The Incumbent: Chapter 47

It's an intricate web of murder plots, government conspiracies and rampant tanning. Oh, and the future of the entire nation.

Jimi Jones felt very well rested. Whilst he had slept for some time in the call centre, that was a restless, 'I'm-about-to-die' kind of sleep. This time, he had wakened from the contented 'I've-just-had-the-best-sex-ever' kind of sleep. And, as a bonus, he opened his eyes to see Trisha Botherington lying next to him, her blonde hair splayed across the pillow, her moist lips ripe for kissing.

Her eyes opened, and a smile quickly grew across her face.

'Hello, lover,' she said.

Jones was faced with that male challenge of trying to empathise with whatever was upsetting her whilst gawping at her magnificent body.

It seemed an opportune moment for more sex, but Botherington seemed to have something on her mind.

'I have a surprise for you,' she said. 'I just need to get the newspaper.'

He watched as she slipped her naked body out from between the sheets and out of the room. Jones got out of bed and put on his boxer shorts and a T-shirt, then walked to the kitchen, yawning and stretching as he went.

It had been a surreal few days, and he wondered when life would start to settle down to some sort of normality. Whatever that normality was, he hoped Trisha Botherington would be part of it.

She joined him in the kitchen, still naked, but looking very disappointed. Jones was faced with that male challenge of trying to empathise with whatever was upsetting her whilst gawping at her magnificent body. It wasn't helped when she placed the paper down and bent over the kitchen table in front of him to read it.

'I don't understand it,' she said, quickly turning from one page to the next. 'There's nothing in here. Nothing at all.'

She explained how her interview with Duff had aired on Tomorrow Today the previous evening. The prime minister had given everything away — the whole scheme, including Holton-Lacey's Redundancy Plan.

'He told me everything. That's how I knew I needed to come and rescue you. Surely such a revelation would be front-page news?'

Jones had to agree that it was strange it hadn't been picked up.

'Producers at Channel Eight have always said the prime minister doesn't rate,' said Botherington, 'but you'd have to assume, with something of this magnitude...'

'Maybe the government is right to control everything. Clearly, we can't be trusted to make decisions — all we care about is reality TV.'

'Yes, I don't get it either,' said Jones, but he wondered whether it had been usurped by a bigger story. He turned back to the front page of the paper.

'Celebrity Butcher Given the Chop', ran the headline. It seemed nothing could get in the way of reality television, and Tomorrow Today was up against the hellishly popular show Make Me a Celebrity Now, in which six ordinary people were given a makeover and taught how to act like celebrities. The winner would be paid handsomely and be featured daily in news bulletins and the celebrity sections of the newspapers, for no readily apparent reason. It seems Spicer T McCloud had entered, and was assumed the favourite because nobody would have the nerve to vote him off. But last night, they did.

'Incredible,' said Botherington, throwing her arms in the air.

'Yes, it is,' said Jones. 'I was convinced he was going to win it.'

'Perhaps nobody cares what goes on in this country,' said Botherington. 'Maybe the government is right to try and control everything. Clearly, we can't be trusted to make our own decisions. It seems all we care about is reality television.'

The two sat for a moment, contemplating the shallowness of mankind.

'Well, I'm going to go in to VastTel today and see if I've still got a job,' said Jones.

'Or a company,' said Botherington. She assumed it would take a while to repair the damage from the angry crowds. 'And who is in charge now?' she asked.

Jones wasn't sure.

Botherington hadn't given up hope with her story. With little else going on, and with only two people left in Make Me a Celebrity Now, it would be over in a week. Perhaps then, public concern would heighten, and Channel Eight could give her story another run.

'Why don't we both head over there and see what's happening?' suggested Botherington, quickly slipping on a dress. There was no make-up, no time spent using various devices to do with hair; but she looked magnificent, straight out of bed.

'Maybe he just got too close to the government's plans...'

Twenty minutes later, Botherington and Jones pulled up outside the VastTel building. It wasn't what they expected to see. Teams of people were busy removing graffiti, painting walls and repairing furniture and fittings. The huge, steel doors had been removed, cut down to size and were being lifted by crane into a large truck parked at the roadside. It looked like it would only be an hour or so before the whole building had returned to normal.

In the atrium, a few hundred people were milling about, grabbing coffee and checking their phones. The network still wasn't working, of course, but that didn't stop people incessantly looking just in case. It had become an ingrained habit that would take a couple of generations to evolve out of.

Out of the crowd came a large, jovial character that Jones recognised, but he wasn't quite sure where from. He seemed supremely confident, although a little nervous to be in Botherington's company. She knew only too well who he was.

'I'm Sydney Musson,' he said. 'Your new CEO. I'm so sorry that you were demoted.'

He seemed genuine, and, Jones thought, quite an impressive character. Botherington had to admit he was very different to the timid individual she had met at the guest house.

'I suppose destroying the entire network might have had something to do with it,' Jones suggested.

'Or maybe he just got too close to the government's plans,' said Botherington, jumping to the defence of her new man.

'Well, that's all behind us now,' said Musson, smiling. 'Besides, let's not get too carried away with a job title.'

There seemed to be surprising balance and insight coming from a man who was supposedly a maniac.

There seemed to be surprising balance and insight coming from a man who was supposedly a maniac.

'The important thing is we all work together with the task at hand.'

'And what is that?' asked Jones, assuming Musson had been placed in the role as some kind of government stooge.

'Well, fixing up this phone company, of course.'

Jones and Botherington looked at each other, trying hard not to laugh. They wondered whether Holton-Lacey knew that this lunatic had taken over the asylum, and seemed intent on turning it around.

'Those days as a bumbling, inefficient bureaucracy are behind us,' said Musson, spreading his arms apart and leaning back slightly. Jones lurched forward to catch him. He assumed lifting him up again would be a major, if not impossible, task.

'I am going to turn this into an efficient company that makes customers glad they chose us and makes employees proud to work for us. And you, Jimi Jones, are going to help me.'

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.