Jinnie’s Story – Book Five, Chapter Thirteen

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WorthingGooner, Going Postal

Jinnie decided that as she no longer had a parking space in the SIS underground car park she would use the train to London. She drove to Hadley Wood station and as it was just after the rush hour bought a First Class cheap day Travelcard that included travel on London buses and underground. OK, she could claim her fare on expenses, but she wanted to be reasonable. Anyway she intended to pop over to the Italian embassy after the meeting and have a pub lunch with Paolo.

Jinnie came out of the tube and a glance at her watch told her she was fifteen minutes early for the meeting. ‘I wonder if I can blag a cup of coffee with Emma,’ she thought. The receptionist said, “Hello Mrs De Luca, I’m sorry but I must ask you to sign in and wait for an escort to the meeting.” As Jinnie signed in the receptionist rang a number and said, “Mrs De Luca is here.” A minute later Emma emerged from the lift and said to Jinnie, “We are meeting in ‘C’s’ office this morning, come on up and we can have a coffee and a chat while we wait for everyone else.”

The mug of coffee was as good as always and Jinnie told Emma that Blue Mountain was now the restaurant group’s coffee of choice. Emma explained how since the victory in Austria things had been pretty quiet. But the staff had been told that the whole building was to be refurbished and her old department had received loads of visitors looking to see what they could expect. Emma said she was most excited that the staff cafeteria was going to be done first. “It looks like we’ll be bringing sandwiches for the next couple of months,” said Emma. Jinnie replied, “I’m surprised Penny hasn’t been moaning!” And Emma started to reply saying, “That’s because she’s away on … ,” before catching herself and Jinnie finished the sentence for her saying, “… a mission with Steven.”

Emma looked at her wide-eyed and said, “I can’t confirm or deny that,” but she winked. Jinnie said, “I know better than to push you, but when they both disappear off the face of the earth at the same time it is obvious. I will just keep my eyes on the media waiting for something outrageous to happen and I’ll know they are on their way home!” Just then David looked up and seeing Jinnie called her to join him.

‘C’ shook her hand, waved her to a seat and said, “I hear things are pretty busy for both DKL and Trattoria Trevi what with an opening ceremony, a new restaurant and a fancy sandwich business to startup.” Jinnie replied, “You are well informed,” and ‘C’ said, “What’s the point of running an intelligence business that doesn’t know what is going on? The PM would expect no less. The only thing I haven’t discussed with him is his plan to become your neighbour, he thinks that’s his little secret.”

Emma led Belinda and Brian into the office and withdrew to get coffee. ‘C’ had met Belinda on several occasions when his own office suite had been refurbished and again during the recent negotiations, but had not met Brian who Jinnie introduced. Emma re-entered the office with a tray of coffee mugs, the procurement director who carried a wad of documents and the legal director. David asked Emma to stay and the meeting began.

The procurement director said, “As agreed I have the master copy of the NEC. A contract both sides have agreed along with the pricing schedule, the payment schedule and the activity schedule. It is for all four current phases and it allows for negotiations to start for phases 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 on the successful completion of phases 1 and 2 which are the cafeteria and kitchen and then the rest of the ground floor including the reception area, post room, incoming goods and all of floor one, two. The toilets on each floor are in phase one and phase two as agreed. The contract total is for £2.9 million, 10% for deposit with order and the rest in stage payments as detailed in the payment schedule.” Belinda said, “I think I can trust you not to have slipped anything into the contract documents that is not in the version couriered to Brian and I.” “Of course,” replied the procurement director. And with that, David uncapped his Waterman Expert fountain pen and signed the document with a flourish.

The signing was over in five minutes but it took nearly 15 to get copies made for everyone. The three DKL directors where escorted out of the building by Emma who whispered to Jinnie, “Can we pop round to see you tonight I have a bit of news?” “About 8,” replied Jinnie, “We will have had our meal by then.” They walked to the Tube together, Brian and Belinda heading for Victoria and a Crawley train and Jinnie for her pub lunch with Paolo.


Promptly at eight the Westminster chimes sounded on Jinnie’s front door. Jinnie led Emma and Freddie into the sitting room and Paolo poured drinks. Once she was sipping her G&T Emma said, “Freddie has learnt something very interesting about the plot of land being sold by the golf club.” “Go on,” said Jinnie. Freddie said, “Well, the council had a bucketful of planning objections, the planning committee weren’t happy in the first place and told the golf club they were minded to refuse the application as land would be much better suited to a single large detached house. The golf club have sold the land to a very secretive concern that wants to build a single big house with a swimming pool. It will all be in Friday’s local paper but the planning committee is minded to accept. They will be sending out letters asking local residents for comments tomorrow.”

Jinnie looked at them and started giggling. Emma looked at her and said, “Why are you laughing?” Jinnie said, “Well I suppose it is in relief, I have known all this for a while and been sworn to secrecy.” “So do you know who the person who wants to build there is?” asked Freddie. “I do,” replied Jinnie, “but I can’t tell you yet, all I can say is that you will know in a few weeks and you’ll be very happy about it.” Emma tried her hardest to get Jinnie to reveal the name of the likely new owner but she wasn’t saying anything. In the end the chat moved on to today’s meeting. Emma told how the whole building was excited that they were getting a makeover and that ‘C’ had posted all Belinda’s rendered images on the intranet.


The following morning Jinnie was in her garden office working her way through a pile of emails she had been ‘cc’d’ into when her mobile rang. It was the PM. He said hello and then said he understood the planning application was going public that day but it was through an agent so no one would know it was him until he announced his retirement. Jinnie said to him he sounded very happy. He said he was, being PM wasn’t easy, taking the country to war was a very hard decision. Since he made the decision to retire he said it was like a huge weight off his mind. He was certain he would get planning permission, the council had told him it was going to be.

Then Nigel turned to the opening ceremony. He said that his PR man had arranged that only one set of TV cameras would be there. The BBC won a toss of a coin with ITV to provide the pooled pictures. He then said, “I have been thinking about the opening ceremony, it’s going to be a bit difficult. If I make the speech first no one will be interested in me cutting a ribbon or touring the site. But on the other hand it will be a bit odd if I wander round the site before cutting the ribbon but I can’t see a way around it.” “I have just appointed a new PR officer,” said Jinnie, “Belinda’s daughter Miranda, perhaps you can work it out between you. But off the top of my head, I suggest the directors meet you at the main entrance, we all walk together, with the press through the main office into the kitchens, through them and then out to a dais in the car park with a great big Dark Kitchen Limited sign behind you where you can make your speech. That way it looks a natural progression, no one will care if they don’t show you “cut the ribbon”, we will have got the advertising and every time your speech is shown on the TV our name and website will be on the TV.”

“Now that might just work,” said Nigel, “Can you get Miranda to ring me at exactly 10:05 tomorrow morning on my old number, I will warn GCHQ to put a call through at that time from Miranda from the DKL landline number so tell her not to use her mobile.” And with that he rang off. Jinnie immediately rang the office and recognised the voice of Julie saying, “Good morning, Dark Kitchens Limited, how can I help you?” Jinnie replied, “Good Morning Julie, it’s Mrs De Luca, can you put me through to Miranda at the construction division please.” Julie said, “Will you hold the line please while I connect you, I can see she is in the office this morning.” Seconds later she heard Miranda say, “Good morning, Dark Kitchen public relations, how may I help you?” “Hi Miranda, it’s Jinnie, I have a little job for you to do and it’s important it is done exactly as I tell you tell you or your phone call won’t get through.”

Jinnie read out the PM’s old phone number and after checking Miranda had written it down correctly she said, “I want you to ring that number at exactly 10:05 tomorrow morning from an office landline, it must not be from your mobile. If it is done correctly you will find yourself talking to the prime minister, he wants to talk about the arrangements for the official office opening ceremony. Don’t worry he is really very pleasant and not half as gruff as he can appear.” Miranda said, “Really? You’re pulling my leg.” “I promise you this is straight up,” said Jinnie, “but it is just possible he might have his PR person with him.”

Miranda went quiet for a moment then said, “Mum’s waving at me, I think she wants a word with you, hold on and I’ll switch the call to her extension.” A few clicks later and Belinda said, “Hi Jinnie, I was just going to ring you. With your Trattoria Trevi hat on I have a preliminary number for you for the Windsor project. We have a couple of prices to confirm, would you believe I am having problems getting a final price for really big 35-yard ro-ro skips, like we had in Crawley. Anyway, using the Crawley price it comes to £748,000 give or take a few quid. How does that sound?” “Pretty good,” said Jinnie, “when will you have the quote ready?” “End of the week I hope,” came the reply.


On Saturday morning a courier delivered a large package to Jinnie’s Hadley Wood home. When she opened it she found it contained the refurbishment quotation for the Windsor restaurant. The first thing Jinnie noticed was that Belinda had slightly changed the front cover of her quote. It still had the project’s name and the project number Belinda’s company had given it and the company name ‘Wright Refurbishment’, but in small type in the bottom left-hand corner it now said, ‘A division of Dark Kitchens Limited.’ As usual, the quote bundle included carpet samples, paint colour cards, drawings and rendered images but Jinnie turned immediately to the total cost with read £747,785. Jinnie sighed in satisfaction, it was well under the budgeted £1 million.

Jinnie used her own mobile to ring Alberto, who said, “Hello Jinnie, I was expecting you to call. I assume you have just had the bundle from Belinda. I have only glanced through it but it looks good, especially the price. My wife is currently looking at the colour scheme, she wants to know why we don’t use colour like that in our house she says, magnolia walls and white ceilings are so old fashioned.” Jinnie said, “Next time you redecorate I suggest you get Andrew and Melissa from Belinda’s company to give you some advice.” “I might do just that,” said Alberto, “I think we need a board meeting on Monday to review this. Is three on Monday afternoon ok with you? I will tell everyone this evening and take my copy of the quote into work so all the directors can see it before we discuss it.”


On board the Celebrity Apex, Penny had completed her packing and was ready to disembark in the morning, she only had her wash bag, nightwear and hand baggage to worry about now. One last dinner and breakfast in the morning and they were in Chile, hopefully without the Argentinians being aware. A tap came on her cabin door and Penny glanced at her watch, ten to eight, the boys were always ready well in time for their dinner. They all took the lift down to the restaurant and came out just as the restaurant doors opened for the second sitting. Surprisingly they weren’t the first to reach the table and a couple that had beaten them to it were busy perusing the evening menu.

The three had been discussing the menu much of the afternoon and the men had decided that unless there was something extra special on the menu tonight they were going to have steak which now always came with what they called ‘chips’ but the waiter insisted were ‘french fries’. Steak was on the ‘always on’ section of the menu and was a good fallback if they didn’t fancy anything on that night’s menu. Penny had decided to wait and see what was on offer that night. As she checked out the offerings her eyes fell on lobster thermidor and that was too good to miss.

After the meal they retreated to the ship’s atrium for a drink, as they were all effectively on duty the next day they all had a soft drink. A strange construction of chrome poles was being erected and they learnt that two girl acrobats were to put on a performance. Penny watched the show in amazement, she knew she was fit from the reactions of the gym instructors but these girls were not just fit, it was their sheer flexibility that she admired. Steven read her mind and whispered to her, “I bet they can’t hit a bullseye ten times out of ten with a pistol.”

The group decided to have one last attempt at getting something that resembled a ‘full English breakfast’ from the main dining room before leaving the ship. Penny pointed out that if they went to the self-service restaurant they could make up almost what they wanted, but Steven and Les had spent ages trying to educate the breakfast waiters what a ‘full English’ was and that it didn’t come with any combination of waffles, pancakes and maple syrup or berries of any description. They had got the idea that they wanted two fried eggs sunny side up, Canadian bacon not the incinerated American offering, a pork sausage (the New York one wasn’t bad), grilled tomatoes and sautéed potatoes. They had given up asking for baked beans, there just weren’t any on the ship and not even the chef knew what black pudding was. They had eventually got them to understand that Europeans did eat mushrooms with a fried breakfast. But it was getting fried bread that had proved hardest. In the end the head chef had invited Steven into the galley where he demonstrated his skill at producing perfect fried bread and the watching chefs said they thought they could emulate his effort.

Steven had to admit that the ‘full English’ put in front of them that final morning was at last pretty good but it would have been perfect if it had included a couple of slices of black pudding and a ramekin of baked beans. They had opted to carry their own small cases off the ship so were able to disembark straight after breakfast. On clearing customs and immigration they found their driver and were soon in his car heading to Santiago. The driver indicated that the papers for their next change of identity were in the glove box. For the one night in Santiago they were United States citizens and the passports so carefully prepared in Vauxhall Cross were indistinguishable from the real thing and for authenticity even existed on the US database. The driver told them to leave the Italian paperwork and phones in the glovebox as they would need it when they returned. He even supplied them with a big gusseted envelope to pop the US passports and credit cards into when they left the hotel. He would meet them outside the hotel in the morning and take them to their next car, that purported to come from Avis, which would contain everything that they need for the final part of the journey. The driver would be in charge of ‘losing’ the American paperwork in the embassy incinerator.

The following day their German documents raised not the slightest query when they crossed the border and headed off down National Route 7 to Mendoza. Les said he had been looking up Mendoza on the internet and it was quite a big place and in the middle of a famous wine-growing area. It got quite a lot of tourists and it also had a famous restaurant that only served steak, cooked on a wood-fired barbecue, with all the trimmings. The steaks all came from free-roaming cattle feed on grass. The cattle were all Aberdeen Angus descended from Scottish cattle exported many years ago. The boys said that as tourists it would only be natural for them to sample the restaurant. Penny said it was just an excuse to have another steak on expenses.

The road to Mendoza went via the magnificent Uspallata Pass through the Andes before it dropped down to the city on the edge of the plain where it sat between the mountains and the Malbec-producing vineyards to the east. Their hotel was one chosen by tourists keeping an eye on their wallets, as it was some way out of the city centre and therefore cheaper. Penny said any tourist staying there who didn’t have a car was in for a shock. But it was comfortable even if they didn’t intend to stay there any longer than they had to.

On their first morning in the hotel, Penny made the point of asking for city maps and guides to several places of interest at the Reception desk, and asked if they could be directed to their grandfather’s brother’s ranch, thus establishing their tourist credentials. Steven asked if it was possible for reception to make a booking for them at the steak restaurant and the receptionist said she would do her best. The party set off in the direction of the city centre and as soon as Steven confirmed they had no tail they headed out into the wine-growing area. The Nazi, external security service the Ausland-SD, were believed to be very active in Argentina so precautions had to be taken.

As Penny drove, Steven sat in the back and kept an eye open for anything unusual while Les programmed the Sat Nat with the postcodes of the tourist places Penny had gleaned from the reception desk. He explained that it was an old-fashioned, cheap Sat Nav, that was able to store addresses but unlike modern British/American ones it didn’t use GPS to track and record where the car had been. He said that if anyone ever checked the Sat Nav they would only discover the tourist places he had entered.

About midday they arrived at the fence surrounding the rocket facility that purported to be a vineyard. Openly parking at the side of the road they enjoyed a picnic lunch they had picked up on the way and watched. The first thing they noticed was that this was the only vineyard they had seen with a security fence. Every other one had a single strand of wire hung between wooden poles, not a full-height fence with CCTV cameras like this one. Other vineyards had people working amongst the vines, not this one, but there were plenty of people moving around what appeared to be farm buildings. Steven said he expected to see a tall rocket assembly building, but Les indicated a long low building and said that the rocket was almost certainly assembled on its side and before launch was erected into a vertical position and then fuelled. It would mean that somewhere among the vines there would be a launch pad and in another building there would be an erector vehicle. They had just about finished lunch when a convoy of three buses arrived at the main gate and drove up to another building attached to the assembly building. A stream of people got off the buses and laughing and joking entered the building. “Shift change,” said Steven and ten minutes later a similar crowd poured out of the building, many pausing to light a cigarette, and climbed on the buses. He added, “My guess is three eight-hour shifts. A change at 1:30 tells us a lot.”

The buses drove off in the direction of Mendoza. The agents packed up and headed in the same direction. On the outskirts of the city they pulled into a roadside cafe and bought cold drinks that they took to an isolated picnic table where they discussed what to do next. The decision was not to rush things, the launch date was still 10 days away according to the agent, and it obviously wasn’t in the next couple of days as the missile wasn’t on the launchpad. They decided to return at night and fly the helicopter drone to see what they could discover.

In Chapter 14 – Nigel’s Speech

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