FREE short story by Colin Devonshire
“The traffic gets no better, I see, rot tit!” Philip Rinn said as he walks into his new office.
“Oh?” Anong said.
“Oh, what?” Philip asked.
“I must have made a silly mistake when I typed up details of your interview in London.”
“How so? You type up information on all the staff?”
“Yes, it is company policy. It said on your info sheet that you cannot speak Thai and that you have never been here before.”
“I see, let me clear that up. I learned a few words of your beautiful language, and I’ve never worked here. I came for a holiday once. I picked up the term for traffic jam, as I spent most of my time in one,” he said, smiling at Anong.
“You have a corner office, with the best views of the city. If you need any supplies, just ask and I’ll arrange them. My office is next door.”
“Can I have a coffee before you go?”
“There is a machine in the corridor, the coffee is free.” She turned her back.
Philip sat behind his desk, checked in the desk drawers. Empty. The filing cabinet was bulging. There was a calendar opened for this month. A blue and a red pen with the company logo stamped on them.
“Lovely, pity the secretary doesn’t make coffee. Now, I wonder what they expect me to do?”
At Rank Insurance, it didn’t take a genius to guess what they offered. Health, property and vehicle cover. They also had an investment department. Philip’s only experience with insurance was a failed attempt to claim his car when it crashed in bad weather. He was drunk.
He wandered to the coffee machine, smiling and nodding to the office workers he passed. Anong kept her head down. She answered the phone, keeping her head frozen in place.
“Yes, sir, I’ll tell him.”
Her head lifted, “Mr Rinn, the boss wants a word. Top floor.”
“He can wait until I finish my drink.”
“Up to you, but I wouldn’t keep him waiting.”
Philip shrugged and flipped his feet on his desk. Arms behind his head leaning back, he smirked at the cooling coffee.
The plastic cup became the first item in his bin as he took the lift upstairs.
On his return, he was tempted to fill the bin with the folders and leaflets presented by his boss.
“Miss Anong, please come in here,” he asked.
“Yes, Mr Rinn,” she said, remaining standing.
“Please sit. I want you to give me the gist of all this stuff.”
Anong was Thai, normally polite and helpful, cheerful and generous. She was a good judge of people.
“I believe you should read it, find out what we as a company do.”
“I have better things to do. Give me a summary.”
She started sorting the papers.
“We can start with the fun bit, Rank Insurance takes its employees for a long weekend in the jungle.”
“Ah, ha, I’ll get to use my military training,” he said.
“Brush up your skills, as luck would have it, we go to Kanchanaburi, next weekend.”
Rinn snorted, legs on the desk, he signalled for her to continue.
She explained the coverage of each policy. Rinn was daydreaming. Finally, she placed the leaflets and brochures on a shelf, then flicked open a folder.
“I thought you’d finished?”
“You need to know the company’s rules.” She started reading the do and definitely do not of office behaviour and how to treat each client.
She crept out of the office, leaving Philip snoring gently.
As the clock hit four-thirty, “Bye Anong, see you tomorrow,” he said, waving goodbye.
“But, we don’t finish until six.”
“I have something planned.”
Office chatter caught fire. Anong busied herself with Philip’s photograph and Google search programme.
During the following four days, Philip spent his time with his head buried in his file cabinet. He pulled file after file, flicked open the details and copied them onto his iPad.
“If you are going to watch me work, at least fetch me a coffee,” said Philip.
Anong, did as requested. Then asked, “Why you are checking the documents of our English clients?”
“You have good eyesight, reading the names from your office?”
“I organised the files, I know who goes in which drawer.”
“Brilliant. If you must know, I aim to run an advert, in English, in the Bangkok Post. Is that okay with you?”
“We have an ad department that handles that,” she answered as she stalked to her desk.
The clock in Philip’s office ticked its way to six pm. He hadn’t found the information he wanted.
A note was placed on each staff member’s desk. ‘Kanchanaburi Trip. Staff are requested to meet outside the building at nine am tomorrow. Casual clothes, strong walking shoes and a hat will be needed. Alcohol will be served. Have fun, but please remember the company’s good name!’.
Philip snorted as he balled the paper.
“Shit, shit, shit. What do I do now?” he asked himself.
“Gather round, please,” called the office manager. “I have some great news,” he pointed to Philip’s office, “the lady who graced that office, will be joining us tomorrow. As you all know, she left us to settle down to married life.”
Philip’s ears pricked up. “All may not be lost.” He grinned.
The phone’s alarm rang at eight. Philip sprang up and readied himself.
“There is extra food this morning, don’t eat it all at once, I will be gone awhile.”
The condo door slammed.
“Good morning, Mr Rinn, you seem much happier this morning?” said Anong.
“I’m looking forward to this excursion. I’m keen to meet eh, Mrs?”
“Oh, Miss Whitely, now Mrs Jacobs, she will be joining us at the boat.”
Philip sat alone on the coach’s front seat. Thinking, planning how to phrase his questions. The noise, chatter, and Thai songs didn’t disturb his scheming.
The coach arrived at the river. Its passengers poured to the pavement, they bounced and bubbled down the bank to the wide, open-sided craft, ready to whisk them to the River Kwai’s famous sights.
“Philip, please sit next to Miss… sorry, Mrs Jacobs,” said the office manager.
“Please call me Lily.” She smiled with her hand outstretched.
“Lovely to meet you, I’m Philip. New to join this happy bunch of insurance experts.”
Talk of a honeymoon on Phuket, the possibility of starting a family, and river life punctuated with Leo beers, relaxed the pair.
“Do you mind if I ask you a work-related question?” said Philip.
“But first, where is Mr Rinn? I expected to see him today?” asked Lily.
“You know Mr Rinn?” whispered Philip.
“Oh yes, we were great friends in the London office. I recommended him for this job.”
Philip looked at the group getting louder and merrier. No one heard her. He decided he should stay close; he didn’t want her to talk to Anong.
“Oh, no, looks who’s coming,” he stammered.
“Anong, darling, you look great. Married yet?” asked Lily.
“No, no one will have me, will they, Mr Rinn?”
With a burst of laughter, all heads turned to see who fell overboard. Mr Rinn splashed his way to dry land, he slipped and fell back, before he clambered to the rocky edge. On knees and hands made it to the top. Soggy Baht notes paid for his trip to Bangkok.
“Where did my ex-wife hide her money?” he screamed at the helpless, tightly bound Philip Rinn. His untouched food bowl smashed on the tiles.
Mr Rinn shook his head and mumbled as he tried to speak with a parched throat.
“Please release me,” he said.
“What did the silly cow do with it before she died?”
“I don’t even know her name,” said Mr Rinn.
“She had insurance with your company. I deserve that money.”
Sirens broke his concentration, he grabbed a kitchen knife and held it under Philip’s throat.
The door burst open, as two police officers tumbled through. A third fired, the bullet hit the standing man between his eyebrows.
The real Philip Rinn blinked and shook the blood from his eyes.