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“Bang, bang you're dead, I shot you Giles”
“No I’m not, you missed, bang now you're dead”
“That's not fair, you're a liar and a cheat, Helena tell him?”
The girl came running from the house, her long jet black hair flowing loosely and wildly behind her. “What is this noise about boys?”
She spoke quietly, but with a stern tone in a distinct foreign accent. The two boys stopped still and looked up at the girl, who was looming over them like a protective mother hen.
“Sorry Helena, but I shot him and he said...”
The boy stopped talking and looked at his brother, expecting him to butt in. The girl bent down and pulled the two boys closer to her, she kissed them both on the cheek and smiled.
“You two boys are the best boys in the world, I hate it when you fall out, it makes me very sad, so please, are you going to be friends again for me?”
The two boys looked at each other and smiled and in one voice said, “Sorry Helena”
They then turned around running and shouting at each other, heading up the long garden.
Helena Novakova had worked for Richard and Amanda Fraser, as nanny to their two boys Giles and Thomas for the last two months. She had been employed originally on a three months trial, but after a couple of weeks, the family had taken to her and realised very quickly what an asset she was. Professor Richard Fraser was very rarely at home, his notoriety and brilliance in the field of Economics, meant he was in constant demand around the world. He had written several papers on the effects of economic growth and expansion, an expert in Asia and developing countries. His position of Finance and Economic Director at Leicester University was beginning to take up less of his time. He had delegated a lot of the work to bright able assistants and flourishing under graduates, which gave him time and enabled him to develop his real love, his interest in economics abroad.
Amanda Fraser had a problem, a drink problem, a carefully hidden secret that was becoming steadily worse. She had become quite adept at hiding it, managing to carry on her everyday job as an award winning medical administrator to great effect. The majority of the time she worked alone, long hours and often into the night. She was not tied to one particular hospital and her decisions were never questioned. She needed to slash budgets, usually at the cost of staff and patients. Being employed by an independent body, who in turn were employed by pen pushers and faceless bureaucrats from Whitehall, names and faces didn't matter, only figures. National health trusts and independently run hospitals were losing money, patient confidence was at an all time low and waiting lists were growing. The more money thrown into the pot, the deeper the bottom-less pit would sink. Amanda had been instructed to take one hospital at a time and turn it into a profitable business, her average time spent at one hospital was just six weeks. The stress and life changing decisions she was making, had become a great weight on her shoulders. The heavier it got, the more she drank.
She had stumbled into the position purely by chance, she had met Richard while studying as an economics student several years previously at the same University. The tall dark, older and extremely clever Economics teacher had turned her head. Although he was several years older than her, she fell in love with him within weeks, her pursuit of him being stalker like. She would follow him, turn up unexpectedly at the same places, as well as bumping into him at bars, restaurants and even on the park where he walked his dog. After a while he came to realise it was more than just a coincidence. He too, was single and the attention of the young attractive student flattered him, they were married after five months. Amanda carried on with her studies until the birth of their first son Giles. A year later Thomas was born and Amanda decided to give up University to look after the boys at home. The task of home-maker and mother left her unchallenged and unfulfilled. She had started to drink in the day, not noticeable amounts but enough to alert Richard to the problem. She had forgotten the children at school twice and a couple of her friends from the village, had commented in passing of her alleged excessive drinking during the day. She wanted to desperately return to university or work, so after a persuasive talk with Richard he agreed to employ an au-pair. Two girls quickly came and went, before Amanda had time to find a suitable position. She relented again and took the boys from the ages of one and two up to four and five. She had been seeing a counsellor for two of those years and took part in other outside activities to keep her motivated and reduce her drinking to a more respectable level. Richard and Amanda were invited to a dinner party thrown by Conrad Haley, the new Director General of Medical Direct, an independent assessor of companies funded by the National Health Service. Conrad had met Richard some years earlier at a medical conference in the USA and they had kept in touch ever since. Medical Direct had poached Conrad and his no nonsense reputation from the States, with the promise of a huge salary and a chance to make his mark this side of the pond.
The man was indeed dynamic, exciting, charismatic and full of enthusiasm. Amanda found his attitude inspiring and yearned to be part of his team. She persuaded Richard to give him a call and set up a meet. The excitement and eagerness brought a light back into her eyes, one that had been missing for a long time. She wanted this bad and at an informal interview, she impressed the American by totally selling herself. He offered her a position straight away. Richard was away at a conference in Prague, she rang him to tell him the good news, happy for her he agreed to arrange for a new au-pair on his return.
Whilst in Prague, Richard had been approached by a man claiming to deal in the sale of economic migrants. East Europeans looking to move to the west, especially Britain. The man left a card and a phone number with a very bemused Richard. He discussed it with a colleague the next day.
“Why me?” he asked indignantly
“It's obvious, your respectable, no-one would suspect you”
“But what would I do?”
“You were targeted for all the right reasons, the agencies are very selective”
“The employment agencies”
“My god, I thought it was legit, I told him I need a....” Richard stopped in mid sentence, he felt in his pocket for the card given to him by the man.
“You needed a what?”
“Oh! Nothing, look I must go, thanks for the advice.”
Richard picked up his briefcase and hurried out the hotel lobby, he was flying home to England and the sooner the better he thought. The incident had spooked him, he was a very logical man, he liked things in order, no loose ends. This situation had caused a few ripples in his usually calm pool, now all he wanted was to board a plane back to the tranquillity and safety of home. On the climb up the steps to the plane he felt once more for the card, screwed it up and tossed it onto the tarmac.
“I start in two weeks Richard, you thought any more about finding us an au-pair for the boys?”
Richard sat in his favourite chair, sipping on a glass of scotch, he gazed through the double French doors, out across his neatly manicured lawn and over the the fence at the bottom of the garden, watching the sheep in the bottom field dance around merrily like white spots on a green carpet.
“Sorry my love, what did you say?”
“Au-pair Richard” she stressed
“Yes” he smiled “I will contact an agency tomorrow”
He wasn't stressed at all in fact he felt quite good, relaxed. He had been working extremely hard and doing long hours lately, Prague had been difficult, his speech to the conference was addressed to many European ministers of Finance all looking for ideas. He had been asked to attend by the Scottish Parliament at short notice, for whom he had advised on several monetary issues in the past. He had arrived in Prague ill-prepared, nothing on paper, yet he spoke for forty-five minutes and received a standing ovation. He had gained special recognition from certain quarters with a section on the integration of European Finances. This included a liberal stance on the migration and integration of foreign workers who would benefit countries with a shortfall in certain positions of employment. He had left the conference as the star of the show, having been noticed by more people than just the delegates.
The summer sun was fading now and the chill of Autumn was in the air, August had been a very warm month and the full beauty of the Fraser’s garden had blossomed for all to see. A colossus of colour from unpronounceable bloomed filled borders and pots, these were now mixed with the tinge of red-brown and green leafs, slowly but dramaticly falling from the fruit trees that adorned the beautifully kept landscaped garden. A week had passed since Richard had returned from Prague. An avalanche of work had now replaced any thoughts of agents and the incident, so that when it did cross his mind it brought nothing more than a chuckle. He looked out of his office window, Amanda was rushing around the garden, pots and plants in hand skipping from one border to another. The sight of his beautiful wife in green Wellington boots and an old brown oversized gardening jumper, made him smile and think back to when he first saw her in one of his classes. A nervous but excitable girl. The chime of the doorbell startled him bringing him back to the present, he glanced out the window again, Amanda was now on her knees digging in the soil vigorously with a hand trowel. The doorbell rang again just as Richard opened it.
“Hello, Mr Richard Fraser?” asked the girl who was standing there reading from a piece of screwed up paper.
Her accent was foreign.
“I am from the agency, you requested a nanny?”
Richard stood open mouthed just staring at the girl.
“Well, yes we do, but I don't remember contacting an agency”
“Well this is the address they gave me in Prague, I have....”
“Prague!” he interrupted
The girl took a step back.
“Yes,” she stuttered,
“I flew over this morning”
She gave a nervous half smile and bit down on her lip, she glanced over his shoulder to the inviting warmth inside. Richard sensed her nervousness and instinctively stood to one side.
“You had better come in then” he said.
He closed the door and showed the girl through to the lounge, helping her with the two heavy battered suitcases she was carrying. At that moment Amanda entered the lounge drying her hands on a towel.
“Hello” she said “You are?”
Richard closed the lounge door and was about to offer an explanation, when the girl handed Amanda a letter of introduction and her passport.
“I am Helena Novakova, I was sent by Plurals International. That is my letter of introduction.”
Amanda read the letter and flicked through the girls passport.
“Well this is a surprise, why do you want to come all the way to England and especially to a quiet place like Glidon?”
“I want to improve my English, I have worked in England before, at Oxford last year. I am studying how you would say an open Sociology course from Prague and part of that course is to be based with a family in England, so when I saw your advertisement for a nanny with Plurals, I applied and they sent me over to you.”
Richard said nothing, but Amanda seemed suitably impressed.
“I will of course have to ring them to confirm your identity and story, so please you must stay here tonight and lets take it from there.”
Helena smiled and nodded her head in agreement.
Helena nodded again.
Amanda grabbed Richard by the hand and pulled him along all the way to the kitchen.
“I think she seems perfect,” she whispered kissing his cheek, “You are a clever old thing. Make the tea darling”
Richard stood open mouthed, he would have said something if he could think of anything to say. He certainly didn't remember signing on at any agency in Prague, the only contact he had besides the other delegates, was with the guy from the so called agency. He shook his head with bewilderment and threw two teabags into a pottery teapot.
“Where are your children now?” asked Helena.
“They are playing outside, I will call them in soon, let's get to know each other first.”
Amanda rang the agency the next day to speak to the person who had signed Helena's letter. A woman called Lena Banikova confirmed Helena's identity, advising she had sent her to England, as requested by Richard Fraser, for the post of nanny. Amanda liked the girl immediately, as did Giles and Thomas. Richard kept quiet about his trip to Prague and the only time that Amanda had asked him about it and the agency, he just nodded and said that he had made enquiries and registered. Within a few days he grew to like Helena too and because of the obvious warmth shown by Amanda and the boys, he decided to keep quiet about the events in Prague.