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His heart began to beat a little faster and a cold sweat broke out from his brow.

The pressure had been taking a toll on him for days. He hadn’t been eating or sleeping properly. His temper was frayed, and he couldn’t concentrate. All he wanted was for it to be over.

He wiped his clammy hands on his trousers and shifted uncomfortably on the chair. Waiting room chairs were never comfortable at the best of times, and this was far from the best of times. He felt as if he had been waiting for an age.

“Mr Hesketh?”

The secretary was looking at him. He looked back at her, trying to ascertain his fate from her expression, but she was impassive; perfectly professional as she gestured towards the office door.

He took a deep breath, stood up and walked into the office where his managers were waiting.

“Take a seat,” Helen Breeman said with a slight smile. Friendly or sympathetic, he wondered. Reassuring or regretful?

He nodded to her, sat down and looked at John Steed, who shuffled some papers and then looked up at him.

“Mr Hesketh,” he said with a smile, “You’ll no doubt be glad to hear that we have found the accusations against you to be entirely without substance.”

He stared at them for a moment, unable to take it in. It felt as if his heart had stopped beating and, although he could see John still talking, he couldn’t hear a thing. Everything seemed fuzzy.

Then, with a whoosh, the world shifted back into focus, and he sighed with relief.

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: This week, the Three Word Wednesday prompts are Beat, Pressure and Substance.)