The Adventures of Gripley and Wingnut: Chapter One – Bearly Begun
Time: 10.07 ante meridian
Place: Imperial Bank of Hy Brasil, The Clockwork Quarter, Iron District, Greater Londinium
Alarms clanged in deafening discord, indicating that someone – or something – was up to no good inside the splendid edifice that was the Imperial Bank of Hy Brasil. A gaudily garbed concierge turned from greeting the Dowager Duchess of Dallengridge and started to (try to) draw his sidearm (which, though unimportant in the present narrative, is a Jones and Surly ‘Armisticer’, a weapon more impressive to look at than accurate to fire). His motion in this regard is arrested as the brickwork around the impressive 10′ high doors bursts outwards and a flying brick beans the poor man, sending his splendid hat with the glossy black peak and golden fretting flying.
The Concierge fell backwards into the The Dowager Duchess, who dominoed, stumbling back into the seat of her Chesney-Donovan limosine, which probably saved both of their lives. In the disintegrating doorway stood a mechanical monstrosity: a 20′ biped in the shape of a bear. In Greater Londinium this was not such an unusual sight, although the lightning that dripped from the claws of the unfeeling uber-ursid was not. On the contrivances’ back was strange, saddle-like postilion. A figure sat in the seat and was clearly controlling the creation.
Across the other side of the city, a young man was admiring himself, or perhaps more specifically his uniform-clad self in the mirror. Properly, he was the Honourable Rufus Reginald Raclaw Rhys Regulus Radclyffe-Reed, but everyone, including his mother, grandmother, and great aunt Hortensia, called him Wingnut. His overly-large ears were the only blight on his otherwise very ordinary outstanding good looks. The uniform, at first glance, looked as though it should be that of a Lancer, but even those with no interest in military minutiae would realise very quickly that this was no uniform of any army on earth, not even the Greater West Indian Coalition, which was renowned for its garishly bright uniform.
His watch crackled into life and the face of his best friend, Athena Gripley flickered into view. “Admiring yourself in the mirror again? Well stop it, get the car and pick me up from the mews behind Polonius House – our first incident just turned up!”
The car was a technological marvel. Gripley had perfected a design she had inherited from her uncle. Together Gripley and Wingnut had solved the tricky problem of making an alcohol of just the right instability to provide a hotter flame than could usually, be produced in steam-engine. Together with cutting edge metallurgy, they had produced a horse-less carriage twice as powerful as anything that was available, even a Bader-Gibson Special, and at one fifth the mass. In the hands of any other driver than Wingnut, any journey would end in disaster, probably very soon after it had begun. He seemed to have some sort of second sight when driving and with his inhumanly fast reflexes it took him three minutes to make the rendezvous and another two to make it to the Imperial Bank of Hy Brasil.
“We’ll have to think about where we stash the car”, Gripley said, as she rummaged around in the insides of the mechanical bear.
“If you hadn’t insisted on taking the bear with us, they wouldn’t have been able to tail us for so long. The constabulary were very insistent that the bear was evidence.”
“And I’m not sure that telling them we were ‘the Dynamo Duo’ was a good idea”. Her voice was distinctly muffled as she reached in to pull out the internal workings.
“It sounded right when I said it, and we needed to give them some sort of name. And it was miles better than the name that chappie with the black cloak with the yellow lightening bolt was raving about…what was it…Discharge?”
© David Jesson, 2017
Amanda returned from the Ladies. It’d seemed obligatory that one retired for a moment when having dinner with a suitor, and it gave her a moment to check she didn’t have spinach – or whatever that greenery on her plate had been – stuck in her teeth. He looked up as she walked across the room and, despite the brooding good looks she always fell for, she really liked his rather goofy smile. She was grinning in return – this date was going really well – when she was intercepted by the Maitre d’ who was holding up a phone. “No, no, no, no, no … this was her night off. She’d planned it for months – literally months – and it had cost her a lot of favours.”
She tried to swerve the Maitre d’ but apparently he was determined “please …” his voice had a rather odd note to it. Sighing heavily, Amanda took the handset and held it to her ear “Amanda Brogue” she fairly barked into it, only to be completely floored when the voice in her ear said “please hold for the President of the United States”. Unable to help herself, Amanda stood up a little straighter whilst puzzlement replaced irritation. The current POTUS – hell each and every one of the POTUSes still alive – were simply too old to need her … and then there he was. “Jeff Banks here Ms Brogue. I’m sorry to disturb you but you’re needed at The White House …now.” Amanda started to make her excuses before she realised that he’d gone, and that she was talking to the annoymous voice again, giving her instructions on how to gain entry.
Returning to her companion who by now was looking at her decidedly quizically “I have to go, I’m sorry. More sorry than you will ever realise. But this is one client I can’t say no to.” “Yeah Amanda, sure, let me get the check and I’ll give you a ride.”Accepting, Amanda realised she was going to have to explain this one and being dropped off at the West Gate of the White House would – hopefully – make it clear she wasn’t brushing him off. When he pulled up, his eyebrows were raised, but at least he asked “can I call you tomorrow?” Amanda was not only delighted to hear the request but rapidly assented to it. Looking back, she noted him watching her walk through the Gate, now accompanied by a man in a black suit, talking into an earpiece.
Turned out Jeff Banks was a new grandfather. His beloved only daughter had recently given birth and her mother had insisted that she stay with them in The White House while her husband – a US marine – was on deployment overseas. It also turned out that Jeff Banks’s granddaughter wasn’t a good sleeper. This meant that her mother didn’t sleep and her grandmother didn’t either, so neither did Jeff Banks … and a serving President losing sleep over a baby, rather than – say – a diplomatic incident, wasn’t a good idea.
Amanda did her thing before being ushered into the Oval Office for the President to thank her in person. His Chief of Staff walked her out “we’ll need you on standby 24/7 until further notice.” Amanda tried to explain about her schedule, her regular clients, her on-call arrangements, but she was brushed aside “when we call you, you stop what you’re doing and you come straight here. Tell your other clients that they’ll have to defer to the President. It’s not just your duty, but theirs also.”
Texting Todd when she got home, Amanda was pleasantly surprised when her phone trilled. “I’m way too curious to wait …” said his voice in her ear. “Well … I have this skill. I make crying babies settle …” “Huh?” “Yeah, I know. Apparently Jeff Banks has a new granddaughter … and I’m now on the team to make sure he gets his sleep and doesn’t hit the red button ‘cos of over-tiredness.” Both laughed at the very idea. Over the course of the next few days, they talked more. Todd worked in ER and once he understood that Amanda always worked nights, he realised he could become very popular by volunteering to cover the night shift too. It would be a strange relationship but … there was something special about this one.
It took a while before Todd realised just how special though … Amanda’s oxycotin levels were exceptionally high. It did mean men fell in love with her rapidly – whole swathes of men – but also that crying babies were soothed, quickly either falling asleep or simply gurgling quietly to themselves.
As Amanda always worked nights, all those men falling in love with her never stuck around. They liked to take her out on dates, to have romantic evenings at home, and nights in together. The occasional daytime date was acceptable – just when it was nothing but daytime dates – well, that wasn’t normal. And most men like their dates to be normal.
A few key – well, rich – clients, kept Amanda able to pay her rent and her bills, but most of her work was – what was that term the lawyers use – oh yes pro bono. And of course, Amanda had a big client list – a never ending, ever replenishing list of clients.
There was also the flying thing of course … which is how she managed to see so many clients every night.
I mean, come on, even a top of the line Ferrari wouldn’t enable her to cover the whole of the US that fast …
© Debra Carey, 2017