Rory Rogerson is 67; an overweight, unfit, retired ‘protection officer’ (that’s PC for hired muscle). He is also a prolific and, by his own reckoning, successful author of crime fiction.
Penny (60) is his headmistress wife and Charlie Watkiss is the bloke next door.
Together, they make a formidable team!
Rory (ret’d). Chapter fourteen, part two.
“You’re happy that we’re kosher?” Giles Gilbert said when he called me a few days later. I hesitated. “Don’t worry, Mr Rogerson. We’ve been in this business too long to think that a prospective retained investigator won’t investigate us first. Frankly, I’d have been disappointed and indeed might have withdrawn our offer if you hadn’t. I have to say, though, that your Mr Watkiss is both thorough and discreet. Didn’t leave any obvious footprints but we did pick up a trail of apparently anonymous activity – nothing overt, mostly by inference. Had he not left a calling card in the form of a brief review in our comments section, we may never have established with any certainty who was behind the traces.”
“Should I be apologising for that, Mr Gilbert?”
“Not at all. The quality of your investigation of us has confirmed what Mr Dodd told us.”
“That you are good. Possibly the best in the business – in this county if not in the country. He told us, in the briefest of outline terms, how you thwarted one of his keynote operations; one that was planned, in his words, to set him up for life. You see, Mr Rogerson, and he won’t thank me for telling you this but I’m going to, Mr Dodd had planned after that particular job to disappear off the face of the earth and spend the rest of his days in obscurity – luxuriously and comfortably, but anonymously.”
“And we stopped him doing that.”
“Then I think it behoves us to facilitate his transition from the dark side.”
“Is that what you’re calling it? The dark side?”
“What would you call it?”
“Actually, I doubt we could think of anything better, or more apt. But yes, I think you should help him achieve this ambition.”
“And do you think that our firm working for you will contribute to that?”
“Maybe, maybe not. But it can’t hurt, can it?”
We agreed that Penny, Charlie and I should go to his office the following afternoon, ready to negotiate numbers and contractual terms. He said that he would have a draft contract ready for our approval.
“One thing, Mr Gilbert,” I said, “I think, if we are to enter a contractual relationship with you, we should have someone look over the contract on our behalf. We’re none of us expert in the art of the contract.”
“Who would you have? A lawyer?”
“Yes, a lawyer or at least a paralegal with the relevant skills and experience.”
“Do you currently have the services of a law firm on retainer?”
“Not yet, no.”
“May I make a suggestion?”
“I can have one of the partners look over the contract on your behalf, or one of the associates who specialises in contract law and negotiation.”
“But their first loyalty is bound to be to their firm, to you – not to us.”
“Very well. The offer is there, anyway, just let me know if you want to avail yourselves of it. Otherwise, I’ll leave you to find someone. Goodbye for now, Mr Rogerson. A demain.”
Charlie told me that he had knowledge of some contractual lawyers, but none that could supply someone at such short notice.
“If anyone can help us,” he said, “it’s my cousin in the army. I’ll find out where he’s stationed—”
“A soldier?” I asked, “how can a soldier help us?”
“Not just a soldier, an army solicitor, specialising in contract law. He supports the procurement and human resources departments.”
Minutes later, Charlie got back to me to say that, fortuitously, his cousin was on leave and visiting friends only ten miles away. Not only that, but he was also happy to help us.
The following afternoon, four of us stepped into the offices of Greene, Gilbert and Partners and sat down with Giles Gilbert, one of his senior associates and a paralegal.
You know how sometimes, you have a mental picture of someone, taken only from their voice on the telephone, then when you meet them in person they don’t look anything like you expected? That. Giles Gilbert was a plump man, about five and a half feet in height, round-faced, clean-shaven and with an advanced case of male pattern baldness which he tried, with little success, to conceal by means of a long, though sparse comb-over. He wore heavy, bi-focal spectacles set in what looked like nineteen-fifties national health frames, of the sort John Lennon made briefly popular again a couple of decades later, but these were tinted blue to protect against, by all accounts, the unnatural light emanating from computers and the like.
We introduced ourselves and Charlie’s cousin, Captain Kim Boswell, known to his friends as Biggles, although he claimed to have no idea whatever why he had been awarded that sobriquet, or by whom or even when. Lost in the mists of time, he claimed.
We each had a copy of the contract, which we looked through carefully. Biggles went to the white-board and wrote there a few comments and suggestions, most of which were accepted by Giles’ people. The paralegal, a smartly-presented and well-spoken but sadly and unfairly acne-riddled young man by the name of Norman, took the contract away to amend and print copies for our signature. Whilst waiting on the final document we started to haggle about money. Detailed financial stuff wasn’t in the main contract, it formed one of the schedules that were deemed to be incorporated only when and to the extent accepted and signed by all parties. That discussion was still going on when Norman brought the contracts back, and was instructed to organise coffee and biscuits for us. By the time that arrived, we had reached full agreement on the numbers and on some of the other details to be entered into the schedules. The three of us and Giles Gilbert signed the contracts, which were witnessed by Biggles and Giles’ associate. We toasted our new relationship with coffee, shook hands all around and left. We were grateful to Biggles. His intervention had avoided a few pitfalls, traps that we could have fallen into so we treated him, and ourselves, to a pleasant dinner at one of the better restaurants in the area. I found out later that Charlie had transferred into Biggles’ bank account a sum roughly equivalent to one month’s pay for an army captain. So everyone was happy and RRW Investigations had its first major client.
The final word belonged to Charlie. On the way back to our house he said, “My cousin may have forgotten, conveniently or otherwise, how he came to be nick-named Biggles, but I haven’t,” he said, “It happened one afternoon early in his career when he was clerking for one of the big firms in Temple Bar. It seems that when he came back into the office from a visit to the gentlemen’s restroom, one of the juniors noticed that his zipper was, shall we say, at half-mast. He whispered to Kim, perhaps a little too loudly, ‘fly’s undone’. Some of the other clerks and juniors heard it and a chant started – Biggles Flies Undone.”
“So that’s where it started?” I asked.
“And it’s stuck ever since,” Charlie replied.
Is there a better way to close a successful and uplifting day than with a healthy dose of schadenfreude? If there is, I’d like to hear about it!