This week’s #writephoto prompt is
Guido Dishwater sank back into the soft yielding seats of the Daimler and closed his eyes. Five minutes of peace and then they could finish this. He was getting a bit long in the tooth. He opened his eyes and met the sympathetic gaze in the rear view mirror. ‘You know how many I’ve counselled, Fret?’
Fret, the long suffering driver to the great and not so good shook his head.
‘You don’t like talking do you, Fret?’
‘Worried about being recorded?’
Guido pulled himself into a better posture. ‘Seven. Seven Prime Ministers, seven failed careers. They all think they were unlucky, you know? All believe they had more to give. Silly sods.’ The factotum glanced towards the toilet block, briefly wondering if this one was peeing, crying or punching the living daylights out of his security detail. ‘They all see themselves as indispensable. It’s a kind of Louis XIV mentality. L’Etat, c’est moi. Once that level of arrogance sets in, they’re toast.’ He sat up straighter. ‘Here he comes. Looks like tears. Better when they’re angry.’ He reached for the door handle and opened the door.
Norris Bojangles huffed into the empty seat and mimicked Guido’s slump. ‘Bloody ridiculous, Guido. A charade.’
Guido waited. Both men knew they couldn’t avoid this trip. Every ex-PM took it. It was set out in the small blue book given to a PM on day one in office. Usually, given the euphoria of winning the election and visiting the Queen they never looked at it and even if they had, it was unlikely they’d read all the appendices, expecting their PPS’s to undertake that role. What only the most astute understood was the PPS couldn’t read the book. Only thr PM him or herself. And of the seven he’d counselled one had read the appendix and even they hadn’t understood what the ‘final debrief’ actually entailed.
‘Alright Fret. Time to finish this.’ Guido gave it a few minutes until they were back on the motorway before he next spoke. ‘In about thirty minutes we will reach Sevenstoke Abbey. It’s been part of the Crown estate since the sixteenth century and is only used for these occasions.’
‘And what happens?’ Five of the seven had sounded tired or bored and Norris was one of them.
‘It’s a short explanation of how you, as an ex-PM are to behave. It sets out the options.’
‘How I’m to behave?’ All seven had sounded affronted. ‘Who are you to tell me how to behave?’
‘Indeed, it is far above my pay grade, sir. I am merely a conduit. Shortly we will leave the motorway and you will notice the police outriders will leave us. Do not worry. At all times we will be monitored.’
‘Marvellous.’ Sarcasm was the default of four. Two had been anxious and one angry. As all of them found, eventually, they’d have to get used to the reality of things like traffic lights again, having sailed through such mundane distractions while in office.
‘What then?’ Oddly only two had asked that. The others were either worried or blithely indifferent to what came next.
‘We enter the grounds and head for Merlin’s Glade.’
‘Oh super. Do I get to play with the pixies?’ Guido gave Norris a quick side eye; he was staring morosely out at the countryside. He was the first to take the mick out of the name. Maybe that’s why he’d gone so big on his trip to Legoland that time…
‘That where I will leave you for the next phase.’
Guido felt rather than saw Norris turn to face him.
‘You’ll leave me in a Glade? In March? In the middle of bloody nowhere?’ More sarcasm. That wasn’t unusual. They weren’t used to this level of uncertainty.
Guido didn’t reply and eventually Norris went back to his contemplation of the gloaming as dusk fell. After another twenty minutes they slowed, pulled through the large black wrought iron gates and turn sharp left down a rutted track. Finally the car emerged from the trees and pulled into the small gravelled parking space. Guido quickly climbed out and hurried to the far side, pulling open the passenger door. ‘I’m afraid there are no more questions at this point.’ He waited until Norris was beside him and then carefully pointed down the narrow grassed gully. ‘You go through that opening, sir. We will be here when you’re done.’
‘Wha…?’ Then Norris fell quiet, as if he’d thought better of asking his question. All seven had been like that. Once their gazes locked onto the opening they we’re drawn forward as if on a string. Guido had never understood why that happened to them and not him, though he suspected it was because he’d been chosen for his role by reason of his patrician manner, discretion, unquestioning loyalty and, especially his inability to be hypnotised. He assumed Fret was the same.
Norris Bojangles had been PM for three years and hung out to dry by his own party. As he straightened his back and walked carefully down the slope, Fret joined Guido. He pulled out a packet of Capstan and offered the driver one which he accepted with a nod. ‘Fancy a small bet?’
Fret cupped his hands as he lit his cigarette before offering a light to Guido. ‘Twenty.’
Guido sucked greedily on the tobacco. ‘Mr Bojangles is a bit of a curiosity, methinks. I’ll give it thirty-five.’
In the end, it was seventeen. As the ex-PM strode back through the arch and began t9 ascend the slope, Guido slipped a twenty to Fret. They both returned to their seats.
Norris Bojangles yanked open the door and slipped easily into the seat. All the anxiety, anger and frustration of an hour ago had disappeared. He bounced on his hands which he had slipped under his thighs. ‘That was just….’ His eyes gleaned with the forensic beam of the zealot.
Guido smiled and leant across, jabbing a hypodermic needle into his thigh. ‘A quick shut eye, sir, and then the rest of your life is yours.’
As the last of the daylight gave way to night, the beam of the headlight cut though the gloom. Guido held his breath as he watched the two black clad figures carry the body bag up the slope and away. He assumed they’d cremate it somewhere on the estate. Not that he’d ever ask.
‘Highgate, Fret. Let’s get Norris 2.0 back home. He’s got creat things to do.’
As the car purred its way at an easy seventy-two miles per hour back towards London, Guido allowed himself a moment of speculation as to who it was sitting next to him. The actually Norris, a lookalike or some sort of AI? Of course Guido Dishwater would never ask. Somehow it seemed likely, if he did, he’d not be in a job for long.