“Ok Julian, thanks for everything. I’m leaving now,” said Sally Thompson into her mobile phone, pushing her glasses up her nose. “Yeah should be home by lunchtime, byeee.”
She put the mobile into the dash cradle of her Ford saloon, gunned the engine and drew away from the hotel which had been her home for a week. Sally wasn’t unhappy to be leaving the terrible food the hotel had tried to serve her, forcing her to eat out three of the five nights. Typical standards by that stupid cow in Human Resources who did all the hotel bookings for all 150 staff, she muttered under her breath. To remind her of the place, her fried breakfast repeated through her gut and back up into her mouth and she shuddered and wondered why she had eaten it. Sally’s motor hit the motorway and headed for her destination 280 miles away south. Satisfied with her week in the north, with the regional administrators and the local on-site wardens, she hummed happily to a Robbie Williams CD. It wasn’t often she was called away from her office, but the reorganisation of the national parks and particularly the accommodation and subsistence levels of the hands-on employees like wardens, keepers and specialist trades, was her baby and it was going extremely well.
Her mobile warbled and she flicked a switch and spoke into her clip-on microphone, held firm on the lapel of her moss green silk blouse. She listened to the caller with a puzzled expression as she slowed her speed and kept to the inside lane, saying the odd ‘yeah’ and ‘I see’, but not interrupting.
“Well yes I am very interested in the development of the species and I know how beautiful they can be, but just to drop things and come like that is not really on,” she stated. “Anyway, how come I didn’t meet you?”
She listened some more and to concentrate and also to top up her fuel she pulled into a service station and parked before the fuel area. The conversation wore on and she glanced at her watch. It was tempting, the weather was fine and she hadn’t actually left the region and what the caller was talking about could be reached via the next off junction. She had the whole day and tomorrow was Saturday. She tried to grab her laptop telling the caller to hold a while, as she checked her diary, but her phone charger cable snagged on the belt buckle of her black skirt. She loosened the cable and thought about her clothing – not really suitable for foraging on the moors. Her rough gear was in a holdall in the back of the car. Yes she had flat shoes on, but they were expensive and certainly not waterproof. Her tights would keep her legs warm, yet she was glad to be in a skirt instead of trousers like all week, when out on sites. She had good legs and liked to show them. This reminded her of a squash game she had arranged with her cousin Joanne for the following morning and she grinned confident of a win. She reverted to the call, reading her bookings.
“Look, I am free yes and it would be easy to get to you, you say less than an hour ... yes I am nearly on junction 34 ... yes ... Yes ... Hmm! I’d have to change into my rough clothes and ... Oh It’s blacktop all the way and gravel to the site ... Hmm!” she pondered as the caller went on.
“Strange how we didn’t meet in the last few days,” said Sally. “Let me make a call and I’ll call you back, what’s your number?”
The call was terminated and she dialled Julian. He wasn’t in and on voice mail. She dialled his assistant, a friendly fat young Scottish girl called Fiona, who had fussed round Sally all week to make an impression. She said Julian couldn’t be interrupted and Sally remembered his meeting. Fiona was new and didn’t really know Sally’s caller, but she would check. Sally hung on.
“Yes Sally. Ray Harris. He’s been the woodman at Harrarth Valley for fifteen years now. Never met him myself, but I wouldn’t would I?” Fiona giggled.
“Can’t think how I missed him, ‘ murmured Sally.
“No. Not much in his file, thirty eight years old, single ... ah! divorced, two kids with their mum Elspeth who is in Gateshead. There’s a photo here. Huge man,” warbled Fiona appreciatively.
Sally tutted and thanked Fiona, closing the call and mused before driving to the fuel area and filling up with diesel. It wouldn’t take long, it was on the way – relatively. He – Ray Harris, was very keen for her to experience his findings and he was a regular employee. Big man as well, she chuckled inwardly recalling Fiona’s words. Her last boyfriend Hugh, had been so tiny, almost as small as she, yet athletic, wiry, fit and strong and into some weird form of alternative exercise called hashing, which involved loads of running to pubs. But – he was one hell of a lover, except for his deplorable persistence on asking Sally to take it up the arse. What Hugh didn’t know about foreplay, oral sex, long ecstatic fucks and giving her the best orgasms in her twenty five year old life, wasn’t worth writing about, but there was no way she would let him or any other boyfriend invade the private orifice meant only for excretions and not insertions. She jolted her thoughts as she strode to the pay desk. Come on Sally, you’re not going to see these birds for a love affair with a crude oaf of a woodsman.
She called Ray back, sensing his elation and got the directions and set off in high anticipation as the sun finally blasted through the early morning mist and bathed the surrounding magnificence in bright spring fresh colours. She turned the volume up on her CD and made for junction 34. Then she went to satnav punching in the reserve name, but she was going to rely on writing words on her pad. Exactly as described, after seven miles up a major road, two minor roads about half a mile each, a short lane, then her GPS system went into spin, two extremely difficult tracks barely covered in blacktop, with grass sprouting down the middle she noticed with a grimace, as her car bottomed twice, she saw the 4x4 vehicle parked in the gateway to a plantation of young pines. As she pulled in alongside, she saw a man come from round the back of the vehicle and smile as she stopped and switched off. The 4x4 had the organisation’s logo on it’s door and on the canvas cover. He had the official dark blue fleece, with the green edging, green collar and the logo and the obligatory Swift binoculars hanging on his chest, so she opened her door.
“Hello I’m Ray,” he said warmly. “Sally ... Sally Thompson?”
He liked the look of the frail looking girl, better than her photograph definitely. Her dark brown curly hair was short, no ear rings, little makeup and those glasses made her look even more academic than her CV stated. As she grabbed a navy blue, quilted body warmer, he glanced at her athletic but shapely hose clad legs.
“Who else?” she twittered as they shook hands before she pulled on the garment. Her delicate hand felt childish in his spade like grasp of rough hardness “You’re not expecting any more Sallys up here are you?”
He grinned through his bushy, unkempt greying beard and she noticed his twinkling clear grey eyes. For a moment, she thought he might be staring at her flat chest but reprimanded herself and tidied her jacket. Ray’s bulbous reddish nose spoiled the general picture and she stopped herself considering his appearance, especially when she caught a whiff of his body. It stank foul as he held the top of the door for her to slide out of her car. She reached back in for her mobile.
“You won’t need that up here Sally no signal. If you leave it on it will scare the birds. It might take a message here for you,” he said softly noticing how tiny she was in height and stature.
She nodded and screwed up her pert nose in friendly agreement, then as he turned away, she screwed her nose up again, this time in distaste as another whiff of his foul body odour wafted round her. He gestured she should follow him and made his way into the plantation. The trees were no more than six feet high and amongst them Ray looked six feet twelve. He was enormous, yet his tread was light and his voice too.
“I couldn’t let you leave without seeing this spectacle Sally. I heard you were into birding. The timing is perfect. It’s not far,” he told her.
“I hope not. You did say gravel and this just about qualifies. They won’t be in the plantation though surely?” she queried, knowing about this particular species of bird and gazing about through the regimental rows of the spruce. “It’s my shoes you see. I should have put my boots on.”
Harris ignored her and shrugged.
Her mobile – out of earshot, warbled in the car to no answer except voicemail. Fiona had left a message.
‘Sally. About Ray. You wouldn’t meet him. He is not in your jurisdiction now. He’s been transferred to the Eastern information sector under the new - you know regime. Only a couple of weeks ago. He’s not your concern. He was a pain in the arse to deal with apparently and he’s well rid of according to Simon Bignall at HQ. Big chip on his shoulder and he doesn’t like the move. He’s a hands on man and they’ve put him in a backwater office. Don’t bother with him and have a nice journey.’
“How did you know I was into birds?” Sally puffed as the track steepened.
“Saw your photo and profile in the group magazine some time ago. It read as if you would want to see what I’ve got up here, so I asked you. Simple,” he answered matter of factly, with a open wave of his hand. “Your mobile number was in there if you remember.”
.... There is more of this story ...