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 ordered breakfast to be brought to my room, then sat back and read the paper, culminating in a second cup of coffee and a half-hearted attempt at the crossword.
My mind was not sufficiently clear of all the implications of what I’d seen last night, and before that.
The first task was to go back to the office and get onto the computer to track down the address the car was registered to. It was not the flat. My guess that it was a sort of safe house. He may not have had reservations about Jan, or who she worked for, not until he became the prey.
Then it occurred to me that if Jan didn’t know where the USB was, then she had to realize he might have rumbled her perfidy. Maybe he was not as easily fooled as I first thought.
But it didn’t explain why Nobbin was in the dark over the USB’s whereabouts, as he had told me to give Nobbin a message. Perhaps there’s been a secret message behind that message.
Now, my mind was spinning out of control.
Like O’Connell/Quinley, and in accordance with more lessons on tradecraft, I too, had what I would like to have called a safe house, a small flat on the outskirts of Wimbledon.
I also had an off-site parking space that was a reasonable distance from the flat, so that if I was being hunted, the car would not lead them to my hiding spot.
There I had a shower, changed, and headed for the underground.
I took the train to Charing Cross, getting there around nine, to take the short walk to the hotel.
Not expecting to find her in the room, I used my key to let myself in.
I was wrong.
She was in bed, still asleep. Or was until I let the door slam shut.
She didn’t exactly come out from under the covers with a gun pointing at me, but I would be willing to be there was one under her pillow and her hand was on it.
“Sam?” It was uttered sleepily, the sort that would normally send a shiver down my spine. Not now.
“I hope you’re not intending to shoot me?”
I could see her hand moving slowly withdrawing, and then watched her sit up and swing her legs over the side.
Still in basic clothes. Obviously, no time to go and get some pyjamas then.
“What happened to you?”
“Got side-tracked on what I thought might be a lead, and it wasn’t. Just a waste of time and a long night. Thought I’d come here and get some shuteye. Perhaps not. Are you going to order breakfast?”
“I’ll have a pot of coffee and a paper, preferably one with a crossword.”
She rang down a breakfast order, full English, then said she was having a quick shower. I heard the water running and wondered if she was giving Severin a short report. Old trick, running water hides conversations.
Breakfast arrived at the same time as she came out of the bathroom, hair up in a towel, and in one of the hotel dressing gowns. My imagination got a five-second workout before I grabbed the paper and the coffee and sat in the corner.
She could have the desk.
“Do we know where Maury is?” I asked suddenly.
She hesitated before answering, a moment to give herself time to process the question, and if there were any hidden meanings.
“You know? You dropped a tracker on him.”
“Oh, him. He must have found and dumped it. It was pinging about 100 yards from the flat.”
Of course. There probably wasn’t one in the first place.
“Pity. I’d like to turn up unannounced, give him a bit of a scare.”
I went back to the crossword, keeping an eye on her, noticing every now and then giving me a sideways glance.
“Did you go anywhere after the flat?” Again sudden, out of left field.
“No. Just come straight back here. Do you want to keep the room for a few days? See what happens.”
“Sounds like a good idea. Look, I have to run an errand this morning, unfortunately, it’s not a work matter, so I’ll give you a call on my way back. You must want to talk to your people and let them know what’s happening if you haven’t already.”
I finished the coffee, folded the paper, and stood.
“At the very least,” I added, “I have to go back into the office and report to Nobbin. I’m sure he’ll be impressed with the lack of progress.”
“Won’t you run into that other fellow, what’s his name?”
“I don’t think so. His name will probably be very high on the ‘we’d like to talk to you’ list if he shows his face. Anyway, I’ve got your number.”
I deliberately waved the phone where she could see it, and the implication she could probably use it to track my movements. That might have been the case if there was a sim card in it, and it was similar to the phone she last saw me with.
It was not.
Where I was going, no one was going to follow me or find me.
© Charles Heath 2020