Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jerusalem 5 - Thailand



Chapter 4 hereChapter 6 here

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I

The PM questioned him intensely at the Tuesday meeting.

The weapon had been a Citadel issue Walther P99 and the fingerprints plastered all over it were Emma’s.

'A rather amateurish job really,' said Hugh.

'How so?'

‘We'd use a Dragunov SVD, 7.62mm round for that. We wouldn’t use a pistol at all.’

‘I’m well aware of that,’ the PM dryly replied.

‘Why?’

The PM paused, deciding. Then he rose, went over to a drawer and took out a folder.  He brought it across and tossed it on the coffee table.  ‘Third sheet from the top.’

‘Phew,’ was Hugh’s only reaction. ‘Silver.’

The PM nodded.

‘Are you aware,’ Hugh asked, ‘what your predecessor was planning before his ... er ... accident?  Are you aware of historical precedent here?’

‘I know.’

‘You’re in mortal danger,' said Hugh.  ‘You haven’t a chance in hell.’

‘Droll, Hugh, very droll.’ The PM gave a dry chuckle.

‘I’m serious, sir; why bother?’

‘You mean you'll not rejoin my employ, Hugh?’  The PM left the question open.

‘You know the answer already, don’t you?  There are issues though first.’

This was as bold as he’d been with the Prime Minister.  ‘Oh yes?’

‘Firstly, I’m chagrined about Emma’s behaviour and haven’t decided on that yet. There’s the reckless judgment with Jones and people are dead because of her.  Then there is the fact that though she knew she was bringing all this upon us, her feelings for him trumped any of us. I’m seriously considering leaving her now and yes, I do know the implications.  Then there is you, sir, with all due respect.  You employed her to keep an eye on Jones, knowing he was organizing deaths.  I was left without any forewarning, no defences.  It’s not you I’m angry with, it’s her.’

The Prime Minister sat back, fingertips together. ‘I hear all that, Hugh.  Let’s wind it back.  As you say, you weren’t privy to all of it.  Look at it from the government’s point of view.  You were by no means clear in this, nor was Emma.  Mr. Jamieson knew I was using Sophie behind the scenes – hence this current matter.  Jones was getting messages on Emma’s band but it was your device.  That puzzled us.  I put Emma onto Jones, with a message to that device, to see what would break.

Unless there was another party involved, Jones had no way to rig up that firepower and have knowledge of that base.  I asked Sophie to confront you both and play it by ear, releasing what we knew in front of both of you, to see what happened.  Remember I had no idea he had organized that firepower.  You see, he got inside the base – now that implicates two or three people close to me who kept me uniformed.  The deaths were terrible, tragic, we knew Emma was communicating with Jones but something was wrong with this gung-ho desire to kill you both.

In short, he himself had no real reason, only a contrived reason and that must have been that he was taking his orders and arms from someone else.  I had to nail that person.’

‘And did you, sir?’

‘No, the principal escaped and also - a big surprise to us - his controller.  His deputies took the fall but even the nature of his deputies tells me who he is.  We both know him.  That he was able to do that, you would understand put me in danger myself, so we were fighting at this end too.  I thought it was a coup.

As for the others, we got them all.  They are no longer of this world. Including Jones, by the way.  It was quite summary and I took out almost all his network ... but not Mr. Jamieson.  He’ll rebuild.’

‘Sir, for goodness sake, assassinate him.  If you won’t, then turn a blind eye and let me do the job.’

‘I can’t, he has me over a barrel, Hugh.  I don’t mean the silver, he knows he can stop that anyway.  No, there are things from the past he’s got hold of.’

‘Oh dear.’

‘As you say. The community knows much of what is happening, knows I’m under pressure, sees Jamieson and does not like him – I must remain for them to vote for.  Impossible situation but there it is.  So I really am sorry, Hugh but we were all under attack.’

‘Your Emma - as you mentioned, is an issue.  From where I sit, not top drawer for this work, for the reasons we needn’t go over again.’

‘In her defence, sir, it was because she was working alone.’

‘And you couldn’t stop her.’

‘No.’

‘So, the situation is this - you are needed down here, you will need to pack everything by Friday and leave the boxes in the main foyer, anything not in there gets left behind, you’ll both fly down here late afternoon and stay with Janine, on Saturday you’ll both fly to a resort I’ll not divulge yet but think you’ll both like it.

While that’s happening, we will move your things to a new place down here, usual steps, not palatial like your last but it’s nice enough.  While you’re on your trip, you must have it out with your wife and make your decision about her – with her or not.  If yes, you move in when you return.  If not, then it will be a smaller place elsewhere, your boxes will be taken across, she’s free to go where she wishes, we’ll pay the cartage as our last gesture, plus a generous severance.  The boxes arrive tomorrow up north, you have this evening to tell her.’

II

At the Royal Cliff Beach Resort fitness centre complex, near Pattaya, the weight training had finished and Hugh returned to the hotel complex taking the lift down to the private beach for guests staying in condos.

Emma was on a blue deck chair, soaking up the sun.

The complex was virtually a series of hotels set on the seashore, interconnected by walkways and multi-tiered patios, interspersed by various pools, restaurants and bars. The crisply uniformed staff were everywhere and nowhere at the same time. On hand when needed, discretely withdrawing when not needed, the opposite situation from home.

The little trolley bus which carried him to and from the sports complex, the doormen who sprang into action with smiles and opened their doors, passing pleasantries along the way, they got to him as well. The outstanding politeness was what got him most.  He knew that it was all predicated on his wallet and upon his dignified bearing. The servants all knew who the boss was and he appreciated that.

As for Emma, well, it was all of the above, plus everything from the cool feel of the Thai linen robes, with their discrete, yet distinctively embossed emblems, to the beauty salon with its semi-erotic massage service – a woman could be forgiven for throwing all her cares to the wind and feeling very, very special.

Having swum in the pool and then showered and dressed, they were seated for dinner at the white linen, outdoor patio restaurant attached to the adjoining hotel, with one head waiter and two waitresses attending, the cool afternoon sea breeze rustling the table cloth and causing her to put her wrap round her shoulders.

Their penchant for traditional Thai cuisine and in particular the desserts, which do take some getting used to, had endeared them to the restaurant staff. Emma was in her element, far from the cares of the world. 

The best was yet to come. 

She’d asked at reception about excursions and one in particular had caught her eye but it was expensive.  Hugh asked her how much and cogitated – a safari into the Thai jungle.  He warned her that they’d be roughing it, warned her to put in some sturdy clothes and even boots, which they’d buy from nearby Pattaya.  Did she really want to go on it?

Her silence clinched it.

.o0o.

The deathly early morning hush in the huge hotel foyer as they awaited the airconditioned minibus was broken when a woman came out to give them their boxed lunches.  Emma yawned and tried to curl up on the foyer seat but the back was too low to rest her head against and she was irritable.

Twenty five minutes later, the minibus arrived and they soon found themselves in the Thai road system; the minibus picked up some speed and the passengers started to unwind.

She passed him a mineral water.

There were a couple of British pensioners, a middle aged woman with a weight problem, a tall girl who looked Russian to Hugh, with her boyfriend who seemed Spanish, if anything and so an English language tour made sense; then there was a sort of little professor in the back seat, maybe 60 years old. 

They stopped for 15 minutes at a roadside stall, got out and sampled the local delicacies, fried food, not unlike battered sausages. The battered bananas he recognized. He also recognized two other vehicles and two motorcyclists keeping with the vehicle.

Three hours later, they’d already crossed the top of Bangkok and were heading west.

The bus eventually pulled into a parking area in some town and they were all decanted into a long speedboat, only two persons wide, bobbing on a canal. The long propeller shaft hung out the back and then they were off.

The acceleration jolted them as the young man pushed the craft at maximum speed, heading straight for a bend, then suddenly shut down the throttle and they coasted around the bend over the back of the bow wave and down the next ‘straight’. This went on until they reached an embankment, where they moored.

Up on the landing stage, they were offloaded at some sort of riverside market – the greatest collection of tat they’d ever seen – everything cheap and glittering.  It was clear that this was all about buying, buying, buying, with no ceremony, no beg pardons. 

There wasn’t one item they could find that made any sense to buy, but that was OK because the stalls were swamped by other tourists and nobody would notice the ingratitude of one couple. 

He noticed the other vehicles and the bikes as well.

Next stop meant something far more to Hugh – the Bridge over the River Kwai - the appalling inhumanity of one race towards another. Enough has been written and said about it.  Just to get out and walk onto that bridge and to imagine what it was like for those allied prisoners of war, totally cut off from civilization, at the mercy of a sadistic and fickle enemy – those metal spans were testimony to all this. 

Emma stared at the bridge and Hugh was pleased to see that she was greatly affected by it as well.

Back in the minibus, it was onwards, ever onwards, towards the Burmese border.  He knew they were going to a river but nothing more than that.  When they eventually pulled up, late afternoon, at some sort of picnic spot or camping area, it was with a tinge of disappointment.

All this way for a commercial park?

However, when they followed the driver down a path, the grass banks profuse with pretty pink, purple and blue flowers; down, down, down to some sort of system of huts by the water, it was like the old Siam of the movies. 

There appeared to be some sort of covered, al fresco restaurant and behind it, further back along the river from where they’d walked, were the sleeping huts.  It became clear that these buildings were not on dry land but on pontoons, moored hard against the riverbank. The thatched roofs gave an exotic, oriental feel to it.

They were allocated their quarters for the night and to Emma’s delight, they had the hut at the end, complete with its own narrow walkway, abutting the river, with a two person rustic wooden bench outside their window. Sitting here gave an uninterrupted view downstream, a view dominated by an enormously high but quite narrow wooden footbridge across the river.

Settled in, having arranged a few things, they set off to find their guide relaxing with the owners and she asked if they’d seen the bridge. ‘This bridge – it call Monkey Bridge – water on river go up bridge.’

‘When, not today?’

‘No, corr not – wet season we had, river very high – it go up bridge orrmost.’

It was a rise of about eight metres. ‘And all of this goes too, the restaurants, the huts?’

‘Yeah they also there – look photo on wall.’

Scrutinizing the photos, it sure as hell was true. The very hut where they were domiciled was knocking against Monkey Bridge in the photos. They looked at one another, decided to cross the bridge and do some further exploration.

‘You come back 5 o’clock orright.’

‘5 o’clock?’

‘Yeah, 5 o’clock.  We go trip on river. Waterfall very pretty. You take swimming costume.’

They crossed the river and rambled around a while but it was just another bushwalk so they decided to return, potter about and take a few photos with the disposable they’d picked up at the hotel.

Oh, how vain girls are. The pose had to be perfect, the framing just so. Many times Emma would break her pose, come and check the shot through the viewfinder and then return to the pose.

From high on the bank, those vehicles and the two bikes had parked, he saw one of the cyclists heading down towards his hut.

Eventually it was time for the first beer on the verandah, stretched out on the bench, watching the river flow by.

‘Like it?’ asked Hugh.

‘It’s wonderful.’  And she meant it. 

.o0o.

Just before 17:00, they made their way along the verandah towards the restaurant. 

Everyone was congregating and had already claimed a bench and table. Hugh was wondering where the boat could be which would take them up river.  Then he saw it – not unlike the thin craft at the market but much smaller. He was puzzled when it moved past them, out of sight.

Next thing they knew, there was a slight jolt and the whole restaurant started drifting out into the river.  Not just drifting either, as soon became apparent. The motorboat was towing the restaurant itself upstream, at a rate of knots, and all they had to do was hang on to their drinks.

Emma was delighted - there’d be swimming, after all. 

The falls could be heard even before they saw them then, around the bend, they came face to face with a sort of giant grotto and running down its steep face were the said falls.  The motorboat didn’t just prop and let them take snapshots but started moving towards the falls.

Actually, they didn’t appear to be stopping.

Thirty seconds later, they were sure something had gone wrong.  Murmurings among the guests had turned to sharp exclamations of worry – it was clear they were going to plunge right under the massive torrent of water and crash into the grotto. 

The front corner of the restaurant barge had already wedged itself under the fall, the torrent was crashing down on the slatted wood deck and the guide was chuckling. ‘Who go under first?’

Hugh had a rush of blood, stripped off and walked under the torrent. It was bloody freezing and painful too - like a ton of bricks falling on his head. He jumped back.  Then he decided to try again, hands over his head to stop his skull being beaten in and in a perverse way, it was starting to become fun. Flashlights popped and he was joined by others, Emma too.

It was grand fun and when they finally chugged back downstream an hour later, there was not one dissatisfied voice. 

Back at the landing stage, it became apparent that they were not on an actual restaurant barge but just the barge which moored against the land bound restaurant. That made sense – they’d need power and a water supply.  It was already supper time and the Thai cuisine took care of the next few hours.

The evening brought the chirrup of various wildlife, the mosquitoes were non-existent around the restaurant area itself and most people just sat around and chatted, finding out about each other.

Hugh and Emma worked ‘in a government department’, dull by comparison with other folks. The beers eased the conversation and cares dissipated in the exotic headiness of the warm evening; finally it was time to hit the hay, as they’d been asked to rise early next morning for some sort of mystery breakfast. They now discovered how lucky they’d been to take this trip when they had – apparently, it was the last of the season.

Hugh took Emma’s hand and led her to the bench outside their window on the riverside, glasses in hand.  The cyclist was also sitting on a bench in front of the hut to their left, he saw them and went back inside.

The soft flow of the water lapping against the pontoons beneath their hut, the smell of the warm, flowery Thai evening in their nostrils, Emma’s thin sari, Hugh’s tenderness, these things intoxicated them more than the beer itself.  Standing and swaying together in each other’s arms, finely balanced on the walkway, centimetres from the river - it added a touch of piquancy.

In their little hut later, in their bed of fresh white linen, he cradled her and asked how she liked it so far.  For the first time in a long, long while, there were no barriers when he began at her toes and moved up to her calves, kissing, massaging, onto her thighs, on to her tummy, avoiding the centre of later operations, spending considerable time on her breasts and finishing in a kiss as he moved into position.

As he went in down below, it wasn't so much the sex itself but the manner of it, the reverence, the relaxed way it all happened and she found herself thawing, beginning to move sideways, feeling something inside stir, become intense and then she shuddered, expelled her breath and pushed him out for the moment, snuggling up, delighted they were able to rediscover this much at least.

.o0o.

He woke first, the voice of their guide outside the window calling for everyone to rise and greet the dawn.

It was glorious through the window.  They’d been bobbing around on the river, tethered to the bank all night and there was that same river, through the flora, inexorably flowing by .

.o0o.

On the restaurant barge they’d put what looked like a giant burner or barbecue of some sort. Each guest was ceremoniously welcomed and took his or her place at the table.

The barge cast off and started downriver this time. 

Variegated stone cliff faces and the occasional little waterfall broke the monotony of the brown water, as the barge slipped downstream with hardly a sound.

Breakfast was served by boys in orange and brown short sleeved shirts and shorts. 

Surreal – cooked breakfast, waterfalls, river, Thailand, love. 

.o0o.

Back at the hut once more, packed, they stepped onto the little walkway with the bench one last time, looking out over the river.  Easy to see how the locals were completely dependent on it.

.o0o.

It was the dead of night when the minibus finally dropped them back at the Royal Cliff and like zombies, they went to their room and plonked their things down on the dresser.

On the bed were messages and two complimentary chocolates.

While Emma went off to the bathroom, Hugh set to reading the messages. One was from the hotel but would they like to go on an excursion - yeah, yeah.

Another from the hotel. Fire practice today at 14:00.   OK, they’d missed that one.

A couple of letters - he ripped them open - one from the tour group, one from the shop where they’d ordered the bathrobes. OK.  

One from Sophie:  'Come home.  Trouble.'

Not from Janina nor from any other source from whom he'd have expected such a message.  He told Emma he'd be back soon - he was going to try to contact Janina from the internet room.

.o0o.

'Nothing there,' he said on his return.  'Try the TV - see if there's any UK news.  I tried the private email and a few blogs - nothing there.'

She hit Sky News and they went through a long list of pretty standard scandals, councillors on the make, resignations, divorces, a lost puppy - nothing which would have prompted Sophie to write that. 

She looked at the note again.  'It might be a fake.'

'No, it was her.  It had three 'e's.  Her code during this trip.'

'What do you have with Sophie?'

'What did I have with you, in Ksusha's, Genie's and Nikki's time?'

'Ah, so she's next after me, is she?'

‘We need to talk, I need to explain the conditions of this trip.  It’s quite serious, which is why I didn’t want to spoil the trip for you.’

‘No,’ she shrunk back, ‘tell me this is not a farewell you have given me.’

‘This is not a farewell I have given you.  Not yet. It depends on two things.  First is how you react to some news and secondly, how I react to that.  On that basis and on how much responsibility you take for what you’ve done, then we’ll discuss staying together.’

She’d gone white and was having trouble breathing.  ‘I can’t stand this in you, Hugh.  Even though I love you, I couldn’t take this every so often.  It’s the thought that you might do it, the way you had this trip with that in the back of your mind.’

‘I didn’t have it in the back of my mind from the Bridge over the River Kwai.  From then till now, it was only the trip – don’t forget I needed the break too.  The lovemaking was for real, all of it was for real.  But we must talk because the Prime Minister insisted for our further employment.  I promised I would speak with you.  If everything’s fine with us, we go to our new quarters.’

‘And if it’s not?’

‘I go to my new quarters and you’re helped on your way.’

‘I can’t believe you’re even saying this.  You’ve gone cold, so cold.’

‘No, I’m angry, not cold.  They’re different.  I’m angry over Jones.’

‘Still!’

‘So would you be in my place.  At this moment, you are not sorry for what your obsession for him did to all those people.  You refuse to acknowledge it.’

‘Hugh, Hugh, I left it alone because I never wanted to be reminded again.  But if you bring it up, of course I will tell you I was wrong, those deaths are on my hands now forever.  I swear I did not have any idea he would kill anyone.  I know you don’t believe it but it’s true.  Call that obsession, ego, naivety, call me stupid but it was true.  He knew he would never get me to agree if it was that.  He put it in a way that there was nothing going to happen.  I’ve told you already, I thought the airport was due to some other mistake.  Then, when I knew, I wanted to die.  You made me want to die too.’

‘That’s the first part, Emma.  The second is that Jones is dead, along with all of them working for Jamieson.  The PM told me.  There have been massive changes.  So you see, we have a decision to make, Emma.  Can we recover from this, can we not?’

She just sat there on the edge of the bed.  Then she got up and went to the bathroom, not packing, not getting ready for the flight.  She didn’t lock the door but he thought she could at least have that time.  He was knackered, bone-weary now, took his clothes off and climbed into bed.

.o0o.

It had to have been half an hour later when she came back and everything depended on this now.  He was tense and not breathing well.  She could feel this.

‘Have you forgiven me?’

‘Nothing to forgive.  You said what needed to be said.  Has his death ended it for us?’

‘No.  Will you allow me into your arms?’

They both moved to the centre of the bed at the same time.  Lying there, both could feel the normal breathing return of the other.  She spoke. ‘This has been one of the most frightening experiences of my life.  We nearly lost each other.  I nearly suicided, I did, Hugh.  You were walking out of the door.  Things would get better for a while and then suddenly it would all happen like tonight again.  I can’t take it.  Please, never mention him again, never mention all the things which happened again.  I’m not threatening you, it’s just that if you do, I’ll have to just go away.  You must tell me now you won’t do that, that you won’t suddenly return to all this.’

‘I promise.’

‘Because a person can’t take the things she’s done being thrown at her all the time.  Please tell me that if I see you watching me, it’s for love, not because you’re remembering those things.  Because we can’t continue otherwise.’

‘I promise.’

‘What do you need from me?’

‘Exclusive rights to your body and sexuality as long as we’re together, and the same from me to you.’

‘I promise.’

‘OK, we have an early flight and need sleep.  I need to tell you this now – nothing to do with us but just to fill you in, OK?’

‘If we must.’

‘We must.’  He told her of the other things, of Sophie in trouble, of the PM hanging on, of the blackmail.  That there was going to be trouble once they got back.’

‘Tell me we’re not doing that awful job again, I’m never going back to that.’

‘We’re not doing that awful job again, that’s a given.  I’m doing some tasks for him, we’ll have our residence, you’ll join in from home and you’ll be paid for whatever you decide to do to help me.  We’ll have three accounts – yours, mine and ours.  We’ll put my money in to those equally, but yours goes into ours and yours.  Is that OK so far?’

‘That’s unfair that I don’t put into yours.’

‘I’m earning more this time, so it’s fair.  If it changes, we change the arrangement, OK?  Good, now we need sleep, we relax on the plane, all is well with us, yes, as if nothing ever happened?’ She nodded.  ‘When we reach London, we hit the ground running, keep our eyes and ears open and help get Sophie safe, do you agree?’

‘Yes, kiss me.’

III

Sophie looked much recovered, propped up in bed, a copy of Agatha Christie’s ‘The Tuesday Club Murders’ on her knee. A vase of gladioli brightened the sterile bedside table.

Ron Hughes was at her bedside with a piece of advice for Hugh. ‘I think you need to leave the country, Mr. Jensen.’

‘How so, Ron?’

‘Grapevine, sir. There are still a few loyalists, you know. It would be relatively straightforward to get you out.  Elements of the PM’s old guard, sir, would like to see you back in operation. I just wanted you to know you’re not totally on your own.’

Hugh sighed. ‘Maybe, Ron. Once I've spoken to everyone.  What say you and I get a coffee and cakes for the ladies.'

He was dubious but when Sophie indicated she'd like one, Davidson said, 'OK, here's a tenner - if you and Mrs. Jensen get them, I'll stay with Sophie.'

'Ron,' said Sophie, 'we'd like a bit of girls' talk, if you don't mind.'

'Come on, Ron,' said Hugh, standing up, 'let's get those coffees.'

'Actually sir, I have to keep an eye on Sophie.'

'No coffee then, ladies, I'm afraid,' said Hugh.

'Sir, you and Mrs Jensen can get them, surely.'

'Ron, you and I can get them.  The ladies would like to talk.'

'I'm sorry.  No can do.  I'm under orders.'

'Whose?'

'That's classified.'

'Fine.  Sophie, you're not classified.  Who's keeping an eye on you?'

She looked evenly at Hugh and did not reply.  'I see,' he said.  'There's something terribly wrong going on here.'  He pulled out the secure mobile to the PM and got Janine.  There was a short wait and she came on.  'It's Hugh.  I'm at the hospital with Sophie and Ron Davidson who's been detailed to watch over her 24/7.  Pardon?  I understand.  Yes.  Fine thanks, it was lovely.  More later.  Yes.'

'Terribly sorry, Ron, just had to confirm that.  We'll take our leave now and pop back tomorrow.  Glad you're physically recovering, Sophie - we were worrying.  Emma, shall we?'

Emma was in two minds, hesitating.  Then she made a decision and kissed and hugged  Sophie, Hugh shook Ron's hand. 

'Bye for now,' he said and Emma waved over her shoulder.

.o0o.

Nearly at their car, Emma was agitated.  'Hugh, we can't -'

'Yes we can, love.  And straight away.  In the car please and no talk of it until we're in a neutral area.  Twenty minutes.'

They climbed in and Doug drove off.

.o0o.

In the middle of Peterson Park, he called Janine again.

'He is?  It's started then.  Can you wait one moment - she's just handing me something.'

Emma had unfolded a scrap of paper and laid it on the ground between them.  He scanned it quickly and told Janine its contents.  'You know already?  Good.  Your boys can deal with it?  Fine.  Yes, that's a weight off the mind.  Yes, yes I know it.  When? All right, one moment.'

He handed Emma the headset and she spoke with Janine for sometime, then closed it down.  

They looked at one another.  'Not good, my love.'

'What's happening in this country?'

'They're making their move.  We have our role.  Are we together?  Good.  Let's get back to Doug.  There’s nothing we can do, our things are in a large container being loaded now, we can’t help Sophie, she’s about to be sprung by friendly forces and Janine will call after it’s done, needn’t be a neutral area for that.'

Doug asked if they’d both sit in the back, he pulled out and off they went, headed east.

.o0o.

They were in open country near the coast when the rain began, coming down in fits, not unlike when someone throws a bucket of water at the glass and then another.  Doug’s wipers were working overtime.

Suddenly he braked, asked them both to open their doors, two figures ran from what seemed a broken down shed, the larger one, the male, went in the front, the female into the back.

Doug took off again and people said hello, Hugh to Janine, the Prime Minister to Emma, at which he then asked Hugh, ‘Would you be kind enough at our next stop to jump out and open the rear hatch?  Doug will release it.  Two men will put a chair in there, the space has been worked out, close the hatch then Hugh and jump back in.  Be as quick as possible, there’s a good man.’

Hugh didn’t dare hope.

.o0o.

The car came to a stop suddenly again, yet another shed but this time two men carried a figure in an easy camp chair to the back, Hugh jumped out, the job took a bit of huffing and puffing, one man ran back but one squeezed in with the chair occupant, Hugh closed the hatch and jumped in.

The car was by now down on its shockers and groaning.

‘Right, people, it might get tricky down here, where the road dips – there’s a gravel area.  We get out, Paul takes the car, there’ll be six lines from above, three each side.  At the end of the line are two straps, pass them from the front through the legs, back round and attach both clips to the ring.  Do Sophie first. 

Stay vertical by holding onto the handle.  It won’t be for long.  A boat takes us to the ship.

When we get to the deck of the boat, the moment your legs start to buckle, undo the clips and go to Sophie.  Any questions?

IV

‘Prime Minister,’ asked Hugh, seated at the dinner table on board, ‘there are anomalies here and we’re not privy to the news broadcasts.  With respect, you’re the Prime Minister of this country.  Now, such a man does not hide in sheds and play paratrooper, thence to a secret destination.’

'One of me is currently fleeing for Edinburgh and another's trying to catch a flight from Teeside.  The Teeside seems the genuine one - it was always planned out that way.  The route was hacked and we kept it on.  Perhaps the dislocation in the security staff on both sides has helped us today.’

‘Some of us are to return, am I right?’

‘Your wife and you need to have some deep discussions about whether you wish to continue in my service.  I’ve apparently been taken ill, and the Chancellor is … well, deputizing for me, according to Downing Street, until such time as I recover.  After a certain period, I’ll succumb to the illness and he’ll be officially installed.

So, in a sense, we and the forces with us on this boat are now renegades but they haven’t established their grip on all echelons at this point.  This is a key issue for you to resolve in your heads, for you and for all the others too.  Prime Ministers are just as expendable as any politician,’ Hugh raised an eyebrow, ‘and if one is not actually in Downing Street any more, taking care of business, is anyone greatly concerned who the man at the helm is?  Do you think the public have any inkling of what is really happening?’

Emma spoke for most at the table. ‘Coming from France, the home of intrigue, these things happen all the time.  Two or three senior people combine and force a leader out, a new one takes his place -’

‘I take it you’ve heard of Smith, Blair and Brown in our country too.’

‘Well yes, that’s what I mean.  But there was a legitimacy in that, the way it was done.  The party approved it.’

‘As will be the case here.  Instead of me being forced out by a vote, I’ve been forced out by a supposed life-threatening illness.  The public never get to hear the fine detail.’

Hugh saw the logic but it was flawed logic, all the same. ‘No sir, this was not a loss of community support or a loss through the numbers game.  This was a coup d’etat, plain and simple.  Your game, if you'll forgive me, is not the cleanest and how people come and go is best not broadcast far and wide.  Nevertheless, in the eyes of the people who returned their representatives to Westminster, you are still the Prime Minister of this nation, not him.’

‘Hear, hear,’ chorused a half-dozen voices around the table and the PM nodded his appreciation.

V

Although lazing around on the deck of a naval vessel in service could not be compared to, say, a cruise ship in the tropics, Emma and Sophie made the most of the increasing sunshine as they steamed south and Emma had keen memories of the submarine and a perma-grin on her face.

Hugh groaned and looked upwards.

The Captain explained to the two ladies. ‘Our boys haven’t seen a woman for two months, let alone two like you. Would you care to join me at table this evening?’

.o0o.

At dinner, it was explained.

A deal had been struck for safe passage out, which the PM knew Jamieson had no intention of honouring and so the doubles ruse had been set in operation.  Jamieson's complete shadow cabinet had been known for a long time and was controlled by the elements who controlled Brussels.  The PM would explain all that, bit by bit, over the next months.

The world was controlled by money and much of the dirty money was in London, thence New York and elsewhere and it was this money which ruled.  The old money came out of the old families who had questionable pasts and no one quite knew how old they were.  There was a rump of these in Scotland, some in the Holy Roman Empire, a smattering in other places.

Anyone in any high office, any newspaper tycoon, anyone high in the judiciary had already been nobbled - yes, he admitted, including him.  The only progress ever made was when a maverick turned on his benefactors and actually began to believe his own rhetoric - JFK had been just such a man.

New politicians were either placed or else they were idealists who could be moulded once in place.  This was why corruption was so rife above, so absolute.  He'd speak more on this at another time.  The people were never to rule, never to truly have representatives because that would mean a leakage of power and thus the whole fiction was maintained, with the average person utterly unaware of anything except that politicians and lawyers were crooked.

Hugh and Emma were to be under no illusions that they were supporting someone who had been part of that game, was no longer and thus was on this boat now.

Why wasn't the boat blown out of the water?  Why were there no traitors on board to slit the PM's throat - and theirs - later?

This was the remnant on the boat now - the ones who had come through time and again and had suffered.  There was so much disinformation that it had taken well over a year to compile this list.  It might well be that even now, some had slipped through but there were enough vigilant loyalists about to hold them at bay.  It was never static, the plan was always metamorphosing into something else, it was wearying but it was how they stayed alive.

To answer the question as to why they were left afloat: 'Alliances, my boy.  Alliances and the exploitation of jealousies.  Plus money - lots of it. It was all wearying, sordid and cynical but it was the way it worked. 

They were on their way to a former British possession and ‘former’ was the key word - Jamieson had no jurisdiction but neither did the French.  The locals, in the international law set up by the very global elements who wanted them dead, had also inadvertently set up a temporary protective screen around them.  The head man on the island was boss and money was being poured in by various parties.

Emma thought the PM was welcome to his high stakes politics.

On this island, they were a military unit, rather than a thriving civilian community.  They had part of the UK arsenal with them, which ensured the island peace in a troubled time or at the very least was not a bad deterrent, the head man was still king and they had a haven.

Though the UN was one of the main sources of trouble in the world, their own rules meant they had to respect the sovereignty of the island – for now.

Naturally the PM would send teams back to the old country to spread the word and cause a bit of mayhem.  This would be on a volunteer basis.  If Hugh and Emma felt they’d had enough of the constant danger, they could go onto administrative duties, training and organizing – there were many available positions.

If they wanted active duty, they’d need to pass a medical, just as any other troops would have to.

VI

May, 2010

Beddoes Island lay outside the tropics but was uniquely positioned, in that it was surrounded by other islands of varying sizes, five in all, some kilometres away from each other. 

Not particularly mountainous, there was a bulge to the northern end of the twenty kilometre north south configuration, the shape being close to a halved and upturned pear.  A ridge ran down the west side and most of the jungle was over that way.

Running along the base of the ridge, on the east, were the settlements – villages essentially, and a short way up the bulge – the gubernatorial compound, enclosing the PM’s mansion, with its Big Room and the officers’ barracks.

Someway down the path were the various huts, at unequal distances, each with native staff attached – these positions were highly paid, and thus highly sought after by the local population. 

Then came, at a drivable distance to the south, the first native village. There were three main villages, overall, each governed in its own right by a local chief.

Any white soldier who showed the slightest disrespect to a native was summarily punished by his superior officer. Conversely, young native patriots who raised the question of sovereignty were quietly put in their place by the native authority. The island had never known peace, power and prosperity on such a scale before and few had the slightest intention of rocking the boat.

The bulk of the territory on the main island was grassland, where all the grazing and agriculture took place and then came the eastern beaches and the fishing industry.

All five militarized, outlying islands were administered by the PM – they were the outer defence for the natives as well.  There was constant water traffic by means of proas, and countless proas were parked on beaches all over the archipelago.  Anyone could just borrow one and travel to another island, provided the boat was returned to exactly the same place after use.

It was a thriving community.

The thatched huts for the white population of officer status were large by village standards and enjoyed shaded locations and insulating second roofs of thatch creating a sort of vast verandah effect.

The inside of the huts was of the same design and that was the downside – the native population did not believe in diversity – only in what worked. Living and eating was done in the large room at the front, maybe seven metres by four and behind this were the two bedrooms.  Cooking and ablution were done in the outhouses on either side of the main room, accessible from outside the hut as well.

Thus, the native ‘assistants’ were able to arrive early morning and not unduly disturb the occupants.  It was rare for an assistant to live in, certainly not when the hut was occupied by either a married couple or a single male.

Hugh and Emma had their hut, Sophie’s was someway down a path, all tracks led back to the Big House, occupied by the Prime Minister and various staff, sometimes dinner was taken there.

From the steps of the verandah, if you turned right down that well-worn track, you came to the hospital on the right and if you continued down, you’d come out on a sandy beach, not giving onto the ocean but onto an inlet or wide river.  This was a safe place for the troops to have their recreation.

VII

The Prime Minister, realizing time was closing in on him in the last days in the United Kingdom, had run off a batch of letters to the people, these were on A4 with his letterhead, photograph and text, there were a thousand of them, put in hand addressed envelopes of different shapes and sizes, with the stamps of five nations and each bundle was sent to a recipient in that nation for posting back to the UK.

The recipient would post the letters in various post boxes throughout his town and then catch the prearranged flight before anyone was onto him or her.

The recipients within the UK were various – journalists, bloggers, key figures who might form an unofficial opposition, any outlet they thought might publicize it, plus a random selection of ordinary people, plus some in the forces.

Essentially, this letter laid out how the coup was likely to take place, that it actually was a coup and any story of illness was tosh, that the Prime Minister and loyalists were safe and well and if loyalists within the country would care to join the resistance, they would of course be recipients of honours bestowed by the nation as and when the Prime Minister’s government was returned to its elected place at Westminster.

Then followed a series of organizations from which it could be safely assumed lies would now emanate, e.g. the BBC, any establishment channel and that people were advised to seek alternative sources of information.

It was rounded off in appropriate fashion and that was that.

The Prime Minister had just received confirmation of the first letter arriving in the UK – time to crack a bottle of bubbly.


Chapter 4 hereChapter 6 here

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