All the way to work Jinnie was puzzling over what the prime minister had in mind for her this time. When she kissed Paolo goodbye he said, “Stop worrying it will be OK.” Entering the Vauxhall Cross headquarters of the Secret Intelligence Service she swiped her pass to let her into the building and it set off a buzzer. The girl on the reception desk looked up and said, “Mrs De Luca? Can I have a quick word please?” Jinnie strolled over to the desk and the receptionist said in a low voice, “The director would like a chat with you, if you wouldn’t mind using your ID card to enter the lift, I will send it up to the executive floor where you will be met.”
As the lift went up Jinnie was now pondering on what she had done that demanded a meeting with ‘C’, as the director was known within the service. When the lift doors slid open a pretty dark-haired girl greeted her with a cheerful, “Good morning Mrs De Luca, I’m sorry the director is running a bit late, he is stuck in traffic and is not in yet. I’m his secretary, Emma, can I get you a tea or coffee while you wait? Jinnie opted for a white coffee without sugar and was served a flavourful brew in a delicate china cup. Emma noticed her savouring the coffee and said, “It’s Jamaican Blue Mountain, the director got a taste for it when he served out there, but it’s too strong for me, I prefer supermarket instant.” Jinnie said she adored a good coffee and had never tasted one so good.
Jinnie and Emma were soon chatting like old friends and Jinnie thought, “Well I can’t have done anything too bad or I wouldn’t have been offered the boss’s coffee!” Suddenly the director burst in and apologising to Jinnie, asking her to follow him, bustled into his office, where he offered her a seat. ‘C’ shuffled a few papers on his desk which gave Jinnie a chance to look around what was the biggest office she had ever seen. It was a corner office with wonderful views over London and the river. It was after Emma had delivered two cups of coffee that ‘C’ got down to business.
The director suddenly said, “Jinnie, I hope you don’t mind me calling you Jinnie, firstly I wanted to thank you for the suggestions you made about the ‘Final Solution’ information campaign, it really worked wonderfully. Secondly I wanted to congratulate on your handling of the Italian prime minister, I can tell you he was extremely impressed. Thirdly, I would like to offer you my personal congratulations on your marriage and finally I wondered if you could enlighten me on why I have been summoned to Number 10 this afternoon? The PM’s secretary made the point that you too had been summoned and I know he sometimes lets you into his thinking.”
Jinnie replied, “I’m sorry, Sir, I am just as much in the dark as you, he just rang me when I was on the train to the office and summoned me to No 10 at 2:30.” ‘C’ said, “What a pity, I do like to be prepared. Still, at least I can offer you a lift, can you be in reception at 2:00? Good, I’ll see you then.” With that, Jinnie realised she had been dismissed and headed out to Emma’s little office where she stopped for a few more words. Emma said that she had seen her lunching in the staff canteen and perhaps they could eat together sometime. Jinnie said she would like that and she could introduce her to her sister.
At 2:00 Jinnie was sitting in reception waiting when the lift doors opened and the director swept out, beckoning to Jinnie and headed out of the front door to where his chauffeur was waiting in a Jaguar. The car headed across the river and into Downing Street where the director and Jinnie did the walk up the road past the photographers who recognised ‘C’ and started snapping him while to Jinnie’s delight ignoring her. Jinnie guessed they had her marked as a secretary. As they approached the famous black door, it magically opened and as they stepped inside Jinnie saw Larry’s replacement carefully eyeing them across the room. Jinnie dropped to one knee and called him over and the cat nervously approached her. Soon she won him over and he was rubbing himself against her while purring madly. A secretary appeared and seeing Jinnie stroking the cat said, “You are privileged, you are the only person who Winston has ever ever let pet him.”
Jinnie said, “The competition has decided on ‘Winston’ then?” The secretary said, “Not officially, it will be announced on Wednesday’s Blue Peter, but Winston is the runaway winner so everyone has started calling him that. I think it suits him, I understand Churchill was obstinate too.” Once in the PM’s office, Mr Farage was reluctant to start talking business until the tea and chocolate Hob Nobs had been served and the secretary had withdrawn. While waiting, the PM asked after Larry and admitted he missed him. He explained that Winston was a great mouser but was an antisocial cat who liked nobody. ‘C’ explained to the PM that he had let Jinnie stoke him and the PM said she seemed to have empathy with cats, even Larry loved her!
The PM then said he was going to explain his problem and hoped that they could come up with a solution. He explained that when the War of Liberation had broken out his wife was in Frankfurt, visiting her mother, who had just had a stroke. At the time he was still a city trader and not involved in politics and he was separated from his wife, the mother of his two daughters. He added as an aside, he had two sons from a previous marriage. Kirsten, his wife, had been born in Germany, but both his daughters had been born in England and were British. He explained that at some stage after the war ended his wife’s mother died and Kirsten tried to get back to England and to her daughters. Travelling under her maiden name of Mehr, she had managed to get to the Swiss border, where she was detained for having a forged passport and taken to Berlin. It had taken a while but the Gestapo had finally realised that they had detained the British PM’s wife. In the last couple days, Farage explained, he had started receiving messages from Germany trying to blackmail him into making concessions to them and passing information to them by making threats against his wife.
The PM explained that he had talked to his security adviser and that so far he had resisted pressure from the Germans and had asked for them to provide proof that they held his wife and that she was alive. His security advisor had suggested he should only seek help from someone he trusted totally, hence his turning to the head of the SIS and Jinnie. ‘C’ immediately asked the PM how he was being contacted and what would his preferred outcome be. The PM said he was initially been sent a throwaway mobile phone through the post with a typed note and he had spoken to someone on the phone. This preference was that his wife should be returned to Britain.
‘C’ said that he needed to get GCHQ involved as it was important to know where the calls were originating from, so as to rule out a hoax, and that the note and the phone would have to be forensically examined. He suggested that he should contact the head of GCHQ immediately and get him involved. He also suggested that he should use his spies within the German security services to try to locate Kirsten and that planning should immediately begin to plan an operation to insert agents into Berlin and to have them plan for the extraction of her and any of the PM’s family still in Germany. The PM explained that as far as he knew his Kirsten was his only living German relation. Jinnie was told to start planning the mission but it was to remain top secret, only people she got cleared by ‘C’ could be involved and then they should be told as little as possible as a leak could be disastrous.
Jinnie was impressed by just how quickly ‘C’ had taken charge and started the ball rolling while maintaining security. She also felt sorry for the PM who was between a rock and a hard place. Despite being separated from Kirsten she was still his wife and the mother of two of his children and he obviously still had an affection for her. Jinnie asked ‘C’ if she could include herself as one of the agents going into Germany and he replied that he thought that would be sensible on several grounds. She already knew what was happening, she knew Berlin and had contacts there, she spoke perfect German, she had displayed her prowess with firearms on several occasions and the PM trusted her.
In the car on the way back to Vauxhall Cross ‘C’ spoke to the head of GCHQ and suggested he should meet him in his office as soon as he could get there from Cheltenham only to be told that he was working from his London office in the National Cyber Security Centre in Victoria and could be there in twenty minutes. His next call was to his head of forensics and told him to get his top man over to number 10 immediately and to take a new Samsung Galaxy with him. To be ready to swap chips with a phone the PM would show him and to have the PM’s checked forensically especially for bugs.
Turning to Jinnie, ‘C’ said that as soon as they arrived back at Vauxhall he would arrange for her to have a private office within the mission planning department. He asked her if she had any ideas on the operation yet. Jinnie said ‘yes’ but could she call on military assets as she knew of several she had been involved with previously and trusted implicitly. ‘C’ said OK but to clear it with him before she actually spoke to anyone. She then said she needed a couple of assistants she could trust to keep their mouths shut and could she have her old college housemate Carol and her old friend Gretel, as they were now in the building. ‘C’ said he didn’t see why not and it would be arranged as soon as possible.
Finally, Jinnie said she thought it might look odd if someone on her low grade was seen regularly reporting the director and she suggested that they should use Emma to carry messages between them. Jinnie explained that they had hit it off on meeting that morning and had already agreed that they might eat together in the staff canteen at lunchtime. ‘C’ thought this an excellent idea but further suggested a high security scrambled phone for emergency contact out of hours. Although he reminded her it would be useless in the building as all mobile signals were actively jammed apart from in the staff restaurant. Then he said, “I have been thinking, someone on your grade is not entitled to a private office. I am going to have to promote you three or four grades to reach that level.” He was silent for a few moments before adding, “I expect as a newlywed the accompanying wage increase will come in handy.” Jinnie thought, “Surely he has to be aware of my inheritance and Paolo’s exalted position at the Italian Embassy. If I didn’t love the thrill of my job I wouldn’t be doing it.”
Later that afternoon Jinnie was standing at the whiteboard in her new office jotting down a few random ideas when a knock came on her office door. She called “Come in” and her old housemate Carole walked in. Carole’s reaction to seeing Jinnie was to assume that like her she had been directed by HR to the office to meet a new boss. She had received a phone call simply telling her to report to a particular room number where all would be explained. Jinnie wasted no time in telling Carole that she ‘was’ the new boss and that she was there to help plan a mission. Before she had a chance to explain further, another knock came on the office door and Gretel arrived. She too had to be told that she would be working for Jinnie, planning a top-secret mission, which was not to be discussed with anyone and looking at Carole she said “Even Jason” and switching to Gretel she added “or Penny.”
Jinnie’s office was fairly basic compared to the one that ‘C’ occupied but it did have a window with a view over the River Thames. She had a new modern desk and chair, two matching meeting chairs where positioned in front of the desk and a meeting table with four more chairs of the same style as the meeting chairs sat near the window. On her desk were a PC that was on the internal SIS network, which was isolated from the internet, and a fancy scrambler phone which Jinnie wondered if she would ever come to grips with. A printer stood on a small unit, with a shredder by its side and there were several empty, lockable, filing cabinets. The other major piece of technology was the whiteboard that cleaned itself at the press of a button and was capable of printing out whatever was written on it.
Jinnie opened an interconnecting door to reveal another office with two desks equipped with PCs for the two assistants. Another printer was shared by these two PCs and again there was a shredder. Jinnie suggested they settle in and then they would have a quick meeting so that she could quickly brief them on the mission. A short time later Jinnie’s little team were sitting around the meeting table while she told them a sanitised version of the mission. No mention of the PM, but they were told the mission was to find and extract a woman by the name of Kirsten Mehr, who was believed to be being held by the Gestapo somewhere in Berlin.
Looking at her watch, Jinnie realised that it was well past normal finishing time, so she suggested that they resume first thing in the morning, but reminded them that nothing was to be left on desktop overnight, everything was to be locked into desk drawer or filing cabinets. The whiteboard was to be cleaned and all office doors were to be locked overnight and if they ever left the office unmanned during the working day. On the underground to Finsbury Park Jinnie reflected on how easy it had been to give commands. Not for the first time was she thankful to Dirk for insisting she join the OTC.
In Chapter 2 – Kirsten is located.
© Worthing Gooner 2022