Eighteen: Dates unknown, 1971
As he regains consciousness in the Glasshouse, Stevens has a blurry dream premonition of visiting Dallas on the day JFK is assassinated, although he does not recognise it as such. As I approached the final chapters of Who Killed Kennedy, I was aware that the Kennedy elements of the plot were hardly integrated with the rest of the narrative. So from this point onwards I tried my best to sow the seeds of what was to come, hoping it would smooth over the gaps. In retrospect, it wasn't that successful.
It's a horrible feeling to be writing a novel and knowing in your gut that something is going wrong. You can't easily identify the problem; it's more of a subconscious nagging doubt. When a book is flying, you don't want to stop. When it's going off the rails, starting again the next day is painful beyond belief. I suffered from this a little at the end of Who Killed Kennedy. I felt the Kennedy sequence ill fit the rest of the narrative, but I was committed to including it.
Anyway, Stevens comes face to face with the Master, the director of the Glasshouse. There's a lovely mistake in the published edition of Who Killed Kennedy on page 200, where the Master's "words were smoothing, and his tone friendly and charismatic." The Master's words are meant to be soothing - not smoothing!
The journalist realises the Master has been manipulating him almost from the start of the book, but the full implications of this are still beyond his grasp for the moment. Soon after Stevens meets Cleary, finally bringing together these two narrative strands on page 203 of the novel. Cleary has a Time Ring, a plot device that made its first and only appearance in Genesis of the Daleks (and Revenge of the Cybermen). It seems the Master either stole a Time Ring from Gallifrey or made a replica for Cleary's use. At this point in the story the Time Ring is not identified as such, since Stevens has no way of knowing its function or name. I wonder how many readers recognised it when they first read Who Killed Kennedy?
When Stevens first wakes up in the Glasshouse, he is attended by a nurse with a gun holstered behind her back. But when Stevens and Cleary begin their escape bid by overwhelming the nurse, she has no gun. Either the Master took away her gun to enable Stevens and Cleary to escape or else I forgot she had been armed seven pages earlier. It's probably the latter, if I'm honest, and tends to indicate there was a gap between those two sequences being written.
Stevens and Cleary escape the Glasshouse and discover they are near Evesham, some distance from London. That location and the description of the Glasshouse exterior are based on a country house hotel I visited in 1995 for a sales and marketing conference. A very nice part of England it was too.
Stevens and Cleary get a train back to London, the soldier musing about travelling back in time on a mission. There's some confusion over money here. Cleary seems to buy their train tickets, yet Stevens goes off to the buffet car on his own. The journalist has enough money to make several phone calls when they reach Paddington, but Cleary pays for their taxi to Wandsworth Common. Oh well.
Stevens is briefly reunited with Dodo, who says she has a surprise for him. But the journalist rushes away with Cleary to lead a live TV investigation into the Glasshouse, aided by Vincent Mortimer and BBC3. Stevens' life is about to go from bad to very much worse...