Just Another Normal Operation (Normal Days II)

Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Ros had increasingly less patience for the lunatics who thought they could drive through the red traffic light, causing accidents and traffic jams of legendary proportions. She drummed on the steering wheel impatiently, waiting for the cars in front of her to speed up again so that she could get to work, preferably before she had wasted the entire morning here. She was already running late. Well, technically she was not too late, but Lucas and she had agreed to come into work early to see if they could find out something more about the Sugarhorse operation. Harry had not felt up to sharing, but Ros was not about to go and let her boss face all the trouble on his own, not when he had done so much for her. Good grief, she didn't know of much people who would employ her after involvement in a failed coup, never mind her betrayal with Yalta. Harry had given her a second chance and that had gained him her loyalty. And that meant that she would not leave him to deal with this Sugarhorse mess all on his own.

Ros more or less expected to see a text from Lucas on her phone, to ask where she was and if she was all right, because she was not yet on the Grid, but her mobile was silent and no texts or calls came in. The traffic jam finally ended and Ros hit the gas to make up for lost time. She parked in the garage and with some interest, but also mild alarm, noticed that neither Harry's nor Lucas's cars were there. They too could be caught up in traffic, but Ros rather doubted it. Harry practically lived in Thames House these days and Lucas was an insomniac, who usually was up before the larks and was on the Grid before the sun even started to rise. Both their absence could just be a coincidence, but Ros Myers had been in the Service for far too long to believe in that. She needn't panic necessarily – and goodness knew she usually didn't do panic – but a feeling in her gut told her something was wrong.

She was proven right when she emerged on the Grid and found Internal Security swarming all over the place, installing a device that looked remarkably like a mobile listening device to the wall. Malcolm, Connie and Ben were either perched on the edges of desks, or – in Malcolm's case – were standing with arms folded across their chests radiating disapproval at what was going on. In the background the newsreader was chattering on about the American's latest foolish notion to place a missile defence shield in Eastern Poland and the Russians' predictably furious reaction to that, after which he continued to report the death of the Russian Foreign Minister, someone called Alexander Borkhovin, who had died of a heart attack last night.

Ros recognised trouble when she happened upon it and those two incidents were as likely to be separate incidents as she was to ever be a people's person. The fact that the Prime Minister had gotten himself involved in this mess by backing up the White House in the missile defence shield issue now meant that Britain was as much involved in this as the United States were. And this all just so happened to coincide with Harry and Lucas's disappearing act and Internal Security taking over the Grid. That was unlikely to be coincidence either. It still did not truly explain what Internal Security had to do with it all.

When I expose the mole, all hell will break loose, both here and in Russia. Harry's words as he briefed Lucas and her about Sugarhorse came back to her now. Hell had broken loose in Russia already and, by the looks of things, something had gone pear-shaped here as well. Good grief, Harry, what have you done? Sugarhorse must be involved in this all somehow, but Ros had too little information to go on to really be able to work out what to do.

Sort out your priorities, Myers, she snapped at herself. Stop wool-gathering and get a move on. You've got a crisis to contain.

Her mental reprimand helped to snap her out of her state of shock, even if she would rather die than admit to being shocked by anything. So she marched over to whatever was present of her team and barked the first question she could think off at the intelligence analyst. 'Where's Jo?' If this was truly about Sugarhorse, as she was by now strongly suspecting, than they might be out to do something to that end, but Jo wasn't in on the whole thing. There was no logical explanation for her disappearing act.

Connie bristled at the tone of voice. 'I don't know, Ros,' she said indignantly. 'Do you know where Lucas and Harry are?' Some concern coloured her voice now – she was just as thrown off balance by what now looked like the mysterious disappearance of almost half the team as Ros herself was – and that stopped the Section Chief from exploding altogether.

'Try their phones,' she ordered. 'I'll call Jo.' She didn't wait for Connie's nod, but dug up her phone and all but stabbed her younger colleague's number into it.

The phone rang twice before it was answered. 'Jo Portman.' The owner of that name sounded far too relaxed for this situation, which drove Ros's blood even closer to boiling point than it already was. God help her if the junior officer had just overslept.

'Red-flash,' she barked into the mobile phone. 'We seem to be visited by the in-laws just as we have a sodding crisis to contain.' She was well aware that everything she said would be recorded and analysed, which was why she would need to keep this brief. She would save the shouting for later.

There was a short disbelieving silence on the other end. 'Ros, are you serious?' The incredulity in her voice could probably be picked up by a deaf man.

'Do I sound like I am bloody well joking?' Ros snapped. If only she were.

'Sorry, I didn't mean it like that,' Jo hastily apologised. 'It's just…'

But Ros didn't have the time to listen to apologies right now, or to Jo's naïve chattering about how she didn't understand what Internal Security was doing on the Grid. 'I need you here now,' she pointed out. 'We'll discuss this later.' The same was true for the discussion about how to read the time from a clock, so that she would be on time in future.

'Yes, I'm on my…'

Ros had hung up on her before she could finish that sentence, just in time to hear the pods whoosh. She swivelled around, only to see Richard Dolby emerging from them with a face like thunder. He hardly spared her a glance as he turned right for Harry's office. The link, she thought. He's the link. Richard Dolby would have the authority to bring Internal Security down on them and he had been one of the three spies who had created Sugarhorse. When I expose the mole, all hell will break loose, both here and in Russia. That prediction had certainly come true.

And she was not going to be left in the dark. So she turned and marched after Dolby. 'Would you like to explain to me why your technicians are fixing a mobile listening device to our wall while we're trying to deal with a major diplomatic crisis?' she demanded. She tried, she really tried, to keep her anger out of her voice, but it was a battle she was doomed to lose before she had even begun to fight it. Richard Dolby was a little shit, whose common sense seemed to have abandoned him around the same time as he ceased to be a field officer and went behind a desk. The fact that he never passed up an opportunity to try and discredit her – in which he never succeeded; trying to win a battle of words against Ros Myers was not something very many people could pull off – did not make her like him any better.

He now stopped and turned to her. 'The short answer is that I suspect your boss of the most serious betrayal in the history of this organisation.' He snapped the words at her in anger, as if she somehow was to blame for all of this, but she thought she could detect an amount of smugness underneath it that made her skin crawl. 'Harry is being investigated under suspicion of being an FSB mole.'

Harry, a mole? Her first impulse was to laugh in the man's face at the sheer absurdity of the very idea. Harry hated Russians with a passion. He had been thwarting their plans and schemes for most of his working life, so for him to suddenly turn his back on everything he had believed in for so long, that was just not done. Harry Pearce was not the kind of man to ever act in such a fashion. Ros knew him rather well by now and that was one of the few things she was absolutely certain of.

'That is impossible,' she managed to croak out as the shock started to replace the urge to laugh hysterically.

'That is entirely possible.' Dolby leaned over and all but spat the words in her face. Ros had to suppress the urge to step back to avoid any possible accompanying saliva from ending up in her hair and face. 'And in his absence, I am taking control of this section. I expect all officers to observe protocol. You work as normal and you report directly to me. And while we continue investigations, all your communications will be recorded and analysed by Internal Security.'

Guilty by association, you mean. Ros had to work hard not to let that accusations, as well as several scathing put-downs concerning Dolby's state of mind and parentage, cross her lips. The shock was well and truly settling in now and she was cold, even though the central heating worked as normal, probably one of the few things that was, she observed wryly. The rest seemed to have gone belly-up somewhere between last night and now.

'This team is utterly loyal to Harry Pearce,' Ros said. She hated the fact that she seemed to have lost the capability to speak in anything louder than a whisper around the same time Dolby had told her about Harry's supposed betrayal. She did not believe for one second that there was any truth to this accusation. Someone, the traitor Harry had mentioned a few days ago, must have set him up. It was the only bloody explanation that made any sense. Dolby himself might even be the mole, even if she could not for the life of her figure out why he would do such a thing. 'You cannot expect them to hear that information and carry on as if nothing has happened.' The shocked faces behind her told her all she needed to know. They were not even aware of how serious this truly was, but already they were confused and maybe even a little scared. Heaven knew even Ros was close to being afraid of what was happening and everyone who knew her could tell that the Section Chief didn't do scared.

'I do not believe that Alexander Borkhovin died of a heart attack.' Dolby, Ros observed, reminded her of a vicious dog planning on ripping her throat out. 'I think the Russians are up to something and until you find out what it is and how it relates to this crisis, I don't want to hear another word.'

That must be the first and quite possibly the last thing Ros Myers and Richard Dolby ever agreed on, but this was hardly the time to celebrate that glorious fact. Quite the contrary actually. It was possibly for the best that Dolby left her where she stood while he marched into Harry's office – blasphemy in and out of itself – and slid the door forcefully shut, as to emphasise that he was shutting her out. Just for this once Ros didn't mind not being admitted into the office; there was nothing she would hate more than to share the space with that bloody man.

She took a deep breath and turned back to her colleagues. The whole world had turned upside down and had ceased to make sense today, but with Harry being interrogated by only God knows who and in heaven only knew what way – and that was a subject she could not afford to let herself think about for fear she might start to scream if she did – she was in charge and there was panic enough as it was. If she lost her composure, then all chances of ever getting to the end of this crisis and proving that Harry was not the traitor he was made out to be were practically non-existent. She felt as if the weight of the world had been loaded onto her shoulders.

'Harry's been arrested,' she announced. And even if it is the last thing I do, I will get him out. She had promised that she would give anything he might need when he had briefed her about Sugarhorse and she meant it. The current crisis might have to take precedence, but she would put an end to this nonsense first chance she got.

'Do they have any evidence against him?' Ben sounded doubtful about that himself, as if he did not really believe it himself, with good reason of course.

'I very much doubt it,' Ros said dismissively. Proof there might be, because even Dolby would not act without some evidence, but she did not think that it was genuine. 'We'll be kept under surveillance. Our orders are to work as normal, but to report to Richard Dolby.'

'That's ridiculous.' Connie voiced the sentiment Ros herself felt.

But she could not and would not allow that sentiment to rule her actions and so she slapped it down. 'Whatever we may feel, we need to work out what the Russians' next move is before they know it themselves and we start by finding out if that man's death,' she pointed at Borkhovin's face, that was splashed all over the television screen still, 'has anything to do with this.' She went on to give orders. It helped to do something that was so familiar. Right now focusing on this operation stopped her from going to pieces. Harry was arrested for treason and Lucas was heaven only knew where and she felt forlorn. Everything now came down to her and as much as she usually relished the chance of being in sole charge, she now found that she did not enjoy it as much as she thought she would.

Connie seemed to have read her thoughts. 'And where's Lucas?' she asked. 'Is he in trouble too?' Ros took it that meant that a call to his mobile had been just as useless as her attempt to make Richard Dolby see sense.

'I have no idea,' she confessed. 'But if anyone hears from Lucas, they let me know immediately.' God give that he at least was somewhere safe.

Arthur would never really get used to being driven around in twenty-first century cars, that moved at a speed that always left Arthur with the feeling his stomach was left behind some miles back. Normally Jo drove reasonably well – meaning: slow – but today she seemed to have copied her Section Chief's driving habits: far too fast and reckless. Whatever had been discussed on the phone, it was serious. Mordred was pale and gave every impression of going to throw up between now and five minutes.

Merlin was the only one who seemed perfectly at ease. He had been jumpy and uneasy for most of the past few weeks, but that unease seemed to have vanished faster than one could say magic the moment he stepped foot in Britain. The king of Camelot could not say what had brought that change about, but it was clear that he felt at home here. Even the impending crisis of a yet unspecified nature did not penetrate the aura of confidence that hung about him now. He was chatting with Jo and ignored Arthur and Mordred on the back seat of the car. Well, at least it was no news that he was ignoring the Druid. Merlin had never liked the lad, because of some prophecy apparently. That matter was not yet resolved.

It was actually one of the reasons he had taken Mordred with him to Camelot. It was high time that Merlin got used to his presence and "exposure" to the future knight might just do the trick. Maybe, he pondered as Jo slowed down to drive the vehicle into the garage under Thames House, Merlin just could not handle the fact that he no longer was the only one with magic to have Arthur's confidence. In that case, he'd better get used to it.

'What has happened?' he questioned as they left the garage and made their way up the stairs. Mordred was looking at his surroundings as if the very walls would jump out to attack him – an attitude Arthur recognised all too well, because he had been exactly like that when he had first come here – but at the moment the crisis would have to take precedence.

Jo shook his head. 'I don't know. I only know that I was red-flashed and that Internal Security has moved in for some reason. I don't know anything else.' The young woman sounded a little anxious and distressed.

Arthur wondered what he knew about Internal Security, but it was very little. All he knew, and that was deducted from Jo's behaviour, was that their presence was apparently bad news. What the hell is going on? His mind's voice sounded a lot like Ros at the moment. This visit sounded less like a good idea by the second.

They emerged from the pods, only to be greeted with chaos. There were a lot of unfamiliar and very unsympathetic looking faces on the Grid, there was some shouting and to top it all off nicely there was an all too familiar man in Harry's office. He was around the same age as the Section head and he had the same dress code as well, but that were the similarities ended. This man looked like he had chewed on something very sour as he was bended over a stack of reports on the desk that Arthur always thought of as Harry's. At first he failed to come up with a name for him, but then he recalled the spy boss he had gotten into an argument with over his treatment of Ros. Richard Dolby had hardly changed in those few months, apart from the fact that he now looked even less friendly than he usually was. And the sight of that man in that office made his skin crawl.

The next thing he noticed was that Lucas was not anywhere in sight either. The officers that were on the Grid were caught up in frantic activity and there was a level of tension that Arthur associated with the time Lucas had been suspected of being a traitor. Connie was glaring at the computer screen in front of her, Malcolm was caught up in a very uncharacteristic heated argument with one of the unfamiliar men that had invaded the Grid and seemed to be preventing him from getting to his own work station. Ben, he now realised, was nowhere to be seen either.

It was almost a relief to find that Ros at least was still where she was supposed to be. The Section Chief was leaning over her desk, looking at the files in front of her as if they had gravely offended her. If they had been living beings, they would have dropped dead from the scowl on her face. It was nothing new to see the Section Chief look at something or someone in that way, but today it only seemed to confirm what the other officers already seemed to suggest was happening.

Jo made a beeline for Ros's desk and there was little choice for him but to follow suit. If he wanted to know what the matter was – and Arthur realised that he indeed wanted to know, even as he regretted having come here today of all days already – then Ros would be the person to ask. The Section Chief was the kind of person who always knew exactly what was going on around her and there was no reason to assume today was any different.

Part of him wished he was home, but another part of him – that part of him that got him into trouble time and again – wanted to help out. It was obvious to anyone with a brain that something somewhere had gone horribly wrong and he owed these people a lot after they had helped him so much.

'What's going on?' he demanded, following Ros's good example of wasting no time on social niceties. She was rubbing off badly on him.

So far she had not noticed their arrival, so when she looked up from whatever it was that she had been doing, there was surprise on her face. But she would not be the Section Chief of Section D if she hadn't known how to handle that and then she turned on Jo. 'What are they doing here?' The tone of voice suggested that she was close to biting the junior officer's head off.

Had anyone else spoken about him in such tones, Arthur would have exploded. But this was Ros and she didn't do polite conversation unless it couldn't be helped. And it was no state secret that she only tolerated their presence as long as they were not in her way. Today, apparently, they very much were.

'We had agreed to visit with Jo and Lucas,' he replied, throwing in his last reserves of patience, which were fading rapidly at not having his questions answered. He got the annoying feeling that his questions were evaded on purpose.

Something flickered in Ros's eyes, but it was gone before it could be identified. 'Have you seen Lucas?'

The alarm in her voice, no matter how well disguised, set Arthur's teeth on edge. Heaven gave that he had not just arrived in time for a repeat performance of Lucas's supposed betrayal. 'We were red-flashed near the portal,' he reported. 'So we assumed we would meet him here. Ros, what is wrong? Where is Lucas?' He glanced at the office again, where Dolby was still enthroned behind a desk that in Arthur's mind never would be his. 'And where's Harry?'

Ros only answered the last one. 'Harry's been arrested under suspicion of being an FSB mole.' She growled the words, stabbing a pen at the papers in front of her as she did so.

It took Arthur a few moments to recall what the FSB was and then his jaw dropped in disbelief. Harry, a spy for the Russians? Even he, not remotely up to date with the latest developments and not too well informed about politics and allegiances in the twenty-first century, would know that Harry was even less likely to betray his country than Arthur was to ever dress up in skirts and declare himself a woman. The very notion was just too ridiculous to consider. 'Harry?' he asked, stupidly wondering if perhaps they were talking about another Harry. 'Harry Pearce?'

Ros cast him a withering glance. 'No, Harry Potter,' she said sarcastically.

Arthur rewarded her for her troubles with a blank look. He didn't think he'd ever heard of anyone by that name and besides, Ros did not sound as if she had really meant what she said. It was just one of her sarcastic put-downs. Nevertheless, the question had already escaped his mouth before he could stop himself. 'Who?'

'Never mind,' the Section Chief said irritably. 'You haven't seen Lucas at all? Heard of him?' She almost sounded cajoling now, but Arthur dismissed that fanciful thought at once. Ros Myers did not plead, ever. She would not suddenly start to do so now, not even now that Harry had been arrested.

Arthur complied with the unspoken request to pull the mobile he had been given for when he spent time in London, out of his pocket. It had taken him some time to learn how to use it and he would never excel at using it, but he did know how to check for texts and missed calls. There were none of those.

'Nothing,' he reported. 'Where is he?'

'What is happening?' Jo asked at the same time.

Naturally it was Jo's question that was answered. What followed was an account of the death of an important Russian official, just as the Russians were running amok over America's plan to place a missile defence shield – Arthur made a mental note to ask Connie, his personal translator for words he did not yet know, what exactly that was – close to their borders. And while Harry was still under investigation, Richard Dolby had apparently taken control of Section D and all officers were now ordered to report to him, another thing that made the king want to hit that man. Arthur had to agree with her that this was unlikely to be a coincidence and he even agreed with her about the need to find out what the hell the Russians were up to before this crisis could truly escalate, but it had not escaped his notice that Ros had so far failed to answer his question of where Lucas was.

Not that he did not have suspicions of his own. The main reason he had even heard of the FSB's existence, was that Lucas had been their "guest" for eight years. And now they came into the picture in relation to Harry being a "traitor" and the Russians getting angry at the United States and Britain. He sincerely hoped Lucas's disappearance did not mean he was spirited away into his own personal hell again, but he also knew that there was a distinct possibility of exactly that happening.

'Where is Lucas?' he repeated for good measure, hoping to get a more satisfactory answer this time.

Ros shook her head wearily. 'I don't know,' she admitted. 'I haven't heard from him since yesterday.' She looked at Jo, Merlin and finally at Mordred. 'Who's that?'

'His name is Mordred,' Arthur replied. 'He'll soon be knighted, so I thought I'd take him with me to get used to London.'

The expression of almost disgust on Ros's face told the king of Camelot what she thought of that decision, but she kept her commentary to herself and turned to Jo and the servant. 'Jo, I want Borkhovin's phone and email records. I want to know everything he said, wrote and thought in the last month and I want it on my desk as soon as possible. Merlin can help you, since he doesn't have anything else to do.' It was good to know that some things never changed and Ros's attitude towards Merlin was one of those things. Her gaze then fell on Mordred, who was as ill at ease as Arthur had ever seen him. 'You just stay out of their way and do something useful if you can.' For some reason she seemed just as hostile towards Mordred as Merlin, although her reasons probably had more to do with him being in her way than the prophecy the warlock could not shut up about. 'And keep them as far away from Dolby as you can. Last thing we need is him poking his nose in that as well.'

Mordred took offence all the same. He shot Ros as withering a glance as she had sent him, but went without as much as a murmur of protest.

Arthur waited until they were gone and then turned back to Ros. She had sent them away so she could talk to him, he suspected that much, and it was a clear sign that whatever alliance they had formed over Operation Camelot was still in existence. 'What is going on?' he asked. If he wasn't careful he would soon lose count of how many times he had asked that question already today. 'Really going on?'

Ros quickly brought him up to speed and left Arthur gawping at the complexity of it all.

'You mean that he was about to expose a traitor and now he is being set up?' It didn't take a great intellect to conclude that the traitor must have been two or more steps ahead and had taken rather drastic measures to prevent Harry from revealing what he knew. 'And Lucas?' Because that was still the big question.

Ros shook her head. 'I don't know where he is,' she repeated. 'He was briefed about Sugarhorse with me. The Russians interrogated him about it, he said, but I don't think he knows anything else. I saw him last night, but have not heard from him since. And he's not answering his bloody mobile either!' The frustration was too obvious to miss. There was worry there as well, which was understandable, since Arthur knew them to be friends.

'Just as Harry is taken prisoner about a matter Lucas knew about,' he concluded, feeling the dread settling comfortably in his stomach. 'Do you think Dolby's taken him as well?'

Ros shrugged helplessly. 'I don't bloody know.' The words came out as a snarl. 'And I can't leave the Grid to find out what happened. I need to contain this crisis first.' It was the well-known job-first-and-everything-else-later-attitude that Arthur found so hard to understand. He knew Ros would never willingly throw Harry and Lucas to the wolves, but she would leave them among enemies if national security was threatened, although she would only do very reluctantly so. Arthur had seen for himself just how far she was willing to go for her colleagues.

But he was not bound by the same rules as the Section Chief was. 'I'll go to his flat to see what I can find out.' A plan was forming in his mind now. He more or less knew the way, although it would take longer by foot than by car. And he did not know what else he could really do without any other clues to go on. Lucas's flat might hold some answers. The one thing he was sure of was that he could not leave his friend in danger, if that was what was the matter here.

Ros seemed to be on the verge of refusing, but then nodded. 'Discreetly,' she instructed. 'I don't want Dolby catching wind of it.'

Arthur simply nodded. 'I will be.'

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