I’m back home and this story has been sitting on the back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.
The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritizing.
But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.
Chasing leads, maybe
Just because you have a security card with your name on it doesn’t mean you are cleared. Yesterday, maybe, but today? Anything can happen in 24 hours, much like the political landscape.
When I walked in the front entrance and up to the scanning gate, I was just another employee coming into work. I ran my card through the scanning device, and the light turned red.
In the time it took for me to scan it a second time, a security guard had arrived from the front desk, and a soldier, armed and ready was standing behind me.
I didn’t doubt for one minute he would shoot me if I tried to run.
“What seems to be the problem?” The security guard was polite but firm.
“My card that scanned the last time and worked, doesn’t seem to work now.”
I could read his expression, ‘you just got fired, and are trying to get back in.”
“Let me try.”
I gave him the card, he looked at it, no doubt to see if there was any damage, then tried it.”
“Have you any other means of identification?”
Now, here’s the thing. This was the office full of spies and support staff all of whom could be using assumed names, different guises, or just plain secretive with their private information. Luckily I had a driver’s license with the name on the card, but not much else.
I thought about telling him about the place he was guarding, but I doubted he would listen.
He looked at both, then handed back the license.
“Come with me over to the counter and we’ll see if we can sort this out.”
It was not a request, nor was I unaccompanied. I now had a soldier permanently attached to me.
When we all arrived at the desk, he joined another guard behind.
“Who is your immediate superior?”
It was a toss-up between Dobbin and Monica. Since Dobbin spent a lot of time in his car or appeared to, I said it was Monica.
I watched him search slowly through the phone list until he found her number, then called her.
He had his back to me when they spoke, but it wasn’t for long; after a minute, perhaps two, he replaced the receiver and turned back.
“Ms. Shrive will be down in about five minutes.” He pointed to a row of chairs against the wall, remnants from the last world war. “If you would like to wait over there, sir.”
He didn’t hand back my card.
The wait was more like a half-hour, but I had become engrossed in an old copy of Country Life, and an article that made me consider retiring to the country in an old thatch cottage beside a babbling brook somewhere in the Cotswolds.
Until I read the price.
The arrival of Monica came at a fortuitous moment. Coming to the desk.
“Nnn, I was hoping you would drop by sooner rather than later.”
“My card doesn’t work.”
“Oh, that’s because we revoked it.” She held out another in her hand. “We’ve replaced it with one with better access, or as we say jokingly, you’ve moved up in the pay grade scale.”
I took the card and went to put it in my pocket.
“You need to register your presence, so I’m afraid you’ll have to go out and come back in again.”
I did as she asked, this time greeted by the friendly green light. The soldier seemed disappointed that I was not free of his attention. The security guard on the desk had alt=ready forgotten I existed.
I followed Monica to the antiquated elevator, we stepped in, closed the door and she pressed a button for the third and fourth floors. It seemed creakier than usual this time.
“I’m assuming you have come in to use the computer resources?”
“Good thing then we upgraded your access level.”
“And is there someone who manages access to CCTV footage?”
“Yes. Same floor, four. Her name is Amelia Enders. Tell her what you need, and she’ll find it. I assume it will have something to do with the surveillance exercise of yours.”
How could she guess, or had she been already investigating?”
“Come and see me when you’re finished. I live on the third floor. Literally.”
The elevator stopped on the third floor with a creak and a thump.
A smile and she headed off down the passage.
If I wasn’t mistaken, she had that cat who ate the canary look, and it worried me.
© Charles Heath 2020-2022