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Tuesday, 12 July 2022

The Prisoner - An Exercise In Logistics Chapter/Episode 23


Top Hats And Undertakers

    The early morning sky was dark and overcast. Low lying cloud covered the mountains, and the wind whipped up the waves sending white horses crashing against the sea wall and stone hull of the boat, and rain lashed down upon the roofs of the candy coloured cottages. The storm was keeping The Village inordinately quiet, the good citizens choosing the comfort of their cottages to the wind blown sodden Village outside. Everyone, that is, except for Number 6, who at this precise moment stood in the wind and rain atop of the cliffs wearing a blue and white anorak. The wind in his hair, the rain on his cheek were bracing, and fair blew the cobwebs away. He was about to turn back along the path into the woods, when he heard, he thought he heard, the sound of aircraft engines. Shading his eyes against the rain, he gazed up into the sky, but the dark storm clouds were too low for him to see anything. But yet, there it was, just audible against the wind, and no mistake a twin engine aircraft. But what was the use, if he could not see it through the clouds? They surely would be unable to see him down on the ground.
    Those on board the twin engine sea plane were in trouble, one engine was feathering, and the aircraft was rapidly losing height as the pilot fought with the controls trying to keep the aircraft in the air.

    In the Control Room the night time Supervisor and her Observers were coming to the end of their shift.

    “Supervisor” called out the radar operator “contact bearing green one four zero, range three miles.

    The Supervisor-Number 212 walked over to the radar screen “Where?”

    “There” said the operator pointing to the orange display screen “now blue one two zero, range two miles, height one thousand feet and falling.”

    “Have we received a distress call?” the Supervisor asked turning to the communication’s operator.

    “Nothing ma’am, could be that they have radio failure” was the

communications operator’s suggestion “but will keep listening.”

    “Eight hundred feet and falling, red ninety, range one and a half miles” the radar operator reported suddenly “she’s coming down and close to The Village ma’am.”

    “Maintain tracking, I want to know the precise area the plane comes down. Observers keep a sharp look out” ordered the Supervisor picking up a yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone “all posts yellow alert, yellow alert. Get me Number Two.”

    Number 2 was not in the best of moods at being risen from his bed at such an early hour. He was still wearing his pyjamas and dressing gown when he was lifted up into his office in the black global chair. The ‘L’ shaped telephone was bleeping.


    “Number Two here, what up?”
    “An aircraft, but it won’t be up for much longer, it’s losing height” the Supervisor reported.
    “What’s that to do with us?”
    “The aircraft was on a direct course to The Village.”
    This made Number 2 sit up and take notice “Really?”
    This latest interim Number 2, a young man, blonde hair, tallish, who had not been in office for long, was about to face his first problem.
    “Radar is tracking the plane, it’s less than a mile away, height five hundred feet” the Supervisor reported.

    “Supervisor, contact has now dropped off my screen!” announced the radar operator.

    “We’ve lost contact sir, the aircraft has dropped off our radar.” the Supervisor reported.

    “You mean it’s crashed, well find it!” Number 2 said into the telephone “there could be survivors.”

    “Yes number Two, but the inclement weather might hamper the search” the Supervisor said before putting the telephone down and giving the order “Observers scan all areas around The Village, sea, estuary and woodland. That aircraft came down somewhere close. Number Two wants it found. Did no-one actually see the plane come down?”

    The five Observers sat looking at their screens in total silence.

    “An aircraft comes down and not one of my Observers sees it!”

    At that moment one of the two Observers sitting on either ends of the see-saw device as they rode round and round up and down turned away from his screen.
    “Supervisor, it looks like the aircraft came down in the woods south of The Village.”

    ‘Very well, scan all the woods, find crash site it shouldn’t be difficult” ordered the Supervisor as though her very future depended upon it.

     The pilot of the twin engine seaplane feathered its starboard engine and the oil pressure in the port engine was dropping rapidly as it coughed and spluttered as though it would die at any moment. The radio was kaput, so an S.O.S was out of the question. Visibility was not good due to low cloud and heavy rain. The pilot pushed on the joystick putting the sea plane into a gentle dive just enough to get below the clouds to see how the land lay below. That was when the wind screen wipers gave up the ghost, leaving the pilot seeing little of the choppy sea below through the rain that lashed against the window. In the back of the plane his one single passenger had strapped himself in, clutching a black leather document case handcuffed to his left wrist. He was a tall gaunt looking man dressed in black suit, black over coat and top black hat. The pilot had thought he could be an undertaker going to a funeral, but nothing could have been further from the truth. The passenger was well passed the simple frightened, nervous state, and was now reaching the terrified panic stricken state of mind which comes when one knows that death is not too far off.


    The aircraft had lost height dramatically, now no higher than five hundred feet and losing height rapidly.

    “Have you sent a distress call?” asked his passenger.

    “The radio’s u-s” said the pilot fighting to control his aircraft but losing.

    “Where exactly are we?” the passenger asked with a look of terror.

    “Damned if I know, GPS is down. We were on course, not so sure now ” shouted the pilot in his struggle with the plane, trying to keep its nose up and the port engine alive.

    The sea’s high waves rose up suddenly to meet the seaplane and the pilot pulled back sharply on the joy stick bringing the plane’s nose up, up towards the rising cliffs ahead as he tried to get the most out of the port engine, which seemed reluctant to give of its best.

    “Are we going to crash?” shrieked the passenger.

    “There’s every chance of that” said the pilot pulling hard on the controls and making the port engine whine as it had to work harder.

    “This is a sea plane, we could land on the sea” the passenger suggested.

    “Believe it or not I had thought of that, but the sea is too rough. If

we hit the waves at the wrong angle the plane would be flipped over

then we wouldn’t stand a chance” the pilot shouted against the high pitched whine of the port engine.
    He fought the controls in desperation to avoid the cliffs. The nose of the seaplane lifted and gained a little height, missing the cliffs but clipped the top of the trees. It dropped, hitting the trees, the floats were wrenched from their mountings. The port engine gave a final cough and spluttered then died. The seaplane dived into the trees tearing the wings from the fuselage, and as it hit the ground the tail broke off, while the smashed nose and cabin section ploughed through the undergrowth before coming to a stop in the dense woodland of The Village. The pilot sat in his seat slumped forward over the controls, blood trickled from an open head wound. The passenger had been thrown out of his seat which had been torn from its mountings, and thrown about the cabin violently during the crash, his top hat crumpled now lay half out of the door on his side unconscious, the black leather document case still handcuffed to his left wrist, and a growing blood stain on his coat.

     From his vantage point, Number 6 had witnessed the crash and was at this very moment forcing his way through the undergrowth of the woods towards the crash site. He was only too aware the crash would not have gone unobserved, and that a search team would be on it’s away. His aim was to get there first. Emerging into the swathe cut in the trees by the plane as it came crashing down. Wreckage was strewn everywhere and there was a sprinkling of small fires. Only the cockpit and forward part of the fuselage remained somewhat intact, it was here that he found the unconscious body of the passenger. Number 6 saw the leather document case handcuffed to the Top Hat officials left wrist. He was just going through the pockets of the black overcoat when a bloody hand grabbed hold of him.


    “I’m a courier. Tell Number Two that I did my duty” coughed courier pulling himself up so that he could speak better “a duty which I now pass onto you. In my inside coat pocket……cough….  a small wallet, inside a key.”

    Number 6 unbuttoned the black overcoat and felt in the inside pocket, producing the small leather wallet, in which was the very key in question.

    “Give the document case to Number Two, you must pass the contents on without fail they are by way of a top secret and confidential nature. Have Number Two tell Number One that Silas Blake……. ugh” the man released his grip on Number 6’s anorak and fell back having breathed his last.

    He used the key to unlock the handcuffs, and took the document case, together with the dead man’s black over coat, dark glasses, and crumpled black top hat and shoes. The dark glasses he put in his anorak pocket, and removed the dead man’s shoes. He quickly checked the remainder of the wreckage, and found the pilot still strapped in his seat, he was dead. With little else to be discovered, Number 6 made off into the woods with his loot. It was not until he came to a rocky tor in the woods that he stopped and crouched in a small rocky alcove worn away in the rock where he was out of sight of the prying eyes of the Observers. Studying the document case he saw it had a combination lock. Setting the three tumblers of the lock he set to zero he turned each one in turn 001 002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009 011 012 013 014 and so on in this way he was surely to discover the combination that would release the lock. 103 104 105 106 107.......... 214 215 216 217, turning the tumblers in sequence 662 663 664 665, then finally at 667 at which the lock snapped open. He unzipped the document case and looked at the contents, and then a cunning plan began to ferment in his mind. He could not allow these documents obtained by a Top Hat courier fall into the hands of Number 2! Obviously he was bringing them to Number 2! It occurred to him that there was only one person who could have obtained these documents, the person of his other self! His clone, his very own flesh and blood, somewhere free in the world, and possibly using his name, living his life. Why had he allowed these to fall into the hands of the enemy? It seems they had finally managed catch up with his clone. The price of his continued freedom, and the condemnation of his twin, being that which he now held in his hands! It seemed to the Prisoner-Number 6, that he was now beyond all hope and deliverance! Stuffing both The Village file and photographs into the document case, he picked it up along with the overcoat, Top Hat and shoes and made his way back to The Village, and his cottage.


    In the Control Room a shift change had occurred and now the Supervisor-Number 28 had put The Village on complete yellow alert. While at the crash medics attended the pilot of the aircraft and its passenger, but it was far too late to do anything for them. Security guards searched both the scattered wreckage and surrounding area, but nothing was found save for a number of footprints leading to and away from the wreckage. The head of the security team contacted the Control Room and made his report.

    “Tell me about this passenger” said the Supervisor.

    “He’s tall, gaunt, wearing a black suit. A curious thing, he has a pair of handcuffs attached to his left wrist. Whatever had been handcuffed to him has been removed” reported Number 48.

    “Is it possible the passenger could be a Top Hat official, is there a black overcoat and top hat in the wreckage?” the Supervisor asked.

   Number 48 looked about the wreckage “No, there’s no overcoat or top hat, but a curious thing.......”

    “Yes, what’s that?”
    “His shoes have been removed.”
    “You couldn’t be mistaken about the footprints, they don’t belong to the medics or your men?” asked the Supervisor.
    “No sir, someone has been here before us.”
    “Someone survived the crash perhaps?”
    “No-one could have survived this sir.”
    “The footprints, where do they lead to?”
    “Into the woods.”
    “Is there a black document case in the wreckage, or identification on the body?”
    “No sir.”
    “Very well, carry on with your search, I will alert Number Two.”

    “You’ve found the crashed plane, good” Number 2 said in good humour, however that was about to change.

    “Both the pilot and passenger are dead, their bodies will be taken to the mortuary” the Supervisor informed him.

    “Dead you say. That might be unfortunate or a blessing. Tell me about the passenger” asked Number 2.

    The Supervisor thought for a moment, but there was no other way to say it “There is a reasonable possibility that the passenger was a Top Hat courier.”

    A what?’ barked Number 2 into his telephone.

    “A Top Hat courier” repeated the Supervisor.

    “Yes that’s what I thought you said. How can you be so sure?”


    “The man’s tall, gaunt, wearing a black suit although we did not find a black top hat, overcoat, or any identification on the body, or in fact his shoes!”

    “His shoes, what about his shoes.”

    “They have been removed, also he’s wearing a pair of handcuffs on his left wrist. So we can assume he was carrying either a document case or attaché cases.”
    “So if we assume he was a Top Hat courier he was bringing something to The Village. But we were not expecting any such arrival...were we?”
    “No Number Two, and there are the footprints!”
    “Footprints?” Number 2 asked.
    “Leading to and away from the wreckage.”
    “From the medics and security guards I shouldn’t wonder.”
    “I am advised not sir.”
    “Then who?”
    “So an unscheduled arrival, a Top hat courier dead, and whatever he was bringing to The Village missing....or taken.....”
    “By person or persons unknown” added the Supervisor.
    “Have those footprints traced, and have a plaster cast made of them so we can trace the footwear.”
    “Yes Number Two, but the footprints are of a flat canvas shoe, all citizens wear such footwear.”
    “We are looking for an opportunist” Number 2 said “and who do we know who fits that description? What’s more only a fool would have been out in that weather.......where was Number Six at the time?”

    Number 6 had confined himself to his cottage since his early morning activity, keeping himself to himself in a low profile! The housemaid had arrived, she brought him his clean laundry, as well as his dry cleaning, his other grey blazer with burgundy piping which he hung in the wardrobe. On the CD player a little Noel Coward was singing about the last time he saw Paris, when suddenly the door to his cottage opened, and in strolled the lean frame of Number 2, the old school scarf wrapped about his neck, carrying a furled umbrella shooting stick. He was followed by his assistant Number 8, a young man in a light blue piped blazer. They were accompanied by two large set men, guardians, wearing striped sweaters who at the click of Number 2’s fingers began to make a systematic search of ‘6 Private’.

    “I trust you have a search warrant!” Number 6 said flippantly.
    “Do I need one?” asked Number 2 watching his men at their work.

    “Obviously not!” Number 6 replied watching his place being turned over.
    “What were you doing out in all that wind and rain this morning?” 2 asked.
    “Was I?”
    “Don’t get coy with me Number Six, your clothes are still damp, as 
are your canvas shoes, do you mind?”


    “Do I mind what?”
    “Taking off your shoes.”
    “Whatever for?”
    “Whatever for...for close examination that’s what for!” offered Number 8.
    “What’s he got there?” 6 asked.
    “A wooden box, it contains two plaster casts” 2 replied.
    “What of?”
    “You’ll see, your shoes if you would be so kind...before we take them!”

    Number 6 sat down and removed his canvas shoes, Number 8 placed the box on the floor. The guardians had completed their thorough search of the cottage and found precisely nothing!
    “Why did you go out this morning Number Six?”
    “I wanted a breath of fresh air since you ask, it was quite invigorating.”
    “You could have caught a cold, or worse” 2 suggested.
    “I didn’t know you cared!”
    “I don’t.”
    Number 8 was busy comparing Number 6’s canvas shoes to the plaster casts in the box, they were an exact match.
    “They match” Number 8 said.
    “Anything to say Number Six?”
    “All the canvas shoes worn by people here are identical; those casts could be of anyone’s shoes.”
    “Not everyone’s” Number 8 said “if you look closely you see that the wear on the soles of your canvas shoes is identical to that of the casts!”
    “The wear of the soles of your shoes Number Six, are as identical as fingerprints, wouldn’t you say” Number 2 remarked “they place you at the crash site of the aircraft. Now what have you to say for yourself?”
    “I heard it, couldn’t miss it”

    “Did you report it?”

    “Why not?”
    “Because your Observers don’t miss a trick, and it was nothing to do with me” Number 6 responded.
    “That’s never stopped you before!”

    “You’re too unkind!”

    “So you didn’t go to the crash site?”

    “Why should I have done that?”

    “To assist any possible survivors” Number 2 suggested casually.

    “Were there any?” Number 6 asked knowing full well the answer.

    “As it happens no, yet items had been taken from the wreckage, and I thought that perhaps a deal could be made for the missing items” Number 2 suggested with an air of confidence, knowing full well that he had found his man.


    “You know what was taken?”
    “Curiously a pair of shoes, amongst other items” Number 2 replied.

    “Other items?” asked Number 6 feigning all innocence.

    Number 2 decided to play it cagey “You are a very important first-hand witness, perhaps you would be good enough to tell me what you saw?”

    “It was a seaplane, and in some trouble.”

    ‘That much we do know” Number 2 informed him.

    “The plane was in a dive. It looked as though the pilot was avoiding trying to land on the water. It was very rough out there, a high tide. The aircraft managed to get over the top of the cliffs, but hit the top of the trees, tearing off the floats. The port engine was coughing and spluttering, the starboard engine feathered, a crash in the woods was inevitable” Number 6 reported.

    “Tell me again why you were on the cliffs at that time of the morning?” Number 2 asked.

    “I like to watch the cormorants fly in to roost for the day” Number 6 replied with a smile.

    “In that weather, I had no idea you were such a keen bird watcher, or a bird watcher of any kind!” remarked Number 2 not hiding the sarcasm in his voice.

    “Why was the sea plane coming here?” asked Number 6 casually.

    “What makes you think it was coming to The Village? An aircraft in distress, it could have been blown off course” Number 2 suggested

    “It would be a first. Never had a seaplane arrive here before, what’s wrong with the helicopter?” asked Number 6 teasingly.
    “It couldn’t fly in such weather!” came the reply.
    “Tell me how many people do you have on your lists of suspects?”
    Number 8 took a small notebook from his pocket, opened it and read out loud “Number Six” then closing the notebook placed it back in his pocket.
    “Have you ever considered that you might have the wrong man?” Number 6 asked putting on his shoes.
    “I don’t have the wrong man, I have the right man, and you know it!” Number 2 told him.
    “On the circumstantial evidence of a pair of canvas shoes, you’ve found nothing else!” 6 said looking about the chaos caused in the search.
    “We’ll be seeing you Number Six” Number 8 warned.
    The door of the cottage opened.

    “Well I always enjoy your visits. Feel free to call by any time. Be seeing you” Number 6 saluted casually.

    The door swung open for the departing and Numbers 2 and 8 took their leave.

    Later that day a tall man dressed in a black overcoat, dark glasses, and what appeared to be a slightly battered Top Hat, was sitting at a table on the lawn of the Old People’s Home. A waiter approached his table asking the Top Hat official if he wanted anything. The man ordered tea. So far no-one on the lawn had recognised Number 6, or rather 86, as the badge pinned to the left lapel of his overcoat denoted. He had amended his own badge slightly using a little red paint. True the Admiral sat at another table had given him a queer look, but had failed to penetrate his disguise. And so he took afternoon tea. But why the disguise, because he was due to gain entry to the Town Hall, made possible due to the two small white discs found in a pocket of the overcoat. He was aware of their use as security pass discs. If escape is out of the question, then possibly infiltration into the inner workings of The Village might bring forth the possibility of sabotage or the chance simply to throw a spanner in the works. But primarily he had something to hide, and where better to hide it, where no-one would think of looking, but in the Town Hall!


    Number 86, finished his tea, rose from the table and walked away from the Old People’s Home, up the hill towards the Town Hall. Ahead of him two Top Hat administrative officials carrying black leather document cases under their arms entered the Town Hall through the large portico entrance. Number 86 carried on walking up the street towards the imposing building. Pausing he wondered about the electrical force field when a voice said behind him.
   “Aren’t you going in?”
    “Two Top Hat officials stood behind him.
    “Yes, yes of course” 86 told then and stepping forward entered the Town hall.

    “Did you see that Supervisor?” an Observer asked.
    “See, see what?” asked the Supervisor.

    “A Top hat official seemed to linger for a moment outside the Town Hall before going in” the Observer reported.
    “What about it?”
    “Well he’s wearing a battered Top Hat!”
    This grabbed the Supervisor’s attention “He’s what?”
    “Wearing a battered Top Hat, all crumpled like.”
    “Playback the last few moments” the Supervisor ordered.
    On the wall screen the scene of a few moments ago was played back.

    “Zoom in on that chap” ordered the Supervisor.

    The camera zoomed on the man in the battered Top Hat, then zoomed in on the Penny Farthing badge.

    “It’s Number eighty-Six” said the Supervisor tapping the number into his computer slate “but there’s something not quite right about the number.”

    A file was checked, the result being that Number 86 was an old woman in a wheelchair who died a week ago!

    “The eight is out of line with the number six” the Observer reported “making the number off centre. It looks like the 8 has been added to the 6. What is that, nail varnish?”

    “More like paint” said the Supervisor “and the trousers are fawn, not black, zoom in on the face of our friend here, let’s see who he is.”


    The camera zoomed in on the face of the Top Hat official.

    “Freeze the picture” said the Supervisor “digitally remove those dark glasses.”

    “Why it’s Number Six!” the Supervisor exclaimed in surprise picking up the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone “get me Number Two, quickly.”

    “Number 2 here, what is it, what do you want?”

    The Supervisor made his report to Number 2, and asked if he should have Number 6 apprehended?

    “If Number Six wants to play games, who am I to stop him?” said Number 2 “besides, I want to know what he’s up to. Alert security and  watch him!”

   Inside the foyer of the Town Hall several Top Hat officials were queuing up at a pair of French doors, which permitted access at the touch of a button set in the wall. So Number 86, with the document case tucked under his arm joined the back of the queue, and waited his turn. Once through the pair of French doors Number 86 found himself walking along a grey painted corridor which he had once walked before, and knew that he would come to a checkpoint. Hence the need for the two small white security pass discs he found in his overcoat pocket. Further down, the corridor broadened out into a small reception area with a round table beyond which was the security checkpoint at which the Top Hats were queuing up to go through. Number 86 hung back ferreting about in the document case as he played for time, watching those before him go through the checkpoint.

    There was a small red speaker set into the wall and beneath that a small black box.

    “Your business please”’ asked a voice from the speaker as the next Top Hat official stood waiting.

    “Administration-logistics” the Top Hat official stated, placing a small white security pass disc into the narrow slot of the black box.

    Slowly the black box gave a whirring sound as the lid began to lift up and open, and from inside a small white hand emerged as the lid of the box opened, it quickly snatched the small disc, disappearing back into the box, and the lid snapped shut.

    “Proceed to pass….. pass” said the voice sending the Top Hat official on his way as the next official stepped forward.

    Number 86 watched and waited, feeling the pair of security pass discs in his pocket which he turned over in his hands. They were

identical with a small Penny Farthing on either side. Before he knew it Number 86 was alone in the reception area, slowly he approached the security check point, knowing full well the electrical force field which prevented unwarranted access.
    “Your business please?” asked a voice.

    “Administration-logistics” he said confidently and placed a security pass disc into the narrow slot of the black box.


    There came the whirring sound as the lid began to lift up and open, again a small white hand emerged snatching the white disc, and disappeared with it back into the black box.

    “Pass” the voice announced.

    Number 86 stepped passed the checkpoint walking along the grey walled corridor which was just one of many forming a maze of corridors beneath The Village. Each as identical as the next, and patrolled by two white helmet clad security guards. There were a number of frosted glass doors, projection, studio, Department of Visual Records, Administration, and Records and Information, he tried the door marked General Office, and found it unlocked. He stepped in closing the door behind him. The room was more akin to a gentleman’s study. Removing his dark glasses Number 86 put his leather documents case down upon a table and looked at the computer screen on the desk which displayed a Penny Farthing screen saver. He pulled back the chair and sat down at the desk and moved the mouse. The screen-saver disengaged, to his surprise found the computer still to be logged on! He typed one single word into the search box information. An index appeared on the screen and he began to scroll down, and then it hit him. A white truncheon in the white gloved hand of a security guard brought down hard on the back of his head!
    When Number 6 regained consciousness he was sitting in a chair in an almost bare room save for another chair and plain wooden desk. A single light hung from the ceiling.
    “What room is this?”
    “The interrogation room” Number 2 told him.
    He was accompanied by Number 8, both dressed in Top Hat official uniform, and two snowdrop security guards.

    “What’s this, an undertaker’s convention?” quipped Number 6.

    “I see you have not lost your sense of humour. But choose your next witticism with care, as it might be your last” Number 2 replied sternly.

    There was another man in the room, another official sat behind the desk, he was taking notes. At a nod from Number 2 he rose and left the room.

    “What’s the matter with them, off to a funeral?” quipped Number 6.

    “Yours if you do not co-operate!” said Number 2

    “I have suffered threats before, and yet here I am” Number 6 replied with confidence.

    “Yes but then you were under protection” said Number 2 laying a

hand upon the black leather document case lying on the desk.

    Number 6 looked at it, but made no recognition of it.

    “Yes it is yours Number Six, or at least the one in your possession; however we will come to that in a minute. First what were you doing in the office of records and information?”
    “I needed some information, and that seemed to be the mostly likely place to find it!”


    “Don’t get flippant with me Six! Who gave you the security pass discs?”

   “I found them in the pocket of the overcoat.”

    “Which you took from the dead body of the courier, as well as his shoes, top hat, along with this black leather document case which I have here. I thank you for delivering it into my hands Number Six, I am grateful for that at least. That just might go in your favour when it comes to your trial” said Number 2 with a broad grin on his face, about to reveal his victory.
    “I received a communiqué. Remember that clone of yours who was unfortunately released into the big wide world? Well apparently he’s been tracked down. You wouldn’t believe the chaos he’s been causing, and then somehow he managed to trace Professor Seltzman, and to be quite honest it gets all rather confusing. In short, for his continued freedom he gave us The Village file, and all the photographs which you took, and had squirreled away.
    Number 2 picked up the document case and squeezed it with relish, before unzipping it to find the case stuffed with copies of The Tally Ho, Village Weekly, Tally Ho Journal, and Village Mercury!

    Number 2 was flabbergasted “What skulduggery is this?” he barked pulling out the contents of the case.

    “It means we’ve both been duped!” Number 6 said with a smile.

    “Where are they, the file, the photographs, what have you done with them?” Number 2 demanded, now in a state of utter confusion.

    Number 8 then put in his two pennyworth in “Who are you in league with Number Six, who did you give the file and photographs to, someone here in The Village. Give me their name.”

    “You’ll get nothing from him. He’s trained to resist interrogation techniques” said Number 2 “give me what I want and I can make it easy for you.”
    “You clearly won’t believe me” Number 6 said “But I cannot give you what I haven’t got!”
    “Number Eight, I want you and your men to tear this village apart, raise it to the ground if you have to......”
    “Why not save him the time and energy” Number 6 said “clearly my clone has managed to outwit your men, or whoever, certainly the courier.”

    “You’ve been having a game with me!”

    “Yeeeesssss, sorry I couldn’t resist that. Tell me, are you going to bring my clone back to The Village? Do you in fact know what he looks like now?”

    “Ah yes, your clone who was to have escaped The Village to retrieve that which was so close to being mine, for him to return here with a rescue team and effect your escape. Your clone apparently had a plan

all his own. He betrayed not only you, but also the hand that created him. He turned out to be as treacherous and devious as you!” Number 2 was pleased to inform the Prisoner.

    “Where is he now?”


    “He disappeared soon after making contact with Professor Jacob Seltzman, who we are also unable to trace” said Number 2 “It’s possible that your clone has undergone a mind transference.”

    “Professor Seltzman, he’s still alive, after all these years?”
    “He’s the same in mind, if not in body!”
    “And my clone?”
    “He’s no better than you are!”
    “But at least he’s not going about wearing my face” Number 6 said

suddenly leaping from his seat taking on the two security men.     
     Number 8 took advantage and made good his own escape dashing out through the glass frosted door and into the corridor. Number 6 was subdued and restrained. Number 2 smiled, picked up a yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone from the table, and calling the Control Room issued an Orange Alert. Number 8 ran the length of the corridor, turning left, then right, and right again, then another left until he was unsure which way was out in this underground labyrinth of identical corridors. Then came a blood curdling roar, a cross between a bicycle pump, Gregorian chant, and someone breathing through an aqua lung! And suddenly there it was, at the far end of the corridor, as though the white mass of the Guardian was being viewed down a perspective glass. It rolled forward, not more that three feet in circumference, but growing in size the closer it got to its prey. Number 8 turned to find he was at the end of the corridor! But that wasn’t possible, he turned and the white membranic mass of the Guardian was upon him. He screamed, and screamed again, oh how he screamed. His face suddenly smothered by white, almost transparent membrane which his fingers clawed at, as he gasped for breath. As the Guardian rolled back, the body of Number 8 slumped to the floor.

    “What will you do with him?”
    “You heard him scream, a burial would seem to be favourite!” Number 2 replied without feeling. “I don’t know what part Number Eight played in this. But a man with nothing to hide, has nothing to find!”

   “I have nothing to hide” the Prisoner told him.

   “Then I have nothing to find, Number Eight was your clone, having infiltrated himself back in The Village!”
   “And together we burnt the material that was to have been yours!” Number 6 finally admitted “so what happens now?”

   “That is entirely up to you my dear fellow” Number 2 began “try to settle down. Life here could give you peace of mind, if only you’d stop interfering with those things which do not concern you.”

   “That has never been my way!” Number 6 told him.

   “You see, that’s just the kind of attitude that will do you no good in the end” Number 2 told him.


   Later that day Number 2 was in his office busy working on his report. Suddenly the oversized curved red telephone, began to bleep impatiently. He leaned forward out of his chair picking up the telephone and announced himself “Number 2 here…..yes sir, things didn’t quite work out as planned, yet in the best possible way.......the clone is dead, a funeral will be held tomorrow, he will be buried as Number Eight.......What had he tried to gain? Who can say sir, perhaps the escape of Number Six..................they were destroyed by Number 6 and his confederate, so I suppose in that regard the case is closed.......Well you know yourself sir, anything involving Number Six invariably ends in failure!......yes sir, I realise the responsibility ultimately lies with me sir” the telephone call was suddenly terminated.

    Tomorrow there would be another funeral, Top Hats and Undertakers, Top Hats and Undertakers!


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