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Looking for Bertie Part III
25-02-2012, 11:33 AM
Post: #1
Looking for Bertie Part III

Wednesday 23 March 2011
London, Percy mansion

Harry was the first to break the silence. “When did you see your son last?”
“A month ago,” Lady Agnes replied, her voice carefully even.
Harry looked to Ruth. “I thought he’s been missing for two weeks?”
“He was at university until two weeks ago,” Lady Agnes clarified. “Then he suddenly took off, in the middle of term, and no-one has seen him since.”
She turned to Ruth. “Being part of the rich and famous is like living in a village – everyone else tends to know your business. One learns not to show too much to the rest of the world.” She stated with some defiance, “I may not show it, Miss Evershed, but I am deeply worried about David.”
After a slight hesitation she added almost resignedly, “He and his father had a serious falling-out before David left home about a month ago.”
When she didn’t elaborate, Ruth opened her mouth to ask the reason behind the argument, but Harry caught her eye and shook his head once. She closed her mouth again and silence enveloped the room. After a while it seemed to get on the Duchess’ nerves and she continued.
“David was supposed to accompany his father on a business trip to Sri Lanka, but instead he went to Bangkok with some of his university friends. I think my husband has finally lost patience. He used to excuse David’s behaviour as a young man having his fun before he settles down, but I suspect he is beginning to realise that David has no intention of settling down. Ever.”

Harry watched her hands smooth her dress over her thighs and asked, “Does he have a girlfriend?”
The Duchess looked pained. “He has several. Nary a month goes by without some little trollop knocking on the door and claiming she is carrying the next heir.”
Her lip curled in contempt, and Ruth wondered whether it was meant for her son or for the women.
“Do you have any idea where he might have gone?” she asked.
Lady Agnes shook her head. “My son does not confide in me. I should ask his friends if I were you.”
“And where would we find said friends?” Harry inquired.
“At Cambridge. David has been studying there for the last seven years.”

As they took their leave, Ruth lagged behind to study one of the paintings. She turned around in time to see Lady Agnes step up to Harry and place her hand on his arm.
“Thank you, Harry,” she murmured. “Perhaps you’d like to come for drinks one evening?”
Harry gently removed his arm from under her hand. “I’m afraid I have no spare time,” he said, and Ruth could have kissed him.
Lady Agnes took the rejection with a slight shrug of the shoulders and a rueful smile. The butler showed them out and Ruth could see the Duchess watch them from the window as they drove off.

- 0 –

They reached the main road and Harry stopped, his fingers tapping on the wheel reflexively.
“There’s something she wasn’t telling us,” he said.
“What makes you think that?”
“She displayed all the signs of someone who is lying: tense posture, sweating, fidgety hands.”
He looked at her. “You didn’t notice?”
Ruth shook her head, embarrassed. She wasn’t about to tell him that she had been too busy watching him watch the other woman to notice these signs.
Harry thought for a moment and sighed. “I suppose there’s no alternative… We’ll have to go to Cambridge,” he announced gloomily.
He might as well have announced the end of the world as he turned the car north and set off, positively morose. His resulting pout amused Ruth no end. Her heart still light and warm now that she was certain that he wasn’t interested in Lady Agnes, she couldn’t resist teasing him.
“Just because you went to Oxford doesn’t mean that Cambridge is inferior, Harry.”
The pout intensified but he didn’t reply.
She continued to needle him. “Why, lots of famous people went to Cambridge-“
“Oh of course,” he interjected acerbically, “Kim Philby for instance.“
“-like Isaac Newton,“ she persisted, before she was once again interrupted.
“Anthony Blunt,“ he offered, but Ruth was not to be defeated.
“Alan Turing.“
“Byron, Tennyson.”
“Bilal Abdullah.”
“Stephen Hawking.”
“Er…” Harry faltered, unable to come up with another infamous Cambridge alumnus. He glared briefly at Ruth but couldn’t hold back a smile.
“At least we won the last boat race,” he grumbled, and she laughed.
“Yes, we certainly did,” she agreed, and diplomatically refrained from pointing out that Cambridge still held the overall honours. They settled into easy conversation for the rest of the trip.

- 0 –

His name was Brent, and he had tousled dark hair and a cheeky smile. One of David’s lecturers had pointed him out as a close friend of the missing man. The lecturer himself had displayed weary despair of ever getting rid of David Percy V and had made it plain that he did not expect the young man to amount to anything. Now Harry and Ruth were squashed uncomfortably into Brent’s small room amid the carelessly scattered books and clothes, facing the student as he sat on his bed. Harry disliked him on principle and suspected that it had taken Brent considerable time to get the tousled look just right that morning. There was, of course, the added irritation that the young man had succeeded within minutes of their arrival in winning a warm smile from Ruth with his announcement that he was studying Classics. He watched glumly as Ruth enthusiastically compared Brent’s curriculum with the one she had completed at Oxford. When they paused in their discussion, he stepped in with authority.
“When did you last see Bertie?”
Ruth gave him a curious look, wondering at his short manner.
Brent looked confused. “Who?”
“He means David,” she clarified.
“Oh. About two weeks ago.”
“And you haven’t heard from him since?” Harry asked.
“Is that unusual?”
Brent thought about it. “Not especially.”
Harry studied him closely. “You don’t seem particularly worried about your friend.”
Brent stared at him, but didn’t respond. Ruth kept quiet and let the silence do its work.
“David’s a big boy, he can look after himself,” Brent said after a while.
Harry changed tack. “Is he popular?”
The young man turned to Ruth. “Is he serious?” he asked, jerking a thumb in Harry’s direction. “He’s the son of a Duke, he’s rich and he’s good-looking. Of course he’s bloody popular.”
“Hmm. Does well with the ladies too?” Harry probed, unperturbed by Brent’s reaction.
The student snorted. “Not sure they classify as ‘ladies’, mate.”
Harry lifted an eyebrow. “What would you call the women he associates with then, mate?”
Brent tossed his hair out of his eyes and grinned at Ruth. “I’d call them ‘exotic’, since I’m in polite company.”
Ruth smiled slightly and lifted her eyebrows. Harry said, annoyed, “Care to be a little blunter?”
“Not in front of a real lady,” Brent responded cheekily, still grinning at Ruth.
When he finally looked at Harry, the older man’s expression wiped the smile off his face and he sat up straighter.
“Okay… He likes prostitutes, specifically those of other nationalities, the darker the better. When we went to Thailand, I think he frequented every high class whore in town. And a few months ago he accompanied Daddy on a business trip to Kenya. When he returned – let’s just say he was like a man who’d discovered the Promised Land.”
Harry pursed his lips and frowned. “Does he flaunt his money?”
“Well, if you call a new flashy car every few months and bringing his valet to university with him flaunting it.”
He gestured to his desk, where photographs showed the same group of carefree young men clustered around an array of different cars.

Ruth leaned forward. “Brent. Does David talk about his family?”
“Sometimes. His father’s gone a lot, and he isn’t close to his mother. His younger brother is an over-achiever – he has a chance of making the Olympic team. Rowing. And he does well academically. David thinks his mom is pushing Daddy to hand over the business to Ed rather than to him, but David’s always been his father’s favourite as far as I can tell.”
He paused, then asked, “Do you think he’s in trouble?”
Harry stood. “No, not at this time. But his family would like to know that he’s safe. So if you hear from him, you let them know, yes?”
Brent nodded, and they took their leave.

- 0 –

“What do you think?” Harry asked as he weaved his way out of Cambridge.
“I found him rather charming,” Ruth answered with a sideways glance at him.
Harry scowled, and she relented with a soft laugh. “The Percys don’t appear to be the happiest of families.”
“No,” Harry agreed thoughtfully.
“And I think David’s reaction to the delights of Kenya may be significant.”
He smiled. “I’m glad you said that.”
She cocked her head at him.
“I think we should go to Kenya,” he announced.
Ruth was caught off-guard. “I’m sorry?”
“I think he’s in Kenya,” Harry explained patiently. “Hence if we go there, we will find him.”
“Harry, you’re suspended. We can’t just go to Kenya.”
“Towers said I have freedom of movement for the next two weeks.”
“Somehow I don’t think that includes leaving the country,” she muttered, but he could sense her wavering.
“Look, why don’t you go back to the office and check the passport records – if we know he left the country we are fully entitled to go after him.”
“I’m supposed to stay with you at all times,” she said uncertainly.
Harry kept his eyes on the road and mumbled to himself, “That could make bath time rather awkward,” but apparently not softly enough, as her head whipped round in astonishment.
He sighed. “Just go to the bloody office, Ruth. I won’t put a foot outside my house like a good boy until you’re back.”
She didn’t miss the tone of weary resentment underlying the words, and it brought her up short. For a few blissful hours she had forgotten about the situation he found himself in, and his reaction served as a reminder that it must be weighing on him; even if she could temporarily forget that he was on the brink of losing his job, he could not. She gave in.
“All right.”
He let out his breath slowly and nodded. “Thank you.”

- 0 –

Back at his house, Harry wandered into the sitting room. He stood for a moment where Towers had stood earlier and surveyed his unkempt garden. He couldn’t stop his thoughts from dwelling once again on his uncertain future. It was ironic, he realised, that now that he was in danger of losing his job, he so desperately wanted to keep it. He’d spent most of the last year wishing those responsibilities that weighed so heavily on his shoulders were no longer his to bear, only to miss it desperately once he had been suspended. He’d often worried that he would not adapt to a normal life once he was forced out or retired, and perhaps that was still true, but he now knew that it went deeper than that for him. The work was his calling, and he was suited to it perfectly – the proverbial round peg fitting snugly in his round hole. He was meant to serve his country, and he could not comprehend a life in which that was no longer his purpose.

With a sigh he turned around and his gaze fell on the stack of LPs, and with the best will in the world he could not stop his thoughts from going to her. Ruth. The one person he was willing to give up everything for – even leave the Service if that’s what she wanted. But, after he’d made such a hash of the proposal and, in her eyes at least, Albany, he had begun to doubt whether the time would ever be right for them. She had certainly given the impression that she thought their chance had passed and that it was time for them to move on, but he could not do it. God knows he tried, even asked her to keep their interactions to work only, but it didn’t work. In the end there was nothing complicated about it: he loved her, and he would never give up hope. For the first time in his life he loved a woman enough to sacrifice everything for her, and she probably realised it as well after he’d traded a state secret to save her life. That knowledge scared and exhilarated him simultaneously, and sometimes he found it hard to maintain his equilibrium when she was around him. It was such hard work to keep his distance from her, and the only reason he kept it up was because he didn’t want to put the additional burden of his own happiness on her. She’d suffered enough. He’d resigned himself to an existence where she was constantly in his orbit but always out of reach, but then she’d turned up on his doorstep this morning. He replayed the way she’d watched him as he knotted his tie and her gentle teasing over Cambridge, and he wondered. Maybe…?

His mobile buzzed and he jerked back to reality. It was Ruth.
“You were right,” she said without preamble. “Better start packing the sunscreen and insect repellent.”


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25-02-2012, 12:00 PM
Post: #2
RE: Looking for Bertie Part III
...and the knee length shorts and swim trunks and the thin white linen shirts, Harry. Don't forget those. Silba

Very funny chapter, Silktie. Loved Harry's reaction to Cambridge. Smile

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25-02-2012, 03:01 PM
Post: #3
Ruth RE: Looking for Bertie Part III
My 4 year old son wanted to know what was so funny because I was standing in the kitchen laughing like an idiot. Smile

The Cambridge back and forth was good but I particularly liked Harry's comment about bath time and Ruth's reaction.

Glad to see Ruth get some reaction from the opposite sex, even if it wasn't Harry.

Now I have go and play some game with said son and all I'm going to be picturing is Harry in his shorts and thin white linen shirts thanks to TL. Silba

Wonderful chapter. Thanks for sharing!

Zaf: "Shouldn't you be in prison or something?"
Ros: "This is the something."
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25-02-2012, 03:31 PM
Post: #4
RE: Looking for Bertie Part III
Sorry. Been a bit remiss in reviewing this. Busy week. Anyhooo...

Lovin' it!

Love the banter between the two. The tone is just right.

I also really love how you integrate your own creations so smoothly with the existing characters from Spooks.

Love Harry's mussings re: his job. No, not job. His calling.

Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet [Spooks];
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

~Wm. Shakespeare, Hamlet
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25-02-2012, 06:34 PM
Post: #5
RE: Looking for Bertie Part III
Wonderful chapter, real mix of banter and plot. You write them both so well! Looking forward to the trip to Kenya (and Harry in his shorts Wink)
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25-02-2012, 07:47 PM
Post: #6
RE: Looking for Bertie Part III
A terrific chapter. Full of funny moments, gentle teasing and banter and insightful too. Looking forward to the road trip.

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