Friday, January 29, 2010

The Case of the Serial Proroguer - Part 3

London. Winter.

I was stiff and sore after a charter flight from Ottawa: the service had been excellent but the seats were painful. I'd spent extra to get the direct flight, not the one that stopped in the Canaries.

I was working under cover for The Woman in Black, and I surveyed the world bleakly from Victoria Station, where I had debouched after a coach journey from Heathrow of unsurpassing tedium, before hailing a passing Number 82 bus. Only the Europeans understand this level of service and comfort.

I had no idea where I was going, only that I needed to shake off any tails from CSIS. I dismounted at Golder's Green and doubled back towards St. John's Wood to wrongfoot any surveillance, but fell awkwardly into the gutter. I was recovering my presence of mind when two shiny black boots presented themselves at eye level.

"Hello, hello, hello!" said a bass voice that seemed to boom from the heavens. "Had one too many, have we?"

I thought quickly. "No, I'm a Canadian constitutional lawyer."

"Well, that explains a lot, " the voice continued, relentlessly. "We get a lot of them at this time of year. Blown off the migration routes to Florida."

What could he mean? Why drag the CIA into this? I lurched to my feet.

"I merely need to find my way to a bed and breakfast, Constable."

"All very well sir. I suggest you try The Rhinoceros and Weasel, an excellent public house directly behind you."

He assisted me across the threshold with a minimum of force, and the landlord threw me courteously into bed. As I dozed into unconsciouness, the name of the pub echoed ominously. Rhinoceros? Weasel?

The next day I arose at noon, owing to the time difference, and staggered down to a breakfast of kippers and Scotch. The landlord hovered without any real enthusiasm, and I managed to have a quiet word.

"Can you," I asked furtively, "direct me to the offices of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council?"

He was a cool devil, I'll give him that, and his eyebrows twitched almost imperceptibly.

"We hear that a lot," he said.

"How often?" I asked.

"Once," he replied.

I toyed moodily with my kippers as he drifted off to serve another customer with the traditional English fried breakfast. I felt like my brains had been fried. When I checked, that was also on the menu.

He drifted back and stuck a Post-It Note on my menu. It said: "The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, Parliament Square, London SW1P 3BD."

I lurched out into the street with my London A-Z in hand. It was useless. I hailed a cab.

I fell out at the address and tried to pull myself together. I entered the premises.

A receptionist regarded me disdainfully.

"Who are you sir, and what do you want?"

"I'm a constitutional lawyer sent by the Governor General of Canada to make representations before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council."

"And your bona fides?"

I deposited a flipper pie on her desk, on which was engraved the insignia of the Governor General of Canada, blurred only slightly by an unfortunate baggage incident at Terminal 5.

She was visibly impressed. "Please take a number and have a seat."

I took a number, which was "2" and noted that the only other occupant of the waiting room was a man who resembled Robert Mugabe. He sneered at me. "So, another colonial come to grovel at the feet of the British Crown."

I regained possession of the flipper pie and ground it into his face. I felt better for having done so.

The receptiionist returned. "The Secretary will now see Number 1." There were incomprehensible noises from the Mugabe-like figure, filtered through a thick layer of flipper pie.

"In that case, Number 2?"

I stood up and offered my ticket. It said "2".

"Please come this way."

To be continued....