A small red ball sidled along the gutter, negotiated a flattened beer can, then gathered speed as it neared the drain. Walter bent to rescue it, then continued at his former pace, arriving at the office at exactly 8.55.
He opened the window, hung his coat behind the door, and examined the smooth texture of the ball for a moment, testing the weight of it in his hand.
There was no view from his tiny rear office, nothing to distract him from the routine of the day. It was the first hot morning of the summer, and he flicked the wall switch for the overhead fan. It creaked into action for a single revolution, sighed, and stopped. Walter threw the ball at the ceiling in frustration. It glanced off the fan blade and flew unnoticed out of the window, hitting the visor of a passing motorcycle courier.
A moment later, Walter heard the raw screech of brakes. He peered out over the ledge, but couldn’t see to the end of the street. He shook his head and sat back down. After the wail of the ambulance siren had faded into the distance, Walter went to the kitchen to make his first coffee of the day. As he passed the sales office he heard shrieking, and then Amy Potter burst into the corridor and made for the kitchen ahead of him. As he walked in she was running the cold tap, a glass tumbler in her hand.
‘Mr Patchett, have you the heard the dreadful news? Chloe Broadbent has been in an accident. Just now, on the way back from the bank. A motorcycle courier swerved into a car, and the car mounted the kerb and knocked her down. It’s terrible!’
Her words tumbled out in a breathless rush, and Walter patted her on the arm. He wasn’t very good in these situations, and now Amy was threatening tears.
‘I’m sure she’ll be fine.’
‘No, Mr Patchett, you don’t understand. Mr Dawes in purchasing saw it happen. He says she’s dead!’
Walter flapped his arms uselessly for a moment, and then took the glass from Amy’s shaking hand. The volume of the other girls’ voices rose and fell as the sales office door opened and closed.
‘You go back in the office and calm things down, I’ll make everyone a cup of sweet tea.’
He tried to remember which of the girls was Chloe Broadbent. Was she the little blonde one? Or was that Lydia? No, he was sure Chloe was the blonde one. A nice girl. It was so frightening the way everything could change in a single moment, and all because of some fool’s reckless driving.
Walter stopped at the kitchen window, kettle in hand, and glimpsed a small red ball coming to rest against the kerb below. Blood red. He turned to see a policewoman in the corridor, and gently pushed the door closed with his foot.
Mandy Huggins lives in Yorkshire and works in engineering. Her travel writing and short fiction has appeared in anthologies, newspapers and magazines, and for the last two years she has been one of the organisers of Cleckheaton Literature Festival.
She has won numerous writing competitions and been shortlisted and placed in many others, including those run by Bare Fiction, Fish, Ink Tears, English Pen, The Telegraph, and Bradt Travel Guides. She won the BGTW New Travel Writer Award 2014, and was runner-up in this year’s Dragonfly Tea/Henley Literary Festival Short Story Competition.
A selection of her short stories will be showcased in a forthcoming Ink Tears anthology.
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