THE FORKED ROAD

by Michael Skywood Clifford © 2010

Arrival

As the vehicle sped along the main road, a smear of raindrops on the window pane obscured Ruth’s view of the rugged landscape as it climbed to peaks in the West.

“I vaguely remember coming to Scotland when I was about five,” she said to Francis who sat next to her. “I don’t remember much about it. Amazing all this, isn’t it? We were going to the Monte Carlo, now suddenly we don’t know where we’re going.”

He looked at her for a long admiring second but said nothing.

A few miles further along the people carrier began to slow.  It came to a halt. Rain tapped noisily against the windows.

“Chief!” shouted the driver.

“I hope we haven’t broken down,” conjectured Francis dreamily.

“We’re not out in the sticks at least, we passed some suburbs not far back,” said Ruth.

A man at the back of the vehicle, whom had earlier introduced himself to the passengers as a security official, got out of his seat. He had been looking out of the rear window scrutinising a mini had been following them all the way. He was about 45, black haired, and wearing a coat similar to the duffle coat style of Sixties students. He walked up the gangway to the front of the vehicle.

“The road has divided, sir; forked. I’m not sure which route to take,” said the driver.

Another man, who had been sitting behind Ruth and Nigel, quickly rose out of his seat and went to see what the problem was. He stood looking over the shoulder of the security man. He was taller, younger looking and wore a dapper suit.

“Because you took out the sat nav, chief, I’m not sure which way it is. Shall I carry on along the main road or turn off to the left,” said the driver apologetically.

The dapper suited David Hornbeam was hesitant, “I’ve been here times before but I can’t remember which route to take.”  He turned to the security man: “Dan, should I put my battery back in my mobile and make a call. These security things change every time I come up here.”

“Don’t do that,” said ex-policeman, Daniel Bond. “I asked everyone to take the batteries out of their mobiles, their laptops and removed the sat-nav so that satellites or trackers cannot trace us here.” He looked up out through the wide windscreen at the forked roads that presented themselves. There was no signpost.  The main road carried on, but the road to the right, although in reasonable condition was quite narrow. “That leads to the beach,” he said, “You won’t be able to get through. It’s the next right turning.”

” Are you sure, Chief?” said the driver looking nervously at his boss.

“We’ll turn on the second right road.  All roads eventually lead to Rome,” said Daniel Bond, his voice pregnant with a Scottish twang. “If we don’t meet a road block on that road then we’ll come back.”

Near the back of the people carrier Ruth giggled quietly into Francis’s ear, “You take the ‘igh road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in Scotland afore yee,”

Then, above the noise of the rain, Ruth heard the engine start  and they began to move off.

* * * *

Ruth was surprised at the seriousness of everybody on the people carrier. True, she had been briefed, but she never expected such solemnity. Then, from the seat behind her, the chirpy voice of David Hornbean was addressing them. His head raised over the seats.

“I’ve been abroad since I came down here, so I can’t be expected to know every twist and change of direction. I’m a bloody good International Secondments Officer, not a bloody navigator. They’ve only got a back up car, a lead one is standard and would have saved us this stupid embarrassment. Cuts I suppose.”

Although his words seemed more aimed in the direction of Ruth, Francis turned round and nodded in support.

* * * *

After another two miles, the vehicle turned right and followed a narrow track towards the sea but this normally observable blue horizon couldn’t be seen in this leaden sky and pouring rain. The sky was getting darker by the minute, and Ruth felt an ominous, portentous atmosphere. It made her think of Biblical epics. For a second she shivered, but then she regained her composure.

“I’ve got it, Chief!”  The driver shouted. A smidgeon of a smile ran across the face of the security chief. “Yes that’s it.”

Daniel Bond was relieved to see a hundreds yards along, a security gate. Standing next to this temporary barrier, stood a guard in camouflage dress with both an umbrella and a machine gun. Behind him stood a small white shed-like building, the size of a temporary classroom. As soon as the vehicle stopped on reaching it, Daniel Bond and David Hornbeam stepped down out of the dry vehicle into the driving Scottish downpour. Through the window Ruth saw the security man show the man a badge. The three men went off into the white building.

Not long afterwards the Mini that had been following pulled up behind the people carrier.

* * * *

Now Inside the shed, the guard stood in the corner near the door, his machine gun slung over his shoulder, his umbrella left in the intervening porch. Daniel Bond sat on a chair and looked intently out of the window, studying his men in the Mini. David Hornbeam was at the desk.

“Let me have a look at the list,” said the fleshy man who sat behind it. He had long grey hair hanging from an inch bald parting and dimpled cheeks that gave him the appearance of a hangdog.  He pressed a button on a lap top and checked through the names. “There’s only three. Read them out and I’ll tick them off.”

“Francis Carridge, 28, quantum mechanic from CERN.”

“Check. Who’s this tart he’s brought with him? Washington only just heard about that.”

“Carridge insisted on bringing along his girlfriend. They had planned to go abroad over the weekend, so I had to offer. I didn’t argue.”

“That doesn’t sound too clever. Details?”

“She’s 26 and an NQT, Mr. Cummings. ”

His politeness cut no ice.

“You can call me by my first name,” said Bernard Cummings sarcastically. “Now David. What’s NQT?”

“She’s a newly qualified teacher. Mature student. English.”

“Teacher?”  The hangdog Bernard Cummings took his eyes off the screen and stared at Hornbeam. “We don’t even employ ex-teachers as cleaning staff in a place like this!”

“We PV-ed her and it’s says on the file…,” Hornbeam tried two pockets before successfully pulling out a pad from his suit and began to read it: “I quote… she’s never been involved in anti-government riots, associated with social workers, miners, Union workers, or belonged to organisations like Animal Rights, CND, SLP or Respect.”

“And where did you get that information. I don’t suppose it was from her.”

“Of course not.”

“Well they won’t be happy at all, Mr. David Hornbeam. I hope there’s no fuck up, or the British government will be on the line again. Maybe it’s because you haven’t been in this job for long?”

“There won’t be any mistakes… Bernard… it was mere expediency, I was told to bring him at all costs. The PV information was passed by telephone from the a stealth NDPB yesterday. ”

“Well, I ask you…” said Cummings exasperatedly

Are you going to come out and do a palm test?” enquired Hornmeam.

“No. Bloody machine’s broken.”

Hangdog looked back at his laptop. “Hammersly?” he barked.

“I couldn’t get Hammersly.”

“Oh, this gets worse, why ever not?”

“He’s not in the country. He’s been sent on some educational swap to China.  I’ll have him for you next time.”

“If someone hasn’t got to him first. Okay, you can go through but be warned we may pull you back.”

Somewhat ruffled, Hornbeam turned and headed to the door.

“Oh wait,” Cummings called.

David Hornbeam looked round, but found the request addressed to Daniel Bond, who had now stood up. “My officer here would like your signature, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Why do you want my signature?” asked the security man.

“Not every man is the son of Kissy Suzuki and – ”

“Ha ha! No signature from me. ”

“But…”

“Wrong man. My surname is more common that you think.”

As they were between the white shed and the people carrier – a place where no one could have heard, especially in the rain – Hornbeam said to Daniel, “She is so beautiful, how could I refuse?”

“Never seen a woman like it,” grinned Daniel, trying to find a comparable beauty in the vast number of women he had known.

* * * *

The narrow road now formed a junction with a wider road, which they followed for a short distance. Despite the rain – and having to look between heads on the other side of the people carrier – Ruth could see a beautiful hotel in the most expansive setting coming towards her. Neither Francis nor herself had been told of their exact destination, Hornbeam and his team hadn’t allowed it. However he had had told her she was going to a superstar hotel.

Suddenly she began to receive more details from the seat behind her. Hornbeam was enjoying the pleasure on her face.

“It’s the Westin Turnberry Hotel. The last time I was here was May 14th 1998, I remember it well.  Yes that was the BBG. It’s a wonderful place.”

“It’s very grand,” said Ruth enthusiastically. “Is this the place where they have golf championships?”

“Yes, there’s a slip of sand down by the vast golf ranges over there.  In better weather you’ll see the nearby islands,” said Hornbeam feeling very pleased for some reason.

* * * *

The Hotel

As they were stepping out of the bus Daniel Bond said quietly to David Hornbeam: “I’m off duty in an hour, could you take the two guests down to the Stagioni while I check their luggage.”

“Will do.”

“Could you put them through the detector as well?”

“That’s not protocol, is it? It’s a bit of a downer.”

“In light of what Cummings said, security is security and these people are initiates.”

The security man lowered his voice and looked around. “When you’ve done put your battery back in your mobile and I’ll call you when I’m through. Or you can get me on my pager.”

“Alright,” said Hornbeam. “Incidentally what was all that about your signature at the barrier?”

“Oh that.” He laughed. “My dad was in the SIS and his real name was James Bond. I’m called Daniel. These idiots don’t seem to realise that they want is a signature from a fictional character. I’ve had all sorts of loonies after me.”

“I see,” said Hornbeam.

It was plain to Bond that if he did see, he saw it in a linear way and not with any colour or shape.

Once inside Hornbeam called over a member of staff in the hotel reception and instructed her to take his luggage to his bedroom. “They’re all labelled,” he said.

Hornbeam then collected Francis and Ruth as they were coming into the hotel. “Sorry but you’ve got to go through the metal detector over here. Put all your cash and metal objects in those trays and walk through the scanner.”

Ruth was still buzzing after going through twice. A young officer, with a hand scanner, found the culprit. A tiny metal key on a beaded necklace. After its removal she sailed through.

“He only did that because he enjoyed scanning you three times,” scoffed Hornbeam quietly to himself.

“I always forget I’m wearing jewelry,” she apologised, replacing it around her neck.

“Sorry about that. I’ll take you to the restaurant to get some food, its a fabulous place with amazing views.”

“I’d quite like to freshen up a bit and eat a little later,” said Ruth.

“Of course, but come and have a look at the restaurant anyway, it’s on the way,” said Hornbeam. He took them up a marble stair case and along a wide corridor. This opened out onto a large balcony that encircled a large inverted conical pit with circular seating below.

“That’s the Evolutionary Seminar Chamber,” said Hornbeam to Francis. “You’ll be down there tomorrow.”

“It’s a bit like a wall of death,” said Francis stopping and looking over the balustrade.

“It’s like the a circular House of Commons,” commented Ruth.

“Indeed. Or a small version of the EU,” said Hornbeam, his usually upbeat voice quivering with emotion and some pomposity. “The existing delegates and specialists all sit on the inner ring of seats and the new blood, like you Francis, sit on the next tier, and then visiting dignitaries sit on the tier above.”

“It’s all very democratic…” said Ruth. It was neither a statement nor a question.

“Of course.”

“Isn’t this a great hotel, isn’t this great fun!” said Francis excitedly, moving his head around like a ventriloquist’s doll and planting a butterfly kiss on Ruth’s cheek, his antics surprising her as much as it did Hornbeam.

“And those computers on the inner row, what are they for?” she asked.

“Most of our international friends speak English, but for those who can’t this is a two way headphone translation system, it’s all wired into the Public Address System. Actually it’s rarely used as almost everyone who comes here can speak English. The stenographer’s have tended to use them recently because it virtually automates their work.”

“What’s the enormous statue painted in gold, that’s a bit rude?” enquired Ruth.

A large sculpture of a naked man with a sizeable erection hung down on chains from the ceiling. A large eagle and a serpent stood either side of his head connected by to his shoulders.

Hornbeam leant over and put his hand on the figure’s shoulder. “That’s not painted, my lady, that is real gold. He’s a  philosopher: Nietzche. Have you never heard of him?”

“Not really,” she said.

“There’s one of his famous books in all the bedrooms. Have a look at it, it’s beautiful poetry. He was a pure genius. He aspired to get the human race to drag itself up by its bootstraps.”

“Didn’t he have something to do with the Nazi’s?” As soon as she said it, she knew she had said the wrong thing.

Hornbeam turned his frown into laughter.. “No, that is a mistake. Nietzche hated the Nazis. His sister Elizabeth Forster Nietzche, and her husband, mismanaged Nietzche’s works and letters after he had died. By a manipulation of emphasis and omission they corrupted his works in such a way so as to propagate their own Nazi ideas. She told Hitler in 1935 that her brother had been Nietzche’s Superman. In fact Nietzche believed in God.”

Ruth’s eyes opened wide for a second. “Oh, is that right?” she muttered.

“Isn’t is great that we’re in a five star hotel for the weekend!” said Francis dancing around on the balcony.

* * * *

Hornbeam carried on walking, now having weaved into another corridor where they could see the rolling golf courses out of the windows. The view was impressive. Eventually they came to a pair of modern swing doors. Hornbeam, who had been leading, held back and allowed them to enter the Westin Turnberry Stagioni restaurant before him.

Hornbeam radiated at other people’s pleasure. He could feel the enjoyment of the youngsters. Massive glass windows looked down from a modern setting across a plain of grey-blue sea to show the islands of Arran and Ailsa Cragg. As the rain had ceased to a drizzle now visibility had greatly increased. Superlatives were abounding from both of them.

They weren’t in the restaurant alone, several – mainly middle aged – men – and one women – were sitting over on the far corner admiring the view and equally gushing superlatives.

“Come and meet some of our other guests,” said Hornbeam.

* * * *

Other guests

“Hello Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to Francis Carridge, Quantum Doctorate and working at CERN.”

Everyone nodded or muttered a collective greeting.

“Hello.  Pleased to meet you both, I’m Paddy McDeal from Sligo,” said a man with puffy cheeks offering his hand. “And who’s the beautiful scientist?”

“I’m Ruth,” she grinned. “I’m no scientist.”

“Hello Francis and Ruth. You are both brilliant and beautiful. Sergey Podrovsky at your command. Physicist. Moscow Institute,” said the brown suit with gold cufflinks and a deep voice.

“Hi. I’m John-David Levitte, I’m afraid I’m out of my depths with the science. I’m French USA ambassador and advisor to Sarkozy and Director of Economic Affairs at the UN.”

“Hello, Mary Lloyd, genetics, MIT. Pleased to meet you.”

Ruth and Francis kept smiling all around the introductions.

“Hello. English boffin, Derek Abbot. Heard a lot about you. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Hornbeam had been moving chairs from a nearby table for them to sit down.

“I might have met you before at the Hadron,” continued David Abbot, “I came over when it was being switched on. Heartbreaking that was. When is the date now for it to be back up and running?”

Francis laughed. “I don’t have a date, there has been a lot of damage caused.”

“Well that will please the guy who is trying to sue the American Government for creating black holes in Switzerland than,” said the English Scientist.

Paddy McDeal interjected: “Did you hear abut the string theorist husband, whom, when his wife discovered he had been philandering, said to her, “Honey I can explain everything!”

They all laughed.

“And will they found the Higgs Bosom?” asked Podrovsky eagerly.

“We can’t run that experiment yet, as it will take so much power, almost four country’s combined electrical usage. It’s a shame it will be delayed,” said Francis. “The experiments they have been able to run, have been small matter, if you forgive the pun. I haven’t seen all the results, there is still a lot of number crunching going on and statistical analysis going on.”

“You mean they don’t want to share it?” laughed Paddy.

“And where are the British with Nuclear fusion?” asked Podrovsky

“we’re always getting closer but –

“Not more. You can’t talk on that subject until you’re are in the Evolutionary Seminary Chamber,” stopped Hornbeam, “All in good time.  The energy you spend on talking on these matters must be heard by everyone who is here this weekend, so I can’t let you waste it. Anyway, these young people need to go off to debrief and unpack their cases.” Hornbeam’s phone rang. It was Daniel Bond. “Perfect,” he said and cut the phone call.

Hornbeam took the couple to reception to get their room key, and then took them to a lift. “We’ll see you later.”

* * * *

Outside

“This is a big deal,” said Ruth quietly in the lift.

“It’s fun,” said Francis trying to plant another kiss on her. She dodged it, and put on a smile.

He looked at her in her blue crystaline knee length dress. She was gorgeous, bringing to mind his father’s early press cuttings of a young and full Bridgette Bardot, but with more elegance and movement.

As the lift doors opened, she grinned and beckoned him with a finger, flirtatiously. He followed. He thought she knew where their room was, but couldn’t work out how she knew. She found stairs along the corridor and beckoned him down them. His face a mask of perplexity, he followed her down the stairs like he was part of her game. She walked almost backwards, teasingly, all the time flicking her head around to see that she was not going to trip.

At the bottom of the stairs she gazed out into the corridor, as if trying to see something she recognised. Then she came and grabbed Francis’s arm and lead him down a long corridor into reception, without stopping she took him outside.

“I though we were going to the bedroom,” he said

“Let’s just have a quick look at the golf course from outside,” she said pulling him along by the arm as briskly as she could.”

The drizzle was on its last legs, the sun was trying to come out and the breeze was seeking less attention.

When they got fifty yards out over the golf course – which seemed deserted – she stopped and pulled Francis towards an oak tree.

“Let’s hide behind that.”

“You’re funny, you are,” he said grinning from ear to ear.

“Do you know, Francis, unless you told anyone, no one would know you are have a Phd in Atomic Physics.”

“Yes, sorry. I do act a bit daft. I’m not very good at concealing things, everything I think is written on my face. I’ve had discussions with friends about this.”

“I think this place is weird. I want you to tell me again what it’s all about.”

“Hornbeam briefed you on it as well.”

“I know it’s a science conference of world importance that you are being initiated into. You remember how he said I had to keep a low profile, not to mix too much and keep mainly out of the way. He said it was essential I did this as it would boost your career into the eleventh dimension.”

“That’s all there is to it,” he said grinning again. “I also said I wouldn’t come unless you could come with me.”

“Yes I know that.”

“Shall we go to our bedroom? I want you so bad.”

“I’ve brought you out here because I suspect our bedroom is bugged. And probably videoed as well.”

“Really. I wouldn’t have thought so. That’s a bit paranoid. They seem like an eminent bunch of chaps to me.”

“The guests may well be, but the organisation, what is it?”

“It has a strange palindrome, PNAC it was, but then it was changed to WOATPO.”

“And that stands for… World Order… what?”

“….Advanced Technology Planning Organization, I think. …and I’ve just remembered PNAC: ‘Project for the New American Century.'”

“You don’t think there is anything odd about it?”

“Don’t think so. There are different nationalities here.”

He caressed her fringe which was flickering around in the sea breeze. “I get paid shedloads just for being here. It means we can get married very soon and honeymoon anywhere we like. We can afford a mansion in Geneva and London.”

Her eyes sharpened in concentration. She suddenly looked worried and stopped. “Look. There’s one of those military chaps coming up from the sea.  He’s coming towards us. Listen, Francis, let’s amble back before we forced to. We won’t say anything about this conversation in the hotel.”

“I think you’re being a bit paranoid.”

“Possibly.” She laughed and put her arm in his. “Just do one thing for me?”

“Don’t expect me to sabotage the whole thing.”

“No. Just quietly and as secretly as possible put your battery back in your mobile when you get back into the hotel. I’ll do the same.”

“They told us not to do that.”

“Just for me, Francis.”

He shrugged his shoulders and they walked back over the grass.

The guard walked off in another direction.

* * * *

Ailsa Bar

Meanwhile in the Ailsa Bar, which also boasted splendid views of Ailsa Cragg and Arran, Daniel Bond and David Hornbeam had just sat down together with a bottle of vintage white wine. Daniel was off duty and was enjoying the ambience.

“I think you might have a lemon there,” he said.

“You mean Francis Carridge? I’ve met other’s like him. They’re useless at everything except what they specialize in. He is 95% physics, you can’t expect him to have grown up as well.”

“He’s certainly got a grown up taste in women.”

“I’ll drink to that.  She is astonishing, and yet she doesn’t even seem to be aware of it.”

“Perhaps that’s part of her charm. Wasted as an English teacher, she should be in films or modelling.”

“Carridge is a little naive. He doesn’t seem to realise he’s ascended to the rarest mountain air of human power. He’s at the top of the world and is completely unaware of it.  He had an alcoholic mother, who died when he was 13, so he needs intense distraction to forget his childhood pain. Entanglement mathematics should give him plenty to get distracted about. The question is, ‘Is he ambitious, or merely and only obsessed?'”

Suddenly Daniel Bond’s pager buzzed.

“Bond here. Hello Sir. I’m in the Ailsa Bar. Oh shit! Sorry Sir.” He had sat up, his body back on duty. ” Very well sir, I will wait here. Yes, he’s here with me now, I’ll tell him.” He switched off his mobile.

“Bad news, I’m afraid,” he said quietly sitting up.

Hornbeam’s face twisted in anticipation.

“They want her out. Too much of a hot potato.”

“Surely not.” Hornbeam sighed. “Bloody Americans. This will be messy, and will cause awkwardness.”

Minutes later Cummings came into the bar and pulled a chair up to their table.

“The Americans won’t take the teacher under any circumstances and want her out. She will have to go back, she’s a hot potato. I did warn you, Hornbeam. The Americans are very tight.”

“What has she done that’s so wrong?”

“Wrong profiling to be here. Firstly, they wouldn’t have invited her anyway. Secondly they’ve discovered she’s a Catholic  –

“Tony Blair’s a Catholic,” protested Hornbeam.

Cummings looked sharply at Hornbeam and continued, “and thirdly, she lived in Spain for three years and no one can find out what she was doing there.”

“Oh,” muttered Daniel.

“That never came up on the PV we did.”

“The CIA has got better files than your boys. We want her out now. Pronto.”

Hornbeam just stared at him, aghast. What happens now?

“It’s true we have some people who were going to be teachers in WOAPTO, but not with her profile, she’s latent. Get me an orange juice, Mr. Bond, will you.”

Daniel came back shortly after he had ordered the drink. Cumming’s tone became more heated. “Also a guard saw her walking Francis on the golf course.”

“They went outside already? That’s a bit silly,” said Hornbeam realising he was in trouble.

“At first it was suggested that we properly debrief her here, because of her character profile. But they chickened out. So the story is to say that her mother has fallen over and is hospital. It’s a complex fracture and she needs to go back at once. She will be escorted back to the airport at Preswick International to fly to London, someone will pick her up and correctly debrief her. ”

“She’ll phone her on her mobile.”

“No she won’t, we’ll take her mobile off her.”

* * * *

Agenda

As Ruth and Francis were coming back into reception physicist Derek Abbot waved to them. He came across.

“I’ve got the agenda here for tomorrow. As you’re new on the block I thought you might like to get it a little early, just so as to take on board some of the discussion.”

“Thanks, sir,” said Francis, taking a white A4 envelope off the physicist.

In the lift Ruth asked to have a look. He gave it to her. The document was 25 pages of complex information, some scientific, some political. However at the front was one loose page of briefing on tomorrow’s discussions. ”

* * * *

* 09.00 am. The importance of Nietzcheian thinking on future societal decisions/ Frank Weiss PhD

* 10.00 am. The development of teleportation of small particles/ Angela Broadhead Msc

* 11.00 am. The various ways forward for the development of Nuclear fission/ Professor Derek Abbot

* 12.00 noon. The implementation of world food price increases until Monsanto GM food is accepted by the world.

* 13.30 pm. Discussion on imagineering the commercial applications of Anti gravity.

* 14.30 pm. The global plan for a social paradigm shift to reduce global costs, intrusive state fiscal costs and create faster profit turnover for governments and government friendly organisations.

* 15.30 pm. Quantum Mechanics and DNA computers catch up.

* 16. 00pm.  General Biotech catch up and overview.

* 16.30pm. Technologies of control for mass social unrest.

* 18.00 pm. The leaps ahead in Nano Technology and their potential.

* 1900 pm. Up to speed (of light) with black holes, strangelets, DeSitter space transitions.

* 20.00 pm. Robotics, cybernetics and covert robotics and the importance of invisible surveillance.

* 21.00 pm. Cloning, Cryogenics, industry and the way forward.

* 22.00 pm. Discussion on ecological plastics.

* 23.00 pm. Technology and abstracts from commercial space travel experimentation

* * * *

“You’ll have a tiring day if you to listen to all these.” said Ruth

“I’ll only go to the ones that I want to go to. I’ve been asked to contribute to the eleven o’clock lecture.”

The lift doors opened and they were surprised to see, waiting outside, David Hornbeam, Daniel Bond and another man – the fleshy Bernard Cummings – waiting for them. Cummings and Hornbeam split the couple up by taking charge of Francis as he came out of the lift. “We need to see you a minute, Francis,” They led him off down the corridor.

Ruth looked at the security man and the security man looked at her. Something was wrong.

“I’m afraid we have to collect in everyone’s mobile phone and keep them for a short period of time. You’ll get it back soon.”

“When, why?”

“Directive from my line managers. It’s happening to everyone, not just you.”

She handed over her mobile phone. He looked at it, smiled and put it in his pocket. “I see you put the battery back in.”

“Hm.”

“Sorry.”

“I’ve opened your room door for you. No 37. It’s the 6th one along,” he said and walked off.

She walked along, looking around the sumptuous hotel, with its tiled ceilings, hanging tapestries and deep piled carpet. She got to the door of the room just as David Hornbeam came running after her and called her. “Ruth, Ruth!”

She turned and faced him. His face was red, hot and sweaty from running back up the stairs.

“I thought you were talking to Francis – ”

“- Your mother has fallen down the stairs. She’s in Fulham hospital. They believe that she’s broken her hip and she might have concussion. We’ve arranged for an escort to take you back straight away.”

“Oh God,” she said, her blood colour draining from her face. “Is she really bad?”

“I don’t know, but it sounded as though she had had a bad fall. Get your case. There it is, you haven’t even unpacked.” He stepped inside the room and picked it up for her,”

“I need to tell Francis. Does he know?”

“You won’t  have time for that. We’ll explain everything to him. If you want to catch the next flight to from Prestwick to London you really ought to move now. He’s in a meeting at the moment but we’ll put him in the picture. I’m sure we can find the resources to pay for a flight back up again when you’ve been to see your mother, we will be here till Late Monday.”

Ruth looked down at the carpet, then stepped into the room that she hadn’t even been in yet. It wasn’t a bedroom, but a lounge lobby, with a door to a bedroom, the most palatial hotel suite she had ever seen. She scanned the room.  She picked up a book off the coffee table. ‘Thus Spoke Zarathrustra’ by Frederick Nietzche. “Goodbye room. I’m sure you won’t mind if I take a memento,” she whispered to herself.

Hornbeam looked at her crestfallen face. He hated doing this.

——

Removal

Within 20 minutes Ruth was sitting in the front passenger seat of the mini, the mini that had followed the people carrier to hotel. Hornbeam was talking to her through the open window. “I really hope your mum’s okay. We’ll give you a call this evening. I’ll inform Francis directly what’s happened of course. Have a safe journey and it’s been very nice to meet you. Sorry you didn’t have the chance to stay a little bit longer.”

She didn’t look at him. Her beautiful face didn’t change its expression at all.

“I’ve put your suitcase in the boot,” he said.

“Thanks.”

Oh, and here’s your phone, I’ve put the phone battery in your case, because you won’t be needing it for a while. Security requests you don’t use it until you are in the airport. Malcolm and Terry will stay with you until you are on the plane. ”

“I want to phone the hospital,” she said.

“A little later perhaps,” said Hornbeam with a wan smile.

The man called Terry got into the back of the mini and Malcolm sat by the wheel. The door was slammed, a knowing nod was given and Malcolm drove out of the estate of the hotel.

* * * * *

Ruth did not feel well and groaned and sighed as they came out on to the main road.

“A long sigh,” said Malcolm. “I’m sure your mum will be okay. You’ll be in London in a couple of hours. We have enough time to get to the airport.”

“I’ve got terrible stomach ache,” said Ruth clutching her abdomen.

Another mile further along, she said, “I’m feeling very ill. A bit travel sick as well.”

“Only about half an hour,” said Malcolm trying to cheer her up.

“Is there a toilet I could use along the way. I’m really suffering.”

“I don’t think we’re allowed to do toilet stops.”

“What you do mean? Hornbeam said you were escorting me, surely you’re not to restrict me when I’m having a period are you? What am I? Your prisoner.” She vented anger.

Malcolm didn’t say anything. Terry leant his head over and tried to ease the mood. “There’s a small town further up with a public convenience,” he said. “We can let you use the toilet, but we don’t want to be late at the airport. Please be as quick as you can,” he said.

“I’ll need to get some stuff out of my case,” she said.

There was an embarrassed silence for a minute. “Okay,” said Terry.

Ruth had a plan. As soon as she was out of the car she would run and shout rape if they chased after her.

* * * *

Several miles later the outskirts of Laigh Glengall –  the beginning of Prestwick itself – began to surround them. The car stopped. Malcolm got out and opened the boot. He pulled out her case. “I’ll take it with me,” she said.

The public convenience was old, post war and was attached by terrace to a number of buildings, a disused Salvation Army hall, a disused NHS clinic and unfathomable knots of alleys and jitties ran behind these. She went in the ladies and Ruth’s first reaction was to look for another way out. She found a blue door which lead out the back but it was locked. None of the windows were assailable; not only were they closed, but one would need to be the size of a goldfish to slither through. Her mind was racing furiously. Then she heard the noise of mop and bucket and looked over at the closets. A woman wearing a blue council top was emerging from one at the far end.

“Excuse me,” said Ruth, “but I’ve a psycho ex-boyfriend outside waiting outside for me. Is there any other way out of the toilet?”

The woman looked Ruth up and down, blew a circle of breath from her mouth and stood frozen for what Ruth thought was an age. The woman walked away from Ruth towards the blue door, took out a key and unlocked it. “Thanks,” said Ruth as she made her way through.

“Taxi rank just around the corner. Go right, left, right, left,” said the woman in guttural Scottish.

“I think you should go as well, now,” said Ruth earnestly, “He’s dangerous. Don’t leave by the front door.”

* * * * *

Ruth went along the jitty as instructed and came out onto a busy high street. Immediately in front her was a taxi rank with one car pulled in and a driver behind the wheel. She jumped in the back seat with her case. “Take me five miles to the East of this town, but – whatever you do – don’t drive past the public convenience around the corner. Please go immediately.”

“Robbed a bank?” he grinned. “Do you want to put your case in the boot?” asked the bespectacled young man, curly hair, he looked nerdish but in a Clark Kent type of way.

“No. Just get me out of here quickly.”

He switched on the engine and pulled out. “Shall I take you out to Patna. It’s 13 miles east.”

“Yes and do it now!” shouted the Ruth, looking through the windows, quite terrified.

“Are you looking for somewhere to stay,” he shouted.

“erh.. no, just take me there and drop me off.”

“Okay.”

* * * *

Back inside the Westin Turnbury Hotel, Francis was now taken into a third interview room that afternoon. It looked like he was going to a job interview this time. Daniel Bond sat behind a desk with another man he hadn’t seen before; he had grey hair with flicks of white, angular facial features and a lazy right eye. He wore a grey suit and a yellow tie. He was introduced to Francis as Mr. Hennesey.

“It’s important that we keep security 110 percent tight, Francis.”

“You’ve got me to sign all the papers, I’ve never seen so many documents.” This, they had been getting him to do in the second room.

“Yes, that is a mere formality,” said Hennesey, “anyone privileged enough to be asked here has to sign all the security forms.”

“We have a slight problem,” said Daniel.

Francis didn’t know what to say so he beamed his ingratiating smile at them.

“How long have you known Ruth?” asked Hennesey.

Francis was slightly taken aback. It must be some game. But his smile had gone.

“About two months, perhaps a little longer, why?”

“Where did you meet her, because you’re not in England very much of the time are you?”

“I met her at a party given by the institute in Geneva. She was holidaying there.”

“I have to be blunt, Mr Carridge, but your girlfriend is proving to be something of a security risk.”

Francis laughed incredulously. “You’re joking.”

“What can you tell us about her?”

“She said you were all out to get her and I told her she was being paranoid. She was obviously right.”

“Did she express any political opinions?”

“No. She didn’t.”

“Why did you both go out on to the golf course?”

“She just wanted a walk.”

“What were you talking about out there?”

“This and that.

“Please be specific, Mr. Carridge, we don’t have all day.”

“We were talking about getting married, and what I was going to be doing here over the weekend.”

“I am informed that she thought Nietzche influenced the Nazi’s.”

“Oh yes. I remember. That was some conversation with Hornbeam over the seminar chamber.”

“Just for the record, Nietzche was not a Nazi, that is a historical misunderstanding,” said Hennesey.

Francis couldn’t care less. “Where is Ruth?” he asked quietly.

“She’s fine,” lied Hennesey, who was very well aware – by now – that no one knew how or where she was, “she’s gone back to London.”

Francis was alarmed. “You’re joking!”

“Mr. Carridge, you have signed global security papers committing yourself to the propagation of the good works we do here. Now, without us sounding in any way extremist, we do have a problem, and because of the massive responsibilities we have, I’m sure you understand that we have to deal with the problem quite severely and effectively. Nevertheless, your girlfriend is fine, she has merely been sent to her mother’s in London.”

“Can I phone her?”

Hennesey looked at Daniel Bond and they exchanged looks.

“You may do as you like, but before we conclude this interview, can you tell us more about your girlfriend. We would much appreciate it and also it is your legal duty to tell us anything that will help us with our security.”

“She’s just a lovely girl, and we clicked when we first met. She’s not that scientific but she’s very intelligent – ”

“Could you tell us about her past, her education, her travels?”

“I think she was educated in London. I don’t know much about her travels.”

“Did she mention living in Northern Spain for three years from when she was 20.”

“I’ve heard her talk a bit of Spanish, but I never realised she lived there for that long.”

Hennesey sighed and looked down at his clasped hands. He wearily looked at the security officer.

“Okay Francis, you can go. Try not to worry about it, and when you telephone her, let us know how she is and if there is anything we can do for her.”

* * * *

Sanctuary

Up into higher lands they drove, and occasionally when she looked out the back window to see if she was being followed, she caught a sight of the sea. It was not raining now, but it was dull and windy.

Eventually they pulled into a small village.

“Where do you want to be dropped?”

“Near the centre where the shops are.”

“There aren’t many.”

The driver dropped her on the corner of the small high street.

She paid him and walked off with her case up the street. She found what she was looking for: a pub. inside she located a landline telephone. She discretely took off her shoe and removed a rubber insert from it. Then studying the back of the insert in detail she dialed a number.

“Hello, it’s Ruth,” she said, putting back on her shoe.

“Who is Ruth?” came a brown Spanish voice.

“Ruth for the truth,” she said.

“You’re a mover?”

“That’s right.”

Where are you?”

“I’m in the Red Lion in Patna.”

“You’re not okay?”

“I’m vulnerable but alone.”

“Wait there, you’ll be picked up in about half an hour. Are you a redhead?”

“Blue dress, black hair and I’ve got a suitcase.”

“Check. Goodbye,” he said.

She thought about calling her mum, but decided it would be best just before she left.

* * * *

About half an hour later, a tall man, thirtyish, unshaven and with black hair approached her. “Hello. I’m Phillipe, and you are Ruth?”

“Good to see you. Phillipe?”

He looked around the pub first before he nodded. There was no one in there, and the landlady had gone outside temporarily.

“Is this all you have, just the suitcase.”

She nodded. “Can I make a quick phone call to London before we leave?”

“Why?”

“They said my mum was ill and I want to check.”

“I don’t think that would be wise.”

“Please.”

“Do it quickly here on the landline, I’ll wait outside for you in my car, it’s just around the corner.”

* * * *

Avoiding the use of her mobile, which was still in her case, she found her mum’s landline number in her pocket diary.

“Hello, 547295,  Angela Festoon.”

“Hello mum, it’s Ruth. How are you?”

“Hello darling, I’m fine. How are you? Where are you?”

“I’m in London, mum,” she lied, “So you’re okay. I had this feeling that you were ill?”

“No, just the usual twinges.”

“I had this feeling that you had fallen over.”

“Not at all. In fact I’ve just been weeding.”

“Anyway this is a very short call because I’m very busy with something. I just wanted to say look after yourself. I love you, mum. Goodbye,” and she put the phone down immediately.

Ruth turned round to notice the Landlady, who had stealthily returned, looking at her oddly. Ruth didn’t think the woman could have heard any of her conversation from that distance.

Even if they tapped her mum’s landline, it would only lead to a pub in a village. She was hoping that she would be untraceable for at least 24 hours. If she put the battery back on her mobile they would have her location in seconds. In fact, anyone on Google could find her in seconds.

* * * *

So what was it like in the hotel?” asked Phillipe when she got in his car.

“So you’ve figured that out have you?”

“Didn’t take much working out.”

“There are some very impressive people. They worship Nietzche and Darwin and modern technology and see themselves as modern saviours. They make out that Neitzche was not a pro-nazi, and that he believed in God. What a whitewash. Listen to these random quotes i’ve been reading in the pub.”

She leafed through the book she had taken from the hotel rooms.

* * * *

‘We build our nest in the tree: future eagles shall bring food to us solitaries in their beaks.’

‘The winged creature values many things higher than life itself, yet this evaluation itself speaks – the will to power!’

‘Oh my brothers, he who is first born is always sacrificed. Now we are all first born.’

‘Yes, my friend, you are a bad conscience to your neighbours for they are unworthy of you, thus they hate you and would dearly like to suck your blood.’

‘For my wisdom says: where power is there number becomes master; it has more power.’

‘And he who declares the Ego healthy and Holy and selfishness glorious – truly he is a prophet.’

‘Man is evil – all the wisest men have told me that to comfort me. Ah, if only it be true today! For evil is man’s best strength. ‘Man must grow better and more evil’, this do I teach. The most evil is necessary for the Superman’s best.’

‘He who wants to kill most thoroughly – laughs. One kills not by anger but by laughter.’

‘How many a thing is now called grossest wickedness which is only 12 feet broad and three months long. One day however greater dragons will come into the world.’

‘This new law table do I put over you, O my brothers: Become Hard!’

‘But we certainly do not want to enter into the kingdom of heaven;  we have become men, so we want the kingdom of the earth.’

‘The god who saw everything even man this god had to die! Man could not endure that such a witness should live.’

‘God has died. Now we desire  – that the Superman shall live.’

‘You highest men my eyes have encountered! This is my doubt of you and my secret laughter: I think you would call my Superman a devil!’

* * * *

“I am going to have to ask you to stop reading and ask you to shut your eyes.”

“Yes?”

“So that you can’t be traced back to me, or where I live.”

“Is that where you are taking me?”

“It’s the only place that would be safe to take you. You need to rest for a while and we need to decide how to get you out of the country.”

“Blindfold me if you wish.”

“Put on the sunglasses in that compartment near you, you’ll see them.  You will see nothing, but anyone who notices us a man and woman in a car will not think anything is out of place.”

She pulled out the sunglasses on put them on. They blocked out everything, even side light. She talked with her eyes closed, as she could see nothing.

“Have you been living around this place for a while? Do you know your way around? Do you think you could get me back in to the Westin Turnberry Hotel? ”

“I have been living here for over ten years. I do know my way around and I have many contacts, but they do not know who I really am. I am not a mover, but a sitter. As for getting you into the Turnberry Hotel, I would estimate that as 110% impossible.”

“Think about it, I  need to get back in.”

* * * *

Eventually they arrived at a small detached house in the countryside and he pulled inside the drive. He told her she could remove the dark glasses. He had a good look round before leading Ruth inside. He took her up to one of the bedrooms carrying her suitcase.

“I’m sure you want to freshen up and have a rest. I’ll leave you for a few hours, come downstairs and find me when you wake up.”

“Thank you,” she said. “If I’m not down by 9.30pm come and knock on my door.”

* * * *

Once inside the room, she drew the curtains together, shutting out the woodland view and the afternoon light. She threw off her metallic blue dress, removed her bra and pants and went into the miniscule ensuite bathroom and showered. Hot and refreshed, she toweled herself dry with a towel that was already in there. She made liberal use of available talcum powder and shower gel. She slipped into the sheets of the double bed. Her mind was racing but her nervous exhaustion engulfed her in sleep quickly.

Then a dimension later she was awake.

“Who’s that?”

Someone was near her.

“Phillipe?” she asked.

She rubbed her eyes, something wasn’t right. There was something, somebody sitting on the edge of her bed. It was a big man. It wasn’t Philliipe.

She rubbed her eyes again.

“Do not be afraid,” it said gravely, solemnly.

“It was a ghastly size. He had an angular chin and his skin was grey, death coloured.

“We have taken the wrong road,” it said.

She sat up thinking she might scream.

“I am an angel from Peckham Rye,” it said, “I also come to bring you strength. I also come to tell you that some men are so bored that unless they surround themselves with evil and danger they sleep. ”

“Go away,” she winced, “I’m dreaming.” She had noticed its large white wings trailing all the way to the floor.

“Behold, the world of the Demiurge. The Industrial Revolution bites mankind. The garden of Eden is foul with weeds.”

She put her head under the covers, but its masculine voice droned on.

“Man has forsaken God for Unizen. I repeat I come to give you strength.”

She kicked at the point of the bed where he sat, but her foot went straight through the point where he was apparently sitting and out of the cover. There was no weight there. She cautiously lifted her eyes from out of the covers. She was astonished to see him standing eight feet high beside her bed. “I leave you fair wind and high tension,” he said and vanished.

She was lucid dreaming. She must get out of the dream. Yet she couldn’t get back to sleep. She looked at her watch. It was 8.15pm. She turned over and tried to sleep, but the rain had returned and was making so much noise on the windows she decided to get up.

* * * *

Much earlier in the day, in late afternoon, Cumming’s department were doing everything in their power to trace Ruth’s movements. They had expected her to refit her mobile battery back in her mobile but so far their electronic detectors had not registered any such move. They had all assumed she would call her mother, but there had been nothing. Cummings ran over the listed calls to both her mother’s mobile and landline. There was no history of communication.

“We have a list of numbers who have called but no idea who they are. Can we bloody sort this out!” Cummings shouted at Daniel Bond who had just come out of a meeting with the distraught Malcolm and Terry, who were in no one’s good books. Neither of them understand how she had managed to get out of the toilet without being seen, and were under a bit of suspicion themselves.

Cummings didn’t wait for an answer. He pressed a button on his mobile. “Find out the individuals who sent calls to Festoon’s mother since lunch time! A list of phone numbers is no bloody good, she could be using anyone’s phone. Why hasn’t anyone had the initiative to do this already?”

“I can’t understand it,” said Hornbeam limply, who had been moping nearby. “I felt sure she was okay.”

“Not fucking okay!” screamed Cummings in blood curdling tones. Daniel had never seen him shout like that. “We have the world’s greatest crop of scientists and politicians here and you bring in a lefty twat like that! You’re not fit for purpose. A bit of skirt and you are a security walk-in! Get out of my sight!”

Hornbeam’s psychological bottom lip went up to meet his nose, quivering and tearful. He showed no actual physical emotion though as he went off to the bar. His career was in tatters.

* * * *

Just after 5pm, Cummings was brought another list giving the names of all the callers to Ruth’s mother. He called for Francis to be brought in and asked him if he knew any of these people. Francis knew none of the them and Cummings dismissed him. Cummings once again rang Mrs. Festoon herself, as he had before that evening, but she was still either not answering or out. She had no answer phone attached.

An hour later, Daniel brought more sheets of updated information that had been emailed through, this time with some of the addresses registered to the landline numbers.

“That’s it,” said Cummings. “We’ve got her. She made a phone call at the Red Lion in Patna. It’s the only Scottish address.”

* * * *

Later, downstairs at Phillipe’s house, Ruth sat on an armchair opposite Phillipe. The TV was on with the sound turned off. He had dressed up a bit, he had on a new jacket and a white shirt – which even sported a tie. She hadn’t mentioned her strange dream.

“I’ve an idea,” she said.

“No doubt you are going to tell me what it is,” he said. He noticed her in detail. She was in jeans and a black tee-shirt. She looked good even in the simplest of clothes.

“A small  boat. You know, with some oars.”

“I see.”

She yawned. Then her eyes opened a little wider. She looked at her watch. “Could you get one this evening?”

“I could borrow one from a friend, but that would link directly back to me. It would be better to break into one of the boat houses on the beach and steal one. ”

“Let’s do that.”

“The weather is so bad, I really wouldn’t recommend it. Anyway you’d never get back into the hotel.”

“I have to. Organise the boat.”

“No need to. I already have the equipment. But what you are doing is madness. Remember, the answer to ‘Enframing’ is the pursuit of Fine Art. Why not do that instead.?”

She laughed. “Heidegger eh? Not the Freedom Club? Both manifestos lead to same thing.”

He laughed. Then he said seriously, “I don’t want you to die tonight. The weather report is bad and that place is more secure than Fort Knox when they have these conferences on.”

“That’s my problem.”

“You’re a beautiful girl. What do you want to go back there for anyway? Why don’t you just publish anonymously what you saw on the internet.”

“Anonymously! They’ll pick me up as soon as they can find me. I’m no longer anonymous, softie.”

“You will need to leave the country.”

“I’m going to the hotel and you are supposed to support me.”

“Very well. I’ll drive you to Girvan – about seven miles from here – there is a suitable boat that is moored there. It has a motor and oars. I’ll help you get the boat out into the sea when it’s dark. I assume you want me to come with you?”

“Of course not.”

“I am surprised. Are you sure?”

“Yes. Carry on.”

“You will need to head north and keep close to the cliffs for about five miles. Then you’ll cut the engine and negotiate – with oars –  around a rock that sticks out. The hotel beach is just after.”

She smiled. “Okay.”

“You are a mover.”

“I hope I’ve earned the title,” she said.

She changed the subject. “I need to put something on that keeps me warm and dry, can you help?

“Yes, It may be slightly large but you can have an old one I have. It belonged to an ex girl friend, she left it here. I will check it for any identity tags.”

“Also I need a new mobile. You can take my mobile and lose it somewhere to put them off the scent.”

“I thought of that. I have an old mobile over here but I need to put a blank unconnected Simm card in it”.

“Could you put these two numbers into the list of contacts.” She showed him a number from her pocket diary. “The first one you list as 01 and the second as 02.  Don’t get them mixed up.”  He tapped in the numbers. He passed her over the phone for her and asked, “Where did you conceal my phone number?”

“I kept it hidden here,” she said, putting down the phone and taking off a shoe and removing a sole insert. “What do you want me to do with it?”

“I’ll destroy it,” he said.

“So when do you propose we leave?” she asked after a prolonged silence.

“The longer we leave it, the greater the chance of success, but the more noticeable as night-drivers we will be on the road and the worse the weather will be. It must be your call.”

“If we set off about midnight? I don’t think they will be expecting me,” said Ruth.

* * * *

FInd the girl

At 7pm Bernard Cummings and Daniel Bond went inside the Red Lion in Patna. Two military police sat in their car outside.

“Yes,” said the landlady, a woman came in during that afternoon. She had an orange juice and used the telephone a few times. She was here for about 40 minutes. She was alone most of the time and then she was talking to a tall man with black hair. No he didn’t have a drink so I never spoke to him. He wasn’t there while she made a phone call. I’ve no idea if she left with him.

“After you’ve got the boys to check all the bed and breakfasts and hotels, see if we have any aerial, satellite surveillance around here. Also check the number plate cameras, and see if we have any unusual numbers, or oddities,” said Cummings to the local police officer, and then waited for Daniel Bond. The security man was frittering away his small change in the one man bandit. They then drove back to the Turnbury Hotel.

* * * *

It was approaching midnight. As Phillipe drove Ruth to Girvan the light of the day had gone. Rain splattered the windscreen and from a distance could be heard the low boom of thunder.

“Weather conditions not good,” he said, “If it gets any worse the boat could fill up with water.”

“I’m used to boats,” she said quietly.

“You don’t look like you do.”

“No. Sailed alone a lot when I was young. If you push me out and start the motor off, I should be okay. I’ve only got to follow the cliffs until I get to a beach with a golf course.”

Phillipe felt like he wanted to be gallant and it was beginning to make her feel uncomfortable.

She said, “You go off somewhere with my phone, connect the battery and make phone calls. That will confuse anyone who’s trying to trace me. That’s really what I want you to do.”

“I could connect your phone to its battery and put it in a plastic bottle or something and let it float off down the river.”

“We don’t want to suggest I’m heading for the sea.”

But Phillipe had already come up with a better idea. He pulled into a transport cafe. He asked at the counter if the girl knew of any trucks that were going South soon, as he was desperate for a lift. She referred to a driver tucking into his food at the end of the room.

“Charlie’s in the Eddie Stombard wagon. He’ll be off in about 15 minutes.”

“Great,” said Phillipe. “I’ll come and have a word with him in a minute,” and he left the cafe. Quickly, he found gaffer tape from the tool box in his boot, connected the battery to Ruth’s mobile, and taped it to the bottom of this truck. He felt quite damp as he got back in and started the car.

“it’s not going to Girvan, but to Leicester,” he said. “And it’s due to set off in about 10 minutes.”

* * * * *

On the tail

At 12/50 Cummings phone rang to tell him that they were getting a global location positioning on Ruth’s phone. It seemed to be in a vehicle travelling south on the B742. There was no data that she had used it, but the mobile had received a couple of calls, neither of which had been replied to. The calls were from Francis and her mother.

“Get the sky cameras tracking it. Get a car, track it and stop it,” he said and ending the call.

“She’s put the battery back in her mobile?” said Cummings to himself. “Why now?”

* * * *

Phillipe drove down a tarmaced slip road that lead down to the beach. He knew many people in Girvan who owned boats. An ideal one was housed only metres away from the sea here. “Stay in the car until I wave,” he told Ruth. Getting an enormous sized pair of metal-cutters out of the hatchback he walked off down the beach.

In the blustery wind and rain, Phillipe cut the chain of the padlock locking the rolling roof of a rotting boathouse. Once the chain was removed, as quietly as he could, he rolled the roof back to reveal a small boat sitting on a trolley. He rejected the idea of donning the rubber waders that were in the shed. They would restrict his movements and he might leave DNA. Checking there were no more chains or restrictions he hauled the boat and trolley down to the sea. He waved to Ruth to join him.

He pushed the boat out to a three feet depth, leaving it in the confused state between grounded and sea borne. He attached one end of rope to the boat, the other end to a metal pole and firmly spiked it in the sand. He decided to return the trolley to the shed, so that aerial surveillance would not pick it up. Ruth then waded into the sea – lifting her arms above the lapping waves. As soon as she had clambered in, he released the rope and pushed the boat several feet further so that the sea took the weight. “Hold on to those oars, don’t lose those,” he shouted.

It was raining and blustery.

She pulled the cord on the motor. Nothing happened. She tried again. She breathed a sigh of relief when the engine took up the spark at the second attempt.

He wanted to shout ‘Good Luck’, but restrained himself. He silently waved her off, and then walked discretely in the shadows back to his car. He then drove a thirty mile detour back to his house.

* * * *

In the drenching rain, Ruth steered her vessel out into the vast Firth of Clyde and then turned northwards.

She was in another world. Immersed in a heavy good quality waterproof walking jacket, she had her arms folded about her, bracing herself against the wind. The waxing moon, in its last quarter, was mainly obscured by rain clouds, but occasionally its light broke through and illuminated her, a noble Goddess on the prow of a Viking boat, her hair blowing back before disappearing into the dark night. The moonlight often came out and froze her but these random shafts of light only made her aware how conspicuous and vulnerable she was as the boat made a bee line along the coast to the beach of the Turnberry hotel.

* * * *

“It’s a HGV vehicle sir. We following it now, right behind it,” said Malcolm.

“Are you in a vehicle?”

“Yes, the superintendent let us use one.”

“Put on the siren and stop the wagon. Let me know what happens.”

“Will do,”

Cummings rubbed his unshaven chin. He thought this was a trick by the clever little bitch. Why had she put her battery back in her phone and then not used it? That seemed very odd.

Five minutes later his suspicions were confirmed.

“She ‘s not in the articulated wagon, sir. We opened it the back of the lorry but there were cartons of furniture in there.  We put a hand tracker on and it would seem on further investigation we think the phone is somewhere underneath the lorry, Terry’s under there now with a torch.”

“Yes, okay. You’ll find it stuck to the bottom.” He ended the call.

Cummings was now certain – for the first time – that Ruth was a serious terrorist. Nevertheless, this realisation was not what he had hoped. The stakes were suddenly higher and he had a dearth of ideas on what to do next. How could he get to this dangerous bitch? And what was her plan?

Something about Ruth disturbed him. He couldn’t quite get into her head. He didn’t really understand her purpose.

How could anyone be hostile to a world government think-tank trying to solve the problems of the world’s future, future, future technologies? Wasn’t it obvious to any intelligent person that the world had no choice but to progress with better and better technologies. Things could never be go back to the country idyll. To jettison existing technologies would lead to chaos, economic destitution, starvation and war. Once something is out of Pandora’s box it can never be put back. Yes, to go forward with untested technologies was utterly dangerous. But you must when you’ve got a tiger on your tail – he accepted totally that present technology and its inherent problems had become a man eater. You can’t go backwards, you MUST run forwards. Treading water was death. New technologies are created to fix the fuck ups of the old ones, surely everyone knew that the road forward was an ever-diminishing availability of choices, a contracting conical spiral staircase that we climb. if we get it wrong, we’ll all be dead, but there was no other choice. For some reason this bitch reminded him of his wife. That cow, and she had gone and married a lefty teacher.

* * * *

Storm

The sea had become choppier and the rain had increased its fervour. The rumble of thunder had returned, and the ever increasing appearance of lightning turned the sea into frame after frame of black frozen magma.

She switched off the engine, and the boat seemed to rock even more. Her feet were immersed in water that was beginning to flood the bottom of the boat.

She changed her mind and decided to leave the engine on, she didn’t think anyone would hear it in this squall.

But suddenly a bone-shaking boom tore through the sky rapidly pursued by three flashes of forked lightning, and then more booms followed, crashing on some distant anvil struck by Neptune himself.

The spirit of each wave took umbrage against its neighbour.  Under the eerie black sky each peak was topped by the next eddy of turbulence. Chaos splashed to new heights. Storm was the shower of death; anger soaking itself to the soul. From the Cliffs came the explosion of liquid mass against rock. The sea-god was taking no prisoners. The spray and miasma must vanquish the moon and stars. The lighthouse looked imperturbably on, seeing nothing, not being seen and helping no one, pathetic in its man-made impotence.

She fired the engine, but this time two, three and four attempts failed to start it.

In the spume, the boat began to fill with water. She rowed for her life.

Like an ambulance escaping a barrage in the First World War, the boat came round the final cliff, slowly, slowly, ever so slowly.

The cruel cold sea –  the biggest thing on the planet – demanded attention. Everyone knew her well, knew her tricks and everyone hated her when she behaved like this.

* * * *

She was now only a quarter of a mile away from the sand at the back of the hotel golf course. The engine off, she rowed until the boat began to chaff the sand. She slipped off the boat with great dexterity, making little noise and no splash. She pulled the boat along behind her, until it was sitting virtually on sand, with little risk of the waves returning it involuntarily to the sea. She wouldn’t be here long, the tide would not steal her boat, nor leave her stranded.

Then as she turned back to the hotel an amazing thing happened. Forked lightning spread all over the sky, followed almost instantaneously by an enormous boom. Suddenly the whole of the hotel, which had had a few bedroom lights on and outer lights went completely dark. The hotel could be seen in the distance as a dark silhouette, occasionally picked out when the clouds parted to allow moonlight through.

She looked around for movement, for figures, for guards, for dogs. She could see nothing.

In the pouring rain she slowly made her way up the beach, and onto the golf course. She tried to obscure herself in the best way she could from the windows of the hotel, although at times this was impossible, and here she got down on the ground and crawled, forcing herself to move very slowly. Eventually she closed in on  the back face of the hotel, There were still no signs of life, although she could hear some shouting. That the lightning had put out the electricity in the hotel was too much to hope for! Technological breakdown!

She had left the golf course now and was coming over the heather patch that stood between the course and the hotel. She stood against the tree that where Francis had been flirting with her the previous afternoon. She placed her hands around the middle of the tree, a metre from its base and massaged it. Eventually she found a loose piece of bark. Flickers of moonlight gave her occasional assistance, but most of her extraction was done by touch. She took off the evenly carved rectangle of wood from the tree and removed a vacuum flask that had been concealed behind it. She removed her necklace and by a sense of touch placed the key inside the top of the flask. When the cup had been removed she placed two battery like objects in a pocket. She unscrewed the top of the flask and pulled out two clear plastic bags with soft material inside. She put the flask together, leaving it unlocked, and put it back in the tree. She replaced the covering bark.

Her plan had been to phone Francis to get her in through a window, or some other entrance, but now, convinced there had been a power cut, she thought she might be able to just go in the main entrance. Nevertheless it was more risky than mobiling Francis.

It was still a night of dark deep shadows and no lights, so she decided to run up to the building. She tried a side door. It was locked. As she went round to the front she gradually heard a voice getting louder. As she got closer she realised someone was making a phone call.

“Everything’s still down. We’re trying to get the generator going, but its not been used for years and we’ve got James and Emerson looking at it. It’s terribly embarrassing. Fortunately as most people are asleep, they may not find out about it. Yes, Mr. Coultard, I’ll come down to your office, it may take me a little while in the dark.”

He had gone and left the entrance unguarded. She slipped round corners, her eyes aware of any figure or obstacle, but there was no one around. She went through into the marble foyer. Of course all the lifts would be out of action but Hornnbeam had taken her up the stairs this morning. She could remember. Past the colonades, up the left, through an archway and up the stairs. And then round again to look over into the Evolutionary Seminar Chamber. There in the dark, Nietzsche hung in his dark and solid gold. Listening intently for any danger, she hauled herself up on the balustrade and pulled the soft plastacine material out of the clear plastic bags. She attached one ball of the material in between his buttocks and the other under his left armpit as his head was out of reach.

Suddenly rapid footsteps were behind her, she almost lost her balance. She quickly turned.

A dark figure spoke. “Goodness I thought you were another statue standing up there! Do you know where the toilets are? I can’t find any lights, and I’m not quite sure where I am,” said the woman.

The voice was recognisable, but she couldn’t place it. “There’s a bathroom just around the corner,” said Ruth gently, pointing, having committed the navigation of this part of the hotel to memory.

“Thank you, Ruth. You are such a pretty girl,” she said, and walked off. Ruth surmised it must have been the woman in the Stagioni bar this morning when they talked to the scientists.

Ruth quickly took out the battery shaped detonators and placed each one firmly in the putty balls.

Ruth slipped her feet back on to the ground and began to descend the stairs. More feet were heard downstairs. She kept slipping into shadows as figures would go by, shouting orders to each other. As she came within eye view of the reception her heart raced. A lot more figures were standing talking to each other, effectively blocking her exit.

She had a big decision, the most difficult of her life. Should she go and find a safe corner and fire the detonators and die, and execute her orders, or try and escape before she fired the detonators? If she got caught her mission would be discovered and her mission would have failed.

* * * *

The finding

There was no way she was going to get out. She went back upstairs and went into the public bathroom.  Fortunately, the woman had gone by now. Ruth went into one of the cubicles, locked it and sat down. She got out her mobile phone and found the two numbers that Phillipe had put on for her. O1 was for Francis, in case she needed his help to get her in the building. 02 was to detonate the Semtex. She tried to empty her mind of all thoughts, and all emotions, but her mother’s face kept coming back to her. She wrestled and wrestled with moment. She had to do it now, if she left it any longer, the whole plan would fail and her life would be meaningless.

Instantly she pressed the 02 number. It came up on the screen.

“Hello Superman, meet Superwoman, Angel of Death,” she whispered.  She pressed the green button, and let the mobile fall to the floor.

But nothing happened. There was no explosion. The mobile was making noises, she picked it up. “Hello? Who is that? Is this to do with the power cut?”  A man’s voice.

“Hello Francis,” she said, her voice shaking.

“Ruth? Good heavens. How is your mother?”

“Mum’s alright. I’ve come back to the hotel, and I’m a bit of bother. Do you think you could rescue me, without telling a soul about it?”

“They said you were a terrorist,” he laughed.

She laughed too.

“Come up to my room.”

“I don’t know where it is.”

“where are you?”

“I’m on the first floor in the bathroom near the Evolutionary Seminar Chamber, but I don’t want anyone to find me. In fact I’d really like to get out of here. Can you get me out of the hotel without being seen.”

“I don’t know. I’ll come and bring you up here. I won’t say anything. I’ll call you on this number when I’m outside the bathroom. You should be alright because there’s a power cut.”

* * * *

Cummings had eventually gone to bed in his room on the third floor of the hotel. It was a room for security services, and so it was not ostentatious in any way, but it was comfortable. Nevertheless. He kept waking. He was disturbed. Something was not right. That bitch must have allies around here. She had somehow disappeared into the water table of the locality. After Patna, there had been no sign of her. All the hotels and B&Bs had been checked. Car registrations, odd vehicles had come up with either nothing or far too many to check. Where had she gone? What was her plan? He remembered his wife. Silly cow. Were they going to strike the hotel? Were they going to mortar it from a few miles away in the early morning. It seemed a good plan for the enemy.

He got out of bed, he needed a pee and was a bit sweaty anyway.

But he couldn’t get out of his head the idea that Ruth was likely to return. Yet that would be stupid. Maybe not with this power cut. But she would never get in unobserved.

* * * *

Minutes later Ruth got a tremor on her mobile. Ruth went straight out. Francis grabbed her and tried to kiss her, but she whispered insistently they move to his room. He led her up two staircases until they reached the floor they had been on that morning. Soon she was back in the suite from which she had taken Nietzsche’s book. As soon as the door was locked she allowed Francis to show his affection, and she reciprocated with hugs and kisses.

“You’re not really a terrorist, are you?” he said. She couldn’t quite see his face in the dark.

“Of course not, but that’s not the point, they think I am, and that’s just as bad.”

“Come to bed,”

“Alright. Make it quick. I really do need to get out of here.”

They went into the sumptuous bedroom and tore each others clothes off with no foreplay. They went at each other like animals, like gladiators to the death, like discord to concord, like tension to entropy. They made a lot of noises in the process.

“I’m going to tell you something,” said Francis looking down, he could just make out her beaming face.

“We need to get up and go,” she said.

“I’m a socialist, you know,” he said seriously.

“Great. I don’t suppose there’s any hot water in the system is there?”

“There might be, but without electricity at least they cant bug or video us in here.”

“I’m going to have a wash, then we must go. You must come with me.”

“I have some great socialist contacts all round the world,” said Francis. “I never went on the miner’s strike but I used to support it.”

She had pulled herself to the end of the bed. “But have you heard of The Unabomber Manifesto and the Freedom Club’s ‘Enslavement of the soul’, or Heidegger and ‘Enframing’?”

“No. What are those?”

“Interesting bits of philosophy, but not now. You’ll have to give me your contacts later.” She went off into the Baroque bathroom with her clothes. About eight minutes later she returned dressed. Francis was not there. Then he suddenly came bursting in.

“I’ve been told the lights are going back on in about five minutes by one of the caretakers. Let’s go. I’ll lead the way.”

She grabbed her walking jacket, flung in on and followed him out the door.

“You must come with me,” she said, “I have a boat.”

“A boat? You’re mad. Okay, let’s have a look at it.”

He led the way, exactly as planned. Luckily no one seemed to around at 4.30am, despite the urgent need to get the electricity fixed. She was buzzed down each stair case, and then after a slight delay, when Francis was spoken to by one of the electricians, she came down and they both fled out into the blustery night.

* * * * *

Cummings, despite feeling desperately tired, decided he needed to wander the corridors. He was short on ideas, and just the nature of going on the beat and taking observation would make him feel more secure in himself, something was definitely amiss. Perhaps he should check on Francis’s bedroom. That would be the only place that this woman would be able to go to.

He heard a noise as he came down to the second floor, but when he looked over the balustrade he saw nothing. This did not increase his confidence. He followed the noise down the stairs, but once again, he saw nothing. The front door had been left open, which at this time of the morning was strange, but he knew he had men posted around the building.

He went back up to Francis’s bedroom. The door was ajar and, without knocking, he went in. As he did so the light came on. The electricity was back on again. There was a smell of roses, women’s scent. He felt deeply worried. He checked the bedroom, the duvets were disheveled all over the mattress. He found something on the floor. He picked it up.

* * * *

Ruth and Francis got to the boat. Francis laughed at it. “Do you expect me to get into that.”

“That’s how I got here and it was dark and stormy then. The sea has calmed down, and the light is now coming up. Let’s go. Oh my God!”

“What’s wrong?”

“I haven’t got my mobile.”

“Oh sorry. I took it out while you were in the bathroom. I was going to bluetooth those Socialist contacts of mine on to your phone but got sidetracked when I heard the caretaker calling my name. I went out to see what he wanted and I forgot to put it back in your coat.”

Ruth was incandescent. “We must go back to the hotel! We must go fucking back!”

* * * *

As Cumming pressed the green button on the Ruth’s mobile to call 01, he made a connection in a split second, and then he began to completely disintegrate. At the same moment, half of the hotel blew to smithereens and much of the gold in Nietzsche’s statue melted, splashing all over the building rubble and the golf course. A moment later, two people rowed away on the dawn tide.

 

13,899 words

THE END

 

 

 

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