Chapter 30 – MI6
Sir Geoffrey Milton, known as Milt, to his friends had the job that most people would know as ‘M’ in the James Bond movies. He was Head of MI6, the British Secret Service. Milt was dressed for his Sunday morning round of golf and enjoying a breakfast of poached eggs and bacon with his wife at his home in Hampstead, North London. His blackberry buzzed. He answered, ‘Yes, Charles?’
It was his personal private secretary speaking in his clipped Etonian accent, ’Sorry to disturb, bit of a flap on with the Americans, Cultural Liaison wants urgent at office this AM, bit of a bore, but given absolute priority, car on its way.’
‘Any idea what it’s all about?’
‘Sorry wouldn’t say on phone, bye.’
The maid came in and said that his car was waiting.
He kissed his wife and asked if she would cancel the golf this morning, said he hoped to be back for lunch. She looked up from the Sunday Times, offered her cheek for the kiss, and said of course. Forcing a smile. It was often like this.
His wife was holding the broadsheet newspaper open and reading something inside so he could clearly see the front page headline:
Double Murder in Hampshire
Milt wondered if this meeting with the Americans was something to do with that. Even though listening to Charles his PA was sometimes like listening to a machine gun talk, his staccato words wasted nothing. The words absolute priority however, were not used lightly. They meant this was something the Americans were treating with the utmost seriousness, and would not be requesting an urgent meeting with the Head of MI6 without good reason. His regular driver, opened the heavy rear door of the unmarked Jaguar, he had placed newspapers neatly on the back seat.
Milt got in the back seat and the driver closed the reinforced steel door with its double thick bullet proof glass behind him.
Milt saw immediately that the headline in this edition of the Sunday Times had changed. He had the first editions delivered to the house, this must be a later edition. The headline now read:
Woman beheaded in Hampshire
Now Milt understood what absolute priority meant. His first thought was this maybe a terrorist incident related to Islamic extremists.
He called Charles, and said, ‘Please ask Ahmed to join us.’
‘Already here, see you in 10, bye.’
When Milt arrived at his office, Charles was already seated at the conference table with Ahmed. Ahmed Ipicki was the Head of Islamic Affairs at MI6. They were drinking coffee with two American visitors. One he recognised as Wayne DiBello the Head of the CIA in Britain, whose official title was Cultural Liaison. The other man he did not recognise, but he was so obviously American. He was a tall good looking black-man who when he stood and shook hands with a very firm handshake introduced himself as Mat.
Without asking, Charles poured coffee for Milt, added milk and sugar and stirred. The Americans were both dressed in business suits but with open necked shirts, while Charles and Ahmed were casually dressed in polo shirts and jeans. Milt was still in his golf clothes.
‘Milt I’m sorry to drag you in on a Sunday’, Wayne DiBello began but without looking sorry at all, ’but we have a situation we need your help on. ‘I have read the morning papers,’ to emphasise his point Frank produced a copy of the Sunday Chronicle from his briefcase and indicated the beheading headline, ‘so I can understand why you invited Dr. Ipicki to the meeting. But this has nothing to do with this incident, and on a need to know basis, I would request that Dr. Ipicki may have better things to do today.’
It was not at all subtle, Milt thought, but Ahmed got the hint, and stood up and said politely ‘I’ll leave you gentlemen to it’, and taking his coffee, closed the door behind him. Milt noticed that he had not shaken hands with the Americans before he left. Now this was intriguing, he thought, nothing to do with the beheading and nothing to do with Islamic extremists obviously.
Wayne continued, ‘we have been tracking some unusual activity, and we have reason to believe that an event happened about the time of those murders yesterday.’
Wayne looked across at his colleague as a prompt for him to begin speaking. Mat cleared his throat and then began in a confident New Jersey accent, ‘NASA has been working with Dr Keith Maxwell on a project to monitor some activity from deep space. We believe that yesterday at the time and place of the murder incident there was also some unusual activity that we cannot yet explain.’
Charles was the first to react, his highly active brain worked much faster than most people, ‘so you have assets monitoring UK airspace?’
Milt had been thinking the same thing, this meant the Americans were actually monitoring activity in the UK from space. However this was not the time to bring this up, to smooth over the situation he interjected, ’what type of activity?’
Mat continued smoothly ignoring Charles comment, ‘the activity was a short burst of radiation, a particular type of particles, which seemed to occur on the exact spot at Hazeley Common where the murders took place yesterday.’
Charles shuffled some notes he kept in a folder he carried, ‘O yes, the Police reports say they found a scientific instrument at the murder scene, apparently it was a Geiger counter for measuring radiation.’ Charles typed on his iPad and put the tablet on the table so everyone could see a picture of the scientific instrument. Next to the image was a label saying Hampshire Police X555-866-A23. Charles said grandly, ‘I understand that this is a particularly sophisticated Geiger counter.’
Mat replied a little more smugly than was really necessary, ‘Geiger counters are used on earth, the radiation we are talking about can only be detected from space assets.’ Implying we have them, you don’t Brit. Mat locked Charles with a hostile stare.
Wayne continued in a much more conciliatory tone, ‘the work that Dr Keith Maxwell had been doing with NASA is vital work and we would like to examine the site at Hazeley Common and urgently to speak to Dr. Keith Maxwell. We know nothing about the murders, and we have no reason to believe that the two incidents are connected’.
Wayne and Mat drained the last of their coffee and stood up to leave. The four men stood, to shake hands. Charles said, ‘promise to pull strings and keep you informed’ as he shook hands with Mat reluctantly.
Wayne said to Milt, ‘sorry about your round of golf’, looking at his golf club sweater, ’we must have a few holes one day’.
Milt replied, ‘Yes I’d like that’. He thought it would be a good opportunity to ask about those space assets monitoring the UK.
As Charles escorted the Americans out of the building, Milt was left alone in his office. He poured himself another cup of coffee and reached for the copy of the Sunday Chronicle that Wayne had left behind. He read the article by Cathy Murphy and made a mental note to check her file.
He was startled by Charles opening the office door. Charles had a way with doors, he opened them like his spoke, he just sort of crashed through them in a rapid manner as if opening them wasted valuable time. He glanced across at Milt as he sat reading the newspaper, and as usual he was three steps ahead of him.
‘Pulled Cathy Murphy’s file this morning, no previous, worked at Chronicle for about 10 years, rising star, expected to be winner of journalistic prize this year.’ In the machine gun delivery of Charles’ words, Milt’s brain registered that ‘no previous’ had meant that she had no previous or pending convictions. MI6 kept routine tabs on all leading journalists.
Charles continued, ‘Put in call to the Met CC will call you on secure in 5’. With that Charles crashed back out the door, closing it with gusto behind him.
Within 3 minutes, the Chief Constable of the Metropolitan Police was speaking to Milt on a secure private line. Now there were some new code words being used.
Milt said, ‘We have an interest in that double murder incident in Hampshire’.
The word interest used by the Head of MI6 told the UK’s most Senior Policeman that there was a National Security issue involved in the case. It meant that all non-criminal matters would be handed over to the control of MI6. The call was polite, business like and brief. As the Chief Constable hung up, Milt heard a second click, as Charles listening in the next room, also hung up.
Two minutes later the Met CC called back, and was immediately put through by Charles. He said to Milt, ’I have informed the Hampshire Chief Constable of your interest’, the Chief Constable emphasised the word interest, ‘ and you are to contact Detective Inspector Amit Chakrabarti who is in charge of the murder enquiry.’ Again the call was polite and brief.
When the call ended, Milt was expecting the second click, but instead Charles’s voice came on the line, ‘Detective Amit Chakrabarti recently promoted to Detective Inspector, joined from West Midlands Police about 2 months ago. No previous. On my way to meet. Enjoy rest of Sunday.’ Milt heard the phone line click and then a door slam as Charles left the adjacent office.