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Monday 3 January 2022

Chapter 14



     It was a bright sunny morning, and a blue carpet of sky covered the village, which was a hive of activity. Gardeners busied themselves tidying the flower borders and planting out new plants. A gardener was riding his green John Deer garden tractor cutting the grass, while others trimmed hedges and bushes. Roads and cobbled paths and squares were swept, and walls were given a fresh coat of paint. The Stone Boat was given new bunting, and the free sea was drained so that the pool of the fountain could be given a thorough clean, for the village was to look its best for Twosday.


    At the café the white haired elderly waiter No.26 was busy collecting empty cups and saucers from the tables on the patio when he was approached by another white haired elderly gentleman No.168 in a grey piped jacket.
    “Nice day”
    “It will be nice again tomorrow I shouldn’t wonder” the waiter replied.
    “Have you seen today’s broadsheet?”
    “What The Tally Ho? Is that what you think, that all I have to do all day is read the newspaper?”
    “I’m sorry I’m sure. But I had to ask for a refund after I had bought a copy.”
    “Why what’s wrong with it?”
    “See for yourself” 168 said unfolding his copy of the latest edition of The Tally Ho.
    The waiter looked at the broadsheet “Well what’s wrong with it?”
    “It’s the headline, they’ve spelt Tuesday wrong.”
    “What’s Tuesday got to do with it?”
    “That’s what the broadsheet vender said.”
    “I argued the point that the printer had misspelled the word Tuesday.”
    The waiter looked at the headline “It’s a play on words” he said.
    “Yes that’s what the vender told me.”
    “Well haven’t you heard?”
    “I haven’t read today’s broadsheet yet, I was waiting until I got home and planned to read it with a cup of coffee and a bun.”
    “There’s a free table over there, why not have coffee and a bun here?”
    “No fear, not at your prices be seeing you” and with that 168 was on his way home.
    “Silly old fool” the waiter muttered under his breath, picking up the tray of crockery and carrying it into the café.

    No.14 arrived at the Green Dome, and pulling on the wrought iron bell pull the front door opened automatically and he stepped over the threshold and into the foyer to be greeted by the diminutive butler in black tails. Opening the pair of French doors the butler led the way up the short ramp to the now opening pair of steel doors, showing No.14 into 2’s office. No.14 walked briskly down the ramp, the steel doors closing automatically behind him.
   “Ah there you are 14, what have you been up to this morning?” No.2 asked from behind his desk.
    “I’ve been touring the village making sure things were well in hand for Twosday.”
    “And are they?”
    “Don’t you know that they are?” 14 said glancing at the wall screen.
    “I was just thinking that the Stone Boat could do with a lick of paint.”


    14 looked again at the screen “Yes sir, I shall see to it. You must be feeling quite excited.”
    “What about?”
    “Twosday of course.”
    “Why what happens next Tuesday?”
    14 gave his superior a knowing look.
    “Alright, but I am looking forward to the day I must say.”
    “A small fete is being organised, might as well make it a grand day of celebration that the people can enjoy themselves.”
    “I thought the day was about me?” 2 said a little indignantly.
    “Oh it is sir, the fete will be in your honour and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself at the stalls and shies.”

    No.4 was sat on a bench in the Piazza watching two men with brushes busy brushing the drained pool. A gardener was nearby busy planting lobelia, whilst painters busied themselves touching up the paintwork on buildings and walls.
    “What’s the idea? No.4 asked of the gardener.
    The gardener stopped for a moment and looked up “Don’t bother me, I’m busy.”
    “I can see that, everyone looks busy this morning. What’s it all in aid of?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “What’s the village being tarted up for, are we in for a Royal visit?”
    “What’s next Tuesday got to do with it?”
    “Don’t you read The Tally Ho?” the gardener asked.
    “Today’s news is but tomorrows chip paper” 4 replied.
    The gardener took his crumpled copy of the tally Ho from the back pocket of his overalls and handed it to No.4.
    “Now leave me alone to get on with my work!” and went back to planting the lobelia.
    No.4 unfolded The Tally Ho, he read the headline, and read about Twosday being a celebration for the Chief Administrator of the village administration. And how a ceremony and presentation was to be made, and small fete was to be held on the lawn. He refolded the paper and handed it back to the gardener.
    “No you keep it” the gardener told him trowel in hand busy turning over the soil.
    No.4 crossed the Piazza and dropped the broadsheet into a litter bin and walked off down the steps and across the lawn, where a man was erecting a sign.
    “Walk on the grass” the sign read.
    No.14 marched briskly across the lawn and approached a man holding open a ground plan of the fete.
    “It can’t be done” the clerk of works said.



    “Why, what’s the problem? 14 asked.
    “It can’t be done that’s all. I mean look at it.”
    “I’m looking at it” No.14 said studying the lawn.
    “It’s not the lawn that’s in question, it’s the size!”
    “How do you mean?”
    “There are too many stalls and side shows for the fete, they can’t all fit on the lawn” the clerk of works protested.
    “Ah I see. Couldn’t we use the Piazza as an overflow, and what about that square of lawn over there?” 14 suggested.
    “I’d already thought of that” said the clerk of works “but enough space must be left at the far end for people to gather for the presentation ceremony.”
    “Agreed” said No.14 comparing the ground plan to both lawn and Piazza “I’ll leave it with you.”
    Just at that moment four men in overalls arrived in a mini-Moke, it towed a trailer filled with striped canvases, wooden planks and steel poles, and ropes.
    “What’s all this?” 14 asked.
    “Tents and stalls to be erected on the lawn and in the Piazza.”
    “But its three days before Twosday” No.14 reminded the clerk of works.
    The four men climbed out of the open topped Moke and stood by the trailer and stood looking on.
    “I know that…..better than anyone. What do you think; things magically appear overnight? Its takes time for my lads to get things done you know!”
    “Alright I’ll leave it to you” 14 said going on his way and about his business.

    “Right lads, let’s get this trailer unloaded.

    There is something fascinating watching men working, and that is what No.4 was doing as he sat on the edge of a small round fountain watching the men unloading the trailer.

    “Ah there you are 107, come in, come in” No.2 said.

   No.107 crossed the floor and stood nervously in front of the desk, like a schoolboy in the headmaster’s study!
    “There’s no need to be nervous. Perhaps you would like some tea?”
   107 shook his head.

    “No, well I think I would like some tea.”

    The butler standing in the open doorway bowed, turned and the steel doors closed.

    “Now 107 you are known for having more than a passing interest in archery.”

    “I’m an archer yes.”
    Number 2 pressed a button on the control panel of his desk and a chair appeared through a hole in the floor.


    “Look do sit down, you’re making me feel nervous.”
    No.107 did as he was bid.

    “And as I recall we caught you practicing that interest even though such weaponry is outside the pale of the law.”
    “You confiscated my longbow and arrows.”
    “That’s right; you made your own as I recall. What would you say if I gave you special dispensation in order to demonstrate your archery skills at the village fete?”
    No.107 said nothing but the expression on his face betrayed him.
    “I see you approve of my gesture. And we will supply both longbows and arrows.”

    No.14 arrived in No.2’s office just in time for afternoon tea just as 107 was leaving.

    “Did Number 107 take you up on your offer?”
    “He did, have the required long bows and arrows supplied to him, and set the long lawn just the other side of the Bandstand for him to set up his target. But he can only practice his archery on the beach well away from other people.”

    “Yes Number 2. How are you going to get Number 4 interested in archery?” 14 asked stirring his tea.
    “Oh I think one man far out on the beach with bow and arrow will be enough to attract Number 4’s attention, don’t you?”
    “And your assassination, you still think Number 4 will come to your aid?”
    “He must, but just make sure the assassin misses by a good margin….just in case.”
    “The assassin Number 210 will be at the top of the Bell Tower with his crossbow. Number 107 being in charge of the archery demonstration will naturally take the blame for the attempt on your life.”

    “Caught red handed by our friend Number 4.”
    “Which will prove to you what?”
    “That he cares” No.2 said with a smile “and it’s that which will give him to me.”

    “Why should he care what happens to you?”

    “I’m hoping his reaction will be instinctive.”
    “And if not?”
    “Then in my end there will be a new beginning for someone else!”

    The silversmith No.82, a white haired man in his early 60’s had been working all week on the Twosday presentation piece to show the community’s appreciation of the Chief Administrator. The silver box some 7 by 5 inches, and 4 inches deep, and decorated in the art nouveau style. He was just giving the silver box a final polish when the shop bell rang. Leaving his back room he went into his shop to find No.14 standing at the counter.
    “Ah you have come for the silver box.”


    “That’s right, it’s ready?”
    “Of course, I was just giving it a final polish. I shall fetch it for you.”
    The Silversmith disappeared into the back of his shop, and after a few moments returned carrying the silver box.

    “Here it is” the silversmith said placing the box on the counter.
    No.14 picked it up “It’s locked!”
    “I have the key” said the silversmith producing the key from his pocket “it is to remain locked until opened by Number 2 himself.”
    “Because there is an extra special surprise inside the box, a token of my own appreciation for everything he had done since my arrival here.”
   No.14 placed the key in his pocket as the silversmith wrapped up the box in gift paper “I shall see to it that you are suitably rewarded for your exquisite work.”
    “There is no need as the work has been its own reward” said the silversmith.
   After No.14 left the shop the silversmith turned the shop sign to “closed.”

   Preparations were now in full swing for Twosday, the stalls and colourful striped tents had been erected for the fete, bunting in the rigging of the Stone Boat fluttered in the breeze. Freshly painted walls glowed in the sunshine. The flower beds looked a picture, the pool in the piazza had been refilled, and the water spout of the fountain seemed to be putting on an extra special display. There was an air of excitement and anticipation about the village, not that either of those emotions demonstrated themselves in No.4, who seemed to be above such things. He was not a man to allow himself to get involved, and yet he found the figure far out across the beach interesting. He sat on the edge of the outlook on top of the cliff watching a man at his archery practice. He had a round target set up on a wooden stand, and fired arrows at it from a distance of a hundred years. No.4 continued to watch the man fired arrow after arrow, he never once missed the target. The question which sprang to No.4’s lips was “Why?”

    It was early morning when No.4 called by the Green Dome, No.2 although seated in his chair, was still dressed in dark blue pyjamas and dark red dressing gown.
    “I’m sorry, have I got you up?”
    “Don’t flatter yourself Number 4, what can I do for you?”
    “It’s not what you can do for me, but what I can do for you.”
    “Really, and what’s that?”
    “Did you know, although I suspect you do if your Observers are on the job, there was a chap firing arrows at a target down on the beach yesterday.”


    “Yes I did know.”
    “And what?”
    “I thought tools and weapons were not allowed?”
    “I can’t see what harm he can do out there on the beach. Besides it keeps him occupied. You could do with a hobby or some occupation to keep you out of trouble.”
    “It’s not me that’s looking for trouble if you ask me.”
    “I’m not asking you, besides Number 107 has special dispensation to practice his archery skills before he puts them to practice in the village at the fete.”
    “You’re letting a man loose with longbow and arrows in the village?”
    “Why should you care?”
    “I don’t, but I think you’re running a terrible risk.”
    “In what way?”
    “In allowing a weapon as deadly as a longbow into the village, that archer never missed his target once while I was watching.”
    “Have you come here to warn me of something, because let me assure you my Observers will know the moment anything happens. ”
    “And in that moment it might just be too late!”
    No.4 turned on his heels and marched briskly out of the office, and into the foyer telling the diminutive butler to keep a close eye on his master as he passed through and out of the opening front door. The butler looked thoughtful, then shrugged his shoulders and closed the French doors.

    Twosday saw a bright sunny morning as the village began to stir. A waitress was occupied with opening the table canopies on the patio. A green John Deer garden tractor towed a trailer in which three housemaids sat with breakfast trays on their laps. The general store was open for business the stout shopkeeper No.19 in straw boater and blue and white striped apron was cleaning the panes of glass of the bay window. Then a sudden fanfare was heard over the public address system, a cheery female voice greeted the citizens.
    “Good morning, good morning and what a beautiful day it is. The weather will remain fine and dry. The fete will be opened this morning by Number 2 himself, after which you will be at liberty to enjoy the stalls and shies. Number 107 will be giving a demonstration of archery, and there’s to be a special Punch and Judy show, followed by a Twosday ceremony and the presentation of a gift. There will be thrills, entertainment, and enjoyment for all. Be seeing you.”
   After breakfast No.2 and his assistant No.14 were out and about inspecting the stalls, ‘Hook a Duck,’ ‘Test Your strength,’ the Coconut shy three shies a credit unit, Hoola, and Aunt Sally. A cake stall, palmistry tent in which Madam Zena reads your future in your palm. A Bric-a-brack stall, and the ducking stool upon which a person sits and someone throws tennis balls at a round button. Hit the button


and the person on the stool is dunked into the free sea!  In front of the gloriette with its balcony was the red and white striped tent of the Punch and Judy show. A sign hung on the fabric it read “Next show at 2 o’clock.” Number 107 with the help of No.30 had set his bull’s-eye target at the far end of the long lawn and had already tested it for its range with two arrows. He picked up a third arrow and fitted the nook and the arrow into the nooking points on the string of the Longbow and pulled back the string. But the string slipped causing the arrow to fly off-course landing at the feet of No.2 who stood back in startled surprise and glared at 107 “Watch him, he’ll have someone’s eye out with that!”
    “I’ll get security to have him taken away” said No.14.
    “No, that is just what you will not do.”
    They continued their walk watched closely by No.107 who was surprised that No.2 allowed him to get away with such a mistake.
    No.2 was nervous enough at it was “Nothing had better go wrong this afternoon.”
    “There is still time to cancel” No.14 advised.
    “No I have to go through with this now. I’ll leave you now; I have my speech to prepare.”

   As the morning progressed stall and shy holders made last minute preparations as citizens began to gather in order to see No.2 open the fete.

     “Good people of this community” No.2, now wearing the Great Seal of Office began, “it gives me great pleasure to open this fete. Go to it with a will and enjoy yourselves.”
    The brass band played and the citizens amused themselves at the stalls, No.2 himself had three shies a credit unit but failed to hit a coconut, but he enjoyed himself and the fete did provide the opportunity for him to let his hair down an opportunity not often afforded to the Chief Administrator of the village.
   No.4 did eventually turn up at the fete, he passed through the stalls and wasn’t persuaded to try his luck at any of them, he simply mingled with the citizens to no purpose really. Everyone was enjoying themselves. There were several people watching No.107 demonstrate

his archery skills, as the archer shot at the target and hitting the bulls eye time and time again. With a spare longbow he invited citizens to step forward and try their own skill. This was conducted under the strictest supervision. No.49 was the first to step forward. He drew back the longbow, it was more difficult than he thought, took aim, and released the arrow hitting the edge of the bulls-eye target much to the applause of the crowd. No.82 was next to step forward to take her turn. Pulling back the string as far as she could, closed her eyes at the point of release. The arrow flew way off course narrowly missing No.2 as he was walking passed, it being a wonder no-one was injured or killed in the accident. People looked on in shock, a woman


screamed, and No.14 rushed to 2’s side.
    “Are you alright sir?”
    “It’s too soon” he said “too soon.”
    “It was an accident sir.”
    “And Number 4?”
    No.14 glanced about he gather crowd “He’s not to be seen.”
    No.2 brushed 14 aside saying that he was alright, and to the crowd that there’s nothing so see. There wasn’t, there had been an accident that was all, and the crowd dispersed and returned to the fete.
    “That’s that then” he told 14 “have 210 stand down he is no longer necessary…..that stupid woman’s ruined everything!”
    “Yes sir.”
    “That’s the way to do it” Mister Punch cried.
    No.2 spun round to see the hand puppet of Mister Punch looking straight at him. The policeman asked the audience if they had seen Mister Punch, the people shouted “No.” “Where is Mister Punch, he must be around somewhere” the policeman said. Suddenly Mister Punch arrived on the scene, the hand puppet was dressed in a plain dark blazer, grey polo jersey, and wound about his shoulders was the old school scarf. He held an umbrella shooting stick in one hand and hit the policeman over the head with it.
   “There” Punch said in that odd voice of his “have some of that police brutality back” and went on hitting the policeman.
    “I’m going to arrest you Mister Punch.”
    “Oh no you’re not.”
    “Oh yes I am”
    “Oh no you’re not.”
    Judy then appeared on the scene asking what that burning smell was?
    “Oh no” said Mister Punch “the sausages!”
    Mister Punch disappeared.
    “That Punch has burned the sausages!” Judy said.
    “Well I can’t arrest him for that” said the policeman.
    Mister Punch arrived back looking all contrite “I’m sorry” he said.
    “Sorry won’t butter no parsnips” Judy said angrily.
    “What’s parsnips got to do with it?” asked Mister Punch.

    “They were going to go with the sausages for tea” Judy told him.
    It was at that point the snout of a crocodile appeared, then the long mouth, it opened and the crocodile snatched the burnt sausages from Mister Punch. Mister Punch began hitting the crocodile with his umbrella shooting stick until the crocodile released the sausages.
    “Why Mister Punch you are every brave” said Judy in loving way.
    “I know, I know” said Mister Punch.
   The afternoon drew on and it was time for the Twosday ceremony. No.2, 14, and a number of Top Hat officials from Administration appeared on the balcony of the Gloriette at the far end of the Piazza, the butler was also there holding the presentation piece. The people 
reluctantly gathered below the balcony, reluctantly


because they had all been enjoying themselves at the fete and now the happy holiday atmosphere of the afternoon was about to be spoiled with a speech from No.2!
    A Top Hat administrative official dressed all in black stood before a microphone “Good citizens of this community. We are gathered here today to celebrate one man, whose unstinting work for this community is a credit to him. We applaud his drive, enthusiasm, and devotion, for keeping this community safe and secure, and for bringing about this fete which we are all enjoying. I give you Number 2,”
    The official stepped to one side to make way for No.2, the man of the hour.
   “My friends, I know I can call you my friends because I feel I know you all so well. We are all enjoying the fete today, from which I shall not keep you long.”
    At this the crowd cheered.
    “I just wanted to say that I shall continue to serve this community to the best of my ability, and shall always have your interests at heart. But there is a need for security, the security of both this community and that of its citizens, and I shall endeavour to maintain that security, and our way of life here in the village.”
    And then the presentation, the butler stepped forward carrying the silver box on a red velvet cushion, at the same time No.14 stepped forward to say a few words.
    “If I may sir on behalf of the citizens how much we appreciate your efforts for them and the village. And we should very much like you to accept this gift in a show of our appreciation of you.”
    At this there was a spontaneous round of applause as the butler presented the ornate silver box to No.2 who accepted the gift with gratitude. The Silversmith stood nonchalantly at the back of the crowd, he had put all his skill into making that silver box, and now waited for the moment when No.2 would be open it. 

   The ceremony over, the good citizens began to make their way back to the fete determined to enjoy the rest of the day. But not the Silversmith, whose disappointment showed on his face…..the box had not been opened!

    “Oh Number 2 I forgot something” 14 said rummaging in a pocket of his jacket.

    No.2 waited then was handed the key to the silver box.
    “Sorry Number 2, silly of me.”
    “Is there anything in the box?” No.2 asked.
    “The silversmith did say there was an added surprise in it.”
    “Really” 2 said shaking the box “I think I’ll return to my office now.”
    “Very good sir, do you need me?”
    “No I don’t think so, congratulations by the way, the day went well.”
    “Perhaps not as well as you had intended sir.”


    No.2 forced a smile “No, but we can’t have everything can we. They’ll be another day, Number 4 isn’t going anywhere.”
    As No.2 made his way through the village back to his office in the Green Dome a few citizens stopped him to shake his hand and to admire the ornate silver box. While No.14 allowed himself the rest of the afternoon to enjoy the fete, testing his strength at the ‘High Striker,’ this by hitting a pin with a heavy wooden mallet sending a puck towards the top in order to ring the bell, something 14 did with ease. He moved on, and hooking a duck he won himself a prize, a large brown Teddy bear which would sit in pride of place in his cottage.
   Meanwhile No.2 had settled himself back into his inner sanctum; the butler brought him cake with his late afternoon cup of tea, it being a special day.
    “You’re not at the fete?” No.2 asked
    The butler just stood looking at his master.
    “Don’t care for it I expect. Well with your background I can’t say as I blame you.”
    The butler turned and walked towards the closed steel doors. No.2 sipped his tea, and took a bite of the chocolate cake, it was delicious. Turning his attention to the silver box on his desk; he turned the key and slowly opened the lid to see what surprise was contained within.

    The sound of a high pitched siren disturbed the fun of the fete, as a Mini-Moke sped through the village with No.14 at the wheel in the company of two security guards in white helmets and grey overalls. The Moke came to a stop outside the Silversmith’s shop, the blinds were down and shop sign read closed. One security man kicked the door in and was quickly followed inside by the second security man both brandishing white truncheons, followed by No.14. The shop wasn’t deserted. In the back room they found hanging from the rafters the limp body of the silversmith.

    “That was a narrow escape” No.14 said having returned to the Green Dome in order to make his report.

    “A spring loaded bolt was the added surprise in that silver box. If I had been leaning forward another inch or two it would have been curtains for me. You say the silversmith hanged himself.”
    “Yes Number 2. I’m trying to think of what the man’s motivation was.”
    “The death of his son must have been motivation enough. He always blamed a predecessor of mine for his son’s death. When they came here, the silversmith, with his wife and son, life didn’t suit them at all, I suspect it wasn’t what they were expecting. The son resisted, attempted to escape, and when we tried to stop him he resisted, there was an accident and the son died. A month later the son’s mother died of a broken heart.”


    “That wasn’t your fault” No.14 said in sympathy.
    “No, of course not, records show that a funeral was held for both mother and son, it was all conducted properly. The silversmith was given grief therapy, but I suspect the hate for 2 remained. To him it didn’t matter who Number 2 is, I suspect it was the number the silversmith was hitting out at rather the man behind the number.”
    “The people still admire you Number 2.”
    “Really! Well perhaps.”
    The silversmiths shop was closed, emptied of its contents, and made ready for a new occupant, a Watchmaker, his wife, and daughter Monique.


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