Surely there’s a better way… – a short story

Surely there’s a better way…

When you have secrets, sometimes it’s very hard to hide them from others.

It was something Henry had to do since the day he could speak. The fact that his parents had been murdered because of their profession, something his grandfather told him was akin to ‘working for the government’. The fact that he was from a very wealthy and influential family. The fact he was heir to a fortune. The fact he was anything other than just another boy, who grew up to be just another man.

His whole life, to this point, had been ‘managed’ so that no one, other than a selected few chosen by his grandfather, knew who he was, or what he represented. And more to the point, he had been told to just live his life like any other of his age.

Yes, he went to a private school, but it wasn’t an exclusive one, yes he went to university, but he had got into Oxford on his own merit, and, yes, he was smart, smart enough to create his own business, and make a handsome income from it. And no, he never drew upon the stipend he had been granted by his parents will, so it just gathered dust in the bank.

Henry was an only child, and to a certain extent, introverted. It was a shyness that his grandfather knew existed in his son, Henry’s father. It could be an asset or it could be a liability. With Henry’s father, it had been an asset, a means by which many had misunderstood him. It might even serve him well for the next phase of his life.

Today, Henry was meeting his grandfather at Speaker’s Corner at Hyde Park, and an unusual meeting place because in the past it had always been at his grandfather’s club. At his grandfather’s request, he had undertaken a three-year program, one that his father had, and his father before him, and a pre-requisite for a profession that would be explained to him.

And it was all because Henry said he was bored. The business he’d built could run without him, his attempts at relationships with various girls and women hadn’t quite achieved what he was looking for, even though he had no idea what he was looking for, and, quite frankly, he told his grandfather, he needed something more exciting.

It was, he’d been told, the way of the MacCallisters. Ever since the British tried to put down the Scots.

Henry was listening to a rather animated man preaching the word of the Lord, but he was not sure what Lord that was. Anything he quoted from the bible resembled nothing he had read and remembered. Perhaps the man was on drugs.

Two or three people stopped, listened for a minute or two, shook their heads, some even laughed, and moved on.

“It’s the last bastion of freedom of speech, though I can say this man is not about to gather an army of insurrectionists any time soon. Let’s walk.”

His grandfather was getting old, and walking was getting more and more difficult. More scotch was needed, he had told Henry, to ward of the evils of arthritis. And, he added, ‘I should have had a less devil may care attitude when he was younger.’

It was a slow amble to the serpentine, which, being a bright sunny day, if not a little chilly, was alive with people.

He waited until his grandfather spoke. One lesson he had learned, speak when you’re spoken to, and if you’ve got nothing to say, best to remain silent.

“I have found a job you might like to have a go at. Nothing difficult, mind you, but a perhaps, at times, hard work. I think you’d be good at it.”

“Is that meant to be a hint, and I have to guess?”

“I think you’re smart enough to know what it might be yourself, young Henry.”

I think I did too. Everything I’d been doing over the last three years led me to believe I’d been training to walk in my father’s footsteps. It was with the Army, and I had imagined my father had been a soldier, though I’d never seen him in a uniform. But my Grandfather had said he worked for the government, so I wondered if that might be some sort of policeman, or some sort of internal agent, like MI6. It had not been boring, and the exercises had been ‘interesting’, but no one had said what the end result of this training might be; in fact no one had said who they were.

“Something hush, hush as the saying goes.”

We had gone about fifty yards and reached a cross path. As we did, a youngish woman dressed in leather appeared and walked towards us.

“I’d like you to meet a friend of mine, Henry. Her name is Marion, though I suggest you don’t call her that.”

She smiled. “Call me Mary. There’s only one person in the whole world that would dare call me that, and he’s standing here. Your grandfather has spoken a lot about you.”

Henry’s first impression; she had been to the training school he had. He could see it in her manner, and in the way she scanned the area, even though it didn’t look like she was. He’d been doing it himself, and he had seen her earlier. What made her stand out, she didn’t have a bag like all the other women.

“I hope it was good, not bad.”

“You have no bad traits?”

“Everyone had bad traits. You’ll just have to get to know me if you want to know what they are.”

“Well,” my grandfather said, “enough chit chat. Mary has a task, and she needs a little help. I thought you might want to join her.”

“Doing what?”

“She’ll explain it on the way. When it’s done, come and see me.” With that, a hug from Mary, and a handshake from his grandson, he turned and walked back the way they had come earlier.
“So,” Henry asked, “What’s the job?”

“I have to pick up a computer.”

“That doesn’t sound like something you would need help with.” In fact, if he was right in his assessment of her, he was the last person she needed, if at all. She looked to him as if she could handle anything.

“It’s one of those just in case situations.”

They walked a circuitous route back to Park Lane and crossed both roads, up Deanery Street, left where Tilney Street veered off, and then a short distance to Deanery Mews. Henry noted this was an area with a lot of expensive real estate, and scattered Embassies. If he was not mistaken, the Dorchester Hotel wasn’t far away.

Walking down the mews seemed to Henry to be walking into a trap. When he looked back towards Deanery Street he thought he saw two men position themselves, not quick enough to prevent him from getting a glimpse of them.

“You do realize that getting back out of here could be a problem.”

“It’s why I asked for help. Just in case.”

No visible sign of fear, or of what the consequences might be if this went south. Perhaps his grandfather had considered this a test. But what sort of test?

They reached the end, and, just around the corner, a van was parked with what Henry assumed was the driver, standing by the open driver’s door, smoking a cigarette.

Mary stopped about ten feet away from him. “Have you got the package?”

He reached inside the car and lifted up a computer case. There didn’t necessarily have to be a computer in it. I looked up and around. It was a good place for a meeting. No witnesses. But there were CCTV cameras. I wondered if they were working.

The man tossed the bag back in the car. “Have you got the money?”

She held up her phone. “Just need the bank account details.”

“OK. Just step over here and let’s get this done.”

She moved closer, and in a flash, he had grabbed her, holding her by the neck with a gun to her head. The two men Henry thought he’d seen at the top of the mews were now within sight, and both had guns trained on him. A trap, indeed.

“What do you want?” Henry asked.

“Tell your boss the price just doubled. Two million. You’ve got five minutes.”

I shook my head, not to clear the cobwebs, but to calm down and think rationally.

Talk first. “Surely there’s a better way to do this. You don’t need to hold a gun to her head.”

I held my hands out just to show I wasn’t a threat.

“No, probably not.” He released his grip and lowered the gun.

A very, very bad mistake.


© Charles Heath 2020-2021

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