choose the fabric. Taken aback by
the wide choice, with some of the gaudier material more appropriate for pop
stars, he was glad to follow the avuncular tailor’s advice to go for one of the
high-class ones with a woollen feel, favoured by the major. The tailor picked
up a bolt of darkish blue cloth with a few highlights.
‘This one would be
ideal. It is informal enough for trendy receptions yet would not be out of
place at a cabinet meeting.’
‘I’m sure that would be
fine – though I don’t expect I will ever attend a cabinet meeting.’
‘One never knows. If it’s
not a cabinet meeting, it might be a reception in the presence of the Her
Majesty or the president of the United States – that is to say, in a
professional capacity, with no food or alcohol, with only your suit to make you
feel you are worth something!’
As soon as the words
were out of his mouth, the tailor looked embarrassed, as if he had said too
much and had better stick to tailoring.
‘Of course, I was only
joking. We’ll let you know when to come back for a fitting – say in about ten
days. We have your number.’
Having been reunited
with his own jacket, of which he was beginning to feel extremely ashamed, Holt
was gravitating towards the exit at the front of the shop when the young
assistant grabbed his arm.
‘No. It’s this way!’
He was redirected back to
the rear of the shop, where a tall woman with ramrod legs and a generous bottom
ensconced in a tight skirt had suddenly appeared. Her haute couture ensemble followed
her contours without revealing too much, yet just enough.
From her voice, Holt
knew she was Cut-Glass, the uptight dragon he had fallen out with on the phone.
In the flesh, she made him feel even more insignificant as she looked him up
and down, her eyes settling on his suit, the sight of which made her raise her eyebrows
at the tailor’s assistant as if it, and the person wearing it, were something
the cat had dragged in. She was the mistress of put-downs.
She led the deflated
Holt out of the rear door and up the carpeted stairs, past the first floor, and
then up again to the second, where the ceilings were much lower. She knocked on
the door of the first room, pushed it open, and stood back to allow him to go
in, saying, ‘Major Bell would like a few words with you.’
The major was standing
in the middle of the room, smiling.
‘Hello, Holt. Glad you
made it to the home straight. Don’t feel committed. It’s your life. Your
‘Thanks for the advice.
I’ll keep it in mind.’
'Hope you will be happy
with the suit.’
‘I’m sure I shall,
Major. It’s most kind of you.’
‘Don’t thank me. It was
a good excuse to get you here without a lot of palaver and should come in handy
if you come to work for our lot. A great suit gives one a lift – like
travelling first class or, these days, business class. Of course, a military
uniform with several pips would be even better, but we cannot go that far yet,
can we, Jeremy?’
‘I hope I can live up
‘I’m sure you shall. It
has been a pleasure making your acquaintance. Since I may never see you again, I
wanted to take this opportunity to wish you all the best, whatever becomes of
The idea of never being
seen again was troubling, but before Holt could give it any further thought, Cut-Glass
reappeared and indicated that he should proceed in front of her down the stairs
to the lower landing.
‘Wait here,’ she ordered
brusquely, before knocking at a door marked ‘Private ’. A sharp-looking man in a dark suit
opened it, and they exchanged a few whispered words, whereupon she led him to
another door, at the end of the passage.
‘Wait in there. It’s
all we have free at the moment. I’m afraid it’s not very comfortable.’
That was an
Virtually a broom
cupboard, probably not unlike the one at nearby Nobu, the Japanese restaurant where
tennis great Boris Becker had a brief fling with a young
Wheels Within Wheels (v5.0)
Breanna Hayse, Carolyn Faulkner