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Looking for Bertie Part IV
28-02-2012, 12:02 PM
Post: #1
Looking for Bertie Part IV

Thursday 24 March 2011
Nairobi, Kenya

Ruth woke up as the plane circled over Kenya’s capital, to find her head resting on Harry’s shoulder. It felt good. Natural. His linen shirt was soft under her cheek. She sat up slowly and lifted her eyes to his. His gaze was soft and content, and something else that she preferred not to name just yet. Suddenly her eyes widened and shot back to his shoulder, but to her relief there was no wet patch. When she met his eyes again there was a hint of amusement in them, and she smiled sheepishly.
“Sorry.” Her hand brushed over his shirt before she could stop it. “I’ve wrinkled it.”
“Doesn’t matter,” he said, and meant it.
Their eyes held until the weight of it became too much for Ruth and she turned away to look out the window. The city sprawled below them and she took in the enormity of the informal settlement that had sprouted up along the southwest side. Kibera was one of the biggest slums in the world, and Ruth studied it in horrified fascination. Its mosaic of narrow alleys, tin shacks and mud dwellings stretched far and wide. She vaguely recalled once seeing a documentary about it, and her mind effortlessly supplied some facts it had stored away. No-one really knew how many people lived in Kibera, and estimates put the number anywhere between two hundred thousand and over a million. There was no water, sanitation or electricity and the soil was said to consist almost entirely of refuse. She compared it to her own life, the material comfort of her existence, and suddenly her problems didn’t seem all that big. She thought, ‘I have no understanding what real, crushing poverty is like, and what it does to the dignity of those suffering through it.’ She turned back to Harry, the despair she felt on behalf of these people evident in her face. He hesitated, then reached out and touched the back of her hand briefly.
“Rather puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?”
Ruth smiled wanly. “If Bertie’s somewhere in there, Harry… How will we ever find him?”
“He won’t be there of his own accord – too used to the comforts of the high life. But if he were... To the people living there, that maze is as familiar as London’s streets are to a cabbie. It can be done with the help of local knowledge.”
He smiled. “And I know just the man.”

- 0 –

They emerged from the terminal into a cloudy, pleasant day. Nairobi’s higher altitude and the fact that it was moving towards autumn meant that temperatures weren’t too high. A large man stepped out of a SUV parked illegally on the pavement and waved. Harry guided Ruth towards him. The two men regarded each other, unconsciously mapping the change intervening years had made. Then the man grinned widely and clapped Harry on the shoulder.
“Harry bloody Pearce, in the flesh. My God.”
Harry smiled. “Hello, Tim.”

Tim Warner was an investigative journalist who had been living in Nairobi for many years. He was the type of man that the Security Services found useful to have on their books – well known around the city and with extensive contacts among the ruling class. His main use was to introduce other agents to the targets they wanted to infiltrate, but he would also pass on the occasional titbit of information. During the investigation into the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, which MI5 had assisted with, Harry found him of great value.

As he drove through the chaotic traffic confidently, he brought them up to date with what he knew.
“I’ve made discreet enquiries about your missing man.”
He glanced at Harry. “Are you having me on, old boy? I mean, if this is just a jaunt with the little lady, I’m the last one to judge-“
“What are you talking about?” Harry asked sharply, ignoring Ruth’s affronted intake of breath from the back.
“Well, he’s not really missing, is he?” Tim looked at Harry again and noted that his confusion was swiftly being replaced by annoyance. He hastened on.
“He’s been out and about in Kenya for the last month.”
Harry turned to look at Ruth, but she appeared to be as baffled as he was.
“You’ve seen him?” he asked Tim, who shook his head.
“Not personally, no. But I’ve been told that he visited one or two of the community upliftment projects the family is running in the areas surrounding their tea plantations.”
There was a hint of scorn as he continued, “They’re very keen to be seen to do their bit for charity, but of course the money they spend on that isn’t even a drop in the bucket of the profit they make out of exploiting these people.”
“So there was press coverage of these visits?” Harry asked, still trying to make sense of it.
“No, no, it was just your man and the locals,” Tim said as he drew up in front of a modest hotel.
“So how did they know it was him?” Harry persisted.
Tim gave him a pitiful look and said, carefully enunciating every syllable, “Because he introduced himself.” The ‘you idiot’ remained unspoken.
“Hmm,” Harry responded and reached for the door.
“Apparently there’s a charity do for one of the projects tomorrow night, and your man promised to attend.”
“Here in Nairobi.”

They agreed a time for Tim to pick them up for dinner and checked into their rooms. It was basic, but at least it was clean. Half an hour later there was a knock at Ruth’s door, and she opened it to let Harry in. He settled on the threadbare chair whilst she perched on the foot of the bed.
“Amenities satisfactory?” he asked.
“Yes.” She didn’t mention her staring contest with the transparent gecko that seemed to live in her shower.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Harry said, and she assumed he wasn’t talking about geckos in showers, or the fact that they were in a hotel room. Alone.
“Someone is impersonating David Percy,” she ventured, and Harry nodded.
He said, “I want to go to that function tomorrow night. The Duchess will organise an invitation for us, I’m sure.”
He looked uncomfortable as he asked, “Do you have something to wear? It’s formal.”
Ruth shook her head.
“Me neither,” Harry stated with a small smile. “Tim will sort us out on that front tomorrow.”
He fell silent, suddenly acutely aware of the bed behind her. All it would take was two steps, and he’d be able to lean over her, kiss her mouth, her neck, and lay her back on the mattress… He cleared his throat and stood suddenly.
“Ill let you get some rest before dinner.”
She nodded, and watched him walk out of the room with a knowing look.

- 0 –

For dinner Tim took them to a restaurant situated on the edge of the city. The old colonial house had a wide veranda from which the candles on the tables winked at them invitingly. Bougainvilleas tumbled over the perimeter wall in riotous colour. The journalist seemed to know everyone in the restaurant, and introduced the two spooks as friends visiting from the old country. They settled at a secluded table in the corner of the veranda. The food was good, the ambience relaxing, and Tim kept the conversation flowing effortlessly. Ruth looked wonderful and smiled at him often, and Harry felt himself relax for perhaps the first time since Ros’ funeral.

Tim filled them in on the political situation (mostly calm) and the incidence of crime (not too bad), and now moved on to discussing the expat community in Nairobi.
“There’s quite a lot of us still around. Most of them tend to cluster together and create little pockets of Britain. There are golf clubs, for instance, where you’d be hard pressed to recognise you’re on another continent, apart from the better weather. You’ll find the women sitting around the lounge sipping their G and Ts, while the men play golf poorly and discuss that morning’s Times newspaper.” He paused disdainfully. “And at the other end of the scale, you get the expats that go completely native – shack up with a local woman who they then try to turn into a darker version of their mother, and walk around in ridiculous ethnic outfits.”
Ruth rested her chin in her palm and studied him. “And in which camp do you fall?”
Tim threw back his head and laughed. “Neither, I’m afraid. I think it’s best to remember who you are and where you come from, but to also learn everything you can about the place and its people.”
“And which camp does the Duke of Suffolk fit into?” Harry asked.
“Oh, definitely the former. He’s not often in Nairobi, though. When he visits Kenya, he spends most of his time on their tea plantation estate near Mount Kenya. You should visit – you can see the Masai Mara from the veranda.”

Tim excused himself for a while, and Harry and Ruth were left alone with each other. She could feel his eyes on her, could sense them caress her face. His hand twitched on the tablecloth and for a split-second she thought he would reach out and take her hand, but his fingers curled inward to form a loose fist instead.
“Harry,” she found herself saying as she looked up and lost herself in his gentle gaze, “...I’m glad I volunteered.”
He breathed deeply and smiled. “So am I, Ruth. I-“
Tim returned, and Harry never finished what he was about to say.

- 0 –
Friday 24 March 2011
Windsor Golf and Country Club, Nairobi

Harry circulated among the other guests with Ruth on his arm. It was a struggle to keep his focus on the matter at hand rather than the alluring woman next to him. When she’d opened her door to him earlier that evening, he’d openly stared. Even now his eyes often strayed to her bare shoulders or the demure contours of her breasts and hips. He could still feel the warmth of her palms against his chest - she had helped him with his bowtie, and afterwards her hands lingered on his chest whilst she didn’t dare look at his face. It had taken all his willpower not to kiss her. He snagged two champagne glasses and led her to the outer fringes of the gathering. The setting was beautiful; a deck overlooking a lake and flanked by towering, lush trees. Harry leaned his back against the railing and Ruth settled next to him, close enough for their arms to touch. Not for the first time that evening a frisson ran through his nerve-ends.
“Anything?” he murmured, thankful that his voice did not give away his reaction to her proximity.
She began to shake her head, and then spotted a tall young man striding towards them, his blonde hair shining under the lights along the path.
“Here’s something,” she said, turning sideways so that she could study the man unobtrusively. Ruth took a good look before leaning past Harry to put down her champagne glass.
“It looks a lot like David, but it’s not him,” she reported in a low voice. “I think we’ve found our impersonator.”

Harry could now see the man over her shoulder. He moved into the throngs of people confidently, and they heard him introduce himself as ‘David Percy’.
Harry frowned; something about the man was familiar, and not because he looked like the missing heir. Before he could pursue that train of thought, his brain registered something that was out of place. He froze and scanned the trees to their right, and saw it again. Dark shapes slipping from tree to tree. There was a momentary glint of moonlight on what he was sure was the barrel of a gun. He grabbed Ruth’s wrist and pulled her against him as he scanned their surroundings. He was vaguely aware of her eyes on his face, luminous in the low light, as she looked at him questioningly. Before he had a chance to explain, all hell broke loose.


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28-02-2012, 03:30 PM
Post: #2
RE: Looking for Bertie Part IV
Holy tap dancing Jesus! That was quite the cliff hanger!

Ruth looking for a drool spot was hilarious.

Love the gecko. Had a staring match myself with an albino anole in Florida once.

You are getting very good at writing underlying passion.

I love it when you take us to Africa. Big Grin

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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28-02-2012, 06:28 PM
Post: #3
RE: Looking for Bertie Part IV
All of what AC has just said and great you got the linen shirt in there. Really feels like you are in Kenya Smile

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28-02-2012, 06:52 PM
Post: #4
RE: Looking for Bertie Part IV
Wonderful detail, plot, cliffhanger and a heap of fluff too. All so well done and perfectly IC. The drool and the gecko were great fun too. Loved Tim too except for his poor timing. LOL. Looking forward to finding out what happened.

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29-02-2012, 01:33 AM
Post: #5
RE: Looking for Bertie Part IV
Love this story. All the little touches: the linen shirt, the gecko in the shower --- I hope that when all hell breaks loose H/R will be ok. Can't wait for this to continue.
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29-02-2012, 05:37 AM
Post: #6
RE: Looking for Bertie Part IV
I can only echo what everyone else has said, a wonderful chapter! Loved the little touches such as Ruth sleeping on his shoulder and helping with his bow-tie, the descriptions of the 2 different sides of Kenya were great and gave a real insight in not that many words. I'm liking Tim so far (apart from his tendancy to interrupt) and his 'little lady' comment was fantastic. The mix of plot and HR is perfect!

All in all a great chapter and a fantastic ending..... Alwyas like a cliffhanger and I'll be waiting impatiently as always for the next chapter!
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