Kurtzburg didn't get around to opening the card until after he'd cleared all of the morning's urgent tasks. Not that it shed any more light on the mystery.
It was one of those standard giant-size Valentine's Day cards you could pick up in any high-street shop. Kurtzburg's name was on the cover of the plain red envelope, written in elegant handwriting. Kurtzburg didn't know of any other Piotr Kurtzburgs in the company, so it must be for him. For whatever reason.
"Happy Valentine's Day from the Heart Squad," was written on the inside in the same elegant handwriting.
Kurtzburg had no idea who or what the Heart Squad was.
Someone had drawn cute little cartoon bats all over the inside of the card. Some of them were carrying pink hearts. The ones that weren't had long tails—that looked more like devil tails—looped around in the outline of a heart.
Maybe he had a secret admirer.
Kurtzburg nearly laughed out loud at the thought.
He was no catch. Even by the not-that-high standards of the typical IT male, Kurtzburg was distinctly below average. He knew his nickname around the office was "moleman." His co-workers didn't seem to care that he knew either.
He supposed it was different. At school they used to call him Penfold after the character in the Danger Mouse cartoons.
It didn't bother Kurtzburg all that much. Maybe at some point in the past, but he'd long grown out of letting it upset him. You couldn't help what you were born with, as far as he was concerned. There were a few people in the office he didn't like, but he just tended to avoid them. As for the rest, they were fine. They let him get on with his work and he let them get on with theirs. The only time they interacted with Kurtzburg was when they wanted something done. This was also fine with Kurtzburg. That's how work worked.
Now there was this card.
Kurtzburg would have put it down to a prank played by Dave Gregg, except Gregg had left the company two years ago. Foxtrot Tech had been a different place then and 'Greggsy' was the office prankster—a larger than life character with a big mouth. Kurtzburg hadn't got on that well with him. Gregg was a massive extrovert. Kurtzburg was a massive introvert. There were clashes.
That was then. Times moved on. The kind of 'hijinks' Gregg used to get up to, especially with the female staff, were no longer tolerated in the modern workplace.
Kurtzburg turned the card over. There were four glossy lipstick impressions of kisses on the bottom left corner. They'd been added later rather than printed on the card. Written over them in the same elegant handwriting were the words:
"Look forward to tonight."
This was just like one of the 'jokes' Greggsy liked to pull.
But not anymore.
Not since that business.
* * * *
That business had involved Roberta Ross. Kurtzburg was dragged into her office just before lunch.
"Care to explain that little incident this morning?" she asked.
Ross was all cold angles and hidden landmines. She was a short, mousy-haired woman that favoured power suits despite running the traditionally laidback IT department. Kurtzburg respected her professionalism and efficiency, but he couldn’t ever bring himself to like her. There was a furious intensity about her, as if she was always a couple of countdown ticks away from an explosion, and Kurtzburg didn't want to be anywhere near the blast radius.
"I don’t know," he mumbled. "A mix-up, I think. Someone set up a prank and got the wrong man... person."
Ross fixed him with steely grey eyes.
"I don't know or care what you and your friends get up to outside of work, but if they are your friends you should let them know the next time they pull a stunt like this it will be you that has to bear the consequences."
Ross turned back to her monitor.
"The latest patch is running late. I need that bugfix done before you leave tonight."
Ross had joined the company as a junior programmer three years ago and had risen meteorically to the position of department head. It was her complaint of sexual harassment that had resulted in Dave Gregg's termination.
It hadn't come as much of a surprise. Greggsy had always been a little too free with his mouth around the female staff. Even freer with his hands. That kind of behaviour was no longer tolerated.
There had been a similar controversy involving Ross and another senior developer, Jake Packman, about a year later. Unwelcome advances. Hands touching parts of the anatomy hands should not touch.
That had been a surprise. Like Kurtzburg, Packman was a quiet person who kept to themselves. Unlike Kurtzburg, Packman was married and seemed happy with domestic life.
You never could tell with the quiet ones, the office had gossiped.
Packman had 'resigned'.
Kurtzburg turned off the voice-recording app on his smartphone as he left Ross's office.
With Gregg it hadn't been a surprise. Packman, however...
* * * *
There was email awaiting Kurtzburg when he got back to his desk.
to be continued...