"Skin Deep" drabbles by Neville Hunt

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Dobro pozhalovat' v Rossiyu

Skin Deep #358

Rufus had been ushered into a room with comfortable chairs and asked to wait while they found the appropriate person to speak to him. He’d plugged in to Mac2. If the machine could have registered emotion, it would be relief.

"We're going to like it in Moscow, Macski!”

’To start with, anyway!’ thought Rufus.

‘The girls are unbelievably beautiful. If I can find one called Anya Gladitsova, I’ll say YES!’

Mac2 was just a machine. It didn’t speak, didn’t hear and didn’t understand Rufus’s joke.

Just a machine... but it was a beauty too!

But beauty is only skin deep.

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Skin Deep #357

Amy was surprised to receive a photo by phone of Rufus at the Russian Embassy being welcomed by an official in front of the Russian Flag. She quickly texted a positive response to an offer of a high resolution version of that photo and other views of the Embassy by email.

It seems that the Russians had cottoned on to PR!

Rufus wrote the email.

“Even though denied my farewell shag, I like you, Amy. I hope you can use this photo, to freshen up the coverage next week maybe. More to follow! I’m rather enjoying being famous. Do svidaniya!”

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Advance warning

Skin Deep #356

Rufus had called in advance, stating his intentions.

Holding a copy of that day’s Goss in his right hand, he knocked on the door he’d been directed to by the security man at the Bayswater Road entrance. It was round the corner in Kensington Palace Gardens.

The door opened slightly. Rufus made the announcement he’d practised. He held The Goss up high.

“I am Rufus Johnson. I request asylum. My life is in extreme danger in Britain.”

“You’d better come in. We’ve been expecting you Mr Johnson.”

Rufus stepped over the threshold and into The Embassy of the Russian Federation.

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Skin Deep #355

Rufus took the Docklands Light Railway to Bank and then changed to the Central Line. Some lucky traveller found his bicycle helmet (as new, one careful owner). He stopped off at Tottenham Court Road to buy some supplies for his electronics activities as he might no longer have easy access to such things.

“You and I are going Bluetooth, Macca!” he exclaimed to nobody. And he treated himself to a Big Mac!

His shopping bag full, his pack on his back, he was off on the Central Line again. He exited at Notting Hill Gate.

Time to hand himself in.

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Skin Deep #354

Amy was at her desk typing away when the Editor returned and asked her to come into his office. She knew exactly what he was feeling. She knew he was fuming. She knew it was directed at her.

She didn’t care.

As best he could, the Editor put on his friendly face.

“This is great, Amy, the Rufus stuff is going to run and run. You should be very proud of yourself.” he said through gritted teeth.

“By the way,” he continued, “do you know yet when you’ll give him his five grand?”

“Oh,” replied Amy, “he’s already collected it.”

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To boldly go

Skin Deep #353

The rather nondescript young chap who walked up to The Goss main reception wearing a bicycle helmet was just like any other cycle courier. He spoke to the receptionist.

“Something for Antonio” and then “Cheers” as he took the white envelope marked ‘A Antoniou To Be Collected’ and slid it into his denim jacket.

Had the receptionist thought about it, he might have thought the man’s dress unlike other cycle couriers. The Goss had a regular stream of them every day. But the receptionist wasn’t paid enough to think.

The fact that the courier had no bike was missed too.

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Skin Deep #352

The proprietor of the boutique handed over the package to the man identifying himself as a policeman. Inside was a fashion catalogue for an online retailer.

They’d been well and truly had!

The Editor was both hugely embarrassed and seething with rage. Amy had made an ass of him. He would fire her when he got back.

Travelling back in silence in the police car he reflected, and smiled. How on earth could he fire Amy? She’d delivered over and over again and was almost solely responsible for The Goss’s recent success.

And NewsAM would hire her in a heartbeat!

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Taking steps

Skin Deep #351

Amy was in and out of the boutique changing room. She finally chose a dress and paid. She left the shop and retraced her steps to the train station.

The man tailing her followed. By now, Amy was aware of her tail and was proud she was continuing to wag it furiously!

In the time she was in the boutique, the unmarked police car had arrived, parking across the street. After she’d left, the two men went into the boutique and immediately checked the changing room.

“Is this what you’re looking for?” said the proprietor, holding up a manila envelope.

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Pushing the envelope

Skin Deep #350

Shortly after 10AM, Amy got up, picked up a manila envelope which she put in her handbag, strode out of the office and walked to the nearby London Overground railway station. She was heading north towards Islington.

Discreetly away from her, a man climbed aboard the train. He was on his mobile continuously, reporting Amy’s movements to two men in an unmarked police car. They were on the move and needed constant updates. Keeping up wasn’t easy.

Highbury and Islington was her stop.

She strode down Upper Street and stopped at a boutique, where she tried on a few dresses.

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Breaking news

Skin Deep #349

The Rufus story broke on the front page of the first edition of The Goss.


The headline was superimposed on a picture of a huge burning cross. The following 6 pages were devoted to the story, with promises of much more to come .

Amy was concerned that Rufus hadn’t called. She thought it ominous, but at 9AM in her office she got the call. She got the message.

At 09.45, a messenger came to deliver an envelope to Amy, He needed a signature from her personally. He left with nothing.

Amy wagged the tail!

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Shaking her tail

Skin Deep #348

Amy was a good judge of character and knew just how ruthless and heartless her boss could be. She had expected to be followed with the money, but hadn’t spotted the ‘tail’ yet. She was certain someone would be following her though. But there was little she could do to shake the tail off until Rufus called to arrange ‘the drop’. Provided Rufus gave her enough time, and he would because he wanted the money, she was sure she would be able to shake that tail free.

Rufus was playing cat and mouse too. He had plans of his own.

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Thereby hangs a tail

Skin Deep #347

The Editor of The Goss knew Amy would have to meet with Rufus to give him the £5,000. He spoke to a senior contact at the Metropolitan Police, one whom he could trust, and agreed he would go with him to Amy and Rufus’s meeting place. Both of them would be photographed as they arrested Rufus. Another exclusive for The Goss, but he, not Amy, would be credited this time, by default.

He needed to find out where Amy was meeting Rufus... but Amy was keeping tight-lipped.

He had a ‘tail’ on her after he handed over the cash.

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Mac's sense

Skin Deep #346

Mac2 wasn't as trusting as Rufus. Any danger Rufus was exposed to threatened the machine's survival too. It was OK for Rufus to trust and understand Amy, but others had been involved.

Very fortunately, before he planned to trigger a final meeting with Amy to collect the £5,000, Rufus suffered another serious headache. He connected to Mac2 and the machine's misgivings were transferred.

That was a stroke of luck, because whilst Amy might have reservations about stitching up Rufus, the Editor did not. He was another ruthless being.

He would happily ride roughshod over Amy in pursuit of hero status!

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Skin Deep #345

Amy had come to regard Rufus as an ally. True, he had done some diabolical things and would probably continue to do so. However, she knew his back story and had a smidgeon of sympathy for him. Importantly, he had provided the most fantastic and valuable material and help boost her career. He was definitely an ally.

When she heard she would have to deliver £5,000 in used banknotes to him when he resurfaced, it didn’t enter her mind to double-cross him and alert the police, to claim The Goss had caught him.

Rufus was banking on that.

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Cashing in

Skin Deep #344

Amy was over the moon. She'd delivered the hottest story in ages which would break the next day. It was a scoop on so many levels and would guarantee for The Goss a burgeoning circulation, again. For Amy, enormous kudos and a substantial bonus linked to circulation gains.

She'd handed everything to do with payment of Rufus’s fee, and the surprise setting up of a trust for Reuben Hughes, to the Editor and his legal and financial team.

There was one final task, though, that was down to her. The matter of the remaining £5,000.

Rufus wanted it, in cash!

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Two days later

Skin Deep #343

Two days later, Beth knew. She knew the source and the instigator. And she knew why.

She examined the gold ring that had been given to Reuben and the inscription. ‘From Daddy’. She had no idea how, but knew the young man had been Rufus and she knew it had been his farewell to them both. She was emotional. Again she wept.... but kept her tears to herself, along with what she knew.

She was certain the media would make a beeline for her. As a matter of urgency, she went to Scotland for a hurriedly organised holiday with Reuben.

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Skin Deep#342

The next day Beth called the solicitors. Having found out about trusts and talked to her parents, obviously she wanted to go ahead with what would be a life-changing thing for Reuben and for them too. She was, however, slightly concerned about the legality and source of the funds. She wanted nothing to do with anything illegal.

The solicitor handling the matter assured her the source of the money was highly reputable and that it would be against the interests of their firm for it to be otherwise.

“Someone has to win the life lottery, Elisabeth. Reuben just did!”

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Skin Deep #341

Beth waited until her parents returned from work before saying anything to anyone. In truth, she was afraid it might be a hoax, or criminal, or might have unacceptable strings attached. Her spirits oscillated between huge elation and deep depression all day. When Reuben woke, she hugged him close to her for an age, for fear he might somehow be at risk. She contacted nobody.

Since they would be involved, she had to tell her parents. That was her chance for release. More tears, more hugs all round.

Then they tried to work out where the money was coming from.

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Skin Deep #340

Beth was confused. She didn’t really know what setting up a trust meant. Was there some risk that someone was trying to take Reuben away from her?

She read on. The letter continued, saying that should she accept this on behalf of Reuben then the trust would be set up with her and her parents as trustees. The trust would be set up in the sum of £845,000, which she and the other trustees would administer on behalf of Reuben.

Beth reread the letter several times and quickly did an Internet search on trusts and trustees.

Then she wept, uncontrollably.

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Skin Deep #339

Beth had fed Reuben, who was sleeping when the post arrived. A single letter addressed to Ms Elisabeth Hughes looked important. She had no idea what such an official letter might be. She was rarely addressed as Elisabeth, so was a little concerned, fearing the worst for some reason. She left it half an hour before venturing to open it.

It was from a firm of solicitors in Nottingham. It informed her that an unnamed client wished to set up a trust for her son, Master Reuben Hughes. They were not at liberty to divulge the identity of their client.