Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Chapter 11 - Not So, Cleverly Dangled

For an evil, power-crazed, multi-millionaire property developer, the home of Mr Cleverly Dangled was surprisingly unimposing. He lived with his wife, Marjory, in a small bungalow by the sea. The bungalow had belonged to his dear sainted mother who'd died, aged 93, just a couple of years previously and Cleverly just could not bear to sell her home. So he moved in with Marjory. For the month of October. For the other 11 months of the year, the Dangled family split their time between their imposing castle on the Yorkshire/ Lancashire border, their chateau in the Loire Valley, their loft apartment in Manhattan and their Cornish estate in, well, Cornwall. (Well, you didn't expect them to live in a tiddy bungalow for the whole year, did you?')

It was in this bungalow that Cleverly chose to hold his meetings. He didn't want to give his business associates any grandiose ideas about the true level of his wealth. Plus, he didn't want them to get too comfortable in their meetings and start expecting things like snifters of vintage brandy and expensive hampers at Christmas. At 11 a.m Cleverly was waiting to meet his latest ally. Someone whom he hoped would be able to help him get the plans for his latest housing estate passed.

The door bell rang out the tune of 'We'll Meet Again,' heralding the arrival of what he hoped would be the start of a long and beautiful business partnership.
'Git the door, Marj!' he yelled. 'And git the coffee percolator rumblin', too.'
'Yes, dear,' called Marjory, from the kitchen, where she was elbow deep in vinegar, filling several large kilner jars with pickled eggs. She wiped her hands on a tea-towel and went to the door. Through the frosted glass, she could see the distorted figure of a young woman with dark hair. She sighed. Another of Cleverly's City floozies, no doubt. Still, he'd never leave her, his wife. No-one could make a pickled egg quite like Marjory Dangled.

'Yes?' she said, opening the door. The young woman turned, slowly and gracefully. Not Cleverly's usual type, thought Marjory. Too classy by far.
'Good morning,' said the woman. 'Mr Dangled is expecting me.'
'Come in, luv,' said Marjory, and she stepped aside to let the guest in.

Marjory led the way up the hall and into the tiny, still-decorated beige sitting room. Cleverly was standing in front of the gas fire, his back to the door and a glass of brandy in his hand, waiting to do his usual 'big-impact' turn as soon as he heard his visitors enter the room. Unfortunately, a gas fire in a small bungalow does not have quite the same impact as an inglenook fireplace in a Yorkshire mansion, or a grand drawing room fireplace in a Georgian Manor house. It didn't have the same space, either, and as Cleverly turned he banged his knee on the sharp edge of the coffee table.

'Bleedin' 'ell,' he swore. He looked up and stopped his potential rant immediately. at the sight of his visitor.
'Miss Slingsby?' he asked.
'No,' said the woman. 'Miss Slingsby does not meet business associates personally. I am her representative, Rita Miassov.'
'Russian?' said Cleverly.
Rita glanced at her watch. 'No,I've got an hour before my next appointment,' she said.
She looked pointedly at the brandy in Cleverly's hand which he'd manfully managed to retain in his grip during his coffee table accident.
'My apologies,' said Cleverly. 'Where are me manners? Brandy, Miss Miassov?'
'I'd prefer a vodka shot,' she said, and sat in Cleverly's armchair, perching herself on the edge, where she busied herself starting up her netbook, which was not dissimilar to the one the author got for her birthday recently.

Cleverly poured Miss Miassov a glass of vodka and stared crossly at Marjory who was still standing in the doorway, her mouth wide-open in a most unattractive manner. 'Coffee,' he mouthed.

'Well, Miss Miassov, I can't say I'm not disappointed that Miss Slingsby couldn't be here in person,' he said, handing Rita her drink. 'Perhaps I shall 'av the pleasure sometime in the future?

Rita looked Cleverly up and down. 'I very much doubt it,' she said, and flung back her vodka tot in one. 'Now, if we can begin.'

''Course,' said Cleverly. He sat on the sofa opposite Rita and hefted an enormous folder onto the table between them. 'This,' he said, proudly, 'is my plan for the village I want to build in the Kent Weald.'
'The plan that is causing such friction in the local community?' said Rita.
'The very same,' said Cleverly, allowing his chest to puff out with pride. 'I've pushed it through two stages of the planning process, but I need someone wiv, 'ow shall we say, a bit of extra clout to get it through the final stage. If ya know what I mean, Reet.'

Rita paused to show her affrontery at his familiarity with her name, and then began hitting her netbook keyboard with all the ferocity of say, an author trying to beat a 50,000+ word deadline in thirty days.
'Don't ya want to look at the plans?' asked Cleverly, trying to position himself so he could see what Rita as typing so furiously.
'No, Mr Cleverly, I do not wish to see the plans,' said Rita. 'Your design decisions and landscaping plans are of no concern to Miss Slingsby. All she needs are the financial details. Do you have a printer?'

Rita looked up suddenly, her fingers paused over her keyboard.
'A what?'
'A printer, Mr Dangled. To print out the contract between you and Miss Slingsby.'
'Any contract you print off will 'av to be gone over by my solicitor,' said Cleverly.
'In that case,' said Rita, shutting her netbook with a snap and getting to her feet, 'our meeting ends now. You either abide by Miss Slingsby's conditions or find someone else to assist you in your planning difficulties.'
'Ere, 'an on a sec,' said Cleverly as Rita made for the door. 'Don't be 'asty, now. Look, bring yer fancy computer over 'ere. Printer's by the goldfish bowl in the corner there. I'm sure everything's fine. I'll sign it now and we can push on, eh?'

Rita forced a small, sour smile from her lips. 'Very wise, Mr Dangled,' she said. And within seconds two copies of the contract were printed and signed. Rita popped them into her briefcase. 'I'll send you one back by return as soon as Miss Slingsby has signed them herself,' she said. 'And then we can get on with the business in hand.'

'Good, good,' said Cleverly. 'Er...once the business is in hand, as you say, 'ow long d'ya reckon it'll take before I get me planning permission.'
Rita studied him carefully. Already she didn't like this piggy little man with his piggy little eyes set in a pudgy little face. He had racing pigeons circling his garden, too. 'Business will be settled by Christmas,' she said. 'I think you'll be safe to order your bulldozers and wrecking machines to start work on January 1st.'

Cleverly clapped his hands together with a dull thud. 'New Year, New Fortune, eh, Reet?' he said.
'If you say so, Mr Dangled,' said Rita.

Outside, Rita clicked her seatbelt into place and revved her car's engine into action. She picked up her mobile phone.
'Honeybun?' she said. 'Yes, yes, all signed. For once I'd say you've done business with someone who is as stupid as he looks. Yes, okay. See you later.'

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