The serialisation of Neil Mason’s gripping debut novel continues, with the publication of Chapter Eleven. The game of manipulation and deception plays on as an ex-offender is drawn in, becoming an unwitting participant. If you’ve missed out on the earlier chapters, just follow this link to catch up!
There There My Dear
He had put it all down to political apathy. It really could not have been anything else. In his retirement years he had become another crime statistic – the victim of common street crime. Mugged.
As Harold Connor sat on his battered sofa in his war room he felt insecure all of a sudden. The skin across the back of his neck and his shoulders chilled and tightened in an instant. His eyes focused on nothing as his mind jumped back to a time he had tried to forget.
‘Sir, although we can’t physically stop you from going, we must point out the risks involved in travelling so far on your own.’ The earnest voice didn’t fit the non-descript face of the protection officer.
‘I see only one of you, so why do you say ‘we’?’
‘Sir, I must stress…’
‘Stress will kill you one day, young man. Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll take my chances and make my own way up to Scarborough. And I’ll call you if I need you.’
Several hours later and two hundred miles away, Harold Connor had needed his protection officer. He had thought this just as his cheek hit the decaying brickwork of the old bank building and as his ears filled with the shouts and threats of his attacker.
There had not been enough time for fear – fear only came to Harold Connor if he had time to think – but the confusion paralysed him. Inadvertently the paralysis had made him do the right thing. It had forced him to hand over the money.
The moment he had seen his attacker he knew there was no point in trying to stop him. Seldom had he witnessed such aggression, such visceral ire. And such athleticism. No sooner had the assailant pushed him against the wall and taken the money than he had sprinted off and disappeared from sight. Connor was certain that his attacker would never be caught.
The resulting police investigation and prosecution had led to the formation of an unexpected relationship between Harold Connor, the former Prime Minister and father of the current Premier, and Benson Powell, a youth offender, petty criminal and sometime gang member.
Benson Powell had no meaningful defence during the prosecution and, after considering the cast-iron case against him along with CCTV evidence, he had pleaded guilty in court and received a custodial sentence. As a reward for his plea, and due to the fact that there were limited prison spaces available at that time, his sentence was light and he had regained his freedom after just three months of incarceration.
From a distance Harold Connor had monitored Powell’s progress through the penal system and, with his access to privileged assistance, he was able to look into Powell’s past. Harold had learnt that Benson Powell had been born into a family with a history of unemployment, debt, petty crime, drugs and violence. Aged sixteen and with no qualifications to his name, Powell had enrolled into an Apprenticeship in Furniture Making that had offered a route out and an opportunity to break the cycle. Within just a few months of starting his training programme, Powel had been dismissed for suspected theft from his employers, although this was never proven.
By the time he was eighteen Powell had built up quite a reputation with the local police force and he had also developed an enviable physique. He was quite tall, just over six feet, and he had the body of a supreme athlete. His transformation had taken only a matter of weeks and it was likely the result of steroid abuse.
When Powell attacked the old man by a beachside café, Connor had had no chance of defending himself against the young man’s superior strength and easy aggression. The police had caught Powell on the same day as the attack and, for all the world, the die was cast.
On the day that Benson Powell had left prison having served his sentence for attacking Harold Connor, he could never have imagined what would happen to him over the following months. If he had ever told his friends about his relationship with Britain’s former Prime Minister, they would have accused him of making it all up.
The chances of a black ex-con getting involved with the greatest political scandal of all time were miniscule. Even a character like Benson ‘Nedges’ Powell wouldn’t be able to think up a story like that.
On that morning, less than a week after Harold Connor had read the article about Kyle Andrews in the tabloid press, Powell answered his mobile phone and was greeted by the familiar voice of Harold Connor.
‘How are you keeping, Mr Powell?’
‘I’m good, Mr Connor. I am very good. In fact, everything’s looking good at the moment.’
‘Are you still keeping on the straight and narrow, Benson?’
Connor already knew the answer to this as he had received periodic updates from the police to keep him informed of Powell’s behaviour. Since Connor had helped him to find a job and move into a flat, Powell had become the model citizen with no misdemeanours and certainly no further arrests.
‘Mr Connor, I am as clean as a whistle and I’m loving it.’ There was genuine enthusiasm in the young man’s voice. Powell went on to tell Connor about his new apprenticeship as an IT Support Officer with an Internet retailer and how he was really helping the business to fulfil orders, to maintain accurate stock figures and to track profitability through a piece of software he had helped design. Connor listened attentively and felt genuine pride.
Powell’s monologue came to a natural end and Connor then asked him if he wanted to help him with a very important piece of research. Powell asked a few questions that did not really receive any answers as Connor was trying to ascertain whether Powell was likely to commit to the task in hand.
‘Look, Mr Connor. You know I appreciate everything you have done for me and I’ll never forget it. But I just don’t know what you want me to do. Is it, like, illegal?’
Connor paused before answering, taking a moment to ponder the legality of his plan. Certainly it could be viewed as surreptitious. It may even seem Machiavellian to some but an act of genius to others.
‘Benson, what I am asking you to do is not illegal in that it is not a defined offence like theft or murder or drug smuggling. No. But it does call for secrecy, commitment and, well, balls.’
‘Balls. I’ve got them.’
‘Excellent. I take it you are in, then?’
‘Look, I still don’t know what it is you want me to do. But, yeah, I’m in, Mr Connor. I’m in.’
To Be Continued…
I hope you’ve enjoyed this latest instalment in the serialisation of There There My Dear. Just who are the heroes of this story and who are the villains? Who can be trusted? Have you worked it out yet? Be a part of the discussion on my Facebook Page, I’d love to see you there.
Chapter Twelve to be published at the weekend.
Very best wishes,
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