A new entry in the Omicron Matter – Conflicts of Interest. Winifred is unsettled by John Smith’s conversation on the train. She turns to her long time butler and trusted adviser, Alfred Redman. Winifred knows from years of experience that Alfred will give her the unvarnished truth and that following his advice, however inconvenient, has nearly always proved to be valuable.
Look for more tomorrow.
For those who are new to the Omicron Matter, the book home page is a good place to start.
In starting the second book, I got to look at some other characters that were cartoonish in the first book Winifred Stanhope and Alfred Redman are two that will figure far more prominently in this book. I have some interesting ideas on where to take these characters.
Winifred gets advice from Alfred
Winifred settled into her hotel room in Southampton. The two “assistants” Alfred had procured had been brought along to Bristol. The teen boy and girl were paid a half crown daily each for their entertainment services. With all of the movement and activity, Winifred decided that, for a half crown, they could make themselves useful in other fashions and so they were hanging and straightening her clothes from the journey.
She left the two to finish the task and found Alfred’s room and entered without knocking. He was hanging the last of his clothes and ironing shirts. A number of weapons were laid out on the bed. Winifred looked at the arsenal as she leaned on the door post and said, “I knew you were a man concealing many things. I had no idea how useful they were.”
Alfred paused but did not turn from his task of hanging a shirt. After that was done he returned to the ironing board and then said, “Miss Stanhope, one customarily knocks and waits at best. At a minimum, one should announce oneself. It avoids unintended injury and …embarrassing encounters.”
Winifred laughed, “Is that what you call your assignations – embossing encounters?” She moved into the room and found a chair and sat. She said, “I need your thoughts. Smith has begun to worry me.”
Redman smirked and said, “Only now? A man of his power and capabilities should have worried you from the start.”
Winifred pulled a cigarette out of a case. She lifted the case towards Alfred who took one and lit hers and returned to ironing. She inhaled deeply and said, “I knew he was powerful. But his talk of this Guild and its taking over is worrisome.”
Redman ironed and said quietly, “Its goals may not inhibit yours. They may even be aligned to a degree.”
Winifred said, “I can see that, but I know nothing of this Guild. If they take over…”
Alfred added, “Which seems likely”
Winifred waived her hand irritated and said, “Fine…when they take over…They put someone in charge and use the rest for labor or export. I don’t know what they will be looking for leaders.”
Alfred ironed his shirt and got rid of some ash, “But the actual ‘taking over’ is of no consequence?”
Winifred got up and paced the room, “You yourself have seen the tools they wield and the knowledge they have. It is inevitable. If we can’t beat them, I would rather be with the group on top.”
Alfred put the iron up and leaned back on the wall, “You should have spent more time John O’Malley. He is the man to deal with logic. But let’s examine your choice. You assume the Guild will be on top at the end of events. They will choose someone to place in power. So how do you maximize your likelihood of controlling who is in power?”
Winifred put her hands out in exasperation and said, “That is what I just said in fewer words.”
Alfred continued unfazed by her protest, “Smith has said he doesn’t want Guild control. Morgaine will likely not want Guild control of Earth – she can’t stand Smith here.” Alfred stood up and pointed his cigarette at her and said, “As an exercise, let’s change your assumption. What if the Guild fails to take control of Earth? Now what is the outcome?”
Winifred paced, “I don’t know. Things would stay the same. Things could change. Given what might have to happen, things will like change.”
Alfred said, “So change is inevitable. So …do you have more influence if you oppose the Guild or support it?
Winifred said, “If I oppose the Guild and it wins, I lose influence. If I support the Guild and it loses, I lose influence. This is not helping.”
Alfred tsked and said, “Lass you’ve been hanging around Neville and Edward too long. So very negative. Flip those statements into positives.”
Winifred shouted, “Fine. If I support the Guild and it wins, I gain influence. If I oppose the Guild and they lose, I gain influence. How does this help!” She took a drag hoping the nicotine would calm her. She paced the room for a bit and Alfred said nothing but returned to his ironing. Finally she said, “So all this hinges on whether the Guild wins or loses here.”
Redman smiled at her from the ironing board, “I knew you’d get it.”
Winfred folded her arms and said quietly, “Condescending bastard,” but there was a smile as she said it.
Redman put his hand on his chest and said dramatically, “You wrong me. I would never mock my betters.” He picked up the shirt and hung it in the wardrobe and turned to her and said, “Now you need to find out from Smith if he wants this Guild to survive and make your choice accordingly.”
Winifred said, “What if he doesn’t want it to?”
Redman said, “I suppose you’ll have a choice to make. But I’ll say this. Do not underestimate Smith. Certainly don’t underestimate Smith and Morgaine working together. Those two could rule Europe tomorrow and Europe would be better for it.”
Winifred laughed, “Morgaine despises Smith. She would never work with him.”
Redman looked at the shirt collar with a squint eye and then spit on it and ironed a wrinkle out of it. He focused on his work as he said, “And yet they will be meeting to discuss a business deal. Your father scorns three fourths of his business associates. Half of those, he doesn’t even respect. He still manages to keep you clothed and entertained. Smith is cut from the same cloth.”
Winifred leaned on the doorway and finished her cigarette. She put the butt in the box and said, “This Guild controls Smith and Morgaine now. It seems risky for Morgaine and Smith to change course now.”
Redman put the iron at rest and said, “Smith will never venture anything he can’t come out on top of. And I will warn you a second time, do not underestimate Smith, especially if you plan to cross him.”
Winifred left the room in search of John Smith.