As of this morning I have been furloughed for two months. Is this a dream? Being paid 80% to stay home and write? Brilliant!
I have two ideas. Which option would most encourage you to want to read on?
A? B? Neither!?
Funny things happen, 30 seconds after you have just saved the Prime Minister from assassination.
Especially, when all you have done is throw a tablecloth over him to prevent a bird of prey pecking him to death. Not that the pecks themselves would have done for him. It’s the cunningly applied lethal pathogens on the claws that would have sealed his fate. I knew this, but for now I must not tell you why.
The crowd surged forward and I was knocked out of the way by a burly plainclothes policeman who rushed to the PM’s side and immediately began ushering him away from the melee and back towards his car.
The press throng, always the ones with most highly developed sense of a good story, surged towards me with microphones and lenses extended. A barrage of questions filled the air.
“Sir, sir, are you Special Branch?”
“Are you in the Magic Circle? That was some tablecloth trick!”
At some point in the future, like probably tomorrow, I would come to realise that these last few seconds would define an equally large shift in my direction. For I was about to be cursed by fame. Never a good thing for a spy.
But right now, all my undercover training was about to be called into being as the inevitable question was directed at me from the mouth of a hand holding a rather expensive looking Nikon.
“What’s your name?”
Quick as a flash I reached for the obvious. “John.”
I was lying. Convincingly, I thought.
“John who? “ They chorused back.
Oh, oh…quick, now I needed a big name to go with it. Somewhere in the deep recess of my left brain I instinctively remembered the habit of American country music singers who often use major cities as their moniker.
“Albuquerque” I blurted.
“Al-Bookerky?” intoned the man from the Daily Mail. “What kind of weird foreign name is that? Are you one of these Imm-ee-grants?” He spat out the syllables with practiced disdain. “How d’ya spell it?”
“Same as the capital of New Mexico,” I proffered helpfully,” ’A-L-B-U’ followed by ‘kerky’, but using ‘qs’ instead of ‘ks’ ”
“The capital of New Mexico is Sante Fe”, rejoined the man from the Guardian. Smart arse!
“John Albuquerque, you just saved the Prime Minister’s life. Do you have any comment on his party’s disgraceful record in mishandling the Gross Domestic Product?”
Oh shit. I had just performed tablecloth magic, saved the country’s favourite most boring man after Cliff Richard, and suddenly I was expected to be an expert in things I knew nothing about.
It was a very nice polar bear. Except it was dead. Lying on a slab of rock, as lifeless as a discarded mattress, fly-tipped by the roadside.
The bear was named Kara, after the sea where her father was captured. She was the first to be born here in captivity, emerging from her mother with a coat as white as the snow she would never see. But now, after twenty seven increasingly mild winters in the wildlife park, her fur was an indistinct muddy brown. At this age, in the Arctic, she would have been long dead. Regular feeding, vitamin supplements and boredom had kept her alive. Until last night.
It is not difficult to shoot a polar bear. Especially up close, and preferably with a fence between you and the animal. It had been done quickly and confidently. Even aiming for the head had given the shooter a target the size of a medicine ball. After a single shot he had removed the silencer, replaced the gun in his holdall alongside the bolt cutters and vanished back out through the wire fence.