Authors: Tony Walker
Walker / FAITHLESS / 1
July 15th, 1956 - Leith, Scotland:
By the time he'd finished his breakfast James Fee knew he would kill himself. He could say it was their fault: that they'd deceived him - that he wasn't culpable, but he would have condemned anyone else and being a man who didn't break rules or bend loyalties, he condemned himself. Strange how ideas end lives - how weightless thoughts kill a man, but they do every day.
Before going, he wrote a letter to his son and placed it in his bedroom for his mother to find later. She was in the kitchen as he left. His father was at work at the pit on the early shift and wouldn't be back till 3pm. By that time it would be done
. Going out the door, James paused.
"Where you off?" she said, smiling up from the floor where she was on her hands and knees scrubbing. She still sounded as Irish as the day she'd left Aghnamullen. He went back into the room and bent down to give her a kiss.
"Look at you all sentimental," she said, still laughing. "What have I done to deserve this?"
"Just cause I love you ma. You tell the auld fella I'm kind of fond of him too."
She slowly, and with creaking knees, got up. She looked at him puzzled.
"I mean it," he said. "He taught me a man doesn't betray what he thinks is right."
"Where you going, son?" she said, curious, almost anxious.
"Just for a ride on my bike."
"Back for your dinner?"
"No, I'll get something out."
Less than an hour later, James Fee sat on his Triumph Thunderbird, its engine running but going nowhere. He'd just lit a cigarette. In his wallet was £10 in crisp notes and behind the money, the picture of the son he'd never seen. Passers by noticed him but paid little attention: as if nothing was about to happen. He took out the notes from his wallet and let them fly with the wind. Heads turned but they thought it must be only paper he was throwing away. James watched the money go and threw down his cigarette unfinished. He tested the the throttle and the bike pulled forward against the brake. In the gutter nearby, was a page of last night's news and seeing it, James thought of his mother reading tomorrow's. But sentiment couldn't sway him - couldn't give him the excuse to live. He was filled with the sorrow of his self pity - but stronger was his sense of what had to be. To distract himself, he focused on the roar of the bike, the throb of the engine, the acrid, burning smell of exhaust. Looking towards the dock edge, he saw there were no safety rails.
The milk was spilt; the die was cast; there was no uncrossing the Rubicon. But in that last minute of life the seagulls mewed, water slapped against dock walls, and a man and woman, still holding hands, argued about how she knew he'd never loved her anyway.
James released the brake. The bike roared forward. Twisting full acceleration - he willed it to jump and then came the sudden trajectory filled with noise - a scene of sunshine on chrome; of green water by a Scottish city, a motorbike tumbling through the air, birds and lovers. Between inhuman angels and cold fish, we live and die. James fell from sky to water like a stone from the hand of God. The drowning was quick; he breathed in brine, ribbons of weed, microscopic specks of shell - liquid in his lungs until he couldn't cough it out. His life closed like a book and on the last page he saw his son. Full fathom five John's father went, to where the kelp kept him with green fingers and never let go while he lived.
A passer by recounted to the Edinburgh Evening News how man and motorbike separated, each finding their way to the water. The passer by said the rider did not struggle and swim. He didn't know, he told the paper, but he thought the man wanted to die.
February, 1985 - London:
There were few people at work at MI5 when John Gilroy arrived. Sue O'Hanlon, his senior - but thank the Lord not his boss - had been there since 7 am. She looked up as he came in.
"I want a word with you about your use of A4," she said.
"What about it?"
"I see you bid every week for them. As a junior officer you should give precedence to your senior colleagues."
John said, "Up till my bids have all failed. Or you've blocked them. For once I've got a team. I don't see the problem."
"It is a problem. It's my problem," she said. "I had an important operation but you have the cars I need."
"Sorry about that," he smiled insincerely.
"You haven't been here long, John. Be careful who you upset."
Later, he sat in a high performance Ford Escort trying to drink from a Styrofoam cup, but it was too hot. No rain - the weather warm for the time of year. A long wait looking out of car windows and awkward conversation with a surveillance crew he didn't know well. Then there was a crackle on the radio: "Target on the move," and the driver hit the accelerator, spilling coffee into John's lap.
"Sorry, sir," said the driver. John only knew him as Greg, about 40 - ex Army.
"I'm no sir," said John.
Greg grinned. "Hab
it. No offence."
John knew the A4 crews liked to rib the "Ruperts" - as they called the MI5 officers and it made him uncomfortable that the guys thought him a toff.
But they were off. Greg was concentrating. John just hung on for the ride. They were in Uxbridge Street, Kensington -the area where most Soviet diplomats lived - handy for the Embassy and close to each other so the wives could socialise while the husbands had work evenings in bars and restaurants with politicians, journalists and anyone else who might be of use.
The street was narrow. The target walked ahead unseen, in no obvious hurry. After their initial burst of speed, they slowed to an awkward crawl, annoying cars behind them and risking becoming obvious to the man they were following. Greg
pulled into a space between parked cars. The target was a suspected Soviet intelligence officer called Vladimir Vinogradov, under cover as Scientific Attaché at the Embassy.
John had been doing the job two months. He started knowing very little, but was
clever and learned quickly. His job, designated K4/A4, was to identify Soviet intelligence officers at the Embassy. Each week he made a bid for surveillance resources to follow his suspects around London to see what they were up to. Up to now he'd got nothing, but this week he had three cars and three foot surveillance operatives. Coffee soaked jeans made him feel foolish, but he suspected that taking the soaking and not complaining was the first test passed.
The sky was blue overhead. People were in the st
reets dressed for summer rather than February, enjoying themselves, strolling to shops and restaurants. Motorbike couriers sidled their way through standing traffic. They lost sight of Vinogradov. There was a tension as the crews looked for him. If they lost him it would be a stand down and the cars passed over to another case officer to get results instead of John.
Then the radio announced that that Car 1 had a visual on target. He was making his way to Notting Hill Gate Tube on foot. There were foot surv
eillance people after him. John had seen them at the A4 garage before they set off that morning - two of them posing as lovers, the other a middle-aged man in a cheap suit. The lovers were plain, the suit guy boring: Liz and Dave and Sam. John struggled to remember their faces.
From the radio, he learned that they had all got on an eastbound tube following Vinogradov. The middle-aged man was in the same carriage. The couple were in the next one but could see Vinogradov through the connecting window. They re
ported while canoodling. Sam was too close to talk on the radio.
"Let's start moving," said Greg and he pulled out of the parking spot. The two other cars were out of sight but also moving east.
"Depends where he gets off as to how we play this with the cars," said Greg.
John said, "You're the boss. I'm just here for the ride."
"You've not got SWEET HONEY identified?" Greg's accent was East London. It struck John that he probably didn't know Vinogradov's real name.
"Not yet, but he replaced a known KGB o
fficer, so he's a good bet. He's only been here a couple of months. His previous posting was Poland. SIS had a few bits of tittle-tattle about him from there, but nothing incriminating. If he is KGB, he'll want to make his name. He'll have to start making friends so he can send stuff back to Moscow. And if his predecessor was running any agents here, he'll need to meet them to ensure a smooth handover."
"I thought they just re-hashed articles they read in Radio Ham magazines and sent it back as if it was ag
John laughed. "Well they do. But we mustn't underestimate them. The Russians are very good at spying."
Greg said, "Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs there, sir. I've been around a long time." Then he gave a conciliatory smile, "but I'm not so clued up with Russians. I was in Cyprus following Arabs for years."
The radio crackled again. A man's voice sai
d, "He's got off at Oxford Circus. We're just behind him on the stairs."
The radio kept reporting: Vinogradov was making his way down Oxford Street. Liz and Dave, now no longer lovers but strangers - an old trick, the mind sees a couple as a unit, when the
y split it doesn't recognise them.
John and Greg cruised down Oxford Street in a procession of hardly moving buses, taxis and motorbikes. The streets were seething with people eager for bargains; buying things for themselves they didn't need and gifts for
people who didn't want them. The crowds were too big: John couldn't see Vinogradov. Foot surveillance said he'd gone into HMV.
"Listen, let me do something." said John. "I don't stand out in a crowd."
"I don't know. Liz said you were tasty when she saw you. You're maybe too good looking for our kind of work."
John laughed. "Come on. I've got an earpiece."
"Listen, I'll just go into HMV and hang around. I'm an extra pair of eyes and a face he doesn't know."
Greg still hesitated.
g," said John and opened the car door.
"Ok get out. Sir."
"I'm not a sir."
Greg waved him out. "Stop talking and get moving."
John fitted the discreet receiver. The microphone was hidden under the lapel of his black donkey jacket. He walked through the unknowing crowd with a secret commentary in his ears: Vinogradov was going up on one of the escalators.
John pushed and excused his way through the current of people going along the street until he was at the doors of HMV. The tide of people took him in and
he was standing by the aisles of CDs – Abba to Brian Adams - not knowing what to do. He saw the gleaming steel escalator with its glass walls and moving handrail. There were lots of people going up. He felt obvious.
The radio commentary went on in John'
s ear. Liz, on her own now, said, "He's just looked back down the escalator. Don't think he got me but it's feeling toasty. I think he's going to go up the next floor. I'm going to dip out."
Sam said, "Ok, Liz. I got him."
It appeared that Vinogradov was using the escalators to give him the opportunity to look back and see who was behind him - so called dry cleaning. John felt a rush of excitement. A diplomat wouldn't engage in anti-surveillance, but an intelligence officer would - especially if he was preparing to meet an agent.
Sam spoke again. "Sorry, he's burned me. He looked right into my eyes."
That left Dave and Liz. But from what she'd she was feeling that she was close to being noticed.
Dave. "He went right to the top and he's come right back down
"Sloppy," said John into his microphone, "he should at least have pretended to want to buy something."
"Seems you do know something after all," said Greg. Sam, you come and drive. I'll swap places with you. Meet me at the top of Berwick Street. I'll pull over. You meet me there too sir, if that's ok?"
John turned and walked out onto Oxford Street.
Over the radio, Dave said, "He's coming out."
With a rush of anxiety, John realised that the tall dark haired man coming out of HMV to his left was Vinogradov. Dave was close behind him. John hurriedly turned right and walked on. He knew he shouldn't look but curiosity burned him. He turned and glanc
ed down the street. Vinogradov was heading briskly east. But then for no reason, he suddenly stopped and looked back in John's direction.
John heard Dave say "Fuck's sake. He's turned round. He got a fucking eyeful of me."