Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Resurrection Bureau - part 2


‘So, what do I call you? Guinie, or Guin, or maybe G-Girl—‘
‘Eve,’ Eve interrupted. ‘Please call me Eve.’ She did her best to make the “please” not sound like “call me G-Girl, call me it just ONCE, and I will beat you repeatedly around the face and neck” - and she must have succeeded because John Crichton grinned like the Cheshire Cat, and said:
‘And is there an Adam at home?’
Eve was momentarily lost for words. ‘I beg your pardon?’
John Crichton held up both hands. ‘Or an Adamena, maybe? Hey, we’re very progressive here at the Bureau. Equal rights and proud. We’re a top ten employer in the Stonewall equality chart. So ... You’re a lesbian, right?’ Eve opened her mouth, and all that came out was a croak. ‘No need to answer,’ John Crichton said with a cheerful wink. ‘We are great believers in privacy at the Bureau. So ... Let’s talk about you duties, shall we?’
Eve sat up straight. She could just about bring herself to believe that her new boss, John Crichton, had been joking. That was the problem with managers, Eve thought, they all thought they had sparkling wit, good looks and talent, and they expected you to think it too. ‘Yes Mr Crichton,’ Eve began, ‘In London my duties included managing the portfolios of—‘
‘Can I just stop you there, Eve,’ Crichton leant over the desk and held up a finger inches from Eve’s face. Eve resisted the temptation to bite it off. ‘My name is not Mr Crichton, it is not boss, it is not chief, it is not gaffer, and it definitely is not “governor”,’ he said this last word with a cheeky “Cockerney” accent, and, to Eve’s amazement and considerable discomfort, he stood and did a little shuffling jig, with his thumbs thrust into imaginary waistcoat pockets. ‘My name is John, and this,’ he swept around a hand to indicate the large floor to ceiling window behind his desk. ‘Is not London.’
Eve felt her dislike of her new governor (and now he had said it in that ridiculous fake Cockney accent Eve realised she would always think of John Crichton as the Governor) soften as she looked out at the remarkable view. Crichton’s office was at the very top floor of the largest building in Excalibur Wharf. The Wharf, Eve knew, was as detested as it was admired. In ten short years it had become the financial centre of Britannia, but it had also become the focus of vilification and contempt, and Eve could understand why. From the window, beyond the manmade lake created by diverting the River Brue and starving the former farmlands that once surrounded Excalibur Wharf’s massive shining office blocks, the ancient tumbledown houses of Glastonbury grew, and beyond those the walls of Avalon began. Avalon City was over 100 square miles of museums, churches and banks owned by holy father church. Avalon was an independent sovereign state, legally a separate country from Britannia within its borders, and it was, Eve knew, the wealthiest and most secure place in the world. From where she sat she could see Glastonbury Tor, and beneath that, its golden dome shining in the sun, the Church of Arthur the Saviour sat in the centre of Saint Lancelot’s Square.
It was a sight that few people saw, Eve knew. She had visited Avalon City with her mother as one of hundreds of thousands of tourists when she was a child, and from nowhere within Avalon City could you see the Tor – you had to literally climb beyond the roof tops of the dozens of churches to see it – and of course, no one but the priests were allowed anywhere near the Tor except on Stone Week and at Arthur Mass.
And currently Glastonbury Tor was eclipsed by the painfully fashionable skinny black suit and tie of her new Governor, Mr John Crichton.
‘Are you religious, Eve?’ Crichton indicated the chain around Eve’s throat as he sat at his desk once again.
‘I’m not really...’ Eve hesitated. The question, one that she was rarely asked these days, always had the effect of instantly conjuring up a picture of Eve’s mother in her mind. Blood on her embroidered dress cuffs. ‘No, not really.’ She replied, but could not stop herself from fingering the thin gold cruciform medallion hanging from a chain around her neck, a tiny golden Excalibur.
‘Many people assume that the Bureau is a religious organisation, or at the very least is backed by a religious body. It is not.’ Eve sat up straight, it seemed, at last, that the Governors meandering induction had come to the point. ‘The Resurrection Bureau is an essentially humanist, non-religious body.’ He pointed slickly to Eve’s Excalibur pendant, like a gun fighter drawing a bead. ‘We leave saving people’s souls to the Knights.’
Crichton began telling her in depth about the Resurrection Bureau, and Eve tuned out. It was nothing Eve couldn’t have – and had – read in the charity’s promotional literature. Eve had worked as a fundraiser for almost five years now, first with Barnardo’s and then with Great Ormond Street children’s hospital. From selling raffle tickets and organising rubber duck races she had moved on to handling the accounts of major multi-national companies and a scattering of actors and pop stars. Some of these stars had wanted to dodge the tax man or a bad reputation, but a surprisingly high percentage of them were committed to giving something back to their fellow man. At least it had surprised the deeply cynical Eve Finbar. The Resurrection Bureau, despite its peculiar name, was not a particularly extraordinary charity. The only slightly odd thing about it was that its main business was to support and engage with religious groups and individuals, while maintaining a completely humanist philosophy, as Crichton had said. The two things seemed at odds to Eve – a completely non-religious charity that exclusively funded religious endeavours. And oddly, despite reading through reams of literature and drilling deep into the internet sites that weren’t just ridiculous knitted together conspiracy theories, Eve could find no explanation for this apparent contradiction.
‘—field work is of course a major part of that process.’
Eve blinked. ‘I beg your pardon?’
John Crichton smiled. ‘It is the philosophy of the Resurrection Bureau, Miss Finbar, that every employee of this organisation fully understands all aspect of this charity’s work, and therefore—‘
‘Gov—Mr Crich – John,’ Eve gritted her teeth. ‘I am not a social worker, or an expert in mental illness,’ she said slowly, ‘I am an account manager, and I really don’t think I’d have the skills—‘
‘Please don’t interrupt me again, Eve,’ Crichton said. His voice was soft, and there was an easy smile on his face as he said it – but Eve looked into Crichton’s eyes and felt her mouth go dry. ‘Since the Bureau was created, many of hundreds of years ago now, we have tried to instil in our employees a total understanding of the workings of our charity. A total understanding, Miss Finbar.’ These words were snapped out with a cold efficiency that Eve would never have suspected from her initial impressions of John Crichton. Then he grinned, and gave her a wink. ‘Don’t worry, Eve, it’s just a couple of days of our working life once a year, and it’s nothing that will upset you or make you uncomfortable.’ He hoisted a thumb upwards, and whispered conspiratorially: ‘Got to keep the boss happy.’
Eve smiled, and nodded, and said “Yes of course” with a hint of a knowing laugh in her voice. She didn’t mention that the Governor’s office was on the top floor of Excalibur House, so God only knew where the Resurrection Bureau’s boss sat.

Two hours later Eve found herself at platform 5 of Glastonbury station looking at her tickets with a stunned expression.
In Crichton’s office Eve had moved to pull her diary out of her handbag, and the Governor had said, ‘You won’t be needing that.’
He wasn’t kidding. He had handed her return train tickets to Northumberland which she saw to her considerable astonishment she was scheduled to board in less than three hours. She had told Crichton she wasn’t sure if she could make the necessary arrangements – but, of course, the Governor knew she was single, he knew she was new to Glastonbury with no friends, no ties, and a suitcase half unpacked from her move from London.
All it taken had been a fast elevator from the top floor, a town car from the office to her apartment to the train station, and now, somehow she was here, about to board the first train in a five hour journey north.
‘They never mentioned this at the interview,’ she murmured.
‘I beg your pardon?’
Eve looked around and saw a small, elderly man in a raincoat was looking around at her questioningly. ‘Sorry, I was just thinking out loud...’ the little man turned, and she saw he wore a dog collar, a short sword was at his side and a six inch square of plate armour hung over his chest. The little man was a Knight, ‘...Sorry, father,’ she finished.
‘That’s quite all right,’ the little man replied jovially. ‘Are you heading far, I see you only have a small bag?’
Eve looked at her bag. It was small. More than likely she would have to buy some more clothes – that was definitely going on the company credit card. Assuming they had decent clothes shops that far north...
‘I’m going to Northumberland,’ she replied, and before the little man could ask, she added, ‘Business trip.’
‘Well, I wish you a safe journey,’ the little man said. He reached up and stroked his beard which, peculiarly, ended in two white forks. ‘Lovely country Northumberland. The home of one of our greatest saints, of course, Saint Lancelot’s family castle, Bamborough.’
‘Yes,’ Eve sighed inwardly, and looked urgently up and down platform 5. ‘As I say, I’m on a business trip, Mr...?’
She said it before she had realised, it was force of habit, too many years at charity drives and meet and greets – now she had given the little Knight the perfect opportunity to talk for hours.
‘My name is Merlin,’ said the little man, ‘But of course, that’s my middle name.’ He chuckled. ‘Well, I must be off Guinevere. Lovely to meet you,’ and he shook her warmly by the hand.
‘My name’s not—‘ she began, but the little man, middle name Merlin, had already turned on his heel and marched away. In a second he had vanished into the crowed platform.
As her train pulled into the station it finally occurred to Eve to stop fuming over the fact that the little man had used her hated full name, and wonder how he had known her name in the first place.
Eve stepped on the train, found a quiet carriage, fired up her iPad and tried her best to remember exactly why she had been employed by the Resurrection Bureau.
She thought no more about the priest Knight with the middle name Merlin, and she certainly did not notice him walking past her carriage two hours into her journey north, nor did she notice that he appeared to be wearing a brown tea cosy on his head

To be continued...

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