In Defence of the Realm

Chapter 5

“First day at work after being promoted and you’re late, Mr Johns. Who do you think you are?”

I’d never seen Mr Brizelthwaite so angry before. Just as I was about to offer humble apologies he broke into a broad smile.

“Mr Johns, I don’t doubt that after your good news yesterday you took it upon yourself to dabble in a jar of mead or some such brew.”

I decided not to tell Mr Brizelthwaite about this morning’s altercation with an almost living jogging suit, and nodded, leaving him with his peculiar notion that I was late because I’d been drinking some stuff from the middle ages, the night before.

He winked at me. “Just make sure it doesn’t happen again, lad.”

“Ok, Mr Brizelthwaite.”

As I made my way to the sorting room, he gave me a friendly pat on the shoulder. I looked at him as I passed and he just nodded back at me with another wink.

I got the feeling that he knew something, though I couldn’t for the life of me fathom what it was – it certainly couldn’t be about Operation Dead Letter Day. That, had been furthest from my mind. I frowned as soon as the thought struck me, was I starting to believe in such mad things as mind reading? I sighed and shook my head. What an idiot I was being.


The clock swung quickly through lunch time and pounced upon mid-afternoon tea break. I made my way to the canteen with the others and sat down at an empty table. I didn’t feel like being disturbed. The thought of this evening’s special ops wasn’t sitting well with me. I liked working here. I liked the people I worked with. And I liked Jacob Brizelthwaite as well. It felt wrong.

Next to the canteen was Mr Brizelthwaite’s half-glassed office, the other side of which was the sorting room, where I worked. And at the back of the office, attached to the partition wall, were three room length shelves, the middle one of which held the enigma that was the unmarked lever-arch folder.

“Whoa!” I exclaimed as someone tapped me on the shoulder and propelled me out of my mental soliloquy.

“Derek, are you alright, lad?”

“Yes, Mr Brizelthwaite, just day-dreaming I suppose.” I didn’t like to lie and my reply didn’t feel like one.

“I was a bit concerned there for a minute, lad. I’ve an appointment I can’t get out of this coming afternoon and need someone to lock the place up. I pray you have no plans for this eve – if you have, no matter; I can ask one of the others.”

I fought very hard to quell the look of complete disbelief that wanted to explode across my face. I was certain I’d succeeded.

“Erm. Yes, yes, of course. No problem. I need to make up some time anyway…due to this morning’s little incident.”

Jacob laughed and patted me on the shoulder; then nodded. “Thank you, Derek. Before you leave make sure there’s no one left in the building – double-check by making sure all the time cards have been clocked out.”

“Ok, Mr Brizelthwaite. No problem.”

Jacob handed me the biggest bunch of keys I’d ever seen, picked his fedora from the hat stand and nodded at me again. “Anon,” he said.

As he left, I got the distinct feeling, once again, that he knew more about everything than he let on, and certainly more than anyone else.