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The Secret Policeman's Ball - Part One

The Secret Policeman's Ball - Part One

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Published by Tally Pendragon
The Secret Policeman's Ball is about an archaeologist who has become stuck in a neat and tidy rut that bears about as much excitement as a trip to the supermarket. Harry does not know that her life is about to change when she boards the bus bound for Prague, that adventure and intrigue are about to become its new watchwords. All she knows is that it's time to get out of London, and that she is having some very interesting dreams.
The Secret Policeman's Ball is about an archaeologist who has become stuck in a neat and tidy rut that bears about as much excitement as a trip to the supermarket. Harry does not know that her life is about to change when she boards the bus bound for Prague, that adventure and intrigue are about to become its new watchwords. All she knows is that it's time to get out of London, and that she is having some very interesting dreams.

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Published by: Tally Pendragon on Aug 26, 2009
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05/11/2014

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The Secret Policeman’s Ball
by Vivienne Jay
Part OneChapter One
Fast but silent, he fell. A lithe black shadow suspended on a lightweight nylon rope just long enough toreach from domed roof to mosaic floor. Expertly, he unhooked the pulley from the taut length,somersaulting the remaining few feet between him and his prize. He landed square in the middle of thedisplay cabinets, without touching them. Glass enclosed him, but it was the only way, the only placewhere there were no pressure pads.He took off his backpack, placed it gently on the small un-alarmed floor space and, bendingonly from his knees, each movement measured, tightly controlled and precise, he unzipped it and took something out. A sucker held fast to the glass in his deft control. A metal arm extended from it in oneneat action. A diamond-edged blade on the end of the arm cut a circular trace in the glass. A knowingtap in the right place released a circle of glass just big enough for a small man’s upper body to passthrough. Done. There was no surprise in his countenance. He’d executed this manoeuvre many times before.Into a small padded, velvet-lined box he placed his prize. Moravian gold. Very old Moraviangold. Older than the walls of the castle from which he was liberating it. Older even than the roots of the republic it was said to herald. And certainly very much older than his thirty-some years, althoughstill as resplendent in some of its former lustre as he was in his boyish good looks. This gold had beenwrought for status and the display of wealth and power. He worked as hard for status, his power wasinfinite, wealth a mere by-product. He slid his left hand into a pocket in the body of his tight blacsuit, removed a small, white, round, scallop-edged piece of paper and placed it over the indentation oneof his stolen treasures had made in its display cushion.He put his equipment back in his backpack and reverently placed the velvet-lined box on topand slid the pack across his shoulders once more. Leaping with the agility of a mountain cat, he caughtthe dangling rope, re-attached the pulley to it and pulled himself back up to the domed roof. As hereached the dome through which he had entered he slid his left hand back into the pocket. As he pulledit back out with a small piece of metal grasped deftly between the first two fingers something elseslipped out too.Something small, white, round, scallop-edged. Something flat that fluttered gently as ittumbled on the current of the breeze he had let in through the opening in the roof he was climbing outof. He caught sight of it as he turned to replace the dome, to leave it as he’d found it. An instant’s panic gave way to the calculation of necessary remedial action as he watched it fall, still tumbling onthe breeze. Which way would it fall? Any pressure would set off the alarm. Precious seconds tickedaway as time stretched itself into slow motion and the paper coffee mat fluttered nearer to the danger zone. He watched.The sound of the alarms was deafening. Guards came from nowhere. The whole of thePalace Guard swarmed over the floor beneath him. Castle Police pushed them out of the way as they
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The Secret Policeman’s Ball
by Vivienne Jay
added to the swarm. He looked around the rooftop sharply, surveying the distance between him and thegardens far away beneath the castle. He jumped.*“Oh, I don’t know. One of those odd little soaker-upper things you get between the tiny little cup andits equally miniscule saucer in those pseudo-posh Italian coffee bars round the corner.”“What did it say on this odd little soaker-upper thing, Harry?”“It said, ‘I love you, Harry’, and it was signed Ethan.”“And you don’t think that’s just the merest shade wishful thinking?”“Well, why shouldn’t Tom Cruise be in love with me? It was
my
dream!”“So, who are you really in love with, Harry? Tom Cruise, or Ethan Hunt? There’s animportant distinction to be made here. If it’s Cruise, that’s okay. At least he’s a real person.Inaccessible to the likes of you, but nonetheless real. Say Hunt and you have a problem. That’s wish-fulfillment territory. Fantasy going too far. Your subconscious taking over and expecting MissionImpossible every time you think of having anything as menial as sex. Say Hunt and I’m seriouslygoing to worry about your chances of ever holding down a stable relationship.”“Maybe we just watch too many movies, Mutley. No big psycho-drama, just visual datareplaying in my dreams.”“No, no, it’s a science this dream interpretation thing. I really think we’re onto somethingthat’s embedded very deeply into your psyche. Something that lecturing in Medieval Archaeology atthe Institute just isn’t living up to.”“Oh, blow the candle out, Mutley! You just want me to step into the realms of the uncharted.Start being less boring and more sexually available. Well, it’s just not going to happen. Okay?”“So, let’s just go back to work and say no more about it, shall we. I’m teaching Second Year Magnetometry in half an hour anyway. That should take up pretty much all of the afternoon, and it’sfiendishly hot in that bloody lab. Shall I see you for supper?”“Yeah. Meet you in the lobby at six as usual.”*Harry sat in the Bloomsbury Theatre coffee bar a little longer after Mutley had darted off. Her coffeewas almost cold. It hadn’t taken her long to recount the events of her dream, but Mutley’sinterpretations always sparked a lively discussion, and she hadn’t noticed the time fly by. She’dlearned to like lukewarm coffee. It was either that or find a new companion, and Mutley was too mucha part of her life to do without. Their friendship was comfortable, like her old digging boots; shewouldn’t miss them unless they weren’t there.Her own teaching schedule wasn’t so heavy that afternoon. One Third Year lecture at four anda private consultation with a first year student under her direction.She walked back across the road somewhat distractedly, crossed the lobby and got into the liftwithout noticing anything out of the ordinary. She stopped off at the Doc’s office to get some slides onGerman row-grave cemeteries for her Third Year lecture on the Archaeology of the Franks, and wassurprised to see the Doc sitting behind his desk grinning at her like a Cheshire cat as she entered theroom.
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The Secret Policeman’s Ball
by Vivienne Jay
“What’re you looking so pleased about?” she asked.“Your lucky day, Harriet. Fieldwork’s been posted for the summer vac. You’re going back toPrague Castle after all!”“What?” Harry sat down heavily, only just hitting the seat rather than the floor. Her mouthretained the shape of the word.“Would you like some coffee, my dear? You look a bit surprised.”Always the none-too-subtle master of understatement, the Doc. Harry disliked him intenselyand always avoided being alone in a room with him wherever possible. There was somethingobsequious, almost sleazy, about his manner that she had always distrusted, especially during her yearsas an undergraduate when he’d been her Director of Studies, and she never left anything to chance withhim. “No, I wouldn’t. I’m fine, thanks.” She put out a hand to stop him coming round from the other side of his desk to where she sat and set her face in a determined stare. “So, what’s the story, then?”“Oh, no story, Harriet. I just managed to pull a few strings for you after all. Got a remit for acrew of six students for you to take over and a whole seasons-worth of excavations they want you tosupervise. Good experience for you, my dear. Look extra good on your CV.”“I could have pulled my own strings, you know. It’s not as if their unit’s full of archaeologistswho are complete strangers to me, is it?”“Harriet, how many years have I been telling you, sarcasm does not become you! A simplethank you will suffice.”“When do I go?”“Soon as exam papers are marked, if you like. You’ll want to be doing some background preparations before the gang turns up I should think.”“Yes,” she answered distractedly. She stood up to leave. “Thanks, Doc,” she said grudgingly,the words forcing themselves out in little more than a mumble.“Oh, and Harriet,” the Doc called after her as she was disappearing out of the door. “Youmight be needing these?” She walked back to his desk and took the slides for her lecture from him,grimly. “And don’t forget the bit about what women were for in the
 Foederati
camps.” Her back disappeared out of the door faster than usual.*“And what purpose
did 
women serve to a garrison full of Roman federated soldiers far from anythingthey knew as home, cruelly subjugated by conquest, and basically gagging for it?”Harry had waited for Mutley in her usual place at the usual time, the leather chesterfield in theInstitute lobby at six o’clock, going over the events of the afternoon in her head. He’d turned uptousle-haired and running late as usual, as he had nearly every night during term for the past nine years.They’d walked to one of their usual supper haunts within a mile of Gordon Square. Harry had beenrecounting the afternoon’s revelations as they walked. By the time they’d eaten their pasta, drunk their Frascati and been served their after-supper coffee she’d just got to the bit about the Doc’s mostannoying habits.“Don’t wind me up again Mutley! You know he does this every year. He has his favouritewindups in every one of my courses, but the Franks seem to have more than their fair share of them.
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