Chance Meeting

By Jenny Timmons

Remember WENN and its characters are the property of Rupert Holmes, Howard Meltzer Productions, and American Movie Classics. No copyright infringement is intended. I would also like to dedicate this work to Linda Young, who unknowingly inspired me to write this style of fanfiction, and from whom I borrowed the name of the pub (found in her fanfiction "Sleepless").

It was raining hard as Victor stepped out of the front door of the British Broadcasting Corporation's London headquarters. Only his second week here in London, far away from his home, his friends and his station, and he felt as if he were completely alone. He was constantly irritated from working on the radio with people who thought they knew what innovation meant. He was not allowed to try any of his own ideas, or share what he thought the American people needed to hear. The British seemed not able to understand that breaking the will of isolationism across the sea was the whole point of his being brought here. Especially after experiencing war close up, he knew that America needed to be awakened to the fact that Hitler had to be stopped before he engulfed all of Europe, or the world. But the British were implacable in their stance that he must read only what he was given and not come up with any "new and innovative" ways to reach American's hearts and minds. He had, in fact, just come from a meeting with a few of the higher-ups at the BBC where he was politely told to "do only and exactly" what they said he should. "Fools," thought Victor, "exactly like New York…except without Grace." In order to relax, he decided to go to the pub across the street on his way to the post office. He had bought a lovely old limerick book at a sidewalk bookshop on his way to the station that morning that he knew Mr. Eldridge would enjoy. He didn't know how the heck he was going to get it to him though, since mailing anything from England was a luxury these days.

He turned up the collar of his overcoat and pressed his hat firmly on his head as he gingerly put the old book under his arm. He stepped out onto the cobblestone pavement, completely unaware that what would take place in the next hour would impact his radio station back home forever. To avoid getting too wet he jogged across the small, uneven street. The George and Dragon was a typical small London pub. The single door opened on a dingy, dark and smoky room filled with talk and laughter. He glanced about looking for someone he might recognize from the BBC, but found none. The bartender asked him what he might help him with as Victor took off his hat and sat down. "Whiskey," he answered as he put a few small coins on the polished counter.

As he was downing a glass, he couldn't help thinking that he'd rather be at the Buttery with Betty after work than here, in war-torn England, helping the cause of decent humanity, which was fighting Hitler and everything that he stood for. He knew he liked Betty very much while he was working with her, but now that they were apart it became all too apparent that he loved her. "This is not a good time," he told himself. "Self-pity will not bring us together and it certainly won't help anything to let emotion get in the way of my job here." All the same, he wished he had at least told her something about what she meant to him before he left. He wished he had taken the time to walk her to the trolley that night. He had avoided it in case of… in case they got too involved. He had thought that it would be wise to not let her get her hopes up regarding their future together due to the nature of his business in London. But now he was having second thoughts weeks too late. "What a day to leave," he thought. Right when the station lost a huge sponsor for the Hands of Time and Hilary suffered a bout of amnesia. Betty was hit with the new responsibility of running the station for an unknown period of time while continuing to do all the writing. Why did they have to send him that day of all days? It was unspeakable timing.

Right when he was pondering these things, one of Victor's coworkers came into the pub and recognized him. He walked up to the bar and announced himself.

"May I join you?" asked the stranger.

Victor looked up at him and nodded. "Sure."

"You're the American newly arrived last week, right?" the man asked.

"Yep, that's me." Victor replied.

"It is an honor to meet you sir," the man answered. "The name's Rodger, Rodger Jameson."

"Victor Comstock," answered Victor.

"I know sir;" Victor raised his eyebrows and tilted his head to one side. Rodger hurriedly responded, "I mean, of course, everyone at the BBC knows your name. You wouldn't have met me on your round of introductions though. I work upstairs in records and research; hardly an interesting place to see."

"Yes, but an irreplaceable function of the station." Victor replied. "Pleased to meet you."

Rodger sat down and asked for a drink. "So how do you like it here, of course, besides the blasted war and all?" he asked.

Victor straightened up in his seat. "Well, London is fine..."

"Is it very hard to be so far from your family?" Rodger asked. "Mine live in the country and it can be very frustrating, even living this far apart. Your glass is empty; let me buy you another," offered Rodger.

"Actually I do not have much of a family, but I do miss my work greatly," Victor replied. "There is a certain freedom that comes from managing radio that you can't find anywhere else." Victor responded wistfully.

"You have your own station?" Rodger exclaimed. "That's lovely."

"Yes, under normal circumstances I manage a small station in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania," Victor said. "It's not very glamorous, but definitely more than enough to satisfy an imagination."

"So who is running it now?" Rodger inquired.

"A young lady that I hired as the station's writer a short time ago is in charge; a Miss Betty Roberts."

Unnoticed by anyone except the bartender, Scott Sherwood had come up to the bar from somewhere among the card tables in the background of the pub and sat next to Victor during their conversation, taking everything in. "Scotch please," he told the bartender. His fedora was tilted on the back on his head as if he hadn't a care in the world. As the conversation progressed, he kept his eyes on his glass as he tilted it around and around in a steady circle. To an observer, he would appear to be lost in thought. But at this very moment he was all ears.

Victor continued: "She is the sweetest, the smartest, and the most singularly audacious and industrious young woman I have ever known, not to mention worked with. You should have seen her on her first day. By the end of our evening drama she completely astounded me with her creativity although she had showed signs of incompetence when we first met. I don't think that I have ever met anyone sweeter or kinder or more innocent. The task I've burdened her with is a daunting one, but I think she is equal to it; she always found ways to cope with even the most awkward of circumstances. She might even do as well as I did." Victor took another drink.

"So, did your station have financial trouble, then?" asked Rodger.

"Oh, we've had our struggles," admitted Victor. "Usually we were unaware if we'd be permitted to keep broadcasting on a month to month basis, but fortunately for us, we managed to do the impossible with next to nothing."

"Sounds daring and rewarding, Mr. Comstock," continued Rodger. "You seem to be a very lucky man. Why would you risk losing all that for a dangerous assignment over here?" Rodger asked.

Victor responded, "I didn't volunteer for this assignment; in fact, when I first heard of the idea I thought that it was superfluous."

"But now?" offered Rodger, hopefully.

"But now, after experiencing the danger and witnessing the fortitude of these people, I realized that it is a vital part of winning America over from isolationism and committing them to assist in the Allied cause." Victor paused. "I was lately informed that I should expect to receive new orders presently involving some sort of training. I expect some sort of ambitious underground work… possibly France or maybe even Norway."

"And you don't mind?" asked Rodger, perplexed. "I mean, this isn't even your war."

Victor replied, "Mr. Jameson, this war belongs to everyone who believes that democracy must defeat fascism and any other form of bigotry. Even Betty Roberts has to understand that this war is something that must be fought… at all costs."

There was a long pause as both men considered the predicament of the world and the suffering it was inflicting. Victor's thoughts were interrupted by memories of WENN. Hilary and Jeff were carrying on about nothing in particular, Mackie was doing his Colonel Moore routine; and Betty again. He silently prayed that he could get in touch with her before whatever it was would happen.

He couldn't believe how far he'd sunk. It wasn't like being fired was a new experience. Heck, he had seen the inside of prison a dozen times, knew what it was like to barely survive. Why was this latest change such a blow? It seemed that he had lost his heart for nights on the town night after night after night. Life was so predictable, so meaningless, so plain. Hearing this guy speak, it seemed as if he lived on the edge, but also had a sweet kind of stability to return to in the form of a sweet, upstanding girl. "Unbelievable," thought Scott. The women Scott mingled with were not the kind that a guy could place his trust in. Maxine, for instance, worked at the Victorian Palace which was from one of the more questionable parts of London. She had a long relationship with him, of sorts, but that was only for a couple of weeks. "What would it be like to be able to come home to someone like a Betty Roberts, I wonder?" Scott thought. Maybe it would be the next best thing to keep him going. "Radio seems pretty interesting from the way these two go on," he mused. "I bet it's not quite as difficult to turn a profit as he lets on."

"What is the book for?" asked Rodger, trying to change the topic.

"Oh, this?" answered Victor, picking up the limerick book. "It's a small present for an old friend at my station back in the states; I picked it up this morning. Which reminds me, I should write him a few words before I send it. Do you have a pen?"

"No," Rodger responded patting himself down.

"I have one," interjected Scott. "The name's Sherwood." He passed the pen over to Victor.

"Uh, thank you." Victor responded. "The only trouble is," he continued, "is that shipping it to the states will be next to impossible with the post at a standstill. With the news we hear from the Atlantic, it is unbelievable that any ship can get through without being sunk."

Scott intervened, deciding to finally chance it, "You know, I'm on my way over to the states tomorrow morning; in fact, I have some business in Pittsburgh…I could drop it by for you if you like."

"Which would save much time and consternation," answered Victor. He took the pen and wrote a short note on the inside of the front cover. He signed it while Scott got up from his seat. "This is the address," he said as he scrawled a few lines on a scrap of paper. "It means a lot to me….I don't know how to thank you." Victor said.

"It'll be nothing," Scott interrupted. "Well, would you look at the time! I should be movin' along."

Rodger and Victor watched as the stranger practically flew straight through the door as if he were late for something he'd been waiting for all his life.

"I hope he wasn't just trying to steal my book," commented Victor.

Rodger chuckled in agreement. "What an odd character." He sighed and stood up. "Well, I suppose I should take my leave as well; and maybe I will see you tomorrow?"

Victor nodded in reply.

"It was very nice to meet you, Mr. Comstock."