As a taster, there now follows a short story from the collection entitled ‘This Dead Cat Won’t
“Kirsty? Yes, that’s right. Could you put me through right away? Thank you kindly.
“…Michael? You know why I’m calling of course. Yes, I’m following it here, as best I can anyway. How did no one anticipate this? Well yes, I know they’re out on the streets every week, I’ve seen them go by my second place, but this just isn’t cricket. How did it get out of control, and so suddenly? There must be a way to know who mobilised them. I thought our people would have this in hand.
“You know, I don’t like it when you say that old man. I’m very much au fait with ‘the internet’; I use it all the time. You can’t blame ‘the internet’, not nowadays. There are real culprits out there Michael - ringleaders, criminals; men with nefarious purpose in their hearts, and they leave a trail. I’ll speak to the Home Secretary; make cracking down on it a top priority.
“I have utter faith in them; they’ve been instructed in a good deal of detail. What I need you to do now, Michael, is put together some distraction. Do that right away. I don’t have a preference, no. You’re the ideas man here - that’s why I keep you on. I can rely on you to react positively under this kind of pressure.
“That’s not going to grab anyone’s attention now is it? Don’t be so foolish man. Can’t we raise the threat level? Imminent attacks, specific intelligence - you know the drill. It’s a cliché these days I suppose. What’s a better word than ‘specific’? ‘Incontrovertible’? The police will have a line. Oh yes, I recall. How silly. I don’t suppose we can add another level above the highest? No, you’re right of course.
“Why don’t we start with talk of a resignation? Someone must have spoken out of turn while I’ve been
away - it was happening twice a week in June. Well, you’re the communications guru. What about incriminating emails? Who on earth told you to stop monitoring them? Oh yes, that’s right. I suppose it was necessary, at the time.
“Are you telling me I shouldn’t be worried? I’m telling you there’s no need to worry Michael. No, I don’t buy that argument for a second. If we have nothing on the others then we’ll need to take a long look at ourselves. No, of course not. I was going to ask you old chap - how are things with Angela? Still the same? That might be something we can work with.
“No, Michael, hear me out. Your private life is a last resort, for all of us. We both know the mess you call a marriage can’t remain secret forever. How is Louise? Lovely girl yes, all that. Did I mention I knew her
father? You might have to move out of her place, just for the short-term. Would Angela agree to a brief reunion? The prodigal father, back in the family home; all that.
I know its difficult Michael, no laughing matter, not at all. Believe me, I know what you’re going through.
How long have we known each other Mike? The point I’m trying to make, if you’ll just listen, if you’ll just listen, is there are no obvious hypocrites in my cabinet. No one available, not anymore. This is the only way to direct the attention elsewhere.
“Is it still that raw? She must have calmed down by now, surely - it’s been months. Has it? Well then Mike, tell me who knows about the damn separation. That’s good. Yes they have been, enormously discreet. But can we rely on it when the journos start sniffing around…?”
“What’s that you say? Yes, I can go to one. The Wi-Fi here’s dreadful but I should be able to…. Well, of course they’re moving in. Who do you think signed off on the procedure? If those blighters behave that way they must expect to be dispersed. Oh, I don’t know Mike, whatever it takes. Horses, batons, kettling. The usual gumpf.
“Don’t give me that. I’m watching as well and they’re teenagers or worse. That’s who commits the vandalism you know, ask anyone. If they’re old enough to go to something like this they’re old enough to understand actions have consequences. It’s the real world we’re dealing with here. You can’t cause a ruckus like this and expect to get away with it.”
“Oh I see, yes. The thing was always meant to be operational. Well within their rights, yes. Hold on a second Mike. The bloody picture’s falling apart so I’ll have to take your word for it. Any response we endorse is always proportionate… There it is now. I can see the thing being wheeled out. There she blows, right on
cue. At least we know the bloody machine works. Always needed a live test in the field, that’s what I told
“They really don’t do they? Such lack of control Mike, bringing it all on themselves. That has to be our line. A level-headed reaction to an extraordinary situation. Do you need to write that down?
“Yes, I can see the emergency services on the way through. Reports of injuries won’t surprise anyone, not the way they’re behaving. How much damage is there? Can we speculate a figure? My government gets the bill
for clearing it up of course, I can tell you that much. Let this be a lesson to them….
“Mike, are you still there? Mike? The picture’s gone again. They’re telling you what? Is it substantiated? Don’t listen. You and I both know what the supposed witnesses are like. Take speculation as gospel and we’re
asking for trouble. I’ve been burned that way before.
“'Several independent reports now confirm…' Good Lord. That’s what it says Mike, scrolling across the broadcast here, ad mortem. Do we know? A boy, they think it’s a boy? Let’s get one thing straight Mike, we establish his age and then we refer to him as a ‘young man’, should that prove to be the case. ‘A boy’, my God.
“I want you taking ownership of this, right away. Assemble a team if you have to. Look into the fellow’s background: run-ins with the law, school records, trouble in the household; that sort of thing. I’ll let you go very soon, we need to reach the end first. I can see them dispersing, absolutely. The worst seems to be over. Now we need to start fixing this Mike. I’ll talk to Lachlan; see if he’s holding a dead cat in reserve, for this kind of eventuality. Slap some distraction on the table, get ourselves a bit of a bounce…”
“Send my condolences, yes. We’ve an agreed wording don’t we? Slot his name in, whatever it is. Tailor our statement to the known facts. Strong, decisive action. That’s the only way to go with this. Make that clear to the Mayor…
“We can’t do that Mike; he only got rid of the last Commissioner seven weeks ago. This one has to stay on our side. Why remove his only reason for keeping it under wraps? Who do you think gave the man his orders in the first place?”
“I’ll decide in due course. In the meantime, it might be an idea to convene COBRA. Speak with the acting P.M. will you? What do you mean ‘for what’? To show the country we treat these events with an appropriate level
of concern! It can’t hurt to get everyone in a room, brainstorming. Maybe they’ll come up with something.
“No Mike, I really must protest. There will be no sitting in awkward silence if you brief them in advance now will there? What do you mean ‘on what’? On the dead cat, of course! Bear in mind, we only move beyond disparaging if it’s absolutely necessary. I’ll make that clear to Lachlan. Going off full-cocked is how this mess happened in the first place.
“Who put the application in? Of course, it would be. Bloody pedagogues. Unimpeachable for the most part, at least in the eyes of the fourth estate - even the Marxist ones. Christ, I’m getting a terrifically nasty one behind the eyes… Wait, no, I’ve got it. There’s scope for military action isn’t there? Not against our own citizens, God no. What do you think I am Mike? We target the enemy - the enemy!”
“That’s the question isn’t it? The defence secretary has all the guidelines. He’s on holiday too? Don’t bother disturbing Roger, not yet. Who were those ones, the real buggers? It’s slipped my mind…. Gibraltar! That’s the one, Gibraltar! Oh yes, I’ve had about enough of the Spanish and their blasted incursions. British territorial waters, absolutely correct. Well within our rights. Roger can get HMS Sabre out there and any other ships we can spare.
“It sends a message; makes the Iberians think twice about letting boats malinger where they aren’t welcome. Perhaps not, but he’s always liked my ideas in the past. I’m relying on you Mike. Speak to Roger, get his viewpoint. Disturb him now, yes. Start with a Risk Assessment if you must, but hurry. I’m looking to get the Royal Navy pumped right up, they’re our first defence remember. We’ll stop those Spaniards mucking about with our sovereignty. On Roger’s say so, put word out to Brits on the rock. They should be outside, cheering our boys in…”
“We’ll keep the Yanks informed, of course we will. I know Europe isn’t going to like it, but that’s hardly your department now Mike is it? If you look at it a certain way, Brussels caused this whole mess in the first place. That’s the chap, right away please. We could tell the media it’s been in the works for a while. I trust you to convince them. If the Defence Secretary clears it we’ll go with something like this: Tensions have escalated and we were unable to reveal any details until now. Imply it’s all very recent. A bit hush-hush, MI6 and so on.
I don’t care how it looks; this is our first armed conflict in years. Reuters will be all over it.
“I still need you to fall on your sword Mike. Ready yourself and the relevant loved ones please. Have a Press Conference lined up to follow that COBRA thing. Say I reluctantly accept your resignation. Release some details to the Sunday papers. They might want to lead on you tomorrow. We’ll keep the diversions coming.
“God, they’re just feasting on this kid aren’t they? Bloody vultures. We’ll appoint Tristan as your successor I think Mike. Make sure he’s briefed by close of play would you? What’s that you say? Has it? Yes, I can see that now. We need this footage taken down of course. Water jet just sends him flying doesn’t it? Wow, I’m not surprised. Doubt anyone could survive that.
“I’m turning everything off now. I’ll make a couple of calls then try to relax. Don’t worry Mike; it’s not your fault. We’ll meet for a drink, once I can be seen with you again. Autumn, possibly sooner. Off you go now old fellow, the nation’s counting on you.” [Click]