The first I knew of the situation was that I thought I had woken up in my own London Mews home. Well it was Keith’s leaving party, and we had a bit of a “do” for him, in The Star Public House as a matter of fact, well it was handy. I, like my comrades, were a little worse for wear. Certainly we had all had more than one over the eight, well it was a celebration you see. Keith was leaving, more than that he was about to do what no-one else dared do…….escape!
There had never been any doubt that Keith had been a hard worker, no-one better. But he had been a fool especially working for the pittance he was paid. But he was loyal you see, dedicated to his work, and the bosses could see that. Keith had taken on more and more work, and was proud to show that he could do all the extra work. But the bosses, well they put on him, and it was no wonder that one day Keith marched into the Managers office and in no uncertain terms told Mister Jenkinson just what he could do with his job. We all sat watching as Keith ranted and raved, he knocked over the managers teacup and saucer, before storming out of the office, out of the building and away on the number 37 bus.
I never saw Keith again, I thought I might have come across him in The Star, or on Saturday at the market, rummaging round the bric-a-brac stalls. I tried his Club, the Snooker Hall, I even tried Craven Cottage, Fulham’s Football ground by the Thames. But there had been no sign of Keith for over a month. None of my mates had seen him, or any other work colleagues. It was as though Keith had disappeared into thin air! There was a story going about, oh but I didn’t give it credence. Someone said that they saw a black hearse parked outside Keith’s house in the mews. They say that two Undertakers were seen carrying a coffin out of the house….but no, that can’t be right. After all there’s been no funeral for Keith.
“You can’t do this to me, I have rights” Keith said with an air of defiance, but in reality he was scared, he was scared………..
“What are you worrying about? Nothing is being done to you, your rights, such as they are, remain intact. And besides, if I did want to do things to you, who is there to stop me?”
“I mean I should never have been brought here. You wait until my people find out, they’ll drop on you like a ton of……….”
“Who do you imagine had you brought here?”
“I, I don’t know.”
“Why do you think you were brought here?”
“I don’t know”
“It states in your personnel file that you took early redundancy” said No.2.
“Yes” Keith replied.
“It was your own people who had you sent here.”
“But really, I don’t know anything. In fact you might say I know too little!”
“Do not flatter yourself, sometimes, depending on the subject, even those who know too little are brought here. What is it The Man With No Name once said?”
“I, I don’t know.”
“A man’s life may depend upon a scrap of information.”
“What is it you want to know?”
No.2 thought for a moment then said “Everything. But don’t worry, we’ll make you feel comfortable in the Old People’s Home, after all you did take early retirement.”
“Redundancy” said Keith.
“What? Oh yes, silly of me. But either way look on the Village like your retirement home. Look kindly on us, and we will……take good care of you.”
“Why did you take early redundancy?”
“Because the writing was on the wall. They were making cut backs.”
“In your department?”
“In every department! It was only a question of time.”
“So you jumped before you were pushed.”
“If you like.”
“You were angry.”
“On the morning you took early redundancy.”
“You’d be angry if………”
“I cannot say.”
“No, anything but that.”
“But that is why you are here.”
“Why. But I don’t wish to be too hard on you at this time. After all you’ve not been with us for very long.”
“I don’t remember being with you at all.”
“Simply being here in the Village makes you one of us!”
“Yes, are they going to reduce our funding do you know?”
“Don’t You know?”
“Would I ask? I thought you might have heard.”
“Well I didn’t!”
“Yes. Well why don’t you go home. Perhaps take a turn around the Village, take time to think, to consider your position. Good day Number thirteen.”
“Number thirteen. We all have a number, for official purposes. I am Number Two, you are thirteen.”
“Unlucky for some!”
And so it was that No.13 began to settle down to life in the Village. He soon told them what they wanted to know. A pretty girl, eager to please, all smiles and busom, and in the end pillow talk…….not on your life. It was drugs that made 13 talk, and precious little he knew. Hardly worth the effort really. Well you see No.13 had worked in a government archive. He had seen a certain envelope marked private and by hand, what’s more he’d actually seen the content of that envelope, a certain letter contained in that envelope. It was a letter of resignation. And that forced us to ask the age old question “why did the Prisoner resign?” If No.13 had not seen that letter he would not have been brought to the Village, but it was enough to seal his fate.
But then what did any of it matter after nearly 46 years? As for the letter, well it’s long passed it’s de-classification time. So where’s the crime? Who cares why a certain man, who had resigned from a certain kind of job back in the late 1960’s matter now? After all the government was busy making funding cuts all across the board, and the Village itself might find itself not exempt from any such funding cuts.
Be seeing you