Days by James Lovegrove Read Free Book Online

Book: Days by James Lovegrove Read Free Book Online
Authors: James Lovegrove
Tags: Science-Fiction
appropriate beverages in front of the appropriate chairs. If he experiences a twinge of disapproval as he sets the gin, tonic, lemon, and ice before the gilded throne, he hides it well behind the pinched, impassive mask of a family retainer of long standing who has learned over the years not to betray a hint of emotion either in or out of the presence of his employers.
    The manservant, whose name is Perch, pauses to take out a gold fob watch. He flips up the lid, nods approvingly at the time, returns the watch to his waistcoat pocket, and wheels the second trolley out of the Boardroom.
    A short corridor takes him past the head of a spiral staircase and along to the kitchen. He parks the trolley, goes over a couple of the finer points of the lunchtime menu with the chef, then makes his way on long, soft-stalking legs into an adjoining chamber which he has come to consider as his office, although it is also a repository for all the silverware – the cutlery, snuff boxes, cuspidors and humidors – which it is his duty to polish to brilliance once a month. He seats himself at a small oaken desk on the blotter of which rests an intercom fashioned as a replica of an antique black Bakelite telephone, complete with rotary dial, plaited brown flex and clawed brass cradle. He lifts the receiver and dials 1.
    The line chirrups a few times, then there is a click of connection.
    “Master Mungo,” says the old retainer.
    “Morning, Perch,” comes the reply. There is the sound of wind and lapping water. Mungo is out by the rooftop pool.
    “Good morning to you, sir. Breakfast is served.”
    “Another couple of lengths and I’ll be along.”
    “Very good, sir.”
    Perch taps the cradle and dials 2.
    “Master Charles.”
    A young woman answers. “Chas is in the shower.”
    “Who is this?”
    “This is Bliss. Who are you ?”
    “Madam, you should not be using Master Charles’s intercom.”
    “Chas told me to pick it up,” the girl replies tartly.
    “Then would you kindly inform Master Charles, madam, that breakfast is served.”
    “Okey-dokey. Will do.”
    “Thank you.”
    “No trouble. ’Bye.”
    Perch taps the cradle again and dials 3.
    “Master Wensley.”
    A sleep-furred voice responds. “God, is that the time already, Perch? I’ll be up there quick as I can. Keep my devilled kidneys warm, will you? There’s a good fellow.”
    Perch dials 4.
    “Master Thurston.”
    “Already here, Perch.”
    “My apologies. I didn’t hear you come up the stairs.”
    “That’s all right. These eggs are tasty.”
    “I’m most gratified, sir.”
    “Pass my compliments on to the catering staff.”
    “That I will, sir. I’m sure they will be most gratified, too.”
    Perch dials 5.
    “Master Frederick.”
    “How’s it going, Perch?”
    “Well, sir.”
    “Papers arrived yet?”
    “I shall check, sir. If they have come, I shall have them waiting for you at your position.”
    “Great stuff. See you in a mo.”
    Perch dials 6.
    “Master Sato.”
    “Breakfast is served.”
    “Of course. Thank you.”
    “Thank you , sir.”
    Perch taps the cradle, hesitates, then, drawing on all his reserves of self-control (and they are deep), dials 7.
    The line chirrups for the best part of two minutes and no one picks up. Master Sonny is either deliberately ignoring the ringing of his portable intercom or incapable of hearing it. Perch confidently suspects the latter. In fact, he would not be surprised if Master Sonny were presently lying on the floor of his bathroom, curled around the pedestal of a vomit-spattered lavatory, comatose. It would not be the first time Perch has gone downstairs to wake him and found him in such a position.
    Replacing the receiver, Perch permits himself the merest twitch of a smile. The prospect of rousing Master Sonny from his alcohol-induced stupor fills him with no small pleasure.
    Perhaps the glass-of-cold-water-in-the-face method again...

    Seventh Heaven : a state of serene,

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