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Friday 22 January 2021



    The Huey helicopter cleared the hills and was flying across the estuary. The passenger left his seat and looked over the pilot’s shoulder.
    “Is that it?”
    “Yes sir” the pilot replied.
    “Fly over the place and make a couple of circles before you land.”
    The pilot nodded “I expect you want to make an entrance.”
    “No, I want to see what I’m dealing with!”
    The helicopter flew over the village, then circled a couple of times giving the passenger a good all round birdseye view. Then it flew out across the estuary before turning back towards the village as it made its final approach before landing on the lawn by the sea wall.
    “Don’t forget to come back in three days” said the passenger taking hold of his suitcase.
    “I’ll be back” the pilot told him.
    A crewman slid open the door and the passenger stepped down onto the grass, then walked across the lawn to a waiting taxi. Behind him the helicopter took off and flew at speed across the estuary back towards the hills. The man holding his suitcase stood watching it disappear from view.
    “Excuse me sir.”
    “Why, what have you done?”
    “Then why do you look to be excused?”
    “I don’t know, I’m here to escort you to the Green Dome, I have a taxi waiting.”
   The man looked at the white Mini-Moke, walked over to the vehicle and climbed into one of the back seats, and his escort sat beside him as the taxi pulled away driving up the hill into the village.
    “Who are you?”
    “I’m Number 14, No.2’s assistant.”
    “No, I mean your name.”
    “My name sir?”
    “You have a name surely?”
    “Drake sir.”
    “I want to see the body Drake.”
    “I’m sorry sir, but we do not use names here.”
    The man looked at No.14 as though he had not heard “I want to see the body Drake.”
    “My orders are to take you direct to Number 2.”
    The man sat in silence peering out of the Mini-Moke at the pedestrians, passed the town hall to the right at the top the street, passed the café.
    “It’s Italianate” the man said.
    “I’m sorry sir?”
    “The architecture it’s a mixture, mostly Italianate.”
    “Yes sir, the Green Dome is just ahead on the left.”
    “Colourful, the clothes the people wear.”
    “Yes sir.”
    The taxi came to a stop at some steps. No.14 alighted followed by the new arrival, who handed No.14 his suitcase.
    “You don’t mind do you Drake?”
    “No, not at all” 14 replied, although he did mind being treated like some porter at a hotel.
    The front door to the Green Dome opened automatically, and waiting in the foyer was the diminutive butler who bowed. No.14 dropped the suitcase, then showed the two men into the purple walled domed office.
    No.2 was a large stout man who rose out of the black globe chair in order to greet the new arrival.
    “That will be all Number 14, you can go.”
    “Very good sir.”
    “But don’t go too far, I’ll need to talk to you later in the morning Drake.”
    “Very good sir.”
    No.14 turned smartly on his heels, walked up the ramp and through the opening pair of steel doors.
    “Can I offer you something, tea coffee?”
    “Coffee would be fine.”
    No.2 picked up the silver coffee jug and poured out a cup of hot coffee “Milk… sugar?”
    “No thank you, black will be just fine.”
    “Do sit down my dear fellow No.2 offered pressing a button on the control panel of the desk.
   A disk in the floor slid away and a black leather chair rose up through the floor.
    No.2 handed the arrival the cup and saucer “A word of advice, we do not use names here, and I’m sure Number 14 wouldn’t have been able to tell you that much.”
    He sipped his coffee “I think I had best be the judge of that….don’t you? But right now I would like to see the body and the doctor’s report.”
    “You wouldn’t prefer to rest in your quarters after your long journey?”
    “I understand the man died from asphyxiation.”
    “Where did you understand that from?” No.2 asked with a sudden stern expression.
    “I shall also want to see the doctor’s autopsy report.”
    “Autopsy report, the man was dead.”
    “You know how he died?”
    “I still want to see the body.”
    No.2 stood considering the request.
    “Your instructions were to cooperate with me in every way.”
    “Yes Colonel.”
    “Well then?”
    “I can take you to the Town Hall later this afternoon if you wish.”
    “Why the Town Hall?”
    “It’s where the mortuary is.”
    “You have the mortuary in the Town Hall?”
    “Not the hospital?”
    “It’s more usual to have a mortuary in the hospital.”
    “I’ll have you shown to your quarters” No.2 said “then after you have refreshed yourself you can view the body.”
    “Where are my quarters… don’t tell me, in the Town Hall.”
    “No, just a door or two away, we have put a cottage at your disposal. I’ll take you there personally, when you have finished your coffee.”

    No.2 led the way along the back of a row of terraced cottages.
    “Here we are, this is your place” No.2 said, ‘10 Private.’
    “How quaint” said he, and opening the door lead the way inside the fully furnished cottage.
    They stood in the lounge.
    “Who lives here?”
    “You do.”
    “My stay here is to be short lived, I’m sure such accommodation is not warranted.”
    “Nevertheless” No.2 said smiling “I shall leave you now to settle in, and I’ll have your suitcase brought you.”
    “I still want to see the body!” The Colonel demanded.
    “Yes of course you do, unfortunately the funeral was two days ago, be seeing you.”
    “Then you must have the body………” but No.2 had gone.
    A young housemaid brought his suitcase to the cottage “Is there anything else I can do for you sir?”
    “No I don’t think so. But tell me do you know this man?” the Colonel took a photograph from his wallet and showed it to the girl.
    The housemaid looked at the picture “Why this was his cottage sir.”
    “Thank you” and placed the picture back in his wallet and glanced at the badge pinned to her frilly apron “did you know him?”
    “No-one knows anyone here” she told him.
    “What did you do for him?”
    “I’m just the maid sir, I made his breakfast, made his bed, cleaned and dusted the place, that’s all sir.”
    “How was he?”
    “I’m sorry sir?”
    The Colonel pressed the girl “In himself, his demeanour, was he happy, tortured, what had they done to him?”
    “You mustn’t ask me such questions, I hardly knew him” the maid said and then rushed out of the cottage.

    In the control room No.2 and the bald-headed supervisor stood watching the Colonel unpacking his suitcase on the wall screen.
    “I think he is going to be difficult” the supervisor observed.
    “Tell me something I don’t know!” No.2 replied.
    “Under the circumstances there was bound to be an investigation.”
    “We could have handled it in-house” No.2 replied “why did they have to send an outsider here, poking his nose in?”
    “How would you have handled it?”
    “Easy, I would have swept it all under the carpet!”
    “It’s a pity you were so quick to organise the funeral.”
    “How do you mean?”
    “Now you’ll have to dig him up!”
    “And I know who is going to have to do it!”
    The supervisor glanced sideways at his superior and smiled quietly to himself.
    Later that afternoon an exhumation was carried out supervised by No.14.

    The next morning the Colonel rose early, he had spent a good night in his cottage having had no choice in the matter, they had locked him in! Having washed and shaved he went back into the bedroom to get dressed…..he looked for his clothes, they had gone! Instead he found a pair of grey trousers hanging on the back of a chair, a folded burgundy sweater, and a grey piped blazer hanging up in the wardrobe. He went into the lounge and picked up the telephone.
    “Number please” the female operator asked.
    “Number……..I want to make a call to London.”
    “I’m sorry sir, but local calls only” the operator told him.
    “You can’t put me through to a London exchange?”
    “No sir, I’m sorry” the operator hung up.
    He replaced the receiver then picked it up again.
    “Number please” the operator asked.
    “I want to make a call to.”
    “Oh it’s you again, what is your number sir?”
    “Number?” he looked at the telephone and saw the black number 10 “Number 10” he said.
    “And you want to make a call to…….?”
    He thought for a moment “Number 2.”
    “I’ll put you through” the operator told him. 
    In his office the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone began to bleep, No.2 leaned forward in his chair and picked it up “Yes what is it?”
    “I have Number 10 for you sir” the operator said.
    “Number 10?” He queried “oh yes, put him through “Good morning Colonel, what can I do for you?”
    “I can’t find my clothes” the Colonel protested.
    “We have given you some new ones.”
    “I can see that!”
    “Well we thought you would feel more at home in village attire” No.2 told him.
    We, you mean you don’t you?”
    “What does it matter, just as long as you are able to carry out your investigation.”
    “Just as long as I can rely upon your cooperation.”
    “I have the doctor’s report for you, and the body will be made at your disposal, shall we say after breakfast?” No.2 suggested.
    At that moment the door opened and the maid walked in carrying a breakfast tray.
    “Yes” said the Colonel “after breakfast” and put down the receiver because he had just seen a face he recognised.
    “Your breakfast sir, better eat it before it gets cold!” the maid told him.
    He looked at the two fried eggs, bacon, baked beans, and fried bread and then back at the dark haired maid.
    “I can’t stop talking now sir, I have my work to do.”
    “Elsa it is you?”
    “Yes it is.”
    “How did you end up here?”
    “We can’t talk now, someone is watching and listening.”
    “Surveillance, we must meet again, talk.”
    “I’m not sure we can they are always watching, listening.”
    “I’ve been sent here to conduct an investigation, I could call you in for questioning.”
    “I’ve been questioned, interviewed, interrogated, and…… tortured” she told him.
    “You talked?”
    “YOU would have talked Colonel, believe me, even you would have talked, either that or you are here to make people talk, which makes you one of them!” she said accusingly.
    “I’m here to investigate a death….”
    “Number 34, he was a friend” she said “eat your breakfast.”
    “We must talk” he insisted
    “At twelve o’clock at the brass band concert if we must.”
    “Why then?”
    “It will be easier then” she told him and leaving the cottage she went on her way.
    His breakfast was cold! Having made himself a cup of instant coffee, and toast, he dressed and made himself ready to go out, he was met at the door by No.2.
    “I thought I would call for you Colonel, if you will come with me, however I don’t quite see what the body will tell you” No.2 said.
    The colonel closed the cottage door and they walked to the Green Dome, down the steps to where a taxi was waiting.
    “It will identify itself to me” the Colonel said climbing into the white Mini-Moke.
    No.2 took his seat in the taxi and the driver drove the taxi to the hospital.
    “But you know who the dead man is.”
    “I still have to identify him.”
    The driver sounded the two tone horn warning pedestrians and cyclists alike of the taxi’s approach. It was a pleasant enough drive, then a large stone building appeared ahead and on the left, a castle.
    “That is the hospital” No.2 said.
    “I thought we were going to the mortuary in the town hall?”
    “I had the body moved” No.2 replied.
    The taxi turned onto the large gravelled forecourt to the hospital, an ambulance was parked at the door and an old woman was being helped into a wheelchair by two male orderlies. The taxi came to a stop and the two men alighted and walked towards the large imposing building.
    Inside the hospital it was a hive of activity, nurses hurrying this way and that. A bald-headed patient was being let along the corridor to an examination room, while another patient was wheeled towards the operating theatre. 
    “What’s in there?” the Colonel asked.
    “That’s the aversion therapy room, its where people with aversions are treated. Stop me if I’m getting too technical for you.”
    “There’s not much danger of that!”
    “This way Colonel.”
    No.2 led the way along a corridor to a laboratory where the body of No.34 had been taken, and was now lying on a slab. A doctor in a white coat stood to one side as No.2 entered the room. No.2 nodded and the doctor stepped forward and removed the white sheet covering the body.
    “Well Colonel?”
    “Yes that’s him, when did you dig him up?”
    No.2 glanced at the doctor.
    “It’s blindingly obvious that the cadaver has not been refrigerated” the Colonel observed “so how did he die?”
    “He drowned” the doctor replied.
    “I understand he was suffocated.”
    The doctor glanced at No.2.
    “The body was found on the beach, at the water’s edge to be precise, there was a certain amount of water in the lungs so death by drowning was an easy conclusion to form” the doctor explained.
    “How did he drown, was it by his own hand or another’s?” the Colonel asked.
    “I don’t understand?”
    “You’re not a pathologist doctor?”
    “Can I see the pathologist?”
    “There isn’t one” No.2 said.
    “In your opinion then doctor, was No.34 murdered?”
    “You can see for yourself that there’s no bruising on the body, which suggests to me that no undue force was used.”
    “Then it was suicide?”
    “A man may take his own life for many reasons” said the doctor.
    “Perhaps because life didn’t suit him within our community” No.2 suggested.
    “He was unhappy?”
    “No more no less than anyone else here.”
    “I take it you are satisfied Colonel?” No.2 asked.
    “I am far from satisfied, one of my operatives has died in your installation, our masters also will be far from satisfied. I intend to find out how and why he died, and YOU Number 2, are going to help me!”
    “Number 34 was a plant….why?”
    “That is for me to know!”
    The pair of steel doors opened and No.2 followed by his assistant No.14 entered the domed chamber.
    “The damned nerve of the man!” No.2 said pacing the floor of his office.
    “Another accident could be arranged” 14 suggested.
    “It’s the first one that’s got us into this fine mess, Number 34 was a plant, sent here by our masters!”
    “To check on security, to check on me, you……he was friendly with that what’s her number?”
    “You mean Number 22 the maid.”
    “That’s her, where is she now?”
    “I don’t know sir.”
    “Well find her, it shouldn’t be that difficult, and when you have, have her brought to me.”
    “Yes Number 2.”
   When the housemaid No.22 could not be found physically No.14 made his way to the control room where he and the supervisor conducted a visual search for her.

    It was half past 12 when the Colonel took up a deckchair on the lawn in front of the bandstand, the band was playing the Trumpet Major. A few minutes later No.22 appeared and sat down next to him.
    “I’m sorry I’m late, it was difficult to get away.”
    “Difficult to get away?”
    “In here one has to be careful otherwise you become suspect.”
    “Suspect of what?”
    “What do you want to know Colonel?”
    “How did you end up in here?”
    “I was in Prague, I went to my hotel, to my room, after that I have no idea, I woke up here!”
    “They wanted to know all about me, and after I told them they put me to work, Number 34 was my first assignment.”
    “You knew him?”
    “No, I did not know him, no-one knows anyone here. It doesn’t pay to get too close to someone.”
    “How did Number 34 die?”
    “It was just before curfew, they lock us in our rooms then. But he had found a way to break the electric circuit locking his cottage door. He went out one night, I never saw him again. They say his body was found on the beach. A funeral was held two days later.”
    The band came to the end of the set and began to play the Blue Danube Waltz, this made No.22 prick her ears up.
    “What is it Elsa?”
    “Nothing, nothing at all” she said and settled herself back down.
    “It’s clearly something.”
    In the control room the supervisor and No.14 completed their search.
    “Well you’ve found her” the supervisor said.
    “She’s talking to the colonel, can we get the audio?”
    “Once the band stops playing, curious, they’ve never played the Blue Danube Waltz before.”
    “I went to the funeral, but kept my distance, I watched from the top of the cliffs” she told him “now if that’s all I have to go.”
    “We must meet again” the Colonel told her.
    “We mustn’t, they will have seen us together, that’s enough.”
    “What if I said I could get you out of here?”
    “You’ll be lucky to get yourself out, never mind me as well!”
    “Tomorrow a helicopter will come for me, you can leave with me.”
    “And you think Number 2 will just sit back in his chair and allow that to happen?....I must go, but ask Number 2 about the Guardian.”
    And at that No.22 hurried away and into the arms of the waiting No.14.

    “Well my dear, you have been talking to the Colonel, have you learned anything?”
    “No, he was asking me about Number 34.”
    “What do you mean?”
    “Because of the brass band Number 14 here couldn’t hear a word you were saying, could you Number 14?”
   “No sir.”
    “Would you say she and the Colonel had met previously?”
    “I would Number 2.”
    “We had, I took him his breakfast this morning.”
    “Don’t get clever with me, the same thing could easily happen to you as happened to No.34.”
    “A warning Number 2?”
    “No my dear, a promise, and don’t think for one minute the Colonel can protect you.”

   “Good evening citizens, five minutes to curfew, the minutes are five, sleep well.”
   The sudden announcement came over the black loudspeaker, it was followed by a lullaby to aid a peaceful sleep, that and the cup of hot chocolate left for him by the maid, a little grey haired lady in a black dress, white frilly apron, and white sailors cap. He didn’t drink the hot chocolate, instead he tried the door to his cottage, it was locked, as were the windows. Then the lights went out, and he went to bed, though he did not sleep.

    The next morning the Colonel paid a call on No.2, it was the last day of his assignment.
    “I take it you are satisfied Colonel.”
    “I am far from satisfied, what’s the Guardian?”
    No.2 crossed his legs and put a hand to his chin “Where did you hear about that?”
    “Never mind, what is the Guardian?”
    “It serves and protects the village.”
    “Protects, protects against what, intruders?”
    “Yes, and prevents anyone from leaving.”
    Ah, now we get down to it. Is that what happened to Number 34, he tried to escape and this Guardian caught him?”
    “Do you wish to see the Guardian, it can be easily arranged.”
   “Is that a threat?”
    “Not at all” No.2 said pressing a button on the control panel of his desk with the tip of his umbrella shooting stick.
    The large wall screen came to life showing a view of something akin to hot lava in a lamp, perpetually moving, unable to rest, a prisoner as any other prisoner in the village. Yet at the beck and call of those masters who control it.
    “The Guardian” No.2 announced.
    “What is it?”
    “Living membrane, mind you do not succumb to it.”
    “Is that likely?”
    “Step out of line and find out, after all you are the investigator here.”
    “About Number 34……..”
    “He will be re-interred this afternoon.”
    “I should like to attend.”
    “Before you leave?”
    “After I have written my report.”
    “Your investigation has been concluded then.”
    “It was the Guardian….how was it done?”
    “The man was out after curfew, he broke out of his cottage and was on the beach. When the Guardian turned up on the scene he ran, the Guardian gave chase and was suffocated to death by living membrane.”
    “I don’t think for one minute my superiors will like that, after all……”
    “He was a plant sent to infiltrate the village, to what purpose Colonel?”
    “A helicopter will be coming for me this afternoon, I wish to take Number 34’s personal effects with me.”
    “And what about the housemaid Number 22, will you be taking her with you?”
    “Is that possible?”
    “Shouldn’t think so for one minute!”
    “Ask Number 1!”
    The colour instantly drained from No.2’s face.
    “We each have our masters Number 2.”
    “Now I shall return to my cottage and write up my report, and I expect my own clothes to be returned to me.”
    As the Colonel was leaving the domed office No14 passed through the open steel doors.
    “Are you going to allow him to leave?” 14 asked approaching the desk.
    “I have no choice, if he stays and suffers an accident our masters will be sure to hear of it. No, better we see the back of him.”
    “He knows about the village.”
    “And so did his predecessors.”
    “But they were in the pay of our masters, this one shows signs of individuality.”
   “Then best he be gone before his individuality spreads like a plague!”

    The re-interment of No.34 was a simple affair, the only people who attended were two top hat officials, four coffin bearers, and the grave diggers, and the Colonel. But there was one other, watching from the cliff tops.
   After the simple funeral the Colonel climbed over the rocks, passing the Lighthouse to the cliff top. It was there that he caught up with No.22.
    “Elsa my helicopter is due soon, I want you to come with me.”
    She looked shocked “Number 2 will never allow it.”
    “He can’t stop me, he has to let me leave.”
    “Number 2, I was thinking about Number 1!”
    “Is there anything you want to take with you?”
    “I have to go back to my cottage to collect my suitcase, clothes, and my report.”
    “Do you have to?”
    “If I don’t it will look suspicious” he told her.
    “If I come with you it will look even more suspicious, they might let you leave but I will die here” she said
    “Then we leave from here” he said glancing at his watch “the helicopter will be here in an hour, all we have to do is wait.”
    “You make it sound so simple” there was a tremble in her voice as she said it.
    An hour was spent quietly in the woods, but an hour soon became an eternity as they waited. Then to great relief it was time, the helicopter would be arriving any moment. They emerged from the wood and made their way along the cliff to the Lighthouse, and from there down onto the beach.
    In the control room the couple were picked up on a monitor by one of the Observers. The pair of steel doors opened and No.2 appeared on the gantry.
    “Where are they?”
    The supervisor looked up at him “They’re running away along the beach.”
    “Supervisor” said the radar operator “there’s a target approaching the village from over the hills.”
    “Continue tracking, keep the man and woman on screen” the supervisor ordered.
    The couple were heading out across the sand of the estuary, they heard it first the deep throb of the engine, then they saw it the Huey helicopter clearing the last of the hills. They stood still waving their arms trying to attract the helicopters pilot’s attention. The crew made ready as the pilot flew the helicopter across the estuary towards the village. Then he saw two figures on the beach waving frantically at the helicopter. Frederickson alerted his two crewmen, a door was slid open and the Huey helicopter descended to the beach
    “Shall I order a pursuit team?” asked the supervisor.
    “You should have done that long ago” No.2 said sternly.
    “Then orange alert.”
    “Don’t be ridiculous; what good would a balloon type creature be against an armed helicopter….activate the beam!”
    From out of the top of the flagpole a steel rod rose up and set at an angle, and began to rotate.
    “Beam on sir” the operator announced.
    “Beam maximum strength” No.2 ordered.
    Suddenly aboard the helicopter all the electronic controls ceased, the engine cut out, the pilot fought to regain control, to restart the engine. Then suddenly the helicopter pitched violently, the rotor blades cut into the soft sand, a fuel pipe ruptured causing a fire to break out and then a violent explosion leaving the helicopter a burning heap of twisted metal the pilot and two crewmen dead. The man and woman fell to their knees on the sand. Behind them an ambulance and white Mini-Moke with security men aboard were racing towards the crash site.
    Hearing the sirens they looked behind them at the approaching vehicles.
    “They are coming for us, it looks very much like we shall be staying Colonel. There is just one piece of advice I can give you, don’t drink the water……………”

Be seeing you

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