“You will stay. You will do what Nigel asks.” Vadim picked the perfect moment to re-appear. “Nigel, go. I handle.”
Nigel graciously nodded to Vadim. He reached down on his hip and squeezed his knife handle. The gift of solidarity from Vadim.
He walked down the ramp next to the loading dock where Lilly stood, inspired. He paused and looked her in the eye. “You no meet no girls,” she warned him. He wanted to give her a gift. It seemed appropriate but he had nothing. He searched his pockets for something, anything. Out of his front trouser pocket he produced his pocket knife, around it his Father’s wedding ring had caught. He had forgotten all about it, yet it was there the whole time. He slid it off the knife handle and put it in her palm. “You keep this safe for me”, he said. “ I said no meet girls. I dint propose.” She smiled and affixed the ring to her thumb because it was too big for any other finger. “You go, Romeo. You miss train. I be here when you get back. My parent not expecting me.” She winked. Lilly had a way with dealing with pain that was admirable.
Nigel ran for the train and bought an economy ticket. He found a seat in the car by the window with his duffel bag. Looking at it he thought. “Maybe I’ll get a bag like the Major’s. One that matches my knife?” He looked out at the train filled and people settled. He felt a rumble, but not the train, his stomach. He got up gathered his things and went to the dining car.
Finding a table he sat next to the window alone in the car with one attendant. Breakfast had concluded and it was too early for lunch. He decided he would probably take the Major to his favorite pub near Big Ben and squeeze some more tales of adventure. After all, it was as much fun to watch the crowd as hear the riveting tales. The horrors of war were certainly forgiving to enticing storytelling.
He ordered all that was available from the train car, a slice of apple pastry, a milk and a coffee.
He sat watching the cinema of nature roll by from Leeds to London. It provided a new and beautiful landscape he had not seen before. People on bikes, sheepherders, men working on electrical lines, pavers… even commuters coming in from the various platforms all leading normal mundane routine lives. Yet, in its own way his was too, Nigel imagined Edgar in his trailer looking out and thought, “We have a lot in common, me and Edgar.”
He recalled complaining one night to the Major about Dr. Baas and the injustice of being duped into paying him. He remembered the Majors response. “Nigel, the thing that got you here, won’t get you there.”
The train hit London’s Paddington Station at 11:40 a.m. which gave Nigel precisely the twenty minutes he needed if he walked fast. He shoved his way through the station and headed through the streets. He pushed himself as hard as he could go and was going to be three minutes early he was sure. He saw the pedestal and statue in the middle of Piccadilly Circus and knew he had this.
“What had the Major in store for them?” He wondered.
He made it through the lobby door with time to spare.
He approached the now familiar clerk and said “General Major Creagh- Room 19.”
The clerk responded without looking up. “We don’t have a room 19.”
He realized his error. “Well ye…oh dammit!” He ran out onto the street. “Hotel Joshua you idiot…by the….Army recruiting office.” He spoke out loud to himself as his legs churned. He made the corner around Piccadilly Circus and saw the spire of Westminster Cathedral. He sprinted with his duffel hitting his legs every step.
Finally, there it was dead across the street and right in front of him. The army recruiting building and next door on the corner, a rather plush looking hotel he had missed before. It was elegant with gold and brass. As Nigel crossed the street he noticed the plantar outside the lobby of the recruiters where the Major had gotten ill. It seemed a strange thing to recall, so he brushed off the thought.
Entering the lobby it was 12:03. He was late and expected a good chiding. He looked about the lobby to see if the Major was here waiting.
The lobby was empty except for a Bobby chatting with the desk clerk. Nigel interrupted them.
“Excuse me. I’m looking for General Major Michael Creagh?”
The Bobby raised, a brow ”The General Major Michael O’Moore Creagh”, he was reading it from a pad. Nigel smiled, “Yes sir, he’s in Room 19.”
The clerk looked slightly odd as his eyes shot back and forth between the Bobby and Nigel.
“No, eees not.” Said the Bobby.
“Yes. Yes he sent me here. He’s in Room 19.”
“No son, Eees in the morgue.”
The Bobby’s word made Nigel feel as if he was on an elevator and the floor dropped out.
“He’s dead. He killed hiself about two hours ago. Shot imself in the ed he did. What’s your name?”
Distraught and trying to make sense of this the boy responded. “Nigel Clark.”
Tears welled up in his eyes and his legs peddled back and forth as if he might run one direction or another. He wanted to run to a different truth. This was so untrue. This was so unfair. The tears filled and came out without any control. His throat was choking. He desperately needed some air.
He erupted in tears fully and clear mucus flowed out of his nose beyond his control.
Nigel protested “He can’t be dead. He told me to meet him here!” The tears just kept flowing and his breath wouldn’t come.
The Bobby clarified. ”I am sorry he is dead. Would you like to come to the morgue and identify his body? You can see’m. ”
Nigel was furious and hysterical at the same time. “No, I do not want to identify his body… I want. I want…I want to have lunch with him. I just want to have lunch…” Nigel collapsed onto the floor.
Nobody said a thing.
After about 30 seconds Nigel realized he was sitting on the floor of a lobby of an exquisite hotel crying and heaving and staring at the shoes of a Bobby. He collected himself and stood.
Nigel didn’t know what to say. “I’m sorry.”
The Bobby spoke, “Yeh bit of a shock, that’s how it is with suicides. So you knew him?”
“Yes. Yes I knew him.” Nigel answered.
“Well do you know where I can find a Nigel Creagh?” The Bobby inquired.
Nigel looked perplexed, “That’s me!”
“I thought you said you were Nigel Clark?” The Bobby fired back.
“Well, yes that’s me.” Nigel stumbling over his words pulled out his wallet with a new driver’s license and a conscription card.
The Bobby clarified, “So you are Nigel Clark Creagh.”
“Yes. Yes sir. Yes.” Nigel answered.
“Well your grandfather.” The officer continued.
“He wasn’t my grandfather.” Nigel interrupted.
“Well whoever he was. He was a planner. He called the morgue himself and arranged for his pickup an hour before he killed himself. The mortician was in the lobby when he did it. He had to wait for the Police. So he apparently thought as much about you as well because he left a detailed noted of instructions for us as well as you. These are yours.”
The Bobby handed Nigel an accountants leather bound envelope neatly tied with a leather rope. Nigel opened it. In it there were 15 slots in it tabs were numbered and names. Leases. Routes. Insurance. Maps. Equipment. Accounts. Barrister. Deceased Instructions. Will. Nigel.
There was a category named Nigel. He opened it to reveal a letter. He opened it.
It was not a personal letter. It was not an explanation of why. It was simply a list of instructions and deployments that would need to be made in the coming days. It informed Nigel that he was the lone survivor and the will would indicate such. It was a detailed military commanders list of to-do’s. It was given to the one guy he trusted to do it. There was a list and dates for what needed to be done in the spring, in great detail.
Nigel just inherited a circus.
In the back slot named petty cash there was ten one hundred pound notes.
He looked up when he realized he was being stared at.
The clerk spoke “Do you need anything. Can we call somebody? He paid his room in advance.”
Nigel snorted and wiped the mucus across his sleeve. “Of course he did. Uh No. I guess there’s…nothing to be done.”
Nigel turned and walked out to the street.
Life changed. He was alone.
He could see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Westminster Cathedral all so British, and all so okay. So many people bustled. The world was moving on even as it was stopping.
He had no idea where to go. No idea what to do.
So he did the only thing he could think of. He wanted to feel close to the man one last time.
“I’ll have the fish and chips, and a bitter.” Nigel looked up at the waiter with tears welling up again. “How old are you?’ The waiter asked. Nigel reached in to his pocket and pulled out his wallet showing the driver’s license. Nigel answered, “Twenty.” Satisfied, the waiter walked off to place his order. Shortly, he brought back the pint.
The restaurant was filed with servicemen and government employees having their lunch. Nobody noticed Nigel sitting at the table in the window. He stared out into the street as people busily passed by. He saw Big Ben casting its shadow off down the Thames. The season had changed. It was no longer spring. It was fall.
Laughter of some men at the bar toasting each other caught his attention and brought him back to reality. His head and sinuses still swimming in tears and pressure. It all was so disappointing. Yet, it was all real. This had happened.
Nigel looked up and something caught his eye. Something that had been there the whole time, not more than four feet away.
*64) People die. Let them know you value them daily and they will remember.
*65) Honor your mentors. They were 50% of the reason you got to where you are.