Gordon G Hall
Writer and Neo-Philhellene

Other Short Stories


“Thank you so much, sir, will you be requiring anything further this evening?” The dim lamplight displayed to the best of its faltering ability a well-appointed room, by far the best in this adequately furnished hostelry. The maître d’ bowed obsequiously to the tall, confident visitor as he pocketed the coins.

“Nothing further, my man. Just be sure that we are not disturbed for the next hour. I will need to discuss further matters before I leave.”

The door closed with just the lightest of clicks and the Visitor turned to regard the rather plain woman who had arrived in the room before him.

“Good, you got my note then.”

“Can’t think why I came, I meant to ask Joe what he thought about me coming here, but he wasn’t around. So what’s it all about then?”

“I have some news for you, Maddy.”

“Of Joe?”she enquired.

“No, no, he’s okay. Anyway this might just surprise you. Please don’t take it the wrong way.”

“Nothing’s happened to him, has it? I mean I don’t want to have to call off the wedding or anything.”

“He’s going to be a father.”


“We think he might be quite good at it, being a father I mean, not the actual fathering thing. He doesn’t have to do that bit.”

“Well he might have to if he’s gone and got some Bimbo up the spout.”

“Maddy, calm down! We contacted Joe only yesterday and he is fine about you having a child.”

“What the hell are you telling me? You talk in riddles. Who are you anyway? All I have is your note asking me to be here after supper to ‘hear something to my advantage’? So what is it?”

The Visitor poured out two glasses of full-blooded red wine from the decanter on the fireside table and handed one to the woman. He motioned to her to sit on one of the two comfortable looking chairs. “Relax,” he said, taking the other chair.“It’s important we get this right or the whole thing will collapse around our ears.”

Maddy sipped her wine gingerly. She was not used to such liquor, nor indeed to a room such as this with its well-fed fire that was keeping out the chill of the late-March evening. She shifted on her chair clearly ill at ease.

“It was one of my colleagues who spoke with your fiancée and he was most agreeable to this deal. He even ventured that the sum involved would set him up with his own business premises, a nice little carpenter’s shop. He has been quite worried that he won’t be able to support you once you are wed. And then there is the child of course.”

“The child?”

“Oh, I thought I explained that. Yes, your child.”

“But Joe and I don’t have any children. Well not yet anyway.”

“Maddy, you must learn to listen. The thing is that Joe is not going to be the father.”

“Really, sir, you forget yourself. I’m totally respectable now.”

“We will have to make sure that it stays that way, despite your rather murky past.”

“What’s this arrangement that you have come to with Joe?”

“Well it is your agreement that I need, although I can assure you that Joe is happy about it, in fact he encouraged me to speak to you about it as soon as possible to arrange the compensation. Now a lady like yourself, what would you want? Let me see, how about innocence, beauty, and immortality?”

“You mean I get to live for ever?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

“What sort of manner?”

“You become the most loved, the most chaste, and the most oft-depicted woman in the whole world. Now that’s not a bad deal is it?”

“So Joe gets the money, I get the fame, and you get my virginity?”

“Come, come. We both know you are no virgin — but let that pass, it will be as well to think of you thus. ’After all it will be your future.”

“All the same, you get to give me one.”

“Well, not exactly, in fact definitely not, and we don’t put it like that anyway. Oh, and call me Gabe.”

“So how do we put it, Gabe?”

“By the greatest good chance I have it all written down here.”

He handed Maddy a parchment scroll that she studied intently. “OK, she said at last, I’m up for it. Where do I sign?”

Gabe bent over her, she started in response to the slight prick she felt on her right index finger. He pointed to the parchment and Maddy smeared her mark on it with her blood.

“Now we’ve not got much time, but you do understand the terms, don’t you?”

Maddy nodded. Gabe turned her back to him. “Best that you shouldn’t see me,” he explained. She felt a slight tickling, no more than that. It seemed to Maddy that nothing much had happened at all. She turned as soon as Gabe let go of her waist and caught sight of him clipping shut a small wooden box.

“Blimey, Gabe, that wasn’t much.”

“Never mind that. We have just nine months to clean up your language, organise some good PR and get this show on the road.”

He threw his cloak over his shoulders and started for the door.

“When will I see you again?” she said.

“I’m pretty tied up at present, but I’ll send my man, Daniel. He’s my ‘fixer’. Tell you what I’ll have a quick word with him now.” Gabe pulled out what to modern eyes might look like a mobile phone. “Hi Dan. Yup, everything went just fine. Can you make a start with Maddy a.s.a.p. – there’s a lot of work to do if we are going to get her cleaned up . . . yup, reputation and all that jazz, by mid-December . . . . Oh that’s a great idea, yes, yes.”

Gabe turned briefly to Maddy “Dan thinks we should call this birthday thing ‘Christmas”

“Okay Dan, leave it all with you. don’t forget I am relying on you to spin this to the media.” He rang off.

“What,” said Maddy, “do you mean by ‘getting me cleaned up’?”

“It’s a big thing. You’ll be a quite different person by the time you give birth, and Dan will of course obliterate all that unfortunate past of yours. Basically a new I.D. – one that will stand the test of centuries. Anyway, got to dash – see you in nine months, if not before.”

“But what do you want me to do. Where will I have this baby?”

“Just come along here with Joe and we’ll do the whole birth thing then. I’ve booked the room in advance.”

Before he left the hotel Gabriel sought out the maître d’. “That booking for the end of December. You’re OK with that the?”

“Indeed, sir, but are you sure you want a stable?”

“Yes, you very worst. Make it look as kitschy as you like – you know the sort of thing, round up some cattle, shove a few handfuls of straw in a grotty manger, you get the picture?”

“If that’s what you really want sir . . .”

“And there’ll be a bit of media interest, probably best if I handle the Kings. Do you think you could round up three or four local layabouts, give them some crooks and a lamb or two, and tell them to look genuine and keep their mouths shut.”

“I am sure that I can do that, sir.”

“Good. Mind you it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get them to mutter something to the press about having been up on the hills with some angels.”

“Certainly sir, consider it done.”

“Any problems just give my man Daniel a shout.”

“It’s none of my business, sir, but it’s not every day I get business like this. Is it some sort of show?”

“If we can pull it off it will be the greatest show on earth, and you will have the best-known stable in the world.”

“Thank you, sir, I appreciate that. I could do with the publicity, things have been a bit quiet around here of late.”

“If Madonna and Joseph can pull it off then we should all make a pretty penny out of it. I mean how about being able to say that the Son of God was born in your very own loose box? Oh, and can we drop this maître d’ thing. ‘Innkeeper’ is the image that we want.” So saying Gabriel dropped a few coins into the man’s eager hand.

“ Thank you so much, sir, I hope this scheme of yours goes well.”

“If it does it could run for a couple of thousand years or more. And after that there will still be some profit from the sale of cards.”

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