People said Bertol didn’t exist. But he did. He was my butler.
The stinging of his bloodshot eyes forced him awake against his own selfish will. He quickly focused on his surroundings, hoping for a minute he was still asleep and dreaming of waking up in a palace full of everything he could ever think of. He indulged a few moments longer in this desire for riches beyond his imagination. With a flick of his wrist and the ring of a bell a butler would approach his door.
"Sir Talbot, you rang?"
And as would be customary, he would respond in a professional yet slightly warm tone, which endeared him to the staff and made him one of the favorites.
"Yes Bertol, I think today I shall go to the fair and have a grand old time".
This of course would be met by some resistance by Bertol, as today was the wedding of his older Brother and there was much to do around the estate. Many state dignitaries were to be attendance and it was tantamount that Sir Talbot be there to talk politics and such with them. But being such a fierce and independent individual, he would have none of it, and would assure Bertol that they would make it back in time for the ceremony. With that he would take a warm morning bath and while Bertol pressed his Sunday best, he would admire his surroundings. The Talbot estate had been the crown jewel of the surrounding villages and with one hundred and forty seven rooms, it outnumbered the individual homes in the area by two to one
The image of a full grown rat crawling over his legs interrupted his wonderful morning. Whiskers at full alert looking for any crumbs that may have been leftover from the previous, rare meal. The tail, slimy, cold and wet from whatever pipe the rodent had scaled slithered over the exposed flesh on his bruised thighs. At this point however nothing could scare him anymore. He looked at the rat as if it was his only remaining friend left in this life.
"What's that Bertol?"
"Nothing Sir, your suit is laid out and ready, shall I prepare your breakfast"
"No, no my good man, we'll have some delicious fares at the fair"
"Very well sir, the car will be ready at your request"
Soaking in the view from his marble, lion footed tub, Talbot could see for miles across the rolling hills. On nights where aided by a clear sky and a nip or two of brandy he could discern Big Ben's gleaming arrows counting down the minutes till a new day.
He shaved his face with an unlimited amount of hot water and used a Max Sprecher blue ivory handled straight razor. The feel of a delicate face after taking a knife to it, carefully, was the same no matter if you were a commoner or a lord. The blue handle was painstakingly etched by hand with the story of Prince Charles Edward, a German British born Duke. It had been a gift of the German Chancellor on one of his many summer visits to the Talbot Estate. His father had established a brilliant relationship with the British and German people and a long and prosperous relationship seemed undeniable in lieu of the previous fracas that haunted the world shortly after the new century dawned.
All dressed up and ready to go, he joined Bertol who was giving instructions to the chauffeur so as not to be late.
"Bertol, you're not coming with?"
"Afraid not Sir, we do have much to do for the wedding, and I have strict instructions from your soon to be sister in law"
"Oh, Isabelle is wound tighter than the library grandfather, alas, I'll see you in a bit"
And with that he departed the estate. The sprawling acres full of foilage in full bloom reminded him that all of this would be his soon. He looked forward to blending in as much as possible with the townspeople, as much as was possible when arriving in a new Phantom and next years Saville Row. A lovely morning indeed.
Then the cacophonous, hideous explosions behind him deafened him and caused the Phantom to veer off and collide at full speed against the river embankment. He was about to ruin his suit crawling out of the Rolls Royce.
But he wasn't in a phantom. And he most certainly wasn't wearing Saville Row. His brother was long dead. And Talbot Estate laid in ruins having been shelled by British artillery. A family of traitors. A network of spies. Bertol, who he had trusted since he was a child, after the Great War. Bertol was nowhere to be found, and Alexander Talbot lay in a prison cell, in the Tower of London. Prisoner 147 waiting to be executed for treason. He arose from his mold infested cot, tatters for clothing. unkempt beard and looked out the 5 centimeter sliver of a window that barely let in daylight. From here, he could clearly see Big Ben, and the arrows counting down the minutes of his last day. He sat with his only friend, the rat that visited him, every day as was customary. "Yes Bertol, we shall have a grand old time."