One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:29 pm


Abandoning the unequal battle to maintain his balance as well as his grip on the ventilator sill, Bertie slid down Ginger’s back with more haste than grace. As his feet touched ground, he passed his hands over his sweating face just as Ginger, freed from his weight, straightened up with a sigh of relief. The blows continued to strike the legs of both airmen intermittently as they turned round to face their assailant.

Out of the corner of his eye Ginger noted that the urchin gang had retired to remote corners of the enclosed courtyard and were doing their best to appear invisible.

A small, portly form swathed in black from head to foot with a two-inch slit revealing a pair of glittering black eyes was waddling to and fro at an astonishing rate slashing indiscriminately at them, the creeper and the vacant air with a rolled up umbrella.

This said umbrella evidently served the woman (for the assailant was a well-veiled female) as a trusty weapon, for she wielded it with a consummate energy that suggested long practice. All the while, her attacking gestures were punctuated by shrill screams, and unintelligible utterances that Bertie and Ginger could only assume were abuse of some magnitude. Certainly the urchins were, for once, cowed into a respectful silence as they witnessed the attack expert in action.

Bertie decided it was time to turn on his charm.

“There, there,” he cooed winningly, and surreptitiously tried to consult his linguistic notes that were now protruding from a guidebook looking very much the worse for wear. “Theek hai, theek hai! (It’s okay, it’s all right!)”

The screeches and slashings continued unabated, now interspersed with cries of “Chor! Chor!” [“Thief!”]

“Now, now, ma’am” soothed Bertie, “do calm down, there’s a dear!”

He advanced with his most friendly smile, and laid his hand on the woman’s shoulder that came up to somewhere in the region of his waistband. She reacted with a penetrating howl that made Ginger blench and Bertie to leap back a step. The urchins tried to look more invisible.

In his anxiety to soothe and offer the olive branch, Bertie had neglected to take into account the impact of his scrambling along the wall upon his exterior. His clothes were stained and disarrayed. In addition, his hands had come into contact with possibly decades of dust and grime accumulated along the ventilator sill. A significant quantity of this had transferred to Bertie’s visage when he had rubbed his palms over his sweaty face.

The impact of his general dishevelment combined with his ingratiating smile shining through a commando mask of dirt was, even to Ginger watching from a safe distance, singularly unsettling. Certainly the objective of Bertie’s attentions seemed to think so, for she renewed her screams with gusto.

Chor! [Thief!] Bachao! Bachao! [Help! Help!]” she bawled, her volume undiminished by the thickness of her coverings.

“No, no, ma’am!” persisted Bertie, edging round her. This did not achieve much, for she turned on her own axis and continued to confront him with the point of her umbrella. Gradually, as Bertie advanced, the old dame retreated, still uttering shrieks and abuse, until she backed onto a plastic woven basket full of vegetables that she had apparently dropped in her haste to launch her attack on the suspected intruders into her home.

As the pair side-stepped delicately around each other, the sound of a door opening made Ginger look over Bertie’s shoulder that was in direct line with the big gateway. The small inset door was open and from it was emerging a taller, thinner version of their present assailant.

But it was not the prospect of this addition to the ranks of their opposition that made the color drain from Ginger’s face. It was what the new apparition held in her hand.

“Help! Bertie!” a horrified Ginger tried to call out from a throat parched with thirst and anxiety. “Behind you! She’s got an axe!”

That is what he meant to say.

What he actually said was “Heh! Berr! Shussshacks!”

Even as Bertie tried to decode this cryptic message, the tallest urchin dashed up to them. Grabbing Bertie’s sleeve, he uttered one cogent instruction.

“Go! Come!”

Without pausing to argue semantics, Bertie and Ginger clutched gratefully at the tallest urchin’s hands, noting that his companions were discreetly removing themselves from the vicinity. The two monkeys, the original cause of all the trouble had already departed for a safer locality.

Together they fled out of the archway, back onto the narrow, snaking street. Had they bothered to look back, they might have seen a male figure emerge from the inset door to be immediately buttonholed by the two women.

Several turns later, the urchin slowed his pace and stopped. Grinning he said, “OK now!”

Ginger and Bertie were too much out of breath to answer.
"For goodness sake stop that Yankee drawl, or you'll have us all doing it before you've finished."
"OK baby - sorry - I mean, righto."
"That's better."

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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:29 pm

[Continuing... thanks for reading]

Regaining his breath, Ginger discovered an exacerbated thirst that would no longer be denied. “I’m thirsty!” he announced, rather unnecessarily. They were both parched now.

Bertie turned to their current best friend, the tallest urchin.

“I say, laddie, any chance of a nice cold drink?” he queried.

The urchin pondered the question, then, in order to be quite clear on the matter, he asked, “Sir wants drinkie?”

“Rather! We both do, ever so much!” agreed Ginger.

Bertie looked down ruefully at his grimy hands and shirt-front. “Er—maybe a little wash as well?” he suggested.

The urchin looked meditatively at Bertie and Ginger, then appeared to sum up their situation with the swift intelligence of the young. “Sirs want water.”

“Oh, absolutely!” exclaimed Bertie, “lots and lots of cool, cool water!”

The urchin took charge again, and with a curt “Come!” he began to walk briskly down the narrow street, while his cohorts closed around Bertie and Ginger as escort, duly setting off in the leading urchin’s wake.

Out of the corner of his mouth, Ginger spoke softly to Bertie, “You’re sure this is all right? I mean, they won’t take us into some hole and mug us?”

“Oh come on,” expostulated Bertie, “They’re only kids trying to be helpful… And anyway, if they wanted to mug us, they’ve had plenty of opportunities already.”

Ginger said no more, but tried to keep a watchful eye open for potential trouble while also looking out for landmarks he might recognize if they had to find their own way out of the maze of lanes and streets. He very quickly felt like he was losing his sense of direction, as the sun was no longer visible to guide him.

However, he need not have worried about the urchins’ intentions. Several turns later, and after squeezing through passages where they could barely walk in single file, they emerged suddenly into what, after their recent experiences felt almost like a high street. Actually, it was a fairly wide street lined with the usual tall buildings, shops and handcarts.

The tallest urchin, clearly enjoying his self-appointed role as friend, philosopher, guide and interpreter stopped and pointed across the street. Following his rather dirty finger, Bertie and Ginger saw the imposing doorway of a temple, with pugnacious-looking statues of sentries on either side.

The temple doors were closed, but next to them, abutting onto the street, was a long stone trough built into the temple’s outer wall. Into this trough opened several water taps, placed for worshipers to perform their mandatory ablutions before entering.

“Oh boy! Water!” chortled Ginger as both men dashed across the street, dodging rickshaws and handcarts in their haste to reach the water taps.

A few minutes later, both were feeling washed and clean, sprinkling the cool water over their heads and scrubbing away the accumulated sweat and grime from their faces and hands. Ginger cupped his hands under the tap, intending to take a drink, when Bertie stopped him.

“Hoy, laddie, hold hard! You’re not going to drink from that tap, are you?”

“It’s clean water,” argued Ginger, “I saw some locals drinking it as we came along.”

“The locals have local tummies to drink local water, laddie!” returned Bertie.

“Oh, come on, what’s the harm?” grumbled Ginger, “I’m damn thirsty, and so are you! These kids are drinking it!”

“You know what a stickler Biggles is about drinking only boiled water when we’re out on a mission.”

“Well, Biggles isn’t here, and what we don’t tell him he won’t know!” said Ginger cleverly.

“He’ll know jolly soon, when we’re both groaning with stomach upsets and what-not!” retorted Bertie, “He’s canny, is Biggles, and there’s precious little he doesn’t notice.”

Ginger threw up his hands in disgust, spraying Bertie and the urchins alike with droplets of water. “Read my parched lips! I’m T-H-I-R-S-T-Y!” he whined. “I –need—a—drink—NOW!”

The urchins crowded round them in commiseration. The tallest urchin pointed to the water trough and asked the obvious question. “No drinking water?”

“Er-no, little chap,” replied Bertie, “we’re not drinking the water.”

Carefully enunciating his words, the urchin asked the next obvious question. “So what you drink then?”

“Oh, anything but water will do, any nice cold drink.”

“Don’t even say the words ‘cold’ and ‘drink’ around me!” muttered Ginger, wiping his wet face with a very ill-used handkerchief.

More whispered consultations among the urchins and then the tallest one pulled Bertie’s sleeve, uttering his favorite instruction, “Come!”

“Where?” demanded Bertie, not liking to impose on his young minder.

“Cold drink. We show you. Come!” and once more taking up escort formation, the urchins began moving along the street. Perforce, Bertie and Ginger had to go along.

A couple of turns further, they emerged into a wider thoroughfare that actually boasted some vehicular traffic, mostly two-wheelers buzzing past a couple of cars that had by error or design ventured into the congested space. Here the tallest urchin pointed again. “Cold drink,” he said simply.

Gazing across the street, Bertie and Ginger saw a wonderfully welcome sign.


After their recent tribulations, it almost felt like a homecoming…
"For goodness sake stop that Yankee drawl, or you'll have us all doing it before you've finished."
"OK baby - sorry - I mean, righto."
"That's better."

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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:31 pm

Now that liquid sustenance was in sight, Ginger felt quite magnanimous. Preparing to head towards the wine shop, he turned to the tallest urchin to ask, “Aren’t you coming too?”

Smiling, the boy shook his head while his cohorts giggled and nudged each other.

“No, they’re not coming,” interjected Bertie firmly.

“Why ever not?” argued Ginger. “That sign says Child Beer…oh, I see,” he tailed off as Bertie jabbed him unsubtly in the ribs.

“It’s Chilled Beer, ass,” hissed Bertie.

Bertie pulled a hundred-rupee note from his inside pocket and offered it to the tallest urchin. “You buy some sweets for all of you,” he suggested.

The money was politely waved aside. “No money. We are not allowed to take from strangers.”

“Oh, come on, we’re hardly strangers now!” exclaimed Bertie. “You’ve helped us a lot.”

“Then we friends,” came back the tallest urchin. “No money for helping friends, see?”

Bertie did see. Smiling too, he put the money back in his pocket.

There followed a brief but touching moment of farewell handshakes between them and the urchin gang, who seemed genuinely distressed at taking leave of the airmen. After all, they had been through a great deal together. A couple of the girls openly wiped away tears while the boys squared their shoulders bravely. The tallest urchin sketched a salute and then firmly began shoving his cohort away, back the way they had come.

“Bye-bye!” he called over his shoulder. “You all good now!”

“Oh yes!” agreed Ginger as with Bertie he headed into the wine store, “we good now!”

The shop owner, a middle-aged heavy-set individual sporting a fine mustache was partly draped over his counter, studying a newspaper with deep concentration. However, as his new customers entered, he set this aside with the air of one prepared to make great sacrifices for his clients.

“Hello, good day, good afternoon,” he greeted, “And what we can do for you today?”

“You, my fine feller,” responded Bertie cheerily, “can find us the longest coldest drink you have!”

“What you like? Whisky, gin, beer?”

“Er-lemonade would be nice,” suggested Bertie.

The shopkeeper’s face fell. “Lemonade?” he queried doubtfully.

“Absolutely, old lad, the stuff they make with lemons.”

“You mix with gin, perhaps?” suggested the shopkeeper hopefully.

“Not today, old chap, today we give the gin and all that alcoholic what-not a miss,” decided Bertie.

Now the shopkeeper’s distaste was evident. “Only lemonade?”

“That’s the ticket, old boy, that’s the exact ticket!” agreed Bertie and Ginger nodded vigorously.

“No lemonade,” said the shopkeeper with finality.

“Oh, here, I say, that’s not fair! What if we wanted lemonade with gin?” protested Bertie, and Ginger’s face reflected his disappointment.

“Oh, sir, then I get special-made lemonade from my other shop selling vegetables,” was the reply.

“Can’t you just get us some lemonade from that shop?”

“Too far, sir, taking much time, and boy takes much money for bringing,” said the shop man evasively.

“Hm,” Bertie was at a loss to deal with this new situation. Ginger turned to the shop man, saying plaintively, “What IS there to drink that’s cold?”

The salesman struggled with the connoisseur in the shopkeeper and won. “How about some nice cold beer, sir?”

“By Jove, yes!” Bertie was enthusiastic.

“Will it be okay?” it was Ginger’s turn to be doubtful.

“Look, laddie, it’ll be cold and it’ll be wet and it won’t be the local water. What more can we want?”

“Okay, cold beer it is,” agreed Ginger.

With an expression of suppressed suffering the shopkeeper bestirred himself to open a large old-fashioned chest-freezer whirring noisily in a corner. He unearthed two medium-sized long-necked glass bottles whose brown color was glazed over with a sheen of condensation as their ice-cold surfaces met the humid afternoon air.

Ginger’s eyes glistened, and he barely stopped himself from reaching out to snatch the bottles. It was all he could do to watch impatiently as the shop man went through the ceremony of carefully popping the tops of the bottles with an opener that he found after a minor search. Ensuring the froth remained inside the long necks, he presented the bottles with a flourish.

As the chilled contents finally slid down his throat, Ginger uttered a long-drawn-out “A-aaah!” of satisfaction.

“Oh, that felt GOOD!” declared Bertie.

“I feel like a new man!” announced Ginger.

“You look the same to me,” observed Bertie quizzing him through his monocle.

“Ha-ha! Very funny, I think not!” snorted Ginger, grinning.

Bertie paid the shopkeeper by the simple expedient of handing him a hundred-rupee note and accepting the change that was handed back to him. It seemed a ridiculously small price to pay for so much relief.

“Now,” announced Bertie, adjusting his monocle, “what-ho and all that sort of thing! Let’s head for the big streets again!”

“We ought to think about getting back to the hotel,” objected Ginger.

“All in good time, laddie, we’ve plenty of time yet.”

“We are NOT going in search of any more of your blasted relatives!” Ginger was emphatic.

“All right, all right, but we can scout around the shops on our way out!” consoled Bertie.

“Good idea, I’d like to pick up a couple of gifts too.”

“For Mrs. Symes? Or for that pretty niece of hers who comes to visit?” asked Bertie wickedly. “Or –aha!—for the Misses Clifford?”

“Knock it off! If you really need to know, I wanted to find a little something for Janet and Sarah.”

“Who?” Bertie was genuinely nonplussed.

“Oh, they’re two of the girls in Typing,” said Ginger off-handedly.

“Ah! That’s the way the wind blows, eh?” grinned Bertie.

“Huh! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A fellow can’t have a couple of platonic relationships around you and Algy without a whole lot of lousy insinuations!” sneered Ginger.

“Only pulling your leg a bit, laddie,” said Bertie comfortingly, “and I think that beer’s getting to me a little!”

“Talking of that beer,” observed Ginger, “I think we ought to take along a couple of spares. It’s awfully hot still, and we might need another thirst-quencher before we reach the hotel.”

“Good thinking,” agreed Bertie, and turned to the watchful shopkeeper to request more beer. “Only, don’t open them, old chap,” he added hastily. “We’d like to take them with us.”

The shopkeeper duly produced two more bottles and placed them reverently on the counter. Ginger eyed them thoughtfully.

“Only two?” he questioned. “That won’t be enough!”

“It should be enough to hold us up till we get back to the hotel,” returned Bertie.

“I doubt it!” argued Ginger. “Come to think of it, they’re not very big. I could do with another already!”

“Hoy, watch it!” exclaimed Bertie in some alarm. “that stuff can be pretty potent in this heat, considering we haven’t eaten since breakfast!”

“Are you implying anything you shouldn’t be implying?” demanded Ginger. “I tell you here and now, I’m not moving from here without at least a couple of bottles each for future reference.”

“A couple each means four bottles,” calculated Bertie. “And if we don’t use them up, we can always share them with Biggles and Algy.” He turned to the shopkeeper. “How much for four?"

The salesman in the shopkeeper rose to the occasion. “Special price for half-dozen, sir!”

Before Bertie could reply that they didn’t want six bottles, Ginger jumped at the offer, “We’ll take them!” he declared, waving aside Bertie’s unspoken protest.
"For goodness sake stop that Yankee drawl, or you'll have us all doing it before you've finished."
"OK baby - sorry - I mean, righto."
"That's better."

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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:32 pm

Soon, six chilled bottle of beer sat on the counter, being paid for and wrapped in brown paper. Bertie asked the shopkeeper of he had a bag they could carry them in. The answer was negative.

With a resigned shrug, Bertie began to pick up two bottles, intending to carry them, when Ginger forestalled him.

“Oh no, you don’t!” announced Ginger firmly. “This time, I’m in charge of the liquid refreshers! You’ll only go make a present of them to another lot of monkeys and then where will we be?”

“Chasing a lot of inebriated monkeys or being chased by them,” admitted Bertie, ruefully.

“Exactly! So now, I’m carrying them all!”

“How?” Bertie was skeptical, “You’ve only got two hands.”

“But I have several pockets!”

Bertie was seriously shocked. “You can’t carry your beer like that!” he expostulated.

“Why not? I’ll have the added bonus of them cooling me on the outside, too!”

Bertie tried to argue that they should split the bottles between them, but Ginger was adamant. He handed over his roll of Indian currency to Bertie for safe-keeping, and then proceeded to stow away the six bottles in various pockets about his person.

Bertie pointed out that now the condensation was seeping through the brown-paper wrappings, he was likely to feel a bit damp in places. Ginger retorted that he was already enjoying the feeling of the cool glass against strategic parts of his anatomy.

Bertie abandoned the argument, and began to ask the shopkeeper directions to reach their hotel.

The shopkeeper tried his best to be helpful, within his limitations. No, they could not take a rickshaw to Maidens Hotel, it was too far. No, getting a taxi in the Chandni Chowk was not possible. No, he didn’t think a taxi could be called by telephone. No, he didn’t think he could call a taxi by any other means. Yes, they could take a rickshaw back to the Red Fort. No, they couldn’t get the rickshaw from this side, they would have to brave the congested traffic and cross to the other side.

Alternatively, he asserted, they could walk down this street to the junction with the main Chandni Chowk. Then all they had to do was stroll along to the big gurudwara Sis Ganj and there they would find plenty of rickshaws clustered around the Phawwara or Big Fountain.

How far? Depended on how fast they could walk, how thick the traffic was, and how many gifts they wanted to buy. Anything from fifteen minutes to an hour, maybe? Oh yes, there were plenty of shops, nice shops, famous shops and lots of street stalls where they could look for gifts and do some bargaining along the way. For, what was shopping without bargaining?

This last decided Bertie and Ginger. Refreshed and armed with liquid supplies, they felt ready to tackle some real bazaar-style shopping. It would be an agreeable stroll to the rickshaw stand at the Big Fountain. They would still make it back to the hotel well in time to shower and change for drinks before dinner.

Thus agreed, they set off down the street in the direction of the Chowk pointed out by the shop man. Ginger’s normally slim figure bulged strategically in significant areas, and he was forced to adopt a slightly rolling gait, combined with some mincing footwork over obstacles, to avoid shaking the beer bottles more than was absolutely unpreventable. It gave Bertie call to make several comments about how certain people who carried their alcohol inside as well as outside would fare if they came into contact with anything solid. Ginger retaliated with celebratory remarks about his general feeling of well-being brought about by the cooling impact of the chilled bottles on his overheated anatomy.

Bickering amicably, they reached the end of the street and, as the shop man had directed, turned left into the main Chandni Chowk thoroughfare. At their backs, through the evening smog being raised by increasingly congested traffic, they could glimpse the glowing ramparts of the Red Fort. Briefly debating the matter, they agreed it was too far to walk there; better to take a rickshaw and pick up some souvenirs as well.

But what a different scene met their eyes now! When they had arrived from the Fort in the full heat of the afternoon, the main thoroughfare of the Chowk had been pretty much deserted as its denizens retreated into shady siestas to sleep off their lunches. Now, with the advent of evening, it was alive with traffic in both directions, going towards and coming from the Fort, as well as bustling throngs of pedestrian shoppers perambulating in a double stream up and down the narrow covered arcade that fronted the contiguous shops.

People pushed and shoved around other people who were entering and leaving the big shops, simply stopping briefly but abruptly to gawk at the goods displayed, or carrying on a conversation with a shopkeeper or between themselves, or becoming entrenched in serious bargaining battles with the hawkers and patri-wallah stall-owners who had mushroomed miraculously on the pavement.
"For goodness sake stop that Yankee drawl, or you'll have us all doing it before you've finished."
"OK baby - sorry - I mean, righto."
"That's better."

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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:34 pm

Fascinated, Ginger and Bertie slowed down from their brisk walk to a stroll as they tried to avoid being jostled by the crowds of determined bargainers. In addition to the usual handcarts and pavement stalls were new elements to avoid.

At intervals, the bhishtis or water-carriers were at their centuries-old work of sprinkling water over the flagged pavement to keep down the dust raised by shoppers’ feet as well as cool the red sandstone after the fierce heat of the afternoon. While this was certainly a positive thing, Ginger noted that the water also mixed with thick layers of dust to make the flagstones slimy. There were several very slippery places where they had to step carefully, due to the uneven levels of pavement in their path.

Bertie agreed they needed to watch their steps, but his reason for doing so were the assorted members of the mongrel population that had emerged from siestas in shaded but unsavoury places to take up their regular stations in anticipation of the scraps that would, later in the evening, descend their way from the myriad food stalls coming into operation.

As they walked, or rather, were swept along the crowded arcade, Bertie pointed out mongrels who, oblivious to the hubbub, were still snatching forty winks in the most impossible spaces. He even gazed fondly at one such specimen. “Reminds me a lot of my little Towser back home,” he mused. “Sleeps just the same, anywhere, any time.”

“How’s Towser enjoying his retirement?” Ginger wanted to know. “We haven’t seen him since you took him down to your place.”

“Oh, he’s a bit stiff in his joints now, but doing fine," Bertie assured him, “leading a gang of offspring into trouble!”

“Get him a nice silk jacket or collar!” smiled Ginger.

“I might,” agreed Bertie. Then he stopped short, ignoring the pedestrians bumping into him and swishing around him. “I say, look laddie!” he exclaimed, pointing, “I’ve always rather wanted a cummerbund. My cousin Cyril wears one at every occasion and Great-Aunt Esmeralda likes it!”
"For goodness sake stop that Yankee drawl, or you'll have us all doing it before you've finished."
"OK baby - sorry - I mean, righto."
"That's better."

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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:36 pm

Ginger was not impressed. “I don’t understand your sartorial tastes any more than your fancy gourmet cooking,” he asserted. “What’s wrong with just using a belt to hold your pants up?”

“It’s all about style and elegance, not just functionality,” replied Bertie. “A belt just doesn’t make the same statement that a cummerbund does. And it’s about etiquette, too,” he added vaguely.

“So you’re going to wrap yards and yards of slippery silk around your middle just to look elegant! Won’t it make you look like you’ve got a spare tyre on your tummy?” Ginger chuckled.

“I think I can carry it off pretty well, and Great Aunt E. will approve of me muchly when I lead the next gathering of the clan at Cousin Celia’s wedding” said Bertie confidently.

“What, will it make her mention you in her will, or something?” grinned Ginger.

“Tush!” said Bertie loftily, “I’m already in her will. Although she might mention you in it if I tell her you helped me choose the right color and supported my sartorial elegance!” he added, nodding towards the colorful display of silks that were arranged attractively in color-coded rows on a bamboo ladder-type frame in the corridor, at the entrance of a large cloth store.

“I knew there’d be a catch in it!” Ginger was all mock-indignation.

“Absolutely! One doesn’t get into her will for doing nothing!” pointed out Bertie.

Throughout this banter, both of them had been trying to edge closer to the silk display, gently pushing against the nearly immobile crowd wedged around it, fingering the silks, comparing shades, arguing, bargaining, or simply obstructing other shoppers from entering or leaving the big store.

Bertie and Ginger’s progress was further impeded by intrusions of handcarts that were heavily laden to teetering angles with a mind-boggling variety of goods, fenders of cars that were parked as close to the covered arcade as possible, and sundry trade vehicles that were being loaded and unloaded on the edge of the main Chandni Chowk thoroughfare.

To complicate matters further, there were a couple of snack-sellers setting up their khomcha stands piled with freshly-baked sweet, crispy naankhatai and the numerous ingredients for spicy bhalla-papri-chaat. These stands, comprising of enormous shallow baskets perched on shaky folding tripods, were already attracting their own clusters of adherents smacking lips in anticipation. The smoke rising from incense-sticks lighted to ward off flies mingled with the fragrance of the foods and fruits on offer and hovered like a fine mist on the heat-laden air.

“’Ware doggies!” warned Bertie over his shoulder, with some difficulty extracting an arm from the jostling mass of humanity to jab a thumb at the ground. Peering through gaps in the caterpillar of bustling bodies, Ginger spotted two small mongrels enjoying a peaceful nap while almost wrapped around the base of one of the graceful narrow columns supporting the roof of the arcade.

At this point their slow, storm-tossed progress between waves of shoppers was hampered even more by the arrival of a bhishti, who, swinging his heavy, unwieldy water-hide in erratic directions, began intermittently swishing water over the flagstones with a fine disregard for shoppers, stall-keepers and shop-owners alike.

Bertie edged his way into the throng and attracted the stall-owner’s attention by the simple expedient of waving his now very battered guidebook at him. Followed a conversation of sorts consisting largely of eye-rolls, finger-jabs and head-shakes. Then the stall-owner carefully peeled a length of crimson silk from the display frame and handed it over to Bertie. More gestures and head-shakes, and a piece of shaded silk in a glowing peacock blue joined the first. With some difficulty, Bertie twisted around in the crowd to face Ginger, standing at the street edge of the arcade, and raised both pieces of silk along with his eyebrows to the highest height available.
“Which one?” he tried to articulate above the cheerful babble of bargaining buyers.

“Try ‘em both on!” Ginger mouthed with suitable gesticulations.

With his guidebook wedged under his chin and the rest of his body contorting to accommodate the pulsations of the crowd, Bertie managed to wrap the crimson silk loosely around his waist and looked questioningly across at Ginger.

Ginger shook his head and mouthed, “Try the blue one.”

“’K,” grunted Bertie and carefully removing the crimson (watched anxiously by the stall-owner against damages), proceeded to coil the blue piece around his middle.

Ginger shook his head helplessly and mouthed, “Both of them…try both of them together,” waving both his hands to convey his message the better.

“Grr…’k,” grumbled Bertie and tried to rearrange his limbs around the two pieces of cascading silk. Some amused shoppers eyed his antics and considerately attempted to wedge themselves differently in order to provide Bertie with a few inches of space to maneuver in. Breathing heavily with the effort, Bertie managed to coil both lengths of fabric around his slim form, using his elbows to hold them tight in front of him as he faced Ginger again. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw two soberly-clad women trying to edge discreetly away as his shoulders rubbed against their own.

Beckoning, Ginger urged him towards the edge of the crowd, into the fading halo of the dying sunlight. Chin holding the guidebook, elbows tight against his waist, Bertie tried to present his full frontal view to Ginger.

“Whaddyoufinkiscoler…” he uttered, adding “’urryup!” for good measure.

But Ginger was not in a helpful mood. Perusing what he could see of Bertie’s form amid the pulsating throng of shoppers, he gestured critically with hands and eyes. Bertie edged closer.

“You’ve got two bits hanging down behind you,” gestured Ginger, “fix ‘em properly.” He held out a hand to catch the guidebook, anticipating that Bertie would toss it to him. However, Bertie kept it firmly wedged under his chin, carefully keeping his eyes open just enough to keep his monocle in place. As he reached behind him and began to tuck the offending tails of fabric away to achieve a proper cummerbund look, a stifled shriek hit his ears at the same time as a soft but decidedly substantial object struck him in the small of the back and became attached to him limpet-fashion, squirming all the while.

Equally startled by the shriek and the sudden turmoil it wrought among the crowd, Ginger took a quick step backwards to get a better view of his comrade. His action brought his heel firmly into contact with the tail portion of a comfortably comatose mongrel curled around the nearby pillar. With a heart-and-ear-rending yowl the offended animal rose up and tried to avenge the insult by sinking its teeth into Ginger. Unfortunately, freshly shaken out of its slumber, it mistook Ginger’s sturdy boot for Ginger, to the detriment of its teeth. Doubly outraged, it yelped furiously and flew at Ginger’s ankles. Ginger skipped smartly away, but miscalculated the combined effects of a pavement worn smooth over decades of foot-traffic and the layers of dust covering it that were right now rendered slick and greasy by the well-meaning ministrations of the water-bearing bhishti.

After this, events happened so fast that he was never quite certain of their sequence. To his horror, Ginger felt his feet slipping away from under him, skittering him across a small area of slimy wet pavement. Desperately his fingers clawed the air, seeking to clasp anything, anyone, to save himself as the pavement rushed up to meet him. His seeking fingers came into contact with what felt like another display stand of fabric, he clutched at it with the urgency of a drowning man, his mind noting in a detached manner that he was lucky to grab one of the many mannequins, draped with colorful sarees, that were stationed in the corridor outside the shop.

“I mustn’t fall,” he thought despairingly, realizing with horror the decided fate of the contents of his pockets if he did. The mannequin he was clutching was proving strangely mobile, flailing about in a most disconcerting manner. Screams echoed in his ears as, still with his arms wrapped around it, the figure gave up the uneven struggle and tilted over, and both measured their lengths on the pavement to the accompaniment of shrieks and shouts from the crowd.

Just for a fleeting moment, Ginger knew relief in that he was landing on a soft but resilient object. The beer is safe, he thought thankfully, but his relief was quickly dashed as the mannequin rolled sideways away from under him, and Ginger’s full person made violent contact with the slimy flagstones. Almost simultaneously, a swiftly-spreading chilled wetness pervading his person told him the awful truth. The beer bottles had fared even worse than Ginger in their unequal conflict with the pavement, and had quietly but firmly given up the ghost.

The pavement rose up to fetch Ginger a smart crack on the skull that sent stars and fireworks exploding inside his head. Even as these began to fade, several pairs of hands seized him by various parts of his anatomy and bodily lifted him off the ground, planting him upright to stand swaying slightly on shaky feet. His misery was not diminished any by the shards that went tinkling out of his pockets leaving tiny rivulets of cold liquid trickling into the unreachable recesses of his clothing.

An angry babble of what sounded like questions and accusations assaulted his ears, accentuating a growing headache. Warily, he swiveled his head to take in the scene swirling around him and make sense of what was happening. It was evident at once that a great deal was happening. Even as Ginger swayed against the shop entrance to support himself, two stalwart but unprepossessing youths were offering to help lift up the mannequin he had been clutching.

Only…it wasn’t a mannequin. It was a very pretty girl in her late teens, clad in a sober white salwar-kameez suit, trying to re-arrange her long dupatta scarf even as she shook her head vigorously to fend off the attentions of the youths. Something of her discomfort communicated itself to Ginger in the quick glance she threw in his direction.

Responding instinctively to that mute appeal, Ginger moved to situate his person between her and the two youths whose over-assiduous attentions she was trying to avoid. Even as she looked gratefully up at him, a heftily built elderly man pounded ponderously on her back, beckoning a small boy to stand guard by her even as he began to prod Ginger away with the point of a business-like walking stick. The girl opened her mouth to speak but was fiercely shushed by the man, evidently her father, who waved his other hand to summon help.

Ginger looked wildly around for Bertie. Perhaps that list of local linguistic terms in his guidebook would help if these people didn’t understand English. But, as he perceived immediately, Bertie was preoccupied with a situation of his own.

Bertie was trying to unravel several lengths of fabric—crimson, peacock blue and black—that were somehow inextricably entangled, impeding his separation from a slightly-built person that appeared to be attached to his back. His entire rear was being pounded by a small pair of fists and a matching small pair of feet while muffled squeaks of protest echoed in his ears.

It seemed to Bertie that the trouble began when, guided by Ginger’s signals, he reached behind to tuck the offending tails of fabric away in order to achieve the smooth cummerbund effect he desired. Somewhat hampered by the guidebook tucked under his chin, and using one elbow to clutch the silk to his midriff, he groped behind him for the remaining lengths. His questing fingers encountered silk. Lots of silk. Indeed, there seemed to be much more cloth in the cummerbunds than he had supposed. Cottony silk. Or was it silky cotton? With an inward shrug, Bertie had grabbed at the fabric billowing behind him. And proceeded to tuck handfuls of it into the waistband of his trousers, while also trying to keep an eye out for Ginger’s opinion. Barely a few handfuls had been tucked into place when he felt the full assault of a substantial form against his own back, a form that immediately began flailing about in a most disconcerting way.

Rocked by the pressure, but grimly holding on to the guidebook and the fabric, Bertie became aware of a mild storm of pandemonium manifesting around him. A dog was yapping furiously, people were shouting in languages unfamiliar, and out of the corner of his eye he glimpsed Ginger swaying about in what could only be called a drunken manner while apparently locked in mortal combat with another human figure swathed in more fabric.

As the noise rose to a crescendo, almost drowning out the muffled squeaks emitting from whatever was attached to his back, a resounding thud informed Bertie that Ginger had not been the victor in his particular struggle. By now, however, Bertie was in no case to go to Ginger’s aid. The lengths of silk were uncomfortably tight around his middle, his neck and back were hurting with the pounding they were receiving, and his restricted breathing was not facilitated by the sweaty, smelly crowd of honest citizens closing around him menacingly.

Worst of all, his eyeglass was in imminent danger of falling out.

A cluster of hands—work-roughened and none too clean—intervened to detach the squeaking entity from Bertie’s rear. Other hands helped to unwind and separate the lengths of fabric swathed and billowing around Bertie. More hands yanked him upright and shoved him against the glass front of the shop window.

“Oh, I say, thanks,” burbled Bertie gratefully, catching his eyeglass as it finally fell. Then, gulping in great breaths of air to replenish his lungs, he cast a look around to catch up with what had happened.

Ginger, his clothes in disarray, his tousled hair standing up on end and an unprepossessing lump fast rising on his temple, was being held upright by a couple of honest citizens. An elderly patriarch with outstanding turban and matching mustachios was gesturing furiously and dangerously at him with a heavy walking stick, while fending off and shushing a slim girl who was apparently trying to intervene. In this the patriarch was being ably assisted by a bunch of stalwart youths all readily baying for Ginger’s blood. All down Ginger’s mud-stained person, tiny rivulets of liquid were soaking through his clothes to puddle around his feet. In the heat of the late afternoon, already a faint aroma of beer mixed with perspiration was beginning to pervade the air in his vicinity.

Bertie straightened up, intending to hasten to Ginger’s aid, but found himself pinned against the glass window by more stalwart youths who had positioned themselves between Bertie and another slim black-clad female form who was still squeaking protests while trying to rearrange a long black scarf still intertwined with the crimson and peacock blue lengths of cummerbund. Dimly, however, it seemed to Bertie that the squeaks were no longer directed at him, but rather at the semi-veiled lady and dapper little sherwani-clad gentleman who now came hurrying up, casting reproachfully accusing looks in Bertie’s direction.

Bertie decided it was time to throw himself into the breach to resolve the ruckus.

Quite forgetting the useful local phrases lurking in his guidebook, he raised his voice.

“Speakee English?”

As a yell, it was a failure; as a croak, it was the best he could manage.

A raucous babble of voices answered. The crowd pressed closer around Bertie and Ginger, mercifully bringing them close enough to hear and speak to each other. The small boy set by the patriarch to guard his sister piped up.

“I speak!”

Before Bertie could build upon this promising beginning, the conversation was taken over by the hefty patriarch and the dapper little gentleman, who both commandeered the small boy’s linguistic skills. The youthful interpreter, swelling with importance, struggled occasionally with the questions and remarks hurled at him by both elders and other members of the crowd, often simultaneously. To do him justice, the lad brought his acting skills into play to lend greater verisimilitude to his translations.

A multi-angled exchange of words ensued, finely managed by the boy.

“What you are doing, huh?” he barked on behalf of his father the patriarch. Then, in a gentler tone emulative of the dapper gentleman, evidently the parent of the squeaking black-clad female, he added, “why you are doing it?”

“Doing what, little chap?” wondered Bertie.

“You messing with our girls, huh?”

“No, no, dear chap, not at all! Just looking for a cummerbund” protested Bertie, as Ginger remained too speechless to reply.

The boy dutifully translated. The crowd duly expressed its dissatisfaction with Bertie’s statement. The shopkeeper who had supplied Bertie with the silks hovered unhappily in the background.

“You think you can mess with our girls, eh?” demanded the boy with a fine imitation of the scorn expressed by his elders.

“Absolutely not, my dear sir!” exclaimed Bertie, addressing the paternal figures. “Just look at us! Do we look like the kind of chaps to mess with girls?”

The boy translated as faithfully as he could. The crowd responded with jeers.

“Yes, you do!”


“Chasing our girls!”

“Badmash! (scoundrel!)”

“Frauds!” announced a high-pitched voice evidently out of sync with its peers.

A brief silence as astonished stares were leveled at the perpetrator of this dysfunctional remark. Then the stalwart youths took up a chant, waving fists, sticks and assorted rough implements to lend emphasis to their vocals.

“Maaro! (thrash them!)”

“Pakad kar peeto! (catch them and beat them up!)”

The youthful interpreter duly translated, matching actions to his words.

“Get that guidebook!” hissed Ginger desperately. “Do something!”

“Okay, here goes,” decided Bertie, fixing his monocle more firmly in his eye. “Watch me shake the blighters when I tell them who we are.” Clearing his throat to make sure his vocal chords were working, he raised his voice and thundered, “Quiet! We are police!”

The result was not quite what he expected. As the boy translated his words with due majesty, gusts of merriment rippled through the crowd.

“Police! They are police!”

“They SAY they are police!”

“Ha, ha, ha!”

“Wah, kya mazaak hai! (Wow, what a joke!)”

Above the mirth-convulsed crowd’s remarks, a voice of dissent quavered briefly, “Maybe…”

“Never!” howled the stalwart youths.

The boy translated faithfully, clearly enjoying himself, particularly the decisively uttered critique: “No policeman wears a glass eye!”

“Ho, ho, ho! Well said!”

An enterprising member of the skeptic faction came daringly up to Ginger and Bertie, peered closely into their faces and sniffed the air thoughtfully.

“Drunk!” was the judgement pronounced with disparaging finality.

“No wonder they misbehave with girls!” observed another righteoulsy, as the stalwart youths took up another howl, begging to be allowed to deal with the drunkards once and for all.

“I tell you, we ARE police!” bellowed Bertie. “English police!”

It was obvious to Ginger that, though made more attractive to many by his slight lisp, Bertie’s cutglass accent was out of place in Chandni Chowk. He decided to try his own more down-to-earth tones.

“We are BRITISH police!” he asserted as vehemently as his aching head would permit.

Another few enterprising crowdies sniffed around him experimentally and delivered their collective verdict.


“Totally drunk!”

“Shame on him!”

At this juncture, just as Bertie and Ginger braced themselves to face a possible physical battle for self-preservation, the dysfunctional remarkee intervened, clearly anxious to make amends for his earlier misstep, “Call the police!”

The two patriarchal parents shot keen looks at the airmen as their small interpreter hastened to perform the due translation of their words.

“We are calling police…our police. Okay?”

“Oh, absolutely okay!” averred Bertie warmly.

Even as an argument erupted as to who would take responsibility for calling the police, the sound of motorcycle engines announced the arrival of the police themselves. Two somber-painted motorcycles, each carrying two khaki-clad police constables, swept up to the pavement and throbbed to a halt with a flourish. The sight of authority had an immediate impact on the crowd which gave way before the advance of two of the constables whirling their lathis (long bamboo truncheons) in a business-like manner as they made their way towards the airmen.

“Hatiye! (Move aside!) Aagey chaliye! (Go on, please!)” they intoned briskly, creating a breathing space to allow their officer to speak with Bertie and Ginger.

“Jai Hind! I am the ASI—the Assistant Sub-Inspector Ashok Kumar!” announced this new arrival.

“Delighted to meet you, old chap!” responded Bertie cordially. “Just in the jolly old nick of time, what?”

The ASI looked puzzled. “What?”

“What what?” it was Bertie’s turn to look puzzled.

“What did you say what for?”

“Oh, just as a matter of speaking, you know?”

“No.” the ASI was not giving ground on this one.

“No what? Or know what?” Bertie was on a roll. Ginger struck his forehead silently, hitting his purpling lump, and regretted it at once.

“No, I don’t know what,” returned the ASI cleverly as the crowd raised a cheer for a point scored by one of their own.

It was not an auspicious start, Bertie realized.
"For goodness sake stop that Yankee drawl, or you'll have us all doing it before you've finished."
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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:37 pm

Having disposed of these social niceties, the crowd pressed forward, eager to inform Authority of the iniquitous acts perpetrated by the phirangis (foreigners). The diminutive interpreter, now identified by his equally diminutive moniker “Dipu” found his work cut out keeping up with the demands made by both patriarchs upon his linguistic skills. He was not facilitated by the stalwart youths who, dividing into segments according to their respective faiths, tried their best to shout him down, asserting severally the insults endured by their womenfolk at the hands of said phirangis and demanding to be allowed to summarily enact citizen’s justice.

The dysfunctional remarkee attempted to deliver a fine philosophical lecture on Whether This Would Have Happened In The Raj, and was in turn shushed by Authority on the grounds of irrelevance. Bertie tried his utmost to interpose his version of events with a view to establishing his own and Ginger’s innocence. Ginger leaned his aching head against the shop window and did his utmost to hold his beer-sodden garments away from his anatomy in the forlorn hope that they might dry out in the heat.

Having allowed the melee to proceed long enough for every faction to feel they had at least spoken if not been heard, the ASI turned to Bertie with the air of one who has grasped the nub of the affair.

“You say you are police?” he inquired in the manner of one willing to give a perpetrator the benefit of the doubt.

“Absolutely, dear chap, absolutely!” declared Bertie.

“Prove it,” said the ASI with the air of a successful attorney making a winning point in court.

The crowd applauded.

“Prove it?” queried Bertie.

“Yes, show me police identity card.”

“Oh- er- well, you know, old chap, I haven’t got it on me,” explained Bertie, and as the ASI’s jaundiced gaze transferred to Ginger, he hastened to add, “He hasn’t got his with him either.”

“No identity card?”

“Not here.”
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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:37 pm

“Passport?” was the next option, the ASI clearly torn between hoping that these noisome phirangis would produce some identification to satisfy the law, letting him off the hook, and wishing they would have no identification so he could revel in the glory of arresting them.

“Er—not here,” admitted Bertie and Ginger shook his head.

“Any papers at all?” queried Authority, swelling a little with the prospect of beckoning glory.

“Our papers are at the hotel,” explained Bertie.

“Which hotel?”

“Hmm, let me see, funny name it has, dashed if I can remember, something to do with girls…” Bertie wrinkled his brow.

“GIRLS!” Authority pounced. “You have hotel with GIRLS!!!”

Even as Bertie made soothing noises, Ginger supplied the corrective, “Maidens Hotel,” he snapped.

Authority was nonplussed. Maidens was a clearly upmarket, highly respected address. The anticipated arrest would have to await further validation. The ASI decided with some regret that due process must be allowed.

“You will come with me to the Kotwali Thana,” he announced with finality.

“The what?” asked Bertie, and encountered a glare from his adversary.

“What?” asked the muchly tried ASI, breathing heavily.

“Just asking what this Kot-whatsit is, dear chap,” said Bertie hastily.

“Thana…Police…station…you…come,” enunciated Authority with awful patience.

“Certainly, certainly,” agreed Bertie, and Ginger nodded thankfully. “There would be a telephone there that we could use to call our hotel, right?”

“You speak with SHO…Station House Officer…in-charge,” was the noncommittal answer. “These young ladies and their fathers will come too if they want to register FIR.”

“What’s an FIR?” Bertie wanted to know.

“First Information Report…complaint.”

“But we haven’t done anything!” protested Bertie. “Haven’t you been listening to me?”

“You come. Now SHO will listen,” asserted the ASI in the grim tones of one who has had enough and is ready to wash hands of the whole matter.

The segments of the crowd polarizing around the two patriarchs had naturally been following this exchange. Accordingly, a rush arose for securing transport. Some of the stalwart youths clambered onto two medium-sized goods vehicles, others less fortunate hung precariously to the sides and running boards of these vehicles, while those adhering like limpets to the girls and their patriarchs bustled to commandeer a convoy of rickshaws.

The ASI used his walkie-talkie to conjure up a police jeep. Bertie and Ginger climbed aboard and the minor procession set forth in style for the Kotwali Thana a few streets away.

Sweeping through the arched entrance to the courtyard, the jeep came to a swishing halt in front of the shallow flight of steps leading up to the verandah. Surrounded by the escorting constables on all sides, Bertie and Ginger descended from the jeep as their accompanying convoy of small trucks, rickshaws and a small car began disgorging the animated gaggle of honest citizens calling for Justice.

The ASI hurried his charges up the steps into the main office of the police-station, and came to a halt in front of the imposing desk from behind which his superior—the SHO—was eyeing the commotion with understandable astonishment.

“Jai Hind, sir! Bringing two phirangis in from Chandni Chowk, sir! Creating public disturbance, sir!” announced the ASI, saluting smartly. The escorting constables moved aside to allow the SHO the full view –and whiff—of the troublesome foreigners standing in front of his desk.

Simultaneously, a shrill scream echoed around the vaulted room. From one side of the big desk arose a small rotund figure swathed and heavily veiled in black with just a pair of glittering eyes visible. Piercing screams erupted from this figure and a trembling finger pointed at Bertie.

“Chor! Chor! (Thief!)” screeched this apparition.

Bertie and Ginger were assailed with a hideous feeling of déjà vu.
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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:38 pm

Two women constables hurried forward to pacify Bertie and Ginger’s veiled nemesis and prevent her from seizing and hurling a heavy glass paperweight at them. They were slightly hampered, rather than aided by the ineffectual efforts of the menfolk accompanying the woman. Eventually, under the jaundiced eye of the Station House Officer, two females –evidently relatives of the woman –were summoned in from the verandah to calm her down.

Watching all this with a faint smile and benign countenance was a dapper little bearded gentleman clad in the traditional frock-coat style sherwani and tight trousers, with round gold-rimmed glasses perched somewhat precariously on his aquiline nose. As the combined cohort of women escorted their now hyperventilating compatriot out onto the verandah for a dash of fresh air and cold water, this gentleman turned to Bertie with a mildly self-deprecating air.

“You will forgive me, sir, if I appear rude, but you do not look much like a house-breaker to me.”

“By Jove, I should rather think not!” responded Bertie warmly.

“Then why does my Umrao Apa (older sister) accuse you like this? We came with her to register a police report about two foreigners who were trying to break into their house and ran away.”

“My dear sir, we weren’t doing anything of the sort! We’re innocent, absolutely!” exclaimed Bertie horrified.

A dry clearing of a throat indicated the intervention of the SHO. In accented but fair English he queried, “Then why did you run away?”

“Because of the axe,” explained Bertie.

“Axe?” the SHO’s deputy succumbed to his curiosity and braved a glare from his superior.

“The thin lady who was in here just now had an axe, you see.”

The SHO’s deputy frowned in perplexity. “No sir, she did not.”

“Yes, she did,” butted in Ginger heatedly.

“She did not.” The deputy was firm in his defense of the Innocent Female.

“Yes, she did! I tell you she did!” bleated Ginger exasperatedly.

How long this evidently insolvable argument would have continued is uncertain, had not the SHO, clearly a man of few words, asserted himself again. “What axe?”

“She had this huge big axe,” Ginger stuck to his guns.

The deputy conspicuously sniffed the air in Ginger’s direction, considered the matter settled by evidence and uttered one word, soft but clearly audible, to his commandant, “Drunk.”

The SHO nodded gloomily and returned his attention to Bertie.

“Why were you trying to climb the wall outside Syed Hafiz’s house?”

“Eh? How fizz?” Bertie was momentarily taken off-guard by a beer-tainted whiff from Ginger’s direction.

“Haa-fiz,” the SHO was ominously patient. “It is this gentleman’s name.” He indicated a slightly built, sherwani-clad person unhappily perched on the edge of a hard chair next to the desk beside his dapper companion. “You were climbing the outer wall of his house when the lady Umrao Bibi, his sister, caught you.”

Bertie sought to clear things up. “Oh no, dear chap! We weren’t climbing the wall! We were trying to reach that ventilator grille in the wall.”

“Why?” the SHO’s deputy returned to the attack. “You were trying to find a way through the grille to enter the courtyard, were you not?”

“No, no,” soothed Bertie, “my friend was helping me to reach my sunglasses.”

“Sunglasses?” the deputy was slightly thrown by this new track of Bertie’s thought.


“Why would your sunglasses be on their ventilator grille?” demanded the deputy with fine scorn. “Who keeps their sunglasses in such a place! Hah!” he added as a snigger ran round the room.

“The monkeys put them there,” explained Bertie as Ginger hunched an exasperated shoulder.

“Monkeys?” demanded the deputy, enraged. “You call these people monkeys and accuse them of keeping your sunglasses? Sir! You will please mind your language and not call names!”

As Bertie tried to protest his innocence against a rising counterpoint of accusations, the SHO sought inspiration in the ceiling fan.

Three hours later, the matter was still under discussion and the stories had been told, analyzed, scoffed at, dismissed and reiterated multiple times over. It wasn’t only the SHO now seeking inspiration from the ceiling fan. Ginger too was regarding the ceiling morosely, leaning back in his chair set against the wall at a prudent distance from everybody else with a granite-faced constable standing by who stiffened to attention every time the argument became too heated. When this happened, one or both the patriarchs and their supportive spouses would raise their eyes to the ceiling and call upon Providence and their respective Supreme Beings to bear witness and descend to earth to resolve the issue of Honor.

Occasionally the stalwart youths, balked of their prey would break into chants of ululating slogans to the accompaniment of clapping, foot-thumping and cheering. Inspired by this, someone produced a small dholak (two-sided drum) to contribute some rhythm, more noise and a mildly festive air to the proceedings. Neither Bertie nor the SHO were impressed by this. The SHO maintained a gloomy non-committal face as he listened to the recitation of events one more time.

Bertie wondered uneasily what Biggles would say, and worse, what Air Commodore Raymond would say if he got to hear of it, as he most certainly would if the High Commission was called in to mediate. Like the SHO, in his heart he was uncomfortably aware of how easily the situation could descend into communal conflict and chaos. Ginger was simply uncomfortable.

Outside the numbers of honest citizens seeking justice had grown, the men crowding the courtyard while the women made themselves comfortable on the verandah with makeshift curtains shielding them from the rays of the setting sun. Some thoughtful people procured straw-plaited hand-fans and earthen pitchers of cool water to help dispel the effects of the pre-twilight heat.

After being shooed away from the main entrance to the SHO’s office several times, the more agile members of the community organized themselves into a news-dispensing grapevine by attaching themselves at precarious angles to the bars of the windows left open for ventilation, and performed a useful function of faithfully relaying every word that was uttered inside.

Inside, Ginger’s gaze strayed from time to time to the back wall where, next to the filing cabinet and desk of the SHO’s deputy, the two girls whose names it transpired were Deepti and Ameena and who were the unwitting center of most of the trouble, sat conferring quietly together, a couple of male cousins in attendance. Their diminutive guard Dipu having been deposed from the position of interpreter stood near the desk ready to pounce on Opportunity, should it arise. He had also made it his self-appointed business to pull faces at Ginger every time he intercepted the red-haired phirangi’s evil gaze upon his sister and her friend.

As the shadows lengthened and the babble of the rabble-rousers outside rose in volume, the dapper bearded-and-bespectacled gentleman, Mirza Murtaza, who had appropriated the role of interpreter and who had been the first to speak to Bertie, had been listening patiently to the dual patriarchal tirade. Now he turned to the SHO with a wry look clearly calling that melancholy individual to action. A short, low-voiced exchange between the two men followed. Then the SHO sat up in his chair and turned to Bertie.

“You say you are a policeman from London –right?”

“Right!” agreed Bertie.

“And you are a Laat-Saheb—lord?”

“Absolutely, oh yes! Awful bore and all that, but there it is.”

“And your identification papers are at Maidens Hotel with your boss?”

“Our chief, yes,” agreed Bertie, adding “He’ll be wondering where we are, so if you’d just let me use that telephone I see by your elbow…?”

“No worry, I will make the call and speak to your chief,” announced the SHO.

Outside the relaying of this information by the grapevine put fresh heart into the wilting denizens awaiting justice. Aaaah! Action at last!

The SHO pulled forward a writing pad and picked up a pen.

“Your full names and ranks, please,” he requested. Bertie supplied the information.

‘The name of your chief, please?” was the SHO’s next question as he wrote it down.

“Bigglesworth,” responded Bertie, adding chattily, “Bit of a mouthful and all that, but he can’t help it, it was his dad’s name too, if you see what I mean.”

In his chattiness he missed the sudden freezing of the SHO’s hand as he stopped writing, his pen suspended briefly in the air, and the quick lowering of the man’s head as though to conceal a sudden gleam in his dark eyes.

“The full name of your chief, please?” the SHO asked smoothly.

“James C. Bigglesworth, the C stands for—“ began Bertie, to be cut short by the SHO’s curt dismissal.

“It does not matter; this much is enough.”

The SHO turned to his deputy, “Sunil, kindly put the call through to the General Manager of Maidens Hotel at once.”

Bertie and Ginger’s eyes met silently across a beer-tainted divide. What WAS Biggles going to say when he heard their whole story?

Biggles could think of plenty to say, if only he could find suitably diplomatic language to couch it in. He had listened to Bertie’s narration in relative silence, inserting a pertinent question only when the narrative seemed in danger of wandering too far off the main track. The sounds of suppressed sputters emanating from Algy and Sunil, the SHO’s deputy did nothing to help. Biggles did his best to ignore them.

“…So you see, old boy,” Bertie finally brought the story to a close. “That’s the whole truth of it. We weren’t doing any harm to anybody and you can see it wasn’t our fault we got tangled up with…er…in…”

“Only about thirty yards of cummerbund and ladies scarf,” supplied Algy helpfully. The female contingent on the verandah, hearing this duly translated by the grapevine, dissolved into a bevy of coy giggles.

Biggles ignored Algy and focused on Mirza Murtaza and the SHO, who he had summed up as being possibly the sanest, balanced and most responsible persons in the room.
"For goodness sake stop that Yankee drawl, or you'll have us all doing it before you've finished."
"OK baby - sorry - I mean, righto."
"That's better."

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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:39 pm

“Surely now, “said Biggles, addressing these two diverse individuals, “surely, you can convince your friends and neighbors that it was all a misunderstanding. My friends meant them no harm and they are not drunk.”

The SHO doodled gloomily on his notepad. The Mirza sighed deeply and responded.

“We can see that, but can everybody else too? I assure you, if this had happened with anybody except these ladies, everyone would see the funny side and be most amused. But where women of the family are concerned…” he shrugged.

“You know India, you should realize how sensitive this can be,” interposed the SHO.

From outside came a high-pitched female-voiced interruption. Bertie and Ginger’s veiled nemesis was not going to abandon her quest for revenge so easily.

“She is calling them liars,” translated the Mirza in an embarrassed tone, adding conspiratorially, “she says they were after something MORE than sunglasses."

“Oh, I say!” Bertie was stung to the quick by the covert insinuation, “she’s old enough to be one of my aunts!”

Ginger scowled but, catching Biggles’ eye, decided to remain silent.

“She says the sunglasses are just an excuse, “ pursued the Mirza, faithfully relaying another high-pitched accusation from the verandah.

“That can soon be settled, “decided the SHO. “Sunil, send a man along with some of the boys outside to see what they can find. Look specially for sunglasses.”

Gleefully, a small troop of stalwart youths and urchins set off under the watchful eye of another granite-faced constable.

Their egress was accompanied by another shrill series of remarks from the veiled nemesis.

Stung by the tone of her remarks, Biggles threw caution to the winds and called out sharply in a good mix of Hindi and Urdu, “Aap kripa kar ke khamosh rahiye!” (You kindly keep quiet!)

The silencing effect of this was electric. Not only the veiled nemesis but the entire female segment were hushed as their menfolk gazed upon Biggles with a measure of approval. The local-born phirangi had achieved an outcome muchly desired in their everyday lives.

The short wait that ensued was filled in by desultory introductions between the aggrieved parties, who nodded mechanically at each other. The virtues of the two girls Deepti and Ameena were extolled by their fathers, Thakur Dewan Singh and Syed Ghulam Ali respectively. Both girls, it transpired, were the first women of their families to attend college. Both planned to complete their graduation and take up teaching.

The small boy Dipu passed the time practicing more faces to pull at the sorely-tried Ginger, who was hard put not to pull one back at him. Only the presence of Biggles, and the resolve to not exacerbate the situation for the two girls acted as a deterrent on Ginger. Bertie polished his monocle reflectively. Algy joined the SHO in admiring the ceiling fan. The SHO's deputy Sunil and his assistant busied themselves with completing the paperwork on the case and organizing refreshments.

As the paternal paeans were punctuated by small sobs from the girls’ mothers, an uncomfortable silence fell. It was relieved by the appearance of small glasses of hot, sweet tea flavored with spices that Biggles declared was just the thing to take the edge off the heat. Algy, Bertie and Ginger, initially skeptical, took cautious sips and realized there was some veracity in what he said.

Finally, about half an hour later, the foraging troops returned with the granite-faced constable at their head. Swaggering up the steps and side-stepping eager questions called out by the crowdies, they entered the SHO’s office in a body and ranged themselves respectfully in front of the desk.

“Well?” queried that worthy personage.

He was duly backed up by a hissed “Ask them did they find anything?” from Mirza Murtaza sotto voce.

“Yes, yes,” said the SHO testily, and put the question to the troops, “So, did you find anything to support the statements of the phirangis?”

The grapevine froze into various contortions of balance. Outside and inside, everyone present leaned forward to hear the answer.

The granite-faced constable waved a deprecatory hand at his youthful companions. “Show!” he commanded.

Grinning, a stalwart youth stepped forward and placed respectfully on the SHO’s desk the purloined water-bottle, looking decidedly worse for wear with its strap partly chewed and a couple of dents adorning its sturdy exterior. Several scratches bore mute testimony to its recent adventures but did nothing to improve its appearance.

“Oh!” exclaimed Bertie delightedly, “You managed to get it off that tree, then!”

“Yes,” agreed the constable without enthusiasm,” it was hanging on the branch of the tree that comes over the wall of Syed Saheb’s house.” He gestured to one of his accompanying urchins who was hopping from one foot to another in suppressed excitement. “Come on, Little Raju!”

Little Raju skipped forward and with a flourish laid Bertie’s sunglasses on the desk beside the water-bottle. Beaming, he gave the listening audience dramatic account in broad Hindi of how he had climbed up to the highest branch of the tree, slithered along it like a snake and at great personal peril rescued the Laat-saheb’s sunglasses from the sill of the ventilator grille, then jumped straight down into the welcoming arms of the strong constable.

“Hardly welcoming,” grunted that individual. “The little rascal climbed up like a monkey all right and got the sunglasses. But then he tells us he’s scared of the height and too afraid to climb down. So we had no choice but to make him jump down and I had to catch him.” The man rubbed his shoulder ruefully, “He landed on me like a rock wrapped up in a bundle of laundry.”

The sympathetic and congratulatory demeanor of his audience was tainted by surreptitious titters. Ginger, glancing at Biggles, was surprise to see one of Biggles’ rare smiles spread unwillingly over his face.

“Well, you did a good job recovering both items,” comforted the SHO stoically. “Sunil will give you some Iodex to apply on your shoulder, and you will be fine in no time.”

“I was rather thinking I might take tomorrow off, sir, to rest my shoulder,” began the constable tentatively, then catching his superior’s unsympathetic eye, he changed it to “All in the line of duty, sir!” He saluted and fell silent.

The acrophobic urchin poked the stalwart youth and hissed “Tell them!” in audible Hindi.
"For goodness sake stop that Yankee drawl, or you'll have us all doing it before you've finished."
"OK baby - sorry - I mean, righto."
"That's better."

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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:41 pm

“Tell us what?” asked Biggles sharply, catching this.

The stalwart youth replied deprecatingly, “He says he saw a marble slab in the wall with English writing on it, next to the ventilator behind the creeper. That’s why he went so far up. He couldn’t read it.”

Both Bertie and Mirza Murtaza sprang up and spoke excitedly together.

“What! He saw it too! What did it say?! Where is it! We have never seen it!”

Bertie turned to the SHO. “You see, old lad, I was trying to read that little marble plaque set in the wall, above the gate and quite near the ventilator grille. That’s when the lady went for us with that umbrella”

“What did it say?” asked the Mirza eagerly. He turned to his companions, “A plaque with English letters on it! Brother, our humble house could be connected with history!”

“I couldn’t make it all out, there was too much of that thorny creeper,” said Bertie apologetically, “but I did make out the letters –O-R-D and the numbers -57. So it looks as if it might be something to do with the Mutiny, doesn’t it!”

The Mirza said, “Such plaques were put up as memorials to the English who lived on Chandni Chowk and were killed during the Ghadr (Mutiny).” Hesighed ecstatically, “Our house, a heritage building, how wonderful, I am sure some English must have been killed there, rivers of blood must have flowed…”

“Absolutely, my dear chap, absolutely” interjected Bertie hastily. “Matter of fact, I was hoping to trace where my mother’s ancestor, Captain Douglas might have lived, if he did, around here.”

Checked in his flight of fancy, the Mirza considered this. “Douglas?” he queried, “the Qiladar commander at the court of Zafar? You are a descendant?”

“Only on my mother’s side,” clarified Bertie.

“Amazing! My dear sir, that would make you almost one of us, local connections are to be respected!”

“It’s been a long time, “began Bertie, a trifle sheepishly, “I wouldn’t say…”

He was overridden by the Mirza, “Sir! Memories run long in Delhi! The Mutiny was just a few decades ago, no?”

“More than a century, you know!”

“What does that matter?” asked the Mirza loftily. “In our way of thinking, a couple of centuries is but a drop in time!”

Observing that the SHO had once more sought inspiration from the ceiling fan, and his staff were enjoying the historical turn of the conversation, Biggles judged it was time to call attention to the more pressing matters at hand. Addressing the room at large and the Mirza in particular, he asked a pertinent question. “I take it my friends are no longer suspected of trying to break into anybody’s house?”

His query was answered by a chorus of denials in three languages. Of course not! The laat-saheb was a friend who was trying to locate an ancestor who would have been a tenant or neighbor of the Mirza’s family ancestors, it would be a pleasure to help him find more details, he was welcome to come and see the plaque in daylight, any time, share a meal with them.

A small disruption occurred as the veiled nemesis imposed her portly self on the room once more. Bertie and Ginger eyed her warily, but it was apparent at once that she had been following events through the grapevine on the verandah. The eyes that were her only visible and discernible features, no longer glittered with hostility. Instead, they held a benign glow as she uttered a few sentences and withdrew as hastily as she had entered.

The Mirza smiled. “My sister apologizes for her mistake. And says to tell you that she makes excellent chicken kebabs and biryani rice. She hopes you will forgive her and come sample her cooking some time.”

“Oh absolutely!” agreed Bertie enthusiastically. He cocked a monocle at the SHO who was conferring with Biggles in a low voice. “I take it, old lad, that we’re off the hook and free to go now!”

A minor upheaval occurred at the other end of the big desk. The SHO sighed and signaled to the two patriarchal parties ensconced there to speak and unburden themselves. They proceeded to do so at some length, bringing a scowl to the SHO’s gloomy visage as a concerned frown darkened Biggles’s face.

“What about the dishonor caused to the two young ladies?” translated the Mirza.

Ginger rose hotly to his feet and, ignoring the automatic withdrawal of those nearest to him, advanced to the big desk.

“Listen to me, you all! I did not dishonor anybody!” he banged his fist on the desk to emphasize each word.

While the two patriarchs fanned their faces to dispel Ginger’s aromatic aura, the Mirza, who had by now established himself as chief interlocutor, spoke soothingly. “Of course not, my dear sir! We can see that it was a genuine accident, what happened back there.”

“So, why do you keep blaming me?” demanded Ginger belligerently. He rather diluted the effect of his wild-eyed appearance by adding somewhat lamely, “And I am NOT drunk! It’s just that my clothes soaked up the beer from those broken bottles!”

“Of course,” interjected Algy encouragingly, “just soaking up the stuff, weren’t you!” He earned a glare from Ginger as the Mirza made clucking noises in the background while communicating with the patriarchs.

“We are not blaming you gentlemen now that we know what happened,” said the Mirza, as the patriarchs and their cohorts nodded reluctantly. “It is just that…” he tailed off, looking appealingly at Biggles. “Sir, you can understand how things are.”

Biggles nodded, not unsympathetically. “These poor kids will have a lot to face when they get home tonight,” he told the fulminating Ginger.

“So what’s it to do with me and Bertie?” demanded Ginger.

“Not much, other than rolling about on the pavement in a public place clutching that poor kid,” returned Biggles unfeelingly. “And pulling the other kid’s covering scarf right off her.”

“Both those incidents were an accident! Haven’t we explained enough?” Bertie rose to his feet in his indignation and came to stand beside Ginger before retreating hastily.

Biggles shrugged. “You’ve been explaining your point of view. Try seeing it from theirs.”

As Ginger gaped at him and Bertie frowned, the SHO deemed it time to abandon his scrutiny of the ceiling fan and intervene.

“You see and hear those people outside?” he asked Ginger briefly.

“I’ve been seeing and hearing them for hours now!” retorted Ginger flippantly.

“Gossips, every one of them!” pronounced the SHO.

The Mirza nodded sadly. “Big gossips! And some of the men are worse than the women! They will delight in tearing up these families and the girls’ reputations.”

“It gets worse,” said the SHO heavily. “You see, both the families are highly respected and … well…wealthy, to put it simply.”

“Go on,” said Bertie intently, prodding Ginger away as he too leaned forward to listen.

“Plenty of people in their communities would want to arrange a marriage of their sons with these two girls. They both want to study, they are the first in their families to go to college and they want to do jobs after they graduate. Now, with the gossips making a big scandal about their public behavior with two foreigners—"

The SHO held up a restraining hand as Ginger started forward angrily, “please listen, sir, and try to understand their situation. Old Delhi and Chandni Chowk is a tight-knit community. They will find it impossible to step out of their homes without those worthless young men outside passing remarks about them. Any of those louts will be happy to marry into these families. Normally they would not have a chance, but now, if the gossips have their way, the good families will hesitate to propose a marriage with these young ladies.”

The SHO shot a look at Ginger and Bertie under his heavy brows. Both airmen were frowning. Algy was no longer smiling and Biggles had a particularly inscrutable expression on his face.

“No matter what action I take now, “then SHO continued, “one or the other of their communities will howl discrimination and I could have a riot on my hands tonight.”

Ginger groped for the nearest chair. It was hastily vacated by the Mirza, politely covering up the coughing fit brought on by Ginger’s pungent proximity.

“I can see your drift, old lad,” said Bertie slowly. “But what’s to be done?”

The SHO’s habitual gloom deepened, “It’s hard to see what can be done. Apart from the damage to these poor girls’ reputations, you too could be attacked by those louts outside if I let you go free now.”

“All in the name of honor and justice,” said Ginger bitterly. “So-called.”

“Honor and justice are very real, young sir, and very valuable," said the Mirza reprovingly. “For no fault of theirs, these girls and their fathers, Syed sahib and Thakur sahib, will have to listen to a lot of taunts and perhaps give their girls to husbands who do not deserve such jewels! They would have to pay big dowries. Ah, how these daughters would suffer—“

“True,” broke in Biggles hastily, forestalling the Mirza’s impending emotional outbreak. “The question is how can we fix this so we can all go back to normal?”

The SHO and his deputy, the Mirza and his patriarchal adherents all scowled in concentration.

“How could this situation be set right?” Algy wondered aloud. “Could Ginger and Bertie make amends of some sort?”

The Thakur rose up and spoke fiercely before being shushed down by the Mirza. The SHO translated glumly, “Don’t even mention money to them sir! He is furious that you would put a price on their daughters!”

“No, no,” Algy exclaimed in consternation, “I didn’t mean that!” He went on confidentially, “You see, I’ve often heard m’ mother and sisters indulging in just the kind of gossip you’re afraid of. I just wondered if the damage could be fixed socially somehow.”

“Socially!” asked the SHO skeptically, “How? Is your friend going to make amends like they do in the Bombay movies? Offer to marry them himself? And do you think that will be acceptable?”

Bertie, listening closely, had nothing to say. Ginger turned an ashen face towards Biggles.

“M-m-m-m-…?” Ginger could not bring himself to say the dreaded word.

Nobody had noticed Dipu the diminutive interpreter confer quietly with his sister and slip out of the room. Now he snuck back in with an ostentatious invisibility that simply begged to be noticed. However, amid the uproar of the arguments, ably refereed by the SHO and the Mirza, now being batted around the hapless Ginger, his elaborately nonchalant re-entry was largely ignored. No-one paid any attention to the two girls putting their heads together either, gently pushing away their male bodyguards who tried to eavesdrop. A small paper package was passed by Dipu to the girl-

Ginger cast an appealing look at Biggles. “I-I’d like to fix things,” he got out with difficulty,” but, really, do I have to m-m-m-m-…” the words stuck in his throat again.

Algy said helpfully, “Marry, I think, is the word you’re looking for.” Turning to Biggles he went on, a trifle worriedly, “Would he have to –er – take on both of them? Could the flat and Mrs Symes handle it?”
"For goodness sake stop that Yankee drawl, or you'll have us all doing it before you've finished."
"OK baby - sorry - I mean, righto."
"That's better."

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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by kylie_koyote » Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:42 pm

Ginger muttered something distinctly uncomplimentary to Algy, the flat and Mrs Symes in that order. He was beginning to feel a dreadful sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach and he did think Biggles could have been more helpful, instead of nattering cosily like that in the corner with the two girls.

"Probably discussing living arrangements," thought Ginger sourly, for once feeling quite at outs with his chief.

Biggles was not discussing living arrangements with the girls. He had, in fact, responded to a gentle but persistent tugging on his sleeve. Turning, he had come face-to-face with young Dipu pulling on his sleeve while producing facial contortions indicative of extreme urgency.

{Moving on...}

As the flow of arguments swirled around him and the drumming and slogan- shouting ebbed and swelled outside, Ginger rolled a desperate - and despairing- eye at his comrades.

To his disgust, none of them seemed fully engaged with his plight. Bertie was energetically polishing his eyeglass as he lent an ear to the Mirza's erudite ramblings. Algy had procured another cup of masala tea from Sunil and was sipping it with relish, apparently concentrating on deciphering its myriad tastes.

Worst, in Ginger's morose opinion, was Biggles, now deep in conversation with the girls in the rear of the big room, and evidently oblivious to any appeals directed at him. Even as Ginger glowered at his back, Biggles glanced around, ignored his smouldering protege, and made eye contact with the SHO and the Mirza in turn.

Responding to that urgent look both men rose from their places and joined the low-voiced conversation at the back of the room. Around the desk, the Mirza's abrupt move left Bertie isolated amidst the patriarchal elements who now began to dominate the talking. Algy finished his tea, placed the cup on the desk with exaggerated care and gently rested his head on his hands again, balancing his elbows on the desk.

"Huh! I know that pose! He's either feeling all the drinks he polished off at the hotel behind our backs, or he's just catching forty winks," decided Ginger uncharitably in his mind, before returning his irate glare to focus on Biggles' back.

He was just beginning to feel the thump of a worsening headache and wondering how much longer this (most unsatisfactory) state of affairs would continue, when the group at the back broke up. The SHO and the Mirza returned to their former seats.

Ginger waited glumly for Biggles to follow suit and for the suspended arguments to resume. To his astonishment, it was the two girls who came forward, stopping beside the SHO's chair, a little to one side. Biggles came up to stand just behind them.

"As if he's protecting them, when he should be protecting me," thought Ginger miserably.

Looking up at his chief, in the light of the overhead light that had been switched on by the helpful Sunil, Ginger was slightly unnerved to see that the curious inscrutable expression was back on Biggles' face.

Resigned to what he now perceived as an inescapable fate, Ginger held his breath.
"For goodness sake stop that Yankee drawl, or you'll have us all doing it before you've finished."
"OK baby - sorry - I mean, righto."
"That's better."

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Re: One Last Scene from "Goes Home" (Reposted)

Post by RAAF Spitfire Girl » Fri Oct 12, 2018 5:18 am

kylie_koyote wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 1:42 pm
...Ginger held his breath.
As am I, ICS. Absolutely hanging out to learn how this will pan out.

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