Welcome to the latest Chapter of Neil Mason’s highly original and politically controversial debut novel There There My Dear. In this weeks instalment, Harold continues to draft his plan as Benson reluctantly becomes further embroiled in a plot that will have dramatic consequences for him. If you’ve missed out on the earlier chapters, just follow this link to catch up!
There There My Dear
Benson Powell was already awake when his mobile phone started to ring. He checked the display to see who was calling. In the comfort of his own flat he smiled genuinely as he greeted Harold Connor.
‘Morning, Mr Connor. How can I help you?’
‘Good morning, Benson. How are you?’
‘Good, Mr Connor. I am very well.’ Powell paused. ‘I take it that you want me to do that thing. Am I right?’
Powell was right. Since their last conversation Harold Connor had been very busy. Inspired in a way that had not visited him in decades he had formulated a plan, contacted Professor Baines at the university and queried him about his most outstanding student.
Connor was not interested solely in the academic prowess of Professor Baines’ students, although that was a factor in his plan. No. More important than that was the political heart of the students. In Connor’s mind it was not difficult to recognise the academic persona that he sought, but it was a near impossible thing to explain to a third party. If he ever tried to explain it to somebody he would say that it was a personal state that demonstrated a deep understanding and a deep disregard for politics. If he ever met somebody who had a firm political direction, but who did not believe in the well-trodden path and who accepted considered suggestions, then he would easily recognise the kind of political persona that inspired him.
‘Benson, I need you to make friends with a university student at Warwick. You may need to take some time off work. Is that OK?’
Powell grimaced and put his hand over the receiver. ‘Fuck!’ He uncovered the phone and carried on as if nothing had happened. ‘Well, I can ask the boss for a few days off next week, or…’
‘No, Benson. I need you to go to Warwick this afternoon. I’ve already arranged accommodation for you and I’ll cover all of your expenses, and more. And don’t worry about your boss. I’ll handle everything.’
Powell fell silent and stared straight ahead. ‘Mr Connor, I really don’t wanna…’
‘Benson. There’s nothing to worry about. I will ensure that everything is OK at work. And I’ll leave a draft email in our Yahoo account. OK?’
‘OK.’ Powell did not sound convinced, and he knew Connor would pick up on his tone.
‘And Benson, don’t log in for a couple of hours. OK?’
Powell hit ‘End Call’ and dropped the mobile phone into his lap. After letting out a short but powerful sigh he slapped his thighs with both hands and stood up, the mobile falling to the floor. He kicked it across the carpet and walked into the kitchen, muttering to himself.
In Harold Connor’s study, the old man picked up a well- chewed disposable pen and ticked off one of the items on his to-do list and read the rest of his action points. It was only a quarter past eight in the morning and the initial stages of his plan were coming together at a pace. He afforded himself the luxury of a cigarette. It was his fifth of the morning and he relished every pull.
Connor logged in to his Yahoo email account and typed out the details of Powell’s accommodation, the train times and the full contact details of the chosen student including their address, mobile number and university email address. It took him some time to tap in the outline of his plan, not so much because of the level of detail, rather that Harold Connor typed with two fingers, he had to look at the keyboard rather than the screen and that he insisted on correct spelling and accurate grammar. He did not trust spell-checking software and found that such technology did not recognise traditional orthography or elegant syntax.
He did not send the email to Powell. In fact, he did not even know if Powell had an email address to call his own. The two men used a method of communication that reduced the risk of detection. Instead of sending one another emails they shared an email account and saved messages in the drafts folder. In this way no emails could be intercepted electronically as they would never be sent. Periodically each of them would log in, using a common password, and check the content of the drafts folder for new messages. It was not an infallible technique – hackers could work out the password to the email address and take a look around if they wanted to – but it was safer than actually sending the email. A practice frequently used by the terrorist fraternity.
Connor’s instructions for Powell were very simple and very clear. Powell was to befriend the student and persuade them to enter the new television talent contest for aspiring politicians.
Once he had finished the email and saved it, Connor sat back on his battered sofa and interlocked his fingers in a cradle behind his head. He gazed up at the ceiling and noticed the thin layer of cigarette smoke floating above his head. Unthinking, he blew out a lungful of air to disrupt the inert wisp. And then he smiled.
After a while he broke his reverie and lowered his eyes a little to focus on the one remaining photograph on the wall of his study. Momentarily his smile became a fixed grimace, disjointed from the darker emotions expressed by his eyes.
At that moment in time he became angry once again. Angry that his wife was dead. Angry that she would never see him put his plan into action. Angry that she could never see him put things right again.
And then his eyes hardened. And then he blinked and the warmth returned to his smile. Actively he did not believe in epiphanies but he did feel as if something had touched him. He knew his destiny. The knowledge furnished him with a sensation of relief and, oddly, happiness. Connor did not question his feelings. Simply he imagined the outcome of his actions.
Very quickly he started to write on sheets and sheets of lined paper. Tirelessly he poured out his predictions of what would happen once his protégé had presented her political views on live television.
Has to be the live shows. Explain the features and benefits of corporatism – state-owned utilities resulting in financial stability for the government and lower taxes for the public. The lower taxes would give greater spending power to the masses and encourage growth in consumerism. Greater disposable income will encourage more entrepreneurialism, more businesses will design and manufacture more consumer goods resulting in higher levels of employment and increased tax revenue for the government (on top of their income from utilities).
Furiously he struck through these notes and scribbled Who’s views are these? Then he continued.
N.B. Must include farming, food manufacture and banking in with the corporatised utilities. Corporatised utilities will still allow for internal investment, thus strengthening the government’s cash position even further. Has to be the live shows. Shock factor. Some disclosures will need evidence. Mainly: Africa, pharmaceuticals, education and referenda. Will be interesting to see the looks on their faces – panellists? Cretins. Wonder if any of them already knows about some of this stuff? Wouldn’t be surprised if they did. Then again, the man with unnatural presence. Can’t imagine that he would let things get out of control – PM and Deputy PM (if he knows anything) highly unlikely to say anything. SS will work it out pretty quickly. Must think of the exit plans. Will probably need 2. Definitely need 1. Sort out finances. Arts and Mems. Overseas business. Untraceable – Burn originals. Scan originals (before burning). Datapen or other? Do I really need to burn originals? Death or glory. No real option.
He continued to write at a furious pace. This was much quicker than typing and he could always carry a pen and paper with him. Laptops were too cumbersome to haul around and he did not really understand the world of tablets. Pen and paper – these tools suited him best.
As if possessed he carried on writing out his notes and then striking through them.
To Be Continued…
Good to see you here again for this latest instalment of There There My Dear. As I continue work on the the sequel, it’s rather comforting to be reminded of a quote by the great Ernest Hemingway.
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”
Be a part of the conversation by following my Facebook Page . See you there.
Chapter Fifteen to be published next week.
Very best wishes,
Sign Up To Neil’s Newsletter for the latest news and book talk. Announcements, reviews, signings, talks & author events, competitions & giveaways…and much more! JOIN THE CONVERSATION TODAY!