We found ACC Bishop in her office. Her assistant soon understood our predicament and arranged for us to see her boss.
To give her credit, the Assistant Commissioner listened intently to our plan without showing any emotion or reaction one way or the other.
At the end of our speech, she closed her eyes for almost a minute.
When she opened them again she smiled at us.
“Well, I have to say that of all the ideas that have been floated by me and the other commissioners to catch this killer… This is just about the most ridiculous and silly and… You know it might just work but…”
My heart sank. I looked over at Caitlin and she looked equally depressed.
“But it will need selling to a good number of people before it gets sanctioned. Why isn’t your Commanders here with you?”
“Ma’am?” I said,
“Our former boss threw us out of the team and said that he never wants to see us again.”
“Oh really. I can’t say that I’m all that surprised, He’s already skating on thin ice. One word from me and he’ll take you back.”
I looked over at Caitlin. She returned a slight nod.
“He was less that complimentary about you and… and we don’t want to serve under him again. He is… forgive me for saying Ma’am, a bit of a dinosaur.”
For the first time she really smiled.
“We have a bit of history so his attitude towards me is understandable. What isn’t acceptable is to throw you out like that. That is a clear breach of discipline and he will have to answer for that in due course.”
Both Caitlin and I looked relieved when she said,
“If your plan does not fly then there are plenty of opportunities in the force for more enlightened officers.”
Then she stood up and led us towards the door.
That was the start of many meetings where we repeated our plan almost ad nauseam. We went from meeting one senior officer to another and another that spanned the remainder of the day and almost the whole of the following one. But to our immense relief, in the end, it was finally agreed that we could go ahead with my plan. Well, it wasn’t really our plan anymore but neither of us was going to argue the point as we were both knackered.
The one positive side effect was that all the different questions we received and hopefully answered allowed us to refine our plans a good deal. Well, that was what we felt.
ACC Bishop called us into her office for one final briefing.
“Well, I have to hand it to you two. You have managed to persuade even the most sceptical of my colleagues that your plan has enough merit to let you do it. Well done.”
“Now the hard part for you two begins.”
She reached into a drawer in her desk and pulled out two cloth bags.
“The first thing is that I’ll need you to give me everything that can identify you. I’ll keep it all in my safe until your task is over.”
She handed us the bags.
I looked at Caitlin who seemed surprised at this move.
Somewhat reluctantly, I reached over and picked them up. I gave one to Caitlin and then reached into my handbag and pulled out my purse.
I’d just about gotten used to having one and now it looked like I was going to lose it.
I shrugged my shoulder and stuffed it into the bag.
As I rummaged around in my handbag I glanced over at Caitlin. She was doing the same but with just about the same enthusiasm as me.
When I was done, I handed over the bag.
ACC Bishop remained expressionless.
“Your handbags please,” she asked holding out her hands.
I need to make sure there really isn’t anything left. You should know from your deep undercover training course that even one little mistake can come back to haunt you.
We handed over our bags over for examination by ‘Godzilla’.
She found a few crumpled shop receipts in Caitlin’s bag but otherwise they were clean.
“Good. Now for your new identities.”
She handed us each a manila folder. On top of each was a new purse. They looked far too new for my liking but there I no real choice in the matter.
“I took the opportunity yesterday to make a few calls and these came an hour or so ago.”
“Take these and read them, read them again, and again until they are solid. Test each other on them until you are perfect.”
We took them. My heart was certainly rather heavy.
She also returned to us the cash that we had on us.
“Now for tomorrow morning. I have arranged for both of you to get kitted out for the assignment. Your appointment is at this address. It is set for ten sharp so don’t be late.”
That was it. We were dismissed. Well almost.
As we walked out the door, Godzilla said,
Your new address is in the front of the folder. We will take a few things from your homes and leave them there at the right time. Don’t go home anymore until this is over. The briefing you will get tomorrow will explain everything.”
Then with a smile on her face she said,
“Bear with us on this. Some of the details of your cover stories were only worked out an hour or so ago. Your new home will need to appear to be rented by you so it if appears a bit chaotic or a bit ‘seat of the pants’ then the reality is that it is just that. Please don’t go to your new home until you meet the letting agent there. All part of setting the scene.”
We turned and looked at her both of us had our mouths wide open.
“What about my things?” protested Caitlin.
“Your ‘things’ as you put it will be put into storage until this is all over. They will be safe.”
I wasn’t prepared for this.
Then she added,
“However, I’m afraid that you will have to find somewhere to stay tonight.”
Caitlin was quick off the mark.
“And naturally, the Met won’t be footing the bill?”
She didn’t answer.
Then Caitlin added,
“What about our clothes? Are we supposed to keep wearing these until tomorrow?”
Again, ACC Bishop didn’t answer.
I was standing there giving a good impression of a drowning fish but Caitlin grabbed my hand and almost dragged me from her office.
“What are you doing?” I protested as she pulled me towards the lift.
“We have been cast adrift. So, let’s go where things that get cast adrift eventually end up.”
Despite my protestations, she wouldn’t let on as to where we were going.
It didn’t take long before I realised where we were going.
An hour and a half later, we were walking along the Brighton seafront heading for the ‘Old Ship Hotel’. Caitlin had called them from London Victoria Station before we took the train south. She’d called in a few favours from her time in ‘Vice’ before she’d become my partner.
We duly registered as a Ms & Ms Smith and after freshening up we went shopping. We had nothing. No identities, no credit cards and very little cash. Thankfully, Caitlin’s ‘friend’ at the hotel had stumped up a ‘monkey’ (£500.00) as a loan.
Once we had our room, we hit the shops and bought a complete change of clothes each as well as toiletries and well as enough makeup that could probably cater for the whole of the Brighton T-Girl community.
As we watched the sun go down from the Palace Pier eating a ‘fish supper’, both of us that a felt a big weight had been lifted from our shoulders.
Caitlin turned to me and said,
“Well lover. Don’t you think it is time we really got to know each other? This deep cover thing we are about to embark upon means that we have to be really convincing.”
As was her norm, she didn’t wait for me to answer; she wrapped her arms around me and kissed me with passion. After a while, I responded.
We were by no means fully up to speed with our new identities when we took the train back to London the following morning. The train was packed with the last of the morning commuters, most of whom were probably thinking about the weekend ahead. We were thinking much more short term. Not the next few days, more like the next few hours.
Our destination was an unmarked blue painted door deep in ‘TheatreLand’, just off Shaftesbury Avenue for those not acquainted with the area.
I pressed the bell and waited.
A few seconds later we heard the lock being released and a buzzer announced that we were cleared to enter.
There wasn’t much behind the door apart from some stairs. We climbed them up to the second floor where a door was open.
“Hello?” I said slightly nervously.
“Come on in. We don’t bite,” came a voice from within.
We entered the room.
“Come on in. Take your coats off and take a seat. I’ll be out in a minute,” said the mysterious voice. It was coming from another room.
We did as we’d been instructed.
Then the owner of the voice appeared.
“Hello. I’m, Max.”
Max was in his early 40’s and at first glance, he was one of those people who would disappear into a crowd and you wouldn’t notice. However, Max would get noticed. He was in a wheelchair and it was obvious that his legs were missing below the knees.
He saw us looking at him and his legs.
“IED in Afghanistan I’m afraid. Blew one clean off and the other got infected so the medics completed the job.”
“Don’t be. It was all part of the job. Still. Now I get to help you guys. I actually enjoy this more than the Army.”
“You said ‘helping’? How exactly?” asked Caitlin.
“Making sure you are word perfect in your cover and all the things that people tend to forget when they go undercover. Covert Ops for non-military people, is what I do.”
He smiled at us before saying.
“That is all in the future. Now the important thing is for both of you to have your ‘make overs’. If both of you go upstairs the delightful Maurice and his team will work their magic on you. I’ll rustle us up some lunch.”
The ‘delightful’ Maurice and his assistant Charlotte spent the next three hours working their ‘magic’ on the pair of us.
The result was to put it bluntly, dramatic. I now sported shoulder length bright red hair. When I say bright, I mean ‘Day-Glo’ bright just like all the other victims. Caitlin’s hair was now jet black, below the shoulder and with a fringe that almost fell into her eyes. Ample eye makeup and quite a bit of bling made her look very different.
We returned downstairs to find Max dishing up something that smelt fantastic.
“Ah good. You are back.”
He swivelled his chair to look at us.
“Oh my, don’t you two look different from when you came in? A definite improvement if you ask me...”
“Please sit down and tuck in before it gets cold. We don’t stand or sit on ceremonies around here.”
We sat down and Max opened the dish that contained the delightful smelling food.
“Pasta with Chorizo and Scallops. I made the sauce myself. Help yourself to the bread. I didn’t make it. That comes from the Italian Bakery on Sicilian Avenue.”
Over lunch Max outlined his role in our undercover work.
“My associates will follow you to and from work. All the other victims had disappeared on their way home from work or when they went out in the evening.”
“Hold on a minute. Work? What about it?” Asked an incredulous Caitlin.
Max looked surprised.
“Eh? The details should be in the information you were given yesterday?”
I looked at her. We both shook our heads.
“We received no such information like that. All we received were basic backgrounds and backstories. But the ACC said that things were still being worked out. I guess this was one of them?” I stated as Caitlin started to dig inside her bag for the folder we’d been given the previous day.
She dumped it on the table.
“Look for yourself. It is not there.”
Max held up his hand.
“Ok. I believe you. It looks like someone who should know better is trying to make this operation fail before it starts. The job situation was sorted out really early in the operation. We passed the job details over to your people yesterday morning.”
He looked hard at the two of us.
“That is not going to be good for my organizations credibility and reputation. So why don’t we get all of us singing from the same hymn-sheet and then we can move forward. I’ll take it up with Ms Godzilla myself at a later date.”
I felt relieved. I nodded my head.
“Good. That’s settled. Down to work then, we have a lot more to cover than I’d envisaged.”
He turned to Caitlin.
“Caitlin, could you be a darling and clear the table. Someone with some legs would do it a lot quicker than me.”
“I’ll help,” I added and the two of us set to and cleared the table of the remains of Lunch.
A few minutes later we all sat around the table looking at the new information.
“Caitlin, or rather Mary, you will be working at 61 Berwick St. That is just off Oxford St.”
I couldn’t stop myself from giggling.
“What’s so funny, TAMARA?” asked Mary using my new name.
“Does it say what sort of business it is?”
They both scanned the document.
I was grinning like a Cheshire cat.
“Before I joined the Squad, I was as you know a beat officer. I worked in two districts. One in Rotherhythe and the other was West End Central. One on my first assigned beat for West End Central covered most of Soho. 61 Berwick St is a Sex Shop. We raided is a good number of times and eventually found the brothel at the back. It is probably a clean place now but this is going to be fun especially with your Irish Catholic background.”
Caitlin or rather Mary gave me a really hard look. One that in former times would have been enough venom to kill a battalion of soldiers. Then she grinned.
“Not all of us Catholics are straight laced and constipated virgins you know. The amount of pornography that was going around our Girls school was… well, incredible. I’ll get used to it besides, it is not going to be forever now is it?”
“Right, now Tamara. Your job is also in the area”
The smile disappeared from his face.
“The other victims were all office workers, just normal run of the mill office workers. The only thing in common the boffins can find is that they often took over the reception at their offices during lunchtime or when others were off ill or on holiday. Tamara, you are working as assistant receptionist at a busy office on the other side of Oxford St.”
He consulted the documents.
“A firm of Architects in Wells St. Not far from Caitlin, sorry Mary. You can meet up for lunch. That would be a good move. Makes you more visible as a couple, doing couple related things.”
We spent almost two hours going over our new identities. Max grilled us like a skilled interrogator. I wondered what branch of the armed services he was in before Afghanistan. Then I realised that it would probably be better if I didn’t ask.
“Now onto where you are living,” said Max changing the subject.
“I understand it was your insight Tamara that led us to identify the link between the victims. As a result, we have agreed to rent a flat for you both not far from East Finchley Tube. However, to make the story look good, the Agent will meet you and show you the place as if you are seeing it for the first time, which of course you will be.”
Mary was quick off the mark.
“So, we won’t be staying there tonight?”
“Unfortunately, not. Do you have somewhere to stay?”
“We spent last night in Brighton. I suppose we could go back?”
Max surprised me again.
“No. That won’t be necessary. I’ll make sure you have somewhere.”
He gave us a smile that I recognised as saying ‘I have a solution but I’m not going to tell you yet’.
At the end of the day Max surprised us yet again.
“I expect both of you are rather tired by now. I know how hard it can be to absorb so much information in such a short time. You both have one more thing to do before we call it quits for the day.”
We both looked at him expectantly as he pressed a few buttons on his mobile phone.
“Don’t worry, this is a pleasurable task. We are going to Kensington Town Hall. I’ve booked you into a room at a nearby hotel but in order to make your cover story complete, there is one formality to do.”
I knew what he was talking about. I looked at Mary and she looked nonplussed.
“What are we going to wear?” I asked.
“Wear? What for?”
I grinned at her.
“To get married, well a civil partnership.”
“No. No way. Never.”
“But darling, you know the story. We are a lesbian couple. Anyone checking our backgrounds will see that we have tied the knot so to speak”.
Mary glared at me. Then slowly a smile appeared on her face.
“As long as I can wear white!”
Max burst out laughing.
“You two are really going to make a good couple. You two are way more convincing than any of the others who have been through this sort of thing.”
“What do you mean, others?” asked Mary.
Max looked rather sad.
“One previous pair didn’t make it out the other side. Not on this case I hasten to add.”
I didn’t like the sound of this.
“What do you mean ‘didn’t make it out the other side’”
Max lowered his eyes and gave a big sigh.
“We were after a ring of drug smugglers. Unfortunately, the team we put inside got a bit too hooked on the product. One died of an overdose of some really pure smack. The other killed herself by walking in front of a Tube train because she couldn’t accept the guilt of her partner OD’ing. As a result, many of the powers that be have been rather reluctant to sign up to new operations of this type.”
“That explains a lot,” I remarked.
“What did you mean ‘make a good couple’?” asked Mary bringing the conversation back to matter in hand.
I don’t know if it was my imagination or did Max just go a little red in the face.
“What I meant was…”
We both looked at him earnestly.
“Sod it. It seems to me that you two are made for each other.”
Then he looked at me.
“Haven’t you fucked her yet? It is obvious that you fancy her.”
I was speechless. Mary was very red in the face.
“Why don’t you get it over and done with. Then you can get on with the task in hand? Tonight, will be the ideal opportunity. The newly married couple and all that?”
“What if we say no?” argued Mary
“No to what?” responded Max.
“Getting hitched,” replied an indignant Mary.
Max looked serious as he replied.
“Look. You both know as well as I do that realism is the key to this sort of operating being a success. Yes, we could falsify the records but there are things missing. Photos and records of a reception and memories of people at the Town Hall. In the past it would have worked but in this day of Facebook, Instagram and the like we have to go a lot further to make everything seem real. By doing it for real then there are no holes to be found. Holes mean risks.”
Then he smiled,
“However, from what I’ve seen today, there is more than just being work partners between the two of you. I can sense an attraction between you two even though you might be fighting it at the moment. All I’m saying is that you should consummate the relationship before it gets in the way of the operation.”
I was stunned. I’d never thought of Mary let alone Caitlin in that way before. I was sure that she was the same.
I looked at Mary. Her mouth was doing the drowning fish impression. I knew that she was trying hard to hide her feelings again. What was confusing me was that I wasn’t sure which way they were with respect of me and what I wanted for my long term future.
Max cut my deliberations short.
“If we don’t make a move soon then we won’t make the ceremony and the two of you will have to wait until tomorrow to get hitched.”
“We?” asked Mary.
“Yes we. I’m your best man.”
“But how… how will you get down to the street from here? Those stairs are pretty difficult for someone in your position?”
“A few service buddies fixed up a lift for me out the back. Get all your stuff and we can get going?”
I looked at Caitlin, or rather Mary Murphy as she now was for help. She appeared as confused as I was but she wasn’t showing it.
As she was giving me no sign, I reluctantly started to pick up my things.
“Where are we supposed to stay tonight?” asked Mary in a strangely quiet voice.
Max did a ‘U’ turn in his wheelchair and said smiling,
“That is my little surprise. Think of it as a wedding present from me.”
Despite our repeated questioning, he wouldn’t divulge any more.
We soon realised that Max didn’t do things by halves. The lift that had been knocked up by some friends was out of this world. I had to wonder if he had planning permission for it.
The exit of the lift went right onto a tail lift for his SUV. Before we’d got strapped in, he was ready to go. The vehicle had been converted to hand controls and the lack of a driver’s seat would make it difficult if not impossible for anyone else to drive.
The next surprise was that the SUV was electric. With hardly a noise, we glided out of the courtyard and onto Shaftesbury Avenue. It had to be a custom conversion from a Petrol or Diesel vehicle. To be honest, I was trying to think of anything but what was going to happen not that far in the future. ß
As we passed the Royal Albert Hall, I glanced over at Mary. She was looking out of the window deeply engrossed in her own thoughts.
The enormity of what we were going to do was really starting to hit home. I cleared my mind of bad thoughts just like I’d been taught to do when facing an opponent on the Tae-Kwon-Do mat.
Two friendly faces were waiting for us when we arrived at the Town Hall. They belonged to Maurice and Charlotte.
“Come on you two we only have half an hour to get you ready,” said Maurice as he grabbed my arm and led me inside.
Before we could take a breath, we were sat down in a couple of chairs and they started working on our makeup.
When they were satisfied, Maurice commanded,
“Ok, now for your wedding dresses.”
With great aplomb and as if they were launching a transatlantic liner, they opened two garment bags to reveal two similar but not quite identical white wedding dresses.
Well, they were white and we were going to wear them for the ceremony but they were not my idea of a ‘proper wedding dress’ but they would have to do.
When I saw Mary in her dress I changed my mind. She looked fantastic. The contrast of her jet-black hair and the brilliant white of the dress made her look fantastic.
“You look good,” whispered Mary as we walked out the door together.
“So, do you,” I replied as I took hold of her hand.
I wanted to do more at that moment but I chickened out. I would just have to console myself in those words. Some had made a positive comment about how I looked for the first time. I wanted to shout it from the rooftops I felt so happy.
Max was waiting for us outside the room where the ceremony was going to take place. He’d gotten changed for the occasion and was wearing a very fetching black ‘DJ’. He’d even put on some ‘feet’ Well at least there was a pair of shoes sticking out from the bottom of the trousers.
His beaming smile said everything we needed to know.
“I take it you approve then?” asked Mary.
“Hey, it is not often that I get to give away a pair of lovely ladies. In my line of work, I am normally dealing with men who are infiltrating some really bad crime gangs. I think working with you two is going to be interesting, very interesting indeed.”
As if a stage director had cued it, the door to the room opened and a female official greeted us.
“The registrar is ready for you now.”
As we filed in, she whispered to Max,
“Don’t take all night, I want to get home to watch ‘Corrie’.”
Before I could take a breath, we were standing in front of the Registrar.
“Welcome to our place of ceremonies. I have all your declarations and they are in order.”
He glanced down at some papers on the desk in front of him.
“I see that you have opted for ceremony ‘B’. If you are ready, shall we begin.”?
He turned to Mary and gave her a card.
“Please read the card”.
I looked at her. She looked nervous.
She swallowed and began.
“I Mary Patricia Murphy hereby pledge to share my life openly with you Tamara Jane Edwards. From this moment on I ask you to be with me on our journey, to share our dreams, go forward together and to be my companion along the way.”
She handed the card back to the Registrar.
She handed me another card.
“I Tamara Jane Edwards take you Mary Patricia Murphy to be my civil partner under law. I make this pledge freely, with honesty and sincerity and with a commitment that will grow deeper and stronger as the years pass.”
“Thank you,” said the registrar as I handed him back the card.
“Do you have the rings?”
I realised that we’d forgotten all about them. Then I felt a hand on my arm.
I turned and saw a big smile on Max’s face.
He handed me two rings. I gladly took them and handed one to Mary.
Then I remembered the other words that I had been printed on the card.
“I give you this ring as a token of my love and a sign of the promises I make to you today.”
I slipped the ring onto her finger.
Mary took my cue and repeated the words
“I give you this ring as a token of my love and a sign of the promises I make to you today.”
Then she slipped the other ring onto my finger.
The registrar then drew the proceedings to a close.
“I duly pronounce you a registered civil partnership.”
We looked at each other and hesitated.
I guess we were both thinking the same thing, ‘should we kiss each other’.
We both made the decision at the same time.
We kissed or rather our faces met but our lips didn’t quite mate as supposed. In the end they did and we kissed.
When we were done and the formalities completed we all left the Town Hall together.
Once outside, Max got himself into his SUV, we waited outside a little unsure
“Come on. Get in. You are not done yet.”
We’d hardly got inside before he was off down the street.
“What’s the rush?” asked Mary.
“There is a table for dinner for you two that is booked in just over an hours time. We need to get you there then, you need to get changed and ready.”
The set of lights in front of us changed just as we approached.
“That is if I can get you to your hotel in time,” he said with more than a tinge of frustration.
“Where are we going for this dinner?”
“Hey. Hold on a minute. We can’t afford the prices they charge even for afternoon tea, let alone Dinner.”
“It is on the house,” replied Max.
“Let’s say, it is repayment to me for some services rendered in the not too distant past.”
Mary was about to say something but I stopped her. I didn’t think it prudent to ask any more questions at that moment.
Max dropped us off outside the hotel not long afterwards.
“You are in room 410. Here is the key-card. The concierge who is doing this for us will help with any issues. His name is Gary and is one of the good guys.”
He handed Mary an envelope that probably contained the key.
“Have a good evening. Tomorrow you get down to business for real. A car will pick you up at ten to take you to Finchley.”
“Thanks Max. You are a star,” remarked Mary.
“No love, I’m just a fixer. I get things done in ways that if I were to tell you, I’d have to kill you on the spot.”
We were both laughing at his joke we got out of the car.
Then before we could take stock, he was away leaving us standing outside one of the best hotels in London in our wedding clothes.
I looked at Mary and said,
“Well partner, how about we enjoy our evening in the lap of luxury. I hardly think we will be able to afford a place like this…. afterwards on our pay, now will we?”
A smile came over her face.
“Are you propositioning me?”
“Well yes partner I am doing exactly that…”
Mary gave me the same laugh as she’d done many times as Caitlin. The laugh she reserved for the not infrequent times I put my foot in it.
“Ok. That was a bad idea then.”
“No. I think it is a great idea besides, I’m getting hungry.”
Back in the days when we were part of the ‘Squad’, Caitlin had gained the nickname ‘Dustbin’ due to the huge amounts of food she could consume and never put on an ounce in weight.
“Come on then lets’ go find our room,” I suggested.
I took hold of her hand and tried to walk nonchalantly into the hotel, through the foyer and to the lifts. We had only gone a few steps when we ‘legged it’.
As we did so, I felt every eye in the place was following us. If they were, it would not have been surprising as our brilliant white dresses gave us away in an instant. Still, we made it to our room without being stopped, propositioned or otherwise delayed.
Mary closed the door with a bang and we collapsed onto the bed laughing.
As our laughter subsided, I looked around the room. Our cases were there just as Max had promised.
I rolled over and looked at Mary. She was lying there with her eyes closed.
“Don’t get too comfortable,” I said quietly.
Right on queue her stomach gave out a loud rumble.
She opened her eyes and smiled.
“Why don’t you ring down for room service, I really don’t want to move.”
I smiled back.
“No chance. Do you think I’m going to pass up being waited on in a place like this and order room service? And on a day like today?”
“Oh well, I suppose….”
[to be continued]
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.