Penrith, New South Wales
‘Ray, these ropes are really tight.’ Vern was in his office chair with his wrists tied to its arms. Ray didn’t look up from the bowl where he was stirring a mixture of paint and glitter, but Vern could tell he had a nasty glint in his eye.
‘Ray, please. Is this because of John Denver?’ That got Ray to look up and he half smiled as he remembered the iPod and John Denver.
Six weeks earlier, Ray had been worried because some of his shirts were tighter. He couldn’t work out why because the bathroom scales in his girlfriend’s apartment showed no weight gain. Maybe the gym workouts were paying off, but his chest and waist measurements were unchanged.
The washing machine wasn’t to blame because his shirts were dry-cleaned. Then his girlfriend Deb, noticed the darts.
‘Were these in your shirts when you bought them?’ she asked. Ray admitted that he didn’t know. He never looked past colour and bought his shirts based on what appealed at the time.
‘If the darts weren’t there when you bought them, someone must have added them,’ Deb said. ‘Whoever put them there knew what they were doing. They’re incredibly neat and almost invisible.’
Ray smacked his forehead. He knew who had put the darts in his shirts. It had to be Frank, his housemate and tailor extraordinaire. He’d been played, and magnificently at that.
The more he thought about it, Ray was convinced that both his housemates had conspired to mess with his head. Co-housemate Vern gave the impression of helping when Ray had trouble with his iPod. Vern, the law firm IT manager, had hacked his computer and left John Denver songs all over it.
Frank and Vern had played him at his own game and been way subtler than Ray had ever been. His pranks were, he now realised, cheap by comparison. Ray decided on a plan for payback – revenge was going to be sweet and just maybe, subtle.
‘What are you going to do with the paint?’ Vern asked. Vern had just earned a promotion from IT manager to full partner. This was rare, because Vern wasn’t a lawyer but his astuteness with computers had saved the firm millions.
Vern had detected a major hack of the firm’s files by some disgruntled employees. His abilities had staved off a huge loss in client hours. A law firm with compromised files wasn’t a good look for clients who relied on confidentiality.
Ray had persuaded Vern’s new secretary to let him into the office. He’d surprised Vern on his return from lunch and tied him to the chair. Ray hadn’t spoken since he started mixing the paint. Vern tried again.
‘I should remind you that we’re in a building full of lawyers.’
Ray started painting the mixture around the room. He covered the desk, dabbed some on the computer screen and started on the walls.
‘This is insane Ray,’ said Vern. ‘I admit I went a little overboard with the John Denver thing on your iPod. I’m no lawyer, but you’re committing a crime here.’
Ray responded with a blank stare, then his phone vibrated in his pocket. He put down the paint and answered.
A voice shrieked, ‘Ray? Ray Jones?’ Ray said it was.
‘It’s your lucky day Ray! This is Mark “Ando” Anderson of Radio 3KMZ and we’ve just drawn your name from our prize barrel. Thanks to our joint sponsors, Uptown Lawyers and Stitched Up Gentlemen’s Clothiers you’ve won a trip to France.’ Ray said nothing.
‘Ray, Ray, are you there? Talk to me Ray.’
‘I’m here,’ Ray said.
‘How about that prize Ray? To collect, you need to get to Radio 3KMZ by 4pm this afternoon. It has to be you, in person. Can you do that, Ray?’ Ray said he could.
The DJ gave Ray the address of the radio station and hung up. Vern had worked out the gist of the conversation. The DJ had spoken at such a volume that Vern heard every word with crystal clarity through Ray’s phone.
‘Does this change things a bit?’ Vern asked. Trance-like, Ray began untying Vern’s wrists. ‘I won’t report this, Ray. I’ll even clean up the mess, but just leave. Please.’
Ray nodded but said nothing. He finished untying the knots and left the office. Vern rubbed the circulation back into his hands then reached for his phone. He called Frank at his shop, which was downstairs in the same building.
‘Frank, you’ll never believe what Ray has just done.’
‘Tried some lame “got you back” prank because of the darts I put in his shirts?’
‘Lame doesn’t even describe it. He’s splattered paint all over my office.’
‘You’re kid … hang on. Hey stop that! Gotta go Vern, someone’s cutting the sleeves off my suits.’
Frank rushed from the back room of his store to find Ray with a pair of scissors. The sleeves of four expensive suits were on the floor.
‘Ray, you’re nuts. Get out of here before I call the cops.’ Ray waved the scissors in Frank’s face. ‘Okay okay, I’m sorry about the darts in the shirts, but Vern and I are sick of your tedious pranks. You pull them all the time and we’ve had it.’ Without a word, Ray dropped the scissors and left the shop.
‘Well that was worth it,’ Ray said.
‘What was, hon?’ asked Deb.
‘Leaving my job so I could win this trip.’
Frowning, Deb sat up against the bed’s sumptuous pillows and looked at Ray, who was admiring the view from the hotel window where he could see the Eiffel Tower.
‘It took some wheeling and dealing,’ Ray went on, ‘but I used my marketing company to get Vern’s lawyers and Frank’s clothiers to sponsor this prize. Personally underwritten by Uptown’s new partner and Stitched Up’s head tailor. I had to resign as CEO because employees weren’t eligible to win. Got a nice payout though.’
‘But, you won. How many people entered? There must have been thousands.’
‘Nah, just one. Me. “Ando” Anderson is a good mate, and he’ll keep a secret. The added bonus was that Frank and Vern let me get away with a bit of vandalism.’
Bio: You met Ray, Frank and Vern in a story called Losing It, which was published on narratorINTERNATIONAL on 20th Sept 2014. This piece is the sequel, although you don’t need to read Losing It first. Michael says, because a goal of writing is to be read, it would be nice if you did.