“I think any further discussion of this matter needs a little lubrication. My shout.” The colonel raised his forefinger imperiously and summoned a waiting servant. “Four glasses please, a bottle of Glenfiddich and a jug of ice.”
He eased comfortably back into his chair and looked around at his companions raising a quizzical eyebrow as he did so.
“A thousand years is a bit of an overstatement really. After all the whole bloody planet might be gone by then. But if you were to say a hundred ...” He left his sentence unfinished.
“You’re being pedantic, Charles, I wasn’t speaking literally.” The large red faced man on the colonel’s right seemed a little put out. “Actually, all I meant to say was that I am sure they will make a documentary about all this unpleasantness sometime in the future.”
“Maybe, Sir William,” replied the colonel, “But it will be an almost impossible task.”
“Impossible! No,” interrupted a third member of the foursome. “As you know, I’ve been a lawyer all my life. I believe a documentary would certainly be possible but the script writer, the producer and the director would have to be very careful. I see almost limitless possibilities for litigation if all the details are not meticulously checked.” Gavin Pengelly, a slim, fair haired, handsome fiftyish man, half rose in his seat as though he was going to leave but then sighed and sank down again, a weary look on his face.
“Oh bullshit, Gavin.” The fourth member of the group seemed out of place, both in the present company and indeed in the club itself. He was a short thin little man in a somewhat worn suit and a tie that would have been more appropriate in a second hand caryard than a gentleman’s club.
“Language, Michael, or I’ll call for the swear box.” The colonel looked more amused than annoyed and it would have been apparent to a casual observer that appearances aside, Michael was actually very much a part of the group.
“If it had been an ordinary woman, there would have been no problem.” Gavin came back into the conversation, “But the fact that the First Lady was involved makes the whole situation much more complex.”
“She is an ordinary woman.” Michael seemed to be getting excited now. “Very very ordinary if you ask me. She proves that by the things she does.”
“Hey hold on,” replied the colonel. “Have you seen any proof that she has actually done any of these things? Anything on the telly, anything on the radio, anything in the papers?”
“No, but … ”
“But what!” Gavin started again to rise to his feet but just at that moment the waiter arrived with the tray of drinks and the conversation halted as he attended to his duties.
“Ah, this is a great whisky, thank you muchly Charles.” Sir William took a large gulp and then looked sadly at his very depleted glass. “I hope it doesn’t send me off to sleep.”
“It probably will,” replied the colonel, “and I’m sure you’ll be the better for it.”
The four men sat back comfortably in their expensive leather chairs and sipped from their glasses, seemingly having quite forgotten their conversation. In a very short time Sir William was sound asleep, and Gavin and the colonel seemed likely to join him. All of a sudden Michael sat up like a hare startled by the distant barking of hounds.
“If she’d been an English lady this could never have happened.”
“If it did happen,” said the colonel.
“I believe it happened,” said Gavin, “but I have my doubts about the time and the place. My informants also mention both Reykjavik and St Petersburg so there could be some very troubling international complications.”
“If it had been an English lady,” said Michael with a broad grin, “it wouldn’t have happened overseas, it would all have taken place in an English country garden.” The colonel looked at him with an angry grimace.
“Sorry,” said Michael, apologetically.
“It’s the business of the submarine that bothers me,” said Sir William, “A lot of what I’ve heard sounds plausible but for that type of thing to actually take place on a United States submarine almost beggars belief. A Caribbean island yes but a U.S. sub! Not in my book.”
“I hadn’t heard about a sub. I think maybe this story has grown legs and started to walk off in all sorts of strange directions. I did hear talk of a destroyer or maybe it was a P.T. boat.” The colonel sighed and looked at his empty glass. “I doubt if anyone will actually ever get to the bottom of this story let alone make a documentary of it, either now, in a hundred or even the mythical thousand years.”
“Wrong,” said Gavin. “Someone will do it but it won’t be in the near future. Some muck-raking journalist with time on his hands will crawl out of his slime pit in fifty or sixty years when all the participants in this fiasco are dead and when the laws of libel can’t reach him. He will then present a version of events as wide and as varied as the pieces of scuttlebutt you good folk have brought to our little session today. His version will become our history.”
“The telephone for you, Sir.” An immaculately clad servant passed a silver tray to Sir William on which rested a cordless telephone.
“Yes, Minister, I’ll come immediately. No, Minister, I haven’t said a word.” Sir William turned to his companions. “Good afternoon gentlemen, I have enjoyed our time together, but,” and he put a finger to his lips, “I haven’t actually been here and I certainly didn’t say a word to anyone about anything.” He grinned tipsily.