Mysterious Affairs At Malvern Link
an area of 88,786 square miles, the island of Great Britain is the largest of
the British Isles. It is the largest island in Europe, and eighth largest in the
world. It is the third most populous island after Java and Honshu. It has
residents and visitors from all over the known world, and on this day it was
about to receive the American actress Betty Ruth Jordan.
“Excuse me Miss, time to wake up; we are preparing to set down. Please
return your seat to the upright position.” Betty Ruth Jordan, American Actress
of considerable ability and adequate beauty even though now 32 years old and
pushing 33, roused from her trance and looked about. She straightened and
pressed the button that returned the seat back to its upright position. “You
haven’t touched your meal,” admonished the young flight attendant. Jordan
had reached the age where she accepted there were people younger than she.
“Thank you; I was not hungry. And I was not sleeping,
I was meditating.” Why she found it necessary to explain to the attendant, she
could not explain to herself. The truth was that flying tended to tie Jordan’s
stomach into knots, making even the thought of eating repugnant. The attendant
carried the untouched tray into the bowels of the ship. Zen Master would advise
that explaining unnecessary explanations was but a waste of energy. Jordan,
however, was a new student of Zen, not a Master. It was certainly a waste of a
perfectly good explanation, for the flight attendant was already into the
tourist class aisle looking for other non-compliants. Jordan secured her text,
“The Basics of Zen” in the pocket
of the seat in front of her where it joined her script of “Dream Girl”, and prepared for the always nerve-provoking fall from
the air onto (hopefully) the runway at London’s Heathrow Airport.
The large aircraft with the engines’ power reduced,
also prepared to fall at a controlled rate toward the waiting concrete runway.
Rumblings and scrapings sounded from its interior as its began to change shape
of its wings.
The art of Zen enabled her, once safely airborne at
33,000 feet over land or sea, to focus her attention on that special spot at the
back of her forehead so successfully that she had to be roused (not awakened) to
wash her hands before meals (for on this aircraft, not only was each passenger
served two hot meals on the flight from Vancouver to London, but also damp, hot
towels with which to cleanse one’s hands before dining). She could use a hot,
damp towel right now, for her hands were really quite moist and warm. She was,
in short, sweating the monster airplane onto the ground.
The Aluminum-clad airliner felt for the ground, found
it after a bit of jostling and bouncing, exaggerated no doubt by Jordan’s
tension. The engines then roared to life again as the engineer used the full
thrust of the engines that hurled it into the air to now halt the airliner
before it ran completely out of paved runway. Jordan allowed herself to breathe
again. She breathed rapidly, deeply. Her jaws unclenched and she no longer felt
an urgent desire to visit the lavatory. In short, she relaxed and allowed the
aerial bus to find its way to the correct terminal under the guidance of the
Harold J. Hudson was not waiting for her. Jordan had
been so convinced that her Harold finally was ready to admit he missed her –
needed her. Perplexed and a bit annoyed, Jordan joined the exit queue, had her
passport inspected and approved without incident, and then headed for the
baggage carousel prepared for inspection before being allowed to exit onto the
sovereign soil of the England. The slow-moving queue allowed her time to
consider this unexpected turn of events. She knew only a few British men, and
they all were one way or another a bit eccentric. The one she knew best was the
most eccentric. He went about pretending to be the Saint – a fictional
character in some old British novels. He was also the best in bed, even better
than Harold. Surely Harold had not changed enough in six months for her not to
recognize him. Surely she had not changed enough, despite her new hair style,
for him not to recognize her.
Harold J. Hudson, still her only long term lover (there
had been a number of short-termers through the years, but they were in the past
where Jordan sincerely hoped they would remain) had been for some months back in
Vienna executing the will of his old friend and enemy Bruce Bentley. He was now
in process of completing that chore by personally notifying the many mistresses
of Bentley of their inheritances (a requirement of Bentley’s will which Bruce
no doubt still found amusing wherever in Hell he was). One of the members of
(Sisters of the Gold Band) as he called them, lived in England. When Jordan
received the telephone message from Hudson, instructing her to meet him in
London, she quite naturally assumed he wanted her to help him deliver
Bentley’s bequest to the last and most dangerous old mistress on Bentley’s
list. Jordan’s best friend Patrish Morgan took the call, informing her that
she was to bundle herself off to Vancouver B.C. where she would find passage
aboard British Airways arranged, along with reservations at the Garden court
Hotel in London.
Even though Jordan could not reach Harold to confirm as
Patrish advised, Jordan was so eager to find some sort of adventure that she
boarded the airliner figuring there was no way she could get lost in a city like
London. She was looking forward to a holiday in the capitol of capitols with
dozens of theaters, dozens of restaurants and dozens of museums to amuse her
before she and Hudson visited Bentley’s last mistress. She paused, seeking Zen
tranquility, letting the crowd flow past her while she concentrated on
visualizing the route to London and her hotel. She would need at least a week
just to learn where everything was located.
If Harold was not here to greet her it was for a good
reason, and Jordan was a seasoned traveler. The express train that would take
her directly to London was somewhere near. A taxi would take her to the inn
Harold had selected, the Garden Court Hotel.
This past year had been one of recuperation from her
harrowing adventures in the sewers of Vienna. While she was in Vienna, Hudson
had watched over her closely. He successfully fended off the many government
agents who invaded their privacy in vain efforts to obtain from her the location
of a certain List of Swiss Bank Accounts hidden by the Nazis in the last days of
that regime. Once she left Austria, he ordered her to stay in America at all
costs. Now he had instructed her to proceed to London on her own. Curious. It
was not like Harold to make such a request without elaborate explanation. Jordan
sensed something was amiss, but what?
Baggage in hand, she ordered her mind to find Zen
tranquility and headed toward the money exchange counter. She would go on to
London by way of the express train, find her hotel, and if Hudson were not
there, she would bathe and eat, then she would start exploring London. Somewhere
there was a ticket booth where one could buy tickets for plays. With that as a
plan, she stepped toward the exchange counter; she was halted by a tall, gruff
Britisher loitering near the automatic teller machines. He doffed his cap and
said, in a rather poor cockney accent, “Beg pardon, Ma’am, are you th’
famous American actress, Betsi Jordan?”
Both Irritated and just a bit flattered, she turned to
confront him. His face was covered by a scruffy beard and mustache; his nose
looked as if it suffered from one too many fists or several too many beers. He
wore a soiled workman’s jacket, but his trousers were clean and possessed a
sword-edge crease. The hand that touched the bill of his cap was extremely well
manicured with remnants of scars adorning the knuckles. “No, I am not,” she
managed to say before recognizing the accoster as none other than the man she
had come to know too well a year ago in Vienna – Simon Talbot-Lago.
“I almost failed to recognize you,” admitted the
Britisher. “I rather miss your red curls.” When last they met, Jordan had
colored her hair bright red and wore it in tight curls. Now it was its natural
dark brown and cut in a short bob popular in the Jazz Age. The soft snug sweater
emphasized her ‘best assets and her tight jeans emphasized her slender legs.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded. He swept
her into his arms and kissed her with markedly un-British freedom of expression.
He smelled not of honest sweat but of expensive aftershave. “Let me go!” she
protested. “Why are you here? Don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.
You’re probably here to kill someone. Is it me? If not, go away and find your
“You are my victim, Love – or to put the proper
face to it, I am yours. You have pierced me to the heart. Come and be my love
and we will all the pleasures prove –” The baggage carousel, emptied of its
burdens by the departing crowd, stopped revolving. The baggage area was empty of
other passengers at the moment. The Heathrow Express train to London arrived and
departed. The Britisher encircled her waist with a strong arm, urging her away
from the exchange counter. “We need to talk,” he continued.
Jordan resisted his urgings. “We do not need to talk,
not now, at least,” denied Jordan. “In the first place, you have never been
anyone’s victim; in the second place, you have no heart; in the third place we
have proved all the pleasures we are going to prove. All you have is a cash
register for a heart and a desire for unlawful gains. I am not afraid of you,
despite the sinister reputation you have been working so hard to create. In the
fourth place, I am bound for London on the Heathrow express. I see a sign that
says the Heathrow Express is in the other direction.” Talbot-Lago had taken
command of her suitcase and was in process of carrying it toward an exit tunnel.
“Our plans have changed. You don’t want the
Heathrow Express; you are needed elsewhere.”
“My plans have not changed. I am bound for London and
Paddington Station and that is where I wish to go.”
“It is crowded and noisy at Paddington Station.
You’ve been following my exploits, have you? So you cannot forget me no matter
how you try, despite my cavalier treatment of you? The car park is this way.”
“No. I am going to London, and I need to change some
money. All I have is dollars and some leftover euros. Believe me, the only
‘spark’ I have for you is of anger.” She attempted to pull away, but his
grip was too strong and her will too weak.
“Nonsense. You will need no money; at least not until
after the weekend, and I will see you get to London with plenty of good British
pounds. How much do you want?” He reached into his inside jacket pocket.
“I don’t want your tainted money; I want my own,
thank you. I don’t want to be in your debt for even a penny.”
He followed her, maintaining a position that prevented
her from breaking for the Express platform. Despite Talbot-Lago’s insistence
that money was unnecessary, Jordan stepped up to the now deserted change counter
to buy 200 British pounds. The atm
machine was limited to 100 pounds. Now she felt more in charge of her fate. If
only she could rid herself of this enigmatic crook, everything would be fine,
and she could get back to Zen Basics and the art of exploring London. She had
found in past experiences that Simon Talbot-Lago was as difficult to get rid of
when not wanted, as he was to hold when he did not want to be held.
“It would not surprise me if you were Jack the Ripper
reincarnated, Mister Talbot-Lago. If you do not leave me alone, I shall tell the
first policeman I see who you are. I am sure Scotland Yard must want you for
something or other.”
“The Yard wants me for many things, but has
difficulty hanging on to me. Where will you go, Betsi? Go ahead call the
coppers, but then you will never know how I knew you would be on this flight,
and why I am here to meet you, and what I want of you. You are alone in a
strange country and so far as I know, have neither friends nor acquaintances to
turn to other than your humble servant. No gentleman would leave a beautiful
maiden alone in this strange land.” As they walked and talked, he steered her
into the tunnel that led to the Car Park.
“I know precisely what I am to do. Harold is going to
meet me in London. I shall catch the Express to London, and if by hook or crook
you have mislead Harold and he is not there, I shall take a room in a hotel
where you will never find me and contact some people I know and trust. I am not
alone and friendless; I know several actors and one director who praised my work
at the Festival. If you don’t leave I shall call Harold,” she said again,
flourishing her cell phone.
“I tell you Hudson is not here, therefore he has no
need of you at present and I have.” They emerged from the tunnel into a bright
sunny day; unusual for this time of year. England was enjoying a late summer.
The blue sky was laced with high cirrus clouds; no sign of impending rain.
“He will be here.” Jordan attempted to dial
Harold’s Vienna number. While she tried in vain to reach Harold in Vienna,
Simon Talbot-Lago secreted her luggage in the small storage space behind the
seats of a low-slung, dark blue vintage roadster that looked to be pre-World War
II. Her cases barely fit alongside a large flat package. From the same recess,
he withdrew a small overnight case and a Harris Tweed jacket. While Jordan
attempted to reach the Garden Court Hotel, her captor-escort peeled the scruffy
beard, a false nose and moustache from his face. They went into the overnight
case. The workman’s jacket was replaced by the tweed sport coat, and before
her stood the well-remembered and excessively handsome Simon Talbot-Lago, the
man who liked to call himself the Saint. Based on what she knew of the man, both
the package and the car were probably stolen. Before she could bring forth a
suitably sarcastic comment, he wrapped his long arms around her and pressed his
lips over hers.
“Get your hand off my bottom,” she mumbled even
though her lip movement was restricted.
“I almost did not recognize you, Betsi. Why did you
happen to choose that particular hair style?” He seemed genuinely interested.
“None of your business,” she retorted. “I chose
it for my own personal reasons which are no concern of yours. You promise you
will take me straight to London – to Garden Court Hotel and not some
rendezvous you have cooked up?”
”I don’t believe you.” Nevertheless, Jordan stood
for several long minutes staring at the smiling, confident, arrogant, handsome
and deadly man who called himself the Saint. His eyes actually sparkled in
anticipation of ‘most exciting adventure’. “I don’t understand what you
want with me,” she admitted, seating her jeans-clad bottom on the air cushion
that served the sports car for a seat and swinging her legs inside the narrow
cockpit. After all, he already had her luggage secured and she certainly was not
going to let him abscond with it.
He reached under the wood instrument panel and pulled
out two wires, twisted the ends together, then pressed the self-starter. “I
only need you for the weekend. After which I shall deliver you to the hotel of
your choice, no charge.”
“What weekend? You’re stealing this car,” she
“Wrong tense little Betsi. I’ve already stolen it.
Unfortunately, it was not opportune to steal the ignition key. This works just
as well.” He swung the car smoothly into the exit queue. “This weekend; I
need you for just this weekend.”
“I’m not going to ride in a stolen car, and I’m
not spending this or any other weekend with you.”
“Yes, you are. It is necessary. I need you.”
“Ha-ha! You don’t need anyone, particularly me.
Suppose you get stopped by the police?”
“I won’t. You may turn me in after this weekend is
over, if you wish.”
“Why shouldn’t I wish?
“Nothing is going to happen. There is not going to be
a weekend with you. If you are planning a repeat performance of our ‘affair’
of Vienna, forget it. I don’t do that sort of thing any more. I am going to
happily and thoroughly marry Harold as soon as he gets here, and until then I
shall remain celibate.”
He made no reply other than a self-satisfied smirk.
Jordan started to renew the argument, but then recalled
herself. This quarreling was not Zen. It was foolish to argue that she would
prefer to be on her own, when: (A) that was not true, and (B) she was already in
his car and headed for London. Once she could get the ‘European’ cell phone
to make connection and she conferred with Harold, she would find out what was
really going on. He would not send for her and then stand her up – not
willingly. She took several deep breaths and composed herself. “I shall agree
to nothing until after I talk to Harold.” She placed her feet together under
the dashboard and folded her hands in her lap, striving not to think at all for
the moment, but to let the tensions flow from her body; from her mind, through
her hands and feet and into the floor of the roadster. The roadster seemed
unaffected. Time flowed from the present into the past like an endless river,
never ceasing, never hurrying. For long moments she sat, silent, trying not to
think while she gathered psychic energy to review the recent events leading to
this annoying situation.
Why was she letting this criminal clown push her
around? Why did she not cry out for a policeman the minute she saw him? Why did
she feel a mild stimulation at being abducted? “I shall agree to nothing,”
she repeated. She chose to ignore the probability that merely riding with him
could be construed as a commitment to further steps. “Hello, Harold? This is Betty Ruth. Sorry you’re out. I have landed
okay at Heathrow Airport, but—.” She was talking to a recording machine.
For once, Hudson was not there when she needed him.
Forgetting that the action tended to over-emphasize her
best assets, Jordan crossed her arms under her breasts. The car began to shudder
and vibrate as if it wanted to tear itself apart.