Cabinet Secretary Sir Edd Evans-Morley scrutinised the three ashen faces before him with some cautious satisfaction. He had unexpectedly come across the trepidous trio scampering through the corridors of Number Ten, clearly agitated and, in the case of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, somewhat tearful. Sir Edd knew that nervous people were vulnerable people; vulnerable people were easily persuaded and could be used to his advantage.
“Well, well!” said Sir Edd, a macabre smile teasing his lips. “What do we have here? Now, would you chaps like to tell me just what you are up to?”
Chancellor Ian Risk lingered at the back, leaving Minister for Culture, Media & Sport Mick Canning and Minister for Good Ideas & Gin Dr Samantha Martens exchanging worried glances and little option but to answer Sir Edd. Dr Martens swallowed hard and held up the journalist’s phone.
“The press have got some pictures,” she replied flatly. Sir Edd narrowed one eye.
“Pictures? What pictures?” the Cabinet Secretary thrust out his hand and glared at the phone.
Dr Martens couldn’t get it out of her hands quickly enough. No one dared breathe and all that could be heard was the faint swoosh of fingertip on touchscreen. Before long, Sir Edd raised his head and let his gaze rest upon Ian.
“Well, I can’t say they’ve caught your best side, dear chap” smirked Sir Edd. “But this, in itself, isn’t too incriminating, there is little in the way of context attached. But they certainly are some very strange pictures, Chancellor, would you care to explain?”
Ian thrust his hands into the pockets of his eye-wateringly expensive pink trousers and exhaled at length. His trademark vibrant outfit did nothing to lift his pallid expression.
“I had to get to the Botanical Gardens quite urgently,” he replied.
Sir Edd’s eyebrows raced to meet his hairline and a small gasp made a bid for freedom.
“Does the Prime Minister know anything about this?”
“Not yet, Sir Edd,” Ian forced down the rising panic.
Sir Edd got that warm, fuzzy feeling in his stomach that always arose when he had gained the upper hand.
“Then I rather think she must, don’t you?”
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister and Wing Commander Tom were having a far more cordial engagement with Minister of Defence, Lord Daniel Westington. They had found him in his office attending to the expanse of luxurious hair that occupied most of his face. His flowing beard was conditioned to perfection and crowned by an enormous moustache, waxed to within an inch of its life. It was said that the elaborate bristles were employed to disguise the many battle scars Lord Westington had collected during his extensive military service. He certainly had a reputation for tackling problems face-on, quite literally, perhaps. His fearsome countenance was the antithesis of the smooth, understated features of Tom, which were covered once again by the brim of his artfully positioned fedora.
“So you’re telling me, Lord Westington, that all the weapons sent by President Alatorre are locked away in your armoury here at Number Ten?”
“That’s right, Tom,” replied Lord Westington. “Apart from one box of handguns, which we really couldn’t squeeze in anywhere, so we hid them in the shed.”
“In the shed?!” spluttered Lucy.
“This is very serious,” muttered Tom. “Who has access to the shed?”
“Oh, it’s perfectly secure,” Lord Westington replied “There’s a great big padlock on the door. We had to get a key from Mumsie.”
Tom slid a notebook from his jacket pocket and began carefully writing, while Lucy pondered the effectiveness of padlocks. There was a knock at the door. Before Lord Westington could answer, the door swept open and a haughty Sir Edd presented himself.
“Sorry to disturb you, Prime Minister,” he announced.
“You don’t bloody well look sorry to me!” Lord Westington spat.
Sir Edd ignored him completely and entered the room, fretfully pursued by Ian, Mick and Dr Martens.
“Edd, what’s the meaning of this?” demanded Lucy, twisting round in her seat to address him.
Sir Edd winced. He hated it when people didn’t use his title.
“Prime Minister, the press are on our doorstep and they are wanting answers, I’m afraid.”
“The press?” Lucy jumped to her feet. “Why are the press on our doorstep? Answers to what?”
“They’ve got some photos!” Dr Martens pushed passed Sir Edd to stand by Lucy, by way of moral support.
“Oh no,” Lucy clapped a hand to her mouth. “Not of the peace treaty?”
“No, not that,” Dr Martens said quickly.
“Not that either.”
Sir Edd passed the phone to Lucy. The Prime Minister viewed the pictures with some amusement. At first glance, they seemed to depict an incredibly low-budget action movie of some kind. Upon closer inspection, it was clear to see that the photos were portraying an amusing scene featuring our very own Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although the pictures were not of startling quality, his flamboyant pink trousers and striped blazer were unmistakable. He was climbing down a drainpipe in the poring rain, before losing his footing about half the way down and sliding the rest of the way to the floor. There then follows a distinctly inelegant landing, culminating in a wobbly escape down the street.
“What the bloody hell were you playing at, Ian?” Lucy laughed. This really wasn’t so bad. It made him look a little strange, but that was practically a prerequisite for Chancellors. “Just tell them you’ve been under a lot of stress or something. Actually, this is quite funny, it could be a nice light-hearted story about the Government for a change.”
“Prime Minister, I am rather worried that one of them might have followed me,” Ian’s voice was barely above a whisper.
“Why? Where were you going?”
“To the Botanical Gardens.”
“Well, that’s alright, isn’t it?” Lucy failed to understand quite why everyone was so solemn.
Sir Edd was more than happy to enlighten her.
“Prime Minister, there is something you should know about the Botanical Gardens.”