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Saturday 12 October 2019

An Interim No.2

    I don’t know why they brought me back here really, didn’t they realize what bad memories, no, nightmares, being back in the village would revive? Perhaps they did, perhaps they do not care. It’s not as though I’m under any remit. You will be sent to the village to take up your position as an interim No.2 they said, but do nothing, let the village run itself and have no truck with someone calling himself  No.6. Just sit in No.2’s chair and wait. Wait, that’s sprightly, wait for what and for how long?
    Well here I have been not doing very much at all, my assistant Number 14 is a very capable chap, as is No.28 the Supervisor, and they do most everything. I’ve even a
Butler, a diminutive chap who never utters one single word, but he cooks for me, acts as my personal gentleman’s gentleman, brings me my elevenses and such like. Then one day this No.6 comes bursting into my office………………
    “Get him!”
    “I…I have taken his place, I am the new Number 2.”
    “Get Number 1!”
    Well I had no idea what to say, but this man I knew to be No.6, a man I was told to have no truck with, so I played it off the cuff so to speak.
    “I am Number 2, what do you want?”
    “The girl!”
    “What girl?”
    “The girl who threw herself off the cliff, don’t tell me that Scottish doctor had gone too far again, trying to find a poor girl’s breaking point!”
    “I’m sorry I’m not with you.”
    “Never mind, I can see I’m wasting my time with the oil rag, it’s the engineer I need to talk to.”
    And he stormed out. Later I informed my assistant of what had happened, and asked him if there is a Scottish doctor, a gaunt looking man, at the hospital conducting experiments? He told me yes, I told him I wanted to see the doctor in my office first thing in the morning.”
   No.14 thought I was taking too much upon myself for an interim No.2 who was no better than I thought myself to be. They might not have bothered to bring me back here in the first place, they might have saved themselves the time and effort, any damned fool can sit here and do nothing.
   The steel doors to my office slid open and my
Butler came in pushing a trolley. He approached my desk and I watched him put the tea things on my desk. I looked at my watch it was precisely eleven o’clock and therefore time for elevenses. The Butler bowed and began to push his trolley, when I looked at the tea plate.
   “I say, where are the proper biscuits?”
Butler stopped and turned, I held up the tea plate with two plain rich tea biscuits upon it “Haven’t we got any proper biscuits, the ones with the cream inside?”
Butler simply shrugged his shoulders and pushed the trolley up the ramp and through the opening steel doors, leaving No.2 to his elevenses.
    A little later the red ‘L’ shaped intercom began to bleep, No.2 wasn’t at all sure whether or not he should pick it up. He sat looking at the telephone for a moment or two, then deciding he was after all an acting No.2 he could and probably should answer the intercom, so leaning forward in his black spherical chair he picked up the intercom.
    “Number 2 here……..yes sir……I am managing very well…….well I do have assistance Number 14 helps me…….Number 6, no he’s been no trouble…….well he did once burst into my office shouting the odds about some girl who was under the doctor’s supervision……..well apparently the doctor went too far in his experiments again………well he has been warned………what am I going to do about it? Well I could reprimand him…..I should do what sir?............wire his private parts up to the mains and turn on the lights! A bit extreme don’t you think sir……………..I’m sorry sir, well I could demote him, he’d make a great undertaker with his gaunt stature with that miserable expression. I think he would make a far better undertaker than he does a doctor………….well he was caught on camera burying one of his failed experiments in the woods……………….what was that sir……….my replacement arrives tomorrow, well that is extremely good news.”
   No.2 put the telephone down as a warm glow came all over him, this time tomorrow he would shake the dust of the village from his feet and never darken its doors again!
    The helicopter approached the village from the far side of the estuary, then circled the village a couple of times allowing the passenger to get a good clear view of it.
    “We should have blindfolded you by rights” said the pilot.
    “Don’t be daft, I’ve been here before don’t you know.”
    “There’s a Mini-Moke by the lawn, they must be expecting you, there’s someone standing there, must be Number 2” the pilot said.
    “Can’t be, I’m Number 2.”
    “Your predecessor then” the pilot suggested.
    The helicopter flew a short distance out across the estuary before turning back towards the village in order to land on the triangular lawn by the sea wall. Once the rotor blades began to slow, the cabin door opened and a figure stepped out onto a float, then down onto the lawn. The figure of a man carrying a suitcase walked towards him with a hand outstretched.
    “You must be my replacement” the man said.
    “And where do you think you’re going?”
    “My term in office is over, I’m leaving.”
    “Really, but you are forgetting security measures!”
    “Security measures?”
    “Must be obeyed.”
    “What security measures?”
    The new No.2 held up the black silk scarf “The one I’ve just introduced!”
    The outgoing No.2 climbed into the helicopter and tied his blindfold as the new interim No.2 closed the door and took a few paces back. The engine of the Alouette helicopter started and the rotor blades began to spin faster and faster until the helicopter lifted off the ground and took to the air. It flew out across the estuary, then turned and circled the village before turning out again across the estuary to descend and land on the lawn by the sea wall once more. Two men in red and black striped jerseys stepped forward and opened the cabin door, the man was helped out of the cabin and the blindfold was removed. He stood there for a moment while his eyesight cleared, and there stood the figure of No.2.
    “Orders from our masters, you are to be co-opted onto the Town Council.”
    “No, they wouldn’t!”
    “When I looked down from the helicopter I thought something had gone wrong, that it was I who was being brought to the village to be greeted by Number 2. But then I saw it was you waiting for me. You could let me go, who’s to know?”
    “I’m afraid I can’t do that” the new No.2 said indicating the waiting Mini-Moke.
    The both climbed into the vehicle and as the driver drove the vehicle up the hill towards the Town Hall, there was a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach, that one day he himself might be taking this very same ride to the hospital!

Be seeing you

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