Ch 70 – Taking back control.
Sandra Batkawayo was waiting for me outside the door. “The studio is this way, Mister Malone.” He began striding off down the deep piled corridor. He was a big man with a big step. I had to half jog to keep up. I wasn’t expecting him to say anything, yet he did. Without preamble he answered a question I’d asked him earlier.
That must have been weighing on his conscience.
“My name really is Sandra. I weren’t lying. Only thing is, It’s not quite Sandra. It used to be Sandy. Short for Alexander.”
“And Sandra. That’s short for Alexandra?”
“Yeah. That’s right. So it is my real name. I just wanted you to know. The rest. ‘Bout my needing the job. And only a restricted to women’s role being available. You guessed that right. Me changing my gender on a form. That was also correct. I don’t care. Don’t bother me. Was necessary. For them.” He looked up at the ceiling. He meant for BBC Personnel and Human Resources. They must be on the fifth floor.
With the best views.
“A unisex name. Lucky you.” I smiled.
“Not just me. You too. Jo Malone.”
“I’ve never noticed that before. Thanks.”
“It’s just up ahead, the studio,” he said. Then he changed subject. “I’m so glad it isn’t far. I took a tumble a few months back. Fell over some sound equipment some donkey left in the wrong place. Damaged my knee quite bit. I had to have almost a fortnight off to recuperate.”
He was walking purposefully, still. The same long strides. “Your knees look fine to me,” I informed him.
He abruptly began to limp a little. Slowing his colossal pace. “Oh, sure. Now they do. But I worry that they could give way again at any minute. A problem for me, they is.
A damn worry. That’s a genuine medical condition I have. That is all fully detailed and already observed on my own, personal attendance record.
He stopped walking and faced me. “I just wanted you to be aware of that, Mister Malone.”
I regarded his dark face. “Which Force were you with? “I asked him. No doubt in my mind he was once police.
“Avon and Somerset. Sergeant.”
That wasn’t as insulting as it sounds. Their Commander had insisted all their area police vehicles support national flower day. And the purple pansy had been chosen to adorn their doors. To the ridicule of the public. The humiliation of the officers. And the envy of Sussex Police, who covered the Brighton area. And wished they had thought of it first.
“Plenty of line of duty injuries in that file too,” he countered. “If anyone should care to look at it.”
I held out my good hand, and he shook it in his strong grip.
“Thank you, Sergeant Sandy.”
“No problem, Inspector Jo.”
“Sandy,” I said, changing subjects, “I need to go the bathroom.”
“I thought you might.”
“My ear is bleeding very badly again. I need to hold some tissue to it for a moment. Is that alright?”
He looked at my unbloodied ear. “That does look like quite a flow. You best go just in here.
The next door along was a gender neutral toilet. “I’d best wait outside for you, Mister Malone. Please do not be too long.”
I went into the toilet area. It had a maple coloured set of fixings. Dark brown sink panel. There were three cubicles, sinks and driers. The urinals had been removed. But a sign over where they had once been said that they were going to be reinstalled.
“For use by all genders.” Some of the pana-trana-sexuals had been complaining that just because they identified as women, didn’t mean they didn’t want to piss standing up.
A few BBC employees were in here already. So I made my way to the far end where the room had an ‘L’ shape. A small, square window was on this side, and I looked out through it. I could see an expanse of BBC property lawn down there. This was the rear of the building. On the old Ealing Common land. The evidence of last month’s Terrorist attack was still visible.
A group from Anti-Aunty had broken in one night and poured weed killer all over the fine, manicured lawn. They had bled into the grass a ragged, but readable message.
“Defund the BBC.”
The new seeds had not yet grown enough to wipe the message out. And, the grass was a different shade of green. If anything the message stood out more. The Directors would have to authorise some more cash for the landscaping budget.
I could see down onto the roof below too. It was flat. Covered in an array of assorted sized aerials, pylons, antennae and dishes.
As I looked I noticed a helicopter was hovering just outside the perimeter walls of the BBC. Some thousand meters up. I hadn’t heard it as this building was exceptionally well sound proofed. As I looked at the helicopter I saw a figure animatedly calling down to the ground. Even at this distance I recognised him as Sir Alan Stuart.
He was half out the passenger door. Holding on by a seat belt or a cable of some kind. He kept pointing down. Signaling he wanted to land. I could see people running about below. Two people, in BBC security uniform, came out of a hut and began assembling a ground to air missile system. Radar on the roof of the guard tower was turning. Guards beneath it were lined at the wall, with handguns drawn.
So, Sir Alan had escaped. Well, he was a very resourceful man. He’d even somehow managed to get hold of a helicopter! Which, outside of Monaco, were as rare as right wing comedians are in this building. I gave him a friendly wave.
The missile was soon ready and it began turning. Its sensors could hardly miss the helicopter so close.
The BBC was under attack all the time. And not just from the Murdoch press. It was under real attack. From all kinds of groups. It was well prepared for this sort of thing since the time the studio was taken over by gammons.
Sir Alan was urgently signaling down. But the pilot had seen the missile and must have heard the warnings being broadcast to him. He swiveled the helicopter around over the protests of an angry faced Sir Alan, and pulled it back out of range. That was excellent. I wanted exactly the sort of diversion he had caused.
I went back to the main area of the toilets. The BBC people had gone. I went to the sink and pushed down the plug. Then I reached into my jacket and removed from it the velvet bag that I had taken from Lady Bixby’s safe. The bag I took at the same time as I had seized Lord Bixby’s Beretta 92.
I tipped the diamonds from the bag into the sink. They sparkled brilliantly under the bathroom lights. They appeared very blue under the ultra violet, Covid killing glow of the sink bulbs.
Oh! You’re wondering why I hadn’t mentioned this to you before? That I had a bag of diamonds in my pocket? Well, I know I told you about the diamonds. Mind you, that was some while ago. So maybe you’ve forgotten. But you’re wondering why I hadn’t mentioned lifting this black velvet bag, containing these ice white, cut diamonds, when I had done it.
Well, we have to have some secrets, don’t we?
You didn’t think I was just going to leave them there, did you? When I opened the safe and set off the alarm. If you did, then you really haven’t gotten to know me at all.
How else do you think I was going to get out of this country? I needed an out long before CI5 had made it abundantly clear, what I had suspected since I had seen the police raid my offices. That there was nothing left for me here, in this country.
If I had even thought for a second that I might assist with the enabling of a proper Brexit, the CI5 lawyer and agent had made me realise that I had been very wrong.
So I will leave all that Brexit business up to you, dear Puffin. Hey! I’ve done my bit.
More than my fair share. Have the scars to prove it. You can take over for a while.
My E-cash was all frozen. My accounts were useless. As soon as I had that safe open I’d searched for that black box of diamonds. Sought the bag and put it into my inside jacket pocket. A soft bag and diamonds don’t disturb a metal detector. No one had known when I’d come into the BBC. The diamonds hadn’t been my first thought. The broadcast had. But they were insurance. And with what Lord Bixby had said. And those other two Spooks, I decided I should make a claim.
Love maybe priceless. But for everything else, there’s a bag of illicitly obtained diamonds.
I took the Mercedes e-tags that I had taken from Vanessa’s handbag. Put them into the soft velvet bag and put the diamonds back in as well. Only this time wrapped in toilet roll. If the bag fell loose, I didn’t want the whole lot of them spilling everywhere. I pushed the bag down into my trouser pocket and put more paper on top. Things might get a little tricky in the next few minutes.
The small window I’d watched the helicopter from had had no way of opening it. It was a sealed glass pane. So I picked up the mandatory red fire extinguisher and the smaller black CO2 one, and took them over.
I hurled red through the glass. Which shattered spectacularly with that very satisfying tinkling sound. I then picked up black and used it to break off the jagged edges around the frame. I would only just be able to fit through the gap as it was.
I heard the door being opened in a hurry. Then there was a cry of pain.
I carried the black CO2 with me as I went back to check. It wasn’t much of a weapon. Not without the accompanying narwhal tusk. But it was all I had.
As I reached the corner I peered round the wall. Sandra was lying down across the entrance. Holding his knee and softly crying out in anguish. “My leg..Damn! Leg’s busted. Get me help! Someone help!”
No one else was coming. Though CI5 might be along soon. They’d be watching the monitors and would have noticed Sandy and myself had not arrived in the studio yet.
I went back to the window. Bashed out a final jagged piece of glass. And jumped through.
I fell on to the roof of the floor below. It was a ten foot drop, but I landed well despite my leg injury. Though both palms really stung from the contact. There was some kind of gravel up here. Drainage stuff. I had burned my palms on it when I landed.
Then I noticed it wasn’t that. I’d dropped onto a piece of the window I’d just knocked out. It had sliced into the lower part of my palm. The only good news, was that it was my bad hand. Which was already near to useless. I knew enough to leave it in. Nina could get it out later.
I regained my feet and set off. Using the fire escape plan I’d studied in the green room, I knew there was an external drop down ladder on the far side of this third roof level. The plan hadn’t warned me there would be quite so many bloody bulky, tall and spikey metal antennae everywhere. My jacket snagged on a transmitter and the sleeve ripped at the shoulder before I could free it. Almost coming off completely.
There were air-conditioning tunnels all over. And it would have been quicker to run along them. Except the rain showers had made the surface very slippery. The roof looked silver with all the puddles. I did a lumbering shuffle over each conduit and made progress to the edge of the roof.
There was a shout. A woman’s voice. Calling out. I sunk down and hid behind a satellite dish shaped, microwave transmitter. I couldn’t make out the words. I looked back over and up at the broken window. It was the military lawyer. She was leaning half out from the window and yelling something. Sounded like, “Get back from the ledge!” Or maybe, “|Get him, Edge!” I turned away and decided to leap some cables that snaked over this part of the rooftop. There was a lower roof below and I dropped down. As I landed I jumped forward but landed on a solar panel. I slid along a row of them, that were wet with rain. They were angled to catch the sunlight and I fell down them. Was almost pitched over the end of the roof. I just managed to grab a part of a duct that had HVAC lettered onto it. I could hear the electric hum of transformers coming from a storage unit nearby.
Holding the duct prevented me falling over the side. But I felt the muscles pull and the wound in the arm open up and blood begin to flow again. I was on my back. Half over the end of the building. I pulled myself back so I was no longer over the side of the building. One shoe had come off and landed near by. As I tried to kick it nearer with my foot, I only succeeded in booting it off the roof completely.
For some reason that made me laugh. Laugh long and hard as the droplets of rain began to fall again. Laughed loud at the darker clouds forming. That’s the thing about this country. You never know for sure what the weather will be. Bright sunshine or misty fog. It could be anything at all. Several times a day.
I shall miss that uncertainty. But I was going to have to go somewhere else. Iceland would be a good start. Hold that thought. Iceland. And Nina.
I started laughing to myself again. I’d just realised I was going to be an immigrant.
“No,” I told myself. “Not Immigrant. You’ve got a fistful of diamonds. You’re going to be an emigre.” That made me laugh some more.
The lawyer woman was shouting again. But sounded more like instructions to someone else. Someone might have jumped down after me. Simmonds maybe. If he had been foolish enough to do it. It was dangerous up here. There were enough High Voltage and Danger signs to stock a warehouse.
With an effort of will, I regained my balance. I pulled off the other shoe so I wouldn’t be unbalanced. Scrambled the last few feet to where the fire escape ladder should be.
It was there and I jumped on to it. It fell down as it was supposed to. But before it had dropped fully, it stopped. Jarring me as it screeched to a halt. It was supposed to extend enough for only a one floor jump to safety. Eight feet or so. But it hadn’t. It was stuck. So this final drop was more like twenty five. I looked over the side. Couldn’t see any other way down. No convenient fire hoses or rolls of cabling.
I faintly heard the woman again, though not what she was saying. There was a crack of glass from above and behind. Maybe a skylight. Might be those solar panels being jumped on.
I looked down again. There was a different bright green lawn. The border edges of flowers were close. The bushes behind them closer still. Almost directly below.
Looking further up from the lawn, I saw a stone pathway. That led to the car park. I could see a few parked vehicles there. One was Vanessa’s Mercedes. Shiny with the rain.
I carefully went to the end of the escape ladder. If it suddenly descended I was at the end and could be dumped off. The cold from the metal of the fire escape was coming my socks, which were now damp from the rain.
If I landed in the bushes and didn’t break anything major I could get to her car quite easily. Drive through the gates. They wouldn’t have a lock down on yet. The car was properly registered in. So would be allowed through with no bother. Then I’d drive through the roads, into Acton Town. Abandon it in a car park there. So the registration would be picked up and she’d know where to find it. I’d be long gone before that happened. I’d leave the keys in the glove box. Along with a single diamond.
If I did make the jump, it would be easy. If. My palm was hurting badly now. From the glass in it. It wouldn’t like the landing. The main thing would be not to twist or break any limbs. It wasn’t a fatal jump to make. Just a bad one. Only someone who really had to make it would do so. I really had too.
I hoped Simmonds wasn’t a maniac. Though he had had that look about him. He might just try.
I stood and took off the wet socks. Putting them both over the hand with the piece of glass in it as a pathetic bandage. It would be easier to run barefoot than in socks. I’d need to find some shoes when I ditched the car. She might keep some trainers n the boot of the Mercedes. But Vanessa’s feet were freakishly small. I prepared to make a run so I’d land in the biggest, greenest bush. As I shifted weight the ladder fell a small amount. toppling me off balance. I had to grab the low handrail so I didn’t go over. I felt the laughter coming up again. I couldn’t help it.
I kicked the thing a few times but it didn’t budge. I suddenly thought, what if Simmonds was armed? He could get a pretty good shot off from up here as I ran across the lawn. I’d bee a black target on a green background. Like a bug on a leaf.
That thought made me laugh again. Much louder. Maybe it was blood loss. I could see blood all over the socks I’d just put over my hand. The blood was flowing from the wound in my arm as well as palm.
So before I lost it completely I took off my jacket and wrapped it, turban like, around my head, like the world’s worst crash helmet. I took a final step back. And as much air into my idiotically cackling lungs as they would permit. Then made the final run forward to the end of the ladder and launched myself through the air.
Joe Malone is a Bill Quango MP original for Swiss Books SB.
In association with
Artwork By Colin.
The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this series are fictitious.
As they must be as events take place in an unspecified future timeline. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred. No person or entity associated with this writing received payment or anything of value, or entered into any agreement, in connection with the depiction of actual products. All Artwork, unless expressly attributed to other agencies, is the property of COLIN. No animals were harmed in the writing of this series.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file