In chapter one Bill turned up at Anatoly’s flat after spending the night at Mrs Mannering’s home (in the spare room, of course).
The next morning Anatoly moved as quietly round his flat to dress as Bill slept in the arm chair. After he had dressed, he went to the small kitchenette and started to fry what was left of his bacon for breakfast, hoping to tempt Bill out of what couldn’t be a very deep sleep, he was sure.
Bill cracked one eye open. However quiet Anatoly had tried to be it was such a small space that it had roused him from his awkward dosing. “Just let me know if I’m in your way,” he said, drawing his feet back out of the kitchenette space.
“No no, I have worked around you,” Anatoly assured him. “Bacon sandwich for breakfast?” he offered nodding down to the bacon in the pan.
Bill attempted a nod in return, felt the stiffness in his neck, and groaned slightly. “Yes, please,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck in a futile attempt to make it feel normal.
Anatoly nodded and looked at his boss apologetically. “I should have let you had the bed,” he said as he went to butter the bread.
Bill attempted to shake his head and grimaced. “I’ll be fine,” he said. “I’ve slept in worse places.”
Anatoly nodded, “Next time you can demand the bed. Anyway, you will need to tell me what I need to say to the higher ups today.”
“I will,” Bill said, leaving it ambiguous as to which statement he was replying to. He excused himself to use the bathroom and moved stiffly down the dark, rather stale smelling hall to the equally unpleasant shared toilet. When he came back Anatoly was putting bacon onto buttered bread and handed him a plate. “Thanks,” he said, leaning against the edge of the counter as he took a bite.
“No worries,” Anatoly said biting into his sandwich. “I could not leave you unfed,” he smirked a little.
“I appreciate your generous hospitality,” Bill replied in a teasing tone. “In all seriousness, you ought to rethink your living arrangements. I know that new agents don’t earn particularly good wages, but they usually earn enough to rent more than one room.”
Anatoly shuffled awkwardly. “I have to pay for mother,” he reminded Bill.
Bill pressed his lips together. In his opinion there were other solutions to the problem of Anatoly’s mother, but it had to be Anatoly’s decision. “Still. There has to be something less…” he groped for as inoffensive a word as he could find that was still accurate.
“Squalid?” Anatoly suggested.
“I prefer insalubrious,” Bill said with dignity.
Anatoly smiled wryly. “You use your word and I use mine,” he said. “I have not had much time to look at different accommodation, even if I had the money to move.”
“Well, it’s something to think about, at any rate,” Bill said mildly. “Now. Today. I need you to speak with the Chief. Roscoe, that is,” he added, as there were several chiefs of different divisions. “Call his secretary and say you’re speaking on behalf of me, and she should make you an urgent appointment. I’ve got a couple of bits of confidential material for you to give him, and I’d ask you to answer any of his questions honestly as to where I’ve been and what my plans are. I’ll be out today making some arrangements, and you can fill me in later if the Chief has any instructions to pass on.”
Anatoly nodded understandingly. “I understand,” he paused. “What are you planning exactly?”
“Are you sure you want to know? The less you know the safer you are.”
“Roscoe will want to know, and I may have to come and save you,” Anatoly parried back with a smirk.
Bill snorted. “You’d better not use that sort of attitude with any other senior agents,” he warned, only half-joking. “All right then, well, as I told you last night I’ve been to see Allie and her kids. They’re just had the measles and need a bit of a holiday to get their strength up. And I’m needing to disappear, so that worked out quite well really.”
Anatoly nodded. “You are going to take them somewhere on holiday and act like their tutor taking them to museums or such like?”
“Something like that,” Bill confirmed. “I thought I’d take them somewhere remote, though. Out of the way. The less people that see us the better. I was thinking the coast of Scotland. Somewhere wild with plenty of seabirds. I’ll only post as the tutor until we’re off the beaten track, then I should be safe to be myself again.”
Anatoly nodded,”How are you going to decide where to go exactly? Did you need some maps?”
“I may have to consult some travel agencies for ideas,” he admitted. “I intend for us to camp out so I will need to hire equipment, and perhaps a boat, so I will need to get details on those as well as options for bed and breakfast places if the weather turns nasty.”
“Did you need anything from the office? Or will you go through the travel agents?”
“If I come up with some possibilities I might get you to have them checked out and organised through HQ,” he said. “Then I can get some train tickets booked. Best to travel in an unassuming manner as possible,” he said, in case Anatoly was going to ask why he wasn’t taking his plane.
“I understand, but it will mean a more chance of you being spotted,” Anatoly pointed out. “You will need an extremely convincing disguise.”
“Oh indeed. As I said I am going to be posing as the children’s tutor, so I will dress accordingly,” Bill assured him. “Some thick glasses, perhaps a false beard…”
“We’ll have to send you through a west end show to get some of those,” Anatoly laughed.
I have my contacts,” Bill said mysteriously. “Now, have you got a spare key so I can let myself back in later?”
Anatoly nodded and reached into one of his cupboards and brought down a strong box. He opened it, sorted through some of the contents and then handed the spare set of keys over to Bill.
“Much obliged.” Bill pocketed the keys securely. “See you later, then.”
“I will collect fish and chips on the way back from work,” Anatoly said with a grin. “Cannot have you starving. Do not get into trouble, now, Cunningham,” he teased as he went out of the door.
Bill waved him off, and made a mental not to withdraw some cash from one of his many small accounts in different names. He should at least make payment for the food if not the ‘bed’.
To be continued…