by Michael E. Lloyd
Chapter 16: London, England
On the evening of Wednesday May 14, Carla and Quo carefully tracked Raymond and Kristy all the way from Chicago to their remote safe house in the northern hills of Connecticut.
For a further hour, the Domans continued a careful, still unseen watch on all the road approaches, and even regularly scanned the skies. Then, once Raymond had freshened up and was about to join Kristy in preparing a simple cooked meal, Carla sneaked up behind him and brought Quo into the peaceful picture.
Good evening, Raymond. I see you feel confident that you have not been pursued.
‘Yep. I’ve had plenty of training on that score. No-one knows we’re here. So unless Jennifer’s pal betrays us, and she won’t, we’ll be fine till it’s time to move on.’
Yes, Carla and I agree. And we have probably been able to watch your backs even more closely than you have. So, we propose to maintain a final vigil here overnight, and then, provided things still seem quite secure, we shall need to deploy Carla on more active service alongside our dear DF.
‘Sounds good to me. Enjoy yourselves. I plan to. Might even find a fishing rod lying around somewhere ...’
Good luck, then ... to both of you. We shall check up on you whenever we are able, and we shall of course be back as soon as the time comes for you to rejoin the party.
Carla gratefully took her own long rest, while guardian angels watched over their precious envoys till the break of day.
* * *
Very early that Thursday, Carla transferred her radimote and all her attention over to Deep Fraught’s familiar office in Washington, DC.
The man arrived for work at eight o’clock and dived straight into a long list of private e-mails. Then he spoke briefly to his personal assistant, and ten minutes later she called him back. OK. That would work. And in London it would now be two in the afternoon. He picked up the phone again.
‘Big Ben? Hey, it’s DF. How’s it going ...?’
‘All under control as usual, pal. So, what can we do for you this week?’
Big Ben then had to think very fast and very hard about his contact’s amazing, hi-priority request. Yes, it had huge potential. He really should bring Junior in on the side of this call. But they’d need to keep it very tight. Correction — he’d need to keep it very tight. He would just pencil a short private appointment into Junior’s diary, and tell him more about it later today ...
‘All right, you’ve sold me, you old dog. It does need to be a personal meeting. We’ll see you at 1330 hours prompt tomorrow. Take a cab to this address ...’
* * *
Very tired at the end of his long catch-up day, DF finally left Foggy Bottom at seven o’clock and drove to Dulles Airport to make the late evening departure to London Heathrow. He would be travelling under a false name, in a thoroughly curtained-off section at the rear of Business Class. He would be the last on and the first off, wearing a hooded coat and dark glasses. He would be spotted by many but recognised by none. But Carla would keep him silent, un-made company.
As his flight progressed, the Mater began another repositioning manoeuvre, heading gently and stealthily east above the Equator until it reached a longitude of 45 degrees West, where it took up a new stationary orbit almost directly over the city of Belém on the north coast of Brazil. From that perfect vantage point it could continue to maintain full contact both with Lucia’s radimote, as it watched over Toni and Maelene up in their Buffalo hotel, and with Carla’s, as it sped across to Europe.
* * *
Early the following afternoon, after very little sleep, a loss of five hours on his body clock, and a very greasy airport brunch, Deep Fraught followed Big Ben down two flights of stairs and into a comfortable but windowless reception room.
‘Gin and tonic, Bob? Or a single malt?’
‘Neither, thank you. So, where’s Junior?’
‘Oh, I didn’t think he’d really be needed. You and I can sort this out ourselves. Long as we get the photo opportunities properly organised — and I’ve made a list of sound-bites ...’
‘Now hold on a minute. I didn’t come all the way over here just to help you with your re-election campaign. We need a whole bunch of new commitments from Junior, and I want him to send someone to the summit with our visitors early next week. That way the oil keeps flowing up all our rivers, right?’
‘OK, OK. Keep you hair on, pal. He’s standing by, just down the corridor. But listen — once you’ve made your pitch, let me do most of the talking. Best if you say nothing at all, actually. Deal?’
‘You’d better be right ...’
Big Ben picked up the phone.
‘Hey, old son, like to join us for a few moments? No, now!’
Two minutes later a door opened and Junior appeared. DF could see that he had just walked up a long underground corridor.
‘Oh, hello, DF. Nice to see you again. Sorry I’m late. I was just drinking my tea and watching the London Eye going round, high above the river. I still think it’s amazing. I can see it clearly through the gap, you know, and ...’
Big Ben cut him off.
‘Look, mate, we need to get a move on, OK? Laughing-boy here’s got a nice little earner for all of us, if we play our cards right ...’
‘So let me make sure I understand this properly, DF. You want me to promise to keep all the ships on station, and in exchange for that we send a man to these secret trade talks of yours in Washington?’
‘That’s what the guy said, isn’t it, old son?’ interjected Big Ben. ‘So, is it yes or no?’
‘Well, you know, DF, what I want to say to you is ... you know ... that we’re always happy to help our friends ... so long as ... so long as ...’
‘So long as we all agree, right? And we do, don’t we, Bob? Good, that’s settled then.’
‘Course it is, mate.’
‘But you still haven’t told me what these talks are all about.’
‘That’s ’cos they’re secret. Saves you a lot of worry.’
‘But what will our man need to do?’
‘Whatever he has to, old son, and then smile for the cameras. Look, your tea must be getting cold. Leave this one with me now — I’ll sort out all the details as usual, OK?’
‘Well, you know, what I really want to say to both of you is ...’
‘So, Bob, how’s that gorgeous wife of yours?’
* * *
The taxi hurried DF back out to Heathrow as the rush hour began to build.
He had decided he was going to get some personal benefit out of this crazy, token excursion to London. Something he’d always promised himself. Three years earlier, he’d feared the chance had gone forever, after the disaster in Paris. But the glorious creature had eventually got back on her feet again. Then, just five weeks ago, it had been announced that she had only a few extra months of grace left, before the plug was to be pulled forever. So he just had to go for it, today.
He would be flying home on Concorde.
* * *
Quo was not going to miss the opportunity for a little more relaxed and unobserved observation — and back in this particular “special relationship” nation as a bonus!
So now Carla obligingly tuned out most of the background noise, and began to listen in to the public thoughts of a random sample of travelling Anglo-Saxons and many other races.
They started with DF’s taxi driver who, in the finest British tradition, spent forty minutes regaling his passenger with his standard but regularly updated speech on the state of the nation.
Then, as they accompanied their charge through the ever-increasing levels of airport security, they enjoyed the loudly stated opinions of two increasingly frustrated angry ageing businessmen.
And as DF waited — very reluctantly, but of necessity to maximise his continued privacy — in a busy bar well away from the exclusive Concorde lounge, Quo nicely balanced her research, by tacitly sharing in the far more private conversations of three angry ageing women, and later hearing the rather different views of a small team of young professionals.
She found it all very interesting, and rarely stupid.
* * *
Flight BA001 was exactly as Deep Fraught had always hoped it would be. He was still travelling under a false name, and he again hurried through at the last minute, to avoid uncomfortable questions about his unofficial trip from any over-compensated foreign correspondents who might already be waiting at the departure gate. But once aboard, he decided to make no further attempt to hide away from his fellow passengers. And the few who did notice and recognise him were souls of discretion throughout the short and stunning flight, and would probably remain so.
For the solitary DF, his self-engineered trip of a lifetime was almost completely defined by its food and drink. A menu offering no less than six champagnes and many other fine wines, some of which even he had never encountered. A dinner which opened with salmon and caviar, majored in a perfect lamb steak with all the trimmings, and concluded with delightful summer fruits in a chocolate sponge. And celebratory champagne all round as they went supersonic, eventually cruising at 56,000 feet and 1330 mph — faster than a bullet.
But the gilt of his wonderful four-hour Concorde experience was quickly worn away. He landed at Kennedy a full hour earlier than when he had left London, but by the time he had waited ninety minutes for what turned out to be a very slow flight to Dulles, and then retrieved his car and driven wearily home, it was well after ten o’clock.
He thanked the gods it was Friday.
Copyright © 2008 by Michael E. Lloyd