Perhaps summer 1963
1. At some point during the Middleton Empire “crisis”, Chris was at Davelyshome and was probably showing signs of being less convinced of the impending danger than Jones would have liked. For suddenly, Jones made the suggestion that right away he should ring Gerard, the leader of the Middleton Empire, and talk to him directly about the matter. He implied by this that, as a first cousin to Gerard, he could at least expect a fair hearing, and stood a good chance of using his influence to strike some deal with the tyrant. Chris was intrigued and happily went along with the idea.
2. They went down the stairs together, turned right, and Jones opened the door to the living room, where he asked his Mum (or “Mums”) if he could make a call to Manchester to speak with Gerard. She immediately turned his request down, however; it was a Sunday, and she said something like, “Oh no, David, we don’t want to bother them on a Sunday afternoon.”
“But, Mums—”, he protested.
“No, David, not now!”[i]
3. If Jones was bluffing about the whole Middleton Empire thing,[ii] this would show that when confronted with scepticism he was prepared to go a long way in the bluffing game. It could be, of course, that he was banking on the response he got from Mums or, alternatively, that he had good reason to believe that Gerard wouldn’t be at home. But what if he had got the fellow on the phone, what would he have said to him? How would he have duped Chris into believing that active negotiations were taking place? Would Chris finally have been convinced? Or what if Jones had failed to make a convincing show of negotiation? He could have then said that Gerard wasn’t in the mood for discussing the matter—and just thrown Chris out! Being thrown out was something which we readily accepted (or regularly experienced, anyway),[iii] and which would have stifled any attempt by Chris at further discussion.
4. This was probably just another ploy of Jones’s, then; but at the time it did leave a niggling question mark on the whole thing: “The Middleton Empire—fact or fiction?”
[i] This event is so similar to another, related in the story “Jones first reveals the threat of the Middleton Empire”, that one wonders whether, in fact, the two are one and the same. In this account, however, Jones's proposal is to make a phone-call; in the other, it is to send a telegram. (Either way, in 1963, one would have to go through the operator.) In this, it is Mums who refuses the request; in the other, it is Dads. This occurs at some point during the crisis; the other, when Jones first reveals the threat.
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