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The Fiction of Don Thomasson
Strictly Illegal - Chapter 10

The Fiction of Donald William Thomasson
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Jimmy felt this his brief trip to Frankfurt had produced little in the way of useful results, but Geoff seemed pleased, especially at the news that Rastmann had been handed over to the mysterious Herr Pfaffenberger.

'He won't be troubling us again. You can be sure of that, and you can be sure that your contact with Einemann and Keller won't become general knowledge. That might be important. They held one piece of our puzzle and anyone who knew you had exchanged notes with them might guess how far we've got.'

'Which isn't very far.' Possibly as an after effect of his celebration, Jimmy was not feeling optimistic.

'I wouldn't say that. We may not know all the answers, but we do know some questions to ask, which is better than nothing. The difficulty that I can see is still in the future. Even when we know a good deal more, we may not be able to take effective action. The Colonel has been very clever, you know. Apart from Sealey's death, his activities may have been almost legal. We can't hold one killing against him, not in view of Simon's unfortunate mistake.'

Still rather morose, Jimmy said that they might make out a case under the planning regulations, but that seemed scarcely adequate. Grimly amused, Geoff replied that the statutory penalties would certainly seem rather ridiculous.

'For that matter, the whole thing's ridiculous. We know that the Colonel is a dangerous man, but unless he makes a mistake we may be quite unable to take official action against him.'

'Is that why you've been relying so much on part time effort, rather than on your regular team?'

'Partly. Unlike your friend Einemann, I have to justify my actions and expenditure in fair detail. I can only get round that by using outside help.'

Reviewing the situation in his mind, Jimmy reached a disturbing conclusion. Rastmann had been a nuisance, so he had been handed over to Herr Pfaffenberger. Geoff had no Pfaffenberger to whom he could hand the Colonel.

'Geoff, suppose we catch the Colonel red handed doing something we know must be stopped. How do we stop him? A court of law wouldn't be much use, would it?'

'No use at all.' The grim tone showed that Geoff understood what Jimmy had in mind, but he had to pursue the matter to its conclusion.

'He'll have to be killed, won't he?'

With a sigh, Geoff nodded. 'I'm afraid so. He's too powerful to be allowed to live. If he was put in prison, he'd be out in no time. Then we'd have to start all over again, if we could.'

'And one of us will have to kill him.' It was a flat statement, not a question.

'I shouldn't let it worry you.'

'Why not?' Jimmy's jaw was set pugnaciously. 'Because you'll take the responsibility, as usual? Why should you? Pass it over to me, this time. Share it out. We're all in this together and there's no reason for you to do all the dirty jobs.'

Geoff was silent for a long time. Then he spoke quietly. 'It's my job, Jimmy. Thank you, all the same, for wanting to make the job a little easier. It helps a lot to know that someone else understands.'

Dice Divider

Remembering this conversation as he drove out of London after the wedding, Jimmy wondered if it hadn't been a trifle optimistic in tone. They had talked about what they wanted to do to the Colonel, but had said nothing about what the Colonel might do. That now seemed equally important. Perhaps marriage had produced a change in his outlook. If so, he was going to have to be more cautious in future.

In the passenger seat, Pat was examining maps, making sure that she understood their intended route. In theory, the direct route from London to North Wales passes north of Birmingham, but they had agreed to take a more southerly route which might involve them in less traffic.

Jimmy was driving quite steadily, as he was running in a brand new Maxi, replacement for the Mini that had so nearly given him away. Warned by that close shave, he had arranged to have the Maxi registered through the useful hire company, one of Geoff's brighter ideas, so he thought there was no chance of his car number giving him away this time.

They had planned a quiet wedding, but Simon and Susan had decided otherwise. As they had offered their house as the venue for the reception they were allowed to have their way. Pat had been quite bewildered by the mass of guests who had surrounded them when they arrived at the house. She had been rather thankful that many of them, true motor racing enthusiasts to a man, had been side tracked to some extent by the sight of Jimmy's famous ex-racing sports car. It would have been nice to take it to Wales, but it would have been very conspicuous and not entirely practical in an area abounding in rough roads.

As they cruised past High Wycombe, Pat put away the maps and recalled the scene they had left behind. Seeing that Jimmy was driving in an easy and relaxed manner, which meant that he would be willing to talk, she asked him who all the guests had been. 'I can't remember half of them. I didn't know you had so many friends.'

Jimmy laughed. 'Nor did I. We met a lot on the trip to Monaco. Tony, the chap who was running the bar, was one of them. Another was Charles, though he knew Sandy before that, when they were both driving in Formula Three.'

'They seemed to be plotting something with Geoff. Did you notice?'

'No, I didn't, which was just as well for my peace of mind. Now you've spoilt it. Did you hear what they were talking about?'

'Tony said something about an anniversary reunion.'

The car swayed very slightly and Jimmy groaned. 'I might have guessed it. The first meeting at the new circuit is on the anniversary of our little do at Monaco, near enough. If that bunch attend the meeting, anything might happen.'

'They were inviting some of the people you and I met last year, too. Ieuan and Colin, for instance, and Mike and Russ.'

Jimmy was silent for a while, these well remembered names conjuring up many memories. After a while, he said that Geoff seemed to be calling up the reserves. 'I hope he knows what he's doing. Some of these chaps are a bit wild, to say the least.'

They had got away, with some difficulty, at two o'clock. Jimmy's plan had been to take the journey in two hour stretches. The first two hours brought them some distance beyond Oxford, while the second spell, with Pat at the wheel, brought them to Ludlow. This was so much better than they had hoped that they agreed to stop for a meal, over which Jimmy congratulated Pat on her driving.

'I usually hate being driven, but you don't worry me at all. You kept the running-in speed very well. Some people rush over one stretch and idle over the next, but I reckon there wasn't much difference between your average speed and your top speed.'

Pat merely said that she wouldn't have dared to produce a lower standard of driving in his presence. It might have got their marriage off to a bad start.

After taking a stroll round the town and topping up with petrol, for they were heading for wild and lonely mountain country, they restarted at seven, facing nearly a hundred miles of secondary roads. Jimmy had toyed with the more orthodox route through Dolgelly, but finally decided to use the roads across the mountains through Bala.

The first thirty miles were simple enough, but beyond Welshpool the country changed entirely. Climbing up out of the broad levels of the Severn valley, they wound their way over the intervening hills to the valley of the Vyrnwy and began to climb the foothills of the mountains. Before long they were running up the Tanat valley, with towering slopes hemming the road in on both sides. The darkness at the bottom of the valley contrasted with the fading glow in the sky above to produce an eerie effect. Pat shivered and said it seemed the sort of place where a man like the Colonel would feel at home.

Jimmy glanced at her, a little surprised. 'Not much of a compliment to the scenery, but I'll admit that it looks rather weird. Never mind, we should be out of the valley before long.'

The road began to creep up the slope to the right, kinking unexpectedly into folds in the valley wall once or twice, until they were far above the valley floor, still climbing steadily. The view downwards was masked by dark mist. Jimmy was glad when it fell behind and they began to cross open mountain slopes. The road led downhill now, and a couple of hairpin bends brought them into the valley of the Dee.

At Bala, Pat offered to take over, as they had been running for nearly two hours since leaving Ludlow, but Jimmy said he knew the rest of the road well and could manage easily. The mountains were higher here, but the road was relatively straightforward. They were soon dropping towards sea level in the Ffestiniog valley. Crossing a last ridge behind Penrhyndeudraeth, they came to the Traeth Mawr and the twisting but level road up the Glaslyn to Beddgelert.

Parking in front of the hotel, Jimmy stretched and expressed his satisfaction with the journey.

'Two hundred and fifty miles, six hours forty minutes on the road. Not at all bad, as we weren't hurrying. It just shows what you can do by steady running.'

Dice Divider

The weather had been glorious during the journey, but when Jimmy looked out of the window in the morning the steep valley sides were hidden by a misty torrent of rain and everything looked grey and gloomy. Refusing to be depressed, Jimmy laughed and asked Pat what she would like to do.

Joining him at the window, she yawned luxuriously. 'I don't mind as long as we get out. What do you suggest we might do?'

'Not mountain climbing, anyway, but we're bound to get wet wherever we go. How about a trip on the Ffestiniog Railway?'

'Is that the little one run by volunteers?'

'One of them. There's the Tallyllyn, too, but that's fifty miles south of here. The Ffestiniog runs from Portmadoc.'

'Then let's try it.'

As they hurried from the car into the little station at Portmadoc, a man who had been sheltering from the rain nearby watched them go thoughtfully. As soon as the rain eased off a little he went in search of a telephone box, where he dialled a local number.

'Thought you might like to know that your friend Ferguson is in the district... Oh, it's him all right. I'd know him anywhere. There's a dame with him. Never seen her before. They're going for a trip on the Ffestiniog. The train's just pulling out.'

Blissfully unaware of this, Jimmy and Pat were enjoying their excursion wholeheartedly. As the train crossed the great embankment that divides the Traeth Mawr from the sea, they saw that the rain had thinned enough to make the more distant scenery visible, though it was softening the outlines of the mountains, giving the more distant vistas a touch of unreality in keeping with the antiquity of their transport.

The little train jolted on, beginning the long climb up the northern side of the Vale of Ffestiniog. Seven miles from Portmadoc, after a final twisting flourish to gain height, they came to the remote station of Tan-y-Bwlch, where most of the passengers got out to look at the engine or stroll down to the lake. Some way above the station, on the open hillside, a slim man was using a pair of binoculars. Satisfied by what he saw, he turned to his companion and began to give precise instructions.

By the time the train got back to Portmadoc, the rain had almost stopped and Jimmy sniffed the air optimistically. 'I think it's going to be fine tomorrow. If it is, we'll climb Snowdon from Pen-y-Pass.'

The man who had recognised him earlier heard the remark and smiled to himself.

Having nothing better to do, Jimmy decided to take a run through Snowdonia, going up to Bangor by way of Nant Ffrancon and returning through Caernarvon. The rugged valleys were glistening with raindrops, but the air was clear and the roads comparatively empty, all these things putting both Jimmy and Pat in a happy mood.

At Caernarvon, they stopped to look over the castle. When they returned to the car park Jimmy suddenly ceased to be happy. An inoffensive little man was looking sadly at the front of the Maxi, which was no longer in the brand new condition that it had been in a few minutes before.

Anticipating Jimmy's comments, the man held up his hand mournfully. 'Say what you like. I deserve it. After all these years, I should know better than to try and drive when the soles of my shoes are wet. They slipped on the pedals and I didn't stop in time. The only thing I can do is to get your car put right as soon as possible. I own a garage in town and I'll guarantee a top class job. Meanwhile, you can have a car to keep you going.'

By the time Jimmy could get a word in, he had cooled off a little and felt he could hardly complain about this generous offer to make restitution. The damage was not serious by any means. In an older car it would have been less important, but he was furious that his new possession should have been damaged so soon.

He was still fuming gently as he drove a well used but sound Escort back to Beddgelert, but if he had known about the instructions the slim man had given his companion on the hillside above Tan-y-Bwlch he would have realised that the little garage owner had unwittingly saved him a lot of trouble.

Dice Divider

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| The Fiction of Don Thomasson |

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Mail me Keith Thomasson February 11th 2002