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Tuesday, 29 March 2022

The Prisoner - An Exercise In Logistics Chapter 8


An Interview with the Colonel

    Blake sat in silence as the Colonel carefully read the report before him, stopping intermittently to study some of the photographs from both the pile upon his desk and those downloaded into his computer.

    “Tell me Blake what did you make of The Village?”

    “It’s all in my report Colonel.”

    “Yes, but I would like to hear it from you in your own words, not in the cold jargon of your report” returned the Colonel with a broad grin.

    “You knew it was still active, you sent me there knowing of the danger.”

    “I did warn you, there was no way that I could positively know.”

    “Well someone damned well knew!” barked Blake angrily.

    “The….the Guardian, what happened to it?” asked the Colonel, sounding strangely concerned.

    “The helicopter pilot killed it, shredded it with his Gatling gun” grinned Blake.

    “Pity, it would have made an interesting study subject. How did you find Foxley Manor?”

    “Quiet. I was given to understand that the place was a hive of activity, but the only people that I encountered were two burly men on the gate, Simmons, a maid and of course the General himself. I was told by Simmons that the General rarely pays a visit to Foxley Manor, but yet there he was for dinner, and he took our briefing himself and later our debriefing.”

    “Tell me how is the General? Did he ask after me?”

    “The General is the same as ever’ returned Blake.

    “And his two men…. Grimsdyke and Hyde, what did you make of them?”

    “I had the feeling that they were there for other reasons of their own, but on behalf of the General of course. They sabotaged the communications system. Grimsdyke was most keen to find a reel of magnetic computer tape in the Computer Room of the Town Hall, XO4. I feel that they were sent there to retrieve this.”

    “And did they?”

    “No Colonel, it could not be found.”

    There came a few moments of silence as the Colonel sat thumbing through the pages of Blake’s report.

    “So the Guardian was not deactivated…..”

    “Nor the electric force field of the Town Hall” Blake added.

    “And why do you think that was?” asked the Colonel putting down the report.


    “Because there is still much in the Village that needs to be protected.”


    “Colonel, The Village served to gather information, information of any kind, from anywhere, and from anyone. Information which could not be removed at the time of the evacuation of the Village, so they left it there, all that accumulated information safe and secure in The Village.”

    “The Village still has electrical power, even after all these years, how do you account for that?”

    “It’s in my report” Blake said “that someone visits The Village periodically. There were signs that someone had been there since the day of the evacuation. The maintenance work on the electrics speaks for itself, don’t you think Colonel?”

    “Well yes I would, I would indeed” the Colonel scrolled down the pictures on his computer screen “from the numerous photographs which were taken I can see that The Village is in much the state of dereliction as we thought it was, if not worse. A great deal of restoration work is needed, wouldn’t you agree?”

    “It would be a waste of somebody’s time I would have thought. Personally I’d bulldoze the lot to the ground!” returned Blake.

    “Why would you think that?”

    “The Village was not only a place for recalcitrant agents, but for experimentation, the development of technology, and a blueprint for an International community, like the one Europe has become.”
    “Yes, well Britain got out of that mess” returned the Colonel.

    “There is another way to describe the Village” Blake said.
    “And what’s that?”
    “As a penal colony!”

    “You might be surprised to learn Blake” began the Colonel “that there is still a need for The village, even today in the twenty first century, and perhaps an even greater need than ever before. Terrorists for example, they need to be put somewhere out of harms way. As do political demonstrators and agitators. Cabinet Ministers who bring disgrace upon the party, biting the hand that feeds to coin a phrase, and people who know too much or too little, people with certain knowledge who cannot be left around, I mean the list is endless.”

    “What about Village personnel. Who would you recruit to work in such a place, the world would be in uproar” barked Blake.

    “The world would not know. As for recruitment, that has long been underway, starting with building contractors and landscape gardeners” the Colonel grinned.

    “So it begins all over again. It’s going ahead isn’t it? Tell me Colonel, what was the bloody point of this exercise?”

    “What is the point of anything we do?” retorted the Colonel.


    “Which department is ultimately responsible? Not yours or the

General’s certainly, we just do other people’s dirty business….”

    “That is the way of things Blake you know that, you knew that the day you joined my department. You were sent to do a job, you did that job and now it is over.”

    “But someone knew, they knew before we arrived in The Village what it was like, they knew before the briefing at Foxley Manor, they knew before you put me onto this job, how long had ‘they’ known, that’s the question. Did you know Colonel?”

    “I couldn’t possibly comment. We are all responsible to faceless petty bureaucratic officials who want the work done, but are not themselves prepared to get their own hands dirty.”

    “Number One?” Blake asked.

   The Colonel looked stunned, it was as though a dark shadow from the past had returned to haunt him, the shadow passed, however the feeling of trepidation remained with him.

    “You did a good job, the whys and wherefores are none of your concern they are in the hands of other men…”

    “More faceless, petty bureaucrats?” asked Blake cynically.

    The Colonel closed the report folder, gathered up all the photographs and closed the picture file on his computer.

    “You need a holiday Silas.”

    “Another rare moment” Blake thought to himself, “he’s using my first name!” he knew that he was in trouble. The Colonel rarely used that.

    “Do I?” he asked surprised.

    “Why don’t you take a fortnight’s leave, get away from it all, go fishing, hiking or some such thing” smiled the Colonel.

    ‘And this?” said Blake, meaning his report.

    “You did your job and that is an end to it. Don’t look for answers to questions you will not be allowed to ask.”

    “A still tongue makes a happy life, eh Colonel” quipped Blake.

    “Yes and questions are a burden to others and answers a prison for oneself” returned the Colonel “your fortnight’s leave is effective immediately, take it I advise you. Go and lose yourself.”

    As Blake left the Colonel’s office, a man in a dark business suit and black bowler hat, carrying a briefcase was waiting in the outer office.

    Miss Stevens pressed a button on her intercom “The Minister is waiting sir.”

    “Send him in would you Miss Stevens, and Blake is beginning a fortnight’s holiday, contrary to whatever he may say. See to the arrangements if you would be so kind.”

   Blake and the minister rubbed shoulders as they passed in and out of the office.

    “So you’re on a fortnights leave, lucky you” Miss Stevens smiled, returning a file to its place in a cabinet ‘where are you going?”


    “Fishing!” he replied, taking his usual position sat on the corner of her desk “who’s in with the Colonel now?” he asked trying to sound casual in the question.

    ‘Are you fishing now?’ Miss Stevens smiled, returning to her desk.

    “You said he was a Minister, a Government Minister? Probably one of those faceless bureaucrats the Colonel was taking about.”

    “I wouldn’t know” returned Miss Stevens, taking her chair behind her desk.

    Blake leaned forward across the desk “You know Sylvia, you know more than you ever let on!”

    Miss Stevens looked up from her work “Yes and that is what makes me so good at my job, why I keep my job in fact. Don’t forget to send a postcard, they help brighten up the office.”

   Blake glanced at the notice board set on the wall, there weren’t any postcards to be seen.

    “Sit down Minister” offered the Colonel

    “Thank you Colonel, you know why I am here of course.”

    “Here is my man’s report for you, together with a series of photographs of The Village. I take it all other relative information and reports were submitted by the General?” asked the Colonel, handing over the file.

    “All such information is being collated, this will be added to it” replied the minister, placing the file along with photographs and hard disc into his briefcase.

    “And you consider the exercise to have been a success?” asked the Colonel.

    “Exercise?” queried the minister.

    “An exercise in logistics is how you phrased it” returned the Colonel.

   The minister thought for a moment before answering “all indications would appear to show that it was. Why do you ask?”

    “Oh just professional curiosity. The man you passed on the way into my office was Silas Blake, he headed the team that went to The Village.”

    The minister made a mental note of the name.

    “So what will happen now?”

    “What do you mean Colonel?”

    “Well all of this is to see if The Village is capable of being reinstated when you know full well that it will be” stated the Colonel.

    “Professional curiosity Colonel?’ returned the minister “I can assure you that there is no need to concern yourself further, everything is in hand and will be put before the committee. It is they who will have the final say in the matter.”

    “Not number One then?”

    “Number One?” returned the minister, with a nervous twitch at his mention.


  “Is The Village still so important, even after all these years?”

 The minister rose from his chair “Questions are a burden to others…..”

    “Answers a prison for oneself. You see minister I haven’t forgotten,”

    “Not even after all these years. Be seeing you” saluted the minister.

    “Not if I see you coming first you won’t” thought the Colonel, careful not to actually utter the words.

    Outside the building the minister’s car was waiting for him, a black gleaming Bentley. His chauffeur alighted and opened the back door, the minister climbed in.

    “Where to now Minister, back to Westminster?” asked the chauffeur, now back behind the wheel.

    “Yes, err no Jenkins, to the undertakers on Cannon Street” the Minister ordered from behind the open plate glass window.

    “Very good sir” Jenkins returned, starting the engine and without so much as a raised eyebrow or having to ask for Cannon street.

    The black Bentley pulled gracefully away from the kerb and joined the busy London traffic.

    The Colonel may have been a stickler for duty, in getting the job done, but he detested his department being used by members of other departments looking to seek their own ends. And after this interview with the minister, it was quite apparent that he, the Colonel, was in the same position as he had put Blake, a very uncomfortable one! Pressing a button on his intercom he asked Miss Stevens to call Blake at his home at once, failing that his mobile, wanting him back in his office immediately if not sooner.

    “But he is on a fortnight’s leave sir” argued miss Stevens.

    “That action is hereby rescinded and don’t take any arguments from him, tell him it’s for his own good” snapped the Colonel.

    The Colonel got up from behind his desk and walked over to the window which overlooked Trafalgar square. Busy London traffic slowly circled Trafalgar square. Red double-decker buses, black London taxis, cars of all colours but all looking of the same design, and white vans, motor cycles, a police car, ambulances were some of the everyday vehicles all passing by. Pedestrians hurrying hither and thither, this way and that along the pavements, some hurrying back to work after an hours lunch break. Others were either shoppers, tourists, delivery men, pensioners, mothers, fathers, citizens to whom you would never give a second glance. Then a black hearse attracted the Colonel’s attention as it slowly made its way through the traffic. He stood watching from his window as it drove around Trafalgar square and passed his own building. It was innocent enough, an everyday occurrence which people hardly noticed or gave thought to, unless of course you knew its passenger. A black hearse with a pair of undertakers in the front and a coffin in the back, innocent enough to many, but to the Colonel the sight of any black hearse would always make him stop and wonder……..


    The intercom bleeped into life snapping the Colonel from his train of thought.

    “Yes Miss Stevens.”

    “No reply from Mister Blake’s home and his mobile is switched off sir. Shall I keep trying?”

   The Colonel made no reply.

    Miss Stevens repeated herself “Shall I keep trying sir?”

   Again only silence.

    “Sir is there anything wrong?”

    “No, no Miss Stevens there’s nothing wrong.” No nothing was wrong, he had been too late, that was all!



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