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In The Fell Clutch of Circumstance

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The warm weather that had proved elusive for all of April and much of May had taken finally taken mercy on the inhabitants of the British Isles. Douglas Richardson draped his uniform jacket over his arm as he got out of his car and pressed the lock button. The sun was shining, there was a light breeze, and best of all, he’d been invited to spend the next three days at the Bournemouth home of his former university flatmate. Seeing as the excellent weather was set to continue for the next week and MJN Air had no bookings coming up that would interfere, Douglas could almost feel the sand under his feet.

Walking towards the portacabin where he expected the rest of the crew to be assembled on their final day of standby for Mr I-never-call-unless-the-crew-is-drunk-Goddard, Douglas spotted the lean form of his commanding officer leaving the hanger where their plane was parked. He slowed down his pace so Martin could catch up with him.

“Well, if it isn’t Commander Crieff blinding one and all with the reflection of the sun on his ginger locks,” quipped Douglas in hello. “If the runway lights at Fitton ever stop working on a day like this, we’ll just use you instead as a beacon for the incoming plane.”

“Ha ha Douglas. You’ll excuse me if I don’t praise your wit as I’ve heard that one before,” Martin responded as he walked over, squinting as the sun was behind Douglas.

“Oh, have you? Well, one can’t hope to be a paragon of originality all the time, especially in the presence of sir,” Douglas replied. “What were you doing in Gertie’s hanger? Did Goddard call?”

“No, but Carolyn still isn’t best pleased that you’re an hour late. I was grabbing some sugar packets, we’ve run out in the office and Arthur forgot to get more.” Martin opened his hand to show the white packets he held, including oddly enough, one with the Starbucks logo on it.

“I’m sure Carolyn will find it somewhere in her heart of hearts to forgive me for my tardiness, the heat multiplies the time it takes for me to get ready in the morning.” Douglas smiled at the look the younger man shot his way at the less-than-stellar excuse.

“It is quite hot isn’t it, especially after the weather we’ve had?” Martin agreed, running a finger under the sleeves of his shirt which he had folded up to his elbows.

“I hope you’ve put on enough sun block lotion,” Douglas warned, “you’re red enough as it is without adding a horrendous sunburn on top.”

“Is the theme for today going to be jokes based on my hair co-OW!” Martin yelped and brought his right arm close to his body.

“What’s wrong?” Douglas asked, slightly alarmed although the flash of something yellow and black floating behind Martin was enough to make an educated guess.

“I think something just b-bit me! I think it was a wasp. Ow, that really hurt!”

Douglas leaned in to look and bit down a laugh as he saw that a small area near Martin’s elbow had indeed gone red, standing out sharply in contrast against the man’s paler-than-pale skin. Clapping a hand on his captain’s shoulder, he led them towards the portacabin. “We should get inside. Knowing your luck, there’s probably a swarm of wasps waiting to descend upon us at any moment.”

“Even if there was one, they would probably leave you alone and just come after me,” Martin grumbled.

Douglas opened the door for both of them. “Put some ice on that. I’ll go let the boss know that your bad luck is still going strong. She may have some paracetamol to help with the pain.”

“Thanks, Douglas.” Martin went in first and headed towards the old, third-hand mini-fridge/freezer that they kept in the corner, mostly for milk and some refreshments for any clients who may drop by.

Inside, Arthur was sitting cross-legged on the floor, the foundations of a house of cards in front of him. And in what was a first, the steward’s concentration was so focused on placing the next card that he did not acknowledge Douglas’s presence, nor the fact that his Skip was rooting around in the mini-freezer with pain evident on his face. Smiling to himself at the sight of Arthur with his tongue sticking out of the corner of his mouth as he focused, Douglas made his way to the small private cupboard in the portacabin which doubled as Carolyn’s office.

Knocking sharply once and then pulling the door open, he announced:

“Have no fear, for the Sky God is here, to gra-.”

“Douglas, sit down, shut your face and sign these forms in sixty seconds or I dock your pay for being late,” Carolyn interrupted, not looking up from where she was scribbling away on the papers in front of her.

“Yes ma’am.” Douglas pulled out the empty seat on his side of the desk and sat down, grabbing a pen from a mug full of them. As a strategist, he knew when to pick his battles and right now, the most important battle to be won was for the Sands of Bournemouth. Although MJN Air was not booked for anything, he still had to okay the time off with Carolyn. Keeping her in a good mood – or rather, not sending her into a foul one – was one step closer towards getting his way.

Carolyn looked up at the lack of argument. “No comments or excuses?” Her eyes narrowed. “You want something. What is it? Spit it out now.”

“Oh Carolyn, do you really think so little of me? Could it not be that perhaps I’m simply in a complacent, easy-going mood?”

“No. You want something, and when you do, you’re more relentless than Henry the VIII in his desire for a son.” She put her pen down and crossed her arms on the desk. “What is it?”

“Well, since you’re asking so-.”

For the second time in two minutes, Douglas was interrupted.

“Skip!” Arthur’s shout reverberated through the thin door separating Carolyn’s office from the rest of the portacabin. “Douglas! Mum!”

“What’s happened now?” Douglas wondered aloud as he stood up quickly and yanked open the office door. He wasn’t sure what to expect but the sight of Martin collapsed motionless on the floor with Arthur crouched over him did not enter the top ten.