Zenith & Nadir
Part 2: Freeze
Rain rattled the windscreen like machine-gun fire, but Zenith’s mind was elsewhere. Ordinarily, he would marvel at the capacity of Britain’s allegedly-mild climate for such unpredictable ferocity – mere minutes before, the sky had been clear and the sun beaming – but this was no ordinary car ride. His superiors wanted to see him immediately, something about ‘unexpected expenses’ and ‘irresponsible fraternization’. Ridiculous. Didn’t they read the papers?
Sir Edward Zenith, KBE, OM, CBE, QPM, RVC. The most decorated police officer in the United Kingdom since the great Colonel Sir Arthur Young. Adored by the public. Lionized by the media. Admired by his colleagues. Feared by his adversaries. And patronised by his so-called ‘betters’.
There were always nay-sayers. Just a few voices dissenting above the hubbub of adulation, but somehow always the loudest and noisiest voices. Funny that. Just a few opinionated loudmouths – “Begrudgers”, as Cpl. O’Grady would say, in his inimitable, thick Donegal brogue – who would attribute Zenith’s success not to any innate ability or unbeatable intellect, but rather to the particular set of circumstances which surrounded his own personal development and gave him the unique opportunities denied to the vast majority of the population. They had a word for it: Privilege.
God, how I hate that word! Can’t they see that mere privilege cannot make a man?! Privilege cannot on its own make one the finest constable in the history of the London Metropolitan, or crack the most murky and nigh-on unsolvable of cases! I was born with advantages – of course! – but what one does with one’s inheritance makes the man, not the inheritance itself!
Zenith was aware that he should not be so gloomy. However, those ne’er-do-wells hurling abuse from below, and the truly-undeserving tut-tutters above, made for a countenance that was somewhat south of hangdog.
“Cheer up, guv’ – might never ‘appen!”
Shaken out of his reverie, Zenith flashed a charming, raffish, wry smile, and gave a theatrical sigh to show that his previous expression was of no import. They had reached their destination at any rate, and Scotland Yards peculiar rotating, triangular sign was in sight. The Cabbie sniffed a little, and in conspiratorial affectation offered over his shoulder a bit of well-worn, fellow-travelling advice; “Don’t let the bastards grind ya down, Zen – only fing they’re good for is polishin’ buttons. Buggers dunno how lucky they are to ‘ave ya!”
Zenith gave a curt nod of gratitude and handed over a £50 note – tip of about twenty quid, which the Cabbie thought most generous – before hopping out and taking a deep breath.
Alright you fuckers. Let’s see how many strips you can tear off me this time.
Once more he wondered – only very briefly, only at the very back of his conscience, but nonetheless darkly – whether the Top Brass’ obsession with finding fault had something to do with his race. Oh, he was from the upper crust, of course. Went to the right schools, moved in the right circles, played the right games, behaved in the right way…but maybe the colour of his skin was a hurdle that even true class could not overcome. Maybe the establishment could accept a person of colour in every avenue of public life – so long as it did not represent a threat to the right, ‘white’ aristocracy. That word, ‘uppity’, appeared before him.
But how could any of this be true? I AM a member of the Elite! I AM the cream that rises to the top! I am the proof that the system WORKS!
For the first time, Sir Edward Zenith looked up at the imposing building and saw, just for a split-second, the enemy.
What if those radicals, those rebels, that unappealing rabble… What if they’re right?
He steeled himself, affected a roguish and carefree demeanour, and strode purposefully through the entrance.
Solidarity, brothers & sisters…Ⓐ