A Thousand Flappers and Hobbledehoys

My name is Doug Wykstra, and this is some of the stuff I've read and watched.

Mr. Dawes, Sr. Is Dead

Gentlemen of the Foreign Office,

It is with some satisfaction that I may report that the mission you charged me with is a success. Cornelius Dawes, Sr., President of the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, has been removed from his position, permanently, and with extreme prejudice, in a way which cannot be traced back to the Crown. While not without its difficulties, it was accomplished covertly and with total success—in short, completely spit-spot.

I do not presume to ask why the removal of Mr. Dawes, Sr. was so important to the Foreign Office. Perhaps he was investing in more than railways through Africa, dams across the Nile, fleets of ocean Greyhounds, and majestic, self-amortizing canals. Perhaps the global reach of these investments was itself the problem—we have, I hope, learned from the history of the East India Company that it is best to keep a firm hand on the movement of capital within the Empire. As I say, though, it is no difference to me. In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun, and I am content to find it in whatever task His Majesty requires of me.

Upon arriving in London with my orders, my first point of business was to gain access to the bank’s Board of Directors, ideally in some position where they would take little notice of me—a governess or other household servant. However, I found this more difficult than I planned: the directors were universally old widowers, too parsimonious to maintain a household beyond a butler and a maid or two, and they were most thorough in their enquiries—far too thorough for the documents I was given.

Fortunately, as I have detailed in previous reports, I take care to maintain a small intelligence network among the chimney-sweeps of London’s more affluent neighborhoods, and one of my most trusted agents, henceforth referred to as B___, reported a promising lead: a junior officer in Fidelity Fiduciary, well on his way to a directorship, one Mr. George Banks.

Mr. Banks seemed an ideal candidate for infiltration, not only because of his close and frequent contact with the Board of Directors, but because of the near-constant chaos that seemed to attend every aspect of his personal life. His children were frequently seen flying kites in the park, and his wife, if you can believe it, was a suffragette—an embarrassment that no doubt impeded his progress in his chosen career.

Nor did the location of Mr. Banks’s home provide him any solace, as his neighbor was a retired soldier who had suffered a nervous episode during the Boer War, and could be found screaming and firing artillery from the upper windows of his house at all hours of the day and night. When B___ had fully apprised me of the situation, I instructed him to find me some means of ingratiating myself into the household. Within a week, he returned to me with news that the family was looking for a nanny, as well as a document he recovered from the family’s chimney, outlining the features the children would find most amenable.

Word of Mr. Banks’s children must have gotten around the domestic-servant grapevine, as I was the only applicant for the position, and was therefore hired in short order. I suspect, however, that if you attempt to debrief the Banks family, you may hear more fanciful notions: a long procession of prospective applicants blown away by a strong wind, me perambulating through the air with the assistance of a parasol, and plenty of other such fanciful notions of the days that followed. This was due to a small error in my approach to dealing with the challenges the Banks family represented.

As you are no doubt aware, I have been a lifelong student of chemistry, particularly those chemicals which may act on the brain in such a manner as to affect what an individual perceives. Such chemicals, when administered properly, can induce a highly suggestive, almost hypnotic state in patients, making them the willing tools of the person administering their “medicine.” The application of such chemicals to my work are so obvious as to require no further explanation. I had dabbled with their use before, but this mission presented a marvelous opportunity to learn just how far such mind-altering drugs could be used as a tool of infiltration and assassination.

My position in the household made the administration of the chemicals simplicity itself: I gave them to the children in place of their nightly medicine. While the children noticed that something was different about their medicine, its pleasant, semi-catatonic effects soon made them prefer it to their usual draught. I would endeavor to place some in Mrs. Banks’s glass when I could, making it far more manageable for me to conduct further operations at my leisure.

Mr. Banks received quite a different cocktail. While I only needed his family passive and complacent, he was my only means of reaching Dawes Sr., and as such had more complex tasks to perform. With a combination of chemistry and hypnosis, I began putting him under my influence, gradually creating a set of subliminal triggers that, when shown or spoken, would cause him to execute basic commands. The demands of these sessions put an extra strain on Mr. Banks, and though he couldn’t determine the cause, he did seem to realize that his home was no longer the pleasant refuge he once found it.

This was my first error: not accounting for the domestic strife that would naturally arise when a man’s family appears happy, yet he cannot seem to share in that happiness himself. It exacerbated tensions within the Banks marriage, and made my position significantly more precarious at several junctures.

My second error, of course, was miscalculating the hallucinatory effects of my “medicine” in the children.

Whether this was due to their young age and impressionable minds, or an unforeseen reaction with the spoonful of sugar I included to make the chemicals palatable, the fact remains that they suffered daily hallucinations of startling clarity and specificity. Every day, they would be telling their parents some new fantastic tale of jumping into chalk paintings, when in fact they had spent the last three hours slumped against a park bench while B___ and I performed reconnaissance on the Board of Directors.

Worse, the children began to develop a resistance to the medicine, forcing me to increase the dosage, which in turn seemed to alter their memories, conjuring visions of maid applicants flying through the air, and small armies of chimney-sweeps tap-dancing across the city rooftops. They sometimes believed B___ to be a chimney-sweep, and other times were convinced he was an itinerant street-musician. I knew I had to act quickly, before evidence of their incipient madness became too obvious to deny.

Fortunately, I believe that well-begun is but half-done, and had not spent my time idly. Mr. Banks was almost entirely within my control, and with the help of my network, I had managed to introduce various medicines into the diets of the Board of Directors. While my control over them was much less certain than my control over Mr. Banks, I had managed to introduce a single trigger phrase—a fourteen-syllable word they were unlikely to hear in daily life—that would induce severe anesthesia and short-term memory loss.

With Mr. Banks and the Board in hand, I had all the tools I needed. I now needed to effect a meeting where nobody but Banks, Dawes Sr., and the board would be present. The quickest way to arrange such a meeting would be with the termination of Mr. Banks’s position at Fidelity Fiduciary. With one trigger phrase (“feed the birds”) and the appearance of a particular tuppence-coin in his son’s hand, it was done: Mr. Banks’s outburst reverberated throughout the bank—and, if headlines are to be believed, the British economy—and a meeting was called that very night.

Not being present at Mr. Banks’s meeting with the Board of Directors, I cannot tell you with any certainty what transpired—only that, when it was done, Mr. Dawes, Sr. was dead, and the other members of the board could not remember the events of that evening afterwards, beyond a shared memory of Mr. Banks saying a particular fourteen-syllable word. They could not even remember the occasion for the meeting, and concluded that it must have been to promote Mr. Banks to the board, a position which he continues to hold to this day. Many of the subliminal triggers I put in place are still intact, and should the Foreign Office ever need to take a more active interest in Britain’s financial sector, I have no doubt that Mr. Banks will prove useful.

I know, writing  these words, that there are some elements in the Foreign Office that will question the wisdom of my actions. Is it necessary, they will wonder, to threaten international financial markets, to maintain a network of spies in our own country, to drug the minds of British citizens, all for the purpose of eliminating a single troublesome individual?

To them, I would respond that it was their office that asked me to do perform this task, and if they did not expect me to use everything in my power to complete it, then they are unfamiliar with me, and propriety compels me to introduce myself:

I am Poppins. Shield of England. Scourge to her enemies.

And if you would impede the continued progress of England’s glory, or second-guess my efforts to support it, then you will answer to me. I may not be as strong as in my prime, and may have lost some sight, and I may have begun to hear my umbrella talk to me—perhaps the chemicals I have been working with are not entirely benign. But if you oppose me, you will take your medicine. And it will go down in the least delightful way you can imagine.

-M. Poppins, VC

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Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition (DVD + Digital Copy)

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This entry was posted on 20 September 2019 by in The Glowing Screen and tagged , , , , .
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