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 prioritising.
But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.
A chessboard of players
I sighed. Someone else who wasn’t who they seemed to be.
At a guess, it was a gun in my back. We were far enough away from anyone else for them to recognise what was happening.
“No need for whatever weapon you have in my back. I’m neither armed nor dangerous.”
“Why are you following me?”
Should I tell her the truth or tell her a lie. The latter would be the most expedient, but I needed to talk to her, so I went with the former.
“You know O’Connell.”
“Were you the one who attacked me?”
“I told you I meant you no harm. What happened to you wasn’t my fault.”
Whatever was in my back was no longer there, so I turned around to face her. She had changed her look since O’Connell’s flat, not only the change in hair colour and length but also the makeup, making it difficult for anyone to recognise her from a distance. I’d been lucky.
“What do you want with him?”
“More than likely the same as you. He made the mistake of thinking you were interested in him, but I suspect your assignment was to get close, and the flat next door was as close as you could get.”
“What are you babbling about? We were friends.”
“How often did he stay in that flat? Everything in it still has the price tag on it.”
“You’re loopy. I’m going now, and I suggest you don’t follow me again.”
“I know where you live remember. All I want is some answers.”
“There are no answers. He was a friend, that’s it. I’m going now.” She turned and started to walk away.
“If I know who you are, the chances are the others do too.”
She stopped. Interesting response. In her shoes, my first reaction, if I was an innocent person, would be to call for a policeman to have me taken away for assaulting her.
She turned and took two steps back towards me. “What are you talking about now?”
“O’Connell’s flat was like Marks and Spenser this morning. I came and found another woman claiming to live next door, named Josephine, unconscious on the floor, and I didn’t do it by the way. She works for a man named Nobbin, McConnell’s direct superior, and whom I think, indirectly I do too, and I suspect she was neutralised by another man named Severin.
“Whatever O’Connell was up to, there are a lot of people who want a missing USB with what I suspect is very interesting, and probably damaging information. You wouldn’t have it, by the way?”
“Who are you?”
“That’s what I’m not sure about. Like I said, I think I work for the same man whom O’Connell worked for, but before that, I worked with the people who had him killed for whatever was on the USB.” It sounded far more horrible out loud than it had a few seconds earlier in my head. God only knew what she was thinking about it. “Who do you work for, because a woman who can do the transformation you just did is either a call girl or an agent?” Another thought just occurred to me, a reason perhaps why she had changed her appearance so radically. “Your flat was searched too, wasn’t it?”
No need to answer yes or no. The look on her face was enough.
We ordered coffee and sat down. She was still very wary of me, but since I seemed to know, or presumed to know, what had happened, she was going to ask me some questions I wasn’t going to be able to answer.
And not because the answers were in the top-secret category, it was simply because I didn’t know.
“So,” I asked, “who do you work for?”
“You don’t need to know.”
“But you were either keeping O’Connell close company by insinuating yourself into his life, or you were maintaining some sort of surveillance.”
She was plating it close, and with a poker face. She was better at it than I was.
“Where is he, by the way?”
No mistaking that look of fear the flickered on her face, then disappear again into rocky granite.
“Dead. Seems he came across some information, and it caused his death. I was there shortly before he died, shot by a sniper, I think, and there was nothing I could do about it. Any idea what that information was?”
“I still don’t know what you’re talking about, but either way, if I did or I didn’t the answer would be the same, no. He told me he was a reporter, working on a really big story, and that he would have to go away for a few days. I knew that was his cover story.”
“Were you after that same information?”
“Probably, maybe, I don’t know. Our information was mostly conjecture, a profile built up by our research department, based on his travels, and sightings at a location we know is running a network of agents. The conclusion was that it was not one of ours, so I was assigned to find out exactly who they were.”
“O’Connell would not have told you.”
“Given the circumstances I find myself in, I’m beginning to think that. If you worked with him, then he was on the same side as you, so are you good or bad?”
That was a rather interesting question to be asking me at this late stage, and especially after she had told me basically what I needed to know, bar who she worked for, but that, I was beginning to think, was MI6.
“A rather silly question to ask, don’t you think? It stands to reason that if I was bad, then I would not have left you alive in O’Connell’s flat.”
“Not unless you wanted something from me and set this up as a trap.”
So that was the reason why she kept checking everyone she could see upstairs and monitoring the stairs to see who arrived and left. We were in the right spot to keep tabs on everyone. And I knew her gun wasn’t very far from her hand.
“Obviously you don’t have it, so my work is done here. I suggest you don’t go back to that flat.” I stood. “Your location and probably who you are is compromised. And two men and their attack dogs will be looking for you. Good luck with that.”
“Aren’t you one of those two men attack dog, by your own admission?”
“I’m new and not cynical enough to shoot people out of hand. You’re probably lucky in that regard. And if someone like me can find you, then think what a seasoned professional would be able to do. Have a nice life, what you have left of it.”
© Charles Heath 2019