“What are we going to do?” asked Sinclair.
“We could always tell the truth, I suppose,” sighed Morris.
“We need the treaty signed, and the trade that will go with it,” added Gilbert. “I’ll have to speak with the PM,” and with that he set off for Number 10.
“We’ll have to let the Americans know and hope the postponement won’t be too long.” Gordon Clegg was essentially an honourable man which surprised many as politicians aren’t supposed to have many scruples or morals.
“I think the president has a pretty tight schedule, Prime Minister, and both nations need this treaty signed with the Argies because the way the South Americans have been acting towards us both is pretty awful.”
“But there’s billions of litres of oil under those islands, Gilbert, and we need the cooperation of the Argentine to be able to extract it.”
“I know, sir, but if she’s sick–there’s nothing much we can do–is there, sir?”
“What a time for her to go sick, Gilbert?”
“What do the medics say?”
“Would you like to speak with her physician?”
“No, but it’s definitely glandular fever?”
“Yes, sir, it’s been confirmed.”
“And she won’t be better in two weeks?”
Gordon Clegg walked to the window of his office. “It’s a pity she hasn’t got a twin sister.”
“What, she has one?”
“No, sir, I was agreeing with you.”
“Okay, I’ll call President Curthoys and let him know the worst. It’s going to cause problems for BP and that means our pension funds will suffer, too.”
“I know, sir.”
“We could do with a body double, couldn’t we?”
“I’m sure I don’t know, sir, wouldn’t that be deception?”
“It would, but this is high politics and none of it is based upon honesty, unfortunately. But if we can’t postpone the treaty, the bloody Chinks will be in there like a rat up a drain pipe.”
“Okay, Gilbert, I’d better get this over with.”
“There is a cousin, sir.”
“To the duchess, sir.”
“Does she look anything like the original?”
“It’s not a her, sir, it’s a him, and yes he does.”
“Gilbert, are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?”
“Quite possibly, sir.”
“I don’t think we need some cross-dressed cousin blowing the whole deal apart do we? If it got out it could sink us completely. Beside what if he said no?”
“How d’you know this–you haven’t asked him, have you?” The Prime Minister shook his head.
“Not in so many words, no.”
“C’mon, Gilbert, spill the beans.”
“If I say, compromising position, you’ll get the gist, sir.”
“I hope it’s serious then.”
“Enough, sir–and we could notify the president in twenty four hours, sir–you know–awaiting laboratory tests and so forth.”
“This is ridiculous bordering on absurd.”
“She only has to appear at the welcoming banquet, and dance with the US President and the Argies one, sir.”
“But someone is surely going to spot the difference between a man and a woman?”
“Not necessarily, sir and we have two weeks.”
“I don’t know, Gilbert.”
“You’re having a meeting with the French ambassador on Friday evening, why don’t we have her attend as a surprise guest, sir?”
“Have her come to lunch with me Thursday.”
“Very good, sir.”
“And if I do what you ask me to do, the charges will be dropped?” Peter Folksey, the second cousin, of the Duchess of Selkirk, was a smallish man, with long mousey hair, high cheekbones and quite slim. He bore an uncanny resemblance to his cousin.
“Assuming you comply completely with the assignment and you will of course be sworn to secrecy and bound by the Official Secrets Act.”
“If you drop these charges and I’m free to go, I’ll do anything you want me to.”
“You understand if you mess up, the original charges will revert and you could be facing ten to fifteen years.”
“Okay, I’ll do my best.”
“Please sign here, and here.”
“That’s the Official Secrets Act, stating you understand and agree to be bound by it and the other is just an enabler for us to do what we need to complete our part of the preparations for you assignment.”
Folksey signed and was then led away. He awoke some three hours later. “What happened? Where am I?”
“You’re in hospital, ma’am.”
“What? What’s happened to my voice?”
“Please don’t distress yourself, ma’am, I’ll get the doctor and Mr Gilbert to explain things.”
Folksey felt quite dopy after the anaesthetic and drifted off again; when he next awoke it was to see the civil servant and the doctor standing at his bed.
“Why did the nurse call me, ma’am, and what have you done to me?” he demanded from the pair.
“We’ve started our preparations, you’re going to be deputising as your cousin, the duchess.”
“What?” he squeaked.
“It would be better if you didn’t talk for a couple of days to let your vocal cords settle down. Essentially what we’ve done is to remove some fat from around your waist and implant it in your breasts and hips to give you a more female shape. We’ve also used some collagen in a few places to feminise your features a bit more, that’s all.”
Folksey looked down at his chest, it protruded significantly than before and looked definitely female. His hand went down to his groin and he passed out in shock.
“It’s all still there, we just remodelled it. Provided it’s reversed in a month or two, there’ll be no lasting damage–we just pushed your tests up into the body cavities and pulled the scrotal skin round the penis and stitched it. You’ll have to sit to pee for the duration, but that’s hardly going to be an issue is it? Oh you’ll have to wear some sort of support garment to help prevent the skin sagging round your waist. I believe some sort of corset is being arranged. If you have any further queries, just call me, ma’am.” The doctor was gone before he could respond in any shape or form.
For the next few days he was taught to speak and act like his cousin, under the tutelage of a voice and body coach, who normally worked with film actors. Folksey found it difficult to cope with his ‘altered’ anatomy, his larger hips and his newly acquired bust–and how had they managed to make his nipples so big, or his lips for that matter? Looking back at him from the mirror was his cousin–it freaked him out a few times. He had her hair, her face, and special contact lenses to make his eyes the same colour. He wore her clothes, and finally met her husband–the duke, or to be correct HRH the Duke of Selkirk, who seemed as shocked as Folkesy was but declared himself up for the deception on the basis of the greater good.
He was taught to dance like a woman, to eat like one and to flirt like one, then after his lunch with the Prime Minister, the plan was agreed, although none of those in positions of power would be implicated if it went wrong. If that happened, Folksey would disappear–probably to a private hospital somewhere for a long time, or down a deep mineshaft, permanently.
A week following the lunch, HRH the Duchess of Selkirk met with US President Curthoys and Ramon Dolivera, the president of the Argentine. She charmed them both, danced with them both and was present after the treaty signing to applaud the accord between the three countries, where Britain would derive most from the oil revenues, which would help keep US industry turning, and offer a compensation to the Argentine. It was agreed that it was a better solution than warfare and the Chinese threat was prevented.
The ‘duchess’ was taken back to her official residence and left to stay there for a couple of days. The key staff knew what was going on and were all sworn to secrecy, as they appreciated the importance of what had gone on in the previous few weeks.
Folksey, although enjoying the luxury of his temporary lifestyle, began to get impatient wanting to revert to his own life, and to have the anatomical changes reversed.
It was two weeks later that Mr Gilbert appeared. He looked older and greyer. “Ma’am,” he addressed the ‘duchess’.
“Mr Gilbert, please can we stop all this nonsense and let me go back to my previous life.”
“I’m afraid there’s been a bit of a complication, there, ma’am, and we’ll need you to maintain the role for a bit longer.”
“How much longer?”
“I’m not sure yet, but I will be in touch very soon, I promise.” With this Gilbert left.
A while later, the duchess’s private secretary came to see Folksey. It wasn’t unusual, they met most days but this day, the secretary was obviously upset and her eyes bore signs of having recently been crying.
“What’s the problem, Esther?” asked Folksey.
“He didn’t tell you then, ma’am?”
“Who didn’t tell me what?” demanded Folksey.
“He asked me to keep up the charade for a bit longer, why–what should he have told me?”
“I’m not sure I should say anything then, ma’am.”
“Please, Esther, please tell me what’s going on.”
“It’s terrible, ma’am, it’s just terrible.”
“The duchess, ma’am, she died this morning...”
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