By the time Daniel had left the senior man’s house in the light of early dawn, they had worked out the rudimentary beginnings of a plan. He checked his watch, a few minutes after five. There was no way he could make it home to sleep before having to head into the office, so he straightened his tie and decided to go and sleep at his desk.
The walk through the not yet quite awake city was a pleasant enough experience for Daniel and he decided to make it more pleasurable by diverting through Hyde Park. He entered off the Bayswater Road, walked down past the Serpentine, exited by Wellington Arch, into Green Park, across the front of Buckingham Palace, then down to Westminster over the bridge and on until he arrived at the office. 100 Westminster Bridge Road, Century House, the worst best kept secret headquarters in the history of spying.
He bought cigarettes from the petrol station on the ground floor and headed upstairs. It was almost six thirty, he had two hours until the secretaries arrived and three before his superiors appeared doing the morning inspections of their teams. He would need to be awake by then.
The clink of cutlery, well the fact that all you could hear was the clink of cutlery. Was a telling sign, of the pressure currently being felt, at the small table of four dining on the first floor of a luxurious house in a very sought after part of London. Outside, a pea souper fog had rolled in, blanketing the city in a cloying choking greyness, as if the very clouds were trying to exterminate life beneath their shadow.
The four were sat in silence mostly due to crushing hangovers, but also, in part, because no one had been brave enough to ask Charles just what the hell had gotten into him the night before. Eventually however, the silence was broken by Charles’ younger brother Thomas.
“Oh I can’t bear this. Why did you attack that man yesterday Charles?”
Kath managed to inhale two more glasses of wine, before Charles lowered his cutlery and looked at his brother.
“Do you really want to know?”
“Yes Charles I do.”
Charles began to talk.
He spoke for over an hour, starting in Germany 1918 and ending with the events of the day before.
“That man killed my wives.” Is how he finished.
It had been no use. There was no way they were going to be able to fight their way out of it, so the three of them had quietly gone with the police officer and were now languishing in the cells of the local military police station. They were waiting for the officer in charge to finish checking with their supposed units, as to whether they were allowed to be on leave at this time. The three men knew that once it became apparent that their alter egos had never existed in their supposed units, things would get very spiky, very quickly. The cousins were holding things together, the pilot was visibly shaking.
“Listen up, both of you. Don’t say anything not in German. It will take them longer to deal with us if they think we’re German than if they learn we’re British. Just play dumb for as long as you can, I’ll think of a way to get us out.” Charles said quietly in English to the two men. “No more English from now on. Right?”
The two men nodded back. Charles knew he could trust Alex, but the pilot he wasn’t so sure. He’d soon find out.
Kath had rarely been out in the gardens after dark, let alone this late, but time with Alexa seemed to fly and Kath was finding her attitude to life equally terrifying and refreshing. She had never experienced such an independent woman before, growing up in a house of overprotective men and being the youngest child, had kept her closeted away from danger, but also excitement.
The two women were on horseback at the furthest boundary of the estate. Kath was riding side saddle as she always did, whilst Alexa was fully astride her horse, another very new experience for Kath, who had never seen a lady ride a horse in such a way before.
“Kath, it really is much easier if you ride the horse properly my dear.” Alexa said, as Kath caught up to her, their horses’ breath leaving clouds of steam in the cold night air.
“I’ve never been taught how to ride like that. Ladies always ride like this.”
Alexa jumped from her horse, walked over to Kath grabbed her right leg and with difficulty pushed it over the bridle until Kath was sat astride her pony.
“There you go, now you’re a real woman.” Alexa laughed.
After twenty minutes of walking through corn, corn which had torn the bottom of his jeans and left small but immensely painful cuts on his hands, he decided to give up and just lay down. He had tried to make a snow angel type of affair to start with, but the corn was so tough it was impossible. So now he was just laying still, looking at the blue sky, listening to the sound of his own body in his ears.
A bonus side effect of this which Charlie wasn’t aware of, was that he had all but disappeared from the view of the satellite overhead and this had caused the operator on shift at that moment, to call his superior officer in to look at the feed.
“How long since he disappeared?” The gruff supervisor asked the junior officer in the chair.
“Less than ten minutes sir. He can’t be far.” came the junior’s reply.
“And the ETA on the collection team?”
The junior pressed a button which moved the camera from the field, to the trucks travelling at speed, down the centre lane of the motorway.
“Looks to be about 10 minutes until they reach the field sir.”
They had been interrupted briefly by the housekeeper, but she had been ushered away with a wave of the head of MI6’s hand, leaving the two men alone. A scotch had been poured and passed across the desk to Daniel and now the two men were sat in stony silence, eyeing each other up across the oak desk.
“I’ll start.” Daniel said after taking a large mouthful of scotch. “I’m not trying to blackmail you or anything as crass as that. I have been tasked to kill you.”
The man opposite, placed his glass carefully down on the polished wood of his desk.
“Kill me? What the hell for?” he replied.
“It is deemed, that the service can’t have a repeat of the Burgess incident and your death, would be easier to release to the press, than a defection to the Soviets. Thing is, I don’t really want to have to kill you. So I think we should work out a plan, to get you and the senior under secretary, out of the country and away to somewhere neutral, before either side has chance to counteract.”
“Well, if what you are saying is true. What do you suggest we do?”
Charles and Alex were alone with large glasses of brandy, sat either side of the fireplace in Charles’ study. They had a raging fire going and it was safe to say, that their hair was drunk.
“So you’re telling me, that you think that he was the man, that collared us at that cafe in the first war? If I didn’t know you better Charles, I’d think that the stress of the last few days had got to you.” Alex said, focusing on his cousin through the one eye he could keep open.
“Pah! He should count himself lucky that my brother pulled me off him before I could do any real damage.The bloody cheek of turning up at my wife’s funeral after he bally murdered her! The bloody police were no use, I called Inspector Deacon at home, but his damn wife wouldn’t put him on the phone. She said I was drunk!”
“Charles you were, I mean, we were and are, absolutely bloody sozzled. I think we need to re-examine this once the dust and headaches have settled down tomorrow. Come on, I’m going to bed.” He stood, throwing his brandy, glass and all, into the fire.
The chaps had made it to the morning and were now sitting in a small cafe, trying to look inauspicious and keeping very quiet. It turned out the pilot’s German wasn’t as good as he had led on and he had almost got them caught when he indicated three coffees using his three middle fingers, rather than the thumb and first two, as is the usual German way. It took some quick and aggressive talking from Alex, to put the curious cafe owner off the trail.
They had tried discussing a plan of escape in German, but had given that up, as they had realised quickly, that three men in German uniforms, discussing how to get behind British lines, may end up with them being shot as deserters by the Germans.
“Wir sind gefickt.” Alex said.
“Ja, wir sind sehr gefickt.” Charles replied.
It took the pilot a moment, Alex could see him working through the verb tables in his head, before a small smile appeared, which was replaced quickly by a look of forlorn resignation and then.
“Guten Morgen, Kapitän. Sie sind weit von Ihrer Einheit entfernt, oder?”
They looked up to see a German military policeman.
“Do you ride Alexa?” Kath asked across the table.
The women were currently engaged in a post dinner game of cards. It was a game Kath hadn’t played before, called Poker. She had just about got the understanding of the rules, but it was apparent that Alexa was the better player, so Kath was resorting to distraction tactics.
“Ride, like, a horse?” Alexa responded.
“Well yes, what else would you ride?”
“There are many things a lady can ride Kath and more things a woman could ride.” Alexa said with more than a little bit of a gleam in her eye.
“Like what? And what could a woman ride that a lady couldn’t?” Kath responded, completely missing Alexa’s insinuations.
“When you are old enough to understand, you will understand.” Alexa replied, then laid down her hand of cards. “A royal flush, the best hand in the game. Lucky me!”
Kath threw her hand down with more than a little irritation. She had barely a pair to match her opponent’s cards and so far had not won one hand.
“One last game? Double or quits?” Alexa said shuffling the cards. “And tell me, what do you do for fun around here?”
It was a very German click. Solid, not aggressive, confident but not brash. It was a noise that had been developed by engineers and artisans to inspire confidence and security in those that heard it.
“Fucking stupid for an indicator.” Charlie said to it.
Charlie was in the car, but the car was in a hedgerow. The car had turned its own hazard warning lights on and Charlie had been sat listening to the lights turn on and off, for quite some time.
He was still miles away from the city, but could see what looked like a power station a few fields away from where he was sat and if he could have seen the view from the satellite tracking him, he would have seen the two collection wagons barrelling down the motorway towards him. But he couldn’t.
“Looks like I’m walking again.”
Charlie pulled on the door handle, which opened the door with another well engineered noise and stepped out into the hedge. He climbed over the car and headed off across the field towards the power station. This was easier said than done, as the field was about waist high in what looked like densely packed wheat.