Friday, April 25, 2014

Because Of Mistakes! pt 18

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 Part 13 Part 14 Part 15 Part 16 Part 17

At about 3 minutes before midnight the following Tuesday, the 5th of June, Spilman was wearing the watch Latham had given him early in May. Spilman hadn't reset the watch since Latham had given it to him, and it was currently about 40 seconds fast. Which meant that Spilman didn't know how accurately it was running. All he knew is that it was within 2 or 3 minutes of spot on, without his having adjusted it for a month, and that that was amazing by his standards, and that Latham was a genius whom he was very fortunate to know. And that Latham shared the same condition with Charlie, although he'd been able to hide it from everyone but some of his family and a Swiss doctor with whom he corresponded about it. Latham insisted upon referring to what he and Charlie had as a condition, and was quite distressed, Spilman could tell, whenever anyone referred to it as a disorder. Apparently Charlie's abilities in some ways quite dwarfed Latham's which, in Spilman's view, certainly bolstered Latham's case for not thinking of it as a disorder. Latham also referred to it as a mutation. Although the term held some horror for the uninitiated general public, Latham assured Spilman that mutation could be either good or bad -- although that itself was a subjective call -- and that if it had not been for mutations we would all still be one-celled organisms living primarily upon our own excrement, if, that is, life had ever begun at all.

With some effort Spilman refocused his attention upon the task at hand: interviewing the butler of a Tory MP who for years had been spying as much as he possibly could upon his master, for the sake of their friends. The interview was pretty much wound up, Spilman had filled quite a few notebook pages -- how had he ever lived before Freddie had started giving him these posh notebooks and pens? So many cleverly-made things in this world, kept -- for the most part -- so greedily by a few away from the many, so that most people really didn't even know what they were missing.

The butler had himself made a few notes, to which he'd referred while briefing Spilman. "Okay," Spilman said, and pointed at the butler's little pile of scraps of paper," "I'll have those, too."

"Oh," the butler said, "why?"

"Why?" Spilman replied. "Why do you want to keep them? As souvenirs, perhaps?" The butler said nothing and merely looked nonplussed. "I'm going to take them from you because they're very dangerous to you, for one thing. I'm going to go through them once to check against my own notes, and then I'm going to destroy them." He took the pile and stuffed them into the convenient pocket at the back of the notebook, one of the countless things, pockets like these in notebooks, which the rich took for granted and the poor knew nothing about. "And if I'm in danger of being apprehended myself, I'll throw this whole lot away," he said, holding up the notebook, "Even though I've worked very hard for weeks to get it two-thirds full of notes or so, because this is all very dangerous. Perhaps, if we and people like us are very successful, in a couple of decades we'll be able to keep souvenirs of our work and write our memoirs and be hailed as heroes. For the nonce we're still criminals."

"Are you actually in danger of being apprehended?" the butler asked as they stepped into the alley from the room, attached to a warehouse in Lambeth, which they and their friends occasionally met in when they wanted privacy. The butler had a key to the place; he locked up behind them.

"One never knows. Oh, I'm so sorry, I almost forgot." Spilman handed a page torn from the notebook to the butler, with the name and address of a physician on it. "The man I mentioned. Take that boy from your household to him. My mind's all over the place. If it is pneumonia, God forbid, this man can help the child."

"Thank you. Thank you very much."

"Of course. Whatever are we here for if not for children like him? Just dress the tyke up like a little scion of our betters, and keep him from speaking, and I think you'll have no trouble passing yourselves off as a gentleman and his son. That'll get you past his receptionist and into his examining room, and then you can both be who you are. Don't worry about his nurse, the man's also one of us. And of course there'll be no charge."

"I say, I'm not a pauper, I can pay to visit a doctor."

"I swear to God, my friend," Spilman exclaimed, "for someone dedicated to breaking society's shackles you never seem to pass up an opportunity to lock yourself in them."

"I want to do my part."

"You do your part and several other people's. You work in a fine house, it's true, and get some fine scraps thrown your way, but all you have as your own is a nasty little room. This doctor has a very large house not far from where you work. He wants to do his part as well. Let him."

As he walked back home Spilman did his very best to look in all directions all the time without appearing to and to keep his ears sharp. He hadn't wanted to let it show to his friend, but as a matter of fact, he was a little more anxious than usual about being waylayed, and searched, and maybe killed. Earlier that evening he'd just seen a pair of thugs coming at him, seen them just soon enough to be able to run away. They'd both been very big, both had fit bodies and smashed-up faces. Boxers, or maybe just fighters away from the realm of sport. Spilman was not an exceptional fighter but he was a positively extraordinary runner. After about a mile the two men had given up, and one of them had yelled after him, "That's it, you rat fucker, keep running. We know where you live."

"So do a lot of my friends," Spilman shouted back.

"You don't ave as many friends as you think!" the voice had retorted as it receded in the dark: they'd stopped running, Spilman hadn't yet. At the time he hadn't thought much of the man's remarks, thinking it was only talk. If talking decided fights, a great many fights would've turned out entirely differently. At first he'd thought the man had called him a rat only to signify that Spilman was a small and loathesome creature. But then it occurred to him that "rat" was a piece of American slang, which had begun to cross the Atlantic, for "traitor." Saying he was a traitor would match up with saying that some people were no longer his friends. Of course, doing what he did, there was always going to be a certain amount of confusion among a certain number of people about what exactly he was up to and whose side he was on. And he had been running away from people threatening him harm on a regular basis since he'd been a small fleet-footed boy. Still, he couldn't entirely shake the thought that perhaps something unusually bad had happened, that some of his friends actually did think he'd betrayed them somehow, that perhaps they'd even sent those men to injure or even kill him, all because of some misunderstanding, or maybe because of a lie from an actual traitor. Spilman told himself not to be silly, not to scare himself for no reason. But he couldn't quite shake it. A chill had settled into him.

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