Bespoke Assassins (Part 3)
Paul Dellit has written some excellent political articles for The AIMN, so it came as some surprise that he is better known for his screenplay writing. Thomas Keneally, in a recent review of one of Paul’s screenplays I wrote: “I liked your screenplay and plot very much” and went on to describe it as “a very interesting and well-wrought script”. This particular screenplay – a spy thriller set in 1992 involving a MI5 mission directed at uncovering the source of stolen Russian radioactive material – has been turned into a novella (with input from Mr Keneally) and prior to publishing in hard copy has been offered to The AIMN.
We are pleased to ‘publish’ Paul’s novella. Being over 40,000 words, it will need be published in weekly installments.
Today we offer Part 3 (picking up where we left off from in Part 2).
OLIVER’S OFFICE, PAN EUROPE BANK, BERLIN
The next day.
Oliver is at his desk and leaning back in his chair, feet up, reading. Emma walks in holding documents and announces: “This has just arrived by secure fax from the US. Feint has reacted, and our people in the US have also been able to confirm that his two CIA chums were here in Berlin when Phillip disappeared. They’re about to make a return visit.” She reads from the fax:
“CIA operatives under surveillance, Samuel Maberly and Clarence Dunleavy, have booked separate flights to Berlin under false names Gerard Venner and James Mayfield. Confirmed that Maberly and Dunleavy were in Europe when Phillip Plessey disappeared, but under other false names, not Venner and Mayfield. Due to arrive Berlin on afternoon and evening flights 12th December.”
She looks up, drops the fax on the desk in front of Oliver and continues, “Julian will have this, so we should receive his instructions within the next couple of hours. He will arrange our protection; we may have to reschedule some of our meetings.”
“You said ‘we’. Good. So can we say that Feint, Maberly and Dunleavy are the only people we’re up against?”
“We can work on the assumption that Maberly and Dunleavy are on their way to Berlin to make us disappear before we make the same contacts that Phillip made, and that Feint is, at the very least, briefing them if not the decision-maker. But all the options are still in play. I’d better get back. Julian could fax anytime from now on.”
Julian is in bed, his wife, Millicent sitting beside him. Millicent is a large, gentle, matronly woman with traces of a pretty girl’s face now settled into that kind of beauty that is formed by character.
Marcel Glasely, grinning in the self-satisfied manner of a callow youth, florid complexion, uncontrollably curly blond hair, wearing a dark pinstriped suit and a club tie, the picture of a boy striving for gravitas, walks in full of bonhomie: “Julian! You look surprisingly well! First reports were you had had a stroke and I thought I’d be visiting a vegetable! You must be pleased it was actually a heart attack, and a mild one at that! – lot easier to deal with the plumbing than unscramble the old egg.”
“Hallo Marcel.” Julian turns to Millicent and then to Marcel to make the introductions. “The Honourable Marcel Glasely, my dear.” “My wife, Millicent.”
“How do you do, Mrs. Lamb. I’m afraid I must intrude. Confidential matters of state to discuss with your husband, in private.”
“Millie has all the necessary clearances. She will stay while we chat. I’m afraid I can only give you five minutes. My heart specialist has forbidden me any involvement in matters related to work, for the time being. He is due to look in at any time.”
“Well, then, you will be pleased to know that you can consider yourself in a state of de facto semi early retirement, as of now. I made some enquiries upstairs and they agreed with me that having this kind of health problem, with your retirement in the offing, will effectively put you out of the game. I said to Sir Christopher: you being such an Old Guard stalwart – I meant you and not Sir Christopher – I said you may wish to hang on until your time is up, but”, and at this point the young Glasely looked first to Julian and then to Millicent, pausing for effect, “your heart wouldn’t be in it. Hah!”
With his captive audience fixed upon him, he waited for an appreciative response, a joining with him in the jollity of his rollicking good natured humour, but his audience remained dead-pan, and allowed the silence to work upon him. It did, but only serving to spur him on to greater effort, now to cover his embarrassment: “Anyway, I’m in your chair in an acting capacity until the date of your formal retirement when I expect my permanent appointment will be confirmed. Nevertheless, in my acting capacity and given you are compos mentis I’m obliged to brief you on ‘this just in’ re Carthage. You’re supposed to update me on anything relevant not in your files.” Glasely hands Julian the fax from the US which had also been copied to Emma. “It says the two CIA operatives, whom your file notes indicate are covertly associated with the ASIS officer Peter Feint, have booked separate flights from the US to Berlin under assumed names. They were in Europe when the ASIS officer, Phillip Plessey, on secondment to us, disappeared, now assumed dead. Looks like they mean to deal with our two current operatives in the same way. I’ve decided to suspend Carthage temporarily and see how things develop.”
Julian turns to face Glasely: “You’re suspending Carthage!? If you suspend it now, if you withdraw our two people – immediately before the CIA fellows arrive – Feint and they will know we’ve tumbled to them. All of the intelligence we have gathered so far will be worthless. Suspending Carthage means the death of Carthage! You will, singlehandedly, achieved your own Carthaginian Peace!”
“What kind of peace?”
“The Romans achieved peace with the Carthaginians by reducing Carthage to rubble and obliterating the Carthaginians. Should I elaborate further, Marcel, or is the meaning clear to you?”
“ ‘Carthaginian Peace’ eh. . . . Must remember that one. Huh.”
Glasely ponders for a moment before continuing: “Well, it’s not as grim as all that, Julian. Even if we have to go back to taws with Carthage, it might be much better that we do. I must say I was surprised to read that one of our two field people is the wunderkind investment banker, Oliver Pymm, an Australian. I can see the advantages he would have brought to the mission. Well and good if he delivers the goods, but if he were bumped off or taken hostage . . . no file record of Ministerial approval for his involvement . . . Very enterprising, but a bit ‘seat of the pants’ old school, eh, Julian? The political dimension carries a lot more weight than it used to.”
Julian decides upon a more conciliatory approach, building a case from the unassembled pieces of information in a way that Glasely could accept without loss of face: “Yes, I can see that the work of this section is new to you, Marcel. Carthage was originally about ex KGB people using emerging Eastern Bloc companies as covers for their criminal syndicates. The report we received from Phillip Plessey added the new and even more urgent dimension of radioactive material being available for sale on the open market . . .”
But it is clear from Glasely’s expression that he is unreceptive to any information that might militate against the course of action he has already decided to pursue.
Julian resumes his offensive: “Mr. Pymm knows neither the original purpose of Carthage nor about the more recent more immediately threatening development, so he is in no position to let anybody know what we know. He was fully briefed about the dangers he may be facing and he agreed without hesitation to continue his role in Carthage. I have that in writing.”
“Steady on, old chap. I don’t think we have to be worried about dirty bombs just yet. Even our Johnny-on-the-spot, Mr. Plessey, was sceptical.”
It is futile, Julian knows, but he has reached the point where one has to state the case for the record: “With great respect, Marcel, that is not the way to read the signs. Phillip Plessey disappeared shortly after he received a phone call arranging a meeting at which he was to be told about the open availability of radioactive material. None of us were prepared to take the claims made in that phone call at face value – until he disappeared. That adds the kind of weight which makes a follow-up investigation essential. Oliver Pymm has been tasked to follow along the same intelligence-gathering path as Phillip Plessey had. The merchant banking world was looking forward to the book he was going to write, based upon interviews of a very similar nature. This provides him with the perfect cover – except that we expect the person who saw through Phillip Plessey’s cover will take an interest in Pymm when he follows precisely the same lines of enquiry – at least enough of an interest to make contact with him.”
Glasely is unmoved. He begins to shuffle around the room without looking directly at Julian, unsure of how well he would fair if their eyes were to meet.
“Not convinced Julian. Might have held water before we knew that Pymm and Mrs. Plessey are to be specifically targeted for elimination. Yes, and I know about the protection we can arrange for them, but I would like to reassess the risks involved before we proceed further with the current Carthage. There would be a lot of media attention if it ever came out that Pymm had come to grief while working as one of our field operatives.” He feels that his points are beginning to tell and is emboldened: “What fun they could have at our expense, Julian. I can imagine News of the World headlines. Ah . . . how about: ‘Aussie knocked for 6’. Hah! Hah! Funny! Surprised myself!” Warming to his unchallenged theme, he fills the ensuing silence with: “Pymm is too big a fish to lose. I’ve decided to suspend Carthage for the present and push it upstairs for a decision – make it their problem. Phillip Plessey was an Australian too, wasn’t he. You can imagine Sir Christopher doing a Lady Bracknell: ‘Losing one Australian might be considered unfortunate; losing two . . .’ what was it? . . . ‘careless’ that was it. I’m in fine form today, eh, Julian.”
There is little left for Julian to say, resigned, as he must be to the fate of Carthage under the present control of Glasely. “Of course, yes, I see. Well, you have my advice. It is now your responsibility to act as you see fit and you will be credited with the outcome, whatever it is.”
After Glasely leaves, Millicent places her hand on Julian’s and looks at him with sad empathy.
Julian turns to her with a careworn look of a husband resigned to an inevitable disaster yet grateful for the love of his partner. “The ‘Glasely’ I told you about, Millie: politically aware, influential family connections, manipulative, untroubled by the moral dimension of anything, average intelligence, socially awkward – and overweeningly . . .” He pauses to summarise, and with a sad smile, reflects: “He is what passes for a ‘coming man’ these days.”
Millicent squeezes his hand. “Then I am so pleased, Julian, that you are a ‘going man’.”
To be continued . . .