tagNovels and NovellasNo Future Ch. 34

No Future Ch. 34

bybradley_stoke©

XXXIV
Honourable Service
Tamara
2096



A woman in her mid-thirties strode about the grounds of Zoe's estate. She was wearing a smart suit of the kind only ever worn by female business executives. There was a rhythmic clicking of her high heeled stilettos on the paved stones as she walked along the path. Tamara cautiously opened the front door to the house. It would be foolish to pretend she wasn't in, even if it was to receive the eviction notice that she'd been anticipating for well over a year now.

The woman looked up from her tablet PC where she'd been making notes with her fingers and regarded Tamara who was standing in a tee-shirt and shorts at the top of the front door steps.

"You must be Tamara," she said.

"Yes."

"Zoe's lesbian lover?"

"Yes."

"You can't be more than a third her age. Was she really still interested in romance at her age?"

"I guess I must be proof of that."

"Well, indeed," said the woman who again consulted her tablet PC. She strode towards Tamara and outstretched her hand. "Allow me to introduce myself. I'm Theresa. I'm the executor for Miss St. John-Easton's estate."

Tamara shook hands with Theresa who scrutinised her rather more intently than she was comfortable with.

"I assume you must be wondering what will happen next," said Theresa. "You've been living here for quite a long time. Including the time when Zoe was still alive, it must be at least two years. I imagine you'd almost come to think that this was really your home."

Tamara nodded.

"Shall we go inside?" suggested Theresa. "We can discuss matters in more comfort there."

Tamara escorted Theresa to the living room where the television was burbling on about the outbreak of plague in Ireland and the suspicion expressed by Irish scientists had that it might be associated with a genetic engineering lab based in England. Tamara turned off the set and settled into the sofa while Theresa sat primly in the leather armchair opposite.

"As you probably know, Tamara," said Theresa, "there was no will left by the deceased. That's no surprise. The real surprise is that Zoe survived so long after all those years of sustained drug abuse. My mother was next in line to inherit the St. John-Easton estate and even that was hard to demonstrate in court. This was especially so since she died a few years ago. And that means the entire estate has been bequeathed to me."

"Was your mother related to Zoe?" wondered Tamara.

"Only through her grandfather. And she was hardly at all acknowledged as such. She was the lovechild of Eden St. John-Easton's father. The only reason that there is a verifiable trace to Zoe's father is that my grandmother was the wife of his valet. My grandfather man was also Zoe's grandfather. My mother was younger than Zoe when she died. It's ironic, isn't it? My mother who led a blameless life, bore a bastard and cared for by one of Eden St. John Easton's servants, died of cancer before Zoe whose lifestyle was so excessive that no one believed she could survive her twenties." Theresa bit her lip and raised her eyebrows. "My mother waited a long time for her inheritance and she missed her opportunity. Instead, it's been left to me."

"It must be a great deal of money."

"It most certainly is, Tamara," said Theresa. "But it's not as much as it once would have been. It's nothing like the fortune it was before Zoe's father died. Few of his prime investments had a long-term future: especially those in the news and media. And it's not as if Zoe had squandered it all. Her allowance was generous but she was never allowed full access to the St. John-Easton fortune. Her father knew that it would just end up in her veins."

"I'm sure she wouldn't have been that excessive."

"Are you really sure, Tamara? Or are you just saying that?"

"I don't know," Tamara admitted.

"The St. John-Easton business empire held a very wide portfolio. The investments weren't just in media, government contracts, arms and retail. There were many that were never declared to the English taxman and whose existence was known only to his private accountants. One such investment was Empire Cleaning Services. You may have heard of them."

Tamara didn't know what to say. She tried to look as nonchalant as she could.

"A cleaning company?"

"They were a private home cleaning agency once upon a time. When St. John-Easton acquired the business they were one of countless cleaning agencies that supplied employment to immigrants and asylum seekers, usually women, who were willing to make a living by cleaning the homes of the relatively prosperous. The business took advantage of the low wages such people were willing to accept and provided them with legitimate employment while legislation regarding immigrant workers became steadily tighter. After he acquired the company, it diversified into other areas where it soon became been quite a lucrative earner for the St. John-Easton estate. In short, Tamara, Zoe was your employer in a way that neither of you was aware of when you came to be her lesbian lover."

"She was?"

"You can't deny that you worked for Empire Cleaning Services. I've seen their employment records. Was it as an employee that you came to be resident at Miss St. John-Easton's estate? And if it was, I doubt very much that it was to actually keep the place clean. That was provided by Think Clean Ltd. They provide services at a quite reasonable rate, although their business actually is exclusively related to the aim of keeping their clients' property clean. Admittedly, like Empire Cleaning Services, they can be relied upon to be discreet, but not in quite the same way."

"I'm not sure what you're suggesting."

"Aren't you, Tamara?" said Theresa who looked directly at her with a not especially friendly smile. "Are you sure you can't guess what I'm suggesting?"

"No."

"Okay," said Theresa. "I'll spell it out to you. Zoe was not a woman with much of a history of committed relationships over her many years. It's obvious that she did have some relationships—her history of abortions is evidence of that—but at no stage did she ever maintain a stable relationship with anyone she was intimate with. In the last twenty or so years, the only sexual relations she'd had at all were ones she paid for and those were exclusively with men. There is a record of transactions with agencies whose principal business is to supply the services of what might charitably be called gigolos. There is no evidence to suggest that Zoe was likely to have a Sapphic relationship this late in her life."

"But she obviously did," Tamara continued to assert.

"Did she?" wondered Theresa with a bit of a frown. "All those years of substance abuse and principally heterosexual recreational sex; and then you walk into her life. One moment you're an employee of Empire Cleaning Services and the next you're her lover. There isn't much in your records that makes that plausible. You're an asylum seeker from the Middle East, I believe. Where from, in particular? Jordan? Syria? Which one of those nuclear wastelands?"

"Israel."

"Israel, hmm," said Theresa thoughtfully. "No wonder you don't want to return home. Your passport's not much use to you now, is it? Are you Jewish?"

"Yes."

"Israel doesn't have many friends left, does it? The Second Diaspora they call it. Is that so? Are you part of that?"

"I am," said Tamara with resignation.

Theresa pursed her lips. "A Jewish prostitute," she said bluntly. "Not however one who's shown much appetite for lesbianism. You had plenty of opportunity while employed at Empire Cleaning Services to work for female clients. This is an option often taken by employees with no previous history of Sapphic inclination simply because there's less risk of physical punishment. You were one of a minority who showed no inclination to even pretend to be a lesbian. And yet you claim to be the first female lover in Zoe's long life. Doesn't that seem strange to you?"

Tamara was defeated. "Yes, it does."

"I thought you might," said Theresa. She looked around the living room which had been vacuum-cleaned just a day or so before. "Well, Tamara, you've had access to my aunt's home for a good long time. I'm glad to see you haven't trashed it. The security guards told me that there have been no incidents of wild parties. No orgies. No drug binges. In fact, you've not invited even one of your friends or ex-colleagues to stay at all. Very commendable."

"Thank you," said Tamara sheepishly.

"However, as you probably know, you have no actual right to continue to reside in the property," continued Theresa. "There is no verifiable proof that you ever had a relationship with Zoe, intimate or not. There seems to be no good reason for you to have been here at all. The most charitable explanation is that you were here to keep her company while she was taking illegal drugs. A less charitable one is that you were the one who supplied her with such narcotics. I don't need to know what you did, but I do need to make it clear to you that there is no reason for me to let you stay in what is now my Surrey estate."

Tamara nodded her head. "I understand that."

"I'm a reasonable woman," continued Theresa. "Whatever relationship you may have had with my aunt is neither here nor there, but I can understand why you might be reluctant to return to life outside the protection of the estate walls. I've seen the news stories about Jews being lynched by angry mobs. It sounds rather mediaeval, doesn't it? Only this time the peasantry of England is mingled with the vocal encouragement of the Muslim community. It's not a good time to be a Jew. Even those whose families have never been remotely near Israel for hundreds of years are at the raw end of the new age of intolerance. I take it you don't want to be lynched?"

"No, not at all."

"My grandfather was lynched. Of course, I wasn't even born when that happened. Those were the great London Riots that precipitated martial law and the dissolution of the United Kingdom. They seem like a quiet day in the park compared with the bread riots, race riots and civil disorder that are daily occurrences these days. I don't want to see you lynched even though I think you've been deceitful and thieving and duplicitous. You might be a drug-dealing Jewish whore, but you don't deserve that."

"No, I don't."

"There is no question that you will have to leave this estate. The decorators are moving in within the month and I need you to be out by then. You do understand that there is no choice in the matter, Tamara?"

"I do," said Tamara nodding her head. She'd been expecting to be evicted for so long that now that it was happening it seemed to be following a pre-ordained course.

"There are two options I'd like you to consider," said Theresa. "Well, there is a third, of course, which is that you just walk out of the estate and take your chances on the streets of Surrey. I'm sure there are plenty of opportunities still for drug-dealing and prostitution. One of the two choices is that you return as an employee of Empire Cleaning Services which you will be pleased to know is an option that remains open to you despite the fact that you left their employment without serving your notice period. Is that an option for you?"

"It might be," admitted Tamara.

"The other is that you work for one of the many nursing homes owned by the St. John-Easton estate."

"Nursing homes?"

"A substantial number of nursing homes were built in the middle of the century just before my grandfather died. There was an aging population and many elderly people had the wealth and resources to afford to spend their twilight years in various kinds of care home. The retirement industry is less lucrative nowadays than it was then. Fewer people can save enough money to meet the expense of constant care and the state no longer takes up the slack. Only a very few can now afford to stay at such places. I don't know what happens to the rest. Perhaps they just die miserable deaths. My grandfather could see a growing business opportunity and so he invested in it. I'm offering you an option that might be well suited to a bright woman like you and that is to work as a care assistant in one of the many thousands of nursing homes I now happen to own. What do you think?"

Tamara frowned. This was a career choice that had never once occurred to her before.

"It is an option," she said glumly.

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