The Machines of Power - Part 5 of 9
James sat for a moment while the confusion, the curiosity and the worry fought it out for supremacy inside his head.He looked down at the Sat Nav and mobile phone that both lay on his desk.Picking the Sat Nav up, James turned it on and watched as the pre-programmed route was calculated.James didn’t recognise where he was supposed to go but one thing was for sure, it was going to be quite a drive.He looked at his watch and decided that he may as well set off now.He didn’t see the point in attempting to get any work done around the garage.The whole business with Juniper had got him so distracted that he would probably do more harm than good, so he scooped up the phone, envelope and letter and made his way out of his office.
‘Off somewhere, Jim?’ asked one of his employees.
‘Erm…yes,’ said James, trying to think of a convincing lie.‘Special job, out of town.’
‘Right you are,’ said the employee.
‘I’ll…um…I’ll probably be gone all day,’ said James, feeling it was probably best to buy himself as much time as he could.
‘Fair enough.If you’re not back by closing I’ll lock up.’
James fitted Juniper’s Sat Nav into the bracket and then fixed the bracket to his windscreen, adjusting the screen slightly so that he had the best view.He turned the mobile phone on and placed it in the holder that he would normally have put his own phone in.He fitted the earpiece and began his journey.As he pulled out of the car park and into traffic his mind raced.Just a couple of days ago his life was perfectly normal, he thought to himself as he took the first of the Sat Nav’s directions.But now he was driving off to who knows where to do who knows what for his uncle whom he had, until a couple of days ago, thought had died when he was a child.James had not been driving five minutes when the mobile phone started to ring.Nervously, James pressed the Answer button on the earpiece.
‘Erm…hello?’ he said, tentatively.
‘Jimmy, my boy!’ boomed Juniper’s voice into James’ ear.‘Glad to see you’re on your way.’
‘Um…yeah, I’ll be there in about…’
‘An hour, I know,’ interrupted Juniper.James caught himself before he could ask how Juniper could know this.James didn’t feel it was wise to test his nerves too much whilst driving.He’d save that for when he was with Juniper.
‘So, what’s this all about, Juniper?’ said James, trying to sound conversational.‘What is this job that you want me to do?’
‘All in good time, Jimmy.All in good time.Plus, I don’t like to say too much over the phone.Can’t be too careful.’James frowned a little at his uncle’s evasiveness.
‘But you’ll tell me everything when I get there, right?’
‘Trust me, Jimmy.When you get here you’ll know everything.’
‘Okay, I’ll see you in about an hour then.’
‘Take it steady.’James heard the click of the call ending and he reached up and pressed the earpiece to hang up.In just an hour, he thought hopefully to himself, I’ll find out what all this is about.The endless possibilities of what Juniper could have in store for his nephew paraded themselves in front of James’ mind, each more outlandish than the last.James tried to shake the ridiculous thoughts free from his head as he concentrated on following the Sat Nav’s directions.Whatever it was, he thought firmly, it had better be worth it.
As James continued to drive, Juniper sat back in his chair and contemplated what he was about to let his nephew in on.Oh yes, Jimmy, he thought to himself, you’re going to know everything alright.
After an hour or so of driving, James was told by the Sat Nav that he was nearing his destination.He turned off the main road and into what looked like an old industrial estate.There did not seem to be much activity that James could see and many of the units looked as if they had not been occupied in quite some time.Another turning brought him up to a set of iron gates with an intercom set close by.James drove up to the gates, rolled down his car window and cautiously pressed the intercom button, not really knowing what to expect.
‘Yes?’ said a tinny voice.
‘I’m…erm…here to see Juniper Caplan.’James could not suppress the feeling that the person on the other end of the intercom was going to ask who Juniper Caplan was and then he would find out that he had been the butt of one enormous and very unfunny joke.
‘Name?’ said the tinny voice in reply.
‘Drive through.’The intercom clicked off and a buzzing sounded, followed by the gates opening to admit James’ car.He drove slowly into a yard that had definitely seen better days.He swerved deftly around a large pothole in the tarmac and parked up next to a very nondescript building.All function and no form, the building was one of those depressing post-modern concrete one-size-fits-all boxes that were inexplicably popular one time.If James had not just spoken to someone on the intercom he would have believed this place deserted like most of the estate that he had seen.James looked around him while the car engine idled but nothing save the intercom exchange suggested that anyone was around.He wondered where Juniper was and why he was not greeting him enthusiastically like he had done over the phone and in the pub.
This really had better not be a wind up, thought James.
Reasoning that he was not going to get any answers by sitting in the car, James switched off the engine and stepped out into the shabby yard.He looked around him with mild disdain.He would never let his business go to such disrepair, he thought to himself.James pocketed his keys and approached the building’s main entrance.All of the windows that he could see had the blinds pulled down so he could not see in.Another whiff of disdain floated under James’ nose as he noticed the peeling paint of the window frames.This place was in bad need of a refurb, he thought.Maybe that’s why I’m here, came a sudden thought in James’ mind.Maybe Juniper’s running some kind of business and it’s struggling and he wants me to help him out.James considered the possibility but still the question of Juniper apparently faking his own death came to the forefront.James had been pondering on what kind of business would require such drastic measures but he was at a total loss.Looking around the drab façade of the building some more, James noticed another intercom, identical to the one stationed outside the double gates.He pressed the call button and waited for the tinny voice to address him again.
‘Jimmy, my boy!’
‘Who else?Come in.Come in.’The door buzzed and James opened it tentatively.He was expecting to find his uncle waiting for him.What he was not expecting was the massive difference between the building’s exterior and interior.Where the outside looked threadbare and dreary, the inside was spacious and professionally appointed.The impeccably tiled floor gleamed with the reflected orbs of stylish lighting, the walls were smooth and light and boasted tasteful yet subtle works of art, and the furniture looked crisp and showroom quality.Everything about the interior that James could see screamed professionalism and a very high price tag.He suddenly felt underdressed and a little bit grubby in his garage clothes.He looked down to make sure that he was not trailing mud on to the glistening polished floor.He saw that he was standing on a large welcome mat, which looked like it cost more than his living room carpet, and there, emblazoned across the mat, was the same symbol that James had seen on the card that had been left under the windscreen wiper of his car.An image of an eye with the British Isles where the pupil and iris would normally be.James reached into his pocket and took out his wallet.He removed the card that had been left on his car and checked it against the mat, just to make sure.He was not imagining it; they were the exact same symbol.
‘Er…hi, Juniper,’ said James uneasily.
‘So you got here okay?Marvellous!’Juniper smiled again as he noticed James’ eyes still taking in the room.‘Nice, ain’t it?’
‘it’s…very impressive,’ said James, unsure of what else to say.
‘Better than the outside, eh?’Juniper chuckled and gave his nephew a knowing look.‘I’m sure you’ve got a million and a half questions, am I right?’
‘Just a bit,’ said James, smiling weakly.
‘Well, I’ve dangled you on the hook for long enough Jimmy my boy, and for that I’m sorry.Let’s go up to my office and all will become clear.’
‘Come on in, Jimmy,’ said Juniper, as he pushed open the right-hand door.James passed his uncle and stepped into what felt like a time machine.Gone was the ultra-modern clean and clinical look of the reception area and the corridor they had just been in, replaced by sumptuous dark wood and leather, brass and heavy fabrics.If the reception area was cutting edge for now, James thought, this office would have been in vogue around the time of Queen Victoria.However, he could not help but admire the overall effect this office was having on him.He felt somehow comforted, as if the richness and historical ambience of the room was reassuring him that everything was going to be okay and that Juniper knew exactly what he was doing.
‘Like it?’ said Juniper, proudly.James realised with a tinge of embarrassment that he had been standing with his mouth agape.
‘It’s wonderful,’ exclaimed James, who had always had a soft spot for older, more traditional things.‘But why’s it so different to the corridor and the reception area?’
‘Because this is my office, Jimmy, and I like it this way.’ James looked down at his uncle and frowned in questioning confusion. ‘Take a seat. Let me explain.’ Juniper indicated a handsome leather Chesterfield armchair and James sat down, relishing the opulent material sinking lovingly beneath his weight. Juniper walked around a magnificent polished wooden desk and sat down in an equally majestic armchair, the fine leather creaking melodiously under him. James looked around and took in shelf after shelf of thick and studious looking books, standing proudly side by side on tall and regal bookcases. A grandfather clock stood ticking sombrely in the corner and a wooden framed globe sat impressively by a gleaming dark wooden coffee table. The office was truly stunning and James could not help but be very impressed.
- July 2014
- To be continued...