Ken was sufficiently interested to invite Jacob Postelthwaite to step inside. It wasn't that he was "taken in" by the story but he was convinced that the young man himself believed what he was saying to be true.
"What I have for you is a story without an ending," said Jacob. "I need you to write the ending for me, it would be against the rules for me to do it myself. I would like an ending which would satisfy my need for poetic justice; I imagine you could easily manage such a thing. Mr Nelson ought not to be allowed to get away with such pomposity, such blatant disregard for the consequences of his actions on other peoples lives."
" I think you're getting rather ahead of yourself," suggested Ken. "Sit down and begin at the beginning."
So, under the doleful gaze of Poirot who looked on from under the table, Jacob Postlethwaite sat down and told his tale; and what follows is Ken Tucky's only slightly embellished version of it.
ANYONE FOR TENNIS Part 2
I began working for the Mayfair solicitors Nelson and Thomas a couple of years ago. I was pleased to have landed the job because they're a very prestigious company, handling all kinds important cases. It was Mr. Nelson himself who interviewed me and offered me the post. As a matter of fact Mr. Nelson sits alone at the apex of the pyramid, Mr Thomas having died of boredom some years ago. Though I managed to make myself agreeable, I had to disguise the fact that I took an immediate dislike to Nelson, the man appeared to me to be a cold fish, I'm sure his face would have fallen apart if he'd attempted to smile. I very soon learned that no one liked him and I must admit I was pleased that I was very rarely required to see him again. All of this may well appear ungrateful of me after all Nelson had been good enough to give me employment, but I must speak as I find.
At the time of my interview and for some time afterwards I looked rather different from the way you see me today. My hair was short, I wore a black suit and a pair of scrupulously polished black leather shoes. Well I ask you, how can a person of my age continue to dress in that way? It's 1968, London is on a trip, the young people are doing their own thing, rejecting the establishment. The times are changing and we're not going back, not accepting the class-ridden, buttoned-up society of the 1950s. Ah, now you see how it is. I feel very strongly about all this. Without ever making a decision to do so I began to change. I let my hair grow a little longer and took to wearing more fashionable clothes. My immediate superior Mr Swift didn't mind much; he's an easy going sort and, as he said, I'm not in the front line - our clients rarely clap eyes on me.
So everything was hunky-dory until a week or so ago when Mr Swift asked me to run up to Mr Nelson's office with the papers for the Millstone case, you know the one that's in the news at the moment. Well I knocked on the door and he boomed "Come!" in that way he does. So I went in and stood in-front of his desk. The man behaved just as if I wasn't there. I stood there waiting for ages until finally I felt compelled to say, "Sorry to interupt your work, Mr Nelson, but I have the Millstone papers for you." He looked up with a face like thunder. "Speak when you're spoken to boy," he snarled, "and when you do, take your hands out of your pockets and call me Sir." I was shell-shocked. I mumbled something which I can't now remember and quickly left. I may even have forgotten to bow and walk backwards!
It was a nasty, humiliating experience but I thought that was as far as it would go. I was wrong. The following morning Mr Swift informed me that Mr Nelson insisted that I smarten myself up and that I should certainly never again enter the sacred offices of Nelson and Thomas wearing tennis shoes.
I was outraged. I have my self respect and I won't put up with some little blimp of a man treating me that way. He was probably bullied in some posh fee-paying school and has been taking it out on other people ever since. Anyway, I handed in my resignation the next day. I don't know what I'm going to do now, I have no job and there will be no glowing reference from the high and mighty Mr Nelson. Will I manage to find another job? I begin to doubt it. Things look grim and I crave revenge, and that's where you come in, Mr Tucky. I love science fiction and horror and I would dearly love to see a fitting end to Mr Nelson. Will you accept the challenge?
Ken grinned and nodded. He found Jacob's naïvety quite touching; he had been that way himself once upon a time, but experience teaches us not to expect the world to be fair, to hold on to the good stuff and let the rest go by. But what harm could it do? "OK, I accept," he said. "However I really have to point out that thousands of people might justifiably accuse you of being your own worst enemy. Most of us have to learn to toe the line at some point."
"Well you don't look much like the toeing-the-line sort," replied Jacob.
"I suppose not. I'll let you know when I've finished your story," said Ken "Do you have an email address?"
"Email in 1968, you have to be joking!" replied Joseph. "No, don't trouble about it. Believe me, I'll know when the story is finished."
After this there was some hand shaking and well wishing, and Joseph took his leave. As he went to his computer Ken glanced out of the window expecting to see the young man on his way down the garden path, but he was already gone.
ANYONE FOR TENNIS Part 3
POETIC JUSTICE (Ken's conclusion)
Somewhere in Mayfair in the year of 1968 Enoch Nelson MBE was sitting with one of his cronies in his gentlemen's club. They were bemoaning the decline in society, and in particular the lack of respect the ordinary person showed for their superiors. "People these days don't know their proper place," insisted Nelson. "Why, just last week an office boy came up with some papers, and without so much as a by-your-leave he began to speak to me while I was working. To me! And as if that wasn't bad enough he was dressed like something off bloody Carnaby Street. And can you believe it, Maurice, he was wearing fucking tennis shoes! Of course I gave instructions that he either shape up or get out. I must admit I was a little surprised when I was told that the chap handed in his notice, but what the hell we have standards to maintain, do we not?"
"Yes indeed," agreed Maurice sneaking a silent fart out into his leather chair. "Good riddance to the chap eh, Enoch, give him the benefit of your boot up his arse."
"Absobloodylutely," agreed Nelson. "He can spend the rest of his days playing tennis for all I care. HAHAHA Anyone for tennis? I say, anyone for tennis?"
"I'll give you a game," said a voice from the far side of the room, "though perhaps not tennis - you look a little out of shape for that. How about a nice game of chess? You can play chess I suppose?" Enoch Nelson had been startled. He could have sworn that he and Maurice had been alone in the smoking room. Now here was this complete stranger who had apparently been there all the time. "Why don't you come over and join me? I have a board here with the pieces all laid out ready to go. You can be white," suggested the mysterious interloper. His little black beard wagged as he spoke. Come along now, Mr Nelson, you're not afraid of being beaten are you?"
Nelson didn't care much for the man's tone, and as it happened he considered himself to be an excellent chess player; he'd thrash this foreign-looking chap with no bother. Giving Maurice a sly wink and a "Bye for now" he went over and introduced himself. "Enoch Nelson MBE," he said stiffly.
"Mr Natas, pleased to meet you," came the silky reply. "Now, Mr Nelson, how about a little wager to make this interesting. If you win I'll give you, shall we say, five hundred pounds, and if I win you will be bound to wear tennis shoes for the rest of your days." Enoch Nelson guffawed, "Sounds like a bloody rum arrangement to me, but you're on."
It was a fairly safe opening. Enoch Nelson wanted to get the measure of his opponent. It didn't take long. Soon Natas was a pawn down and, so it seemed, very much on the back foot. An hour into the game Nelson sensed his moment had come and went for the jugular. It was a bad mistake. Natas launched a counter-attack, a pincer movement with his knights. Nelson took one of the knights but it was at the price of his queen. From that point on he didn't stand a snowflake's chance in hell. "Checkmate." said Natas flicking Nelson's king over with a languid brush of his left hand. "I expect to see you here at the club tomorrow wearing tennis shoes." "You can expect what you bloody-well like," barked Nelson, "I'll be damned before I'll be seen wearing tennis shoes."
"Consider it done," replied Natas, "just be sure to keep our bargain."
As might be imagined Enoch Nelson slept very poorly that night, and the following morning he failed to go in to work. The more he thought about Natas the more afraid he became. The man had an air of menace about him; it was possible that he had contacts in the underworld. Nelson's dark chain of thoughts was suddenly interrupted by a rapping on the front door, turning his chubby little legs to jelly but, thank God, it was only the postman with a parcel! Nelson called himself all kinds of a fool for letting his imagination run away with him and he was all but crying with relief as he tore the brown paper off the package. And then came the monstrous moment of revelation; he realized that what he had in his hands was a shoe box. Slowly lifting off the lid he found, as he knew he would, a pair of white tennis shoes and a note saying TRY THEM ON FOR SIZE.
The message was insistent, it echoed in his mind continuously:
TRY THEM ON FOR SIZE
Enoch Nelson could not resist, he put on the despicable shoes and laced them up. He regretted it at once. His feet felt like he were standing on glowing coals!
He tried desperately to get the shoes off, but the harder he tried the tighter the laces became. Hobbling to the kitchen, he grabbed a pair of scissors and attempted to cut his way free. But the scissors glowed suddenly red and seared his hands, he cried out in pain and dropped them.
There was to be no escape.
A bargain once made with Mr Natas must always be kept. There can be no possibility of reneging or renegotiation. It is written in fire. Enoch Nelson was doomed to spend the rest of his mortal life, and indeed all eternity, wearing the infernal white tennis shoes.
A tidied up version of Anyone for Tennis appeared in the September edition of Worlds Within Worlds and it did a good job of getting Edwina off Ken's back. She liked it!!! Not long afterwards he received a letter from London. The stamp was one he hadn't seen used for many years and the postmark was 1968. Of course it was from Jacob Postlethwaite.
Dear Mr Tucky,
Many thanks for bringing my story to such a satisfying conclusion. I am greatly indebted to you, I feel that justice has been done and I can now get on with my life.
PS Try Googing (if that's the right word) Enoch Nelson.
The Google results were more than interesting. Apparently Enoch Nelson MBE had died back in 1993. One of the most intriguing things about him had been his taste in footwear. Though he was forever being ridiculed for, it he invariably wore white tennis shoes and was actually put in his coffin wearing them.