Cruthers dropped, exhausted, to his knees.
I cant go on. Leave me here to die.
Shakleton looked down at the trembling
figure. Chin up, man. Its only one more floor to my
apartments. The rest of the team are already there waiting to
plan the polar venture.
Cruthers hauled himself up the remaining
flight and entered Shakletons rooms.
May I introduce Ernest Cruthers.
Shakleton addressed the assembled group. He is joining the
expedition at the request of his father, our sponsor.
Mrs Perkins, Shakletons cook and
housekeeper, had laid out a small buffet. It was this that
immediately caught Cruthers attention. Its
mine, he shouted as he rushed to the food and began to
consume voraciously. Sorry about that, he said self-consciously
when the pangs of hunger had abated. Its been three
hours since lunch at the Savoy. I feared I might be compelled to
consider cannibalism. He tapped the holster of his revolver.
Blashford-Smythe spoke. Have you done
Outside Hampstead you mean?
I went to Stepney once. Terrible
place. Impossible to get decent foie gras. Cruthers paused
to reflect on the experience. Panicked a bit, Im
afraid. Ended up shooting four of the locals. Luckily, they were
the poor. Nevertheless, if it hadnt been for Fathers
Gentleman, shall we focus on our
task? Shakleton laid a map of the Antarctic on the dining
table. The others gathered round. We land here at Icedeath
Point and then its two hundred miles of walking to the Pole.
Cruthers was the first to speak. Where
are the roads?
There arent any.
Cruthers was puzzled. Then how do the
hotels on the route get their deliveries?
There arent any hotels,
clarified Shakleton. We carry all our tents and supplies.
Cruthers looked pale. Excuse me, I
must go to the bathroom, he said, hurriedly leaving the
You know, Shakleton, said
Blashford-Smythe when Cruthers had gone, taking him will
put the whole expedition at risk in the South West Passage.
God, is he one of those too?
questioned Frobisher in alarm.
Shakleton appeared solemn. His father
and I feared that he would endanger us all at some point and
might need to be shot for the greater good of all. He
sighed and continued. To be honest, his father was rather
hoping for it, as that would dispose of the idiot. Death on a
polar expedition would also bring honour on his family. He
drew his army revolver. I was rather assuming, however,
that such a grave decision would not be necessary so early in the
You dont have to bear this
alone, Shakleton. Blashford-Smythe drew his revolver.
This is a joint responsibility.
Aye, came the chorus. The other
fifteen raised their weapons just as Cruthers re-entered the room.
He saw the guns but was barely able to say
Look chaps, I said I was sorry about the buffet...
before the deafening fusillade. Then there was silence.
Will you tell his father?
Blashford-Smythe asked Shakleton.
Yes, thats no problem. He
looked at Cruthers body and reflected that seventeen
bullets made a lot more mess than one to clean up. I am
very anxious, however, about what Mrs Perkins will say.