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Sarcophagus

by Philip Hemplow



It was a dismal afternoon. A blustery wind swept around Heathrow, and rain glittered in the runway lights as 747s and A320s lumbered awkwardly into the darkening London sky. Inside the gigantic terminal building, Victoria watched the spraying water trace bronchiolar patterns on the darkening glass of the VIP lounge.

Swan was on his phone again, reciting acronyms and glib, corporate gerunds to someone in New York. The American was young, 31 or 32, and wore his overpriced suit and supercilious attitude like armour. Victoria tried not to listen to him, or to anticipate sitting next to him for the next five hours.

In the distance she could see the glowing frown that was Wembley’s illuminated arch. Malcolm would already be on his way there with his stupid friends. England vs Ireland. Or Iceland, or possibly Israel, she couldn’t remember. He was probably already dropping his aitches, telling Les and Fat Frank his grievances in the vile, mockney accent he adopted whenever the football came on. She thought about phoning him but decided against it. She would call him from Ukraine. That way she could use the cost of the call as an excuse to hang up if he restarted their argument. Or she could just not ring him at all.

Swan finished his call and flung himself theatrically into a chair behind her. “Okay,” he began, rubbing his face vigorously to signify how complicated and important his conversation had been. “Osterberg missed the midday teleconference, but the board didn’t like what they heard from whoever they did talk to. They’ve decided we’ve got actionable compliance issues and they’ve empowered me — us — to action any staffing solutions we feel are necessary.”

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