sun was high in the sky as the grey 1957
“Bloody townies, come speeding along here
in their flash cars, nearly a goner that one. Almost mangled up in my combine
harvester” grunted the farmer. The combine continued its journey uninterrupted,
disappearing round the curve and along the road to the next field.
Blake though a little shaken started the car’s engine, reversed out of the gateway and drove on but at a much slower speed. A signpost at a ‘T’ junction pointed one mile to
“Excuse me” said Blake stopping his roadster “could you direct me to Foxley Manor.”
The young woman looked at the man sitting in the grey car.
“Are you one of them?” asked the young woman.
He gave her a puzzled look.
“One of who?”
“Doesn’t matter, carry on along the lane and the Manor is half a mile on the left.”
“Thank you, it’s a lovely village and what a beautiful day” remarked Blake.
“Showers later” was all the girl replied.
Blake looked up into the pale blue cloudless sky.
“Really how can you tell?”
“There’s always showers later hereabouts, you staying at the Manor?” replied the young woman, rising from the bench and walking over to the girl on the swing.
“Yes, why do you ask?”
“So were the other two” retorted the young woman, taking the little girl’s hand.
“Yes, the two men who looked like undertakers. They were asking for the Manor” returned the woman.
That must have been Hyde and Grimsdyke, they were here already, as the Colonel said they would be.
“Well thank you” said Blake engaging first gear.
“Be seeing you” saluted the young woman in response.
As he drove off along the lane, he looked in the mirror and watched the young woman looking at the car as it went. It was a strange salute she had given, using thumb and fore finger to the eye.
About half a mile down the lane a high wall
appeared and set in that wall were a huge pair of black wrought iron gates. Turning
off the lane Blake brought the
“What do you want then?”
“The name’s Blake, Silas Blake I’m expected.”
A second man appeared and opening the gates approached the car. Both men were dressed in brown working clothes one brandishing a shot gun, game keeper or guard Blake wasn’t sure.
“Plenty of poachers hereabouts” Blake quipped looking at the man with the shotgun.
“Can’t be too careful, all sorts try to get in here, private you see” returned the second man.
“Yes but I am expected, if you could contact the Manor.”
“That’s as maybe sir but you see we have to be sure that you are who you say you are, have you any form of identification?” asked the man with the shotgun.
Blake took out both his driving license and his MI9 identification card which the two men both studied carefully.
“That’s fine mister Blake, the General is expecting you. Straight up
the drive to the house if you would sir” replied the man with a pointing shotgun.
Blake drove through the gates and along the
tree lined drive to the house. In the mirror he could see one of the men
speaking into a radio, no doubt alerting the General of his arrival.
Foxely Manor was a large gothic building, built of solid stone, it stood tall and imposing and in several acres of its own grounds. As he parked he climbed out, collected his suitcase from the back seat and looked up at the faces gazing down upon him from beneath the parapet…. Gargoyles! Ugly, devilish looking faces some with bared teeth and horns. A set of steps led up to a large portico and a stout oak door beyond, which suddenly opened and a man dressed in a tweed suit stepped through the portico and down the steps to greet him.
“My name is Simmons, Alex Simmons, I run admin here at Foxley and you must be Blake” said the slim built man offering his hand.
Blake shook the offered hand “That’s right. I understand two of my colleagues have already arrived.”
“Who do you understand that from?” asked Simmons.
“From a young woman in the Village, I stopped and asked directions. She said that two men had also asked for Foxley Manor, she said that they looked like two undertakers. I took them to be Hyde and Grimsdyke” returned Blake with a smile.
“Your men are here and have been waiting for some time mister Blake. Will you follow me please” asked Simmons, leading the way and making a mental note about the young woman.
“What exactly do you do here?” asked Blake approaching the steps.
“I told you, I run administration” replied Simmons.
“No I mean at Foxley Manor” corrected Blake, as they climbed the steps to the portico.
“Oh we do all sorts here Mister Blake we are always busy at Foxley. Training, seminars, conferences, briefings, debriefings, we get all types here sir and from varying departments.” Simmons replied.
Entering through the large doors Blake found himself standing in a huge elaborate entrance hall, military paintings of Generals adorned the walls. To his left was a staircase, to the right a corridor which lead deep into the building. There were four oak doors at various intervals along the walls and a reception desk. Simmons stepped behind the reception desk and opened a leather bound ledger.
“Would you sign in mister Blake, then I’ll take you to your room.”
he did as he was bid, noticing that Hyde and Grimsdyke had indeed signed before him. Yesterday in fact!”
“When can I meet Hyde and Grimsdyke?”
“You haven’t met them?” asked Simmons.
“No, I understand they are two of the General’s men” returned Blake, putting the pen down.
“They are indeed two of his best men, and Foxley Manor is part of the General’s department. Do you know the General?” asked Simmons, stepping from behind the reception desk.
“We have met, once. Is he here now, the General?” Blake asked picking up his suitcase.
“The General is very busy, and this being only a small part of his total department we are rarely treated to a visit. However should he drop in unexpectedly I will be sure to draw his attention to your being here.”
“I’m sure that he knows that I am here” retorted Blake, having been used by the General before.
“Everything has been prepared for you. All your equipment is here and has been checked, but no doubt you would wish to make your own inspection, for your own satisfaction.”
“No doubt about it” returned Blake.
“Transport details have also been arranged, for your departure, arrival and extraction, I’m sure they will meet your approval. Once you have refreshed yourself from your journey you can meet your men, now if you would follow me please.”
Simmons led the way along the corridor to a door at the far end. Grasping the handle firmly he opened the door and stepped inside.
“This is your room mister Blake, I trust you will be comfortable.”
Simmons closed the door behind him as he left. Blake placed his suitcase upon the single bed, and looked about the room. A wardrobe, wash basin with a mirror above it, two casual chairs and a chest of drawers. Upon the walls two pictures, one of a sea battle, Trafalgar he thought, and the second was a landscape of which he didn’t know where.
Something was puzzling Blake, if Foxley Manor was such a busy place with training, briefings, debriefings and the like, then where was everyone?
After half an hour, Blake came out of his room, not with the intention of meeting Hyde and Grimsdyke but to have a nose around.
Walking along the corridor to the entrance hall he paused at one or two doors along the way, this to listen for voices on the other side. Even to try one or two doors, but each were firmly locked against him.
Then a voice spoke to him from the end of the corridor, it was the young woman from the Village who was now wearing a housemaid’s uniform.
“Can I help you sir?”
“Oh it’s you, no it’s alright, I was wondering if one of these rooms belonged to two colleagues of mine, John Hyde and Paul Grimsdyke” returned Blake walking towards her.
“Their room is in another part of the building sir, but if you are looking for them they are at this present time in the great hall, through the double doors passed the staircase sir” replied the maid politely.
“You work here?” Blake asked.
“Only in the afternoons sir, will there be anything else?” asked the maid.
“Tell me, why is it so quiet here, I mean shouldn’t there be more people around, I thought that a place like this would be bustling with activity.”
The maid looked at him “Sometimes it’s quiet like this sir, when there’s something special on’.
“And is there something special on now?” asked Blake.
“Well there must be sir it’s a quiet time. If that’s all I’ll be seeing you” returned the maid as she walked off to be about her business.
Blake carried on to the entrance hall,
passed the staircase glancing at Simmons standing at the reception desk as he
went, then up to the double doors, where upon he grasped firmly the handles and
turning them pushed open the doors and entered the great hall.
The great oak lined hall was a cavernous place, or at least that is the impression it gave, obviously used for conferences, briefings, meetings. There was a stage at the far end with a rostrum and screen, chairs stacked together along one wall, lights suspended from fixtures in the vaulted ceiling.
In the centre of the hall, tables had been set up and laid out was all the equipment he had ordered. Two men, one gaunt, the other on the short side, were occupied checking that equipment.
“You must be John Hyde and Paul Grimsdyke, I’m Blake, Silas Blake” he said announcing himself.
Hyde and Grimsdyke looked up from their work and at the man now walking towards them.
“Blake, we have heard much about you” said Hyde stepping forward to shake him by the hand, as indeed did Grimsdyke.
“You’re both eager I have to say. All the equipment here, it certainly appears to be?” asked Blake, walking the length of the tables.
“All here and in good order” returned Grimsdyke with confidence.
“How long have you men been here?” Blake asked picking up a digital camera.
“Long enough” came the reply
“Smile” said Blake pointing the camera “that seems to be working okay” he said replacing the camera on the table.
Grimsdyke glanced at Hyde, then back at Blake “We arrived yesterday, thought we should busy ourselves, seeing that we leave a little after dawn tomorrow.”
“Doesn’t leave us much time, does it?” Blake said.
“Everything’s arranged. The General has seen to that. Grimsdyke and myself have studied the file on The Village, checked the equipment.”
“Really, and I am supposed to take your word for that?” asked Blake.
‘It said in your file that you find it difficult to trust people” offered Hyde
“Well gentlemen, there you have the advantage of me, my not having the privilege to have read your files!” returned Blake.
“You can trust us sir, we will not let you down” Hyde assured him.
Blake had had previous experience with other of the General’s men. Upon these two he deferred judgement until the results on the picture he had taken.
The rest of the afternoon was spent with Blake satisfying himself with the equipment supplied.
Three day rations of, coffee, food packs for three days, chocolate, Kendal mint cake. Bottled water.
Two digital cameras
Three sleeping bags
Two lengths of rope, each of thirty feet
Good old fashioned notebooks and pencils.
3 mess tins.
Binoculars, and night vision goggles.
Three Swiss army knives.
Three two-way radios, with spare batteries.
And The Village file.
Each man was also supplied with a pair of boots, polo neck sweater, a pair of blue overalls.
“What about weapons and ammunition?’ Blake enquired.
“It’s not a war zone Blake, it’s a deserted village. This is simply a reconnaissance mission!” Hyde told him.
“I have learned gentlemen that nothing is ever simple, and if you have read my file then you will know that I like to be prepared for the unknown. Besides, in unknown situations, it’s best to have some sort of edge” returned Blake.
“Always the same, eh Blake” came the voice from the door.
The General, a well built man with a
booming voice stood framed in the doorway.
Blake was not at all surprised by the voice, and turned round to greet the man “Good afternoon General, just arrived?”
“There is no need for weapons Blake, as my man said this is simply a reconnaissance mission. Seeing as you will be leaving early in the morning, I shall carry out the final briefing over dinner this evening” explained the General, who turned and departed the hall with no further comment. Blake observed the reaction of both Hyde and Grimsdyke, they were just as surprised as he was to see the General, if ever so briefly.
Having been left to pack their kit and equipment, the three men discussed the mission. Blake trying to get as much information from his men as he could. But it seemed that they knew nothing more about The Village than he did, like himself having only read the file. But the General’s men were as he was, well trained in giving little or nothing away. Departments are loathed to give anything away to each other, even when working in collusion. And Blake he was still unsure if he could trust them, he would feel more comfortable with his 45 automatic under his arm. Simmons came into the hall to see how things were progressing and announced that dinner would be in one hour. Hyde and Grimsdyke returned to their rooms, while Blake made to leave the hall, but instead returned for the digital camera. Removing the memory card containing the picture he had taken of his two colleagues, with the intention of emailing it, along with a report on the General to the Colonel at the first available moment.
Dinner was an informal affair, the General
sat at the head of the table, Hyde and Grimsdyke at his right hand and Blake on
the left. Simmons and the maid served dinner. Leek and potato soup, main course
of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and a selection of vegetables. Black forest
Gateau for pudding, followed by crackers and stilton cheese, all with a light
white wine and deep red claret and the usual dinner small talk. The General
doing most of the talking and Hyde and Grimsdyke only too happy to sit and
listen, and agree from time to time but never to contradict the General in
anyway. Too better yes men Blake was yet to meet!
The General wanted to know how the Colonel was, and if Blake was still happy working for him in MI9. If not, he suggested that he would be pleased to find a position in his own department for such a loyal and most capable operative. Indeed Blake’s recent escapades had not gone unnoticed by the General’s department. Blake thanked the General, but said that he was more than happy with his position in MI9, and that the Colonel would take a very dim view if someone was to attempt to poach a member of his staff. And would make mention of it in his report to the Colonel. To which the General took a very dim view, he had never been accused of poaching before!
After dinner came coffee and cigars. Two copies of The Village files were placed open upon the table together with an open ‘Map of Your Village.’
“I’ll take it that you have all studied the file on The Village” the General asked, puffing on his cigar.
The three men looked at one another and agreed that they had, but that most of it was still a mystery and that there was much they did not understand. The General was not at all surprised to hear this, but would have been had it not been so.
“Well that’s no matter gentlemen. As what you do not understand is none of your concern” the General told them. “Gentlemen this will be a three day reconnaissance mission, to carry out a survey of the installation known only as The Village. Lastactive in the late 1960’s”
“It was evacuated in late nineteen sixty seven” interrupted Hyde, who had obviously done his homework.
“In December of that year to be precise” Grimsdyke added, winning the point.
“Quite so” confirmed the General “To slightly quote one of the citizens at the time, The Village was a place where people would turn up, people who knew too much or too little. A place which had many means of breaking a man. It was seen as cosmopolitan, an International community, even as a blue print for world order.”
Grimsdyke had a question “Why put people who knew too little in The Village?”
The General ignored the question and looked at Hyde, who looked as though he had a question to ask.
“Yes, well my question is a simple one. What went wrong?”
“Revolution, bloody and violent revolution, which culminated in the launching of a rocket, and the eventual evacuation” the General explained “that single act could have instigated World War Three. It certainly put both sides on alert.”
“Why should The Village have a rocket?” asked Hyde.
“Bet that question comes under the heading of what you don’t understand is none of our concern!” quipped Grimsdyke in return.
The General gave Grimsdyke a look of annoyance, then moved on.
“You are to take photographs, record anything and everything you see and find. The Village has suffered more than fifty years of neglect. It is over grown and many of its buildings have fallen into decay and dilapidation, probably fit only for demolition. Certainly as it stands The Village will be uninhabitable” the General went on to explain.
“We can observe this from the recent aerial photographs, and if you know all of this already, doesn’t this make our mission rather obsolete?” Blake asked, studying the photographs.
Both Hyde and Grimsdyke had to agree.
“Gentlemen, no one has set foot in The Village since its evacuation, we have to put boots on the ground” the General assured them.
“To what end General, even by these aerial shots I can tell the state of this Village which has been left abandoned and uncared for. What more could be gained by a ground survey?” Blake argued.
“To the end of discovering whether or not The Village is capable of being restored to its former state and with the proposal for its eventual reactivation” returned the General, realising that he was saying more than he should.
“It’s a waste of someone’s time, if you ask me” said Grimsdyke.
“Yes ours. Just show them the photographs!” suggested Hyde sarcastically.
That was not the talk of yes men, it was part of the game thought Blake and if so what game were they playing?
The General ignored the comments of his men and carried on with the briefing “Gentlemen, there are three ways into The Village, by sea, by air and through a tunnel.”
“Tunnel!” exclaimed Hyde, he had not observed that on the map.
“Yes, the tunnel leads into an underground
cavern beneath The Village. Although in all probability the tunnel has
collapsed, so you will be flown to Lisbon airport, and from there by helicopter
to The Village. Four days later the helicopter will return in order to extract
you from your location. Then back to
“You make it sound so simple” was Hyde’s comment.
“Only in colour” returned the General, handing over a second Map of Your Village.
Blake unfolding the map found it exactly the same as the black and white one, only larger!
“No General, I meant a larger area.”
The General allowed himself a moment of amusement “Sorry Blake I couldn’t resist that, you see there was never any call for larger area maps in The Village.”
“And so the location of The Village would be?” asked Blake coldly.
“On page forty-eight in the file” returned the General, rising out of his chair.
“Yes, but I’d like to see a map of the terrain around The Village.”
“The Village is surrounded on three sides by woodland forest, which in turn is surrounded by mountains. Along the fourth side is an estuary, and beyond that hills and more mountains.” replied the General “don’t worry, you’ll be in good hands. An excellent helicopter pilot and navigator have been assigned, and have been supplied with the coordinates of The Village. Just as long as you have a good pilot and navigator nothing can go wrong.”
There came a knock on the door and Simmons entered carrying a piece of paper.
“Sorry to interrupt General, but there is an urgent message for you.”
The General took the slip of paper upon which were two words ‘Yellow Alert.’
“Apologies gentlemen but I have been recalled to my department. Well I think you have all the necessary information. From here on in it’s up to you. I’ll leave you to work out your own plan of action, and if all goes well I shall be seeing you back here in a few days. Good luck.”
The General departed the room without a further word, he seemed nervous, there was certainly an anxious, worried look upon his face. No doubt he has his own superiors to face was Blake’s thought.
“It seems that the General has other concerns more important than this mission” began Blake “look I don’t know how much more the General has told you about The Village, but seeing that we are supposed to be on the same side, there is an anomaly that I think you should be made aware of’.
“What, only one?” queried Hyde.
“Rover, The Village Guardian. It is not known whether or not the proper de-activation procedure was followed. If the membranic life form wasn’t deactivated, it means the thing is still on the prowl, and poses a very great danger” Blake informed them.
Hyde and Grimsdyke gave each other a look of concern. They had read of the Guardian in the file, but the thought that it might still be prowling the ruins of The Village had never once occurred to them.
“Once we’ve arrived, we will be on our own so we work together. The General, the Colonel they will not matter, we must be able to rely upon each other. As an added precaution, I have organised satellite telecommunications, just in case.”
“Has the General been made aware of this?” asked Hyde.
Blake smiled “What the General doesn’t know about doesn’t concern him, besides I told you I like to have an edge.”
Hyde and Grimsdyke were beginning to like Silas Blake, but they wouldn’t admit to it even if pushed!
The night turned out to be an active one, Blake had returned to the great hall, this to add two vital pieces of personal equipment to his backpack, the satellite telephone, and a 45 calibre Glock automatic pistol. Then as he zipped up his pack there came footsteps from outside the room. He took advantage of cover behind some packing cases, just as the door of the Great Hall opened, it was Hyde and Grimsdyke who quickly turned their attention to one of the pair of steel cylinders packed with much of the equipment, which included the satellite telephone link up system supplied by Blake. He watched from his place of concealment as Hyde removed the back of the communications system and removed a transistor board before replacing everything else back as it was, and closing the cylinder.
Suddenly a mobile phone bleeped loudly from Grimdyke’s pocket. Taking it out and turning it on he listened to the voice of the caller before replying.
“Of course sir…. no sir he doesn’t suspect a thing….. no sir we will carry out instructions, but our loyalty is with you sir…… I guarantee that the mission will be a successful one…… no he has no idea of our ulterior goal I assure you sir………… yes sir, but don’t you think Blake could be of some use……” the phone went dead before Grimsdyke had a chance to finish.
“He rang off, must be in one of his moods” Grimsdyke told Hyde, placing the phone back in his pocket.
Blake waited for the coast to clear before making his way back to his room. So much for the wrecked communications system, and thank god for the back-up satellite telephone. What’s more, it was all too plain to him that by the action he had witnessed and judging by what he had heard, that once again he was involved in a mission where he had only himself to trust!
Dawn arrived remarkably early, but the team of Blake, Hyde and Grimsdyke had been up for a good hour earlier, having carried out their ablutions, followed by breakfast, and having made a final check of all equipment, they were just about ready when the truck arrived to take them to the airfield. Each member of the team looked neat and tidy in their uniforms of black berets, blue overalls and shiny black boots. They put on their haversacks and the pair of heavy steel cylinders were loaded onto the truck. Simmons was there to see them off on the first leg of their journey, he had a sheet of paper in his hand.
“Mister Blake, I’ll take your copy of The Village files if you would be so kind.”
“On whose authority?” snapped Blake sternly.
“I have a signed authorisation from the General to relieve you of the file mister Blake” Simmons said holding out a three sheet paper document “you will no doubt recognise the first name on the top of the first page.”
Blake took the document from Simmons and studied it closely.
“There is an even more influential name on page two, which I am sure you will also recognise” said Simmons, with a knowing smirk.
Blake saw that Simmons was quite right, both names were equally impressive and so regrettably he had no choice but to hand over The Village file, signing it off in triplicate! As he climbed into the back of the truck alongside Hyde and Grimsdyke, he felt that somehow things were stacking up against him, but he had no idea the reason why. After all everyone was supposed to be on the same side.
Simmons with The Village file grasped tightly under his arm stood watching as the truck pulled away along the drive towards the pair of large wrought iron gates. The gates opened automatically for the truck to pass through. Then turning he walked back inside the manor through the large portico as the gates slowly closed behind the now departing truck.
Back in reception Simmons picked up the receiver of the red telephone upon the desk and made a call without pressing one single digit.
“Number one please….. urgent.”