Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorism)
It was meant to be Ryan Winter’s shift. She had been down to cover the morning shift at the tube station. Switched shifts, covering for one of her British Transport Police colleagues, covering for what would probably have been an over enthusiastic stag night out the day before.
That was why she had been walking across London overground, full uniform as the sun beat down. That was why she was stepping across the threshold between London and the underground. Normality and “The Incident”. That was why she still caught echoes. Even now in her dreams. Machinery, visible through cracks. Droning machinery the size of which dwarfs London in its unwound entirety. One step, that was all it took.
Saw nothing. Heard nothing. Said nothing. One step.
There was no station there. There never was. Ryan Winters stood in the light, people milling confused around her. The sound of ticking clockwork somewhere behind her eyes. Locked away with the memories. For now.
Just one less step and she would have been spared everything that came afterwards,
That was then. Now Ryan works the morning shift at the BTP headquarters in Camden. The message from Dave Chigwell brought up once more on her phone. Dave Chigwell who held the tube map they had all pointed at. All pointed to that one point, that one white point on the map. Empty. Yet they all pointed as if something was there. Dave Chigwell who had brought the tube map that day.
Ryan has replied already. Sent an e-mail from the phone. Called after when no reply came. Dave wasn’t answering. Maybe she was going too fast. Opening the police databanks and checking for signs of odd records. Maybe, but since that day it never hurt to check. Trawling missing persons first, Hospital after. Nothing. Didn’t really expect anything there, but they were the most obvious places to start.
Aware that if she’s caught misusing the police database a disciplinary is the least she can expect, Ryan continues on. Bills and arrest records. Dave is behind on his bills. Several cautions for public disorder. Several flags for threatening calls to government ministers. The sun is just rising as she continues. Something about this already sticking in her mind. Pulling up more details on the threats help. Sent to people involved with the “Bedroom tax” and any who made changes to the unemployment law that has left him in such dire straits. That moves naturally to the next port of call. He’s behind on bills as the Job Centre has removed benefits after he refused an unpaid workfare position stacking shelves. Got escorted out off the Jobs Centre’s premises after a fight with several members of staff there.
The niggling feeling comes up again. Reports missing linked with the events. Incidents not filed. Follow up interviews not happening. An arrest warrant not processed. Someone is intervening in the police system to cover up for Mr Chigwell. From Ryan’s gut she would guess someone who isn’t just looking out for his best interests either
The main issues seem to be around the Job Centre and a new Psychological Profiling they have introduced to “push job seekers to the correct jobs”. A measure introduced by the Minister of Work and Pensions Gideon Wilberforce Hastings Smith.
Rubbing her temples, Ryan wonders about what she has just found about her acquaintance. Nigh destitute, possibly suicidal, and now it seems, not answering calls. At that thought her eyes flicker to the phone again. One missed call. Her heart leaps until she sees it s from Sanjiv rather than Dave. They were meant to be meeting Dave though, so she sends a quick message “Got missed call. What’s up?”
The message finds Sanjiv and Trisha recovering from the discoveries at Dave’s house. Trisha talking ceaselessly about her worries for Dave. About his drinking, the state of his mental health. It is a way of processing everything Sanjiv realises. The journey towards the job centre, or more correctly, the journey away from Dave’s house, has allowed her some emotional distance from the events. He lets her talk, the sound of her own voice allowing her to talk normality into the event. Sanjiv just chimes in the silences, helping her forward, leading her to the conversation of the job centre and what they are going to do there.
They find themselves therefore in Walthamstow. A green clock tower visible past Roman style columns. A fountain behind iron gates, and image completely unlike that of the job centre they reach. Sterile, late 60’s to 70s’ brutalism style. The car park filled with drifting people. Some smoking, some arguing. A security guard watching with bored eyes at this place of squalid lost hope. Watching people waiting to be processed.
“Ok.” Trish suggests “Even if Dave isn’t here, we should try to talk to someone, find someone who knew him. Maybe give us some information on what he has been up to”
Sanjiv nods ”It will at least give us a time frame of what has happened”
They make their way in, past stairways up on their left and past rows of chairs. Rows of pin boards look down on them, notice boards promoting courses and ways to work rather than work itself.
Tired looking staff stamp forms and sign sheets, shifting people from one queue to the next. A computer terminal that may have hastened the process defunct and blank in the corner. Through the huddled mass swarming the boards, looking for just any job, a security guard steps forwards. A mid thirties man, skinhead and overweight squeezed into a G4S uniform “What you here for? Who you here to see? Got an appointment card?”
Sanjiv shakes his head “No. may I ask, does the name Dave Chigwell mean anything to you?”
“You got a card?”
Sanjiv holds back a sigh “Like I said, I have no card I..”
“If you haven’t got a card you can’t come in here”
“The bureaucracy strikes again” Sanvij mutters “Very well. Forget it” He turns for the door, but Trisha’s hand rests on his shoulder halting him
For a moment the stress lifts from Trisha’s face, a persona slips over her. The professional aspect and demeanour she has cultivated as a union rep.
“I am representing Dave Chigwell as his union representative. If you refuse us access then I will have no choice but to take this further, and in that case it will not just be the jobs centre, but yourself personally who will be held responsible and will need to answer to our lawyers.” She reels off a list of employment legislation and legalise, some accurate to the moment, some less so, but enough that the security guard blinks twice. Reassessing the value of a job done well against the trouble this woman could cause. He waves his hand towards the stairs
“First door, second floor”
As they continue on their way Sanjiv smiles “I’m impressed!”
(Sorry for the short write up this week. The game was interrupted by technical difficulties. What you see is what we got. Next session will hopefully be back to normal)