Board Stiff! (The Bring Out Your Dead series - Part 1)
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Archibald Thurble paced, agitatedly, in front of the huge windows of the Departure Lounge. Josiah Oakshott, lost in the perusal of his cryptic crossword, was dimly aware of a shadow passing rhythmically across the, as yet pristine, crossword grid. Eventually, when the passing of the shadow had achieved an almost stroboscopic effect, he felt obliged to comment. Folding his magazine carefully, he looked up and said,
“Am I to understand, from your apparent agitation, Archibald, that aviation is not your preferred mode of transportation?”
Archibald ceased his pacing and stared at his employer, blankly.
“Are you afraid of flying?” Josiah explained, patiently.
“Me? No!” Archibald shook his head, “I’m not afraid” he said, defiantly.
“That is gratifying to know, Archibald”
“I’m not afraid. I’m scared shi…” Archibald saw the look on his employer’s face and swiftly corrected himself “I’m scared rigid” he amended.
“I see” Josiah replied, cleaning his glasses with the end of his scarf “but surely you must have flown before? How did you cope then?”
“Well, I usually get pis…, I get absolutely bladd…” Archibald thought for a moment about his options and settled on “I normally have a drink or two”
“Alcohol? Really?” Josiah ceased his work with the scarf and replaced his spectacles, the better to study his assistant. “Well, I could not, of course, condone such a strategy on a business trip such as ours. However, I do have a mild sedative which might help.” Josiah rummaged through his hand luggage and produced a small package.
“Oh, I don’t know about that, Mr. Oakshott” Archibald shook his head, violently. “Me mam said to just say NO to drugs”
“I’m not suggesting the ingestion of some Class A narcotics, Archibald.” Josiah frowned at his employee, “These are very mild relaxants. The sort you could buy at a local chemist’s. They were recommended for me a while ago, shortly after…well, after a series of events, shall we say?” Josiah reflected that, given the frequency of unusual occurrences at Oakshott and Underwood, it was a minor miracle that he was not permanently medicated.
“Yeah, I can see how that might have been a good idea, given there’s been one or two things going on recently” Archibald nodded and had the good grace to look slightly guilty, “it’s not that I’m not grateful, honest. It’s just that my lot, well, we react to drugs in odd ways.”
'They would do!' Josiah muttered under his breath, out loud he said “What, even your grandmother?” Archibald’s ‘nan’s’ consumption of various relaxants was a source of wonder and comment all around their town.
“Well, no, not her so much” Archibald admitted, sheepishly, “they’ve banned her from taking part in any more drug trials on the grounds she’d bug…mess up the results. No, I mean the rest of the family. Me mam even steers clear of aspirin!”
"It is, of course, entirely your choice, Archibald. I was merely attempting to alleviate your evident distress" Josiah shrugged.
"Oh, go on then" Archibald responded, grudgingly.
Archibald slumped into the chair alongside his employer, in the manner of a stroppy teenager, and swallowed the small white pill with a theatrical gulp.
"I do wish you had advised me of your phobia when I invited you to join me on this mission, Archibald.” Josiah said, crossly. This, he reflected, was where having a soft heart got you! It was only because of Archibald’s evident distress, at the demise of his engagement to Ms. E.Z. Ryder (who was now in a relationship with Tiff&EE Cadwallader - see 'It is better to have loved, and lost...and lost'?) that Josiah had felt compelled to offer him the distraction of this trip to Spain. That, coupled with the fact that Josiah felt slightly guilty about not offering Ms. Ryder a position in his firm when Archibald had asked, many months ago, and he wondered if that had, in some way, doomed Archibald’s relationship?
Certainly, Archibald would not have been his first choice of travelling companion to escort the mortal remains of Sir Lewisham Carnock Bart., DSO, FRSA back to the U.K. from the Baronet's ill-fated sojourn in Spain. In fact, it had been his intention to take his fiancée, Samantha Knight, as his assistant, so that they could enjoy a well-deserved holiday from the office. She had really been looking forward to the chance of taking their first break together since their engagement, albeit combining business with pleasure. He imagined her, for a moment, in a revealing swimsuit on a sun-drenched beach and smiled, warmly, to himself. That image quickly dissolved when he remembered her words on learning that he had offered the place to Archibald and that she would be overseeing Oakshott and Underwood in their absence. He blushed at the memory, sighed deeply and returned to his remarks to his employee.
"Flying is, of course, statistically one of the safest forms of travel. Much safer, by some measures, than bicycling, walking, automotive or even water-bourne transportation." Josiah opined, "Fear of flying is, therefore, like any phobia, essentially irrational. I understand that some specialists report favourably on the use of cognitive behavioural therapy, CBT as it is known, as a means of overcoming such fears. Perhaps you might consider such a course of treatment, Archibald?" Josiah suggested, turning to his companion.
There was no answer. Archibald Thurble was as stiff as a board and had formed a perfect hypotenuse to the chair in which he had, so recently, been sitting.
Josiah observed the scene in silent horror. Just at that moment, with grim inevitability, the announcement was made that their flight was now boarding. Josiah scrambled to find his mobile phone, swiftly scrolled down his speed dial list and pressed the button.
“Samantha” He said, quickly pre-empting any vituperative outbursts from the other end, “we have a problem!”
The story continues in 'Keep on Truckin''
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Oh dear! What on earth has
Oh dear! What on earth has happened to poor Archibald? Can't wait to find out.
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