Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Chapter 32 - Not so Cleverly, Dangling

Being tied to a barrel of Chateau Lafitte '68 all night had done nothing to improve Cleverly Dangled's temper. Everything had gone so well up to that point, and then some stupid bird had pooped in his eye and in a temporary moment of blindness, he'd been captured and then held hostage by a bunch of assorted fowl.

'D'ya mean to say I've bin dealin' wiv a bunch ov chickens all this time?' he said to his rescuer, who, it turned out, was one Rita Miassov and not who the author envisaged during her panic planning stage, but there you go, such is the nature of 'going with the flow' in creative writing; you just never know what twisty turny step the narrative is going to take next.

'Not wholly,' said Rita. She was pacing Cleverly's office, and hoping to high heaven that no-one had seen her sneaking in and out of Cluckinghen Palace early that morning. 'Denise and Andy aren't birds. Neither am I.'

'Wot about this Honeybun Slingsby?' said Cleverly.
'Kakapo,' said Rita.
'Bleedin' 'ell,' said Cleverly. 'I've 'ad a parrot trying to do me bribery for me.'
'She is a very engaging parrot,' said Rita. 'She is also a very successful negotiator. I can't understand why she didn't stick to her part of the bargain.'
'It weren't just a bargain,' said Cleverly, slamming his hand down hard on his desk. 'She's broke a contract, that's wot she done.'
'Yes,' sighed Rita. 'I suppose you could look at it like that. Although I'm not sure how water-tight such a contract would be in a court of law, should you decide to sue her for breach. You're not planning on suing Miss Slingsby, are you?'
'Course I ain't,' snorted Cleverly. 'Wot d'ya fink I set fire to the Manor for? I gotta git me revenge some how, ain't I?'

He slumped in his chair and pushed his hand through what remained of his hair.

'Right,' he said. 'Wot about this 'ere agreement we got wiv your clients? I got to salvage sumfink from this mess.'
'Well, I suppose now their home has been burned to a cinder, there's more of an incentive for Andy and Denise to sell up the land,' said Rita.
'And that rich seam of rare Italian marble,' said Cleverly, suddenly perking up with at the thought of more riches on the horizon. He clapped his hands, then rubbed them together lasciviously.

Rita bit her tongue. Did this man have no sense of shame, no compassion for the suffering of others? Of course he didn't - that's why he was who he was - a git.

'I'll go and see them,' said Rita. 'Today. Before they start getting ideas about a re-build. It might help, 'she continued tentatively, 'if I can offer them a bit more money. Sweeten the pill so to speak.'
Cleverly frowned.
'You got that mining valuation report yet?' he said.
'Yes,' said Rita. She lifted her briefcase onto the desk and made a great show of finding the paperwork and checking it through before handing it over to Cleverly.
'I trust you'll keep this information strictly confidential,' said Rita. 'If this document should get into the wrong hands...'
'Yeah, yeah,' said Cleverly, scanning the document briefly.

Behind her back, Rita's fingers were crossed tightly. She knew forgery was a fine art these days, but trying to con a conner was always a risky business. But her friend, Wally 'The Detail' Denning had done a good job on this report. If anyone was capable of pulling wool over Cleverly Dangled's eyes, it was Wally. And possible a granny knitting a very thick balaclava.

'Looks okay,' said Cleverly. He placed the report in the top drawer of his desk and turned the key in the lock. 'Go and see your people. Offer 'em this,' and he wrote a figure on a piece of paper and handed it to Rita, 'and tell 'em I want the deal done by the end ov next week, or no go.'

The sum wasn't quite the magnificent amount Rita had been hoping for, but as it was going to be money for old rope, to use a cliche, she felt disinclined to argue.

'Yes, Mr Dangled,' she said. She closed her briefcase and turned to leave the office.
'Oh, and Miss Miassov,' said Cleverly.
'Yes?' said Rita.
'I'll be watchin' you...okay?'
'Yes, Mr Dangled,' said Rita.

* * * * * * * * * *

We looked at the piece of paper Rita had set before us.
'What do you think?' said Andy. 'We could take the money and move away. Fresh start and everything.'
'Yes,' I said. 'It's tempting. And we'd get the insurance money, too. Why does your client want to buy this land?'
'He wants to turn it into a wildlife reserve,' said Rita. 'And when he heard what had happened at the concert, he thought he'd step in quickly, help you move on if you wanted to.'
'I see,' I said. 'I suppose it's better than having some vulture like Cleverly Dangled hanging around, wanting to buy up the land to build more houses on.'
'Absolutely,' said Rita.
'Did you see,' said Andy, 'that he's been denied permission to build his estate over the other side of town?'
'Really?' I said. 'Well, that's one piece of good news, at least. We should tell the chickens. So they don't feel their efforts have been wasted.'
'Tell us what?' said Miggins, who had taken a deep breath and come to the caravan we'd been lent as temporary accommodation.
'That Cleverly Dangled's plan to build over more of the countryside has been scuppered,' said Andy. 'Although we thought the planning was as good as granted.'
'It was,' said Honeybun, pushing her way into the caravan behind Mrs Miggins. 'All it needed was a gentle push from the hand of bribery, and it would have gone through.'
I tutted. 'Bribery? Ha! I think it's appalling that councils are still open to such despicable behaviour.'
'I think it's despicable that there are people out there who will conduct acts of bribery on behalf of clients,' said Andy. 'I wonder who Cleverly Dangled had to do his dirty work for him.'
'It was me,' said Honeybun. 'I was supposed to bribe the planning council for Cleverly Dangled. But I didn't. And that's why the Manor got burned to the ground.'

By now the caravan, which was only a two-berth, (it also had a small awning, but Andy and Denise hadn't got around to putting it up yet), was feeling rather cramped, filled as it was with three humans, four chickens, a silky, a flamingo and two kakapos. Oh, and Tango Pete who was still recording events on his handy cam for prosperity, and now, potentially, evidence. Thank heavens Pepe was still in bed, recovering from his previous night's exploits; a chihuahua in the caravan mix would have been a chihuahua too many.

At the news of Honeybun's betrayal, all fidgeting and shuffling and mutterings of 'Oi, get your beak out of my ear,' stopped.

'You what?' said Boom.
'You heard,' said Honeybun. 'I was employed by Cleverley Dangled to bribe the council to get planning permission for his housing estate. But in the end I couldn't go through with it.'
'Why not?' said Boom.
'Because,' began Honeybun, 'because he didn't want to stop at the original plans. He wanted to build more houses. Here. At the Manor. I was supposed to persuade Andy and Denise to sell the Manor to Boom as a rare archaelogical digging site, so he could then sell it onto Cleverly Dangled, so he could expand his building project.'
'Oh, that's nice,' I said. 'Honeybun has saved us from being dragged into a case of curruption.'
'My right foot she has,' snapped Rita. 'The reason she didn't go through with it was because of this,' and she slammed an envelope down on the small caravan table.
'NO!' yelled Honeybun.
'FESS UP!' yelled back Rita.
'WELL,' yelled Honeybun, 'if you want to know who released your firework man, there's your girl.' And she pointed a wing at Rita.
'Is this true?' said Andy.
'Yes,' said Rita. 'But I had reasons. Very good reasons.'
'They'd better be,' I said. 'And I think you'd better start telling us. NOW.'

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