Previously, Lady P P can’t remember a darn thing. And she’s completely lost any interest in fashion. Is there no justice?
The Ichabod Crane figure of Pip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law, said to the Prime Minister of England, “I have news.”
“Yes, I have heard the news,” the Prime Minister said, displeased that he was interrupted by this flunky from the Defense Staff’s Office. Hadn’t he told his Personal Secretary that he did not want to be interrupted? He had. What now? “Her ladyship, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott was drowned. Now the whole damned country from the queen on down to the sewage cleaners are upset about the commoner. Why everybody cares I do not know. You’d think she was Princess Di. Well, she was not. She was an American with a lot of cash who bought herself a title. That’s all. Now go away before I kick your skinny rear all the way to Whitehall. Leave me in peace.”
“But Prime Minister …,” Pip said.
“My God, man,” the Prime Minister said and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Did you not hear me?”
The Prime Minister had raised his voice. He seldom raised his voice. It was the sound of not raising his voice that had gotten him where he was. It was the tone and the words he spoke. All the diners in the Commons Dining Room turned to see the Prime Minister stand and raise his fist. He was fighting mad. When he went fighting mad, he was dangerous. He knew how to use his fist. His mother’s brother MacFeeney, the brawler, had taught him the fine art of fisticuffs and his fisticuffian bro had fought the great Sullivan himself.
The Ichabod Crane of a Pip looked like he was about to run away. He was no boxer. The Prime Minister would make mincemeat out of him. Before P. M. could slam Pip’s pip of a face, Sir Myles stepped in front of Pip.
P. M. halted his fist’s progress and dropped his hand to his side. He smiled. He was always glad to see Sir Myles di Fussye-Pants. The two had been friends for quite some time. They had something important in common. The same woman. Two Ems had been P. M.’s mistress for several years. And she was Sir Myles’ very popular wife. As the Queen of London Society, she knew how to throw a party, and she definitely knew how to party like it was 1899.
“Our friend has some news,” Sir Myles said.
P. M. returned to his chair, then offered Sir Myles a seat at his table. He did not offer Pip a seat. It just wasn’t done. Allowing someone of his lowly station to sit at the same table as the P.M. Especially not in public. That would have been taking his liberalism too far.
“What is the news, Myles?” P. M. asked his friend.
“I haven’t been told, Argyle,” Sir Myles said. He was one of the few allowed to call Prime Minister Mactavish by his Christian name Argyle.
P. M. scratched his bald head. He looked over at Pip, standing uncomfortably nearby.
“Well, young man?” he demanded.
“Yes, sir,” Pip said, then recognized his mentor, “Sir Myles, I have news.”
“Well, get on with it, man,” P. M. demanded some more.
“Her ladyship, Lady Marye Caterina Wimpleseed Prissypott of Haggismarshe, is not dead.”
“What!” Both P. M. and Sir Myles stared up at Pip, their mouths dropping open when they heard the news.
“Would you repeat that?” Sir Myles said.
“Lady Wimpleseed Prissypott is not dead. This is why the Chief sent me over to interrupt your meal, Prime Minister.”
“What do you mean?” P. M. wanted to know. “Of course, she is dead. The Times has reported her death. Therefore, it must be true. The Times is never wrong.”
“I assure that The Times is incorrect, sir. They will have to offer a retraction.”
“Lower your voice, man,” Sir Myles said. “And have a seat. I am tired of seeing you standing there like some Ichabod Crane of a Flip, Pip. Sit and tell us what you know. But quietly, please.”
“With your permission, Prime Minister,” Pip said, taking his place in the seat across from the P. M. He knew where his bread was buttered and he had not been about to sit without his boss’s boss’s boss’s permission. That was no way to advance a career either in government or the law. One simply did not go against one’s betters.
“By the way, young man,” P. M. said, “By the way, who in Disraeli’s name are you?”
“I am Pip Flip, a chip off the old Flip of Flip, Fop & Flimby, Solicitors at Law. I am also a member of the Defense Staff.”
“Yes, I knew the old chip, Kip Flip, Pip,” P. M. said. “Used to be a mighty fine solicitor until he tripped over a law case. I think he defended your wife in a law suit once, did he not, Myles?”
“He must assuredly did,” Sir Myles said. “Did a damned good job of it too. Two Ems won her case and gathered more than the damages she originally asked. We had enough left over from that suit to pay for passage around the world. We’re planning on a trip next summer. A second honeymoon.”
The prime minister was ready to get down to business. He lowered his voice to a whisper and asked Flip, “So what do you know that I don’t know? What would cause The Times to retract their story? And keep your voice low please. We do not want a panic. The Times is never wrong. After all, it is The Times. You do know that?”
“Sir, I agree. The Times is never wrong,” Pip whispered. “And The Times is not wrong this time. They reported what had been reported to them on Gibraltar. So, you see it’s the second-hand smoke that always does the most harm.”
“Damn that fake news,” the P.M. spat out.
“Then she is not dead?” Sir Myles said.
“She is alive, Sir,” Pip said quietly. “One of our men saw her on the outskirts of Barcelona.”
“No?” P. M. said.
“She was in pretty bad shape when he saw her,” Pip reported. “She was dressed in a white underdress. Her hair was all caked with mud. She had no shoes on her feet.”
“Is he sure it was her?” Sir Myles intruded.
“Yes, sir. He is. The woman he saw had her ladyship’s bright red hair. And those amazing bosoms. There is no mistaking those bosoms. They are internationally famous bosoms, the best in the world today.”
“Tis true, Myles,” P. M. said. “I’ve seen those bosoms. They are some bosoms. Bosoms enough to unstiffen an Englishman’s stiff upper lip. I saw them at the wedding and I was in awe. It made me jealous of an English lord for the first and only time in my long career. There is no mistaking those bosoms. But where is she now? Does the man know?”
“He followed her,” Pip Flip continued. “She was taken in by a church. The Church of St. Teresa de Avila. She’s staying at the convent. The Sisters of St. Teresa de Avila are caring for her.”
The Prime Minister and Sir Myles breathed a sigh of relief. It was one heck of a sigh of relief that they both breathed. They were relieved.
Then they realized. Sir Myles was the first to whisper, “That means that The Times was wrong. It will have to retract. They will not retract. Because The Times is never wrong.”
“Her life is in danger?” P. M. said.
“There’s more, sir,” Pip whispered. “She has amnesia.”
The P.M. and Sir Myles leaned forward, their interest heightened by all the intrigue.
“And they are keeping her that way,” Pip said. “They have hired a quack of a doctor, a Doctor Qwackers. He has his ways to keeping her from remembering. He has done more damage to more people in the country of Spain than any other quack quack of his time. And there’s more.”
“There’s more?” Sir Myles and P. M. asked at the same time. They looked at each other. How could there be more? What more could there be?
“Of course, there’s more,” P.M. said. “There’s always more. Even when there’s no more, there’s more. Thanks to that blasted Oliver Twist.”
“Yes, sir,” Pip said to the Prime Minister. “The Church of St. Teresa de Avila in Barcelona is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League.”
“What?” both his listeners spoke at the same time again.
“It’s the headquarters of the Wah Wah League?” P. M. asked. “Could you repeat that?”
“The Church of St. Teresa de Avila is the headquarters of the Wah Wah League.”
“We heard you the first time,” P. M. said.
“You said to repeat it,” Pip said. “I was responding to your request, sir.”
“I know what I said,” P. M. said.
“Argyle,” Sir Myles said quietly, “you do know how to turn a phrase.”
“Thank you, Myles. You are very kind. So how do we go forward now.”
“That is why I am here,” Pip said. “Chief and I are the only ones who have this information. And the man on the ground, of course. Cdmr. Thomas Edward Button. He’s known within the department as Double Oh Seven Button-Button.”
“Hmmmmn,” P. M. hemmed. “Button-Button, you say?”
“Yes, sir. I do say,” Pip said, “and there’s one more thing.”
“That figures,” P. M. said. “There’s always another thing. What now?”
“The Times has contacted us to have our man take care of her ladyship. The Times already has this information. Don’t know how they got it but they do.”
“It’s the leaks,” Sir Myles commented. “There’s always a trump full of leaks.”
“Don’t you mean ‘trunkful of leaks’?” P.M. asked.
“That too,” Sir Myles said.
“In these kinds of things,” Pip continued, “we are pretty thorough. But somebody on the Defense Staff has dropped his pants. I think it’s the Chief. But I am not sure. I think they’ve offered him a substantial retirement. Maybe even a Chairman of the Bored.”
“So why is the Chief,” P. M. asked, “passing this information on to me?”
“He isn’t, sir,” Pip said. “I am doing this on my own initiative.”
“My, my,” Sir Myles said. “This is one hell of a horns of a dilemma. Two Ems would love this. She loves a good puzzle. Always solving those ‘Where’s Waldo’ things.”
The Prime Minister’s wheels had started turning all this over in his mind.
“Has Chief done anything yet?” he asked Pip.
“He has contacted Button-Button to do as The Times asked.”
“Sounds like,” Sir Myles said, “whatever you choose to do, you had better do quickly. Are you going to let this Button-Button fellow go through with this?”
“Double Oh is to do nothing,” Pip said. “He’s to allow the Wah Wah League take care of the problem. Then The Times will be off the hook. The story that her ladyship is dead will be true. But there is plans on the part of the Defense Secretary to take out the Wah Wahs in their headquarters. They plan to send in Special Forces and bomb the place. When it’s over, everybody in that church and convent will be dead. Double Oh is to do something only if her ladyship escapes. He is to transport her to the Falklands and leave her to the sheep.”
“They do have some vicious woman-eating sheep in the Falklands too,” Sir Myles said. ‘So, Pip, what is in it for you? Why are you not going along with the program?”
Pip said. “I figured that if I kiss the Prime Minister’s bottom, and a mighty fine bottom it is, si–”
“Why thank you, young man,” the P.M. smiled.
“–I could advance.”
“I must say,” P. M. said, “that you are a damned good bottom kisser. Almost as good as I used to be before I had a bottom to kiss.” He was starting to take a liking to this Pip fellow. Kip Flip, the Flip he was the chip off of, had instructed his son well in the art of Machiavellian Machevellianness. “So, what are your plans, Pip?”
“The Chief wants me to go over to Spain and make sure that it’s all going according to plan. I am to stay at the consul in Barcelona. I will be under the direction of the British ambassador.”
“Our ambassador to Spain?” Sir Myles wanted to know.
“Yes,” Pip said.
“This gets more interesting as it goes along,” Sir Myles said.
“This means,” P. M. said, “that I can’t trust anyone in my own government.”
“I am afraid so, Sir,” Pip said. “It was that briefing with the Queen. His lordship, the Lord of the Gartery, reported to Lords what happened. Lords is now conspiring to put their own man in your place.”
“The Times has wanted to see you sacked,” the Prime Minister’s good friend said, “for a very long time. Seems now they have the opportunity.” He turned to Pip and asked, “Who is the fool they are planning to replace Argyle with?”
“You are, sir,” Pip said to Sir Myles.
Next Week, Back to the Convent