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Strictly Illegal - Chapter 15

The Fiction of Donald William Thomasson
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Red line

XV

When they left Oulton Park that evening, Jimmy and Pat felt that it had been a very satisfactory day. Apart from their meeting with Brent Livingstone, which promised useful consequences, they had watched some good motor racing and had seen Sandy take third place in the big event, a better result than he had expected. He had left for London in high spirits, having been promised more chances to drive the big car in future races.

Jimmy had considered sending a message to Geoff in Sandy's care, but had decided that what he had to say was important and urgent enough to justify a telephone call. Geoff had sounded excited by the news, to a degree that Jimmy found a little surprising, but he gathered that he had done precisely the right thing.

As he drove up to the Lake District, he thought over recent events and concluded that the next few months were going to be busy and eventful, to say the least. He therefore ruled that the week's stay at Ambleside was to be a complete break, with no mention of the Colonel or the problems he was creating. Pat was very willing to agree and they set out to enjoy themselves.

On the following Sunday morning, refreshed and raring to go, they returned to London. Jimmy subsequently refused to say how long the journey took, on the grounds that the answer might incriminate him. Pat had to admit that they had not hurried over breakfast before the start, while Luciano Mori said they were not unduly late for the lunch he had prepared for them.

The little man had remained in the flat during their absence, acting as caretaker and keeping out of sight during the hours of daylight. Susan Carter had kept him supplied with provisions and he had seen no one else. This restricted life was beginning to be irksome to him, though he recognised that it was necessary.

He was therefore delighted when Geoff turned up on that evening and said he was free to go home. 'I drove here in your car, so you could take it on. The situation has changed. Take care, but I don't think you'll find they're interested in you any longer.'

The little man packed his bag at once, bid his hosts a grateful farewell and departed happily.

Geoff watched him go and then turned to the others briskly. 'We've got a lot to talk about. You two have done some tremendously useful work, far more useful than you could possibly realise, but, as I told Mori, the whole situation has now changed.'

When they were comfortably settled, he said he wanted to begin by reviewing the last few weeks from the Colonel's point of view.

'Up to the middle of August, everything was going smoothly. Then, within a week, his men caught Mori snooping round Greystones, and one of his men who had been keeping watch at the circuit was found dead in the Greystones garden. That must have shaken him a good deal, because it suggested a fairly comprehensive knowledge of the link between the house and the circuit.

'By sheer coincidence, Brent Livingstone started asking awkward questions at about the same time. The Colonel must have thought it was more than coincidence, because he assumed that Livingstone was responsible for the incidents down at Uffington. A fortnight later, he was able to kidnap Jean Livingstone. He thought that would settle the matter.

'So far, he had no idea that anything remotely related to official action had taken place. When you turned up in North Wales, it looked like more of Livingstone's unwanted interference. Then I put in my first official report. Three days later, I was directly ordered to drop the whole matter immediately.'

There was dead silence for a full minute, then Jimmy faced Geoff squarely. 'The Colonel has official backing?'

'Not exactly.' Geoff was obviously selecting his words with care. 'Let us say that he has backing in official circles. There's an important difference.'

'A potty politician?'

Geoff smiled. 'Something like that.'

'You've known this for a long time, haven't you?' Jimmy was thinking of the first time the potty politician had been mentioned.

'I knew there was something in the air. There were indications. Certain information never reached me. There were unusual delays. It added up.'

'But you had to put in the report.'

'I delayed it as long as possible. I wanted to be sure what I could leave out. This is always a problem. Your name is never mentioned, for instance. Perhaps it will have to be mentioned one day, when you do something that I can't cover up. Simon... Well, Simon put me in a very difficult position. He provided some very useful tape recordings, but if I had reported them directly I would have had to admit that one of my men was watching Greystones on the night that a man was found dead there.'

'I see.' Jimmy considered this soberly. 'So you didn't mention him in the report, either.'

'The whole episode was omitted. Before I could risk that, I had to be sure that there wasn't the slightest possibility of anyone but ourselves knowing that it had taken place. That's why I was so worried about your car number. As it turned out, Brent Livingstone was blamed for the whole thing. If I wanted to, I could now report on the tapes as if he had sent them to me.'

'That wouldn't make him popular.'

'He isn't popular now, even without that. You were very wise to hide his daughter away safely. I have now hidden him as effectively.'

Pat, who had been listening in stunned silence, put the question that Jimmy had hesitated to ask. 'What happens now?'

Examining the backs of his fingers with minute care, Geoff said he was in no position to answer that question. 'My own instructions are clear. My department can take no further part in the matter. I can give you no orders.'

'That sounds thoroughly evasive.' Jimmy spoke in tones of mock severity. 'I notice that you didn't say that you could do nothing at all, even as a private individual.'

'No. I might be able to act privately, though it would have to be in my own time. I certainly wouldn't be able to look after an organisation big enough to do effective work.'

'We could help you.'

'What you did would be entirely up to you. You would have no official help, in terms of money, information, or technical backing. You would be totally outside the law, outlaws, in fact, in the original sense of the word.'

Jimmy considered this at length, then sighed. 'The money doesn't matter. We aren't exactly rolling, but we can manage. I imagine that we might be able to get a good deal of information unofficially. We might find that Simon could give us more technical backing than we could be from official sources. As for being outside the law... Unless Simon gets careless again, I imagine there wouldn't be any need to worry about that unduly. I can't see that we would need to do much that was unlawful in itself. Do you agree, Pat?'

'Yes, I do. In the early stages, anyway. It would only be right at the end, in the final confrontation, that we might have to be more drastic. Am I right, Geoff?'

'I think you are.' The older man looked at his two companions benevolently. 'And I think that problem has an obvious solution. If you can gather enough evidence, it may be possible for the, er, the potty politician, shall we say, to withdraw his objections. Then the final confrontation might be set up in a fully legal fashion.'

'This sounds better.' Jimmy looked more cheerful. 'We go on as before then, more or less.'

'No. We do not.' Geoff was emphatic. 'As I said, I would be unable to find the time to direct the work, as I have in the past. Someone else would have to do that.'

Looking at each other doubtfully, Jimmy and Pat thought this over. Pat again asked Geoff a key question. 'Jimmy?'

'That's up to him. I think he could do the job very well. For reasons of my own, I would be glad to see him tackle it. He would find it good practice.'

Startled by this glimpse of Geoff's ideas for the future, Jimmy was silent for a moment. Then he looked at Geoff with an unusual air of diffidence. 'I'll tackle the job on one condition, and that is that you will join the team, if only as a part time member and expert adviser.'

'With pleasure!' Geoff's benevolent smile broadened into something approaching a grin. 'I thought you were never going to ask me!'

This brought a laugh to ease the tension that had been building up. They began to discuss detailed plans. It was obvious to Jimmy that Simon must be in the team, while Geoff said that Robin would be very willing to help. 'He found out Jean's surname and dragged the whole story out of her. He's hopping mad, to use his own words, and would like to do anything he can to fight the Colonel.'

'Oh.' Pat suddenly remembered that she had serious responsibilities in that quarter. 'Did you go to see him?'

'No. Simon passed on the message. Why?'

'I wondered how he and Jean were getting on.'

'Very well, I gather. Simon said that Robin was a changed man. He thought that Jean had a lot to do with it. Robin apparently thinks the world of her.'

'Thank heavens for that!' Pat was considerably relieved.

Geoff laughed at her expression. 'If you will do these things! However, I think it really has turned out for the best, in a way that can only do good all round. There's one point I ought to mention, and that concerns money. I think you'll find that Brent Livingstone will be able and willing to supply anything you need in that direction. He told me he would give everything he's got to see the Colonel destroyed. It would scarcely be fair to take that literally, but I see no reason why he shouldn't pay out expenses and salaries.'

'Poetic justice at its best.' Jimmy grinned happily. 'His money started it, after all.'

Knowing that money would be available, Jimmy felt able to consider his plans on a wider basis. One point that worried him was the need for a base of some sort, if only as a centre of communication.

'We've got to be able to keep in touch, which means some place we can call up at any time. You use your office for that, Geoff, and I suppose we really need an office of our own. We couldn't use it for meetings, because any of us might be trailed there, but it would provide a base.'

This was very much Geoff's favourite theme and he welcomed a chance to suggest a new arrangement. 'I think you're missing an important point, Jimmy. I have an office because there must be somewhere I can meet official visitors. They expect it and they expect me to be there to meet them. Therefore I have to use it as a communication centre. You aren't faced with that problem. Jean has to stay in Robin's flat all day, or most of the day. You could install a telephone answering device to cover times when she's out shopping.'

'Good idea!' Jimmy shook his head. 'You're right. I'm not thinking on the right lines. We don't need anywhere for meetings. We can hold them in the evenings, if necessary, as if we were just exchanging social calls.'

'Precisely. You're getting the idea now. The next question is how far you intend to take it. We've spoken of Simon, and presumably Susan, and Robin and Jean. You have a good nucleus there, but you may need other people from time to time. It's never wise to concentrate on a small group. They tend to become recognisable.'

Jimmy chuckled. 'Pat told me you were doing the rounds at the wedding reception. I know why, now.'

'I merely brought them up to date. In a matter of this sort, you have to pick your team carefully. Always suspect the volunteer who appears from nowhere. You can afford to, with such a pool of friends to draw on.'

'I take your point. Now, what about our line of action? I know you're going to say that it's up to me, and I'll certainly fill in the details, but it looks as if we want to run things so that we can hand control back to you at a later stage. You'll have to tell me what you want us to achieve.'

Geoff said this was a fair question. 'First and foremost, I'll need information. Your objective should be to find out as much as possible, rather than take any action for action's sake. If you can produce solid evidence regarding the Colonel's real intentions, I might be able to scare my master into reversing his decision.'

'Can we scare him more directly?'

'I wouldn't advise you to try. I can understand and sympathise with the thought, but it would be a mistake. At the moment, he is acting with the power of the state behind him. He may not be doing quite what the state thinks, but that's a separate matter. He is part of the establishment, for good or for evil. Any attack on him would be seen as an attack on the establishment. You can't get at him in that way without being branded as anarchists. The only effective attack is a quiet direct threat to reveal him for what he is, backed by solid fact that he can't argue round in his own favour.'

'Something like a letter to the Colonel?'

'That might do very well, if the contents were damning enough. Anything of that sort would suffice. Meanwhile, it would be useful to collect all possible facts, so that I could make a flying start once I get permission to do so.'

They sat silent for a while, thinking it over.

Pat said that the whole situation seemed to be quite unbelievable. 'No official action can be taken, yet we can go ahead on our own, if we're reasonably careful, so that we may be able to make official action possible. It's a cockeyed world we live in.'

'I'm afraid it is.' Geoff smiled sadly. 'The trouble is that distinctions are so blurred. What is right here is wrong there. Everything has to be considered in the proper context, with all the consequences balanced against each other. Perhaps history will suggest that we are quite mistaken in our opposition to the Colonel. He may well be seen as a martyr who might have saved the world.'

Jimmy stirred uneasily. 'I'm not sure that I can see exactly what you mean, but I get the general idea. He's a ruthless man, and ruthless men sometimes do good. Isn't that the key to the matter, though? Would he do good?'

'What is good?' Geoff shrugged his shoulders. 'I wouldn't like to attempt an absolute definition. Take war. Almost everyone will tell you that war is horrible, but if a war starts most of them will fight. They'll explain away the inconsistency by saying that they're fighting for a good cause, as if that makes war any less horrible. In actual fact, they're probably fighting to save their own skins. You can't lay down hard and fast rules about that sort of thing.'

Pat looked up rather defiantly. 'To me, what matters is a world in which people can live comfortably, without fear, as long as they aren't greedy. Anything that helps towards that is good. Oh, I know I'm simplifying too much. You have to. If you go into too much detail, you get lost in the maze. I suppose, in the end, it comes down to instinct.'

Looking at the clock, Geoff stood up and stretched. 'Probably. I must be going. I think what you say is true, Pat. Look at things closely and they become blurred, out of focus. We'll just have to hope that our instincts are pointing us in the right direction.'

Dice Divider

Red line

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| The Fiction of Don Thomasson |

Red line

Mail me Keith Thomasson February 11th 2002