The lights were on late in a suburban villa in Ankara; he was already working on the follow up. Isolated attacks, no matter how dramatic, how successful, were less influential than a sequence of almost continual lesser attacks. His agents on the ground were reporting greater polarisation of local populations, a steady drumbeat of reciprocal abuse, minor arson, vandalism, assaults, even people moving address: good, success. Keep stirring the pot, but don’t let it boil over too often for fear of provoking a fundamental response from the authorities or natives, rather leave them poised between making concessions, temporising, and cracking down, as they had done for years. The Arabs were right in some ways about that, but we need the headline grabbing attacks to cement our leadership, side-line the Arabs, inspire our immigrant populations there and intimidate the weak-willed.
Yes, tomorrow would terrify the media crowd and pay their ex-allies back for their disloyalty.
Meanwhile, the press was reporting that their main contact among their allies had disappeared on his way home, no explanations offered at all. Perhaps somebody’s saved us the trouble, who knows? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t our side. Perhaps his treachery had been discovered, could be a problem, but he doesn’t know me, only an intermediary who is already on his way back here and who’ll be given a new identity. Well, it’s too late for them to stop tomorrow now. I wonder whether those who are going to die tomorrow enjoyed their extra weekend of life after the postponement?
So, what next? Volunteers already training, a new network being established on the ground, new arms being delivered, safe houses procured. Western Europe was a rich breeding ground for them, almost too many wanting to help, join, support in any way. In three months they would be ready for a new round, with another successor network already germinating, sending forth new roots, seeding others for subsequent waves. Relentlessness would win out in the end. So, choices, almost too many options, what to do for the next waves? Lots of small provincial targets to convey the feeling that no one’s immune, or a few big spectaculars to damage the key organs of the state and economy?
She stayed in the church long after the others had gone. St Leonnorus’ was almost dark in the oncoming evening dusk, a few candles still lit; even Brother Peran had gone, bidding her a good night, and Martha and Iltud had left, taking Josey back home. She needed to be alone, to think of him, to try harder to bring Andy, his image, to the front of her mind. It had been getting shuffled back into the pack of her memory with each new revelation and experience here, getting fainter, less frequent when she closed her eyes. The human tenency to forget things, even those vital to us, to slide forward into the future, was frightening.
Her eyes were screwed shut, part of her praying for the freshening of memory as well as his safe recovery to her, the other fixing his portrait in her mind, bringing it forward from the back of the pack. The peace of this place helped, erased the distractions, clarified her thinking, just like this whole little land had eradicated the selfish worries that had made her so miserable in London, had revealed once more the things that really mattered: her love for her husband, her son, the timeless values that embraced them, making a life together.
She blew out the last candles after lighting her oil lamp, closing the door behind her. The stars were out; it was a clear, crisp night, all the more beautiful for that. There was virtually no sign of artificial light in the valley at all, but the night sky, the glistening moonlight, were all the illumination she needed. She was getting used to a world without electricity, electronics; there were compensations and the stars were one of them. As she headed down the churchyard path the corner of her eye caught sight of that Orthodox looking gravestone picked out in the moonlight. She wandered over through the moistening grass and bent before it, holding out the lantern to read the simple carved lettering. It was in English unlike the others, almost freshly cut from granite by the look of it. She bent closer, trying to make out the lettering. ‘Jovana Meynell, 1979-1997.’ And then below, ‘God is Gracious’. That was all, just a space below sufficient for another inscription.
Jovana, sounded Slavonic, fitting in with the eastern cross, she would have to enquire of the Abbot: if she wanted a real answer he was her best bet. Meynell though, sounded French or English. Odd, well nothing about this place surprises me anymore… What would they do for Narin if she made her life here? She found herself increasingly hoping she would, and that Sam would return; Josey wasn’t alone in missing him.
MONDAY, THIRD WEEK AFTER EASTER
He took the phone call shortly after another hospital breakfast, hopefully his last. He would hear this morning if the consultant thought him well enough to be discharged today. Her flat, even with a physio and nurse provided, simply wouldn’t have the rehab facilities available elsewhere, didn’t even have a lift. The doctors disapproved, as did the service, but he needed to be somewhere private, somewhere he could start to pick up the reins again, keep an eye on her, talk to Sam. They said he was at least a fortnight away from being able to get about using crutches. His shoulder was mending nicely, but the muscle would take weeks to rebuild, the ribs weren’t moving about either and the leg was still painful, plastered, but would bear some weight in a few weeks. Perhaps it was too soon, another fortnight here or in a service house, but no, other things were higher priorities. Helena. Sam. Helena…
At least he was working from his room now, his team leaders coming in most days, Elaine too; he was plugged back into the network again. Those sticks recovered, decrypted, had been worth their weight in diamonds, had resulted in breaking the largest terrorist conspiracy in history, at least in the West. They justified, or at least compensated for, what they had had to do, even Sam.
His colleagues were delighted, but the more thoughtful ones, the MI5 Director included, those in the informal inner web, were worried by its scale, its penetration, the facts on the ground, with some local areas seemingly under ever less secure government control. Some were even starting to become pessimistic, muttering about the current establishment, state structures, even cultural assumptions, being fundamentally flawed, unable to surmount the challenge.
Some were saying there was a scent of Weimar in the air, civilisational breakdown, cultural decadence and materialism generating a state and populace psychologically and morally ill-equipped to win through. A few were despairing, although not Gerald, yet. Was this how the Romanised native populations felt when the empire finally crumbled before the barbarians, too exhausted to drive them back? Or how the Christian populations of the Near East and North Africa, the Zoroastrians of Persia, the Buddhists of Afghanistan, felt when their homelands went down under the Arabic Muslim invaders in the seventh and eighth centuries, their governors too enfeebled to offer effective resistance?
He had tried to cheer them up, but not too much, was encouraged himself by these musings. He’d been there long before them, had despaired at what he felt alone in seeing, like Thucydides understanding the pattern of history which he knew would bring low his native Athens in its war with Sparta. He however had been restored to belief, if not optimism. They who were starting to ask these questions of those they trusted, challenging their fundamental assumptions, repeating perhaps his journey: they were the recruits of the future. How much more would it take for them to be ready? Some not much, especially those in the deeper circles, a few more attacks, more ground compromised away by politicians, more lies told to the native populace would be enough, surely?
But this internal conspiracy, for that’s what it must be, these ‘allies’, if exposed to his colleagues, that alone would be sufficient for most. That must be their next priority, to expose the rotten heart of the setup, to challenge people who still cared to look within, transforming their assumptions, helping them value again things beyond selfish concerns, to worry about what we leave for those to come, what those who went before struggled to build and sustain for us… All things now disparaged, the inter-generational contract, the cultural inheritance, abrogated, squandered in just a few decades of self-gratification. Then he thought of Helena, her home… Yes, time to begin again; besides, something told him there was more to come, those memory sticks hadn’t told the full story. He needed to be free to work unobserved. There was nowhere else.
He looked up; a nurse was opening the door, mid-thirties, Caribbean extraction. He had become one of her favourites he knew; she would talk to him like a friend, was becoming one, take some of her lunch breaks in his room, had told him she would miss him when he left. No matter, he had said, come and have dinner with us. He found himself already thinking of it as his new home. He caught sight of the photograph of his wedding day, Jovana in his arms smiling straight out of it into his eyes, his heart, as she always seemed to, warming him through, but no regrets today, no loss, one day, one day, I know that now for sure, the waters of the Jordan will part for me.
His personal phone rang. He picked it up and answered. Celtic accented voice, innocuous code word as he asked for him: they had a letter for him from his father, the Abbot then.
How, where did he want it?
Straightaway please, my new address will be with you later today, good, make it out to her please, thank you.
© 1642again 2018