A Web of Lives, p.1David Medlycott
A Web of Lives
© Copyright 2013 David Medlycott
A Web of Lives is a work of fiction.
Any similarity to persons or events, past or present, is co-incidental.
The receptionist, Linda McInnes, pushed her chair back a bit; she did not like the way the tall, heavily built Londoner was leaning over her desk in the front office of the ‘Mid-Northumberland Reporter’. She had begun by going out of her way, being polite, not wanting to appear unhelpful. She was not able to give private details to the public, but he was determined to not listen. She had tried the ‘jobsworth’ angle and that she didn’t make the rules, but the more she tried the more aggressive he became. Phoning the editor Miss Hickman had not helped, she had just said to repeat the company policy, which merely made matters worse. She had hung up when Linda had asked her to come down and speak to the man herself.
He was waving around a copy of their monthly colour magazine, open at a photograph which showed, among others, the organizer of a rugby club charity function. They looked rather alike this, aggressive man and the man in the photo. She had no further time to consider this, he was pointing at the figure again, ‘Listen, luv! Where do I find him?’ He was beginning to get rather loud; his rough voice harsh and hoarse, and spit was beginning to fly. Linda began to feel frightened.
‘I’ve told you, you’ve got the wrong name.’ She repeated. His face began to colour up and his breathing was becoming erratic, a fine spray of spittle came from his lips as he repeated, with great menace, ‘I’ll not ask again. I know who he is, luv; where is he? I’ll find him, you mark my words!’
The bell on the front door clanged loudly on its spring as someone entered. He stepped quickly back from the desk and stood upright, staring threateningly at her.
‘You could try the reporter who wrote that piece, his name’s there,’ she pointed at the magazine, ‘and you can phone him here. He’s not in yet, though, I’m afraid.’ She swallowed hard, but her throat was dry. Two women with a pushchair entered the office and the burly intruder turned away from them, hiding his face, and forced his way out past them.
‘Are you all right, pet?’ asked the older of the two women, ‘You look a bit pale, has he been giving you trouble?’
The harassed receptionist pulled out a tissue and dabbed at her damp face as she tried to swallow again.
The bulky figure crashed out of the front door of the newspaper office, paused to glance up and down the street, turned to his right and strode away. Two minutes brisk walk brought him to the door of the Northumberland Arms. The sound of a vacuum cleaner could be heard inside and the clash of empty bottles being thrown into a skip. He thought for a moment, ducked through the low door and made for the bar. The young barman, crouched behind the bar cleaning, heard nothing till the big fist thumped the bar loudly. He jumped up in fright, ‘we’re not open, yet.’
‘Give me the phone book.’ The voice was harsh, the order urgent.
The barman reached along beneath the counter. His wrist was suddenly clamped to the bar edge by a strong hand. He looked up in fright at the pale eyes beneath the close cropped white hair. The face showed a long hard life, the pallid complexion surrounding the sunken, grey eye sockets gave it a cold, hard, almost cadaverous, appearance. He might have looked an old man but the grip on the barman’s wrist was vice-like and showed no sign of easing. It was hurting.
The man looked over the bar to see what the barman was reaching for. He released the grip and snatched the Yellow Pages from the shelf below. He carried it to a seat by the light of the window and furtively put on a pair of reading glasses. The barman looked on massaging his bruised wrist as he listened to the pages being flipped through. The vacuum cleaner droned on in the back bar undisturbed. Having found the entry he was looking for the man tore out the whole page, threw the book back on to the counter and left.
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