London England, Wednesday August 13th 2262
Hillary Jane was seated on an uncomfortable antique wooden chair outside the Prime Minister’s office, waiting impatiently to be seen. She was adjacent to one of the huge reproduction sliding sash windows in the large spacious waiting area outside the office. Natural light flooded through the sash creating a bright and pleasant environment.
Memorabilia on England’s political history; and the United Kingdom’s, before Devolution, adorned the walls that surrounded her and dated back several centuries.
She fidgeted restlessly on the hard wooden seat of the chair; it could have easily done with a cushion thus making the rickety relic more hospitable, she thought.
The chair was one of the few surviving artefacts from the original Downing Street buildings before their decimation at the start of World War Three. It was said to have been in the office of Sir Winston Churchill during his first term as Prime Minister and was allegedly a favourite of his. It had been well looked after before and after the war; and was one of the few items of furniture in the country that could boast surviving two world wars. Hillary Jane didn’t doubt the age of the piece; just the history. She scoffed at the rumours about it. Why did people have to attach a background based on nothing but nostalgia and sentiment to a piece of furniture? And what Prime Minister in their right mind would wish to have such an unsightly uncomfortable chair in their office? Perhaps if Churchill had used it, the size of his ample backside would have made it a more tolerable experience, if rumours were to be believed.
On her arrival at New Downing Street, some twenty minutes earlier, the first thing she had done was get Stephen to book an immediate urgent meeting with the Prime Minister. The second was to contact the Employee’s Welfare Department and reverse the decision she had made the previous week to enhance Stephen’s current pay and benefits package. He obviously wasn’t ready for remuneration just yet. He needed to understand that this wasn’t just any old ‘nine to five’ job. If he was to remain as her secretary then he had to be on call at a moment’s notice; the impudence of the man to just cut her off mid-call as he had the previous evening. The fact that he was at a theatre in Italy with his boyfriend was irrelevant. He had to be taught where his loyalty should be. He would never learn anything if he was to receive the overdue review and enhancement now; it would send out all the wrong signals. She would look at the matter again in twelve months.
The sturdy oak door to her left opened, interrupting her thoughts.
“The Prime Minister will see you now Ms Bartlett,” said the young attractive blonde-haired man in the plum business suit before her. Hillary Jane knew him well - Laurence. He had been Stephen’s predecessor. The spineless creep had gone behind her back and applied for the position of secretary to the Prime Minister when it had become available. The first she had known about it was when he had tendered his resignation.
Hillary Jane rose without a word and strutted to the doorway that Laurence had now slipped back through. She entered Laurence’s large outer office.
“Just tap on the door and wait for the Prime Minister to invite you in,” Laurence informed her.
Hillary Jane didn’t acknowledge him at all and strolled towards the Prime Minister’s closed door with an air of authority about her. The words on the slim bronze nameplate affixed to the door read J P Radford, Prime Minister.
Hillary Jane rapped loudly on the door with her knuckles and then thrust it open, without waiting to be invited.
The Prime Minister, dressed entirely in blue, sat behind a glass style data-desk in undoubtedly the largest office in the building. The data-desk was definitely not ‘in-keeping’ with the period of the building, but then nothing else in the office was either. The furniture was all too modern. It was as though when you stepped through the doorway you had entered a completely different building.
The Prime Minister looked up as she entered. “Ms Bartlett, this had better be important, I don’t appreciate having my busy schedule interrupted and changed at such short notice.”
“I’m sorry Prime Minister but this is of the uttermost importance,” confirmed Hillary Jane, taking a glass chair on the other side of the data-desk.
“Sit down, please,” the Prime Minister said with a frown gesturing to the chair which she had already taken.
“I needed to speak to you before this went to the press; I thought you should be the first to know,” Hillary Jane said matter-of-factly.
The Prime Minister’s eyes closed. They opened again accompanied by a heavy sigh. “Go on.”
“There was an incident last night; of a somewhat personal nature that the press have somehow managed to hear about,” Hillary Jane started.
“So the leak to the press from within strikes again!” Radford exclaimed with a heavier sigh.
“It appears so, I’m afraid,” Hillary Jane confirmed, convinced that Hector Humphreys alleged contact at the hospital was a blatant lie. She couldn’t work out either though how anyone from New Downing Street had informed him so soon. Who could have known about the incident?
“Have we not uncovered the perpetrator yet?” The Prime Minister asked, as if accusing Hillary Jane of something. “It’s been over twelve months!”
“No, not as yet. I have had the new security team on it for the last month. The team were handpicked by a small group of the most trusted and long serving staff here; including myself… I am confident that something will come to light very soon Prime Minister.”
“How are we expected to earn the trust and respect of the Russians, when we can’t keep our own house in order?” Radford almost shouted, striking the faux glass top of the data-desk with a clenched hand.
Hillary Jane flinched, but imperceptibly at the sudden outburst, the shuddering glass top on which her hands were placed vibrated uncomfortably through them.
She repositioned her hands in her lap and spoke more confidently than she felt. “I assure you Prime Minister that this will be resolved sooner rather than later.”
“It had better be,” Radford snapped, staring straight into her eyes.
Hillary Jane smiled, concealing her own doubts and concerns. “Getting back to the matter in hand?” she said politely trying to steer the conversation away from security.
“Go on.” The Prime Minister said with a sigh.
Unperturbed Hillary Jane conveyed the previous evening’s sequence of events, as modified by herself and Albert Stein less than an hour ago. She had rehearsed the adaptation to be relayed to the Prime Minister and then the press numerous times. She had hopefully thought of any awkward questions that could be asked and had a catalogue of answers ready.
The Prime Minister sat and listened for the eight minutes it took to convey without saying a word or showing any emotion.
“So you see why I needed to speak to you urgently,” Hillary Jane finished with. “This Humphreys character will only sit on this for so long.”
“Is there no way this can stay out of the press?” Radford asked; already knowing the answer.
“If there is I can’t think of it,” Hillary Jane admitted; a little startled that this was the first question or remark.
“I have one question.” Radford stated without any sentiment evident.
Here we go. Hillary Jane thought, her heart began racing.
“Have you told me the entire truth, or omitted anything?” The Prime Minister asked, staring at her intently; watching for any tell-tale sign of guilt or deception. “Something just doesn’t feel right about this.”
Without faltering Hillary Jane replied confidently. “I wouldn’t lie to you and I definitely wouldn’t do anything to harm the government,” she paused for dramatic effect, “and, for fear of sounding a little selfish, more importantly to me, I wouldn’t jeopardise my own career.”
The Prime Minister sat for a few seconds in silence, staring unblinking, watching; waiting for her to crack up under any pressure. Hillary Jane sat there upright on her chair, dignified, composed and self-assured.
“I’m sorry this has happened to you. Radford said sympathetically, showing the first sign of concern since Hillary Jane had entered the office. “Take whatever time and measures you need today to resolve this matter.”
Hillary Jane smiled politely, portraying the face of someone that had been through a lot. She let her brow furrow and her eyes show a flicker of grief, as if her renowned hard icy exterior had cracked; perhaps just for a second or two. “Thank you Prime Minister.”
She stood up to leave, leaning on the data-desk as she rose from the chair.
The Prime Minister reached over the data-desk and placed a warm soft hand over Hillary Jane’s, giving it a little squeeze before moving swiftly away again. “This will be okay.”
“Thank you once again Prime Minister for your concern and support.”
Hillary Jane headed for the door, her sad composed face transformed into a brief wide grin. She had J. P. Radford just where she wanted. Her face returned to its usual dignified expression as she breezed past Laurence without as much as a look in his direction.
Minutes later she was back in her own office behind a closed door. She had given Stephen strict instructions to make sure she wasn’t disturbed in any way.
“Call Hector Humphreys, audio,” she barked into her strap as she paced up and down her office, waiting for the call to connect.
“Hillary Jane,” he answered in an unpleasantly smooth fashion. “I was just beginning to think I wasn’t going to hear from you. How are you love?”
Hillary Jane ignored his smarm and got straight to the point. “I want you to listen to me without interrupting; this is how it’s going to be.”
She started to inform Hector of just how the story was going to unfold and of the details that were to be reported.
“Hold on!”Hector said scornfully, interrupting her mid-flow. “According to my sources that isn’t exactly how it happened; in fact, it’s nothing like what bloody happened; I might have guessed you would try and wriggle out of this with your knickers back on and your dignity….”
“If you let me finish you imbecile!” snapped Hillary Jane.
“Go on then,” Hector chuckled, “I do like to see how a fairytale ends. You should have started this farce with once upon a time,” he added sarcastically.
Hillary Jane continued for another few minutes. Hector remained silent.
“I have the full support of the government and of the Prime Minister; this is the account that will go public,” Hillary Jane concluded. “Can’t you see; if you try and report anything else it will be your career on the line, not mine.”
It dawned on Hector that he had no choice. This revised edition of the tale would still do wonders for his career. So did it really matter what version he reported? It was a ‘win-win’ for him, whichever account was told.
“Fair enough,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Meet me at the front gates of my house in thirty minutes,” Hillary Jane commanded before she ended the call abruptly.
She glanced at her strap that had pulsed during the call. A message in text format from Norman had been received. The letter had worked, he had got in touch. It was a start; there was still a long way to go with him in a short time. She would read the message momentarily. She couldn’t be distracted by emotions; there was something even more important that she had to do first.
She took a deep breath and raised her wrist, “Call the GPA.”
A female voice answered. “This is the Government Police Authority, how may I be of assistance?”
Hillary Jane said calmly, and without any hesitation or emotion, “I would like to report a rape.”