Forged in Fear: Nigel's past catches up with him ...
FORGED IN FEAR
The sun poured in the window of my humble little room. I liked the way Abit positioned the window so the morning rays streamed onto the breakfast table. That and a good cuppa made the day start in the finest fashion. Too bad the rest of the day didn’t live up to the dawn.
After my regular shift at Coburn’s, Abit picked me up to head home. I brought along a few things for an easy supper in my room: cheeses, salami, fresh baguette, cornichons. It was all I wanted after Della had shared delicious chicken piccata leftovers for our midday meal.
As I settled into a lovely rocker Abit had made, I poured a glass of port from a bottle Della insisted I bring back with me. Very kind of her—she called it a barn-stall-warming present. Indeed, my room at Abit’s was crafted from a former stall in the barn, but it was ever so much nicer than it sounded, with many of the comforts of home. (And though I’d never tell Della, it was good to get out of her cramped abode.)
As I sipped the velvety elixir, I heard a knock on the door. It was just a light tap, so I thought it might be Abit and Fiona's little nipper, Conor. When I opened the door, I was surprised by a smarmy looking bloke who barged his way in.
With barely any introduction, he began making demands that I forge documents for his mates. I never! The temerity was astonishing. I wanted to ask how he knew about my talents, but I didn’t want to let on I knew what he was on about.
“Look, all you have to do is sign a few things for us to make some good money,” he said as his index finger smoothed the thin (and revolting, in my opinion) mustache hovering above his upper lip.
“I don’t want your bloody money. Besides, I don’t do forgery.”
The cretin (I still didn’t know his name) started laughing. “Don’t pull that bullshit with me, Steadman. I know all about you—or at least what Google coughed up for me. Have you tried that yet? Amazing what it can find about someone—in seconds. A lot better and faster than that stupid “Ask Jeeves,” which I thought must be something slipshod from your homeland, given the name and all, but turns out I asked Jeeves, and “he” is from kooky Berkeley. Go figure. That’s the crazy world we’re living in.”
I had no idea what he was talking about, and I told him so.
“Oh, never mind all that—the point is, I know about your past. You’re a master forger, and when I saw you at Tate’s, I knew something was off. I’m smart that way. Besides, you gave off all the signs. When I watched you getting a whole new hillbilly wardrobe, I started putting two plus two together and got a lot more than four.”
“Whatever do you mean? What signs?" I was stalling, but it was all I could think to say.
“That you’re on the lam. You know, on the run. I mean, who shows up here talking all British proper-like with no change of clothes? And nowhere to live except in that goober’s barn?”
His slight of Abit tore right through me. Abit had had his troubles getting through school, but he’d worked hard and found his rightful place in the world—more than this bloody berk could ever hope to accomplish. I believe if I’d had a gun, I would have shot him through the heart. No question about it. I was grateful all I had was a glass of port, which I threw in his eyes.
While he was fumbling round trying to get the sting out, I was able to push him out the door. Abit had forged (that word again! I can’t get away from it!) a lovely iron latch that was sturdy enough to hold the door against his rantings and ravings.
“Get the hell out of here, you scoundrel,” I shouted through the heavy wooden door. “And don’t come back!”
I pressed myself against the door and listened. All I could hear was my pounding heart. Eventually, though, I could discern a rattley old muffler as the cretin drove away. I inched over to the rocker and sat heavily. Its gentle rhythm slowly calmed me as I rocked and rubbed my hands along the arm rests (which Abit had sanded and polished to a silky finish). I poured myself another port.
I should be ashamed to admit it, but I used to love the forger’s life. It had its ups and downs, of course, but I was fortunate and enjoyed many more days of the former. And when I was up, I was positively skyrocketing. Plenty of money, never a dull moment. I made a point of ripping off only rich people, which, as I saw it, made me a sort of modern-day Robin Hood. My wife, however, was no Maid Marian and threw me out of the house when she realized what I’d been up to. That would have been when the coppers came and carted me off to the nick. Before that, she thought I was a stock broker!
But times had changed. I had changed. My time at the U.S. Treasury Department had been exciting—catching the bad guys and all that. If they hadn't let me go, I would never have gotten itchy fingers again. But I was like a junkie, needing a fix.
And what a fix I was in.
Look for Chapter Six in a couple of weeks.