The Home Secretary was in a foul mood.
It was half past eleven and she had not shouted at anyone yet. No immigration raids were scheduled for today, and no disturbances from last night were reported. The junior civil servant, her always reliable punching bag, called in sick. Upon her return, the Home Secretary would get to shout at her with double, or even treble, fierceness, for taking a sick leave. But for now, there was no junior civil servant to shout at. And she wanted someone to shout at. She needed someone to shout at. Someone other than the housekeeping staff, that is. Shouting at the housekeeping staff was for beginners, and she was no beginner. She was the Home Secretary, in position for three years.
This is what happens when you get drunk on power, said her most senior of the civil servants yesterday. Then he resigned.
Why did she think of that now? Shut up, shut up! She grabbed a notepad and threw it against the wall.
Truth was, the past two years had been amazing, more than amazing. Raids, deportations, fortified camps built for the illegals and the detractors. New Special Guard established to tackle immigrants and disobedient citizens. Most importantly, the Royal Family was no more—their assets had been seized by the government, the members taken to the Tower of London and, one by one, promptly dealt with. She was present for all of it, right in the heart of action. Her most glorious moments. The ginger prince and his American wife were the only ones to evade the guards, but even they couldn’t escape their end. While on the run, their car exploded. Probably an inside job. Bits of their bodies were still being discovered. The American wife’s head, found rolled away from the rest of the remains, was displayed on a pole by the Tower Bridge for a while. It was so deliciously medieval. The Home Secretary laughed and laughed.
But it had been weeks since. The euphoria had worn off. What next? Eventually, you’re going to run out of immigrants, was what the most senior civil servant said. The one that resigned.
She stood up and went to the door. Stopping with her hand on the handle, she remembered a conversation she overheard yesterday in the toilets on the first floor. She rarely went to the first floor, thus the two women felt they could speak freely, never expecting the Home Secretary to grace their toilets with her presence. (She wouldn’t, but being on the first floor at the time for some business… well, when you have to go, you have to go.)
“I don’t know how long we can keep this up,” said the first woman.
“About the migrant boats in the channel, you mean?” said the second woman. “Them going the other way, towards mainland Europe?”
“Yes, that. It was only a matter of time for the media to find out the truth, and we can’t shut all of them down. I don’t know how we’re going to spin this.”
“Surely the public cannot tell from the footage which way the boats are sailing.”
“The problem is the migrants. They’re white.”
“You know that migrants can be white, right? Say they’re fleeing the evil European empire, the Fourth Reich… or whatever the Prime Minister called it the other day.”
“I’m not sure we can. They’re visibly our people. Also up north, the Scots are building a huge wall, and there isn’t any way we can make it look like it’s us.”
“I sense multiple nervous breakdowns coming.”
“I almost wish for one. Easier handled than working here.”
The second woman sighed. “I should have gone to Scotland when I had a chance.”
Throughout this exchange, the Home Secretary sat on the toilet, motionless. So they knew. Everyone knew. When she got back to her office, in rage she threw a stapler at her punching bag junior civil servant. Likely that was the reason for her absence. Who cared?
Well she did. Because now there was nobody to shout at.
Before she could push the handle to open the door, her intercom bleeped. “The Prime Minister summons you to Number 10,” said the timid voice of her PA.
At last something good! She checked herself in the mirror, adjusted her hair, applied lipstick. She smiled at her reflection. Her smile was legendary. It was only the haters that called it a smirk. So what if she was smug, she had a lot to be proud about. No other Home Secretary in history had achieved so much in such a short time. And the Prime Minister was her personal friend and strongest ally. Nothing and no one could topple her. Those that had tried, lived to regret it. If they lived.
Except that Weasel Face, who still kept himself in the upper echelons. One day, she’d get him too. Not to worry.
She strutted down Downing Street, giving the reporters something to watch. Outside the Number 10 door, there was another annoyance—that confounded cat sat right on the doorstep, cleaning himself, one leg sticking up. “Shoo!” She was about to kick him, but Larry—for that was the cat’s name—anticipated the attack and bolted. Oh, how she hated him. So many times she implored the Prime Minister to get rid of him, but he wouldn’t hear of it. “He’s the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office,” the Prime Minister said.
“So? Strip him of that position. Not like you haven’t done that before.”
“Sweetie, you don’t understand. He catches mice. Plus, a pet makes a good PR.”
Good PR. As if such a hateful creature could make a good PR!
She composed herself. After all, it was just a cat. The door opened, she was ushered in. Everything will be alright, she assured herself, the Prime Minister will find a way. He always did. Or his advisors did. Which was the same thing.
“Prime Minister,” she said as she entered his office, another name on her tongue, the nickname that she was one of the privileged ones to be allowed to use.
She halted, open mouthed, frozen, one foot lifted. It wasn’t him!
“Wh-where is the Prime Minister?” she stuttered.
In front of her stood her biggest enemy, the Weasel Face. “I am the Prime Minister.”
“How, why? What happened?”
“The previous Prime Minister is no longer the Prime Minister. I have taken over.”
“Where is he?” she asked in a whisper. “Did he…” she couldn’t pronounce the word. Resign?
“He had an accident with a kettle this morning,” explained Weasel Face. “He’s been taken to the hospital.”
She leant forward. “An-an accident with a kettle?”
Weasel Face shrugged. “He’s not used to making his own tea. I don’t know what exactly made him do it today, whether servants were unavailable, or his wife was sleeping in. In any case it doesn’t matter. He’s decided to retire from politics completely. As soon as he recovers, he’ll be leaving for his new villa in the Caribbean.”
“I-I…” she wrung her hands. “I cannot believe that.”
“Well you should. I called you here to tell you that you’re dismissed from the position of Home Secretary. You have one hour to gather your things and leave.”
“You can’t do this!”
“Oh yes, I can.”
She swallowed. Of course he could. He was the Prime Minister.
“You’d better hurry up back to Marsham Street and start on it now. Oh and by the way, here’s your replacement.” He waved his hand towards the other end of the room.
From the shadowy corner emerged the figure of her former most senior civil servant. The very same one that gave notice yesterday.
He gave a laugh. “Surprised?”
She suddenly remembered how closely he hovered around her coffee cup yesterday. She burst out: “You put laxatives in my coffee!” That’s why she had to go use the first floor toilets. It made sense now.
“My dear lady, I think you’re being hysterical,” said the new Prime Minister. He approached his desk and pressed a button. Behind her, the door to the office opened. “Take her,” he commanded. She turned. Special Guard, her pride and joy. There were two of them, each grabbed her by one arm. She could kick and scream all she wanted, they were strong and trained, she made sure only the best men, always men, were recruited into the Special Guard. Without a word, they dragged her out of the office, out of Number 10, out to the street.
Thrill rose among the reporters, cameras clicked, capturing the moment of defeat and humiliation of the woman who mere minutes ago had swayed down the street so mightily. Larry the cat sat in front of the line of reporters and stared at her. It was you, she thought, it was you that caused that kettle accident. She let out a hysterical shriek. It was so absurd. And yet… as she was being carried away from Downing Street, her and the cat’s gazes locked, and she could swear those treacherous green feline eyes were full of gloating triumph.
“Just what I needed today,” grumbled Dave, the older one of the Special Guard.
“Is it today that is your anniversary?” Joe, the younger guard, asked.
“It is. I made that booking six months ago. God knows if I get off work in time.”
Joe nodded sympathetically. You had to book well in advance these days. No immigrants meant little to no hospitality staff. “What time is it booked for?”
“Seven. Jane has long wanted to go to that restaurant. I was hoping to surprise her. I had to pull some strings to book a table. Why the idiot had to have his kettle accident today of all days,” Dave sighed.
“Don’t worry, we’ll come up with something.” Joe knew Dave and Jane were devoted to each other. He didn’t want them to miss their anniversary dinner.
“If you have any ideas, that’ll be great.”
“I may have some. But first, let’s deal with this bitch.” He nudged the former Home Secretary with his elbow.
“I made you!” she shouted. “Without me you wouldn’t be where you are!”
They ignored her.
“We don’t have time for this,” Dave said. “Let’s just throw her in a van.”
“It won’t take long,” Joe pleaded. “I know you hate her too. Please. Just one punch.”
Dave gave in. “Alright then.”
“What are you taking about?” The former Home Secretary’s voice lost its viciousness. It was now as timid as the PA’s voice on the intercom.
She received her answer.
Joe raised his fist, the powerful fist of a former amateur boxing champion, and with full force landed it right into the former Home Secretary’s mouth.
She howled. Blood poured down her chin, several teeth were broken. “Gosh, I was sick of that smirk,” Joe exclaimed with relief.
“You know what, Joe,” Dave said. “I bet that felt good.”
Violence does, in truth, recoil upon the violent, and the schemer falls into the pit which he digs for another.
Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle
Author’s note: This story is a work of fiction. The events and characters, with the exception of the cat Larry, are fictional. Any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental.