Welcome to Chapter Twenty-Three in the highly original and critically acclaimed serialisation of Neil Mason’s debut novel There There My Dear. Seeking redemption, the manipulative former Prime Minister takes stock at his country home as he prepares to move his key ‘piece’ into play.
If you’ve missed out on the earlier chapters, don’t worry. To catch up on events so far, just follow this link to catch up!
There There My Dear
Born again and brimming with promise, the sun revealed itself and the new morning in a vista of simple awe. Hot mimosa chased away the brooding purple hue of the early morning sky and the air filled with warmth and birdsong. Summer had decided to make an unforgettable entrance.
Harold Connor had readied himself before dawn by opening the curtains, grinding some decent coffee and sitting himself on the East-facing veranda. At the moment the sun rose from the horizon, he stood, took his third cigarette of the day from his mouth and watched the light spatter across the land. He wished, on days like these, that he had bought a house on the shore at Thorpeness, the white flat-roofed one that reminded him of New England. There he would have been able to see the sun emerge from the sea.
Connor looked at his watch and decided that it was too early to make any telephone calls. No. He would have to wait. It would not be easy but he would have to wait. But not for very long.
The telephone rang before six o’clock and stirred Connor from his thoughts. Quickly he rose from his chair on the veranda and made his way to the telephone handset in his den. As he picked up the receiver he became aware of how cold he was feeling. The night had been clear and it would be a little while before the sun’s light warmed the morning’s glory.
‘Hello?’ Connor asked. Even at that early hour he could not be sure of the caller’s identity. Only a handful of people knew the number and all of them were apt to rising so early. ‘Who is that?’ Connor sat on his scarred, worn sofa as the caller identified himself. ‘Oh, it’s you. What do you have to tell me?’
Pulling his cardigan tighter around him, Connor nestled into the sofa and listened. As the voice on the other end of the line continued uninterrupted, Connor pulled a notepad and pen towards him and started to jot down reminders. On occasion he asked the caller to clarify certain points and soon he had thirty comments written down in a list on the pad in front of him.
‘And you are absolutely sure of all of this?’ Although a question, there was no inflection in his voice. ‘Variables? I mean, is any of this likely to change at all?’ Again, more notes. This time with lines and arrows connecting some bullet points to others. ‘Now let me get this straight. Absolutely nobody from Whitehall has contacted Kyle Andrews. Is that right?’
When the answer came Connor scrawled a large question mark in the top right hand corner of the page. The voice on the telephone fell silent while Connor re-drew the question mark, making it darker and more disfigured with every fresh layer of ink.
‘No. Yes. I’m right here. Right here. Just thinking.’ The pause was short. ‘Can you believe that nobody has – I don’t know – paid a visit? It doesn’t make sense.’ He dropped the pen and searched the pockets of his cardigan for his cigarettes. He could not find them and so he returned to the veranda.
The sun had risen fully and seemed to fill the whole sky. Blue and pale yellow at the same time and a noticeable warmth had started its crawl across his beautiful garden. For a moment he panicked and had to check his watch. ‘When will the gardener arrive,’ he thought, but then relaxed when he saw that it was still before six o’ clock and remembered that he had at least two more hours of solitude.
‘Yes I’m still here. Look. I think that this whole TV thing has been completely overlooked because of what’s just happened in Algeria. Not surprisingly.’ He flipped open the cigarette box, pulled out a smoke and lit it in automatic actions.
‘We need to make sure that we create some interest in this from, you know, certain people. There’s no point otherwise.’ He listened. There were not many people in Harold Connor’s life who would dare to offer him advice, especially unsolicited advice. The morning caller was one of the few he would listen to.
‘No. No. You’re right. We have to come at this from an angle. Play one off against the other. Should be relatively easy because the leaders are as jumpy as hell at the moment. You’re right.’ He made more connections on the sheet of paper before him and he kept coming back to two words. No matter what the voice was saying, his own mind could not ignore those two words. That his caller had agreed with him confirmed his fears. This was the key.
The call ended quickly and with few niceties. They were not necessary and took up too much time. Connor remained on the veranda, the notepad on the small table and a dying cigarette hanging from his right hand.
With a swiftness that belied his age, he flicked away the cigarette and underlined those two words for the seventh time. This was the key.
With watery and failing eyes he looked through the digital directory on the telephone handset. He cursed his age and poor sight as he looked for a number.
Those few seconds could have been hours and then he found the number he needed. He pressed the green button before checking his watch to see that it was after six. It was no longer an indecent hour to telephone somebody.
After several rings the phone was answered. Connor did not have to introduce himself and opened the dialogue with one question. ‘Do you have the schedule?’ He grimaced at the answer. Immediately after ending the call he looked for another number and rang it straight away. ‘Hi, you’ve reached Nedges’ mobile. Leave a message. YoLo.’ Connor was familiar with the sound now and Benson Powell some time ago had explained that ‘YoLo’ was text speak for ‘You only live once’.
‘Benson, it’s me. I need to know how you are doing. We don’t have much time.’
He put the phone down, dropped the pen onto the pad and gingerly sat down at the table on the veranda. The treble of the morning birdsong was underscored by the deep bass of his heartbeat echoing through his throat. He was out of breath although he had taken no exercise. Connor knew that his blood pressure was too high and that he should avoid all stress. He knew that. But he felt a need to make things happen.
Once again his mind returned to those two words on his pad, underlined several times so that the paper curled around the ink marks. This was the key.
There was so much more to do, so many details to cover and so many variables that had to be changed to a predictable and manageable situation. But those two words represented the absolute crux of the whole plan. Control that key and everything else can be manipulated.
To Be Continued…
Power, control and manipulation are the key themes throughout this book which, I’ve recently been told, is as much a study of human behaviour as it is a fictional narrative. But ultimately, who is really manipulating who? Who is actually in control and who has the most to gain?
Are any of us really ever in control of our own destinies?
I’d love to know what you think, so please leave your thoughts on my Facebook Page . Be a part of the conversation!
Chapter Twenty-Four to be published next week.
Very best wishes,
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