Just over seven minutes later we were parked in a quiet part of Reading Services near the Motel.
“Ok, out withi it... What’s so important that couldn’t wait until we got back to the office?” asked Jemma slightly impatiently.
“I’ll show you. Give me a moment.”
I flicked through the photos of the documents we had found in Farthing’s safe until I found one in particular.
“Here read this,” I said giving her the phone.
The document was in Spanish.
Jemma struggled for a few minutes before giving me the phone back.
“I’m confused. Your Spanish is better than mine.”
“What it says is that when Mr Farthing went to Portugal a month ago where he met with Daniel Esteban. It goes on to say that he came to a deal with Esteban to get us killed in return for the two million Euros.”
I flicked to another document that was dated some six years earlier.
“Then there is this…”
Jemma say it and went, “Oh Fuck. That long?”
“Yes. No wonder we never had any success nailing Esteban. It wasn’t until we stumbled upon those poor wretches in that warehouse that we had enough evidence that couldn’t be kept under the cover so to speak. That was too big to keep quiet about. All those other operations were shall we say, tailored by Farthing to make sure that there the successes we had were in reality, little more than a pimple on the skin of Esteban’s operation. We looked good in the eyes of the Government but thanks to Farthing, it was basically business as usual for Esteban’s business empire. Farthing controlled everything. So simple yet so effective yet we were barely touching the edges of his organisation.”
“All those busts were under the control of Esteban and his crew?”
“Yep. It looks like they have operated for years on the principle of ‘controlled losses’. Much like a shop operates knowing that a certain percentage of their good will go walkies.”
“I have to admit that he has had us swinging to his tune for years. He’s good, very good.”
Jemma didn’t say anything so I added,
“Thanks to Farthing’s obsession with keeping accurate records, we now know at least some of the influence he’s had on us for years. Esteban probably has the low down on everyone in the department. We’ve had a mole inside various Government Departments at the highest level for years. This is a long-term operation that makes the Russian Sleepers of the past seem like rank amateurs.”
“But why didn’t Farthing come after us before? As you say, he’s been in bed with Esteban for years,” asked Jemma.
“He did remember. Remember the time when our handler came to visit me and the guards suddenly left?”
“Daniel claims he knew nothing about it. That order had to come from someone higher but Daniel never got to the bottom of it. Now we know why.”
“So Farthing framed him and made it look like he was trying to flee the country. It didn’t click until just now but I remembered that Danny was due to fly to Dublin to attend a family wedding. He’s innocent and I’d expect we’ll find Danny’s leave request somewhere in his office.”
Jemma sat quiet for a few seconds.
“It really does look that way. Shall we go back and kill him now? I have a particularly nasty method I’d like to try and he’s the perfect subject being that he still has some dangly bits…”
I laughed for a second. Then I shook my head.
“There is really no time for that as much as I’d like to see you make him pay for what he’s done to us. But no, we need to disappear like pronto once we have updated Sam.”
Jemma’s body language told me that I was right.
“What about all that information we got from Farthing?”
“As we agreed, we deliver it to base, collect our things and walk out into the night.”
“Are you saying that we just put it all on Sam’s desk?
“Yeah I am but we also create copies for the heads of ‘5’ and ‘6’.”
“Then we can walk out with our heads held high with a number of cats well and truly in amongst the pigeons.”
“Where too then? Where can we drop out of sight without Esteban finding us? The dark side of the moon perhaps? That man has tentacles everywhere. Farthing has demonstrated that.”
I took her hand and smiled.
“I just happen to know of a nice secluded cottage on the Ardnamurchan Peninsular. Nice and quiet and well off the beaten track and where we can live quietly and simply.”
“You say the nicest things. It sounds delightful so why haven’t I heard of this Ardnamurchan place before? Where is it exactly?”
“Later. Let’s deal with all this information first.”
Jemma didn’t argue.
I sealed the deal by giving her a long kiss.
Then I spoilt it by telling her that we should at least tell ‘Sam’, our ultimate boss where we were going.
In the end, she agreed with me as long as it was for his eyes only.
There were not many staff on duty at the department when we arrived. It was a Sunday afternoon after all. The lack of prying eyes served our purpose very well.
We commandeered an empty conference room and spent more than an hour sorting out all the data that we’d seized from Farthing. Once it was all collated, I headed for the photocopier while Jemma wrote our report on the incident in the early hours of that morning. She also wrote up our report on Farthing.
Just before six in the evening, we were done. It was time for me to call Sam.
Sam appeared just over an hour later.
His first words were,
“This had better be good... I was looking forward to watching 'Call the Midwife' on TV...”
“Sam, you need to watch this,” said Jemma.
She played him the video of Farthing’s confession.
When it was over Sam sat for a nearly a minute before he spoke.
“We’ve been basically fucked dry by Farthing. You have to hand it to him. He was good at his job, working both sides of the coin. Did he give any indication as to when he was recruited by Esteban?”
“He didn’t but we now know that when that the Ferrari that was found in his garage was last sold, it went for just over nine hundred grand at Bonhams. With Commission and VAT and buyers premium that comes to well over one point one million smackeroos. There is no way that he could afford that car and that house on his salary. Unless he came from money he has been on the take for years and years.”
Sam remained silent so I carried on.
“As I said, that sale at Bonhams was almost seven years ago. I think that we have to assume that he has been in cahoots with Esteban for at least eight years. There is evidence of the two of them meeting in Portugal six years ago. That would make it just after he was transferred into the department. This goes deep and long. Very deep and very long.”
Sam saw the look on my face.
“Don’t say it. I know, I know. The only bright thing is that he came to us from ‘6’ on the recommendation of ‘M’. The PM will explode when she hears about it. His predecessor and the person who was ‘M’ at the time will have a few choice questions to answer. However, that is not your job. It is mine I’m afraid and one that I am not looking forward to at all.”
We then went on to explain all the evidence that we had gathered at Farthing’s.
When we’d finished Sam sat shaking his head. After a slight pause he said,
“You are right. The PM and both ‘6’ and ‘5’ need to see this intel. We really don’t know how far Esteban’s reach into the various departments of the Government has gotten. I would not put it beyond Esteban to have several other ‘Farthing’s’ in different departments.”
Neither Jemma or myself envied his job at times like this.
“Right, now what are we going to do with you two eh? Two million euros of your heads. He must really think that you are a threat to him.”
“We were sort of thinking of disappearing for a while,” said Jemma.
“Good idea. Somewhere a long way away I presume?”
“A very small hamlet on the West Coast of Scotland,” I replied.
“Good. That sounds off the beaten track so it might well work. Send me your contact details via secure means within the week ok?”
“Sure thing Sam. Eyes Only?”
“Naturally and encrypted if you please. The ‘602’ cypher please.”
Sam had a number of very secure private cyphers for use in situations like this. We knew of a website that held the public keys but only Sam
could decrypt it. These were not normal 1024bit encryption keys but uses six different 8192 bit keys. Even the best codebreakers at places like GCHQ or the NSA would have a hard time decrypting that message any time this side of the next century.
“Gotcha Sam,” said Jemma.
His final words were,
“Can you make sure that you get wherever you two are disappearing to completely off the Radar? The last thing I want to do is attend your funerals! Just stay quiet. Don’t even get your picture in the local newspaper… Understand?”
I looked at Jemma who smiled back at me.
“I think we can do that Sam.”
“Good. When we think it is safe to return I or my successor will come and find you.”
Then Sam did something totally out of character for him, he gave us both a big hug.
“You two did really well. You will be missed. I really mean that.”
We walked out of the department into the darkness of that Sunday evening totally unsure of our future. Much of what was going to happen to us was only in my mind. There were some doubts if I could deliver a safe place for Jemma and I to not exactly hide but drop out of site and become to all intents and purposes invisible to the people who had an interest in finding us and possibly doing us harm.
We spent the night at my flat in Chelsea before heading north late on the Monday Night. A good portion of that time planning our exact route that would avoid as far as possible each and every ANPR Camera. It was our intention to get to our destination in Scotland as invisibly as possible.
As the Monday evening rush hour traffic started to die down we drove north out of London without bothering about who knew where we were going and stopped at a Supermarket just off the M.25 near St Albans where we stocked up with food and other essentials for the trip. Then we began the long and winding trip north.
[two days later]
“Are you really, really sure that we have avoided the last of the ANPR Camera’s?” asked Jemma as we skirted parts of Fort William on a very narrow road that was almost a farm track in places.
I sighed and negotiated another rough section of the track.
“Unless they have put some new ones in in the past few days, we are done with them.”
“At last,” she said with a huge sigh attached to her voice.
“How far to go now?”
I thought for a second before answering.
“We’ll go to Mallaig first. Fill up the car and get some groceries in. Then it is about twenty-five miles to our final destination.”
“Are you still not going to let on about where we will be staying?”
“I want it to be a surprise. Not long to wait now.”
Jemma just gave me a look that said, ‘I really don’t believe you but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt’ for the time being.
I knew that it wouldn’t be much longer for her to wait. I only hoped that it would live up to her expectations.
Two and a half hours later and just as we entered the village of Acharacle, the main road makes a sharp left turn. Instead, I turned right onto a narrow lane.
“Almost there,” I remarked.
Jemma was suddenly alert again.
A mile or so down the lane, two buildings came into view on the left. To the right was a sea loch.
“That’s Kentra Bay and here we are, ‘Joys Retreat’”
I stopped in front of a typical cottage for this part of the world. A two-storey white painted building. The front door was centrally located with reception rooms on either side. Three windows on the front looked right out onto the bay.
“Come on,” I said almost leaping out of the car.
“Let me show you around.”
Jemma got out and looked around. She smelt the ‘sea’ or rather the copious amounts of seaweed that a recent storm had blown up onto the beach.
“How come you never told me about this place?”
“Until my accident there was never really a right time or place. Then… well we were both more concerned with other things but driving back to London the other day made me realise that this was the perfect place to drop out and I mean drop right out. If you want it, then this can be our home from now on.”
Jemma looked at me with a look that said, ‘you had better not be bullshitting me’.
“I’m deadly serious. Let’s face it darling, our time as agents is over. We are both well past our use by dates and with a price on our head we have to find other things to do with our lives and this is as good a place as any.”
Then Jemma realised I’d used the ‘D’ word for the first time.
“You are really are serious about this aren’t you?”
“Yes I am. Marry me and I know that we can be happy here.”
Jemma took one step backwards clearly shocked.
“Are you proposing to me?”
“I had intended to do it tonight but it sort of just felt right. Yes I am.”
“Look darling, we have spent more time together these past years than many a married couple does in their entire lifetime. We know each other better than any married couple I know.”
“Yet you kept this place a secret from me?” she replied with a slight tone of indignancy in her voice.
“I only knew that I’d inherited it a little over three years ago. My great aunt Joy retired here back in the early 1990’s. She was a principle with the Royal Ballet but injured her back when a movement went wrong. The injury meant that she couldn’t dance any more so she opened a ballet school in her native Edinburgh. Some years later her landlord torched the place to get the insurance money. The compensation she received allowed her to buy this place and retire. I visited her a few times much against the wishes of my family and she took a shine to me. She never had any children so when she died, it came to me.”
“When exactly was that and where was I when it all happened?” asked Jemma slightly indignantly.
“I only found out when I was recovering from that gunshot I took in Belgrade. You went off to Barbados with your then current boyfriend and we know how well that turned out. Anyway, a few days after you went off on holiday, the solicitors dealing with Joy’s estate phoned me to tell me the sad news about Joy and then the good news about this place. I took the sleeper to Fort William that night and came here the next day.”
Jemma glared at me so I carried on.
“You came back from Barbados in an awful state so the time wasn’t right to tell you about this place. Then we went back on operations and… well, we are here now aren’t we?”
Just then, we were interrupted by the arrival of a woman. She’d obviously come from the cottage next door.
“Can I help you?” she asked in a soft Scottish Accent.
“Hello Sara. Long-time no see eh?”
She looked at me and then realised who I was or rather had been.
“Roy? Is that really you?”
“Yes, Sara it is me. I’m now Angelique, Angelique Marceau. This is my partner Jemma Scott.”
“It is a long story Sara but I had a little accident with some razor wire.”
I turned to Jemma.
“Sara was Joy’s partner.”
“R… sorry Angelique is right. Joy and I were both in the Ballet. But that is a long story that can wait for another day. What are you two doing here and why didn’t you call to let me know that you were coming? I’d have aired the place and got some food in.”
“Sorry Sara, we were not able to call and we bought some food at the ‘store’ in Mallaig.”
“Pah. Supermarket rubbish. Still it is nice to see you again. How long are you visiting?”
“We are staying,” I replied using the Scottish term for living in a place.
“We are… well, why we are here is a long story but we are and we are not going anywhere soon.”
Then Jemma interrupted.
“Can we go inside? I’m getting a bit cold standing here.”
I turned to Sara.
“Is the back door open?”
“It is never locked. I don’t think that there is even a key for it.”
That night we ate a good meal at Sara’s while our cottage was warming up. No one had lived in it for several years so it was bound to be rather damp.
Over the next week, the three of us we got the place fit to live in. I introduced Jemma to the local shops and to the one place for miles around that you could get a drink, the local Hotel.
We’d been there almost two weeks when I said to Jemma,
“I need to get rid of the car. It can be traced to me.”
“Yeah, I was wondering about that. What do you propose to do?”
“I was thinking of taking the roundabout route to the edge of Glasgow and just leaving it with the keys inside.”
“Isn’t that too close to here especially if you leave it on the north side of the City? What about Edinburgh?”
I shook my head.
“There is only one road into the city that isn’t covered. With the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Palace, they need the extra security.”
“Ah! I’d forgotten about that.”
“Perhaps I should drop it off on the south side? Somewhere like Motherwell. It is easy to get a train south from there.”
Jemma shook her head.
“If you are going to go that far then it is only a few more hours down to Newcastle. I'm sure that you can find a replacement for cash in the area?”
“Are you sure that you don’t want me to take it all the way down to London and park it outsde where we used to live?”
She just glared back at me.
“What are we going to do for transport? Having to rely on the Bus is not my idea of convenient…”
“I know. I was thinking about getting something a little more practical for this place. We’ve been lucky so far as it hasn’t snowed but the forecast for the next two weeks is not that good.”
“So, you want to go today?”
“Tonight, if that’s ok with you?”
“You just want to get out of going to play bridge over at Sara’s?”
I just grinned back at her.
In the end, I dumped the car in a supermarket car park just outside Preson. I returned by train and bus the following day.
We slowly fitted into life in this small west of Scotland community. At first a few people were not that happy about two women living together s we were. From what Sara told us, with her and Joy living apart yet clearly a couple was frowned upon but in the end, they were accepted. Gradually the locals began to see us around the place and it helped that we took part in community activities. After a while, people began to call us by name and speak to us at the community gossip centre otherwise known as the Post Office cum General Store.
It helped that it was winter time and that 'Joy's Retreat' was going to be lived in again and not sold as a summer home to some outsider.
[Eighteen Months Later]
“It is good to be back in London,” I said as I raised a glass of wine to Jemma.
“Cheers,” she replied as we clinked glasses.
The shockwave that resulted from the information we had obtained from Mr Farthing, had gone through Whitehall and indeed Downing Street had almost brought down the Government. Three Junior Ministers and Six former Ministers from the Opposition party were implicated as being involved with the Esteban Cartel. All of those Ministers had worked either at the Home Office or at the Foreign Office. Only one thing was left unresolved and that was the location of Daniel Esteban. He’d gone to ground the day after we’d detained Farthing. There was almost no chatter at all about where he was and what he was doing for several weeks but eventually he surfaced in Ecuador where he tried and failed to take down the government. But his criminal enterprises just carried on as if nothing had happened.
Mr Farthing had been ‘disappeared’ on the direct orders of the Prime Minister. His house and contents confiscated by the Treasury. The money that we’d liberated went into our departments coffers. Mr Farthing was an Accountant by training and had kept copious records. It soon became evident that there was a very large mismatch between the amount we’d found in his home and what his books showed but despite intensive searching none of the missing money and property could be found but that remained an internal matter for the department.
The Treasury didn’t even bother to ask how much cash we’d found. That was the deal between us and them. We didn’t ask them and they didn’t ask us.
Eventually it was deemed safe that we could return to London. This was our first evening back.
We were onto our second glass of wine when the phone rang.
“I didn’t think that the phone would be back on yet?” remarked Jemma referring to the phone.
“Same here but it must have been done today,” I said as I got up to answer it.
“I’m sorry, there is no Roy Meier on this number. I’ve only just moved here so he might be a previous occupant.”
“Yes, I am sure that he does not live here.”
“No, I won’t give you my name. I don’t know who the hell you are. You could be a sex maniac for all I know.”
I put the phone down. I was shaking like a leaf. Roy Meier was my name but from before my accident. If the caller really had put two and two together then I was well and truly up shit creek big time.
Then it hit me. I knew who owned the voice on the phone.
“Bathroom NOW!” I shouted as I literally dragged Jemma up from the sofa.
I’d just slammed the door shut behind us when the apartment exploded.
[to be continued]
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