2.7 Breakfast at Château Mourey
2.7.1 Ada and Alenby Breakfast
A Kitchen Alcove, Maison Mourey
About 9:00 am Friday 27 November 1987
Ada came to breakfast sluggishly, her face set in an expression of discontent. "Good morning Alenby," she said in tones of martyrdom. This...constipation, it's worse than I ever imagined. The medication you recommended, Xaludurc, it hasn't done a thing for me." And glancing over the breakfast table with its colorful array of fruits and berries, she added: "Sweet of you to go to the bother--"
"Lucrezia, actually. Lucrezia fixed everything."
"Whoever. But it really isn't what I want. I need something substantial. The label says Xaludurc is supposed to be taken--inserted, that is--after meals. That's meals, not a heap of little bits of fruit. Fruit's mainly water anyway. There's no body to it. Le Cèpe always makes me scrambled eggs or lamb's brains buerre noisette. Lacking solid food like that, I'll just have to try this Xaludurc on an empty stomach and hope for the best."
Alenby sympathized. He knew exactly how she felt. He remembered his grief at the absence of the hearty comestibles of his former life. His world had seemed dismal as a restaurant shuttered by the Department of Health. Life had held no charms, nothing to look forward to. Nowadays, having adapted to a diet in accord with science and reason, he no longer desired those substantial and savory dishes. Although he still missed the desire.
He sympathized also with Ada's feelings of something seriously amiss with her inner person, but he knew his words of commiseration did about as much good as a smattering of raindrops on the sands of the Sahara. He rose from the table and excused himself with mention of some tasks that awaited him in the garden.
Outside on a seasonably cool, partly sunny morning, his thoughts turned to the good and noble Olympe, and his spirits revived. He found himself humming the joyful melody of Fühl' ich zu dir so süss mein Hertz entbrennen from the bridal-chamber scene in Wagner's "Lohengrin." Amazing, was it not, that a mere woman could raise one's spirits, considering that her charms fell short of the conventional ideal of prurient interest. She was a muscular animal. No sex kitten, she. More toward the big-cat end of the gamut of feline similes--gaunt-lioness sort of thing. Awkward in person, yet possessed of a ferocious lust for life....
He'd intended to scrabble for new potatoes. Peruvian fingerlings adapted to the chill of the high Andes, and here in France the last potatoes of the season. The tubers ought to have particularly good flavor, developing as they were in the relatively cool conditions of autumn. But he saw a problem. It was Jules Cesar's practice to raise potatoes in square-meter sized raised beds, each of them a fertile mix of dirt and well-aged chumanure, alive with earthworms, each bed enclosed in a box with demountable sides for ease of harvesting. The question was--should one remove the side of a box now, or wait until the harvest was more assured? Putting that side-panel back without disturbing the roots was a tricky proposition. In the event of a screwup, Jules Cesar would be annoyed....
Alenby was pondering this point when he heard the squeak of the gate and looked up to see Ada coming into the garden. Much brighter looking than at the breakfast table, he noted, though moving rather stiffly--
"It worked!" she cried, "that Xaludurc is marvelous stuff! But it has left me with the embarrassment and maddening rectal discomfort of--whatever you call it, the second H of CHAOS AND OUCH? I should know because users are always moaning about it--"
Alenby hardly had time to suggest trying whatever might be left of his supply of R-solace before his voice was drowned by a hooting sound apparently coming from the house.
"Holy humanure!" wailed Ada. "It's the düngermischmaschine! It must have detected an excessive concentration of acid-forming nitrogenous matter in my stool, stemming from my recent ingestion of illegal animal-based foods-like substances of high protein content, and that's set off the alarm!"
She spun around and started running back towards the house. "PROFATPOL will be on their way!" she yelled over her shoulder. "They'll nail me as a user! We gotta get outta here in a hurry!"
Alenby shared the feeling, though for a different reason--his abiding fear of being caught and identified as the Red Baron. Panicked, he made haste to follow her. It did not occur to him until it was too late, that the only vehicle at his disposal was the one most indelibly associated with the exploit that earned him that sobriquet--the tomato-red Mercedes 650 SEX.
They set out with no possessions save Ada's movex charge cards. And in Alenby's case, his few remaining sentimental links to his former universe--his tire pressure gauge and the key to his Borstal Aero.
"South," Ada responded to his question. "Barcelona. Spanish PROFATPOL is lax. They're affordably bribable. We'll eat tapas, and drink young sherry." Her eyes blazed and reddish spots showed on her cheeks.
She's out of her mind, Alenby thought as he backed out the Mercedes. Tapas, after all, were abominably salty, and young sherry lacks nuance. It occurred to him to give her something to bring her to her senses, a couple of Paxitins, for instance, but he carried no medications of any description. He simply went along with her suggestion for want of something even vaguely sensible. Eating tapas and drinking young sherry was better than getting into a tangle with PROFATPOL. He steered toward l'Ile Bouchard, as good a place as any to cross over the river. Cross over and head to Barcelona before PROFATPOL caught on....
A red warning light came on--fuel low. They had to stop for hydrogen.
They pulled into the Station Hydrogène on the Place du Marché on the ile, half-way across the bridge on the left. A robot swiftly topped up the fuel pods and debited Ada's card, and they were about to move off when Alenby spotted in the rear-vision mirror a familiar shape.
"Hmm, that car behind us, it's a Borstal Aero," he said, and-- "Hey, that's my car! And they've painted it black!" Ignoring Ada's pleas for caution, he leaped out of the Mercedes and, a second later, he was about to wrench open the door of his Borstal and grab the occupant by the collar and hurl him out on the pavement and kick the humanure out of him, when he recognized him as Leo Barton, the actor, the pretend maître de salle now costumed in the black uniform of a PROFATPOL officer! He realized that violence was not going to work with this rascal, and segued to a more diplomatic approach using the inane accent and locutions he'd picked up at Oxford:
"Smashing wheels! A Borstal Aero isn't it?"
"Yes, Excellency," said Leo, "I can hardly believe my good fortune, but yes, it's really a Borstal." He opened the door and climbed up out of the low-slung vehicle. The two men shook hands.
"Picked it up for a song at the Roissy unclaimed-property auction," Leo went on. "Not on my own account--PROFATPOL's. Took a certain amount of persuasion, but I got them to accept a British car as the flagship, so to speak, of our pursuit fleet. Actually, I'm hoping we'll get permission to use it also as the flagship of our HV publicity campaign. Anyway, this is its first outing--we've been assigned to convey Her Lowness Dr Lynch to Restaurant Le Gardon Frit, the venue of a meeting she is urgently required to attend."
As Leo was saying this Alenby noticed a couple of PROFATPOL Peugeot stinkpots quietly moving into position to block any escape attempt. He launched a plan of action.
"I say," he said, bending down and peering into the interior of the Borstal, "isn't that a rather unusual roll-bar?"
"Wood, instead of steel? Unusual is one word for it, but amateurish is more apt, I'd say. In a roll you'd be toast--with splinters ha ha ha!
"Oh yes, with splinters. That's funny." Alenby tried a laugh, but it came out as a sort of snarl.
Leo didn't notice. "Of course," we'll have that--that sign of the previous owner's lapse into idiocy, you know--we'll have it replaced without delay, ha ha ha! Meanwhile we're lucky this baby is a ground-hugger, just about impossible to roll. And lively! BMW 380 horse power plant with 24-valve overhead twin veeblefetzers--the most eye-popping panoply of technical innovation, I'd venture, ever lavished on the outmoded yet still beloved stinkpot."
"Oh, quite," said Alenby, "outmoded, yet as you have neatly twigged, retaining the éclat of the golden age of the gasoline-powered sport car. Hmm, nice cockpit, too, by the look of it. Mind if I take a closer look?"
Leo didn't mind, and a moment later Alenby was ensconced at the wheel, receiving an extremely unnecessary briefing from Leo on the design of the instrument cluster.
"Yes, I agree," said Alenby. "Spartan, that's the word all right, spartan."
"Spartan!" Leo repeated as if memorizing the word for use in a future publicity release.
"Spartan," said Alenby. "And no buckle-up warning light--excellent safety belt design, though. And no inflation pressure indicator, either.... I say, I have a bad feeling about one of the rear tires--they're 185/60 Michelin Classics aren't they? Yes, the left one, I think it's a trace under-inflated." He produced his tire pressure gauge and handed it to Leo. "Do be a good chap and check it. No use being half safe!"
"Certainly not," said Leo, accepting the proffered tire gauge and moving eagerly to the task. "Safety first, that's the way to go!"
Meanwhile, Ada quietly joined Alenby in the cockpit. The two fastened their seat belts. Alenby turned the ignition key, and the engine bugled into life....
2.7.2 Alenby and Ada Submit to Recapture
12:00 noon Friday 27 November 1987
Seconds later, after a flurry of maneuvers that led to a hiding place under the bridge, Alenby's mind emerged from an euphoric zone in which all goes as planned, doubts and errors are inconceivable. Now he faced reality.
He had judged to the microsecond how long it would take for the PROFATPOL drivers to concede the game of chicken and move apart to allow the flagship-designate of their fleet to rocket between them. The rollover had gone as planned, a leisurely revolution with a momentary hesitation at the half way point, a perfect four-point landing on the road along the river's edge. And at Ada's urging he'd immediately backed up into the shadows, for the moment out of sight of pursuers.
Their fantasy of flight to Spain was over. Better by far, they wordlessly agreed, to play it safe, submit to the will of Madame Cava and proceed meekly to Le Gardon Frit. Accordingly, Alenby soberly backed the Borstal along the riverside track up on to Route D16, and turned in the direction of Pouzay. PROFATPOL Peugeots quickly moved in fore and aft to guard against another escape attempt, and the convoy moved off.
Alenby knew at last that his boyish affair with automobiles was over. One-lane U-turns, rollovers, chicken--all his hard earned driving skills seemed rather childish now. His obsession with cars had gone the way of his obsession with a nice lunch. Without those ruling passions, where was the joy in life?
Of course he knew the answer before he posed the question--his joy in He perceived a glimmer of hope--no, not a mere glimmer of hope, a golden glow become a blaze, Olympe! Upon arrival at Le Gardon Frit, one will spring out of the Borstal, and brushing aside all impediment sprint to the keypad behind the potted palm, enter Olympe's password--
Now what was the Gaeadamned password again? Six letters, meaning to revoke or abrogate by legislative enactment. RE something...RECALL? No. RESCIND? No. Better direct one's thoughts to something else altogether, such as whatever Ada is saying....
Without making out exactly what she was saying--her despairing monotone was not easy to comprehend--he picked up at least the most-repeated points: "They're going to grill me on this Gaeadamned fiasco, the Green Fedoras intervention," and "They're going to get me on a one-two punch--first the Cat, then that smarmy smart-Alice sow Willa 't Hellenbach. She's going to make me look like a cretin just when I want to look Czarina-ish!"
He understood her fear and loathing of Willa 't Hellenbach. Seeing her conducting an interview on HV had awakened painful recollections of contacts with a person like her at Oxford. In debates, the fellow had a trick of appearing humbly attentive to one's argument, nodding in faked agreement or eliciting an expanded version to clarify points on which he pretended to be confused. And at the end he would deliver, with a faint pitying smile, one clearly enunciated sentence of impeccable logic that exposed one's entire line of thought as sheer bunkum. Most annoying of all, the fellow was always right. What could one do against such an adversary? Nothing really, except think of something he hadn't already thought of....
"There's only one way you can hold your own with this Willa 't Hellenbach bitch--I mean sow," he said. "Get in first with something she hasn't thought about. Something outside the box, like--hey, I've got it! The password--Repeal! That's R-E-P-E-A-L, repeal."
"Repeal!" Ada's tone was scornful. "You mean repeal Prohibition? That's so...asinine! Repeal--that would like giving in! Surrender! Surrender to the evils of prosub addiction!"
"Be that as it may, repeal worked in U. Passed without a hitch. Just a collective sigh of relief and then everyone forgot about it."
"You're mad," she snapped, and she maintained a resentful silence for the rest of the way to Le Gardon Frit.
Upon their arrival, Ada was hustled into the Espace Taillevent by a pair of short but not particularly slim female PROFATPOL agents, who slammed shut and locked the door behind them.
Alenby, meanwhile, sauntered across the reception area towards the entrance to Restaurant Le Gardon. He located the key pad behind the potted palm and was about to enter the password, when he suffered an unwelcome interruption: Leo again.
"Yo, Baron! Here's your tire pressure gauge. The pressure was spot on, by the way."
Alenby accepted the gauge and turned back to key pad, but Leo persisted:
"Fantastic rollover! And the rollbar held--amazing! You must be the fabled Red Baron. You do admit it, don't you? Well, the evidence is clear. Dude, you're up humanure creek without a paddle! A couple felony counts, evading PROFATPOL roadblocks. Not to mention cost of a new paint job on my Borstal Aero. You'll have company though. The Cat's looted Le Gardon Frit. Now it's going down, exposed for what it is, a sleazy set-up for fleecing wealthy users. She's picked Le Cèpe to take the rap. And the broad that was running the front, she's going to cop a felony too."
At the reference to Olympe, Alenby half-turned and glared down at Leo with such ferocity that the actor involuntarily shrank back. But he kept talking.
"No no, Excellency. Listen, don't go in there! PROFATPOL agents'll be storming the joint, and soon. Soon's the Cat's finished telling the XPROW bag exactly what she has to say to Willa the weasel. Listen, it's not healthy around here! I'm busting out, and there's room for you too. In my Borstal. C'mon, we'll head for Spain--"
A generous offer and an eloquent presentation, but he'd lost his audience. Alenby had entered the password, slipped through the briefly opened door and slammed it shut behind him.