The Inklings: Chapter 90

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

Fanta woke up before her alarm went off and wondered why. Then she noticed noises coming from the kitchen and realised that John or D’arby must be having breakfast.

On balance Fanta was happy that John and D’arby had moved in, but there were some things they did that annoyed her. Waking her up too early was one of them, and another was that they introduced a lot of unpredictability into the house. When it had been just Fanta and her sisters Fanta had been in control of what they were going to be doing or eating and what was cleaned and when and how it was done. Now there were three adults in the house Fanta was having trouble keeping track of what was going on. She might come home and find the washing had been done, or she might find that the bathroom had been cleaned instead. Sometimes D’arby would go shopping and buy ingredients to cook dinner and sometimes he wouldn’t. Sometimes John would make bread before he left for the restaurant and sometimes he wouldn’t. This week John hadn’t made any bread because he’d been busy at the library. What this meant for Fanta was that she couldn’t plan ahead, and that made her feel anxious.

There was a long list of things that Fanta did like about having John and D’arby around though. Some of her favourite things were that John would help get her sisters ready for school in the morning and that D’arby would wash the dishes after dinner.

Nancy had also been woken up by the noises coming from the kitchen. She got herself dressed in her school uniform and then went into Fanta’s room.

“It’s a school day! Get up!” Nancy told Fanta.

“Go and see who is making all that noise” said Fanta to Nancy.

Then Fanta got up and got dressed for work.

D’arby was opening the front door to leave for work when Fanta appeared.

“Why are you leaving so early?” asked Fanta.

“I like my work so much that I want to get there as soon as the office opens at 7:30am” said D’arby. “See you tonight”

After D’arby closed the front door behind him Fanta went to the kitchen to make some tea and found John and Nancy there making pancakes.

“Surprise!” said John. “You are up early. I thought I’d have everything ready before you got up”

“You and D’arby were being too noisy” said Fanta.

“Sorry. That’s not good at all. I’ll be quieter next time and I’ll tell D’arby too” said John. “Go and sit at the table and read the paper and I will bring you tea and pancakes in a minute”

Fanta smiled and did what John had suggested. Fanta smiled again when she saw that it was an old weekend paper that John had put out for her, but it made sense because they hardly bought papers. The news headlines on the front page of the paper made Fanta feel depressed so she turned to the colour magazine at the centre of the paper. It was about real estate. Fanta felt a bit nostalgic looking at it and realised that she hadn’t had to think about selling houses for months. Fanta opened the magazine and looked at some house ads and started laughing. Something funny had happened – either Fanta had forgotten how things were or they’d changed a lot in the last couple of months. The advertisments for houses all included prominent pictures of the agent responsible for selling the house, as if they deserved to take credit for the house. The pictures were amusing too, because the agents seemed to be trying to look like the stereotype architect – by wearing skivvies or glasses with ridiculous frames and being photographed in black and white in unnatural poses or creepy lighting.

Fanta started reading an article about an interior designer renovating a tiny flat and trying to make it good enough to replace the Australian Dream of a house and garden. It made Fanta feel very guilty and she was glad when Nancy and John interrupted her by serving breakfast.

 

Advertisements

The Inklings: Chapter 89

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

Gina and Penny had meant it when they’d told Mamadou that he could do their garden next, but first they wanted him to replace the fence and were happy with his idea of including a wide gate with an archway over the top. The fence was going to double as a trellis and Mamadou planned to plant tasty things along the boundary because he liked the idea of Gina and Penny bumping into Rose and Festus when they all came out to pick some boundary berries or climbing beans.

When Gina and Penny saw Mamadou knocking down the old fence they came outside and walked over to him. Mamadou tried to not look annoyed when he saw them. He liked Penny and Gina but when he was in working mode he didn’t like being disturbed.

“Hello” said Gina. “I know you don’t want us to stop you when you are busy but I’m afraid I need to talk to you about money”

“I don’t want any money so no need to talk about it” said Mamadou. Mamadou didn’t want to have to put a price on his work or to have to do invoices or keep tax records. He’d rather not get paid.

“Don’t be silly” said Penny. “You have a family. We can’t make you work for us and not give anything back”.

Mamadou just wanted to design and build the garden and he’d rather do it for free than have to deal with the money side, but it was true that he should be helping Binta pay for things.

“I know you aren’t interested in doing the calculations for a quote so we want to pay you by the hour. And for materials, of course” said Gina. “I got some quotes from other people so I could get an idea of what a fair hourly rate is and I’ve written it all down and put it in this envelope. I’ll leave it here on this fence post and let you get back to your work. Please come and have a cup of tea with us when you finish for the day”

Mamadou nodded and pretended he was getting back to work but as soon as Penny and Gina had gone back inside their house Mamadou went inside to find Binta. She was looking at job ads on her computer and she didn’t look very happy. Mamadou wondered whether it was a good time to talk to Binta, but he decided to try anyway because he didn’t want to have taken a break from his work for nothing.

“Will you do the paperwork for my garden business?” Mamadou asked Binta.

Binta looked at Mamadou and it took a couple of seconds for her to absorb what he’d just said. It sounded like Mamadou had decided that he would be building many gardens. “Ok” said Binta. She was a bit worried about what it would be like to work with Mamadou but she did think it was a good idea for him to try to make money from his gardens and it made sense for her to help him now that she was out of work.

“Good” said Mamadou and he handed Binta the envelope saying “Gina gave me this. Please will you arrange everything to do with money and just let me do the gardens? And pay yourself, of course”

Binta was happy to be able to stop reading job ads. After she read what Gina had written, Binta’s first impulse was to follow Mamadou outside and ask him to answer all the questions that had just popped into her head, but then she realized that what he wanted was to not have to think about any of the things she wanted to ask him about. So instead Binta started making a list of all the things she’d need to sort out so Mamadou could charge money for his gardens. It was pretty long list because Mamadou didn’t even have a bank account.


The Inklings: chapter 88

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

D’arby finally finished recording his voice just before lunchtime on Thursday. He couldn’t wait to start his real work. He was pleased to discover that a desk had been prepared for him in the same room that Carol and Valentine worked and hoped that meant he’d get to know what they were working on.

In the past couple of days D’arby had decided that he’d be happy working for RenewBank even if he was just a decoy, as long as he knew that the business was doing good things. D’arby was going to meet with Leopold after lunch and learn what his work was going to be.

Valentine invited D’arby to the rooftop garden for lunch with him and Carol. D’arby had eaten his lunch alone in the recording room the last couple of days and had been feeling very lonely so he was happy to accept the invitation. D’arby also had lots of questions he wanted to ask.

“How long have you both been working here?” said D’arby as soon as he and Carol and Valentine had sat down at the table in the rooftop garden.

“Two weeks” said Valentine and Carol added “Me too. We started on the same day. We don’t get to do such exciting stuff as you though – sneaking in and out of the official office must be fun.”

“It isn’t that exciting after the first couple of times” said D’arby. “I reckon it will eventually become a bit of a bore, like having to change from a train to a bus on the way to work. And it will eat into the time I have for my real work”

“It isn’t a waste of time though. It is valuable to be making the people who are spying on RenewBank think that we don’t know about it. It protects our work from their interference” said Carol.

“Yeah, I know” said D’arby. “What are you two working on?”

“Nothing much” said Valentine, with a chuckle. “Just building a model of the economy, financial system and energy supply”.

D’arby’s eyes must have started sparkling with excitement.

“Eventually we will use this model to fine-tune the business plan” said Carol. “Leopold keeps talking about how important it is to prevent perverse outcomes in the transition from the current system to a new, better one.”

“It all sounds so ambitious!” said D’arby. “And so exciting! Are you allowed to talk to anyone outside work about it?”

“No way!” said Carol and Valentine at the same time.

“We can’t let anyone know what’s coming because if the banks and energy businesses knew what we wanted to do they would try their best to stop us. Leopold and Rudnika have identified lots of places where we are at risk.”

“What is the plan for RenewBank anyway? What’s this ‘better system’?” asked D’arby.

“The exact plan will depend on the modelling results but roughly the plan is to create a new, stable alternative currency and a bank that uses this currency and that only renewable energy customers can use. RenewBank will also build and run renewable energy projects and everything will be customer-owned. What makes this so dangerous is that all the modelling so far indicates that doing such a thing will destabilize the big banks and the non-renewable energy generators. So we need to find a way that doesn’t crash the economy before RenewBank can get big enough to support it” said Carol.

“I can see the reason for renewable energy, but what’s the point of the alternative currency?” asked D’arby. He thought he knew the answer because the plan was close to what he’d been thinking about, but he wanted to be sure.

“Not to make money, for sure” said Leopold. “Everything will be customer owned. The point is to force the move to renewable energy and to create form of money that isn’t based on debt. Leopold and Rudknika want to do more than that, but that’s the main aim. I guess they also want to pull the rug out from underneath the people who’ve made themselves rich at the expense of everyone else and especially those who’ve been corrupting our democracy.”

D’arby smiled. He was happy that Rudnika and Leopold could be so confident in such a wild plan, but at the same time he wondered how they could pay everyone’s salary without the business having any income so he asked Carol and Valentine whether they knew how they were being funded.

“Rudnika sold a couple of properties she inherited to pay to get everything started” said Valentine.

D’arby smiled again. It was scarier to be part of something that was self-funded because there wasn’t that reassurance you get when someone is so convinced in your plans that they give you their money. D’arby had many more questions he wanted to ask but Leopold came up onto the roof because he was ready to show D’arby what he’d be working on.

Leopold showed D’arby some databases and spreadsheets he’d started that he wanted D’arby to continue working on and he explained how they fitted in with what Carol and Valentine were working on. All three were adding details to different parts of the model and in a month or so they’d run scenarios using the complete model. After that it would be an iterative process – using the model to discover weaknesses and then improving the model and looking at the effects of different assumptions.

D’arby was so impatient to start working on the model that his fingers started drumming on the desk. Leopold suggested he start by reading a document that explained the work done so far and then there was a spreadsheet to finish and lots of pieces of research were needed to fill in gaps in the model.

“Any questions?” asked Leopold.

“What work is the official D’arby at the official office doing?” asked D’arby.

“Something similar, but all wrong. We are leaking a model that shows that RenewBank must stay small in order to work and the currency aspect will just be Loyalty Points. Hopefully that keeps people off our backs” said Leopold.

D’arby felt like the afternoon disappeared. He was so engrossed in his work that Rudnika had to remind him to go home by pointing out that Sonia couldn’t go home until D’arby had left the official office.

“What’s the earliest I can arrive at the official office tomorrow?” asked D’arby

As Rudnika told D’arby that Sonia would be ready for him to arrive by 7:30am she made a mental note that finding another person to share Sonia’s job should be given high priority. Sonia had said that she didn’t mind the long hours but Rudnika knew that it was not sustainable and if Sonia got sick Rudnika would have to close the official office and D’arby would have to stay home.

As D’arby walked home that evening he felt happy and excited but also frustrated because he hadn’t been able to take any work home with him and he realized that he wouldn’t even be able to make notes at home.

When D’arby got home Syafika and Fanta were deep in conversation about someone calle Celine. D’arby realized he was really hungry and had a look in the kitchen so see if anything was cooking. It looked like Fanta had been interrupted while preparing dinner so D’arby washed his hands and then continued chopping ingredients while reading the recipe that Fanta had left on the kitchen bench.


The Inklings: Chapter 87

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

As Syafika walked to work on Wednesday she kept thinking about her Mum. Syafika hadn’t mentioned to Rose that she’d seen her give money to the lady who lived in the park. Instead Syafika decided that next time her Mum said she was going to the beauty salon she would follow her. Syafika was impatient to find out what was going on but she was also excited to think that she might be able to find the answer without having to ask. Syafika suspected that her Mum never went to the beauty salon and that instead she walked around looking for someone to give the money away to. It made Syafika proud to think that her Mum had this extra dimension of kindness.

When Syafika arrived at her desk she noticed that Celine had beaten her to work so she checked the time. It was only 8am. Syafika wondered why Celine had arrived so early that day, because (just as Anthony had requested) Celine and Fanta were sharing the one role and so they each worked only 3.5 hours per day. Fanta would be there during school hours and Celine usually did the same. Christine had even been persuaded to move the team meeting back to 9:30am so that Fanta and Celine could attend.

A bit later Syafika was engrossed in some reading when Celine came over and asked if she’d like to go out for a coffee before the team meeting. Syafika felt uncomfortable around Celine and looked up to see if Fanta had arrived yet so she could suggest Fanta come too, but Fanta wasn’t there.

As Syafika agreed to coffee with Celine she tried to sound enthusiastic. Celine lead the way to the coffee shop where Syafika had seen her meeting with Anthony (Lawrence). As they walked, Celine kept asking Syafika questions. Celine asked what Syafika was working on, how long she’d been working there, what the other people in the team were like and then moved on to more personal topics. By the time they arrived at the café Celine was asking Syafika if she had a partner and as they ordered their coffees Celine volunteered that she was also on the lookout for a boyfriend.

“What’s your type?” asked Syafika. She was hoping to find out whether Celine had a romantic interest in Anthony.

Celine paused to think before she answered “Someone brave who thinks for themselves. And someone who is genuine. I hate it when people try to trick me”

Syafika wondered whether that was a good description of Anthony and decided that Anthony probably wasn’t very genuine – although he didn’t seem to directly try to deceive Syafika he had always been evasive and she realized she hardly knew anything about him.

Then Celine asked Syafika what her type was and Syafika struggled to find an answer. Eventually she managed to say “Someone who I can have good discussions with and who likes me the way I am”.

“That’s easy!” Celine exclaimed. “Good discussions are something you can initiate, and making someone like you the way you are is easy too”.

“What? How can that be? How can you make someone like you the way you are?” asked Syafika.

“It all comes down to making them feel good about themselves when they are with you. There’s almost a formula for that” answered Celine.

Syafika wanted to know the formula but she was a bit skeptical and so she said “How do you know people don’t just like you anyway because you are so good looking? I bet what works for you won’t work for me”

Celine laughed and rolled her eyes. Celine had noticed that the waiter had looked at Syafika a few times so she thought she’d use this to her advantage.

“I will teach you and then you will believe me” said Celine. “When the waiter brings our coffees over I want you to smile and then observe him. I need you to be able to tell me the colour of his eyes and any distinguishing features of them. You will need to keep him here a while so you get time, so ask him a question – an interesting question that he is likely to have something to say about. And when you pick up your coffee to take a sip make sure that you wobble the cup so a little bit spills into the saucer. Then laugh at yourself – don’t get annoyed. And smile.”

Syafika thought this was stupid but she decided that a good way to show Celine she was wrong was to do what Celine asked and have it fail. So Syafika decided to make it look like she was taking the instructions seriously.

At least Syafika didn’t have to pretend to smile – she was so happy to see the generous sprinkle of chocolate powder on top of her cappuccino that she couldn’t have stopped herself from smiling. But Syafika remembered she couldn’t take a sip yet. She looked the waiter in the eye and asked him what the best and worst things about working in the café were. The waiter looked surprised because he’d been expecting a question like what the cake of the day was. He was happy to answer though and Celine nodded because she thought Syafika had asked a good question.

“Customers are the best and the worst thing” said the waiter, and he started telling the story of the day a customer had fixed the coffee machine when it broke down in the middle of the morning rush.

Syafika noted that the waiter had blue eyes but knew that wouldn’t be a detailed enough description to satisfy Celine so she looked harder and saw that around the pupil his eyes were slightly golden and that there was a ring around each iris that was almost black but probably really a very dark green.

As Syafika went to pick up her coffee she did as Celine had instructed and spilt a little bit of coffee into the saucer.

“Oops” said Syafika, and she smiled to herself.

The waiter smiled and would have told Syafika about his worst customers but he was called over to the cash register because the queue of people wanting takeaway coffees was growing longer.

While Celine and Syafika drank their coffees Syafika impressed Celine with her description of the waiter’s eyes but Celine was disappointed that Syafika hadn’t noticed other things she thought were important, like which hand he’d used to serve the coffees, whether his top or bottom lip was larger, what he smelt like, the shape of his earlobes and how the length of his upper arm compared to the width of his shoulders.

“You didn’t tell me to look for all those things!” complained Syafika. “And what is all that information good for anyway?” Syafika was beginning to think that Celine might be playing a trick on her.

“If you do the observation well you will see the effect for yourself” said Celine.

It was time to leave the café and go to the team meeting. The waiter was still operating the cash register when Celine and Syafika went to pay, but he didn’t continue his stories because the man operating the coffee machine was the owner of the café and he would have heard. Instead the waiter looked at Syafika and asked if they’d enjoyed their coffees. To buy Syafika time to make the rest of her observations, Celine gave an exaggerated description of how nice her coffee had been and described the flavours she’d been able to pick out and asked where the coffee beans were grown. While this was going on Syafika was looking at the waiter’s mouth, ears, arms and shoulders. Then she leant forward slightly and took a deep inhale.

When Syafika and Celine had left the café Celine said “So?”

“Right handed, bottom lip was slightly bigger, he smelt like cinnamon, his ear lobes were triangular and his upper arms were about 75% as long as his shoulders were wide” said Syafika. “How did that make him like me?”

“What’s that note in your hand?” asked Celine.

Syafika looked down at what she had thought was a receipt but it was really a handwritten note on a scrap of paper. It said “I hope you come back soon”. Syafika looked at Celine carefully because she still felt like Celine might have been tricking her and suspected that the waiter might be in on the trick too, but there wasn’t time to interrogate Celine because they had to rush back for the team meeting.


The Inklings: Chapter 86

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

Although Syafika had been expecting that she would feel cross after having to get up so early, she was actually enjoying how peaceful everything was at that time of day. She went out into the backyard and looked up at the sky to watch it change colour as the sun came up. Aminata seemed to like this time of day too. She flew out of the back door and sat in a tree. Ousman and Binta came outside soon after.

Then the door of the garden shed opened and Mamadou came outside. He had a big smile on his face and was carrying a cup of tea. This made Syafika smile too.

The peaceful start to the day ended as soon as Festus opened the door for Zikpi and the film crew. Zikpi had a clipboard with a list of things she wanted to film that day and as Zikpi started explaining the schedule Binta went and hid upstairs because she really didn’t want her moving in with Rose to become part of the story about the renovations.

It was interesting to see the look on Zikpi’s face when she walked out into the back garden. Of course she’d been there when the garden was being created but her focus had been on the house because her show was about houses, and Zikpi wasn’t experienced in looking at garden plans and predicting what a finished landscape would be like. When Zikpi first saw the backyard her normally serious expression softened into a look of wonder and her cheeks developed a rosy glow. It was as if time had reversed and Zikpi had gone back to being a child. Instead of barking orders to the film crew, Zikpi walked around slowly and quietly and the only noises that came from her mouth were surprised inhales each time she discovered a new feature of the garden. When Zikpi had taken everything in she turned around and, with a wobbly voice she said “I’ve never seen anything so amazing! So beautiful! Such a paradise!” and the clever film crew captured it all.

Zikpi seemed to really be enjoying herself for the rest of the day, and Mamadou took full advantage of Zikpi’s good mood. Everytime he had an opportunity to speak infront of the camera Mamadou said something mischievous. He made it clear what he thought of typical renovations and the materialistic lifestyle that shows like Zikpi’s usually promoted. But it wasn’t really Zikpi’s mood that made her let Mamadou speak his mind. It was because he was living his message.

Zikpi had filmed many people who talked about sustainable lifestyles or passion for art or nature but, possibly because it was so unlikely for someone to succeed in coming to Zikpi’s attention without them being an expert in self promotion, Zikpi had found that commendable sentiments and impeccable manners were often an insubstantial layer on the outside of a mean and competitive core – like a poisonous snake wrapped up in a piece of velvet. Because of the circles she mixed in, Zikpi also hadn’t come across many people who would have maintained their passions if they hadn’t made them comfortably well-off and so the novelty of a person who had a pure and open agenda meant that Zikpi couldn’t hear enough of what Mamadou had to say. Zikpi did not find Mamadou charming but she wanted her viewers to hear his message.

Festus and Rose also did well infront of the camera. Festus was surprised by how much he enjoyed showing Zikpi how all the plumbing worked – how rain water ran to the tank and then was used for washing people and clothes and then how the dirty water was cleaned and used again as it made its way through the garden. When Zikpi asked Rose how the whole renovation idea came about Rose told the truth and admitted that she didn’t even know what a greywater system was before India started talking about how important they were and that everything had flowed on from there because it had made Rose decide to try to make her home self-sufficient before India could.

Filming finished earlier than expected and Binta came out of hiding as soon as she’d heard that the cameras had been packed away. Then everyone had a nice late lunch together before Zikpi and the crew left.

After lunch Syafika went to have a siesta to catch up on the sleep she’d missed out on by getting up so early. Everyone else retreated into quiet corners to relax too. An hour or so later everyone was up and moving around again and Rose announced that she was going to the beauty salon, as a treat for having survived the renovations. As Syafika watched Rose leave she realized that her Mum hadn’t been to the beauty salon for months and guessed that it was because she hadn’t wanted to spend money while Festus was unable to earn any money.

A bit later in the afternoon Syafika decided she would go for a run. She hadn’t been for a run near home before and so it was exciting to plan about the route she would take. Syafika decided on a circuit that took in a couple of local parks. The first park was a quiet one and Syafika enjoyed being the only person there. She ran a couple of loops around the park, running on the grass rather than the path and passing under the shade of as many trees as possible. When she left the park Syafika noticed that a change of weather was blowing in and enjoyed the way the wind cooled her down.

The second park Syafika ran around was much busier because it was close to a train station. It was never empty because some people lived there. As Syafika ran along the path at the top of the park she thought she noticed Rose walking through the park and thought that was strange because her beauty salon was in a different direction. Syafika’s first impulse was to run over to her Mum and find out what she was doing there, but then Syafika remembered that she was unofficially a spy in training and decided to instead watch her Mum from a distance and see if she could work out what was going on.

Syafika followed Rose, making sure she stayed about 20 metres behind. There was a group of people walking just behind Rose who would provide Syafika with some cover if her Mum happened to turn around.

Then Rose stepped off the path and started walking over to the fence where there were a couple of tattered tents. A lady came out of one of the tents and Rose spoke to her briefly then handed her something before walking off towards home.

Syafika kept following Rose, but as she passed the lady outside the tent Syafika sneaked a look at her and saw that she was holding a small bundle of $50 notes. The lady was looking a very happy but also a bit shocked.


The Inklings: Chapter 85

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

D’arby had given himself 40 minutes to walk the 2.5 kilometres to work because it was in an area he was unfamiliar with and because Rudnika had stressed the importance of him being there on time. She’d actually instructed D’arby that there was a 6 minute window in which it was acceptable to arrive – from 8:27am to 8:33am, but because D’arby had been half asleep when he’d heard this he had only registered the message that he be there on time, and not the details about the 6 minute time window.

As D’arby walked he held the map he’d drawn on a scrap of paper and because he was feeling nervous he kept checking the map, even though he’d memorized the route.  D’arby was nervous because he didn’t want to disappoint but he had no way of gauging whether he was going to be able to do the job well, and he really wanted to do it well because he could see it was going to be important.

When D’arby turned into the street of his new workplace he noticed that the back of his neck felt cold. He thought he heard someone say “Careful!” but there was nobody in the street. Then he noticed a galah sitting in a tree. The Galah looked D’arby in the eye and raised its crest. Then another galah launched itself from a tree on the other side of the road and flew past so close to D’arby’s head that he ducked.

D’arby turned around to check that there was nobody behind him and looked up at the windows of the houses in the street to see if anyone was looking out, but he didn’t see any faces. Then he looked at his watch and saw that he was 15 minutes early. He continued to walk along the street until he was outside the address Rudnika had given him. It was the second of a group of five terrace houses that were bordered on one side by a laneway and the other side by a small park. The only indication that D’arby was at the right place was a small brass plaque next to the front door saying “RenewBank”. None of the other houses in the street appeared to be businesses and D’arby wondered whether Rudnika had started the business from her house. D’arby wondered if this was why the job application process and testing had all been done online – to hide the modest nature of the business. D’arby looked at his watch again and saw that he was ten minutes early so he walked back to the little park and decided to sit down and wait until 8:29am.

As D’arby sat he looked around him. The back of the park opened onto a laneway and D’arby wondered whether the park had once been another terrace house because it looked like it was the same size as the other houses in the street. D’arby looked across the road at the houses that faced RenewBank and he thought he noticed the curtains move in one of them, but there was no other sign of anyone being home. He listened for sounds of life and could hear the faint sound of music, but couldn’t tell which house it was coming from.

At 8:29 and 45 seconds D’arby opened the front gate of RenewBank, walked up the steps and rang the doorbell. Rudnika answered the door almost immediately and shook D’arby’s hand warmly, then ushered him inside.

Rudnika took D’arby upstairs to meet Sonia, who seemed to be working at four computers at once. D’arby felt like asking lots of questions but Rudnika seemed to be in a hurry and told D’arby to come with her so she could show him his desk. She showed him to the room opposite Sonia’s and gave him a piece of paper then put her finger to her mouth, indicating that she wanted him to not say anything.

The curtains of the room were closed and so D’arby had to strain his eyes to read what was on the paper. It said “Do not say anything or ask any questions. This building has been bugged. When I say something just answer ‘Ok’ and then follow me”.

“So here is where you will be working” said Rudnika. “The computer is all set up and ready to go. Here are some reports you should read. They will probably take you a week to get through. I need to get back to my desk now because I am expecting a phone call. My office is downstairs – please come and have a chat in an hour. The bathroom and kitchen are downstairs too.”

Then Rudnika motioned for D’arby to follow her and they crept downstairs and into a room full of bookshelves. Rudnika went up to one of the shelves and slid it aside to reveal a hidden door. D’arby looked at Rudnika and raised an eyebrow. She was pleased that he seemed to think this was exciting.

Rudnika opened the door and when they had both walked through she quietly closed it. D’arby realized that they were now in the house next door. Rudnika took D’arby down the hall to the kitchen and closed the door.

“We can talk now” said Rudnika. “Would you like a quick cup of tea before we leave for the real office?”

D’arby tried to say “Yes” but his words seemed to have dried up so he nodded. There were so many questions he wanted to ask that he was having trouble getting any of them out of his brain.

“We have about ten minutes.  Ask me any questions” said Rudnika as she made the tea.

“How do you know next door is bugged? Who would do that? How do you know this buiding is safe? What if there are cameras watching you too? Why would anyone believe that you are working next door if there’s nobody there to make any noise? What does Sonia do?”

Rudnika laughed and gave D’arby his cup of tea. D’arby was pleased that it was black without sugar and wondered how Rudnika knew that was what he liked. Hers had milk in it.

“Sonia is very busy all day pretending to be many people at once. She will have to pretend to be you too now. When we get to the real office I will need you to record yourself saying lots of words and phrases so Sonia can use them to make the fake D’arby have a conversation with the fake Rudnika in an hour. Sonia checks all three buildings for bugs and cameras every morning. It is difficult to pretend to be working here everyday when really we work somewhere else, but it is worth it because while they are busy listening to this building here we have control over what they think we are doing – we can throw them off track” explained Rudnika

“Who?” asked D’arby

“That’s a tougher question. The people watching us from across the road are spies for hire so are probably working for one of the big banks, or maybe for all of them. We aren’t sure who is listening to us though” said Rudnika and then she quickly drank the rest of her tea.

“Please wash the cups while I check that the coast is clear” said Rudnika. While D’arby washed the cups he watched Rudnika open one of the kitchen cupboards and turn on a set of monitors that were hidden inside. There must have been cameras watching the side and back lanes as well as the front of the house. D’arby realized that this building was next to the side lane.

Rudnika showed D’arby the monitor showing the back lane and pointed to the upstairs window of the house on the other side of the lane. D’arby could vaguely see someone moving and Rudnika explained that there was often someone there watching the back door of the official office next door and that sometimes she went out and sat in the backyard there to give the spy something to look at.

Then Rudnika carefully checked the view of the side lane. There were no windows overlooking it and nothing seemed to be happening there.

“Don’t talk until I say” said Rudnika and they walked to the back door of the house. It opened onto a covered area, and there was a screen blocking the view from the house across the back lane. Rudnika picked up two bicycle helmets that were hanging on the wall and handed D’arby one. There were two bikes leaning against the side fence and D’arby noticed that there was a gate in the side fence that led onto the side lane. Rudnika opened the gate and rode out, across the side lane and away along the back lane. D’arby followed, trying hard to steer the bike straight and hoping that they didn’t have to ride on any busy roads.

The real office of RenewBank was in the next suburb. It was above a café and had a roof garden. D’arby couldn’t stop smiling as Rudnika showed him around. Leopold was there too and there were two other new employees called Carol and Valentine.

As promised, D’arby’s first task was to record himself saying lots of different things. Rudnika took D’arby to a small sound-proof room and pointed out that he wasn’t going to have time to create a comprehensive library of recordings but it would be enough to make it sound like he was working at the official office that day. The recordings were put on a USB drive and sent by bicycle courier to the Official Office, where Sonia quickly created a convincing conversation between Rudnika and D’arby. Then D’arby had to continue recording more words and phrases, and he had to repeat many of them while pretending to feel different emotions. At the end of the day he was still not finished and realized he’d have to spend at least the next day doing the same thing.

When the working day was over Leopold and Rudnika reminded D’arby that he was not to tell anyone about what he was doing at work or where the real office was. Rudnika gave him a key to the official office and told him that tomorrow he could let himself in and then they would repeat the trip they’d made that morning but that after that he could make the trip on his own because Rudnika preferred to get to the real office a bit earlier.

“What time do Carol and Valentine arrive at the official office?” D’arby asked. He was wondering whether he’d be able to ride with them sometimes.

“Carol and Valentine aren’t official employees” explained Rudnika “So they don’t have to pretend to work at the official office. They just come straight here”

This news hurt D’arby but he didn’t say anything. As he and Rudnika rode back to the official office D’arby wondered whether his job was going to be a real one or whether he was just a decoy. He desperately wanted to know what Carol and Valentine were going to be working on. He’d wanted to talk to them that day but they hadn’t been there at lunchtime.

Rudnika and D’arby snuck back into the official office the same way they’d left and then D’arby was free to leave by the front door and walk home. As he walked he felt really sad. He’d had such a strange and exciting day but he wasn’t allowed to tell anyone about it.


The Inklings: Chapter 84

To read the story from the start go to: https://the-inkling.com/catch-up-with-the-inklings/

John and D’arby had been living at Fanta’s place for about a month but John still wasn’t used to waking up in his own room. And it was so quiet that it made him feel lonely.

John rushed to get dressed so he could see Fanta and D’arby before they left for the day.

D’arby was drinking coffee and looking out the window when John walked into the dining room.

“I’ve got something for you” said D’arby and he handed his library card to John.

John was very happy because he knew this meant he could access all the journals he needed to continue D’arby’s research on special pills. So far all John had been doing was reading the papers D’arby had already collected but he knew there was a lot more out there. John noticed that the card didn’t expire until the end of the year and was determined to become an expert by then.

Fanta was just heading into the kitchen to make breakfast for her sisters when it was time for D’arby to leave for work. John thought D’arby looked nervous but very happy as he set off down the street.

John was feeling hungry but sat patiently at the dining table, waiting for Fanta to finish what she was doing in the kitchen. He’d learnt that there was only room for one person in the kitchen at once and was careful to not get in Fanta’s way in the morning because she had so much to do to get her sisters off to school and herself off to work.

Ruby and Nancy came into the dining room and sat down at the table. Ruby had a hairbrush in one hand and was looking a bit cross.

“What’s wrong?” John asked Ruby.

“I have a big tangle at the back of my head and Fanta doesn’t have time to untangle it and Nancy hurts too much when she does it” compained Ruby.

John stood up behind Ruby’s chair and looked at Ruby’s hair. It was the most tangled thing he’d ever seen, but he’d seen Fanta untangling it before and so John pretended he knew what to do. He went and got the squirt bottle full of homemade ‘de-tangler’ and got to work. Ruby was silent as John worked, which he took to be a good sign because she usually complained when anyone touched her hair. John kept working while Ruby ate her breakfast and by the time she needed to go and clean her teeth her hair was looking presentable.

Fanta gave John a big smile when she saw Ruby’s hair. And John was still smiling back when the three of them had left for school and work.

John looked at his watch and calculated the time he’d need to leave the library in order to open the restaurant in time for lunch. Then he picked up D’arby’s library card and headed towards the uni library.

There was a roaring sound whenever the automatic sliding doors of the library opened. John enjoyed walking through them. He tried to hide his nerves as he approached the barrier gates. All the security at the library made John very nervous. John used D’arby’s library card to open one of the gates and was feeling so excited when he made it through them that he had to suppress the urge to jump up and click his heels together.

 


%d bloggers like this: