs, took a quick look around the serried desks, then opened it and disappeared, Willows Senior, without a word to Sally, left her office and wove his own way to the still open door.
Bernard was using his cell phone to light the various shelves and boxes through which he was searching so he was unaware that he had company until a voice from the darkness asked ‘Looking for something, Bernard?’
George flipped the switch and flooded the room in light.
Bernard swung around, his hand to his chest. “Dad! You scared the hell out of me!”
“What are you doing?”
“I … Mary asked me to find a stapler.”
“Cut the bullshit.” George stepped into the room and closed the door behind him.
“Don’t Dad me! As if your poor attitude wasn’t bad enough, now you’re a thief as well?”
Bernard shuffled his feet. “Is Sally accusing me? She’s never liked me!”
The older man locked eyes with his son. “At this moment, the police are going through your desk. Are they going to find something that shouldn’t be there?”
The blood drained from Bernard’s face. He’d meant to return the files — top clients with tons of money. He just wanted to snoop through them when he was bored, but then he’d neglected to return them to the cabinet, not to mention an iPad and several pairs of sunglasses as well.
“You’ll return everything you’ve stolen, or I’ll advise pressing charges. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Dad.” He hung his head.
George walked out without another word. Bernard followed.
No sign of any police.