It was I who broke the news to Frank and the Princess Marianne. We were in the car she had hired and they were about 30 minutes shy of arriving at the Maidstone Castle. At that point all the news had was the Monsignor’s name and that Italian Flight Control reported that the plane had suddenly dived at full speed into the ground without any word of there being a problem from the robotic pilot. A crash like that was considered extremely rare. In fact, with the removal of human pilots the number of crashes was now measured in crashes per decade instead of crashes per year. You were more likely to be hit by a meteorite than die in a plane crash.
The Princess was visibly shook by the news that their comrade in arms was dead. Her only comment was, “He was murdered. I don’t have any proof, but he was murdered.” Several tears came down her cheek as she quietly looked out the window of the car. Humans often think about mortality at times like this I am told. Living is considered an amazing phenomenon by humans. Even atheists see life as almost a miracle. How life started on this planet is still unknown, but once established it has been handed down generation by generation, species by species.
Frank, like usual, looked grim at the bad news, but he did not let any tears roll down his cheek. It was not that he did not care for the Monsignor. I think he respected that man very much. They disagreed greatly in their world view, but the Monsignor was authentic and took life as a serious venture. Frank admired men and women like that. So many with the advent of plenty, thanks to robotic economics, simply lived their lives in idleness and drowned in the details of the superficial. As Frank liked to say, “Small people talk about people.” More people read gossip magazines or watch programming like “Scandalicious” rather than read the Wall Street Journal. There was probably a bottle with the Monsignor’s name that Frank would someday empty while thinking about him. If other things were not more pressing he would probably excuse himself from the Princess in order to indulge in his drinking ceremony to honor the memory of Monsignor Pietro.
“You are probably right, my dear. And we best watch our backs as well. Your husbands are still at large. After I know you are safe Jack and I will have to get back on the trail of your husband.”
“I don’t consider him my husband anymore. I wish all four of them were in that jet instead of the Monsignor.”
“A worthy wish to wish upon a star, but your husbands would not be dumb enough to be in one spot, I would think,” Frank said in all seriousness.
“Do me a favor and don’t mention I am married to that monster,” the Princess said with a cold stare and with an angry voice.
“Don’t blame you. Any idea where he might be?”
“None, but my mind is shot. If you asked me which planet London was on, I would get it wrong.”
“That makes two of us,” Frank said in a whisper. After that they were quiet for the rest of the ride. When they got to the gate of the estate they found four British soldiers and a couple of MI5 or MI6 men in black raincoats. They took one look at the Princess and let us in. Every hundred feet or so there were two guards on the road. Each had an automatic guided missile gun on their shoulder. At the castle entrance there must have been an additional dozen soldiers equally as well armed as the others. Once inside we were met by several more MI whatever men. One was wearing a tweed coat and he came over and introduced himself as Mr. Thomaston.
“Your Royal Highness and Mr. Huntington, I’m with MI5. My name is Alfred Thomaston. We have made a through physical and electronic search of the castle and found only a couple service robots and a half dozen human domestics. We have allowed them to stay and attend to your needs. We found the security office for the castle and have manned it with our people and we will be maintaining about 120 security people about the outside of the castle.”
The Princess managed a weak smile and thanked Mr. Thomaston for everything that had been done. After that we walked into the main entrance of the castle and the Princess went over to a phone and rang up the kitchen. She ordered a dinner for two in about an hour and then asked which guest room would be available for one guest. After listening to the answer she said, “Thank you” and hung up the phone.
“I’ll show you your room later, Frank, but right now I don’t want to be alone. Let’s go to my room and freshen up. I could use a damn long hot shower and a stiff drink,” the Princess said with a tone of fatigue in her voice. I followed them up the stairs and once in her suite I took a position by the door. Her suite must have been at least four rooms. We were in what looked like a sitting room.
The Princess went over to one door and said, “This is my guest bathroom. Well, it was for my husband’s use after we’d made love. You’ll find towels and whatever men need to make themselves presentable. If you don’t mind I will go take my shower.”
“What about that drink? I could use one, too,” Frank said.
“You’ll find a complete bar in your bathroom.”
I think Frank took the hint that she wanted some private time and headed to the bathroom she had assigned him to. She opened another door and disappeared. Frank found the liquor cabinet. The half full bottle of Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve whiskey caught his eye. 1955 – the stuff was older than his grandfather. A nice two finger shot of that would cost more than he made in a year. He filled the crystal water glass by the sink far beyond two fingers and sat on the toilet. He was too tired to walk over to the other side of the bathroom which had a large wall of clothes and several sitting chairs.
Frank told me later he thought about how crazy his life had become. He said if it was made into a movie it would look like some cheesy spy film from the 20th Century. The only difference is that real people had died. No fake blood. No dramatic deaths. Not much drama dying by being encased in a tomb of foam. The closest to something dramatic was the way the one Lutts died. He wished he could arrange for the other four Luttses to go the same way. Except for the original Lutts; he would like to see him die slowly. He would like him to know he had failed and that men lesser than his mighty intellect had won this battle for freedom. He mused that with religion coming so close to extinction that the backlash would be a resurgence in religion world-wide. After refilling his drink he knew that the movie was not over. The evil villain was still at large and still capable of defeating the heroes.
Finally Frank walked with another glass worth a small fortune to the shower. It was probably the best shower he had ever had. The only complaint he had was that he had tried to take his half full glass of Glenfiddich in the shower with him. It soon was hopelessly watered down by all the moving shower heads. He had only seen a computerized shower like this when he had stayed in a ritzy hotel in Tokyo where even the toilets make taking a shit a sensuous experience. He finally put the glass down on the floor and enjoyed the computerized showers response to his bent over ass. He told me, “Who needs foreplay when you have a shower like that.”
I am sure the temptation to let the shower pleasure him crossed his mind, but he was too tired and after only ten minutes shut down “this water park of porn.”
After he shut off the water then the computer controlled hot air jets did about 90 percent of the drying in only a minute. That too felt fantastic. After that he grabbed a towel and finished drying his hair and then wrapped it around his waist. This fine living could be habit forming. He picked up his glass and emptied it on the floor and walked back to the Glenfiddich. Considering how many times that bastard Lutts had tried to drug or kill him he didn’t care if he finished the bottle. Full glass in hand he walked out into the beautiful sitting room of the Princess and headed over to the door she had disappeared behind. I quietly followed him, as is my role as silent videographer.
The room he had entered was her sleeping room. It was like some movie set for a silent starlet who needed to be loved by some Valentino. There were white roses everywhere and the room smelled like the Garden of Eden. On one side was a small marble table where the dinner the Princess had ordered was waiting. The plates covered with silver and gold covers. A bottle of wine sat chilled already decamped so the wine could breath. Frank went over and sat at the table and helped himself to the coffee. Frank looked at me and said, “Jack, I hope this is not decaf, I need something to keep me awake during the meal.” I came over and scanned the coffee and said, “It is fully caffeinated, sir. Just don’t drink too much wine and you should be fine.”
A door to the right of the bed opened and the Princess came out with a towel around her head and nothing else. I could tell by Frank’s pulse he immediately responded to her beauty. She walked over to a set of double doors and opened them up. It revealed a large walk-in closet. She grabbed a gold robe and put it on. After she had tied the black velvet belt she came over to the table and sat across from Frank.
“God that felt good. How was your shower?” she asked.
“Almost better than sex,” Frank said with a small grin.
“Yes, they are quite overwhelming. I had never experienced such advanced computerized showers until I married Terrance. I hate to say it, but I think the showers here in the castle are better lovers than my husband,” and with that she gave out a small laugh.
“I hope my love making efforts with you have been better than taking a shower,” Frank said after taking another sip of coffee.
“You hold your own, dear. Let’s eat. I’m not particularly hungry, but I know if I don’t eat I will wake up in the middle of the night famished.”
She uncovered the plate and revealed a lovely small grouse stuffed with truffles. To the side was some La Bonnotte potatoes and some New England Cranberry Chutney. In a silver basket lined in a silk napkin were a dozen Roquefort and Almond sourdough rolls from Harrods.
Frank uncovered his and then looked at me and said, “Jack check this out – both plates and everything else, please.”
The Princess looked a little shocked, but did not protest. She knew that the long arm of her husband could reach everywhere. It took less than a minute for me to check it all out. It was all perfectly wholesome. With that unpleasant task out of the way both Frank and the Princess seemed to relax. Their conversation was sparse. I have seen this before in Frank. When life has been too dramatic it needed to be balanced with quietude. Humans can take only so much excitement.
Probably the most surprising subject that was only comprised of a few quiet words is that the Princess asked Frank to pour them each a glass of wine. Once the glasses were full, she simply said, “To the Monsignor.” They then both quietly took a sip of wine and looked down on their plates. Frank did only a little bit better on his plate then the Princess. A Foodie would have licked the plate at having such a perfectly prepared meal. However, as the Princess had stated, she was just consuming fuel so she could sleep through the night. After another five minutes of silence and maybe an occasional bite of food, the Princess got up and took Frank’s hand. Silently they walked over to the bed and pushed a button which caused the lights to slowly start fading. She took off the towel on her head and her lovely hair fell to her shoulders. She untied the black belt and let the robe fall to the ground. She then crawled under the covers. Frank walked over to the other side and took off his towel and crawled in as well. The bed sheets were silky and warm. He turned to face her and saw she was already asleep. He spent several minutes looking at her sleeping face. As he told me later, “It was perfect. In such an imperfect world she had a perfect face. Beauty and peace all captured in a human face.” Frank slowly closed his eyes for a moment and then would open them to look at her face again. Life felt so simple and magical when looking at her face. He later told me, “I wondered what it would be like to spend a lifetime with that face?” This went on for several minutes until he joined her in the land of nod.
About an hour later someone opened the door to the room. They did not enter, but must have just stood just outside the room. About two minutes later the door slowly closed. From where I was standing I could not see who it was. Most likely it was a servant pondering if they should come clear the table. Considering that could wake up their mistress they rightly decided to wait until another time. If it was a robot, they would have figured that out in three seconds and left. Humans can be so slow.
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