“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes
Seeing his overnight bag, Jack had offered Tinkerbell a shake-down bed at the garret. Unusually Her Ladyship hadn’t put in a counter bid so, knowing that Tink would help him plough through the papers and put together the File, Jack suggested they quickly stretch their legs in London Fields first.
Knowing Jack’s idea of a ‘quick’ leg stretch, Tink told Jack he’d meet up with him at the flat in an hour or so. Hopping off the bus, he stopped for a paper to check if anyone else had made the same exit there or at the stop up the road. Re-assured, he headed for the Dolphin where he ordered a pint and a couple of rounds of sandwiches. Indicating a table in the corner at the back, Tink positioned himself so he could view the entrance over the top of his paper. The sandwiches were as he remembered them, great doorsteps of bread, sharp homemade pickle and a decent amount of filling considering – a proper, crumbly Caerphilly, that left him wondering (but not caring) if it was entirely legal. That disgusting brew and poncy biscuits her ladyship had ordered wouldn’t keep the wolf from his door for long.
Suitably refreshed and leaving his second pint virtually untouched, he nipped down the corridor, out the back entrance and then round the back streets, till he was a few blocks north of Jack’s flat. Waiting till he spotted a bus going south, Tinkerbell grabbed the opportunity to hop on board as it pulled away, leaving no chance for anyone to follow. Flipping his fare to the conductor, he tucked into the platform corner, indicating he’d be hopping off again soon. Squeezing his hat – a squashy, tweedy affair – into one pocket, he was pulling a scarf out of the other when fortune smiled – a couple of elderly ladies with shopping bags rang the bell for the next stop. Tink jumped up, offering to carry their bags. Leaving them at their door to grateful thanks, he went down the back streets again. It was easy to check for tails there before he ducked into the alleyway leading to the back entrance of Richmond Court. Using the key which Jack had given him, Tink pulled the door firmly shut behind him before heading up the stairs to find Jack waiting for him at the door.
Jack indicated the big sofa in the corner where Tink found pillows and a folded up mummy bag – it may not be luxury, but he’d be warm and safe here. It wasn’t long before there were papers everywhere. Knowing better than to interfere in Jack’s random system of piles, Tink had made tea while Jack muttered to himself, pulling out papers in an apparently random fashion to make two stacks on the floor. Taking a stack, Tinkerbell spread out across the dining table and was soon engrossed. To his surprise, quite a clear picture was building up, a pattern of people and goods coming in through the docks. But none – not one – of the people involved were known to the regulars, and they appeared to prefer acting under cover of darkness. There was the odd rumour of ‘foreigners’ but none of the dockers who’d tipped the wink to Billy could recognise what accent to any reliable degree. They also didn’t have the license to roam, nor to get to know the higher-ups. That’s where Frank had come in. One crash course on shipping later, he’d taken a job with a new shipping outfit.
It was becoming clear to Tink that Jack and Billy had been working in tandem for the last couple of years whilst he and Michaela had been out of the loop. Tink’s stack held a small number of notes in Jack’s familiar hand, together with a few he recognised as being from Billy. One of the notes indicated that Frank had picked the monicker ‘Foxtrot’ for himself. Tink wondered fleetingly if he’d received a ribbing over the choice.
It seemed Frank had been there a few months without spotting anything of interest when he noticed a fellow in the local cafe sporting a black eye and a split lip. Seating himself down within earshot, he started to build a reputation for himself as something of a bad lot who was looking to make a bit on the side. He made a point of expressing how frustrated he was with his current employers for being so straight. It took a couple more months till that same fellow’d started to walk carefully, like he’d taken a few blows to the body. Spotting his opportunity, Frank had sprung his trap. Suggesting they work an unofficial swap, he’d got his ‘in’. No fool, he’d bided his time and made sure he was only illegal in ways his new employers wanted him to be. He also made certain to never associate with anyone else on the docks again, so he got a reputation with his new employers for being both tight-lipped and reliable.
In his last note, he’d sent Jack a list of names to see if Billy had heard any whispers. There’d been nothing immediate, as per Jack’s reply. Then for a couple of weeks – nothing. He was seen around the docks, but no notes, no chalk marks, no flags indicating danger. Until he’d been pulled out of the water at the Isle of Dogs that is.
Tink summarised his findings so far before Jack – wordlessly – handed him the other stack – a much smaller one. These were a lot more sketchy – some were scribblings in Jack’s handwriting, but there were others in handwriting Tinkerbell wasn’t familiar with. There were torn out scraps containing what appeared to be the same phrase – those in English read “the Reich is at bay, but the Dance Continues” and Tink thought those in German said the same. There seemed to be one key document. One copy was beautifully lettered on high quality paper, but others were hand-written – personal copies presumably. Tink’s German was very sketchy, but someone – Jack he thought – had scribbled various notes/translations in the margin. From these it was clear a new Aryan seat of power was being planned, some of the copies referred to this seat as Prydain, others as Albion. Whilst different names for the same concept, Tink was disturbed by the use of the Celtic terms. Used to the idea that Hitler had considered the English a race he could work with rather than one to be eradicated, he wondered if Wales and Scotland were to be included or excluded. Realising he was going down a rabbit hole, he enquired of Jack …
“How long have you know about this?”
“I always worried it would happen. The evidence came later. Most of this I collected on my travels. Not all of these people are alive anymore and most have made good their escape to South America. But there are plenty more copies of this document out there, that’s something I’ve been told unequivocally by those whose copies are here.”
“Who are these people?”
“Well, that’s the big problem. As far as I can tell, the names are real. But none have turned up, in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. What photos I’ve been able to find have been blurry or show only partial faces. I’m assuming new identities, whether arranged in Germany or here I haven’t been able to establish. Some of the other intelligencers have been talking about absconded SS and Wermacht higher-ups who’ve had experimental surgeries to change their appearance…Whoever is running this show has excellent contacts. If it’s happening here, they’re probably using a lot of the old blackmarket hands – apart from military intelligence, no-one else has the skills.”
“But it seems unlikely they’d do it willingly?”
“Agreed. So unless they are doing it unknowingly, pressure is being applied. And as Billy’s hearing nothing, it’s not London-based. We’ve assumed this is where they’re bringing them in, but Foxtrot – Frank – was digging around to see if they had any ships running into the likes of Harwich or Hull.”
“So, who knows about this?”
“Apart from Billy, just you and me so far. I wanted to check your reaction to see if – even without the gatherings from my wanderings – there was enough to go to the Department.”
“You still think they’ll …”
“Haven’t they always? We’ve had to prove ourselves, and prove, and prove again. No reason to think that’s changed just because the war is over. We’d better fill her ladyship in sharpish. And she can update us on her efforts to get the Department to re-instate our funding.”
© 2018, David Jesson & Debra Carey