(read part I here: Last Days of Office Part I)
She lay in her bed with her head propped up by two big feather pillows. Through her window she could see the fissure of dawn cutting along the horizon. She hadn’t slept at all and her eyes seemed to be subjected to the gravitational pull of a thousand red hot suns. Every few moment her eyelids would drop only to spring back up like a jack-in-the-box. She was exhausted, but she didn’t want to sleep. Today would be the most important day of her career; she wanted to experience every minute of it. Outside the overtures of the dawn chorus began and a soft breeze rustled through a tall fur tree as if trying to gentle rouse it from sleep.
Yesterday had been busy. All of her colleagues had been rushing around like panicked gazelle, bouncing from excitement of the scoop to fear that the other papers might get there first. She, on the other hand, saw the convenience of it all. A scandal about one man’s mismanagement of his department leaked to all the major newspapers on the day before she was about to unveil a revelation that would shake party politics to its knees. They’d tossed a bone to the vultures just as their horse was starting to limp.
Despite her dissenting voice, however, bombastic headlines had locked on the Department of Transport’s jugular; their rottweiler like grip still refusing to let the minister free, with complete disregard of his supposed willing resignation. In her minds eye she could see the prime minster’s dry lizard like smile. Not the smile that was so carefully displayed to the camera’s but the one she knew he kept in reserve for those quiet moments alone. It made her feel sick, but she had the medicine for that.
The line of pale white light kept slowly seeping into the deep blue sky and slowly started to warm the landscape. The birds outside began the steady climb to a crescendo of greetings to the new day and their high pitched calls stirred the ancient animal in her body, it was time to rise and hunt.
The ex-minister of Transport stared at his cornflakes. The last time he had eaten breakfast he had been a young prodigy on his rise towards political stardom, now he was unemployed. He was a statistic, not a unique point; a particle in the vast oceans, not a towering iceberg; a serf, not a king. Everything he had worked for since he was twelve years old was being stolen from him by the people who were meant to be on his side; the people who should have been worshipping him. Et tu, Brute?
He raised a wavering spoon, dribbling with milk, to his lips. He shuddered at the sound of crushing cereal. It sounded like bones cracking. Why had it had to be him to get pushed onto his sword? Why not Deakin, the fat prick. He was a useless lump of a politician who hadn’t done anything but line his own pockets. He should have been thrown to the vile woman and her pack. Let them feast on his blubber. Hopefully she would have choked on…
“It’s OK Darling, you’ll be all right.” His rambling thoughts were interrupted by his wife’s silky voice and her arms being lovingly draped around his shoulders. “Now hurry up, we’re going shopping today. This will be the first time in years that we get to spend an afternoon together.”
“I can’t” he muttered into his bowl, his eyes still staring blankly at the slowly softening flakes.
“What do you mean you can’t? Of course you can. I’m not letting you mope around the house all day. Buying me lots of presents is just what you need to cheer you up.” She kissed his neck playfully and then floated from him, starting to clear away the detritus he had left from making himself a simple breakfast.
“No I can’t. I have to go out.”
“Out? Where are you going to go?” His wife asked, quickly forcing the haughtiness out of her voice half way through the sentence with practised skill.
“I want to see the commons. One last time. I might never get to walk into that room again. I need to see it at least once more.”
“Darling, of course you’ll see it again. This is just a little blip, the prime minister said he wants you back. You’ll be back there before you know it, you should just enjoy the time off you have now and spend some more time with your family.”
“I have to go.” He said again to his cereal bowl as if no one else were in the room. He rose from his seat and cast his half full bowl across the table towards her. “I’ll be back this afternoon.”
“It’s him, isn’t it? You’re going to see him. Even now he still has you as his beck and call, even after what he’s done!” She shouted, losing control of her carefully crafted demeanour. His retreating back gave no reply and a few moments later she heard the front door slam shut.
She wanted to see it. She wanted to see the room which she was about to destroy. The room that would soon be blown apart. The gunpowder was set, the fuse was lit, and now it was just a matter of time until everything crumbled in a ruthless media inferno.
Like spotlights above a stage, the sunlight streaked through the windows of the upper gallery down towards the pews below. As she stepped cautiously along the walkway, tracing her hand over the balustrade, she could feel the importance of what was about to happen. The politicians were going to get shown to be what they truly are. The room buzzed with expectation; a delicate quivering in the air like the gentle vibration of an engine idly turning over.
Her editor had insisted that the story should wait until first edition tomorrow. He wanted to milk the current controversy as much as he could first. No sense, he told her, in wasting a good story. She had argued, of course, but soon she gave in. One more day wouldn’t make much of a difference, nothing would stop her destroying these evil men.
She stopped in the middle of the gallery and stood looking down at the hall with her two arms holding on to the railings. For several hundred years they had got away with it, the privileged had convinced the general public that they were fit to make decisions for everyone. They had convinced the people of the land to submit themselves to a feudal systems of barons and serfs, without the public even realising this was what was happening.
Parliament was a façade, a veil that disguised the gnarled and warped features of the powerful few. They’d lined their own pockets, they’d ensured their friends and family continued to benefit, they’d done everything they could to keep themselves rich and powerful, but now she had proof that they’d also purposefully held everyone else down, under the waters of their own wealth.
“Beautiful isn’t it.” came a smooth voice from over her shoulder. She turned and her eyes widened like cat’s after seeing a movement in the bushes. “It inspires you to think that this room has seen thousands of great men, and women, passing millions of judgements and laws to improve the lives of the common man.” The word ‘common’ sat awkwardly in the man’s tone and this made it echo slightly louder in the large empty hall.
“It’s an impressive building.” she said flatly.
“Is it business or pleasure that brings you here?” he asked, approaching her and leaning on the balustrade along side her, mirroring her posture.
“Both” she replied softly, again trying to keep any hint of emotion out of her voice. She had a well practised tone and had often spoken kindly to people she despised so they would relax and tell her what she needed, but today she didn’t trust herself. She was too close, she couldn’t risk a false step now.
“This must have been exciting times for you lot. Revealing the incompetencies of a whole department and bringing down the parties young wonder boy. I’m sure there were a lot of celebrations at your office.”
“We take no pride in brining politicians down,” she lied carefully, “we just print the truth.”
“Ah yes, the truth. Wonderful thing, very important.” He said glibly, “however, sometimes the public react in the wrong way to the truth and hurt themselves because they don’t understand it.”
“Don’t have the intelligence to comprehend the complex issues?” She asked, her instincts automatically providing the words.
“I wouldn’t say that.”
“You did. Last year when you were explaining why so many people voted against you in the referendum. We hurt you quite a bit for that one, I’m surprised you’d forgotten.”
“I hadn’t, I just hoped you had.” He flashed a smile at her and forced out a chuckle, “I do apologise, I should have given you more credit. But the point stands, sometimes the truth is too dangerous to be printed.”
“That is not your decision. You are not elected to decided what the public should or shouldn’t know, you are elected to run the country.”
“Don’t you see, they are the same thing. Running the country is just the art of drip feeding the public the right information so they do the right thing. The economy relies on how much the public spend, not what fiscal measures we try to implement. Law an order is only present when the public consent to it, we can’t govern how they feel about the police and if they want to riot no amount of bobbies on the beat is going to prevent them. All policy is just a sheen. The country is run by the public’s actions, we just man the tiller and try to steer them in the right direction by feeding them the right information.”
The man hadn’t looked at her at any point during his little speech but now he straightened his back and turned to her. She kept her eyes on the floor, her knuckles were white as she gripped on to the handrail. He made her skin crawl and the more he talked the more she wanted to scream at him.
“This is why you can’t do it.” he continued, his voice still soft but carrying more weight than it had done before. “Give me the letter. Publishing it will bring down this government. I’m sure you think that’s no bad thing, but a ship with out a helmsman will not last long before it strikes the rocks. Publishing that letter will destroy the country and ruin the lives of every family in the land. Publishing that letter will steal every child’s future.”
“It might, it might not. I have faith in the people to work together and to make this country a good place to live, but that doesn’t matter. Even if this makes the country a worse place for a short time, the people deserve to know. They deserve to be given all the information so they can make decisions themselves rather than you manipulating them into doing what you want.”
“You have made up your mind? You will not hand the letter over to me?”
“Of course, I won’t you evil fucker. Even if you had got your script writer to add his usual sophistry to that little speech, you wouldn’t have been able to convince me that you were anything other than a disgusting human being and that the public won’t be better off without you.”
“That is a shame, but not unexpected. Luckily like any good politician, I have planned for that.” With a sudden jerk he thrust a hand round her neck and stepped around her, twisting her round so her back was against the handrail.
Despite his hand closing around her windpipe, his aftershave managed to clog in her throat. She tried to struggle, but already his full weight was leaning against her and pushing her off balance. She clutched her hands around his forearms and tried to deliver a savage kick against his legs, but this only aided her aggressor as he pushed her throat back over the balustrade.
The last thing she noticed, as she felt her weight tipping over the balustrade and her feet coming off the ground, was that he was smiling. Again it wasn’t a smile that a camera would ever see. It was true smile, a smile of complete pleasure.
Her body tumbled through the air and landed with a thumping crack on the floor. Slowly and calmly, the smartly dressed man in his purple tie, continued his walk along the gallery and exited through a door at the far end.
Moments later a man with a thin pointed nose and small, dulled eyes entered the gallery. He didn’t notice the body for a few minutes, his mind to busy occupied on why the foreign secretary had called him here, the day after he had been forced out of government by him. It was way too early to be discussing his comeback and was unlike him to offer soothing words when the media were not around. He tried to think about it from the foreign secretary’s point of view, but he simply couldn’t understand the benefit. Then he looked down. He saw the broken body, the pool of blood, and slowly flashing blue light that had just started to bounce through the window. It was already too late to run.