Herman was at a loose end this morning. His part-time taxi driving job was definitely not paying. He hardly ever got a call out these days. But he had a cunning plan. He was striking out on his own. He was a friendly, talkative and knowledgeable Yorkshire man, and women seemed to like his affable nature. He had already befriended several local ladies and they would now call him instead of the taxi company, when they needed a cab for the school run or for a trip into town. Word spread around the village fast. He operated for cash at half the going rates, and still managed to make a passable living from his own customers. Today he was on call on the 9 to 5 shift at Star Cabs. He had completed all his own regular school run trips, and was waiting for the taxi company to need their relief driver.
Meanwhile, he looked into his wardrobe and took out what he had planned to wear that evening and for the rest of his weekend off up in Manchester. Just then his mobile rang. Star Cabs had a job for him. A lady needed an urgent trip to the station.
It was 9 am three days after her boss’s funeral. Frances was admiring herself in her mirror. She looked stunning, she thought. She was wearing a stylish grey Jacques Vert suit with a red silk blouse, red crocodile print high heels and matching Gucci bag. “Would she need a coat?” she wondered. She decided against it.
Looking into her bag, she pulled out the letter she had received from Richard Richman of Messrs Richardson, Richards and Richman, the solicitors who were handling her late employer’s estate. She checked the venue and time of the meeting to which she had been summoned to discuss Maurice McKinley’s will, and business instructions. The meeting was indeed to be at 1.30 in their offices in Curzon Street, London W1. She had purchased her ticket on line a couple of days ago and was all set to catch the 10.35 train.
Trips to London were nothing new to her. She had often caught the cheap off peak train into London to go to meetings with her boss Maurice, but this was the first time she had done it on her own and she felt some trepidation at the thought of travelling across London on the tube alone.
Priding herself on her promptness, Frances left her home at 9.30, allowing herself plenty of time to get to the station and park up. But her car refused to start. It had an intermittent fault with its immobilizer, but had been running fine since its last service. She swore in frustration. “Why the f*** did it choose today to play me up?” she wondered, as she sat in her driveway fruitlessly trying to coax her old Primera into action.
Frances decided the best thing to do was to call a taxi. She would worry about the issue with her car when she returned home that evening. Ten minutes later, as the mini cab duly arrived, the passing local postman looked at Frances and grinned knowingly. “Morning Madam. No post for you today, I’m afraid. Have a safe journey!” He stared into the car at the taxi driver, and said “Morning er…. Herman. It’s you today, is it?”
Frances smiled at the postman curiously and got into the passenger seat, giving the driver a cursory glance as she did so. He seemed a pleasant enough looking chap.
“Good morning, Madam. You want to go to the station?” he asked. “Where are you off to today? Anywhere nice?”
“Oh, just a meeting in London.” Frances replied.
“Well, you won’t be getting there on the train just yet,” Herman replied. “Have you not heard the news?”
“No. Why, what has happened?”
“Oh, it was on the 9.30 news. Someone decided to jump in front of a train on the London bound line and they have cancelled all trains until the track is cleared. Is it an important meeting you were going to? I can take you to another station, or even run you all the way into London, if you like. I have nothing else to do today. My shift is over. You were my last call. I’ll do it at a discount price.”
“Oh, that’s very kind of you,” replied Frances. “I think that’s probably best. I’ll never get there in time now if I have to go from another station. Just how much will it cost?”
“I can do it for £60, if you can give me cash. I can wait and bring you back too for that.”
“Okay, you’re on,” said Frances, settling back in her seat, thinking of how much her rail ticket would have cost, had she not managed to get a cheap ticket on line.
It was then that she noticed the red varnish on her driver’s nails.
“That’s a lovely colour nail varnish,” she said, looking at her own perfectly manicured pearl coloured nails. “Unusual to see a man wearing nail varnish. Have you been to a fancy dress party?”
“Er……. not exactly, madam. I just like painting my nails. Where do you get yours done?”
Frances looked over oddly at her driver again. “That’s a strange question for a man to ask. You must be in touch with your feminine side.”
“Just making conversation, Madam. My name is Herman, by the way. What sort of meeting are you going to?”
“A meeting with my late employer’s solicitor. My boss died suddenly a couple of weeks ago, leaving me to run the business. This meeting is to discuss his will.”
“Well then hopefully madam, after today you’ll be needing to use my services again,” said Herman slyly.
“Hmmmm. Maybe,” Frances replied.
Frances was preoccupied with thoughts about her meeting while Herman sat chatting monotonously about the weather and the scenery and how dissatisfied he was with working for Star Cabs until they had nearly reached the motorway. The 10 am news came on the radio. Frances was too preoccupied to notice that there was no mention of anyone jumping out in front of a train, or of any train cancellations up until the point where Herman put in his Eagles CD and started singing along to it.
Richard Richman was in the middle of his weight-watchers lunch that had been prepared for him by his wife when the call came through to him from his secretary. “I have Frances Fortesque-Fairfax here to see you, Mr Richman. She’s a little early for her 1.30 appointment. Can you see her now, or shall I ask her to wait?”
“Just give me five minutes,” said Richard. “The sooner I see her, the sooner I can get off home. She’s my last appointment, and I’m just about ready for my weekend.”
He liked the idea that this was going to be an early meeting. He would be able to miss some of the Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. He might even get in a round of golf before dark when he got home. He quickly finished his smoked salmon salad, washing it down with a glass of white wine, and pressed the intercom to Jennifer, his secretary. “You can show in Mrs Fortescue-Fairfax now, Jennifer. Then you can get off home if you like.”
“Oh thank you Mr Richman. I’m visiting my mother in Merton this weekend. It will be good to catch an earlier train there.”
Jennifer showed Frances into Richard’s office and introduced them. She picked up Richard’s tray on her way out of the office. “I’ll be off now then. Good afternoon, Mr Richman. Have a good weekend.”
“Thanks. You too, Jennifer. Drive safely.”
“Now, good afternoon Mrs Fortescue-Fairfax, please take a seat. We have a fair bit to go through, but I am sure it will not take too long. Did you have a good journey here?”
“I’ve had better, Mr Richman,” Frances laughed. “First of all my car wouldn’t start and I had to call a cab to get to the station. Then I had to come all the way here in the mini cab, with a cross-dressing driver who wouldn’t stop talking, or singing along to his CD’s, because someone had jumped in front of a train on the London line and they cancelled my train. To top it all we got stuck in traffic for about half an hour, while he told me his life story. I am surprised we managed to get here early. He says he will take me back home again, but I don’t think I can face another two hours stuck in the mini cab with him. I think I’d rather go back on the train. That’s if they are running again by the time my train is due to leave. I’m supposed to be on the 7.30 train. I was going to do some sight seeing while I was here.”
“Oh dear, you have had a bad day! Tell you what, after we have gone through all the business documents I need you to sign, let me escort you around London until your train is due to leave. You are my last appointment. In fact, I could probably even drive you home, you do not live very far from my route home.”
“Oh, that would be so kind of you, Mr Richman. I really cannot face listening to that man any longer.”
“Call me Richard, Mrs Fortecue-Fairfax.”
“Okay Richard, and you can call me Frances, or Frankie like my friends do.”
“Well, Frankie. I certainly hope we can be friends. Now. Business first. I have to read you the will, and there are papers for you to sign. But shouldn’t you call your taxi-driver friend first and tell him he can go home without you.”
Richard watched Frankie with amusement while she rang her cab driver, to make her excuses for not needing him to take her home. He immediately had found her attractive, as soon as she had walked into the room. He liked the way she dressed, and her demeanour exuded confidence. He sensed that this was his kind of woman and he knew he would like to get to know her better. He congratulated himself on quickly seizing the opportunity that had presented itself. He knew he had hours to spare, Kathy would not be expecting him home until late.
Frankie was saying “Sorry Herman, but I will not be needing you to take me home from this meeting after all. I will be staying on in London, possibly for the weekend. Please call me on Monday and I will sort out your payment. I will pay the full £60 you asked for, of course. And you can be sure that our company will be using your services when we need a taxi in future. Thank you for all your help.”
Frankie put the phone down and giggled. “How did I do? I don’t think I have offended him. He’s a very kind man really. It’s just that he’s a bit boring.”
“Yes, I think you handled that very well. Now let’s get our business sorted.”
Richard read the relevant parts of the will. Frankie wasn’t really surprised that her employer has left the reins of the business in her hands, in trust until his ten year old son reached the age of twenty one. After all, she had been practically running the business in his absence for years, and knew nearly as much about the business as he did. She was well capable of handling the staff, and the contracts. The deal came with a big pay increase, and the use of Maurice’s company car. There were papers to be signed to formalise the deal.
“Do you need time to think about it before signing?” asked Richard.
“No, not at all. I half expected it anyway.” Richard pushed the papers towards her, handing her a pen.
“I’ll be putting formal copies in the post to you on Monday, but congratulations, Mrs Fortescue-Fairfax. You’ve got yourself a business.”
Herman was sitting in MacDonalds on the Edgeware Road. He had found a parking place for his mini cab in Cambridge Square and had walked back to wait there until his passenger had concluded her business with the solicitor in Curzon Street.
Herman put his mobile down after Francis’s call. “Damn the woman!” he thought. “And she was so attractive too! Out of my league, I suppose. Oh well, I’ve made a few quid anyway. That will help pay for my trip to Manchester tonight, or at least it will when I get it.” The trip would probably pay off in the long run anyway with all the new business she would be putting his way, he hoped.
He thought about his weekend. He was really excited. He had been planning it for months. He had joined an on-line dating site and found several “girls” with similar interests to his own. They were going to meet up with each other and party for the weekend in Canal Street. No-one would think him odd there. Not that he cared if people thought he was odd.
Creative Writing January homework – Write the first chapter of a book using my two characters and at least one of the other characters described by other members of the CW group. February homework. Carry on with chapter two.