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Tuesday 15 February 2022

An Exercise In Logistics Chapter 2


Adamant Makes An Entrance

    The antiquarian bookshop with its dingy dark green frontage stood on Percy Street. Silas Blake, aided by Special Branch, had had the premises under surveillance for some time from a building across the street. Every customer who came and went were photographed. The proprietor of the antqiuarian bookshop, one Vladimir Nosmitz, and his bookshop had become suspect. All that was required was hard evidence in order to make several arrests. Mister Nosmitz, was a very clever man, who in all probability, knew that the game was already afoot! A gaunt looking man, he had a slight stoop, which meant his height could be greater than his appearance gave. His greying hair, long and matted, he had the look of an eastern European about him. When he went out, he tended to wear a long grey coat with wide brimmed hat, the front of which sometimes drooped down over his eyes.

    “Ting a ling” sounded the shop bell.

    “Ah a customer’ Jonesy muttered to himself. He pressed a button on the camera, click “the fifth today and its only half past one!”

    Hanson wrote a note in the log book and remarking sarcastically “Busy man our Mr Nosmitz, he must be making a fortune’.

    “Yeah, but not from selling books” returned Jonesy.

    The two special branch officers we re-positioned to an empty room across the street from Nosmitz Antiquarian Book Shop. The floor of the room was bare and covered in dust and discarded sandwich holders. The walls were covered in a grimy yellow wall paper, the mantlepiece of the fire place served as a ledge for two flasks which had contained coffee, and half empty day’s old coffee mugs, cola cans, and empty plastic sandwich containers, and burger cartons littered the floor and a small transistor radio. All signs of a long surveillance job.

    “Put some music on Hanson, this excitement will be the death of me” said Jonesy, rubbing his eyes and stretching his arms out wide.

    Click, and ‘Tam O’Shanter’ by Malcom Arnold issued forth through the speaker.

    “Blimey Hanson, haven’t you gone digital yet?”

    “It’s good enough for me, besides I can’t afford to ‘go digital’ not with a wife, three kids and a whopping great mortgage. It’s alright for you single blokes, I don’t know where you get the money. You’d better watch yourself or they’ll be watching you next, they don’t like big spenders!”


   “I’ve got contacts in the trade, I get a good deal” Jonesy replied.

    Jonesy gave a broad grin and went back to watching the shop opposite “Yeah, that’s what Philips said, and look what happened to him.”

    Suddenly the door burst open and framed in the doorway, stood a tall man dressed in a black top hat, evening dress, and black cape. The man sporting a thin moustache leaned casually on his silver topped walking cane.

   “Good afternoon gentlemen. I do hope I’m not intruding!” the man said removing his top hat.

    Hanson and Jonesy turned together to face the man.

    “Who the devil are you?” Hanson asked, his hand reaching inside his jacket.

    The man who was over six feet tall entered the room and remained silent, his cold light blue eyes scanning both the men and the room.

    “Come on, I asked who are you, and while you’re about it, what do you want?” said Hanson, his right hand feeling the gun in its holster.

    “Dressed like that I’d say he was on his way to the theatre!” Jonesy quipped

    The man said nothing, he simply stared back with cold, light blue fearless eyes.

    “Always wear that fancy dress get-up do you, what are you some sort of eccentric?’ asked Hanson, feeling that something wasn’t quite right about this intruder.

     “I know” said Jonsey suddenly “he thinks he’s Adam Adamant!”

    Hanson made to pull the forty-four calibre revolver from its holster.

    At that moment the man dropped his top hat and pulled the blade out of the swordstick, putting the point of the blade to Hanson’s throat “Now we’re not going to get all belligerent are we?”

    Hanson released the grip on the butt of the gun, pulling his hand from beneath his jacket, and the man put up his sword.

    “How did you get in here?”

    “You saw for yourself, by the door. But perhaps you weren’t paying attention ” the man said making his way passed the two men and gazing casually out of the window and down at the bookshop opposite.

    “Look here, how about showing us some ID, and telling us what it is you want” ordered Jonesy.

    “You can call me Richard Roe” the man said sliding the blade of his sword back into the cane. Then he put his hand into his pocket beneath his cape and produced a black wallet, which he tossed casually to Hanson. who reached out to catch it.

    Hanson opened the wallet and read the identity within.

    “Who is he?” asked Jonesy making eye contact with the intruder, and being held in a trance like state, but only for a few seconds.

    “It says he’s Silas Blake of MI9.”

    “MI9?” exclaimed Jonsey.


    “Forgive my attire gentlemen.”

    “Blake, Silas Blake” exclaimed Jonesy “I’ve heard of you. You look ridiculous.”

    “I see my reputation precedes me gentleman. Fooled you for a moment though, didn’t it?” returned Blake with a smile.

    “So why the elaborate disguise?” Hanson asked, handing back the wallet.

    “Believe me it would have been even more elaborate, had they had the standard Mister X disguise!”

    “So why are you here?”
    “I’ve an interest in a mutual friend who occupies the bookshop opposite.”

    “We have kept Vladimir Nosmitz under the closest possible surveillance for the passed month. We have logs of all his movements, records of all the comings and goings of his customers, and whoever else has entered and left his bookshop. And still we have nothing. Weeks of surveillance and we are no closer to him than we were when we started!” Jonesy explained.

    “That’s why I am here, I am going to make something happen” returned Blake confidently.

    “And who exactly are you supposed to be?”

    “I am Richard Roe, a dashing Edwardian man of action. I am also a keen antiquarian, you’ve heard of the legend of the three crowns…”

     “Isn’t that the pub down the road?” quipped Jonesy.

     “The three crowns of east Anglia it is said to have guarded the East Anglia coast against invasion. I will pose as an antiquarian looking for such a book on the subject.”

    “In that disguise?” asked Hanson, doubting Blake’s thinking but not ability.

    “It will serve well enough, now this is how it works………”

    Richard Roe strode out across the street towards the bookshop, his cape billowing out behind him as he went. Hanson and Jonesy had taken up their positions as instructed, if possible Nosmitz was to be taken alive.

    ‘Ting a ling a ling’ sounded the shop bell as Richard Roe entered taking off his top hat, closing the door behind him ‘ting a ling a ling.’

    There were no customers in the shop, only rows of book filled shelves and Mr Nosmitz himself standing upon a set of steps, as he arranged books up on a higher shelf. Roe began to casually browse the books, many of which were old and dusty, as was the bookshop itself, it reminded him of something out of a film he had seen long ago, he couldn’t remember which one.

    Mr Nosmitz saw the man browsing the books and descended the steps “Can I be of service?”

    “I wonder if you can, the three crowns of East Anglia” was all he said.


    “What about them? Are you are an antiquarian, and you are interested in old legends?” the bookseller asked eyeing the man closely, an antiquarian maybe, an eccentric certainly.

    “It is amongst my interests certainly, along with secret writings, codes, ciphers and that kind of thing. I became interested in them when I was a boy” Richard Roe explained.

    “A fascinating subject I’m sure. I think I can help you with the Three crowns of East Anglia, but codes and ciphers, they are a little out of my line sir. This is an antiquarian bookshop. I’m not sure that I can be of service to you otherwise.”

    “And Incunabula I see” Richard Roe observed, pointing to a number of books with the tip of his cane.


   “Books printed up to the year fifteen hundred.”

   “Quite so” said the bookseller

    “But come now, to return to my other subject. Codes and ciphers are as old as history itself, are they not?”

    “True, but I have little knowledge of such…….”

    Richard Roe continued to browse the shelves, but moving towards the door of the back room, which stood slightly ajar. He hoped Jonesy and Hanson were in position, at which point he saw Jonesy standing outside the shop window, gazing in at the display of books and dead flies.

    Mr Nosmitz also saw the man standing outside the shop window and knew that something wasn’t quite right, there was danger, he felt it in his bones.

    ‘Ting a ling a ling’

   Jonsey entered the bookshop and closing the door dropped the latch and turned the sign to ‘Closed’.

    “I think I might have what you are looking for in the back room, please feel free to browse while you are waiting” said Nosmitz suddenly making for the door.

    As Nosmitz turned he felt something touch his shoulder, the hard point of something, it was the point of Roe’s walking stick.

    The flick of a concealed button, a whiff of nerve gas and Nosmitz collapsed unconscious on the floor.

    “An old trick Jonesy my boy, but an effective one, wouldn’t you say?”

   Richard Roe darted forward into the back room where he found Hanson restraining one henchman, while the other lay out for the count on the carpet.

    “They left the window open, about to leave they were, and without saying goodbye.”

    “And just as the party was getting started!” quipped Richard Roe.

   In the back room was a computer and lap top, with code books, and files of gathered information.

    Jonsey brought Nosmitz into the back room to join the party, the effects of the nerve gas starting to wear off.


    “Phone up some transport Jonesy, a removal van would be preferable” Richard Roe ordered.

    “Clever aren’t you?” Nosmitz said.

    Blake began to go through the items upon the table. “Only slightly more so than you, an old musty, dust ridden antiquarian bookshop as a cover. And yet here is the Wonderful World-Wide Web, information gathered and despatched to customers the world over, via your dark website, all in code of course. So that to the unsuspecting, Antiquarian Books were nothing more than that” Blake said picking up the lap-top from the desk.

    “Antiquarian perhaps but certainly not antiquated!” returned Nosmitz, staring back at him.

    “Just my sense of the theatrical” Blake replied

    Jonesy turned off his mobile “Transport will be here in five minutes and there’s a message from your Colonel. He wants to see you in his office.”

    “He would, when is the appointed hour to be?”

    “An hour ago” grinned Jonesy.

    Blake rested upon his cane for a moment in deep thought and anticipation.

    “Yes it would be, it’s always like that with him. No doubt the balloon’s gone up somewhere, world shortage of ‘proper biscuits’ no doubt!” Blake said removing his cape.

    “Why don’t you go as you are?” smiled Jonesy.

    “Think yourselves lucky that you’re only in special branch. I might have a sense of the theatrical, but not so the Colonel I can assure you. I’m obliged to you both, be seeing you.”

‘Ting a ling a ling’ sounded the shop bell as the door closed behind the departing Richard Roe.

    London traffic had much improved since the introduction of traffic congestion charge, not quite the open road, but Silas Blake was enjoying driving his grey open topped left-hand drive MGA roadster as he always did. It was his pride and joy.

    Blake turned the MGA roadster, registration MWN 64 into Charing Cross road, round Trafalgar Square and onto Whitehall. Turning right into Charles Street he looked for a parking space and found one, much to his surprise. Raising the hood and locking his car he


fed a handful of change into the parking metre and made his way back up Charles Street to Whitehall. There into a grey grime encrusted building that he knew only all too well.


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