Chapter 11 Acceptance
The old man had placed a hook inside her and was reeling her in. Unlike a fish she was putting up no resistance, yet it was a hook none the less. This hook kept her turning up at the shed amongst the patches of land divided into little kingdoms ruled over by gardeners of varying degrees of fanaticism.
Occasionally, she would pick away at the hook trying to free it from her flesh, other times she ignored it carrying on refusing to acknowledge it or even admit its existence. She knew however, that it was this hook that kept her turning up at the shed to work solid between the hours of 9 to 6 as per their agreement. The hook was not loyalty to the man who had given her a second chance at life. Nor was it the thought of bettering herself through education. Indeed it was not even the push of the miserable life she had led up to meeting this old man. Least of all was it the lure of money which came each week to meet her expenses. No it was curiosity.
There were so many unanswered questions concerning her patron she felt there was no alternative, if she wanted the answers, but to stay with the programme.
Such questions of how did he save her, how did he make artificial blood, how did he have the facilities to operate, and how old was he really? In addition where did he disappear to for several weeks at a time, her only contact being through the internet?
So it was, on a very cold December morning she sat with a huge coat round her shoulders watching snow begin to fall across the allotment, totally isolated from the world. Because of the poor insulation in the shed it would take awhile for the heating to do its job. Already she had discovered the internet connection via a mobile phone, to be slow or sometimes nonexistent limiting her choices. Meanwhile she opened a book on electromagnetism with all the relish of a patient going to the dentist.
Today was one of those days of which he called LOI or lack of interest.
Rising to make herself an instant coffee she casually looked out of the little window wondering how to create the energy needed to resume her studies. She had no idea of how she was progressing or even what level she was at. Religiously she emailed scripts and answers and more papers and work came winging its way back. In all this work she put blind faith in the tutor and mentor.
Aimlessly peering out of the little window she saw a bent figure was approaching across the dormant land, a hood pulled over its face against a bitter cold wind. Flakes of snow harried him. She would recognize that staggering gait anywhere. A broad smile lit up her round face , “Clive ” she said in a whisper.
An icy blast pounced upon her when he opened the door.
“My I admire your tenacity on a day like today in this shed, not the ideal place to study is it?” he smiled so the lines on his face appeared to wave like water on a pond. Pushing his hood back she liked the effect of the snow flakes that had found refuge in his silver locks. It made him appear more he man despite his age.
“I manage, it takes a while to warm the place up and the internet can be dodgy.” she offered
“Well, that is why I am here, it will soon be Christmas and I have a place in a village not far away. How about you decamp there, spend Christmas with me and if you like it, study there until the warm weather returns.? What does Miss say?”
“Miss says YES! Will you seduce me?” she asked playfully knowing this would embarrass him.
He coughed, more a deep chesty grunt really, which he did when stuck for words.
Then his eyes sparkled, ” I could do but then there is Mrs Potts.”
“Mrs Potts” she looked baffled, was this a wife or live in lover. Such concern must have registered in her face for he laughed, “I can’t cook for toffee, so she is my house keeper and will provide Christmas dinner, she will be looking after us, unless you can cook.”
“If only I could , we would starve in restaurant if I was chef.”
“What do you say, you will come then even without the seduction?”
She fell in love with the village the moment she saw it. She fell in love with house as soon as she stepped through the door. She fell in love with Mrs Potts the moment the rotund beaming lady put her arms round her and gave her the kind of hug that says ‘welcome home daughter.’
Constantly she pinched herself that Christmas to remind herself this was really happening. To be in such surroundings, a millions miles from the run down council estates, the derelict terraced houses, the gangs, the drugs, the bad schools, the modern city. Here she was in a stone built house, at least 200 years old, in a perfect English village complete with parish church, public house , a village store and such friendly people. How such a village could survive in the modern age she had no idea.
She had no idea that was until one Tuesday evening in late March when all alone she took herself off to the local pub, ‘The Lone Fox’ to find some company and since having done a good days work, wanted to reward herself.
She joined a group of regulars, all pensioners, playing dominoes and gambling for small change. A fire burned giving the group a feeling of home while Faye felt fully accepted by not just the pensioners but the whole village. Eventually the pensioners retired to their homes, while Faye sat at the bar talking to the landlord, John.
Her patron, Clive was known in the village to everyone as Mr Windthorpe. This Faye knew to be just one of his aliases since post regularly came for Mr Times, Mr Rangold and even a Mr Fisher-ferry.
She cared little about this since in her world prior to Clive everyone hid their identity at one time or another. What intrigued her was how all the village appeared to worship the old man she knew as Clive. Mrs Potts, she soon realised idolized him. She opened her enquiry, a lazy half thought, a mere outline of a muse, with
“Mrs Pots appears devoted to Mr Windthorpe.”
John: “I, that be so, since she had good cause to be in his debt for life.”
Faye: “For life, how so, life is a long time?.”
John: “On account of her son. String, we called him that because he is tall and thin , nothing to him when he was teenage. Mind you the nickname stuck.”
Faye: “That does not explain why his mother should be beholding to Mr Windthorpe.”
John: “Well you see young String there he was an independent, explorer type of lad who five years ago took himself off to the Panama to see Latin America. No sooner had he arrived there than he was in real trouble.”
Faye: “What, with the law?”
John: “No, no he contracted one of those horrible flesh eating bugs. The first his mother knew was when they were about to remove his foot.”
Faye: “Shit, that is tough.”
John: “His mother was beside herself, and she told her employer Mr Windthorpe who by all
accounts did a remarkable thing.”
There was a halt in the conversation while the landlord served a young couple allowing Faye to imagine all sorts of possible scenarios.
“What did he do?” asked Faye eagerly when John returned , as he rested his large frame against the bar.
John: “Well, he flew Mrs Potts and himself out there, and then some.”
Faye: “And then what other some?”
John: “Rumour has it , that he stopped them surgeons taking more of String’s leg off and got rid of the disease. Mind, you, Mrs Potts rarely talks about it but she told her sister that Windthorpe undoubtedly not only saved the boys leg, but his life also.”
Faye: Thinking of her own story, “I can well imagine that.”
John: ” Mind you Miss he wont admit to it. So that is why she is beholding to him, as I am.”
Faye: “You, how come?”
John: “Well, its no secret this place was on its uppers and the brewery were about to close it. Mr Windthorpe organised a co-op to buy it, forming a not for profit company. He put a large amount of money into it without which it would not have flown. And then he did an extraordinary thing.”
Faye: ” And what would that be.?
John: “Well, it was extraordinary to me , ” he leaned across the bar to whisper into the girl’s ear,
“He not only kept me and the Mrs on as publicans but gave us a sizeable number of shares in the business. A gift like.”
Faye: “That makes sense, to give you an interest in making it work.”
John: “I, that is precisely what he said but the gift was before we had done anything and without conditions. I ain’t experienced that in my life before, no such thing as a free lunch etc. We don’t get dividends mind you but we have a say on the steering committee and a salary with a bonus if we hit our targets.”
Faye: “and Now?”
John: “And Now?”
Faye: “Yes, how is the pub doing?”
John: “Very well, a new housing estate on the Crank Road and more tourists in summer. Well, the cooperate, as we in the village call it, is doing well.”
Faye: “And Mrs Potts, her boy, what became of him?”
John reached under the counter and produced a book, with a boyish looking handsome young man on the cover. It was titled, ‘Limping Across the Andes.’
John:“He is a successful, travel writer. doing quite well, by all accounts. He told me a year ago, his lack of a foot helps him no end in the media world, opens doors that otherwise would be closed to an able bodied man. Unique selling point he says. Turning a setback to his advantage.”
Faye: “Is that so, Here is to good old me Mr Windthorpe” as she raised her glass and drained it.
John: “I, an amazing man.”
Faye got back to house a little after 11 pm, washed and got ready for bed. She was cleaning her
teeth when she heard the front door close. Going down the stairs cautiously wearing only a short nightie she peered down to see the old battered brief case her mentor used to carry her work in. Then she stopped and sniffed the air.
“Can’t be ” she said out load. There was distinct smell of cigarette smoke in the air.
He was a non-smoker so at first she thought he must have brought someone home who did smoke. To test this theory she halted half way down the stairs and listened intently. If there was someone with Clive then they must be mute for there was no sound whatsoever.
Entering the kitchen she was stopped in her tracts for with the kitchen door open to the outside world, there was indeed was a patron, pulling hard on a cigarette. But that was not the thing which both amazed her and angered her. He was standing upright, tall say 6 ft of him, shoulders square against the door frame, head raised as if in prayer or meditation. This was no old man, yet the face was old, old Clive, wrinkles, grey hair, small beard. It was this contradiction in his stance between a man in his prime and the look of age on his face. Like a young ballet dancer having the legs of 80 year old in a tutu.
Her anger got the better of her
“I have been in our local and they tell me you are a saint, but what bloody saint stands in the
kitchen door way smoking a fag?” Her words delivered fast , like bullets from a machine gun. “Those things will kill you.”
His response was to wave the hand with the fag lazily at the kitchen table.
“Had that packet 5 years, on my third in five years is hardly a habit.”
“Why smoke at all then.”
“I smoke either when I have a problem which is impossible to solve or due to stress.”
“Which is it this time, problem or stress?”
“Alas , I will need another fag, as you call them, for it is both a problem and stress. The two are related.”
“An academic problem can hardly be called stressful.” she said moving closer.
With a sharp turn of his head, as if hunting quarry, he focused his blue eyes intently
on her face, “We need to talk, for I may need your help, to find a female.”
With this, her anger dissipated, one cannot be angry for long if someone says they need your help even if was a female he wanted. His tone was very serious.
Her night dress was short and thin, the cold outside air came at her from the door way forcing her back with a sharp intake of breath. He, discarding his smoke, turned , removed his jacket and place it around her shoulders.
They sat at opposite sides of the round kitchen table, she waiting for him to speak , he not sure
how or where to start.
“A female’ she thought, ‘what for, sex, company, money, revenge?’ all these things flashed through her brain. The young woman’s curiosity eventually got the better of her
Faye: “What female? Does she have a name?”
Clive: “No , no name that I know of.”
Faye: “What does she look like?”
Clive: “I have no idea.”
Faye: “Well, do you have anything to go on, nationality, hobbies, age?”
Clive: “No, I know nothing about her.”
Faye:“This is impossible, how are we going to find this mythical woman or will any woman do , a hooker for example?”
Clive: ” She is not mythical, she exists and I hope to find her by her smell.”
Faye: “Good luck with that, I know lots of women who stink?”
Clive: “This female is not a woman as you know them, she is something very special.”
Faye: “I need some explanations. You know nothing of this ‘Female’ except she smells.”
Clive: “She does not smell par se, she has a unique smell, there is a difference.”
Faye: “Go on , I am as ever your student., enlighten me.”
Her patron took a deep breath as if about to submerge in deep water.
Clive: “I work part time at different hospitals in their immunology departments, research units and the like, as a technician, store man etc.”
Faye: “That is beneath you, like De Vinci mixing paint for his students.”
Clive: “Perhaps, I do know more than my masters, but I need access to certain drugs that money cannot buy.”
Faye astonished : “You steal from the hospital?”
Clive: “A little.”
Faye: “My father walked out on my mother when I was three, the state was my father, the worse
bloody father one could get, and I thought you a great father figure going on saint hood, my how wrong was I .”
Clive sternly: “Without them, these special drugs, I would be dead. Now just listen.”
Faye, “This had better be good.”
Clive, pauses and takes another deep breath
“Something strange happened today for which there is no rational explanation.”
She said nothing.
Clive: ” I was working in a secure lab, when something had an effect on me. I was setting up electronic measuring equipment so there were no drugs on the bench, but something irritated my nose then set me off with a raised heart beat. It was not much but I mentally monitor my body condition regularly. My concentration went to pot, something was affecting me. After a while I traced it to the door, there is a double lock door on this lab, both doors cannot open at the same time. I went in to the lock, then outside the second door. Now the effect was noticeable. My heart rate definitely raised, my body energised then I could smell it. Rather I could smell her.”
Faye: “Her , a woman?”
Clive: Not exactly, a female had passed that way, perhaps and hour or more ago, and I have to find her.”
Faye, “But you DO NOT have a name or anything else to find her ?”
Clive: No, that is why I need your help.”
Faye: “You want me to sniff her out.” Faye laughed at her own joke.
Clive: NO, I will do the sniffing, we are talking pheromones here, biological, sexual, and very
Faye: “Correct me if I am wrong but human pheromones are weak, certainly not strong enough to affect your heart beat through two doors.”
Clive: “You are correct, but did I say human?”
Faye:“What, some kind of female animal?”
Clive: “That is one way of putting it, the pheromones could have been artificial, or created from
nature in some way.”
There was silence filling the gap between them like Ma in Japanese art, the gap contains
She studied his grey comb back hair, the little matching grey beard , then wrinkled skin and confirmed her suspicion that they were fake.
“How old are you really.” she said softly, changing tack as if bored with the current subject.
He smiled, ” a lot younger than you may think.”
She leaned forward with both elbows on the table,
“Can I see the real you?”
Now he pivoted backwards on the chair and gave a little controlled laugh.
“Yes, of course but not now, this female could be a real threat to me, we have to find her.
“Will you help me?”
Faye leaned back in her chair, mimicking him, “Of course, I am only still here because of you. How is she a threat?”
Clive: “Do you know what a honey trap is?”
Faye: “In spy novels, and seedy thrillers, a woman set to entrap a man, could be man on man,
which is more likely these days.”
Clive: Well, I think she is a honey trap of sorts, sent to lure me out for there are people who would like to get their hands on me.”
Faye:“Have you crossed them, owe them money?”
Clive: “Let us say, to them I am worth a great deal of money.”
Faye: “Can we not just ignore this honey trap.?”
Clive, “The pheromones are too strong, I cannot control mother nature which believe me, in this case, has the whip hand. Something is not quite right. If i can see her I may have a better idea of what I.., sorry, we are dealing with.”
Faye: “I don’t really understand but hell, when do we nail this bitch?”
Clive : Tomorrow