Charles wished he had been more forceful with Clapper about not joining him on his bike. It had been six days now, they had seen no women, hadn’t been drunk once and by Charles’ reckoning had spent most of the time lost. He had tried for two days to let Clapper give him a go on the front end, but he was a stubborn arse, so Charles had resigned himself to the co-pilot seat. He was taking some weak pleasure in the knowledge that he was barely pedalling the contraption, but even this was tempered by the fact that his laziness just meant that the ride would take even longer. He couldn’t win.
This did however give Charles time to ponder on his impending ascension to head of the house. He thought there was probably enough capital left in the accounts to do some renovations to the place; put electricity in, some better plumbing to the bedrooms, maybe even convert one of the stables to prepare for a motor car. He also thought he’d take a look in the attic and make sure there was nothing and no one, up there that might come back and hurt his new fortunes.
Charlie was back with Mr Edwards, in the room he had been in days before, but now Mr Edwards was looking a little under the weather. Charlie had noticed this happened with most of his “clients” after they’d been in the system for a while. He didn’t want to know what happened to them, but he knew that after a few days they became far less objectionable to his questions.
Questioning Mr Edwards however, was far from the forefront of Charlie’s mind. Between the diaries of his great great grandfather and the files his boss just dumped in his lap about his grandfather. He was spending most of his conscious brain cycles pondering on how his newly discovered forebears seemed so capable of getting into trouble and why this was all coming to light now, right when things were going well.
It was beginning to impact his reputation at the agency. Previously he was able to coast along, doing the bare minimum, living on the coattails of his father. Now it seemed other reputations were crystalising around him and it was starting to make his position tenuous, which even he could see was not a great position to be in.
“Sir she was following me, I had to act.”
Two weeks had passed since Daniel had been forced from active duty. Today was the first day of his disciplinary proceeding for assaulting a member of the CIA. It was bullshit, how was he meant to know that the girl who was tailing him was CIA? She could have been KGB or anyone. His self defense argument however, was not standing up to scrutiny by his superiors.
“My apologies Yates, I wasn’t aware that a suspicion of being followed gave you permission to viciously assault someone.” The prosecutor across the table said to him.
As he did so, he pulled out photographs of the face of the girl. Daniel had to admit, he had messed her up pretty good. He’d dropped her to the ground and then, ‘accidentally’, smashed her face into the curbstone, teeth first.
“With respect, have you ever been in an active environment?” Daniel replied “It’s not as clear cut as you make it out.”
He was interrupted by his boss walking in.
“Come on, we’re going to the Chancerry building. Our friends want to speak to you.”
Chancery building was the US Embassy, things were getting interesting.
“The thing is Kath, he thinks that Father may have done her in.” Charles spurted through his G and T.
“Well we’ve all thought that at one time or another, haven’t we? It’s bloody years ago though, so what does it matter? Are you going to make me one of those?” Katherine, Charles’ sister responded.
They kept up the charade of the before dinner drinks, even though there was only three of them left in the house. Well, the three of them, plus the cook, their old Nanny and one Butler, come footman, come valet, who was married to the cook and kept the old sodden place running, just about.
“Yes, but remember that new years, when Smythe stopped us going up into the attic.” Charles said
“Well, he hardly stopped us, we were terrified and anyway, we checked the attic after father’s death remember? There was nothing up there except dead rats.” His sister replied.
Charles stayed silent. They had checked the entire house out after his father’s death, but he knew Smythe was primarily his father’s man and wouldn’t put it past his father to still hold sway on him, even after death. He needed to know more.
Charles was so cold, he wasn’t sure whether he would ever be able to move his fingers again. That was, if he ever got out of this creaking death trap. He braved a look down at the ground, immediately regretting the decision as the tiny trees sped past beneath him.
Truth was that Charlie had never been very good with machines. The distant summer he had ridden from his city house, to his place in the country with Clapper, on that godforsaken boneshaker of a tandem bike was still a bad memory for him. Now here he was flying at some unnatural speed, in a place god had intended to be the sole reserve of birds and angels, in a contraption that seemed to be constructed of wood and paper.
His discomfort mattered little though, for Charles was in a race. He was on his way back to England with information for the government, information that could turn the tide of the war and perhaps have it all over by Christmas.
He felt a tap on his shoulder, the pilot’s hand was gesturing towards the earth. Charles followed the be-gloved finger and saw the glittering blue of the English channel.
“Look, I am not getting on that bloody thing with you.”
Charles was stood in Green Park, looking at a machine that seemed likely to cause his death. Stood holding the contraption was his friend Edward “Clapper” Clapton. If you can imagine the outcome of the genetic crossing of a green bean, with a particularly lanky human, you would be somewhere close to visualising Clapper in all his six foot eight inch glory.
“Oh come on Charlie, you said you wanted some adventures this summer. We could try and make it to your country place. Look it has places to carry a tent and things.” Clapper began frantically pointing at various metal protuberances, which unfortunately meant he let go of the machine and it clattered loudly to the floor.
“This wasn’t the adventure I was hoping for. I was thinking more late nights and to be honest, some women.” Charles sighed as he helped to pick up the machine, it was darn heavy.
“There’ll be plenty of time for women old boy, Papa says you’re married forever, so we should enjoy our freedom now.”
Charles wasn’t sure freedom was being stuck on the back of a bicycle with Clapper steering.
Charlie jumped in his chair.
“Jesus, I wish you wouldn’t creep up on me like that sir!”
“Bit jumpy this morning Charlie, been up to no good?”
His boss had appeared behind Charlie as he was sat in his cubicle. Truth was Charlie hadn’t been up to no good, however, he was fundamentally averse to really ever being up to anything that could be classed as good. He categorically did just enough to stay out of trouble, if he was a paint colour, he would be magnolia. The fact he was even employed by this organisation was purely a factor of his father’s involvement in the whole situation. He had been distinctly average in his education, doing enough to get by, without ever really shining enough for praise, or failing enough for support. One of life’s civil servants, an administrating, file shuffling, pencil sharpening, spreadsheet tracking human being.
“Charlie have you got a moment?” his boss said looking at his watch.
“For you sir, I have three moments.” Charlie replied smiling.
“Hmm, three? Oh ha yes very good Charlie. You’ll need to come with me, I have something I need to show you. We’ve been going through some old files.”