Author's Note: The infamous meeting scene in the first book - 'Bulldog Drummond' - but from Phyllis's POV.


BOX X10


Phyllis Benton took the seat shown to her by the waiter at the Carlton, tucking herself neatly behind the potted plant which would afford her both a view of the stairs and entrance to the lounge and a certain amount of protection from the curious gazes of other patrons. She ordered some tea which appeared very quickly, but it remained on the table in front of her, untouched.

The distance between her current position and the goings-on at the neighbouring house (and periodically her own home) was some small balm to her nerves, but still she pulled out a cigarette from her bag and held it with trembling fingers until she remembered she had no matches and reluctantly put it away again.

When she'd seen the advertisement in the 'paper she'd thought it a joke and had barely given it a glance, until something had made her look back and read it again. So concerned was she about her father and the ulterior motive of the occupants of The Elms that she had written a response almost immediately; if it did indeed turn out to be a joke then she could say that her intention had been to continue the jest. But there was a small part of her that hoped it wasn't, and that she had indeed found the solution to her problems buried somewhere between an article expounding the virtues of football as a form of entertainment and a notice by a rather shortsighted gentleman requesting help tracking down his wife's engagement ring that he'd accidentally sold instead of the one he'd inherited from his grandmother. And that was why, at four o'clock on that dismal afternoon, Phyllis was sat in her corner of the Carlton waiting rather nervously for the self-proclaimed excitement-seeker with a white flower in his lapel.

Patrons were coming and going - mainly going, as it was that indefinable time between late tea and dinner - but she couldn't see anyone who could fit the image she'd conjured up with little information from the man himself. Possibly a middle-aged gentleman, too old for employment and yet too young to settle down to the usual pastimes; one full of the latent enthusiasm of action and finding post-war life rather uninspiring.

So busy was she with her musings that it wasn't until she saw movement that she glanced back up at the stairs. There was a woman seated at a table not far from the sweeping handrails and it was her sudden attention to the newest arrival that had caught Phyllis' eye. He stood tall and broad-shouldered, his grey suit tailored perfectly with a delicate white gardenia tucked neatly in his buttonhole. He nodded to a gentleman passing him, then allowed his gaze to roam over the tables and she waited until he finally found her. Their eyes met for the briefest of moments, until she felt a sudden nervousness seize her and looked away, the drumming of her fingers on the table the only sign of her excess energy.

Time felt as if it dragged whilst she let him make his way down the stairs and over to her. She didn't dare glance up but was aware of his path through the tables, and he took a seat at the table beside hers. A strange feeling passed over her and she realised she was under his scrutiny, from her dress to her appearance and position, and was thankful she'd made the extra effort that morning. For a moment she let him look unhindered, then raised her gaze to meet his and saw a flare of interest in his eyes that she knew was reflected in her own. They held for a moment, and when he deliberately looked away to receive his tea from the efficient waiter she conducted her own study.

That he was tall and broad shouldered, she had already seen. His face, whilst not the classically handsome square-jawed look favoured by Hollywood, was even and well-structured; enough to ensure women would most likely look twice as they passed him on the street. He was muscular and exuded an air of power and confidence, one that appealed to the base feminine need to be protected; his large hands almost engulfing the delicate porcelain cup as he poured his tea. Phyllis felt a small thrill run through her as she saw no sign of a ring. He sat casually in the seat but she sensed the boundless energy simmering beneath his calm exterior - the need for action.

He fumbled for a moment in his jacket pocket and drew out a small white card, which he propped up against the teapot. In bold, black lettering was written, 'Box X10', and she let a small smile grace her lips as she waited for him to finish adding the milk and sugar to his cup.

Finally, those eyes regarded her again, and she saw his own lips quirk into a smile in response to her own.

"You'll do, X10," she said.