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Harry the Hippo Likes Butter and Cheese

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Martin is enjoying his work. Or at least he is until Douglas blows into the portacabin, all cold draughts and sarcasm.

"How can anyone enjoy paperwork?" Douglas asks, belatedly closing the door behind him. "It's disturbing, you know, watching a grown man smiling when he's doing paperwork. Unless, of course, he's a crazed despot about to take over the world, in which case a manic smile is only to be expected. Are you planning on taking over the world, Martin? Be honest, now."

"I wouldn't expect you to understand," Martin says, carefully signing his name at the bottom of the page. He takes a sip of coffee; it's not very good, but then Arthur made it, so that's to be expected. At least it's warming — the gas heater in the portacabin is better at producing gassy smells than heat.

"Ah, it's the captain thing."

"Yes, if you must know, it is the captain thing. It's what a captain does. It's part of my job, Douglas. It's vital to the safety of the airline and our passengers. And I take satisfaction in a job well done." Martin hates it when Douglas makes him feel all defensive just because he takes pride in his job. It's not something to be ashamed of. He's proud of taking pride. A job like this calls for pride, pride squared, even.

"I never did," Douglas drawls, as though he's proud of his sloppy habits. He probably is, knowing him.

"That I can believe. Anyway, is there anything wrong with enjoying all aspects of my job?"

"Not at all. It's very commendable," Douglas says in that tone that might sound admiring if Martin didn't know him better.

"You're being sarcastic again, aren't you?"

"Just a trifle. A smidgeon. A teensy-weensy bit."

"Anyway, why are you still here? You don't have paperwork to do. You could have gone home by now."

"Actually, I just popped in for some of Arthur's delicious coffee," Douglas says, keeping a straight face for roughly a second.

"No, seriously, Douglas, what are you doing here?"

Douglas pulls out one of the other chairs from underneath the rickety table Martin's working at and sits astride it. Martin's always wanted to be able to do that, but even in his pilot's cap, he knows he'd never come close to the way Douglas makes it look dashing. "I had an idea for a bet," Douglas announces.

Martin groans. "I thought we'd agreed that we wouldn't bet any more."

"Ah, but this one is different. This is a bet that you cannot lose."

Martin puts his paperwork back into its folder, caps his pen, and puts that back in his top pocket. He's just about finished anyway. "Then why would you want to make it? It doesn't make sense that you'd want to make a bet that you knew you were going to lose."

"Consider it an early Christmas present. A little gift from the goodness of my heart."

Martin thinks for a moment. It is possible. Douglas does have a heart, even if it's rather well hidden a lot of the time. "Okay, then, what's the bet. I'm not agreeing to it," he adds hastily. "I just want to know what it is."

"I bet you that you will let me pilot the plane for an entire journey — handle everything in-flight — before the end of the week."

"But that's ridiculous. I'd never let you pilot an entire journey. Not if I were sober, at any rate, and I have no intention of getting drunk."

"Exactly. So, you see, you can't lose the bet."

Martin dithers. He can't see a catch. That doesn't mean there isn't one, of course, but he really can't see what it could be. "So, what are we betting? I'm still not saying yes, just clarifying the terms of the bet, should I agree to it."

"How about, just to make things even less fair for me, we bet a week's salary."

"You haven't forgotten that I don't get a wage?"

"No, Martin, I can safely say that is not something I would ever forget. I, however, do get paid. Not a gigantic sum, and not nearly as much as I am worth, but not a totally shabby figure either. And I am willing to put a week of that not inconsiderable amount up for the bet."

Martin considers it. A week's salary would be very handy. His van's due for an MOT next month. And he really can't see how he can lose the bet.

But—

He sighs. "I can't take the bet. It would be like stealing acorns from a blind pig."

"Exactly," Douglas says. "Easy-peasy, a guaranteed win."

"You have no morals at all, do you?"

"Some, yes. Just not that many. I find morals are such pesky little things. They get in the way of pleasure. So, I take it that means no bet, then? You're going to walk the moral high ground. Ah, well, your loss."

"Well," Martin starts, because yes, he's going to walk the high ground. If he learned anything from that odious Mr. Burling it was that forsaking his moral standards doesn't pay. It's just that the high ground doesn't have to be that high. "I said I couldn't take that particular wager. I didn't mean I wouldn't take the bet if the wager were different."

"Ah," Douglas says, sounding rather intrigued. "And I take it you have something else in mind?"

Martin does. Something far more valuable than money. "Respect," he says.

"Respect?"

"Yes. When I win the bet, you have to show me genuine respect in front of everyone — ground staff, passengers, even Carolyn and Arthur. For an entire month. No questioning my decisions, no snarky comments, no sarcastic asides. Nothing that in any way might be construed as a lack of respect for me, as the Captain."

"Well, I have to give it to you, Martin. You drive a hard bargain. I think I already feel a modicum of respect welling up inside me right now, and you haven't even won the bet yet. Of course, we also need to decide what would happen in the impossible event that I should win the bet." Douglas pauses for a moment, openly in thought. "Aha, I have it."

"Yes?" Martin says, not as wary as he might be if he weren't feeling so confident.

"If — and I fully embrace the knowledge that this is a very unlikely possibility — if I win, then I don't have to call you Sir. Ever again. I think that's fair, given the long odds of you letting me handle an entire flight."

"You wouldn't sabotage me, would you? Break my arm or something."

Douglas gasps. "Martin, I am appalled that you think I'd even consider such a thing. I give you my word — Scout's honour — that I will in no way cause you any physical injury."

Martin very much doubts that Douglas was ever a Scout, but he ignores that for now. There are other details to ensure. "Or doctor my drinks to get me drunk?"

"I promise faithfully that I will not try to get you drunk."

"You swear?" Martin asks, just to be absolutely certain.

"I swear. I would offer to swear on the Bible, but I don't seem to have one handy."

Martin takes a deep breath. It's worth it. It has to be. He has only once, in all their flying history, allowed Douglas to pilot an entire journey, and that was purely because he was drunk, and that is not going to happen again. He can't lose.

"Okay, you're on."

He holds out his hand, and they shake on it.

 


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"We have another celebrity passenger today," Carolyn announces after they've done the flight briefing. "It's—"

"Ooh, no, don't tell us," Arthur interrupts.

"Why ever not?" Carolyn indicates to turn right. Martin's certain it would be quicker to turn left here, then the next right, but the last time he corrected Carolyn when she was driving she threatened to dump him by the side of the A141. In the pouring rain. There's not a lot of shelter on the A141. To be precise, there is zero shelter on the A141. It is a bleak road at the best of times, and particularly bleak in the rain. Martin keeps quiet.

"Because it's so much more fun to guess," Arthur says. "You can give us clues, and we can guess who it is."

Martin is quite sure he hears Carolyn mutter fun for whom under her breath, but presumably it doesn't carry to Douglas and Arthur in the back seat, or no doubt Arthur would oblige by listing the people who would find it fun. Martin, secretly, should be on that list. He's in a good mood: it's a beautiful day, unusually clear and sunny for December, perfect flying weather, he loves their destination — Copenhagen — and he has the prospect of actually wining a bet this week. Life is good. Even playing guessing games on the way to the airport is fun.

"Very well," Carolyn says. "Our passenger shares a first name with an infamous leader."

"Tony, Margaret, John—"

Douglas interrupts. "Assuming you're running through a list of prime ministers, I'm not entirely sure that Tony Blair or John Major quite count as infamous. More, 'reasonably well known right now but doomed to be forgotten'. Though Margaret Thatcher was probably a fair guess."

"But completely wrong," Carolyn says.

"Can you give us another clue, Mum?"

"Okay. Our passenger's first name and surname are very similar."

"Jack Black, Wavy Gravy, Tinky Winky—" Arthur says so fast they all sound like one name.

"You do realise that Tinky Winky is not actually a real person?"

"Of course, Mum, but it could be the actor. In the costume."

"You think they'd wear the costume to travel in?" Martin asks, struck by the image.

"Well, I would. It's such a fun costume. And purple!"

"Not everyone wants to go around looking like a giant grape with a triangular antenna. And a handbag."

"But just think, Mum, it'd be awfully warm and cosy inside. And it'd save that time in the morning where you're wondering what to wear and can't decide what colour trousers will go with the socks you've put on—"

Douglas interrupts again. "You put your socks on first? Before your trousers?"

"Oh yes. Always. I start at the bottom and work up. Don't you?"

"I can't say that I do," Douglas drawls.

"It makes sure my feet are always nice and toasty while I'm deciding what shirt to wear."

"And in the meantime, your brain is suffering severe chills. It does explain a lot."

"What does it explain?"

"That question," Douglas says.

"Oh," Arthur replies. "Well, anyway, was I right?"

"Surprisingly enough, no, Arthur, you weren't."

"Might this passenger be fond of extremely fast travel?" Douglas asks.

"Indeed he is," Carolyn replies. "Ah, there's another clue in my slip of the tongue."

"And he doesn't have a silly little moustache."

"Correct again."

"That doesn't mean Douglas has it," Martin exclaims. "I could say our passenger doesn't have one leg shorter than the other, or that he doesn't have pink hair, and I'd almost certainly be right, but that doesn't make them good guesses."

"No, those really would be bad guesses. On the other hand, Douglas' statement, while a little peculiar, did however show that he fully understood the first clue, and has correctly identified our passenger."

Of course Douglas would get it. Douglas always does. But Martin is not going to mind, because it's still going to be a good day. He has a bet to win, and it's the last flight of the week, so he's going to win it today.

 


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When they pull up on the airfield, there's a Mercedes next to the portacabin, with a lanky young man in a leather jacket leaning against it. Martin recognises him: Adolf Adolff, the up-and-coming German F1 driver. "Oh, it's him," Martin says. "Of course. I get it now."

"Better late than never, hey, Martin."

"I don't get it," Arthur says plaintively, but nobody takes any notice.

 


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"What have you got there, Douglas?"

Martin is doing the pre-flight checks. Douglas has supposedly been doing the walk around, though Martin suspects he's spent most of the time chatting with the mechanics.

"I believe they're handcuffs."

"Well, yes, obviously I realise that."

"And yet you asked. Strange, that."

"I was asking what you were doing with them."

"And yet that, in fact, is not what you asked. You asked what I have here. Or, to quote, 'what have you got there, Douglas'. Thus implying a lack of familiarity with the objects in my hand, leading to my considering it a kindly measure to instruct you in the name of said object."

It's a good thing Martin is a professional, or there would be many occasions on which he would have hit Douglas. This being one of them. However, Martin is a captain, and will behave accordingly. "Why are you carrying handcuffs?" he asks. There's no way Douglas can twist that.

"Ah, that would be telling," Douglas says, and taps the side of his nose.

"Yes, it would. And I'm telling you to tell me."

"Well—" Douglas says slowly. He looks caught in a dilemma. "I'm not supposed to say anything."

"Is it related to our job?" Martin asks.

"Ah, excellent, twenty questions. That way I can tell you without actually telling you. Smart thinking, Martin."

Martin was just going to order Douglas to tell him, seeing as the captain has a responsibility to be informed about everything regarding his flight. He could even quote the page reference in the pilot's handbook if necessary. But if Douglas thinks that's what Martin meant, well, Martin may as well go along with it. "So, is it related to our job?"

"Hmm, tangentially, I would say."

"Has it anything to do with our passenger today?"

"Ah, Martin, I just can't get anything past you."

"So you're saying that our passenger wanted you to carry handcuffs?"

"You know I can't actually say anything."

"Oh, no, of course not." Martin nods. He's annoyed though, at the same time as he's triumphant that he's managed to guess what's going on in just two questions. But why would Adolff ask Douglas to do whatever it is he wants doing, and not Martin? Martin is the captain. Martin is the one he should have asked. "Well," he says, "now that I know about them, obviously I ought to have them. It would be more appropriate."

"I'm not sure that would be wise. After all, as I can't tell you the purpose of the handcuffs, it means that you might not be able to perform all necessary—checks."

"I'm perfectly capable of determining for myself what checks might be required with a pair of handcuffs. Hand them over," Martin says, holding out his hand.

Martin can admit to himself that there is something satisfying about watching Douglas reluctantly obeying his orders. Add to that the bet that he's going to win by the end of the day, and it's shaping up to be a more than good week.

"Hmm, I'm not sure. Well—okay, I'm sure you'll work it out. You are after all the captain."

"Yes, thank you, Douglas, I'm quite sure I will manage."

Now Martin has to work it out. He looks at the handcuffs. Checks, huh. He could check that they lock, he supposes. Not much else to be done with them. He takes one cuff and moves to close it. Douglas coughs. When Martin looks up, Douglas is shaking his head. Damn.

"I'll just go and do a final walk around, shall I?" Douglas asks, confirming Martin's suspicion that he didn't do a proper one earlier. "Check that everything is functioning properly. Check in situ, like one does with checks. Can't check something properly until it's actually in use, can one, Martin?"

"No. I mean, no, of course not." Martin gets it.

"And the best checks are always done under the most extreme circumstances."

Martin is fully aware of that. He waits, pointedly, until Douglas is gone, and then looks around the cabin. Extreme circumstances: he'll give Douglas extreme. He bets he can put them to a more extreme test than Douglas could.

Aha, yes, perfect. He's seen the perfect test. He'll see to this and then their passenger will rue the day he gave the handcuffs to Douglas to test. Or even if he doesn't exactly rue it, he'll certainly see that Martin was the one for the job. He tries one lock. Then the second. Both functioning perfectly. Excellent.

...

Damn.

 


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"Hello, Skip. Do you want a coffee before takeoff?"

"No, thank you, Arthur," Martin hisses. "I'd like some help, though."

"Absolutely. Anything I can do to help you."

Martin waits, expectantly, and Arthur beams up at him, also waiting. "Oh, for heaven's sake, Arthur, isn't it obvious?"

"Isn't what obvious, Skipper?"

"What I need help with?"

"Well, I assume it's not flying the plane because you're brilliant at that, and I think that if you did need help with that you'd ask Douglas, not me. Or even Mum. But most likely Douglas. Because he's your co-pilot."

Martin grits his teeth. "I need help getting down from here, you dolt." He's tried tugging on the handle he's handcuffed himself to, but it seems to be the one part of Gertie that's extremely sturdy and well-made.

"Oh, aren't you up there intentionally? I thought it might be some new pre-flight routine. Stretching the muscles beforehand. Or maybe a calming technique. All very Ben."

"Very Ben?" Martin asks.

"Yes, you know, Ben meditation and all that."

Ah, Zen. "No, I'm not stretching my muscles or meditating. I'm—" He refuses to say he's stuck. "I'm testing a new piece of equipment, and I seem to have forgotten the key to unlock it. If you could go and get that from Douglas, that would be very helpful. Oh, and Arthur?"

"Yes?"

"Don't mention this to Carolyn."

"Righty-ho. It'll be our little secret."

Martin nods. He has a bad feeling about this.

 


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"Ah, Martin, in a spot of bother are you?"

"Just give me the key, Douglas."

"The key?"

"The key to the handcuffs." Martin is not going to beg.

"Oh, that key! But surely you have the key," Douglas says, the picture of innocence.

No. No, no, no, no, no. Douglas cannot have done this to him. Martin takes a deep, calming breath. And another. They don't help.

"No, Douglas, you must have the key. You gave me the cuffs, but not the key."

"Oh, I don't think so," Douglas says. "That would be very foolish of me. I mean, what use are a pair of handcuffs without a key? Nobody would use them if they didn't have the key."

"Yes, well, obviously I did. And now I need the key."

Douglas holds his hands out. They're empty. "Oops," he says. "Ah, well, at least we have a second pilot on board for such eventualities. Sir."

No. The bet. Douglas can't. "But—" Martin says, and trails off.

"Oh, dear, of course. The bet. It looks like you just might have lost an unlosable bet. Jolly bad luck, Martin."

Martin groans.

This can't get any worse.

 


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"Martin, what in God's name are you doing handcuffed to the ceiling?"

Okay, so he was wrong. It could get worse. It just did.

He opens his mouth to try to formulate some reason for being like this that doesn't involve admitting that he got fooled by Douglas, but Carolyn interrupts. "No, don't tell me. I don't want to know what idiocy you and Douglas are up to now. It's bad enough that I know all my employees are dolts, without adding details. Just, get down from there, please."

"I, um, don't think I can."

"But surely you have a key?"

"Well—"

Carolyn groans. "Douglas?"

Douglas holds out his hands. "Sorry, Carolyn, can't help."

"Very well, we'll just have to get you down by brute force."

Martin doesn't like the sound of that. Douglas, judging by the annoying snicker he makes, does like the sound of it.

"We have a fire axe," Douglas suggests.

"And can you see any way in which we can swing an axe sufficiently to break the chain but not damage the plane, Douglas?" Martin would be happier if Carolyn showed a little bit of concern for his wellbeing as well as Gertie's. "You're replaceable, Martin, the plane isn't," Carolyn says, as though she can read his mind.

"Don't we have some sort of bolt cutters on board?"

"Do the safety regulations demand that we carry them?"

"No."

"Then I think you can guess the answer."

"In that case, we'll have to call the airfield manager for help," Martin insists.

"And delay the flight? Not happening. We'll miss our take off time. And you all know what that means: extra expense. And we don't like extra expense, do we." It isn't a question. They all know all too well how Carolyn feels about extra expense.

"But, Carolyn—"

"Don't 'but, Carolyn' me, Martin. You got yourself into this. You'll just have to live with the consequences."

Martin tries again, because he has an argument that Carolyn simply can't refute. "But we have to have two pilots on board."

"And look at this," Carolyn says, holding up a fist. She looks at Douglas and raises one finger, then at Martin and raises a second finger. "One. Two. Yes, that's two pilots. Looks like we have the requisite number on board."

 


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"But what am I going to do?" Martin has a flight routine. He can't do the rest of his flight checks from here, his headphones won't reach so he can't talk to air traffic control, and most importantly, he can't fly the plane. That leaves him with his little pre-flight motivational speech, the one he says to himself silently because Douglas wouldn't stop laughing that one time he caught Martin saying it out loud. And motivational speeches are all very well, but they don't take up an entire flight.

"Nothing," Carolyn says with a total lack of sympathy. "You are going to do absolutely nothing."

"But it's a long flight."

"No it isn't. It's the shortest flight we've made all month."

"Yes, well, it'll feel like an awfully long flight." Martin is not happy. Not one little bit. "May I at least have a pillow?" He can jam it between his head and the ceiling and then maybe he won't keep banging his head on the overhead light.

"What on earth makes you think I'd have a pillow?"

"You keep them for the passengers. You know, in case one of them needs to sleep."

"Those are, as you correctly say, for the passengers. Are you a passenger?"

"Well, for all intents and purposes, on this particular journ—"

"Martin, did you pay to travel on board MJN Air today?"

"No."

"Are you willing to pay to travel on board MJN Air today?

"No!"

"Ergo, you are not a passenger."

"But can't I have a—"

"No, you may not. You got yourself into this stupid situation—"

"Actually, it was Douglas who—" Martin shuts up when Carolyn turns her frostiest gaze on him.

"You got yourself into this stupid situation, and you can pay the consequences. Besides, it's only a short flight. You won't hurt."

"But it's really uncomfortable standing like this with my arms over my head. I think my left arm is going numb already."

"Oh, do stop being such a baby."

 


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"I can feed you dinner if you like," Arthur offers midway into the flight.

"We don't have meals for the crew on board, Arthur. The flight's too short."

"Oh, yes, Mum, sorry, I forgot."

Martin doesn't think any amount of boredom would be improved by Arthur spoon-feeding him chicken curry and rice.

"Thanks anyway, Arthur," he says, because at least Arthur cares.

"I know, I could throw peanuts at you and you could catch them."

Douglas snorts. "That's an excellent idea, Arthur," he says.

"No, it isn't," Martin says. "I'm sure I will be fine without food for the duration of the journey," he says, because he is, after all, still the captain, and captains have stiff upper lips. He can put a brave face on it. Though his arm really is starting to go numb. He wiggles his fingers. At least they still work. For now.

"We could play a game. That'd make the time go faster," Arthur suggests.

"Or it could make time go much, much slower," Douglas muses.

"Oh, I don't think so. You can't make time go slower. It's not scientifically possible," Arthur declares, certain as a small child in the ways of the universe.

"But one can make it go faster? That is scientifically possible?" Douglas asks.

"Ah, I suppose not. I'd never thought of it that way before. So when people say time goes faster, they don't really mean it?"

"No, Arthur," Carolyn, Douglas, and Martin chorus.

Martin really wishes it were true. He's got at least another hour to spend stuck like this, and that's assuming someone can free him the minute they land. So if he can't have food, he's at least going to have games. "I'm still the captain," he says, with the full weight and dignity of his rank in his voice, because a true captain can be dignified under even the most difficult circumstances, "even if I am in handcuffs, and I say we play a game."

"Very well," Douglas says. "Harry the Hippo likes apples and books. He is, however, hugely averse to bananas — he's probably allergic to them — and he never reads comics."

"Harry the Hippo likes coffee and beer. But not milk or tea," Carolyn says immediately, and Douglas nods approvingly. Martin doesn't know how she's got it that quickly. Apples but not bananas. Coffee but not tea.

"Harry the Hippo likes pizza but not pie," Douglas counters.

Ah, Martin gets it. "Harry the Hippo likes butter and cheese but not bread or potatoes," he says.

"But surely hippos don't eat butter. Or cheese. Where would they get cheese? Oh, I know the answer to that one!" Arthur bounces and jostles Martin in his excitement. "Sorry, Skip."

"Do enlighten us, fruit of my loins."

"I saw it on a nature programme on BBC2. When conditions are really hard, animals will raid human camps for food. So if there are people on safari and they've made cheese sandwiches for their lunch, if a hippo gets really hungry and raids their camp and eats their cheese sandwiches, and really really likes them, then they could get a taste for cheese."

"I declare this game over, and Arthur the winner!"

"Really, Mum?"

"Yes to the game being over. No to you being the winner, you great pillock."

"Oh. Ah, well. Let's play another game."

"Yes, let's," Douglas says. "And then I can strangle myself with my tie and the only live pilot you will have on board the plane will be Martin, who is currently in no position to actually fly the plane. Which means that, regrettably, we will crash. And we're currently flying over the Channel, so with the current air temperature being minus five degrees, and assuming that the water temperature is roughly in the region of four degrees, will mean we will all die a very quick, but extremely chilly death."

"Hang on. If the air is minus five degrees, won't the water be the same?" Arthur asks.

"You think the temperature of the sea should be below freezing?"

"Yup."

"You don't think there's an obvious answer as to how I know that is not the case?"

"Um, not that I can think of."

"Carolyn, I beg of you, please—"

"Come on, Arthur. Back to the galley."

"But Douglas hasn't explained yet," Arthur complains.

"I'm sure Carolyn is capable of explaining to you."

"You know the answer too, Mum? Wow, you really do know everything."

 


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"We are playing another game, you know," Martin orders once Arthur has left. Martin's arms are aching, and the flight seems far longer than it should be, so Douglas can damn well ensure that there's something to take his mind off his unfortunate position. And he doesn't want to carry on with this stupid Harry the Hippo game.

"Very well." Douglas pauses so long that Martin begins to wonder if he's forgotten and starts racking his brain for ideas. All he can come up with is I Spy. He doesn't think Douglas will go for that option. There are a limited number of options for that game in a cockpit with a view outside of the sky and or clouds, and they exhausted pretty much all the options several times over the first three times they played I Spy.

"Okay, got one," Douglas says eventually. "'The Unbearable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera.'"

"Ah, book titles that make sentences when you add the author's name to them. Nice." Martin thinks. "'Last Seen Wearing Colin Dexter.'"

"Really? Do you often wear Colin Dexter? Or is he perhaps a perfume, a sturdy Oxfordian scent, redolent of ink, dreaming spires, and traffic pollution?"

Martin huffs. Douglas never likes his answers. "You come up with a better one, then."

"'Quarantine Jim Crace," Douglas says without a second's hesitation.

"I've never heard of Jim Crace. How do I know you're not making up authors?"

"I don't need to make them up. I've got another good one: 'Silence Shusaku Endo.'"

Martin is also silenced. The rest of the journey is exceedingly long, even if it isn't scientifically possible for time to slow down.

 


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The landing is flawless, which is good because it means it's not too unpleasant for Martin, and bad because Douglas looks extremely smug when they taxi to a smooth halt.

"Please tell me your first priority is getting a pair of bolt-cutters and getting me down," Martin says the moment Carolyn appears on the flight deck.

"I've already sent Arthur to find something suitable."

"Carolyn," Martin wails, because really, goodness only knows what Arthur will come back with. Or when — if he gets distracted, it's entirely possible he'll completely forget his mission.

"Hmm, you're right. I'll go after him."

"Well, I hope you're satisfied, Douglas," Martin says as soon as Carolyn has gone. "You've won your bet. And I'm stuck here until Carolyn and Arthur get back."

"Actually, I think—" Douglas makes a great show of patting his pocket, finding something inside, and pulling out a key. "Well, look at that. It must have been in my pocket all that time."

Martin counts to ten, and then to twenty, and then gives up because he could get to a thousand and still be just as mad at Douglas. "Bloody hell, you knew it was there. You did it deliberately, after you swore on your honour that you wouldn't do anything to cheat on the bet. And you lied to me."

"Actually, (a) I didn't swear I wouldn't cheat, I simply said I wouldn't get you drunk or harm you in anyway. (b) you should be more careful about trusting someone's honour, especially when that someone is me. And (c), I didn't actually lie, I simply let you come to conclusions that weren't true and didn't correct you."

Which basically means it's Martin's own fault for being fooled. He keeps quiet as Douglas, whistling merrily, undoes the cuffs. He flexes his arms in relief; it was a very uncomfortable flight.

Then he smiles. Maybe the day isn't going to be a total disaster after all. He slips past Douglas, who's now humming in delight at his own cleverness, and picks up his headphones. "Ground, this is Golf Tango India, confirming stationary at building two."

"Roger, Golf Tango India."

Martin turns to Douglas. "Let me see. Ah, yes, that was the final pilot's task for the flight. Oh, dear, I suppose that means you didn't pilot the entire journey."

Douglas looks reluctantly admiring. "I have to admit, you've got me there. Sir."

And not only the bet. Martin is on a roll. "' A Time to Kill John Grisham,'" he exclaims.

"By Jove, he's got it. Good one, Martin," Douglas says, and there isn't the tiniest trace of sarcasm in his voice.