The missing manuscript
Mel to the rescue.
“Thank you for your visit!” Said Mel, “I saw the news. I just saw my father do his stick on TV. I don’t know if it’s a publicity stunt or if he’s really in trouble. Come in; you can leave your bikes in the garden; it’s safer than leaving them padlocked to a lamppost. But why did you come by bike? You don’t exactly live next door. There’s a good 3 to 4 miles from Regent’s Park to Uxbridge road, isn’t there?”
“Our father took the car to pay a visit to Harvey at the hospital.”
“We came by bike because Tyler failed his driving test again …” Jojo began to cackle.
I continued, cutting him off, “I’m sorry for being rude, but our father instructed us to ask you if you were aware of the progress of the manuscript.”
“I’m sorry …” Jojo echoed, aping me.
“Would you like a cup of tea while we discuss the matter?” Mel offered, unwilling to continue the conversation on the doorstep.
When Mel returned from the kitchen bringing the promised (and welcome) tea, the conversation resumed:
“Nothing like a good cup of tea to get over your emotions …” Mel said to restart the conversation, seeing I was trying to find my words.
“Svetlana prefers vodka to calm her nerves …” said Jojo.
“He’s referring to our father’s companion … Don’t pay attention to Jojo; he was adopted in India …” I say to cut short his nonsense.
“Wha’ever…” snorted Jojo, annoyed.
“You wanted to know about the manuscript,” Mel continued.
I tried to answer, but this time I’m interrupted by my cell phone. It’s Father with news about Harvey. I put the phone in “hands-free” mode:
“Tyler, we just saw Harvey. He’s out of danger, but the doctors want him to get a lot of rest. I’ll drop Svetlana home and meet you in a few minutes.”
A few minutes and a few cups of tea later, Father resumes, in person this time, “according to the doctors, Harvey is suffering from exhaustion. They gave him sedatives and are keeping him temporarily under observation. According to the analyzes, he didn’t consume any alcohol or drugs, which is reassuring.”
… and quite unusual …” uttered Jojo.
Father continues, ignoring Jojo “… at the risk of appearing tactless…”
here we go again …” said Jojo
“Please ignore it; it’s a phase …” apologizes Father on Jojo’s behalf.
“Don’t apologize, Mister Green, I know my father has caused you a lot of cold sweats … I don’t know the progress of the manuscript because Harvey worked on it exclusively in his country home, a former Irish monastery in ruins he had partially patched up”, Mel said.
“Have you ever considered joining him there? The landscape must be magnificent; it’s a lovely region.”
“It suits me to stay in London to study … I just started college, you see. Harvey is paying for this house with the money from his bestsellers; he assuredly can afford it.”
He’s repeating his final year …” Jojo says, pointing to me, his momentum cut short by a nudge from me.
“Are you calling your father Harvey?” asked Father, intrigued.
Mel (sarcastically) “That’s his name!”
Mel goes on, smiling, “… I was kidding … He’s a hippie; he raised me like that. He was often away to write his novels in the quiet solitude of his mansion. The housekeeper took care of me when I was younger.”
“Sad!” I said.
“Cool!” exclaimed Jojo simultaneously.
“So the manuscript could be in this mansion?”
“I’m pretty sure of it,” Mel said.
Seeming to have suddenly made up his mind, Father asked: “Could you go to the mansion? It would do me a great service; moreover, it’s in Harvey’s interest, too, since it would allow his novel to be published on time; also, his fans look forward to the next volume of The Adventures of Harry Pendragon, The Occult Detective of the Highlands.”
“I would love to do you a favour, but the problem is: where exactly is the manuscript hiding? You see, Harvey is always working in a whirlwind of ‘creative chaos’ as he calls it. ‘he leaves documents everywhere; never tidies anything up and never does any housecleaning, so the manor house should be combed from top to bottom. Once again, I don’t mind; I believe it’s my duty, but it might take some time, and that’s precisely what one wants to avoid. “
“These two could give you a hand; they’re on vacation, have nothing to do, and spend their time making noise in an attic under the guise of ‘rehearsing’,” Father continued.
“Ah, no way! I don’t want to spend my vacation cleaning up the house some wacky old hippie!” said I.
“Ditto!” adds Jojo, “then we have to rehearse our rock concert; the fame of our rock band ‘Hashtag Overuse’ is at stake.”
The name of our rock band brings a smile to Mel’s lips. I don’t know if I should be flattered or embarrassed.
“If you agree to help Mel find the manuscript, I suggest you get some real musical instruments, guitars, and drums. What say you?”
“There remains a problem, however: my used car is about to die on me. I wouldn’t dare to use it to make the trip, but with trains and buses, one risks wasting precious time before even getting to the mansion.”
“What kind of car is it?” asked father
“It’s a mini Austin, like Mr Bean’s,” said Mel.
“I ordered one, customized for my partner Svetlana. She doesn’t know; it’s for her birthday; it was supposed to be a surprise.”
“It’s yours if you wish. I’ll buy another present for Svetlana’s birthday,” proposed father.
“I wouldn’t want to take advantage of the situation …”
It is also a way of thanking you for your precious help; indeed, I’m desperate to get my hands on this manuscript; the future of the publishing house depends on it.”
“In this case, I accept wholeheartedly”, exclaims Mel enthusiastically, “As a matter of fact, I don’t like to ask my father for money, although he obviously makes a very good living.”
“Good luck! In that case, I’ll have the car delivered to your home tomorrow morning.”
A neon pink car with faux leopard seats …” said I in an attempt to warn Mel about Sveltana’s peculiar aesthetic tastes.
“You’re going to look like a pimp; it’s good for your rapper image,” said Jojo.
Rocker, not rapper …”
“I love it!” exclaimed Mel.
“Not bad for a clown car. It’s the Scooby-Doo gang with Mr Bean’s car,” said Jojo. Then going: “Scoobyyyyy-Doooo!” in a booming falsetto voice.