Harold Cleaves arrived at his studio in Hill's Terrace at 7am and found the man waiting for him. His visitor wore a grey dressage hat and an Ulster coat. When he saw Cleaves, he grasped his hand and said, 'Cleaves, I assume? I am led to believe you have a photographic studio?' He spoke with an accent that veered English and Welsh and something other.
Cleaves nodded and gestured at the nameplate on the door: H Cleaves. Photography, Cardiff but the man didn't turn. He kept looking at Cleaves, only moving when the door was opened.
The studio was small with a desk and cabinet in the corner and an Ensign camera in facing a mise-en-scene of curtains and a chair. The man began to examine the camera, producing a pair of lorgnette to do so. He said, 'Interesting.'
Cleaves said, 'Would you like a cup of tea, Mr…?' and the man turned to Cleaves and smiled and Cleaves knew who he was.
Richard Elgayne said, 'I've never been much of a tea drinker, believe it or not Cleaves. Those clumsy moments that people like to paste over with tea, I don't tend to bother with.'
Cleaves nodded. 'I see.'
'Good. Now, I need a photograph. You are a photographer, are you not?'
'Then hang the tea, Cleaves, and let us be about our business.' Elgayne smiled again and watched as Cleaves began after a pause to prepare his chemicals. He watched in silence and then he said, 'Do you make the paper yourself, Cleaves?'
'No. I obtain it from the photo suppliers on the High Street.'
Cleaves edged a look at him. 'You have an interest in photography sir?'
'Oh no. Rather the antipode. The greater concern of my life has been to avoid photography.'
'Well, it can be a great deal of fun.'
'I'm sure. How much exactly am I to pay for this "fun"?'
'My rates are very reasonable.'
'Doubtless. However, I don't know them…?'
Cleaves named a sum and Elgayne plucked a bill from his pocket. Cleaves looked at it and said, 'Sir, that's a large amount. I don't know if I have change…'
Elgayne pressed the money into his hand. 'You are providing more service than you realise, Cleaves,' he said. 'It is only fair that you are paid more than you quote.' He ambled over to the chair and fell as he did so to one knee, gripping his leg and muttering, 'Muniferni!'
Cleaves moved over to him but Elgayne gestured impatiently.
'A touch of the bile, man' he said. 'Nothing more. Continue with your preparations.' He sat down in the chair, rubbing his stomach and whispering to himself.
Cleaves set up the camera and took two photographs. When he had finished, Elgayne jotted an address on a card and passed it to Cleaves: 'Could you forward them here when they're ready please?'
'The process doesn’t take long sir. You could pick them up later today.'
'Oh no. I cannot remain in Cardiff. By rights, I should not even be here. I have some business to attend to, you understand?'
Elgayne paused on his way to the door. 'I would be grateful, Cleaves, if you could keep both my presence and that address strictly under your hat.' He essayed a full Welsh accent. 'I don't want my name getting to ears it shouldn't.'
Cleaves swallowed. 'But sir, I don't know your name.'
Elgayne's mouth thinned. He said, 'Oh dear, Cleaves. Have we discovered you in a falsehood? How disappointing. Do you wish to reconsider your comment as both of us know it to be untrue?'
The men stared at each other. Cleaves took a step backwards. 'I'm sorry sir. I won't tell a soul.'
'Much better.' Elgayne touched the brim of his hat. 'You have a busy day ahead of you, Cleaves?'
'No sir. No appointments at all.'
'Well.' The accent had slipped. 'Stay in business long enough to send those photos, there's a good chap.'