I have vowed never to write a story about Barking Steve, because I still see him every now and then, and still possess an entrely justified fear of having my arms and legs ripped off, even after all these years. Since I moved house a couple of years ago, the trail's now gone cold enough to stop hiding under a rock and come clean.
However, such has been the clamour from friends and colleagues for me to tell this sorry story of civil service ineptitude, that I have been forced to cave in and heavily disguise one of the central characters who will get the Belarusian mafia to rip my bollocks off and feed them to me with red cabbage if she ever finds out.
Barking Steve isn't from Barking, the lovely, scenic hovel in the east of London. He is so named because he was- and as far as I know, still is barking mad. I presume the civil service only employed him out of desperation or through some kind of collective hallucination in the interview process. Barking Steve, you see, had issues. With just about everyone he came into contact with. Not just mad - barking mad; and they put him in my office because he knew how to work a photocopier. Smashing.
The first time I realised that he was slightly different from the rest of my colleagues was, let me see now, on his first morning in the job.
"See her?" he said, pointing to one of the senior managers, "I'd like to give her one up the arse."
"Oh, right," I replied, rather taken aback.
"I can put in a word for you, if you like."
Then he came up with (after spending the morning drawing all over the boss's Daily Telegraph with a marker pen): "Do you know what I'd do for a laugh?"
"Dip an old lady's glasses in sulphuric acid, so she thinks she's got cataracts."
"See this shirt?" he asked pointing to a small slit that had been sewn up, "I was stabbed wearing this."
And this was only on the first day.
After a few weeks, he seemed to calm down a bit. He stopped trying to kill his managers, and he found that asking female colleagues if he could put his hand up their jumper was a bad thing. He even introduced us to his wife, a very attractive, yet vaguely terrified blonde, which made us wander what it was she saw in a clearly mad bloke with a face like the back end of a bus.
It turned out that Steve's home life was just as mental as work, and his wife rose to the challenge like a trooper.
"My Mrs hates me cutting me toenails in the kitchen," he announced one morning. I could see her point. "So what she did was collect them up off the floor, ground 'em up and serve 'em to me in me mashed potato."
Come to think of it, I'd do that as well.
"She only told me after I'd finished eating them, so I went out into the garage and turned the power off so she couldn't watch Coronation Street."
The evenings must simply fly by in the Barking Steve household.
It was only when certain sections of the female staff started taking him up on his offers of a quick feel up the busty substances that things started looking bad for Steve. You see, despite the rugged exterior and all the posturing, if there was one talent that Steve had, it was with the ladies. His was a relentless battering ram of flattery and straight talk that got him slapped round the face a lot, but eventually paid dividends, despite his married status. The manky old spunker.
And so it came to pass that he was caught on the security cameras allowing a certain young lady from Eastern Europe to play a tune on his pink oboe in the staff car park, and if there isn't a tape of this little episode still doing the rounds a good few years down the line, I'd be a very surprised man.
Their affair rumbled on and became more and more flagrant. There were reports of managers returning to their offices after a liquid lunch to find the pair hammering away across their desk, and on more than one occasion the toilet doors were barred with something heavy as groans and shrieks were heard from the inside. The plumbing was hell in that place - if it wasn't Steve and Katyana, it was transvestites dressing up on company time. A mad-house full of deviants and headcases.
And still he couldn't leave it alone. At one stage, according to official estimates he was carrying on with six of his colleagues. How they didn't find out about each other is anyone's guess. Ah... I remember now, they DID find out about each other, and that was the beginning of Barking Steve's downfall. Words were spoken, mostly to the head of personnel, and Steve was out of the door before he could say "you're all a bunch of bastards!"
But that wasn't the end of this. Barking Steve was convinced that he was an innocent man, and that we all had it in for him. OK, he was guilty as charged, but we couldn't get shot of him fast enough. So, ever the rational man, he started stalking our boss, following him home on his motorbike, shouting obscenities from the end of his drive until the police showed up and asked him to "keep it down a bit, if you don't mind sir, people are trying to sleep."
It wasn't long after his departure that I was talking to one of his many ladies, a dusky Russian girl from Novaya Zemlya, about work-related matters. Apropos of nothing, she said:
"That Steve - he mad as hat."
"Oh yeah? So, what did you see in him?"
She laughed, and elbowed me in the ribs, "He mad as hat - but hung like horse!"
Charming. The following week, I met his replacement.
"Pleased to meet you," said Anthony, whisky fumes wafting across the office as he lapsed in and out of a semi-comatose state, "D'you wanna fight?" Oh. God.