One-On-One a novel
Philip Spires Preface The Green papers that follow represent the sum total of Anthony Greenâ€™s participation in One-OnOne. He spent the time that elapsed after the last direct contact with the subject reworking and annotating these documents. What is presented here is a paper copy of his notes. He had clearly prepared this material ready to be forwarded alongside his other material. We cannot know, of course, whether this text represents his final version. Interspersed with Greenâ€™s records are the verbatim texts of the recorded interviews with the subject, placed at the points that are closest to when they were recorded. These cannot be completed until your feedback is received. We have, of course, already decided our plan of action. The logistical details were agreed and matters are already resolved. Political aspects are still to be finalised, however, so your observations and comments will be crucial. These papers are thus central to our concerns, as are your reading of them.
The Green papers When I saw Christine get into Cartwrightâ€™s boat that first morning, I knew there would be casualties. She did not just tumble, she literally collapsed head first into the well of the hull, her leg left hanging over the side where the fabric of her trousers had caught on a cleat. That Cartwright laughed was only to be expected; that he did nothing to help we might have anticipated; that he laughed loud and hard and set off at higher than normal speed to exacerbate her discomfort came as a mild surprise. The fact that she also laughed after an initial screamed curse will surely surprise us all. It was almost as if, from the very first moment, Christine had changed from the seasoned
professional we all knew into an adolescent along for the ride. Perhaps eventually it made things clear, but at the time it was hard to read, and happened too fast to allow a considered reaction. It was only when I later reviewed the scene that I realised how completely things had gone wrong. Cartwright had surely approached the whole encounter with a plan and inevitably it was a plan to proffer cooperation, but with the overall intention to disrupt, frustrate, undermine and eventually triumph. His apparently callous reaction to Christine’s collapse into the boat was merely a diversion that worked. It was immediately apparent that he was someone who could act quickly, could think on his feet - or on his foot, if that is the more appropriate wording in the circumstances. To that point, Christine’s assignment had progressed entirely to plan. She had arrived on the offshore island after spending two days with our people in base, where she was able to brief our contact who, of course, had no prior need to know anything about her task. At the time we all judged his surprise as genuine. Cartwright, after all, had received some official support over the years, albeit minimal, since he retained dual nationality. He made few demands, but those he did make were sometimes significant - his own change of name, his children’s nationality, for example. But, according to the person who was most likely to have known more about him, Cartwright’s significance appeared to remain unknown until Christine briefed him on her objectives. He certainly seemed surprised, but then he may have been a good actor. Frankly it is inconceivable, given Cartwright’s recent rise to prominence, that our contact at base was unaware of why we would be interested in him. The operative in question has been in his current post for more than three years, some time before Cartwright began to achieve success in his venture and a year and a half before his activities were drawn to more general attention. We have, of course, taken the trouble to interview the current incumbent’s predecessor, and she too appeared to have no knowledge whatsoever of Cartwright’s interests, despite having had extensive social and professional contact with him before he officially retired from the university. Her ignorance of his current status is understandable since, as far as we are aware, Cartwright did not begin to apply his ideas until after his own retirement, which happened after the previous incumbent left her post. After her two days of rest at base, Christine took the eight o’clock boat across to the island and then a taxi to the hotel on the north coast, where she had negotiated her rendezvous with Cartwright. She had only light luggage of her own, merely a carry-on bag with a few clothes and her laptop, but she did also have that heavy metal box for the cameras and their charger, but it was not this that caused the fall. The hotel has its own small jetty, but it’s designed to be used by the hotel’s own craft that does tourist trips out to the reef. There are no proper landing stages apart from the one designed for that particular boat, since they hardly wanted to encourage or attract general traffic. Cartwright moored his own boat just off the beach, so that the heavy camera case could be easily lowered down directly to him from the jetty’s walkway, thus avoiding the risk of a carry over water to the boat. Christine, however, did not feel confident with the half metre drop onto a rocking boat, so she elected to board from the beach. Cartwright ran the bow aground in the shallows, as close to the beach end of the jetty as he could, meaning that Christine had to lunge forward with one reaching step from the very end of the jetty to plant her right foot on the bow platform and rely on a pull from Cartwright’s helping hand to get her on board. He, however, also had to keep hold of the tiller, meaning he was over-reaching. It worked fine, except that the fabric of Christine’s left trouser leg caught on the bow cleat, and over she went in a screaming bundle. Cartwright’s surprising, even baffling response was to smile, leave her there and gear up his outboard to pull them off the sand. He reversed and then set off at full pelt, the bow of his light water taxi standing up as he bounced the little craft over the waves. All I could see at this stage, of course, was the bottom of the boat which, presumably, was also Christine’s point of view at the time. I could hear how she cried out, however. At first I thought they were screams for help, but I was wrong. It galled me, I admit. I could cope with Cartwright’s crass behaviour, which frankly I had expected. I could cope with Christine’s obvious discomfort, for it soon became obvious that she was in no pain, despite being almost upside down with her face pushed against one of the cross-plank seats. My problem arose when she too started laughing, almost enjoying the relief of not having to
keep up appearances for once. And then, when my wife of thirty years turned on her side, undid her belt, buttons and zip and struggled to slide out of her trousers to a seated position, still laughing, I sensed, just minutes into the encounter with Cartwright, that she had already become a stranger to me. At the time, quite understandably, perhaps, I assumed that she was doing her best to rescue the situation. The ultimate professional was the label that my rationality sought to attach, as she sat there in her knickers, belly-laughing like an idiot, her trousers with the now detached prosthesis still in situ hanging like a bagged amputation from the cleat into the boat, agitated and apparently alive on the jolts of the waves. In thirty years of marriage, I had never once seen her even expose her false leg in public, let alone take it off. And now she was presenting the stump of her left leg proudly, almost erect to the wind, like maleness both rampant and misplaced. “Morning, Tom,” she had said plainly as he approached the jetty, her feet and heeled shoes sinking deep into the soft white sand. She stumbled a little under the weight of the camera box. Cartwright had not replied. He remained silent and seated at the stern of the boat, his right arm resting on the outboard’s tiller as the engine idled. His shorts and shirt looked dirty, but later I concluded they were just heavily worn. Throughout, I never saw him wear anything other than these two garments, but they were washed several times a day, I later learned, via his habit of dropping fully clad - if that might be the relevant expression in the circumstances - into the sea to cool off. He did this regularly, at least two or three times a day. Now I could accept his need to steady the boat while Christine struggled to lower the weight of the camera box from the jetty. And I was appreciative of his manoeuvre designed to assist Christine’s boarding, but I almost screamed at the monitor when his response to Christine’s potentially catastrophic fall came in the form of laughter. “I can’t get down from here,” Christine had said, as she rose from an attempted crouch she had adopted to lower the box, which even then did fall the last foot or so into the boat. “There’s nothing to hold on to…” “Go back to the beach, where the jetty meets the sand. Take your shoes off,” Cartwright replied. She did as he said, but in reverse order, throwing the shoes down into the boat. This was my first hint of the surprises to come, since Christine is usually careful with her shoes, even possessive. It is many years since she had the moulded mirror image of her right foot created in fibreglass so she could have it attached to her false leg, thus allowing her to shop for shoes like any other obsessive. And, over the years, her collection has grown to such an extent that she has had to operate a nearfiling system in her wardrobe to enable her to find particular pairs. Seeing her cast this pair carelessly down into Cartwright’s boat was certainly not in character. After her fall, all I could see, after an initial glimpse of the bottom of the boat approaching quickly, was sky. Her spectacles must have fallen off. I heard the laughing, of course, and eventually I caught sight of my wife momentarily as she stripped off her trousers. Only then did she lean over to retrieve her glasses and put them on. And then all I saw for the next fifteen minutes was the sea and skyline with its quickly approaching miniscule island, since she faced resolutely forward, unwilling, or perhaps unable to pivot because of her need to hold on to the sides of the pitching craft. Cartwright, of course, was still at the outboard’s tiller, directly behind her. The outboard was too noisy to allow any conversation, but I did hear her prolonged laughing. Christine did occasionally look down, and it was then that I saw that stump of a left leg that I had never before seen exposed in any public place. I then realised, of course, that only Cartwright could see it and, given the circumstances, that could hardly be classed as ‘in public’. Nevertheless I was still having difficulty reading Christine’s signals, a state to which I was unused, to say the least. What I was not prepared for, despite all our detailed briefings, was just how small Cartwright’s island would be. To describe it as a wooden house floating on open sea with a small rock attached would not be an exaggeration. The rock, of course, is the only part of a reef that protrudes through the surface. The surrounding coral and sandy shallows were clearly over a hundred metres across, but at sea level the wooden house seemed to stand on water, its stilts seemingly reluctant to get their feet wet. Christine was clearly taken with the place, because the house remained in view for several minutes as their boat approached, indicating the continued concentrated focus of her own
gaze. It was concentrating her attention, but I had not realised why until she spoke. “How do we get in, Tom?” she shouted at the top of her voice, half turning towards Cartwright, still at the tiller behind her. “I can’t see any steps.” “There aren’t any steps,” Cartwright shouted above the engine noise. “…seems now I have to learn to fly as well…” Christine mumbled. I found this immediately and completely reassuring. She had already turned back to face the pitching bow of the boat, so her words were clearly spoken purely for my benefit. Cartwright would have had difficulty hearing something shouted towards the stern, let alone a comment mumbled under her breath towards the bow. She had taken the opportunity to communicate directly with me, and she had done so completely without risk to herself or the project. I remember commenting out loud at the time on her remarkable reassuring professionalism. There was no more communication during the ten minutes or so that elapsed before Cartwright drew the boat up to the house stilts with its engine at idle. Christine obviously remained concerned about how she was going to get up to the level of the veranda, because she was clearly inspecting every element of the structure as they approached, her gaze resting in turn on selected details of the construction, perhaps to give me the opportunity to record it. I was sure, however, at the time that her motives were purely selfish. She watched as Cartwright tied the boat’s bow rope loosely to a cleat on one of the house poles and then engaged reverse to hurtle at a startling rate towards another. Though Christine turned around almost immediately to see what might be happening, all I saw was Cartwright already disappearing out of the field of view, apparently shinning up the pole. Closer inspection revealed that the pole had protruding pegs every foot or so along its length, thus forming a ladder, which he obviously habitually used to access the boat. It was clear, immediately, however, that Cartwright possessed quite remarkable upper body strength. A fit young man would find a vertical climb up a makeshift ladder something to dwell on. The fact that this sixty year old with only one leg rose as fast as he did illustrated immediately that his arms and shoulders were quite extraordinarily powerful. My initial assessment was thus that he was a subject who could offer physical threat. Christine was quickly angry again, and understandably so. “I can’t get up there. How on earth…” Cartwright was ready with his response. “The wonder of human beings is that they are capable of planning. Just wait on…and shut yer gob, as we used to say.” He was already on the open balcony that we knew went all round the house, since it had been visible on our aerial photographs. He had climbed up his makeshift ladder carrying a light string. This, I now could see, was tied to the heavier rope attached to the boat’s stern and enabled him to pull the mooring rope up as he took the four or five paces he needed to reach the end of the walkway, where a small L-shaped extension jutted out. Here he attached the mooring rope to the balcony rail and then tightened it, so that the boat floated secure but free of any of the wooden structure. “How on earth am I going to get out?” shouted Christine, impatient. Without answering, Cartwright returned to the rail closest to the moored boat. It is worth recording that he moved with both speed and ease. His method was clearly learned from and highly adapted to his environment, which I found reassuring, since it suggested he was quite used to the demands of his strange little house. Prior to Christine’s departure, I had convinced myself that Cartwright’s unwillingness to meet anywhere apart from this silly, remote island was just a ruse to increase Christine’s vulnerability and insecurity. Basically, to get around his little house he hopped, but with one hand always on the wooden handrail at waist height for the extra support needed. Using this technique, he appeared to be as mobile as anyone might be across the rickety and uneven surface. “Catch this,” he said as he threw down another light rope. Christine did as she was told, but also shouted, “Things go from bad to worse…” “You’ll see it has a loop at the end…?” “Yes…” “Now thread the loop through the handle of your camera case … that’s right … and now pull the slack through so you have enough to throw the loop back up to me.”
Christine did as she was told and within a few seconds Cartwright had tightened the rope around a small hand-cranked winch built into the balcony railing where he stood. “Give it a lift, just to help it clear the side of the boat.” And with that he took up the slack until the rope was taught. “Now lift the box as I take the strain to stop it swinging to the side.” This she did, and when the box was at the level of her shoulders, Cartwright told her to let go. The box did swing, of course, but by that time it was hanging on barely a metre and a half of rope, and its oscillations were immediately damped by the rope’s contact with the balcony’s lower edge. He continued to wind in the rope to lift its load. “I’m glad you have your priorities right,” said Christine ruefully. “Get the cargo safe and then worry about the women and children…” “Any rational human being would realise that the box has to come first. If you were up here, who would attach the rope to the box?” She smiled in recognition of her lack of foresight. A moment later, with the box safely on the balcony, Cartwright threw the rope back down. “Put your leg through the loop and then work the rope up to your backside so you are sitting on it.” Christine took some time to do this. She was clearly unsure of what to do. Cartwright remained patient, despite the delay, during which time she twice almost fell out of the boat whilst trying to stand. She clearly did not feel secure without maintaining two points of contact, a foot on the boards and a hand on the gunwale. The second hand grasped the rope, of course. But getting from there to a state where her foot was through the rope’s loop proves a significant logistical challenge. It took time. Cartwright remained patient. “That’s fine. Now I am going to lift you. Hold on to the side of the boat to begin with. As I take the strain, the boat will lift a little and come slightly towards the house. When I shout, let go.” Things happened quite fast, too fast for Christine, who was unaware that she would get wet. “OK, let go!” She did as she was told and slid over the side of the boat that seemed to spring away behind her. She screamed as she hit the water, which came up to her waist. With a couple of pulls on the winch she was clear of the surface, but drenched. “It’s lucky you’re already down to your knickers,” said Cartwright. “It’s fucking cold.” “Welcome to the tropics,” Cartwright answered, as he strained to crank the winch. A few seconds later, Christine was level with Cartwright, but still in mid-air over the sea. He reached out an arm and pulled her over the balustrade so she was over the balcony and then gave some slack to the winch to lower her onto the timber floor. Before Christine could speak, Cartwright had already said, “Wait there” and launched himself over the rail into the sea. Christine’s trousers and prosthesis were still attached to the cleat on the boat of course. Also, her travelling bag was still waiting to be retrieved and her shoes were still loose in the bottom of the boat. Cartwright retrieved them all and then came up his makeshift ladder once again to rejoin her, the load this time being light enough for him to carry. “Here’s the rest of your luggage, Mrs Green. And here are your trousers.”