He was supposed to finish early that Thursday but a late order had kept him rooted to his desk past 6pm. Having almost given up on the idea that he may still make it to ‘The Shed’ for 7, he prepared himself to make the call knowing that cancelling this late in the day would not go down at all well. He stepped outside into the icy cold air and checked his watch. It was 6.45.
“This is a wind up surely?” said the voice on the other end of the phone. “You are shitting me right? You’re on in 15 minutes and you call me now to cancel”.
“Listen Ray I’ve just finished work. I don’t need this right now” he replied.
“You do though son that’s half the problem. You do need it.”
“Just tell him that we’ll pencil in another date” he replied.
“Allan, you don’t just pencil in another date in this game, you know that. The pencil will end up through your neck if anything”.
“That almost sounded like a threat Ray” said Allan.
“It’s not a threat son, it’s a promise. I’ll call you back once I’ve spoken to him”. The phone cut off and Allan set off on his 2 mile walk home.
Allan Carter was your every day kind of guy. A hard working honest man with a wife and two kids. He had remained loyal to his wife Megan since they married nearly seven years ago and Charlie 4 and Harriet 6 were the apple of his eye. He worked long hours as a supervisor in a factory by the canal which in turn put food on the table. To Allan that’s all it did. It was just a job to him for his interests lay elsewhere in a life outside of his perfect world. A life that his family were blissfully unaware of and one that they could never find out about. A life full of danger, adrenalin and reward as well as the odd empty threat. Apart from his family it was what Allan lived for. This was his escape to a world that only he inhabited. When the bell sounded, Allan became his alter ego. Minutes later his phone rang.
“He wasn’t best pleased Allan let me tell you that but we are good to go again Saturday night. No excuses this time you hear me?” said Ray.
“Yeah yeah I hear you. Same time?” asked Allan.
“I’m serious son. You can’t let him down again. Yes 7pm”.
“Okay. Have a good…” Ray had gone.
Allan arrived home that evening to find Charlie and Harriet nestled in their favourite corner spot on the sofa.
“Hey troublemakers” he said.
“Daddy!!!!” screeched Charlie as he stood up and launched himself in Allan’s direction.
“Have you both had a good day?” he asked.
“Yeah” they replied in unison. Allan was used to one word responses when he had the telly to compete with.
“Where’s mummy?” he asked.
“Upstairs putting the washing away” replied Harriet. Allan walked upstairs to find Megan in the bedroom with her back to him. He crept up behind her, wrapping his arms around her tightly.
“Evening gorgeous! How’s my favourite wife?” he asked.
“Excuse me Mr Carter. Your only wife I hope” she replied leaning back into him with a smile. “I’m fine darling. How was your day?”
“Same old. Still busy. I might have to do some more overtime Saturday babe. We’re expecting another big order in tomorrow so I may have to go in and help unpack it Saturday evening. Is that okay? We need the money don’t we?” said Allan.
“That’s fine I guess. Another Saturday night on my own it is then” replied Megan.
“I’m sorry. I won’t be too late I promise”.
“That’s what you said last time before rolling in at midnight Allan” said Megan.
“I know I know. I promise I’ll get it done as quickly as I can”. He hated lying to her but it was the only way. As he lay in bed next to his wife later that evening, his mind was only on one thing. He could already feel his pulse racing but he knew come Saturday night that his pulse could quite easily come to a halt altogether.
Allan arrived at the factory Friday morning to find a letter on his desk. He knew full well who it was from for he was used to these letters now. He turned away from the window overlooking the packing room and began to open it. It read:
‘Allan. We were extremely disappointed that you had to cancel last nights appearance. We would hate to have to remind you of clause 26.3 in your contract with us so please do not let this happen again. Yours truly. The Shed. P.s. We’ve enclosed a small gift for you this time in case you ever think of cancelling again.’ Allan checked the envelope and pulled from it a photograph that made the hairs on his arms stand tall. Staring back at him were Megan, Charlie and Harriet pictured getting into the family car outside the Carter residence. He threw the photograph into his draw, stood up and ran to the bathroom instantly locking himself inside one of the cubicles. For the first time since his involvement with ‘The Shed’, Allan felt like a broken man. As he sat there sobbing he knew he was in deeper than he could handle. There was no way out of this mess. They owned him now.