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Sunday 19 September 2021

Welcome To The Village!


    “Welcome to the village sir” an unassuming citizen said.
    He had woken up in an armchair; in what he thought was the lounge of his own home, so imagine his surprise when he stood up and stepping to the window drew back the curtains to reveal a scene of a village somewhere in Italy. He opened the door to what was clearly not his own home, and stepped outside. He walked along a path, down a couple of steps and stood in a small cobbled square.
    “Are you having a laugh, no the laugh must be on me. Why didn’t you speak to me in Italian?”
    “Because I am not Italian.”
    “Where, where is this?”
    “This is the village” the citizen replied.
    “Village, what village?”
    “This is the village” the citizen told him.
    “Look either your crazy or I am! Look are you waiting for a bus?”
    “Why should I be waiting for a bus? Besides buses don’t come through here” the man told him.
    “What about taxis?”
    “Oh yes there are taxis, there’s a taxi rank on the other side of the village, but they won’t take you far.”
    “Why’s that?”
    “Their only the local service.”
    “Well I’ll give a taxi a go, better than standing about here.”
    “Through the arch, turn left, right through an arch on your right, across the village green, up the steps and across the Piazza, then to your left, through another arch, that will bring you out more or less opposite the cafe. They’ll be just about open by the time you get there, and the taxi rank is just along the street.”

    The cafe was just about open, a waitress in a black dress, frilly white apron was busy opening table parasols. The waitress saw the man standing in the street watching her.
    “Welcome to the village sir.”
    “That’s twice I’ve been greeted in that fashion” he told her.
    “Is it wrong to greet a new arrival in such a way?”
    “New arrival?”
    “You must be new, judging by the way you are dressed, and I’ve not seen you face before.”
    “You’re not speaking Italian either!” he said.
    “I didn’t know I was supposed to” came the reply.
    “But this village, it’s Italianate in architecture, so presumably I’m in Italy.
    “If you say so sir, do you want breakfast, the coffee is bound to be ready by this time.”
    “There’s no taxis on the rank.”
    “No, but they’ll be one along soon, perhaps you’d like a coffee while you are waiting?”
    “Do you have a telephone?”
    “No, but there’s a phone box around the corner” the waitress told him.
    At that moment a taxi pulled up on the rank. The man left the cafe and walked towards a white Mini-Moke.
    “Can you take me to the nearest town?” he asked getting into the front passenger seat.
    “We’re only the local service.”
    “Yes” the driver told him.
    “Well take me as far as you can.”
    The taxi driver shrugged her shoulders, started the engine and drove off. It was the scenic route the driver took. Round and about, passed the Town Hall, down the hill towards the Old People’s Home, back up the hill and passed the Town Hall again, but in the opposite direction. Along cobbles paths, and through large archways, along the roads this way and that, even to drive out of the village until they arrived back where they started.
    “Now I understand what you mean by local!” the man said stepping out of the taxi.
    “Well I did tell you” the driver said “that will be 2 units.”
    “Units, I’ve only got pound notes” he said reaching into his jacket pocket for his wallet.
    “Never mind” she said “you can pay me next time.”
    And before he could say “How do you know there’s going to be a next time?” she drove off looking for her next fare.
    He stood there wondering what to do next, when a man in a piped blazer and straw boater approached him.
    “You’re wondering what to do next aren’t you?”
    The man looked at him, he wore a curious badge upon the left lapel of his blazer. A black badge with a white Penny Farthing which had the curious addition of a canopy, and in the penny wheel the white numeral 34.
    “Is that who you are?”
    “Who I am is unimportant” No.34 told him “you’re going into the general store.”
    “How do you know I’m going in there?”
    “You were looking in the bay window. Disorientated and confused new arrivals here generally do two things, they take a taxi ride expecting to be taken to the nearest town. Then disappointed they go to the general store in order to buy a map of the area. But the map only shows the village, and nothing more. Oh you’ll ask for a larger map, and try to make the shopkeeper understand that you meant a larger area. But there are no call for maps such as those.”
    The man looked at the citizen “Well I won’t bother wasting my time going there then.”
    “So what will you do next?”
    “Go back to my home and make a cup of tea?”
    “You could try to hire a car, self drive.”
    “Is that your suggestion?”
    “If I were you I’d go home and make a cup of tea!” No.34 told him.
    “You know so much, how do you know so much?”
    No.34 smiled “Because like you I was once a new arrival here.
    There were a few people passing by in the street and through the cobbled square.
    “Who are these people, why are they here?”
    “Ask yourself why are you here, and the answer may give you some idea!”
    “I’ve done nothing wrong, all I did was to.........”
    “And that is why you are here” a voice said.
    A tall man wearing a grey piped blazer stood in the road, he was accompanied by two burly looking men, guardians.
    “You are to come with us” No.22 said.
    “And if I refuse?”
    The two guardians took two paces forward.
    “I hope there isn’t going to be any trouble. We don’t want any trouble, and you cannot afford trouble.”

    The pair of steel doors slid open and the prisoner was escorted into the purple walled chamber that is No.2’s office. She sat there in the relative comfort of the global chair, leaning forward she pressed a button on the control panel and a black leather chair rose up through a hole in the floor.
    “Do sit down” she said.
    No.2 was a middle aged woman, not tall, not short, she worse her hair up, giving her the look of a business woman, and this woman certainly knew her business.
    “You can stay 22, the two guardians can leave.”
    The two guardians turned on their heels and marched up the ramp towards the opening steel doors and left.
    “You know why you have been brought here” No.2 said.
    “You look as though you could have something extremely nasty happen to a person” the prisoner said.
    No.2 gave the prisoner a sever look, there was anger in her face “the last man who sat in that chair had not sat in it for more than five minutes, after which he couldn’t stop himself from talking. In fact he told us things we never realized he knew!”
    “Wh..what did you have done to him?”
    “I had his private parts wired up to the mains!”
    “You didn’t?”
    “Believe me when I tell you” No.2 said with menacing conviction “I did....or at least that’s what I had him believe, he didn’t want to take the chance you see.”
    “What are you going to do to me?” the prisoner asked nervously.
    “What shall we do to this man 22?”
    No.22 remained silent.
    “I don’t think we’ll do anything to him” No.2 said with a disarming smile.
    There was a puzzled expression on her assistants face.
    “See him?” No.2 asked.
    “He’ll follow you, wherever you go about the village this man will be there, watching, waiting. He won’t do anything, he’ll not harm you, not lay one hand on you, but he will be there, watching and waiting. What do you think about that?”
    “I hope he learns something!” the prisoner quipped.
    “Haslet, you worked in Intelligence.”
    “That’s not a secret” he told her “I’ll have you know danger lurked behind every filing cabinet!”
    David Haslet, a tall, thin unremarkable young man. Dark hair, wearing black rimmed spectacles.
    “Do you know what I’d like, what I’d really like?” No.2 said.
    “I bet you’re going to tell me.”
    “I’d like you to try and escape.”
    “What so you can have me brought back, tortured, given some kind of therapy, mind altering drugs, no fear, I wouldn’t try to escape not even if you paid me, besides he’d have to turn a blind eye. No, I like it here, I’m sure I’ll soon fit in. Perhaps you could give me a job looking after your secret files!”
    “I can make it very uncomfortable for you” No.2 threatened.
    “I’m sure you can, but I’m not giving you cause to do so.”
    “We’ll see. You can go for now.”
    “Thank you very much” 34 said rising out of the chair “oh by the way it’s pronounced Haslet, not Haslet!”
   The steel doors opened that the approach of Haslet, and closed behind him.
    “Have him watched under the closest possible surveillance. And I want you to keep an eye on him, and tomorrow wherever he goes I want you there first” No.2 ordered.
    “Why, what’s so special about him?”
    “He’s Haslet, and he’s going to tell us where his friend Phillip Slater can be found.”
    “What makes you so sure?”
    “He’s from Intelligence, they won’t have taught him anti interrogation techniques, or escape techniques, navigation, they probably didn’t even teach him how to use a compass in Intelligence!”

    Haslet woke the next morning to find he clothes had been taken away and he had been given some new one. A grey sweater, grey flannel trousers, and a dark blue piped blazer, complete with canvas shoes and a straw boater. Now he was dressed for Henley regatta he went outside to explore the Italianate village. He took a stroll through the Piazza, and sat there on one of the benches was the man No.22. No.34 then went down the steps and walked across the village green, a game of croquet was being played. There was a sign post “Walk on the grass.” Stupid he thought to himself, its generally don’t walk on the grass, almost as though to break the rule was encouraged here. He carried on and passing the statue of Hercules he looked up, and then there as he passed the pink pavilion, was No.22. 34 walked on, down the hill towards the Old people’s Home. Crossing the lawn he stood at the white balustrade and looked out across the estuary, and wondered how long it would take to cross to the far said. Then he turned and saw No.22 sat at a table. He approached the table.
    “Seeing as we are seeing so much of each other today, why not share a pot of tea” 34 suggested sitting in an empty seat.
    No.22 gestured to one of the waiters who simply nodded in return.
    “It might amuse you and No.2 to dog my steps like this, it doesn’t amuse me”
    The waiter brought tea for two and set the things out on the table.
    “I expect you have to do something by which to amuse yourselves” 34 said pouring out two cups of tea.
    No.22 leaned over the table and took 34 by the lapel of his blazer, upsetting a cup in its saucer and spilling the tea.
    “Now look what you’ve done!” 34 said taking a handkerchief from a pocket in order to mop up.
   “Let the waiter do that” No.22 said grasping 34 wrist “Where is Philip Slater?”
    “If you don’t tell me where he is my mistress will have unspeakable things done to you!”
    “Should you do anything to my friend Haslet here, I shall personally break your bloody neck” the waiter told 22.
    Haslet looked up at the waiter “Phillip Slater, how did you get here?”
    Commander Philip Slater of Naval Intelligence, a man of medium height, light brown hair, slim build, works best when under extreme pressure.
    “There’s no need to get up” Slater told No.22 placing a hand on his shoulder.
    “They brought me here in order to get to you though me” Haslet said.
    “But as you see I am already here, in fact I was here before you” Slater explained.
    “So what do we do now you mad bastard?”
    “Well I had thought to make our escape at dawn, but our friend here would paid to that.”
    “Why dawn?”
    “Because the it’s grey light then, ideal for covering our escape” Slater said.
    “So what do we do now?”
    “The moment our backs are turned our young friend here will go running off to his superior and report this. So I suggest we all go together.”
    “You’ll never get away with this” 22 told them.
   “Well it’s worth a try, you never know we might get lucky” Slater said keeping 22 close to him.

    Having made their way up the hill into the village, Slater, No.22 and Haslet made their way to the Green Dome. They were greeted in the foyer by the diminutive butler, who lead the way through into No.2’s office.
    No.2 was sat in a black globe chair, she looked up as she heard the pair of steel doors close “What’s this, a deputation?”
    “Haslet and I thought it only fair to pay you a call, we’ve returned your assistant to you, he’s honestly not worth that much, but if he’s all you’ve got” Slater said sarcastically.
    “And you are, apart from masquerading as a waiter?” No.2 asked.
    “He’s Phillip Slater” 22 said, and for that he received a heavy blow in the face.
    “Phillip Slater!” No.2 said in astonishment “How did you get here?”
    “I was sent as an undercover, there are certain people who want to know what goes on here” Slater explained.
    “So now you expect to leave just like that, with our friend Haslet here in tow” no.2 said rising up out of her chair looking at her assistant.
    No.22 was trying to stem a nose bleed with a handkerchief “Go and get that seen to” she said reaching for one of 3 ‘L’ shaped telephones.
   “If you’re going to make a telephone call, make it to Uncle Arthur” Slater said.
    “Uncle Arthur?” No.2 asked.
    “Sir Arthur Stanley, QC, OBE, CDM, MDE etcetera, etcetera” Haslet volunteered with a smile.
    “I am very curious to know” No.2 began “how you managed to infiltrate our little community here, and masquerade as a waiter, for how long?”
    “A couple of days” he replied.
    “And you came here how?”
    “All I am at liberty is to give you my name rank and number love!”
    “Two things mister Slater, one, you are not at liberty, and two I’m not your love!” No.2 told him.
    “You have a helicopter, we’ll take that” Slater told her.
    “You have nerve I’ll give you that.....very well. I’ll arrange it.”

    No.22 drove the taxi ride from the Green Dome to the helicopter on the lawn by the sea wall. Then with No.2, Slater and Haslet he walked with them across the lawn to the waiting helicopter where the pilot was making safety checks.
    “Tell the pilot to gt aboard and start the engine” Slater ordered.
    No.2 merely nodded to the pilot.
    “Are you simply going to let this pair of jokers simply leave the village?” 22 asked.
    The engine f the Alouette helicopter started and the rotor blades began to turn.
    “If your mistress knows what’s good for her she will, remember Sir Arthur and half the letters of the alphabet!” Slater warned.
    The white amorphous mass of the Guardian came rolling and bounding along and took up a position between the humans and the helicopter.
    “And you can lose that thing as well” Slater demanded.
    In the control room the bald-headed supervisor-No.28 was listening and watching the scene develop, he gave the order for the Guardian to be moved away.
    Slater and Haslet were about to board the helicopter.
    “Tell me one thing” No.2 said.
    “Well I’ll have to be quick our flight leaves in a moment” Slater quipped.
    “Why did you come here?”
    “To get him out, he’s my friend you see, and Uncle Arthur holds us both in such high regard he’d hate anything to happen to either of us!”
    Slater and Haslet climbed into the Perspex cabin and the helicopter lifted off the ground, once in the sir No.2 dashed across the lawn to the Mini-Moke.
    “Get me to the control room quick!” she ordered.
    No.22 who was close on her heels climbed into the driver’s seat. Within moments the taxi was reversed, and driven up the hill back into the village stopping outside the Town Hall.
    Aboard the helicopter Slater and Haslet felt anything but safe as they left the village behind.
    The steel doors slid open and No.2 and her assistant burst into the control room.
    “Take that helicopter under remote control and fly it back” No.2 instructed the supervisor.
    The supervisor nodded to one of the Observers sitting on one end of the rotating see-saw device, who pulled on a chrome handle by the side of his monitor screen.
    Not quite to the surprise of the helicopter pilot, the controls were taken over and the helicopter hovered for a second before turning back towards the village. Panic set in as Haslet realized what was happening. Slater ordered the pilot to fight the controls, but it was no good.
    “Have security meet the helicopter, and those two brought to my offie” No.2 ordered.
    “They’re taking us back” Salter said “I hope they taught you swimming in Intelligence!”
   Slater opened the cabin door and pushed Haslet out and he quickly followed.
    “They jumped out of the helicopter!” The supervisor exclaimed as they watched the action play out on the large wall screen.
    “Why?” No.2 asked “what do they expect to achieve by that, they’ll drown. Alert M.S Polotska and order a search made.”
    In the water Slater and Haslet swam towards the cliffs.
    “That was a birdbrain of an idea” Haslet said climbing out of the water and onto the rocks.
    “No, they were taking us back” Slater said.
    “And this is an”
    “Around the point, a cove, and in the cove there’s a narrow cave set in the cliff. I have a rubber dinghy hidden there.”
    The cave was flooded, but they managed to get the dinghy out. The outboard motor was flooded with sea water, so they began to paddle out to sea.
    “This is hopeless” Haslet said “The tide and current are against us.”
    “So they did teach you something in Intelligence then!”
    “Where are we going?”
    “Out beyond the mouth of the estuary, there’s a.....
    Then they saw it a motor cruiser heading straight for them!
     “Paddle!” Slater said “paddle for our lives.”
     Aboard the Motor Ship Polotska Gunter kept the glasses on the small rubber dinghy as Ernst steered straight towards it.
    “It’s going to run us down!” Haslet shouted.
    But at that point there came a disturbance, the sea began to buddle and froth as a great grey steel beats rose up through the waves......HMS Mablethorpe. Ernst pulled hard on the helm steering the motor ship away.
    Onboard the submarine was Uncle Arthur to greet his two agents.
    “I take it all went well?” Uncle Arthur said.
    “Well we’re alive” Salter said.
    “You speak for yourself!” Haslet added.
    “I think you could both do with some hot cocoa” Sir Arthur Stanley suggested.
    “And lace it with whisky!” Salter said.
    In the wardroom cups of cocoa were poured out and a small bottle of whisky placed on the table “So the rumours about the village are right” Sir Arthur said.
    “What are you going to do now?” Phillip Slater asked.
    “Get one of our people in there, someone important enough that they’ll want, yet able to look after himself” Sir Arthur said.
    “How will you get him in there legitimately?”
    “They took........”
    “Haslet sir” Haslet said.
    “Haslet, yes they took Haslet.”
    “Yes sir, but they did that to try to get to me through Haslet.” Salter said.
    “Yes but you got there first” sir Arthur said.
    “Which lets me out” Slater said “they know me!”
    “Yes, but you know about the village now, and that might make them want to get you back” Sir Arthur “now when we return to London this is what I want you to do.....”

Be seeing you

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