Chapter One - An Unexpected Chauffeur
I left that horrible home for the last time and walked out to the waiting limousine. The driver stepped out to open the door for me but then I kind of froze when I noticed that there was something funny about him. I mean, he was wearing this smart chauffeur’s uniform with a grey suit and a cap and stuff but…
It was the same man who had done the rose delivery thing for me.
“Eh up, Rose!” he said with this dirty great smile when he saw that I’d noticed. “Well spotted. Now get in the car, love, or Buttercup - and if I know him, he’ll have you calling him ‘Master’ - has promised to tell me all about your ‘hypocritical unhealthy interest’.”
I mean… the thought of anyone else finding out about that had me… like… scurrying into his car before I could even work out that it was basically just some sort of password type thing.
And, before my brain could start working again, he’d leaned into the car and clipped this ridiculously complicated seat belt thing on me - kind of like a racing car or something. Then he shut my door, stepped round and, within moments, the car was moving.
“Get ready for some high level evasive driving,” he told me.
“Wha….” I sort of burbled.
“You’ve got a couple of people following you,” the driver person explained. “I’ve been asked to lose them.”
“Wha….” I repeated.
“Somebody… probably plod… is following you. I’m going to get rid of them for you.”
“Plod?” I asked, my curiosity sort of overwhelming my panic.
“A fair question and one that, in recent days, ’as been much on my mind,” he answered… and I could tell he was sort of quoting from something by the funny way he said it.
“I sort of thought something was going on,” I said, remembering all those social worker interviews and the threats and things.
“That’s just perfectly normal paranoia,” he replied, and I sort of knew it was another one of his quote things. “Actually, you might just be right. For some reason, plod wasn’t going through the normal channels for this so they’ve been using some pretty low grade flat-foots. Believe me, if I’d been following you, you’d never’ve noticed a thing.”
“I’m going to let Buttercup tell you all about that one, if you don’t mind,” he said. “In fact, I’m going to let him tell you about it whether you mind or not.” He glanced back and gave me a bit of a grin to let me know that he wasn’t really being nasty.”
“Get ready!” he told me. He sort of sat up straighter and his eyes started to flash in all directions at once… it was kind of as if he’d turned into a totally different person… much more… like… alert… intense.
We were on a bit of a dual carriageway thing and, with some clever timing of his overtaking, he basically shuffled our car just in front of this dirty great articulated lorry just before we got to a slip road and then, at the very last minute, he pulled off, sort of chopping across the painted chevron bits. Looking back to the main carriageway, there was a car carrying on along it, with the driver and passenger both staring at us. “One down,” my driver said and gave the people in the other car a funny bit of a salute type thing.
There was a roundabout at the end of the slip road and, again with some careful timing, he popped out on to it so that the car behind us couldn’t follow straight away - and, by the time we left the roundabout, there were a couple of cars between us and the one that was following us. He sort of slowed down when the next set of traffic lights turned to amber… but then I was totally squished back in my seat as he really accelerated to dash us through the junction before the lights turned to red.
“That wasn’t too tricky,” he said but he was still doing his totally alert thing as he set about doing some… like… serious driving… chopping down back alleys and through supermarket car parks then through a housing estate. He wasn’t speeding or drawing attention to himself or anything… but he wasn’t exactly hanging around either. Then he sort of nosed his way down something that looked a bit like a footpath and we found ourselves on a pretty little country road.
“You’ve done this sort of thing before,” I said quietly when I saw that he’d gone back to doing his relaxed thing.
“’Appen!” he replied with this huge grin type thing. “Does it show?”
“I’m Andy, by the way, Rose.”
I did some careful remembering… “My master’s school friend,” I managed to work out. “Yorkshire pudding… Caroline’s husband.”
“That’s the one,” he laughed.
“And you’ve got a tiny baby?” I said, basically trawling through my memories.
“Our darling Davina,” he said and I could see this bit of a cloudy thing going on in his eyes. “Light of my life, apple of my eye and a proper little brat when she gets tired.”
I had to smile at that. This Andy guy had a bit of a way with words. “What are you doing here, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“Buttercup and I ’ave a bit of a deal going on. I get his arse out of trouble when he needs it and he buys us houses… well… just the one house, really… but it’s a nice house.”
“My master’s called Buttercup?” I asked. I guess I was still a bit stunned by it all.
“I call him that but I suspect it wouldn’t be too clever for you to try,” Andy said with a bit of a laugh. “He’s liable to turn all soggy and difficult to light.”
“Sign in pub lavatories, ‘Don’t chuck your fag [cigarette] ends in the urinals. It makes them all soggy and tricky to light.’”
“Erm… I’m basically not in the habit of going into the men’s toilets in pubs.”
“Good point… well argued.”
“Why do you call him Buttercup?” I asked after a bit.
“It’s a long story and I wouldn’t want to tell you behind his back,” Andy answered. He did a bit of a pause thing then added, “It’s much more fun watching his face when I tell the story… I mean… he’s always been brilliant but…”
But I guess he must have noticed that I’d basically stopped listening to him. We’d just turned into the grounds of this ridiculously grand country house hotel type place.
And I’d managed to work out that I was about to see my master again.