Authors: Bill Carson
It was a beautifully clear, calm and warm night, and a cool sea breeze had swept up from the Aegean which gently caressed the nooks and crannies of the rugged Greek Island of
. Up above, a million twinkling silver stars were set against a sky that was as black as a gorilla’s
, as Nick Harland would say.
Nick squinted into the eyepiece of his powerful state-of-the-art
CPC 1100 GPS telescope for the last time.
This is the only thing I’m really going to miss about this place,
he thought, as he studied the filaments of the Crab Nebula. No matter how many times he had explored the jewel-encrusted night sky, it never failed to enthral and amaze him. He was fascinated by the vast remnants of stars that had exploded a mere ten thousand years ago, their death throes creating the most amazing celestial super structures.
, Nick thought, as he tapped in some numbers into his calculator. Now, that was 6,500 light years away, so that is 6,500 years travelling at 186,000 miles a second, which is 671 million miles an hour
“That truly is amazing,” he murmured to himself as he replaced the cap on the eyepiece, and affectionately ran the palm of his hand along the body of the fat scope.
Next morning, Nick and Anna were up early and the cases were all packed and waiting in the hallway, regimentally lined up in size order. The furniture and other bits and pieces had been stored away and were ready to be shipped to their new home – once he’d found one, that is.
The cab for the airport had been booked for nine o’clock, and that meant they still had just over an hour to kill before it arrived. They took one last nostalgic stroll around the Island. Nick had decided that the dream he’d once relentlessly pursued most definitely had its drawbacks, and he felt as if it was all turning into a bit of a nightmare.
On the plus side, there were the spectacular night skies, and he liked having the money and the things that money could obtain, like independence and not having to take any shit off anyone, but he knew that the money wasn’t going to last forever.
He also liked the luxurious lifestyle. However, from relatively early on into his new adventure (or what Anna called his mid-life crisis), there was a feeling that maybe this wasn’t exactly the life he’d desired after all. And he felt that it was totally destroying his relationship with Anna. The overall lack of having anything meaningful to do was taking its toll on his mind and body, and all he could see for the next two or three decades was running out of money and sitting around in the sun like a bag of shit, drinking and eating himself into oblivion.
Basically he’d become thoroughly bored with it all, and he desperately needed to get his life back on track and his brain back into gear. He felt he needed a little more excitement in his life, as he believed he wasn’t quite ready for the knacker’s yard yet.
On the other hand, his days of almost total catatonic sluggishness had not been a complete waste of time, and it was only the ‘R&R’ which he’d desperately needed that had allowed him to see things differently. His life before the subsequent good fortune at the night club back in London had been dire and full of negatives and he was going nowhere fast. Then, all of a sudden, he was catapulted into a totally different world.
To the casual observer it may well have looked like Nick had been doing the best impression of a lazy drunken slob, idly sitting around the pool and drinking his head off, but at the same time the cogs in his brain had begun to start to turn and he’d been putting in some serious deep thinking. One night while stargazing, an idea had suddenly popped into his head. It really was one of those moments that hit you right out of nowhere, and he immediately realised that this was what he should do. What with the Greek economy going pear-shaped, and the country fast becoming an economic disaster area, it was definitely the right time to ‘blow the gaff’, in his opinion.
Nick and Anna climbed into the back seat of the taxi, and as the high, wrought iron automatic gates to the villa closed, Nick looked out of the window and took one last glimpse at the place as the taxi pulled out onto the deserted coast road.
“Ah well, shit happens,” he said quietly.
Four hours later, the huge A330 passenger jet circled out of its stack and descended to seven thousand feet to begin its final approach. Shortly before landing, it banked sharply as the pilot expertly countered a sudden unexpected gust of wind that shifted the enormous aircraft momentarily off course. He then dropped the plane with a resounding thump onto the tarmac at Heathrow.
“Jesus, I’ve never been so glad to get my two feet back on the ground in all my life,” Nick said, as they hurried along the passenger boarding bridge.
“Me too, that was scary,” Anna agreed, as they entered the terminal.
Nick waited impatiently by the luggage carousel, but eventually spotted Anna’s bright pink Louis Vuitton cases as they trundled along the conveyer belt toward him.
After collecting their luggage, they walked to a waiting black taxi. As Anna loaded the bags, Nick went around to the driver and whispered the destination to him, which was the Waldorf Hotel in central London. He wanted it to be a bit of a surprise for her, as he knew that she was bitterly disappointed to return to England, but in reality it was all part of a softening up ploy.
Forty-five minutes later, the black taxi rounded the corner into Catherine Street in central London, and she placed her hands either side of his head and pulled him toward her. She gave him a big sloppy kiss as the taxi glided to a halt outside the two-hundred-pounds-a-night establishment.
“What? What was that for?” he said.
“The surprise, of course. Staying here, I mean it’s a lovely surprise, Nick. Thanks, I didn’t fancy trying to find some grotty old flat,” she said, as the bright lights of the magnificent façade of the building filled her large cat-like liquescent emerald eyes.
“No, sorry love, we’re not stopping here. I just wanted to grab a paper and some smokes from the kiosk next door,” he said.
She sat back open mouthed, and stared at him for a moment.
He smiled and grabbed her hand. “Only kidding, course we are, I’ve booked us in for the week.”
“You rotten sod,” she said under her breath as she got out.
Nick had booked them into one of the more luxurious rooms of the hotel, and the place really was worth every penny.
“Right, first things first, Anna…” He stopped talking as she sauntered, naked, into the bedroom and he shook his head at the vision before him. Her tight, lean, bronzed body was still glistening from the shower, and had stopped him in mid-sentence. “I’ve got to pop out, Anna, I’ll only be an hour or so. I‘ve booked us a table in the restaurant tonight, and afterwards I might just have a little surprise for you.”
“Really, you have been busy, but that sounds great and I’m bloody starving,” she smiled.
I wonder what he’s up to? I’d better put my war paint on and look absolutely irresistible just in case,
“Good, and you’ll like the surprise, I can guarantee it,” he said, as he observed her getting dressed.
“I don’t know what you’re up to, but something’s definitely going on because you’ve got that look in your eye,” she said, as she shimmied into a tiny pair of black panties. She then laid her stunning evening dress out onto to the bed and imagined it wrapped around her.
, she thought.
“You stick with me, kid and you’re
live forever,” Nick said, in his best Bogart impersonation, as he quickly slipped out of the door.
Nick was back within the hour, and Anna looked absolutely stunning in her evening dress. She was upbeat and happy as they sat in the magnificent surroundings of the grand salon restaurant. With its Louis XVI-style décor, it really was a beautifully opulent setting, and Nick and Anna virtually had the place to themselves.
“This place is magical, Nick, it really has made my day, thanks,” she said, as she gently clasped his chin, pulled him forward and gave him an affectionate kiss on the lips.
“The night is young, and don’t forget that big surprise I promised you.”
Anna’s emerald eyes sparkled with anticipation in the candle light, as she watched his every move and hung on his every word. The setting was perfect, the atmosphere electric and the soft background music set the scene. With all the extra care she’d taken on her hair, nails and make-up, and with her curvaceous body enveloped in an elegant silver Prada dress, and her best Jimmy
high heels, she was sure there couldn’t possibly be a better moment for him to pop the question.
As they polished off one of the most mouth-watering desserts, Nick suddenly slid the empty plate forward, dropped his napkin onto the table, and abruptly stood up.
“Right, Anna, get your coat, we’re off.”
“We’re what? Where? Where are we going, Nick?”
“Hammersmith,” he said.
“Hammersmith! I’ve not put all this on to go to some bloody old pub in Hammersmith, Nick. What are we going there for?” she said angrily.
“Don’t be like that now, you’ll see soon enough. And it’s not a pub. Let’s get a taxi and then you’ll find out, won’t you,” he said with a cheeky wink.
Twenty minutes later the cab entered Hammersmith Broadway, pulled over halfway up King Street and stopped outside a little row of rundown shops.
Nick paid the driver, and as the cab slipped away he turned around with his arms outstretched and said, “Well,
She slowly turned and faced him. Nick was standing with a huge grin in front of a small glazed office door, and emblazoned across the top of the door in large gold lettering were the words, ‘The Harland Detective Agency’, set in a semi-circle. Under the light from the nearby street lamp, the inscription glowed about his head like a small halo.
She was totally stunned and momentarily lost for words, and couldn’t believe that they had left a beautiful villa in an idyllic location on a Greek island for a lock up office in Hammersmith. She had now realised that this was the surprise that she’d been promised; this was what all the build-up was for. Anna stood and stared at him in disbelief, and felt totally numb and utterly deflated.
“What? What is it?” he said.
“Nick, what the… why did you… I mean it’s…” she stuttered, as she pointed to the front door.
“I know you’re excited. It’s a stroke of genius, and I knew you’d be pleased. This is the idea that I’ve had for ages, and it surprises me why I didn’t think of it before, to be my own boss on my own manor. With you right by my side, the dynamic duo, what a team! We can’t fail, let’s go inside,” he said enthusiastically. He slotted the key into the lock and put his arm around her shoulder and guided her through the door.
The place was in fact quite pleasant, and was also very clean and newly decorated. It had polished wooden floors throughout, and a small modern reception area on the left. There was a large office over on the right hand side, and another room situated at the back which contained a tiny fitted kitchen.
“Well, you haven’t said much, Anna. This is what all those calls to London were about. Don’t you like the place? I could look for something else, I suppose, but the rent here was very reasonable, love, and it’s got a cracking little flat above.”
“No, it’s fine, Nick, but I thought you wanted to get away from all this kind of stuff, work I mean, and I thought you were going to ask me to...”
Before she blurted out her most heartfelt thoughts, she managed to hold her tongue before making a fool of herself.
“I thought you’d be pleased, love. Look, I always liked solving cases and putting those villains away, you know that, it was a great buzz. It was just the set up within the Force that was wrong but this time I can, I mean
can, be our own guvnors, can’t we? And I’ve still got all my old contacts, and I’m
ask a couple of the boys from my old squad to come and work with us occasionally. We’ll send them out on the jobs we don’t want to do, and we’ll take all the cream that comes in. I’ve got all sorts of good feelings about this one. The sky’s the limit here. We can do close protection and surveillance and evidence gathering for high-class divorces. No more scumbags and villainy to contend with, and from what I can see, there’s a hell of a lot of money to be made in this kind of work.”
After fifteen minutes it was evident that Anna was not exactly over the moon with his big surprise, and she said nothing during the ride back to the hotel. She clearly wasn’t happy about any of it, but what could she do but go along with it? She didn’t want to spoil it or bring him down as he did seem really keen on the idea.