“Goodnight, Jim, See you in the morning.”
“‘Night Stella, You take care now. Straight home mind, no stopping off,” Jim repeated his usual banter as he said goodnight to the last of the staff as they left for home. He on the other hand was just starting work. Night Security, that was Jim, and had been for the last fifteen years. Never missed as shift in all that time. Solid and dependable that was Jim. Even tonight, when he felt a little out of sorts there was no way he was going to let anyone down, and same as ever he was his usual self as he settled in for a night of work.
“I shan’t, don’t you worry, my Bill’s waiting for me at home, hopefully with the kettle on.” Stella replied, “And don’t you go falling asleep on the job,” she added as she stepped outside, their nightly script now completed.
Bill closed the door firmly behind Stella as he waved her off the premises. Turning slightly to his right he flicked the switch for the general alarm. Having done that he dropped his bag on the table in his little office and set off on his first round of the evening.
Every night his route to check the security of the building followed the same path. He started his rounds by making sure the door to the basement and the vault downstairs was secured. Only once had he been down there in all his fifteen years. His contract specified that he need not enter that part of the building. It was considered secure and as long as the security was maintained on the other floors there wouldn’t be a problem down there either.
Once he had checked the basement door he wandered round the shop-floor, making sure the showcases were all secured, and that all the electrical sockets had been turned off. He also made sure that nothing had been left out where it might cause a hazard. In theory if he found anything awry he was supposed to inform ‘the management’, but he preferred to have a quiet word with whoever the culprit was himself.
After checking everything on the shop-floor was safe and secure he headed upstairs to the first floor offices by way of the public staircase. On the way he’d glance out the window at the street outside, keeping an eye on the perimeter was how he liked to think of it. His wife had always said it was just him being a nosey old so-and-so. Thinking of her and how she took an interest in his nightly work made him feel a little sad and lonely all over again. He missed her so much, even though it had now been almost three years since she had passed on. She’d always said she’d wait for him on the other side, but Jim knew better. He knew that once you’d breathed your last that was it ‘Goodnight for the last time’ as he called it.
When he arrived on the first floor he wandered round the offices whistling as he went. The floor was divided into two sections: the main office, which was open plan and the upper offices which belonged to the two partners and their secretaries. Tonight, just like every other night for the last fifteen years everything was in order. Only once in his time as Night Security at Holland and Mathers had anything been slightly off kilter, but even that hadn’t been serious enough to mention to the powers that be. Jim remembered the incident like it was yesterday. It was the during the Christmas week, the last Christmas that his wife was still alive. He’d not worked over the Christmas period itself, that was a blessing he thought looking back, to have had a final Christmas with Sheila before she died, and a good one at that. All their children had made an effort to spend the day at theirs, almost as if they all knew it would be Sheila’s last.
‘Now what made me think of that?’ Jim asked himself as he pulled the door closed on the first floor offices. ‘Oh yes I was thinking about the incident that never happened.’ He chuckled to himself and felt a slight flush to his face as he started to climb the stairs to the third and final floor of the building. On this floor were the staff rooms; toilets a place where everyone could eat their lunch, as well as the general photocopying room and the stationery cupboard.
For the first time in ages Jim felt a little out of breath as he arrived on the third floor. He thought little of it and simply put it down to the cold she seemed to be starting. His chest had felt tight all afternoon. His first stop on this floor was in the kitchen area where he put the kettle on and grabbed his mug off the shelf, along with a teabag from the box which he dropped in his mug. He took a seat in one of the armchairs whilst he waited for the kettle to boil. Looking over at the storage room he started to think about the incident again.
The night of the incident he’d preformed his rounds just like any other, but when he neared the storeroom he thought he heard a strange noise coming from inside. Jim had never been one to shy away from danger he immediately threw the storeroom door wide open and shouted “Okay, whoever’s in there, whatever you’re doing come on out.” At the same time he flicked on the light. In truth he was slightly worried that he was being foolhardy at the time and considered for all of a millisecond that his actions might put him in danger, but it was his job to keep the building safe and secure at night and that was what he was going to do, come hell or high water.
As soon as the light went on Jim knew that he wasn’t in the slightest danger. In fact he was a little embarrassed Inside he found one of the partner’s secretaries inflagrante delecto with the company accountant. Jim immediately shut the door again and pondered the predicament. Within a couple of minutes both parties came out of the storeroom and amidst a lot of coughing and stuttering apologised for being in there. Embarrassedly they had asked if Jim would be able to keep what he had seen to himself. He agreed he would, telling them that he too was young once. True to his word he had kept their secret, well he had told Sheila as soon as he had got home, but no-one outside the four of them ever knew about the incident that Christmas week.
Jim heard the kettle click itself off bringing him out of his reverie and signalling that the water would be hot enough for his tea. He went to stand up, but felt an impossible pain shoot across his chest. ‘What the…’ he thought to himself as he slumped back down. He looked across at the kettle, thinking that it looked a million miles away now. The pain had been excruciating for a second there, but had now eased up. He moved to stand again when he herd something behind him.
“I’m here,” a voice said, “Just like I said I would be.”
“Sheila?” Jim recognised the voice straight away.
“Who else would wait nearly three years for you, you old fool?” Sheila replied gently.
“But …, then … does that….?” Jim couldn’t finish his question.
“Yes, my love, it does. I’ve waited for you, but the time has been nothing now you are here, now that we’re reunited. Love is forever Jim, and I love you and know you love me. This is it, we’ve got an eternity together now. Yes, my dear wonderful man. This is it, this is your final goodnight.”