I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.
The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritizing.
But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.
Chasing leads, maybe
She gave me a minute to think about the situation, and then said what I was thinking, “So he could be anywhere?”
“He was dead. I felt for a pulse. There wasn’t one.”
I could interpret that expression on her face, ‘you’re not a doctor’.
She turned another page, read a few lines, then made a note at the bottom.
It read, if my deciphering was up to scratch, ‘doesn’t know if subject dead or not’.
She looked up again. “It appears these documents are out there,” she waved her hand in the air, “somewhere. Fortunately, they have not turned up, not has someone tried to sell them back or to the newspapers, so we’re lucky. So far. That isn’t going to last for much longer. Every extra day out there is another chance for the government to be embarrassed.”
“You know what the contents are?”
“Don’t be silly. That’s above my pay grade, and besides, you and I are better off not knowing. So, what you need to do is find O’Connell and/or find the documents on this USB drive.”
She slid a card across the table. It had a name and a telephone number. Monica Sherive. A mobile number, a burner no doubt that couldn’t be traced back to her.
“You find either, you tell me first.”
“Second, and when I tell you.”
“So you don’t trust him either?”
“At the moment, for both you and I have to be careful who we trust.”
I added her to the list of people I couldn’t trust, not that she had told me I could trust her. Yet.
“And if I get contacted by Severin again?”
I had thought about not telling her about that brief meeting where he told me about the USB drive, but it couldn’t do any harm. At least she hadn’t asked me if I knew about the USB, which was something, I suppose.
“Yes. Once. Told me to keep my head down. And asked me if O’Connell had time to talk to me. It was the same answer I gave him back in the alley. No. I’d just managed to corner him when he was shot.”
“By Severin, or this other fellow,” she shuffled back several pages, then said, “Maury?”
“No. That was what was odd about it. The shot came from somewhere else. A sniper I would have thought.”
And, my brain suddenly moving into overdrive, piecing together what might be a coincidence, but in our business, they were rarely coincidences. A sniper shot him., say Nobbin or one of his people, he looks dead, waits for a call to the cleaners, intercepts it, and collects the so-called dead O’Connell. It was a good conspiracy theory.
And as far-fetched as one.
Severin had to have the body somewhere, trying to figure out how to bring O’Connell back to life so he could torture the USB location out of him.
Hell, that was as twisted as the conspiracy theory.
Time to change the subject. “Do you have any idea who Severin and Maury are?”
She went to the back of the file and pulled out some photographs, mug shots perhaps of staff members. She put five faces in front of me and asked me if the two were there.
They were. The first, with the name of David Westcott, and the fourth with the name of Bernie Salvin.
“Who are they?”
“They used to work in the training department for ten or so years ago. Westcott was also a handler for several years. They both requested a transfer to operations, and we give a mission. Six agents were assigned, and all six were killed, an investigation after the fact found that their identities had been leaked to the enemy before they reached the target.”
“They gave them up?”
“Nobody knows for sure. There were others in that group, but in the end, the department retired them all. All their years in training served them well. We found the place where you were trained.”
Another photograph of the main building. I nodded.
“It was an old training facility closed down five years ago. It was just sitting there waiting for an enterprising crew. It won’t happen again. Needless to say, we haven’t been able to find either of them, only the people they employed, who believed it was in good faith. A mess in other words. Now, go. Find me answers.”
She stood. The meeting was over.
© Charles Heath 2020