Mr. Happy – Chapter 8

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Nathan Phillips and Ray Moore were dressed in suits that were probably forty years out of date, which meant that their appearance occasionally elicited puzzled glances from passers-by. It was all they had been able to find in the limited amount of time that they had to prepare for the jump. Although they had been in England for two days the two men had resisted the urge to purchase new clothing. Both men agreed that the less contact they had with the inhabitants the better. This had not stopped them, however, from undertaking a little reconnaissance.

Since arriving, the two men had visited Mayor Street on a number of occasions in order to get a first-hand look at the contact point. From a secluded vantage point they had even been able to watch David Griffin twice pass by the contact point. On one occasion he had been alone, but on the second occasion a young girl had accompanied him. This was a fact that Phillips and Moore both found troubling.

The two men purposefully kept well away from the Phoenix Hotel, even though it would have been possible to warn Slater about the fate that awaited him. Instead, Moore had used a primitive telephone to make a call to the Holiday Inn. He had been told that there were no rooms available due to a last-minute block booking. This would help explain why Slater had booked into the Phoenix.

The sheer recklessness of what they were doing was ever-present in Ray Moore’s mind. Now that he was here he regretted allowing himself to be caught up in Nathan Phillip’s enthusiasm. He had never seen Nathan like that before. In the twenty or so years they had worked together, Nathan had always been reluctant to leave anything to chance. He was a perfectionist: everything had to be worked out to the smallest detail before Phillips would even begin to consider taking action. It was an attitude that kept him in his job, even though there were a number of younger men – including Moore – who were perfectly capable of overseeing the project.

Moore was not to know that Phillips had been grimly contemplating retirement ever since finding a small lump under his armpit last January. The doctors told him that it was inoperable and had given him the best part of a year. The drugs held off the pain but they could not hold off the sense of failure. Phillips had spent his life in the dark corridors of the Bunker; he’d lost count of the number of attempts that had been made to unravel this unholy mess. Had anything really been achieved in all that time?

Nathan Phillips had made several jumps; including two visits to 22nd century America and a brief visit to 19th century Germany. He could still remember the excitement that he felt when he made his first jump and had been keeping a watchful eye on his companion. As Ray Moore had never before made a jump Phillips was concerned about the slim possibility of Palmer’s Syndrome. This was a set of symptoms that could sometimes affect first-timers that ranged in seriousness from cold sweats and dizzy spells to hysteria and loss of consciousness. Opinions were divided as to the cause of Palmer’s Syndrome. Some believed it was a reaction to the jump itself that caused the symptoms; others argued that the syndrome was brought on by the bombardment of new images, sounds and smells that overpowered the senses after a jump, sending the traveller’s brain into an uncontrollable tailspin.

Much to Phillips’s relief his travelling companion had suffered none of the above, aside from a constant urge to smile in awe at what he was witnessing. To see people able to walk freely through the streets, to hear the shouts of excited children playing in the parks, the cars, the buses, the metallic airplanes that regularly carved an arc across the sky. Wasn’t this what we really fighting for, thought Moore, the chance to live again like this?

Twentieth century England was every bit and more than Moore had imagined it would be. The air smelled cleaner – indescribably cleaner, the sun shone with a brightness that was beyond comprehension, the sea lapped against the pebbled beach with an unconcerned ease that for Moore was both comforting and thrilling. But even though Moore could have spent a lifetime studying the things that for the people who passed him by in the streets were impossibly nondescript, he was constantly aware that he was here for a reason. There was a job to be done, and the quicker that job was completed the better.

Nathan and Moore had been watching David Griffin’s house for two days. They were beginning to grow accustomed to his habits. Griffin was an early riser who liked to walk. He walked constantly: to the university in which he worked, to the alcohol house where he sat with friends for several hours before exiting on unstable legs. Sometimes Griffin would just walk to nowhere in particular, taking in the sights and sounds of the city, letting the sun burn his skin an even deeper brown.

Late last night Griffin had returned home arm in arm with a young girl. His two shadows watched from the darkened street as the lights in Griffin’s house went on and off. First the kitchen light, then the bathroom light, then the bedroom light. The girl was a problem. The two men would have liked to have been able to approach Griffin when he was alone; indeed, this was a necessity. But they were running out of time – the longer they stayed in this place the more the danger increased.

This was the second night in succession that the girl had slept at Griffin’s house. As far as Phillips and Moore knew, she could be a permanent fixture and they could spend the rest of their lives waiting for Griffin to be alone. This was what prompted Nathan Moore to come to a decision. At 10.14 a.m. Phillips turned to his companion and said: “Okay Ray let’s do it. If we don’t do something right now we risk losing everything.”

Moore’s response was exactly how Phillips would have responded had their roles been reversed. But even as he voiced his concerns Moore knew that his colleague was right. What they were doing was reckless in the extreme; contrary to everything he had ever been taught. The two men once more discussed the possible repercussions of their actions and then shook hands. After waiting for a quarter of an hour to ensure that as few people as possible would witness them approach the house, Nathan Phillips moved swiftly towards the front door. With Moore standing behind him, he reached out unsteadily and rang the doorbell.

 

***

 

“Yes. That’s right… Although I can’t remember the last time that anybody called me that… I’m sorry, I don’t think we’ve met…”

David Griffin didn’t know what to make of the two men standing at his front door. They were both wearing shabby dark suits that looked as if they had been recently slept in. Both men sported several days’ growth of stubble. The elder of the two men spoke again.

“Mr Griffin,” he said in a soft, steady voice. “We have something of the utmost importance to discuss with you. May we please come into your house?”

“Look, if you’re selling something…”

“I can assure you that we have nothing for sale, Mr. Griffin,” interrupted the same man. “It is, however, imperative that you spare us five minutes of your time. I cannot stress how important.”

David Griffin frowned and began to push the door closed. “I’m sorry,” he said. “Some other time. I’ve got things to do right now.”

This time the younger man spoke: “Mr. Griffin, I realise that our contacting you in this way must seem odd to you,” he said. “But it really is very important that we speak to you.”

“I’m sorry but…”

“Mr. Griffin, my colleague and I are both scientists like yourself. We must speak to you.”

David Griffin stopped in his tracks for a moment and raised an eyebrow. “I’m no scientist,” He said.

Now the younger man stepped forward to block the doorway. He began to recite as if reading from a list. “David Griffin,” he said. “Born 15 September 1947. Married, Susan Davies, 1969. Two children. Mark, born 1972. Sandra, born 1974.”

“What is this?” said David Griffin, beginning to feel a little scared.

“Moved to Brighton, England, 1979…”

“Look, I’m calling the police if you don’t go away.”

“…Died 5 August 2002.

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