by Andrew Foote

Chapter 22

Thilo led me through to the drawing room and had me sit down.

"Stay there while I nip upstairs and get you something to wear."

"Thank you. I don't know what happened there. Sorry."

"Well, I do know what happened, and we can talk about it once you're dressed sufficiently enough not to get yourself arrested."

"How are you feeling Steve?"


I don't understand what happened. One moment I'm relaxing in the sun, chatting to you, the next thing is I'm completely out of control."

"You had a panic attack, and if I'm honest, I'm surprised you haven't had one earlier.

In the space of twenty-four hours, you've killed four men, your staff and our friends were taken hostage at gunpoint, and you think you can just brush it off as an everyday occurrence?

Wednesday was traumatic enough, but then, the people you shot were a distance from you. But yesterday they were up close, - you pull the trigger then milliseconds later you watch as their heads are separated from their bodies in a fuck-off big red explosion.

Steve? Unless you're psychotic, something like that is bound to affect you. You're normal!"

"Then how come you're alright? You took two men out as well?"

"Believe you me. Since that raid on our farm, I've had more than my share of nightmares, panic attacks, meltdowns, call them what you will. For me this is personal Steve. I have pictures in my head of my family suffering horribly before being put out of their misery, our workers, the same deal, and by the way. I also know what happened in the village I managed to escape to.

For you, this is completely different. Sure, you were protecting yourself, but you were also doing it to protect me. There's a world of difference between having deep seated, personal motives, to doing something like that purely out of love and friendship?

Jesus, I could use a drink. Can I get you anything?"

"A very large Scotch on the rocks please.

I'm still sorry for being so weak."

"Look at it like this.

If you'd managed to get through today without doing something like that, I would be more than just worried, I think I'd be on the next flight out to anywhere!"

"Ta very ever so!"

"Welcome you are!"

"How long is it now until your seventeenth Steve?"

"Next Tuesday. Why?"

"I thought it was, but I hadn't made a note of it.

The thing is, my sixteenth falls two weeks afterwards, and I thought it might be nice to have a joint party."

"I like that idea!

If we were to hold it the week beginning the twenty-third, say on the Wednesday, that would be two days before the lad's plan on going home."

"No presents though. I don't want anyone to go to any needless expense."

"I don't want anything either. All I need is standing right here beside me."

"Awe? You do say the sweetest things!"

"I was referring to the fucking tractor…… actually!"

"Liar! You hate the bloody thing!"

"You're right.

I do.

It's you I love, my love, my fantasy!"

"No need to go overboard!"

"Moving swiftly on? How shall we mark such an auspicious event?"

"Well……? Formal dinners are new to me, but they're not to you and the majority of the lads, so I guess that's not an option."

"I asked for your opinion. Is that what you'd like?"

"Well, yes. Old fashioned formality and courtesy coupled with a formal dress code and protocol makes them very special. I even think the household, I mean your staff get a buzz from putting them on. The cooking is like, out of this world, and Winterton is in his element. But I'd understand if it's like, Old Hat to you and want to do something else."

"It isn't Old Hat. Formal dinners take place maybe once a month. And then you have to remember, I'm away at school for most of them?

One day, you and I will be the Society figures as will our friends, so it's right that we should respect and uphold those values. So, if that's how you would like us to celebrate? That's what we'll do…… all assuming we still have staff, that is."

"Do you think any of them will leave?"

"No way of knowing. All the house staff feature in my earliest memories, - most of the blokes on the farm, much the same, but then sometimes it can only take something insignificant to force a change of heart.

The office staff? I don't really know them well enough. Our farm manager, a glorified accountant and four girls not used to country living might well take flight. It's all in the lap of the gods."

"You should get to know your back-office people better, get to understand what they do, their contribution to the business and how they function."

"That's always been down to Dad, but tomorrow I'm going to have to face them and I want you to be there with me."

"You know that's not an issue. I'm in for the duration Steve. One day this estate will be your responsibility, and if we marry it'll become a joint responsibility, so perhaps this is a good opportunity to make the introductions."

"We will marry, - unless you have a change of heart, but going back to the farm? I thought I might merge it, making Roker-Broadhurst Limited it's holding company leaving Malvern Park Estates free to trade, but under the umbrella of a bigger concern."

"That has to be your decision. It's not something I'm involved in."

"But it will be once we're married and Dad hands over the keys? I'm already a Non-Executive Director, and when Dad leaves, he'll promote me to Managing Director which leaves the company with a vacancy to fill which is where you come into the picture."

"If he's retiring then he won't go for an idea I had."

"What was that?"

"A third board member for Roker-Broadhurst . I'm not saying we will, but if we disagree on something connected to the business then it might be wise to have him there as a casting vote. Then of course, he has the business management skills we don't."

"Put it to him then. They're due back at the beginning of next month."

Another pain in the arse morning checking on the livestock, but then at one o'clock we were sitting around waiting for everyone to arrive back from hospital.

The lads arrived first; apparently, the only vehicle available was an armour plated eighteen seater minibus.

Typically, they brushed it off, - even making jokes about it like Ben's greeting to us as he stepped from the bus.

"What-ho guys? You were somewhat late getting to the party, and then we slept through your arrival!"

"We wanted you to get first dibs at the wines that were on offer, otherwise we might have arrived early.

Seriously now, are you all okay?"

"Yes, none the worse for wear.

How did we get out? My memory is still not back to where it should be. All I can remember is being hauled out of bed, frogmarched bollock naked at gunpoint down to the cellar, whereupon I was hogtied and dumped on the floor, Then the others were brought in together with all your staff, and told not to open our mouths. Shortly after that, the lights went out and I woke up in a hospital bed."

"They, as in the SAS blokes, pumped gaseous diamorphine into the cellar which laid you out. Four of the insurgents tried to make a run for it, but Thilo and I were waiting in the main hall and took them out.

We don't know what the sequence of events were after that as we were dragged into a meeting."

"But the other raiders were captured?"

"Oh yes. Definitely captured."

"You sound very sure of that?"

"Look. If I tell you, then what I say must never, ever leave this room, okay?"

"Like we're likely to go gobbing off! We're just very thankful to be alive."

"Okay. Yes, they were captured, then…… um…… dispatched."

"They shot them?"

"The term they used was Eliminated, but whatever. They were dead by the time they left the cellar."

Pete shuffled his feet on the carpet.

"Black ops. My Dad told me about them."

"That was the way they put it to us Pete."


"Yes. The two guys at that meeting we were dragged into. One was MI5, the other, MI6"

"The Dirty Tricks mob. They're the people who recommend such action to the PM."

"Your Dad told you about Dark ops?"

"Yep. He was Tony Blair's Permanent Private Secretary. Strange for a man whose political leanings are more akin to those of Genghis Kahn!"

"I don't suppose you necessarily have to agree with your boss' politics to do your job."

"That's the way he saw it."

Next to arrive were our backroom staff together with Mike, Alan. Geoff, Peter, Aaron and Tony.

A swift chat to the farm guys just to make sure they were okay, together with a promise to sit down with them later so we could talk about stuff, then onward to see the people who worked in the office.

This mightn't be so easy. Four young girls and an accountant not used to roughing it, would put my nannying skills though a severe test.

I took them through to the lounge leaving Thilo talking to the boys.

"Hello everyone. For those who don't know me, which I suspect is most of you, I'm Stephen Broadhurst, Charlie's son.

I feel a desperate need to apologise for the events of two days ago, but how I go about that is something I'm unsure of, as giving you every scrap of information, explain to you chapter and verse why it took place is something I'm being prevented from doing.

Let me just say that those people who kidnapped you and took you hostage weren't after you, they were after me and my friend Thilo Roker; they were just using you as a means by which they could get what they came for. Nothing more, nothing less."

A little pale-faced man in a crumpled suit made to stand up, but I motioned him to stay seated.

"May I ask a question of you Viscount?"

"Please. Ask away, but please will you call me Stephen?"

"Thank you. You are your father's son indeed.

We couldn't help noticing that the farm workers were regularly carrying rifles, so we thought something wasn't as it should be, but can you give us any reassurances that this situation has been dealt with successfully?"

"I wish I could, but I can't tell you that something like this will never happen again.

You are probably unaware that this isn't the first time Malvern Park has been the focus of attention by these people. Three times to be precise with the first one happening over the Easter break. The second one was only four days ago, and now this last episode, - all of which resulted in successful outcomes.

I don't know what might happen next, and I cannot in all conscience tell you otherwise."

"I won't be leaving your employ. Forty-eight years I've been here. I understand the financial workings of the estate blindfolded. I'm a confirmed bachelor living on my own. I play Mahjong in the most successful teams in the Midlands. I also play Bridge at much the same level and I'm active in amateur dramatics at the Malvern Theatre, but my life, my reason for getting out bed in the morning is this place."

"Thank you. You have no idea how relieved I am to hear that. The value of having good, experienced and loyal staff is incalculable. Mum and Dad might be away in Sicily, but he'll have been briefed about recent events, however what will be his main concern is the safety and wellbeing of everyone who works for us."

I turned my attention to the girls.

"Ladies? Someone once told me, that if I thought that I wouldn't like the answer, then it's probably wise not to ask the question, but I must.

Are any of you thinking of leaving us?"

One of the girls took up the mantle of spokesperson.

"We had time to think things over when we were in hospital. I hope you'll understand when I say that our initial reaction was one of handing in letters of resignation at the first available opportunity, but we needed that time to think things through, try and put a reasoned perspective on events and come to a rational decision rather than some knee jerk reaction done on the spur of the moment.

Working here is most people's idea of a dream ticket. Putting aside the fact that it would be hard to find similar positions elsewhere that paid the salaries we're drawing, we took account of the surroundings, the atmosphere and conviviality.

When your father heard that Sam, - that's my husband by the way, and I were thinking of starting a family, he sat me down and worked out a means by which I could take extended maternity leave, then flexible working so I could stay on rather than leaving and taking something part time. For a man in his position to take a personal interest in someone like me, a junior accountancy clerk, is something special. That's a long-winded way of saying that we none of us intend leaving."

"Thank you very much. Yes, that sounds just like Dad, but strip him naked, - not a pretty sight, and you'll see a bloke just like any other bloke.

Now, what I propose is that you go home and take what remains of the week off to be with your families. Also, I would appreciate it if you kept recent events low key. That's not to say that your husbands or partners can't be told what happened, they must be, but until such time as you are back to work and we've had the opportunity to hold a staff meeting, I'd rather you didn't make it a free for all for those outside of your immediate families."

"As I have no family to go home to, I'd much prefer to stay if you have no objections?"

"Mr Ericson? That has to be left up to you. If you want to stay, then that's absolutely fine."

Just then, Thilo poked his head around the door.

"Sorry for the interruption Steve, but there's been a phone call for you."

"Who from?"

"Charlie, and he'd appreciate you calling him back ASAP."

"Cheers, ta.

Why not come in and introduce yourself while I make that call?"

"Thanks for calling me back. Your mother's taken herself off to Catania for the afternoon, so I thought I'd call while she was gone."

"There must be a sale on at some swanky Italian shoe shop then!"

"She mentioned only window shopping, but being acutely aware of past window shopping excursions, I'm preparing myself for a sizable hit in the bank account department."

"She's on holiday Dad. What do you want for nothing! Anyway, sure as shit she wouldn't have wanted to be here this week."

"So I'm led to believe. We, as in I had a visit from the British Consulate. I know about what happened, but are you alright?"

"Fine, except for a minor panic attack yesterday. All the office and farm staff are back, and so far, no one is thinking of leaving us. We're still waiting for the house staff, - they'll be arriving later today."

"Why the panic attack?"

"Dad, I've killed four people, two were up close, and it was very gory.

I think I'm allowed."

"They didn't tell me that. All they said was the situations had been resolved with no fatalities or injuries on our side, so I assumed that the Special Forces people sorted it out."

"Can we talk about this once you're home? Given the circumstances, an open line is probably not the wisest?"

"Yes, okay.

Nice to hear we're not about to lose anyone at least, but just so as you know, Mum knows nothing about what's happened, I'll have to tell her at some point, but not while we're on holiday."

"I'd guessed as much. See you in a fortnight then."


I'll call again once we're at the airport. That'll give Simon enough time to come and collect us from Birmingham, most probably having paid excess baggage due to the vast quantity of shoes we're transporting!

Bye for now son."

I got back to the lounge to find Mr Ericson had left together with three of the girls, - the fourth girl was busily trying chat-up lines on Thilo, but blushed furiously when she saw me, made her excuses and hurried from the room.


"Yes, I think so! She asked if I had a girlfriend, so I told her the truth. Then she asked me if I wanted one. I told her no, and that I was gay. She asked if I had a boyfriend. Yes. I told her, I do. Then she wanted to know who it was, and did she know him."


"And what."

"And what did you tell her!"

"Oh that! I said that she knew him."

"For fuck's sake Thilo?"

"Just teasing you? I told her that you were my boyfriend, and not only that, I told her we were engaged. Do you mind?"

"No? Why should I mind? The truth will out eventually? Anyway, what was her reaction to this block busting piece of news."

"She thought it was cool, but then went on to say that I really should experience the other side of the coin before finally making up my mind, then you walked in and she walked out rather quickly having turned into a beetroot!"

"Ha-ha! Still, you can't blame her for trying. You are rather dishy!"

"Only Rather?"

"Stop fishing for compliments!"

"I've no need to fish for them. They get thrown my way all the time."

"Why do I get the feeling I'm going to come out on the wrong side of this discussion?"

"You're not going to, you already have!"

"Fine then!

Give me a kiss."


"We really should be in the kitchen. I don't want the rest of them turning up and find us relaxing."

"Okay. I'll kiss you in the kitchen instead."

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead