No matter how successful your life might be, all it takes is one wrong turning to destroy your destiny. . .
(old saying – anonymous)
“Ladywood? No, mate, you’re on the wrong road, you’re miles away!” The woman giggled, her breasts almost escaping from the stretched bikini top, her smile as warm and beguiling as a long cold drink when you have a raging thirst.
I felt a fool, standing on the house doorstep like this, asking a stranger for help. But I was lost, lonely and felt as if I’d collapse at any moment.
I’d taken the wrong turning while I was driving home, because the pills I’d been given for this rare disease I suffer from had affected me badly. Added to that, the car’s satnav wasn’t working, and my phone had run out of battery. I just couldn’t think or concentrate any longer, and had a terrible headache, something my specialist had not warned me about. Indeed, being a doctor myself he’d given me this new medication as a kind of favour, and neither of us had realised the pills might have these awful side-effects. I couldn’t possibly go on driving.
What’s more it was late at night, I was tired out, and lack of sleep had stretched me to breaking point. As a newly elected member of parliament, trying to do my work conscientiously, attending to the many meetings and learning the ropes of parliamentary procedure had taken its toll and I was driving back from London to my constituency in the Midlands to relax with my family for a few days of rest and relaxation.
I knew that the road to Ladywood, the town that was my home as well as the consistency I represented, was not far from here. But my lack of a sense of direction had compounded my original mistake, so that now I was in a dangerous part of the nearby town: high-rise tower blocks, narrow squalid streets, mean, urine-spattered pavements. There was no one around to ask directions, and I’d gravitated to a house with all the lights on, hoping to find someone who could help me.
“Come in for a minute,” said the party-host lady. “Someone here is bound to know the quickest route to Ladywood. Maybe you should sit down for a bit, you really do look ill.”
As I followed the attractive lady through the narrow hallway and into the living room, I was aware of the lively dancing and gyrating people, the noise of the music, and knew I’d made a mistake coming here, resolved to leave as soon as I could.
“Sit down while I ask around,” she told me as she guided me to the sofa, where I almost collapsed. “Relax, love, enjoy the music. You need to chill out.”
That’s when I must have passed out. When I woke up, daylight flooded the room, and I was dressed in only my underpants. I seemed to be alone, and my attractive host was nowhere to be seen. I found my clothes and shoes on the floor beside the sofa I’d been lying on, so I dressed as quickly as I could and then staggered out to the hallway and the street, relieved to find my car unharmed. I drove away, finally breathing easily when I saw some direction signs that I had missed in the darkness. Thankfully, I had recovered from the ill-effects of the new medication, and the sleep had revived me. I phoned my wife, to explain why I hadn’t come home last night.
A few days later, when I was back at the House of Commons, I found a large envelope in my mailbox. Inside were photographs of me in my underwear, sprawled on a dirty sofa, eyes closed, my arms around a partially nude couple of women, who were smiling for the camera. The accompanying letter explained that they had recognised who I was from the TV, and unless I paid her £1000, she would publish the images on the internet. It was signed Alison Creech.
I went up to my tiny shared office, sat down and tried to work out what to do. I had trained as a doctor and spent years working in general practice because I genuinely wanted to help people, and becoming an MP had seemed like a way of being able to do even more things for the greater good. Indeed, becoming a member of parliament had been a dream come true, and I had felt as if I was on the brink of doing great things to benefit people, to try to put right some of the evils in society, to help people. I was determined to be a force for good, to make the world a better place.
Because of that one wrong turning, I would most likely have to resign my seat.
“Come on, Charlie, it’s not the end of the world,” said my friend, fellow MP Nigel Dodds, as we sat together in the bar, sipping our beers after I had told him everything.
“We’ve all had problems of one kind or another,” Nigel went on. “Go and see Alec. He’ll sort things out.”
“Alec? But I’ve never even spoken to the Chief Whip before. I thought the man whose job is was to threaten and persuade us to vote the party way was a belligerent, tough guy who nobody liked.”
“Oh no, Alec isn’t the bastard some people make him out to be. Lots of people carp on about the Chief Whip being an aggressive, bullying kind of person, but they haven’t seen his good side. You see, Alec’s job may be to make us all vote the way the party wants, but in return Alec looks after us, and if you have a problem he often has a way of smoothing things out. Having a word with the police in some cases, un-ruffling feathers, or satisfying egos, whatever does the trick, Alec’s the man to get it done, he has a lot of influence. Hushing up scandals is the best way out both for the individual and the party as a whole. Go and see Alec and throw yourself on his mercy.”
In Alec’s office, it was disquieting to pass the cage containing his pet tarantula, but as soon as I was opposite him at his desk, and pouring my heart out, I was relieved to see his smile of sympathy.
“Write down the name of this blackmailing lady, and the address of the house where it all happened,” he told me, passing across a pad of paper and a pen. I did so.
“I’ll sort it out, don’t worry, Charlie.” He tapped the side of his nose. “Can’t have the career of one of our brightest new MPs snuffed out before he’s even shown us what he can do, can we? I can tell you, the PM is always on the lookout for new talent, and between you and me, there are some junior cabinet posts up for grabs very soon, and your name has been put into the hat.”
“Really?” I was excited.
“Oh yes.” He smiled. “A popular chap like you, a medical doctor too, there aren’t too many of us with your considerable talents. It would be an awful shame to let a little thing like this put the kybosh on the career of the PM’s blue-eyed boy, wouldn’t it? Believe me, we’ve all had the odd indiscretion, and had someone pull a few strings to iron things out.”
“Thank you, so much, Alec, I can’t begin to thank you enough. What will you do?”
“Forget it, Charlie. I’ll sort it and you’ll hear no more, and no one will ever know. It’ll just be between the two of us.”
As I left his office, feeling a huge weight taken from my shoulders, I wondered who on earth had ever been afraid of this kindly old man, who had promised to go out of his way to help me. Why did he have enemies, who said that he was an evil bastard, a vicious, cold-hearted bully?
I never replied to Alison Creech, and I’m glad to say, I never heard from her again. I had learnt a valuable lesson, and from now on I resolved to follow my conscience, and try to do some good in the world. I was more determined than ever to help my constituents as much as I could, and in the longer term, if I was offered a junior cabinet post I’d do it to the best of my ability, and who knew where it might end? They say that every MP at one time or another harbours dreams of one day becoming the Prime Minister. I guess I’m no exception.
A couple of weeks later we had a vote on a pretty controversial Bill. The party line was to vote for it, but it was against everything I believed in, and I was determined to vote against my party, and it looked like it the vote was going to be pretty tight and might go either way.
Alec came to see me. “I trust we can rely on your vote tonight, Charlie?” he said.
“No.” I told him. “I’m sorry, Alec, you know I’m always loyal to the party, but this time I have to follow my conscience and vote against our motion. Reducing the minimum hourly wage is an appalling idea, and it’s something I feel strongly about.”
“Really?” A hot rush of colour flooded Alec’s cheeks, and his face looked like thunder. He stood up and walked away, but not before he had placed a copy of my local newspaper down on the table beside me. He had circled a piece at the bottom of the page.
Gas Explosion kills family of three. Alison Creech and her partner and sister were killed when a gas explosion ripped through their terraced house, which was totally destroyed in the blast. Engineers are examining the scene to ascertain the cause of the accident.
My heart sank, I felt weak, and I could hardly breathe. Was I imagining it? I looked again at the newspaper, but re-read the same terrible words.
Alec appeared again, smiling once more. “I trust you’ve decided to vote the right way now?” The smile froze as he glared into my eyes. “I recorded our little chat, and I have a copy of the lady’s name and address written in your distinctive handwriting. You’re not going to upset me and take another wrong turning, are you?”
(image courtesy of Anastasia Gepp, from Pixabay)