Monthly Archives: July 2018

A gap bridged

ISOBEL FELT SHE had been with the service all her life. When she first joined, she and the other members of the team she worked with were quartered in an old Victorian building, just off London’s Embankment. She began as a secretary, straight from university. “To think I went through a university education to be doing this”, she used to mutter to herself.

But things changed. She progressed slowly and began filing confidential documents. As she became more and more important, it wasn’t long before she was in the field, learning how to be a fully fledged spy. And they all moved into a brand-new building next to Vauxhall Bridge.

Life was looking up. But she longed to be abroad.

Eventually posted to Moscow, she decided to stay there when she retired. She rather liked the anonymity the city offered her Even the austere and massive buildings put up by Stalin were appealing to her. The fact that their scale was something to do with making the people feel small and unimportant had not escaped her, but it never troubled her. Some of them looked like prisons. Others, including St Basil’s famous cathedral near The Kremlin, looked as if they’d been designed by refugees from Disneyland’s studios. The variety amused her.

And she liked the parks. There weren’t very many, but those she knew were peaceful havens of tranquillity; pleasant places which allowed her to escape the dreariness of Moscow in her younger days, and the city’s bustle in her later years.

She hadn’t wanted to work for anybody, or run any errands, when she retired. She was quite content in the placidity of her suburb, and to ride the metro on cold days. Some of the downtown stations were like cathedrals or fashionable hotel lobbies, built in the Stalin era, when Uncle Joe believed that the people should have the best.Moscow Metro

She also enjoyed staying at home whenever she felt like it.

It took some persuading on the part of her old boss to get her to carry out one last mission, to hand over a loosely wrapped package, which she assumed contained something of value. Or, at least, of value to the service.

Following instructions as she always did, she arrived at the river crossing she’d been told about. Curiously, the bridge in front of her didn’t seem to go anywhere. There wasn’t much at this end and there seemed even less at the other.The Bridge

She checked things over in her mind, going over what her contact had told her. She was sure she had come along the right road, and was here at the right time, just as instructed. It was the right day, she had come to the right place. But there was no one around. She didn’t panic – it wasn’t in her nature – but she was somewhat confused. It was all a little odd; as if the world, and her instructions, had turned themselves upside down without warning her.

She was gazing across the river, lost in thought about what what might be over there, when the bushes behind her began to rustle. She wheeled round, instantly alert.

A man emerged who didn’t look like a go-between to her eye, let alone a spy. No overcoat. No homburg hat. Instead, a bomber jacket and jeans. ‘Ordinary’ was how she’d describe him later.

“You have the package?”, he muttered, showing her some kind of badge.

A little scared now, she handed him the loosely wrapped package. She felt oddly less emotional than if she was handing a birthday gift to her father. He took it and turned away, disappearing into the bushes without another word passing between them.

‘Bloody rude’, she thought. He could at least have thanked her.

A moment or two later, she heard footsteps on the bridge above her. Someone was going over to goodness knows where or what was on the other side.

Shrugging, she wondered why she should care. After all, she wasn’t going to do anything like this again. No matter if her old boss did ask her to bridge the gap.

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Constables country

ANDREW HAD ALWAYS been a keen photographer. He never went anywhere without a camera. One had become a part of him. Anything from a point-and-shoot number to some full-blown SLR digital kit.

Today, as so often, he first saw the scene out of the corner of his eye.

‘I ought to capture that’, he thought, having begun to think he was quite something in the world of landscape photography.

He drove on for a mile or so, hoping to get a better view of the scene, but the hedges were too high for him. And, anyway, he had to pay attention. He’d given himself a fright earlier on by only just missing a huge tractor driven at what he thought was break-neck speed by an evil-looking, older man. It had come thundering round a corner with a massive trailer in tow.

Nevertheless, he pulled off the road, cut the car’s engine and searched for his camera. He knew he’d couldn’t miss an opportunity like this; he’d have to walk back and take a picture of the view.

He began his lonely journey. The hedges didn’t seem to be any lower. If anything, they were higher than he remembered them. After a while he came to a turning off the road.

He didn’t recall it as he’d driven by. But then, he’d been paying attention and probably hadn’t noticed anything except the road in front of him. He guessed the lane would’ve been off to his right, going slightly backwards as well, and thus easy to miss. The hedges were lower here, so he thought he’d take a chance. He hoped he’d see something off to his left. He remembered that the scene seemed to have something else growing in front of it. That’s what he was looking for.

He walked on. The fields were flat on either side of the road, carpeted with yellow and white flowers. Birdsong was all around. ‘How idyllic’, he thought. There ought to be a cow or two around, but he wasn’t one to complain. Blue Sky Day

At the end of the lane he saw a shop, slightly above the main track and a little off to his right. Three people were standing outside, gossiping. Two turned to look at him, one raising her hand to shield her eyes against the sun as it lowered itself into the far horizon.

Despite his careful description, none of them could recall the scene, or locate it anywhere. There were so many like it round there.

Realising the truth in what they said, and that he would never be able to make anything new out of what was around him, he knew he would just have to go back to the car and pick up his journey from where he had stopped.

A few hundred yards from his destination, he heard two gunshots. ‘Probably some farmers, killing rabbits or some other vermin’, he thought. ‘Although this is an odd time of day to be doing that.’

As he turned a corner, he saw his vehicle up ahead.

It looked a little sorry for itself, leaning almost into the ditch that ran alongside the road. He wasn’t worried; he had gambled on that earlier, when he parked up, so he wasn’t surprised to see it lurching to the right a little.

As he opened the car door to get in, he saw that the front right-hand tyre was flat. ‘Must’ve run over a nail, or something’, he thought, as he reigned himself to changing the wheel.

Then he noticed the two neat holes in the tyre.

‘Bloody farmers’, he thought.’Always thinking they can take the law into their own hands.’

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