The Web Chapter 7
Intro: Poor John has an experience he can do without
He had managed to get through the rest of the tour with little incident. Nothing at all had happened in Paris, in Amsterdam he had felt odd before going on to a T.V. show but had managed to summon the vision remarkably easily before going on and there had been the little boy dreams in Madrid but other than that he felt not too bad, sufficiently in control any way to really not be too phased by Suzanne’s phone call to say that he was desperately sorry but he was going to hold off their appointment for a few days, that things were ganging up on him and he was just absolutely snowed under. It had even made Malcolm feel better about himself. If Suzanne wasn’t worried enough to want to see him immediately then he could cope.
And he did cope until Wednesday morning when he woke at six o’clock slouched in his chair, fully clothed and with a head ache that felt like someone had invited the Grimsby Cloggers to practice in his head.
In his small office area where his work station was he saw the VDU. blinking like a Cyclops and he knew that he had been working, though he had no recall of what he might have been working on.
He went in to the kitchen and made himself coffee before returning to see what of value might have emerged from his nocturnal labours.
He froze, the coffee cup poised just below his chin as the words appeared on the screen. There were several that were English and some that were identifiable because they were in common use, some he could decipher because English and Italian share a Latin base but the rest of it made no sense.
He stared for a long time at the screen and then seemed quite suddenly to come out of his frozen state and know just exactly what to do. His hand reached automatically for the ‘phone and he pressed the digits without thinking to look at his watch.
There was no answer and he scrabbled in his address book for a home phone. He found it and pressed the numbers. No answer there either. He became desperate, slamming down the phone and wrecking his book shelves in a frantic search for the Italian phrase book he had bought prior to his Roman trip. Painstakingly he started to try and translate the document that appeared on the screen but after an hour he gave up and tried his phone again. It rang a couple of times and then an artificially bright voice said; “Good morning, Universal Translations and Research, Linda speaking. How may I...”
“Let me speak to Morgan Cross, it’s John Malcolm.”
There was a slight delay and then Cross answered. He sounded like he was still finishing his breakfast. “John, you’re an early bird. What can…“
“I need something translated. Italian to English, now.”
“We’re a bit backed up just now, I can perhaps get you something tomorrow morning.“
“I need it now, Morgan. Just a straight translation, no interpretation.”
“That’s all you’ll get if you want it in that much of a hurry. Is it on the computer?“
“O.K. send it to me and I’ll put Peter Garvey on to it. He’s new but I believe he can handle it. I can perhaps let you have something by this afternoon.“
“Thanks, Morgan. I owe you one.”
It was mid-day when he rang Suzanne’s office for the third time.
“I’m really sorry Mr. Malcolm, he’s still not… hang on.” There was a pause and then she was back. “Look, he is tied up for the whole of the rest of today, but he says if you can get to Oxford by this evening he’ll see you at home. I’ll just give you his address.“
He thanked her and after taking down the address sorted out his train to Oxford.
He did not look again at the papers that started: ‘Once upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a noble and fine king who cared for everyone in his realm even the poor and dispossessed, the ones who his ministers did not want him to care for.’