The Antiquary

It all started with an email.

David stumbled into work just before ten, his short hair pointing several ways at once, his jeans a gritty grey-blue, with a whiff of last night’s booze about him. As he swiped his card by the front door two removal men emerged, shuffling their way out with a battered pool table. There goes the last of the games room, thought David. It figured.

Still Waters was a thrusting, vibrant web-design company. At least it had been, almost, when the company launched five years earlier. Now that the dotcom dream had well and truly dissolved they were laying people off, frantically exaggerating to clients in a desperate attempt to win contracts, and sheepishly flogging all the superfluous, gimmicky crap they’d initially bought to attract graduates. The Playstation was long gone, as was the table football, and now the pool table was going the same way. David was surprised it had taken so long. After all, they’d already given nearly a dozen employees the bullet. Naturally, there were half a dozen directors still on the payroll, clocking up miles on the company Mercs and spending the afternoons at lunch or on one of Edinburgh’s more exclusive golf courses. But further down the food chain they were reduced to a handful of designers, programmers and developers, all so disenchanted with pay-cuts, increased hours and lack of recognition that there might’ve been a mutiny on the directors’ hands, if anyone could’ve been arsed.

David shrugged past the removal men into his cubbyhole corner of the office, keeping his head down to avoid being seen. Still Waters occupied the first two floors of a crumbly old stone building hidden down a cobbled alleyway off the main drag of Stockbridge. The walls were thick, the windows small and the ceilings low. Nestled between bohemian antique sellers and the poshest charity shops in the country, Still Waters was within a few yards of umpteen restaurants, cafés, delis, bistros and boozers, the last of which David and his disgruntled colleagues made good use of whenever they could sneak out.

David was probably still a bit pissed from last night. Nothing special, just a few pints after work followed by cracking open the bottle of Lagavulin when he got back to the flat. He would probably have to knock that whisky nightcap thing on the head, even if it was excellent fifteen-year-old stuff.

He fixed himself a coffee, fired up the PC and settled in for a day of surfing, with the occasional work-related moment thrown in to keep folk off his back. Christ only knew how long the company would stay afloat. David was surprised that he hadn’t been amongst those already booted out. He could do the work, it was a piece of piss to be honest, but he just so badly couldn’t be bothered exerting himself for a company that was about to go tits up anyway. Today’s hangover wasn’t exactly helping. At the moment he was supposed to be working on a site for some ridiculous motivational guru, Frank Lavine, whose command of office buzzwords, feelgood gobbledegook and doublespeak was something to behold. David was tempted to stick some made-up, meaningless platitudes in there, see if old Frank noticed the difference.

He started wading through his emails. Twenty-four in the inbox since he’d left at five last night, including all the usual spam and junk – cock enlargement, Viagra, Prozac, lap-dancing clubs, buy yourself a degree, online mortgages – did anyone ever fall for this shite?

Then he saw it, that name, sitting amongst all the drivel. Nicola Cruickshank. A coincidence? There must be loads of