I have a small job
The trek from the car, along the red carpet, the flashing cameras, and reporters with microphones shoved in faces, was the longest 50 yards I’d ever taken.
To say I’d prefer to negotiate a minefield was an understatement. She was polite, smiling, answering questions, and doing the red-carpet thing if that was what it was.
I remained in the background adopting the bodyguard stance, not that of a partner or escort, guiding her on at the appropriate moment, and they left me alone.
Bodyguards were not news just an accouterment to the rich and famous. I was glad that I fitted into the suit and didn’t look out of place.
On the other side, in that magical land of peace and quiet, an area that was reserved for the VIPs, I got a momentary look into a world that few were ever privy to.
Being a Royal Command Performance, I also got the unexpected surprise of being introduced to members of the Royal family, scary stuff indeed. I’d only ever seen them in the papers and on TV, and oddly never in a good light.
How different they were in person.
Rodby seemed ill at ease, Martha in her element, and the countess took it all in her stride, perhaps showing that she was born into that life rather than acquiring it.
I’d found a quiet corner and Rodby it seemed had too.
“Another of your white lies comes home to roost. You ask why I won’t come back, and this evening is all the proof you need.”
“It wasn’t anything to do with me. Orders from above.”
“You don’t answer to anyone.”
The wry grin said otherwise. “We all have our masters.”
“Who is she?”
At the moment she was across the room deep in conversation with one of the Royal party.
“A woman with a problem.”
And then it all became clear. “This is low, even for you.”
“Not me. This is Martha’s doing. She has this unaccountable belief in you, which is surprising since I’ve never told her what it was you used to do.”
“And yet here we are.”
I was going to make a point of talking to Martha if only to dispute his account. He could have chosen any one of a hundred more qualified people and yet here I was. I had to believe it was not Martha’s intention for me to be here other than as a prospect for her friend the Countess.
The accompanying sigh was due to Martha making her way over to us. His brief moment of solitude was over. I doubted Rodby had any time for what he called schmoozing, nor would he suffer the protection types that were in abundance in that room. It reeked of wealth and privilege.
“There you two are.”
“I don’t like crowds,” I said. At least I had a viable excuse.
She glared at Rodby. “Go and make yourself amenable. I want a moment with Evan.”
His dismay was complete. I could tell he would rather face down a horde of enemy soldiers than face those people currently in the room.
After a moment where he might have considered an entirely different scenario, he thought the better of it and meandered off in the direction of the bar.
This was a Rodby I’d never seen before.
“Now, what are you doing with yourself these days? Alan tells me you are adrift now Violetta is not there.”
How kind of him to say so. Had I completely misjudged him, and this was going to be his pitch, by someone he knew I couldn’t say no to.
“I would not call in exactly adrift.”
“You know what I mean. I’m sorry that I haven’t managed to catch up but I’ve been working on getting him to decide it’s time to retire.”
“I’m not sure what I could do to help you in that regard.”
“You don’t have to. I have something else I would like you to do for me. Heidi is one of those formidable forces that have the ability to take on the world, and beat it, but not when it comes to handling problems of her own. The count, God bless him, used to take care of all that nonsense, but he’s not here, so, given what Alan has told me about you, nothing but glowing references I have to say, could you help her out?”
What could Rodby possibly say about me when he was sworn to secrecy? In fact, why would he mention me to Martha above anyone else? I was just an errand boy in terms of acquaintances.
“What exactly did he say?”
“Nothing of any importance other than to say you were a good man in a crisis.” She smiled. “And we both know that could mean almost anything from catching a mug of coffee before it splashed over a tetchy diplomat to saving a pilotless plane about to crash into a mountain. What I’m asking will not involve either of these scenarios or at least I hope not.” Perhaps she just saw my expression, a mixture of curiosity and dismay. “I’m not selling this very well, am I?”
“I’m not sure what you’re trying to sell.”
The bell rang to signify the audience to head for their seats, or in our case, a box. Opera was so much better from the boxes, particularly when those below looked up in awe, expecting to see a celebrity.
“We’re having drinks after the opera. We’ll talk more then.”
Rodby was walking over with the countess.
The look on his face was priceless
© Charles Heath 2022