Phone sex is less fun, Lyla decides, when neither of the participants happens to be you – not to mention a nightmare to transcribe.
Party 1: You like that, baby?
Party 2: *Unintelligible grunt*
Even more of a faff is trying to preserve the narrative of sexts when they consist entirely of emojis. Lyla knows she’s on perv duty as part of her punishment, even if the official story is that she’s just ‘filling in’ while Raj has his appendix removed.
She should have just kept her mouth shut and her head down; always easy enough to see in retrospect. But she didn’t, so now her working day consists of trawling through the telephonic filth of some depraved ambassador while Perry completely screws up what should be her caseload.
They’re a fairly small team compared to some; just herself, Perry, Raj and George, dedicated to monitoring prominent families and a handful of celebrities with political aspirations. The door to their office simply reads ‘Specialist Division’.
It had given Lyla butterflies on her first day. Here she was, an analyst fresh out of Cambridge, in the heart of the watchtower. The job lost some of its lustre, however, the moment she stepped through the door and met Perry.
“You that tart from downstairs?” He asked, looking her up and down in a way that made her desperate for hand sanitiser.
“Lyla,” she replied, cooling to him instantly. “You the head snoop?”
“We prefer angels,” he said. “You know, as in guardian angels.”
“I bet you do.”
“And no, I’m not in charge.” He jerked his head towards another closed door at the far end of the office. “George is.”
It was all a bit Charlie’s Angels in the Specialist office, Lyla soon found. They received emails from George with requests for updates or reports, but there was nothing in the way of personal contact. She never actually met the man until she was six months into the job.
Lyla was intercepting the calls of a young parliamentary candidate, Rory Snow. She knew the sort, had been surrounded by them at Cambridge. Tall, blonde, with a plum in his mouth and a twinkle in his eye. These were the men who got what they wanted, who didn’t even need to ask for it. Snow bucked the trend in one respect only; he was a democrat, and a squeaky clean one, if you were to believe the press.
But the first lesson Lyla learned as an angel was that nobody was ever truly clean. Rory Snow kept his vice well hidden, but after just a few weeks of listening in on his life, Lyla stumbled upon it.
“Pretty girls,” she told Perry, dropping a pile of transcripts onto his desk.
“They’ll be the downfall of this great nation,” Perry sighed, ignoring the folder.
“That’s not all of it,” Lyla said. “Some of these girls are a little on the young side.” That was putting it mildly. Snow’s unsavoury preferences made her new ambassador friend’s exploits seem as harmless as a stack of Playboys under a teenager’s mattress. Perry took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.
“Just log it,” he said.
“We need to call the police.”
“And say what?” Perry asked. “How do you propose we explain how we came by this information? We do nothing.”
“I thought we were meant to be guardian angels,” Lyla said. Perry rolled his eyes.
“Fine,” she picked up the papers. “I’m going to George with this.”
“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Perry called after her, as she marched across the office. He didn’t stop her, though; just reached for a Danish.
Lyla gave the door three sharp raps, and when no sound came from within, knocked again. Still receiving nothing in the way of a reply, she reluctantly returned to her desk. At the end of her shift, she logged the day’s transcripts, shrugged into her jacket and left, just like she always did – only this time with a sheaf of printouts stuffed into her handbag. If Perry and George weren’t going to do anything to stop Rory Snow, she thought, she would have to do it herself.
Except, of course, she didn’t even make it out of the building. Vic, the avuncular clerk at the front desk who commented on the weather as she signed in each morning, called over to her before she could reach the revolving doors.
“I’ve been requested to escort you upstairs,” he told her, clearly uncomfortable with the situation. For one brief, wild moment, Lyla considered darting for the doors, but thought better of it.
“Fine,” she assented.
She was taken to an empty conference room and left to wait, alone. For what felt like hours (but probably only amounted to five minutes), various scenarios played out in Lyla’s mind. Would she be fired? Prosecuted, even? The foolishness of what she had just attempted hit her. Leaving the watchtower with an open case file – how could she have been so stupid?
And then George walked in. He was nothing like Lyla had imagined. Tall, rake-thin, Savile Row from head to toe. He sat down in the chair next to hers, so any onlooker would think they were both for the gallows, folded his hands on the tabletop, and said simply;
“I believe you have accidentally left something upon your person.”
And that was it. Lyla gave up the papers, and he left. The next day she came into work, and was given Raj’s workload. Perry could barely contain his delight.
“I’m going to make you scream,” the ambassador whispers in Lyla’s ear. “I won’t stop until you’re begging for mercy.”
She still has work to do, she tells herself. Important work. The safety of an entire country is in their hands; they have to think of the bigger picture.
The ambassador releases a wordless, animalistic cry. Lyla includes this in her notes, and suppresses a scream of her own.