“I have now been waiting here over two hours for this bloody mechanic. What’s taking him so long?”
The young man with the glasses could only apologise for what felt like the 100th time that morning.
“I am sorry Mr. Hunter, but it is a Bank Holiday..”
Gene interrupted, “The name is HUNT – H.U.N.T. and I am already visualising the duct tape over your mouth!. Now ring them again”.
The young man sighed and picked up the phone once more. Gene tapped his fingers on the desk much to the annoyance of the young man who suddenly plucked up courage although shaking in his shoes a little.
“Do you mind? That’s rude!”
“I am not being rude. You’re just insignificant! Get me an AA, or RAC Man or the bloody Green Flag brigade now I don’t care who."
Just a few moments later the young man put the phone down once more , a look of fear in his eyes.
“I am sorry Mr. Hunt, but the Green Flag people are engaged and both the RAC and AA say it could be after lunch. It is Bank Holiday and they are very busy. You will just have to wait around”.
“Gene Hunt does not wait around. Do you have a car I can use? I need to get to Manchester pronto”. As Gene raised his voice , an office door suddenly opened and an elderly gentleman walked out into the reception area.
“Can I be of assistance? What is the matter, Sir?”
This was more like it. Sir indeed. Gene straightened his tie.
“My car has broken down. Kaput. I have been here over two hours and this moron tells me I have to wait another two hours at least for the poxy breakdown to arrive. I need transport, like now”
The older man shook his head.
“I am sorry Sir, but we cannot provide transport. It is not the policy of the Museum. Perhaps you would care to wait a little longer. I can find you somewhere a little more comfortable.Perhaps have a bite to eat..”
Gene was still not amused.
“I thought this was the Fleet Air Arm? Civil Defence? You have all these bloody big birds and yet you can’t get me some wheels. Am surprised we won the war. Bloody useless.”
The older man could only apologise once more. Gene looked at his uniform. He was obviously old school and had served his time somewhere.
“Can I swop my job for yours.. or whatever is behind ...door 1?” Gene looked across to a glass panelled area behind them.
“Yes. Indeed. Perhaps Sir would like a tour of the Museum. As a courtesy, free of charge. A visit to this Museum can last a day, but it’s memory could last a lifetime.”
It already felt like he had been here a lifetime,.Gene mused for a moment and then decided he wasn’t going to get a better offer that day. He may as well mint them for all he could get.
The young man breathed a sigh of relief as the elder lead Gene into the main part of the museum, promising faithfully to come and find him once somebody from the AA or RAC arrived.
“If you need anything let me know. Commander Blake at your service, Sir!” the elderly man saluted in front of Gene, who saluted back.
“At ease my good man”.
As Commander Blake went back to his office Gene was left to wander around and survey his surroundings. It was very quiet, given it was a bank holiday. In fact, it was almost eerie. His eyes scanned over some of the leaflets lying about. The Museum housed Europes’ largest Naval Aviation collection comprising four large exhibition halls. He had no intention of being here all day so might as well pick what he wanted to see most of all. There was everything from Naval vessels, airships, sea harriers and helicopters. He really should have his own private jet.
Gene walked up to the Exhibition Hall Number 4.
“Wow” he whistled on seeing all the exhibits on show, marvelling at such sights as a De Havilland Vampire, a Westland Wyvern and a Hawker Hunter, but the main one that caught his eye, was the BAC Concorde. What a beauty.
Gene noticed one or two people in the Hall. They looked like “spotters” and he was thrilled that the public were actually allowed to touch, and go inside one or two of the planes, including Concorde. He marvelled as he stood inside the giant plane, feeling a sense of power as he stood in the cockpit, thinking he could be in Manchester in no time in this baby.
Tearing himself away, he continued over to an area showing the South Atlantic conflict – the Falklands. There was a tv showing film footage of the Argintine invasion which he watched. Mesmerised. Suddenly he started to feel a little dizzy and nauseous. It was either the effects still of last night’s booze, the dodgy breakfast or simply hunger. He was back there. In 1982. As though it were only yesterday. He put his hands up to his head, rubbed his eyes and blinked hard. Staring at the screen, yes. There was Maggie outside Number 10.
He turned round suddenly. Who the hell shouted him? It had been a woman’s voice. And if he wasn’t mistaken it had sounded an awful lot like Bolly. Yet that was impossible. There was nobody else around either, the spotters appeared to have disappeared.
Gene knew he had to get out of there at that point – maybe he would go and look in another room. He recalled his time in National Service, and felt he should look around a while longer. He wasn't able to go anywhere just yet.
Approaching Hall 2 he noticed it was dedicated to the second World War. Again, he marvelled at more planes, visualising himself in a pilots uniform, doing his duty for King and Country, a picture of DI Drake adorning the side of his plane, decked out in all her glory.... He would have liked to get her in his cockpit any time.
It was whilst he was fuelling his fantasy he suddenly heard movement again behind him. He turned to find himself face to face with a man in uniform.
“This was my plane”.
“Was it now, Wing Commander Boxhead” Gene looked at the man before him. He seemed a little familiar but from where he didn’t know.
“Lieutenant, actually, Sir!” For the second time that day, somebody saluted Gene. He could get used to this.
“It was a dreadful war...” the young Lieutenant stated. He could not have been more than 21 maybe. 25 at the most.
“All wars are dreadful, Lieutenant. People get killed”.
The officer beckoned Gene with his finger.
“Come, let us look at this.” He lead Gene to a large board which was the Roll of Honour.
Gene stood in silence with the officer, reading the names of all those who had died for their country. There were so many. So brave, and valliant. A familiar feeling of sickness washed over him as he got halfway down the board. He saw the name. Lietuenant G Hunter. Number FX6620. There were plenty of Hunts but none with the initial G. That idiot on reception had called him Hunter before. He shivered, as though somebody had just walked over his grave.
“And where are you on this mighty board, Lieutenant?” Gene asked his companion after a few moments. "What's your name?"
“I am not on here. For obvious reasons. You can call me...Danny”
The reasons did not appear very obvious to Gene.
“Here, why don’t we go and sit down. Get a coffee?”
The officer lead them to an area which was a cafeteria and motioned Gene to sit down at a small round table, whilst he went to get some drinks.
A few moments later he came back with two cups of Camp coffee, and two sandwiches wrapped in clingfilm. Gene found he was ravenous and devoured the food pretty quickly although the egg was rubbery and the bread a little stale. It had probably been lying around since the war. Whilst waiting for the drink to cool, he started chatting to the young man across the table.
“So, do you work here too? Danny Boy?”
The man stared back into Gene’s eyes.
“You could say that. I have a job to do, and it must be done. As do you.”
Gene stared back. He was in no mood for cryptic comments.
He took a swig of the coffee which tasted like’s nats piss but at least it was warm and wet. The bread appeared to be stuck in his throat and again he had a feeling of nausea. Behind the Lieutenant he could see yet another TV screen playing some film, and in fact it was black and white footage.
Gene felt sick. It was Coronation Day. 1952. His mind went blank. Somewhere, he could hear a radio blasting out “I Believe”. What in Christ’s name was going on?
He stared back at the Officer across the table.
“That’s right. It’s time Gene”.
Gene put his head in his hands. No. This couldn’t be happening. He looked up again, and found he was alone. The vision in front of him, the Officer, had gone. Vanished into thin air.
Feeling his throat constrict and his chest tighten he had to get out. He needed air. Pushing the table to one side, the chair legs screeching on the floor as he did so, he strided out of the main hall and made his way back as quick as he could towards the reception area.
“Ah. Mr Hunte....Hunt. There you are. I was just about to come and get you. The AA man has turned up. He is outside with your vehicle. He is a very nice man.”
“Ok, Nancy Boy, put your tongue back in. I will be the judge of that when he has fixed my motor”.
Glad to be outside, Gene breathed in the air. It was a balmy sticky afternoon.
He was greeted by yet another man in uniform, this time a brown one, his bee like yellow and black vehicle’s engine was buzzing next to the Cosworth.
“I have just tested it and its purring like a kitten. Mind if I give it a spin just to make sure?”
Gene wasn’t thrilled at some nonce stranger disappearing with his car, but then at least he would have the AA van as ransom and would use that as means to get to Manchester if necessary. He did not care how he got there as long as he did.
“Took you long enough!” Gene said, after another ten minutes waiting time whilst the AA man vanished to do a test drive, and then thankfully returned.
“Yeah, sorry mate. It’s Bank Holiday, usual nightmare, and what with the news and all that. God people are in a right state. London is hammered too.”
Gene wasn’t particularly interested. “So what was the problem?” He nodded his head towards the car.
“Oh who knows. This is Abdul’s isn’t it? I checked the log in the glove compartment. We know it well, we call it The Beast! It’s notorious for breaking down. Cosworth’s are. Some fault with the fuel injection overheating. They told me you heading up North. It could conk out a few more times before you get there. Last time I got called out to it, he told me he was either gonna scrap it or palm it off on some unsuspecting customer...”
Gene glared back at the AA man whom he decided wasn’t a very very nice man after all.
“Listen, pal, you are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers. I am both refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view, now if you don’t mind, I believe you have done your job, and I need to be on my way”.
Gene got into the Sierra and revved up the engine.
“If you do break down again, you will have to just sit around and wait again till the engine cools. You’ll be lucky to get up there before Midnight.”
“Do you have a bloody death wish?” Gene shouted “ I can see your point but I still think you’re full of shit. See that Magic Air Freshner hanging up? If you don’t do one I will make you swallow it whole. Piss off back there to that other Nancy boy! Now out of my way. I need to get as far away from this Godforsaken place as quickly as possible”.
He glanced at the clock on the dash in disbelief. 6 o clock. He had been there six bleeding hours for Christ’s sake. Getting onto the motorway he put his foot down. The clock could go up to 120 so he may as well use it. Putting his foot down like Graham Hill he gave her some welly.
“Come on babes, you can do it for the Gene Genie. Fire it up. Manchester, here we come!”