This is the second part of a fiction serial, in 690 words.
When I had to ask Neil if he had a charger, he had a strange look of victory on his face. His perfecly trimmed and oiled hair repulsed me, and I wanted to mess it up, with a rough hand.
“I do have a charger, Darren. But you might want to think about bringing your own one in, or at the very least charging your phone while you are sleeping. Here. Take it into the storeroom, you can plug it in there”.
I thought that if I started hitting him now, the police would have to drag me off of him before I killed him.
While my phone charged, I had fifteen minutes to kill. I decided to throw caution to the winds, and go around the back of the building and enjoy a cigarette. If Janice could smell it on me, I would blame it on the crowded train carriage and hope for the best.
How was I to know that the Russians would turn up early?
When I went back inside, sucking two mints, Neil was euphoric. “Oh dear. Your Russian couple turned up, and you weren’t here. Janice has taken them up to view the apartment. I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes when she comes back down”. If I had been carrying a knife, I am sure I would have stabbed him, there and then.
Not once. Probably more than fifty times. Until I was sure he would never utter another word.
But I ignored his jibe, and checked on my ten o’clock clients. They had sent a text to tell me they were cancelling. I wondered if the day could get any worse.
Then it did.
Behind what would become the Concierge Station, red lights were flashing, and a high-pitched beeping sound was going off. Neil was finally in a flap, and on the phone to the Fire Brigade to confirm the alarm had gone through to them, as it should have done. He turned to me. “They are on the way! We have to follow the full fire evacuation procedure! Assemble fifty yards away, in the car park outside!”
There was only me and Neil, so we went outside as directed, and stood in the almost empty car park. I took the chance to light a cigarette, and smiled as I asked him. “What about the two Russians, and Janice?” He grabbed his phone, and dialled Janice, turning to me looking pale. “The lifts won’t work during a fire alarm. They will have to walk down. I’m sure they will be alright, if they take their time”. He shook his head at the phone. “She’s not answering”.
As he said that, there was a hollow boom from high above us, and we looked up to see a flash of yellow flame, followed by a plume of smoke reaching up to the top of the building. I took a drag on my cigarette, secretly hoping that the next thing I saw would be Janice deciding to jump, rather than burn.
The fire engines turned up before Janice appeared. It was a long walk down, and her smart suit was smoke-stained. The two Russians looked very exhausted, and walked to their limousine with white faces, ignoring the shouts of the firemen that they should be seen by the paramedics, who had just arrived.
I made a mental note that I had probably lost that sale.
Janice was remarkably calm, to give her her due. She was still on the ball too. “Darren, Neil. Get onto your next appointments. Cancel them, and try to rearrange. Whatever you do, don’t mention anything about fire and explosions”. Neil was straight on it, but I didn’t bother to tell Janice that my phone was still on charge in the store room, and the firemen were not about to let me in to get it.
When we saw the firemen had tackled the worst of the smoke and flames, I turned to Janice. ” I forget now, what apartment were they viewing, Jan?”
She didn’t even turn to look at me as she answered.
“Number three, on the seventeenth floor. 317”.