Bill has headed off to Scotland in his new disguise with the Mannering/Trent children, leaving Anatoly behind to man the wireless.
Just after six the next morning Anatoly stumbled into the SIS offices, poured himself a coffee and headed upstairs.
“You’re in early,” said the woman sitting at the desk.
“Do I not know it,” he said wryly, taking sip of coffee. “Roscoe should have booked me a room?” he added.
She raised an eyebrow at him. “Chief Roscoe,” she said, “doesn’t make bookings. One of his staff will have, though. Name?”
“Petrov,” Anatoly supplied with a wry smile. “Roscoe will have authorised it, even if he did not book it himself.” He waited patiently for her to check her list.
“Petrov… Petrov…” she said slowly, running a manicured finger down her clipboard. He felt she was deliberately making him wait for his lack of respect when talking about the chief. The feeling seemed to be proven right when the red fingernail slid back up to near the top before she found what she was looking for. “Room eight.”
He tipped his coffee cup at her. “Thank you,” he said over his shoulder. He pushed the door to room eight open, turned on the light, and surveyed the dreariness of the room. He was going to be in here for at least the next two weeks and wasn’t looking forward to it but he was used to roughing it, but with meals on wheels as a perk.
The chair looked reasonably comfortable at least, and he dropped his tall frame into it after setting the coffee down. The wireless was top-of-the-range, all the SIS one were, and so he switched it on, let it warm up and then tuned it into the frequency that Bill would be using for his messages. He yawned even as he finished his coffee and rubbed his face. He would need to come up with some way to amuse himself as he waited for contact.
He stretched out, took off his jacket and began to empty his pockets. He pulled out his note book, a pen, a book and the morning’s paper, and arranged them on the desk in front of him. He knew he probably wouldn’t hear anything much until the afternoon, when Henty was supposed to radio in but the radio had to be on in case Bill needed to get hold of them should he run into any trouble.
As he expected, he was left in peace all morning. He read the paper, did the crossword and read a few chapters of his book before he got restless. There was still hours until a lunch would be brought in for him so he took the time to do a workout; taking off his tie and rolling up his sleeves before doing a series of push ups and sit ups.
Around 11, there was a rattle outside and he knew that the tea woman was on her rounds. There was a knock on the door. “Tea, love?”
He ran a hand through his unruly hair, hoping that he didn’t look too untidy after his early start and impromptu work out. “I could murder a cup,” he said with a grin, using a phrase he heard all too often around the offices.
She gave him a little wry smile. “With milk and sugar?”
He nodded. “Perfect.”
She nodded and came back with a tray with a milky cup of tea and a plate with two digestive biscuits on it. “There you are, dear. One lump or two?” she asked, holding the tongs above a little sugar bowl.
“Oh two, definitely. Please.”
“Most everyone says that,” she said with a laugh. “I ought to stop asking, really.”
He laughed too. “Well, it is not as if we can have that many at home, not with the rationing.”
She nodded in agreement, “I don’t know many who have sugar at home.”
“No, it always seems to go as soon as you get any,” he said glumly. “Anyway, thanks for this.” He raised the cup as a salute and turned to the wireless as it made another of its little beeps, this time accompanied by a short burst of static. He waited, hearing the tea-woman closing the door behind her, wondering if this time there was actually a message to come.
“3956 reporting,” said a voice, and Anatoly grabbed his notepad and pen quickly. 3956 was Henty’s code number.
“3847 receiving,” Anatoly said clearly, pen poised to take notes.
“The boat has been handed to 2890, and he and his friends are safely off. Over.”
“Message received. Over and out.” Anatoly made a note of the time and sat back. So Bill and the children were out at sea somewhere now. Well, that was good. He turned off the microphone and then reached for the phone and asked the switch board for Chief Roscoe’s office. He’d want to know about the safe handover.
“Chief Roscoe is in a meeting, may I take a message?” his secretary said coolly. She was the gate-keeper of the Chief, like a Rottweiler on guard, it was her duty to keep anything from bothering him unless it was either desperately urgent or already in his diary.
“3956 has made contact. The hand over to 2890 is complete.”
She repeated the message carefully, out of politeness he assumed. She wouldn’t have made it to Chief’s receptionist if she couldn’t write down a message like that without making a mistake. “Anything else?”
“No, that is all.”
“I’ll see that he gets your message.”
He hung up and sat back with a sigh. It wasn’t even noon yet, and he wouldn’t be relieved until eight o’clock. The rest of the day passed in a haze of boredom. His book turned out to be quite dull, and apart from his lunch being delivered at one, and another cup of tea at three, he was left to his own devices. As expected, there was no contact from Bill that evening.
The next day was just as slow – he had a different book, at least, but there were only so many chapters he could read in one sitting. He did his work out twice; once in the morning and again in the late afternoon. The afternoon cup of tea had come with a sandwich at least; the tea-woman knew he was stuck there until eight and had brought that to keep him going which he appreciated. He put it aside until five, then devoured it.
About seven thirty the radio beeped and Anatoly, who, to his shame had dozed off ever so slightly, jerked awake, blinked several times and then scrambled to the radio receiver. “3847 receiving,” he said, scrambling for his pencil and paper and stifling a yawn
“2890 reporting,” Bill repeated. “Are you receiving? Over.”
“Receiving loud and clear, over” Anatoly said sticking to the script. He knew that, although he’d have have enjoyed having a conversation with Bill, he had to stick to short curt predetermined service script because the longer one was on radio the more likely they were to have the messages infiltrated.
“A message for my aunt first,” Bill said. “We’ve arrived and set up camp. Weather is lovely and there’s plenty of wildlife. Everyone is well and looking forward to exploring. I hope she’s feeling better soon.” Anatoly knew that he was at liberty to make that message a bit less vague for Mrs Mannering, and he would do that, for now he just scribbled it down.
“Message received,” he confirmed. “Any further messages?”
“You’d like it here, we even spotted a plane today,” Bill said over the wireless, hoping Anatoly would understand that the appearance of a plane overhead in the middle of nowhere wasn’t the best sign.
Anatoly wrote “plane,” on his notepad and sat for a moment, letting that sink in. There shouldn’t be any planes where Bill was. It wasn’t on any flight paths. There weren’t any airfields for god knows how many miles.
“Did it come in to land?” he asked.
“No,” said Bill, “we just watched it overhead.”
“I will pass that on,” Anatoly said, cursing the fact they hadn’t come up with a comprehensive list of codes for such a situation.
“I have no further information for now,” Bill said. “Will report again tomorrow.”
“Received,” Anatoly said. He wanted to warn Bill not to let his guard down, but held his tongue. “Over and out.”
To be continued…