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Be seeing you
The Tally Ho
Village Is Taught A Lesson!
by our own reporter
Co-Opted Onto The Town Council!
In London two men attached a “For
Sale” sign onto the wrought iron railings of No.1 Buckingham Place, while the
Lotus 7 was driven away by a man wearing overalls. Whilst in the Village
citizens enjoyed a spell of fine weather, attending the regular brass band
concert, or promenading around in Piazza or on the beach either sunbathing or
playing beach ball. In the Town Hall it was business as usual as a town council
meeting was taking place in the orange walled council chamber. The recently
appointed new No.2 and Chairman of
the Town Council looked at the grey high backed chair of the Worshipful Master,
then sat down in the smaller grey chair behind the small ‘V’ shaped desk.
Picking up a gavel he banged it down on a block of wood effectively bringing
the meeting to order. Twelve members of the Town Council stood at their
individual lecterns, the once vacant place now filled by the former No.2, the
now 2h dressed in brown and white jersey and black top hat stood staring ahead
with a blank expression on his face.
The Chairman banged his gavel “I bring this meeting to order. The first business is to welcome someone recently co-opted onto the Town Council Number 2h. Perhaps you would care to address your fellow councillors......come man speak up.”
Number 2h stood motionless at his lectern, his eyes stared straight ahead, there was a blank expression on his face. He could neither laugh, cry, or think for what remnant of a brain he might once have retained was now gone. To whom he owed allegiances, if he ever owed allegiances to anyone no longer mattered as there were no feelings.
“Nothing to say for yourself, nothing at all, good, we’ll move on to the next piece of business on the agenda the question of the proposed electrification of the Village taxis!”
had risen early and had gone out into the Village. His mood was as dull and
overcast as the weather. He went walking; walking along the cliffs, there was a
fresh breeze and it began to rain. Standing at the very edge of the cliffs and
facing into the wind the rain pelting his face in the hope it would wash away
the man he had become
It was mid morning when No.21 of administration stood on the quayside looking at the stone boat. He was soon joined by one of the Village’s senior citizens No.66.
“A fine old vessel, sailed her many a time.”
No.21 looked at the man wearing a naval cap and red and black striped jersey standing next to him “Really!”
“She’s good in any weather” the ex-Admiral said “but she could do with a lick of paint.”
“You don’t say” No.21 replied turning his attention back to the stone boat.
Of course it was impossible to physically sail the stone boat anywhere, being part of the quay as she was, despite the black sail, and yet psychologically you could sail anywhere in her. And now the more No.21 looked the more he could see what was wrong with the stone boat, she was certainly beginning to show her age, and looked tired and weather beaten! Then he saw two workmen in dove grey overalls and peaked caps, they were sitting on the starboard side of the stone boat having their sandwiches.
“Oi, you two come here a minute.”
No.251 glanced over his shoulder “What’s he want?”
“That’s Number twenty-one of administration, he’s always wanting something, and if it’s a minute he wants, it means a hard job of work for us!” No.251b replied.
“What do we do?”
“Better go and see what he wants I suppose.”
“Right you two, what’s the game?” No.21 asked.
“Game, me and my mate here we’re having our lunch” 251 said.
“And our coffee’s getting cold” 251b added.
“Have you seen the state of the stone boat?”
The two workmen turned round and gave the boat the once over.
“Admittedly she could do with a coat of paint” 251 said.
“And the bunting’s looking a bit on the
shabby side” 251b added.
“The works committee has charged me with overseeing the refurbishment and complete refit of the stone boat” 21 said.
251 and 251b looked at each other.
“And I want you two to be getting on with it” 21 said “how long do you think it will take?”
“We can’t do that.”
“We can’t do that...sir” 251b agreed.
“Why, what’s stopping you, you know who I
am?” 21 asked.
“Yes we know who you are, Number Twenty-one of administration” 251 said and asked for a work sheet.
“Work sheet, I haven’t got a worksheet!” 21
No.251 shook his head “You have to get a work order first.”
“It’s the Works committee who set me on this job” 21 said.
“That’s as maybe” 251 said and went on to explain “”but you need to get a work order from the Works department which is passed on to our foreman, who in turn gives the order to us, and tells us to get on with the job.”
“And by the time that’s all done it will be next week!” 21 said.
“That’s right” 251 agreed.
“Well it’s not right, all this red tape! The dinghy” No.21 said pointing at the small white boat hanging from the starboard davits.
“What about it?” 251 asked.
“She looks a wreck” 21 said.
“Admittedly she’s a bit weather beaten, and could do with a couple of new straights put in her, but it’s not so bad” 251b explained.
“Good” No.21 said turning on his heels and striding away.
“Someone should have a word about that one” 251b said.
“Yeah someone should, but not right now, it's still lunchtime!”
The next day a survey was carried out on
the stone boat and the department of Works passed down a refit order to the
foreman, who studied the work sheet. A number of workmen were assigned to the
refit, materials gathered and the work got underway. The bow sprit was sound,
as was the main mast and jib. The bunting and black sail were removed and had
to be replaced, the rigging was also removed. Parts of the wooden forecastle
were found to be rotten, carpenters cut those sections out and replaced them,
and the whole structure repainted. The dingy was removed from the davits and
taken away to the workshop to have two new straights put into her. The main
cabin, being made of reconstituted stone, only required a couple of coats of
paint. Although some of the uprights of the wooden window frame which ran
around the top of the main cabin were rotten, cut out and replaced. The stern
cabin had to be completely replaced as did the ship’s wheel; the metal frame
work was rusted but basically sound. The hull, being like the main cabin made
from reconstituted stone, once white had taken on a grey and discoloured hue.
Two men were lowered down over the starboard side on boson’s chairs, their task
to clean the hull in readiness for two coats of weather proof paint.
No.21 visited the worksite on a daily basis to see how the work was coming along.
“Instead of standing there all
haughty like” said the foreman “you could put on a pair of overalls and give us
“Do I look like a labourer?” 21 asked.
“Labourer?” said one of the ship’s carpenters “we’re all crafts men in our own fields I’ll have you know.”
“No offence was intended” 21 said.
“Well offence was most definitely taken” No.179 said waving a paintbrush at 21 “and more than that we’re artisans!”
No.21, who had been firmly put in his place, turned on his heels and marched away along the quayside.
The No.66 the ex-Admiral and his first officer would visit the worksite each day to observe the refit of the stone boat, standing at a discreet distance as they watched the work being carried out.
“Soon have her ship shape” the ex-Admiral said “then they have to re-launch her, and we can do boat trips up and down the estuary again.”
“Silly old fool” one painter was heard to say.
The portside of the stone boat was nothing more than a low wall the vessel being built into the side of the quay was painted white, and the vessel’s trim repainted black with a red line. The dinghy, complete with a set of oars, was once more hanging from the davits. The rigging replaced, a new black sail, along with fresh bunting fluttered in the breeze, and the final touch was the fitting of a new ship’s wheel.
It wasn’t only No.21 and the ex-Admiral who took a keen interest in the stone boat’s refit. No.2 sat in his office watching the wall screen, at the work being carried out on the folly. He sat watching as the dinghy was strung from the davits, and an idea occurred to him. But then the pair of steel doors slid open breaking his concentration of thought.
“They’ve made a good job of it, wouldn’t you say sir” No.21 said as he approached the desk.
No.2 turned his attention from the wall screen to his assistant “Ah Twenty-one, I haven’t seen very much of you these past few days.”
“Well you have things well in hand sir, and the Works committee instructed me to oversee a survey of the stone boat, as well as the refit.”
“Of course you know what a stone boat is Twenty-one.”
“Yes, the ex-Admiral explained the whole thing to me. He’s looking forward to the boat’s re-launching!”
“And why not?” No.2 suggested.
“You mean make an occasion of it? Good idea sir.”
The day came when the stone boat would be re-launched, and a celebration ceremony was organized much to the pleasure of the ex-Admiral and his first officer No.1. The crowd gathered on the quay, and above along the balustrade and on the lawn of the Old People’s Home. The band played, people waved flags, and there was a genuine
air of joy and happiness. No.2 was in attendance and gave a short speech before smashing a bottle of wine over the bow of the vessel. Later he mingled amongst the gathered crowd of on-lookers’ he was looking for No.8, and then he saw her standing at the far end of the quay. It had taken time for her to come to terms with what had happened to her, and she had seen nothing of No.2, not until now.
He approached her “how are you?”
“As well as can be expected” she told him.
“Settling down alright?”
“Not really” she told him “this isn’t the type of place in which I want to spend the rest of my life.”
“You won’t have to” he told her.
“What do you mean by that? Do you know what they put me through?”
“I can imagine.”
“No, you know what they did to me…I gave myself up for you, everything I knew!”
“It’s a lot to ask I know, but trust me now and I can get the both of us out of here.”
“You expect me to trust you…even now?”
As they talked the figure of No.21 stood high up on the lawn of the Old People’s Home, standing at the balustrade looking down at the couple until they parted, each going their separate ways.
During the next couple of days, No.2 being
a resilient man returned to his administrative details attending meetings,
dealing with miscreants, authorising the construction of a new cottage. And
then there was No.8……
The pair of steel doors opened and the figure of No.8 entered the chamber.
“Ah there you are Number Eight” No.2 said rising out of his chair.
“You wanted to see me” she said with just a tone of defiance.
“We haven’t seen very much of each other recently” he told her “old friends shouldn’t lose contact.”
“I haven’t seen very much of you, as for old friends that’s in the past.”
“Oh no not at all. Can I offer you some tea?”
“Just get on with it, what do you want?”
“To talk, to ask how you are getting on.”
“How do you think I’m getting on?” unable to hide the bitterness in her voice.
“I can help you” he told her.
“You, help me?”
“It’s been quite warm recently” he said.
“Yes, yes I suppose it has” she replied.
“Quite hot enough for June wouldn’t you say?”
“Yes, but you should have been….” she looked him and suddenly recognizing the man she once knew.
He stepped out from behind his desk
and approached her “I’m glad you understand the situation Number Eight, we all
have to work together in order to achieve our aims.”
For a moment, and it was a moment he slipped his hand in hers, she felt the small piece of paper and clenched it when he withdrew his hand.
“It’s good to see you’re beginning to see your way here in the Village” No.2 began “I’m sorry we got off to a bad start, but I trust we can improve that situation over time. You can go Number Eight, but we will talk again” he told her.
No.2 failed to answer the question, he watched as No.8 left his office.
Outside she unfolded the piece of paper it read 12.30 at the brass band concert.
With the loud music and speaking quietly
they were able to speak without being overheard.
“Are you sure we should meet in the open like this?”
“It would have been worse had we attempted
to meet in secret, that would have attracted the attention of the Observers” he
In the control room No.21 and the supervisor stood watching the large wall screen.
“Can you get the audio?” 21 asked.
“It would do no good, the music is hiding their voices” the supervisor explained.
“I want a lip reader to go through this surveillance footage; I must know what they’re talking about!” 21 ordered.
“You think Number Two is up to something with Number Eight?”
“Number Two has suddenly become suspect?” the supervisor asked “they are old friends.”
“I know that, and that’s what makes Number Two’s actions questionable” 21 said.
“And you are going to catch him out?”
“It’s for his own good.”
“And put a feather in your own cap in the process” the supervisor suggested.
No.2 and No.8 stood up, they said their
goodbyes and walked their separate ways.
“What are they doing?” 21 asked.
“They are going their separate ways” the supervisor said “it looks like Number Two is on his way back to the town hall, and she is going to the café.”
But neither did, instead they managed to meet up in a passage way between two cottages.
“We haven’t got long” he told her.
“You have a plan?” she asked.
“Yes, but it must be tonight, my assistant suspects me” he told her.
“Conspiring with you!”
“I thought you had betrayed me.”
“If I have betrayed anyone it is myself.”
“What are we going to do?”
“I want you to do some shopping this afternoon, and buy a basket to put the food in.”
“Return to your cottage and wait there. Here you are.”
“Tinfoil. Tonight as the maid leaves your cottage you must manage to slip this into the lock as the door closes, it will create a circuit break and prevent the electronic lock securing the door” he explained “you understand?”
“Wait until ten minutes after curfew, and don’t drink the nightcap, then slip out into the night, I shall do the same and we’ll meet up in the pink pavilion!”
“And we escape how?”
“By boat” he said “I know where we are Lena, we’ll be heading north, hugging the coast under the cover of darkness. Then we’ll row ashore and head in land until we find a road.”
She looked at him “You make it all sound so easy.”
“I assure you it will not be easy. We need to get to the stone boat first.”
She looked at him gone out “The stone boat, why, is the Admiral simply going to sail us away?”
“Of course not, the stone boat has a dinghy, we use that” he told her.
Her heart lightened, and she smiled.
“We must be careful of the Observers, and then there’s the searchlight in the tower. So are you game, because I cannot do this without you. Now go and do your shopping, and act nonchalant.”
“I don’t feel nonchalant” she told him.
He kissed her on the forehead and told her all would be well in the end, and then they went their separate ways.
In the Green Dome No.21 was awaiting the
dialogue spoken between No.’s 2 and 8 while at the brass band concert. The pair
of steel doors opened and a woman in a white coat rushed in holding a sheet of
“Good, now let’s see” 21 said taking the sheet of paper.
“Is this all you could get?”
“They must have said more than this?”
“No sir they didn’t.”
“How are you keeping? I trust there have
been no ill effects? You’re the last person I thought to meet here. This isn’t
what I wanted to read, where’s the conspiracy in this?”
The woman in the white coat just stood there.
“Alright, you can go” he told her picking up the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone “put me through to the control room.”
“I need to know, after Number Eight and Number Two split up where did they go?”
“You saw, Number Eight went in the direction of the café, and Number Two towards the Town Hall.”
“Yes, but did they actually go there?”
“Eventually, what do you mean eventually?”
“There was a minor time discrepancy” the supervisor reported.
“How long a time discrepancy?”
“Oh two or three minutes, no longer.”
“And Number Eight did go to the café?”
“And Number Two is in the Town Hall?”
“Yes sir, put up camera thirty-six vision only.”
On the wall screen was pictured a meeting in the committee chamber, and there was No.2 chairing that meeting.
“Yes, he’s in a committee meeting at this very moment” the supervisor observed.
No.21 put the phone down.
That night the maids came to turn down the beds, and make nightcaps for the citizens, as they did every night. Except tonight No. 8 would not drink her nightcap, sleep was the last thing on her mind. The maid bid No.8 a goodnight and crossed the lounge to the cottage door, as the door closed behind her No.8 with tinfoil in hand managed to slip it between the mortise and tenon of the lock creating a false connection of the electric lock. Once in the bedroom she laid down upon the bed, the lights dimmed, and she waited.
In his room in the Town Hall No.2 also waited. His plan was to get out by the bathroom window, which would take him out to the back of the building. From there he would make his way along to a set of steps at the back of a cottage, which lead down to the road, and then it was but a short distance to the wrought iron gates and the pink pavilion beyond. He checked his watch, it was a little after curfew. Leaving his room, still fully dressed, he walked along the corridor to the bathroom, he slid the brass bolt securing the door, then forced the little window open, climbed out into the night.
No.8 climbed off the bed and in the dim light collected the basket of food from the kitchen, then crossing the lounge pulled open the door, the tinfoil falling to the floor she slipped out into the night closing the
door behind her. Under the cloak of darkness she kept low so to dodge the surveillance cameras, she made her way along the path, at the
building she descended a few steps by a statue, then along to the pink pavilion
where she found No.2 waiting.
“How long have you been here?” she whispered.
“A minute or so” he told her, which was perfectly true.
It was a dark, moonless night, the conditions perfect, as they left the cover of the pink pavilion, and made their way down steps which led to the stop of the waterfall. The biggest obstacle now was the searchlight based in the top of the tower.
“If I’m right the searchlight crew will be watching the estuary” he said.
“And if not?”
“If not we’ll be like two bunnies caught in the headlights of a car!”
Keeping to the sea wall was one thing, but between them and the sea wall was clear open ground, and there was always the constant danger of the Observers. No.2 relieved No.8 of her basket to allow her to make a dash for the swimming pool and the sea wall. She saw the light sweep out across the estuary, then back lighting up the quayside, and then the danger struck her. Having made it to the swimming pool No.8 crouched down with her back to the sea wall. No.2 was not far behind her, and together they made their way along to the quay and finally to the stone boat and into the main cabin they both went as the searchlight swept back and fourth across the estuary. Emerging from the main cabin they went round to the starboard side, No.2 placed the basket of provisions into the dinghy, then working together they released the ropes and began to lower the dinghy from the davits into the water. Suddenly the stone boat was lit up by the searchlight and three figures stood on the quayside.
“Why am I not surprised Number Two, or do I
mean Six?” 21 said.
“Oh yes, I was forgetting for the moment. Secure that dinghy.”
Two guardians boarded the stone boat, No.2 showed a margin of resistance towards the guardians, but were allowed to secure the dinghy.
you go with these gentlemen my dear” No.21 said in a courteous fashion.
“Where are they taking me?” she demanded.
“No need to worry my dear, they’ll take you home that’s all” No.21 said reassuringly.
Two security guards in grey overalls, white helmets, gloves and boots brandishing white truncheons took No.2 into security.
“It’s such a pity. Yes I had my doubts about
you at the beginning, and yet you grew on me. We had high hopes for you.”
The game was well and truly up.
“What will you do to Lena?”
“You mean Number Eight, but I shouldn’t waste energy worrying
her, you have enough to worry about yourself. In your time you have given the
administration here a great deal of trouble. Now you are going to put us to even
more trouble in having to find someone else.”
“You being no longer fit for office. Oh but I can sympathize with you, there comes a point when we all want nothing more than to escape. ”
“What is to be my fate?” No.2 dared to ask.
“I think we can find a way in which you can still be of service to this community, and retain your number at the same time 2h.”
You never Know Who You Might Meet!
The turquoise coloured Alouette helicopter approached the Village over the hills on the furthermost side of the Village and flying across the estuary the pilot made the final approach to land on the grass by the sea wall. An ambulance was parked up and two men in white coats stood waiting as the helicopter settled on the lawn, the engine stopped and its rotor blades began to slow. Carrying a stretcher between them the two medical orderlies approached the helicopter, the pilot opened the cabin door and an unconscious woman was carried out, placed onto the stretcher, and carried over to the ambulance and placed in the Red Cross trailer. One would have thought the ambulance would have taken the patient to the hospital, not a bit of it. The ambulance was driven through the Village and came to a stop in the cobbled square. The woman was then carried on the stretcher up steps, along a path, then through an arch to the door of ‘8 Private.’ Once in the cottage she was carefully put on a bed and left to wake up.
In the Green Dome the black global chair
rose up through the hole in the floor behind the grey curved desk…it was empty!
No.21 was about to pick up a telephone when the pair of steel doors opened and
No.2 entered the purple walled office. No.21 was frozen for a moment, his hand
poised over the telephone as No.2 walked behind his desk.
“You were going to phone someone?” No.2 asked.
21 removed his hand “No sir, its just that…..”
“You are a dammed liar Twenty-one, you were going to report my absence from duty. But as you can see I am here now.”
“…It’s just that the chair rose up and you were not seated in it.”
“Oh I see, well I walked to work this morning. The air is crisp and clear at this time of the morning, especially after the night’s rain” No.2 declared.
The steel doors opened and the butler entered bringing No.2 his breakfast.
“Anything new this morning?” No.2 asked watching the butler pour out a cup of tea.
“The helicopter has brought a new arrival, Number Eight, she has been placed in her cottage and left to wake up.
The butler dropped two cubes of sugar into the cup and handed cup and saucer to his master, bowed then took his leave from the office.
No.2, taking the cup and saucer leaned forward and pressed a button on the control panel of his desk. This activated the wall screen
show a woman asleep on a bed.
The auburn haired woman dressed in a dark
green cardigan and matching skirt began to stir. Swinging her legs round she
sat up on the edge of the bed. She looked about the room, a smile crossed her
“Thank Goodness, it’s good to be home” she said, not for one moment wondering how she had come to be there.
No.21 held out a black file, No.2 put down his cup and saucer and taking the file, opened it and began to read “Lena Berg, forty years of age, five feet 8 inches tall, she worked for Swedish Intelligence for five years, mostly in records” he closed the file and placed it on his desk.
Pictured on the wall screen No.8 stood up and crossed into the kitchen running her fingers through her hair, she had a slight headache which was suddenly magnified when she looked out of the window. It came as a shock as it would to anyone, to think she was in the protection of her own home, only to discover she was no longer in that home on Sturegatan. The view from the window was completely alien to her; wherever she was she was no longer in
“An attractive woman wouldn’t you say Twenty-one?”
“Not falling for her already Number Two?”
No.2 picked up the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone “I’m sure she is a very charming woman Twenty-one, but let us keep our minds on the job shall we. Number Eight please…”
No.8 was busy trying to regain her mind, to gather her thoughts when the black telephone began to ring, it startled her for a moment but she picked up the receiver.
“I trust you have slept well” No.2 began.
“Wh..who is this, where am I?” she asked
“Come and join me for breakfast, Number 2 the Green Dome” he said then hung up. Suddenly there was something familiar in his mind, something…
On the wall screen No.8 was pictured pressing the cradle of the telephone trying to re-connect with her caller.
“The caller has ended the call” the operator told her.
“Can I make a call?”
“Yes, what is your number?” the operator asked.
Lena looked at the centre of the dial of the phone “Eight” she told the operator.
“And you want to make a call to…?”
the operator asked.
“To the Swedish consulate.”
“I’m sorry, local numbers only” the operator said and hung up.
Replacing the receiver on the telephone Lena crossed the room to the door of her cottage, and opening it took her first tentative steps into the Village.
No.2 and his assistant watched No.8 emerge from her cottage, make her way through an arch and along a path, down some steps. A man was passing by wheeling a Penny Farthing bicycle.
“Excuse me” she said “but can you tell me where the Green Dome is?”
“Across the square, across the street, up the steps, you can’t miss it” the man said.
“You’re new here” the man observed.”
“Ye…yes” she replied nervously.
“There’s no need to be nervous, unless you’ve done something wrong, then there’s everything to worry about. On your way to see Number Two are you?”
Lena looked at the man “Yes. Why do you push that thing?” she asked.
“Because I cannot ride it!” the man laughed and pushed the Penny Farthing on his way.
Crossing the cobbled square a white Mini-Moke appeared through an arch, Lena held out a hand hailing the taxi.
“Can you take me to the nearest town?”
“Look lady this is a local taxi, and I do local destinations.”
“Take me as far as you can, I’ve got to get out of here” she told the driver.
No.21 stood watching the wall screen as the woman climbed into the taxi “It looks like she has declined your offer of breakfast!”
“Well there’s plenty of time, she’ll end up back here in the end.” No.2 replied.
“Your breakfast is getting cold.”
“Let it!” No.2 snapped.
“Do you want me here when you interrogate her?”
“Interview her Twenty-one, when I interview her.”
“Not letting your head be turned by a
pretty face, are we sir?”
“Certainly not” No.2 said turning his attention to the ham and eggs on the plate.
Pictured on the wall screen the taxi drove through the Village, passed the café, down the hill passed the Town Hall towards the Old People’s Home, reversing round, then back up the hill into the Village taking a short slip road to the right, round by the pink pavilion and Hercules statue. They headed along a narrow cobbled lane, taking a right-hand turn through an arch and emerging into the same cobbled
square she had walked across a few minutes previously. The taxi came to a stop, Lena stepped out.
“But this is where we started!”
“And this is where we stop. That will be two units” the driver told her.
“Units, what are units?”
“Credit units lady, oh well pay me next time” the driver said.
The taxi sped off down the road leaving Lena standing in the square looking up at the imposing Green Dome then crossed the road towards the steps.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” No.21 asked.
On the screen Lena was slowly climbing the steps, perhaps wondering what fate awaited her.
No.2 finished his bacon and eggs “Now you can go, but don’t stray too far.”
Lena reached the front door of the Green Dome; it startled her when it opened automatically. She was confronted by the butler who bid her enter with the gesture of a hand. In the foyer was a man sat in an armchair reading a magazine The Village Journal. The butler led the woman through a pair of open French doors, up a slope to a pair of large steel doors which slid open, the butler leading the way she passed through the open doors into a large purple walled chamber. The butler withdrew and she turned her head as the steel doors closed behind her.
“Come ahead” a voice said.
Lena walked down the ramp, her demeanour showed she was nervous, to be quite blunt she was afraid, and filled with dread to think of what was about to happen to her. There was a large wall screen, she stopped, she looked at the screen, and there she was mingling with other people at a party.
“That’s where we first met” the man behind the desk said “in
And there on the screen was Engadine, talking, chatting, a word here, a word there, laughing and enjoying seeing people enjoying themselves.
Lena stepped forward and approached the desk; she looked at the man sat in the black global chair.
The morning drew on and the interview
turned into a working lunch, lunch having been served by the butler who
emerging from chamber handed No.21 a ham and cheese sandwich on a plate, and a
cup of tea.
“What’s going on in there” No.21 asked the butler from the comfort of the armchair.
The butler simply shrugged his shoulders and went about his business while No.21 sat eating his sandwich. Suddenly the pair of steel doors opened, No.21 jumped up knocking over the cup and saucer onto the carpet as No.8 emerged from the chamber. She glanced at the man standing in front of the fire place as she crossed the foyer. The door opening automatically she left the Green Dome and went home, leaving No.21 mopping up the spilt tea with his handkerchief. Then adjusting his jacket, entered No.2’s office.
“That was a long breakfast” 21 said.
“Yes, but an informative one nonetheless” No.2 replied “they’ve made a mistake!”
“A mistake sir, we don’t make mistakes here.”
“We shall have to handle this very differently.”
“They have brought the wrong woman to the Village!”
The next day No.2 met with No.8 at the
brass band concert, in fact they met the day after that as well. They enjoyed
each other's company, having a coffee together at the café, and on the lawn of
the Old People’s Home. They would walk, and talk, and they were getting noticed
and like in most villages tongues began to wag. And then one morning… the pair
of steel doors opened and No.21 entered dressed in his garb as a Top Hat
“Good morning Number Two, I take it you are ready?”
“Ready?” No.2 asked.
“There is a meeting of the General Purposes committee in fifteen minutes.”
“Oh, yes of course, I had forgotten.”
There was an air of preoccupation about No.2, as though he had something, or someone on his mind.
“How are things going with Number Eight?”
“Number Eight, oh yes Number Eight.”
“I take it this is what you meant by having to handle her very differently.”
No.2 looked as 21 sternly “What do you mean by that?”
“Only that you seem to have made Number Eight a personal case in question.”
“She is very troubled.”
“That was only to be expected, but we have doctors to help with that. And we didn’t bring the wrong woman to the Village, I checked!”
“You overstep the mark.”
“I’m merely watching your back. One of my duties is to tell you when I think you’re making a mistake.”
“Or neglecting my duties?” 2 suggested.
“People are beginning to talk” 21 said “personally I think you are protecting Number Eight.”
“I suggest you go and chair the General Purposes committee meeting on my behalf.”
“You have my confidence Twenty-one.”
“You want me to chair the meeting?”
“You are neglecting your duties Number Two.”
“Well you let me worry about that. Now, the committee will be waiting!”
“Yes Number Two.......... sir.”
It was mid-day by the time No.21 changed
back into his light blue piped blazer. He made his way through the Village to
the Green Dome, and when he entered No.2’s office he found that a large, red
curved telephone had been placed on the desk, what’s more it was bleeping
somewhat impatiently. He picked it up.
“Number Two isn’t here sir……yes sir I realise you know he isn’t here…….no sir I have no idea where he is or what he’s doing……yes sir, I shall find him……yes sir, of course sir.”
No.21 replaced the telephone back on the desk, and pressed a button on the control panel of the desk activating the wall screen, and pressing a number of buttons different views of the Village appeared on the screen. The cobbled square, the café, the Village green, bandstand, he scanned the lawn of the Old People’s Home, then zoomed in on a table at the far end of the lawn and found No.2 sat at a table with No.8.
“You realise they will be watching” No.8
“I hope they learn something!” he replied, there was defiance in his voice, he had not heard that for some time.
“That’s what I’m afraid of” she said “is it so wise to meet so openly.”
“It would be worse if we tried meeting in secret” he told her “it would be more questionable.”
The waiter approached the table carrying a tray and placed the two cups and saucers, milk jug and sugar bowl on the table.
“Your coffee sir.”
“Thank you” No.2 said handing over his credit card.
The waiter took a metal device from his pocket and clipped the credit card before handing it back.
“Can you get me out of here?” No.8 asked.
“I’m not sure I can get myself out of this place” he said adding milk and three lumps of sugar to his coffee.
“But you have authority here.”
“What happened to you, the last time we met….”
“Was in Paris” she said “at one of madame Engadine’s celebrated parties. I was sent there to meet a man, not you, I was to allow myself to be recruited by him. I was given papers to give to him, but really I was sent to recruit him!”
“They will want to know, they will want to know everything.”
“I’m not that important” she said.
“Important enough to see you brought here.”
“And you, how did you turn up here?”
“That’s a long story” he told her.
“But it didn’t take you long to achieve a position of power.”
“They were looking for a good man!”
“Looks like they found one.”
“That’s been said of me before! I’m not
sure how much longer I can protect you, I’m making myself suspect by my
assistant, and possibly by others.”
“Then get us both out of here!” Lena pleaded.
“There is no escape, not for any of us” he told her.
“So what happens now?”
They usually come for you when you’re least
expecting them. There had been a knock on the door, and two men stood on the
doorstep, one a tall fair-haired figure dressed in a grey blazer, the other a
burly set man in a red jumper.
“Come with us Number Eight” No.21 said.
“You are to be taken in for questioning” 21 told her.
“I’ll call Number two, he’ll soon put you back in your box!” she told him crossing the room to the telephone.
There was a click of fingers, and before No.8 could pick up the receiver she was being restrained by the guardian. The next thing she knew, Number 8 had been placed in the back of a taxi and was driven to the hospital and forced into an interrogation room. There she had been forced to stand for what seemed like hours while a disembodied voice kept up a stream of question’s, sometimes the same question asked repeatedly.
“We want information” the voice said “information, information, information.”
“When did you begin working for Swedish
“What was your position within Intelligence?”
“Did you have contact with Colonel Strack?”
“Who recruited you into Swedish Intelligence?”
“How old were you when you went to work for Intelligence?”
“Tell me about the files you have seen, the projects you know about, tell me, tell me. We want information, information, you want to talk, sooner or later you’ll talk, sooner or later you will want to”.
“Tell me your name?”
“How old are you?”
“What is your politics, religion, are you political, are you religious?”
“Tell me about Swedish Intelligence.”
“Tell me about Colonel Strack.”
Questions, questions, the questions seemed to go on for hours. It was hot under the lights; her legs grew more and more tired. Eventually she was allowed to kneel.
“What is your relationship with Number Two?” the voice suddenly asked and repeated the question “what is your relationship with Number Two?”
Suddenly the door of the observation room
burst open and No.2 stormed into the room.
“What do you think you’re doing Twenty-one?”
“Watching your back sir, doing what you should have done.”
No.8 was finding it painful to be on her knees for so long, the pain and stress was written all over her face and the questioning persisted.
“If you would answer just one question. What is Number Two to you, you have been spending time together, what have you been talking about, was it escape?”
her go!” No.2 demanded.
“Do I perceive a little of the old Number Six coming to the surface? I should watch that sir!” No.21 warned him.
No.8 raised her eyes to the black window and realised she was being watched “He… is nothing to me, he was questioning me, attempting to gain my trust so that I would talk, to save me this. Let me sit down and I shall tell you everything.”
“You have been neglecting the Village, for what, for her?”
No.2 watched as a comfy chair was taken into the room, as two men helped No.8 into it. And so she sat and talked, she talked and told them everything. And No.2 stood watching, listening to all the secrets as they came pouring out of the broken woman’s mouth.
“Number Eight sacrificed herself for you sir, she must have thought you worth it” 21 said leaving the observation room
so the great day was almost upon the good citizens and the community at large.
There should have been an air of excitement pervading the atmosphere of the Village,
“I ask you this, Appreciation Day, what’s it in aid of?” a young radical asked.
“To show our appreciation of Number Two” a good citizen replied.
“Well I ask you this citizen, what has Number Two ever done for you?”
“Well there was the village regatta” No.97
“Yes that’s right” 209 agreed “and don’t forget the horticultural show.”
“Well that’s right” 38 said in agreement “life here isn’t so bad, it could be worse.”
“Worse! How worse could it be? We’re told how to live our lives, interrogated, tortured, mind altering drugs are used on us. We’re experimented upon, locked in our cells at night, and at the same time sedated to keep us quiet, and we are kept under surveillance morning noon and night, and Number Two is behind it all!”
“Well I’ve not had any of those things done to me” No.112 said.
“Well perhaps you’re one of those people who came here of your own volition” the radical accused “life here can be very pleasant if you give in and give them what they want. Then in return they give you certain privileges; you’re allowed to enjoy a day at the beach.”
“Not to mention in the library” said a citizen
“I’m going to a music concert this afternoon” announced another.
“And there’s the cinema, art seminars” said No.112.
“And for those who are of a sporting nature there’s the gymnasium, croquet on the Village green, clock golf, the golf course” No.42 added to the list of activities.
“The welfare system” said another.
“The amateur dramatics society!”
“Brass band concerts” 32 added.
“Arts and crafts exhibitions.”
“Alright, alright” the young radical said “spend the rest of your lives here if that’s what you want.”
“What else is there?” 112 asked.
“Escape!” the young radical said.
“Don’t be daft, no-one has ever escaped.”
“That’s what they want you to think, it’s another way in which they control and manipulate you. They want you to think there’s no escape.”
“There’s always the Guardian!” No.38 suggested.
“Or guardians” 112 said looking at the two burly men walking towards the gathered citizens.
As the two men in red jerseys drew nearer the small crowd broke
each person walking away.
“Number Forty-seven you are to come with us” No.256 said.
No.47 protested “What for, you’ve got nothing on me!”
No.261 took a small device from his pocket and pressed a button, the recorder began to play back 47’s own words “I ask you this, Appreciation Day, what’s it in aid of? Well I ask you this citizen, what has Number Two ever done for you? Worse! How worse could it be? We’re told how to live our lives, interrogated, tortured, mind altering drugs are used on us. Were experimented upon, locked in our cells at night, and sedated to keep us quiet, and we are kept under surveillance morning noon and night, and Number Two is behind it all!”
No.47 was taken away by the two guardians in order to receive the best possible therapy treatment the doctors in the hospital could provide. Such treatment included electrical massage of the brain, the use of mind altering drugs, reconditioning of the mind, and aversion therapy. Suffice to say No.47 was no longer the young radical he once was. All outward appearances gave the impression that he was now fully integrated into Village life.
The workshop had been a hive of activity as carpenters busied themselves sawing wood, banging nails and pasting onto placards, large and small, the poster image of No.2.
“I recall how we made loads of these
placards before” No.195 complained “why can’t we use those?”
“That’s right” No.55 said “they were for the local election.”
“Because they were chucked away after the election” the foreman said “besides we could hardly use the vote for Number Six could we.”
The placards were made for a number of citizens to carry during the Appreciation Day ceremony.
“I bet this Appreciation Day malarkey turns out to be a damp squib!” No.39 said sawing a piece of 4 by 2.
“How do you make that out?” 195 asked.
“I remember last year’s event” 39 said.
“So do I” 84 said “we stood under the
balcony of the Gloriette listening to an old man who banged on about all the
achievements he had done for the community!”
“That was the old Number Two, he retired” 195 said.
“Yes, then we got a new Number Two, and I remember how he couldn’t get through his speech fast enough!” 4 said.
“I expect he was eager to get on with the job” the foreman said “I wish the same could be said of you lot, so less chit-chat, and more woodworking, and make sure you paste those posters on nice and smooth, that means no creases!”
“Good afternoon everyone, good afternoon”
the cheery female announcer began “Just to remind you good people everywhere
that tomorrow is the big day, Appreciation Day. Remember folks there will be a
speech by Number Two himself, as well as the unveiling of the magnificent
Appreciation Day monument, don’t miss it. Come one come all, be seeing you.”
The citizens sitting at tables on the lawn of the Old People’s Home carried on drinking their tea, or coffee and remained unstirred. Citizens sitting at tables on a lawn next the bandstand all sat looking unimpressed, unmoved by the announcement while others looked completely bored with the whole thing already. The good people of this community seemed to lack the vibrant enthusiasm as once they had for such public events. Its seemed that hardly anyone listened to the announcement, an uninterested look was etched on all their faces, perhaps because they had not only seen it all before, but had been put through it all before. And now they had to go through it all again, and for what, a better life, a better Village, more Village?
The pair of steel doors opened and No.21
walked smartly down the ramp into No.2’s office. He was dressed in black suit,
overcoat, Top Hat, and dark glasses as in his capacity of a Top Hat
“Are you ready sir, it’s almost time” 21 said in official tones.
“You are going to be there?”
“Yes sir. I shall be officiating in my official capacity.”
“What precisely does that mean?”
“As an administrator I shall be standing behind you on the balcony trying to look interested” 21 explained.
“Are the people in good heart?”
No.21 remained silent.
“I asked if the people are in good heart.”
“I’m sure they will be captivated in the moment” 21 said.
“It’s only to be expected, the people have been here before. You yourself once took part in a local election, you yourself were elected as a new Number Two. The people went through that election supporting you because they believed you would bring change. But nothing
not for the citizens, because what did you do?”
No.2 recalled “I tried to organise a mass breakout.”
“And there you have it, you put self before the people, had you played the game….”
“I was gullible, I allowed myself to get involved, I should have known better.”
“And the next day we ended up with an interim Number Two who was hard as nails. I hate to imagine where they got her from!” No.21 said thinking back.
“And I have been refreshing my memory, by reviewing some tapes of last years Appreciation Day, and the three days leading up to it” 2 said.
“Then this is the time, the moment in which you can a difference” 21 told him.
“What by telling the people what they want to hear!” he said pressing a button on the control panel of the desk.
A face appeared on the wall screen, No.2 stood looking at himself.
“The community can rest assured that their interests are very much my own and that anything I can do to maintain the security of the citizens will be my primary objective...... be seeing you.”
He pressed another button.
“There are those who come in here and deny we can provide every conceivable civilized amenity within our boundaries. You can enjoy yourselves and you will. You can take partake of the most hazardous sports and you will, the price is cheap, all you have to do is give us information. You are then eligible for promotion to other and perhaps more attractive spheres where do you desire to go, what has been your dream? I can supply it, winter spring, summer or fall they can all be yours at any time. Apply to me and it will be easier and better.”
“Six six six six six six six six six six six six six six.”
And a third button.
“Place your trust in the old regime their
policies defined the future certain, the old regime forever and the old Number
Two forever. Confession by coercion is that what you want? Vote for him and you
have it, or stand firm upon this electoral platform and speak a word without
fear the word is…..freedom. They say six of one and half a dozen of the other,
not here, it’s Six for Two and Two for nothing and Six for free for all for
free for all vote, vote.”
No.2 turned off the screen.
“I remember, I was there” 21 said “if elected you offered to take care of the citizens, you offered the people a choice, as well as less work and more play!”
“What game are we playing now?” 2 demanded to know.
“You have progressed; it’s you the people will be showing their appreciation for” 21 assured his superior “If you want to make a better Village, a moral Village, then its actions not words which are required.”
No.2 picked up a sheet of paper from his desk, he tore it up.
The pair of steel doors opened and the
butler entered the chamber in his capacity of the Keeper of the Great Seal of
Office as he carried a crimson cushion, upon which it sat. Standing before No.2
No.21 took the Great Seal of office and placed it about the Chief Administrator’s
neck and shoulders. Making sure it was hanging correctly and announcing it was
time, the people will be waiting.
No.2 looked down at it then at his assistant “Shouldn’t I receive that after my speech?”
“I thought the Great Seal is the Appreciation Day ceremony.”
“The ceremony is for the people, and in
your case it’s quite superfluous. Seeing as you have no successor, being our
permanent Number Two, there’s no-one to pass the Great Seal onto.”
“I could choose the moment to resign” No.2 told him.
“Creating chaos and confusion, that’s the old Number Six’s way of thinking” 21 told him.
The three of them made to leave the domed chamber, the butler leading the way through the open steel doors. No.21 paused, thought for a moment.
“You go ahead I won’t be a moment.”
Picking up the red telephone pressing the square chrome button “I realize this is not the correct protocol sir……..yes sir but I think Number Two is about to put a spanner in the works……yes of course I will sir.”
Replacing the telephone back on the desk he saw the torn pieces of paper of No,2’s speech. Picking them up he put them in his pocket and hurried outside to find the butler and No.2 standing on the balcony looking down on the people parading through the Village carrying placards of No.2, Chairman, and Chief Administrator as the brass band played.
“This is the moment ladies and gentlemen, the great moment when we can all show our appreciation of our Number Two. Today we salute our leader” a Top Hat official said into a microphone.
The Appreciation Day monument had been
placed below the balcony of the Gloriette, covered by a red silk sheet.
“We should go sir” 21 suggested.
So the three of them, the butler leading, descended the steps down to the road where a taxi waited at the bottom of the steps.
“I think we’ll walk” No.2 said “it’s not far.”
The taxi driver shrugged her shoulders as the three men walked off along the road. Although people paraded carrying the 2 placards there was no cheering from the citizens, their faces wore blank expressions. No.2 followed the butler, and No.21 followed behind No.2 to the Gloriette. Standing on the balcony were five Top Hat administrative
two standing either side of the doorway, and one just
standing about. No.2 and his assistant stepped up onto the balcony, and the butler taking his place standing by the side of the
Appreciation Day monument below the balcony. The brass band continued to play as the citizens gathered in the piazza below the balcony. No.2 stood by the railing and the crowd burst into life cheering him, and naturally enough he raised his right hand and waved joyfully at the now smiling faces in the crowd as they waved their placards.
No.21 approached one of the two officiating officials “Get these pasted together” he said taking the pieces of torn paper out of his pocket.
The official looked at 21 “Where am I going to get any glue? I don’t carry it around in my pocket.”
“Just get it done, and be quick about it” 21 ordered.
Taking the torn pieces of paper the Top Hat left the balcony and No.21 took his place.
No.245, a senior administrative official
stepped forward before the microphone “Fellow citizens…no dear friends for that
is what you are each and everyone of you.”
No.2 looked at the official making the usual address because although he heard the words spoken, not one word was uttered from the mouth of this man!
The disembodied voice continued with the speech and N.245 continued to mime the words “We are gathered here on this happy occasion, our annual appreciation day, to pay homage and to show our gratitude to our glorious leaders.”
There was a sudden fanfare.
The crowed cheered and applauded, waved their placards in appreciation as No.245 gestured to No.2 to approach the microphone. At that moment the Top Hat official returned and unseen passed No.21 the now pieces of paper pasted together onto a piece of pasteboard. Standing before the microphone No.2 acknowledged the cheering citizens with a wave of a hand, the gold Great Seal of Office glinting in the sunshine as he prepared himself to make his speech. At that moment No.21 slipped the pasteboard onto the grey podium, No.2 saw it and looked at his assistant. There was a pause, the people waited expectantly. No.2 placed a hand on either side of the podium as though to lean upon it, and looked down at the words he had written.
There was a fanfare.
“Good people of this community” No.2 began.
The crowd cheered.
No.2 glanced at his assistant “Initially it was my intention to tender my resignation at this point.”
This brought about foreboding murmurings amongst the citizens.
“However” again he glanced at his assistant “It gives me enormous pleasure to stand here before you today, to see so many familiar faces amongst you on this most auspicious occasion. It is my intention to
bring about reform to our community, to make a better, a moral
Village, to find a better way for all.”
The citizens cheered, applauded, and waved their placards frantically.
“And so it is with great pride that I dedicate this magnificent monument which represents our appreciation of this great community.”
The citizens applauded and cheered the words of No.2, their leader, but he turned away from the microphone and glared in anger at his assistant, for the words heard were not his own, the microphone had been turned off!
The butler pulled on a cord and the silk sheet fell away revealing the appreciation monument. Etched in the stone was the face of No.2, beneath which was the word.
Again the people cheered and applauded
at the unveiling, while on the balcony it was smiles and congratulations all
round as the crowd in the Piazza began to disperse. No.2 stood scowling at his
assistant who merely smiled back in return.
“I thought the day went off rather well” No.21 said
“What by putting words in my mouth!”
“You were given the opportunity to say the things which you thought needed to be said” his assistant told him taking the pasteboard and tearing it up.
Overhead the Alouette helicopter circled over the Village before landing on the lawn by the sea wall, while two workmen in dove grey overalls came along with a set of trolley wheels to take away the appreciation monument. No.2 and his assistant returned to the Green Dome and life in the Village went on.