We won’t go into forensic detail what’s on it. Suffice to say it’s the sort of gruesome violence that’s conjured by psychopathic self-indulgence, which Daily Mail and Express readers cleave to in complete hypocrisy. Publicly they’re repulsed, privately its qualities excites them considerably.
Its aspect offers sanctuary for genetic gratification and sociological pride. They can delight in the extreme brutality and domination of undesirable diversity in the knowledge it’ll be shielded from the vogue of online liberalist shaming.
Having found it she became acutely aware of her mortality, by being directly connected with a realm which we all know to exist, but are happy to pretend does not, so desperate are we to preserve the cubicles of mundanity many of us inhabit. It was a revelatory terror, posing a highly personal question, was the life she was living enough, what did she have to lose?
What lead to her stealing it? The abridged version – ennui and boredom often leads to unwitting destruction. If I had to expand, speculatively, she decided there was something off about him. The consensus among the employees was too many years of adulation, decadence and getting what he wanted had eroded his altruism and decorum. Privately she started to disagree when, completely unprompted, he started to throw glances at her. They were demonically cast, in a non-sexual but threatening manner.
She could only watch the first five minutes of its three and a half hours run time. The aggressive cackling of its two creeps was its most repulsive and haunting feature, not their coming into shot brandishing pliers and a mitre saw. Somehow, even with the slider at the bottom of the screen taunting her, her rationality managed to rout curiosity. Abdication appealed, but putting it on the internet was frivolous and irresponsible without furnishing it with a definitive context – their faces were obscured by surgical masks and it was filmed in a nondescript location. This period of analysis was euphoric for her, fuelled by her suspicions being validated and the potential of achieving a pious relevancy. Continuing in that vein she was certain he was one of two in the recording, but conceded the possibility he may have procured it from the internet’s black market to fulfil some ghastly fetish. Sending it to the police, with the help of an anonymous tip, who could investigate it with the necessary detachment, was the wisest course. However, they had the disadvantage of being encumbered by legal transparency, while she had the advantage of being able to observe how he’d react to its disappearance.
Copying the video file to another external, and equally dated, USB stick felt like a superfluous and frustrating exercise at its inception. The file transfer, conducted on her archaic, wheezing dust ridden laptop, still had thirty-two minutes left remaining after two hours of waiting. During this time she continuously questioned why it was necessary. Leverage was the concept she kept circling back to. But the more she thought about it the more tenuous the notion became. Negotiating, with psychopaths like these, surely denoted failure, as it would only be for one thing – to spare her life. A wave of panic descended, and brought weightlessness in mind and stomach. Wallowing in the realisation that she was completely out of her depth, and had no method of recourse that ensured her safety, she opted for distraction by checking the progress again – eighty-seven percent complete.
His lower body collapsed upon discovery it had gone missing from the locked drawer in his office. The numbness spread to his brain, and momentarily he descended into a peculiar existential episode where his identity and reality became bizarre and inconceivable concepts. Eventually it passed and a rational anxiety replaced it. This was twofold, for his well-being, and, this was correlated, he’d need to inform his accomplice. The two had talked candidly, as much as two men can in private, about such an eventuality and the contingencies required. Still he was unsure how he’d react to this news. Roger was unflappable dealing with the kind of pedestrian business and material pressures which see therapy and drugs envelop many professionals. However, he had seen behind the veil too. When embroiled in their lair there were fleeting moments where even he found Roger’s ferociousness at inflicting human suffering to be unnerving.
After three minutes, Andrew’s excessive contrition started to anger him more than the dire permutations of the recording being misplaced, or worse, stolen. As Andrew was informing him of the bad news he decided to hedge his bets, publicly defaulting to reassurance, that they were in this together, that they’d sort it, and ultimately find a new location.
In truth, he had come to loathe his company. Their success combined with middle age had bred crude narcissism, domineering misogyny, and ungracious dismissiveness of other’s assistance and commitment to the company. Recently Andrew confided to him, after a few rum and cokes, that he had come to actively enjoy being disliked, especially by the staff, for being himself.
Unlike twenty-five years ago when they met, now he could never quite predict what Andrew would say or do next, particularly when they were alone like this. He was shocked that Andrew was showing little remorse at relinquishing such an integral piece of their lives and their personal relationship. While theirs was not a friendship, respect, kindship and the dedication required to maintain the other’s secret for barbarism was fostered and preserved at the place to where they were heading.
During the journey over his behaviour was schizoid. His arms shook, his hands would too, but he gripped the steering wheel so firmly that the leather began to squeal. He was laughing randomly, babbling complete nonsense about a number of inane subjects, interspersed with thoughts on personal matters which he was unwise to divulge when not signing along to banal lyrics from some horrid pastiche of eighties pub rock. As they reached the industrial estate he studied Andrew one last time. He was perturbed, as much as someone like him could be, that Andrew’s member was somewhat engorged, and the smell of his farting, while its volume was surreptitious, was potent. The odour was reminiscent of space raiders meshing with tonic water and well-worn leather, and like him, unfathomable in its design, a mixture of faux bucolic and urban factory crimping.
The sky was a leaden grey, mirroring the industrial estate’s architecturally practical inelegance, purely concrete and metal construction, palette and its location. The river it sat beside was nacreous with pollution, while the cranes on the other side towered over ominously like post-apocalyptic trees. Potholes were festooned by a post-modernist lower class fusion of mud, fags ends, crushed glass and squashed weeds. There were copious signs of fragmentation and decline that saw detachment from its prosperous post-war uprising; fault-lines, rust, peeled paint and water damage. He was slightly consoled that this would be significantly improved by the huge explosion.
4.5mm Beretta’s are excellent handguns. Light, accurate, with forgiving recoil and inconspicuous when paired with a silencer. He picked up the bullet casing which had passed straight through Andrew’s skull. The blast radius of the propane tank would eviscerate most of his head and make it look like an accident. Any fatal accident enquiry would conclude that Andrew was looking to sabotage the unit for insurance money but only succeeded in blowing himself up, the silly Billy. He would be questioned, perhaps be suspected of having knowledge of foul play or being part in its planning. Lawyers were, sadly, a necessary evil for this evil.
While it didn’t resolve the problem, the charade of sacrificing Andrew aimed to. He believed Andrew, it had been stolen. Andrew might’ve forgotten himself too easily in recent years, but he wasn’t consciously destructive. Plus, Andrew confided that he felt a debt of responsibility to him and recognised the trust it took for him to introduce Andrew to his hobby.
It must’ve been an employee. Nobody else would have access. They carried a staff of seventy odd. Such a number provided grass tall enough for someone to be relatively impersonal and inconspicuous, but small enough that word of someone acting strangely or differently than normal would spread. Shock of the explosion coupled with Andrew’s death would, he hoped, flush out the thief and induce what he assumed would be an anonymous form of financial blackmail. Sudden bereavement also provided him the excuse to mingle and graze among the herd when he seldom did so.
The death of Andrew and its suspicious timing and nature had amplified her indecision. The walk to work felt especially cold that morning, a bitter biting wind cajoled a crisp packet into dancing alongside her, and matched her stride with perfect symmetry. She was entranced as it stopped to perform balletic manoeuvres on the edge of the curb. It flitted on to one of its corners, and despite another strong gust of wind held a preposterously long dramatic pose, before collapsing and being flung under the tyre of a passing bus. So jaundiced was her state of mind that the whole sequence felt as though fate was staging a fatalistic metaphorical premonition of what was to occur.
He asked her to work late, late enough to ensure everyone would’ve left. This wasn’t an unusual request, her expertise was specific and it had happened before. Given recent events it confirmed her suspicions that he was looking for clues or the culprit. He’d asked the accounting and finance team to each stay late the week previous, and had apparently asked them some odd questions relating to Andrew and his office. He did this on purpose, he knew the nature of subsequent requests and the excessive mundanity of them would sow concern. After Andrew’s demise she placed the stun gun in her handbag and carried it at all times. It was given to her by an old boyfriend, a police officer, as a birthday present (it was one of the many reasons she chucked him). Now it finally had a use. Carrying it was reassuring, even if the thought of having to wield it was anything but.
He approached her desk with an elegant stride, and asked her to meet him in his office. He lied that it was mostly related to her yearly appraisal. This had occurred eight months previously, but he was ‘doing some restructuring’ and bringing it forward. She remained seated until he insisted, all the while clutching her handbag tightly.
In his office he attempted maintain the pretence with some banal analysis of her performance, most of which was complimentary, before he abruptly produced the gun that authored Andrew’s demise from the top drawer of his desk and placed it on the table during mid-sentence, which was detailing his theory of the causes for their stagnant sales over the Christmas period. Her reaction to the gun and his to hers confirmed their respective guilt. She froze momentarily, glaring at him, waiting for him to pounce and point. He processed the lines on her face. Waiting, he openly amused himself at the thought of her replacing Andrew, in every sense. There was a slim chance that her theft connoted sufficiently flawed morality, which was Andrew’s entry point for absolute corruption. It was then and there that he divulged his and Andrew’s deeds, in glorious technicolour detail, before he made the proposal. Externally she felt for the compartment where her weapon and the USB stick were concealed. He sat still and mute for thirty seconds or so as she produced the original USB. He looked at her genially as she placed it on the edge of the desk, and then down at the gun, before, with an upwards flick of his chin, urging her to pick the gun up.
They grouped around his palm to stare at it with confused intrigue, ultimately deducing with mockery that it was an archaic external memory “solution” from forty or fifty years ago. Blissfully, they were unaware of the horrors it contained, and had no immediate means or inclination to access them. Later, at recycling, conscientiously intricate fragmentation of its form erased the last recording, leaving its owner, its stars, and the circumstances of how it came to lie here to finally join its victims in the expanse of forgotten history.