3rd STORGY UPLOADSALLY-ANNE WILKINSON

Here we have Sally-Anne Wilkinson’s short story based on the title ‘Needle in The Staff Toilet’. It’s a real belter and further examples the diversity of the contributors we have working at STORGY to bring your submitted titles to life. The experience has thus far been an extremely enjoyable one and we would like to thank you all for your continued show of support. It means a great deal to each and every one of us here at STORGY. Thank you.

NEEDLE IN THE STAFF TOILET

by Sally-Anne Wilkinson

Things spiralled long before they found the needle in the toilet.  But by then, it was truly over.

Working as an advertising exec, you’re under pressure.  Not everyone can hack it.  A lot burn out – many in the first six months.  But it was my third year.  I’d proved I had what it takes: pimped out to clients twenty-four hours a day, few holidays, no sick days.  Even if I was on a break, my Blackberry was always switched on.  You don’t look away – someone else will get the deal, the bonus, the promotion.  There were lots of younger, hungry people passing through.

Some say it’s a tough job – a constant cycle of clients; always having to tout for business.  I was pushing graphic designers, writers, photographers; sorting out marketing; cranking up ad campaigns.  Reinhardt expected it.  I got home in the dark, but I was in it for the buzz.

The most important rule was, show no weakness.  This was how things stood: make a mistake, lose face; fall down, get trampled on; lose an account, lose your job.   Simple as.  I’d seen a lot go, but now I had a nice, big office.

A few months back, Reinhardt stopped me.

‘Dom,’ he said, grabbing my shoulder, ‘This is Matt Cahill.  He’s joining us.  Junior exec.’

‘Hey,’ I said, shaking his hand.  As I squeezed his knuckles, an uncomfortable tightness was returned.  ‘I’m off to the Phoenix shoot.’  Phoenix were revamping their shaving line.

‘Matt was meant to be with Burke today, but he’s no longer with us…’

‘I heard…’

‘So later, give him the lowdown on your accounts.’

This was all I needed.  Set to beat last month’s target, I didn’t want extra baggage.  But seeing the look in Reinhardt’s eyes, I didn’t argue.

‘I’ll come with you,’ Matt grinned.   I didn’t smile back.

Matt was a smooth talker, a fast learner.  Within six weeks, he’d already built a steady stream of accounts, getting attention from Reinhardt on the way.  The attention I wanted.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when things changed.  I see it as a gradual decay.  I’d been working extra hours, getting a lead on the McKellan account before Matt got his mitts on it.  I was home after midnight, up at five-thirty.  But it was tough.  I was tired, my concentration was off, and on some days, my vision blurred.  I made some stupid mistakes, which I blamed on overwork.  Though I got away with it, I’d seen it before.  Once people made errors, they didn’t last long.

A visit to the doctor led to urine and blood samples being taken.  ‘You have to slow down,’ he said.

But I couldn’t.  There was too much at stake.  I needed the ball back at my feet.

At first, I tried pills, but things only got worse.  People picked up on my mood swings, my suit hanging off my shoulders, dark rings around my eyes.  I was heading for trouble, with Matt Cahill snapping at my heels.

One morning, as I arrived in work, my PA, Sarah, gave me my messages.

‘Matt called,’ she said, ‘He’s got the McKellan account.  Can you send over the files?’

‘What?’ My voice was a strangled whisper. ‘What do you mean?’  Sarah flushed.

Storming into my office, I slammed the door.  My fingers trembled as I rummaged for the package of tablets buried in my desk.

As I was failing to keep my head above water, I sought another answer.  One that was harder to hide.  Cramped in the toilet cubicle that day, I realised what a joke I’d become.  My office was hectic, with people streaming in and out, so here I was, with the smell of piss, a box on my knees, and syringe in hand.  My shirt-sleeve was folded above my elbow.

With a crash, the gents’ door burst open, and the syringe clattered to the floor.  Holding my breath, I watched it roll, stopping just short of the gap under the door.

‘Dom?’  It was Matt. ‘That you?’   As he stepped closer, the toe of his shoe glanced the syringe, and it slipped towards me.  Remaining silent, I picked it up; waited.  After a minute, Matt left the room.

That afternoon, I returned to the doctor.  One look at me was all he needed.

‘Your symptoms are typical, Dominic.  You need help.  The hospital… ’

‘No…’

‘Your job’s important, but your life’s at risk…’

‘There no job whatever I do…’

‘That’s fine then – they’ll expect you at the hospital this evening.’

I went back to work.  Whatever the doctor said, I could handle this myself.

Unusually, Goliath’s reception was humming with excitement.  Heads turned as I walked through the door.

‘What’s going on,’ I asked the receptionist.

‘Reinhardt wants you.’  She avoided my eyes.

On the way, mumbling to myself, I listed recent errors.  It wasn’t good.

Reinhardt got straight to the point.  ‘There’s a problem, Dominic.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Your work’s off.  Mistakes.  You’re moody.  You look like shit.’

‘I -’

I stopped.  Reinhardt picked a clear plastic bag from his desk.  It contained a syringe.

‘This was in the toilets.’

I was silent.  What could I say?

‘Matt says it’s yours.’

The back-stabbing bastard.  The toilet door was locked – he couldn’t know it was me.    Unless he followed me in.   Or searched my desk.

‘It wasn’t…’

‘I want the truth, or I’ll involve the police.’

It was true.  He would.  I’d seen the consequences often enough.

‘I’ve not got a drug problem.’

‘Then explain this.’

As I opened my mouth, I thought of my job and the lonely trips to the toilet cubicle.  I couldn’t hide it any longer.  Strangely, I wasn’t afraid anymore.  Whatever I said, from now on I was officially another Goliath statistic.

‘Here, take this,’ I said, my voice hoarse.

Pulling a box of insulin capsules from my pocket, I threw them onto Reinhardt’s desk.

‘I’m not a druggie, Reinhardt.  I’m a fucking diabetic.’