A dinner party was planned for a Sunday in July and there was talk of the Prince of Wales attending.

Miriam slept as Harry buttoned up his uniform looking out at the grey morning sky. He would need his oilskin cape for the sixteen-mile bicycle ride to Gables. He hated wearing his uniform cap when cycling, it was a size too large and slipped down his forehead.

The road was wet and greasy. Approaching Barnet, he raised himself to a standing position over the pedals and leaned forward to attack the steep incline. The cap slid over his eyes, a Morgan overtook closely, unseen and fast. His handlebars swung to the left, he fell sideways, his elbow catching the kerb.

Hours had passed when he was discharged from the hospital, in pain, his arm in a sling, his leg bruised. The front wheel was buckled. To straighten it, he lay the bicycle flat and jumped on the wheel then, with his one usable hand, worked with a spoke spanner. The wheel sprang back, S-shaped. He stored the bike in the cycle sheds and sought a westbound omnibus.

Omnibus services were infrequent on a Sunday and it took four slow 'buses to reach the corner shop. He limped the last mile to Gables. The cap was battered, the boots scuffed, the uniform muddy down the left side. He intended snaffling the garage

keys and smartening himself up unseen; however, the tradesmen's entrance was locked and he had to pull the bell. He was very late.

Mr Hicks himself opened the door, stood unmoving, looking down, taking in Harry's sling and scruffy appearance. "We no longer require your services. Return your uniform in the morning."

He closed the door.

Harry was stunned, then angry.

He recovered his composure, assessed the situation and rang again. No one answered. Nor the next time.

The anger rising in Harry's chest gave him the impetus to shoulder the back door to the garage.

He lifted the towropes from the boots of the Bentley and the Rolls and carried them over the crook of his good arm to the gate at the bottom of the drive. He returned for a bucket, filled it with water and carried it, heavy, to the gate. Half way, he lost his balance and spilled half of the water.

'Damn. I don't have time to go back for more.'

He closed the gate and tied a towrope around each gatepost, using a tricksy knot learned from Solly when erecting the boxing tent. He placed the bucket of water to his left and lay down beside it and alongside the gate. He sat up to tie the loose ends of one towrope around his ankles and pulled them tight.

'Wet rope'll be difficult to cut, but I don't have enough water.'

He lay on his back again, unbuttoned his flies, and aiming carefully, urinated firstly on the end around the gatepost, then along the rope and over his ankles.

Harry then buttoned his flies, twisted his body onto his right side and reached above his head as if making the victory gesture, tied the other towrope

around his wrists and pulled hard. He could just reach the bucket of water, which he poured over the rope attaching his wrists to the gatepost.

Satisfied, he relaxed his back on the gravel and waited.

 

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