Episode Twenty Nine
The previous parts of this story are in Episodes 24 and 26.
Quinn heard her phone vibrate. She took it out. A text message from Clarissa: “Q U vble <Q>” Am I available? Of course not. Quinn typed in a quick response. “N/A Austria”. She sent it.
A moment later, her phone vibrated again. She read the message: “?”. I’ll have to explain, I suppose. She composed another text. “Am in Austria with PM S2S”. She pressed send.
‘You seem in demand.’ She looked up at Aidan. Checking up on me, are you?
‘Just a university friend.’ Why do I feel I need to explain? Her phone vibrated for a third time. She looked at the message: “OM. Have tkts i object brit mus”.
‘Must be important.’
‘She wants me to join her at some exhibition at the British Museum called I Object.’
‘Oh, that one. I read about it. It’s the show created by Ian Hislop.’ Oh, that guy.
‘Really? The editor of Private Eye? I wonder why?’
‘Yeah, good question. Apparently, it’s all about things that are subversive of authority. That makes it right up his street.’
‘I can see that would appeal to Clarissa.’
‘So, are you going?’
‘Doubt it. I guess it’s for Saturday. What with this conference and all…’ She didn’t iterate. Why bother. My entire life is taken over by my duties at Number Ten. She kicked the chair beside her. ‘Why the hell are we here?’
‘Well, you’re here because your father is chairman of the Tory Party.’ Oh sure. You think I’m his little tittle-tattle and will be keeping him informed about the PM. But I’m not you know.
‘That doesn’t explain why you’re here.’
‘Well I always wanted to visit Mozart’s birthplace.’ You tend to change anything that’s deep into a joke, don’t you?
‘Aiden don’t be flippant.’
‘Sorry. The reason I’m here is that Carberry told me I should be. Something to do with researching our policy position for the PM.’
‘He said she would be moving her Plan forward at the conference.’ Ah! The Plan.
‘Has she given you anything to do?’ If you’re not to do anything, why are you here? For me?
‘No. Do you have work to do?’
‘Only what I’ve been working on back in London.’ She gestured. ‘It can wait.’ As we’ve got some time to kick around, are you going to suggest something now we’re here?
‘She’ll probably be in the meeting for hours yet. Shall we take a stroll?’
I must have psychic powers. She giggled inwardly. Quinn glanced round. The room was nearly empty. Sun streaked through the windows. ‘Yes, let’s.’
Aiden pulled out his phone and tapped at it. ‘Any preferences? There’s Mozart’s birthplace, the cathedral, the fortress, a couple of palaces…’
They headed out past a couple of policemen outside the door. The men both totted MP5s across their chest. They stood looking out at the street and seemed uninterested in the two of them.
Aiden led Quinn towards the city centre.
As they walked, Aiden spotted two more similarly armed policemen further down the road. And then a further pair beside a Multivan with POLIZEI splashed across its sides. They’re taking no chances.
He led her across the street. Ahead of them was a café. Ah ha! Just the place.
‘I know, let’s sample the local cakes. They have a good reputation.’
‘I bet you planned this all along.’ Blast. Rumbled.
He grinned at her but said nothing.
They went in. There was a counter with various local specialities. A rather plump middle-aged woman wearing a pinny stood behind it. She watched them examine the cakes but said nothing. Gutten tag.
Aiden pointed at various items. ‘These are Austrian specialities. Strudel. Sachertorte. Tafelspitz.’
‘How do you know?’
He laughed. ‘I looked them up just now.’
Quinn dug him in the ribs. ‘You cheat!’ She then sniggered. ‘You ARE devious.’ Me? Really? Perhaps I am. He briefly looked her up and down No doubt about it, you’re a stunner.
‘I could say the same of you. Now, what will you have?’
‘One of those.’
The lady behind the counter nodded, got a plate and using a pair of tongs expertly manipulated the Strudel onto it. She placed it on the counter. She then gazed at Aiden.
‘Sachertorte, bitte.’ She got another plate and repeated her manoeuvre. ‘Und zvie Kaffee, bitte.’
‘Na sicker.’ She waved at an empty table. ‘Nehmen Sie Platz und ich bringe Ihnen Ihren Kaffee.’
Aiden led Quinn over to a small table with two chairs and they made themselves comfortable.
‘Where did you learn German?’
‘I have an aunt who married a German. I used to go over to Hamburg every summer to stay with her. I sort of picked some up playing with the local kids. But I‘ve never studied it formally. Really, I’ve just got enough to get by. But I know a lot of German swear words.’
Quinn giggled. ‘You become more mysterious by the minute.’
The woman brought over their coffees. ‘Genieß deinen Kaffee.’
She wandered off to serve a man who had come in and stood by the counter waiting.
Aiden pointed towards the woman. ‘She probably thinks my German stinks.’ Which to a native speaker, it probably does. Still, if it impresses Quinn.
Quinn cleared her throat. ‘I’ve moved out.’ What’s this? You’re leaving No.10?
‘I no longer live with Dancy and have moved back home.’
Oh!’ Well that certainly is news.
‘You sound surprised.’
‘I thought you and your boyfriend were an item.’
‘We’ll if we were, we’re one no longer. It seemed the right thing to do.’ How could anyone give up a bright, beautiful and engaging woman like you, Quinn?
‘I’m sure you have your reasons. How’s it moving back to the family home?’ Keep it cool, Aiden.
‘It’s not too bad, except Daddy wasn’t terribly pleased to have Pharaoh back.’ There was a slight pause. ‘Or me.’ What’s happened?
‘Who’s Pharaoh?’ Is this someone’s she’s shacked up with?
‘Ah.’ I should have guessed given the name.
His phone rang. He thought about ignoring it but pulled it out and looked to see who was calling him. He immediately tapped the screen to accept the call. Oh shit! I could do without this.
‘Hello.’ Pause. ‘Of course. Immediately.’ He hung up and turned to Quinn. ‘I’m needed. The PM wants to see me.’
‘We should at least finish our coffee and cake.’ Oh, yeah.
‘I’ve got to go back now. You can stay and finish it and then wander back later.’
‘If you’re going back, I’m going back.’ Solidarity, then it is.
Aiden quickly drank most of his coffee. Quinn didn’t do more than sip hers. He then picked up their plates and headed off to the woman.
‘Wir müssen gehen. Bitte haben Sie eine Tasche, um diese mitzunehmen.’
‘Ja natürlich.’ She found a cake box and filled it with their orders before passing it to him. He passed her a twenty euro note. She returned some change.
‘Vielen Dank dafür.’
Aiden went over to Quinn. ‘We can go.’
The sun went behind a cloud as they headed back to the conference centre where the British delegation was housed. There was a mass of dark clouds drifting in their direction. They promised rain.
They passed the police van and then the two men on patrol. No one paid them any attention. But when they tried to go into the building, the two policemen on duty there stopped them.
Quinn took the initiative. ‘We’re part of the British delegation.’
One of the policemen gestured. ‘Show identification.’
Quinn produced her pass.
‘Yes. Good.’ He eyed Aiden. ‘And you?’
Aiden patted his pockets. Bloody hell! My pass! I’ve left it on my desk. Shit! He smiled at the policemen. ‘I’ve left it inside. But I’m with her.’
‘You no go in.’ He waved at Quinn. ‘You can.’
She tapped Aiden’s arm. ‘I’ll get yours. Where is it?’ Ah! That’s a good idea.
‘I think I left it by my laptop. I’ll wait here.’
‘I’ll be right back.’ With that she disappeared inside. Thanks, Quinn. I guess I owe you for this.
Left to himself, Aiden moved a little way away from the policemen and sat down on the steps, so he could look out over the street. He gazed up at the approaching dark clouds. At least it isn’t raining.
‘You.’ Aiden turned to see the policeman. He was signalling to him. ‘No sitting.’
‘Fine.’ Aiden got up. He started walking up and down the pavement. Several minutes passed. Come on, Quinn. You should be back by now. What’s keeping you?
Another policeman appeared from the building and engaged the two on duty in conversation. Aiden quickly realised, though he could not really follow their local dialect, that they were talking about him.
The newcomer came over. ‘Follow me.’ He led him inside. ‘We find your pass.’
They navigated through the building to the conference room set aside for staff. Quinn smiled at him as they entered. She was at work on her notebook. You weren’t much help, really, were you?
Aiden made his way to his desk and searched around for his pass. It was not there. He then remembered to look under his laptop. His ID picture looked sullenly up at him. He picked up the pass and gave it to the policeman.
‘Good. It’s in order.’ He wagged a finger at him. ‘Keep it at all times.’ Yes, you don’t need to tell me that after this little hassle.
Aiden went over to Quinn.
She looked apologetic. ‘I couldn’t find it, so I mentioned the problem to the security detail. I did the right thing, didn’t I?’ Apology accepted. Sorry, I doubted you.
‘I’m back in.’ Then he slapped his head. ‘The PM!’ He rushed over to his laptop, closed the lid, picked it up and headed out. ‘I’ll see you later.’
He made for the PM’s office, which was on the top floor of the building. As he waited for the lift, he checked how he looked in a conveniently placed mirror. A k-ping told him a lift was available. He got in and pressed the button for the top floor.
He nearly ran into a security guard as he stepped out when the doors opened.
The man gave him a once over in that way security guards do. Just like one of those Alsatian dogs.
‘I’m here to see the Prime Minister.’
‘Oh, yes.’ Aiden produced and passed over his security card. ‘Aiden Pearce. I work in the Cabinet Office.’
The man scrutinised his credentials carefully. He handed it back. ‘Za. You can go in.’
Aiden knocked, heard a noise and then entered. Mary was sitting at a desk talking on her mobile. She waved him to a seat in front of her.
‘…of course, I understand. Yes. Yes. I’ve got to go now. I’ve someone with me.’ She listened to something being said on the other end. ‘And love you too. Bye.’ She punched the cancel button and put the phone on her desk. She looked him up and down. ‘You took your time.’
‘Sorry, PM, I had some problems with security.’ All my own stupid fault, but I won’t tell you that.
‘Well, you’re here and that’s what counts.’ She tapped at the desk. ‘Now we’re getting close to leaving, Brexit negotiations are moving up a notch and I need you to do some analysis for me.’ Her expression turned stern. ‘You are to keep this a matter between you and me and I am the only one to see your report. Is that clear.’
‘Well, my Plan is being considered by the Heads of State as we speak. There are still some areas of contention, especially over Northern Ireland. That’s where you come in. You have expertise in game theory and I want you to provide me with the best suggestion on how we handle this.’ She tapped at a paper on her desk.
‘Well, PM…’ She waved him to silence. I’m not sure I’m up to this; it’s so important!
‘You don’t need to tell me.’ She picked up the piece of paper. ‘These are the key issues you need to work on.’
Aiden got up and took it. He quickly glanced at the one page of bullet points. Wow!
‘I just need some simple strategies.’
‘Of course, PM.’ How am I going to square the circle on these?
He got up to go.
‘Let me have them by,’ she consulted her phone, ‘six o clock this evening.’
‘By six o clock. Of course.’
Aiden closed the door behind him, gazed at the security detail who showed only slight interest in him. He decided against the lift and walked down the stairs to the conference room. All I’ve got to do between now and six o clock is develop our negotiating strategy for Brexit. Nothing really. What has she been doing for the last eighteen months?
He went in. Quinn was still at her station. He made his way over to where he had set himself up and sat down, plonking his laptop down in front of him. Where do I begin?
Quinn came over and placed the box from the café on the table beside him. Oh those.
‘Here. Have your whatever you call it before I eat it. Mine was delicious and yours…’ She smiled at him. Beautiful. ‘What did the PM want?’ Ah the wily ways of the mole digging for information. So it’s not my good looks. Darn!
‘Nothing important.’ I bet she doesn’t believe that.
Quinn burst out laughing. ‘You’d never make a spy.’ That’s for sure.
‘No, I wouldn’t, would I?’ And he started to laugh as well.
* * *
The previous part of this thread is in Episode 25
Jill jumped out of bed and headed out of the bedroom. Andrew came to just as she banged open the door.
‘Jill, what’s happening?’ What’s she up to?
There was no answer.
He got up and padded after her. Has she smelled something or heard something? She was in the bathroom. He could hear noises. It sounded as if she was retching. Oh, you poor thing.
He knocked on the door. ‘You alright?’
She didn’t reply.
Andrew stood there and looked around. I’ll just check the flat, just in case. He wandered into the living room. The mess from the previous night was still there. I’ll have to clear that up before Freddie gets back or he’ll go ballistic.
He continued his inspection. The bedrooms were in their usual state. Freddie’s as neat as an exhibition home; Josh’s as if a minor tornado had passed through. He closed the door to Josh’s room and headed back to the bathroom.
He knocked on the door again. ‘Jill?’
‘I’m alright, dammit!’ What have I done to make her so angry?
He made for the kitchen and put on the kettle. As I’m up, might as well make us a cuppa. They say tea eases many pains.
He heard the bathroom door open. ‘I’m in here.’
Jill came in. He looked at her. Apart from a slight paleness, she seemed to be alright. I wonder what we had last night that’s upset her stomach?
‘Did something you ate make you ill?’
She gave him a scathing look. ‘You’ve no idea, have you?’
‘Well, we both ate the same thing.’ He heard the kettle click off and got up to fill the teapot. ‘I’m fine. I wondered if you’d had something that had gone off, that’s all.’
‘Bloody hell, Andrew.’ She slapped the kitchen table. ‘I’m fucking pregnant.’
He dropped the teapot which shattered on the floor. You’re kidding with me!
‘You can’t be!’ He gestured at her stomach. ‘How do you know?’
‘My mother had terrible morning sickness, that’s how.’
What do I say to her?
There was an awkward silence.
‘Well, aren’t you going to say anything?’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Of course, I’m fucking sure; what do you think it is?’
‘I don’t know; you had eaten something that didn’t agree with you. Some bug or something…’
‘Oh yeah. A piece of bad sushi. Come off it, Andrew. It’s morning sickness.’
‘But how can you be certain?’ Tell me you’re not pregnant and you’re just doing this out of one of your twisted fantasies—a little test to see if I care about you. Tell me!
‘Because I’ve been waking up in the mornings feeling as if I’m about to retch for the last four days.’
‘Why didn’t you say anything?’
‘I don’t know.’ You didn’t want to tell me.
‘What are you going to do about it?’
‘What do you mean me?’
‘Well…’ You know, deal with it.
‘Are you saying I should have an abortion?’
‘Well, no.’ Well, yes. Maybe. I don’t know! Shit! Who’s the father? He looked at her.
‘Is it yours, is that what you want to know?’
‘I assumed you were on the pill.’ Everyone’s on the pill these days, aren’t they?
‘I came off when I was in the hospital. The doctor said it might be a contributory factor.’ Oh shit!
‘Why didn’t you tell me?’
‘I thought you’d not want me.’ What?
‘You should have said something.’
‘Asking you to put on a Durex is such a turn off.’
‘Yes.’ How can I be sure?
‘What are we going to do?’ Tell me you’re going to get rid of it.
Jill said nothing.
He went over to a cupboard and pulled out a dustpan and brush and went back to the broken teapot, got down on his hands and knees and began to sweep it up…
‘You don’t want me to keep it.’ No. But I can’t tell you that.
‘What do you want?’
She shrugged her shoulders.
Jill rushed out of the kitchen. What now?
Andrew abandoned his cleaning up and strode after her. He found her weeping in his bed.
‘What is it?’
‘You don’t want me to keep it, do you?’ She gazed at him, tears in her eyes. ‘Your baby.’
‘I never said that.’ Oh shit!
Her expression brightened. ‘You’ll love being a father.’ Fuck! What do I tell my parents?