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
I had a change of mind before I went on an odyssey to Peaslake. I needed help, and I was going to try and convince Jennifer to help me. If she had been injured, that might be more difficult.
I caught a train and a bus to Putney and then walked the remaining fifty yards to her front door. It was a flat over the top of a shop, and, when I read the name of the shop, I thought I knew why she was there. The shop, and quite likely the building belonged to her family, not that it was her surname, but I could be hopeful.
I went up the side stairs and reached the landing. There were two doors, one with 1A on it, and one with 1B on it. Hers was 1A.
I knocked on the door.
A minute later nothing had happened.
I knocked again, this time a little harder.
There was no answer, again, but there was a movement in the flat next door, then the door opened and a scruffy young man, perhaps a university student put his head out.
“She’s not here.”
“Not here, and in no longer living here, or not here as in she is out somewhere and will be back.”
He looked at me blankly, like I’d spoken too fast, or used too many words for him to understand. Possibly he’d just woken up.
He shook his head. “Just out probably getting coffee or something. The shops on the other side of the road, three or four doors up. Can’t miss it, it smells like coffee.”
He gave me a look up and down, gauging whether or not I could be of interest to her, then went back inside his room and closed the door.
It might be a lie, but I was going to take him at his word.
I went back down the stairs and out onto the sidewalk and looked up and down both sides of the street. There was a café, on the other side, not far away.
I waited for a break in the traffic, then crossed the road.
She was inside, reading a paper, oblivious to those around her, and, in particular, those coming from outside. She should be casually keeping an eye out for trouble.
I managed to get inside and take the seat next to her before she raised her head to see who it was.
“You,” she said. “You made it out alive too?”
“You should be more careful.”
“I was told I was no longer employed, that the people who hired me were ex-agents with some sort of agenda.”
I glanced at the open page of the newspaper. The jobs vacant page.
“Then it might come as a bit of a surprise to realize you’re still on their books, just assigned to a different department. Same as me.”
“They told me I was redundant.”
“Who told you?”
“A woman. Monica Sherive she said her name was.”
“I spoke to her earlier this morning. I didn’t ask, but I will the next time I’m in the office. What do you remember about the assignment?”
“We were supposed to maintain surveillance on a man, no name, just a photograph. I heard you had him in sight and was about to pass him off to Adam. I didn’t hear Adam acknowledge. I heard an explosion and all hell broke loose. No point carrying on, so I left.”
And that was what saved her life. Incorrect procedure. Unless she reported in.
“Did you report to the overseer.”
“Over the radio. He told me to go. What happened to Adam and Jack?”
“Dead. Murdered by the target, I think. The target’s dead too. A chap by the name of O’Connell, though the more I find out about him, the more interesting it gets.”
I could see the cogs ticking over behind her eyes as she put one and one together. “So…”
“You should be dead too. What saved your life was just up and leaving.”
“How did you escape?”
“I didn’t. I found the target again after the explosion and followed him to an alley. When I got there he told me I was making a mistake, and then he was shot. Severin and Maury turned up, and that was it.”
“Did they kill him?”
“No. It was a sniper, and I’m still wondering why I didn’t get shot too.”
“The woman told me Severin and Maury didn’t work for the organization. How could that be? They seemed real to me. I think whatever they and we were doing became a mess that needed to be cleaned up by getting rid of everyone associated with it. I liked that job. Now I have to go back to a daily drudge job.”
“Don’t think so. Like I said, I saw your name listed as active in the same department as me, the head of which is a guy called Nobbin. I’ve met him, I’m supposed to be investigating O’Connell, who, by the way, was one of his people, who had allegedly some documents on him when he died. You feel like helping out?”
“I would, but are you sure I’m supposed to be working for these people, God, I don’t know who they are or what I was doing anymore.”
“We can go to the office and ask questions. Get this Monica and get her to tell you. But in the meantime, I had a job I need to do, and it would be better with two. Can you help?”
“If you come with me to the office?”
She folded the paper and slid off the seat. “Then, let’s go.”
© Charles Heath 2020