The atmosphere at the MI5 Headquarters at Thames House was thick with frustration. Once again Sir William and his Section Chief felt they had been used by their brothers from the other side of the river. They had not liked being called in in the first place, but had preferred to be kept in the loop rather than stumble upon some major operation unintentionally. Thus they had gone along with the observation of MI6’s target as well as witnessing the exchange.
The bottom had fallen out of the joint operation when the blackmailer had been murdered and the Yanks – and who the hell had called them in? Sir William fumed – had accused them of sloppy conduct. Things had clearly hit the all-low when shadowing the ghost’s girlfriend they found out that they were not the only ones interested here, and that the other party clearly wanted something else the ghost writer had found.
Six, of course, had no idea what they were complaining about – their aim had been reached. There had been a brief moment of satisfaction and even gloating after a call to the PM’s archive revealed that there had been a whole file of papers concerning Sutton-Barr’s business proposals, in other words, Six’s bait had fit right in: “We were told to put the material you gave us into the archive. Obviously we put it with like matter, where else?” The good mood however was sharply dampened when they then found out that not only had the papers been found by civilians who then disappeared from the face of the earth. Not to mention the fact that the bugs and cameras they had installed in the girlfriend’s house had mysteriously been removed by someone who had moved too fast to be caught on tape. So far the tech people were treating it as a mechanical glitch, but Sir William was slowly becoming convinced this whole thing was jinxed.
This morning’s press conference was the final straw, so a meeting had been summoned in order to finally put some order into this whole affair.
The mood at the meeting was extremely tense. It had been called right after the press conference, and since then there had been nothing but fault-pushing going back and forth between MI5 and its international counterpart.
“So, a whole bunch of papers were found concerning a matter which you informed us was so secret that in order to catch your mole you had to fabricate evidence?” The head of hosts inquired ironically.
“Why would you assume that?” Sir Richard Ashby retorted feigning indifference by inspecting a minuscule speck of dust on his immaculately polished shoes.
“Because we found that a third party is interested in what your ghost-writer found and removed before he started his blackmailing. Am I right then in also assuming that not only were we not told the whole truth about what was happening but also left in the dark about who apart from Sutton-Barr was involved?” Sir William Baxter kept up the enraged look, for appearances sake.
“Since when have you known that?”
Sir William looked up in surprise at Ashby’s tone. They really had not known? He caught himself quickly, put on a superior expression and answered coolly that it was their business to know what went on right in front of their eyes. It simply did not do to have historians murdered right on your doorstep after you had put potentially sensitive material – albeit fabricated – into their hands. Truth be told, there had been quite a lot of hectic activity on the grid since the surprising press conference, but Sir William was not about to leave all the intelligence to Six, especially if things happening here were concerned. “You set up this whole shebang. It would have been your responsibility to prevent the mayhem! Murder, arson, and now” – he held up the most recent email his assistant Nicola had just handed him: “Abduction of another history professor! The girlfriend.”
“How do you know that?”
“Well, of course we had her under surveillance!”
“So she was kidnapped right under your nose?” In an amused tone.
“While we were doing your job, if I may remind you.”
Sir Richard lifted his head and reminded his counterpart in a languid tone that he had been told more than once that events on home turf were not his domain.
Sir William took a deep breath and played his trump card. He was not to be censored by Ashby and his cronies again: “Besides, maybe you should take a look at who the investigating officer is. Doe the name Usher ring a bell?”
For a millisecond he could see that that was news to Sir Richard, but the next moment the bored tone was back: “That is neither here nor there. I have already spoken to the Minister. You are required to give us full access to anything you have found out so far, so I’m expecting full cooperation. Now.”
The men stood glowering at each other for a while, each waiting for their phone to ring with the release of some good news.
After three minutes they gave up, and Sir Richard stormed out in a huff.