Upmarket Espionage / Mystery / Thriller / Suspense
Date Published: January 15, 2016
In 1960s London, British Intelligence agent Peter Stoller is next in line to run the Agency. But when he falls in love with cab driver Charles, his life goes off the road. Charles is accused of being an enemy spy, and Peter is guilty by association. Though they manage to escape, the seeds of doubt have been planted, leaving Peter to wonder how much he can truly trust his lover. Is ignorance bliss or merely deadly?
“Get him out or take him out.” Peter’s heart was in his knees, but he made sure it didn’t sound in his voice.
Noise on the line as Jules Maier shifted. Peter pictured him tucked up in a dark, cramped flat with too-low ceilings and flimsy furniture. It would be perpetually damp there. Musty. And yet Jules would still somehow manage to look perfectly put together. Jules rolled out of bed perfectly put together. It was sinful.
“After all that work to get him in?” Jules asked.
Perfectly put together but, Peter was reminded, also a tad whiney. Gordon had once told Peter he couldn’t think of the men out in the field as real people, not if he wanted to be able to do the job well. “Don’t think of them as men you’ve met, had lunch with, drinks with,” Gordon said. “Think of them as characters in a book or players in a game.” Peter had wondered at the time whether Gordon thought of him that way, but he’d been too afraid of the answer to ask.
And now, with the file open in front of him and the face of Alexander Sepiol staring back from his desk, it was difficult advice to take. Peter closed the folder. “You know how this goes, Jules.”
A heavy sigh. “I’ll try to get him out, of course.”
“Don’t waste any time,” Peter instructed. “And, Jules?”
Peter imagined the arched eyebrow, the tiny smile. He was probably wearing one of those goddamned turtlenecks. “Get yourself out as soon as you can. I don’t want to have to send anyone in after you.”
* * *
He hoped the drive down to Oxshott would clear his head, but his mind continued to jump from Jules to Alexander and back again. Why wouldn’t Alexander leave Germany? How could they coerce him? Had Alexander already given them away? If so, to whom? Was Jules really doing everything he could?
Probably not. Jules was lazy. But if Alexander had leaked, Jules was also in trouble. Along with a half dozen more people in Brandenburg’s Frankfurt.
Peter was surprised to find he’d arrived, his musings having stolen the time. The grass in front of the Lessenbys’ was dead with winter and flat with cars. Peter added his TR3 to the fleet.
He didn’t bother to knock; he never did at the Lessenbys’, and with the party, no one would have heard it anyway. Gordon and Elinor held it every year at the holidays, this odd assemblage of people whose jobs were to be quiet and unseen, Gordon a gaunt anti-Fezziwig.
Peter spotted him standing near the fireplace, Trevor Tillholm planted squarely in front of him, and he started in that direction, but Elinor Lessenby caught sight of Peter and moved in, arresting his progress. Her oversized hat forced him to rock back a bit on his heels; he then took a full step backward as her oversized body followed the brim.
“Peter!” she shrilled as she held out a hand. “How did you sneak in without any of us noticing? Oh!” she laughed, not waiting for him to answer, “no, I know, it’s what you do!”
M Pepper Langlinais is best known for her Sherlock Holmes stories. She is also a produced playwright and screenwriter. She lives in Livermore, California.