Part Three - The Round
Don’s phone buzzed in his pocket as his taxi crossed London Bridge heading north. It was a lengthy text, it started, ‘I claim £250, found another T.’ Don scanned the rest of the text and instructed the driver in a heavy Texan accent, “Take me to Little Suppton, it’s just outside Cambridge.”
Back in Bert’s house in Little Suppton, Ginny was trying to get through to Bert that his life had just changed, forever.
“They will be coming for you!” insisted Ginny.
“Who?” said Bert, shocked and puzzled.
“I don’t know who they are exactly, but they are not the sort you want to tangle with,” replied Ginny. “They want you because of your shirt.”
“They can have the shirt. What the fuck! “exclaimed Bert. “Why is all this happening to me?!”
“I don’t have all the answers,” said Ginny, “but I know you can’t give them the shirt. They don’t come off... Look, it’s complicated, and we don’t have time to talk. My van is outside. Get everything you value in it now and we’ll talk on the way.” Bert went onto autopilot and did as he was told. As he was packing the last small space Ginny asked, “Does anyone else know?”
“Fergus knows, told him this morning, no one else,” said Bert.
“Shit ...we’ll need to talk to him. He could be in danger too,” said Ginny. “You sure no one else knows?”
Bert nodded, “Sure, absolutely sure.”
Fergus was just closing his front door as they pulled up. “You again,” he said with a wry smile. “Oh, and Ginny, I didn’t know you two, erm, ‘knew’ each other.
“Get in,” said Ginny.
Fergus was a little taken aback by Ginny’s demand, but figured there may be some link to the morning’s revelations. He just got in. Ginny didn’t hang around, she was on her way as soon as the door closed.
“So, what’s it all about?” asked Fergus, a little panicked now.
“Simple, he’s in danger over the shirt in the paper and on the local news. You know about it, so you’re in danger too. We are going somewhere safe.”
Bert was sitting quietly, still hoping his brain would catch up soon. He turned to Fergus in order to say something, but he had nothing in sentence form as yet. He just looked at his friend, mouth twitching open. Nothing came out.
“Come on guys! What’s the story,” demanded Fergus.
Ginny assured him, “We’re not going far and as much as can be, will be, explained. Hang on.” She took a sharp right from the A10 and followed a thin track down to the river’s edge, pulling up along side a narrow boat tied up to the grassy bank. No other cars or boats in sight.
Standing on the gang plank, Finnegan gestured a sweeping arm at the boat, “Welcome home,” he said. Bert and Fergus looked at one another.
“Did you know?” they said in unison. Both shook their heads and looked back. At which point Katie poked her head out of the front door of the boat. Bert took a sharp in take of breath.
“Katie bought the T and so, she is in danger too,” Ginny quickly explained. “Don’t think any others are in the firing line. Inside everyone.”
All filed into the small craft, which was surprisingly roomy. Gathered around the table no one said a word, then all took a simultaneous deep breath as if to start talking. Finnegan quickly stood up and spoke first.
“OK! Bert, Fergus, you need answers. Firstly, I’m not a travelling salesman anymore. As Fergus knows, I used to prattle on about the strange things I had seen on my travels. Hmmm, turns out it wasn’t all bollocks. You might have noticed I stopped talking that way a couple of months ago. That was when I had a run in with, let’s just say the bad guys. Was saved by Ginny and ‘The Round’ and now I work for them.”
“The Round?” enquired Bert, “What or who…?” He shrugged.
Click the arrows for a reminder of
If that doesn't do the trick all is
explained in part 1
Finnegan explained there were several organised, linked groups of people called ‘Rounds’ who were aware of what was going on: all with members that had Ts and powers and some additional members, like him, that had just got tangled up in this mess. This was a world wide thing, but so far, as far as the UK Round knew, no governments were involved. Finnegan and Ginny were part of the UK Round. There were another five groups; Canada, Germany, Belarus, Poland and Russia. There was, once, another in the very north of China, but it seems they were taken by what the Rounds called the ‘Hoods’. The ‘Hoods’ because it seems their Ts had hoods.
“We are linked, we occasionally communicate, but we don’t know one-another’s whereabouts,” said Ginny, “for safety sake.”
“There is a transmitting telepath in the China Round who was taken by the Hoods, and if we drink enough of our TDs we receive her transmissions - see through her eyes. That is how we know they are taken and not killed. The Hoods have them under their control; physically restricted and drip fed. The Hoods can’t take their shirts off. We don’t know if they’re trying to. There’s a lot we don’t know, but we do know we don’t want to be captured.“
“We can’t leave them like that,” Katie piped up for the first time.
“Right, we have to take action, we could be next,” added Ginny. “This is not a game. This is war. We are fighting for our lives. They’ve killed over fifty of our number world wide and captured at least twenty. We have...”
“We? We are killers?” Bert cut in. “You’re saying we have to kill them?”
There was a sudden silence.
“Bert can’t kill a spider,” said Katie quietly, not critically, just remembering she had loved his gentle nature.
“Obviously, we’ve got to get help,” said Fergus shaking his head.
“We can’t let the story out,” said Finnegan firmly, “we don’t know what would happen to members with Ts if the press got involved. Or the military.”
“Well, surely?” said Fergus.
“No,” interrupted Finnegan, “we have given it a lot of thought and we think we are better off on our own. We’re sure of it. All the rounds have come to the same conclusion.”
“Right, got it,” said Fergus still not sounding convinced.
“OK, so how many in the UK Round?” enquired Bert.
“Twelve again, now, if you guys are in? We had twelve once before, but they killed Harvey and Sue. So, are you in?”
“Don’t really see a choice,” Bert concluded, nodding.
Fergus nodded. “Yep, in,” he sighed.
There was an odd silence as if it had all been explained. But none of the new members were really sure what happened next.
“OK,” said Ginny, “Finnegan, you have the boat, I’ll move the van. Let’s go.”
Later, over in Little Suppton, half an hour before opening time, Phil answered a knock at the pub’s door. It was Don, who smiled at the door window and said, “Bottled samples for the landlord.” Phil slid the door bolts open, Don pushed passed him and he reached inside his partly unbuttoned shirt to pull out a small cloud, much to Phil’s bemusement.
Phil started to enquire, “What the f...” but before he could finish, Don had pushed the cloud around Phil’s head and the barman was instantly, deeply stoned.
Don questioned Phil about Bert; address, telephone number, friends, favourite drinks - you name it. He then marched out pinching in Phil’s direction as he climbed into his waiting taxi. Back in the bar, Phil shook his head, thinking he must have had a brief blackout; no memory of the 20 minute grilling. At Bert’s house, Don had the taxi park on the drive and rang the door bell a few times. He took a look through the front window to see an obviously, recently, permanently, vacated front room. “Shit,” he quietly exclaimed.
Back in the taxi and over to Fergus’ house. On the way Don sent a text to a group of three, ‘T party confirmed, follow me. No answer to the door bell, but no sign of a clear out.’
Don had the taxi driver drive him a little way into the village, paid his bill and walked back to Fergus’ house. He had the tools and skills to make short work of breaking in. He went upstairs, leaving a small motion detector that surveilled the foot of the stairs. He had an app for that.
He kicked off his boots and lay down on Fergus’ bed.
In the small Cambridgeshire Cathedral City of Ely, Finnegan gently manoeuvred the narrow boat into a marina birth, next to a large Dutch barge, from the deck of which Ginny gave a brief wave.
Inside the much more spacious barge, the five from the narrow boat were joined by three men, two with Ts; Caden (otherwise known as Hot Chocolate) and Lucas alias Flambo (Flaming Lambogini). The third man in the pack was a very slight, awkward youth by the name of Alex.
Following them came Ava, a tall heavily built Polish girl with no T and Ying Yue; a willowy, half Chinese - half Nigerian with a very upper crust English accent, known as Dark Mirror.
Bert scanned the room for signs of two more.
“You said that we’d be twelve?” he challenged Ginny.
“Aubrey and Oscar won’t be joining us. Ying Yue has met-up with them once or twice.” said Ginny. “Usually, they stay out of sight. They are the founders of the British round and they fund the opperation; at a distance.”
Gradually the atmosphere became a little more relaxed and the new members of the round seemed to be coming to terms with the situation. Although Fergus was finding it hard to accept that his old life was just gone.
“Erm, what about my stuff?” Fergus asked Ginny.
“Sorry, Fergus, it’s just not safe to go back. They could be in any of your old haunts by now. I’m guessing they will work out that Bert’s gone, it’s possible they know you’re his best mate by now and they’ll see you as at least useful. It’s too dangerous.
You know you’ll want for nothing here, you won’t have money worries ever again. Look If you want out A and O can generate a new identity for you, and you could go live in the Caribean? On a very early pension?”
Bert saw Ginny comforting Fergus from across the room and shuffled over to see if he could help too.
“Mate, long face, whsup?” asked Bert.
“My guitar, my laptop...my stuff!” groaned Fergus.
“Come on, we’ll find a way, eventually. We’ll get some of it, sometime. It’s only stuff.” reassured Bert. “Look, have a pint of your favourite porter. “
Fergus pushed out a small smile, “Thanks.”
Ying Yue beckoned the two new guys across to where she was sitting. They wandered over.
“Look, I know how hard it is coming to terms with so much change, it is going to take some time before you wrap your heads around it. I think it is best that we put aside the serious issues for tonight. We don’t want to overload you. Just spend a little time getting to know your new allies, let them become your friends. They are good people. Well, then there’s Caden,” she quipped, as Caden strolled into range.
“What about Caden?” he said. “What have I done now? You’ll lose your chocolate rations pet.”
Caden, a stocky block of a bloke, fair skinned with deep gravely voice and a North Eastern accent was hoping to become professional rugby prop forward before he tried on his Hot Chocolate T-shirt from Auntie Valerie one Christmas. Oh, how he wished it was a beer shirt.
Ying Yue smiled, “Nothing, dear boy, you have done nothing wrong. Only pulling your leg.”
“Hey, Bert, I believe it’s your round?” chirpped Caden.
Bert obliged. Caden took a sip, and then a bigger, much bigger drink.
“Awe, bonny lad, that’s, that’s just champion! Awe mate! I’ve found a new best friend.” Caden wrapped his weighty solid left arm around Bert and sank the rest of the pint. He plonked the empty glass down and held out his empty hand smiling. Bert pinched away the empty and patted a fresh pint for Caden.
Caden was just the first to try out the new brews, eventually everyone was gathered around Bert, singing the praises of whatever it was that came out for them. Even Ying Yue, who swore she couldn’t stand the taste of beer, was amazed at the intense cherry flavour of her fruit beer.
Bert was very much the centre of attention and he was obviously loving it. ‘It might be a wrench from my old life,’ he thought, but he could see he could have some real good times with these people. He turned to reassure Fergus that things would work out, but found Fergus was no longer sitting where he was a while ago. ‘He’s gone to the toilet’ thought Bert. But soon a doubt crept in to his mind.
“Anyone seen Fergus?” Bert shouted. Much shaking of heads and then mild group panic followed as everyone made moves to locate Fergus.
“He’s gone!” said Finnegan. “The stupid fuckwhit has gone back for his guitar.”
“How long has he been gone?” asked Katie.
“I can’t say, I’ve not talked to him in an hour or so,” replied Bert.”
“Shit!” exclaimed Finnegan, “Me too, he could be there by now.”
In the dead of the night at Fergus’ house in Little Supton, a taxi pulls up at the door.