Read Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger Online

Authors: Stella Rimington

Tags: #Mystery, #Espionage, #England, #Memoir

Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger (8 page)

BOOK: Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger
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But he had recently begun to wonder whether someone was paying him unwanted attention. The telephone in his house had gone out of order and since the line had been restored, he seemed to hear a strange echo in the background whenever he used it; his banker, discreetly located in Lausanne, had told him of an inquiry from France that had been withdrawn when challenged; a
permis de construire
had been issued for a planned extension to his house but only after an inspection of the interior which seemed to be unnecessarily detailed.

Was someone probing his affairs? And if so, who? It might be anyone – including his former employers, of whom it had been said that though you could choose to leave them, you could not guarantee they would leave you.

Conceivably, all this suspect activity could be entirely innocent. When you are on the lookout, you see a lot of shadows. Milraud had been trained long ago to be suspicious of coincidences, but after all, he told himself, one must avoid paranoia. A life of fear was not a life.

The buzzer sounded in the hall. Milraud stepped outside again as the Mercedes rolled quietly to a halt on the apron. The driver got out to open the car’s door.

‘You’re late.’

‘I beg your pardon, monsieur. There was unexpected traffic coming out of town.’

‘Leave earlier next time,’ he said brusquely, and slid smoothly into the cream-coloured luxury of the rear seats for the short journey.

It was a drive of only fifteen minutes to Toulon, where Madame Dipeau would be opening up the shop at any moment. The route took them parallel to the coast for twelve kilometres, and then down into the town. Every few minutes, Milraud turned and glanced out of the back window. Once he saw a telephone company van which seemed to be following them, but it turned off before he could be sure. Shrugging his shoulders, as if to rid himself of unwelcome thoughts, he sat straight in his seat and looked out of the side window as the car swung past the long, arcaded Maison des Cordes, past the elegant pink and white naval headquarters building behind its massive security gates manned by tough-looking sailors, past the great pillared doors of the Musée de la Marine, and into the avenue de la République, where it drew up at the end of a small side street of eighteenth-century buildings, the rue d’Alger.

Here Milraud got out and leaned down to speak through the front window. ‘Come back at twelve,’ he ordered. ‘I am having lunch in Marseilles.’

He walked halfway up the street, through a weathered stone doorway and into the shop where Madame Dipeau was bringing out a pair of fine silver duelling pistols from the vault. She was a widow of indeterminate years, perhaps sixty, possibly seventy-five, who had made herself expert in eighteenth-century weapons. Even more important from Milraud’s point of view, she was careful and discreet.


Bonjour monsieur
,’ she said quietly now, with the nasal twang of the south. ‘There has been a telephone call for you. A Monsieur Donovan. He said he would call again.’


Merci madame
,’ he said, and went to his office in the rear of the shop, closing the door behind him. He turned on the small laptop he had brought with him, for much of the detail of his non-antiques transactions was too sensitive to be arranged on the telephone. Sitting down at his desk with yesterday’s local paper, he lit a Disque Bleu, and waited.

Twenty minutes later the phone on his desk trilled faintly. He picked it up at once. ‘Oui,’ he said.

‘It’s me,’ said the man calling himself Donovan. Though the name was unfamiliar to Milraud, the flat accent was unmistakable. Milraud knew immediately who his caller was.


Bonjour
,’ said Milraud. ‘It’s been a while.’ They had met during a negotiation in Spain several years before, and since then they had kept in touch.

‘Too long. It would be good to meet.’


Oui
?’ said Milraud cautiously.

‘Yes. Were you planning to be over here any time soon?


Franchement non
.’ He’d visited Northern Ireland before Christmas and his next trip was planned for June. Business there was at best intermittent. Certainly not what it had been.

‘That’s a pity.’

‘I can always alter my plans,’ said Milraud, reaching for his diary. He respected Piggott. Piggott didn’t waste time. His own or other people’s.

‘It could be worth your while. I may have some business for you.’

‘Would this be a distance requirement, or close by?’ he said, carefully avoiding any word that might trigger a listening device. He knew the man would understand his meaning.

‘Both, actually. Not a big deal but important to make it happen.’

The best, thought Milraud. He knew what ‘making it happen’ meant, and it would cost the other man. He looked at the open page of his diary. There was nothing he could not cancel or postpone. ‘I can be there the day after tomorrow. How does that sound?’

‘Good. Ring me when you’ve arrived.’ And the other phone went dead.

The next morning Milraud flew business class from Marseilles to Paris, where he broke his journey to visit a small office on the avenue Foch. It was run by a veteran of the trade, a Dr Emil Picard, whose business ran from East Timor to Colombia. Milraud was confident he could fill ‘Mr Donovan’s’ requirements from his own holdings, but some back up was always prudent.

After establishing the position with Dr Picard, Milraud checked into his hotel near the Place de la Concorde, had an excellent dinner in its restaurant, then entertained a visitor from an escort agency in the privacy of his room upstairs.

He continued his journey next day, catching an Aer Lingus flight that landed in Belfast in the early afternoon. He had reserved a car at the airport and he drove it to the Belfast Hilton, a concrete tower right on the River Lagan in the middle of the city, where he had booked a small suite. At precisely five o’clock he phoned a number he had memorised, and arranged a meeting at an office nearby for the following day at eleven o’clock. From his bedroom window, Milraud could just see the street where the meeting would take place. He ignored the magnificent view of the distant hills and drew the curtains. He had work to do.

It would not have been surprising to find an antiques dealer scrutinising the thick catalogue of a recent sale at Bonham’s in London, but if anyone had looked closely, a few of the pages would have seemed at the least odd. The detailed specifications and prices listed there evidently referred to more sophisticated and up to date goods than those listed in the rest of the catalogue. Donovan must be planning something big, Milraud told himself. He mentally added a nought to his own prospective invoice.

13

 

‘We’ve got an Audi saloon, black A6, slowing down. It’s pulled into the car park.’

 

Standing in the Operations Room at Palace Barracks, the A4 controller Reggie Purvis was listening intently. When the speaker had finished, he said, ‘Can you get the number plate?’

‘Victor, Echo, Zulu Seven …’ the voice continued.

Back in the Observation Post in the centre of Belfast, less than ten miles away from the Operations Room, Arthur Haverford listened as Jerry Rayman finished reciting the registration numbers, then gave a large yawn as he put down his binoculars and reached for the cup of tea he had just made.

He was four years past retirement age, and though he’d been delighted to be called back by the service, he was feeling all of his sixty-four years. Still, he told himself, mustn’t grumble; far better to be sitting here than pretending to be enjoying some Golden Age of retirement with Moira, his wife of forty-one years, with his days spent walking the dog in Tulse Hill.

There was a shortage of trained surveillance officers, they’d explained – with the terrorist threat increasing every day, A4 simply didn’t have enough good men to go round. Or women, Arthur told himself, since Maureen Hayes, who was sitting in a car not sixty yards away, could be sensitive about that sort of thing.

He knew they didn’t want him for mobile surveillance; he was too old for that game now. He’d thought he’d just be helping out part-time in London, providing back up when Thames House found itself short of people to man the observation posts. But it had turned out to be more than that – here he was in Northern Ireland of all places, working full-time too until the powers that be could find enough permanent bodies for posting here.

Jerry Rayman was another old lag brought in to help, which suited Arthur as they had worked together in A4 for years. Jerry read a lot and had a quirky sense of humour that helped pass the time. And who knew how long it would last? Enjoy it while you may my son, he told himself, thinking again with relief of those dog walks he was missing.

The two men sat in a room on the second floor of a Victorian brick office building in the middle of Belfast. It had been refurbished and newly leased to a software group that had not yet moved in – and were therefore happy to rent out a single office at the front for the temporary use of a company (Dodd’s Ultra Logistics) that had offered two months’ rent up front.

Directly opposite, across the street, was another, much more modern office building, all glass and steel. Its first floor was let to Fraternal Holdings, the object of Arthur Haverford and Jerry Rayman’s scrutiny. This was only the third day of surveillance from this temporary observation post, and so far it had been quiet. Quiet? thought Arthur. More like stone dead. From this vantage point they had a good view of the parking lot, which had four spaces; until this morning not one of these spaces had been occupied. Maybe now it would pick up, thought Arthur, as through his headphones he heard Maureen Hayes announce, ‘The Audi’s parking now. In the managing director’s space.’

Below on the street, sitting for the last half hour in a Peugeot 405 directly across from the parking lot, Maureen Hayes was apparently reading a book, as if waiting for someone. She lifted the paperback slightly as she turned a page, which allowed her to point the slim camera inside in the direction of the Audi, where a man in a leather jacket was getting out of the driving seat. Someone in the back was also getting out – a thin, greying man dressed in a suit and tie. Must be the MD, she thought, as the shutter automatically clicked open and shut repeatedly while the men walked towards the entrance to the building. ‘Two in,’ announced Maureen to the microphone in her lap.

The reception area of the company was at the front of the building opposite, behind the huge plate glass window, and from his chair set back behind a partially drawn blind, Arthur had a clear view of it. He put down his tea and took up the binoculars, focusing on the reception desk. Twenty seconds later the lift must have opened (he could not quite see it), as the same two men entered the reception area. Neither stopped at the desk, but simply walked on, disappearing into the back of the building.

Arthur spoke into his microphone. ‘The targets have entered Fraternal’s offices.’

After this brief excitement, nothing happened for another hour. Inactivity was a watcher’s enemy, but Arthur and Jerry were old hands, and knew how to make the time pass – usually by recounting stories that, though told many times before, had managed not to go stale – without ever losing focus on the parking lot and building across the street.

Suddenly Jerry started speaking into the microphone of his headset. ‘We have another car pulling into the car park.’ He read out the registration numbers for a blue Astra. An older man got out and walked into the building. He wore a parka and faded khaki trousers, and again Maureen raised her paperback.

A minute later Arthur, watching through his binoculars, saw the man wave at the receptionist and walk past her into the offices. Arthur reported that as soon as the man had passed her, the girl at the desk picked up the phone and spoke urgently into it.

On a hunch he kept the binoculars trained on the reception area, and sure enough, just a few moments later the older man reappeared. A heavy-set man was with him, whom Arthur recognised as the driver of the black Audi. He had a hand on the shoulder of the older man – it wasn’t clear if he was consoling him, or strong-arming him out of the office, and then they disappeared in the direction of the lift.

Arthur swung the glasses down to the side entrance of the building. When the older man emerged he was talking to himself, looking agitated and angry. He got into his car and started the ignition right away, then accelerated with a squeal of tyres out of the car park.

‘Something’s got his back up,’ said Arthur to Jerry.

They heard in their headphones Maureen’s announcement from her car down in the street that the subject had left. Then to Arthur’s surprise, only half a minute later she broke in again:

‘Subject’s pulled over down the street. He’s parked and he’s sitting in the car. He’s got a bird’s-eye view of the exit to the car park. Shall I recce?’ she asked. This would involve her walking past the parked Astra, and surreptitiously photographing its occupant to get a close-up shot.

‘Negative,’ said Reggie Purvis back in the Ops room. ‘Sit tight.’

Five minutes later another car arrived and parked. Its driver emerged, a stocky, square-shouldered man with a round bullet head and dark hair cut short. He was nattily dressed in a blazer, cream silk roll-necked shirt and wool trousers, and this slight flamboyance and the black leather purse he carried in one hand made Arthur wonder if he was gay. Though there was also a faint echo of the military in his upright bearing.

Jerry called out the numbers of his registration, and sixty seconds later Arthur confirmed that the man had stopped at Fraternal Holdings reception, then been sent through.

‘What do you make of him then?’ asked Jerry Rayman.

‘Fancy dresser. Got to be gay,’ said Arthur.

‘I think he’s foreign.’

‘Yeah. That’s it, probably a Frog.’

‘Do you think the old boy in the Astra was waiting for him?’

‘Could be.’

‘Whatever he was doing inside,’ Jerry declared, ‘he didn’t look happy when he came out.’

Forty minutes later the ‘old boy’ was still there when the foreign-looking visitor came out of the building. He drove away, heading west, and Maureen reported the blue Astra starting up and following him.

BOOK: Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger
11.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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