The Book of Houghts (2)
'No problem,' he told Miss Han. 'Tell the others I'll be there to prepare for the meeting in half an hour.'
When he met the others Chester was confident and did his job well. He made sure that everybody knew what to do. The meeting that afternoon was sure to be a success. If, of course, the figures he had were all correct.
Just then he noticed a little smile on the face of Mr Shaw.
'What's the old man got to smile about?' thought Chester. 'He never smiles - why is he smiling now?'
Then he remembered his little book.
He took it out of his pocket and hid it behind some papers. He pretended to be looking at his notes and thought of Mr Shaw. The words appeared immediately:
I'll teach that young fool a lesson. I've got some figures he doesn't know about hidden in my office. I've been working on this longer than he has. When he can't come up with the right figures he'll look stupid. Then I'll produce them and save the day. He'll look like a boy trying to do a man's job. He needs to learn some respect for experienced professionals tike me.
Chester felt a cold sweat on the back of his neck.
'So the old man really does dislike me, after all!'
Chester wondered what all the others thought about him but had no time to consult his book.
'Thanks everybody - see you all this afternoon,' Chester told them all. 'Enjoy your lunch.'
While Mr Shaw was eating his sandwiches in the park, as he always did, Chester spent his lunch hour looking for the missing figures in Mr Shaw's office. Shaw was old-fashioned and preferred to use paper rather than recording things on a computer. It was a simple matter to copy the figures then leave Shaw's copies where he had found them -in a box in a cupboard. Chester felt almost disappointed. This was too easy!
Chester had missed his lunch but it had been worth it. His little book was turning out to be most useful.
The meeting that afternoon was a great success. He had all the figures he needed. The Eastern company people were happy and the papers were signed. Chester's future looked good. And as for Shaw... well, Chester could tell from his red face that he was angry because his little plan had gone wrong.
Chester made himself a promise: he would make sure that Shaw's future would not be good. Not if he could help it.
Chester did not like to lose.
After the meeting there would be just enough time to call in on Dorothy. Perhaps she would like to congratulate him over a drink.
When he got to her desk he found that she was away on a training course. She would be back the next day.
Just my bad luck, thought Chester.
Ah, well; for the time being he could find somebody else to share this happy time with. But how and who with?
Squash! It was his favourite game. Why not arrange agame with Kim, his younger brother? Kim was a salesman. He had not gone to college but he had, like Chester, moved to the city. Chester always beat Kim at squash. He liked playing with Kim. He would telephone him as soon as he got home and see if a game could be arranged for that very night.
'Yeah... mmm... I see.'
Chester was in his apartment speaking on his mobile telephone. As he spoke he held the telephone more tightly than usual. He was listening to Kim. Kim was telling him that he had already promised to take his girlfriend to the cinema. As he spoke, Chester tried out the book to see if it would work over the telephone.
It did. It read:
I hate it when Chester and I play squash - he always wants to beat me. But he's always wanted to be a winner, at home, at school - it never stops, even when he has a career of his own. He never thinks of me, but then he never was much of a brother. He can do without his game this time. I'm staying home to watch television.
'OK, Kim,' said Chester. 'Enjoy the film. Yes... goodbye.'
Chester had never realised that his brother felt like that towards him. It came as a shock.
He spent the evening watching television and drieking wine with a takeaway meal.
At least, he thought, he would see Dorothy tomorrow.
The next morning Chester was sitting on his train to work. He was wondering whether he should look at The Book of Thoughts again when he noticed a photograph of the attractive middle-aged woman he had seen the day before. It appeared on the front page of a newspaper held open by the person sitting opposite him. Her picture was next to that of an older man. The headline read: TWO DIE IN LOVERS' SHOOTING.
He didn't have to read anymore. It was obvious that the book had correctly read the woman's mind the day before and that she had carried out her plan. But it was too late to do anything now.
Anyway, it was none of his business.
Chester didn't feel like looking at the book for the rest of the journey. However, he did start to think more about the book. Why, he wondered, had he not told anyone else about it?
The truth was that he could hardly believe in it himself. If he started telling others about an amazing book that could read thoughts they would think he was crazy. And what harm might it do to his career? In any case, he did not know whether it would work for other people. Perhaps the book only worked for him.
'Best leave the book alone for now,' thought Chester. 'Yes, that would be best.'
But the book still sat in his pocket as he walked off the train.
The first part of the morning was brilliant. The Manager was very happy indeed with the way Chester had arranged the meeting with the Eastern company. It had been a great success. He received congratulations from all the people at the office. Many fine words were said to him about his bright future. Chester felt very pleased with himself.
Then he thought of his book.
"What were they all really thinking about him? He wanted to know who he could trust and who he couldn't. He couldn't trust Shaw, he knew that. But, surely, there were not many like him. 'After all,' thought Chester, 'I am young, good-looking, cheerful, successful - and I'm one of the rising stars of the company. I must be one of the most popular guys here!'
But he wasn't.
In fact, the book told him so every time he looked at it. At first he thought it was only the older people who were jealous of his success. But it was the young ones, too. All of them. They thought he was clever but believed himself better than they were: good-looking but without any feelings. Some even thought he might be dishonest. Y They hated him.
Chester had a lonely lunch at a cafe near the park. As he sat at his table, drinking strong coffee, he took out the book and looked at its cover. He read it: The Book of Thoughts.
He opened it. There was nothing there. Not a word. He wondered why it didn't show his own thoughts. Maybe it was because he already knew them. Maybe.
But what if he asked it to show him his deepest thoughts, the ones he didn't realise he was thinking? Would it do that? Should he ask it?
The idea frightened him. If thoughts were hidden, perhaps there was a good reason for it. Yet he still wanted to look. It was almost too much for him.
'I won't do it!' he told himself. 'The last time I looked in the book it told me things I wish I hadn't found out. No, I won't do it!... Not yet.'
The cafe was becoming crowded so Chester walked back to the office.
Back to Dorothy.
She would be back from her training course by now. He would see her and ask her to dinner. He was certain that she would not be like the other people in the office.
His darling Dorothy.
When Chester got back to the office he saw Dorothy. She was talking to old Shaw. But Dorothy was nice to everybody. She was that kind of person. He called her over and she smiled to him. Even Shaw smiled.
Chester took her to a quieter part of the office and asked. Dorothy said yes, she would love to go to dinner with him. Her intelligent eyes were shining in her lovely face. Chester watched as her soft, round figure walked back to her desk.
Dorothy, at least, liked him. He could be sure of her.
But he would have just one quick look in the book to make sure.
He reached into his pocket. The book was not there. He felt alarmed. He quickly went back to his office. He searched all his pockets and his briefcase, even his desk drawers, though he knew he hadn't put the book in any of them. It was no use. The Book of Thoughts was gone.
Chester remembered the crowds as he left the cafe. Had somebody taken the book out of his pocket? Things don't just disappear by themselves.
All kinds of thoughts crowded through his mind. But the least expected and perhaps the most welcome thought was the feeling that a heavy weight had been taken away from him. He went back to try and see Dorothy again. She was talking to old Shaw - again. She saw Chester and waved to him.
At least, he thought, he still had Dorothy.
He had his career and he had Dorothy. None of the other people mattered. He could trust Dorothy. Of course he could. He was almost sure of it.
- THE END -