Satan’s Rock

Part Twenty

Marionettes

Jeremy Piggott’s phone bleated piteously enough to make him answer it.

“Hi Jerry, its Sullivan.”

“Howard, how nice!   I thought you’d forgotten us.”

“Nothing to report, Jerry old thing; until now, at least.   Whole issue’s gone a bit stale, if you ask me – my prospective stepdaughter’s out of the picture….”

“That was a pun, I take it – since she created the bloody picture?”

“Oh very good!”

“What is our boy up to, then?”  Piggott asked:   “Exams and such?  Being ordinary?”

“Well yes, actually.”  Sullivan replied.  “Apart from the physical differences we spoke about last time – lads do grow around about his age, don’t they?  He’s picked up with this rather nice little girl (surname Walker, Lesley;  I’ve asked office to get some background) and they have a pretty warm thing going, I can tell you.   He took her to the house at Crowley yesterday, so he’s obviously still obsessed with the history issue…”

“Did they find anything?”

“I don’t know:  I’m curious about that.  I went over the place myself quickly afterwards and there’s something odd.  It’ll be in my report.  History wasn’t all they were researching, by the way.   A certain little girl will have paid a visit to a chemist’s this morning, I shouldn’t wonder.”

“Okay, send the photos – I’ll see if there’s anything in the gen. on this Walker girl.   Cartwright hasn’t been back to the rock, or met up with your girl?”

“Photos should be in your mailbox.   And no to both:  in fact, my young friend with the stepdaughter potential is still as mad as a cat with him: I doubt if they even speak.    Look, how much longer should we keep this up?   Melanie senior is spewing wedding bells whenever she opens her mouth, so it’s getting difficult to side-step, if you see what I mean?”

“Maybe for years.  Cartwright could be a sleeper, your Melanie girl may take us off on a different route?  I don’t know, perhaps it is time for a change.  I’ll keep you posted.”

“Right’o.  Just a thought, hm?   Take care, Jerry.”

The line closed, leaving Jeremy Piggott, British Secret Service, to ponder events in Levenport.  Howard Sullivan’s brief  had been to keep tabs upon Peter Cartwright, but the whole investigation had begun to look like a dead end.  Since his bureau had traced this boy; he whose printed image adorned the scrap of floating paper which saved a Senator’s life, surveillance had revealed little or nothing.  Yet a burning question remained:  why the picture?  A clue, a signpost to something more?

“Someone’s pulling your strings, Jerry old mate.” Piggott mused.  “You’re a bloody marionette, that’s what you are.”

            He dialled a number from the phone’s memory.   “George,”   He said when a voice answered.  “Levenport file.   I’m sending you some stuff on a family called Walker, focus the daughter.  Pictures follow.  Check it out.  Then I want a conference call tomorrow morning with anyone still on the case.  Circulate the appropriate memo, will you?”

Piggott replaced the ‘phone, settling down to an interrupted viewing of a television soap for which, were he quite honest, he had little regard.

In the meanwhile, returning from his day at Crowley, Peter Cartwright had to submit to some well-meaning interrogation by his mother and father.   Lena’s horror was limited initially to the state of his clothes.

“Well, you might as well throw those away.”

“I can’t!  They’re designer jeans!”

Bob, who knew both where Peter had been and who had been there with him, was concerned for different reasons; but he was wise enough not to say so.   There were questions he did not need to ask – the alterations in his son’s demeanor told him all he needed to know.

“Well, Peter my son, the Crowley place must have impressed you mightily, that’s all I can say.  He seems to have brought most of it back with him, doesn’t he, darling?”

Lena was fussing:  “Go up and run a bath.   And get those clothes off you, for heaven’s sake!  I’ll do what I can with them.”

There was an interlude while Peter went through the business of undressing, and Lena ran his bath for him, collecting his soiled clothes from outside his bedroom door.   She re-entered the kitchen, laden with these, to find her husband in reflective mood.

“Odd, I’d say.”

“What?”

“Well, I had a call from our novice Bishop today.  He asked about Peter again!  Again!  And I told him where Pete was going today.  Strange thing is, he seemed to know already.”

Lena frowned, “You’re imagining it,” she said.

Somewhat later on this same evening, Peter finally broke free of parental curiosity and bathing rituals for long enough to switch on his PC.    There was one email with an enclosure.  

Hi Peter:

You deal with this.   I can’t.

Melanie.

He opened the enclosure.  It read:

Hiya:

You don’t know me, or I you, so I’m hoping I can convince you I’m not some pervert by using a phrase that’ll mean something:  ‘ the stones are awake’, gettit? Because it’s vital that we meet.  

Here’s the plan.  For the weekend of 8th September you and Peter are going to stay with an old school friend, Mary Wilson, who’s moved to Mancheste.  Birthday?  House party?  You choose.    You’ll forget to take your mobiles, so you’ll be difficult to trace.   You and Peter can both use this same story – the pitch is that there will be six of you going.   That’s just in case you’ve got parents who worry (Sorry, but I don’t know your parents!).

 Train tickets to Manchester for you both on the reference number below.   You’ll be met at Piccadilly, and measures taken to see you aren’t followed.

  Look, this is for real.  Keep it between yourselves.   We believe you are being watched, so be careful.   I know how iffy this looks but if you travel together and if I add that Vince Harper gave me your email I hope that will be enough to persuade you.

 Bung this in your trash straight away.  It’s got a little gizzy all its own to take care of it from there.   Then wipe your history and we should be safe enough.

PS.  If your parents get suspicious or I haven’t earned your trust,  don’t worry – we’ll set up something else.   Remember, no mobiles.   See you soon!

The mail concluded with ticket references.   There was no signature.

Peter thought for a moment, and then sent to Melanie:. 

 “I’ll go.  Are you coming?” 

He waited for a reply, that night and the next day.   Nothing came.

#

These early days of September were the countdown days, last precious remnants of the long summer break.   Lesley and Peter spent as much of this time as they could together, although it was littered with tedious bouts of revision.  For light relief Lesley practised on an acoustic guitar, melodically enough to inspire Peter to join in with vocals until he lost the key so entirely she made him promise to stick to his intended mathematics-based career choices. For most of the time they could work in each other’s company:  their disagreements were rare.

Peter dwelt less and less upon thoughts of Melanie in these days.  He was loyal to his friendship with her, even a little guilty at allowing Lesley to eclipse her so completely, but he could not relate to her if she wanted no contact with him, and the silence was thunderous.    So he went on with the business of preparing for his final year with fewer backward glances than he might.  And he was taken by surprise when Lesley gave him the news.

“Melanie’s gone.”

They had broken from studies for a morning coffee at Hennik’s.

“What?”   Peter could not help a reaction:  “How do you mean, ‘gone’?”

“Like – gone – gone away.   To live with some relation or another up-country, I think.  She’s changed to another college.  She won’t be back next term, for exams or anything.”

Lesley studied Peter’s face, trying to suppress the tiny lump which kept coming back into her throat:   “You still fancy her, don’t you?”

He came to himself.  “No.”  He said, rather too quickly.  “No, I don’t.   I never – I mean we never…..we were just friends, Les.  But I hoped we still would be, you know?”   

There was a wisp of betrayal in his girlfriend’s eyes.   “No.”  Peter repeated more carefully.  “I could never feel for Melanie the way I feel about you.  I’ve never felt this way about anyone before.  You know that really, don’t you?”

Lesley tried to tell herself she did.

“It was just a shock.”  Peter reasoned.   “I mean, why?   I know she didn’t get on with that Howard bloke who lives with her mum, but surely…”

“Exam year?   Has to be a good reason, doesn’t there?   The reason is you, Peter dear; or rather, us.”

‘This honesty thing is out of control,’ Lesley thought to herself: ‘What are you doing to me, Petey?  I’m turning honourable!’   She said:   “Mel may just have been a friend to you; but to her you meant a great deal more. You were, like, the love of her life?   Oh, don’t look like that!  I’m sure of it.   I shouldn’t say these things to you, but I can’t help it.  Mel is – or was – my friend too, yeah?”

Wisely, Peter made no reply.  He could not tell Lesley what he believed to be the real reason for Melanie’s departure, any more than he could admit to the bereft feeling now clawing at his heart.   Okay, so maybe there had been something deeper there, once, but what use was there in revisiting it now?   Melanie had gone; not in flight from a lost love, but running from the inevitable. Like his, her life had changed irreversibly:  that email had to have been the catalyst.   She did not want to be found so easily again.

Lesley meanwhile knew, despite Peter’s pretense, that he thought a lot of Melanie; that they had been more than simply friends.   She was also aware of a mystery in Peter, a part of him she had yet to see.  There were no deliberate lies or subterfuges, no evasive moments or avoided looks:  but he had something within him that was hidden.     All of which would not matter, if her relationship with him had not become, that afternoon at Crowley, at once so simply definable and so complicated:  she was very young, but she was also very much in love.

“Don’t you dump me, Peter.”  She warned him:  “Not ever, do you hear?”

Hidden away in her bed room under the guise of shared homework, Peter did his best to reassure her he would not.

#

Lena Cartwright led a chaotic life: this was the construction she always placed upon her ‘higgledy-piggledy days’ as she called them, when anyone asked why she seemed to be flying about for no reason.   Should any of her friends try to pin her down to an itinerary, or to delicately suggest that, for all her rapidity, she was actually going nowhere and doing very little, she was inclined to fall back upon ‘her art’ and given to explaining that artists don’t think in the same way as other people.   These were the only times when she would refer to ‘her art’ at all:  for the most part she kept her paintings very close to herself.  They were personal to her, the hours she spent in her studio, and very carefully unrecorded.  Production was slow.   A sherry bottle was usually present.

This is not to say Lena was lacking in work or commitment: she had plenty of both.  Long ago, she had forfeited all pretensions to “High Art”.   Her talent, she knew, would never rival Rauschenberg or Hockney, she had no great message to leave to the world.   But that did not inhibit a modestly profitable stream of local commissions, seaside views alongside sketched portraits and a smattering of graphics.   Besides, she had, as she put it to anyone who would listen, ‘a vicar to run’,  in her role as a vicar’s wife.   Altogether these things, generally, filled her day from eight o’clock breakfast to eight o’clock supper. 

Lena exercised one strict discipline; she would never drink in the presence of her only son.   These days Peter was usually somewhere other than home, he touched base more and more rarely, so the sherry bottle was wont to stray into the kitchen as well as her studio, guaranteeing her affability for the evening to come.   On this particular Saturday,  Peter being elsewhere, the mistress of the house could be found doing a little desultory baking when a knock on her kitchen door announced a very distraught Karen Fenton.

 “I didn’t know where else to go.”  Karen said.   Her face quivered on the brink of collapse.

“Come in, love.  Come in.”     Lena shepherded her friend hurriedly indoors.   As soon as the door was closed, Karen broke down.  

“Oh god, I had to come to you – I’m so sorry, I didn’t want to do this!”

Clutching Karen’s sobbing shoulders in her arms; Lena guided her into her kitchen.    “Sit down and I’ll make some coffee – or maybe you’d like something stronger?   What’s happened?”

“Melanie.”   Karen said simply:   “Has disappeared.”

This was not a Richter-scale shock.   Peter had already told his mother that Melanie had ‘left town’.

“She’s moved to Saurborough, hasn’t she?  To your sister’s?”   Solicitously pouring  solace from the sherry bottle, Lena presumed this was the cause of Karen’s misery. 

“You know she and Peter aren’t close anymore?”  Karen sniped,  “Lesley Walker, now, isn’t it?    A  focussed young lady is Lesley.  She sets out her stall really rather well, doesn’t she?  But the let-down wasn’t exactly gentle, Lena dear, was it?   No ‘Let’s still be friends’; no ‘Let’s still see each other, just play it cool for a while’?”

Lena would not be goaded.   It was the old vicar’s wife thing again.  She knew how to resist such crudely cast bait.  “Ah, the young!”  She went for a fatalistic sigh and very nearly made it:   “My lord, it’s hard to believe we were like that once.  Karen, I’m deeply sorry for the hurt Peter caused her, you know that. But we can’t live their lives for them, darling!”

 “No.   No, we can’t I suppose.   And Peter wasn’t the only reason.  Apparently – Christ, I didn’t know – she really hates Howard!  Hates him!  I suppose that happens, doesn’t it?  I mean, just because I love him, it doesn’t mean….”   Karen accepted the proffered glass, pausing to drink.  “She wanted to get away:  start fresh somewhere. I said it was a shame, with it being exam year, and everything, but it seemed for the best.”

Lena listened as her friend recounted how Melanie had left to stay with Bianca, Karen’s younger sister.    Bianca was no stranger to her niece and at last Melanie appeared happy – happier than she had been for some time.   Then the hammer fell.

“She sent me a text.”  Karen said:   “She never texts to me.  Everyone else, yes, but when she wants to tell me anything she likes to talk, you know?   But then, suddenly, a text!    It just said that she was well and I wasn’t to worry.   All day after that I went about trying to tell myself there was nothing wrong.   It was half-past seven when Bianca called.  She hadn’t come home.  Oh, Lena!

“This was yesterday.   No-one’s seen her since yesterday morning.  The police found her ‘phone – it was still switched on – in a waste-bin in bloody Thorngate.  That’s about thirty miles away!  Someone’s got her, I know they have!”

Melanie had left her aunt’s house early, determined to take advantage of some September sun.   She had declared her intention to go for a walk on the beach, but had, in fact, been last seen heading for the fish-dock further up the seafront.   The police?    An officer had visited Karen this morning.    Oh, they were doing everything they could, but really, apart from circulating her description, what else could they do?

Where was Howard?

He’d gone up there, to Saurborough; rushed off early that morning – strange, though, that he hadn’t contacted Bianca as expected. 

“He hasn’t called me either.”   Karen managed a wry smile:   “I suppose it’s possible I’ve lost both of them….”

The sherry bottle had joined them at the table, a centre-piece of telling significance, its level sinking like sand in an hour-glass.    In the dwindling light of a late summer afternoon the two women faced each other both through it and around it, and the words hung unsaid for a long, long time.

“Lena,”   Eventually breaking the silence, Karen spoke carefully; “The policewoman who came to see me said violent abductions are more likely to happen at the end of the day, you know, after dark?   Disappearances in the morning, well, sometimes there’s a plan, like running away with somebody, or something?   It got me thinking.”    She drained her glass.  “Lena, where’s Peter?”

Karen’s words cut through the gentle gauze of sympathy like a woodman’s axe.  Lena bridled:   “Good god what do you mean?”

“I mean, is he here?”

“Well, no.  He’s away for the weekend.  An old schoolmate is having a bit of a birthday and he’s staying over,”   Lena was brusque;  “My stars, Karen, just now you were censuring him for dumping Melanie, are you now saying he’s abducted her?   That’s nonsense, surely!”

“Am I the only one who’s noticed?  There’s something between Peter and my daughter – something that has nothing to do with relationships.  It’s a sort of connection which I know is there but I can’t put my finger on.  Don’t tell me you haven’t seen it?”

 “Well,”  Lena scrabbled her mobile ‘phone from the worktop beside the ‘fridge and tapped Peter’s speed-dial angrily;  “We’ll find out!”.

In the pause which followed, Karen said:    “You don’t believe they could be together?   I do.   I’ve tried to add up the possibilities, and that is one.  It really is one.”

Faintly, from above them in Peter’s bedroom, they both heard Peter’s ring tone. 

© Frederick Anderson 2021.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.

Image Credits: Header Image: Sagar Dani from Unsplash

Bottle: Vinotecarium from Pixabay

This ‘Ere Eupo

Now, my Darlin’s, ‘tis like this.

Other year we had a vote, see?  ‘Twas like ever’body got to ‘ave a say about how us felt about the immigrants an’ our sovinty an’ that, an’ we all turned out and we told ‘em, no uncertain fashion, like, what us thought we ought to do.  Leave that there European Onion thing from the Brussels!   Yes!   An’ it turns out we didn’t want nothin’ more to do wi’ no onions, and ‘ow we wanted to go out by ourselves.  Aye!

Well, turns out we were wrong, see?   ‘Cause all these ‘ere thinkin’ people says we should stay in, an’ ‘ow we faces certain ruin if we don’t.   An’ we says to ‘em, see, it was a Democratic Decishun, but they say that don’t count, ‘cause apparently they won’t get so much money if us makes ‘em leave, and they won’t be able to live in they there nice London apartments no more, or travel around this ‘ere Eurpoe to get better jobs, and stuff like that.   They says we bin lied ter, an’ un-screw-pew-lus people, they led us up the garden path, an’ that.  We jus’ voted ‘cause of the immigration, an’that.

So they goin’ to change wha’ we want to what they want, and that’s on’y fair, ‘cause we’m jus’ ord’nary people, ands not great and good like they is – are.

So, seems to me that all these ‘ere clever people, they on’y peddle that there Democracy to us when they want us to see things their way; and if we don’t, then they got to twist it about until we do.  Lawyers, and Ac’demics, and that, they knows what’s good for us, don’ they?  An’ learned people, they thinks we’re too thick to unnerstand ‘bout Eurpoe.

See, I voted ‘cause I didn’t think that there Onion was goin’ anywhere.  I thought that my country is what serves me a livin’ an’ not none of the Brussels.   They’m got strange money that they keeps printin’ with no vaalue behind un, they keeps poorer countries strugglin’ for a livin’ an’ it’s not long afore we becomes one of those, if we stays in, like.   They’m sittin’ there with smirks of their faces, takin’  our money and givin’ us less back than what they takes; they makes rules we can’t keep up with, and my sheep dip’s more ‘ficient at keepin’ out the nasties than their imm’gration pol’cy.  They destroyed our fishin’ ind’stry, they put the cost of livin’ up for all of us an’ they make us tax things we shouldn’t, don’t they?  And we can’t take so many people!    Now, that’s not racist, nor nothin’, but us as dooty to house and keep the people we already got.  It makes sense, see?  If my neighbour, he don’t put no fence up,  his sheep gets all mixed up wi’ mine an’ they overstocks my land.  Seems simple sense to me.

But there.  I don’t know nothin’.   I’m jus’ the peasant who’s ‘pinions you thinks you can ignore – I’ll jus’ tug my forelock as I passes you by and you can try to forget it’s me who does all the work, who keeps your nicely feathered beds stuffed an’ makes the country run.

Let’s drop the accent now…

So, overturn the will of the people with your contrived arguments and Machiavellian tactics.   Buy your politicians and your expensive lawyers to find a case for you to make.  But if you do, and you succeed in controverting the will of the people you will finally write the obituary to democracy, and prove the lie you have been trying to disguise for so many years.

And I, at least, will stand against you, tooth and claw.  And if you succeed I will never bother to mark a ballot paper again.  I wonder if anyone will?

Let’s Discuss Nationalism.

 

Particularly, let’s talk about Britain and its relationship, or its lack of a relationship, with the European Union.

Examine the validity of arguments for a United Europe, a ‘New World Order’ and its associated myths.  Internationalism is an ideology, not a possibility.  Discuss.

I am an English national who voted to leave the European Union.   This will not be a surprise, given my opening comments.  That I am an older voter is self-evident, that I am therefore by definition senile is a judgement I would hotly contest.

Am I nostalgic?   No.

Do I want to return to days of Empire and solitary glory?  No.

Before the Treaty of Maastricht and its love child, the Treaty of Amsterdam, I had hopes of becoming a ‘European’.  I declared myself as such – I gladly espoused the cause of world unity and I saw the promise of a slow, careful expansion of common interest as nations across the continent joined hands.

What happened?  A hijacking.  Overnight, the bureaucrats moved in; unelected, and with no mandate from the majority in the member states.  Overnight, almost, the original twelve member states became 27; rapidly and without planning.

I am a sentient human being who recognises that:

a:  political structures headed by bureaucrats do not work;  and

b:  A ponderous union of 27 countries many of whom have virulently hated each other’s guts for centuries, who share no common language, cannot be patched into a cohesive whole by anything short of a miracle, and miracles don’t happen.

I haven’t won the lottery yet, either.  The odds stack up about the same.

The dream died.  It died at Maastricht.

So…

Do I want to live in an independent, dynamic Britain, free to take its place in the world?  Yes.

Do I want to see the people of Britain determine the future of Britain?  Yes.

On a conspicuously memorable date in 2016 the government of the day, conscious of a steadily rising swell of discontent, decided to actually ask the voters – real people – if they wanted to leave this bloated, federalist EU.  They said yes.

It was an unexpected answer – it sent shock-waves through the pseudo-intellectual metropolitan elite and shook the putty from the windows of those who actually score from having no boundaries between nations, the big multi-national corporations, the financial institutions, the academic community, and the criminals.

So accustomed have our politicians become to manipulating public opinion, no-one in the ‘Westminster Bubble’ believed that an outbreak of common sense could happen.  Once they realised it had happened, they set in motion the biggest campaign of mud-slinging and deliberate scare tactics I think the British public has ever seen.

They galvanised a sympathetic media into action.  They compiled a small dictionary of gloom, utilising terms like ‘falling off a cliff’, ‘walking blindfolded into catastrophe’ and ‘the disaster of a no deal’ and fed it to the press pack.

A BBC reporter or presenter could no more omit a deleterious ‘Brexit’ reference from a news report or general interest item than they could appear in the month before Remembrance Day without sporting a poppy.

The Prime Minister managed to shelve the whole thing for nearly two years and then set in motion a sort of wheedling apology that masqueraded as a negotiating approach to the EU bureaucrats – a tactic meant to imply that the ‘leave’ voters were either deluded old fools or naughty children who hadn’t grown up.

The harsh truth I would wish you to consider is:

Those whose weeping and wailing is the loudest heard are those who represent the fatted calf of corporate capitalism, the big bonus guys, the golden parachute guys.  The industrialist who charges you thirty K for a car he made for 3.5 K, the multi-national producer of the incredibly shrinking candy bar, the purveyor of lorry-loads of sheep on three-days-long journeys from nation to nation in conditions that are conspicuously cruel and will only end in their slaughter.

The point I want to drive home is one for the little guys, because crushed beneath the thirty-stone arses of these corporate slobs is a fresh, vital queue of business wannabes who, given their chance to shine, can secure the future of this vibrant land three times over.   Britain has the ideas, the resources and the sheer talent to succeed far, far better on its own than as the member of an asset-stripping club like the EU.

We have so much to offer the world, and a world ready to listen to what we say.  We have the right to enact our own laws, to fish our own waters, to retain tax owed on British sales, and not have it leeched from our system by Luxembourg, or Dublin.

I beg you to think, as I have thought, about where your loyalties lie.  Sadly, all Europe ever wanted to do with our country was raid it for its natural advantages.   The truth of the European Federal State is that it is a leaking, institutionally corrupted hulk desperately in search of a sandbank to stop it from disappearing beneath the waves.

Leave them to it.  Become British and become proud of who you are.  Demand that those for whom you voted do your will.

Just leave.