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The Endgame Jeffrey Archer 2022/7/22 14:06:15

‘What’s this?’ he asked.

Cornelius would have told him, but he had fallen asleep.

The doorbell rang at eight, as it did every Thursday evening. When Pauline opened the door, Frank handed her a large bunch of flowers.

‘Oh, Mr Barrington will appreciate those,’ she said. ‘I’ll put them in the library.’

‘They’re not for Mr Barrington,’ said Frank, with a wink.

‘I’m sure I don’t know what’s come over you two gentlemen,’ Pauline said, scurrying away to the kitchen.

As Frank dug into a second bowl of Irish stew, Cornelius warned him that it could be their last meal together at The Willows.

‘Does that mean you’ve sold the house?’ Frank asked, looking up.

‘Yes. We exchanged contracts this afternoon, but on the condition that I move out immediately. After such a generous offer, I’m in no position to argue.’

‘And how’s the search for a new place coming along?’

‘I think I’ve found the ideal house, and once the surveyors have given the all clear, I’ll be putting an offer in.

I’ll need you to push the paperwork through as quickly as possible so that I’m not homeless for too long.’

‘I certainly will,’ said Frank, ‘but in the meantime, you’d better come and camp out with me. I’m all too aware what the alternatives are.’

‘The local pub, Elizabeth or Margaret,’ said Cornelius, with a grin. He raised his glass. ‘Thank you for the offer. I accept.’

‘But there’s one condition,’ said Frank.

‘And what might that be?’ asked Cornelius.

‘That Pauline comes as part of the package, because I have no intention of spending all my spare time tidying up after you.’

‘What do you think about that, Pauline?’ asked Cornelius as she began to clear away the plates.

‘I’m willing to keep house for both of you gentlemen, but only for one month. Otherwise you’d never move out, Mr Barrington.’

‘I’ll make sure there are no hold-ups with the legal work, I promise,’ said Frank.

Cornelius leant across to him conspiratorially. ‘She hates lawyers, you know, but I do think she’s got a soft spot for you.’

‘That may well be the case, Mr Barrington, but it won’t stop me leaving after a month, if you haven’t moved into your new house.’

‘I think you’d better put down that deposit fairly quickly,’ said Frank. ‘Good houses come on the market all the time, good housekeepers rarely.’

‘Isn’t it time you two gentlemen got on with your game?’

‘Agreed,’ said Cornelius. ‘But first, a toast.’

‘Who to?’ asked Frank.

‘Young Timothy,’ said Cornelius, raising his glass, ‘who will start as Managing Director of Barrington’s, Chudley, on the first of the month.’

‘To Timothy,’ said Frank, raising his glass.

‘You know he’s asked me to join the board,’ said Cornelius.