SO LONG, NAPOLEON SOLO

PATRICK CHAPMAN

BLAZEVOX[BOOKS]
Buffalo, New York
So Long, Napoleon Solo
by Patrick Chapman
Copyright © 2017
Published by BlazeVOX [books]

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without
the publisher’s written permission, except for brief quotations in
reviews.

Printed in the United States of America

Design and typesetting by Geoffrey Gatza
Cover Art by

First Edition
ISBN: 978-1-60964-287-7
Library of Congress Control Number: 2017934577

BlazeVOX [books]
131 Euclid Ave
Kenmore, NY 14217
editor@blazevox.org

publisher of weird little books

BlazeVOX [ books ]
blazevox.org

21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10
ONE
1

Clea fflynch, through no fault of her own, had lately become
Jerome’s oldest friend. She did not know this yet, as she was
busy at the office and hadn’t spoken to him in the two days
since they had arranged to meet. Her current project was an
advertorial for slimming yoghurt; and her favourite fact so far,
was that the Y2K bug isn’t one of the stomach’s good bacteria.
Waiting in Café Pol Pot, she knew only that Jerome was
late, that this annoyed her, and that she would never tell him.
To pass the time, she studied the Pop Art counterfeit of the
General Secretary’s repeated face, framed in black steel on the
wall. This laser copy, forged when a dealer had brought the
Warhol original in to see if the restaurant’s owner might like
to buy it, gave the place all the authenticity it needed.
The other patrons–who had come here to be seen, or to
talk about house prices, or to remark on how vulgar it was to
do either–inspired in her a special loathing. None, she found
herself disgusted to assume, appeared troubled to eat in a
diner named after a mass murderer. In this town, in this time,
no one who mattered had heard of Pol Pot.

11
When he arrived, Jerome caught Clea off-guard. Because
she had not been looking in his direction, he appeared to
materialise in front of her as she turned. He puffed out his
reddened cheeks, slipped his wet jacket off, draped it on the
back of his chair, and sat down.
‘What a day I’ve had,’ he said quietly. ‘First my old school-
pal shoots himself in the head. Then I have to write a leaflet
for a centre-right political party.’
Clea reached out to press his hand briefly then release it.
‘You’re wet,’ she said, herself not even moist.
Had she heard him? Never mind. He didn’t feel like dealing
with his news either. Running cold fingers through his hair, he
fretted instead that taking this much rain was bad for the skin.
His scalp, he noted, was worryingly discoverable.
A waitress arrived and Jerome ordered his usual. ‘Buffalo
wings, regular fries, and the Aztec corn soup.’
‘Glad you like the soup,’ the waitress said. She scratched his
order on her pad. ‘We tried to replace it with gazpacho but
the customers kept sending that back because it was cold.’
‘I’m not at all surprised.’ Jerome liked the look of her. She
was tall, skinny, brunette and pale. She sounded American. He
might have tried to guess which state she was from but feared
getting it wrong.
Turning to Clea, the waitress said, ‘Now how about you?’
While his friend ordered, Jerome cased the room. A few
seats along, the fashion designer Estelle Garden and three
minions had wedged themselves in at a table for two. With

12
their Daler pads and Caran d’Ache pencils, they gave the
appearance of working. Across the room, a columnist smiled
in wonder at his own work in the Herald. Jerome caught the
man’s adoring sigh at some pithy innuendo, perhaps an
intimation of unseemly nightclub shenanigans involving the
usual pilot fish who showed up when a Bowie or a Pitt was
expected in town.
Did no one come here just to eat?
He checked out the waitress again. A tattoo depicting blue
barbed wire ran most of the way around her left ankle, and it
hadn’t quite healed.
‘What’s your name?’ Clea asked.
‘Tasha.’
‘Hi, Tasha! Clea fflynch. Glad to make your acquaintance.’
‘Hey.’ Tasha seemed bored. ‘I know you think I’m one of
those effortlessly tall American women who are disappointed
but not really shocked to discover in the bars here, especially
the chic ones, they think a vodka martini is the vermouth called
Martini. Well, you’d be wrong.’
‘I would?’
‘You would, because I’m Canadian.’
‘That must be how you can be effortlessly tall,’ Jerome said.
‘You were listening,’ Tasha noted. ‘You win.’
Jerome mumbled something even he didn’t hear.
‘You look like you’ve been hit in the back with a pair of scud
missiles,’ Clea remarked.
Tasha made a flatline smile and walked away.

13
‘Clea, why are you flirting with the waitress?’ Jerome asked.
‘I’m expressing myself. I saw it in Cosmo. Something about
unleashing my inner feline.’
Jerome inhaled a shimmer of Clea’s perfume, Poison by
Dior. It cut through the mélange of vapours rising from every
dish, and the flavoured heat rolling like a warm fog from the
kitchen. ‘I didn’t know you were into women,’ he said.
‘I didn’t know you were.’
‘I am, but the feeling doesn’t appear to be mutual.’ He
yawned elaborately like an alligator having its teeth cleaned by
a plover. In college, flirting was as far as his body fluids had
come to establishing an exchange programme with Clea’s.
The time she taught him how to smoke, that didn’t count as a
sexual act. At one point, they decided over pints that being
friends was the only form of relationship that could outlast
infidelity, sarcasm, and toenail clippings. The expectations of
friendship were more forgiving. All the same, Clea had once
instructed him that should they both end up single at forty, he
was to ask for her hand. Being from Dalkey, she was posh for a
colonial–marrying her could be a good retirement plan.
Clea was thirty, as he was, but she had worn much better.
He found her delightfully curvy. He approved of her Rachel
bob, her delicate nose, and her generous eyes full of tease.
Clea’s mouth he never dared to think of as being for anything
other than talking, breathing, eating, kissing, playing clarinet,
and giving head. It had not occurred to him that there was not
much else the well-bred mouth could do without a permit.

14
He often regretted that after college they had drifted apart,
when she went abroad to try the film business. Although they
reconnected on her return, their trajectory had been set. They
were friends. She sealed the deal when she helped him with a
blue period he assumed was his mid-twenties breakdown by
leading him on a lunchtime whistle-stop tour of smelly shops,
and guiding his purchases. He returned to work with a bag full
of scented soaps and face washes, vitamins and bath bombs, a
seaweed mask, and a loofah which he named Audrey, after his
favourite Hepburn.
That shopping trip established a precedent. Now when one
of them had a problem the other was there to listen. It was
cheaper than therapy. His other pals had long since drifted
away into fatherhood, depression or success. Clea discouraged
him from getting to know other women, as she had put a lot of
work into him. Indeed, she was all he had now, and if she too
were to disappear, he would need to buy Guatemalan worry
dolls to put under his pillow, because you should always have
someone to confide in.
Clea worried him. She had been living for several years with
Harry Krige, a serious man, at least twice her age. Harry, she
once said, made her feel like a woman, and Jerome suggested
she go out and get one. Harry seemed a bit on the thuggish
side but Clea tended to admire a certain brand of masculinity.
Jerome imagined what they got up to in the privacy of their
home. He expected they practiced ungentle sex. There was
something in their eye contact when he saw the two of them

15
together, an exchange of information that hinted at whips and
dungeons, a whole economy he didn’t want to think about.
Tasha arrived with the food. She seemed different now, for
she fluttered her eyelids briefly at Clea, who smiled warmly in
return then gazed at the waitress’s taut ass as she departed.
Tasha was getting a tip, and not from him.
‘Stop flirting,’ Jerome said. ‘It’s the first stage of mourning.’
‘Hey!’ Clea laughed. ‘I can’t help it. Her thong is showing.’
Jerome got out a blister-pack of Klacid, popped two into his
mouth then coughed quietly before washing them down with
water. ‘This is technically an overdose.’
‘You do look a bit sleepy. Or grumpy. One of the dwarfs.’
‘How’s the job going?’
Clea worked at Dish, told people she did shallow for a living,
and was grateful but amazed that the magazine could find
enough famous Irish people to cover. She started to talk about
her day but Jerome, drifting into nothing, didn’t hear. When
he tuned in again, the subject had moved on. ‘…so yes, I
persuaded Harry to buy me a diamond ring. I don’t want the
wedding, just the ring. I don’t wear it!’
‘Why don’t you want the wedding? I thought that was the
point.’
‘A wedding is the point all right. It’s the point where “you’re
all I want” turns into “you’re all I need” before it becomes
“you’re all I have left”.’
‘So, you just wanted the ring. I think I understand. What did
you do to persuade him?’

16
‘Let’s not go there.’ Clea bit into one of his celery sticks. It
was dripping with blue-cheese dip, which she licked off her
lips. He chose not to read anything into this.
‘Tom shot himself this morning,’ Jerome whispered. ‘Dead.’
Clea stopped eating, mid-bite. Her jaw hung open like she
had been renting a facelift and the lease had just run out. She
put the celery on the plate.
‘Tom?’ The name was familiar but then, lots of people were
called Tom.
Jerome’s eyes felt heavy in their sockets. ‘Tom Sullivan. I
mentioned him before.’
‘Of course. Look at you. You’re in bits, obviously. And there
I was, wittering on. What am I like?’
‘You’re all right.’
‘Which one was Tom?’ Clea picked the celery up again and
resumed chewing. The shredding sound of her teeth on the
fibrous stalk stirred an irrational anger in Jerome. To calm
himself he inhaled quickly then let his breath out slowly.
‘Dad sounded more upset than I expected,’ he said.
‘Maybe he was thinking of you.’
‘That hadn’t occurred to me.’ Now he lost focus; it was the
pills. A cloud of nausea rolled in his head. The restaurant went
all Vaseline.
‘How long since you got laid?’ Clea sounded absent too.
‘Are you asking?’
She appeared to consider the question.
‘A good fuck might cheer you up,’ she said.

17
‘Sorry?’
‘Or good cheer might fuck you up. I forget.’
‘You’re into women now.’ The room’s noise returned in a
sudden wave of confusion before it settled down again.
‘No, m’dear,’ Clea said, ‘I’m into Harry.’
‘I’ll never understand that.’
She frowned.
Jerome snorted. A drop of blood flew out, hitting a napkin.
Clea noted this with mild curiosity. ‘Why don’t you come
around next week? Dinner or something,’ she said. ‘I’m sure
Harry will be delighted to have people over.’
‘You know he doesn’t like me,’ Jerome reminded her.
‘Harry doesn’t like anyone.’
‘Hmm. Walked into any good doors recently?’
‘Jerome! That’s my future ex-husband you’re talking about.’
She smarted as though he had stabbed her under a fingernail
with a straightened paper clip.
Jerome saw her discomfort but dismissed it. ‘You know what
though?’ he said. ‘You’re now my oldest friend in the world.’
‘Well,’ Clea replied, ‘isn’t that just wizard.’

18
2

Whitaker, Spooner & Tosh was the kind of shop where in
days of old, creatives would cultivate weed openly on their
desks. That didn’t happen now, and there were many among
the younger employees who lamented how they had missed all
the fun–the cocaine, the booze, the boardroom sex they’d
only heard about, and the very late lunches today’s suits had
no time for.
One morning in 1987, it was discovered that the agency had
been burgled overnight. As the gardaí arrived in Reception
then started their way upstairs, an art director, thinking on his
feet, stashed the creative department’s in-house marijuana
plants on the floor behind the Repromaster in its darkroom,
and never took them out again. They were a legend, those
plants and this story. No one remembered where they had
gone, or if it was true. The art director moved on to better
things in Amsterdam, the camera stood unused for years, and
the weeds came to dust in the dark. The burglar was not found
and it was never clear what had been stolen.
Drugs in the creative department were frowned on after
that, although the account handlers–easels, Jerome had heard
them called–and the media guys, still got to drink as much as
they needed to, especially if a client demanded mollification,
explanation, or simply a day on the tear.

19
At Whitaker’s, John Hegarty and David Abbott were heroes
to the old-timers who held that advertising was art, that Silk
Cut or B&H print work could stand with Dalí and Magritte.
Dee Hagen, the creative director, was of that ilk. She had won
many pencils during a long stint at Still Price Court Twivy
D’Souza, but her one concession to nostalgia was for the
standards of old. She disdained today’s Mac jockeys, with their
lamentable grasp of typography. Just the other week, she had
fired a guy for using a hyphen where a dash was required, for
being unaware of his ignorance, and for assuming it didn’t
matter. ‘Ah, no, I don’t like them long ones,’ he had said, and
was out on his ear.
Jerome approved. He saw in her a kindred spirit, someone
who knew which end of the apostrophe was up; a creative who
believed in cracking an idea before attempting to execute it.
One time, when a client said she already had the concept, he
smiled at her coldly–her concept was that they would do a
leaflet. Such experiences made him jealous of MBA-toting
wastes of space who were paid more and got laid more than
him. How could such old-money frauds go home at night and
expect to be loved? But they did and they were. This was how
society ran, it seemed. If you didn’t expect integrity, you were
welcomed into the company of those whose self-respect relied
on wilful ignorance. This was how Clea could live with Harry.
It was the Kay Corleone response.
As he was not busy this morning, Jerome played Apeiron on
his computer while random thoughts arose until, interrupting

20
a high-scoring run, the telephone rang. He dropped his mouse
and picked up the call. The caterpillar died immediately and
the round ended with a harsh electronic cry. You Idiot! He
liked that the game insulted him when he lost.
It was his father Joe on the line.
‘Dad,’ Jerome said.
‘Howya, son.’ On his retirement from the Gardaí, Jerome’s
father had not turned his Templemore accent in. ‘The funeral
is on Friday they tell me, and the removal is Thursday night.’
‘How are they doing?’
‘Not so good now. Sean is home from England.’
In their childhood days, Tom’s older brother Sean had been
distant, an aloof boy who rarely mixed with his juniors. Jerome
sometimes thought Sean jealous of his and Tom’s friendship.
‘Do you want me to bring anything?’
‘Just yourself will do.’
‘See you tomorrow,’ Jerome said. ‘I still can’t believe it.’
‘Don’t I know? And isn’t it a terrible thing for Betty to find
him like that.’
‘Dad–’
‘It’s fierce. Your own son. If I found you like that, I don’t
know what I’d do.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘How would I explain it to your mother, rest her soul, when
I went to meet the man upstairs and you in the other place?’
‘Dad!’
There were two others in the room, Dave and Gemma, both

21
art directors. Neither appeared to pay attention, until Gemma
glanced up, concerned.
‘I have to go now,’ Jerome said to his dad, and smiled across
at his colleague.
Gemma looked away and returned with renewed focus to
the layout she was working on.
‘I don’t know what’s got into young lads at all, what does be
going through their head,’ Joe said. ‘Anyway, see you now.’
Jerome hung up and went to the balcony with a Lucky
Strike. He had a vague sense of general guilt, a sickness in his
gut, so he concentrated on the smoke, drawing in a line of ash,
pulling time towards his own head but Time was already
inside his mind, pounding life into entropy, composting the
waste product of existence.
Comprehension was impossible. Tom was dead at thirty
years old. Jerome feared he might be next, for it would be no
big thing to do himself in, and who would care to stop him?
He tried to think of something else but it all came back to
his dead friend. There was that time when they were eight and
Tom taught him how to play handball, then how to beat up
knacker kids, then how to beat knacker kids at handball. Three
lessons in one day, Tom said, though the third wasn’t serious.
Jerome dropped his smoke and returned to his desk. Gemma
watched but did not speak. Dave was chatting on the phone to
a photographer, organising pints.
On the desktop of his new iMac, which looked like a cough
sweet with a hormone imbalance, Jerome kept an article that

22
listed ways to end it all. He sat down and clicked on the file.
To kill yourself by nuclear war, it said, stand at ground zero and
wait, and hope the bomb has not been sent through the British postal
system. To kill yourself by express train, jump at the last possible
second and be sure to have the correct ticket. To kill yourself by
medication, grind lots of paracetamol tablets and mix with a bottle of
cheap whiskey then call for a dialysis machine before swallowing as
much as you can–
This stuff was no longer amusing. Some morbidity of the
soul must have led him to find it so in the first place. Had he
tempted fate by keeping the pathetic article around and in that
way caused Tom’s death?
Jerome did not believe in fate but had dated someone who
claimed to. Janice was convinced the universe cared so little
for her that any bad karma she might have coming to her
would rebound on her friends instead. As evidence, she told of
a time before him, when she slept with a friend’s husband and
the next day her real boyfriend had his collarbone broken as a
high garden wall collapsed on him. Janice seemed unaware of
the implication that rather than dismissing her, the universe
found her so important it would visit her punishment on
others in her place. Jerome then considered buying a policy to
cover going out with Janice but as she was an act of God, it
would not hold up when the time came to make a claim. From
a certain point of view her philosophy made sense. Someone
got sex, therefore someone else was crushed by bricks. With
this lesson in mind, he dragged the article into the trash.

23
He thought about his call just now. Why did he revert to his
Ballyhickey accent on the phone to his dad? Why did he do
that when he talked to his father but slip into mid-Atlantic
when speaking with city people? He spent too much time
hanging out with voiceover artists, that was it. Different styles
of sincerity, faked equally well. Nor did his father have a
normal voice. This former sergeant served breakfast using the
same tone with which he had once served warrants.
As for Tom’s death, who knew? Jerome speculated, staring
at the dope-smoking, fez-wearing caterpillar on the screen, as
to how it had gone down. Did Tom expire like the victim in a
horror film? Death incarnate approaching, dressed impeccably
as a secret agent in a black suit and tie, white silk shirt and
polished black patent leather shoes. Death, Tom’s double,
snapping into the victim’s body so it occupied his exact co-
ordinates in four dimensions, replacing the cells, taking over
the limbs, piloting Tom’s arrow of time directly to the
underworld in a quantum echo of the bullet. Death, not Tom,
squeezing the trigger, sending the projectile crashing into the
roof of his mouth, smacking the bone up into the brain,
bursting out through the back of the skull and slamming into
the concrete behind him, the blood-splashed hole in the wall
reflecting the exit wound. Tom’s life force, desperate to find a
new host, exploding out in all directions. The brain shutting
down all non-essential functions. Breathing becoming shallow,
limbs leaching feeling, body temperature dropping–all in a
couple of seconds. As well as physics, was it economics? Why,

24
in the terminal moment, would the body not consolidate its
assets and hope for the best?
No. It had probably been nothing like that.
The truth was difficult to think about. For all his mental
reconstruction, Jerome had no idea how it had happened, or
why Tom should have done such a thing, let alone how he
himself was expected to feel about it. Which gun had he used?
A Walther P.38? And what about the family left behind? How
racked they must be. Could Tom’s death somehow have been
his fault?
There is no second act in a life, American or otherwise, but
there is always a final one. He would have to let the deed settle
and wait for any meaning to come later.

That evening he checked his machine and heard Clea’s voice.
It sounded distant on the tape but the fact that she had called
meant he was forgiven for his remark about Harry.
‘How are you fixed for dinner this day week?’ her voice said.
‘Around eight. Just a few of us, nothing fancy. Bring a friend if
you want. Oh, and take care, petal. I’m worried about you. It’s
me, by the way. Clea. Lots of love.’
He lit a smoke then sank into his armchair. He turned the
TV on, which was, he reflected, more than it ever did for him.
There was never anything interesting on television; it was
there to reflect our lives. When he finished his cigarette, he
stubbed the butt in his Habitat ashtray, which looked like a

25
very large white blood corpuscle. Then he made a cup of Gold
Blend and switched the television off. He packed a suitcase
then put a disc on the turntable–Robert Forster’s Danger in
the Past. Lying on the floor, he listened all the way from “Dear
Black Dream” to “Justice”. He loved this record, and not
because it was more socially acceptable than the music he had
followed as a boy–Oldfield, Genesis, ELO–the tastes Tom
had introduced him to, and for which his other classmates had
castigated him. How dare he not care for the Quo? Although
he kept a flight case of his old LPs in the wardrobe, he rarely
took them out. Was it because he didn’t want to be reminded
of where he came from?
The side ended and the needle returned to the cradle. It
came to him that he should have played Nevermind, as Tom
had shot himself on the fifth anniversary of Cobain’s suicide.
He got up to smoke another cigarette, and remembered a
story he’d read in the paper, an item about a mother and her
pubescent daughter, taken into the woods near Lough Eske,
and murdered by their boyfriend. The suspect was twenty,
disturbed, and handy with a sawn-off.
Jerome wondered what the hell was going on with men.

*

26
The summer they were ten, the boys made wallets out of
brown leatherette that Tom’s mother had bought to cover the
sofa. They cut cartridge paper into a pair of code-books.
Then, using cotton buds, and invisible ink made with baking
soda, they wrote in the pages a secret alphabet encrypted with
the number 26 representing A.
These techniques, as seen on Blue Peter, pleased them both.
Tom slipped the code-books into the wallets, gave one to
Jerome and pocketed the other one. They declared themselves
secret agents, and now needed identities.
Trying to come up with exciting new spy names, Jerome
suggested playful combinations based on characters in pictures
and programmes he liked–M. A. Steed and John Peel; Danny
Sinclair and Brett Wilde; James Leiter and Felix Bond. Tom
said those men weren’t real but never mind, he had an idea–
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Although neither looked like David
McCallum or Robert Vaughn, it was perfect. Jerome would
call himself Illya Kuryakin and Tom would become Napoleon
Solo. They swore to address each other only by their secret
names from that moment on.
The oath lasted only a couple of days, during which time
their mothers indulged them. Their fathers didn’t know what
they were on about, which was not surprising, as according to
their mothers, their fathers knew nothing at all.
On day one, the agents set up headquarters in the treehouse
at the bottom of the field behind Tom’s family home.
‘See those cows?’ Jerome called out. ‘T.H.R.U.S.H. spies!’

27
‘Right-o,’ Tom said, ‘but keep it quiet, wouldja? We’re secret
agents. Come on, we’ll bring them cows in to Section II.’
Just then Tom’s mother Betty, who had sloshed down in her
wellies, hollered for them to come in for tea.
‘Damn it anyway,’ Tom grumped. ‘That’s Waverly, so it is,
calling us in from the field.’
‘Literally,’ Jerome said but Tom didn’t seem to get it.
On the way back to the farmhouse, Jerome asked if Sean
should join their game but Tom insisted there could be only
two agents in a spy partnership. Anyway, this wasn’t a game.
Another time, Tom’s uncle Albert was down from Derry for
a visit. He came to the treehouse and climbed in through the
door-frame and took a gun out of his trousers. Had it been
secured in his belt or in his Y-fronts?
Jerome stared at the weapon but Tom seemed to know it
already. ‘The Walther!’
‘Aye,’ Albert said, ‘the Walther.’ He waved it in Jerome’s
shining face. ‘It’s a gift for a brave pair of espionage operatives
like yourselves! Mind you don’t tell your ma, Tom, or your
ma either, lad. Keep it quiet or they’ll have it off you.’
‘What’s a Walther?’ Jerome asked.
‘This,’ Albert said, ‘is only the same Walther P.38 I brought
back from the war. I strangled a Kraut with my bare hands,
didn’t I, Tom, then grabbed this gun from his holster and shot
him in the head with it, bang, bang, bang, three times all told,
just to be sure.’ As he spoke, Albert made appropriate dramatic
actions–lunging for the German’s weapon, aiming, firing,

28
recoiling. ‘Wehrmacht bastard never stood a chance.’
‘Wehrmacht!’ Jerome knew of them from Warlord comic.
Albert’s eyes flickered with a wild light. ‘It has no bullets,
not now anyway. I used them all on German soldiers, and they
deserved it for putting that Hitler in power. Do you know he
was elected by the people? Those soldiers had no excuse.’
Jerome continued to stare. He had not met Tom’s uncle
before. He didn’t know that this throwback of a fellow, as an
Irishman who had fought with the British in the Emergency,
was merely tolerated in the town, and rarely travelled south.
‘Here you go, lad.’ Albert offered the weapon.
‘Hey, thanks,’ Tom acted casual as he took the gun from the
man’s trembling hand. ‘Did you kill any Commies?’
‘Ah, no, I didn’t see any Bolshevists. Even if I had, well you
know how it is–’ Albert whistled loudly. ‘To kill a Red, takes
a pair of agents. They’re tricky, Commies.’ He grabbed the
gun from Tom and aimed it at a clump of grass down below
then pulled the trigger and there was a sharp click. ‘Now this
beautiful weapon will take care of anything those bastards at
SMERSH can throw at you.’
‘T.H.R.U.S.H.,’ Jerome corrected him.
‘Don’t contradict me, lad.’ Albert wheeled around and drew
the gun level with Jerome’s face. ‘Are you calling me a liar?’
Tom cackled. Albert was a hoot.
The old man smiled and anointed Jerome on the head with
the stock of the Walther. ‘I’m just messin’ with you.’
‘Oh–’

29
‘Treat this gun like a lady and she’ll serve you well. And do
what I said, which is don’t tell anyone. Schtum! Got it? That’s
the Kraut word for shut up.’
‘Got it,’ Jerome said. The tap on the head still rang through
his skull and he didn’t know how to feel about it.
‘The mighty Walther is yours now, lads. It belongs to the
pair of you,’ Albert said. ‘Remember, there’s only two in a spy
team. Only two, or it doesn’t work.’
‘I told you that!’ Tom said.
‘Did you, now? I don’t recall you saying that.’
This time, when Albert proffered the gun, Jerome took it
and backed away. The weapon was too big for one hand so he
gripped it with both.
‘It’s heavy,’ he said but no one heard.
‘Well, here’s me, gone!’ Albert started back down the ladder
and as he went he called out, ‘If you see Khrushchev tell him I
found his shoe!’
‘Wilco, uncle,’ Tom said. ‘Wilco!’
‘What’s so special about this one?’ Jerome asked.
‘It’s like the gun in the show,’ Tom said, sounding delighted.
The weapon had weight. It was real. ‘Look, a walnut grip.’
Tom claimed ownership and kept the gun in the treehouse,
because Albert was right–their mothers would confiscate it.
With no bullets, they had to make bam sounds themselves,
except when they pretended that a silencer was attached. Then
it was pew!

30