The evening after the trip to Crawley, Jinnie and Alberto spoke on the phone and both agreed that the trip had been well worth the effort. Jinnie was more sure than ever that Brian was the right person for them and just loved what Belinda’s team had been working on. The technology they had seen was impressive and with a few tweaks she was sure the dark kitchen would be outstanding. Alberto agreed and had been delighted to report that everything at Turner’s Hill was going to plan. The standards in the restaurant were still high and the building work was progressing nicely. The roof would be going on next week, the roof trusses were already on site. Once the build was weather tight, the first fit could commence. Jinnie and Alberto chatted on for a while discussing how long it might be before they had a final design for the dark kitchen and allowing them to apply for the all-important final planning permission.
When Jinnie finally rang off, she realised Paolo was watching her. “What?” she said. He laughed and replied, “I was just thinking how the twins were beginning to show, and there you are chatting about your second job while I’m waiting to talk about your first job. How can you be so busy and still look radiant?” Jinnie smiled and said, “I guess I am just naturally talented!” Paolo threw a cushion at her and said, “I have had a call from my PM, we must talk about Trieste.”
Paolo explained that he had been amazed when the ambassador called him into his office and told him the government had a special job for him and that in a few minutes there would be a scrambled call from the Prime Minister and he would brief him. When the call came, Berlusconi told him that he was to work with his wife, the SIS and the Italian Foreign Intelligence Service, the AISE. Berlusconi went on, saying that his friend Nigel Farage had spoken to him and told him that the Austrian and Slovenian resistance were agitating for freedom from the Germans and Britain was worried that if they moved before the allies were ready to help them they would be crushed.
Berlusconi continued the tale, saying that Nigel was putting together an alliance to help and, of course, he had agreed to help. The first need was to try to stop the Austrian and Slovenian resistance from doing anything rash. The British had numerous contacts with the Austrians but few with the Slovenians and had asked if the Italians had any. They had guessed that Italy would have contact with resistance in Trieste as it was still considered Italian. Paolo explained he had been told that he was to be the conduit between the AISE and the SIS via his wife. Jinnie nodded along as the tale was being told not having the heart to tell him she already knew everything he was saying, especially that it was all her idea.
Paolo confirmed that there was indeed quite a large cell in the Trieste area and he said the AISE had agreed to put the SIS in touch with them via him. Jinnie didn’t know how much she was allowed to tell Paolo, so thanked him and said she would have to find out who she was to pass messages on to but, she hinted that she thought the whole plan was to stop the Slovenians kicking off before everyone was ready.
In Vauxhall Cross the following day, in a meeting with ‘C’, it was made clear to Jinnie that her husband could be fully trusted with anything that was necessary. In fact ‘C’ said that, as a foreign national married to a person in such a high position in SIS, and who was a confidant of the PM, he had been vetted and cleared before they were married. ‘C’ told her that Paolo had, in fact, been cleared with flying colours and he was also cleared at the highest possible level by the Italian security service. ‘C’ continued saying he understood that Dirk was to tell Penny, that day, that she was needed at Vauxhall Cross and that she was to report to Jinnie’s department on Monday morning. Before Jinnie could ask he said, “Oh, and I understand she has been awarded a first-class honours degree. You can finally make a break with the Cambridge house, as I guess she will be moving back in with your parents until she gets married.” Jinnie nodded and said, “I guess so, but this might come as a bit of a surprise to mum and dad.”
‘C’ then asked, “How are the arrangements for getting her to the USA for Independence Day coming along?” Jinnie answered, “Very well thanks. Penny and Daniel are getting married on the spring bank holiday Saturday which is at the beginning of June. I am officially the maid of honour, provided the twins haven’t arrived. The Queen Mary sails from Southampton on the following Monday and the crossing to New York takes 7 days. That leaves about 3 weeks before the 4th of July so in conjunction with the Americans we have arranged a few days in a hotel just off Broadway and tickets to several shows and bookings in some of the top restaurants. Then we have a trip to Martha’s Vineyard with some lazy days on the beach and visits to the lighthouse and reef diving arranged. Next is a trip to Niagara Falls and a ride on the Maid of the Mist. Finally, it is on to Washington on the 1st of July so the FBI have booked her into the Lyle Hotel. Carole has all the itinerary including the White House tour tickets. They then fly back to New York and come back to Southampton on the Queen Anne.”
“I have told Daniel that I had booked a honeymoon for them and that Paolo and I had intended travelling with them before I knew I was pregnant and couldn’t travel. I have told him that I had booked and paid for the trip before I knew I couldn’t go and I can’t get my money back. So I said that I had asked Carol and Jason to take Paolo and my places as Penny knows Carol well. I did intend to say it was a reward for getting a first class honours degree but I can hardly tell her that until she knows and that won’t be until she has spoken to Dirk. Daniel has promised not to tell her anything except she is going to need very smart wear and casual wear. Even the American Embassy has been ordered to issue special diplomatic paperwork for Penny and Daniel so that we don’t have to get ordinary visas for them.”
‘C’ said, “It sounds like you are planning this like a mission.” “You’re right,” said Jennie, “and I am delighted that Carole is doing most of the work. She is coming on in leaps and bounds, she should definitely be good enough to be Alan’s deputy while I’m on maternity leave”. ‘C’ smiled and said, “I haven’t asked recently but I trust everything is still OK.” “Oh yes,” replied Jinnie, “I am OK, I am getting a bit more tired, but health-wise everything is going well. On my last Hospital appointment the midwife suggested that after my next appointment they move my checks to once a fortnight, apparently this is the normal thing to do in the final semester for twins.”
Just as Jinnie was leaving “C’s” office he called her back. “I almost forgot to tell you, we have been checking out Penny’s Daniel. As her partner, the Secret Service had already had a look at him and were happy with what they were seeing. That made it easier for us to do a deeper check and he looks very good. He is being approached and will be offered a place on our graduate training scheme. His course tutor is used to us approaching him over students and didn’t hesitate to recommend him saying he is a very bright young man and will go a long way in whatever he chooses to do. In fact, he has already been offered a job in industry. The money he has been offered is very good, but I think we can match, maybe beat, it. Also, the advantage would be working in the same enterprise as his wife with all the benefits we can offer her. One last thing, I understand they are house hunting without a lot of success. Please remind your sister that as of next week she will be a full-time employee of SIS and as an active agent she will be on £93,500 pa plus expenses. Of course, Daniel will not be on that much as a new employee but from what I hear about him he is likely to be fast-tracked through our system if he chooses to join us”.
Jinnie and Paolo were enjoying an after-dinner coffee with Larry snuggled between them when Jinnie’s mobile rang. Looking at the screen she saw it was her mum, who quickly got down to business. She had just had a call from Penny, she was needed in Vauxhall Cross and was going to be home on Saturday, did Jinnie mind if they moved her into her old room? It was much bigger than Penny’s old room and she might have to share it with Daniel once they were married as every house they looked at was out of their reach. She went on, saying that they had even been looking at flats but in the area a single-bedroom one would be a stretch. Daniel had been offered a job as a management trainee at BAe Hatfield so they wanted to stay near.
Jinnie just listened and thought, ‘Mum is angling for me to say I will make her a loan. Well, she is in for a shock, in fact they are all in for a shock.’ “Mum,” Jinnie interrupted, “Did Penny say what she was going to do at the Cross?” “No,” replied her mother, “She just has to report to the ‘Director of Mission Planning’ on Monday morning at nine o’clock.” Jinnie laughed out loud and said, “You can tell her that I am the ‘Director of Mission Planning’ and she will be working for me planning some critical missions. If she meets Greta on the train on Monday she will show her where to go as she works for me. Did she tell you that this is a full-time appointment and she won’t be going back to Cambridge? “What?” Her mum said, “What about her degree?” “Oh,” said Jinnie, “Didn’t she tell you she has been awarded a first class honours?” “No,” said Jinnie’s mother, “Are you sure?” “Absolutely certain,” came the reply.
Early on Saturday morning Jinnie, Paolo and Larry got into Jinnie’s Jaguar and headed to her parent’s house. Larry was excited, he hadn’t been to Potters Bar for a while and wanted to see how everyone was. He liked it there and although Jinnie had whispered to him it was only a flying visit to welcome Penny home he was looking forward to it immensely. They parked in the usual place on the green opposite the house and they all walked to the house with Larry trotting along like a little dog. Mrs Walsh was in the kitchen as usual preparing one of Penny’s favourite lunches, steak and kidney pie with roast potatoes, peas and carrots. Larry shot off to visit the skewbald mare while Jinnie asked her mother where her father was. He had gone to Tesco to get some special wine for lunch.
Jinnie wandered upstairs to have a last look at her old bedroom before it became Penny’s, and possibly Daniel’s, room. She moved over to the window and looked down the garden and watched Larry in the field with the mare whose head was down close to Larry, as if she was talking to him. The memories flooded back into Jinnie’s mind, watching the fast jets screaming down the valley on the first day of the war, the helicopters smashing the German convoy on the motorway and the SAS men organising the attack on the German HQ in the woods which were regrowing nicely. So much had happened to her since those days and how much she owed Ethel. She decided that it really was time she paid a visit to her friends in the retirement home and took them out for dinner at Trattoria Trevi.
Jinnie’s chain of thought was broken by her Mum shouting “Penny’s here”. By the time Jinnie had got downstairs and was opening the front door Larry was at her side watching a hugely laden Penny trudging across the Green. Mr Walsh and Paolo rushed to take the bags from her while she made her way back to the car for more. For the first time Jinnie realised that her pregnancy was slowing her down. It seemed to take an age to unload Penny’s car it was so full of stuff.
Eventually, they managed to sit down and have a mug of tea when Penny turned to her sister and said, “Well fatty, you are looking good. But I’ve got a bone to pick with you, why didn’t you tell us you had been promoted to Director of Mission Planning?” “Fatty!” Said Jinnie, “I’ll have you know that the midwife says your niece and nephew are big babies. Also, directors of the SIS are not supposed to be public knowledge, I really have to ask you all to keep it to yourselves.”
As usual Mrs Walsh’s steak and kidney pie was perfect and the bottle of Italian red wine was a great match. Once again Paolo was more than happy that he could drink as Jinnie was on Pepsi Max. Of course, Larry hadn’t been forgotten and Mr Walsh had picked up a couple of their extra tasty chicken thighs for him. The chicken meat had been stripped from the bone and much to his delight some of Mrs Walsh’s homemade gravy had been poured over it. Jinnie could see that Penny was itching to ask what was so urgent that had been pulled in from her degree course but knew better than to ask her in front of everyone else.
Jinnie was excused washing up due to her condition as was Penny as this was her special welcome home lunch so they wandered down the garden to have a private chat. Jinnie explained that Penny was joining her in the mission group to help plan a number of top-secret missions that would kick off soon, culminating in something special in the summer. As she was on the active agent list she might be planning her own mission! Penny’s first thought was her wedding. Was she still going to be able to marry at Whitsun because there was a lot to be booked, not least Daniel had said there was a secret honeymoon booked. “Of course,” said Jinnie, “and mum and dad have booked the Trattoria Trevi for the reception.
Penny continued, “Mum and dad are being fantastic they have said Daniel and I can live here until we save enough money for a deposit, the houses around here are a bit out of our reach at the moment.” “Really,” said Jinnie, “Have you counted in your wage as an active agent?” Penny looked at her and said, “No, won’t I be paid the same as when I work full time during the uni holidays?” “Not at all,” answered Jinnie, “I understand as a newly appointed active agent the starting wage is £93,500 a year.” “Wow,” replied Penny, “That brings a lot more properties into our mortgage range.”
Jinnie then asked, “Have you spoken to Daniel today?” Penny said, “No, I was so busy packing yesterday I forgot to charge my phone and I only found the charger amid all the stuff just before we walked down the garden. It is in my room charging now.” “I suggest you ring him ASAP and tell him your money news.” Penny rushed off back to the house while Jinnie and Larry stood by the barbed wire fence that divided the garden from the field and watched the old mare, closely followed by her latest foal, trot up the hill to them. Jinnie felt good, it was nice to impart good news.
Jinnie had a wander around dad’s greenhouse and was impressed by the number of seedlings he had coming through, all neatly labelled in seed trays and pots. Jinnie thought, ‘He has far more than he could ever use. I wonder if I could cadge a few tomato plants, I can get a grow bag and put it in our old greenhouse, I’m sure the gardener will be happy with that.’ While she was still thinking about picking homegrown tomatoes, Penny burst into the greenhouse and said, “You are rotten, you knew and could have told me Daniel’s news.” Jinnie grinned and said, “It wasn’t my place to tell you, I didn’t know what he had chosen to do.” “Well, to tell you the truth he only made his final decision while we were on the phone. He is going to accept the job at Vauxhall Cross, it’s a lot more money than at BAe and we will be able to live near here and be close to our parents, you and Paolo, the babies and all our old school friends.” Jinnie said, “Excellent, now can I ask you to do one more thing, will you and Daniel be Millie’s godparents? We are having to share the task out amongst friends and relatives.”
In Chapter 19 – Planning.
© WorthingGooner 2022