I was mystified. The boss was giving me grief for missing kit, which was nothing unusual but this time I hadn't prepared my story. The simple reason was that it wasn't me who'd taken it. And this time it was a serious amount of kit that had gone.
Naturally, it's taken as read that a certain amount of spillage finds its way to BOFH Enterprises but very little actually disappears - the value tends to appear as miscellaneous lines in a beancounter's spreadsheet and besides, not much of this Unattributed Cost (as I believe the technical term is) finds its way into my pocket - mainly because it generally goes towards paying for a small holiday in Acapulco or somewhere equally humble.
"It's strange," I say to the PFY after we'd escaped from the boss's sanctum, our ears still ringing from the force of his invective. "It's strange that whoever is doing this has evaded all our carefully prepared traps (the electrified door handle and the strategically placed axe) and has managed to liberate some of our shiny new stock. He wasn't even put off by its careful labelling as 'defective'."
There were three possibilities: we'd had a break-in by a thief who knew exactly what he was looking for; the boss had woken up to the possibility that there was serious remuneration in 'defective' stock; or there was another Bastard somewhere on the premises.
I discounted the first possibility. Not only had none of our alarms gone off but an outside tea-leaf would surely have taken the colour TV (sorry, the High-Definition Multimedia Receiving Apparatus) that the PFY and I use during downtime or when the Test Match is on (which seem to coincide with remarkable regularity).
"Could it be the boss?" asks the PFY. "Do you think that the bollocking he's just given us was all for show?"
"Impossible. The boss is not just dim, he's 20 watt. I understand that he needs an A-Z to find his way home at night."
"And even then he gets lost," says the PFY, alluding to the night that the boss foolishly came for a drink with the boys, only to discover that extra-strength Polish white spirit is undetectable in strong lager (and after three of them so is shoe polish). "Still, it was only a £30 taxi ride from the wilds of east London."
That, incredible as it seemed, left only the possibility of one of my fellow workers, a breed for whom technical sophistication means changing the text colour in Office.
But which one? It was obviously no one in marketing - they scarcely had the intelligence to turn a door handle the right way. It was obviously not anyone in sales as they'd hardly be elsewhere while the pubs were open and not sober enough after they'd closed. The beancounters were a strong possibility - those Unattributed Costs were really getting under their skin - but they'd have chosen a more subtle revenge. It couldn't have been anyone from admin and building services...
Something clicked. There was a new guy there who a few weeks before had gone round asking questions, "just to test the security of the building". Naturally I hadn't given him the right answers but how could I have been so stupid...
Now I come to think about it, this guy seemed to be a cut above the rest but then so would an orang-utan. The only question was how to get the kit back, or, failing that, a contribution to the Bastard Holiday Fund.
Seeking inspiration, I idly flicked through the outgoing post log. One foreign-bound item caught my eye and I smiled.
The next day, I went down to building services and happened to overhear Kevin talking. By chance, he was dropping some big words like 'screen' and 'keyboard' so I knew we had our man. It was time for a phone call.
Back at mission control, I flicked on the intercom and heard Kevin's voice come over loud and clear, as a deep foreign voice said: "Mr Kevin?"
"Yeah, who's this?"
"Just call me Stefan. It's about this consignment of tights that you delivered to us."
"That's right, you got 'em?"
"We have, that's just the point. I was given to understand that...er, certain other goods were being delivered."
"I hope you realise that the last person who double-crossed us is now part of a motorway infrastructure."
"I'm sure you want to avoid any misunderstandings. So, if you return the sum we gave you plus, say, £500 for incidental expenses, we can avoid any unfortunate repercussions. Shall we say that you deposit the money behind the dustbin shed by 12pm today?"
There was a strangled "yes".
I switched the intercom off. "Your cousin's very good isn't he? I said to the PFY. "I'm sure he'll go a long way in drama college."
"Come on," he replied. "There's time for a quick game of Doom before we collect our winnings, er... Unattributed Costs."
It takes a bastard to catch a bastard.