“And this was the extinguisher here, was it?” the Health and Safety feeb asks.
“That’s the one!” I say.
“And you don’t know of any reason how it came to be filled with diesel instead of water?”
“None!” the PFY lies. “But then it may have been like that when we took the building over!”
Luckily the H&S droid isn’t likely to track through our records to find the drum of diesel the PFY ordered for our non-existent generator a year or so back, however to be on the safe side I make a mental note to change the description in the database to something benign like coffee extract.
And buy a generator to replace the one we sold on eBay. A 350W unit should do the trick.
“So no one checked it?”
“I guess not,” the PFY says, “but I’m pretty sure the testing tag and seal were intact on it. Perhaps you should check with the boss?”
“Yes, I will, once the aftereffects of smoke inhalation have worn off. Now do you know how the fire in his office started in the first place?” “I’m not sure,” the PFY says. “He said something about his laptop, so maybe that was it?”
"This laptop?" he asks, holding up a mangled mess of melted plastic, electronics and metal sealed in a large ziplock bag.
"It could be, I guess. Though it looks like the fire has pretty much ruined any chance of finding out if the laptop was responsible given its condition."
"Yes, so I suppose you'd suggest that perhaps the battery had a thermal runaway, which we hear so much about these days, and spontaneously ignited his blotter pad?" A perfectly believable situation. Far more believable than, say, a small network-addressable incendiary device inside the boss’s “4-port switch”.
“So if we can go back, did you notice anything unusual beforehand?”
“Aaaaahhhhmmm, let me think," I respond. "We were in his office about 10 minutes beforehand – we had a meeting about how the overtime rates were being cut from double time to 1.25 time, along with the requirement to work public holidays when requested.”
“And the meal allowance,” the PFY adds.
“Yes, that’s right, they dropped the meal allowance for anyone in the office for more than 10 hours in a day.”
“And I assume that you weren’t too happy about this?”
“Oh no – I mean these are tough times and the company has to make savings wherever it can,” I sniff. “So we just realised it was for the good of all, and that there comes a time when individual sacrifices need to be made. No doubt those policy recommendations will be adopted once the boss is back from sick leave.”
“So they weren’t actual policy as yet?”
“No, not just yet. It was part of some recommendations he was working on. I think he’d suggested all contractors should pay for their car park spaces and lunches as well.”
“Well it was all perfectly reasonable. After all, they were struggling to be able to give IT middle management a Christmas bonus and needed to make some savings somewhere – which it looks like they’ve done.”
"So it wasn't started by something far less technical - your assistant for instance?"
"Surely not?" I ask, feigning a lack of knowledge - well, truth be told, I had noticed the pronounced curved scar in the plastic lid debris which can only have been made by a fire axe. The same type of fire axe the company had removed from the building months ago. The same type of fire axe that the PFY stole several of prior to the arrival of the removal agents.
"I'll think you'll find it was him!" the H&S geek cries.
"So you're saying someone saw him do this?" I ask.
"No," the geek says, with a slight hesitation.
"So it could have been anybody?"
"It COULDN'T have been anybody - and you know how I know this?"
"I'm sure I don't," I reply.
"I KNOW because I had this forensically analysed," he blurts, pointing to a label on the ziplock bag.
"Sorry, you had a laptop analysed by a forensics expert?" I ask, imagining CSI Luton and a new episode twist: one where they don't have to call in the kebab fat spatter analyst or rely on a shell-suit arse print to identify the culprit.
"Yes!" the H&S guy blurts triumphantly.
"I happened to notice the odour of ... urine."
"Oh, you mean when I tried to put the fire out after the extinguisher made things worse?"
"The same way you tried to put your boss out?" the H&S guy snaps, holding up another bag with the boss's scorched shirt in it.
"It was an act of mercy!"
"I think we all know what happened here - and as soon as your manager is ready to speak we'll get to the bottom of it. And rest assured that if there's even a HINT of suspicious activity in this I'll be referring this to the police!"
"As well you should," I say as he storms out of the office.
Two minutes later, the phone rings.
"I know it's you, you know," the H&S geek says.
"Us what?" I ask.
"That's turned off my network so I can't send any email."
"No, no, that'll just be your access port flaking out. Tell you what, I'll send the PFY up with a new desktop switch for you - we'll get that lit up in no time." ®