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Looking for Bertie Part II
22-02-2012, 04:51 PM
Post: #1
Looking for Bertie Part II

Wednesday 23 March 2011
London, Harry’s house

Ruth turned away from her perusal of his bookcase when he entered a few minutes later. He was in shirtsleeves, a tie draped loosely around his neck, and laid his suit jacket neatly over the back of a chair before he addressed her.
“We’re going to make a detour to my club first.”
His hands busied themselves knotting the tie, and she watched their deft movements with enthralment. The rich red silk flowed smoothly through his fingers as he slid the knot into place with practised precision. He fastened the collar buttons and reached for his jacket – a modern day knight donning his armour for the coming battle.
“Ruth?” he said with a puzzled look, interrupting her fanciful thoughts.
“Hmm? …Oh, er, yes, your club.”
She fumbled around for the thread of the conversation, and his gaze became intense and interested in a heartbeat. Ruth feared that her ogling might have been noticed, and hurried on to distract him.
“Why are we going there?”
“We need to see a man about some gossip,” he responded enigmatically, and escorted her out of the house.

- 0 –

“Dickie is quite a character,” he informed her as he steered the Land Rover haphazardly through the traffic. Ruth was reminded that for years he’d seldom driven himself anywhere, and secretly thought that a good thing as he cut in front of a lorry, causing the driver to blare his horn at them angrily.
“He is the best source of gossip about the nobility of our beloved Realm. I’d like to be prepared when we meet her Ladyship, so I’ve asked him to see us for a few minutes.”
“Right,” Ruth said, and braced herself against the dashboard as they swerved around a corner much too fast.
“At your club… Will I even be allowed inside?” she asked, whilst praying that they would reach it before she died of a heart attack.
“Of course you will,” he stated, somewhat offended. “We have galloped into the era of enlightenment along with the rest of the world – women are free to enter the Ladies Lounge.”
Her head snapped round and she stared at him incredulously. She was about to make a snarky comment about how the allowance of a Ladies Lounge did not equal enlightenment when she noticed the mischievous twinkle in his eye.
“We’re here,” he said, and she was so relieved to still be in one piece that she forgot all about enlightenment.

He led her inside and she blinked in the muted lighting of the foyer. A small, slim man rushed over to them, his hand stretched out in greeting.
“Harry, old man!” he said and wrung Harry’s hand enthusiastically before his gaze moved to Ruth in frank curiosity. Harry made the introductions and Dickie gave her a limp-wristed handshake. He led them into a room to the left, which was indeed identified as the Ladies Lounge by a sign above the door. Ruth gave Harry a look and he suppressed a smile.

As they settled around a table and ordered tea, Ruth studied the little man. He was sharply dressed, down to the handkerchief peeking out of his suit’s top pocket. It was impossible to guess his age other than that he must be over seventy. His gestures tended towards campiness, but the eyes shone with intelligence and excitement. He looked at Harry almost dotingly.
“Well, here we are,” Dickie said, straightening the sugar pot in the middle of the table primly.
“It was a nice surprise to hear from you, Harry. Haven’t seen you around the club much recently?”
Harry said, “I’ve been otherwise occupied.” Then he added, with a knowing look at the other man, “You know how it is, Dickie.”
“Oh indeed. Indeed, yes,” Dickie gabbled. He reached out and patted Harry’s hand. “The security of the nation is a heavy burden to have on one’s shoulders. Yes, indeed,” he said solemnly.

Harry merely nodded, equally solemnly, and they all silently contemplated the heavy burden that was the nation’s security for a few moments before Harry leaned towards the other man. He made a show of checking that no-one was in earshot before murmuring, “I need your assistance, Dickie. I can’t tell you what it’s about, unfortunately.”
Ruth watched in fascination as Harry played up his Man of Mystery persona and Dickie swallowed it hook, line and sinker.
“My dear man,” Dickie cried. “Don’t give it a second thought. Now, what can I do for you?”
“The Duke of Suffolk and his family – what do you know about them?”
Dickie’s eyes widened and Ruth could see his mind try to fit the Duke into any of the current known threats to security.
“Frightfully rich, of course,” he began slowly, and Harry interjected.
“Legitimate gains?”
“Oh, yes,” Dickie said confidently, then added, “unless you count the exploitation of the noble savages in the former colonies as illegal. Which we didn’t, in those days. The Duke’s father was a shrewd businessman, and he did better than most in positioning his companies to survive decolonisation.”
“What about the marriage? Happy or a matter of convenience?”
Dickie’s eyes lit up at the opportunity to share the more salacious gossip in his possession.
“Ah, astute question, Harry. Definitely a matter of convenience.” He leaned forward and lowered his voice confidentially. “Lady Agnes is a Neville, you see.”
He looked between them triumphantly. Harry frowned, perplexed, and looked to Ruth.
“The Nevilles were Yorkists, while the Percys were Lancastrans,” she explained. “They were on opposite sides during the Wars of the Roses.”
“Exactly!” Dickie barked, delighted by her grasp of the finer details of that conflict. “Hundreds of years have passed, and still the families feel the need to cement their ties through marriage. Extraordinary,” he marvelled.
Harry pondered the information, then mused, “Since we have moved out of the dark ages-” his mouth twitched and he avoided Ruth’s eye, “-I assume it was not done for political reasons. Nowadays the only empires being built are business empires. What line of business is Lady Agnes’ family in?”
Dickie smiled, and tapped the side of his nose with a finger. “They’re shipping magnates.”

Harry leaned back and glanced at Ruth before speaking again. “A business betrothal then. Are they faithful to each other?”
“Good heavens, no,” the dapper little man exclaimed. “Soon after she dutifully produced two male heirs, they ceased to share a bed. Both have discreet affairs. I think he’s currently sleeping with one of the senior executives in his company. Young enough to be his daughter, predictably enough, although I suppose one should be thankful that he steered clear of the clichéd affair with the secretary. She’s not seeing anyone at the moment, as far as I know.”
He dropped his voice even lower. “She has a taste for powerful men, apparently. It is rumoured, for instance, that she had a liaison with our current Home Secretary ten years or so ago.”
Neither Harry nor Ruth showed any reaction to this titbit, and Dickie’s sharp features sagged in disappointment. Harry did not give him time to wallow in it.
“What do you know about the two sons?”
Dickie gave it some thought. “The eldest, David, is a playboy. He’s a good looking lad,” he said wistfully, “and he likes the ladies. They like him too, of course. Always has the latest sports car, and has been trying to complete his business degree for seven years now. If his father weren’t such a large benefactor to the university, he would probably have been kicked out long ago. Thus far he has shown little interest and zero aptitude for running the family business. But he is his father’s favourite – the first-born that can do no wrong. The younger one, Edward, is a whole different kettle of fish. Smart, responsible, and a gifted sportsman. But the best he can hope for is a managing post in one of the outposts of the business.”
He shook his head sadly. “A waste. David will in all likelihood run the family fortune into the ground, and everyone except his father realises it.”

- 0 –

They were back in the car, heading out to the Percy family home on the outskirts of the city. Harry’s driving had not improved, but Ruth was mentally prepared for it this time. She gradually relaxed as she realised that the risks he took were calculated rather than reckless. She stared out the window as she processed everything Dickie had told them.
“Do you believe him about Towers and Lady Agnes?” she asked.
Harry pursed his lips, then said with a trace of amusement, “People tend to discard Dickie as a ridiculous little dandy, but he knows things that could bring the Royal family and most of the upper classes to its knees.”
There was a knowing note in his voice, and she tilted her head at him and stated accusingly, “You already knew about it.”
When he didn’t deny it, she shook her head and looked out the window again.
He glanced at her before returning his eyes to the road.
“It came out in the vetting.”

Ruth focused on the scenery outside and wondered what other secrets he knew that she never would. It was a sobering thought and she pushed it away determinedly.
Instead she commented, “Dickie’s information seems to confirm your view that we’ll find ‘Bertie’ tucked away with a woman somewhere.”
He smiled at her use of the nickname he’d given the missing man.
“We should try to keep an open mind, though,” he suggested. “And by ‘we’ I obviously mean ‘you’,” he added, his eyes twinkling.
Before she had time to respond, he swung the car through an open gate fast enough to leave her clutching at the armrest. He parked in front of the imposing mansion in a spurt of gravel that made the butler waiting on the doorstep frown in disapproval. The man’s demeanour only improved when he learnt that the male visitor was a Knight of the Realm.

They were shown into what the butler called the ‘drawing room’, to Harry’s annoyance. It was tastefully decorated with what appeared to be expensive antique furniture, but it was too formal for Ruth’s taste. A woman rose from one of the chairs, drawing their attention. She was about Harry’s age, elegantly dressed, and beautiful in the classic English Rose sort of way. A set of violet blue eyes appraised them as the butler announced their names.
“Sir Harry Pearce and Miss Ruth Evershed to see you, m’lady.” His voice had turned deferential when announcing Harry’s name. Ruth glanced at Harry and detected a hint of irritation in the set of his mouth.
“Sir Harry, I am most thankful for your assistance,” Lady Agnes said gravely when they were all seated. “I would not want our affairs splashed all over the tabloids like some tawdry gossip story, which is why I asked William Towers for help.”
Harry regarded her wordlessly, then said, “To be frank, I think you should go to the Police. It is their area of expertise, finding missing persons.” After a beat he added, “And they are discreet.”
Lady Agnes’ mouth tightened. “Discreet? Such as when they turned a blind eye to the tabloids hacking into the phones of the famous?”
She flicked a dismissive hand. “Our family is quite prominent, Sir Harry, and has always been a target for the red-tops. Believe me, PC Plod would not have resisted a whisper into the right ear, had I gone to them.”
Next to Harry, Ruth bristled. “So your family’s reputation is more important than the safety of your own son?”

There was a shocked silence during which Lady Agnes stared at Ruth. She had gone quite pale but her expression remained carefully controlled. Harry lifted an eyebrow at Ruth’s forthrightness but said nothing.
When Lady Agnes responded, her voice was tight and harsh. “I will not have my love for my son questioned by a common spook who clearly does not understand the intricacies of upper class life-“
Harry’s face hardened and he cut her off. “You’ll do well not to antagonise us with your ludicrous condescension and over-inflated views of your own importance. We all know the real reason you don’t want to involve the Police is because you expect us to find your son in a whorehouse or shacked up with an inappropriate woman somewhere, is it not?”
Lady Agnes turned even paler, but did not respond.
Harry continued mercilessly, “Do not for one moment think that this investigation will be done on your terms. This visit is nothing more than a courtesy and to get some details of your son’s last known movements. So shall we get on?”
The two of them glared at each other; neither appeared willing to give an inch. Ruth involuntarily held her breath. Then Lady Agnes suddenly threw back her head and laughed – a deep throaty laugh that was in stark contrast to the self-contained image she had projected thus far.
“William said I would like you, Sir Harry,” she said, her gaze on him now one of frank and open interest.
Harry relaxed as well and smiled slightly. “Call me Harry,” he said. He got up and moved to the tall windows, and Ruth couldn’t help but notice that he seemed very much at home in this milieu. She glanced at Lady Agnes and saw that she had noticed it too, and that knowledge gave Ruth pause.

For the first time in a long while she allowed herself to look at Harry and see him as other women were likely to - a self-assured, successful and powerful man with a lot to offer. She watched his gaze linger on Lady Agnes, and wondered morbidly whether she might have left it too late.


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22-02-2012, 05:18 PM
Post: #2
RE: Looking for Bertie Part II
Terrific chapter - liked Dickie and Ruth's musing over Harry. Well done and more please

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22-02-2012, 06:28 PM
Post: #3
RE: Looking for Bertie Part II
"Too late" Nooooooooooo Ruth, it's only been 7 years! By the time they get to second base, Harry won't have any teeth of his own.

Good chapter, Silktie.

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22-02-2012, 08:17 PM
Post: #4
Ruth RE: Looking for Bertie Part II
I'm now laughing as much at TL's response as I did at Part 2!

Dickie was great, though I just watched part of 2.4 with Dickie Bowman, so that's who was in my head at first. I think I like the Dickie of this story much better.

I did like that Harry and Ruth were brutally honest with her and if it takes some serious flirting on the part of Lady Agnes to make Ruth see straight, then I say, bring her on. Of course, I can't see Harry being interested in a married woman now (his past actions notwithstanding) and besides, she slept with Towers. Cue the heebie jeebies.

Zaf: "Shouldn't you be in prison or something?"
Ros: "This is the something."
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22-02-2012, 08:31 PM
Post: #5
RE: Looking for Bertie Part II
Now I'm laughing at the "heebie jeebies" Smile

Actually, weren't we supposed to hear Towers talk about Mrs Towers in S10? I don't remember it making the final cut.

Wasn't there also a Dickie in series 8? Harry and Ros went to see him.

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23-02-2012, 05:57 AM
Post: #6
RE: Looking for Bertie Part II
Fantastic update Silktie - really enjoying this so far, the conversation with Dickie was fantastic! Glad to see Ruth suddenly realising what she's missing and what others see, I hope it pushes her into finally making a move... or at least not rejecting him! Loving the little bit of banter between the two of them and hope to read more soon!
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23-02-2012, 12:01 PM
Post: #7
RE: Looking for Bertie Part II
Harry's mouth is twitching with amusement, and so's mine, which is a good sign. I love the way you can draw their characters so well.
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