ALF POLORI • by Oscar Windsor-Smith

Their 4:30 appointment thumbs its figurative nose at Trevor Urqhart from the computer screen, blowing metaphorical raspberries. He double-checks the date and sighs. Is this the best they can do on their final opportunity to insult him?

Allegedly it is a meeting at his own office with somebody named Polori, initial A. Of course they want it to sound Italian. If he asks — which he most certainly will not — they will doubtless tell him the A stands for Alfredo. Alf Polori: so typically crass, so very East End.

Trevor rises from his desk and glides to the internal window.  He peeps down at the factory below where rows of women sit packing batches of plastic dog turds, farting cushions and sneezing powder. ‘Even by your own pathetic standards you’re idiots,’ he whispers. ‘Play your stupid jokes before midday, or you become the fools.’

William, the only other male employee, lifts his moon-like face and raises a hand to wave. Trevor slides back from the window.

This morning as on every other day for the past two years Trevor arrived at precisely nine o’clock and sidestepped the usual plastic faeces outside his office. He wiped the sticky substance of uncertain origin from the door handle with the tissue he brings each day for the purpose, and he replaced the inevitable flatulent cushion on his chair with his own in blue velvet. In short it has been another average day at Acme Jokes and Novelties – average, but far too quiet for All Fools’ Day. It is a matter of personal pride to identify and avoid their Big Joke. If Alf Polori is this year’s effort it is indeed the final insult.

Under the pretext of adjusting his pink silk tie in the reflection, Trevor glances through the glass door panel into the adjoining office. He returns to his desk and starts the purchase payment routine on the main computer before opening his personal laptop and logging-on to a numbered Swiss bank account. For several seconds he moves from one keyboard to another.

‘Mr Urqhart.’

Trevor starts. He snaps the laptop shut as the receptionist taps on the door of his office.

‘There’s a Mr Lion on line one, account query.’

Trevor nods and depresses button one.

‘Good morning, Mr Lion,’ he begins.

A cackle of female laughter erupts in the next office before he has realised that he is talking to a recorded voice at London Zoo enquiries. The accountant mimes a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes.

On the stroke of one o’clock Trevor enters the gents’ washroom and removes his jacket, taking two objects from a pocket and setting them down beside the basin. Cold eyes in the mirror stare back through horn-rimmed glasses above a three-year-old beard.

Flipping open the passport, Trevor inspects his clean-shaven image without glasses. He fingers the club class ticket and rehearses the name on the documents. In a few hours Trevor Urqhart will disappear forever.

Trevor puts down the documents, fills the basin and removes his glasses. He rolls up his shirtsleeves and takes a deep breath. His face is fully immersed when a click announces the opening of a cubicle door.

He gropes for a towel and hears a soft slap as something lands on the tiled floor. Eyes dried and glasses replaced, he finds William at his side, holding the passport and ticket. Trevor grasps the documents.

‘Trevor go away,’ says William, retaining a firm grip.

Trevor shakes his head, a little quicker than he intends.

‘Trevor leaving William.’

Trevor snatches the papers from William’s grasp, ‘A holiday,’ he whispers, ‘just a holiday. It’s our secret, William, our little secret.’ He winks archly at the lad.

‘Little secret holiday, our Trevor,’ echoes William, watching Trevor put on his coat.

At 3:27 there comes a sharp tap on Trevor’s office door and a burly man enters. An unfamiliar wobbly sensation begins in Trevor’s belly when he sees the man’s exaggerated eyebrows and large black-rimmed glasses. He’s seen them in the catalogue with a similar heavy moustache and oversize nose. He grins. Where have they found this character? They do seem to have gone to some trouble.

Controlling a now overwhelming desire to chuckle, Trevor says: ‘Alfredo Polori, I presume.’

The man’s moustache twitches. His left eyebrow lifts and he steps aside, deferring to another figure standing in the doorway.

Trevor doesn’t recognise the raven-haired woman who comes striding toward his desk, immaculate in a pinstripe business suit, but he laughs aloud. After all, he has only this one stupid joke to endure.

The woman places a business card on his desk and he chortles. She draws a deep breath and Trevor shakes with laughter. Here it comes: Alf Polori is April fool, Mr Urqhart. April Fool!

‘Trevor Anthony Urqhart,’ she begins, ‘you have the right to remain silent, but it may harm your defence––’

Trevor looks down at the business card.

Anita Polori, it says, Detective Chief Inspector, Fraud Squad.

Published in print and online, Oscar Windsor-Smith craves sufficient writing income to match the grandiose name he hides behind. He was born in Cheshire, UK, but now infests rural Hertfordshire sustained by one charitable wife and tolerated by four semi-feral cats.

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