Things were getting grim. If this was an amicable divorce then God help those caught up in the confrontational type. To be fair, it wasn’t her fault, it was the bellend she was with now. Somehow or another he had got it into his head that I was concealing assets and he had managed to get an Order freezing all of them until such time as the Courts made a decision. As he was an idiot, he hadn’t realised that everything was in joint names and he had therefore frozen her assets as well. Enough was released each month to cover the utility bills and nothing else. Fortunately, I had PPI and the mortgage was being paid. Food and other necessities were not taken into consideration and the small amount of cash I had was running out fast. Pretty soon I would need to decide who got to eat. Me or the dog? I knew which way that decision would go. I had no idea how they were managing. He had as much chance of getting a job as a brick has of swimming the Atlantic.
The phone rang. Unknown number. Probably someone after payment of something or other. I answered it. A mans voice introduced itself as someone who knew someone I knew. He was aware I might be up for some legit cash in hand work. I confirmed I was. He ran a security company that was providing staff for an international poker game at a venue in London. He was after a night watchman who could keep an eye on the room where the chips and cards were kept. 12 hour shift. £150 a night. 6 nights. He would pay me each day at the end of my shift. Interested? I would have snatched his hand off if he’d been there but I stayed cool. Yeah. Sounds ok to me. When do I start? Tonight? I have no plans that can’t be changed so I’ll see you at the venue at 7. Thanks. Appreciated.
6 nights at 150? 900 quid. Buys a heap of dog food that’s for sure. I called the mutual friend and thanked him. We chatted for a while. I had enough fuel in the car to drive up so I took the dog for a walk, got my head down for a few hours, showered, fed the dog, gathered some bits together and left.
I arrived in plenty of time. I met up with Bob and met his crew and got shown around. Big venue. Lots of black out curtains draped everywhere and poker was still being played but due to end soon.
By 7.30 the place was empty. Just me and the security blokes who were finishing up. They had a small kitchen and said to just help myself. They eventually left and the place grew quiet. Even the air became still. London traffic murmured in the background. That sound got quieter as the night moved on.
I made myself comfortable. I had something to eat and drink. I got my book out and started to read. I had a small dvd player with me. I thought I’d watch something later. Bob had said it was ok, just to stay awake. That would be easy enough as I hadn’t slept much recently. I walked around a few times just for something to do. As the night progressed towards morning it got quieter and the atmosphere became quite still, the only disturbance to the stillness was me as I strolled around. There were stairs leading up to a mezzanine. I knew that up there was a table, a chair and a computer. Not because I had already gone up but because Bob had told me. He had also said not to use the computer. It was for the players to check their emails. Professional poker players have a lot of games to play all over the World and this was a time of dial up internet and smart phones were still a dream in a geeks head. I decided to go up and have a look. As I walked across the floor towards the table my whole body suddenly became very, very cold like I had walked into a freezer and the chill went into every part of me. Every hair on me stood on end.
I reversed course and went back down the stairs. I sat in my chair. The cold had gone. My hair no longer stood on end.
Dammit. I thought. I am not going back up there. That was spooky. There had been no draught. No conditioned air I had walked through. I more or less stayed put for the rest of the night and certainly didn’t go anywhere near the mezzanine.
The days guys started to arrive. they were a nice bunch. They asked me how things had been during the night. I told them about the mezzanine. One of them began to laugh and told me he had done the graveyard shift the previous night. Despite being told not to, he had gone up stairs and used the computer. While he was doing so, he heard footsteps approaching across the floor. Thinking he had been busted by the boss, he quickly switched off and turned around to face the music. No one there! He was positive that the footsteps had got to within 10 feet of him but there was no one to be seen. Now he tells me!
Bob came in with my payment for the night and I thanked him, left and drove home.
I arrived for my next shift. Everyone went and I was on my own again. This time I sat at the Pit Boss’s table. It was raised so I looked across the playing tables and I could clearly see the door to the room containing the decks of cards and the playing chips. I looked around. My back was to the wall. To my left was a long bar. No drinks out, just an ice bucket sat on top about half way down it’s length. I could see the Thames. To my right were some black out curtains and the stairs up to the mezzanine. Beyond them were several stacks of chairs and beyond that a view out to the road. Once again, it became very still and very quiet. Car headlights occasionally lit up the front of the building but didn’t really intrude. I settled down, opened my book and began to read. I went to the little kitchen area and made a cup of tea. I put a curry into the microwave, nuked it and had my meal. I could still see the door I had to watch. I went back to my seat. I started to read again. Time passed. I glanced at my watch. After midnight. I continued reading. I walked about. I didn’t go anywhere near the mezzanine or the stairs.
I had another cup of tea. I read some more. It was nearly 3am. Not long to go.
I leapt out my chair. My heart was racing. I checked my trousers. What the bloody hell…..? The ice bucket had fallen off the bar. It had sat, quite happily, in the middle of the bar for hours. My heart slowed down and I climbed back into my skin. I went over to the bar. I looked down at the ice bucket lying on the floor. I didn’t pick it up. I looked at the bar. Nothing on it at all now. I returned to my seat. I picked up my book. Began to read. I glanced up from time to time. Nothing moved. It was still. As it grew lighter the security guys arrived. Once again they asked how the night had been. I told them about the ice bucket. They laughed but I could see just a hint of concern in their eyes. Bob arrived. He gave me my money, we thanked each other and I made my way home. When I got home, I took the dog out for a walk. One of the neighbours had taken him out in the evening and had volunteered to take him out each night while I was working. She was a nice old stick. She had made me a lasagne to take to work that night. I showered and got my head down for a few hours.
I arrived for my next shift. The security guys all went but cleaners were still in the building. Poker players must be pretty messy people. After an hour or so, the cleaners left. I locked the doors. I wandered around. I didn’t go up to the mezzanine but I checked the bar. Nothing on it. I sat at the Pit Boss’s chair and gazed out across the floor. The black out curtains were all drawn tonight and I couldn’t see beyond them to where the chairs had been stacked. The light inside was dim but good enough to see everything I wanted to. No light from the traffic outside flashed. It grew quiet and still again. I read. Another book now. Just before midnight I went to the kitchen and nuked the lasagne my neighbour had made for me. I had a cup of tea. I went back to my position looking out over the poker tables. I plugged in my dvd player and watched a movie. I took a walk around. I went to the front of the building and looked out onto the deserted street. I started to walk back to my chair. I walked past the stacked chairs. I parted the curtains and walked through. I headed towards the playing tables. I felt the change in air pressure behind me rather than heard anything. I turned. The bottom edge of one of the curtains was about three feet off the ground and steadily rising. I was probably ten feet away. I couldn’t see anyone lifting the curtain. It continued rising until it was about head height and it stopped for a second or two and suddenly dropped down to ground level again. I didn’t move. Maybe thirty seconds later the bottom edge of a curtain further down began to rise. It got to about head height, paused briefly and dropped back down to the floor. Something else was taking a wander round. It didn’t take two to check the building so I decided to return to my seat, park, read my book and try not to think too hard about what had just happened. This was no set up by the security guys. I was close enough to see that there hadn’t been any cords lifting that curtain but someone or something had. It was difficult to continue reading. My head kept coming up and looking around. I made another cup of tea. I walked around again but the only disturbance to the stillness was me. It started to get light. The security detail began to drift in. I told them about the curtains. They smiled and cracked jokes again. Bob came in. We chatted for a couple of minutes. I got paid and I made my way home. I got home, showered again. glanced in the mirror. Was my hair greyer than before? Looked like it. I walked the dog. Got my stuff together. Margaret had made me a shepherds pie. She was such an angel. I slept.
I arrived in plenty of time again. I wondered what tonight would bring. Poker was still being played. I wandered about. I watched people playing cards. Not the most exciting of spectator sports that’s for damned sure. Finally, the card playing stopped. There had been a moment of drama when one of the players got knocked out. He went a bit dinky dau and started shouting and waving his arms around. Security stepped in and got him away from the table and quietened him down. I was impressed. They had moved him away with the minimum of fuss. They were almost ghost-like. They appeared, they moved, they were gone again.
The players and audience departed. The cleaners moved in. Security were laid back and lax now. They said their goodbyes and left. I set up at the Pit Boss’s table again. I moved amongst the cleaners. We chatted. After a couple of hours they had finished and left. Moved onto the next job. Working through the night. Unnoticed. Earning an honest dollar. My kind of people.
I sat. New book. New dvd for later. I went and made a cup of tea. Sat. Chilled. Watched the room with the cards and the chips. Wondered what the night held. Nothing on the bar. No way was I going onto the mezzanine. The curtains hung down to the floor. The chairs were stacked beyond them. Outside, the City of London streets buzzed with late evening traffic. Headlights shone. Speed cameras flashed. A cop car sped past with blue lights spinning. I walked to the other end of the building and looked out over the Thames towards the South Bank. Just in sight to my left was Tower Bridge. I could see see the walls of the Tower of London. The lights out there made it all look unbelievably beautiful.
I spent some time there gazing out over the river and thinking about how I had ended up in this situation. I felt the depression starting to sweep in so I changed my train of thought. I moved. I walked around. I sat, opened my book and started to read. I glanced up from time to time. It became quieter and very still. Just like every other night I had been there. It got to midnight and I decided it was time to eat. I went to the kitchen and put the shepherds pie that Margaret had made me into the microwave oven. I filled the kettle with fresh water, switched the kettle on and waited for it to boil and then made myself a coffee. I put my meal and my coffee on the table, sat down, began to eat. For some reason I could smell toast. I could see the door to the room with the chips and cards. Behind me the kettle clicked on and started to boil. I froze with a fork full of food half way between the plate and my mouth. I put my fork down on the plate and slowly turned around. I looked at the kettle which had now started to boil.
Who the fuck had switched it on?
Then the toaster next to the kettle spat out two slices of toast.
Toast? I had not put any bread in the toaster and I sure as hell hadn’t started it. The kettle boiled and switched off as it should. I looked at both appliances. I walked over to them. I didn’t rush. I took the toast out of the toaster and binned it. The smell of toasted bread made me quite fancy a couple of slices with strawberry jam but I thought better of it. I returned to my meal. I moved my chair so that I could see out of the door towards the room with the cards and chips inside while at the same time, keep an eye on the kettle and toaster. I finished my meal and it was excellent. I sat with my cup of coffee held in both hands. Not because I was cold but because I liked the feel of the heat through the cup. The kettle clicked on again. I stared at it. I stared at the toaster but that didn’t spit out any more toast. The water in the kettle began to boil and the kettle switched off. I walked over to it. I turned both appliances off at the plug socket and pulled the plugs. I washed up my crockery and utensils, turned out the lights and left, closing the door behind me. I returned to my seat and opened my book. I had concluded that if there really was some kind of spirit in the building, it meant me no harm but I really could do without this.
It started to get lighter outside. Street lights turned off. Traffic increased. Boats moved up and down the Thames. Security arrived and I unlocked the doors and let them in. We chatted. Bob arrived and paid me. We spoke briefly about other work in the near future. Eventually I left and drove home. I walked the dog as soon as I got home. I saw Margaret. Stew and dumplings tonight. I decided to buy her a decent bottle of gin on my way to work tonight. I knew gin and tonic to be her favourite tipple. I showered, prepared my kit and went to catch some zeds.
I strolled into the venue to start my fifth night. I had stopped on my way in to buy Margaret a bottle of special edition Blue Sapphire gin. Not cheap but she had been so kind it was worth it.
They were down to the last twenty players. These were the guys that would actually win prize money. All the others walked away with nothing. So it was tense. They played for another hour. 16 players were left in the tournament. Things were cleared away. The chips and cards were escorted by security to the safe room. The cleaners arrived. Everyone else went. The cleaners cleaned. I walked around and set myself up at the Pit Boss’s table again. Finally, I was left alone. Once again I wondered what the night would bring. Would anything happen? Would I actually see anything? I walked all over the ground floor. I didn’t go up onto the mezzanine. I made sure the doors were locked. I sat down in my chair and started to read. I went and made a cup of coffee. I sat back down. I read more. I needed to take a leak so I wandered off to the mens toilets. I started to do what I was in there for. I looked at the stainless steel pipe that ran down from the cistern to the bowl. I saw my refelection. It was like looking at myself in the back of a spoon. I pulled faces at myself in the reflection. My heart stopped as a tremendous fart resonated around the toilet.
Then I smiled. No lumps.
As the echoes faded my heart stopped again. In the reflection from the pipe in front of me I saw the toilet paper in the empty cubicle behind me start to unravel. The cubicle door slammed shut. I heard the bolt locking the door. The toilet flushed. I finished doing what I was doing, zipped myself up and walked out. Jesus God. Not even midnight yet. What else tonight? I went and had my meal in the kitchen. I watched the kettle and the toaster while I filled my face. Nothing. They both stayed off until I switched the kettle on and made myself a coffee. Then I unplugged both of them from the wall socket. I took an nearly empty 2 litre bottle of 7Up from the fridge and took it with me back to the Pit Boss’s table. I had decide not to return to the toilet and needed something as a just in case.
As with every other night I had been there, it grew quieter and still as the night moved on towards daylight and the end of my shift. Around 5 o’clock the murmur of traffic started to increase in volume. it got lighter. People walked past outside. Security arrived and I let them in. Bob paid me. We all stood around chatting for a while and then I left. I gave Margaret her gift. She was pleased. She said it was unnecessary but it made me feel better as the help she had given me over not just the last few days but since my wife and children had left had seen me through some dark times. I walked the dog. I prepared for my last night and went to bed.
I showered, dressed, grabbed the stuffed peppers that Margaret had made for me and left for work.
When I arrived the final six players were still at the table. At stake was a top prize of $750,000. All of the remaining players were going to walk away with a heap of money but they all played not just for the money but the kudos of winning the tournament. Eventually after a couple of hours, four players were left to play for the big prize tomorrow. People started to leave. Cleaners began to do what they do. By 10 the place was empty and I was on my own. I set myself up in my usual position. I placed my book and my dvd player on the table. I put my empty 7Up bottle on the floor. I had decided to avoid the mezzanine again and had included the toilets in my No Go areas. I began my last night by taking a walk around the venue. I looked out over the Thames and looked at the buildings across the river. I strolled over to the other end of the building and looked out over the road. There were only a few cars and vans driving past. No pedestrians to be seen. I walked back to my seat. The stacks of chairs were on my side of the curtains tonight. The curtains were hanging down to the floor. I sat and read. I went and had my meal in the small kitchen. I made a coffee and unplugged the kettle. I sat in the kitchen for a while and allowed my mind to drift. I sighed. A tear rolled down my cheek. I went back to my position. I used the 7Up bottle. I wondered why it was green. I watched a movie. My eyes kept flicking around but the place remained silent and still. The coffee I had been drinking worked its way through me and I used the 7Up bottle again. I stared off into the distance. I gazed at the door to the room containing all the decks of cards and chips. A panel with the switches for the lights was next to the door. I counted the switches. Ten. I turned my gaze away and then looked again. One by one the switches clicked down and the lights came on. Here we go I thought. There was no one there but I had definitely seen the switches go down and there was no mistaking the lights coming on. I sat completely upright. My head turned from side to side. Looking but seeing nothing that shouldn’t be there. Then I heard a screech to my right. I was looking left when it started and my head automatically swivelled and I saw a stack of chairs moving towards the curtains. The stack reached the curtains and went through them. The chairs disappeared behind the curtains. The noise stopped and the lights flicked off again a few seconds later. The building went quiet again. Stillness descended on the building. I remained motionless on my chair.Nothing moved except my eyes which flicked left and right. Nothing moved. After five minutes I reached for the 7Up bottle again. Nearly full. I hoped it would last me until the others arrived. I stayed in my chair. Not reading. Not watching movies. Just looking. Left and right.
It started to get light. Nothing moved. I heard vehicles driving by. Cars arrived outside and parked. The security guys were on site. I stood up, went to the door and let them in. We spoke. I told them what had happened. What I had seen. Or rather, what I hadn’t seen. It was a topic of discussion for a few minutes. Bob arrived. Gave me my payment for the night. He said there would be more work for me if I wanted it next week. Different venue. Same payment method. I said I could do it and he said he would phone me in the next couple of days with details. We thanked each other. I grabbed my stuff and left. As I walked past one of the big plate glass windows, I glanced back in and saw one of the security guys about to take a swig from a 2 litre bottle of 7Up. I knew I had forgotten something.
I went to my car, got in and drove home. Had a cup of tea with Margaret and then took the dog for a walk. Went to the bath room and looked in the mirror. Damn. My hair was definitely greyer now. I showered and undressed. Got into bed and slept.
Have a nice day. Sleep well tonight.
More Dick soon.