'Holton-Lacey, isn't it?'
'Well done,' said the intruder. He clapped his hands lightly a few times.
'And you work for ...' Willis couldn't remember the name, '... er … the prime minister ...'
'Duff is his name,' said the finance minister. 'Alvin Duff; easily forgotten.'
'So, what can I do for you?' asked Willis.
'I have been listening to you, Adam Willis,' said Holton-Lacey. He gave a nod to the men gathered around the fireplace, who read the signal to retire to another room, which they did, taking a fresh bottle of whisky with them.
'I like a lot of what you say. It makes my job a lot easier, telling people what to think. The last thing we want is free thought.'
Willis agreed, although it somehow didn't sound right coming from a Cabinet minister. Even though he mistrusted politicians enormously, he had wrongly assumed that their interests were limited to nothing more than staying in power and earning a salary they couldn't hope to achieve in the real world. He hadn't entertained the notion that their ambitions would spread any further than that. He was getting worried that here appeared to be a man who wanted to extend his influence much further.
He had assumed that politicians' interests were limited to staying in power and earning a salary they couldn't hope to achieve in the real world.
'VastTel,' Holton-Lacey said, looking Willis firmly in the eye. 'I want you to go easy on them.'
'Really?' said Willis. 'But they are incompetent, overpaid, bureaucratic time wasters.'
'That's true. And that's the point. Everyone there would be completely unemployable anywhere else.'
'So why would you want to protect them?' Willis was curious.
'Think about it, Mr Willis. What would you do with all those people?'
Willis hated being asked questions. He particularly disliked being asked to come up with answers to society's problems. He was much better at creating them. But he could see Holton-Lacey's point. What do you do with all of those inept people?
'How do you think we keep the unemployment levels so low?' asked Holton-Lacey, surprised that Willis had not figured this out before now. He went on to explain the government scheme, and how it all needed to be kept from the public. If they started to question the recruitment policies at the telecommunications company, the resulting exposé could destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs; sufficient to cripple the economy, and bring down the government.
'So why are you telling me this? What if I just go and let my audience know exactly what's going on?'
'You don't want to mess with me,' said Holton-Lacey. 'Or I'll chop your balls off.' He clicked his fingers and one of the men in suits returned to the room, holding a silver plate, which he presented to Willis. 'Here's one we did earlier,' he said.
Willis looked at the article on the plate. It looked familiar. He felt through his trousers in case one had been taken from him in his sleep. No; they were both still there.
He ran to his bedroom, where the mono-testicled Thai lay, trying desperately to cross his legs.
'You don't scare me,' said Willis, lying.
'Well, I should,' said Holton-Lacey, rising from his chair, flanked by the men in suits, one of whom placed the empty whisky bottle into Willis' hands.
The finance minister turned to him before making his final exit. 'Have a nibble. I'm sure you'll recognise the taste.'
'What?' said Willis, who gave it a lick, without hesitation.
'Anurak!' he screamed. There was a groan from upstairs, where his housekeeper was starting to wake up, clearly in agony. 'You bastards!' He ran to his bedroom, where the mono-testicled Thai lay, trying desperately to cross his legs.
Willis realised he had met his match. Perhaps he was no longer the most powerful man in the country. This Holton-Lacey character seemed to be the new player in town. All of a sudden, there was the stark realisation that from now on, he was answerable to the government, which seemed capable of all sorts of wrongdoing. In a way, he admired their work. It was preferable to the inept bungling bureaucracy he had assumed them to be, but it made him nervous. He wondered how involved the prime minister was in all of this, whatever his name was.
His young Thai housekeeper was even more certain that Holton-Lacey was a force to be reckoned with, destined as he now was to a lifetime of ill-fitting underpants.
The Incumbent is Phil Dobbie's first novel and these excerpts have been used with his permission. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. To purchase the entire novel in digital format, click here. It is also available in printed format ... for more details click here.