The Zulu Protocol: The Last Post

It was a week later, and the mopping up was completed.

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Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

– Seneca

ZIt ended, of course, with a Zulu Protocol.

It was a week later, and the mopping up was completed.  Captain Burnham had caused the MTB and numerous bodies to disappear.  He hadn’t quite been able to spirit Bunty’s corpse away: this had been fished out of the Thames, as it happened, quite close to the place that Frank had been pulled out.

“‘E even ended up on the same bloomin’ slab” Billy commented, with grim satisfaction, as he and Isaac paid their last respects.  Billy had made the arrangements – through one of his many contacts – and Frank was to spend the night before the committal, lying at peace in the church. The last of the late afternoon sun shone through the stained glass window. The interior of the church was cool, and here and there a shaft of yellow picked out motes of dust dancing in the air.

“Right. Keep an eye out, will yer” and before Isaac could reply, Billy had the first screw undone and was working on the next.

“What you be doin’ Billy?” Isaac exclaimed, uneasily.

“Frank were one of us, and there’s a little matter of puttin’ somethin’ right.”  Billy slid the lid of the coffin off.  Frank looked alright, considering.  From his jacket, Billy pulled a scabbarded commando knife which he slipped into the coffin. From another pocket he pulled a silver coin: he kissed it and slipped it into the waistcoat pocket of the dead man’s last suit.  As he picked up the lid of the coffin, he said something that was almost too quiet for Isaac to hear. “I dunno what comes next, old son, but yer’ve got yer knife back, if yer need it.  Just don’t go pickin’ any fights you cantankerous begger.”

In a more normal voice, as he screwed the lid of the coffin back down, Billy said “I dunno, that boy did a good imp’s’nation of a cheeky cockney, but ‘e’d ‘ave picked a fight with ‘is own shadow, given a chance.”

“After ‘er ladyship be ‘aring off with yon Jack in that motor, what ‘the ‘ell appened? Is you ever goin’ ter tell me where that Jack be?”

“Where is ‘e indeed? Ain’t that the question.”

*****

Meanwhile, at the Latimer Estate, Michaela stood by the family mauseleum, Juliet by her side. She’d had to almost drag Juliet into town to get her suitably kitted out; but it simply wouldn’t do to be turning up to Robert’s funeral in her usual wardrobe. Having impressed upon her the need for saying little other than the basic offering of condolences, Michaela had to admit she’d behaved impeccably. So much so that when the service was over and the family had extended the expected invitation to return to the house, Michaela had accepted with grace, but requested a moment to say her farewells to Robert. Having always believed Robert could’ve done no better than ‘to snag that rather high-spirited gel Michaela’, the family’d been quick to agree.

There – in the quiet – she’d talked to Juliet about how she could make amends, by joining the team of which Robert had been a part. How much he’d approve of such a turn of events, for he was one of those rare men who’d genuinely believed in women’s emancipation. Keeping her head bowed, Juliet had replied “As you wish Lady Michaela”. Worried she’d made an awful mistake and that Billy’s initial instict might’ve been correct, Michaela rapidly re-iterated the need for ‘steadying up and getting those emotions under control’; it would be an understatement to say she was immensely relieved when Juliet wiped away a tear and looked her in the eye “Really Mike, d … do you mean it? I … I can’t believe it, it’s a dream … a dream come true. And I’ll work hard, truly I will. I’ll make you – and Robert – really proud of me.”

*****

Tinkerbell was on his way back to Oxford, back to his beloved Bod. Sitting back in his first class carriage – her ladyship having procured the ticket so who was he to argue – he pondered on the morning’s events. Billy’d handed Blecher over to him with the instructions that he be ‘got back to that Burnham geezer’ and Tinkerbell had complied, after having provided Blecher with a well received request to make contact – with both himself and her ladyship that is.

It’d been an interesting meeting with Burnham, where he’d seemed largely unfazed by Tinkerbell’s introduction as another member of the Section.  They’d enjoyed some decent enough tea and biscuits, during which Burnham announced that he’d been to see the father of Robert’s friend. To Tink’s raised eyebrows, he’d confided that the advice he’d been given had been quite simply to ‘go along for the ride young man, they’ll not let you down’ and that was precisely what he planned to do.

Viktor had popped his head round the door as they were finishing up to thank Tinkerbell for providing a favourable report on his contribution. Tink had returned their heartfelt thanks and wished him well during his future endeavours. Once Viktor’d left, Tinkerbell remembered to profer thanks to Burnham, on behalf of Jack and the team for facilitating the loan of Viktor when, much to his surprise, Burnham had apologised for not doing more; even promising he’d do better should he receive a call for assistance in the future. It seemed their man in uniform was now firmly on board. They’d parted with a shared expression of disappointment that Wüst had managed to get away, aligned to a firm commitment the Department would be using all their resources to be on the lookout for him as well.

Burnham had summed up with “MI9 will be closed down, there is no question of that, but Echo will continue, and I will be the contact.  Beyond that – well, we’ll have to see, won’t we?”

The train service from Marylebone over, Tink alighted; he’d been ready for his little sojurn in London, but he was more than a little relieved to be coming home. It was one of those perfect autumn days – crisp and cold, but sunny – and Oxford was bathed in the most glorious sunshine. Tinkerbell basked in the warmth, enjoying the walk from the station back to his digs. Pausing briefly, he pulled his pipe out of a pocket and made busy with lighting it; sadly, this proved to be his downfall.

“Ah, Cadwalader!  I’ve been hoping to bump into you!”

Whilst he wanted to slump his shoulders, as with any predator, it didn’t do to show emotion.

“Ah, Wynn … what could you possibly be wanting with me?” he said coolly.

*****

Whilst Michaela and Juliet were attending Robert’s funeral, Hildr and Agnarr took the opportunity to have a private discussion on the subject of ‘training Juliet’. Hildr – unable to supress them any longer – expressed concerns that the clumsy young woman she knew could be honed in the way Michaela believed. Agnarr, gently patting her hand, managed – somehow – to express both his support for her concerns and also his belief that their Suuriseppä would not have made such plans unless she had seen – perhaps even knew – something they had not.

Nodding her acceptance, Hildr made ready to practice the skills they would need  to master – not only for this new training programme, but also to make sure young Juliet didn’t get to leave them behind. Separately they were each quietly competent, but together –  together they could be quite a force. She’d heard of such melding in tales of long ago, and with time taken for detailed research, with care, patience and practice – qualities they both had in abundance – she was confident it would prove possible once more.

*****

Deep in the corridors under Blackfriars, Coln was hard at work. Persuading her father to move had been a monumental task, but he was now ensconced somewhere less damp and a lot warmer. She’d called her sisters together and between them, they’d persuaded him to take Jack’s advice. They were now busy, sorting through each room of Father’s things, all his accumulated treasures. Billy – kind, kind Billy – he’d been helping them find good people. People who would do everything from the heavy lifting to providing advice on what was saleable and how to get a fair price for it all.

She knew that Jack had been seriously wounded at the Indias – Billy of course – and the depth of her sadness had come as no little surprise. Still, there was much to be done. Either Jack Runward would recover, or he would not. It was her task to ensure that she, her father and her sisters did. For now, she could do no more than to send healing wishes on the wind, and to hope that Jack received them.


© 2018, David Jesson & Debra Carey

Damned Yankees!

“Hello, Bunty old chap. How the deuce are you?”

“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
― Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Y“What the Devil?” Bunty exclaimed.

Beneath the hood, his own face gazed back at him.

“Hello, Bunty old chap.  How the deuce are you?” The voice was jovial, and plummy – a clear mimic of the upper classes, but still somehow more natural than anything that Bunty could manage.

The kneeling figure was not a sullen Engineer brought back into the clutches of the continuation of the Fatherland.  He was not a frightened stranger – confused and panicked by the bravos around about.  He was smiling, playing to the crowd, and apparently completely unconcerned about the pistol-wielding agent behind him.  His sole focus was Bunty.  Bunty – who still had not recovered from the shock of seeing his own face staring up at him.

“What’s the matter, old boy?  Cat got your tongue?  I suppose you’re wondering how you come to be here twice.  Terribly simple, old chap, nothing simpler in fact. Fundamentally, your hired help are cretins. My friend and I had the easiest job in the world breaking into your safehouse. The timing was a little ticklish in a couple of places but, because all you chaps are so convinced of your own superiority, we were able to swap Blecher and myself. I’d even made special arrangements to help with the deception, but I didn’t need to pretend to be Blecher after all, so I thought it would be instructive to be you for a while.

“I apologise, in your condition you are in no state for me to be subtle, so let me spell it out. The fact that you are sick in the head and like tormenting small creatures and defenceless people means it is the most natural thing in the world to put a hood over a person’s head and leave them alone to suffer for a bit. Worse, it didn’t occur to anyone to check that you still had the right person – although to be fair, you’d need an imagination to think up a notion like that.”

In the midst of the monologue, Bunty first regained his composure, only to lose it all over again: his face returned to its normal, ruddy complexion, having drained of colour when he’d found he had the wrong man.  From then on, it became redder and redder, until he finally exploded.

“I have the imagination to see that this country is as ruined as if we’d lost the war! I have the imagination to see that the damned Yankees are taking over and treating the truly great races of the world as their running boys.  I have the imagination to see that Germany and England should be working together.  I have the imagination to see myself in charge!”

“And yet you lack the wit to see that you are being used.”

“Mannfred Wüst is a man of honour – he will keep the bargain that I have struck with him.”

“What is that bargain, pray do tell?”

“I am securing certain things for him, for the Ahnenerbe. They hold the heart of the true Reich. When they return to Germany and drive out the Yankees, the Commies and all the rest, I shall be the new Arthur, King of the Britons, and drive back the enemies of our purity, of our country.”

“Ye gods and little fishes!  You’ve got their patter down, I’ll give you that.  If poor old Artorus had a grave, he’d be spinning in it, I tell you. And where does Lady Michaela McManus fit into all of this?  Is she to be your Guinevere?”

Bunty gave a start, beginning to deflate once again.  “How…how do you know about her?” he spluttered. “I have no interest in her. Wüst wants her, I don’t know why.”

“You’ve been messing with the wrong crowd, Bunty old lad, and I will tell you this for nothing: Michaela has friends.  She is not part of your game.  Surrender now, and I will see to it that you don’t hang for your treason.”

“Surrender?” Bunty’s surprise became a sneer “Surrender to a man kneeling in front of a gun, a man who hides behind a stronger man’s face?  Who are you?  Who are you to be offering deals?”

“Here and now, I am Jack Runward” Jack snapped his fingers and the glamour faded to reveal his own tanned and rugged face.  “But I’ve had many names.  My first was Madoc; I’m sometimes known as Magog the Great, a champion of Prydain and Albion, Protector of London, Green Man of Epping Forest.”

Even if they’d been listening, no-one was close enough to hear the whisper of a jacketed round exiting the barrel of a rifle at a muzzle velocity of around 3000 feet per second:  Michaela’s suppressors really were exceptional.  The guard who’d been holding a gun to Jack’s back, fell as if he were a knocked over sack of potatos.

And, with a surge, a surge that no one could have guessed was coming, Jack was up off his knees and lifting Bunty clear of the ship’s deck. He swung the hapless Ahnenerbe agent up into the air, and spun him round.  Confusion broke out.  A minion found himself caught round the face by an expensive pair of shoes, and plunged to the deck, whilst Bunty continued to be swept round in an arc.  Bunty was panicking, attempting to flail his arms against Jack, but Jack was in complete control.  Hired help and Ahnenerbe muscle milled around, some dropping to the deck suddenly, adding to the overall confusion. A shot rent the night air, but somehow was ignored.  Jack continued his progress across the deck, continuing to use Bunty to clear the way.  He reached the side.  Bunty was sobbing – he’d realised what was coming next.

“We don’t want your kind in Britain!” Jack shouted as he threw Bunty into the Dock.

“Nooo!” The scream was short and ended in a splash.  Jack took a brief glance over the side where he caught sight of Bunty flailing in the water, flailing that is, until he disappeared from view with unnatural suddenness.  Jack did not wait to see the ripples disperse, returning instead to the meleé on the deck.

He could just make out someone emerging from the wheelhouse and making their way gingerly to the Oerlikon autocannon in the bows – one for Viktor to take care of he felt. Isaac had taken care of two more: one was slumped over a torpedo tube and the other was sprawled near the first casualty. Yet two more were heading towards Jack. One of the crew was trying to cast off when suddenly – he fell backwards.

There was a burst of fire from one of the Vickers machine guns mounted on the forrard torpedo tubes – it appeared they’d got some idea of where Isaac was shooting from.  Before they could do any serious damage, however, the .50 calibre fire was briefly silenced, before beginning again, this time strafing the quayside at ground level. Those who’d remained on dry land – Bunty’s chauffeur and the two men from the car who’d brought Jack to the dock – hurried to join up. All three were cut down by Viktor, who’d efficiently despatched the gunner and taken over the Vickers; he continued strafing, doing irreparable damage to the Austin Hampshire.

Jack barely had time to take this in before he was blocking a savage, slicing cut from a large knife.  The knife-man was clearly a brawler though, not a real fighter, because he’d allowed his balance to shift too far forward.  Noting that his mate was attempting to use a boat-hook as some kind of hunting-spear, Jack caught the knife-arm even as he dodged the knife itself.  He pulled the brawler into the arc of the boat-hook, ignoring the scream which inevitably followed. The knife went flying over the side, while the man with the boat- hook was pulled forward as he attempted to keep it, and to get it free. Jack cracked their heads together, and both slumped in a heap: pulling the boat-hook free, he casually snapped it over his knee and looked for the next person.

The man closest threw his knife down and his hands up.  He was shot for his trouble by a man who looked like he might be the skipper of the MTB, or the leader of the Ahnenerbe troops, or perhaps both.  He in turn was shot, a neat hole, stained red, appearing in his seaman’s jumper as the jacketed round passed straight through and into the deck.

*****

Billy looked though the night sights: he’d been a bit worried at how many people had turned up on the boat.  They had thought there’d be five at most, although the Vosper MTB was designed for a complement of 13.  Unlucky for someone.  Victor had done bloomin’ well, emerging from the shadows to deal with the one who seemed to think the Oerlikon was needed in this fight, then straight on to deal with the Vickers, and what was left of the shore party.  Isaac had proved himself an’ all: five shots, five bodies.  He thought he could make out three forms trying to take cover behind torpedo tubes and other deck furniture.  Viktor – good lad – had ducked into the wheelhouse on one side and popped up right beside one who’d been trying to sneak along to grab Jack. Victor pushed him over the side and into the dock for that error in judgement. As Billy watched, two others stalked Jack, but he saw to his pleasure that Viktor was hurrying towards the stern to join Jack. Both the opposition ran at Jack – he dodged one, but slipped and fell heavily to the deck.

*****

In the garret, Tink had scried the whole event for himself and Mike.  As he did so, he muttered about the lack of sound.  They’d watched carefully and both had assumed that it was all over, when Jack stumbled. And had not got back up.  One of the assailants had been about to stamp down on Jack’s prone form, when he spun round, presumably shot. The final one disappeared for a moment as he was grapped by Viktor – his neck broken … and still Jack had not got up.

“What’s wrong Tink?”

“Your guess is a good as mine, bach”.

Michaela was off, haring down the stairs, out of Richmond Court to the lockup just down the road under the railway arches.  She had her roadster out in moment, leaving Tink to lock up behind her.  It was a straightish run down to the docks, with little traffic at that time of night – racing changes all the way.

By the time she got there, Viktor, Billy and Isaac had secured the area and made Jack as comfortable as possible.

“I fink ‘e got shot early, love, but ‘e never let it show.  ‘E’s a tough old beggar, you know that.”

Tough or not, he was unconcious.

“Quick, we’ve got to get him home!”

“He’ll not fit in yon there car of yours, your ladyship.”

“Then lets take Bunty’s car – he won’t need it anymore.”

Carefully they moved their recumbant leader to the back seat of the Roller, and Mike took off into the night.

“Right-o, you two scarper.  I’ll be in touch.”

Billy moved the bodies onto the boat.  As he did so he muttered to himself “perfectly good bomb…not hanging around ‘ere all night…can’t ‘ave that ord’n’nce be left lying around…”

He surveyed his handywork.  Not bad.  He strolled off down the quayside, his casual demeanor belying the anger and sorrow seething inside.  Unbidden, a fireball appeared in his hand.  He grinned, and threw it over his shoulder at the MTB…he hadn’t gone very far when the bomb exploded.

*****

Back at the Warren, Hildr and Agnarr were settling down to a glass of Agnarr’s fine brew and one of Hildr’s hearty stews, only to be interrupted by her ladyship driving into the yard at a mad pace – and in someone else’s car.

“Agnarr, please, I need your help. Jack – Mr Runward – has been hurt. We need to get him into the forest.”

Agnarr had quietly done as bidden, moving Jack quickly but gently into a trailer, wrapping him up warmly in the blankets Hildr had hurriedly provided, before hitching the trailer to a tractor and riding on it with Michaela out of the yard. Hildr had stifled her first instinct to ask why the forest and not a hospital … when realisation suddenly dawned … a Green Man, he was a Green Man. Of course. How foolish she’d been not to have realised.


© 2018, David Jesson & Debra Carey

X-Ray Specs

Keeping an eye being something of a euphemism – the sniper’s nest that he’d created should give him perfect coverage.

“There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.”

Bram Stoker, ‘Dracula’

X

Isaac did not “miss the war”, as some of his friends did, but he’d felt of frisson of excitement when Billy had first been in touch – was it only two weeks ago? The raid on the Indias had been hectic, odd, invigorating: he’d kept his cool, seen the job through, when he could’ve melted into the shadows and now, here he was.  Billy had suggested that there’d be further work after this, and whatever happened, Billy and his friends looked out for their people.  It would be dangerous – Billy had explained about Frank – and probably there’d never be any recognition.  No medals for this caper.  But this crowd, that Jack had called the opposition and Billy tended to refer to as wrong’uns, needed to be stopped.  What had they fought for in the first place, if any old fella that felt like it could walk in and take over?  No, he was pleased to be in on this, and it promised to be a bit more exciting than the odd-jobs that he’d been doing to make ends meet, or as one of his old muckers put it “make both ends meat”.

As a soldier, he’d learned to rely on his mates, and as a commando, he’d learned self-reliance.  The last two years had been tough: there’d been the odd bit of thinking work, but it had mainly been physical stuff, some legit, some less so – nothing actual illegal like, but what you might call…off the books.  Like this thing for Billy.  Isaac Baker was not just a survivor thought, oh no, he was that rare beast: a pragmatic optimist.  He stuck out the dead-end, hand-to-mouth jobs.  His squalid digs held little attraction, but rather than wallowing in the despair they induced, he got out and did stuff.  Still, whilst he had mates in London, its appeal was starting to wear thin and he was half minded to go back to the West Country.  He’d probably missed the apple harvest and cider pressing, but there’d be some kind of work, if nothing to stretch him.  P’raps he should apply for the police…now there was an idea.

Instead he’d fallen in with this crowd, and now here he was, back in the Indias, on the roof of a derelict warehouse, keeping an eye on the quay that Billy’d identified as being the one that Bunty would use to spirit away this Blecher chappie.  Keeping an eye being something of a euphemism – the sniper’s nest that he’d created should give him perfect coverage.  He’d be the first to admit that he was a landlubber, but he’d been on an MTB once or twice and he had a sense of where the deck of the boat should be in relation to the  wharf – they’d had to guess a little bit about timings, but they’d made their guesses based on the tides.

He’d been a bit surprised that not only had Billy pointed out the wharf, but also indicated the best place for the nest.  Everyone took it in their stride, almost as if they’d expected it. They were an odd lot and no mistake: none of them seemed to fit somehow…  How did Billy come to be running with this lot, and it wasn’t as if they was just usin’ him neither. They all listened when he spoke.  Tink as well:  I mean he were ‘n Oxford chappie they said, but he weren’t a toff.  It was almost as if knowin’ yer onions was enough to earn respect here.  Now that was interesting.

He probably shouldn’t be surprised that her Ladyship could shoot, toffs usually could shoot pretty well, but if he’d put everything together properly then she’d made this rather nice rifle that he’d be popping off tonight, if all went to plan.  Made it special for him too, even though there’d been no real time.   Lighter than anything he’d ever used before, but accurate, even with iron sights, it felt like an extension of himself, more so than anything he’d ever fired before.  He’d practiced on the strangest range he’d every shot on before – although also one of the most realistic.  After he’d had a chance to shoot some rounds at a conventional target propped in front of a wall, he’d been put up a tree and told he could come down for some lunch when he’d got a bull in ten different targets.  Some of these had been hung off branches, others were tucked in rabbit holes.   A few were properly tricky to spot.  He’d also had a play with some suppressors – silencers some people called them, incorrectly.  They shifted the balance of the gun slightly, but were more than a bit handy when you were trying to keep yourself to yourself.  Her ladyship had apologised that each one he’d been given was only good for twenty shots, but that was better than most of the ones that he’d used previously. She’d given him a little extra bit of kit, one he’d not tried out before as it was daylight when he’d had his practice, but she assured him they worked well. Night vision glasses her ladyship had said they were, although Billy insisted on calling them his X-Ray specs – for he had a pair too. Isaac weren’t bothered – if they meant he could see in the dark when the opposition couldn’t, they could call them whatever they liked!

*****

Later, Billy joined him, appearing in that disconcerting way of his.  He pointed out things that Isaac had to squint to see, a subtle but effective method of indicating that one eye missing or not, Billy Blind was anything but.

*****

“Alright lad, keep your eyes peeled.  We’ve got a car entering the Docks, and I fink I can hear that ruddy boat an’ all.”

Isaac said nothing and kept his gaze on the space where they were expecting the boat to appear.  His eyes flickered from point to point as he built and rebuilt the picture in his mind of where everything was, without becoming so fixated on one point that he missed things changing.  He listened to the sotto voce commentary from his left as Billy described the progress of the car, picking its way carefully through the clutter and debris.  He wasn’t entirely surprised that they were bringing the car right up to the rendezvous – they didn’t know that their handover had been rumbled, and this way they had better control over the prisoner.  From a raider’s perspective though, that car, a four door Austin A70, represented a nice little blockage – if it could be put out of action.

As if reading his mind, Billy breathed “Keep an eye on fings, old son, I’ve got a little wheeze in mind fer that there ‘Ampshire” and he was gone, like a gentle breeze, into the night.  Isaac had had a mate like that, way back when, ‘n’ another what couldn’t stand improvisation.  He’d been RTU’d at his own request in the end, and bought the farm on D-Day.   Isaac wasn’t above the odd bit of improvisation, but he’d’ve preferred to get the measure of these blokes before everyone started getting creative, but that was life.  If you can’t take a joke, you shouldn’t have joined was his motto.

Whoever the goons were, they’d done a sort of look-see around when they’d arrived, before getting a hooded figure out of the back seat of the car.  They looked as though they might know a bit about fighting, but on t’other hand they really weren’t working as a team, and they allowed themselves to be distracted by the arrival of the MTB.  To be fair, it was worth watching.  Even going slow as it nosed its way through the foetid water of the docks to the designated quay, it was a shark cutting the water.  The goons didn’t notice a shadow detach itself from the general blackness of the night, but a moment or so later, Isaac realised he’d been holding his breath when the shadow slipped to the car and back again.

The goons just stood and watched as the boat was tied up.  In the moonlight, and with the to-ing and fro-ing, it was hard to tell if the 20 mm Oerlikon autocannon and the .50 calibre Vickers Machine guns that were the standard armament were still in place or not – but Isaac rather thought they were.  Oh well.

“You ready, old son?”  Billy was back.  “I think it’s all about to get a bit proverbial.”

“Yerss … I’m ready. Better ‘n waitin’ till somewhen” Isaac murmured back.

“Oi oi, what’s all this then?  ‘Nuvver car coming up  – and I reckon it’s Bunty’s.  ‘E really should’ve got summat a bit less conspicuous fer tonight.”

Bunty got out of his car – having waited for the chauffeur to open the door – and watched the hooded figure being walked onto the boat, before himself boarding.  He had the man brought before him and made him kneel.  He whipped off the hood.  Even Issac and Billy could hear the startled oath:

“What the Devil?”


© 2018, David Jesson & Debra Carey

A Whiskey With Old Friends

Stood in the middle of the table was a bottle of Connemara Peated Single Malt whiskey, and a jug of water.

“There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others.”

Raymond Chandler

W

It was the last night of peace. Tomorrow they’d be facing the Ahnenerbe head on. Would their plan work? Did they have enough fighting men? Would anyone get hurt? These questions and more were running through their heads that last night.

As ever, with an operation like this, everyone had contributed to the planning.  Billy had come good (who could doubt it) with information on both the safehouse where Blecher was being kept, and on the plan for getting him out.  Tink had sketched out the relevant part of the Docks on a large piece of lining paper that he’d spread out on the big table, and weighted down with various knick-knacks.  The plan was given a three-dimensional feel with boxes of matches and the like.  Victor and Isaac had been smuggled into the garret for a thorough briefing and they’d contributed too.  Tinkerbell had been on good form and the strategy, which an amateur might see as simple, made best use of the resources available to them.  The reference to Servius Tullius, and particularly the anecdote of his discussions with Tink on how to run an army, went completely over the heads of Victor and Isaac, thankfully.  Luckily looks cannot kill, and therefore Billy was saved from having to cover up Jack’s attempted murder-by-glare.

After the two soldiers had left, the four regrouped round the table and batted back and forth further ideas and what ifs: they reviewed, yet again, the entire plan, including the parts that Victor and Isaac were not party to.  They went on like this for another hour or so, but everyone could feel the room, and the plan, becoming stale.  Realising this wasn’t helpful, Tinkerbell suggested they needed to take a step back from all the hows and whys and wherefores.

“What we need is a trip to the pub. Somewhere we can relax, have a drink, make a toast to the success of the mission … and to absent friends.”

“Yer dead right Tink m’old son. But we can’t all march down The Dolphin, we needs to keep it low-key – tonight especially. ‘ow about we goes down to the pub in Bow we meets Jack at? They’ll let us ‘ave a quiet room in the back to ourselves.”

As they started to make plans of how to get there, Michaela put up a brief fight “can’t I just drive there?” only to have Jack firmly respond with “you could, but not in that car. You’ll both stick out like sore thumbs and be the talk of the East End!”

Mollified, barely, Michaela waited with Tink while Billy and Jack headed off first. They’d arrange for the private room so Michaela could be whisked in past the usual riff-raff without causing too much of a stir. Tink tidied away the plan, replenished his tobacco pouch from the jar on the mantel piece and looked inside his bag for one or two items, which he secreted in various pockets.

“Best leave the overalls off for now eh?” suggested Tink whilst offering Mike his squashy tweed hat to cover up all that red-gold hair. Back in practical, if everyday clothing, and with one of Jack’s old coats chucked on top, Michaela could go almost unnoticed.

As Jack and Billy had no doubt done before them, Michaela and Tink wasted a bit of time hopping on and off busses and otherwise checking they weren’t being followed. On arrival at the pub, they spotted Jack waiting outside. Taking up position on the other side of Michaela, he hurried them both through into the rear of the pub. The room was small and fairly gloomy, with four comfortable, if rather shabby, high-backed armchairs. But it was entirely separate from the main pub and so private. Shedding her coat and Tink’s hat, Michaela realised that stood in the middle of the table was a bottle of Connemara Peated Single Malt whiskey, and a jug of water. While she exclaimed in pleasure, Jack gestured to it magnanimously “the least we could do was to provide a drop from home, especially having insisted you leave your gorgeous car behind.”

Billy appeared first with pints, then glasses for them all and they settled in for an evening of pleasant reminiscing.  Part way through, during an opportune lull in conversation, Michaela cleared her throat.

“I’ve got a tricky little problem that I’d really welcome advice on – from all of you.” Having received nods and glasses raised in agreement, she continued “it’s Juliet.”

Tink immediately raised his eyebrows and Billy started to ask “Yer sure yer … ?”

“Yes, I’m afraid the first bit is relevant to us all – and I need both advice and possibly help over her future.”

Shrugging, Jack immediately came back with “As I persuaded you to have her, you know I’ll do what I can, when I can. But what’s the bit that’s relevant to us all?”

“After Robert’s car blew up, I arranged to have it towed back to the yard and stowed in one of the garages. As it’s been bothering me, I’ve had Agnarr and Hildr help me carry out a forensic examination of it. What I found, came as a bit of a shock – it’d been jinxed – or a bit of the engine had. I was wondering how Bunty’d managed to do it without anyone noticing when Juliet crept in. She’s been really odd since the explosion which I’d put down to shock but … well, it was quite the story.”

Stopping to take a sip of whiskey and to re-fill her glass, Michaela told them the whole sorry story.  Billy was the first to react – with absolute fury he spat out “yer jes leave ‘er to me, I’ll see she gets sorted.”

Jack, ever the peace-maker, put his hand on Billy’s arm in a stilling gesture and interjected “I get the feeling there’s more to this … go on Michaela.”

“Well, the thing is, I think she’s really rather talented. There’s not many of my apprentices who could’ve done what she did. I mean the subtly of what she wanted to do is breathtaking, and what undid her is that she is more powerful than she realises.  She may even be as powerful as a fae, and that happens perhaps once in a thousand times amongst the dvergar.  Her problem is she seems to be unable to control it, especially when her emotions are running high.”

“That’s not an uncommon problem among my lot – especially when they’re young. All those hormones, emotions up and down, there’s lots of magic being over- and underdone. We don’t mind so much when it’s underdone, but it causes some pretty serious problems when it’s overdone.”

“Really Tink? Oh I’m so relieved to hear you say that. You see, I’ve no real experience of this kind of thing, I’m a bit lost …” she trailed off.

“Why do we care if ‘n she’s talented, she killed a man!”

“Hold on Billy, she just meant for sparks to fly and for him to look silly. She’s no killer. She’s been jolly silly. She’s also filled with remorse and has offered to voluntarily put herself into exile. That’s … well, that’s huge for a dvergar orphan. It’s the ultimate punishment. So, she’s not taking it lightly.”

The room went silent for a while, with each of them deep in thought. Jack broke the silence first.

“I’ve heard nothing but the best about her. A bit uncontrolled and clumsy for sure, but I’d not bring anyone to you who I felt wasn’t pure of heart, you know that don’t you Michaela?”

“I know Jack, and I think you’re right. Not only that, but during that whole business with Bunty and Robert, she was smart and quick-witted. She picked up what I needed really quickly, and she did it. She ran interference for me with aplomb; honestly, you’d have thought she’d been trained. I think she could be a natural …”

“Are you suggesting what I think you are Michaela?”

“Yes. Yes … I believe I am. She’d need training, proper training to get those emotions under control …”

“I could help you with that Michaela – I’ve worked with young fae before. It’s probably best I stay at arm’s length though – at least for a while – and I certainly couldn’t have her in Oxford as there’s far too much potential for gossip. As a start, I’d recommend a bit of old-fashioned meditation – it would do her the world of good. Also, would I be right in presuming that both Agnarr and Hildr would play a major role in her training? I have a feeling that Agnarr – in particular – would have a real bent for the delicate handling my training might need. And I could visit you at Theydon Bois from time-to-time to work with you both, as well as discuss any issues that come up in between visits.”

“Hildr might feel most put out.”

“Or be relieved …? She can sit in too if she wants – the more the merrier! That way there’d be no need for Juliet to find out about me or my background, nor know that her training was anything other than the top-level of dvergar skills.”

“Excellent! Done! And Billy, would you meet with her, talk to her a bit – you know about friendship, loyalty, the codes you live by? Jack and I thought she just needed a role model, but I think she may need some deeply rooted principles … and there’s none who has better than you Billy.”

Billy turned rather red, and took a sip of his whiskey to provide some cover.  “Werl, if yer puts it like that, I can’t very well refuse, can I now?” The storm passed, and the memory of a thousand smiles that had been etched into his face were seen again. “Mind you, I’ll be keepin’ an eye on ‘er!”

The all laughed at this.  Jack looked thoughtful.  “There is something about Juliet though.  Something I didn’t tell you because I didn’t think it important before, and even she doesn’t know this: she was orphaned in the troubles, but she was a foundling.  It was her foster parents who were killed; no-one knows who her real parents are.  Once this is all over it might be worth having a look into that.”

“Jack Runward!  How could you keep something like that to yourself?”

“Sorry Michaela.  It didn’t seem to matter before, but if this level of power is as unusual as you say, it might be more important than I realised.”

In unprompted unison, they all took a thoughtful sip.

Jack glanced at his watch – “Would you look at the time!  We should be getting along to our beds.  Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day.” He refilled glasses.  Raising his own he said “To Frank…and Robert”.

There was a chorus of “Frank”s and “Robert”s and glasses were drained.  Tink put the cork in the bottle: “I’ll take this back to the garret, for afterwards.”

They got up to go their separate ways:  Jack and Billy had business with Father Thames, whilst Tink and Mike would go back to the garret, with Mike heading back to the Warren to pick up some equipment.

“Here, Jack.” Tink took the bits and pieces he’d collected from his bag and passed them over.  “The glamour, for tomorrow.”

Jack took the ingredients and tucked them in his own pockets. With a wave of his hand that fell just short of an informal salute, he left the room with Billy.


© 2018, David Jesson & Debra Carey

Victor? No … is Viktor!

“Our instructors say we are ‘tough beggers’ and they call us their Pixies.”

“It struck me that Albania was the sort of place that might keep a man from yawning.”

John Buchan, The 39 Steps

V“How terrible you look Jack. Like you are nearly one hundred years. What has happened to you since last I saw you?” Despite being well over 100 years of age, Jack couldn’t disagree with Viktor that the weight of all those years was suddenly showing. Instead, he simply smiled, shrugged and performed the introductions.

Aware that Billy was sizing up Viktor with no small degree of disappointment, Jack asked Victor how his training was progressing. “It is fine, I think. We are being given much work – fitness, skills, explosives but, even more important, we are being fed well, very well.” Viktor patted his stomach, which could not be flatter.

“And they’re pleased are they? The big brass?”

“I think, yes, our instructors say we are ‘tough beggers’ and they call us their Pixies.” Viktor’s laugh boomed out of his small frame. “We are tough beggers for sure, small only because we lack food for so many years, but fighters, oh yes.  And we are ready, but I think the higher-ups, they need to decide on a plan, you know. Till then, I can help you.”

Leaving Billy to size up Victor some more, Tink pulled Jack aside for a quiet word. “Look, I know you said he was small, but he’s downright tiny. Are we sure he’s up to it?”

Tiredly Jack replied “he’s been trained by the very best we’ve got – the Royal Marines augmented by the same lot who trained the Commandos – and if they consider them ‘tough beggers’, that should be good enough for us. And he’s only available as there’s some talk of the Yanks getting involved in the project which I don’t think Viktor’s overly keen about, but he’ll do anything to get back into Albania to hurt the communists. He’s a King Zog man through-and-through. So yes, I do think he’s up to it, and whilst he’s small, we need specialist help and there’s not much of that about.”

A short while later, there was an outburst of pleasure from Billy causing Tinkerbell and Jack to turn round. Viktor had Billy clasped in a huge hug and – surprisingly – Billy seemed to be both delighted and was reciprocating. Puzzled looks on their faces, they re-joined the joyous pair.

Raising his eyebrows at Billy, Jack got the following news “‘E’s a boxer! Yer never told me that Jack … ‘n dead ‘andy too by the sound of ‘oo e’s fought. Yer kin ‘ave all yer special trainin’ malarkey, boxin’s a real mans’ game.”

Viktor seemed to positively grow in stature in front of their very eyes and, although he was doing his best to be humble about the whole thing, he was clearly well pleased to be recognised as a proper fighting man by what he saw as the only other proper fighting man present.

“Viktor’s also a frogman. If you let Billy know what kit you need Viktor, he’ll get Ch… ah, I’m sure he’ll be able to rustle some up from somewhere. I’m sorry Billy, I’m so used to Charlie being part of our team, it just slipped out.”
“Not ter worry Jack, ‘e’d rather that than be forgot. I always told ‘im chasin’ the birds wud get ‘im in trubble, jes’ never thought it’d be this kinder trubble.”

As they all stood around quietly regarding their pints, a friendly greeting interrupted their thoughts of Charlie …

“‘Allo Billy …”
“‘Wotcher Isaac m’boy, come ‘n join us.”

*****

Following the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Forces at Dunkirk, Winston Churchill had called for the formation of “a force of specially trained troops of the hunter class, who can develop a reign of terror down the enemy coast”. Lt Colonel Dudley Clarke, having previously submitted a proposal which seemed to meet the criteria, lost no time in forming the Commandos. A volunteer force, they were initially drawn solely from the Army, although the Royal marines joined in 1942. Candidates had to be physically very fit of course, but – far more important – they also had to demonstrate they didn’t need the traditional chain of command to operate in the heat of battle, for such chains of command were all too inclined to break down. Initiative was considered to be a vital commodity.

Training took place at a number of hastily put together facilities until they were streamlined into a facility at Inveraray, a small village in the Highlands of Scotland.
The training regime was expanded to include the unorthodox, primarily supplied by a former assistant commissioner of the Shanghai Police – William Fairbairn. His party trick was to give each commando a loaded revolver which they were to stick into his back. He’d then instruct them ‘when I move, you pull the trigger’, only for each man to be utterly amazed at having shot wide.  They soon learned never to push a gun into the enemy’s back, for before your brain could get the signal to your trigger finger, he’d sufficient time to turn round, knock your hand away and have his right hand at your throat or your eyes.

*****

Introductions complete, Tink enquired of Isaac “is it true what they say about Fairbairn?”
“D’pends what story tha’ means, but yerss … I recken so.”

Now that was a surprise, Tink had not expected the fast thinking Isaac to be a slow speaking West Country lad. Hoping he’d kept his reaction from showing, he continued –

“And what was your own background, before you joined the Commandos, Isaac?”
“Backalong, all us local folk, we do join the Glawsters … ‘Course, we do gets pulled out at Dunkirk with they rest. While we be waiting, my officer ‘ee says ‘listen up me’ansom, this new lot we be ‘earing ’bout, I reckens you be zackley what they be looking fer.’ Dreckly we got back, I do volunteer. Not many places we baint fought in – Norway, France, Germany, Italy, North Africa … was even goin’ to Japan, till they Yanks dropped they bombs.  When it all wound up, I dint want ter go back ter ordin’ry soldierin’, so yer tiz – in civvy street ‘n no reg’lar work.”
“Well, it’s my absolutely pleasure to meet you Isaac. I’ve had an ear out for you ever since you were smart enough to lob that briefcase over the wall at Seagull Lane before haring off to pull any followers after you.”
“B’y, was that you in there? ‘ow did yer be gettin’ out?”
“Oh, I’ve a few tricks up my sleeve …”
“Proper job!”

*****

Leaving Tinkerbell chatting to Viktor and Isaac, Jack drew Billy aside for a quiet word. “Have you had any ideas about moving that difficult item from Blackfriars?”

“As it ‘appens, I ‘as Jack m’lad, I ‘as.” Billy appeared to be inordinately pleased with himself. “One that cud fit rather well wiv our other plans too. Wiv a bit of ‘elp from yer young lady, sum muscle ‘n the odd docker, I fink I’ve got a right good plan.”

Catching Tinkerbell’s eye, Jack motioned him to join them. Tink left Viktor and Isaac trading tales of where they’d been, what skills they had and who they knew. They’d both started out a tad warily, circling about, testing each other out, but there now appeared to be a recognition and respect – one for the other – of properly trained fighting men.

“Billy’s had a cracking idea as to how we could solve two problems in one. Go on Billy, tell him!”
“I jes’ thought we cud mebbe get old man Thames’s bomb back down the river ‘n into th’docks … then it cud blow up one’v that Bunty geezer’s bits of cargo. We knows the nex’ few dates from Charlie sneekin’ a peak at ‘is diary, all we need ter do is pick a date when tide’s runnin’ t’right way.”

As Jack and Tinkerbell stood deep in thought

, he raised his glass – “Right then, I’ll leave yew two gents wiv that idea while I goes talk to our new fightin’ men.”


© 2018, David Jesson & Debra Carey

#FlashFiction: Project Gutenberg Prompt

A quick reminder that the prompt was to go to Project Gutenberg, have a look at the recent releases and pick a title that appeals: that is the prompt, and the title of your story…

*****

The Owl Taxi

Jonno’s Show had been a huge success.  Every piece had sold, to the satisfaction of Headmaster, Bursar, and Art Master.  Whilst the extravagant prices normally seen in the gallery had not been applied to the fifteen-year old’s portfolio, the patrons at the exclusive event had dug deep in a good cause.  There was even talk of a new scholarship being created, based on artistic merit.

For Jonno though, the celebration had been tempered: everyone had agreed that he should take an Art GCSE early.  The stress of the show done with, he now needed to finish his coursework.  This needed some thought: there was much to consider.  Not only did he need to produce the pieces, he needed to demonstrate his thought processes throughout.  The examiners would not care why he chose a particular subject, but they would scrutinise his every step on the journey, from the materials he chose, to the refinements made to bring the piece to a successful conclusion.  He also had some vague notions that he would look to take a subsequent A-level early too; a further show, in due course, but not too soon, did not appear to be impossible either.  This might even contribute to the costs of university, perhaps.

But all of this was still very much in the future – first he need to get the portfolio for his GCSE sorted.  To seek inspiration, during the half-term break, he wandered into his father’s study. His father was a big fan of detective and mystery stories, which he collected.  His collection started with the early exemplars – Murder on the Rue Morgue, The Notting Hill Mystery, The Moonstone – and continued with examples from every decade thereafter.   There were a few other small collections, but his attention today was on the coffee-table books of art and artists that were neatly lined up on one bottom shelf.  He started rooting through them. He’d looked through these books hundreds of times: they were old friends, his first friends.  He’d been looking at these books since he was a toddler, and their benign influence had shaped him to this point, although he didn’t realise it.

As he flicked through a book on Dalí, it occurred to him that he’d never tried to do anything in the Surrealist style.  In fact, there was a lot that he’d never tried, which was rather humbling.  Turning the glossy, outsize pages, a plan unfolded in his mind.  Without really thinking about it or acknowledging it, he knew how he would shape and present the journal.  But he still needed a subject for the piece.  He picked up the book on surrealism and sat in his father’s chair – a high-backed, wheeled affair – and gently twisted back and forth, musing.  As he spun the chair, the book on his lap, he took in several of the shelves of detective books and one caught his eye: the Owl Taxi.  He reached for some paper and started sketching and making notes: tentative sketches of a taxi in flight, with the features of an owl, reminders of what paints to use, brushes and strokes.  He trialled iconic taxis: yellow cabs from New York, black cabs from London, brightly coloured tuk-tuks from Delhi.  He considered whether it should be a horse drawn Hackney carriage of yore.  He tried to decide whether the kind of owl would make a difference and essayed the classic heart-shaped face of the Barn Owl, and a more general owl shaped based on a Snowy Owl.  A picture of a thousand brush-strokes begins with a simple sketch: he was on his way.

© David Jesson, 2018

*****

We had two other people play along this month, both of whom got their stories in well ahead of the deadline.

Stu’s Story is called “A Dominie Dismissed” and Isa-Lee’s is “A Chronical of Jails“.

Our man in Uniform

They’d been summoned there now – both of them, and whilst their time could be far better spent, it was a summons that had to be answered.

“It is a great danger for everyone when what is shocking changes.”

‘Our Man in Havana’ – Graham Greene

UWhen he’d first been assigned this liaison job, Robert had managed to nab a small office at the Grand Central by Marylebone station. It’d been a nice easy run in to London for him from the ancestral home in Latimer Park. But he’d generally met up with Michaela elsewhere – a restaurant, a club, somewhere social. On the odd occasion he’d met up with Jack, the locations had been varied and unusual. But never his office. They’d been summoned there now – both of them, and whilst their time could be far better spent, it was a summons that had to be answered. It seemed Robert’s suggestion that MI9 was being wound up was on the button: his second in command had been allocated his portfolio, or so they were informed during the phone call. The young woman, Jack surmised a Womens Royal Auxiliary Corp NCO, had given the appropriate emergency recognition signals under the cover of “a routine check that the line was in order”.  The decrypted message had told them to present themselves at Robert’s old office at niner hundred hours to meet their new boss.

“Do you know anything about this fellow, Michaela?”
“Not a thing, I don’t think I ever knew his name. Robert couldn’t stand the job as you know, but used our ‘stuff’ as an excuse to spend time with me, so he never delegated it to anyone else. I’m not entirely sure he knows … ”
“We’ll just have to play it by ear, I suppose.”

*****

Bang on time, they presented themselves for Captain Burnham. Tall and slim, dark with aquiline features, he ushered them into his office where he suggested “Tea?” which they’d both readily accepted. Having made small talk about the weather and their journey till his sergeant closed the door, having served the tea, he wasted no time at jumping straight in.

“Robert presumably told you that the whole community’s in a bit of a scramble at the moment.  All the sections, well all the departments really, are being reviewed, with a view to cutting down – the bean-counters feel that the cloak and dagger stuff is redundant now. Now I see that your team was put ‘on hold’, let’s say, shortly after the war ended, but Robert recently re-started your funding stream. Unfortunately, I can find nothing hard and fast in his papers to indicate why. In fact, having spent most of the past week reviewing the Bravo section files, I’m at a complete loss. Care to enlighten me?”

Exchanging glances, Jack deferred to Michaela. “Rather than waste any more of your time, Captain Burnham, would it be possible for you to briefly summarise what you do know and then Jack and I can then fill in the gaps?”

Harumphing somewhat, but seeing the sense in her suggestion, the requested summary was provided. It was brief, not because he was especially skilled, but because his knowledge was exceedingly limited.

“Look, it’s downright awkward. They’d normally replace Robert with someone of the same rank but, it seems pointless in the current climate, so they’ve instructed me to get stuck in and make recommendations. It’s an opportunity for me, and I don’t intend to get egg on my face. What I really want to know, is whether what’s in the sealed documents will a) throw any light on the situation and b) provide relevant information as to whether your team is to be wound up … or not?”

Without further ado, Jack told him the Sierra story. When he got to the end, Burnham called for “more tea … and biscuits this time.”  Supplies suitably refreshed, he continued “Pardon me for saying so Mr Runward, but nothing you’ve said seems to warrant the level of confidentiality such that it would be sealed thus” and with that, he pulled from his desk drawer a large, heavy-duty brown envelope, tied with string and sealed with red wax which had been marked with Robert’s own signet ring. Recognising it as likely to hold the original Echo Memorandum, Jack reached out his hand for the package before handing it to Michaela with a request she confirm the seal as Robert’s. With her affirmation, he sat back in his chair slightly and studied the ceiling, as if he hoped to find the answer written there.

“Captain, I am going to tell you what is in that package.  If you believe me, then there is no need to open it.  If you decide that my team serves no further purpose then I ask that you destroy it and forget we ever had this conversation.  If you do not believe me, then you may do as you wish – open it, close us down – as you wish.  It is unlikely, though, that you will see either of us again.”

Michaela interjected “The first recipient of the document in the package was sceptical too, but he came round after the War began.”

“And who was that?”

Michaela named the father of Robert’s friend.  Burnham raised his eyebrows – clearly impressed.

“He’s retired now, of course, but if I think it appropriate, I’ll request an audience.  Alright then, let’s have it.”

And Jack told him the story that he’d told Lady Michaela McManus some ten years before.  About stumbling on the Ahnenerbe, that they thought they’d found some important artefact in the Black Forest, that they’d started looking further afield, that they’d claimed to be from Atlantis.  That there were groups who’d been persecuted as a result.

“Alright, that sounds plausible enough:  but why do you need money now?”

“The Ahnenerbe is still in play.  In all honesty, we don’t know exactly what they are after, but we believe that Ansger Blecher was lifted by them and that they have plans for him. Their plans also indicate that they have designs on Lady Michaela here, again we’re not sure of the reason for this.  What we have established is that they have a smuggling ring that is using the India Docks as their own personal import/export base.”

“Assuming I believe you, what on Earth can the Ahnenerbe do?”

“Could I inquire what your background is Captain? It may seem an unusual request, but I assure you this is a most unusual set of circumstances.”

Raising his eyebrows, Captain Burnham recited potted details of his military career, only for Jack to say “Thank you, but I’d also like to establish your family history.”

Seeing his visible annoyance, Michaela realised it was time for her to interject, to smooth the waters if she could.

“I don’t know if you’re aware Captain Burnham, but I’d known Robert since he was a child. I regarded him as something of a little brother, and I think he felt similarly towards me. You see, the information contained in that package is not just of an unusual and delicate nature, but it places myself and countless others in potential danger. I have been fortunate that my family position has protected me from the worst of the past excesses, but many have not. Most have suffered, many died, the rest were forced to leave their homes and possessions.”

“Are you Jewish Lady Michaela?”
“No …  Why do you ask?”

“The situation you describe is one which is all too familiar to Jews. My own family for example.” Seeing their alertness, he continued. “My full name is James Benjamin Levy Burnham. My father is English – Anglican, my mother is Jewish – a distant relative of the Rothschilds.”

“Captain, whilst that will doubtless give you an insight most Englishmen wouldn’t have about the experiences of my people, I invite you to consider everything that came out about the Ahnenerbe at Nuremburg.  They are fanatical.  Despite our best efforts, they have resources.   They wish to continue their work, and that means a great deal of pain and suffering for all sorts of people.”

Burnham looked at the package in his hand.  He moved to put it on his desk, appeared to think better of it, and then to wonder what to do with it next. As he stared at the package, Jack said “You’re in a tricky position.  Unsubstantiated rumours of enemy agents running around London, whilst you’re busy trying to work out who is out of a job and who should continue.  You’ll make your own decisions, but why don’t you spend another couple of days looking at the hocus pocus merchants – they did a great job in providing kit to PoWs, and I’m sure there’ll be a role for some of them in the new order, but there’s enough of them that your review will keep you busy until this is done, one way or another.”

*****

Burnham appeared grateful for the lifeline.  The poor blighter was clearly out of his depth on this one, and he’d be sunk if he knew everything.  When he came round, hopefully he would go see the retired grandee who’d signed off on the Memorandum – that would gain them a little more time at the very least.

Stepping outside, Jack reminded Michaela “no hailing black cabs now Michaela, not when we’re heading back to the garret.” Nodding almost absent-mindedly Michaela spoke quietly “you go on ahead Jack, I just need a moment alone.”

“What’s up? Did you pick something up in there that I missed?”
“No, no … nothing like that. I thought I’d be fine, but … well, Robert was our man in Uniform wasn’t he? And seeing someone else in that role, well … it brought it home that he was gone … that I’d not see him again.”

Giving Michaela an awkward sort of hug, Jack agreed with her “bus for me, underground for you?” Michaela nodded, the walk up Mare Street would help to clear her head. Tink would already be there setting things up and Billy was bound to turn up at some point. Both needed to be told the state of play, for the risks applied equally to all.  And after that, Mike had a date at an impromptu shooting range.  There was no use having help if they weren’t properly equipped, after all.


© 2018, David Jesson & Debra Carey