Authors: Martyn J. Pass
MARTYN J. PASS
Copyright © 2016 By Martyn J. Pass
– Martyn J. Pass
The right of Martyn J. Pass to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. Any unauthorised reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
ALSO BY THIS AUTHOR
AT THE DAWN OF THE RUINED SUN
WAITING FOR RED
(With Dani Pass)
SOUL AT WAR
THE WOLF AND THE BEAR
PROJECT - 16
Thanks, first and foremost, go to my readers who’ve continued to thrill and amaze me with their responses to my work. The volume of reviews and praise that came after the release of
stunned me and no writer can hope to survive in this competitive environment without such dedicated people.
I hope I don’t let you down with this one though it is a little different from my usual fayre! All I can say, in my own defence, is that characters don’t let you dictate their story to them and Sophie is no different. This is her story and I’ve left it as she wanted it told. I hope you’ll be gentle with her (and me) when you’ve finished.
For the Sophies of this world.
"I don't get it, Soph."
"You don't get what, Mel?" I said.
"How you do it."
"This..." She gestured across the construction site we were looking at with her half-eaten chocolate muffin. It was a chaotic mess of high-visibility jackets, battered white vans and various chugging monsters that dug and lifted and smashed the place into something that was starting to resemble a shopping centre. "I mean, look at your nails, girl. They're...
"I don't have much choice, do I?" I replied, looking at the dirt that covered my palms from lifting the generator out of the van. "Besides, if I want nails I'll have them done on Friday when I'm finished."
"I thought you said you were working this weekend?"
"I haven't decided yet."
"We need the money, Soph."
"Yeah. Me and you. We need to shop. When was the last time you bought a nice dress?"
"We've been living together for four years now - when did you ever see me in a dress?"
"Good point," said Mel, sipping her latte and delicately wiping her lips with a napkin. She managed another bite of the muffin before handing me the rest across the safety barrier that was stood between us. I shook my head. "Oh yeah, the diet. I forgot."
"Why'd you say it like that?"
"Like you don't think I'm going to lose any weight."
"I never said that."
"Your eyes did."
"How rude." The foreman was still talking to Tom. I couldn't hear what was being said over the grinding of the digger across the road but I could've guessed though. It'd be about us not having a fire permit for the welding set. Tom had told me on the way down that it hadn't been supplied that morning and he'd expected to be turned away. It looked like the two hour drive here had been another waste of time.
"Are you going to do anything today?" said Mel.
"It doesn't look like it," I replied as Tom began walking back towards the van.
"No permit to weld. We'll be back tomorrow instead."
"But I want this shopping centre finished so I can use my lunch break more constructively. They say they're building a four storey
right over there! Imagine that!"
"Whoop-whoop," I droned. "You'll have to ask for a longer break."
"Too right I will. So much shopping, so little time. He's quite a dish, isn't he?" she said.
"Your mate there. What's his name?"
"Tom. He's not my mate either - he's my boss."
"Still. Must be easy to work with. Gym membership?"
"I don't know, do I?" I did though. Him and two of the other lads from our department. They went most nights right after work. I wasn't about to play Mel's game though. This was a mere segue into another opportunity for her to play Cupid on my behalf. I wasn't about to let her. The last time she'd got involved in my not-so-exciting love life it'd ended with me pretending to go to the toilet and running out of the restaurant door instead. I couldn't get away from the guy, he just wouldn't take no for an answer and he stunk something awful. I'd got straight into a taxi and snapped my SIM card on the way home, thankful he didn't know where I lived. I hated to have to do it to him but how many times do you have to say 'no, I won't sleep with you' before you have to be rude?
"We're going back to the shop," said Tom, unlocking the van. "He's not having any of it."
"Okay," I replied. Then, turning to Mel, I said, "I'll see you at home."
"Get some tea on for when I get back," she said.
"Again? Aren't you supposed to be cooking?"
"You do it so much better than me though!"
In the van Tom looked furious. He gripped the wheel like it'd escape at any point, given enough of a chance to. I just sat there watching the traffic build up around us. Getting into the city had been bad enough that morning, even at six am. Now it was just after dinner and the commuting masses were filling up the lanes around us, boxing our transit van up between a blue Ford Focus filled with screaming brats and a massive mobile crane. I was glad I wasn't driving this time.
"What a fucking joke," said Tom. "A whole day wasted when I told him this morning that we'd never get on site. Why does that guy never listen?" The 'guy' was Kevin Miller, the boss and MD of Riley Fabrications Ltd. He was one of the better bosses I'd worked for, but I'd never been convinced he was playing with a full chess set. Unless the game he was playing had different rules to ours. It felt like he was missing a few Pawns and a Rook here and there.
"What can you do?" I said. When it came to working in a factory environment I realised early on that there were ways of talking to each other that you didn't come across outside of the 'shop. Generic phrases, like the one I just said, was part of it. Tom was venting; he wasn't looking for a solution to the problem, just the support of a colleague agreeing with him. I could have said "shit, isn't it?" or perhaps "what a fucking dick!" but I stuck with the one I used. I liked the rhetoric.
"No wonder nothing gets done. He couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery," he continued.
"That's true." Another one for you. I nodded when I said it for extra emphasis.
"It didn't even look like they were ready for us. Did you see those pillars? They were still drying."
"I hadn't noticed," I said. Which was true on this occasion - Mel had insisted on coming down to see me when I'd told her I was working across the road from her. We'd arrived just after eight am, then spent four hours trying to get into the site and onto the floor we were meant to be working on with our gear. That made it lunch time and Mel had come across from the Solicitors office where she worked as a secretary with two cups of coffee and a muffin each. So no, after talking to her for half an hour, I'd not noticed the pillars.
"I'm glad you don't mind the heights," he said. "You wouldn't catch me welding up on that walkway."
"It's never bothered me," I replied. "Does it bother you?"
"Hell yeah! I hate it. I'm okay if the ground is solid - I mean, I do a lot of walking and stuff, mountains and the like, and I don't mind looking over a cliff edge. But put me on a ladder or some scaffold and screw that, I'm shaking in my boots, wanting to get down. I just lock up."
"Each to their own." That was a non-committal answer that told Tom I wasn't bothered that he was a wuss. You wouldn't have thought it to look at him. He was tall enough - six feet at least with short but wavy blonde hair that he never took the time to style before coming to work. He was a little older than me, maybe mid-thirties, and under his branded Riley Fabrications Ltd uniform I knew that he wasn't carrying the usual spare tyre that most metal workers had. I'd seen him changing into his own clothes one night when we'd finished and I knew that his gym membership was giving him value for money. His forearms alone looked like they were made from knotted steel wire and when he was in the 'shop they often bulged with sinewy muscle mass. I suppose his only flaw was his face - it was...
? I could never put my finger on why I wasn't attracted to him. Maybe it was the boss thing.
We spent three more hours in traffic before hitting the motorway and as all workers do, we bitched about life in general, life in the workshop and people we both liked and disliked. I always found it amazing how bitchy men could be and some days Riley's looked more like an episode of Coronation Street than a fabrication 'shop. Tom wasn't as much of a gossiper as some of the others and I guess that was down to his job as a foreman, but it was interesting to hear some of his views of life on the shop floor.
For example, there'd been a guy a while back who'd come to work for us as a driver. It was his job to drop off and collect all the bits of stuff that we didn't put on a Carrier and sometimes he'd run to the shop for equipment we needed. Now this guy had started out okay. He was keen and eager to do a fast, efficient job - until one day he'd come to me in floods of tears. Maybe it was because I was one of two women on the 'shop floor and the other one was off work that he came to me, but I tend to think it's because I attract the fruit-loops. I don't know why, I just do, and this driver was no exception.
"I need to go home," he said to me, blubbering. I get a bit uncomfortable around crying people and so I began to look around him, desperately trying to grab the attention of another man who could step in. Who knows what he was about to tell me? It could have been anything and once I'd been told there was no 'un-telling' it.
"What's wrong?" I asked him in my most sympathetic voice (which isn't all that sympathetic).
"It's my babies..." I froze - Jesus, what had happened?
"Really?" I said, stunned.
"Yeah. My neighbour, he broke in and took them. I need to go home and get them back!" I felt the blood draining from my face - someone had stolen his children and he was still here, talking to ME! What was he thinking? I was about to call the Police for him there and then when he suddenly got his phone out and showed me a picture of some mass of brown 'things' on a blanket. "He stole my ferret babies!"
I waited for the punch line. I looked around me, wondering if someone was going to pop out and hit me with a custard pie or something. Nothing. Maybe I needed further clarification.
"Ferret babies?" I asked.
"Yeah. I breed 'em, you see. He took them. He just called me and told me he had them because I didn't give him his weed."
"I grow a bit of pot for him. Well, he hasn't paid me in ages, and so I didn't give him any today before I left for work so the bastard has gone into my flat and stole my babies. The mother will be going mad without 'em."
"You'd better get gone then!" I managed to say. Or shout. "I'll ring the boss and tell him for you."
"Really? Nice one."
"Yeah, it's nothing," I said and broke away before something else happened.
A few weeks later and the guy was gone and there was a lot of speculation over what had happened. Had the babies been recovered? Had he been done for growing pot? The rumours flew round the workshop for days and when I relayed this story to Tom in the van he laughed and said the guy had just changed jobs and that he knew nothing about the ferrets.