Mr. Pratt’s Game 

Reading Time: 10 minutes

This is a true story. It is told as recounted to me by Mrs. Gladys White – who on this fateful night, danced unseen in the ballroom of the old Tudor Hall house depicted within. The author writes this story, solely in the pursuit of truth, and to dispel any previous inaccuracies published for the sake of selling scandalous newspapers.

Anthony Ernest Pratt stood in front of the roaring fireplace, studiously peering through a glass of port held high in front of the flames. At the personal invitation of the distinguished physician, Dr. David Black; he had been the guest of honour for the evening. There were other guests – of course, and they were currently entertaining themselves cheerfully in other rooms of the Tudor-era house; however, at the specific request of the doctor, Pratt had been invited to the drawing room for a tête-à-tête, a one-on-one to discuss politics in the expectant post war era and took the opportunity to relay his views to the uninterested doctor.

“One party being in endless control of the populace, is simply contrary to the system of democracy, my good doctor,” Pratt stated.

“It is possible for the most placid individual to contain the courage of a lion and strength of an elephant – when forced into a corner… Dictatorships have a history of failure when the populace rise up against them.”

Pratt had not achieved the same level of schooling as Dr. Black. Twelve years his junior, Pratt’s education was interrupted at the Grammar level. War had seen to that. However, he did possess a high degree of intelligence and savvy that would light up any Oxford University Debating Society. Had the war not required his skills, a scholarship at Oxford was a distinct possibility.

“Take this glass of Port, for instance,” Pratt explained. He possessed a love of drama, and using visual metaphors was a common practice of his.

“The emotion it produces can elicit conflicting reactions and interpretations in those that try it for the first time. One may see a beautiful ruby tone in colour, and may taste a rich dark, fermented fruit. Another may just miss the entire point of its fortification and overlook its charming aroma.”

Pratt was building tension. He was intentionally stalling, trying to entice Dr. Black out of his defensive shell. It was something Pratt learned; interrogating German officers, captured in Norway.

From the onset of war with Germany, a young Anthony Pratt had enthusiastically joined the British Army, volunteering for the Special Service Brigade, and it wasn’t long before he experienced the horror of combat while fighting in the Norwegian campaign. After two months of killing Hitler’s finest, battle plans changed when news broke of Germany’s lightning invasion of France. The Norwegian King and Crown Prince had already evacuated to London, followed by the government and large numbers of Norwegian forces; so, with mission accomplished, Pratt and his battalion completed a tactical withdrawal to their secretive country training barracks in Hampshire for a deserved rest. Not long after, Pratt’s SSB were reorganised into the newly formed Commandos, and due to his service in Norway, he became eligible for re-training as an officer; so, he enthusiastically volunteered for No. 2 Commandos. After more than two years of fierce combat – sometimes viciously hand-to-hand – the newly promoted Lieutenant Pratt, was honourably discharged from the Commandos. Shrapnel wounds from a German grenade had left him with a distinct limp. This was not a career ending injury; however, his unit needed fully capable fighters.

Unfit for active deployment, Pratt joined the civil service as a Special Adjutant to Churchill’s War Rooms. If he couldn’t fight on the frontline, then ‘By God’ he would do everything else he could on the home front to help Britain win the war.

Pratt took a sniff of his glass followed by a controlled sip of the sweet tasting wine. A satisfying smile pursed his lips. What a marvellous after dinner drink, he thought as he continued to provoke Dr. Black.

“…Like power, too much of it can bring on an insatiable… uncontrollable lust that makes you crave more…”

This was 1943. No-one knew how long the fighting would continue. The Nazis ruled most of Europe and their spy network of oppressive socialists infiltrated both Britain’s disconnected poor and society’s rich elitists. The innocent looking soiree in the old Tudor mansion – filled with a collection of wartime sitting ducks – was highly suspicious to the astute Pratt. This cocktail concoction of ministers, clergy, and intellectuals was transparently devoid of any modicum of sincerity. The true reality behind the gathering masked a sinister Nazi undertone of coercion, deception, and betrayal; however, Pratt was aware of this. He had been well trained. His role at the war rooms was a cover story. Agent Pratt was on a new, secret mission.

Strategically, the other guests on this evening; had been separated and corralled into the library, kitchen, billiard room, and several other rooms of the large house. The drawing room that Pratt presently found himself in was reserved for the most influential, and it hid a shadowy history of covert conversion tactics conducted by a ring of Nazi sympathisers, cloaked in the garb of local high society.

Dr. Black remained seated, apathetically listening to Pratt, trying to avoid eye contact. Semi comfortable in the lush, high-backed lounge chair, he stared intensely at the fireplace; quietly processing the ramblings of the young man hogging its radiating heat.

The room was moderately lit with a table lamp adorning atop a beautifully, hand carved Edwardian-era sideboard. Thick velvety, maroon-coloured curtains blocked out any evening chill that the cold wind outside pushed through the window cracks. More importantly, it kept the light inside from escaping into the night. The German Blitz of English cities was just a painful memory now. Hitler’s Luftwaffe had essentially been neutralised since the Battle of Britain; however, smaller, nightly raids were still a possibility, so blackouts were essential in all buildings – unless you wanted to suffer the indignation of an air raid warden’s public yell to ‘Close that bloody curtain!’

Enduring enough of Pratt’s tedious talk, Dr. Black finally looked up. The long-winded lesson about the characteristics of port had lost its momentum.

“Your point, Pratt?”

Pratt finished his glass of port, then carefully laid the empty glass on the fireplace mantle. He could feel the friction building up in the room. Something in the tone of Dr. Black’s voice told him to seek evasive action. Drawing a deep breath into his lungs then slowly exhaling, Pratt focused on the layout of the room, briefly analysing each object that came into view. What escaped the flickering glow from the fireplace, was dimly lit by the table lamps’ shallow reach. Cupping his hands behind his back, he slowly wandered around the richly decorated room with its inlaid wood panelled walls and gold leaf painted high ceiling. At some time during the Edwardian years, the room had seen some renovation work done to bring it into the new century. One of the upgrades was the addition of an ornate electric chandelier, hanging dormant in the centre of the room. In case of accidental illumination during an air raid, its grandeur had long ago been hidden with a black cloth draped over it. Light could still penetrate the cloths’ many folds, but the cover-up successfully managed to prevent any escape of light towards the windows.

“Difference of opinion makes for a healthier state, old chap,” trying to close the argument.

“Besides, this country would never settle for a one-man-no-vote system. Much too civilised for that, ol’ bean.”

“I’m afraid that’s exactly where we’re headed, Pratt,” the doctor interrupted. “Otherwise, a great deal of blood will be shed.”

Tired of the game, Pratt came straight to the point.

“Yes, I’ve seen your messy trail. That’s what led me here tonight. Your way or Norway, eh?”

“I’m not sure I get your meaning.”

Pratt’s voice unexpectedly became stern, almost impatient.

“I’ve read your file.”

Focusing back on the fireplace, Dr. Black slightly cocked one ear towards Pratt.

“My file?”

“Please, Dr. Black… or should I say Field Marshall Bloch, of the Waffen-SS? There’s no use in denying it. We are after all, both in the business of intelligence gathering.”

Displaying no emotion or physical response, Field Marshall Bloch carefully and slowly moved his right hand towards the inside of his suit jacket.

“Ah, I suspected as much. Agent Pratt, is it? What a shame, you would have been a great addition to the new British Gestapo.”

Both covers now blown, the next few moments were crucial for survival. No longer in his peripheral vision, Bloch listened very closely to the shifting dynamics of the room’s acoustics, as Pratt changed his location. Acutely aware that Bloch’s heavy chested breathing had increased in tempo, Pratt’s inherent sense of immediate danger, diverted his attention in search of something to use as a weapon. He had answered the invitation unarmed. Tonight, was supposed to be intelligence gathering – not a kill order. 

On the decorative sideboard, something shiny caught his eye, as it reflected the fires’ flickering rays.

“Ever read the Sunday Times, ol’ chap? If you did, you would have seen a wonderfully written eulogy on the late – but real – Dr. Black… Remarkable resemblance… The skills of your Nazi plastic surgeons are exemplary. Very accomplished, indeed.”

Pratt positioned himself three paces directly behind Bloch’s chair.

“If it hadn’t been for the obituary column, I dare say that you may have escaped our attention.”

Bloch shifted uncomfortably in his chair, tightly gripping the handle of his hidden pistol.

“Congratulations Agent Pratt. British Intelligence is not all sherry and trifle, it seems.”

Trying to mask the sound of the safety catch on his pistol being released, Bloch vociferously cleared his throat.

“The Third Reich will last one thousand years, Britisher,” he blurted. “Nothing can stand in the way of progress… Not even this small island of milky tea drinkers can stop us.”

Pratt stealthily took three deliberate steps forward until he was almost looming over Bloch’s chair.

“This war will be over soon…” boasted Bloch. “…and when that happens, your cooperation now, would be generously rewarded when der Führer takes up residence in Buckingham Palace.”

Slowly emerging from the dark shadows behind Pratt’s back, a heavy brass candlestick came into view, rising aloft in his steely grip.

Your war will be over sooner than you think, Nazi!”

The candlestick’s heavy square base began to shake with a nervous tremor, as Pratt’s pulse quickened – excited by the arrival of impending justice.

Feeling the rush of Pratt’s breath hitting the back of his neck, Bloch quickly drew his Luger pistol from its shoulder holster, but Pratt had the advantage of height and sight. Just at the point of no return for both men, the drawing room door flew open, followed by jovial laughter as several people spilled through the doorway onto the volatile scene. At the front of the group was Pratt’s wife, Elva. Young, pretty and bubbly, she was so excited to introduce her new friends.

Reaching for the wall switch, Elva turned on the ceiling light, immediately lighting up its dark shade. Cloaked rays pierced through the gaps not covered, illuminating Anthony Pratt and Field Marshall Bloch. In an instant, the Luger discharged, sending a bullet whizzing upwards and slicing through the chandelier’s cable. A deafening crash resonated around the room as the chandelier fell from the ceiling to the parquet floor, followed by a sickening sound of simultaneous bone crunching and flesh slurping. Had Pratt not courageously grabbed hold of the pistol’s barrel in time, Elva would have most certainly become Britain’s latest war widow. Instead, partially obscuring Bloch from view, Pratt stood very much alive, with his back to the chair, facing the friendly interlopers. The boisterous group’s frivolity was immediately replaced with shocked silence.

“Sorry about that,” Pratt apologetically improvised.

“…We were debating the war effort, and Dr. Black was kindly showing me his pistol. Must have gotten startled when you all burst in, and accidentally pulled the trigger.”

The assembled group uttered a collective and relieved sigh, allowing a moment for Elva to break the ice.

“…Yes, always better to be careful around guns, I say…”

“Indeed,” was Pratt’s sheepish reply.

“…Anthony darling, you must come and play this frightfully enjoyable game we all started. It’s called ‘Guess the murderer.’ It’s oodles of fun! Colonel Moosetard here is from Paris – I do hope I pronounced your name correctly.”

The Frenchman shook his head and shoulders in a comme ci comme ça expression of indifference. 

“I ran into him in the hall, carrying a rope – of all things…”

Repeating his gesture, Moosetard added an extra nod of his head in agreeance.

“…and this is Melody Peacock. She was showing me her marvellous Roman dagger in the kitchen. It’s called a Pugio, I think. That’s right, isn’t it, Mrs. Peacock?”

The slim, shy looking knife collector blushingly smiled.

“…So, I thought my Anthony… you… would probably like to see that. You used to be a commando, and have lots of experience with knives and such…”

In a not-so-subtle attempt to signal her to get everyone out of the room, Pratt gave his wife a side glance, raising both his eyebrows, and jerked his head ever so slightly. Elva understood but hesitated. The unsettling surprise of gunfire had piqued her curiosity.

“I must ask darling… Is everything alright?”

Silhouetted from direct view, Bloch’s arm limply dropped over the chairs’ armrest.

Pratt had to think very quickly. His job was not finished yet.

“…Poor chap must have fainted from the shock… I’ll look after him.”

Satisfied, Elva cheerfully turned and began to usher the unsteady guests from the room.

“Come on everyone, let’s see what Reverend Green is up to with that spanner he found in the library… Join us soon, darling?”

Pratt agreeably nodded as the drawing room door gently closed. He quickly searched Bloch’s lifeless corpse, slumped motionless in his chair. Discovering a few folded pieces of paper in a jacket pocket, Pratt briefly examined their contents. ‘This will interest Winston’, he thought – before taking a closer inspection of the Luger pistol.

‘Engineering at its finest’, he reflected to himself. ‘Perhaps Professor Plum can drop this off at HQ for me. Hopefully, he’s not left the dining room yet.’

Subtly folding his unexpected war booty into a copy of a discarded newspaper, Pratt tucked the package under his arm, then headed towards the drawing room door; each measured step, crunching pieces of shattered chandelier beneath his polished, black brogues. A narrow beam of light rushed in from the hallway as he opened the door. Field Marshall Bloch of the Waffen-SS, lay limp in his chair, looking like he had just fallen asleep in front of the fireplace. However, the shiny, brass candlestick protruding from the top of his head, and the blood dripping from his shirt sleeve onto the Persian rug; revealed a more dramatic and less pleasant story.

“I’ll report this as case closed by unintended circumstance,” Pratt muttered. “Assignment completed.” He then turned and moved into the hallway, slowly shutting the door behind him. This had been an eventful evening – to say the least. There would be more clashes with home grown Nazis to come; however, this night was a V for Victory for Britain…

Two years later, the war was finally over. The victorious allies joyfully celebrated a world without Hitler. Pratt had been an intrinsic part of the war and was duly promoted for his endeavours. On his last day of duty at the war rooms, Winston Churchill beckoned him over to his desk.

Lighting up one of his iconic cigars, the triumphant leader took a long look at Pratt through the thick exhaled cigar smoke, filling up the desk space between them.

“Major Pratt, on behalf of your king, country, and your Prime Minister; I’d like to express to you our deep and sincere gratitude for all that you’ve sacrificed these past six years.”

“Thank you, Prime Minister.”

“That unpleasant business at Tudor Hall… Hopefully, you’ve put that behind you?”

“Yes, Mr. Churchill.”

“Splendid. It was a valuable piece of intelligence that you retrieved. Hugely instrumental in the rounding up of all the Nazi sympathisers. Can’t have that type of business on our own soil. No, just can’t have that… You helped win the war, Major Pratt.”

“We all did our bit, sir. The country was certainly inspired by your speeches… helped us fight on for what was right. You’re the one that Britain and the free world owe a great debt to.”

“Poppycock, Major, but appreciated… This was not a popular war. No war is,” Churchill clarified. “… and I am not a popular Prime Minister… however, history will be kind to me… for I intend to write it.”

“Indeed, sir.”

“Listen, before I send you skipping home unburdened, to your lovely wife; there’s just one matter that I’ve always been extremely curious about…”

“Sir?”

“Of all things… why the candlestick?”

A wry smile stretched across Pratt’s face.

“The rope and spanner had already been taken, sir…”

Churchill puffed heavily on his cigar, then let out an appreciative laugh.

“Yes… yes, I see… Excellent, most excellent, well done, Major!”

Turning on his heels, Major Anthony Ernest Pratt left the Prime Minister chuckling away. His military service to his country was over. He could now proudly return to civilian life.

Over the course of the next several years, he and his effervescent wife, Elva; walked once more into history’s hall of fame, remembered not for valour this time, but as the co-creators of the world-renowned detective themed, murder-mystery board game, ‘Cluedo.’

It’s all true…

91 thoughts on “Mr. Pratt’s Game 

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