Dain Ratchett came out of work one afternoon to find a well-dressed man punching his car. When he asked him why, he said, ‘If only more people hit cars.’ Not being satisfied with his logic, Dain got inside and drove off, leaving him to punch a mountain bike chained to a fence.
This little episode put him in a bad frame of mind for the rest of the evening, and completely scuppered his chances of relaxation.
‘What’s the matter, darling?’ his wife, Tiffany said from across the dinner table. ‘You’ve barely touched your dinner.’
‘I’m not hungry,’ he said, pushing the plate away and upsetting a vase of lilies.
‘Why?’ she said, chiding him with her big, blue eyes.
‘I don’t know, I’ve just been in this awful mood ever since I caught this man punching my Land Rover this afternoon.’ He stuck his fork in his steak and left it there.
‘What?’ she giggled.
‘There was a man, punching my car.’
‘How very odd,’ she said. ‘What did you do?’
‘What could I do?’ he replied, picking the fork up with the steak still on the end. ‘It was just so odd, I drove off. What is the proper thing to do in that situation?’
‘Well, if you catch him at it again, call the police. You shouldn’t have to put up with that. Did he leave any dents?’
‘Not that I could make out,’ he said. ‘He was jabbing it lightly when I caught him.’
The next day was very much the same, Dain emerged from his office after a long day to find the same man jabbing his car.
‘Hey there!’ he called. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’
‘Punching your car,’ he replied nonchalantly. ‘Why, you got a problem with that?’
Now, Dain was not the sort of person who was accustomed to confrontation. In fact, you might say that he once allowed a family of Gypsies to live on the bridge of his nose for a fortnight, so he looked him squarely in the eyes and said, ‘No, not at all,’ before scampering back into his office and calling the police.
They arrived approximately forty-five minutes later, after a very protracted conversation with a sceptical operator, to find the man long gone and the car without a dent.
‘But he was jabbing it lightly!’ he implored, while the two officers exchanged meaningful ‘crazy’ looks.
Tiffany was sympathetic but firm.
‘Dain , you just have to stand up for yourself. I know you can do it,’ she said as she took away his untouched supper.
‘I don’t know, Tiff-’ he began.
‘Now come on,’ she cut in. ‘You didn’t get to be head accountant at Moran-Heimenstein by pussy-footing around, now did you?’
‘Well then show him what you’re made of!’
The next day, Dain asked around the office to see if anyone knew about a man who liked to hit cars. People looked at him askance but it didn’t bother him too much, he had a meticulously prepared speech memorised and when he found the car-puncher, he was going to let him have it.
‘Ratchett, can I have a word?’ a voice cut through the hush of an early afternoon Solitaire session. Startled, he looked up and saw a tall man in a lab coat smiling at him, he looked familiar.
‘Certainly,’ said Dain. ‘And you are?’
‘Crispin Unctious,’ he held out his hand. ‘Chief Engineer.’
Dain took his hand and gave him Customary Business Shake No 3 (one large pump)
‘The reason I’m here, Mr Ratchett, is that I’ve heard on the grapevine that you’re having a little car trouble, is that right?’
‘In a way,’ he began. ‘What it is, every day when I leave work, I find a man outside, punching my car.’
‘Punching your car, you say?’ he said, ruminatively caressing his moustache. ‘That is a puzzle. Is he a drunk? Someone with mental difficulties?’
‘Well, he looks perfectly normal; well-dressed, well-groomed. Not the sort of person you’d expect to find assaulting a Land Rover.’
‘Hmm, interesting,’ he mumbled, and then added after a long pause, ‘You know what, Ratchett, I think I can help you.’
‘Electrical currents?’ Tiffany cried after he told her. ‘But that’s crazy!’
‘Oh but it isn’t,’ he replied, as nonchalantly as he could muster. ‘I warned him this afternoon, that if he does it again, he’ll be shot through with five hundred volts.’
‘But what if someone were to just knock it by accident? Would it kill them too?’
‘No no no my dear. Professor Unctious has ensured me that it will only be set off after a light jab. A real, deliberate punch in other words. Besides, I thought you wanted me to stand up to him.’
‘I did, Dain, but there’s a difference between standing up for yourself and having your car booby-trapped,’ she said.
‘I used to think so too,’ he said, ‘but now I’m not so sure.’
Dain arrived at work the next day to find that someone had left a pair of boxing gloves on his desk.
‘Ha ha, very funny,’ he said with a healthy dollop of sarcasm, which would have been even more potent if someone had actually been listening.
For the rest of the day, his work colleagues would mutter snarky asides about ‘crazy old Ratchett in Accounts’ and some of the more daring ones would lightly jab his arm as they walked past. But it wasn’t until a gang of ten stood around his desk, punching his PC monitor, that he snapped.
‘I don’t know why you find it so hard to believe that someone has been hitting my car,’ he yelled. ‘How would you like it if it happened to you?’ With that he had stormed out of the office, barking a severe, ‘Follow me,’ to the rest, who did so purely for entertainment purposes.
He led them to his car, which Professor Unctious had just brought back and was standing behind, and pointed at it furiously.
‘HE WAS STANDING HERE!’ he cried. ‘AND HE WAS PUNCHING MY CAR AND I DO NOT CARE IF NONE OF YOU SAW IT BECAUSE I DID AND I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH IT!’
At the back of the pack, someone giggled, and then it spread out until all of them were in hysterics. Even Professor Unctious broke into a chuckle.
‘Oh, you think this is funny?’ he said. ‘You think this is a joke? Some evil man, was standing by my car, my property, and jabbing it! He was lightly jabbing it, like this.’