Jan 172022

Flynn – middle-aged, a bit over-weight (aren’t we all?), kind, funny, helpful, reliable, a man I considered a friend, and an opportunistic thief. Of course, it took me a long time to realise that. I tend to take people as I find them, as they say. I didn’t recognise that our big boss was gay, very openly gay, until well after other people knew.

When things started to disappear, it never occurred to me that the thief might be one of my colleagues. I assumed, if I gave it any thought at all, that it was a member of the public.

First, it was a controller for one of a number of game consoles that we had in the library for our patrons to use. Predictable! Since I never agreed with us becoming a gaming hub, I didn’t give a rats. Then a laptop, situated in the foyer for public use, went walkies.

‘Honestly,’ Flynn commented to me, ‘they’d steal anything that wasn’t nailed down.’

‘When did it go?’ I asked.

‘Must have been early this morning when we opened up. It was there when I left last night.’

‘But how could anyone walk out, unnoticed, with a laptop in their pocket?’

Flynn shrugged. ‘Beats me. Maybe it went overnight, then.’

I frowned. The library has a high metal security fence and gate, located in the foyer, a few metres away from the glass front doors. They date from an earlier era, when management must have trusted the public. Those days are now well and truly gone.

‘A young man could easily get over that gate, although,’ Flynn conceded. ‘The glass doors weren’t smashed or gemmied open.’

‘So, it must have been an inside job.’

He shrugged. ‘I guess.’

I didn’t give the matter any more thought until much later.

Then my beloved German Shepherd, died – or, to be more correct, I had her put down. She was fourteen years old, a very old age for a big dog, apparently. She had cancer, lots of it, inoperable, according to the vet. She was suffering, so I did the agonising but loving thing. I held her head and sobbed while the vet sent her painlessly to the giant dog-park in the sky.

I took the following day off but when I returned and walked into the library, Flynn saw me. He simply opened his arms and enveloped me in a big, bear hug. He understood, and, despite all the grief he later caused me, it’s that hug and the concern that motivated it, that I remember.

So … both Flynn and I were transferred to another library at about the same time.

I first learnt that he was under suspicion when my new manager (I wasn’t in charge until some months later) asked me to check the deposit envelopes from the safe.

The public were required to pay a refundable deposit for rooms that we rented out to them. It resided in an envelope (which had at tick box on front stating whether the money was paid in cash or by cheque) in the safe until the owner reclaimed it. Go figure, as the Americans would say!

All the envelopes which had contained cash were empty. Since they were in the safe, only staff members had access and there were only five of us. Like I said, not very smart on several fronts!

‘Hm!’ my manager said, tapping a finger on an unoccupied envelope, ‘Flynn!’

I was shocked. ‘Flynn? Surely not.’

From then on management did their best to catch Flynn and, when I became manager, I was asked to try to obtain firm evidence against my colleague who had always been kind to me. Otherwise, he could have claimed unfair dismissal. It was a very uncomfortable position to be placed in, but it was clear to me that Flynn was in the wrong. He was stealing from our employer and indirectly, from all of us. It made me sad but my duty lay with the library service. I needed to cooperate with management to try to catch him.

That opinion was reinforced as time went on. Flynn used every available opportunity to enhance his salary. Money disappeared from the till and a petty cash container, as well as from the change machine next to the photocopier.

The Security Manager, Rod, became involved. He did his best to find the necessary proof. There were security cameras inside the library but they were trained to catch library members who might attempt to do the wrong thing. He wanted them trained now on the staff side of the desk but the ceiling was so high that the guy who came at the crack of dawn, before the library opened, to alter their direction didn’t have a long-enough ladder to reach them. Sigh!

Rod then arrived early one morning and stationed himself in a cafe across the road from the library entrance. Flynn arrived well before the library opened, though his shift didn’t start until eleven o’clock. He was inside for a short while then left and returned much later to begin work. Money disappeared but it was only circumstantial evidence.

Then the weekend takings from fines and the cash machine weren’t banked until the Monday so half of those disappeared.

When a sizeable cheque disappeared from the safe, our Library Service Manager, careful not to be seen as accusing anyone, sent a general email to our whole staff giving an ultimatum. Either the money was returned pronto or the police would be called in to investigate.

So … who found the cheque, the following morning? Flynn of course. He claimed he’d found it hiding under a rubber mat in the bottom of the safe.

‘But how could it get there?’ I asked. ‘It doesn’t have legs.’

‘I don’t know,’ he said with an angry look at me.

The system for recording sick leave taken was an honour one. Flynn had months off but he failed to enter it in the appropriate database, so he was paid a full salary long after his entitlement was used up.

He tried to put his cigarettes on the library account at the local newsagent where the library bought copies of newspapers for members of the public to use.

But his greatest coup was when he moved into a fully furnished flat. One Monday, he arrived and announced that his flat had been robbed and all the white goods had been stolen.

‘No!’ I exclaimed, wondering how he managed it. ”When did it happen?’

He shrugged. ‘Don’t know. Sometime over the weekend. I was away, staying with friends.’

‘How did the thief get in?’

‘Over the balcony, I guess.’

‘You can’t lift a refrigerator over a balcony.’

He rolled his eyes. ‘Someone must have climbed in and opened the door from the inside.’

‘He’d need an accomplice to get a washing machine down the stairs, presumably in the dead of night.’

‘No stairs. Ground floor.’

‘Ah!’ I said. ‘Poor owner.’

‘He’d get it all back on insurance,’ my erstwhile friend stated complacently.

I stare at him. How can he keep a straight face, while telling such outright lies?

Flynn doesn’t drive, or so he says, and he doesn’t own a car – that’s if he’s not lying about that as well – so he’d have needed someone to help him drive the goods away. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions and being unfair but on the balance of probabilities …

I retired and Flynn was still working for the library, no doubt supplementing his income at every opportunity. Months later, I was told he’d been fired. I occasionally wonder what happened to him. Where could he get a job after being found to be thief, if he was fired for theft. Was he ever caught in the act or did they come up with some other excuse to get rid of him, or move him on, as they euphemistically say in the Catholic Church, so he became someone else’s problem.

Is he a free man or is he in jail? His modus operandum is opportunistic and very risky, after all. He escaped detection for a long time, not so much by being smart, but by sheer luck.

I guess it’s easy to believe that people who operate on the other side of the law are different from the rest of us, but it’s not true. Flynn was, and, no doubt, still is, a loving father and grandfather. He was kind to me until I became his boss and he loves animals. That counts for a lot as far as I’m concerned. I’d like to think he’s changed but I doubt it very much.

So, I wish you well, Flynn, not in your financial endeavours, but in life in general. You are, at heart, a good person. If you ever read this, please know that I remember you with affection but mainly I recall that hug you gave me when I really needed it. I hope someone is there to do the same for you if and when you need it. Go well, Flynn.