A barely believable story about a slightly deranged American intelligence worker who goes AWOL knowing everything? Haplessly pursued by the NSA & GCHQ? I’ll clearly never work in intelligence because it has taken me until now to rememeber that I started writing just such a story WAAAY back in 2006. Although unlike our present ridiculous reality, it also had quirk that every character was named after a type of tea.
Here’s the start of chapter 2:
London, Tuesday 17th December
Doctor Whittard, the chief Librarian, was not a happy man. The biggest problem when running a government department that does not officially exist is the filling in of forms. Government runs on paperwork and in order to get anything done, the appropriate forms have to be filled in. Fully filled in, particularly the boxes marked:
• 4c. – Staff ID & grade of requesting manager (see notes 23-47)
• 7g. – Department Accounting ID (see notes 84-89)
• 24a. – Office Address (including room locator ID, floor # and building identifier code, see notes 132-137)
These always proved troublesome. Dr. Whittard did not have an official title. To anyone who needed to know, he was known as the Chief Librarian, but not many people did need to know this and so for certain bureaucratic purposes he was nominally at times an external consultant, a farming policy director and, ever so occasionally, a submarine commander. Similarly, his department never appeared in audited government accounts and their funding came via any number of imaginative routes; often quite literally so.. much of last years budget was diverted from a non-existent motorway link between Staines and Egham.
Even the location of the Library was hard to describe. Their main ’branch’ was in Ipswich, Massachusetts but gave its address as Cardiff. The real Cardiff branch was actually in Swansea, and although most of the rest of the staff worked out of the GCHQ building in Chelmsford, this information was too sensitive to be known even to them, so they were told they worked for MI6, which was told as little as possible. Dr. Whittard himself worked from an office above a MacDonalds restaurant near Victoria station, but if he stepped out of his office into the hallway he would technically be on American soil. This made it very difficult to get his room cleaned by government cleaning services without a nightmare of visas and work permits and also meant that his internal post often crossed the Atlantic several times before he received it. Today’s form was more problematic than usual. Dr. Whittard had never had to fill in a missing personnel report before. Certainly not for a member of staff who was working out of an American office on a project almost no-one else in Her Majesty’s government knew about, an employee who had never been formally employed and who was a law unto herself anyway.
As he did whenever he needed to think, Dr. Whittard turned on the vacuum and started hoovering his office carpet. He was making good progress with the cleaning and was going down promising philosophical avenues about whether he even needed to make a missing persons report for a member of staff who did not officially exist when the door burst open. Dr. Whittard was crouched awkwardly trying to reach that difficult spot down beside the document shredder and when the bustling Major-General Earl Grey III tripped over the vacuum hose they were both sent tumbling to the ground.
“Jesus Henry Christ, Whittard! What in Satan’s name are you doing, man?”, the General shouted, leaping to his feet, his gun already drawn. “Good morning, General. Just clearing away the cobwebs.” Whittard reply, righting himself more gingerly and turning off the vacuum cleaner.
Dr. Whittard did not like Americans. As a statistician he knew it was wrong to generalise from a single case but he disliked General Grey so much that it spilled over to discolour his view of all things American. But this was as nothing to the General’s dislike for Dr. Whittard, which was nothing personal, merely a particular intersection of the General’s most intense dislikes and suspicions. He did not trust any civilians, he was suspicions of all non-Americans and strongly disliked anyone clever. It was not surprising therefore that General Grey absolutely hated Dr. Whittard.
There are two types of people in the intelligence world. Those with intelligence and those who wish to act on it, the thinkers and the doers. There was never less of a doer that Dr. Whittard and it was one of General Grey’s proudest boasts about himself that he was not a thinker.
“Never mind. Never mind. What about this stinking soothsayer, Whittard?”, the General demanded.
“Camellia? She appears to have disappeared, General.” “I know that! What are you doing about it?”
“Ah yes,” said Whittard perking up that the General might approve that he actually been working on this. “I am filling in the 4296-f right now.”
“What in Jericho’s walls is a 4926-f?”
“A 4296-f,” Whittard automatically corrected, his passion for accurate facts catching him out even when another part of his brain knew that nothing annoyed General Grey more than being corrected.
“Do you think you could stop pointing your gun at me please General?
And here’s a bit more
I guess I have to start from sratch now.