Lying in Wait by Phillip Clement | Gladstone's Library

Lying in Wait by Phillip Clement

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Portrait of Caspar David Friedrich by Gerhard von Kugelgen

Few times in my life have I been as insulted as I was on the evening of Wednesday last.

I rose, as is my morning custom, at a respectable 8.15am and underwent my usual morning routine: showering, drying, breakfasting and dressing (in that order) before proceeding to the office for work. A gentle man needs must appear for work on time, this much is fact.

My day at the office was unique only in the apparent absence of the extraordinary. At 10.15 (the time is noted precisely in a notebook of mine which bears no consequence) I left my office and personal computer unattended as I left to acquire for myself a mug of tea, branding is inconsequential; I returned at 10.20. It is clear that the crime, for one has indeed been committed, occurred in this interval.

When I returned to my office the air was thick with the stench of an unsought change. It is customary at this time for my colleague, Mr J.A. Stokes, to pass by the office at 10.17 with the morning’s papers; on the occasions that I am not to be found in the office he is known to take a seat and await my return, often he takes this moment to peruse the financial columns (he has hopes in the City). At the time of 10.17 on Wednesday 11 September 2014 my office was empty with no apparent sign of entry. Curious, I thought to myself.

At 13.52, as I returned to the office from a local restaurant, I met Mr J.A. Stokes in the corridor coming the other way. He was customarily dressed, his forelock cast back in a jocular fashion. He held out his hand in greeting. Unusual.

‘All that I have to say has already crossed your mind,’ said he.

‘Then possibly my answer has crossed yours,’ I replied.

‘You stand fast?’

‘Absolutely.’

I shook his hand.

The afternoon and evening that followed provided little in the way of drama and at 21.43 I was in my room preparing myself for bed. I had before me a small amount of reading and was just settling into the wingback with a tumbler of whiskey. Perfection. I was feeling radical and had thought that I might put that evening’s reading aside in favour of some small enjoyment with an instrument or two. It was at that moment that I was shaken violently back into the twenty-first century. Tablets, I thought, who needs them. In the centre of the screen was an alert: ‘What is this? The noble consulting intern, Jamie Stokes, picks up the gauntlet laid down for him by the mysterious "Professor" and, so it seems, not a moment too soon...’

I was stopped in my tracks. Maintenance of the Gladstone’s Library website customarily falls to me, and I did not recall updating the website that day. A conundrum for sure. I followed the link, allegedly written by my colleague Mr J.A. Stokes, and was appalled at the outcome.

There, at the top of the page it read: Posted by Philip Clement. I checked my (inconsequential) notebook.

Below you will find a list of my thoughts at that moment.

1. My name is not Philip
2. I have not updated the website today
3. Mr J.A. Stokes has not furnished me with any such blog
4. How has this blog been applied to the website?
5. Why is a mutation of my name attached to it?

The identity was clear to me in that instant, I saw his face as though he were in the room with me. Mr J.A. Stokes, who I had taken into my confidence, was to blame. He must, I reasoned, have entered my office at 10.17 as usual and accessed my administration profile from there in a vile attempt to cause injury to my reputation.

At the close of his blog Mr J.A. Stokes states that ‘only one thing is sure - things cannot remain as they are. One of us must go.’ He is right.