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Monday 10 January 2022

The Prisoner - A New Arrival Chapter 15

 A New Arrival 

    The imminent arrival of the silver grey Alouette helicopter was reported to No.2 as a matter of routine, at the same time an ambulance had been despatched as the helicopter circled the village before landing on the lawn by the sea wall. A new arrival had been brought to the village, a woman in her mid 30’s who sat upright but unconscious in a rear seat. The woman was carefully carried out of the clear Perspex cabin of the helicopter by two medical orderlies, placed on a stretcher, then carried over to the ambulance, and placed in the Red Cross trailer. The ambulance was driven up the hill into the village and to her cottage where she would eventually wake in what she would think to be her own home.

   The woman woke up lying on a bed in what she thought was her own bedroom. She was dressed in a dark blue knee length skirt and a white blouse. Slowly she stirred and sat on the edge of the bed a few moments before standing up walking through to the kitchen for a glass of water. As water from the tap filled a glass she glanced out of the window, the shock made her drop the glass in the sink! Confusion and disorientation soon set in. Her eyes focused on a view which was far removed from the one from her apartment in Stockholm. She went through the flat room by room, the bedroom was the same, but the rest of the apartment was strange to her. But where, where was she, how…...the telephone began to bleep snapping her out of her shocked state of mind. She picked up the receiver of the ornate French telephone.
    “Good day my dear, no ill effects from the journey I trust.”
    “Who is this?” she asked nervously.
    “I realize you must be confused, come and have afternoon tea. Number 2 the Green Dome.”
    The intercom went dead, leaving the woman hitting the cradle of the telephone trying to get the caller back. Finally she replaced the receiver trying to gather her thoughts. Eventually she went to the door of her flat, there was a set of stone steps leading down into a cobbled square, at the bottom was a signpost it read ‘9 Private.’ There were people mingling about in the square, some sat on benches. They were all dressed in brightly coloured clothes; women wore colourful striped capes and a variety of hats, the men wearing a variety of piped blazers and straw boaters. Taking in her surroundings she approached a young man emerging from the General Store.
    “Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?”
    The young man looked at her and smiled “In the village.”


    “The village?”
    “That’s right.”
“Tell me can I get a car here?”

    “Cars?” he smiled “there are no cars, only taxis, but even then they are only the local service.”
    “How far will they take me?”
    “Well as far as you want to go, as long as you end up back here in the end, that’s why they’re called local” the young man explained.
    The woman looked up “That’s the Green Dome?”
    “Yes, are you going to see Number 2?”
    “Yes, he invited me to afternoon tea.”
    “Yes he does that. Mind how you go, be seeing you” he said giving the usual salute before going on his way.
    The woman stood frozen on the spot for a few moments, before she crossed the road, and with a feeling of trepidation climbed the steps up to the Green Dome. Passing through an archway she approached the door, it opened automatically and a diminutive butler stood in the foyer waiting to greet her. She stepped over the threshold, the door closed behind her and she followed the diminutive man in black tails through the pair of French doors and up a short ramp. A pair of steel doors slid open, the butler led the way, and nervously she followed him into the purple walled domed chamber.
    “Ah there you are my dear, come in, don’t be afraid, we are all friends here” No.2 said from his black global chair.
    The words did little to reassure her. She stood at the top of the ramp for a moment, she felt afraid, and looked afraid. As for the butler who stood beside her, he had seen and heard it all before, and this first approach was no different to all the others merely at a later time in the day. He’ll be asked to bring afternoon tea in a minute.

    “Please come in” No.2 bid the woman in friendly way “and we’ll have afternoon tea and perhaps some buttered crumpets.”

    The butler bowed and went to his annexe behind the Green Dome to prepare afternoon tea and toasted the crumpets. The woman stepped forward, the steel doors closing behind her. She spun round and for the first time she felt truly trapped. She walked down the ramp and crossed the floor towards the grey curved desk. No.2 in plain dark blue double breasted blazer, an old school or college scarf wound about his neck and shoulders, leaned forward and pressed a button on a control panel. In the floor a round disc lowered and slid away, leaving a hole through which a black leather chair appeared. This made the woman step back in shock.

    “Please sit down and make yourself comfortable” No.2 bid her.
    The woman remained standing “Why have I been brought here?”
    “We’ll come to that in time. I want you to be comfortable while you are here, for however long that is.”
    “Thank you.”
   “There’s no need to thank me, because one day you may learn to


hate me.”
    The pair of steel doors opened and the butler reappeared pushing a tea trolley. He set the tea things out onto a small table which appeared through another hole in the floor.
   The butler departed, the steel doors closing behind him, and No.2 rose out of his chair.
    “Shall I be mother?”

    It was early evening before No.9 was allowed to return to her flat, and the night was already beginning to draw in. Lights were on in some of the cottages, and external lights dimly lit paths, steps, and the cobbled square. It was rather picturesque, romantic, like fairyland. No.2 along with his assistant No.14 stood watching the wall screen as she paced the floor of the living room. Her attitude was one of nervousness, repeatedly rubbing her palms together.
    “Do you think she knows?” No.14 asked.
    “She would not have been sent here if she didn’t” No.2 said with confidence.
    “If the Swedish Government knew she was here…..” 14 suggested.
    “They don’t, and therefore do not come into the matter.”

    “Swedish Military Intelligence will miss her” 14 said concentrating on the woman pictured on the wall screen.
    “I’ve never known you to be like this before. Not weakening are you 14?”
    “Like what, before?”
    “Sentimental, she is a very attractive woman, but don’t fall for her, it might well put you at odds with me” No.2 said in threatening way.
    “I’ve read her file; Elsa was a very good spy. Who worked behind the Iron Curtain for a year……”
    “Before her cover was finally blown” No.2 added “the Swedish secret service had to work fast to get her out.”
    “Then she was forced out of the field and behind a desk in records.”
    “And now she is here with so much knowledge in her head.”

   On the wall screen No.9 was preparing herself supper in the kitchen.

    “Her file says she has a photographic memory.”
    No.9 put water in the kettle and switched it on. Then selected the teapot, cup and saucer. While she waited for the kettle to boil she made herself a sandwich.

    “I want to know about all the files she has seen.”
    No.9 warmed the pot, put two caddy spoons of tea into the pot and added hot water.

    “To make nothing of all the people she has known, faces once seen and never forgotten, which makes the knowledge inside her bead priceless.”
    “And you intend to extract it all.”


    “That’s why she was brought here.”
    “I imagine she well remembers her training, she will resist” 14 said

erring on the side of caution.
   “Your imaginings do not come into it. In the end she will not be able to resist telling me everything; she’ll not be able to stop herself!” No.2 said with confidence “all I have to do is make her feel comfortable!”
   On the wall screen No.9 ate her sandwich, and drank her tea.
   “I see there’s no need for a housemaid to call on No.9 this evening!” No.2 remarked.

    For the next few days Elsa now known as No.9, was allowed to settle in, to adjust to her new surroundings. She had been given new clothes colourful striped jerseys, grey slacks, light shoes. An official from administration had called at her cottage to give her a credit card, health and welfare card, and an identity card. In the wardrobe she found a red trilby and colourful striped cape, she put them on and went out.
    Sitting at a table at the café sipping her coffee she watched the village go by. A young man sitting by himself at another table was looking at her, she saw him and he smiled at her, she did not return his smile.

    “Pardon me” he said addressing her “it’s nice to see a new face.”
    She ignored his greeting, which in some eyes would have made her disharmonious, if not unmutual. But the plain truth of the matter was, she was in no mood to converse with strange young men in a strange and alien place she didn’t wish to be.
    “I’m sorry, it is wrong to greet someone new to the village?”
    No.9 did her best to ignore the young man.
    “I was just trying to show friendliness, to a new arrival. This is wrong? I too was once new here, all alone and finding it terribly strange, wondering why I should be brought to such a place.”
    Finally she spoke “I’m sorry, but do go and bother someone else.”
    “I am bothering you……I am sorry, that was not my intention to offend.”
    No.9 finished her coffee, paid for it with her credit card and went for a walk around the village, the Piazza, pausing at the bandstand as the brass band prepared for their daily concert. She stood gazing up at Hercules with the World on his shoulders, Hercules having taken over from Atlas who had gone off to do something else at the time. Through the gates opposite, the imposing Town Hall, then down the hill towards the Old People’s Home where afternoon tea was being served. Standing at the white balustrade she looked down on the quayside, and at the Stone Boat, people were climbing up and down her rigging, and messing about on her deck.

    “You should try her” a voice said.
    No.9 turned round to see an elderly man in red and black striped Jersey and sporting a naval cop


    “I’m sorry?”

    “She’s great in any weather, sailed her many a time.”
    No.9 smiled kindly at the Admiral; no doubt he couldn’t help his senility.
    “You look lost me’ dear.”
    “I am lost.”
    “A stranger in a strange land” the Admiral said setting out his chessmen on the chequered board.
    “Y….yes I suppose I am.”
    “Do you play chess me’ dear?”
    “Good, we’ve just time for the one game” he told her with a beckoning finger.
    “Why time for just the one game?”
    “Before they come for you, which they will before too long” the Admiral said making the first move pawn to King three.
    “Why should they do that?”
    “Because you’re new here me’ dear and they want something from you, your move” the Admiral told her.
    She made her first move, Pawn to King four.

    No.9 hadn’t exactly allowed the Admiral to win the game, the trouble was her mind wasn’t really on it, because something told her there was a bigger game to play. After all she hadn’t been brought to the village for the good of her health. The question is what to do? To study the village, learn its strengths and weaknesses. Learn who to trust, who to avoid like the plague, and while she was doing all that, learn how to survive as survive she must if she was to escape, but escape to where?

    Walking back up the hill into the village a white Mini-Moke pulled up along side her, a man introduced himself.
    “I’m Number 14, Number 2 would like a few words.”
    “I’m on my way home” she said resuming her walk.
    The Moke moved backwards alongside her “Get in and I’ll give you a lift.”
    “To the Green Dome, its best we don’t keep Number 2 waiting, he’s not known for his patience.”

    The pair of steel doors slid open, No.9 stood at the top of the ramp looking into the chamber, towards the man sat in his black spherical chair. No.14 urged her forward and she nervously walked down the ramp with 14 close at her shoulder.

    “There you are my dear” No.2 said in friendly way.

    “If I’m not it must mean I’m in some other place.”
    “Would you prefer to be in some other place?”


    “Right now….would you like to be in my shoes?” she said trying to turn the tables.
    “They wouldn’t fit my dear, please do sit down. Perhaps Number 14 would be kind enough to pour out some coffee.”
    “What do you think I am, the tea boy?” 14 said moving towards the desk.

    “He’s very droll isn’t he, won’t you sit down” No.2 said indicating the chair, the comfy chair!

    The last time No.9 was in No.2’s office she was offered a black leather chair. Now in its place was an extremely looking comfortable armchair.
    “I think I shall stand for the time being.”
    “Really, oh well your choice. You know the reason why you have been brought here to the village.”
    “You tell me!” she replied sternly.
    “Because you have a photographic memory, and we want to know about the files you have seen, the projects you know about, and details not simply headings, along with all the faces you have seen, and the people you know.”
    “And if I refuse to talk?”
    “Think it kind of me that you have the choice to give me what I want, and that I simply do not take it. I don’t want any harm to come to you, you’re a very attractive woman, Number 14 here has remarked upon it, haven’t you Number 14.”
    “Yes Number 2” who was busy pouring out three cups of steaming hot coffee.
   No.9 tensed her body “You’re going to put me alone in a room with him?”
    No.2 looked aghast at the suggestion “No, certainly not, we’re not barbarians. No, no, I’m not going to do anything to you, well hardly anything.”
   No.14 passed the chief inquisitor his coffee, and the prisoner hers.
    Suddenly she was put under the spotlight, the light so bright that it hurt her eyes. She lifted an arm in order to try and shield her eyes.
    “There is plenty of time my dear; we can be here all day and longer if necessary. I can stand it longer than you will. Are you ready to talk……….no, not yet, very well.”

    It wasn’t long before the minutes turned into hours, the hours felt like days, forced to stand in the spotlight with No.2 sat in his chair watching, waiting with No.14 standing by his chair.
    “Sir, do you mind if I sit down?”
    “You are feeling tired Number 14?”
    “Well to be frank, yes.”
    “Oh well if you must.”
    No.2 pressed a button on the control panel and a black leather armchair rose though a hole in the floor. No.14 sat in the chair and felt instantly all the better for it.


    “Would you like to sit down my dear?” No.2 asked from the comfort of his chair.
    No.9 was feeling dizzy under the light, her eyes were tired, even when closed the light so bright through her eyelids. She was perspiring, getting more and more tired as the hours dragged by as she was forced to stand upright for hour after hour, how long had it been now? Her legs were very tired; she almost collapsed but managed to pull herself upright. How long? How long since she had been brought to the Green Dome and forced to stand there? It must be hours and hours. No.14 had fallen asleep in his chair. No.2 had felt stiff having to sit for hour after hour, rising out of his chair he paced the floor of his office. He looked at the slumbering No.14.
    “He couldn’t take it, you and I my dear are made of sterner stuff I can see that you are about to collapse. You may kneel on the floor.”
    No.9 dropped to her knees grateful for the relief.
    “Now are you ready to talk?”
    No.9 remained silent.
    “Surely a kind act should receive some reward?” 2 suggested.
    “My name is Elsa Nilsson.”
    “I know that, but it’s a beginning. How old are you?”
    “Your date of birth.”
    “September fifteenth nineteen twenty-nine.”
    “You see how good it is to talk. This must be like the time you were captured behind Iron Curtain. Is it, is it like that?”
    No.9 remained silent.
    “Oh come now, please do not be difficult. You have done very well, there is no disgrace on your part. Why prolong this ordeal?”
    No.9 looked up at her inquisitor.
    “Tell me what you know, soon you won’t be able to stop yourself, its just a matter of tiime” No.2 said glaring down at the woman kneeling on the floor.
    She had no idea of how long it had been, time had ceased to mean anything in this chamber. But she was feeling her knees now after so long pressed against the hard floor, but then another kindness.
    “Please stand up and sit in the chair” No.2 said offering her the comfy chair.
    No.14 finally stirred and woke up.
    “Ah good, Number 14 is back in the land of the living! Be a good fellow, and go and organise some tea.”
    No.14 left the chamber as No.9 tried to rise to her feet, she found it difficult, No.2 assisted her, and she was grateful to be made comfortable in the armchair. A few minutes later No.14 returned with the tea, No.2 poured out three cups, handing one to No.9 who had made herself comfortable. She accepted the offered cup of tea, knowing full well that she would never sit in anything, or feel, so comfortable ever again.


    It had been a long interrogation session, and now everything No.9 had to tell, all the information inside her head now recorded on tape. She had told them everything, she could not help herself, and it had been good to talk. Now she had nothing to hide, there was nothing more they could do to her. No.9 was exhausted, defeated, yet standing on the balcony of the Green Dome looking down at the ground she did not jump! She slowly descended the stone steps on her way back to her cottage, the day had long since broken, music from the brass band concert drifted on the air. People mingled in the cobbled square as she began to cross the road. Suddenly there was a loud noise, a cross between someone breathing through an aqua lung, Gregorian chant, and a bicycle pump. Then it came rolling and bounding along the road towards her. Pedestrians stepped smartly to the side of the road as one, and cyclists dismounted their canopy covered bicycles at the side of the road, everyone in the cobbled square stood stock still as the white amorphous shape of the Guardian passed by. No.9 tried to move, but was somehow rooted to the spot as the Guardian brushed passed her. Then it was gone and everything, and everyone returned to normal, even No.39 who had been stopped dead in his track leaving the General Store went on his way as though nothing had happened. She approached a couple sitting on a bench.
    “What was that?” she asked.
    “What was what?” the couple asked.
    “That….that white balloon thing?”
    “You mean the Guardian” they said in unison.
    “Is that what it’s called?”
    “That or Rover” the man said.
    “What does it do?”
    “It serves and protects the community” the couple said in unison “mostly it acts like a guard dog.”
    No.9 having returned to her cottage went straight to bed, and slept the rest of the day away, and all through the night. So there was no need for the housemaid to go calling to make No.9’s nightcap. The night Watch was instructed to keep an open surveillance eye on her, just in case there should be any ill effects from her ordeal.

   The next morning No.9 woke refreshed. She bathed, then dressed, finding a navy blue roll neck sweater and a pair of terracotta coloured slacks, and a pair of sensible flat shoes. A housemaid brought her breakfast with the compliments of No.2. To her surprise she found she had a healthy appetite which was something. From the wardrobe she took her red trilby hat and colourful striped cape put them on and went out into the early morning sunshine. No.9 thought she would feel disgusted with herself, and to some extent there was a feeling of betrayal, not to her country but to herself. After all for all she knew it might well have been her former people who had had her placed in this village. Now, having given away so much, she was well and truly on her own!



    There was a sudden fanfare which preceded an announcement    
    “Good morning everyone, good morning, it’s another lovely day, and the recent spell of fine weather is set to continue for at least for another month. The ice cream flavour of the day is strawberry. And

for your entertainment a folk music concert is to take place tomorrow evening at the Recreation Hall, and your local amateur dramatics society is to produce a performance of Macbeth.”
    “Why did that voice have to be so damned cheery?” No.9 thought to her self “Why so determined that people are kept amused and entertained?” she asked herself.
    “In order to keep the people busy, to keep their minds on other things rather than to cause mischief and attempting escapes!” a voice replied.
    She turned to see a man in cream and brown striped jersey.
    “Be seeing you” he said and calmly went on his way.

    She strolled through the village, the day was sunny and warm, although there was a slight breeze. She found herself walking along the quayside. People were enjoying the day on the beach. A man passed by and raised a circled thumb and forefinger to his right eye.
    “Why did people do that?” she asked.
    “It’s a greeting” No.43 told her.

    “Meeting or parting?”
    “Either. I’m going to fly my kite” the man said tapping the canvas under his arm “I made it myself you know, be seeing you” and he went down the steps and walked out onto the sand.
   He walked quite a way out on the sand, and set up the kite, he let out the string, pulled on it then began to run as fast as he could until the kite lifted in the air on the breeze, he let out more and more string, the kite rising higher and higher into the sky. This had not gone unnoticed by the Observers who informed the supervisor of No.43’s activity. The supervisor alerted security who despatched two guardians in a Min-Moke, its siren blaring out as it shot down the slipway and across the sand towards No.43 and his kite.  No.9 stood watching from the quayside as the man was overpowered, the kite pulled down and taken away with its owner. There was nothing she could do, there was nothing she could have done, so No.9 took the path along the cliffs, passed the lighthouse which had no light, but a single bell. A little way on she stood atop of the cliffs looking out to sea, then down to the rock below.
    “I hope you’re not thinking of jumping are you?” a voice suddenly asked.
    This took No.9 by surprise and she staggered back from the edge of the cliff, and No.4 took her by the arm, their presence together shielded by the bushes.

    “Who are you?”


    “A prisoner” he told her “what about you?”
    “What about me?” she said struggling against him.
    “Are you a prisoner or one of them?”
    “One of them?”
    “A warder, a guardian, how long have you been here?”
    “Who are you to ask. Go back and tell your Number 2 that I’ve nothing more to give!”
    He released his grip of her arm “I didn’t mean to upset you.”
    “You didn’t!” she told him sternly.
    “I’m sorry.”
    “So am I. It’s just that I’ve had a couple of bad days, and the worst of it is I think I’ve handed myself to Number 2 on a plate!”
    “How many ways are there? In this instant it was the comfy chair!” she told him “I had better go.”
    “Can we meet later?”
    “Why would you want to?” and with that she hurried on her way.
    The pair of steel doors opened and No.14 walked smartly down the ramp “The supervisor informs me that Number 9 was seen with Number 4 on the cliffs a few minutes ago.”
    “Really, I suppose it was only a question of time before they met” No.2 replied closing a file he had been reading.
    “You want them to meet again, perhaps to form a relationship?”
    “Heaven forbid! In no shape or form do we want that. I have plans for Number 9 myself, and I don’t want that Number 4 messing about with them!”

    “You have plans for Number 9?”
    “After her interrogation, and having given up everything she knew, Number 9 gave herself to us, and now she’s going to work for us.”
    “That’s nice, she’ll bring a certain attractiveness to the office.”
    “Well certainly her feminine wiles can be put to good use, and if she can play the damsel in distress then all to the good.”
    No.2 leaned forward and pressed a button on the control panel of his desk, the wall screen came to life depicting the central area of the village. The press of another button showed the café, then the taxi rank, the quayside, the beach, and the Old People’s Home.     
    “Ah there she is, good.”

    No.9 had walked along the quayside and went through the open gate leading onto the lawn of the Old People’s Home. She sat down, alone at one of the tables.
    “Shall I have her picked up?”
    “Certainly not, she’s been through a great deal since her arrival here and she’s unsure of herself. I don’t want her more frightened, and maladjusted than she already is. We’ll give her a little time to re-adjust. But I think I shall invite her for lunch, a working lunch.”
    The steel doors closed behind No.9, she felt more than a little nervous but put on


 a brave face as she walked down the ramp and across the floor. No.2 was sat behind his desk, and there was a vacant black leather chair.
    “You look nervous my dear, there’s no need to be I assure you” No.2 said.
    She sat down in the chair. The butler appeared pushing a wooden breakfast trolley and set lunch, consisting of a plate of sandwiches and a pot of coffee, out on a small round topped table, then bowed to his master before leaving the chamber.
    “I am pleased you could join me for a working lunch” No.2 said getting out from behind his desk “milk and sugar, ah no sugar, I was forgetting.”
    He offered her a cup coffee, and presented a plate of dainty triangular cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
    She helped herself to two sandwiches balancing them on the edge of the saucer.
    No.2 returned to his chair with cup and saucer and two ham and cheese sandwiches “How are you feeling now my dear?”
    “I have been trying to gather myself, I feel ashamed that I gave in so easily” she told him sipping her coffee.
    “Ashamed, how so, there is no shame, we all have a breaking point you know. Admittedly some agents last longer than others, but

everyone talks on the third day. No, there is no shame. You know what you need my dear is…….”
    “A holiday, fortnights leave away from this place, somewhere different so I can recuperate” she said eating a sandwich.
    “Ah good you have managed to retain your sense of humour. I can use such a woman as you, I think you should come and work for me” No.2 suggested.
    “I was afraid of that.”
    “Afraid that you would put such an offer to me, having made me feel the lowest of the low, and now you want to drag me down even further by using me to betray others by working for you.”
    “These cucumber sandwiches are really delicious, but I always think it’s a shame to cut off the crusts don’t you?” he said.
    No.9 finished her coffee and sandwiches; in her mind she knew that it was now a question of survival.
    No.2 put down his cup and saucer and picking up a black file and leaning forward across his desk handed it to No.9.
    “Here are the details your first assignment; I think you will find it interesting. I shall be watching your progress with great interest.”


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