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Copyright © S. M. Deeming The right of S. M. Deeming to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with section 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers. Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library. ISBN 978 1 84963 148 8 www.austinmacauley.com First Published (2012) Austin & Macauley Publishers Ltd. 25 Canada Square Canary Wharf London E14 5LB Printed & Bound in Great Britain
or a brief moment Tom had no idea where he was; although he was completely aware of the sonic torture inflicted upon him by his alarm clock! Instinctively his hand wavered as it searched in vain, trying to cease the electronic drone that seemed to resonate into the very centre of his brain. Eventually, and with great relief, Tom‟s fingers found their quarry. Silence thankfully restored. The haze of sunlight filtered through flimsy drapes as his eyes attempted to adjust from the blackness of sleep to the sun-drenched reality of emerging consciousness. The beams of light acted like a strobe, illuminating a million particles of dust floating in gentle unison, as if each one were controlled by a singular intelligence, eventually disappearing from sight once they left the influence of the luminescent rays. For a second Tom was mesmerised by their movement. An entire universe within his range of perception; until he blinked, emerging from the trance-like state. All of this had taken a moment but had felt like an age. Trying to raise his torso from sweat-drenched sheets, Tom got as far as resting on his elbows before he felt the need to cease any further efforts in leaving the confines of the bed. Now, a wave of nausea rippled through his core. Rising from the stomach, eventually reaching his head, as if he needed further reminders of the previous evening‟s overindulgence. As usual the evening has started with good intentions. A steady ripple of gentle banter accompanied by several pints had soon ebbed away once the alcohol had taken effect. Now the memories, though selective, were slowly beginning to resurface. The relative serenity of a country
pub had given way to the livelier franchised bars in a small provincial town, eventually culminating with the inevitable drunken death throes in one of the more upmarket „gentlemen‟s clubs‟ and handing over a steady stream of twenty-pound notes to a stocking-clad beauty named Kelly. With such illustrious memories as an aid to his pitiful efforts, Tom progressed from resting upon his elbows to sitting fully upright, although this in turn resulted in him having to cradle his head, similar to a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders. After synchronizing the clearly defective gyroscopes that seemed to be rotating furiously within his head, Tom threw what little of the duvet was left covering his legs onto the floor, and with legendary stoicism he shakily stood up. “Christ… I‟m still pissed,” he thought out loud, and though crude it was an accurate enough diagnosis. He staggered like a newborn foal towards the ineffectual drapes, wincing in anticipation before throwing them open, drenching the room with sunlight. It was fair to surmise that at this point Tom had some idea how vampires fared in similar circumstances. Proving too much too soon Tom turned his back on the yellow beams of light and walked in an unconvincing line towards the bathroom, hoping that the cascade of lukewarm water from the shower would ease his suffering, soon to manifest into one hell of a hangover. He‟d barely stepped into the cubical when his cell phone rang. He‟d ring back! The phone rang off, and then there was silence. Tom waited for the obligatory „tone‟ indicating that a voice message had been left, but there was nothing. Several seconds elapsed then the phone rang again. Tom was expecting two calls, both of equal importance, but for very different reasons.
This time he stepped from the cubicle, cursing that the caller wasn‟t subliminally aware that their recipient was in the shower. Before he could make it to his discarded phone the caller rang off. On inspection he saw that whoever called had withheld the number. In anticipation of a voicemail being left Tom held onto the phone, whilst his body dripped warm soapy water endlessly onto the carpet. Suddenly the phone beeped indicating that the caller had indeed left a message. Tom started to listen; his day had started badly and what he was about to hear wasn‟t going to make it any better. It was his soon-to-be ex-wife, Debra. Her voice had the usual tone that he‟d come to despise, and their separation only served to exaggerate any loathing that Tom felt towards her. Any attempts at civility were proving futile; all the more painful because both of them could see the effect this was having on their twin sons. As he listened to Debra‟s message, his neck tightening and the headache he‟d been so eager to avoid began to take hold. “Er… Hello Tom, it‟s Debbi… I‟ve tried calling you several times before but I haven‟t been able to reach you. Anyway, it‟s about next month–” Tom knew what was coming, “–Jeff‟s got some holiday owing and he‟s gone and booked up a surprise holiday for all of us… I promise I didn‟t know, but it must‟ve cost him a fortune… can… can you have the boys three weeks after the date…?” Tom had heard enough. He ended the call and threw his phone into the jumble of pillows on the bed. Running his fingers through his wet, close-cropped hair he felt a lump in his throat. If there was ever a time to weep it was now, but the emotion morphed into anger. Retrieving his phone, Tom scrolled through the call register looking for Debra‟s number. His mind was distorted with rage at the thought of
someone else playing „Daddy‟ to his sons, his wife finding happiness with another man. The dialling tone sounded, and then Tom had a brief moment of clarity. As his wife‟s phone rang out he came to his senses. She probably wouldn‟t answer his call, choosing to listen to whatever message Tom left – preferring that medium of communication rather than direct conversation. Tom knew that any message he left now would reflect his anger and be littered with thinly veiled threats and excessive profanity. Certainly not wise under the circumstances – with the possibility of such a message being aired at a later date in front of whatever lawyer Debra employed, used to further her influence in court and squeeze Tom out of their sons‟ lives for good. Dejected, Tom turned his phone to „silent‟ and walked back to the sanctuary of the shower. The mist of aggression had briefly anesthetised the after effects of the previous night‟s indulgences; though those same symptoms soon returned as his anger subsided. Hopefully the second of his expected calls would improve his mood. Showered and groomed, Tom finished dressing into a bespoke black suit, expensive shoes and a crisp, close-fitting white shirt unbuttoned at the collar. Whilst showering his mind had raced, exploring differing scenarios with which he‟d like to punish his wife. Tom couldn‟t escape the sense of impotence and frustration that her message had instilled. He found himself locked into a mock discussion – the things he‟d like to say but knew he couldn‟t. The things he‟d like to do, but wouldn‟t. The cascade of water had given some relief from the hangover, and now he was dressed there was an overwhelming desire to leave the confines of his hotel room. One thing that Tom was thankful for was that there were
several hundred miles separating him from his wife and the home they‟d once shared. It was at such a time that Tom realised how much he loved his sons; and must‟ve loved his wife – though the process of their marriage imploding had made his love for her a distant memory. Such pain only served to amplify the fact that he‟d taken their presence in his life for granted. Something he would never be able to do again. Weighed down with such melancholy, time seemed immaterial, and Tom found himself sat at the end of the bed, bag packed, but with little sense of purpose. Maybe, if his wife had been aware of the day‟s significance, she might have spared her requests for another time. Instead the wind had been knocked from his sails and Tom wasn‟t too concerned whether the second phone call he was expecting happened at all. Irrespective of whether it did or not, he needed to be out of that particular space. The cleansing process hadn‟t just washed his body but had purified his senses too. Sitting at the end of the bed, he became aware of the pungent smell of sweat and stale beer forming an unholy union. Tom picked up his bag and left. With the room already paid for by his mystery benefactor he wandered from the subdued lighting of the hotel lobby into what felt like another world. The midmorning sunlight of an early summer‟s day was intense; proving a little too much for a man who had over excessed to the extent that Tom had the previous night. Tom found himself drawn to the sanctuary of the shadows cast by the hotels‟ megalithic, mock-gothic frontage; where the towering stone façade provided an almost lunaristic contrast between sunlight and shade. Now he was at a loose end, and the second of his anticipated calls was in real danger of not materialising. With the disastrous first phone call ruining his
morning, if the second failed to happen, the day wouldn‟t be getting any better. „No,‟ thought Tom. The second phone call represented something that transcended „might‟ or „possibly‟, though there was a serious chance that the people trying to contact him were at risk of breaching their morning deadline. For the time being Tom let the warm sun bathe his face, having had to resort to wearing sunglasses, such was the intensity of the light. For a while, Tom closed his eyes to recollect some of the happier times during his turbulent marriage. Memories that were becoming increasingly distant. In fact, he was becoming so comfortable that he noticed he was gently rocking back and forth. The temperate air, coupled with the sound of bird-song and the scent of the hotel‟s freshly mown lawns, was swiftly drawing Tom towards his own personal nirvana, until the sudden ringing of his cell phone jolted him back to full consciousness. For several seconds, once Tom opened his eyes, he was unable to focus on his phone‟s display; such was the gulf between the blackness of his meditation and the harshness of the sunlight. Once his pupils had reacted, filtering the brightness to a tolerable level, he saw that the caller‟s number was withheld. Of course, there was the unpleasant possibility that it was his wife, though this was unlikely after her previous call – and it would be some time before Tom could bear to hear her voice. After several rings Tom answered. “Hello?” There was a slight pause. “Mr Denning?” “Speaking.” There was another pause. “This is Edward Simmons, we‟ve spoken before.” Tom recognised the name. “Yes, that‟s right.” The hypnotic voice continued. “I trust you‟ve remembered our meeting?”
Tom was a little surprised by Simmons‟ question. They hadn‟t arranged for an informal pint or a chat down the pub, and Simmons had no reason to question whether or not Tom would remember such a significant meeting. “Not at all Mr Simmons… I‟ve been waiting for your call all morning. In fact, I‟m waiting outside the hotel you booked for me.” Simmons‟ response was little more upbeat. “Excellent. I hope the room was adequate? A car will be with you within fifteen minutes.” That was that. Brief and to the point and more importantly true to their word; something his wife could learn from but then miracles scarcely happened! By this time, a new influx of guests were arriving and checking in. The majority appeared to be men and women dressed in well-tailored suits, clearly working for companies with generous expense accounts – allowing their business to be conducted in such opulent surroundings. Occasionally, these groups were punctuated by the arrival of a love-struck couple, virtually conjoined by displays of mutual affection as they hurried into the lobby, and the sanctity of a room or suite. The blur of people passing made Tom feel like he was loitering somewhat as he waited for the car Simmons had promised. Eventually the steady stream of people dwindled to the occasional one or two coming in or out of the lobby. Checking his watch, Tom saw that the fifteen minutes volunteered by Simmons had doubled, frustrating him to the point where he was now impatiently pacing up and down. This was made worse by the fact that some of those people Tom had watched going into the hotel lobby had obviously checked in, unpacked, and were now leaving, venturing into Windsor or one of the other neighbouring towns. Irritated by the delay Tom decided to move away from the entrance. Picking up his bag he‟d had thoughts of
seeking refuge in the hotel bar, and whether or not he would have actually succumb to temptation was about to become academic. From the corner of his eye Tom caught a glimpse of a car travelling up the gravel driveway and into the car park. As it continued on it became apparent that the vehicle was heading towards the drop-off point directly outside of where Tom had been waiting. Not wishing to tempt fate Tom kept hold of his bag in preparation for his retreat into the hotel bar. By now the car was pulling up: a brand new black Jaguar saloon with privacy glass, the effect completed with an impressive burbling of exhaust note from its powerful engine. The driver‟s door swung open and a short, stocky young man walked around the front of the car to greet Tom. “Mr Denning?” he asked inquisitively. “Yes,” Tom answered. “Hello sir, my name is Evans. I believe you‟ve spoken to Mr Simmons already?” Before Tom had a chance to reply Evans returned to the car and opened the nearside rear passenger door. Tom just stood there, a little taken aback at the younger man‟s haste. Evans politely signalled for Tom to get into the car, and as Tom moved towards him Evans reiterated that he was expected to quicken his pace. “Mr Simmons is waiting sir.” Not rude, but rather direct. Once both men were inside there was a rev of the engine and the crackle of gravel under tyres as they sped off down the drive. Tom looked in the driver‟s mirror and saw that Evans was avoiding his gaze. “Where are we going?” Evans answered, still avoiding eye contact. “City Airport sir.”
Tom nodded as though he actually had some input into that decision. Within a short time they‟d left the outskirts and were driving into the heart of the city. The journey from the outskirts into the centre of London had been unexpectedly pleasant. Tom felt that it had been more important for Evans to actually get him into the car rather than reach the airport at breakneck speed. That‟s not to say that Tom‟s chauffeur was taking him on some impromptu site-seeing tour. The powerful car was a comfortable environment and for the first time that day Tom felt relaxed; something he hadn‟t expected once he‟d staggered from his bed earlier that morning. The drive from Bray through to Windsor felt like it had passed in an instant and the scenery was ever changing from countryside to town. Once they‟d passed through Hounslow the urban landscape soon gave way to the unmistakable rise of office blocks and the familiar skyscrapers that punctuated the horizon. As they passed through the West End Tom caught an occasional glimpse of the Thames until he saw the unmistakeable silhouette of the towers rising from Canary Wharf. Beyond the silver monoliths shrouded by smog and the shimmering heat haze lay their destination. The City Airport. Built amongst the remnants of the world‟s greatest docks, where a thousand ships from a multitude of nations had once delivered a myriad of freight as diverse as the countries they‟d originated from. Now the only reminders of the past were the redundant skeletons of iron and steel. Towering leviathans that had cradled millions of tons of freight during their operational life; finally reduced to dormant rusting hulks – silenced forever upon colossal concrete foundations that indicated toward a once greater glory. As they drove towards the entrance of the airport Tom felt a sudden surge of panic, the realisation as he tapped his jacket‟s breast pocket that he‟d
forgotten his passport. There was no „maybe it‟s in my bag‟ or any similar false hopes, it was just something Tom hadn‟t allowed for; but then Simmons hadn‟t mentioned that he‟d be flying! “There‟s a problem.” For the first time during the journey Evans stared back at Tom through the mirror. Tom continued, “I‟ve forgotten my passport… Well, actually, I wasn‟t told I was expected to get on a bloody plane for that matter!” Tom saw Evans‟s eyes crease at the corners and for some inescapable reason the young man appeared to smile. “Don‟t worry sir, you won‟t need one.” Tom was slightly confused. “I am flying though, won‟t I…?” Evans cut in. “Yes you are flying sir, but I guarantee that you won‟t need a passport. I doubt customs will even bother you.” Evans‟s reply didn‟t have the air of an ill-informed guess. He clearly knew that there would be no request for Tom to produce any documentation, only serving to heighten his apprehension towards what lay ahead. Once inside the airport, Tom could see a small terminal building with the Docklands railway annexed to one side. Suddenly the car veered to the left and they took an alternative route down a narrow service road that led straight towards the runway. Once they were within fifty metres of the tarmac Tom saw that there was a security barrier, closed and with two guards stood either side. The car pulled up alongside one of them and Evans lowered his window, producing a wallet with an identification card in it. The guard scrutinised the pass before indicating for his colleague to raise the barrier, and once again they were on the move.
Tom felt relieved that any omission of information provided by Simmons, or possible lapse in his own attention to detail hadn‟t stalled the journey before it had begun. Tom‟s next comment reflected his relief. “I know I‟ve forgotten my passport but throwing me in with the luggage…” This time Evans remained stoically blank, reflecting Tom‟s „singular‟ wit. Now, they were virtually on the edge of the runway. The car drew to a halt and Evans leapt Le Mons-style from his seat, opening the rear passenger door for Tom‟s disembarkation. Tom leaned in to reclaim his bag then turned to face Evans. “What now?” “This way please sir,” Evans gestured for Tom to follow his direction. The air was filled with the sound of jet engines idling in readiness for take-off, and they stood within a stone‟s throw of a mid-sized aircraft beginning to taxi down the runway. Both men walked towards a small collection of outbuildings close to the apron, and on rounding its corner Tom could see a small private jet parked with the door into its fuselage lowered to the tarmac and awaiting passengers. As he and his escort got closer Tom thought to himself, “You‟ve got to be kidding?” The gleaming black fuselage refracted the sunlight like a tubular mirror. There were no markings other than its identification numbers on the tail, and Tom thought the machine was beautiful: the epitome of opulence for anyone lucky enough to travel in it. With impeccable timing a member of the flight crew stood at the top of the staircase just as Tom and Evans arrived. Looking at his escort Tom asked, “Where am I going?” only to be answered by Evans silently motioning for him to climb the stairs into the aircraft.
Tom took a hesitant first step then continued to climb up into the aircraft. Just before he disappeared into the fuselage he heard Evans say, “Good luck sir!” Tom turned to see the young man jogging back toward the car. The flight attendant operated a switch that slowly raised the stairs back into the body of the aircraft, followed by the hiss of air as the cabin re-pressurised. Once inside, Tom took time to look at his surroundings. The interior had seating for ten people, though if standard passenger jet design had been utilised there probably would‟ve been treble that number! But this was no normal passenger jet. The seats were dressed in quality cream leather and a giant would have been hard pushed to complain about the leg room. The flight attendant asked Tom to take a seat anywhere in the aircraft and make himself comfortable as he would be the only passenger on the flight. Following the instruction he sat in one of the seats and placed his bag on the one next to him. As the attendant opened the door that separated the cockpit from the rest of the aircraft he turned to Tom and spoke. “We‟ll be leaving within the next few minutes sir, so if you could wear your seatbelt…” With that he disappeared into the cockpit and Tom buckled up. The attendant had been true to his word, as the engines increased thrust, taxiing the plane towards the runway. The small aircraft bumped about a little as it moved over the fragmented concrete surface until it reached the smoother tarmac. Taking a ninety degree turn the aircraft manoeuvred into position awaiting clearance for take-off. Several minutes elapsed. Then the noise coming from the jets increased suitably enough to indicate they were about to take off. With a burst of acceleration the small aircraft launched itself down the runway until Tom felt the unmistakable feeling in the pit of his stomach that the wheels had left the tarmac and that they were finally
airborne. Tom looked out of his window and watched as they began to ascend above the city skyline. London would soon be but a distant memory. For the second time that day Tom awoke, only to be unsure at first as to where he actually was. Those initial few seconds felt like an age as his mind re-calibrated, allowing him to recall the events that had led to his slumbering within the opulent jet. Tom looked at his watch and saw that he‟d been asleep for several hours. A noise behind startled him, and as he turned around to see who or what it was, Tom saw the attendant lowering all of the shutters in the windows; though as the last one was closed Tom could see that sunlight was still filtering in and the sky was blue. Seeing that Tom was a little confused the attendant clarified why he was closing the shutters. “Sorry sir. It‟s procedure. The nature of your meeting requires that you have no idea where we‟re flying.” So, that was that! No pretence or games, just the plain and honest confirmation that wherever he was going Simmons wanted any such location to remain a secret. With the truth of his situation confirmed, Tom relaxed back into his seat. Once the attendant had left, the steadying drone of the aircraft‟s engines meant that Tom could once again feel his consciousness drifting towards sleep. The rest of the journey was about as eventful as it possibly could be, alone and sixty thousand feet above the ground, with the monotony only broken by a brief bout of turbulence. Once the aircraft had ceased bobbing like a cork on the water Tom felt that they were beginning to descend, though at what rate was difficult to determine with no external view. Soon the tone of the engines changed, indicating that the aircraft was slowing from its cruising speed. There was a crackle from a small speaker at the front of the cabin followed by the pilot confirming that they were
about to make their final approach towards the mystery destination, and that Tom should buckle up once more. The rate of descent was now difficult to ignore, and soon the engine note was much louder. Within several minutes the aircraft had touched down with what Tom considered to be a near perfect landing, precluding a roar of reverse thrust as the jets slowed the aircraft to a crawl, from the runway towards wherever it was going to park. The co-pilot operated a switch and the door popped open lowering onto the tarmac. Tom stood up and stretched – his mouth dry from the time within the arid, artificial atmosphere that had pressurised the fuselage, and he straightened as best he could his slightly creased suit jacket. With his bag in hand Tom moved toward the exit and looked at the attendant. “What now?” He in turn indicated for Tom to look out from the aircraft and across the runway at a solitary vehicle parked with its lights on and engine running. “They‟re waiting for you sir.” This was obviously Tom‟s cue to leave and make his way over to the waiting car. Tom hadn‟t gone four paces when the aircraft‟s door was raised and it began to move slowly towards its take-off point on the runway they‟d just landed on. By this time the late afternoon light meant that the fast-descending sun was silhouetting what looked like a range of mountains far in the distance. The sparseness of the small landing strip didn‟t particularly aid in any identification of where Tom actually was, but the fact that he could see mountains narrowed his search down to only several hundred possible locations on the planet! One unavoidable detail was the amount of time he‟d spent in the air. Another factor was the terrain. Tom thought that he was possibly somewhere in central Europe, but this conclusion was little more than an educated guess. Soon the aircraft was hurtling back down the runway and disappearing into the incandescent sky. After the jet‟s
departure suddenly there was silence, with only the distant echo of its engines as it vanished from sight. Tom made his way over to the waiting car and saw that the passenger door was open with a woman stood next to it. Once he reached her side she smiled warmly and moved to open the rear passenger door. “Hello Mr. Denning… how was your flight?” Tom stood by the open door and threw his bag inside the car. “Good. I slept most of the way. I don‟t suppose you could tell me…” Tom didn‟t bother to complete the question. There was no reason they‟d clarify anything at this point, and he‟d have to accept that the secrecy was part and parcel of what he was getting involved with. With that he climbed into the car and embarked on the next leg of his journey. The second of Tom‟s car journeys was possibly the most revealing chapter of the day‟s events so far. By now the sun had surrendered to night. The isolated road was submerged into darkness, and it was impossible for Tom to identify any external features that might determine where they were actually heading, with the exception of one key detail: the car was clearly moving over steep roads that rose and fell with great regularity. Sweeping bends followed one after another and Tom wondered whether he was travelling through the mountains he‟d seen in the distance as he‟d stood on the runway. As they continued on, Tom‟s mind wandered as he considered the events leading up to that particular point. His attention then began to focus on the two people sat directly in front of him. The woman who had greeted him had brown hair and looked to be in her early thirties. She wore a smart black trouser suit that Tom noticed did little to disguise her rather attractive figure. The driver was a heavily built man, with broad, level shoulders – causing his black suit jacket to pull and crease every time he moved, almost as if it was about to burst.
He looked like he was middle-aged, possibly in his early fifties, and this was accentuated by his close-cropped, snowwhite hair, contrasted by his tanned, lined face: giving the impression that he spent the majority of the time outdoors. Tom thought the driver exuded the demeanour of an exmilitary man; but regardless of who or what he was, he looked like quite a formidable character. Eventually they stopped and the driver lowered his window. Tom saw that they‟d reached a barrier with a small machine similar to one at an automated car park. The driver swiped a plastic card through the machine, raising the barrier. Soon they were travelling down a well-lit tree-lined road. The powerful lights focused their beams down towards the narrow road, making it impossible to see what lay either side of their illuminated path, and after about half a mile they reached another checkpoint. This one was manned; several guards stood either side of the road and were clearly armed. As they drew up to the barrier the driver lowered his window, handing his pass to one of the guards. This time the procedure was a little more stringent. The guard took the driver‟s card into a small tin shack and checked that his credentials were in order. A minute passed and the guard returned. He told the driver to proceed up the next section of the road, and under no circumstances should he stop or allow anyone to leave the car. If there was a problem they should sound the horn and a guard would drive to them. The driver just nodded in silent obedience, and once he‟d retrieved his pass the barrier was raised and they were allowed to drive on. The second run was much longer and ran for several miles – this time in complete darkness, with the exception of the car‟s headlights. At the end of the track they were met with a similar situation as before: a brace of armed guards and another checkpoint. Although what lay beyond the barrier was completely different. The road they‟d travelled up stopped abruptly ten metres past the other side of the
wooden barrier. Beyond the barrier, Tom saw a huge, well lit opening carved into a shear rock-face, which appeared to extend in all directions; well beyond the influence of the powerful flood lights illuminating the check-point. The opening clearly allowed the road to continue on, under the mountain, and looked very similar to the entrance of a railway tunnel, though this was at least double the size – nearly forty feet in height and the same across. Wherever they were going next it was obviously only accessible through the man-made chasm. If the security at the previous gate had been strict, the next set of measures bordered on the oppressive. An armed guard flanked either side of the car and three of the doors were opened. Tom and his chaperones were politely but firmly „invited‟ to leave the confines of their vehicle. Each of them obliged and they were instructed to place both hands on the car‟s roof. This was the first time during the journey that Tom had felt a sense of apprehension. His eyes met with his female escort and she just gave him a wry smile and silently mouthed, “It‟s all right, procedure.” Her words gave him some reassurance, but it was the first time he‟d felt out of his depth. The driver was escorted into the guards‟ command post and for a few moments Tom could hear snippets of the questions asked by the guards; mostly regarding clarification of the driver‟s documentation and the purpose of his being there. The driver returned and the woman was taken into the same building. A similar amount of time elapsed before she was allowed to return. Then a guard stood by Tom and asked him to move into the command post. Once inside, Tom saw that there was another guard seated behind a desk. He stood up and looked straight at Tom before asking him to confirm his name. Tom replied and the man asked him why he was expected at the „installation‟, as he termed it? Tom replied that he had a
meeting with Mr Simmons and that he had come from London for that same meeting. Tom got the sense that he was being toyed with slightly; not for malevolent reasons, just by way of confirming what the guard already knew. He also believed that if you had no real reason for being there you wouldn‟t get past the first barrier unless you fancied one hell-of-a walk. Heaven knows what would happen if they caught you after that. After each of them had been questioned, two guards checked the car whilst a third appeared to survey the surrounding area with the aid of a night-vision scope in case anyone had jumped out of the car before pulling up at the checkpoint. The whole scenario was completely out of keeping with anything Tom had experienced before – even with his previous background; and whatever they were protecting it clearly required security measures that equalled those at Fort Knox. With the checks over, Tom‟s chaperones were told to get back into the car, whilst one of the guards retrieved Tom‟s bag from the rear seat. Standing in the wooden hut he watched as the car did a three point turn before travelling back into the darkness, down the tree-lined road. Turning to face the seated guard Tom saw that he was preparing some documentation and placing what looked like identification papers into a plastic case with a crocodile clip so it could be attached to a shirt pocket or jacket lapel. The guard stood up and handed the pass and paperwork to Tom, as his bag was returned and placed by the door. “Please keep these with you at all times Mr Denning; make sure the pass is visible at all times too. If our men can‟t see it you‟ll be taken away long before they even bother to ask you for it…” Tom took the precaution of attaching the pass to his jacket in front of the guard, as an indication of how badly he didn‟t want that to happen.
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