I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear strange sounds coming from somewhere I can’t see into, I always imagine the worst…
For some days now the scratching had been getting closer.
Jeffrey had only really noticed it once the rest of the team had gone off on holiday, leaving him behind to pack boxes ready for the move. The entire building was desolate, a handful of staff rattling around it, occasionally catching sight of each other and waving a hello as they emptied cupboards, threw dusty paper into giant green bins, and put anything useful or decorative to one side, ready to be smuggled out to a handy car boot later.
The estates team were working their way up from the basement, stripping each room in turn to leave nothing but peeling paint and the occasional stubborn wall plug. Jeffrey was on the top floor, so he still had three days to go before he’d leave this place for the last time, taking only his desk things and his spider plant in a regulation cardboard box. From what he’d seen in the brochure, the new office looked amazing, a sparkling concoction of chrome, glass and freshly laid carpet. Very different to his current surroundings. Jeffrey was removing a handful of rogue stress balls from the bottom of a filing cabinet, but he stopped work to glance around thoughtfully. In the quiet he heard the noise again.
He glared balefully at the ceiling; in particular at a grey vent that the scratching noise seemed to be coming out of. It had been faint at first, but all week it had kept getting louder, and this morning it sounded as though a small band of overweight pigeons were dancing a Gay Gordon just above his head, their scaly feet bouncing and scraping against the ceiling tiles. Jeffrey tried putting the radio on, but that just made the scrabbling worse.
He muttered under his breath, switched the radio off again, and went to find Suzanne in HR to see if she wanted a cuppa. She wasn’t in the usual place. Jeffrey asked estates but they said they hadn’t seen her, and that she might be on holiday. He went back into her office and found a long grey feather tucked into her computer keyboard. He huffed, made a cup of tea for himself, and sat on his own to drink it.
Jeffrey had only taken the first sip when the scratching started up again, frenzied this time. He swore and slammed the cup down, spilling tea across his desk. Grabbing the mop from behind the door, he started to bang the handle of it as hard as he could against the grey vent in the ceiling.
Estates heard the commotion and went to see what was going on. Jeffrey’s office was empty and everything was quiet, but a cup of tea had fallen onto the carpet and there was a long grey feather on the desk.