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

11 thoughts on “The Zulu Protocol: The Last Post”

  1. Exactly the right ending: lowish key after the excitements of Xray and Yankee; and a nice touch to leave both Juliet and Jack with possible future stories. I look forward to seeing some ‘extras’ appearing in future FCBF postings. Some will be good, some might be Wuest 🙂 (Sorry!)

    And thanks for a final opportunity for proof-reading: ‘begger’ = ‘beggar’; ‘mauseleum’ = ‘mausoleum’; ‘supress’ = ‘suppress’ and ‘profer’ = ‘proffer’

    One final quibble: it is unlikely that MI9 would be completely closed down (despite what might be said for public consumption). It is more likely that – given the tensions of the late ’40s, early ’50s – it would be put into a sort of suspended animation: a skeleton staff keeping an eye on things with potential postholders identified for gapped ‘chairs’ who could be brought in very quickly to get the operation up and running again if needed.

    If I knew how to do it on this system, here would follow a row of applauding hands!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Alan, thank you. It’s been fabulous having your support throughout the story and I’m delighted you’re pleased with the ending.

      As for the typos … would you believe I was frantically picking some up this morning, still managed to miss those – clearly hadn’t had enough tea at the time I did it!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks! Glad you felt that it worked. I have a bit of an idea for something that might appear, but Debs and I need to come up with an action plan for what comes next.

      I don’t think the comments section is the place for a long discussion about the history of military intelligence(!), but I will simply say that this is an area that possibly needs some further research on our part, that you might be right, but I would say ‘probably’ rather than ‘more likely’ – MI9s major role had disappeared and other agencies were making land-grabs in a world of diminishing budgets. The good news is that Echo has friends in high places…

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  2. Everything sorted out, yet there is still so much more for the main characters. Which fits the axiom: always leave them wanting more. You both certainly did that. I think the line that got me the most was with Tink stopping to light up, it being his downfall. Mischevious.

    I am so glad to have found the two of you (or did you find me?). This has been fun; I’m looking forward to what comes next, on many fronts.

    Stu
    Tale Spinning
    https://stuartnager.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Not something that I ever got round to talking to Debs about, but I was toying with whether we should have a definite “The End”, or some riff on this, or not. In terms of where we go from here, it is definitely not the end, but a beginning. Your support over the month has been invaluable and I’ve also enjoyed reading your stories – we’ve found each other, and long may the interactions continue! Our normal schedule comes back into force from Sunday, when we’ll run a prompt for a piece of flash fiction. If you have the time and inclination, I think that it’s a prompt that you can get your teeth into, either for the Dollhouse, or as a welcome respite – your choice :0)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Will do – goes up as as post. If you are following, you should get a notification, and it goes up on Twitter as well. I’ll try and remember to give you a nudge as well, but Sundays are surprisingly busy!

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  3. Stu, perhaps whoever can prove the claim to have found the other can get a special prize (maybe chosen by the other two) 😉 I’m so glad you enjoyed Tink getting caught out. David thought up him being caught, mine was the pipe lighting, so we can both bask in that particular compliment!

    I’ll try to remember to send you a link to the prompt when it goes live. It may not be till Monday; the weekend is usually camera time, and April has meant I’ve fallen behind in that area.

    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good ending. I enjoyed picturing Tink heading back to Oxford on the train, no one knowing all that he had been involved in, the secrets he keeps. And the chance of Juliet taking over as the next generation, with Jack, who will of course have survived! Well done on an ambitious month of work, and I do hope you take this story forward, fine tune and create a novel? Look forward to keeping in touch in the future, and congratulations 🙂
    https://iainkellywriting.com/2018/04/30/z-is-for-zaragoza-spain/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Iain, that means more than you can imagine. Whilst a stressful month, it has been a great deal of fun. There is a lot that Debs and I discussed that didn’t make it into this month of posts, so now we need to have a good think about what next – but we think we’ve got enough to flesh this out, and we think we know where an arc over several books would go. We will certainly be keeping an eye on your work – I for one am in awe of the consistency and quantity of your outputs.

      Liked by 2 people

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