“So Jack, a new day, full of potential and fresh chances.”
“Indeed sir. Jack you are quite the most understated person I think I have ever had the joy of being associated with.”
Charles was going to have some fun now.
“This girl you’re seeing Jack. What’s her name?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t seem to follow sir. What girl are you referring to?”
Charles turned to face his valet.
“Come on Jack, we’re both men of the world. Alexa and I are both quite aware that you have been taking one of her maids out, whilst her and I are out for dinner.
For the first time, Charles saw Jack shuffle awkwardly in his Valet uniform and pause, momentarily, from ironing Charles’ tie.
“Ah. Yes, I am sorry you have found out about that sir. I will halt the liaisons immediately.”
“Halt the liaisons! Jack, what are you talking about man? It is delightful that you and her are getting on so well. What’s her name ?”
This was key, he and Alexa had made a small wager on who could find out the name of the maid first.
“Her name is Virginia sir. Gina in short.”
Twelve deranged hours had passed. Charlie had spent most of it on the sofa, trying to work out whether Gina left him the note and if so, whether it was sincere or some huge double bluff. Once night had fallen, he had finally got himself worked up enough to go and see Gina, whether this was the right idea or not he couldn’t tell.
When your whole world is collapsing around you, you have no idea which bit of wall is going to crush you.
He was stood outside her door wondering whether he should knock or not, when the door opened and Charlie was pulled forcibly into the room. Gina had her finger to her lips, probably like she did at school when she was telling the unruly ADHD kid to be quiet, whilst the shy, sexually frustrated newly qualified teacher, who was still nursing last nights hangover, was trying to teach the class what a vowel was.
Charlie stood still and quiet, Gina turned, grabbed a packed rucksack from the bed, gave it to Charlie and pushed him back out the door, blowing him a kiss, before shutting aforementioned door.
Charlie decided that it was time to leave.
“OK everyone ready?” Daniel said to the occupiers of his rear passenger seats. “Good luck.”
He didn’t look back as he heard the two doors open, but kept his eyes firmly locked on the street ahead of him. There was a car parked up a short distance down the road, this was the target for his two passengers. It contained West German papers for the couple and should hopefully propel them over the border and into the arms of the British agents on the other side.
The two figures moved hand in had towards the car, Daniel was braced, unconsciously, for the gunshot and shout that would signify the plot had been discovered, but it never came. The couple reached the car, and got in.
“Come on, come on.” Daniel uttered under his breath. “Almost there.”
He saw the car shake slightly as the ignition turned, then the cloud of smokey steam from the exhaust as the engine turned over.
Daniel turned the ignition in his own car, looking down for a second.
In that second there was a flash and a dull crump. He didn’t need to look up to know that the car had blown up.
Charles was in his club, waiting. He didn’t mind that he was waiting, because he knew that the woman he was waiting for, was an exceedingly intelligent, in demand type of individual from his old service and she was doing him a favour.
In his jacket pocket he had a cutting taken from the letter that had killed his wife. He wanted his old colleagues to take a look at it, see if they could provide any leads on the poison or indeed the hand writing. The police wouldn’t let him have the whole letter, but after Inspector Deacon had been informed of Charles’ professional career, he had agreed to let him take a small section.
“Charles, so good to see you.”
Charles jumped a little.
“Christ, I didn’t even see you come in Lucy. You must have a bloody tunnel or something!”
Charles stood whilst Lucy sat down.
“Here, I got you your usual.” He said, sliding a large whisky mac across to her.
“Most kind Charles. Now, what is it I can do for you? Got yourself into a spot of trouble?”
“Mmm, someone has murdered my wife, pretending to be a ghost from my old country place.”
Charles was looking intently down the barrel of his Webley Mk VI service revolver. He would deny it if you asked him, but he was trying to see whether he could see the brass head of the single shell that he knew was in the gun.
He knew it was in the gun, because he had put it in the gun, spun the revolving mechanism, cocked the firing pin and then pointed the gun at his forehead. Charles had done this, well, because Charles didn’t really fancy living anymore and the good thing about a war is that it means there are many ways of topping yourself. Charles liked the poetry of killing yourself with your own service revolver, so he had chosen that route.
As he had begun to quite literally look down the barrel of his own suicide attempt, he had started to question the whole idea. Perhaps staying alive was the best way to remember Alexa and indeed it is probably what she would have wanted, despite her nihilism.
He lowered the gun and took two deep breaths.
Then he raised the gun, pointed it to the ceiling and pulled the trigger.
Charles had eventually come right, by the time his valet had started preparing his evening wear. He was ashamed to have been so put under, for so long of a period, by alcohol and more ashamed, indeed astounded, to find out that Alexa had not drunk anything at all and was still on the dancefloor when daylight raised its head.
“She really is quite a girl!” He said to himself as he prepared his shaving kit. It was beginning to get dark outside and Charles found the experience of shaving at dusk quite bemusing. Not something he’d like to make a regular occurrence, but was a welcome change to the rigid structure that had been imposed on his grooming by his father.
“The dawn of a new age.” Charles said to his doppelganger in the mirror.
“Sorry sir, do you need assistance?” Jack said from outside the door.
“Oh, no sorry Jack, my fault, just talking to this handsome chap in the mirror.”
There was silence in return. Charles knew this meant that his valet was passing silent judgement on him, but he didn’t really care, because Charles was also aware, that Jack had a female interest of his own.
It had been two days and nothing had happened. Well, nothing had happened that Charlie was aware of. In dark rooms, with no windows and multiple locks, things were happening, things that would eventually have dire consequences for Charlie. However, for now, Charlie felt OK.
He was keeping his manic paranoia to reasonable levels and was now only looking out the window once an hour, rather than spending his whole life looking for the inevitable black van. Deep down he knew it would come at some point, so why waste what time he had left. Yeah, he was telling himself that, but the fear was rising in his gut, like the vomit does when you’ve had 3 too many beers.
The relationship between himself and Gina had stabilised to a general standoffishness, a personal cold war, tense, silent, but as yet non lethal. Charlie should have been planning his escape, but he was experiencing a form of P.T.S.D brought on by the soaring high and crashing low of his life over the last few months.
Then he saw the note hidden between the sofa cushions.
YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE THEY ARE COMING FOR YOU