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An Anguished Parting

November 18, 2012

One of my favourite characters in my unfinished novel The Petrie Consignment is Yvette (codename Balestra), the gorgeous MI5 agent with a husky French accent.  She is featured in the three extracts previously posted here, ‘Intel’, ‘The Turbulent Psyche’ and ‘A Partial Sanitation’.  Today, though, I thought I’d post an extract featuring her Field Controller, Joe (codename Javelin).

I find Joe fascinating too.  Brought up in Rhyl and Prestatyn, North Wales, educated at Oxford, he’s a multi-faceted character – a senior intelligence officer, part-time rock drummer and inveterate womaniser: a charmer with a very dark side…

Several months ago, using his stage name “Wayne”, Joe began a relationship with Caitlin, a rather headstrong, scatty, selfish woman – a college lecturer – living in Cheshire.  Caitlin booted out her husband in favour of the musician.  Her teenage daughter Kate took one look at “Wayne” and thought him an odious rat – good looking but definitely a rat.  So she had to go as well.  Caitlin packed Kate off to the Point of Ayr to spend the summer with her widowed father, Martin, at Natterjack Cottage.

Enraptured by “Wayne”, it never crossed Caitlin’s mind that he might be something more than a hunky drummer, something like an MI5 officer, for instance.  Joe’s real reason for taking up with Caitlin was to work under cover controlling two agents engaged on Operation Quaker in the Rhyl/Prestatyn/Talacre area – an operation vital to national security with Scorp on the loose and possibly in cahoots with Repent UK, an English terror group claiming to hold a biological weapon of terrible power.  One agent was his lover Yvette.  The other was Caitlin’s own dad, Martin, an author secretly recruited into MI5 on a temporary basis for this one assignment.

In today’s extract we pick up the story following Martin’s abduction from Natterjack Cottage and Kate’s disappearance.  Caitlin and “Wayne” have been at Talacre watching the massive police hunt, conducted under the eyes of the world’s press.  The hunt has proven fruitless so far.

There’s a lot of work still to do on my novel but somehow, someday, I must find time for it.

AN ANGUISHED PARTING

Tucked away in a side street off East Parade, The Seabreeze was a bow-fronted end-of-terrace property in grubby white stucco.  The interior was okay though – clean enough and cosy in a dated sort of way.  Secure parking to the rear was a plus.  Also the Seabreeze was one of the few guesthouses in Rhyl where dogs were welcome.

They booked in as Mr and Mrs Booth to ensure privacy.

Once Hoopy had been kennelled, Mrs Liversage showed them to their room on the first floor.  “Bathroom down the passage on the left, m’dears.  Dinner at six – meat and potato pie tonight, unless you’d prefer veggie.  Enjoy your stay.”

Silently, having unpacked a few essentials, Caitlin came to him.  She had a pale, fragile look – hardly surprising, he supposed, after the events of the day.

He reached out for her but she froze; it wasn’t comfort she wanted, despite the tear on her cheek.  She grabbed him by the hair and crushed her lips to his in a ferocious kiss before pulling the curtain across.

A line from Grandfather Enzo’s pocket book ran through his mind – a line written in September 1943 at Merry Bank Farm.  He’d translated it from the Italian:

“Great as the pleasure of it is with Doris, greater still is the sense of guilt and betrayal, remembering my beloved Carlotta with the honeyed eyes.”

Yvette had honeyed eyes too.  She knew about Caitlin.  She understood.  But that did little to lessen his sense of guilt.

“You look sort of stunned,” said Caitlin mildly.

Her expression was hard to fathom but not so her purpose as she drew him to the bed.

“I thought, after the events of the day…”

“Well, you thought wrong, didn’t you, Mr Booth..?”

Afterwards, at her suggestion, he took Hoopy for a walk along the seafront.  Caitlin was shattered and needed time alone before tea.

***

The gaudy amusement arcades seemed a world apart as he watched Hoopy splash about at the creaming edge of the sea, woofing excitedly.  A yappy Yorkie joined in the fun, pursued by a Miss Marple lookalike who repeatedly called out that Maisie was a very bad girl…

The hourglass was almost empty, not that Caitlin knew it yet.  From tonight onwards, there’d only be Yvette.  He loved her as Enzo had loved Carlotta.  So why this pang, this sudden sense of desolation?  As with Enzo, distraught over leaving Doris, so his own anguish over Caitlin now.

It was uncanny, this sense that he and his wartime grandfather were one.

Joe’s ruminations were shattered by an incoming text: “Javelin, report immediately, Storm.”

‘Storm’ was Mo Godfrey’s code name.  He replied: “Breakthrough imminent – expect news later, Javelin.”  Then switched off, smashed the phone on a rock and stamped the pieces into the sand.  He’d be using an unregistered pay-as-you-go from now on.

Returning to the Seabreeze, he found Caitlin gone.  She’d cleared the room and taken the car.  On the dressing table was a note in green ink.  It was unsigned but in her unmistakable hand:

“The next time we meet I’ll kill you.”

 

***

Down in the dining room he tucked into a generous portion of Mrs Liversage’s meat and potato pie.  She didn’t query Mrs Booth’s absence and he offered no explanation.

In the far corner sat a clergyman with a beatific smile, a volume of poetry open beside his plate: R.S.Thomas.  In the window, a middle-aged gay couple with a nervous-looking young woman playing gooseberry.  There were no other diners.

Caitlin had learnt the truth about him and made a crafty escape.  Yet hadn’t he half-expected it?  He’d certainly felt the need to pocket all essentials before walking Hoopy.  The sex had been Caitlin’s farewell, her way of rounding off what they’d had together.  His farewell too.  At least now he wouldn’t have to steel himself against her tears; that would have been so bad.  She’d put the boot in with her note, of course, but he could hardly blame her.

The pie and brown sauce gave Joe a cosy feeling, a feeling stemming from those long ago days of childhood when twice a week Mum would take him round to Granny Doris’ for tea.  It was weird remembering this now, knowing this would be the night everything broke open with the transmission, one minute before midnight, of Communiqué 2 from RUK – The Demand.

Mo Godfrey was no fool.  Come the morning, he and Yvette would be Britain’s most wanted, their pictures all over the media.  The crew hadn’t been identified yet, but it wouldn’t be long…

-oOo-

Copyright © Paul Beech 2012

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