The Machines of Power - Part 4 of 9
'Well? Is he going to do it?'
‘He’ll do it,’ said Juniper in response to Grapeshot’s nervous questioning.‘Once he’s seen my offer he’ll do it.’
‘Your offer?’Grapeshot frowned a little in confusion, although his eyes never lost the panicked look they had acquired ever since it had all gone wrong.‘What do you mean “your offer”?And what do you mean “once he’s seen it”?Didn’t you explain the situation to him?’Juniper fidgeted a little, knowing that his colleague was not going to like what he said next.
‘Well, not exactly, but…’
‘And he can,’ said Juniper in a calming voice.‘I wouldn’t have gone to him if I didn’t know we could trust him.’
‘So why didn’t you tell him what this involves?’ said Grapeshot in an increasingly exasperated tone.‘You do realise the seriousness of this situation, don’t you?’He had begun to pace up and down as he spoke with Juniper, his hands gesturing wildly and his eyes darting this way and that.
‘Of course I do!’ snapped Juniper.‘But if I told him everything all at once he wouldn’t have believed me, would he?That’s the reason for the phone call, the card on his car, phoning him after I’d left the pub.’
‘What?’ said Grapeshot, stopping in mid-pace and fixing Juniper with another worried look.Juniper cursed himself for mentioning this part.Grapeshot was very good at his job but he did have a tendency to get in a flap when things went wrong.Juniper sighed before continuing.
‘I left him with an envelope telling him everything he needed to know for now,’ said Juniper, holding up a hand to silence Grapeshot before he could interrupt again.‘I told him not to open it until he was at home but he was about to so I had to do something.’
‘So you phoned him?’ asked Grapeshot, sounding incredulous.
‘After you had left the pub?’
‘Giving over further proof of our surveillance capabilities?’Juniper sighed again.
‘Like now, you mean?’ said Grapeshot bitterly.
‘Yes, like now.But try to think about it from an outsider’s viewpoint.Imagine what it would do to poor Jimmy if I just phoned him out of the blue and dropped everything in his lap.He’d go potty.I know I would.’
‘Well…’ began Grapeshot, realising that Juniper probably had a point.
‘Just trust me on this,’ said Juniper reassuringly.‘I’ve been keeping an eye on Jimmy for long enough to know that he’s the man for the job.No one else even comes close.’Grapeshot visibly sagged; the fight seemingly leaving his body.
‘Alright, fine, we’ll do it your way,’ said Grapeshot, resignedly.
‘This is the only way, believe me.’
‘What about the money?’
‘Don’t worry,’ said Juniper, dismissively.‘I added that, too.’
‘But I didn’t say how much.’
‘It’s not necessary,’ said Juniper, firmly.
‘But what if he says no?’ asked Grapeshot, the pleading nervousness back in his voice.‘It wasn’t easy budgeting that much money just for a....repairman!’
‘Watch your mouth!’ snapped Juniper, angrily.‘He’s family.’
‘Yes yes, he’s family,’ said Grapeshot in a hurried tone.‘But that money was meant to convince him of the severity of the situation and to make sure that he did the job for us.’
‘No,’ said Juniper, flatly.‘It isn’t.’
‘What are you talking about?Of course it is!’
‘We ain’t paying Jimmy to do the job.If I thought he needed buying then he wouldn’t be worth the price.’
‘So what’s the money for then?’ asked Grapeshot, sounding flustered.
‘It’s to keep him quiet after it’s all done, and to convince him to come back if we ever need him again.’
‘Again?’ asked Grapeshot, suddenly alert and panicked.‘What do you mean “again”?’
‘I ain’t taking any chances,’ said Juniper, bitterly.‘Not after this time.If it can happen once it could happen again, so we need Jimmy on side, just in case.’
‘Does he know that this may not be a one time thing?’ asked Grapeshot, nervously.
‘No, but he will.Once he knows what’s what around here and sees the job that needs doing, then I’ll talk to him about future repairs and maintenance.That’s also when he and I will talk amounts, not a moment sooner.’Grapeshot heaved a sigh and collapsed into an office chair that sat next to a workbench.He looked down the room as he rubbed his forehead thoughtfully.
‘I suppose you know best,’ he said, sounding deflated.
‘I do.He’ll be in touch soon.I guarantee it.’
‘For all our sakes, I hope you’re right,’ said Grapeshot as he surveyed the work that lay ahead of James.Broken, all of them, he thought miserably to himself.He looked into dozens of blank, staring eyes and hoped that James Caplan was as good as his uncle said he was.
James could not wait.The curiosity surrounding what his uncle Juniper was apparently up to and what lay within the envelope he had been given was burning a hole in his mind.As soon as James got through his front door he hurried into the downstairs toilet and locked the door behind him.He sat down quickly and pulled the envelope out of his pocket, tearing it open with equal measures of eagerness and trepidation as to what it could possibly contain.
Then, the toilet flushed.
The following morning James was a bundle of nerves.He had slept poorly and he had no appetite for breakfast.His wife, Kathryn, had not failed to notice both things.
‘Are you sure you’re alright, James?’ she asked, concernedly as she sorted through the morning’s post.
‘Hmmm?’ said James, absentmindedly.
‘You don’t seem yourself this morning.Maybe you should stay home today.’
‘I’ll be fine,’ said James as he attempted a reassuring smile.‘Besides, I’ve got lots on today.No time to pull a sickie.’Kathryn looked at her husband for a moment or two.
‘Well, if you’re sure,’ she said.
‘I am,’ nodded James.He stood up and looked down into his wife’s concerned face.‘Tell you what.If I start to feel worse I promise I’ll come home.Deal?’
‘Okay,’ said Kathryn, seemingly satisfied.‘Just don’t go working yourself too hard.If you’re not feeling well I don’t want you making yourself worse.’
‘I’ll see how I go,’ said James.He smiled again and indicated the pile of post that Kathryn was sorting through.‘Besides, bills to pay and all that.’
‘Oh don’t,’ said Kathryn, rolling her eyes.‘The car needing servicing and the boiler packing up at the same time has hit us harder than expected.We may have to move some things around on the credit cards again.’James leaned down and kissed Kathryn gently on the forehead.
‘We’ll be fine,’ he said soothingly.
‘I hope you’re right,’ said Kathryn, waving a hand at the pile of post that seemed to be all bills.‘I don’t like all this debt.’James wanted to tell her.He wanted to reassure his wife that he was on the verge of being able to solve all of their money woes.He knew he couldn’t though.If Juniper was telling the truth then James needed to keep his mouth shut.If he didn’t… the consequences of James telling anyone what his uncle had confided in him were not worth thinking about.James took one more look at the pile of bills and thought to himself: you had better be telling the truth, Juniper.
James left his house and drove to work, all the while looking about him suspiciously.He kept telling himself that he was being ridiculous.If Juniper really was doing what he claimed to be doing then it was obviously being done well enough to go unnoticed.An odd mixture of fear and excitement gripped him as he made his way to his garage.He hadn’t asked for this.All James Caplan had ever wanted was a quiet, comfortable life for him and his family.But now this?The thoughts and questions swam ferociously inside James’ head as he pulled into the car park of Caplan Motors.He didn’t like the thought of keeping things from Kathryn or lying to his employees about where he was really going later that day, but he knew he had no choice.If that letter was right…
James instinctively felt inside his jacket pocket for the envelope that Juniper had given him the day before.How had something like this happened to him?The letter had read like something out of a James Bond film, and it had not even told him the full story, apparently.It had given him the bare bones but that was enough to set James’ curiosity on fire.He both longed for and dreaded the full story that was yet to fully unfold.He felt himself continually flitting between wanting and not wanting this all to be some kind of elaborate prank and as he entered his office he honestly could not decide which option he liked the sound of more.This train of thought was quickly derailed as James sat down.He recoiled in surprise as he saw his name as clear as day plastered across another envelope that lay in the centre of his desk.James knew who it was from in an instant: the envelope simply said Jimmy.
James looked around his office in a vain attempt to find any points of forced entry.He had had to unlock his office upon arrival that morning.He always locked his office at the end of the working day.Plus the garage was similarly locked at the end of each day as well.For a moment James panicked about security threats to his business, but after a few steadying breaths he realised that this was no different to the card being placed on his car in the also nightly locked private company car park.James sighed.Whatever it was that Juniper did, he clearly had access to places that others didn’t.Once again the cocktail of fear and excitement welled up inside James.Juniper had said in the first letter that what he did was not illegal, but leaving the card on James’ car and now this second envelope in his office was breaking and entering, surely.Realising that he was not going to get any more answers to the myriad questions pummelling his brain, James picked up the envelope off of his desk.It was a large padded envelope that felt somewhat bulky.James could feel three objects inside the envelope.He ripped open the envelope and scattered the contents on to his desk.The objects were a Sat Nav, a mobile phone and an accompanying earpiece.James looked at them in confusion for a second or two before noticing that a piece of paper had also fallen out of the envelope.He picked it up and recognised Juniper’s handwriting from the first letter.He read:
By now you’ve read my first letter and you know that me
and my people are in need of your skills.We have some
very important equipment that has broken down and it
needs repairing as soon as possible.
The Sat Nav is programmed to bring you to me.I’ll call
you on the mobile phone once you get going.Make sure
you wear the ear thingy; I don’t want you getting into a smash.
Tell no one about where you’re going, and make sure to bring
everything that I sent you today with you.No loose ends
Jimmy my boy.No loose ends.Do this and that pile of bills
will be a distant memory.
James dropped the letter when he read the part about the pile of bills.
James stared, wide eyed, at the letter for a second.His uncle knew what went on in his home as well as his work.The fear quickly overtook the excitement and James briefly thought about abandoning the whole thing and going to the police about his crazed uncle.He sat there in silence and considered his options.He had already thought numerous times on what the police would say if he went to them with a story such as this.Also, came an infuriatingly rational voice from somewhere inside James’ head, if Juniper had been doing this for as long as he claimed then he had had ample opportunity to come after James and his family.He hadn’t though, thought James.He felt a little ashamed of himself as he tried to scrub the thoughts from his mind of his uncle being some kind of maniac.
You gave your word, too, came the same annoying little voice.
James had indeed given his word.James Caplan had always prided himself on being a man who dealt fairly with people and so a further wave of shame washed over him for a moment.He had given his word and he wasn’t going to break that.Not unless he absolutely had to.
He really hoped he wouldn’t have to.
- July 2014
- To be continued