"I love these glass walls," said Ollie. He stuck his hands in his pockets and leaned back on one of the empty desks. "It's better than telly."
"You only say that because it's not you out there," said Terri, not looking away from her computer. "How would you feel if we were just staring at you while you were being bawled out by Malcolm?"
"Because we do," added Glenn. "I'm planning on setting up a video camera and selling the footage to private collectors to wank over."
"Malcolm'd go spare," said Ollie, absently. "But no, seriously, this is brilliant. Hugh's not going to be able to hear anything in his left ear for days. Just the ringing echo of Malcolm telling him his life is made of failure and shit."
"Hell, Hugh's making a break for it," said Glenn. He busied himself with a convenient pile of papers. "Look busy before Malcolm goes for you next."
Ollie lunged for his computer, just making it as Hugh burst in, pursued by Malcolm.
"You're a fucking idiot, Minister," said Malcolm, looking uncannily like a half-starved rabid weasel. "But you're our fucking idiot, which means you're making us look like fucking idiots. Like a pyramid scheme."
"How is this even remotely like a pyramid scheme?" Hugh actually shook a finger at Malcolm as he tried to reach his office. Malcolm looked at the finger like he wanted to bite it off.
"Well, first you say unbelievably stupid things to a reporter, and then he passes those, no, those phenomenally stupid things on to two friends, and then, no, it doesn't even matter, the point is, is that you're going to go and give another fucking statement, you just wait right there-"
Hugh managed to get in the door to his office, somehow evading Malcolm's grabbing hands.
"Look, Malcolm, you hate it when I give statements. I'm not giving statements. I'm never talking to a reporter ever again." He tried to shut the door, but Malcolm had gotten a foot in.
"Right, that's fine. You can be an enigmatic fucking recluse, like Greta Garbo except immeasurably less interesting or attractive. But you've got to set the record straight, don't you see?" Malcolm started to approach something resembling charm. "Or else just hand me your resignation here and now, and I know neither of us wants that- fuck!" He just managed to get his foot out of the way before Hugh slammed the door.
For a moment all that could be heard was Hugh's hysterical laughter. Then everyone in the room started typing at once, trying to cover up the fact that they had dropped work to watch the spectacle.
"Right," said Malcolm. He pinched his nose and clutched at his folder. "Right. Glenn, get up and comfort yon delicate flower before he jumps out a window or starts planning my murder. Terri, get on the phones, get us an interview with one of the other papers."
The flurry of activity became a little more genuine. Malcolm turned to look at Ollie.
"You, I want you to- were you fucking recording that? On your phone?"
"Glenn told me to," said Ollie, clutching his phone to his chest.
"I did not!" said Glenn, half-turning from where he'd been whispering at Hugh's door.
"Well, he mentioned it," said Ollie. "I was thinking, uh, I'd make a training video. Yeah, like, bollocking for dummies, or something."
Malcolm gave him a red-rimmed stare.
"Look, I'll delete it," said Ollie, desperately. "I'm doing that, right now."
"Give me your phone," said Malcolm.
"Give me your fucking phone," said Malcolm. He held his hand out.
Ollie very slowly gave his phone up. He winced as Malcolm's hand closed around it, and then began to relax as nothing else happened.
And then Malcolm threw the phone across the room.
"Don't ever record me doing anything, not anything." Malcolm leaned in close across Ollie's desk. "If I ever see myself on youtube or whatever, I will come and find you. I will rip your head off and make it into a paperweight. I'll keep your embalmed head on my desk as a warning to others, do you understand?" Malcolm's fingers tapped on the desk. "Do you understand?"
"Okay, yes, sorry," said Ollie. "No video."
"Great," breathed Malcolm, and leaned back. "Right, call me when Hugh's pulled himself back from the abyss." He left without a glance back.
Which meant he missed the camera Glenn was holding up.
"You bastard," said Ollie. "You filmed it."
"Oh yes," said Glenn, leaning on the office door. "And the best bit is, if I do anything with this, he'll come and kill you first, give me a bit of warning."
"You'll never be able to escape in time," said Ollie, hopelessly.
"He's not going to post it on youtube," said Terri, looking up from her phone. "I don't think he even knows how to get the video off of his camera."
"I do so," said Glenn, stung. "I'm not the technological dinosaur you people seem to think-"
An indistinct murmur came from the door, and Glenn turned back to comforting Hugh.
"Oh, God," said Ollie, running his hands into his hair. "I'm a dead man walking. How long do you think I have, Terri?"
Terri shook her head at him, having managed to get someone on the phone. Ollie turned to plead with Glenn some more, but Hugh had opened the door to his office just long enough for Glenn to slip inside.
Ollie leaned back, and contemplated the feeling of being doomed. It felt like just about every other moment of working in government, honestly.