Charlie was sat on a park bench, overlooking the valley that he had spent the past week exploring with the girl he had met at the train station. If he had been thinking more clearly, he may have wondered why a girl who lived at the train station, was exploring the valley where she lived at the same time as he, a man who had never been to the area before, was exploring the valley. Surely she would know her way around already. Right?
This however was not on Charlie’s mind. It was, in fact, the thing furthest from Charlie’s mind. He was so content and in the moment, that he could be held up as the shining example of the outcome of a mindfulness course. A week in the country, completely away from his life and the thoughts of the discoveries he had made about his birth father’s family, had lowered his blood pressure and added another eighteen months onto Charlie’s receding hairline. Not that Charlie had noticed his hairline moving yet.
“Oh here you are, I’ve been looking for you all over.”
Charlie turned to look at the girl from the train station.
God, she was so pretty.
“Well it’s the least you can do after you smashed my face in to the sidewalk.”
Daniel had now spent nine days with the CIA agent who called herself Red. The agent that he had been followed by and who ultimately he had slammed to the pavement. As colleagues went, other than her stunning looks, still present even with the damage Daniel had caused her, she was lacking on multiple levels. The one that really was grinding on Daniel however, was her seeming inability to just keep quiet.
“You know what? If it will shut you up for ten minutes then I’ll do it. Jesus woman, I have never worked with someone so incapable of keeping their mouth closed as you. Where do you want to go for dinner?” Daniel responded.
“Somewhere British.” came the reply.
“British.” Daniel smiled “I know just the place.”
There was a greasy spoon round the corner, nothing more British than that he thought to himself. Then he caught sight of movement, over Red’s shoulder in the window across the road. He walked past her, looking through the camera poised in the window, it had been nine days, but finally something was beginning to happen.
Alex was sat, sprawled across three chairs he had pushed together, next to the fireplace in the bedroom that Charles was currently using as a study, whilst the real study, on the ground floor, was being renovated.
“Do you think, perhaps, you may have a little too much furniture in this house Charles?”
“Alex, the point has been raised by others and I have noted that point. I wasn’t going to let the new owners get all the bloody stuff for free.” Charles responded, snipping the end of two cigars as he did so.
He passed one to Alex.
“So what do you think of D.I Deacon?”
“Charles are you asking me to assess him as a police officer, or are you asking me whether I think he is going to find out anything about the disappearance of the old Duke’s companion? This so called ‘Pale Clara’.” Alex grinned around his cigar.
“Oh Christ, don’t you start.”
“Well both you and Kath have told me the story of that New Years Eve.”
“Yes, but we were very and I mean very drunk. You can’t honestly believe that father locked some poor woman in the attic can you?!” Charles exclaimed.
“He is my cousin sir.”
Charles was still stood at full attention, having not been put at ease by the C.O. sat at the oversized mahogany desk in front of him.
“I bloody well know he is your cousin. I asked you why he is here. I don’t seem to remember him being part of our unit?”
This was obviously a rhetorical question, but Charles was feeling cocky.
“Well you wouldn’t remember that, because he obviously isn’t. I ran into him when I was back in England, he seemed a little lost. He is a smart chap, we could use him here sir.”
“Oh could we Captain? What do you suggest I say to his current unit?”
“I don’t know sir, what did you say to my unit?” Charles was pushing his luck and he knew it.
“Damn you Yates. He has one chance, take him on your next operation and if you both don’t get killed and he doesn’t bally well screw anything else up, he can come in as your Sergeant.”
“Thank You sir. I will put him in Edgarsons room.”
“Yes, well Edgarson doesn’t need it anymore does he? Fallout Yates, see you at the briefing.”
“Will that be all sir?”
Charles sighed, Smythes really had not done anything at all that he had asked, but it had become so difficult since his father’s passing to get Smythe to do anything at all, that he had all but given up.
“Smythes, have you ever dreamt of doing something else?”
“I’m not sure I understand the question sir.”
“You have been at this house, for how many years now, 40?”
“48 sir. I was the first man employed by your late father.”
“Well Smythes, in that time, have you ever dreamt of doing anything else, other than be the butler of this house?”
“The question has never come to mind sir. Will that be all sir?”
Charles put down his newspaper. It was a lovely bright spring morning.
“Smythes I’m going to release you from your service in this house. I would dearly love to provide you with an experience, to say thanks, to you, for your service. It seems however that you don’t desire for anything, so what am I to do?”
“I see sir.”
“Well perhaps travel. Your father never travelled and I would dearly love to see the colonies.
Finally, thought Charles.
“And that is how I ended up here.” Charlie said to the girl sat next to him.
“So you’re telling me, you’re on this bench without any idea of where you are, because ancient relatives of yours, that you didn’t know existed 6 months ago, did something awful in the past and somehow got you fired from your secret job for the government? Bullshit.”
“I didn’t say super secret, I just said I had top secret clearance and you can call bullshit all you like, but it’s the truth.” Charlie replied.
“Ok, ‘Mr Bond’ I’ll believe you for now. So what’s the plan?”
Charlie didn’t have a plan. He’d fallen asleep on a train from the airport and had ended up at a station at the end of a very provincial railway line. This was very pretty, but had absolutely no useful purpose to someone with a flat battery in their phone and a wallet of credit cards with nowhere to use them.
“Why are you here?” Charlie said deflecting the focus away from his disaster.
“I live in the station house. I saw you get off the train, you looked interesting and I figured you’d need somewhere to stay.”
Daniel shifted uneasily in his seat. The seat was damp, due to the fact that the seat was in a soft top Jag, with a leaking seal around the window, which sprayed Daniel and previously the seat, whenever the driver drove above 40 miles an hour. The driver did this often and without any consideration for the speed limit of the road. He wouldn’t have minded, but the driver spent most of her time lighting cigarettes and gesturing wildly, whilst talking loudly at the side of his face.
“This whole fiasco is just so indicative of the collapse of your whole cultural structure. You Limey’s have been declining since we saved your asses in the first war and now, here we are, investigating your own secret service for you. I mean is that a joke or what?”
Daniel concentrated on trying to outwardly look like he was remaining calm. He didn’t want his newly appointed American partner to get any psychological advantage over him.
“You’re quiet Danny boy, you don’t, ah, like my driving?” She said
“Your driving is fine.” He said out loud. It’s your mouth that’s the problem, he said inside his head. “How long until we arrive?”