THE DEALER by Stephen Slaughter


      It was going to be another hot day; already the temperature was beginning to climb although if it got any warmer in the office the air conditioning would soon plunge us into Arctic conditions. This was the only place I knew where you had to put your jacket on once you got into work. It wouldn't surprise me to see polar bears chasing seals across the floor or if our clients started building little igloos to keep themselves warm. Quickly glancing through the window I could see the sky above the multi-storey blocks outside was clear blue and I hoped the fine weather would last until the weekend. Sod's Law said that it wouldn't. It had been like that a lot so far this year, sunny during the week and then horrible at the weekend.
      When you are worn out every evening during the week from working you need a bit of cheering up on Saturday and Sunday. Those people who keep banging on about work life balance ought to try balancing on the front line and then they would not talk so much rubbish. I am absolutely convinced it would be nice to have a life after work but seven and a half hours a day trying to deal with our customers with the phones ringing constantly and everything else does a body in. l'm like a zombie till bedtime then next morning just get up and do it over again, till Saturday. Oh well, beggars can't be choosers! I was thinking, 'I might go somewhere nice on Saturday, if it isn't raining that is.'
      My next appointment was due. I could see my client was sat waiting on one of the nasty blue and red seats they've got now. Obviously he had no intention of looking for work or he would have been on the job points trying to find a job like he was supposed to be. He had informed us that he was a manager in IT knowing full well that in this part of the country there were very few jobs in that field and he was unlikely to find one. Personally I was convinced nobody would give him a management position anyway because he just did not have the right temperament for it. Too childish and petulant for a start, I felt that his mouthy, arrogant and belligerent attitude was entirely negative and would not help him if he ever reached the interview stage. Also he was exceedingly impatient and would never listen; a good manager has to be a good listener.
      I called out, "Mr Dennison, would you like to come over." Pulling himself off the chair with a great show he made it clear he was doing me a favour. As if!
      Clean shaven and with a fresh haircut, he was well presented at least but then anybody could see that his new leather jacket, denims and patent leather shoes weren't purchased in an Oxfam shop and neither was the heavy gold jewellery he wore. You can't tell me somebody on benefits for over two years can afford all that without being up to something illegal. It was common knowledge the man drove a flashy BMW for one thing. His dark eyes and swarthy skin made me wonder about his ancestry but it would have been unfair to burden anybody else with blame for his odious character. Slowly and to make sure he kept me waiting the self-centred parasite sauntered over.
      When he had almost reached the desk I pressed the button on the alarm device I had been given to alert the plain-clothed police waiting in the interview room at the far end of the office for this moment. Within seconds they appeared and like a cornered animal my client snarled and lashed out in a bid to escape.
      One of the policemen cited Mr Dennison's rights while at the same time battling to hold the man's arms still. At last, between grunts, he finished his spiel. Not so smooth now Mr Dennison kicked and struggled and was yelling and swearing at me; that I was a snitch, an insult I can live with as it is only used by dishonest people, that he was going to kill me, that he was going to make me pay, that as soon as his solicitors had sorted it out, which he assured me would not be long, I had better watch out. Quite how I was going to pay after he had killed me I wasn't sure, perhaps he thought that on top of my usual Platinum MasterCard (fat chance on my salary) I also had a Brimstone Visa. With all the excitement the business of the office had completely ground to a halt and everyone and everything was quiet except the telephones which nobody took any notice of while every single eye was fixed firmly on the proceedings. Eventually he was handcuffed and one of the officers ran through the charges he was being arrested for, each of them relating to drugs and drug dealing, before they led him away. When the combatants had disappeared and it was all over it took a few moments for people to return to the work they were supposed to be doing.
      Apparently the Constabulary had already been interested in Mr Dennison and he had been under surveillance for some time even before my referral to fraud had gone through. Thankfully the court case was fairly straightforward. For a change the prosecution had a mountain of irrefutable evidence and the testimonies of several witnesses. The witness statements also confirmed an extravagant lifestyle that was impossible on Job Seekers Allowance. The judge came down really hard on him as he wanted to make an example. He wanted to send out a signal that this sort of activity was not to be tolerated in today's society. In a responsible and caring society there was no place for this insidious blight that was destroying so many young lives. The judge mentioned that Mr Dennison was a monstrous creature preying on the innocent and that he had not come across such a despicable specimen, such a spineless waste of space, in his entire career. Sending him down for a long time the judge hoped that Mr Dennison's stay in prison would allow him the chance to reflect on just how evil the trade that he had been involved in was. He hoped that he might reconsider his ways and learn something of value that would prepare him to lead a constructive and useful part in society on his release although secretly he was doubtful about it.
      The change in the neighbourhood was quite marked. Once the continual stream of cars visiting at all hours of the day and night stopped it was quieter and felt more relaxed. The nice thing was that people began to speak to each other. They saw in the newspapers that their ex-neighbour had been put away and they stopped on the street and talked about the reports of his crimes which many of them had suspected anyway. Young mothers began to let their children play on the small green in the square and elderly pensioners sat out on the benches enjoying the sun and watching the children's games. Even the postman commented that he hadn't realised quite how pleasant the area was. Of course it would never happen like that but this whole tantalizing fantasy flashed before me as the sulky lout ambled over to my desk and I made a mental note to fill in a QB21 referral to fraud form.
      "Take a seat Mr Dennison," I said and when he had parked himself I asked, "Have you been working at all in the last fortnight?"
      "No mate," he answered while at the same time eying up a young female claimant just arrived at the adjacent desk wearing a pink top that barely covered her necessIties.
      "You liar but then drug dealing isn't work is it?" I wanted to shout but instead I just asked to see his work-book - his ES4. As usual he had forgotten it, I felt like saying couldn't be bothered more like but one has to be diplomatic. I pointed out that he needed to bring it to each attendance but he told me I was being petty. "You always give me grief, it's like being back at schooI," he whined. I wanted to comment that if he didn't want to be treated like a child he shouldn't act like one but it wasn't worth it. Rushing to cover all the points and get everything done in the five minute interview I signed him and he slouched off. Reaching down to open the draw to try if I could find a QB21 form I saw it was already time for my next appointment. "What can you do in five minutes? It's a joke!" I cursed, "Oh sod it. I'm only an AO, why should I care? They can't give us time to do the job, the job won't get done. I do the best I can."
      I sat back up and called my next client over. I snatched a glance through the window at the beautiful sunshine that was pouring down outside without me being there to enjoy it.
      My colleague at the next desk had just finished dealing with the pretty girl in the scanty top; I caught his eye and with a nod to the world beyond the window said, "Sod's Law says it'll be raining by the weekend."
ENDS Stephen Slaughter


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