Gerry was most upset and irritated by John’s announcements to the nation. On the very next day, she summoned Dick to her assistance. Fond though she was of her husband, she felt that he had lost touch with the realities of life after he had become President, and particularly an Executive one. Dick was much more reliable where money was concerned.
It was money that concerned her now, lots of it, the hoard that she had accumulated over the past few years in the conviction that one should always be prepared for a rainy day. There could easily come a time when Tom and she or either would need a little something extra to live on. Tom of course did not know about the hoard, for he was convinced that he would continue as President for the rest of his natural life, and if necessary even longer, and he did not approve of any plans being made for any contingency beyond that. Gerry therefore kept the money in a little room under the stairs to which she alone kept the key, and which no one else had entered for several years. The rest of the household thought that that was where she kept a secret stock of alcohol, to which she had recourse when life was especially tense. Indeed she did keep a few bottles of brandy there, both to bring out at intervals to keep up the illusion, and also to drink to keep her blood pressure under control as she counted her money.
She could therefore offer Dick a tipple when she took him in there to disclose her problem. He needed it, for his heart began to beat very much faster when he saw the piles of notes, laden with dust, piled up around him. He had had his problems when John had issued his midnight gazette, but he realised now that they were insignificant compared with those that Gerry had to face. He felt she could even be forgiven for pouring herself twice as much brandy as she had given him.
‘You must do something about this nonsense,’ she said firmly, having taken a large gulp from her glass. ‘I thought that the whole point about this government was that we would be allowed to accumulate our assets in peace. Now that dreadful Tamil upstart has gone and upset everything. I’m sure he’s a Socialist at heart.’
Gerry’s father had been substantially older than Dulcie’s, and it was Socialists in general that he abhorred, not merely Communists. Gerry had inherited his views, and after his long experience in business Dick had come to sympathise with them. ‘You’re perfectly right,’ he said, and helped himself to some more brandy. It’s upset all of us considerably. I don’t suppose any one of my friends will ever vote for this government again.’
Gerry snorted. ‘That’s not the point. There’s no question now of any one having to vote. The problem we have to face is, what are we going to do with all our hard earned possessions that this Socialist monster is trying to take away from us? There will be riots in the streets unless the government does something about it.’
‘I can’t see what I’m expected to do.’ Dick was annoyed because Gerry had firmly taken the bottle away from him. ‘I’m not in charge. It’s your husband who is meant to be the President, and an Executive one too.’
‘But could you not set up some sort of a pressure group? What about a Muslim Association against Demonetisation, or something like that? You know how pleased he is with MASH. He hums your slogan out aloud every night at dinner now, whatever there is to eat.’ Dick had invented a slogan which appeared regularly on the radio, and also on the television with suitable illustrations, that went ‘Everything goes better with MASH—and MASH is firm for Tom.’
‘I don’t think it would be at all suitable for us to get involved as Muslims.’ Dick was even more annoyed now because Gerry had refilled her own glass without offering him any more. ‘If we do that we shall all be accused of hoarding money. The whole point about MASH is that it only supports what the country wants and only opposes what the country dislikes.’
‘Are you trying to tell me that the whole country is not implacably opposed to all this Socialism? Especially when it is brought in through the back door—and the back door of a Tamil at that.’
‘You can’t really call it Socialism.’
‘Now you think you can teach me what Socialism is. The trouble with you and Tom and that other silly brother of yours is that you don’t really understand the value of money. Your father never had to work for his living, he just collected a salary from the government every month whatever happened, and you were brought up to think that money grew on trees.’
‘I don’t think that’s at all true of me now.’
‘That is precisely why I called you here.’ Dick took the opportunity to extend his empty glass towards Gerry, and she had no option but to refill it. She gave him more than she had done the first time but she also gave herself more. ‘Can’t you think of anything we can do? That Socialist must be got rid of for one.’
‘You don’t have to worry. I’m working on that. But these things are easier said than done. It won’t happen at once.’
‘And then, what am I going to do about all this?’ Gerry swung her arm round expansively, and some of the brandy slopped out. She took up the bottle again to replenish her glass, and Dick held his out as well.
She poured some in, but only a minuscule amount. Dick took it almost as a personal insult. ‘The only thing I can think of is that you set fire to it and then claim the insurance. You can always say it burned up before you could do anything because of all the alcohol.’
It is a mark of Gerry’s vivacity, as well as of her fundamental concern for Tom, that she decided not only to put this plan into operation but also to use it to attract some sympathy for him. She felt he was badly in need of some from the wider public at the moment if his national standing were to be kept up. It was indeed this consideration that in the end swung her decision, for she could hardly bear to think of so much good money going up in smoke, especially as she now had a controlling interest in the insurance company that would replace it, and she therefore felt that it was her own money she would be getting back and therefore she would be losing on the deal. However for the sake of her husband and his reputation she was determined to go ahead with the plan and of course to ensure that the press was in attendance for the event. What the momentous consequences of this decision were will be revealed later.