He was strolling along the street with George Edward to get some outside air, hardly fresh in central London, and a sandwich. George had seemed unusually keen on accompanying him, had insisted he pay and that they find a table rather than head back to the office. It was clear the younger man had something on his mind, hardly surprising given all that had happened over the past weeks.
“Andy, can I talk to you as a friend, rather than a colleague?”
That was pushing it a bit, but they did get on well, their injuries had only furthered their mutual confidence.
“Sure, what’s up?”
“We, a lot of us that is, are worried about you, Sally, your son, Birmingham, all of this. Are you sure you’re alright?”
How to answer that, why not truthfully?
“I’m not sure. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time to think about myself.”
Liar, you’ve been running away from it, the void of absence. Is that it, what he really wants to talk about? No, I can see it isn’t, he’s nervous, summoning courage, dare he trust me?
“Ok Andy, just let me know if anyone can do anything, right? Some of us have been talking, about things, the case, how we feel about it?”
Here it comes, what’s up, he’s really fearful of telling me something.
“I’m… err… thinking of resigning, some of the others too, going private in some way.”
“Why on earth would you do that? You’ve got a good career ahead of you, being blown up can only help you know.”
The feeble attempt at humour didn’t even register.
“Well,” he hesitated, a last-minute prevarication, “I think I can trust you. It’s just that I’m not sure I want us to catch these people behind Swindon, Reading and some of Birmingham; a lot of us feel the same way. They’re doing what we should be doing; the scale of what we’re uncovering is terrifying, you must see that, and no one wants to tackle the causes, just the symptoms. We all know the government, the establishment, is being bought and sold by the sort of people who want to end our way of life: they own half of central London now. Now at least, someone’s starting to do something… They’re on our side, sort of, they could have killed us easily, but made it harder for themselves by sparing us and those young girls. They must have sent that stick to you, it couldn’t be anyone else… They must have found it in one of those addresses.”
I wish I could say I’m shocked, but I’m not.
“Do you know what you’re saying? We’re here to maintain the law whatever we personally feel. You’d be disciplined, maybe even charged, if someone reported you to Dager or HR.”
“I know, that’s why I’m considering resignation. Anyway, what future do I have as a white Englishman, we’re the last they want to promote? Even Dager has sold out, it’s as plain as a pikestaff, that cow from HR is smoothing his path. I don’t know what it’ll cost him, but I don’t think the price is worth paying whatever it is. You must see it too, feel the same, lots of us do, even the women officers; most of them hate HR more than the men, they don’t want to be promoted just because of their body parts. Try telling me I’m wrong Andy, I hope I am in some ways, it would be easier.”
Well, is he? What happens when the law is twisted into a weapon to attack those it’s supposed to protect, when those who sustain it start to believe it no longer relates to justice anymore, when they come to despise those who remake the laws to suit hostile interests? That’s when it starts to break down or otherwise becomes a tyranny.
“How many of the others feel the same?”
“Can’t tell, half at least, some are talking about going a bit slow, missing a few things, turning a blind eye to whoever is taking the loonies on.”
“I feel the same, that’s why I think I must resign.”
“Don’t, just do your job. I understand your feelings, sympathise, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t. Don’t worry, I won’t turn you in. If you find anything, let me know first, yes, so we can decide together what to do? Also, there’s someone I know, you met him once in Birmingham, he was one of the ones shot. I think he’s highest level Security Service, but I believe we can trust him. I’ll talk to him, mentioning no names, get his advice. Tell the others the same, but not about our contact, that’s for you and me only, understood?”
The younger man nodded, relieved he could see.
“As for Dager, he’s a fool if he thinks he can trust the likes of her and her colleagues. And let’s hope we don’t catch them before they finish the job, eh?”
I shouldn’t have said that last bit, but it’s the truth.
Sally and Brother Peran were at Thea’s awaiting the arrival of Gillian and David Kingsbridge following his interview. Thea had just returned from the little hospital by the nunnery where her son was being treated. Sally could see the strain evident in her features, her normally bright, exuberant expression suppressed. Nevertheless, she still seemed pleased to see them, explaining her son’s wounds, his steady recovery, lauding his heroism, but when the two doctors arrived she was back to her old self, determined to put on a show. It was clear she had met David Kingsbridge at one of her visits to the hospital, but had not been able to talk to him properly. Sally could see the older, slightly shy man was simply overwhelmed by her fierce joy at his presence. Gillian just smiled.
“So, the two wonder workers to whom I owe the life of my son have joined us, no charge for anyone while they are here!”
She summoned the rest of her clan to thank the doctors, commanding near obeisance and that drinks and dishes of food be prepared and brought out, commandeering a table she demanded they sit either side of her. They were both blushing deeply now.
“Thea, we’re both just doing our jobs, and those who brought Georgy back here, found David, they deserve equal thanks, Alan especially,” Gillian vainly protested.
“I know. I will repay my debts to them too, but without you, the master surgeon gracing my little establishment with his presence, all would have been in vain. He, I understand, gave up his life, his home, in Logres to save my son; how can my family repay? We cannot, but we must try. You Gillian, choose anything you want from my stock room, the best, the finest, anything we possess, it is yours!”
“Thea, that’s incredibly generous of you, but I don’t need… I already have everything I want; this place has given me that…”
“Nonsense, don’t insult me! We will talk later about this, I will make you see. But now I must speak to your colleague, the master surgeon.”
The doctor was almost crimson by now, fearing public embarrassment in a new world. The other customers, Thea’s family, were all grinning at him as the force of her personality unfolded like a huge scented bloom, filling the air in the café with a heady aroma that assaulted the senses, dazzling them with its vibrancy.
“You gave up everything for my son, his family. There is nothing that can repay that, only Our Lord Himself, to whom I will dedicate new offerings in the Basilica, the hospital, on Georgy’s behalf, yours too… How to repay such a man?”
Thea was smiling craftily now, that keen calculating intelligence amusing itself as she went through the almost ceremonial rigmarole of debt repayment. Sally suspected that she had thought it all through, had done her research.
“That good man Alan, my undeserving son too, both told me things about you. And so, this is my decision, to refuse would be a mortal insult to an old woman near her departure: a thing not to be borne by one as weak as I.”
Yes, Sally could see, she was on stage now, thoroughly enjoying herself.
“I give you a new home for your life here, a beautiful cottage with a little garden down by the sea which I own, only a short walk from the hospital, where I understand the Council has offered you a senior position already? Yes?” News travels as fast as ever here. “We will furnish it with our finest things, someone will clean it for you, and you can eat here with us whenever you want. Is there anything else you would like? “
“I don’t know what to say, it’s just too generous, too much. You don’t need to at all.”
She looked at him in triumph. “But there is one thing I believe?”
“I don’t see how that can be done, but yes, my wife’s body. It probably sounds odd, mawkish…”
“It is entirely possible: it was done once before for an incomer like you, someone we needed to believe that this is really their home. I will speak to the Council, they will listen. Leave it with me, but be patient, He will provide.”
The doctor was looking at Gillian helplessly, no was not a word Thea seemed to recognise. Later, as they came away with Sally and Brother Peran, Gillian promising to return to choose her gifts, David asked them about the girl they had found on the moor. Sally felt obliged to tell him.
“She’s a troubled runaway, drugs, that sort of thing. One of her old friends who came here years ago helped persuade her to come here, but it’s been a shock, hard for her and the people looking after her. She’s just mixed up; although” here she permitted herself a smile “I hear she has formed a strong attachment to Art as he has to her. It’s remarkable, but, as I’m learning, so typical of this place; the more I find out the more I wonder. Things just keep unfolding, I’m sure I don’t understand the half of it yet.”
Gillian just smiled silently to herself, so little do you know, and even I know only a part.
© 1642again 2018