International Writers Magazine:Dreamscapes
- Spooks of '67
As he waited for the
tannoy Menzies had installed at the door, clearly to ward off the likes
of him, he wondered if he could claim shoes as expenses back at the department.
After all, thats what they seemed to use him for; footwork.
trudged bitterly up the marble steps of the imposing house and pressed
the buzzer. It was gone eleven at night, he was tired and his feet
hurt. They were wet too, as a result of a hole in his shoe letting
in the ice-cold dirty rainwater. The rain had unrelentingly hit
London for the best part of a week now and Harry felt like hed
taken every harsh cold drop.
Right now, hed rather be doing any other type of footwork than this.
Shivering, he clung to his Macintosh and pressed the buzzer again. Knightsbridge,
he thought surveying the tree-lined suburb lit burnt orange by its street
lamps. Definitely not a neighbourhood for Harry, this was for good
stock, no room for a grammar boy made good. Some fellas have all
the luck Harry thought and then stopped short.
Luck can run out.
Finally the door opened, revealing a man who looked exactly like the picture
in his file back in the department, except for the dressing gown of course.
He cut an imposing figure, tall and bear like, with receding fair hair.
"Mr Menzies? Mr James Menzies?" Harry asked stepping from foot
to foot on the step as much out of awkwardness than to ward off the cold.
"Yes" Menzies asked hesitantly.
Harry flashed his ID card "Im from the ah, the office"
Davis looked him up and down. He shot a glance from side to side in case
the neighbours were out, ready with the instamatics. When he felt safe,
he replied not altogether welcoming; "Well I suppose youd better
Harry couldnt begrudge the man his manner; it had gone eleven. There
were places Harry would rather be; he didnt want to be bothered
either. But in the pecking order, he came last, and here was were he had
to be, and all told, seeing Menzies up close, he knew hed rather
be in his own shoes tonight, hole or no hole.
He was escorted into the kitchen and was offered a seat at the large wooden
table there. The kitchen itself was bigger than Harrys entire flat.
"Would you like tea or coffee? The kettle is on" Menzies asked.
"Coffee please, black," Harry confirmed and produced a hip flask
from his raincoat. He shook it a little to offer Menzies who replied in
the affirmative. Moments later Menzies sat down with two steaming mugs
of black coffee to which Harry poured ample measures of the brandy from
"I take it this is urgent?" Menzies asked "Its so
interminable that the department have you at their beck and call twenty
four hours a day. Still it's what they pay you messenger boys for isnt
"It is rather urgent." Harry confirmed ignoring the slight and
showing no emotion "Its to do with Pilgrim."
"Pilgrim?" Menzies said and for a second is features looked
puzzled before giving in to mild irritation. "Theyve sent you
on a wrong one Im afraid, Pilgrim has nothing to do
with me, Im no longer on the Berlin Desk but even if I was, thats
being dealt principally by the old man and someone in the field, chap
Harry cut him short. "I know who was running Pilgrim,
it was me, he was my Joe. Im afraid Im not just
a messenger boy," he explained with a wry smile. "Despite my
accent, to the contrary." He pulled out two Gitanes. Placing one
on the table, he lit the other for himself, using the brief cloud of blue
smoke to survey Menzies reaction.
"Ah, well I see" Menzies said, "Or rather I do not. I mean,
its good to meet you dear boy, but Im at a loss as to what
I can offer to you, I just handled the paperwork coming through from field
johnnies like you here at London Central. I was moved off Berlin last
week so have had no contact since and even before then I came into very
little contact with those files."
" Pilgrim was killed coming over the wall around about
this time last night." Harry said dully, checking his watch to confirm.
Menzies allowed his jaw to drop a little at the news, before taking a
drag on his cigarette. "Adam Klaus" Harry began, "that
was Pilgrims real name, died in a hail of bullets not a hundred
feet away from me." He looked up at Menzies, allowing the lamp on
the ceiling to hit the lenses in his glasses. The glare made Menzies look
away and hurriedly stub out his smoke.
"You were there?" Menzies said.
Harry nodded. "Two hipflasks ago," he said cynically and began
to pour more brandy into the mugs. "Why the move off Berlin Desk?"
"Departmental change, you know the drill." Menzies replied.
"Bit of a demotion surely," Harry said, sipping his coffee
"Not especially," he replied a little wounded. It obviously
rankled, thought Harry. "You know what the old man is like, never
keeps anyone in the same place for long," he concluded with a smile
that just didnt cut it for Harry.
"The only move the old man ever offered me" Harry said sardonically,
"was the move from the glass house into this line of
"I see" said Menzies casting his eye over Harry, taking him
in all over again. "So your shall we say nefarious activities in
your army days marked you out as potential?"
"Yes" Harry replied, before adding stone faced; "Does your
nefarious activities mark you out for demotion?"
Menzies was up from the chair like a shot, screaming how dare you
and you come into my house at an ungodly hour pretty much
all Harry expected. He let him have his little rant and sat by calmly,
stubbing his cigarette out as Menzies inevitably ran out of steam. Harry
looked up at the red-faced tubby figure staring down at him.
"Sit down," he said coolly, his face motionless.
Menzies continued to stare at him, making no motion to take his seat.
Harry sighed. "Sit down before I knock you down." It wasnt
a threat; it was a clearly defined promise of Harrys next action
should he not return to his seat. Menzies could see it in the hooded eyes
underneath the heavy framed spectacles. Harry meant business. Slowly and
a little ashamed, he sat down, helping himself to another swig of the
brandy filled coffee. He grimaced as it burned its way down to the stomach.
All the while, Harry never took his heavy lidded eyes off Menzies. Finally
he spoke once more. "Why do you think you were moved? Because the
colour of your old school tie matched the décor in the next room?"
Menzies said nothing, just stared at the grain of the table, blinking
" Pilgrim knew there was a mole in London Central. That
was the news he had for us. Pilgrim knew that that mole was
Harry noticed that between the blinks, there were tears in Menzies eyes.
Regardless, he ploughed on, he hated it, but he had to. "Thats
why the old man moved you, we took the gamble that we could still take
Pilgrim across. After all, you werent directly dealing
with the paperwork, we made sure of that. But your dirty little fingers
get everywhere dont they, Menzies?"
"Where were you?" Menzies croaked
"Beg pardon?" Harry enquired
"In the war, where did you serve?" Menzies asked. His once plummy
strong tone now reduced to one of a sad rasping timbre.
"I wasnt old enough. I was National Service" Harry replied,
unsure of where this was going. The War, he thought to himself, Christ,
why did it always revolve around this?
"I was a POW. Second Lieutenant. The Goons used to pick on me, would
strike me as a matter of course virtually everyday. My men used to quiver
with rage at the sight of it. Men, just ordinary working class men, much
like yourself, the usual chip on their shoulder about class back home
on Civvy Street, yet there, in Germany they would do anything for me.
The beatings hurt me, but it hurt them too."
"Things are different in wartime," Harry tried to empathise,
but Menzies was barely listening.
"Thats when I got into communism. All this class nonsense is
ridiculous. Its men all united, against authority, against harsh and brutal
regimes, dont you see? Its that what matters!" Menzies babbled,
warming to his argument.
"Then why the hell didnt you defect? Hmm? Surely you knew when
Pilgrim first came through; surely the demotion gave you an
indication. Christ, we opened the bloody door for you and you still stayed
"I love my country" Menzies said thickly. The tears brimming
in his eyes "One can still love a country yet hate its politics"
"No one is that free," Harry remarked. The silence hung heavy
in the air like the thick blue fug from Harrys Gitanes. "The
department wanted you to flee and let us take Pilgrim, but
you just had to blow the whistle." Harry sighed, he pictured the
scared and frightened defector running towards him, almost snapping in
two as the bullets cut through him. He began to feel his temper rise,
his forehead going white hot, he pulled his teeth back and spat out; "You
had to finger him didnt you? You bastard!" He stopped himself
and let out a deep breath. He hated this job right now more than he could
ever hate Menzies.
"They wouldnt have just let me go," Menzies wailed.
"They would, of course they would. The old man and C
they cant afford another Philby. They wanted you to go dont
you see?" Harry sighed. He was too tired. Slowly and heavily he placed
his hand in his Macintosh and began to pull something out. "You have
to go" he said softly.
He placed a chunky service revolver on the kitchen table. Menzies eyes
widened at the dull metallic intruder.
"Your comrades wont come for you now. The Department wont
parade you through the Old Bailey. Im sorry to say it but this is
the only way. I wish there was another but there just isnt,"
Harrys voice trailed off and he inwardly cursed his masters for
"An honourable ac,t" Menzies said finally sniffing back the
tears and pulling himself back to some semblance of his old stature.
Harry stood up from the table slowly. He looked down at Menzies and felt
pity. He was sick to the stomach. Slowly he pushed the hip flask towards
"Goodbye Mr Menzies," he said barely audibly and he left the
house without looking back. He could not look back.
The rain had started to fall once more and it was now colder than ever.
He shivered so much under his raincoat it felt like he was fitting.
Indoors and the sweat poured from every inch of James Menzies. He ran
his wrist across his forehead and with one almighty effort, threw down
the contents of Harrys flask. Shakily his hand reached out for the
gun. His eyes screwed tight shut.
Harry was waiting for the green line bus down the road when he heard the
gunshot. He let out a loud and fitful sigh. He closed his eyes for a moment
and felt nothing and everything all at once. Slowly he picked out his
newspaper, unfolded its inky pages and scanned the greyhound results.
He had lost every one of his bets.
Tonight wasnt his lucky night either he thought grimly. Finally
the bus came and he hauled himself on. Now, more than ever in his life
he was ready to go home. Home to his poky little flat and its three
bar fire. Sod it he thought, at least he was breathing. Tomorrow morning
he would write a chit for a new pair of shoes, the most expensive he could
try and get away with. The department could go hang.
© Mark Cunliffe October 2007
Eddie Cochran once sang of love as being a journey built on Three
Steps To Heaven;
'Step one - you find a girl to love
Step two - she falls in love with you...'
Round The Block
"Wouldnt you agree Prof. Block?"
How would he know. Guy Block hadnt been listening.
There comes a time for everyone when you have to meet someone you used
to know. The very fact that there are billions and trillions of people
in this world and that you do not meet them all yet continue to meet the
same people, the blasts from the pasts is an odd one. But that is what
on the Block
Guy Block groaned in despair at another start to another week. He leant
out from his slumber and hit the snooze button,
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibiltiy
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.