It was every five seconds, every God damn five seconds, and Chris would clear his throat. Two short coughs as if trying to be subtle about it. As if everyone wouldn’t notice and already be wound up about it.

He’d been doing it for almost twenty full minutes and I wasn’t getting any more used to it the more he did it

I didn’t know him well enough to just say to him, “Shut the fuck up!” but I truly wish I did.

He was on his knees shuffling through the retention box. Looking for his productions that were long overdue and for which his team were getting in to a lot of trouble.

Scotty had typed up a list of his items, noted the time limits, wrote up some quick instruction and printed it all out for him as a guide. It should have made his job easy but he just knelt there, and coughed, and coughed and shuffled stuff about.

I was glad he wasn’t on my team. Sitting in the far corner I could see Scotty, Mason and John throw the occasional cough induced glance at each other which were accompanied with little shakes of the head or rolling of the eyes.

No one spoke, even when Chris pushed himself up with a sigh and walked out of the office.

He returned a few minutes later with a can of cola from the canteen machine. I heard him tear open the ring pull and take a slurp as he hunkered down on the floor again to shuffle through his productions. Everything from CCTV discs to a blood stained T-shirt.

I prayed the cool juice would stop his coughing, but it wasn’t answered.

Now all I heard was the double cough, the slurp of fizzy soda and the tap of the can being placed back on the table.

It was driving me mad…cough, cough, slurp, tap, cough, cough, slurp tap….

I began to wonder if he even realised the noise he was making. Was it some nervous tick? Was he trying to be an annoying prick? Was he feeling under pressure?

Suddenly the team’s radios burst into life with a grade one personal attack alarm to Main Street. Everyone jumped to their feet and hurried out, leaving me in Silence.

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