Allegiance: loyalty to a person, cause or group

CHARLIE HAD TRUDE’S PLACE and Steph had Chris’s at the Chamberpots get-together at the Globe. Trude’s mother, Pat, was ‘very poorly’. As Steph and Charlie were the only two travelling from the North, Steph had arranged to meet Charlie at St Pancras before sharing a taxi to the Globe theatre.

This was Steph’s idea as she thought it would help the success of the evening if she warned off Charlie about asking questions regarding current Chamberpot activities. They were all to meet at 6 for pre-theatre food and drinks at the Founders Arms on the Thames. It was 4.35 when Charlie and Steph found a table at Starbucks in St Pancras.

Steph found it hard to start a conversation as Charlie was constantly texting or saying ‘Sorry, do you mind if I take this one’ and walking off to take the call outside. Finally, there seemed to be a ‘window of opportunity’, to use a term Charlie used.

‘I’ve a favour to ask you Charlie?’ said Steph placing her hand gently on Charlie’s arm.

‘Oh please, Steph. You don’t want me to give them the third degree like I did last time. Right?’

Steph nodded and smiled.

‘That’s cool. Dave gave me a bit of a slapped wrist, on the train journey back. I was only curious. Dave answered my questions. I was never going to blow it for you guys. I really was just curious as to what your little gang has been up to all these years’.

‘Thanks Charlie – appreciate it. Dave and you seem to be getting on well – how’s the job going?’

‘It’s nearly gone, Steph’

‘Why’s that?’

‘Well I think sports promotion and being a Commercial Director of a big sports club works for me but it has to be in a major city … London, Paris, Madrid, Milan, Munich even Manchester or Athens.’

‘So, have you got another position, Charlie?’

‘I’ve got a pretty cool interim project, which will bring me back to London. My best friend, Gail, has her own PR Company and top Speakers Agency and she’s expecting. She wants to be very part time for the first couple of years so the deal is I’ll front it as CEO. Profit share, everything. Gail is very high profile. Me as the new Gail should lead to all sorts. I’m so lucky – well, business wise – not so much on the personal front. I’m crap at that.’

‘Congratulations, Charlie’

‘And before I start, I’m having a week in the sun. Dave is sending me out to see Chris in Malta – so that’s exciting too.’

For a moment Steph’s smile froze. She was speechless. She felt a prickly heat rising from the top of her chest to her throat and cheeks.

‘Great. Let me know when you’re going. I must give you something to take for Chris.’

*****

STEPH FELT HOLLOW INSIDE as if everything had been scooped out. She was queuing at the bar in the courtyard of the Globe Theatre. She’d offered to get the drinks to take in for the first half of the play. The others were close by to help her and she was half listening to Scalesy and Tricks in case they mentioned her name or asked her opinion – about Chris. It hadn’t seemed that right to be coming to the Globe Theatre, home of the original Lord Chamberlain’s Men, to see Shakespeare, without Chris. Then there was Charlie’s bombshell about visiting Chris. Combined, it had given her, a strong feeling, a feeling that was infrequent now, that she must still love Chris. But to what end. She felt consumed in nothingness.

Steph could see her hand on top of Chris’s, black on white, as the marvelled, transfixed by the brilliant Mark Rylance as Johnny Rooster in Jerusalem. They’d seen him in Endgame too. Becket was above Shakespeare in Chris’s ‘all-time favourite’ playwrights. In just a few minutes she’d be seeing the Rylance magic again as he played Richard III. Maybe she should go to Malta to see Chris. They could go to the lavishly decorated, Manoel Theatre in Valletta. That was early 18th century, and they could maybe see some Baroque music or some Opera. Just to hold hands and press arms and shoulders together in the dark of a theatre audience, entranced by the music, would be bliss.

But No, that would waste nearly a year of her willpower. If she were with him she may find out what he was going to do. If she knew, then she would have to tell. She must do nothing to encourage their relationship. Chris must die as he wants to die, doing what he wants to do. Steph felt she must get used to this hollowness as it may remain for the rest of her life. ‘I must work. I will love my independence – I will’ she told herself unbelievingly.

Steph, naturally, hadn’t told Pup of her reservations about his ‘great idea’ for a Chamberpots get-together at the Globe as a tribute to their leader, Chris. It was sweet of him and he’d even got seats for them all, in two boxes, on the stage. So, it meant a restricted view, but they’d be part of the action. It was a real treat and Steph told herself to relax and enjoy, but she felt nothing.

‘Come back to us Steph’, Pup had noticed Steph’s frozen smile and faraway expression, ‘Did you ever come here with Chris?’

‘Oh. No-never …. We talked about it many times but just never got round to it. It’s pretty cool. Our seats look fabulous Pup – it’s surreal. I can’t wait to see Jonny Flynn as a woman too – he was in Jerusalem. He’s a star’

‘I think they all are Steph – and you are too Oh no, Dave’s at it again. Can you hear him – here we go?’

‘Don’t you fucking dare, Dave’ said Tricks

‘Did I ever tell you that I was Buckingham to Chris’s Richard at school? The great monologue is not Richard’s but Buckingham’s conning the court that he is persuading Richard to be King’ said Dave

‘Don’t you fucking dare do it again, Dave it’s not funny’

Taking that as his cue, Dave jumped onto an empty barrel, and to the embarrassment of his fellow Chamberpots and the amusement of the standing and queuing crowds hammed his sickly smiling way through:

Then know, it is your fault that you resign
The supreme seat, the throne majestical,
The scepter’d office of your ancestors,
Your state of fortune and your due of birth,
The lineal glory of your royal house,
To the corruption of a blemished stock:
Whilst, in the mildness of your sleepy thoughts,
Which here we waken to our country’s good,
This noble isle doth want her proper limbs;
Her face defaced with scars of infamy,
Her royal stock graft with ignoble plants,
And almost shoulder’d in the swallowing gulf
Of blind forgetfulness and dark oblivion.
Which to recure, we heartily solicit
Your gracious self to take on you the charge
And kingly government of this your land,
Not as protector, steward, substitute,
Or lowly factor for another’s gain;
But as successively from blood to blood,
Your right of birth, your empery, your own.
For this, consorted with the citizens,
Your very worshipful and loving friends,
And by their vehement instigation,
In this just suit come I to move your grace.’

As the audience applauded, Tricks lifted Dave to stand on his shoulders, where Dave took the most extravagant of bows. Steph smiled but still felt the same – she’d seen that act before.

The pre-theatre meal, at the full and noisy Founders Arms pub, hadn’t had the usual Chamberpots banter and fun. Nick had phoned Pup to apologise that he couldn’t make it as he had to deal with a crisis at work. Too late for Pup to get a replacement and Tricks, especially, was very angry on Pup’s behalf. Tricks was as quiet and well dressed as he’d been for the O2 tennis but he couldn’t stop himself uttering a string of expletives about Nick.

But the flat atmosphere was not caused by Nick letting them down. Steph blamed Dave for it. Dave was his normal wisecracking self but it was his inviting Charlie, for a second time, which had changed the whole dynamic of the regular get-together of old friends.

Steph felt that Charlie was as uncomfortable being with the Chamberpots as she, Scalesy and Tricks were being with her. Perhaps Charlie was slightly intimidated, under her confident exterior, by their camaraderie. Maybe, she was slightly embarrassed that she’d accepted Dave’s invitations because the events were too good to miss, even though she wasn’t at all keen being with a bunch of oldies in her leisure hours.

Steph had noted – Trude would have commented – that Pup and Tricks were both trying to impress Charlie with their wit and wisdom. Two men attracted by a high profile, attractive young woman. The three of them even shared some contacts in the sports, media and entertainment worlds. Steph reflected that it was natural they’d be drawn together but it had the effect of splitting the table conversation. Pup was trying too hard to be ‘Mr Smooth’, Steph thought. He clearly wanted to get inside Charlie’s knickers.

Steph recognised that she was to blame for the get-together having a faltering start as she hadn’t been able to resist saying: ‘Did you guys know that Dave is sending Charlie to see Chris?’

Scalesy, Tricks and Pup had known Dave and Chris a lot longer than Steph and so were even more shocked by this news. It seemed totally out of character for Chris and against all the principles and values of the Chamberpots that Chris had nurtured in them all. Nick and Trude would feel the same.

As worrying was that this news meant that Dave knew far more than the other Chamberpots about what Chris was intending – but was not going to level with them. As one, they felt betrayed, excluded and, even, slightly afraid of Dave and Chris.

Charlie didn’t say anything, but looked at Dave, when Steph posed the question to Scalesy, Pup and Tricks. Dave came in immediately and smilingly:

‘No worries. It was Chris’s idea. This is nothing to do with us. He’s come up with an online sports game which he wants to launch at the Olympics. He needs someone to launch it, with all the right media contacts and I know no-one better than Charlie. It might be a laugh for both of them, which reminds me I haven’t told you my Christmas joke.’

Steph could sense that Dave had nipped it in the bud. The conversation couldn’t go anywhere, particularly in front of Charlie. They’d no alternative but to listen to Dave’s joke.

‘On Christmas Day there was a ventriloquist, a plumber and a wrestler killed in a multiple car pile up on the M1. Now that’s sad but the good news is that they all went to heaven.

St Peter, at the Gates, said:

‘Before I can let you in I just have to check you’ve all still got your wits about you. What I’d like you all to do is give me one thing that you have with you that reminds us all of this Christmas time of year. Who’ll go first?’

The ventriloquist talked to himself for a minute and then took out of his pocket a lighter. He lit it, pointed to the flame and said ‘It’s a candle’.

St Peter said, ‘Well done. Come on in’

Next to go was the plumber. He was used to making things up, particularly exorbitant prices of plumbing jobs, so was ready and took out of his belt buckle a large bunch of keys. He gently rattled the keys together and said ‘They’re sleigh bells’.

‘Wonderful’, said St Peter, ‘Welcome’.

The wrestler had been thinking hard while the other two had their go. He was ready, flexed and slapped his biceps and shouted ‘Bring It On! Woooooooo!!!!!’. He then took out of his pocket a bra and a thong – which he waved under St Peter’s nose.

St Peter looked aghast, understandably they’d had enough of sex scandals in the church, and angrily said ‘What’s the meaning of this?’

To which the wrestler said ‘They’re Carol’s’

Steph hadn’t laughed much at the time. She allowed herself a smirk now and certainly recognised how adept Dave was at changing the subject. Now, though, she wasn’t thinking about Malta. She was in her seat listening to Elizabethan music being played on Elizabethan instruments in the balcony next to her. On the stage, in full view of the audience, the actors, the players, were readying themselves for the performance. Closest to the stage were the standing audience, drinks and food in hand and behind them layer upon layer of the seated audience – the posh lot.

The Globe was exactly as it was 400 years ago. The actors were joking with each other and the audience. The buzz in the audience was loud and expectant. There was a fanfare from the musicians. Then almost without anyone noticing, Mark Rylance as Richard, in black, ordinary looking, shuffled on at the back, stage left to the audience and to the right, only just visible, of Steph, and said, quietly, conversationally, to the audience:

‘Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious by this sun of York ……

*****

CHRIS WAS ANGRY AT his incompetence. He was in Upper Barrakka Gardens, again, in Valletta. He was on his second mini bottle of Red Label red wine. It was 10 a.m. After maybe one more mini bottle he would walk down the hill and visit St Johns Co- Cathedral to view his all-time favourite ‘two paintings in one place’, by Caravaggio. He was rummaging around in his bag for his action list, which he’d prepared yesterday. He thought it was pathetic that he couldn’t remember even one action on the list.

He’d just told the outside bar owner to ensure that he always took the money from Chris for his wine purchases on a pay as you go basis. Last week he’d walked off, yet again, without paying his bill. He could never remember whether he’d paid his bill or not but was too ashamed to ask. He was happy to look crazy but not to act crazy. His long term memory was annoying him just as much as his lack of short term memory. For days now he’d seen himself walking back from junior school, in his grey woolly jumper, that his Mum had knitted, grey shirt, yellow and green tie and getting home, opening the back door and seeing his Dad slapping his Mum hard on the side of her face. He wanted the sight to disappear but it just kept coming back.

Chris was preparing for the visit of Charlie. He was about to give up his increasingly erratic and bad tempered rummaging when he found his ‘to do’ list in a surprising place – neatly folded in his sunglasses case.

He had a list of what he’d last said to people and he’d transferred to his ‘to do’ list what he’d last said to the people he was to meet today. He was embarrassed about how many times a day he repeated himself. The only saving grace was that before the operation he’d have shouted, because of his poor hearing, the repeated statement or question. At least the poor sod he was with only had to read a few words. Still, by listing what he thought he’d said immediately after a meeting it gave him a chance that he’d be less confusing the next time they met. Confusing those helping him with his final solution just wouldn’t do.

Next Chris took out of his bag a dark red plastic wallet folder. Inside were envelopes, letters, post it notes, cuttings and print outs. 6 of the A4 brown envelopes had a single letter on the front of each. The letters were P;T;S;N;D & G. Chris could hardly believe that he now had to keep records of what he knew about the Chamberpots little foibles and what he was doing about them. He scolded himself that he must remember to copy all his files, so that he had a back-up should he lose his bag. After all, he thought, ‘Every puppet master must know which strings to pull.’

He opened the ‘N’ envelope and took out of it a cutting reporting the 1992 inquest on the death of Rosie Charlton. On the report were scribbled ‘RK’ & a mobile phone number.

*****

NICK BURGESS WAS MEETING with Richard King at Berlin airport, while most of the Chamberpots were at the Globe theatre. He was ice cold. He didn’t know what would happen next but he knew this was a turning point. None of the roads ahead looked inviting.

Nick had been at Director on a national or regional level, he was now Vice President Europe, for US global, multi-level marketing companies for over thirty years. Averting bad publicity and covering up some of the unfortunate, and in the case of Rosie Charlton, sad incidents were an essential part of his job. With hundreds of thousands of agents, independent business owners, mostly part time, it was no surprise that there were would be a number of stress related deaths over the years, including suicides. Nick had just never expected the Rosie Charlton suicide to re-emerge all these years later.

Rosie Charlton, like thousands of others over the years, had been persuaded by her upline to invest in downline members of her group, and buy stock to qualify her for a leadership position.. This costs a lot of money and the earnings from commissions and bonuses are small. As costly is investing in looking prosperous like a leader and paying to attend all the events leaders went to.

It was all done, Nick rationalised, as they wanted to buy their way to a senior position in the network where they expected to become rich. In this more elevated position greedy and gullible, for that’s how Nick thought of these people, Rosie Charlton would be a part of the lower levels of leadership.

She’d be able to participate in the network’s earning from ticket sales from meetings, seminars, rallies, family re-unions and also from the sale of motivational media. Rosie, like others before her and others after her, lost her home, family and mind to her business. She could see no way out and had wanted to end it all.

‘I’m sorry Nick, this won’t do. I’ll give you one more week to get tangible progress towards improvements to the plan. If you can’t do this then we use what we know about Rosie Charlton to persuade the Owners to improve the plan so that we don’t go public on it. Don’t be a sacrificial lamb Nick. It was assisted suicide and we even know who supplied the pills. They’ll hang you out to dry.’

*****

The first seven chapters of ‘Loose Cannon’ are available to read and comment on. There are 11 chapters in total and the final four chapters will appear here for you to read in April 2016. 

This complete draft will be removed from this website at the end of May 2016. The final draft will be then rewritten and edited to be published in time for the 2016 Olympic Games. This is a collaborative work in action. Thank you.

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