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Authors: Maria Barrett

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BOOK: Dishonored
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Twenty minutes later, lying up to his chin in hot water with the radio blaring and Jane’s words fresh in his mind, Phillip
began to feel better than he had done in days. Bertram’s flat wasn’t Grosvenor Square, admittedly, but it was comfortable
and it would do for the time being. It was talking to Jane, though, that had finally made Phillip feel better; it had somehow
clarified the matter. It wasn’t that Jane had said anything particularly wise or revelatory, she had simply stated what he
had known to be true, said the words he had been thinking, and hearing them from her made them seem all the more realistic,
all the more possible. He didn’t have any answers yet, he couldn’t see a way out, but he knew for certain now that he could
find one.

Turning on the tap with his toe, Phillip let the bath fill another couple of inches with piping-hot water, submerged himself
completely, then stood up, reached for one of Bertram’s gray, stiff towels and dried himself briskly. He pulled on his toweling
robe, glanced out of the window up at the sky and blew a kiss to Suzy, somewhere up there on her BOAC flight to Malaga. He
walked through to the bedroom to dress. It was eleven-thirty and he was due for lunch in an hour.

Phillip’s taxi drew up outside Kensington Palace and he jumped out, handing the driver a pound note and telling him to keep
the change. He crossed to the policeman on duty, cleared security and made his way to the duke’s office, straightening his
tie as he went.

“Hello, Phillip.” Sir David Pulling, the duke’s attaché, was waiting for him as he arrived and the two men shook hands. “How
are you? How’s Baijur?”

“Fine, thanks, David. How’re you?”

“Very well, very well indeed.”

“And Laura?”

“She’s fine. Up to her eyes in it with committees, schools, the children.” He laughed. “All the chaos of family life!”

“I can imagine!” Phillip laughed too, politely.

“Phillip, we’re having lunch in Edward’s apartment this afternoon,” Sir David said, leading the way down the corridor and
opening the doors at the end. “It’s this way.” He stood back and Phillip walked ahead of him, waiting for Sir David to close
the door behind them.

“It’s just us,” Sir David continued as they made their way along to the private apartments.

“I see.” Phillip tried to cover his surprise. He hadn’t expected this.

“Lunch
à trios
!” Sir David laughed. “Go on through, Phillip, Edward is waiting for us.”

“Right, fine.” Phillip cleared his throat as he stepped into the duke’s apartment and fixed a smile on his face.

“Phillip!” Edward came through from the sitting-room as he heard the door open. “Good to see you! How are you? You look well!”
He crossed and shook Phillip’s hand.

“Hello, sir. I am well, thank you, very well indeed.”

“Good! Nice tan!” He laughed, a deep, hearty chuckle, and Phillip relaxed slightly. “I hope you’re doing some work over there,
not lying by Viki’s pool and playing polo all day!”

Phillip smiled. “I have had the odd game of polo with the maharajah, sir.”

“Ah! I told you as much, David!” He laughed again. “Come on in, Phillip, and we’ll get you a drink.” He glanced at his watch.
“In Indian circles, if I remember correctly, Phillip, at a quarter to one you’d be on your second burrapeg whisky soda by
now!” He led the way into the sitting-room and motioned for Phillip to sit. “Gin? Whisky?”

“A gin and tonic please, sir.”

“Right. David?”

“The same please.” The duke ordered the drinks and came across to the sofa opposite Phillip. The room was decorated in cream
and gold brocade and, as he sat down, Phillip noticed that it had been designed to suit the duke’s own coloring; he looked
perfectly in place here.

“Phillip, I’ve asked you here today because I’ve a number of things I wanted to discuss with you, your progress with the maharajah’s
security arrangements for his wedding included of course.” Phillip nodded and the duke broke off while the drinks were served.
“But that isn’t the main reason, and it isn’t why I’ve interrupted your weekend.” He lifted his glass. “And David’s.” Taking
a gulp of his drink, after the duke had done so, Phillip felt his initial tension return.

“Phillip, I thought, if you’ll forgive me for being blunt, that we would get on to the main business of this luncheon straight
away. I don’t want to waste time on peripherals at this point.”

Phillip agreed, holding his drink tightly in his hand.

“Good.” The duke glanced briefly at Sir David and then began. “Phillip, I was informed earlier this week of the resignation
of a senior member of my staff, a very important member of my household, and I am naturally very disappointed and upset.”

Phillip nodded.

“It was a surprise for everyone; I think I’m right in saying that, am I, David?”

“Yes, it was very unexpected.”

“Yes, unexpected, definitely that.” The duke finished his drink and motioned for another. “It is my personal secretary, Phillip,
Lord Balfont, who has resigned.” He swirled the ice around his second glass of whisky. “With this terrible illness his wife
has suffered he’s found it impossible to divide his loyalties. His place is, quite rightly I think, by his wife’s side.”

“Yes, yes absolutely.” Phillip felt his chest tighten.

“So, I am in the position of having to find a replacement, not immediately of course but within a reasonable time span and
it has been suggested to me that I should consider someone younger this time, someone with a little more…” he smiled,
“verve! A little more life!”

Phillip didn’t trust himself to speak. He gripped his glass and nodded, watching Sir David Pulling out of the corner of his
eye.

“Buckingham Palace is becoming more and more concerned with public opinion, Phillip,” Sir David said, “the public are becoming
more and more interested in the royal family and we have to look after their image. Someone younger, with a wife and young
family, would be ideal for Edward’s household. It would help to take the pressure off.”

Both men nodded and Phillip sipped his drink. A single man would not be suitable, that much he realized, it would only add
to the already speculative rumors about the duke’s private life. “Of course there are only a very limited number of people
who would be at all suited to this position,” Sir David went on, “and obviously for the right person to be already married
is more than we could have hoped for.” Sir David leaned forward. “Although at some future point it would of course be necessary.”

He placed his drink on the sofa table and glanced over at the duke.

“Phillip, I have been very pleased with your work as my equerry over the past two years,” the duke said, “very pleased with
your reputation within our circles.” He smiled. “I have discussed the matter with a number of my advisors over the past few
days and, Phillip, if you are agreeable, I would like to offer you the position of personal secretary when Lord Balfont retires
at the end of the year.” He watched Phillip’s face and saw the open shock there. “Of course there are a great many things
that you’ll want to ask and that we’ll need to discuss. I expect this has come as a bit of a surprise?”

“Yes, yes it has, sir. I, erm…” Phillip coughed. “I don’t really know what to say.”

“Well don’t say anything yet, Phillip,” Sir David interrupted, “let’s go on into lunch and discuss the matter at length. I’m
sure you must have an awful lot of questions.”

Phillip placed his drink on the table and glanced down at his hands, folding them quickly in his lap to stop them trembling.
Of course a senior position in the royal household was what he had always aspired to, it was his lifetime ambition. But for
it to come now, at his age, the opportunity of his whole career, it left him almost speechless! He cleared his throat. “You
said Lord Balfont was leaving at the end of the year?”

“Yes, that’s right. I would naturally expect you to finish the job in India, Phillip, and then of course to sort out your
personal arrangements…” The duke broke off and glanced across at Sir David.

“A family apartment here at Kensington Palace would be decorated for you ready for, say, January the first?” Sir David said.

Phillip nodded and took a deep breath.

“Right, well I think lunch is ready for us now.” The duke stood. “Why don’t we continue this discussion at the table?”

“Quite.” Sir David waited for Phillip to follow the duke and pulled up the rear. The three men went into the dining-room,
the doors were closed behind them and the details of the royal appointment discussed in complete privacy.

Phillip stood on the pavement outside Harrods and looked at his reflection in the plate-glass window. It was four o’clock
in the afternoon. He had left the palace at three and had wandered around for an hour, through Kensington Gardens, on into
Hyde Park and the Serpentine to see if Jane was still there painting and had ended up in Knightsbridge, feeling flat, looking
at himself in the glass and wishing he could see Suzy, that he had someone, anyone to share this incredible news with.

He straightened his tie, his regimental tie, and slicked back his hair. He did have a nice tan, he decided; Edward was right.
“Edward,” he mouthed silently. He was on first-name terms with the duke and would very probably be on first-name terms with
other members of the royal family when he took up his appointment. When he took up his appointment! The job was already his;
Phillip could think no other way. The details escaped him, marriage, a wife and family, they were unimportant, lost in the
excitement of the moment. Suddenly Phillip let out a whoop and an elderly lady next to him tutted irritably. He shrugged and
went into the shop. He wanted to buy something, something to celebrate today, and made his way through the crowds of people
to the gentleman’s outfitters. He would buy a new suit, or maybe a sports jacket and some flannels, even a raincoat from Burberrys.
Stopping by a row of navy wool blazers, he ran his fingers over the cloth and saw the sales assistant make his way over.

“Jane!” he suddenly said out loud.

“Sorry, sir?” The assistant shifted the jackets very slightly on the rack and smiled at Phillip. “May I help at all?”

“No, erm, no thank you.” Phillip instantly made up his mind. He wanted to celebrate but not with a jacket, he had too many
clothes already. He wanted an excellent dinner, an extremely expensive bottle of wine and a bloody good night out. I’ll ring
Jane, he thought, hurrying toward the telephones; Jane was the perfect choice. Who else could he ring on a Saturday afternoon
and expect to be free for the evening?

Jane climbed out of the lift and pulled off her hat and coat before she went back for her things. The afternoon had warmed
up considerably and she was sweating with all her gear on. Dropping them on the floor by the front door of the flat, she rang
the bell and went back to the lift to fetch her bag, stool and easel. She was tired after painting all day and they seemed
heavier now than when she had left this morning. She struggled, quite out of breath, and glanced up wearily as Clare darted
out of the flat and ran across to her, yanking her bag from her hands.

“Jane! There’s someone on the phone!” Her arm dropped visibly with the weight of the bag. “Hurry up, Janey! Quick!”

Jane placed her easel and fold-up stool down by her feet and straightened. “For me?”

“Yeeeess! Of course it’s for you! Go on!”

“Oh!” She left the things there and walked toward the flat, stopping by the door. “Are you all right, Clare?” she called over
her shoulder. Clare seemed very agitated.

“Yeeesss!” Clare made frantic shooing motions. “Go on, Jane!” she cried, quite desperately and Jane shrugged, disappearing
inside to take her call.

“Hello?” The telephone was in the sitting-room and she slumped down into an armchair as she spoke, holding the receiver in
the crook of her shoulder. “Ah!” she said, glancing up at Clare who had hurried in after her, and scowling at her. “Hello,
Phillip.” The earlier desperation made perfect sense now. “Fine thanks. Yes, yes I did thank you. Yes, I’m sure the West Sommerton
Water-color Society will be delighted, if they stay awake long enough to see all three!”

Clare heard Phillip’s laughter down the line while she busied herself with rearranging the photograph frames on the bureau.
She smiled reassuringly at Jane.

“No, I hadn’t planned to do anything…” Jane rubbed her legs as she spoke and saw Clare inching closer to the phone. She
swapped the receiver to the other ear. “Oh, I see. Well congratulations!” Her knees were aching from sitting on that ruddy
stool for so long and she couldn’t wait to get in the bath. She stopped rubbing. “Well, that’s very kind of you, Phillip,
but I honestly don’t think that I can tonight.” Jane turned away from Clare’s face, aghast with shock and horror. “Yes I am
free but…” Clare had darted around to where Jane could see her and was hopping up and down nodding her head, and wringing
her hands. “At your club? Yes, yes, I do know it…” Jane suddenly broke off. “Could you hold for one minute please, Phillip?”
She put her hand over the receiver and said, “For God’s sake, Clare, bugger off! If I want to go out with Phillip Mills I
am sure I can make up my mind without your help!”

“But, Jane! You can’t turn him down, you can’t…”

Jane stood and one hand in the middle of her sister’s back, she propelled Clare out of the room with a sharp shove. “I can
do whatever I like,” she snapped and slammed the door shut.

“Sorry about that, Phillip,” she said, as calmly as she could manage.

Phillip laughed on the other end of the line. “Clare’s right you know,” he said, “you can’t turn me down.”

Jane blushed, cringing with embarrassment. “Oh God! I…”

“Look, why don’t you let her back into the room and tell her that I’ll pick you up in a cab at seven. If we arrange to meet
at the club you might not turn up!”

Jane was flummoxed. She still had time to back out but she’d lost her nerve. “All right,” she said. “Thank you, I’ll be ready
by seven.”

BOOK: Dishonored
6.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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