A little over two hours later, Stan’s helicopter touched down in Australia’s capital city. He and Belinda exited the aircraft and walked over to where a large man wearing a black suit and dark sunglasses stood by a white Rolls Royce. The man held up his hand toward Belinda and shook his head. “She stays on the chopper,” he said.
“It’s okay,” said Stan, “she’s my personal assistant. She can come with me.”
“Ma’am,” said the man in the black suit. “I am instructed to drive only Mr Berserkervich today. Please return to the helicopter, and you will be flown back.”
“Friend, you’re doing a marvellous job,” said Stan with a big smile. “I’ve always admired hardworking drivers like yourself. The country would be lost without you. But I can assure you, Belinda’s presence is essential, and I will be travelling with her today.”
The driver did not flinch. His voice deepened a little. “Ma’am, it is in everyone’s best interests that you return to the helicopter immediately.”
“Now, listen here, friend,” said Stan.
“No, it’s okay,” said Belinda, clasping her bag in front of her chest and stepping back. “I think uh, I think maybe I should sit this one out.”
“Why?” said Stan. “Are you sick?”
Belinda looked at the driver. “Uh… yes, actually. I’m not feeling so good. Perhaps it was the flight.”
“Well, if the flight made you sick, it’s not going to do you any good getting on the chopper and flying home.”
“Ha! Yes, good point, Stan,” said Belinda. “I might just… I’ll go and check…” She backed toward the helicopter. “You’ll be great, Stan. Go get ’em.” With that, she turned and hurried back to the helicopter.
“Well, that’s strange,” said Stan, watching her go.
“Mr Berserkervich,” said the driver, holding the car door open.
Stan turned to him. “Hmm? Oh, yes, of course.” He looked once more at Belinda, as she leapt into the helicopter and slammed the door behind her. “Very strange,” muttered Stan, and got into the car.
A short drive brought him to the prime minister’s official residence; Stan stared out the window like a child approaching Disneyland. About thirty members of the press had gathered outside the grand abode. The car stopped, the driver got out and opened the door for Stan. As he got out of the car, a tiny man with an oversized grey moustache, waxed and curled at each end, ran up to him, smiling with delight. “Mr Berserkervich!” he exclaimed. “What a pleasure is it to receive you at the Lodge. Please, allow me to take your briefcase, and if you would be so kind, you have a phone call.” The little man bowed slightly and held out one hand to receive Stan’s briefcase, while with the other he held out a mobile phone.
Stan stared at him, bemused, then handed over his briefcase. He took the phone and spoke with his most charming voice, “This is Stan.”
A gravelly voice answered, “Welcome to Canberra, Stanley. Do you know who this is?”
Stan’s smile faltered, and he immediately put his shoulders back and stood upright. “Yes,” he squeaked. He cleared his throat and spoke again. “Yes sir. Thank you for inviting me.”
“You and the prime minister are going to answer a few questions from the press before our meeting today. Listen to me very carefully. The first question you get will come from a fellow in a red shirt. You will answer the question with a ‘Yes,’ and nothing else. Do you understand?”
“Well, sir,” said Stan, “I’m prepared to answer any question with the utmost—”
“Stop talking, Stanley,” said the voice.
Stan stopped and waited. He glanced at the little man with the moustache, who smiled back at him.
The voice on the phone spoke again. “When the guy in the red shirt asks you the first question, you will answer, ‘Yes.’ You will not say another word to him. You will not try to sound smart, you will not blame anyone, you will not talk about policies or polls or any grand bloody vision for the future—you will say, ‘Yes,’ and then bite your tongue. If you answer that question with anything beyond the word yes, Stanley… I will be very… f**king… displeased. Have I explained myself adequately?”
The colour had drained from Stan’s face. “Yes sir,” he said.
The call ended.
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