tagMind ControlMy Only Talent Ch. 37

My Only Talent Ch. 37

byconanthe©

Chapter 37

Summer: A Broad


Note: The descriptions and accounts in these stories are fictional and do not portray any actual people or events

Sadly, there was no one even remotely resembling Elizabeth Ashcroft Knowles on the plane from DFW to LHR. Both my seat mates in coach had apparently, very apparently, had something with garlic, lots of garlic, to eat and then snored all the way over. I landed at Heathrow, and following the directions in the email from Abelard Peters HR people, I made my way through customs and the terminal where my flight had landed to the bus station, and then caught a bus to Victoria (bus) station, and then took another bus to Wingham, where there was what was mysteriously referred to as "a house block reserved" for contract employees like me.

I "enquired at the office" as the email suggested, only to discover it closed. The letter gave some complicated instructions on how to get to nearby Aylesham and how convenient it was to then catch buses and trains to anywhere from there. Right! I soon learned it was a pain in the arse, as they say here. It was not difficult to get to the station, and there were lots of trains and buses, but they took at least an hour to get anywhere, even longer if you had to change lines.

As I circled the building looking for the manager, I noticed it was as old as any structure on the ESU campus. Historic, but not particularly attractive. The town reminded me a little of Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, except it was much smaller, and everyone drove on the wrong side of the street, so all the traffic signs looked weird, too. There were plenty of trees and shrubs and hedges, and some very narrow streets in the middle of town. I guess it doesn't really matter what side you drive on if the street is only wide enough for one car. I did a circle search around the address where I presumed I was supposed to stay, and wondered how many bedrooms there were and if I was expected to share one. I also fretted about how long it might take to get to and from the tunnel embarkation point.

I had circled about a four by four block area by this time, and arrived back at my departure point, pleased to find the door open, indicating that perhaps the office was too. A chubby, bearded guy in his 60's sat behind the desk. He smiled, displaying the worst looking and most yellowed teeth I had seen since my chain smoking teacher Miss Kuratko in fourth grade.

"Roberts, are you?"

"Robbie Roberts, yes." I smiled weakly.

'Welcome to Wingham. Here's your package." He handed me an odd sized envelope about three quarters of an inch thick, full of paper.

"You are in number four, around the back." He then turned back to magazine he was reading. If my reverse reading skills were on, it was called 'What Hi-Fi?'

I realized he had already tuned me out completely. I looked in the envelope and discovered a key on a brass ring, and decided to make my way 'around back' and look, slipping on my backpack and carrying my suitcase and duffle. Number four proved to be up a narrow staircase, with a little rain awning above the door.

The key worked after a few tries, and first impressions were not good. The smell of stale cigarette smoke permeated everything. I think the walls were once white, but now they were a very light shade of urine yellow remarkably like Husky's target hydration level chart color that was assigned by the ESU football strength and conditioning coach. The place made my eyes itch.

I dropped my stuff near the door and searched for windows to open. The ones I found were mostly painted shut, but I retrieved my handy dandy Swiss Army knife from my suitcase and set to work. Despite being early June, it was cool, in sharp contrast to Texas summer heat. A draft developed, and I hoped it would be able to dissipate the smell soon. I made a mental note to search for a store that sold Febreze, or whatever the English equivalent might be.

I sat near the window that seemed to be functioning as an intake, and therefore upwind from the maximum odor point, and took all the stuff out of the envelope. The chair and table might euphemistically be described as 'distressed', but in the manner that makes used things cost less, not antique things cost more. The cloth lamp shade, once perhaps white linen, now matched the color of the walls. Ewww!

There was of course the inevitable and almost unreadable thick photocopy of a policy and procedures manual, both for Groupe Eurotunnel SE for the tunnel overall, and a section for contractors of Tier Group like me. According the front cover, I was now responsible for knowing the contents in toto backwards and forwards, lest my employment be terminated. There was a check on Lloyd's Bank for my first two weeks of per diem expenses, as in future I would receive per diem funds in my pay envelope. My dad had given me the short course on modern business travel, so my phone was activated and I had a separate but 'backstopped' debit card that worked in Britain and Europe. I had to remember to transfer funds to the account as required. I soon realized how spoiled I was with the ESU campus and its pervasive Wi-Fi installation that provided speedy and reliable connections in every nook and cranny, as that was certainly not the case here. My phone hadn't displayed the Wi-Fi or 4G icons since leaving the airport.

Google maps told me there was no grocer nearby, but there were many in Canterbury. A foray into the kitchen revealed a refrigerator smaller than Kevin's dorm room unit, and sans the icemaker, so Febreze was still top of my shopping list. Further delving into the envelope produced a temporary paper ID pass with a note attached that a permanent photo ID would be generated at the required orientation session to be held the day after tomorrow at Folkestone. It might take me that long to get there using the scheduled buses!

I finally found a "Read Me First" sheet, conveniently located at the back of the stack of stuff. It assuaged my transportation fears a bit, as apparently there was a contracted for shuttle bus service that ran several times per day between Sandwich Bay and Folkestone, stopping at several places along the route where employees were lodged. That made more sense, and should take a lot less time, even with all those stops. The last thing I found was a perfumed pink envelope addressed in a flowing hand. It looked very promising, but read:

"Robbie Roberts: We hope you enjoy your time this summer in our English countryside. Unfortunately, we will not be able have you spend time with our family as we hoped. You should read the section of the employee handbook on nepotism and fraternization, but the short story is that Abelard and I have come under much unwanted scrutiny, both by the press and the legal profession, because of some of our weekend parties and tennis matches. It seems a few couples involved in hotly contested and very unpleasant marriages and divorce actions have cited things that happened at our parties as key incidents, including two former employees who allege damage to their marriages as a result of their employment, plus improper termination. Of course, these suits have no merit whatsoever, but it will take time for them to be resolved. We are pulling into our shells, so to speak, to ride out the storm. The twins are traveling abroad, well removed from paparazzi and unwanted attention, and Abelard and I will have to keep our own counsel for the next few months. Missing you, Belinda Hatch-Peters."

Shit and double shit! My summer plans for many exciting weekends with the twins just evaporated and disappeared. Fizz, pop!

My stomach growled loudly. Time to become a hunter gatherer. Find Febreze and supper, in that order of priority. Canterbury was only about 5 miles away, and I had been cooped up in an airplane all day, so it was time for a little hike. It was too cool for running shorts, so I put on a pair of worn jeans and my jogging shoes, and long sleeve Cutter and Buck cotton knit shirt my mother had given me for my birthday. It was light charcoal grey with a very subdued burnt orange logo, and it felt great against my skin.

I unpacked my suitcase and hung up my clothes in the tiny closet, and made my way outside and down the little stairs. When I got outside, I realized I had already accommodated to the awful smell in the room, and now the outside air smelled incredibly fresh and wonderful. I consulted the map on my phone, and started the trek: south on Preston Hill and then west on the A257, aka Canterbury Road. I passed a 'newsagent' which proved to be like a little convenience store, with a selection of magazines, newspapers, and a bunch of strange cigarette and vape brands, but they did not have Febreze. My UDP ambassador training kicked in, and I considered buying a copy of "What Hi-Fi?" to enable me to schmooze the apartment manager. Maybe on the way back. The cars facing the wrong way made me uncomfortable, even as a pedestrian. I laughed at my own joke: that really was a pedestrian concern, wasn't it?

I passed the tiny Lloyd's bank branch and stopped to cash my meager per diem check. They looked at me funny when I spoke. I located a couple of pubs as I turned to the west, and then passed out of the town proper to find open fields, then more houses and hedgerows. Everything was very well kempt and green. My grandmother would be impressed. A gas station had a little store, but also no Febreze.

There were narrow shoulders to walk on, but they switched from one side of the road to another often. Then the shoulders narrowed to almost nothing for a while. It was a two-lane road with quite a bit of traffic. I passed through Littlebourne but did not see a grocery there. More open fields and some shady tree lined areas led me further west, until coming upon a golf club and hospital, and encountering other pedestrians for the first time. I was in Canterbury.

The population density increased rapidly as I walked further. Then the road wound around and ended in a traffic circle, surrounded by lots of retail shops. I walked across the circle and saw a Burger King sign. I suppose they won't have any Whataburger restaurants here. The Superdrug store had Febreze, so they first part of my quest was done! There were now lots of other shoppers on foot, and even an attractive woman sending some restrained Suzie for me. Things were looking up. My mood improved slightly.

As did the signal on my phone: solid 4G. I continued west and saw a big red and white building marked "Kent Fire and Rescue Service", then another traffic circle and an office building with a sign that said Baptist Church. My eyes were drawn to a big cathedral in the middle of everything and I walked toward it. It really was the center of things. A little more random walking found a Subway sandwich shop: familiar but not particularly attractive. I realized that I was now quite hungry.

Google suggested Super Noodles, and remembering my happy experience with the Chinese food that Reggie had procured near Horse Guards on my last trip, I went with that. It was not as good as Reggie's suggestion, but the price was very reasonable, and the fare hot and filling. I felt much better. I circled back around the Cathedral to the north and east and made my way back to the A257, passing by the ruins of an old abbey on the way.

The walk back to Wingham seemed to take less time.

On the way, I pulled out my phone and called Peggy, getting her voicemail. I left a brief message that I had just arrived for the summer, as previously advertised, and wanted to get together. Maybe I could still have some fun weekends.

I got back to my new abode just before complete darkness set in. The open windows may have taken the edge off the cigarette smell, but it was still awful. I deployed the Febreze hopefully and enthusiastically, conducting my own little hazmat drill. I couldn't find any more windows to open. Maybe if I wiped down the walls? I added paper towels to my shopping list.

Finally, about 11 PM GMT, I went to bed trying to get on the local sleep cycle.

+++++++++++++++++++

Dwight slept fitfully on the plane, if at all. His own built in scenario generator was running wild. Were the shooters there to kill all the techies, including him, after a mission this sensitive was accomplished? Why then did the shooters know the overall goals and importance of the mission and the techies were not briefed? Was there a lot of opposition expected, so they needed redundant techies and counter snipers to complete the mission? He was also tired, he had little sleep in California last night, and jumping ahead 8 times zones was always a little weird. They landed at Biggin Hill, and Jones directed the others to go into the FBO while Dwight stayed behind.

Miss Jones furrowed her brow. "I can see you are puzzling through why things have been set up like they have. It's because, although you will complete the mission successfully, you will die in the process."

She waited for Dwight to respond, and finally he did. "Seems like it could get done without that being required."

She smiled. "Oh, it could. It will. But the other techies are here to witness and testify to your demise, and the shooters are here to make it look highly believable. It is a convenient way to tie up the loose ends without further investigation and close out your career in the field to start your new one, in management, with a whole new identity."

Dwight's eyes rose in alarm.

She raised a hand, as if to say stop. "Your new identify will include Carmencita, don't worry."

But he did worry, a lot. Perhaps this was a tale designed to have him remain calm until they actually shot him. More thinking was required.

+++++++++++++++++++

Suzanne Pliskin was being torn in half, emotionally. It was so wonderful that Mike was awake, but he was still in terrible condition, and even the most optimistic prognosis had him weak and sickly for a long time. Perhaps forever. But if she didn't support him, or even hinted that she wouldn't take him back, his fate would be depressingly sealed. His parents were overjoyed, but his mom was already getting a little possessive of him. Talking to Robbie on the phone had ripped her guts out, too. She couldn't quite figure his mood. He was probably in shock, too. He sent her an email about his departure for England, but her phone had been off so she could sleep.

Mike's parents would be back soon, and she would head back to Austin. What would it be like without Robbie and Nora there? How would Lara feel about Suzanne's decision to go back to Mike? She found it very hard to get back in touch with Robbie. What would she say to him?

+++++++++++++++++++

I woke early, local time. Very late for Texas time. I was starving, and there was nothing in the refrigerator. I put my clothes from last night back on, and Googled for breakfast, centering on something called the Farm Shop and Café. I walked south past the turn off to Canterbury. There were even narrower shoulders, but a little less traffic, and some serious hedgerows. I turned off to the left and then bore right and arrived at what I would describe as a combination general store, grocer, butcher shop and short order café. Not bad. No kippers, which I had developed a taste for on my last trip, but plenty of sausage, bacon and eggs. They also sold flowers and gardening supplies. I could survive here if need be. Not cheap, but good. I got some paper towels and another container of Febreze for good measure.

I was the only customer that walked rather than drove in. Most were large families in small cars, or car pool groups in business attire, and I was guessing the area was mostly a bedroom community for people who commuted elsewhere. Next, back to the apartment to do another round of Febreze hazmat service, clean up, then try to preview the shuttle bus route that I would have to ride tomorrow. The stop was supposed to be near the post office. When it arrived, it could be described as a triple-size minivan or a half size bus, but my little paper ID card got me on for free and the driver confirmed it shuttled back and forth to Folkestone.

I settled in to my seat to peruse the scenery, and a text pinged in, from Peggy!

It was not good news. "Robbie. We can't go visit Belinda and Abelard anymore, and I'm in a serious relationship with a model I met though Jessica, who was with Alexis Quandry on the yacht with us. I have promised her I will not see other people. Hope you are well."

Well, that takes the cake! My lovely Peggy was no longer excessively heteronormative, and once again, I was the dumpee. All my summer plans had just evaporated, sublimated, went up in smoke and transmogrified into nothingness. Shit, double shit, triple shit.

I looked out the bus window in a daze. The bus went south, past my breakfast place, and on to Aylesham, were we picked up three very British looking guys in their 30's. They sat by themselves as far from me as possible. We took a little jog and the signs said we were on A260. Two more guys got on in Hawkinge, arguing about supporting Arsenal versus West Ham. Makes no difference to me.

We circled around Folkestone a bit and then three guys got off at the freight terminal and the other two at the vehicle departure area. The driver asked me where I was headed.

"Orientation, but tomorrow. Today I'm just checking things out."

"Oh, another yank with OCD! Well, tomorrow tell the driver that you are going to orientation, and they'll drop you at Holiday Inn Express conference room."

"Thanks." I think.

He laughed. "For the whole experience, stay on all the way back through Wingham and then on to Sandwich Bay, then back to Wingham. Thrill a minute, that!"

"Thanks." I think.

I spent the rest of the 90 minutes considering my depressing situation, until the bus dropped me off near the post office again. All I could think of that was positive was finding someplace to do my wind sprints, and the road to Canterbury would not do. I would get hit by a car for sure. So, I began wandering around, looking for a field, a track, a trail, whatever.

As I walked down High Street, just north of the river, I saw a fit looking couple in rugby style jerseys and shorts turn off on a little almost unmarked lane. I followed, and soon found a little park. The sign on the open-sided shelter said it was a "recreation ground" and it had a soccer field, some playground stuff, and the funniest looking baseball diamond I had even seen. But, there was plenty of room for me to run on ground instead of pavement, and there was no one else in sight.

I did my sprint, run, walk, sprint routine with some push-ups and sit-ups between sets for more than the normal number of reps until I was really feeling the burn. That was the best way I had found so far to root out bad or depressing feelings. After my workout, I crossed the road and went east and then south, to see other parts of the village. I wondered as I wandered, enjoying the scenery, when I saw a miniature version of the Kent Fire and Rescue station that I saw in Canterbury.

Only a one stall garage, and a little two-story plus training and/or observation tower, but nice landscaping. A fire crew was out on the drive, packing stuff into the lockers on the firetruck, rolling out and examining hoses, and washing things. They were all wearing black pants and dark navy-blue shirts. I was used to navy pants and light blue shirts in Austin.

Suddenly I saw her. I first noticed that she filled out the uniform top a lot better than the others. She was tall -- at least 5 feet 10 inches. She was strong -- she was handling her end of a heavy hose just like the guys were. Then she bent deep at the knees to put it on the ground -- lifting with her legs as I'm sure she had been trained to do. What legs they were. She turned away from me, and her ass spoke to me. Muscular, strong, and generous. Very generous, and I'll wager not an ounce of cellulite -- just toned muscle and excellent smoothing tissue on top. I suddenly knew she would have no trouble passing the required tests for climbing, lifting and carrying. She was likely just as strong as any of the guys working here, and I bet she weighed at least 150 pounds.

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