With the helicopter gone, the consultant crawled out from beneath the desk, slightly annoyed by the stain on both knees of his pristine, cream designer suit. He had a broader concern, though. Buffet didn't look well. He was lying in the foetal position and shaking uncontrollably. He'd never seen anyone in such a condition since he last went to a Bikram Yoga class.
This was a big worry. Now wasn't a time for Buffet to die. Parsons still had work to invoice for, and with no purchase order, he probably wasn't going to get it through accounts if Buffet wasn't around to authorise it.
'My god, are you alright?' he asked, showing untypical concern.
The shaking had stopped. Buffet's body was now motionless. His face looked cold and devoid of life. No different from normal, really, but suddenly he coughed up a little blood. Parsons was sure that wasn't normal; he'd never seen Buffet do it before. And splatters of it hit the side of his jacket sleeve. What with the marks on his trousers and now this, his thoughts turned to the dry cleaners. Would they be able to get these stains out? Only if he dropped them off quickly. He wondered at what stage it was polite to leave a dying man.
Buffet's body was now motionless. His face looked cold and devoid of life.
Parsons got up from Buffet's side, and walked to the window frame. The breeze was refreshing. He could hear the sounds of the city below, and, if he edged closer to the precipice, he could see people gathered in the street beneath him. He looked up and could see the helicopter manoeuvring its way through the tall buildings, scurrying back to base.
The room itself was silent. Buffet wasn't making a sound. His heavy breathing had subsided, although there was still a shallow trace. Parsons assumed the emergency services were on their way, but perhaps he should call them just in case. But there, again, he didn't really want to get involved. He felt obliged to stay with Buffet until someone arrived, but he was doubtful as to whether the subsequent police questioning could be billed back to anyone. Perhaps he should go. Why hang around if he wasn't getting paid for it?
With that thought in mind, he quickly opened his laptop and whipped up an invoice for his work to date. Buffet's breathing was a little irregular now. He could go at any moment, so time was of the essence. Those last gasps of energy would be needed for his signature.
Those last gasps of energy would be needed for his signature.
And that's how Parsons was when the paramedics barged in 20 minutes later. He was holding on to Buffet's hand, trying to get him to grip a pen, a comprehensive invoice beneath it, as the consultant begged him not to die.
'Not yet,' he cried, as a young lady from the paramedic team gently pulled him away. 'Please, please, don't die.'
'It'll be alright sir,' she said, but looking at Buffet she wasn't at all convinced. 'Let us get to your friend so we can help him.'
'But you don't understand,' whimpered Parsons, as they pulled him away. He was clearly overcome with grief. One of the medics tried to console him, a large lady who embraced him to the point of near asphyxiation. He wrestled himself free and tried to talk. He wanted to excuse himself, and get to the dry cleaners quickly; the woman's underarm sweat had now been added to the concoction of stubborn stains. But he found he couldn't speak. His eyes were streaming, his nose was running and his head was pounding. Above all, as he looked at the medics feverishly trying to resuscitate Buffet, he was overwhelmed with this unbridled sense of sorrow. It was an entirely new sensation to him. He looked at his paperwork lying unsigned beside Buffet's body. What a tragedy. He had never before experienced the loss of so many billable hours.
The Incumbent is Phil Dobbie's first novel and these excerpts have been used with his permission. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. To purchase the entire novel in digital format, click here. It is also available in printed format ... for more details click here.