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Monday 24 October 2022

The Prisoner - A New No.2 - chapter 15


Chapter 15

You never Know Who You Might Meet!


    The turquoise coloured Alouette helicopter approached the Village over the hills on the furthermost side of the Village and flying across the estuary the pilot made the final approach to land on the grass by the sea wall. An ambulance was parked up and two men in white coats stood waiting as the helicopter settled on the lawn, the engine stopped and its rotor blades began to slow. Carrying a stretcher between them the two medical orderlies approached the helicopter, the pilot opened the cabin door and an unconscious woman was carried out, placed onto the stretcher, and carried over to the ambulance and placed in the Red Cross trailer. One would have thought the ambulance would have taken the patient to the hospital, not a bit of it. The ambulance was driven through the Village and came to a stop in the cobbled square. The woman was then carried on the stretcher up steps, along a path, then through an arch to the door of ‘8 Private.’ Once in the cottage she was carefully put on a bed and left to wake up.

    In the Green Dome the black global chair rose up through the hole in the floor behind the grey curved desk…it was empty! No.21 was about to pick up a telephone when the pair of steel doors opened and No.2 entered the purple walled office. No.21 was frozen for a moment, his hand poised over the telephone as No.2 walked behind his desk.
    “You were going to phone someone?” No.2 asked.
    21 removed his hand “No sir, its just that…..”
    “You are a dammed liar Twenty-one, you were going to report my absence from duty. But as you can see I am here now.”
    “…It’s just that the chair rose up and you were not seated in it.”
    “Oh I see, well I walked to work this morning. The air is crisp and clear at this time of the morning, especially after the night’s rain” No.2 declared.
    The steel doors opened and the butler entered bringing No.2 his breakfast.
    “Anything new this morning?” No.2 asked watching the butler pour out a cup of tea.
    “The helicopter has brought a new arrival, Number Eight, she has been placed in her cottage and left to wake up.
    The butler dropped two cubes of sugar into the cup and handed cup and saucer to his master, bowed then took his leave from the office.
    No.2, taking the cup and saucer leaned forward and pressed a button on the control panel of his desk. This activated the wall screen

to show a woman asleep on a bed.



    The auburn haired woman dressed in a dark green cardigan and matching skirt began to stir. Swinging her legs round she sat up on the edge of the bed. She looked about the room, a smile crossed her lips.
    “Thank Goodness, it’s good to be home” she said, not for one moment wondering how she had come to be there.
    No.21 held out a black file, No.2 put down his cup and saucer and taking the file, opened it and began to read “Lena Berg, forty years of age, five feet 8 inches tall, she worked for Swedish Intelligence for five years, mostly in records” he closed the file and placed it on his desk.
    Pictured on the wall screen No.8 stood up and crossed into the kitchen running her fingers through her hair, she had a slight headache which was suddenly magnified when she looked out of the window. It came as a shock as it would to anyone, to think she was in the protection of her own home, only to discover she was no longer in that home on Sturegatan. The view from the window was completely alien to her; wherever she was she was no longer in Stockholm! Turning from the window she rubbed her forehead, feeling confused, disorientated. Where was she? How did she come to be here? The last thing she remembered was leaving work, but there had been a man, a man in a black coat and top hat. She thought he was secret police, and she hurried on her way home….now she was here. Wherever she was, whatever had been done to her, Lena was sure it had to be her own people who had done it, but why?
    “An attractive woman wouldn’t you say Twenty-one?”
    “Not falling for her already Number Two?”
    No.2 picked up the yellow ‘L’ shaped telephone “I’m sure she is a very charming woman Twenty-one, but let us keep our minds on the job shall we. Number Eight please…”
    No.8 was busy trying to regain her mind, to gather her thoughts when the black telephone began to ring, it startled her for a moment but she picked up the receiver.
    “I trust you have slept well” No.2 began.
    “Wh..who is this, where am I?” she asked
    “Come and join me for breakfast, Number 2 the Green Dome” he said then hung up. Suddenly there was something familiar in his mind, something…
    On the wall screen No.8 was pictured pressing the cradle of the telephone trying to re-connect with her caller.
    “Hello, hello.”
    “The caller has ended the call” the operator told her.
    “Can I make a call?”
    “Yes, what is your number?” the operator asked.
     Lena looked at the centre of the dial of the phone “Eight” she told 
the operator.



    “And you want to make a call to…?” the operator asked.
    “To the Swedish consulate.”
    “I’m sorry, local numbers only” the operator said and hung up.
    Replacing the receiver on the telephone Lena crossed the room to the door of her cottage, and opening it took her first tentative steps into the Village.
    No.2 and his assistant watched No.8 emerge from her cottage, make her way through an arch and along a path, down some steps. A man was passing by wheeling a Penny Farthing bicycle.
    “Excuse me” she said “but can you tell me where the Green Dome is?”
    “Across the square, across the street, up the steps, you can’t miss it” the man said.
    “Thank you.”
    “You’re new here” the man observed.”
    “Ye…yes” she replied nervously.
    “There’s no need to be nervous, unless you’ve done something wrong, then there’s everything to worry about. On your way to see Number Two are you?”
    Lena looked at the man “Yes. Why do you push that thing?” she asked.
    “Because I cannot ride it!” the man laughed and pushed the Penny Farthing on his way.
    Crossing the cobbled square a white Mini-Moke appeared through an arch, Lena held out a hand hailing the taxi.
    “Can you take me to the nearest town?”
    “Look lady this is a local taxi, and I do local destinations.”
    “Take me as far as you can, I’ve got to get out of here” she told the driver.
    No.21 stood watching the wall screen as the woman climbed into the taxi “It looks like she has declined your offer of breakfast!”
    “Well there’s plenty of time, she’ll end up back here in the end.” No.2 replied.
    “Your breakfast is getting cold.”
    “Let it!” No.2 snapped.
    “Do you want me here when you interrogate her?”
    “Interview her Twenty-one, when I interview her.”

    “Not letting your head be turned by a pretty face, are we sir?”
    “Certainly not” No.2 said turning his attention to the ham and eggs on the plate.
    Pictured on the wall screen the taxi drove through the Village, passed the café, down the hill passed the Town Hall towards the Old People’s Home, reversing round, then back up the hill into the Village taking a short slip road to the right, round by the pink pavilion and Hercules statue. They headed along a narrow cobbled lane, taking a right-hand turn through an arch and emerging into the same cobbled

square she had walked across a few minutes previously. The taxi came to a stop, Lena stepped out.


    “But this is where we started!”
    “And this is where we stop. That will be two units” the driver told her.
    “Units, what are units?”
    “Credit units lady, oh well pay me next time” the driver said.
    The taxi sped off down the road leaving Lena standing in the square looking up at the imposing Green Dome then crossed the road towards the steps.
    “Are you sure you don’t want me to stay?” No.21 asked.
    On the screen Lena was slowly climbing the steps, perhaps wondering what fate awaited her.
    No.2 finished his bacon and eggs “Now you can go, but don’t stray too far.”   
   Lena reached the front door of the Green Dome; it startled her when it opened automatically. She was confronted by the butler who bid her enter with the gesture of a hand. In the foyer was a man sat in an armchair reading a magazine The Village Journal. The butler led the woman through a pair of open French doors, up a slope to a pair of large steel doors which slid open, the butler leading the way she passed through the open doors into a large purple walled chamber. The butler withdrew and she turned her head as the steel doors closed behind her.
   “Come ahead” a voice said.
   Lena walked down the ramp, her demeanour showed she was nervous, to be quite blunt she was afraid, and filled with dread to think of what was about to happen to her. There was a large wall screen, she stopped, she looked at the screen, and there she was mingling with other people at a party.
    “That’s where we first met” the man behind the desk said “in Paris at one of Engadine’s celebrated parties, remember?”
   And there on the screen was Engadine, talking, chatting, a word here, a word there, laughing and enjoying seeing people enjoying themselves.
   Lena stepped forward and approached the desk; she looked at the man sat in the black global chair.

    The morning drew on and the interview turned into a working lunch, lunch having been served by the butler who emerging from chamber handed No.21 a ham and cheese sandwich on a plate, and a cup of tea.
    “What’s going on in there” No.21 asked the butler from the comfort of the armchair.


    The butler simply shrugged his shoulders and went about his business while No.21 sat eating his sandwich. Suddenly the pair of steel doors opened, No.21 jumped up knocking over the cup and saucer onto the carpet as No.8 emerged from the chamber. She glanced at the man standing in front of the fire place as she crossed the foyer. The door opening automatically she left the Green Dome and went home, leaving No.21 mopping up the spilt tea with his handkerchief. Then adjusting his jacket, entered No.2’s office.
    “That was a long breakfast” 21 said.
    “Yes, but an informative one nonetheless” No.2 replied “they’ve made a mistake!”
    “A mistake sir, we don’t make mistakes here.”
    “We shall have to handle this very differently.”
    “Why sir?”
    “They have brought the wrong woman to the Village!”

    The next day No.2 met with No.8 at the brass band concert, in fact they met the day after that as well. They enjoyed each other's company, having a coffee together at the café, and on the lawn of the Old People’s Home. They would walk, and talk, and they were getting noticed and like in most villages tongues began to wag. And then one morning… the pair of steel doors opened and No.21 entered dressed in his garb as a Top Hat administrative official.
    “Good morning Number Two, I take it you are ready?”
    “Ready?” No.2 asked.
    “There is a meeting of the General Purposes committee in fifteen minutes.”

    “Oh, yes of course, I had forgotten.”
    There was an air of preoccupation about No.2, as though he had something, or someone on his mind.
    “How are things going with Number Eight?”
    “Number Eight, oh yes Number Eight.”
    “I take it this is what you meant by having to handle her very differently.”
    No.2 looked as 21 sternly “What do you mean by that?”
    “Only that you seem to have made Number Eight a personal case in question.”
    “She is very troubled.”
    “That was only to be expected, but we have doctors to help with that. And we didn’t bring the wrong woman to the Village, I checked!”
    “You overstep the mark.”
    “I’m merely watching your back. One of my duties is to tell you when I think you’re making a mistake.”
    “Or neglecting my duties?” 2 suggested.
    “People are beginning to talk” 21 said “personally I think you are protecting Number Eight.”
    “I suggest you go and chair the General Purposes committee meeting on my behalf.”
    “You have my confidence Twenty-one.”
    “You want me to chair the meeting?”

    “You are neglecting your duties Number Two.”
    “Well you let me worry about that. Now, the committee will be waiting!”
    “Yes Number Two.......... sir.”



    It was mid-day by the time No.21 changed back into his light blue piped blazer. He made his way through the Village to the Green Dome, and when he entered No.2’s office he found that a large, red curved telephone had been placed on the desk, what’s more it was bleeping somewhat impatiently. He picked it up.
    “Number Two isn’t here sir……yes sir I realise you know he isn’t here…….no sir I have no idea where he is or what he’s doing……yes sir, I shall find him……yes sir, of course sir.”
    No.21 replaced the telephone back on the desk, and pressed a button on the control panel of the desk activating the wall screen, and pressing a number of buttons different views of the Village appeared on the screen. The cobbled square, the café, the Village green, bandstand, he scanned the lawn of the Old People’s Home, then zoomed in on a table at the far end of the lawn and found No.2 sat at a table with No.8.

    “You realise they will be watching” No.8 told him.
    “I hope they learn something!” he replied, there was defiance in his voice, he had not heard that for some time.
    “That’s what I’m afraid of” she said “is it so wise to meet so openly.”
    “It would be worse if we tried meeting in secret” he told her “it would be more questionable.”
    The waiter approached the table carrying a tray and placed the two cups and saucers, milk jug and sugar bowl on the table.
    “Your coffee sir.”
    “Thank you” No.2 said handing over his credit card.
    The waiter took a metal device from his pocket and clipped the credit card before handing it back.
    “Can you get me out of here?” No.8 asked.
    “I’m not sure I can get myself out of this place” he said adding milk and three lumps of sugar to his coffee.
    “But you have authority here.”
    “What happened to you, the last time we met….”
    “Was in Paris” she said “at one of madame Engadine’s celebrated parties. I was sent there to meet a man, not you, I was to allow myself to be recruited by him. I was given papers to give to him, but really I was sent to recruit him!”
    “They will want to know, they will want to know everything.”
    “I’m not that important” she said.
    “Important enough to see you brought here.”
    “And you, how did you turn up here?”



    “That’s a long story” he told her.
    “But it didn’t take you long to achieve a position of power.”
    “They were looking for a good man!”
    “Looks like they found one.”

    “That’s been said of me before! I’m not sure how much longer I can protect you, I’m making myself suspect by my assistant, and possibly by others.”
    “Then get us both out of here!” Lena pleaded.
    “There is no escape, not for any of us” he told her.
    “So what happens now?”

    They usually come for you when you’re least expecting them. There had been a knock on the door, and two men stood on the doorstep, one a tall fair-haired figure dressed in a grey blazer, the other a burly set man in a red jumper.
    “Come with us Number Eight” No.21 said.
    “You are to be taken in for questioning” 21 told her.
    “I’ll call Number two, he’ll soon put you back in your box!” she told him crossing the room to the telephone.
    There was a click of fingers, and before No.8 could pick up the receiver she was being restrained by the guardian. The next thing she knew, Number 8 had been placed in the back of a taxi and was driven to the hospital and forced into an interrogation room. There she had been forced to stand for what seemed like hours while a disembodied voice kept up a stream of question’s, sometimes the same question asked repeatedly.
    “We want information” the voice said “information, information, information.”

    “When did you begin working for Swedish Military intelligence?”
    “What was your position within Intelligence?”
    “Did you have contact with Colonel Strack?”
    “Who recruited you into Swedish Intelligence?”
    “How old were you when you went to work for Intelligence?”
    “Tell me about the files you have seen, the projects you know about, tell me, tell me. We want information, information, you want to talk, sooner or later you’ll talk, sooner or later you will want to”.
    “Tell me your name?”
    “How old are you?”
    “What is your politics, religion, are you political, are you religious?”
    “Tell me about Swedish Intelligence.”
    “Tell me about Colonel Strack.”
    Questions, questions, the questions seemed to go on for hours. It was hot under the lights; her legs grew more and more tired. Eventually she was allowed to kneel.
    “What is your relationship with Number Two?” the voice suddenly asked and repeated the question “what is your relationship with Number Two?”



    Suddenly the door of the observation room burst open and No.2 stormed into the room.
    “What do you think you’re doing Twenty-one?”
    “Watching your back sir, doing what you should have done.”
    No.8 was finding it painful to be on her knees for so long, the pain and stress was written all over her face and the questioning persisted.
    “If you would answer just one question. What is Number Two to you, you have been spending time together, what have you been talking about, was it escape?”

    Let her go!” No.2 demanded.
    “Do I perceive a little of the old Number Six coming to the surface? I should watch that sir!” No.21 warned him.
    No.8 raised her eyes to the black window and realised she was being watched “He… is nothing to me, he was questioning me, attempting to gain my trust so that I would talk, to save me this. Let me sit down and I shall tell you everything.”
    “You have been neglecting the Village, for what, for her?”
    No.2 watched as a comfy chair was taken into the room, as two men helped No.8 into it. And so she sat and talked, she talked and told them everything. And No.2 stood watching, listening to all the secrets as they came pouring out of the broken woman’s mouth.
   “Number Eight sacrificed herself for you sir, she must have thought you worth it” 21 said leaving the observation room


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