A – Z Challenge Day 19

We’re approaching the end of the third week of this April’s Blogging Challenge, and I can hardly believe that it will all be over next Saturday! Well done to everyone who is taking part this year, I’ve seen some brilliant themed blog posts from some fantastic writers. Let’s keep the momentum going until the end!

Today’s word comes from my colleague, Sarah. Working in a cafe can be a bit dull sometimes, but not when you’re working with someone like Sarah! She is a great laugh and she was keen to offer me a suggestion for my Challenge when I had a few letters missing. Her prompt for me is “SAUSAGES”, which came about after she rescinded her original word which I believe was “SEX”. I don’t think that the former was a serious suggestion, anyway, and for that I’m extremely grateful and relieved!

Here is what I was able to come up with. Thanks again, Sarah!


By Adam Dixon

“Well, Mrs Warburton, we’re almost done,” Becky said, smiling as she flipped through her the pages of her notepad. “There are just a couple of details which I need to run through with you.” Becky’s efficient, somewhat scruffy handwriting spread across the pages to the underside of her hand and her fingers in a mess of black ink. She scratched her pierced nostril and left an inky smear behind. Finding the page she was searching for she scanned it, reaching for her now-cold cup of black coffee.

“Right, here we are!” Becky took a sip and glanced up at her interviewee. Mrs Warburton was in her early forties, slim and rather attractive with her natural-blond hair cut short. She was sitting up straight with her elbows on the small table, looking around the café with an air of contempt.

“I still don’t know why you insisted on meeting me here,” Mrs Warburton sniffed, nursing her pot of peppermint tea. “You do realise that the owners of this company don’t pay their taxes, don’t you? Nor do they pay their bean farmers properly; it’s nothing short of modern slave labour! And of course they waste milk by the lorry-load in here…those poor baby cows deprived of nourishment for the sake of an overpriced latte…”

“Erm…yes, Mrs Warburton,” Becky pressed on, the feeling of bemusement returning for the umpteenth time that morning. It was becoming quite familiar.

“You said that you’ve lived here in Brighton for many years and-“

“It’s Hove, actually,” Mrs Warburton interrupted. Becky paused and altered her notes, inwardly rolling her eyes.

“Okay, Hove, then,” Becky continued. “And you have been frequenting that particular restaurant in Brighton for more than two years now. Is that correct?”

“That’s what I told you, young lady. I’m not in the habit of repeating myself unnecessarily.”

“Sorry, I’m just double-checking the facts first.” Becky felt herself blushing under the woman’s steel gaze. She busied herself by reading her notes more carefully. “So, you believe that this incident was deliberate? Part of a prank?”

“I do, indeed,” Mrs Warburton folded her arms and lifted her chin haughtily. “And I think it is disgraceful that a vegan restaurant of such high-esteem should number such juveniles amongst its staff!”

“Quite so, Mrs Warburton,” Becky smiled sympathetically, hoping it would disguise the smirk which had arrived an instant before it. She adjusted her thick glasses with her inky fingers

“You’re sure that it couldn’t have been a mistake? A mix-up with one of the orders?”

“Young lady,” Mrs Warburton’s stare turned the air around her to ice. Becky was surprised that her breath wasn’t misting before her eyes. “I am not a fool, and I sincerely hope that none of the workers in that kitchen are foolish enough to ‘accidentally’ add pork sausages to a meal they have no purpose being a part of! There shouldn’t have been a single sausage in the whole building, for God’s sake!”

“Of course, of course,” Becky raised her hands defensively, her brown eyes wide. “Like I said, I’m just double-checking here.”

“Well, there really is no need,” Mrs Warburton huffed. “You appear to have listened to what I have told you and managed to dictate it well enough, so I believe that is all you shall require. I would like to leave this ghastly place now, if you don’t mind. I can’t stand the smell of those cheese toasties!” She shuddered dramatically, twisting her mouth into a snarl. Becky smiled and stood up, holding out a hand.

“Well, thank you very much for your time, Mrs Warburton,” she said warmly. “I do hope that your case goes well.”

“It ought to,” Mrs Warburton replied, giving Becky’s hand a limp squeeze. “Veganism is finally getting the respect it deserves these days, due in no small part to you young people. That is why I agreed to be interviewed by you and your Student Union; I usually wouldn’t involve myself with trivial university newspapers but I believe that my story will strike a chord with the more open-minded pupils. At any rate, I must go. Goodbye, Rebecca, and thank you for the tea.” With that, Mrs Warburton buttoned up her long coat and strode out of the café with her head and chin held regally high.

Becky sat down and took a moment to process the events of her morning. Mrs Warburton was undoubtedly one of the oddest people she had ever met, let alone interviewed. She felt rather sorry for the legal professionals who would have to deal with her!

“Still, it was quite a good prank!” she said to herself, chuckling as she flicked through her notes once again. Her stomach rumbled and Becky wanted a fresh coffee anyway, so she stood up and approached the counter. She perused the menu for a few seconds before she broke into a grin. Oh yes, she knew exactly what she fancied!

“Good morning, how may I help you?” the smiling barista at the counter asked her. Becky thought she might recognise him from one of her lectures.

“Hi, I’d like a medium Americano, please,” Becky answered, still grinning. “And I could murder a sausage sandwich!”


Bad For Business

Bad for Business

By Adam Dixon

George pressed the call button and said, “Mrs. Whitfield, you have a visitor.” A few seconds later the phone receiver crackled and a confused, high-pitched voice barked a reply.

“A visitor? Who is it, George? I’m not expecting to see anyone until tomorrow.”

“A tall gentleman with a large moustache and a bowler hat, Mrs. Whitfield,” George responded patiently. “He hasn’t give a name, he said that you would know him from that description. Shall I send him in?” The response was barely a heartbeat in coming this time.

“Oh, good Lord! Yes, George, send him in at once!”

George smiled at the man standing in front of him. He was in his fifties, his face impassive and his eyes steely grey orbs floating above an enormous walrus moustache. He stood erect with both hands clasped behind his back, his long black coat giving him the look of a funeral director.

“Mrs. Whitfield will see you now, sir,” George said, gesturing towards the door to his right. “Please go ahead and let yourself in.” The man gave him a curt nod before striding resolutely towards the door. His back was straight and his eyes were set dead ahead. As he passed, George’s smile faltered and a shiver ran up his spine. He smelled…strange. It was a musty scent yet somehow acidic, and he couldn’t put his finger on what it was. Whoever he was, he gave George the creeps. The man opened the door to Mrs. Whitfield’s office and without a word he entered her inner sanctuary, slamming it behind him.

George sat at his desk staring after him, bewildered. Who on earth was that? He thought to himself. Mrs. Whitfield had seemed rattled, and that made George uneasy. This man was quite different from the usual suspects who dragged themselves into his employer’s office, seeking her legal aid concerning matters malignant and benign. For one, he seemed very sure of himself, whereas most of the people who passed through George’s line of sight were either quivering wrecks or hopeless optimists.

To pass the time, George decided to speculate on who this mysterious stranger could be. Perhaps he was an old client who needed help again, or he was a former adversary of Mrs. Whitfield’s? She had practiced law as a barrister several years ago, and this man had the look of a professional about him. Maybe he had crossed swords with Mrs. Whitfield in the past, and had come back for some personal reason. Embittered by a sound defeat at her legal prowess, possibly? That was interesting enough, he mused.

He could be Mrs. Whitfield’s estranged husband! He thought with excitement, his earlier discomfort vanishing. She had separated from Mr. Whitfield before starting up her own business, and perhaps he had come back wanting a slice of the cake. Perhaps he is an acquaintance of Mr. Whitfield, he thought, coming here on his behalf. Very juicy, that notion. He’d have to share that nugget with Debra from accounts. Maybe he was her lover? This one made George chuckle and he dismissed it immediately. Mrs. Whitfield was, although charming and attractive in her own way, completely asexual. Besides, the man George had let into her office didn’t exactly look like a man incensed by desire. No, come to think of it, he looked more like a man intent on doing some harm.

This last thought made him uneasy once again. George chided himself for considering such groundless notions, but he couldn’t help turning to stare at the office door, regardless. He sat in silence, straining his ears in the hope of catching a hint of the proceedings within. All he could make out were the muffled voices of Mrs. Whitfield and the stranger. It didn’t sound like they were arguing, so that was a relief. Soon, George’s curiosity got the better of him, and he gingerly picked up the phone receiver and held it to his ear. Mrs. Whitfield often forgot to toggle off the call button, which meant that George could eavesdrop on her meetings. Not a particularly noble, or indeed legal, thing to do, but it passed the time on slow days. Listening in on some of those conversations was like hearing a radio broadcast of The Jeremy Kyle Show. But this one wasn’t like that at all.

“I trust you realise why I’ve come to you now,” the man was saying, his voice a deep bass rumble.

“Yes, yes, of course I do,” Mrs Whitfield’s usually chirpy voice held an edge of tension. “But…does it have to be now? I’ve just gotten my life readjusted and my plans are secure. Things are going very well at present.”

“My dear woman!” The man laughed unpleasantly. “One could hardly expect this moment to come when it is convenient, could one? No, you have had ten years of success to this very hour, and now the payment is at hand. You must come with me!” The man spat the final sentence, and George could have sworn that his voice had become a rasping snarl for a moment.

“No, I will not!” Mrs. Whitfield was defiant. “Stay away from me!” George had no idea what was going on, but he had the feeling that things were about to turn ugly. He sprung out of his chair and rushed towards the office door. As he reached it, he heard a blood-curdling screech emit from within the office. He froze, unable to process what he was hearing. He then forced himself onwards, wrenching open the door and stepping inside.

The scene which greeted him defied all his expectations. The short, slightly plump Mrs. Whitfield was standing in the centre of the room holding aloft a large wooden crucifix. Her eyes were wild and there seemed to be a strange glow emanating from her hands. Backed against the wall, cowering and still screaming, was the strange man. He glanced past the arm which was shielding his sight, and George saw with horror that his eyes had turned blood-red. Half of his face was horribly burned and smoking skin was barely clinging to his skull. His walrus moustache was smouldering, the stink of burning hair and flesh filling the room.

“You ungrateful whore!” The man bellowed, his voice rasping again. “We had a deal, bound in blood! I will not be denied!” Mrs. Whitfield took a step towards the creature, brandishing her crucifix like a blazing torch.

“Yes, we did,” She glared furiously at the figure huddled against the wall. “But I’m a lawyer, dearie, and I always find a way out!” She flung out her right hand and a small glass sphere filled with water flew across the room. It struck the creature on his arm, shattering instantly and soaking it from head to foot. The creature bellowed in agony, and layers of skin began searing off its face and hands. Its moustache fell away as it burned, the impressive spectacle obliterated in seconds. At this final insult, the creature pointed a trembling finger at Mrs. Whitfield.

“You’ll pay dearly for this, woman!” It spat, baring its teeth in fury and pain. It straightened up, clasped its hands together as if in prayer, and abruptly vanished with a blinding flash of light. The after-image of the room still showed the purple silhouette of the creature before it had disappeared. George stood by the doorway, blinking rapidly and trying to make sense of what he had seen. He looked at Mrs. Whitfield, a dozen questions rendering him tongue-tied. Mrs. Whitfield lowered her crucifix and gave him a level stare.

“Well, that takes care of that pest, for now at least.” She said, matter-of-factly. “I’m sorry you had to witness that, dearie, but it can’t be helped.” She frowned at the wet patch of carpet. “Hmmm, my contacts omitted to tell me whether or not Holy Water stains carpets. How irritating…” She trailed off, shaking her head. She smoothed her grey suit jacket absent-mindedly before glancing back up at George.

“Well, George? What are you still doing here?” She asked, somewhat dismissively. “Don’t you have some files to be checking for me? A few for Mr. Black’s wrongful imprisonment case, I believe?”

“I…Yes, Mrs. Whitfield, I’ll…erm…I’ll get on those right away.” George responded, dumb-founded. He turned around and walked with shaky legs back to his desk. He leaned heavily against the wooden frame for a moment, trying to collect his thoughts.

“Oh, and George?” He started as the phone receiver crackled. He could almost see the amused smirk on her face by her tone. He pressed the call button.

“Yes, Mrs. Whitfield?” George replied, shaken.

“Be a dear and don’t mention that little incident to anyone, will you?” She asked nonchalantly. “Demons in the workplace are terribly bad for business! Many thanks!”

With that, the phone was silent, leaving George staring at it in astonishment.