You've got two minutes Ms Scortch, to persuade me not to call security. Sir Gregory Gangett recognised the forceful journalist who had covered the "Fat Cat" story about him, last year, under the headline I'm worth it. And no pictures, he added, observing that behind her was a unassuming young man with a camera. Serena Scortch was unfazed and seated herself in the leather chair facing Sir Gregory's desk. The young man, Simon, her sidekick, tried to melt into the wall. Ms S glared at him and he sat down in a chair there instead, clutching his camera on his lap. I'm waiting grunted Sir G. looking from Ms S to Simon.
I know where your wife, Lady Patricia, is announced Ms S. And son thought Simon and We would have been nice since it was actually he who had found them. Sir Gregory's face was a picture: beginning with faint interest, as perhaps concerning a minor employee, and moving through anger to undivided attention in a way clearly not normally part of his day. He wanted to say Where is the my .... but instead he countered with The public are not interested in my wife.
No, but those who back your elevation to the Peerage might be and Ms S gave what, on her lips, passed for a smile. And here Simon began to lose the plot, which for the sake of brevity is this. Ms S wanted the dirt on a certain MP who had been at the same party as Sir G the week before and, in return, she would disclose the whereabouts of his dear wife Patricia, Lady Gangett. Simon really switched off when he heard his boss ask a very impertinent question: Is your wife faithful......
So dear reader you might prefer to hear about Simon rather than this other unsavoury pair. He had got his present job with the abrasive Ms Scortch by virtue of the fact that she had been to school with his mother. The two ladies had nothing else in common. Simon's Mum had become a cleaner in this Gangett Building which is how they had managed to get in without security passes. Simon had played there, waiting for his mother after school. He had in fact become a close friend of Greg the older son of Sir Gregory and lady Patricia, but he had died tragically earlier this year.
Ms Scortch knew nothing of this. She had gone to the LSE and later became a journalist by getting the editor's wild student son out of an embarrassing arrest. She did not usually go in for favours herself, even to old school friends, but she wanted her own photographer and noone else at the paper would work with her. She's not a bad sort really, Simon's Mum had said to him. She was, but he was glad of the job anyway. And the editor liked his pictures even if Ms S always sneered at them.
The journey down to Dorset with Ms S had been bearable because they travelled first class and had a decent lunch and then Simon had posed as a jobbing photographer, moving among the deckchairs taking family pictures. Sir Gregory's wife and son did stand out a bit. She was dressed as if for an expensive health farm, swathed in a white fluffy robe and there, on another deckchair, was a posh school blazer and short grey trousers . Young Harry was on his knees in front of it scraping a hole in the sand with both hands. Behind them, people of all kinds passed to and fro, which initially annoyed the photographer, but then when a youth, a little younger than himself went by, Simon began to have an idea. The youth was puny and his bare torso clearly had not seen the sun for a decade. Simon used his telephoto lens to photograph them from a distance, so they did not see him. Later he followed Lady G back to a hotel.
Show him the photographs Simon Ms S repeated louder and Simon, returning from his memories, dutifully pulled out a sheaf of large photographs from his case and placed them on Sir Gregory's desk We could publish them snapped Ms S and then in a voice only available to a certain kind of journalist. That young man behind your wife, doesn't he work for you? Sir Gregory muttered inaudibly and turned his chair to face out of the window. Do we have a deal then?
They did have a deal and Sir G gave Ms S what she wanted to know about his friend and colleague. Ms Scortch assured him that she never betrayed her sources and gave him the address of the hotel. Simon found it depressing but he and his boss did not know three things about the situation:
Thankyou for your time Sir Gregory, said Simon politely as he followed Ms Scortch, who had said nothing as she swept through the door. Sir Gregory was on the telephone before the door closed. The hotel, which was owned by his company, confirmed that lady Gangett and Harry were staying there, but knew nothing about any third person with them. He called in the only person in his organisation whom he trusted, his secretary, the oldest person in his employ, who had known his father. Take a look at these he said Who is that person with my wife. Mrs Hammond looked and pointed out that the puny young man appeared in only two of the pictures, and on only one was his face reasonably clear. She thought his face familiar but could not place him and kept that thought to herself, as she had kept many thoughts to herself over the years she had served the Gangett Empire. Do you think my wife has a toyboy? Sir G continued. Mrs Hammond required all her years of experience to control her laughter: No sir I do not and then inspirationally, he's probably a friend of Harry's. Sir Gregory was consoled with that thought at first and continued with the day's work. Then that evening he had a different thought and wondered what that sort of scandal would do to his chances of a peerage? Other public figures had had trouble with wayward sons but........
The next morning he got a shock, the paper that the dreadful Ms Scortch worked for was on his desk and she had abandoned the made up story about his colleague. On page six there was an article and a picture. He could only read the headline and it contained the word TOYBOY. Sir Gregory's first thought was not about suing or about any family ramifications, but about his chances of a peerage now and he was very angry indeed. Mrs Hammond came in to tell him two things. He had to leave in 15 minutes for his appointment at the hospital to have his first cataract removed and there was a young man in the outer office who insisted on seeing him. By the time she had said that, Simon was at the open office door. Sir G wasn't listening, but Simon said his piece anyway. He had tried to stop her. He had pleaded with the editor and today he had resigned. Sir G rushed out to his appointment and while he was away Mrs Hammond telephoned the hotel.
When Sir Gregory returned to his office the next day with his eyesight half restored, his wife was waiting for him. She made him look at the picture in the newspaper again. But that's... Yes dear our son Gregory who died earlier this year. He's been visiting Harry because he couldn't find rest. Sir G sat down, more dumbfounded than he had ever been in his life. Why not he mouthed, rather than said. Do you remember when those things went missing? These were: a bottle of whisky, cigars, very expensive ones, and over £20 and Sir G remembered very well, though he didn't say so. It wasn't Harry who took them but your favourite (she said that without malice) Gregory. And you thrashed Harry for it. Sir G put his hands over his face. For the first time in his life he admitted to himself that he had been wrong about something. And then he did two other things that he hadn't done for a very long time, he went up to the room Harry had in the building and said sorry and unknowingly had a look on his face, which his son had never seen, that made him rush over to his father and receive a hug. Later, it must be said, Harry gave Simon an even bigger hug. Sir G still had not realised that Simon was regularly in the building when he was younger and had in fact looked after Harry.
The next issue of the Daily Scoop contained a family picture and an apology. The story told of how Harry had been punished for something his brother had done and how his brother's ghost had appeared to him, so that he had eventually to tell his mother. In the week following Lady Patricia appeared on endless daytime TV chat shows to talk about the ghost of their other son who had tragically died in a boating accident in Dorset, whilst on a school adventure holiday. How the public loved this heart warming story. And all sorts of experts and dubious mediums were brought in to discuss it. Even the Paper's editor, looking like everyone's favourite uncle, got to eulogise on his social responsibility
Ms Scortch did not lose her job, she continued writing her spiteful compassionless certainties, but she did lose her photographer. Simon came to work for Lord Gangett's empire and that pleased his Mum very much and his friend Harry of course. He remained unaware that the empty deckchair he had excluded from his pictures was actually for someone Lady Patricia's sons once called Uncle Harry.