Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jerusalem 3 - Flight


Chapter 2 here ... Chapter 4 here

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I

In the garden, with Sally working overtime to keep up with the comings and goings today, they sat over a snack lunch and mineral water.

'Tell me, Bebe.'

'I shall.  Will it get to Jones?'

'Why would it, Hugh?  Why, after what was said?'

'Emma - nothing must get to Jones, nothing - either as part of an agreement with him or to buy information.'  She looked at him sharply, 'Our safety depends on this.'

'All right, that's agreed.  What's it about?'

'If this had happened before our words at the interrogation centre, I would have followed up what Rosa told me, you need to know this.  I'd have followed up on it and the conclusion would not have looked good for you.  No doubt it was all cleverly planned and  I think Rosa set this up to look bad for you.'

'But what, Bebe?  What has happened that I had to come home straight away?'  Her throat was dry, as he led her to the computer, punched in the codes, then asked her to view the screen.

Horrified that he knew this, she asked him to switch it off and come back to the garden.

'Hugh ... Bebe ... I'm dismayed.   You have to know that Rosa's made me look bad over something I did to protect you - that's exactly what we were talking about, what I said to you.  I can see now that I was mad to do it and I can see how I was manoeuvred to do it.  I'm shocked that Rosa now comes to you and presents it as though it's a new thing I've done.'

'You took the £5000 from Jim?'

'Yes.  Let me explain.  There was information on you concerning Mary.  Did you meet her at Rattigans and bring her back here?'

'Yes.  She was distraught over her boyfriend -'

'And your penchant for being the white knight did the rest.  Let me tell you, Hugh - the information in that report to the CEC said you brought her back here for sex.  I asked Sally and she said she was out on an errand.  Chris showed me -'

'Chris?'

'Jones then.  He showed me the footage of you doing it with her and I was horrified, my heart was torn out.'

'You say you saw me having sex with Mary?  You never once confronted me with it?  You kept it to yourself?'

'Yes! Yes! Yes!  It was awful!'

'I never had sex with Mary but I did bring her back.  Sally wasn't here, that's true but who gave her time off?'

'Go on.'

'Do you know who Mary is to me?  Who her father is?  I see you don't.  She and I were not alone.  One moment.'  He pressed his communicator and soon Ray Matthews appeared. 'Is Dave around, Ray?'

'I'll get him.'  He disappeared and Dave Statton came through a minute later, puzzled. 

'Dave, do you remember the day Mary came back here, on that Tuesday?'

'Of course.'

'Explain to my wife where I was and what I did with Mary.  I'm going out to fix drinks for us and can't hear what you say.  Say whatever you want and answer her questions please.  Don't try to protect me, don't lie for me.  You're not in any danger yourself, I guarantee that.  Answer Emma's questions truthfully because it is my only protection.'

.o0o.

About eight minutes later, he returned - Statton had gone back to his post. 

'All right, Babe but I saw the footage of you with her.'

'You saw my face?  Her face?'

'Her face but you were on top and doing it.'

'How do you know it was me?'

Well, he was balding, like you, he moved like you - it was just you.'

'Good lighting, bad lighting?'

She sighed.  'All right but the mannerisms were yours, the voice was yours - you said the things you say to me.'

'By any chance the things I said when I made love to you on the bokhara?'

'Oh my goodness.' 

'Were you certain it was in our bedroom or was it a close-up of the bed?'

She just sat there. 'Oh my goodness.  They did all that?  It wasn't on a bed - it was on a rug.  That people should hate us that much.'

'They don't hate us, not personally - this thing is purely political, it's just business and their agenda.   They were certain you'd never bring it up with me or that if you did, you'd never believe my denials.'

She rested her hand on his shoulder.  'I need to finish explaining about the cash, Bebe.  The only way I could get him to give me the tape was for this money but I didn't have it, as you know, so Jim Carrington was brought into it.'

'You see, my love - by Rosa.'

'Yes. Jim was going to have to alter a file they had on Chris ... er ... Jones ... so that when heads rolled in that department, his head would still be there. Chris was a key client of Jim's.  He needed anti-virus work and knew Rosa worked for the Citadel.  He spoke with Jim at home.'

He got up and went for his recorder, came back to his seat, placed the device on the table and clicked play.  It was Hugh interviewing Chris Jones, presumably at the Citadel.  When asked if he had been having sex with Hugh's wife, there was a silence on the recording.

'He looked away at that moment, Emma, unwilling to speak.  You know how I read that.'

She was utterly dismayed, feeling as low as she had in her entire life.  'I did ... go to the hotel room with him ... I lied to you about that because I couldn't admit it to myself.  He was so like Michel ... I really do miss Michel.  I didn't make love - I swear I didn't.  I'd stand up in church and swear that. That was why he said nothing to you.  Did he indicate one way or the other?'

'No.'

'Ring him.  Ask him directly if there was ... sex.  It's the sex which concerns you, is it not?'

'It is - but it's not that which concerns me most.  It's your current feelings for him - they're killing our marriage.  Is this what you want?'

'No, no!  You know I don't.  I got away from him.  Yes, I went with him there, wanting to get that tape and he gave it to me - I destroyed it at home.  But he then came very ... close ... and it was difficult.  When he started on me, I had to fight -'

'As you fought yourself when we were in that safehouse that first time?'

'Well, yes.'

'Emma, I have to go to Featherstone now, as you know.  Will you telephone Chris Jones while I'm away?'

'I'm coming with you.  I'll wait in reception.'

'Thank you.'

.o0o.

Simon Featherstone’s office was in the dingiest, dankest, most ancient, rat infested corner of a governmental maze you could ever have hoped not to see. There was no air conditioning and only rudimentary heating on the wall.  Only the milder temperatures today made it bearable.

Emma waited in the small reception area, unmanned today.

He was a slight man of medium height, Featherstone, but with enormously piercing blue-grey eyes. Hugh felt guilty even taking a biscuit to have with his tea, under the glare of Mr. Featherstone’s scrutiny.

‘In a nutshell, sir, I’d say she does not give the appearance of guilt. She fielded my barbs and didn’t fall into my traps, except where the question of Mr. Jones came into it. I’d say there’s something else in it, sir, something I can’t quite fathom. It seems to me that she’s shielding someone. There’s a defiance that wouldn’t be there in exactly that form, if she were merely covering up her own misdeeds.’

‘Any leads?’

‘Not really, sir.  That’s more your field.’

‘Perhaps this is covered by the Jones saga.’

‘I feel there’s something more, to be honest. Of course, it could be anything. It could be childhood scars, it could be the effect of the Jane girl – yes she spoke of this – it could be her feelings of being let down and abandoned, once you’d, in effect, denounced her. 

She’s a trusting lady and I think the key to her is in those words. She had fierce loyalty towards you and then it broke, as it does for a child. She didn’t weigh things in the balance.’

‘She’s 38, not 18.’

Featherstone remained silent.

‘I see. So you wouldn’t say then, that there was any criminal intent?’

‘Frankly, I can’t see it.  It seemed a game of protection to her, out of loyalty to the Citadel and love for you and it somehow went wrong.’

‘And your advice?’

‘I don’t know if you can find it in yourself, sir, to maybe show a little less manly efficiency and a little more warmth and tenderness.  I know that’s good coming from me,’ he smiled and Hugh wished he hadn’t, ‘but if you don’t, you might have created a permanent division between you.  I understand your best work was always together.’

‘I see.  Thank you, Mr. Featherstone.’

Hugh was pondering this as he collected Emma and they went to the car.  Immediately they were in the back, Doug said, ‘It’s Rosa, sir. She’s disappeared.’

‘Go on.’

‘Mr. Carrington reported it. He came downstairs in the morning and she wasn’t there. That’s it.’

‘No it isn't, Doug,' said Emma.  'She's hiding in the home of one of the Level 3s because she received threats.  I don't know what they were, she wouldn't say.  So I organized for her to go there.'

'When will she return?'

'When the danger disappears.'

'And when will that be?'

'I don't know.  Rosa's fine - I told Jim she'd be 24 hours, that she'd be in good hands.’

'Office please, Doug, with all haste.'

II

December 2009

They didn't plan it, nevertheless it began about 11:20, with an hour between commitments.

Emma walked in to his office with a tray and on the tray were two liqueur glasses and an opened bottle of Hennessy's.  She placed them on the coffee table, then went and closed the double doors.

He placed the papers on the desk, came over and poured the two glasses, handing her one, asked what they were toasting and she replied, 'Making love.' 

.o0o.

Twenty minutes later, Rosa knocked and came through, closing the doors behind her, ignored him pumping Emma in the middle of the fake Bokhara, walked around them, placed the sheaf of papers on his desk, they paused and glanced at her but then decided to keep going, she walked around them again and went out to reception.

.o0o.

Twenty-five minutes after that, there was a buzz on the intercom. He pulled out, went over to the desk and pressed the button.  ‘Chief, are you both in a decent enough state to deal with this?’

Rosa would never have interrupted in that particular way, even from spite. ‘One minute. We need to dress.'

.o0o.

In reception, everyone was going every which way but it seemed orderly for all that.  ‘General exodus, Rosa?’

‘Yep. I’ll explain at the assembly point.’

.o0o.

One hour and five minutes later, they found themselves in a nice little picnic lay-by, replete with brick BBQ, close to a clump of cypresses but the chill was in the air and they wanted out of there soon. 

The Level 2s parked their vehicles in a sort of protective formation and fell to surveying the surrounding area, occasionally speaking into their two-ways.  It was understood that this meeting had a time limit of fifteen minutes.

‘Speak, Rosa.’

‘Someone in the Praetorian, I have no idea, sent word we were to be hit at 17:00 today – one bomb to reception and one to the Citadel and the Muslims would get the blame.’

‘Unless it was a false alarm, designed to monitor our escape procedure,’ commented Emma.

‘Doesn’t matter, either way,’ said Hugh. ‘We now split into pairs, each driven by a Level 2 to a jump off point. We all know the procedures and how we communicate – no electronics for 48 hours.  We’ll have Level 1 and 2 support for 72 hours.  Any questions?’

They split, changed vehicles and departed.

Hugh and Emma found themselves side by side in the back of a Rover driven by a Level 2 named Stan Whitcomb. He spoke not a word, just drove, negotiating the horn-blasting, cursing, engine-overheating stress of rush hour, cross town travel, straining to capture what he could of the conversation on the backseat, which was very limited all of a sudden.

Hugh wasn’t sure what started it all over again – maybe it was her thigh inordinately close to him, maybe it was his peck on her neck or her hand to the inside of his thigh – either way, the shutter was closed, Whitcomb turned up the radio, lit a cigarette and drove and drove, cursing other drivers all the way to the Sheraton.

...

Rosa glanced at Jim in the back seat of the Ford Escort and put a hand on his lap. ‘Everything’s going to be OK, Jim.’

He placed his hand over hers and smiled. Paul Mason, Level 3, whose car it was, leaned back and asked where they wanted to be dropped.

‘Crawford Road, No. 34,’ replied Rosa.

.o0o.

At Crawford Road, they alighted, having arranged that Mason would take the luggage to the hotel directly.   The first question from Jim was, ‘What’s at 34 Crawford Road?’

‘I have no idea – there’s a taxi rank over there.  Let’s take the cream cab.’

.o0o.

They spent the day going from gallery to gallery - Theresa Bradley, the Outon, the 90s Masters exhibit.  They ate and rested awhile and then they hit the trail again.  He was now thoroughly sick of it but Rosa insisted they couldn't arrive at the hotel until early evening.

.o0o.

Just after 19:00, the cab dropped them at the Sheraton.

It was a modest room, he rang for room service and dinner was to be in keeping with that - he ordered two burgers, while she tried to contact the other two.

‘Can’t get them,’ she complained.

‘Rosa, what are you doing?’ Jim panicked, ‘No electronic communication for 48 hours.’

‘I just wanted to know they were safe.’

‘What’s come over you?’

‘All right, all right, keep your shirt on.’

.o0o.

He awoke around 03:15 and sensed she wasn't beside him.

Bathroom, he thought. He switched on the bed lamp and jumped out and went to the bathroom.  Putting on that light, he opened the bathroom door and poked his head inside.

‘Rosa?’

Nothing, no sign.

He went back to bed and thought whether to leave the light on or not. He decided to switch it off and lay there in the dark for what seemed like hours. Something told him not to go out to find her. If she’d gone out, there’d be a reason. She’d often go downstairs at home in the middle of the night.

In the end, weariness overcame him and he drowsed off.

.o0o.

It was about 05:00 when he became aware of someone in the room and was relieved it was her.

‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’

‘Quiet, Jim, everything’s fine.’

‘No, it damn well isn’t fine, not in the Sheraton Hotel and not in the situation we’re in now. What’s come over you?’

‘All right,’ she snapped back, ‘I was restless, I couldn’t sleep, your damned snoring was making it impossible to think.’

‘So why didn’t you wake me?’

‘Jim.’

‘Rosa, creeping around like that in the middle of the night. And what if you had found something untoward, eh?  What then?’

‘Jim.’

‘This is not on.  Desist, leave off, don’t do it, whatever words in English you might understand but just – don’t – do – it – OK?’

‘All right, all right,’ and she soothed his brow and held him close. ‘All right, Jim.  Come to bed.’

‘For an hour?’

.o0o.

Hugh awoke and lay back in the bed, thinking about things. Beside him, Emma was sleeping like a baby.

She stirred, muttered something inaudible, moved her lips and dropped back to sleep. She stirred again, whispered, ‘Chris’ and dropped back to sleep again. 

Hugh did not fall asleep again.

.o0o.

She awoke next morning on cue, turned to kiss him but he did not respond. 

‘Tell me,’ she said.

‘It’s nothing.  Couldn’t sleep.  Desole.’

Breakfast arrived, which they ate in silence and she didn’t press the matter.  She'd broach it later.

.o0o.

Just as they were wheeling their luggage through the reception area to the circular door, the manager approached them. ‘Mr. Mason, phone call, sir.’

Hugh went back to reception and Emma perched on a chair near the door. That was when they both saw Rosa and Jim go into the dining area for breakfast.

He came back from reception, they departed by cab and it was cold.  Trees around the hotel had already shed their leaves and the only thing which upped the temperature were the hordes of people – Christmas was coming.

'Well, my love?'

'They had no right to be there.  Different hotels was the rule - she must have ordered the driver there.'

'Let's try to put an innocent construction on it.  She made an error?'

'Rosa?  Never.  Not one like that anyway.'

'She might be directly under orders from the PM.'

'Or from the CEC,' Emma stated the obvious.

The windscreen wipers were working overtime and the day was gloomy.

'The telephone call just now?'  she asked. 

‘There’s a Level 2 watching our backs. That was her on the phone.’

‘Do we know her?’

‘Oui.  It’s Sophie.’

‘Sophie? Our Sophie?’

‘Magdalena, our Sophie, yes.’

Emma remained silent.  The taxi drove on.  She snuggled up to him. Her head rested on his shoulder but she was staring straight ahead. 

.o0o.

Forty minutes later, they were out of the built up area and into the countryside.

‘Haven’t seen the countryside for months, have we, love?’ he said, just as a fresh downpour engulfed the car.

The taxi turned sharp left and proceeded down a narrow laneway, past a farmhouse. 

The deluge ceased but the lane was throwing sheets of spray sideways from the puddles and when they came out onto an open field, it was like a quagmire.  The car pulled up by a Piper Cherokee, the driver transferred their bags and Hugh tipped him more than generously.

They climbed aboard and the man indicated their seat belts.  He put the little plane into forward and despite some anxious moments, some minutes later they were banking over enclosed fields and ascending through the low, dark grey cloud.

.o0o.

The flight was fairly uneventful, with only mild turbulence and had it not been for the necessity of the trip, it might otherwise have been viewed as a reasonably pleasant interlude in their lives.  She had no idea where they were headed and didn’t really care until she saw below that they were now over water.  ‘When do we reach New York?’

He just smiled. They had coffee from the thermos the pilot had provided and gazed through the windows at the steadily clearing murk outside.

‘Seriously, Hugh, how much further?’

‘Thirty five minutes, my love.’

'Why wouldn't you kiss me this morning?'

'You were saying Jones's name over and over in your sleep - you were making love to him.'

'No!  NO!  I wasn't!  I don't want him - I broke free of him and ran from the room.  I don't want this, I don't want him.  I don't know why this happened.'

'As you say, love.  Did I make this up?'

.o0o.

The landing was uneventful, the air drier and warmer in this corner of the world and as they taxied along what was a cleared field, with one narrow strip down the centre, flattened and smoothed, Emma could make out some lights in the distance.

It looked like a farmhouse but not like the ones back home; this one was more in a Dutch barn style and of a dull red colour.  The plane taxied up to the double doors; the pilot stepped down and opened the doors, returned to the craft and taxied inside.  They got out and went through one of the low doors on the left.

They came into a sort of small living room, with quite plush furniture for a barn and with a thick rug in the centre, thrown over the seagrass matting floor. Emma looked at Hugh but he just indicated they should sit and wait.

Some minutes later, three men in dark combat uniforms came through the door and began a search of all spaces coming off it. 

Seemingly satisfied, they took up vantage points in different parts of the room. A few minutes later, a young chap in a well cut suit popped his head through and was answered with a nod by the senior of the combat uniforms.

The suited man stepped aside and in came an unmistakable figure, in dark suit, light topcoat and carrying a pair of kid leather gloves.

‘Hello Hugh,’ he welcomed. ‘Emma, would you allow Hugh and me a short tete-a-tete?  Twenty minutes.  Would you mind?’

Before she could mind, the PM’s aide had generously ushered her to the door and she was swept through into an adjoining room.

‘Mrs. Jensen, if there’s anything you should need – tea, coffee, rug, reading matter, Sergeant Travers will be only too happy to get it for you.  He'll be at the door.’

.o0o.

When he eventually appeared in her room, she asked, ‘So where’s the PM?’

‘Had to get back.  Do you mind awfully if we stay here some days?  It’s actually quite an extensive complex; we’re welcome to remain, quite securely, until we can sort out our next moves. It’s not all that comfortable for you, I know, but it’s the best way to keep us alive.’

‘Keep us alive?’

‘The PM’s Praetorian tells him that Jones is currently quite active in his search for you. The PM plans to see you alone when we're back home.  Actually, he very much wishes to ask you why Jones needs to get to you so urgently today.  This was why he wished to see me alone.  This is why I'm speaking so formally to you, instead of as your loving husband.  You don't like that in me but what choice do I have?  This is how our life together is unravelling and our life together has a new name:  C. Jones.’

Before she could respond, there was a knock on the door and a young lady of medium height came through - slender, in crisp cut jacket with epaulets, dark hose, well shaped legs, black shoes, fair hair pulled back - Emma gasped.

‘Mme Jensen,’ acknowledged Sophie, with a smile Emma felt was entirely unnecessary.

‘So, what have you got?’ Hugh asked her.  She hesitated, glanced at Emma and then back at Hugh who said: ‘No, it’s fine.’

‘Someone used a Telescan en route.’

‘They’re impounded, they were de-activated upon our exodus.’

‘It was a Telescan, M. Jensen - we picked it up.’

Emma cut in, uninvited. ‘How do you know?’

The girl glanced at Emma, then at Hugh.  ‘Tell her,’ he said.

‘The author sent it on 22.3.’

Emma was silent.

‘Your frequency, my love, used only by you.  And the sender, Sophie?’

‘Chris Jones, sir.’

‘I never replied to him,’ muttered Emma.

‘That's true, Mme. Jensen.  Your last recorded reply to him was from the Sheraton.  I responded to Jones, on your frequency, at the field you took off from and that put him off for sometime.’

Sophie turned her eyes down to the floor.  Hugh looked at the back of his left hand.  Emma looked from one to the other.  ‘Well go on.  Let’s get this over with.’

‘All Telescan communications are Citadel business, especially when everyone and everything is under scrutiny, such as an exodus situation. Who wrote that into our standing orders, Emma?’

‘Me of course.’

There was an embarrassed silence in the room.

‘So, my love, we have a little problem here,’ said Hugh.  ‘How did Jones get hold of a telescan and more importantly, how did he find your personal code?  Another question is what are his intentions?  What the hell does the man want, for goodness sake?’

Emma bit her lip. 

‘Sophie can throw some light on this, I think,’ he went on.

‘Jones ordered a hit on this air base forty minutes ago.'

‘Cochon!  Let’s get out of here!’ exclaimed Emma.

‘Let’s indeed,’ agreed Hugh.

They went through to the main room, Emma swearing in French the whole time and there was their pilot.  He came across, picked up Emma’s bags and they headed for the plane in the hangar.  Sophie was already clipped into the rear seat.  Emma had to sit in the back with her and Hugh got in beside the pilot, who started the engines.

They sat back in their seats, contemplating the ever expanding crack of light appearing as the double doors of the hangar slowly slid open and the engines’ screech became unbearable. The plane shuddered into forward motion and they slid towards the doorway.

Suddenly the pilot viciously slewed the plane to the right, shouting to them to make for the living quarters.  ‘Get out, get out!’ he roared and the three of them flung open the doors, threw themselves down the wing, bouncing on their bottoms onto the ground, shielded, apart from their legs, from the hangar doors and ran for dear life to the side door. Hugh had no idea where it led but through they went - Sophie, Emma, then himself.

It was the corridor which led back to the big room but he felt instinctively that that wasn’t the wisest course. He bolted the door they’d just come through. The door at the end of the corridor was flung open and a commando came through so fast that Hugh had no time to think but still immediately recognized him.

He reached Hugh, pressed a Para-Ordnance 1911 into his hand and they all ran after him to the outer end of the corridor, which gave out onto the platform from where the danger seemed to have come.

The sound of gunfire from the hangar seemed to confirm this.  The commando swung around and ordered, ‘There’ll be cars. Mr. Jensen - shoot the drivers of the odd numbered cars, I’ll shoot the even. When the last one’s down, we hit the tyres, except for the second last, the ladies run for the second last car. Get down in the rear footwell.  We’ll follow.

If I don’t get there, Mr. Jensen, drive anywhere until this signal comes through on our band,’ he passed Hugh a slip of paper. ‘Ready sir, you’ll have to aim quickly.’

It was less spectacular than it might have been.

It was clear that the enemy, whoever they were, were having a difficult time breaking into the big room and this provided the breathing space. The first three drivers were taken out before the fourth had the big tourer in gear, and before he could swing the nose away from the line of vehicles, the commando took him out with the 45.

The ladies sprinted, leaving Hugh trailing behind, puffing. He was last into the passenger seat. The enemy driver was lying, sprawled, on the rock hard tarmac.

.o0o.

They’d put two kilometres between themselves and the base before anyone spoke. Emma then asked the commando, ‘How did you know there’d only be cars?’

‘No early warning. Anything else would have been signalled. They had passes.  You noticed the gatekeeper was alive and well.  I think this was not officially sanctioned.’

Hugh put in, ‘How about long range air support?’

The commando didn’t reply.

‘Long range?’ Hugh repeated. The girls sensed something wrong. 

Then the man replied, ‘You might have something there, of course, sir. But we had no choice.’

‘What if the gatekeeper was one of theirs?’

‘I know the man. His face was puzzled too. He dived for the phone as soon as we passed him.’

.o0o.

The big Rover was loping along quite well, given the state of the road.

‘I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?  How do you read it … er …?’

‘Lieutenant Davidson, sir. Well, seems to me that it’s not a major section hit.  Seems a private affair, if you ask me, as I said - a maverick job.’

‘Your reasoning, Lieutenant?’

‘Well firstly, sir, I’m here with you. If it had come from higher echelons, you wouldn’t have seen the light of day, begging your pardon. Secondly, lack of firepower. Only standard issue, sir. Thirdly, no air or ground support. It was a job which had to be done with minimum collateral.’

‘Yes, Lieutenant, that’s how I read it too. You need the code back?’

‘No but I’m a bit puzzled that they haven’t checked through our band. Our regular pulse hasn’t died.’

‘Think they were hit too?’

‘Possible, possible. Would you mind taking over the driving for a while?’  He slid the big tourer to a stop by a grassy verge. Hugh made sure that it was the commando who got out and went around, as he himself slid across the front seat.

The evening sky was quite clear, the roadside verges were dry enough, the legacy of the summer and the mild temperatures. 

On the move again, the commando adjusted the strange mobile contraption he’d pulled out and twisted the dial.  A disembodied voice leapt out of the tiny device. It was all numbers, which Lt. Davidson carefully wrote down on the slip of paper he’d taken from his top left breast pocket.

After he’d switched it off and put it away, the back seaters made their move.

They handed across sandwiches.

‘Wonderful,’ grinned Hugh and offered the commando one first.

‘Quite right, sir. Ladies, have you eaten any yet? He looked around. No you haven’t.’ He took a bite out of one sandwich, waited and handed it to Hugh, then took the other for himself.

Mouth not entirely empty, Hugh asked, ‘Well?’

‘As we thought, Section was hit too. Multi-target operation but still low key.  Someone doesn’t want someone to know. That was one of ours now and he seems to have got control back. There were other digits slipped into the messages which only he and I know.  Doesn’t seem efficient, sir, this attack. Maybe it was meant as a warning. Beg pardon but if we’d done it, well -’

Emma shuddered in the back seat. Then she leant forward and offered more sandwiches and a bottle of mineral water they’d found. Lieutenant Davidson blocked the water with his arm. ‘Sorry, not that one. Take this,’ and he proffered his own flask.

Hugh had been reflecting for some time. ‘That means we can use local assistance and refreshment, Lieutenant.  They haven’t blanketed the area.’

‘Right, sir.’

‘That makes it considerably easier for us, then.’

‘It does.’

‘So where now?’

‘No idea, for now. Sit tight and enjoy the ride.  We’ll have to change vehicles soon.’

‘When?’

‘When the call comes, sir, through the long wave.’

‘You mean through a radio station?’

‘Yes.’

‘You know the frequency?’

‘Yes, it’s already tuned in. This is one of our own cars we’re in. It’s a section vehicle.’

Hugh gazed out of the window and the tourer just loped along the single-laned road through the forest they’d just entered. 

The radio sprang to life. Again, just numbers.  Again, the Lieutenant was active.

‘Good news, sir. There’s a car waiting for us.’

‘How?  You never signalled them.’

The Lieutenant smiled. ‘Exactly sir, I didn’t switch bands at the cued moment. It’s a primitive ploy.  I think you should realize that there’s a remote chance that this was all a set up. As we get close, we’ll take precautions but they also know we’d do that. So we’ll have to break with procedure a little.’

‘The way I see it, Lieutenant,’ chimed in Emma, who’d been listening to all this, ‘we’re going to either who knows where or else we’re going to our deaths, organized by you.  The forest, another car, your weapons – ’

‘And begging your pardon, Ma’am but one of you three could also be doing that with me.  One of you might know considerably more about these codes than you’re letting on.  Isn’t that right, sir?’

‘I’m not commenting, Lieutenant,’ replied Hugh.

They ditched the car, went on foot overland some distance, the Lieutenant and Hugh reconnoitred, they called the girls up to them, they met the new car and driver and made their way in the Toyota Camry to the third airport, some eighty kilometres further on, booked and paid for the passage on a commercial flight, Davidson having changed out of his garb, and two hours later they’d negotiated all airline procedures, minus weapons, minus metal objects and minus trouble.

.o0o.

At 32 000 feet, they were contemplating the pleasant prospect of an indefinite stay in Cyprus, a little inland from Limmasol. It had needed help from home to get the tickets, the flight was packed and they felt like sardines.  Of all the times to travel, Christmas was not the one.

The choice was fish or chicken and the white was most palatable. For the first time, they unwound a little and chatted about this or that. Emma finally asked Sophie what she’d been itching to ask. ‘Won’t someone be missing you back home? 

The reply floored her. ‘Not back home. He’s right here beside me now.’

Lieutenant Davidson reached across the aisle, took her hand and massaged her long fingers. Hugh looked across with interest, as Emma muttered, ‘Well, of all the things,’ and put on the headphones. Sophie smiled across the aisle. 

Emma laid the little flight pillow onto Hugh’s upper arm, then worked her head onto it but she was uneasy.

It was a smooth landing at Larnaka and the Mediterranean mildness thawed them a little as they emerged from the terminal building to the taxi rank.

.o0o.

The condo they’d booked from the travel desk at the airport was a white walled, slightly crumbling, two storey affair, set into a cliff and it looked pleasant enough. They climbed the seven steps and went inside, while the Lieutenant accompanied the driver into Limmasol itself to rent a car for a week.  Hugh had given him carte blanche in his choice.

The condo was delightful, by coincidence owned by one of Hugh’s old associates, Constantine, with a lot of property around the Limmasol area. The air was fresh, as it was bound to be halfway up a mountain in December and if only they could be free of trouble for just a while, it looked to be the most delightful break.  The ladies explored each of the small rooms, very light, very airy and pronounced themselves satisfied. They set aside two of the rooms as bedrooms and waited for the Lieutenant to return. 

Emma went out onto the second floor balcony, pulled up an old faded deck chair and lay in the sun, actual sun, gazing down the narrow, winding broken road which led up into the hills. Sophie joined her and took up the other deck chair.

‘It's still 25.  I’m buying a swimming costume,’ she announced.

‘Me too,’ agreed Emma.  Nothing was said about the other matter, nothing at all.

Hugh came out onto the deck. ‘We’ll get some food when the car gets here, if - er - what’s his first name, Sophie?’

‘Ron.’

‘If Ron hasn’t already picked some up.’

.o0o.

They saw the car as a speck in the distance and then, as it worked its way tortuously up the road, they saw it was a burgundy Megane Cabriolet.  A bit cramped but a nice car, free spirited and carefree.

Davidson had picked up some milk, bread, eggs, ham, tomatoes, cucumbers, mineral water and beer.  Hugh went down to help him, to reimburse him and to broach the subject of calling him by his first name, on the grounds that it would attract less suspicion - the man clearly felt honoured by the confidence.

‘On the way up, sir –’

‘Hugh –’

‘Er … Hugh … I saw a nice little cluster of stores and there’s a café in amongst them – small one.  Maybe we could pop down there later.’

‘Let’s just potter around here for the morning – I know Emma wants a few hours rest and I do too.  If you two want to explore, that’s fine by me.’

Actually, they all needed a little time to recharge the batteries and it was early evening before they’d scrubbed up and headed down to the café for some local cuisine.

.o0o.

Finally in their own room at one end of the condo, as far away from the other two as possible, Hugh asked, 'Well?'

She must have known it was coming, even known it was coming now but it still stopped her in her tracks.  'I'll get ready for bed and then we'll talk.'

.o0o.

He didn't look directly at her in bed but she nevertheless felt the keenness of his scrutiny.  She tried to speak but ended up with no words.

There just didn't seem anything to say.

'Why?'  he asked.

'No, it's not like that.  She began to sob, turning to her side of the bed.  'It's not.'  She took a seemingly interminable time to come to the next sentence.  'It got ... out of hand.  He kept tying me up in obligations and the Prime Minister is involved in it too.  I'm keeping my eye on Chris.'

'The PM is playing his own little divide and rule?  I see.'

'No, I'm reporting on Chris to the Prime Minister.'

'Why not me?  Why you?'

'Jones wouldn't want to make love to you.'

'So the PM wants inside info on Jones ... from my wife ... and he doesn't mind if my wife sleeps with the man?  Interesting.'

'No, it's not like that.'


'Well, what is it like then?'


Chapter 2 here ... Chapter 4 here

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