Mr. Smallwood was a very important man and associated himself with other very important men. He operated in that gray area that is not quite legal, but not quite illegal either. Officially he was employed by the British government, but a lot of his business was with very important men who where officially criminals. This did not bother him, nor did it bother his associates or his employer’s.
Quite often in his work he did things that had any other person done would have initiated a police inquiry. But while he had no official control over any police force, he was in a position of considerable influence and his activities where always over looked. He took care not to compromise his influence by committing any excessive acts himself, but when the need arouse he would quite willingly employ other people to do the dirty work for him. And while these people where from time to time caught, nobody ever traced the line of command back to him.
It was while organizing such an act with Mr. Brown that Celia first came to his notice. Mr. Brown was in the habit of inviting important business associates to his home for dinner. Where business could be discussed over the after dinner drinks in his study and goodwill generated among his associates by entertaining them afterwards with the help of whatever type of girls or boys that his guests might desired.
Smallwood had been to Mr. Browns dinners several times before but had always managed to be called away before the entertainment began. However it was a trend that Mr. Brown would soon see through and after he’d consolidated his position within the London underworld Smallwood did not want to offend him by refusing his hospitality too often. So tonight he would get his first taste of Mr. Brown’s renown hospitality.
He arrived promptly and as usual was greeted by one of Mr. Browns live in “servants”. Mr. Brown liked to have two or three young women living with him to satisfy his various needs. This one was a petite little blond, white girl, with stunning blue eyes. She reminded him of somebody. But he quickly decided that was because she was beautiful and just reminded him of all the other beautiful girls he had seen. Silently she took his coat and hat from him and smiling she showed him into Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown was, as usual, dressed in an conservative business suit. He stood as Smallwood entered and offered him his hand, “It’s nice to see you again Mr. Smallwood.”
Smallwood shuck his hand, “It’s good to see you to, Mr. Brown.”
Mr. Brown waved towards an armchair, “Please make yourself at home.”
Smallwood sat down, “Thank you.”
“Would you like an aperitif?” Mr. Brown sat down again.
“Yes. I’ll have a dry sherry,” Smallwood smiled back to Mr. Brown.
“Celia, a dry sherry for Mr. Smallwood and top me up as well,” Mr. Brown handed his half full glass to the girl.
Celia turned to the drinks cabinet while the two men sat in silence for a moment.
“She’s a new face,” Smallwood nodded towards Celia.
“Yes. She only moved in with me a couple of months ago,” Mr. Brown took his refilled glass from Celia. “She was living rough on the streets.”
“Oh, really,” Smallwood took his drink from her.
“Yes there is a terrible lack of decent, affordable housing here in London,” Mr. Brown sipped his drink. “Somebody really should do something about it.”
“Yes,” Smallwood preferred to avoid discussing anything that resembled politics with his business associates, he found that it usually lead to trouble. “Do you still have that brilliant cook. What was her name?” Smallwood scratched his nose, “Oh, yes Mary.”
“I’m delighted you remember her,” Mr. Brown smiled. “She’s in the kitchen right now, putting the finishing touches to tonight’s meal.” He sipped his drink.
Smallwood sipped his own drink and started a conversation about football. He had no real interest in football, but he found it was a nice safe subject to talk about in that you could have differences of opinions and conflicting theories, and so interesting conversation, without running much risk of offending anybody.
Celia waited patiently, taking no part in the conversation. While discreet noises and smells drifting from the kitchen told them that dinner was nearly ready.
A few minutes later Mr. Brown put down his empty glass and stood up. “Celia, tell Mary that we are ready for the soup now.”
Celia turned and trotted out of the room.
Smallwood quickly finished his sherry and followed Mr. Brown across to the table. There were only two places set so he guessed that the girls where not going to eat with them.
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