Later that evening she ushered in a dishevelled Sam, heavily laden with what looked a back pack, tent, sleeping bag, webbing.
He looked overawed, out of place in her restrained luxury, not used to seeing it from the interior, just gazing up at the towers of the alien rich from the unsparing streets below.
“Stay over Sam, at least for tonight. I saw him this afternoon; he, we, are worried about you. Tell me over something to eat, it’s in the oven.”
She helped him unburden himself, had a shock when she felt the tent bag’s contents and looked in the top. He saw her reaction of dismay.
“Sorry Miss, but I might need them.”
Half an hour later, they were seated at her kitchen table eating simply. He was tongue-tied still, frightened to make a faux-pas on foreign ground.
“Sam, what happened, why’ve you come here on your own and not gone back with the others?”
He’d been preparing himself for this ever since the conversation with Alan: if Alan couldn’t understand, how could this woman inside her comfortable life? But then again, he trusted her, so perhaps he, Sam, should as well. He cleared his throat, nervous.
“It goes back to the Kurdish girl, Narin, who we rescued from that house in Birmingham, Miss. What they’d done to her over years, her family, people, others as well… and when we went into that restaurant in Swindon… There was one more in there than we thought. He shot one of us, wounded him badly. We were looking for more info, like that stick I posted you; we knew they were all involved, quite senior, your friend told us. We started to interrogate them, make them talk, but they wouldn’t and then that other one jumped us. It all went wrong, we had to clean up, spare only the youngest, leave no witnesses, no other survivors, destroy the evidence and put the fear of God into others.”
“But why not go back with the rest?”
She wasn’t horrified, perhaps she should be, but what would she have done in their place? This young man, she knew a little of his background, was trying to make things right in his own way, as they all were, and it had all just slipped out of control, ended up doing things he had never intended. That girl, Lena, she had seemed to look to him for strength, protection, perhaps he was in some few ways a little like that wounded romantic lying in the hospital. That young girl he had rescued must have exerted a fatal compulsion to protect, defend, avenge.
Vengeance, the word broke into her consciousness now, no longer in the mist just beyond its periphery, the tool for its implementation put into her hands… By what: luck, circumstance, providence?
“What’re you doing in London; have you got any plans?”
“I’m not sure if I can go back, they’ll blame me. They don’t understand what it’s about, it’s not knights in shining armour, it’s total war, like against the Nazis. I thought if I could see him, your friend, he could tell me what to do, how to keep going at them, perhaps one day he can make things right for me at home. They would listen to him, I know they would.”
Such a touching, naïve faith in one man from such a hard case, but then again perhaps she was no different.
“He’s not going anywhere for quite a while, so you’re going to have to stay here for a few days until he comes out. Have you got money?”
“Don’t worry, that’s one way I can help. Can you disappear for a while if you need to?”
“That’s the easy bit in a place like this; the hard part is where to put these… tools.”
“They’ll be alright here for a while, but not too long. Why don’t you rest up for the next couple of days, while I go through what’s on that stick you sent me, see if it gives you anything to do until he comes out.”
There wasn’t much on the stick at all, a few brief files, some street plans of that area of central London around Leicester Square and Covent Garden with some handwritten scribbles on it in a script she didn’t recognise, Arabic it looked. Arrows, starting in a ring and moving inwards to the centre, with a couple diverting towards Trafalgar Square and on to the National Portrait Gallery, lots of arrows and a thick ring. It presaged evil, of that there could be no doubt. Likewise, the sketch plans of Paddington, Euston and Waterloo stations, similarly marked up in hand written script and obviously scanned in as a pdf. No dates, nothing.
In another file was a map reference, or so it seemed, nothing else. She web-searched it, up in the Chilterns, on an estate owned by a private holding company; this was her world now, her appetite whetted. The ownership structure was opaque, must be deliberate, tax reasons perhaps? Well she was getting as far as she could here, would need to use the greater resources at work on Monday. They were well used to penetrating even the most masked ownership structures and as a partner no one would even ask why she was interested. The estate itself was well back from the roads, a long drive, a couple of small private valleys, ideal game shooting, one public footpath crossing one of the outer quadrants. Satellite imagery showed a large house, well hidden from public view, a farm on the edge of the estate, some estate cottages likewise, but most of it was completely cut off, only serious wealth could buy that so close to London. What was really odd was that there was nothing in the local press at all about the owners, no tittle-tattle, no disputes with neighbours. Nothing, just a passing reference to the wealthy Gulf based owners, not named. She called Sam over.
“What do you make of this? One of the files just refers to a grid reference in this little valley on this estate, completely isolated, even from the large house.”
“Do you want me to have a look Miss?”
“I think it’s owned by rich Arabs, don’t know who yet, but will find out on Monday. Why don’t we drive up to the area tomorrow, have a look around the fringes? Then decide.”
SUNDAY, A WEEK AFTER EASTER
They drove to the Chilterns early. After parking in the nearest village, dressed as hikers they would walk through the estate using the public footpath, taking photos as they went and then move onto the public roads skirting the perimeter as closely as possible, exploiting any vantage points to look down into the little valley referred to on the map.
Six hours later, on the way back to London, it was clear that the little valley was well chosen if someone wanted to be discreet. Even with the early Spring trees being largely bare of foliage, with only the hedgerows showing signs of re-born life in the blackthorn blossom and scattering of flowers along the verges, it was an ideal spot to avoid prying eyes. A security presence was visible all around the perimeter, high stone estate walls capped with barbed wire, even the footpath lined either side with high wire fences interlaced with brambles and thorn bushes, with cameras mounted on wall pillars at key points, moving as if on a programmed setting, but there was no sign of guards patrolling the grounds. The gates, on the front and back drives to the main house were similarly solid, high wire topped and camera monitored, and flanked by lodge houses that were clearly inhabited.
“What d’you think Sam, could you get in there, get close, lie up, see what’s going on?”
“Child’s play, Miss, unless there’s patrols with dogs, no signs of electric trips or other sensors in the trees; that wire fence’s a joke, less than a minute to get over that, that’s the way in, off the footpath, track away from the house and overlook that little valley. If there’s anything else more sophisticated, it’ll be nearer the house, an inner ring; the outer perimeter is just to keep nosey parkers and trespassers away, it’s too long to do anything more. Old Hendricks and your friend taught us how. Go in at night with my thermal and NV goggles, find a hide, blend in and settle down for as long as it takes, could be days; that was part of the training too.”
“Oh, I thought you’d set up a camera, come out and monitor it remotely. And who’s Hendricks, I haven’t heard of him?”
“Old American contact of your friend, ex-forces, Ranger I think, fell on hard times. Your friend took him there over ten years ago, died last year; he was our main instructor.”
“He never told me about him.” But then why would he?
“The camera won’t work; it needs to be someone who can move about quietly if needed, find a better spot.”
“Are you sure? Won’t it be dangerous?”
He nodded, “I’ll take my kit, make sure I’m more dangerous. I’ll head up tomorrow, be in there tomorrow evening. I’ll get some supplies in the day. Miss?”
“I might need a lift out in a hurry if I have to make a break for it; I’ll just text you three z’s, no more.”
“I can be there in just over an hour, just let me know where.”
“Here, he marked a spot on the OS map they had been using, “unless I say otherwise, ok?”
“If you’re sure.”
“Yes. I can’t tackle the house on my own, but one man can watch unobserved in the woods better than a team.”
© 1642again 2018