This is Instalment One of a story I’m co-writing with a friend, and the hope is that we’ll serialise the rest of the story over the coming weeks (months, probably). It’s currently untitled – suggestions welcome!
“Don’t turn on the computer,” she told herself, but she pressed the button anyway.
She needed to know. There had been signs for weeks, months even, but until she saw absolute proof she could still convince herself that everything was alright; that she was mistaken, even though the rational part of her knew she probably wasn’t.
As the computer loaded up, she contemplated what she was about to do. There was something to be said for living in ignorance; the past few years had been some of the happiest of her life, until she had started to feel a creeping sensation that something wasn’t right. Did she really want to destroy all of the happiness contained within the life she had spent years building? Once she had proof there would be no coming back from this moment. But she had to confront it; no matter how hard she had tried to convince herself she was being paranoid, the feeling that something was not quite right continued to grow, building until she could not ignore it any longer.
Finally the computer played the synthetic melody that signaled it was ready to go, and Holly was jolted back to reality. As she opened the web browser her stomach ached and she felt waves of anxiety wash over her. Please let it not be true. Please let it not be true. She typed in the web address for her husband’s email account. Maybe she wouldn’t be able to access it – but no, he never logged out. There was almost an arrogance to it, as though he thought he would never be discovered, that he was too clever to be found out. Or was it the opposite? Was it that he longed to be found out, for everything to be out in the open at last? She no longer had any idea of what her husband was thinking. There was a time when Holly felt she could understand him better than anyone else on Earth, but these days she was not so sure.
She scrolled down, scanning the titles of emails for anything suspicious. There were the usual round robins from distant friends, promotional emails from internet shopping sites, nothing that stood out. Then she noticed it. A folder labelled ‘Work’. Of course this was hardly suspicious on the surface of things… except that he had always dealt with work from his company’s separate email account.
Trepidatiously, she clicked on the folder to open it; then, one by one, she read every single email in the folder. The oldest dated back 8 months, and the latest was sent yesterday. So, this was it. Proof. No more denying it. Even as she felt the walls cave in around her she breathed a sigh of relief that, at last, she finally knew the truth.
Her husband… was a pirate.
Peter leaned back in his creaky office chair, closing his eyes against the harsh fluorescent lights and lacing his fingers behind his head. Somewhere over the tapping of keys and the constant drone of the Bloody Photocopier, he could almost hear the screech of gulls. He swayed in his chair, and felt the tide rocking him gently under the warm glow of the afternoon sun.
“Pinkman!” Peter came crashing back to his desk at the sound of his deputy-assistant-supervisor’s snarl.
“Just resting me – my eyes, Jimmy. Screens, you know?” He murmured, wearing a false smile in a vain attempt to mask his contempt.
“It’s Mr Grubbe to you, and the last time I’ll warn you. You’re still on probation, if you recall, Pinkman.” Jimmy didn’t even bother to hide his sneer.
I recall alright, you yellow-bellied gobshite. “Of course Mr Grubbe. Sorry Mr Grubbe.”
“How is your part of the Trident account coming along Pinkman? I hope we’re not going to be waiting on your figures again this month.”
Peter glanced at his monitor, thanked the gods that the half-finished spreadsheet was at the forefront, and zoomed in on the figures so they filled up the rather down-heartening amount of empty space on the screen.
“Getting there Ji- Mr Grubbe. Just ironing out some creases in the sales, and I’ll be good to go for Monday, no problem.”
“Friday, Pinkman. The shareholder’s meeting is on Friday.” Jimmy glared down at Peter, not even bothering to glance at the screen.
Bollocks. “…Friday. That’s what I meant.”
“And between you and me, Pinkman-” Jimmy started, leaning down but not lowering his voice as one would think would be appropriate, “I’d spend a little more time on that account, and a little less time browsing auction sites for lewd female statues.”
Peter could feel nearby heads turning in his direction. Jimmy sneered again and turned away.
“Figureheads.” Peter muttered.
“I’m sorry?” Jimmy spun on his heel.
“They’re not statues. They’re figureheads. Like on a ship.”
“… A ship?” Jimmy looked at him in a mixture of disbelief and amusement.
“Like on an old ship. They stand at the front to ward off evil spirits.” Peter felt himself going red. “Or just, you know, to intimidate other ships.”
“Intimi- … Get a draft of those figures on Mr Rodney’s desk before tomorrow morning or “evil spirits” won’t be the only thing you need to ward off.” Jimmy looked at his knock-off Rolex in triumph.
“What was that, Pinkman?”
“You can count on me, Mr Grubbe.”
“Hmph.” Jimmy strode off towards Mr Rodney’s office. No doubt to warm his slimy little nose in the old man’s arse.
Peter turned back to his computer, sighed, and continued trying to make sense of the ridiculous figures on the spreadsheet.
Ten minutes later Peter was busily tapping away at his keyboard, the screen before him rapidly filling with text.
ScurvyPete69: I can’t tonight Freddy, that prick Jimmy has moved the date on the Trident account, I’m never going to get my numbers in in time.
PegLegFred: Fer fuck’s sake PinkBeard, ye need to get some balls about ye, tell that brown-nosin twat to fuck right off
ScurvyPete69: Fuck off Freddy, you know I’m on probation after The Quest for Old Man Rodney’s Buried Stash.
PegLegFred: Heh, bleedin good night though, were it not Petey?
It had been a good night, sailing the cleaning lady’s trolley between the cubicles, picking the lock to Rodney’s drinks cabinet and drinking all the top-end whiskey while they sang songs and photocopied their balls. If the CCTV hadn’t been left unrepaired for so long, Peter would probably have been in far deeper trouble than simply ending up on probation, but since they couldn’t prove anything, he simply accepted responsibility for “not locking up properly” after he’d “finished a late one.”
ScurvyPete69: I can’t lose this one Freddy, Holly’s already putting up with so much. I caught her looking over my shoulder when I was eBaying a new eyepatch, and I’m almost certain she’s found the flag designs in the garage.
PegLegFred: Ah, so you’ve still not told the wench laddy?
ScurvyPete69: Fuck off Freddy. That “wench” is my wife, and she’s put up with three sackings in the last two years.
PegLegFred: Ah Pinkbeard, I’ll admit she be a fine woman, and loyal. But if ye not tell her soon, how d’ye expect to get away with The Big Quest? She’ll notice ye missin for 3 weeks laddy. Not t’mention yer shithead boss.
For fuck’s sake Freddy, how much longer does it take to type like that?
ScurvyPete69: I’m working on it Freddy, I’ll come up with something. Anyway, I’d better get on with some work, I’m going to be up shit creek if I don’t get something together before I leave tonight.
PegLegFred: Say no more Cap’n. Are we still on for Sunday?
ScurvyPete69: I’m sure as long as I stay out of trouble, Holly won’t mind me popping out to the Neptune for a few. Catch you later Freddy.
PegLegFred: Sail smooth Cap’n.
User PegLegFred has disconnected
Peter closed the messenger program, disabled the proxy that he used to evade the office’s monitoring system (can’t believe I forgot the proxy for the figureheads), and reopened the spreadsheet. The numbers swam and sank, but came no closer to making any sense.