The minister’s decision to meet at Runnymede at Hew Locke’s artwork ‘The Jurors’ is perhaps from a sense of irony, or, more likely, because of her disdain for key moments in the struggle for freedom, the rule of law, equal rights and justice as represented in Locke’s twelve bronze chairs. If I have to hear another lecture about Saint Nelson bloody Mandela I’ll scream, she thinks and gives a little grunt of disgust. And as for Black Lives Matter, do me a favour; I’m a British Asian after all and I should know. Her certainty that the location will be deserted at three o’clock in the morning is the only thing that allows her to put up with Locke’s work.
It’s a cold moonlit night as she settles herself on one of the chairs and waits, wrapping her greatcoat more tightly around her. She’s exhilarated by the danger of what she is doing, especially without protection by the Met. She also thinks that bending the rules is one of the perks of power.
Her mood shifts as she waits, What’s he doing, keeping me waiting? She shivers. The empty chairs glisten in the moonlight. An owl hoots. A fox barks. God, she thinks, clichéd sound effects from Nature Watch. She ducks as a raven passes just above her head and perches on the top of one of the chairs opposite her. Shoo, she hisses, waving her hand. The raven is still there. Who are you looking at? she asks. I hate birds. Where is he? The raven stares.
She stands and looks behind her, hoping that she’ll see his shadow advancing from the car park. A fox barks again. That’s close, she thinks, climbing up to a standing position on a chair, not noticing that it depicts Mandela.
At last, here he is, she thinks as she sees a man jogging towards her. What the hell are you doing here? she asks as she recognises one of her protection officers and jumps down from the chair.
Sorry, ma’am. Followed your phone.
It’s turned off.
It’s never off, ma’am.
It’s for your safety.
I’m expecting someone, she says.
I know. He’s not coming.
What’s that supposed to mean?
He’s on the list; we’ve been watching him for months.
Why the hell wasn’t I told.
It’s not easy to get all the detail.
You do know who he is?
Yes, your half-brother, ma’am.
Why are you here?
Our job is to protect you. It wouldn’t be wise for the public to know that you were breaking your own rules in an attempt to bribe a relative who’s on your terror watch list. How would it make the government look?
He’s not really a terrorist, just an annoying hothead.
I’m sorry, ma’am. That’s not for me to say.
I’m sick of him. I was here to pay him to get off my back.
You won’t need to worry about that anymore, ma’am.
What do you mean?
Leave your money in your purse.
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© Phil Cosker 2020
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