It had been a long time since Charles had been in the registry of his old employers. In fact, he had only ever come down here 3 times in his whole career and two of those times were to go somewhere quiet with one of the new typist girls.
Charles noticed that there were electronic gates in and out of the registry now and felt sorry that there would be no departmental hanky panky occurring in this sub-basement. It was renowned around the organisation and an invite to the registry, from a member of the operational team, was highly sort after by the ladies in the typing pool. It was a far more enjoyable way to spend an afternoon for all parties involved.
Charles was snapped from his revery, by a cough from the junior records clerk in front of him.
“Your desk. A torpedo will be along soon with your documents. Buzz here if you need anything.”
Charles sat and took in the desk, small grey melamine covered with a doorbell buzzer and a plastic tube hanging from overhead. Moments later, with a loud SHUNK, a plastic tube ‘torpedo’ fell on his desk from above. His documents had arrived.
It was a nice pen. Good weight, the ink flowed well from the nib and the grip had just the right type of tactility. It was quite apt to be used to sign such a serious document, not that anyone else was ever likely to see this highly secret document.
Charles finished signing and passed the folder and pen to his cousin sat next to him. He made a motion with his eyes, knowing that his cousin would understand that this meant he should try and pocket the pen.
The two had quite a collection of purloined items from this war, some from their own side, some from their enemies, all of it worth money. It had become more of a game than anything else, a light hearted side bet on the whole shooting match.
The documents were handed back to the man on the other side of the desk, the two men stood up, saluted and turned on their heels. As they reached the door, the voice of their CO sounded from behind them.
“You can keep the pen gentlemen, if you carry this one off, it is the least I can do for you, you’ll probably deserve it.”
“So Jack, a new day, full of potential and fresh chances.”
“Indeed sir. Jack you are quite the most understated person I think I have ever had the joy of being associated with.”
Charles was going to have some fun now.
“This girl you’re seeing Jack. What’s her name?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t seem to follow sir. What girl are you referring to?”
Charles turned to face his valet.
“Come on Jack, we’re both men of the world. Alexa and I are both quite aware that you have been taking one of her maids out, whilst her and I are out for dinner.
For the first time, Charles saw Jack shuffle awkwardly in his Valet uniform and pause, momentarily, from ironing Charles’ tie.
“Ah. Yes, I am sorry you have found out about that sir. I will halt the liaisons immediately.”
“Halt the liaisons! Jack, what are you talking about man? It is delightful that you and her are getting on so well. What’s her name ?”
This was key, he and Alexa had made a small wager on who could find out the name of the maid first.
“Her name is Virginia sir. Gina in short.”
Twelve deranged hours had passed. Charlie had spent most of it on the sofa, trying to work out whether Gina left him the note and if so, whether it was sincere or some huge double bluff. Once night had fallen, he had finally got himself worked up enough to go and see Gina, whether this was the right idea or not he couldn’t tell.
When your whole world is collapsing around you, you have no idea which bit of wall is going to crush you.
He was stood outside her door wondering whether he should knock or not, when the door opened and Charlie was pulled forcibly into the room. Gina had her finger to her lips, probably like she did at school when she was telling the unruly ADHD kid to be quiet, whilst the shy, sexually frustrated newly qualified teacher, who was still nursing last nights hangover, was trying to teach the class what a vowel was.
Charlie stood still and quiet, Gina turned, grabbed a packed rucksack from the bed, gave it to Charlie and pushed him back out the door, blowing him a kiss, before shutting aforementioned door.
Charlie decided that it was time to leave.
“OK everyone ready?” Daniel said to the occupiers of his rear passenger seats. “Good luck.”
He didn’t look back as he heard the two doors open, but kept his eyes firmly locked on the street ahead of him. There was a car parked up a short distance down the road, this was the target for his two passengers. It contained West German papers for the couple and should hopefully propel them over the border and into the arms of the British agents on the other side.
The two figures moved hand in had towards the car, Daniel was braced, unconsciously, for the gunshot and shout that would signify the plot had been discovered, but it never came. The couple reached the car, and got in.
“Come on, come on.” Daniel uttered under his breath. “Almost there.”
He saw the car shake slightly as the ignition turned, then the cloud of smokey steam from the exhaust as the engine turned over.
Daniel turned the ignition in his own car, looking down for a second.
In that second there was a flash and a dull crump. He didn’t need to look up to know that the car had blown up.
Charles was in his club, waiting. He didn’t mind that he was waiting, because he knew that the woman he was waiting for, was an exceedingly intelligent, in demand type of individual from his old service and she was doing him a favour.
In his jacket pocket he had a cutting taken from the letter that had killed his wife. He wanted his old colleagues to take a look at it, see if they could provide any leads on the poison or indeed the hand writing. The police wouldn’t let him have the whole letter, but after Inspector Deacon had been informed of Charles’ professional career, he had agreed to let him take a small section.
“Charles, so good to see you.”
Charles jumped a little.
“Christ, I didn’t even see you come in Lucy. You must have a bloody tunnel or something!”
Charles stood whilst Lucy sat down.
“Here, I got you your usual.” He said, sliding a large whisky mac across to her.
“Most kind Charles. Now, what is it I can do for you? Got yourself into a spot of trouble?”
“Mmm, someone has murdered my wife, pretending to be a ghost from my old country place.”
Charles was looking intently down the barrel of his Webley Mk VI service revolver. He would deny it if you asked him, but he was trying to see whether he could see the brass head of the single shell that he knew was in the gun.
He knew it was in the gun, because he had put it in the gun, spun the revolving mechanism, cocked the firing pin and then pointed the gun at his forehead. Charles had done this, well, because Charles didn’t really fancy living anymore and the good thing about a war is that it means there are many ways of topping yourself. Charles liked the poetry of killing yourself with your own service revolver, so he had chosen that route.
As he had begun to quite literally look down the barrel of his own suicide attempt, he had started to question the whole idea. Perhaps staying alive was the best way to remember Alexa and indeed it is probably what she would have wanted, despite her nihilism.
He lowered the gun and took two deep breaths.
Then he raised the gun, pointed it to the ceiling and pulled the trigger.