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Tuesday 2 February 2021

Further Tales From The Village

     “Do you think we can get this business with Number 6 cleared up within the next three days 14?”
    “I don’t know Number 2, why the sudden rush?”
    “I’m due to leave in three days, and have been told to have this business completed by then.
   “You mean your term in office will be over.”
    “No, I’m due to go on leave!”
    “You mean on holiday?”
    “Yes, an interim Number 2 will take over from me until my return.”
    “Well it’s alright for some, you’ve only been here a week and here you are going on holiday. Come to think of it, I’ve never known any Number 2 to go away on holiday; they’ve never lasted long enough to be given any leave. And when they do leave they’re hardly ever known to come back!”

   In the Green Dome an interim No.2 is on a yellow ‘L’ shaped  telephone, as the helicopter takes off from the lawn by the sea wall and flies out across the estuary towards the hills and the landing stage beyond.
   In the control room the supervisor watches the departing helicopter on the large wall screen and then quickly picks up the grey ‘L’ shaped telephone.  
    “Get me Number 2….quickly.”
    The grey ‘L’ shaped telephone on the desk began to bleep, No.2 looked at it “I’ll talk to you later” he said and putting down the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone and picked up the grey one.
    “Number 2 here.”
    “Supervisor here sir, I thought I should report the helicopter that just left…..its coming back!”
    “What! It’s not supposed to do that is it?”
    “No sir.”
    “Contact the pilot and ask him what he thinks he’s doing.”
    “Its too late Number 2, the helicopter is about to land.”
    “Well send a security team and secure the helicopter immediately.”
    “At once Number 2.

    As the helicopter circled the village a white Mini-Moke was speeding through the village its two-tone siren blaring out, and No.14 accompanied by two burly set guardians in red and black striped jerseys were sat waiting in the Mini-Moke as the silver grey Alouette helicopter landed back on the lawn. The turning rotor blades slowed and a cabin door opened, No.14 and the two guardians alighted from the Moke and stood waiting on the lawn as a well built man with thinning grey hair stepped down onto a grey float, then down onto the lawn. The pilot handed him his brown suitcase, then the man turned to face his welcoming committee.
   “I’ve arrived” No.2 said announcing himself, as though just arriving at the coastal resort of the village-next-the sea.
    No.14 stepped forward somewhat confused “Number 2?”
    “I changed my mind” No.2 said.
    “I can see that, what are you doing back here?” 14 asked.
    “I’m on holiday” No.2 replied with a smile.
    “On holiday?”
    “Yes, this is as good a place as any to spend my leave” No.2 said putting his suitcase into the back of the taxi.
    No.2 was made comfortable in a vacant flat opposite the fish pond, where he stood looking out of the window at the citizens promenading in the Piazza.

    The next morning a house maid brought him his breakfast.
    “They tell me you’re on holiday sir” the housemaid said setting out the breakfast things.
    “Who are they?”
    “Oh its just gossip sir, but it’s a strange place to have a holiday if you don’t mind me saying sir.”
    “Oh I don’t know, I can think of worse places to spend a fortnight’s leave.”
    “And what are you going to do with yourself sir?”
    “Listen to the brass band, relax, and perhaps attend a production of the local amateur dramatic society. There is always the Palace of Fun, spend a day relaxing on the beach, and go walking. Lunch at the café, a drink in the evening at the Cat and Mouse, there’s the library, I like reading. And perhaps a round or two of clock golf” he said.
    “Lucky you!” the housemaid said taking her leave.
    After breakfast No.2 slipped on his blazer and boater, and went out for a walk. As he closed the door behind him he couldn’t help but notice the black and white striped signpost and the sign which hung below the candy-striped canopy just outside the door, it read ‘23 Private,’ as did the badge now pinned to the lapel of his blazer. He decided to pay a call at the Green Dome.
    Standing at the front door he tugged on the black wrought iron bell pull, seeing as the door would not open for him. There came the deep toll of a bell and the diminutive butler opened the door.
    “I’m Number……I wish to see Number 2” he said.
    The butler showed the caller into the foyer then to an open pair of French doors, up a ramp to a now opening pair of steel doors, and into the domed purple walled chamber that is No.2’s office. Then he saw the tall figure of No.14 standing by the desk.
    “Well, what do you want?” said the bearded man sitting in the black global chair.
    “Come on man speak up, we’re all friends here” No.2 said.
    “I am Number 2.”
    You, you are Number 2, who do you think I am?” the man in the chair said “look come closer we cannot talk like this.”
    No.2 walked down the ramp and approached the desk he looked at No.14 who showed no emotion at seeing his old boss, but simply stared straight ahead.
   “Now tell me.”
   “I am Number 2, I left the village to go on leave.”
   “On leave, really!”
   “I presume you then took over as an interim Number 2.”
   “Interim, I like that, there’s nothing interim about it” No.2 told him   “you say you left the village to go on leave, but you’re here, how do you account for that?”
    “I came back.”
    “Listen to him 14, he came back. Why did you come back, forget to turn off the gas did you?”
    “I came back here because its different, and I wanted to spend my fortnights leave here, ask Number 14 he knows.”
    “You came back in order to spend your fortnights leave here in the village, you expect me to believe that?”
    “It’s true, tell him 14, tell him how it was.”
    No.14 remained silent.
    “Look Number 23 I’ll tell you how it is. If you cause any more trouble I’ll have you up before the welfare committee so fast your feet will not touch the ground. Right 14.”
    “Yes sir, feet will not touch the ground.”
    “And I thought you were loyal 14!”
    “I am loyal” No.14 replied.
    “I suggest you go and get on with this leave you like to talk about, and let there be no more escape attempts from you” No.2 ordered.
    “Escape attempts, when did I ever try to escape?”
    “I don’t know what gave you the idea that you could escape in such a way. You must have realized we would have twigged what you were doing.”
    “I am Number 2, I decided to spend my fortnights leave here because it’s different, a place which can serve me for a change, instead of my serving it!”
   No.2 sat in his chair and smiled “Oh I see, you’re on a busman’s holiday! Well feel free to go and enjoy your holiday.”
    “And in two weeks time?”
    “We’ll see what happens” No.2 told him “perhaps when my term in office is over they’ll take you on as my replacement, as an interim Number 2!”
    “Of all the nerve, I protest!”
    “Protest all you wish 23. Now get out of my office, show him the door 14.”
    “Yes sir, this way.”
    No.14 led his former superior to the opening steel doors and through into the foyer.
    “I’m surprised 14, I thought you were loyal.”
    “Circumstances alter cases. Look sir I know you were trying to escape.”
    “But I came back of my own free will!”
    “And why was that?”
    “Because I knew they would catch up with me sooner or later, no matter where I went.”
    “And now?” 14 asked showing his former superior to the front door.
    “I can live out the rest of my life quietly. But for now I’m on holiday, and think I might enjoy a walk through the woods and along the cliffs, I’ll be seeing you.”

    No-one knew what had happened that day along the cliffs; perhaps No.23 simply got too close to the edge and slipped, perhaps he was pushed by person or persons unknown. What is known is that two beachcombers found the battered and broken body of a former No.2 lying on the rocks below the cliffs. And No.2, well he was eventually replaced by yet another interim No.2, seeing as the position was never deemed as being permanent!

Be seeing you

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