Tag Archives: London

The Prisoner … “Retrieval”

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I just didn’t have the heart to leave Number Six in a global Village. I decided he needed retrieval.

~

~

Number Six: Where am I? Number Two: In the Village. Number Six: What do you want? Number Two: Information. Number Six: Whose side are you on? Number Two: That would be telling. We want information… information… in formation. Number Six: You won’t get it. Number Two: By hook or by crook, we will. Number Six: Who are you? Number Two: The new Number Two. Number Six: Who is Number One? Number Two: You are Number Six. Number Six: I am not a number! I am a free man!

~

“Why Rannesin?” Number Two queried.

“Each familiar person, place, or thing added lends itself to a reality guaranteed to bring about the desired results. He’ll fill in blanks himself, return to old haunts, renew friendships, and finally realize that, the whole world being The Village, his secrets are redundant. There is no place to escape to, there is no longer a need to protect all people. He’ll talk. It may take time, but he’ll talk. There’s no longer a reason not to.”

“You’d better be right.”

“Oh, I’m right. I’ve done this before and its never failed.” The man adjusted his glasses as though for emphasis. “Never!”

~

Number Six stood in the office of Number Two, facing his desk, looking out the window at the London skyline.

“What’s it all about?”

“I told you,” Number Two replied leisurely, “that there were going to be changes. And now you see those changes for yourself.”

“I see nothing but another failed stunt of yours to …” Number Six spoke through clinched teeth as Number Two cut him off in mid sentence.

“Come, come now, old boy, you’ve seen nothing yet,” and he pressed a button. The far wall glimmered, grew lighter, showed itself to be a large screen. “Name a place. Any place, your choice, and I’ll show you that things have changed.”

“Rio.”

Number Two typed out a few letters on a keyboard resting on his desk. The screen blinked once and there was Rio in all its splendor. A panoramic view.

“It’s a trick. You’ve …”

“Pick a place in Rio, any place.” Number Two smiled calmly.

“The Hotel Encontro.”

A few more key strokes and the Hotel Encontro appeared on screen.

“Why not pick a room?” Number Two waved his hand towards the screen.

“1C.”

“Ah, the room you occupied while investigating that messy Colombian drug cartel.” A few more key strokes and they were looking at the hotel room. The maid was currently cleaning. “Any particular angle or spot in the room you’d like to …”

“You’ve made your point!” Number Six barked.

“Yes, indeed. You see, we’ve expanded our, shall we say, franchise. Number Six,” Number Two leaned back in his chair, “you are free to go any where you desire. Go back to your old flat if you like. Pick up life as you knew it, where you left it. We’ll call on you when need be.”

A rather bewildered look on his face, Number Six stood there, stunned.

“We’ve grown, Number Six. We’ve outgrown The Village that you knew and so wanted to escape from,” Number Two leaned forward over the desk. “You see, Number Six, freedom is a myth. Your secrets? They no longer matter. You are no longer a protector of other people. World domination?” He laughed, slumping back into his chair as though fully at home and altogether comfortable. “Governments needn’t be overthrown, wars are a waste of resources, and there is only one thing necessary.”

“Enlighten me.”

“It’s all very simple, Number Six. Well placed people in key positions. Political offices, the military, and the corporate  world. All the world is a Village now, and with no one the wiser.”

“I know.”

“And absolutely no one will ever believe you.”

~

He sat in his usual spot, drinking his usual drink. The pub was packed. Many of the faces were familiar to him. He had come here fairly often and new several of the regulars. Everything was normal. Laughter, darts. And then he saw Leonard walk through the door. Leonard, who he had played darts with so many times. Leonard smiled, waved. Number Six smiled back, nodded, lifted his drink. It was all he could do to control his facial expression. Because now he knew, he understood.

~

“Heart rate up, blood pressure rising.” The med tech began printing out the data.

“He’s in a pub that he knows well. Why would he react this way?” Number Two was looking at the screen, watching Number Six smile, drink.

The phone rang. The red one.

“Yes, sir. Certainly.” And Number Two held out the phone to the current Number Thirteen. “It’s for you.”

“Yes, what is it?” Number Thirteen spoke into the phone. “Yes, yes, I understand, but … NO! YOU listen. I do this MY way! You’ve put this in the hands of imbeciles in the past and failed repeatedly. If you want it done I’ll get it done, but you let ME take care of the project or you can bloody well come down here and do it yourself!” And, punching the “off” button, thrust the phone at Number Two.

Number Two, eyes wide, stood dumbfounded. “Do you … do you … know … who … who … that  wa … was?” He sputtered.

“Of course I know!” Number Thirteen snapped. “And its high time someone stood up to him. He wants this done? Then he’ll learn patience and let me do it!” At that Thirteen looked towards where he knew the monitoring camera was located and made a slight bow.

Number Two was visibly shaking and looked as though he was about to faint. And he very nearly did.

`

They watched the screen together. Number Six was walking away from the pub, seemingly calm. “Blood pressure and pulse have returned to normal,” said the med tech.

“What happened in the pub? Why did he suddenly …” Number Two was watching the screen intently, questioning Number Thirteen.

“Some sort of glitch, perhaps with the equipment here. Its nothing to …” And Number Two cut him off in mid sentence.

“Glitch?! A glitch did you say? What do you think we’re doing here? Playing a cricket match? We can’t afford glitches!”

Number Thirteen turned and calmly walked the few feet separating them. His face was only inches from Number Two’s. “I,” he said in a low, even tone, “I won’t be bullied by him,” and he pointed to the red phone, “how do you think you’ll fare? I can walk out of this room and leave you in charge if you can do my job. Can you do my job?”

~

Number Six strolled calmly. He knew what needed to be done but hadn’t figured out yet how to do it. But an idea was forming.

~

“Brain waves are erratic.” The med tech adjusted dials, flipped a switch. Number Two and Number Thirteen, shoulder to shoulder, watched the screen. Number Six had stopped, a look of concentration on his face.

“What’s he doing? What’s going on in that mind of his?”

The scene on the screen began to change, to move.

“What the … ?”

The buildings, the walk, the street, everything around Number Six began to bend, rearrange.

“Do something!” Number Two yelled at Thirteen as he feverishly began adjusting the IV drip.

Number Six bolted upright, and tearing the IV from his arm, jerking the electrodes from his forehead, promptly fell back on the gurney while still struggling to get up.

“Restrain him!” Number Thirteen was holding him down as four orderly’s rushed to either side of Number Six.

“Take him to hospital, quickly! If any thing happens to him we’ll all …” Number Two was cut off by the sound of a phone. The red one. Looking at a ghostly white Number Thirteen he said coldly, “I believe that call will be for you.”

~

As the orderly’s rushed Number Six to hospital he could see, through the drug induced haze, the all to familiar buildings of The Village.

Later, in the hospital ward, Number Two stood next to his bed. The man had, by sheer will power, overcome the illusions they had so carefully constructed.

“I don’t suppose you’ll tell me how you knew it was all false?” Number Two raised an eyebrow in question.

“Why not?” Number Six smiled weakly. “I met an old friend of mine, Leonard, at the pub.”

“So? Was that so very odd?”

“Leonard an I used to play darts together. Until his death four years ago.”

~

~

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The Prisoner: “Imminent Departure”

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~

Prolog: This may, or may not, be my finale for our agent, Mr. Drake, and The Prisoner. As you read this keep in mind that things aren’t always what they seem. But then again, sometimes they are. Confusing, isn’t it? I’ve tried, and please don’t ask me how I came by the information (that would be telling) to fill in a few blanks concerning The Village, its residents, and our agent, here and there. And I have, admittedly, engaged in more than just a bit of humor. The last I heard Number Two was updating my file in that respect. But it occurs to me that in the filling in of blanks I’ve left out some interesting information. And that’s what THEY want, isn’t it? Information. And so there is another story interwoven with “Imminent Departure”. The title? “The Recruits”. You see, Mr. Drake was trained for his job as part of a class of twelve. I thought you might like to know a little about the beginning as we’re drawing towards what may, or may not, be the end. Oh, and FYI, you can cut, paste, and go to Google translate to convert Russian into English.

~

Quote: “Freedom is a myth.” Patrick McGoohan.

~

Number Six had glanced over his shoulder just as he came to the corner of the building. The other man rounded the corner at the same time. Colliding into each other they now stood face to face.

“You!” The mans eyes went wide and then narrowed. His badge read Nine. “You,” he said again, lowly. “So you are the reason I’ve been brought here.” He looked Number Six up and down, taking a slow step back. “No number I see. You are the Number One. I could have guessed!” And turning he walked off, heading now in a new direction. The Green Dome.

“Be seeing you,” called out Number Six, saluting.

~

He heard the person approaching. Heavy steps, obviously male. He waited until the shadow fell, and remained, on his copy of the Tally Ho before looking up.

“Well, the changing of the guard didn’t take long this time, did it?” He was looking up at the new Number Two.

“Number Six,” the new Number Two chuckled, shaking his head from side to side in a mildly amused and somewhat disappointed sort of way. He looked up from Number Six and out over the retaining wall towards the sea and breathed deeply. And calmly walked away.

~

“The Recruits” … Spy school. Who would have thought there could be such a thing? But everyone needs training. Mr. Drake, having been recruited as he was from the bank, took three months sick leave. They said it was some sort of fever he’d contracted while on vacation. Very serious. And the three months of training was just that. Serious, intense. It was a class of twelve. Each man was paired with another. You see, not only did you learn your trade but you learned the necessity of team work as well. There were no lone wolves. Drakes partner, a very likable chap, had been recruited from the Royal Navy. Being a sailor he had a girl in every port, and several far from port. Drake worked hard to master his new trade. It was, after all, life or death.

~

Oddities never cease in The Village. The first man, Number Nine, had a very distinct Lithuanian accent. Number Two had a mild accent, almost undetectable. The sort of accent a person acquires after having learned several languages fluently. The accents weren’t so very odd by themselves. It was the resemblance between the two. They could easily have been brothers. At a distance, side by side, they would be nearly impossible to tell apart. But the oddest part was the feeling in Number Six’s gut. In some dim way he recognized them both. But from where, and when? It would come, given time.

~

“I know you,” Number Six stood over Number Two as the other man sipped coffee at the café. Number Two, looking up, smiled and chuckled.

“Number Six,” and he chuckled again, only a little louder this time. “Of course you know me. I am Number Two.”

“I know you as someone other than Number Two,” Number Six was fishing.

“Indeed? Well, let me know when you can put a name with the face. Then we’ll talk. Perhaps its just that I remind you of another,” and he laughed heartily, as though at some private joke. “Until then I’ll call for you if I feel the need.” He turned his face away at this, seemingly engrossed by the seascape just visible through the tumble of Village buildings from this point.

~

Number Six stood in his doorway, Number Nine was standing just outside. The man had actually knocked.

“I have been watching you,” the man peered at Six through eyes that were slits, as though he was trying to see past the exterior, trying to see what was inside Number Six.

“Yes, I’ve seen you. And do you find me very entertaining?” Number Six raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“Oh, fascinating. I learn much by your example. I thought you to be Number One. But no, you are a prisoner just as I am,” he titled his head to one side, just the hint of a smile on his face. “I never dreamed such a thing would happen. I had heard rumors of a place like this. And then to find you here. It is almost too much.”

“Yes, I quite agree. But then the world is filled with odd occurrences, isn’t it, ah, what was your name again?”

Smiling, the man replied, “Oh, you know who I am, Number Six. I am,” and he pointed to the badge on his lapel, “Number Nine.”

“Would you care for some genuine non-alcoholic Brandy? Twenty three units a bottle.” And Number Six held out his hand towards the interior of his flat in invitation.

“No,” the man smiled and shook his head slowly. “I will let you know when it is time to talk. Be seeing you,” and, turning, he walked away.

“And you.”

~

~

“The Recruits” … Part of the job consisted of knowing your equipment. The world of espionage has its share of gadgets. They were useful, but Drake preferred to use his mind as much as possible. His partner, on the other hand, seemed comfortable with relying on the “tools” of the trade a little more than Drake was comfortable with. John had told him once, “These things are handy, but they can fail. We have to learn to think on our feet.” His partner replied, “When one thing fails there’ll always be another. There is no end to invention.” Ah, well, to each his own.

~

He was standing in the breeze, watching people as they frolicked on the stone boat. Some actually got seasick on their imaginary journeys. Imaginary journeys. He’d indulged in a few of those himself. Number Two strolled by, turned to him, walked over to him.

“Beautiful day,” quipped Number Six.

“There are no microphones nearby,” Number Two was looking out over the sea, speaking lowly, “Only cameras. Mr. Drake, I couldn’t care less why you resigned. You are more of a problem here than you will ever be an asset. They tell me that they don’t want you damaged, you’re to valuable. I question that. But for now it is the only reason I don’t have you killed. There are about to be any number of changes here, elsewhere, and I am one of them. I want you gone, Mr. Drake. When things come to a head here, as they shall soon, I want you gone. Do you understand?”

He looked at Number Two, a bit shocked but doing a good job of hiding it. This was the first time anyone in The Village had called him by name. Wanting him gone? He’d be glad to go, but he’d not take part in another ruse.

“I am no longer a number then?”

“Oh, yes, you will remain a number for as long as you are here. But I call you by name now for a reason. I want to impress upon you one simple thing,” and he turned slowly, facing Number Six. “I want to impress upon you this … I want you gone. And gone,” he was almost whispering now, “is what you shall be.”

~

He was working out at his private gym. The day was bright, and hot for this time of year. He could see, far down the path, Number Nine approaching. He continued his work out until the man was standing there in the small clearing with him.

“Now we talk,” Number Nine spoke slowly, deliberately.

“About the weather?”

Number Nine shook his head. “No, Mr. Drake. We talk about leaving. You and I. Together we can. We are perhaps the only two people who, together, could.”

“Who are you?!”

“You know who I am,” and he pointed to his lapel. “I am Number Nine. You are Number Six.”

“I am not a number! I am a free man!”

“Yes, and together we shall both be free. Together we will escape this,” and with a sour look, twisting his mouth as though about to spit, he said, “place.”

“Go tell your masters that you tried and failed. I’m not buying.” Number Six turned his back to Number Nine. And he remembered. He knew who Number Nine was now. And Number Two. But which one was the right one? Only one of them could be the man that he now knew that one of them was. The identity was certain, the one it belonged to was the question. He heard Number Nine walking away.

“We will talk again, John Drake. I give you time to think. But do not take too much time. Opportunities are lost over time.”

~

“The Recruits” … Drake worried about his partner. At one point he had actually caught him copying answers from his paperwork. He hadn’t said anything. He was no rat. A fool perhaps, but not a rat. If it hadn’t been for the man’s charm and whit he would have no doubt washed out. But he hung in there, and so did our Mr. Drake. However, lets give the other guy credit where credit is due. He could tell you the vintage of the grapes used in the production of the sherry that he drank. His palate had obviously been well-trained.

~

~

He sat thinking, a tumbler of genuine non-alcoholic bourbon and water, on the rocks, in his hand. The Muzak played, the sounds of The Village drifted in through the open window. And he thought. This felt different. Something wasn’t right about it, and he knew it. But what? What was the twist or turn here? The underlying current? The plot? Because there was one. There always was one. The Muzak stopped and the syrupy sweet female voice made the following announcement.

“Fellow citizens, one and all, your Village Council, and remember it is YOUR Village Council, democratically elected by YOU, is pleased to announce that in one week, exactly one week from today, there will be a glorious Festival of Unity. There will be music and refreshments, a truly carnival atmosphere, an unveiling of NEW Village statuary, and the main attraction, a moving speech by our beloved Number Two. So come one and come all! Its festival! More details to come!”

~

Number Two sat down across from him at the chessboard.

“Care to play?” Number Six asked pleasantly.

“Hardly. I want to give you a word of advice.” Number Two looked from side to side, and, leaning over the table, snarled, “Listen to Number Nine. The festival is your opportunity.” Standing, he looked down at Number Six and whispered, “Remember where it is I want you?”

“Gone?” Number Six smiled nonchalantly.

“Specifically.”

~

For the next several days Number Six saw very little of Number Two or Number Nine. When he did see Number Two the man would scowl and walk away. Number Nine would smile and nod faintly and go about his way. This was fine with Number Six. Perhaps they had given up on their game. But then the warders never gave up that easily.

~

~

Number Six was making his way to the General Store as he passed Number Nines door. It opened as he neared it, an older woman, in her sixties and carrying several small potted plants in her arms, backing out, a broom tucked under her arm, trying to keep it all balanced and in hand. As she turned she smiled pleasantly at him and said, “Good morning, Number Six. Beautiful day, isn’t it?” Bending over she sat the plants down, and rising up he saw her badge. Number Nine.

“How very odd,” he said, an amused look on his face. He was used to this sort of thing. “Why just yesterday Number Nine was a middle-aged male from Lithuania.”

“Well, if you say so,” she twittered. “Things do seem to change, don’t they?”

“Be seeing you, Number Nine.”

“And you,” she replied, as she turned to her gardening and the sweeping of her front walk.

The public address system blared, “Attention, citizens. Just a reminder, only one more day till Festival! Be ready for all the fun and excitement on this joyous occasion! This is YOUR day! Enjoy it to the full, and remember … Life is for living!”

~

“The Recruits” … It had been something of a scene. Drake’s partner had been caught sneaking a girl into the compound. The chief instructor, a middle-aged man with eyebrows like feather dusters, had gone livid. “Being a commander in her Majesties Royal Navy I understand that you may think you have an image to protect, all sailors being infamous womanizers, but you WILL hold it in until training has been completed! IS THAT CLEAR?!” If Drake hadn’t spoken to the Colonel later, well, who knows what might have happened to his partner?

~

The Butler was just leaving the General Store as Number Six approached. Entering he saw a tall man, easily in his late fifties, standing near the counter, a copy of the Tally Ho held in front of him.

“Good day to you sir,” the storekeeper chimed pleasantly. “And what might I do for you?”

“I’d like some halibut for the evening meal please.” Number Six walked past the tall man. “Excuse me.”

The man slowly folded the paper, his badge clearly visible now. The new Number Two.

“A new Number Two again?” Number Six cocked his head to one side. “And where do they store all of you for the keeping?”

“You needn’t concern yourself, Number Six, with details. You’ll deal with me now. As far as you’re concerned I’m the only Number Two there’s ever been.” And turning, he walked out.

~

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“Rise and shine, rise and shine! It’s another beautiful day in The Village! Remember that today if the Festival of Unity! Make your plans to attend now. The wonderful celebration begins at ten o’clock sharp so don’t be late. And now, to help you ready yourself for fun and frolic … Music.”
Number Six rolled over in bed, pulling the sheet over his head. They could keep their Festival of Unity.
~
He sat down with his coffee, the Muzak conveniently tucked away in the fridge, when he saw it. On the floor, just a few inches from the door. It had obviously been pushed under the door and five minutes ago it hadn’t been there. He picked it up, a white envelope, and on the front, in bold block letters, he read: “To John Drake”. Inside was a short note …
“Behind the hospital at 11 a.m. during Festival. It is our chance.”
~
He leaned cautiously around the corner. There were five cargo helicopters, fully two dozen Village workers, a multitude of crates in various stages of being packed and loaded. And pandemonium. The workers feverishly went about packing, loading, and fetching more from the building. Much of it looked to be computer equipment.
“Be careful! You break that and I’ll break you!” One worker, obviously in a supervisory position, yelled at another.
“What’s all this about anyway? Why the rush?”
“And do you REALLY want to know?!”
Number Six watched. In all the rush and confusion it would be a simple matter to hide in one of the larger crates, pulling one of the many tarps in and over to cover himself. The rest would be left to chance, true, but at least it was a chance. If they found him out he’d be no worse off.
~
“The Recruits” … Graduation day. Such as it was. A tallying of the grades, a going over of the records. Drake placed at Number One in the class. His partner? He earned the twelfth position. Well, that WAS better than washing out. They had talked, he and Drake. The training had been for service with NATO but the other man said he was going to pull a few strings and opt for MI5. Drake would continue with NATO. They made plans for one farewell drink before they parted ways. And the day after having left the compound, the day before Drake was to return to the bank from hospital and his partner return to Naval service, they agreed to meet at a certain pub at a certain time.
~
Five hours. Five hours he was bumped and jostled. He could hear the copter, he could feel the unloading, he heard the workers as the crate was transferred to what must be a truck.
“Be careful with that, mate! It’s supposed to be delicate.” If they only knew.
He felt the truck stop, more voices, more jostling. With a thud he felt the crate set down.
“Start the unpacking, men. They need these things upstairs today.”
He heard a crowbar biting into wood, the crate shook slightly, nails made a screeching sound as they were pulled out. He shielded his eyes from the light. The worker stood there, eyes wide, mouth open.
“Frank? You might like to have a look at this.”
~
 
~
He rode in the back, the two bobbies up front. Once at the police station he could explain, could get word to the Colonel. For now he contentedly took in the sights and sounds of London. Even the exhaust fumes were a welcome alternative to The Village.
~
~
In Moscow Georgio Rannesin was escorted into a large, sparsely furnished office. There, behind a desk, sat a large man, moustache bristling. He smiled at Rannesin pleasantly. And Georgio’s heart sank into his shoes as he heard the words …
“Товарищ Добро пожаловать в деревню. Теперь … Скажите, почему вы уйти в отставку?”
~
~
“The Recruits” … They waited patiently for the bartender. The place was packed. But they took the opportunity to talk. It would be a friendly parting. Drake couldn’t help but like the other man and he sincerely wished him well.
“And do you think you’ll be able to get on at MI5?” Drake asked.
“Oh, yes. It’s just a matter of making the right call,” he smiled.
Drake reached into his pocket and took out a pen and small pad.
“I know one person, a secretary, who works at MI5. Call her,” and he wrote out a name and number. “Mention my name.”
“And where do you know her from?”
“The London bombings, during the war.”
The bartender moved to their end of the bar.
“Sorry it took so long, gentlemen. Now, what can I get for you?”
“Whiskey,” answered Drake.
“And you sir?” The bartender looked at Drakes friend.
“Martini, please. Very dry and please don’t stir the ice, it bruises. I prefer it shaken, not stirred.” Ah, the well-trained palate.
“Certainly sir, coming right up.”
The two waited patiently, silently now. The drinks arrived. Taking their glasses they raised them.
“To your very good health, John,” Drakes friend smiled.
“And to yours, James.”
After finishing their drinks they got up to leave. As they shook hands Drake put his hand on James’ shoulder, smiled, and said, “Now, when you talk with Miss Moneypenny be certain to tell her I gave you her number.”
“Thank you, John. I will.”
~
~
Off the elevator, down the hall. Drake walked between two officers. One stopped at an unmarked door and, reaching for the knob, smiled at Drake and said, “Here you are, mate. You’ll get to explain yourself now.”
The room was ordinary enough. Through the window he could see the familiar London skyline. The high-backed chair behind the desk was turned away from him, its occupant obviously intent upon what looked to be a computer monitor. The chair began to revolve as a hand reached towards a button. There was a slight swishing sound behind him as a chair began to rise from the floor. “Have a seat, dear boy,” a familiar voice said pleasantly. The chair completed its turn, and a smiling Number Two said, “Welcome to The Village.”
~
Epilog: Well, well. The whole world a Village? Remember what we’ve learned here. Things aren’t always what they seem. And in The Village they are very rarely so. I’m not sure I have the heart to leave Number Six in a situation like this. Who knows? He doesn’t seem to be able to escape The Village. He’s always brought back. Maybe I won’t be able to escape these tales either. Time will tell. And from time to time I may just have to come back. I mean, somebodies gotta feed Rover when Number Six isn’t around. Oh, please excuse me. Number 14 just pulled into the drive and you know how she gets when kept waiting. Be seeing you.
 

Danger Man: “Vogelverschrikker of Romney Marsh”

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 Legends abound in Romney Marsh.

~

Just a note. Words can be very entertaining and I enjoy playing with them. I’ve used a couple of names here, so, with Google Translate at hand, and Dutch and Welsh in mind, and Mr. McGoohan‘s filmography taken into consideration, you might like to do a little “spy” work of your own. 😉

~

He’d been dealing with Nigel Hunningsworth for the past several months while Hardy Fotheringay recuperated from open heart surgery. It was good to have Hardy back. His last words before sending Mr. Drake on this mission had become almost standard between the two of them. “You’re on your own with this one, Drake.”

~

He hadn’t been to Romney Marsh since his parents had gone to the area for vacation when he was six. He still remembered his fascination with the legends and tall tales of smugglers and buccaneers. But this trip was much different. He was to meet Vogelverschrikker, the Dutch politician. The man had a social connection with a foreign diplomat behind the Iron Curtain and had stumbled upon information that NATO would no doubt find useful. It was John Drake‘s job to connect with the Dutchman at Y Pentref Inn. Vogelverschrikker had been spirited away by a number two man in the British Parliament during a visit to Amsterdam, and was now in hiding in the Romney Marsh area. The Netherlands National Security Bureau had gone on red alert. With this man’s sudden disappearance security was at high risk. He would be returned safely, but currently, for the sake of both his safety and Holland‘s national security, his disappearance had to be kept under wraps by the British. There was a mole in Amsterdam, someone in the Hague. If the wrong people found out Vogelverschrikker’s whereabouts his life wouldn’t be worth a dime. Drake would connect with him, receive the information, and then return him safely and unseen to Holland where a cover story regarding his disappearance and whereabouts, supplied by British operatives via a “leak” to the N.S.B., would, hopefully, make the mole show his hand. But right now the man, the information, and his safe return to the Netherlands was the crux of the matter and all that mattered to John Drake.

~

The wind was cold, blowing in from the sea, blowing across the marsh. The small hamlet, tucked away in an obscure corner of the area, looked like something out of the book Treasure Island. You expected to see brigands of some sort, smugglers huddled at tables, drinking grog and whispering their plans one to another. And Y Pentref Inn seemed just the place for them, the perfect spot for the hatching if strategies and schemes. Drake made his way to the bar.

“Yes sir, what can I get for you?” The barmaid was slightly past middle age and attractive. It was the look in her eye that was telling. If anyone knew of brigands it was her.

“I’d like to make arrangements for a room if you’ve one available.” Drake smiled.

“One available?” She chuckled. “We’ve five rooms and four are available. The three on the second floor have nice views if you like the marsh. The two down here have no views and can be a tad noisy seeing as how they’re next to the kitchen. But that’s why we charge a bit less for them,” and she looked at him with a question on her face. Was he interested in cheap?

“The view sounds good,” and he placed his hat down on the bar. “But before we bother ourselves about the details I’d enjoy a warm brandy, please. The winds here are chilling.”

“That they are. Local legend has it that the wind is cold because of all the ladies hearts broken by sailors of ill intent,” she smiled over her shoulder as she reached for the brandy. He noticed that she reached for the bottle on the top shelf. If he wasn’t interested in saving a quid on a room it was obvious that the better brandy was for him.

“And will you be staying long?”

“No, only the night. I’m making my way to London. I’m a little to tired to press on just now. A good nights sleep and I’ll be on my way.”

She had said that four of the five rooms were available, and that told him that Vogelverschrikker was there. This, he thought, should be relatively easy.

~

Vogelverschrikker would be expecting him. It would be a simple task to go downstairs for his evening meal and give the Dutchman the appropriate signal. They would proceed from there. And so he left his room after having freshened up, heading for the dinning room below.

There were two men setting at the corner table furthest from the door. Neither was the man he was waiting for. No doubt locals there for their evening meal. The Dutchman was probably still in his room. Drake approached the bar, smiling at the lady behind it. She had a rather odd, somewhat worried look on her face.

“Yes sir?”

“I thought I’d have my dinner. Is there anything you’d care to recommend?”

“Oh, the menu isn’t very complicated. My sister cooks and cleans here. Her mutton with carrots and roast potatoes is good, I think you’d enjoy it. Nothing fancy, but good tasting and filling.”

“That sounds fine,” Drake replied. The menu wasn’t his primary concern. Years of working as an agent had taught him to take nothing for granted. The look on her face puzzled him and a direct approach seemed best. “Is everything all right?”

“Oh, yes,” and her voice lowered as she nodded her head towards the two men in the corner. “It’s just that a Dutchman arrived earlier today, not long before you. That’s not so odd, we get travelers and folks going on holiday through here often enough. But those two. Three Dutchmen in one day? Seems strange, that’s all.”

~

Drake sipped tea as he waited for his meal and Vogelverschrikker. He kept one eye on the two gentlemen at the corner table. Three Dutchmen in one day? For a spot like Romney Marsh it was a bit odd. He could hear a door upstairs open and close. His table faced the stairwell, with the two men to his right and the main entrance to his left and the bar slightly to the right of the stairs. His man walked slowly down the stairs, with nervous, jerky movements. Drake could tell that he was terrified. Given his position his fear was understandable. There were people involved in this, other side people, who would gladly see him dead at this point. And the two Dutchmen in the corner could easily be more than coincidence.

At the bottom of the stairs the politician looked nervously around the room. Drake “accidentally” knocked his hat from the table and in retrieving it muttered to himself in a stage whisper, “I should take more care, next time.” And Vogelverschrikker seated himself at the table next to Drake’s, with a polite nod and a “Good evening to you, sir.”

“And you,” Drake smiled.

One of the men at the corner table rose and strode towards the door. Calling over his shoulder to the other man, in Dutch, that he was going for some air and a smoke. Drake noticed that one side of his coat hung lower than the other side as if there were something heavy in the pocket. No, these two men were no coincidence. After the first man was out the door the other man, one side of his coat lower than the other, got up and walked towards the bar. With a heavy Dutch accent he asked the barmaid if the Inn had any cigars.

“No, sorry sir. We have so little call for them. The store down the street carries a few and … ”

“Would you mind,” and he pulled a small role of bills from a pants pocket, “I promise to leave a good tip at the end of the meal. But I wouldn’t want to leave now and return to a cold meal.”

“Oh, well, my sister can keep it warm for you but …”

And the Dutchman laid several bills down on the bar. “I am very hungry and also very tired. My friend and I must be on our way soon and I would very much like two cigars. I gladly pay you for your trouble. Please?” And pushing the money towards her he smiled broadly.

“Certainly,” and scooping up the cash she turned and called to the kitchen, “Sis, I run a short errand. I’ll be back shortly.”

Dimly from the kitchen, “Alright. I’ll serve if you’re not back in … ” And the voice trailed off amongst a clatter of pots and pans.

“I’ll be back in a few minutes.” And she was out the door.

Drake could hear, and it sounded like it was around to the side of the building, a car’s engine begin to purr lowly just after the barmaid left. It was now, and Drake knew it.

The Dutchman at the bar turned, one hand in his pocket, looking first at Drake and then at the Dutch politician, and began to speak.

“Sir,” to Drake, “your presence is no more coincidental than ours. You are not our concern, please do not interfere. You will please remain seated.” And then, “Vogelvers … ,” his coat pocket rising.

Drake grabbed the Dutchman next to him, pulling him down, and at the same time overturned both his table and Vogelverschrikker’s, forming a barrier between them and the would-be assassin. The room filled with Dutch profanity and two shots, both aimed at the tables. Not knowing if Drake was armed the man ran for the door. This had not gone according to plan. He should be running for the waiting car now with the assurance that his target was dead. As it was the surrounding businesses, along with the local police, having heard shots, would be here soon enough. Under no circumstances was there to be a gun battle between them and locals. It would be enough now to make it to the beach and into the sea where the miniature sub waited for them.

Drake heard the door open and slam shut. His job would be much more difficult now. The other side was aware of Vogelverschrikker’s whereabouts and that meant more problems ahead, he was sure of that. And that they knew his location also proved that there were agents from the other side, moles, infiltrators at MI5 as well. Drake turned to Vogelverschrikker.

“Its alright now sir, they’ve gone.” But there was no reply. It was then that Drake saw the splintered hole in the table, next to the Dutchman’s head.

“We’ll always have Paris” … Part 2

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In The Village they take care of every detail. Nothing is left to chance, not even oral hygiene.
~
Number Thirteen was in her sixties, tall, thin to the point of looking emaciated, bright red horned rimmed glasses hanging from a chain around her neck, her nose long and beakish. She looked up from a file on her desk and smiled.

“You two have been very bad boys I see. Picking fights with respectable citizens. Very unmutual, very unmutual,” she shook her head from side to side, sadly. “But there is, I’ll have you know, hope on the horizon, glorious hope for the both of you.” She rose from her chair and approached a screen on the furthest wall. “Please do set down.”

Number Six and Number Thirty Five looked at each other, shrugged simultaneously, and sat down at desks that looked for all the world as though they’d been pulled out of a sixth grade classroom.

“Please, give me your attention for the next fifteen minutes, that’s all I ask. After that you’re free to go home …”

“London?” Number Six queried.

“YOU’LL BE FREE TO GO HOME,” rather loudly, with a shrill tone, “and think about what you’ve seen.” As she turned down the lights a projector, from a small aperture in the opposite wall, began to click and whir. On the screen, in grainy black and white, they saw the words “Oral Hygiene, your guide to health” appear. Looking at each other with muted surprise they spent the next fifteen minutes bored to tears learning how to brush and floss their teeth. Number Six’s chair and desk remained normal. Number Thirty Five’s chair and desk throbbed silently with a vibration and slight electrical charge that worked in unison with the subliminal messages that were part of his oral hygiene lesson.

“Now, I understand,” Number Thirteen flipped on the lights as the screen went blank, “that you both consider this odd. But believe me, all will be made clear in time. You see, I’ve been given the option of making your social conversion a very simple affair beginning with such social basics as personal hygiene. We’ll progress to other subjects soon enough. We’ll resume tomorrow promptly at three. And I know you’ll enjoy our next film. It’s all about the joy of personal grooming.”

As they left the building Number Thirty Five turned to Number Six and said, “This is the most asinine tactic conceivable. They think what? That they shall make us model citizens in this way?”

“It’s never as simple as it seems. They’ve a plan, and we’ll see evidence of it soon enough.”

~

The next day they sat through another film, this time with tea and cakes. The time release drug that laced the rim of Renault’s tea-cup was slated to begin its activity in twenty-four hours, at exactly five p.m.

“Thank you so much for your attention,” Number Thirteen smiled at her two star pupils. “I’ll be giving the Citizen’s Council a glowing report as to your progress! Tomorrow you’ll have a day of rest from your journey towards social conversion. Please, please take some time tomorrow to consider the wonderful privilege it is to be a part of the well-adjusted citizenry. We will resume the day after tomorrow at precisely two o’clock. Our next session shall be slightly different. There will be a written exam at the end. But not to worry. I’ll be here with you to help with any difficulties. Be seeing you!”

“Yes, mum, and you.” Number Six saluted her and walked, with Number Thirty Five at his side, briskly out the door.

~

The next day was a rather grey day, with low clouds and mist coming in from the sea. It was four forty five p.m. and Thirty Five was walking along the retaining wall, looking at the stone boat. Number Six was in the bell tower looking at what little of the sea was visible through the mist. It was from this vantage point that he saw Renault.

~

The mist began to part, or so it seemed to him. Memory reeled for just a moment and The Village, every vestige of it, disappeared with the fog. And he was standing on the Pont Neuf, watching the brown waters of the Seine below. Home. To his left a man was approaching with a small package. Under the man’s left arm there was a folded newspaper. He removed it, reversed the fold, and placed it under his right arm. This was the signal, this was the man.

“You have the merchandise in good condition?” Renault asked the stranger.

“Certainly, but the price has gone up.”

“No, no, monsieur. The deal is set. You must learn to be satisfied.”

Number Six could see Thirty Five talking with a man he didn’t recognize.

“The price HAS gone up. You will give me the name of the person responsible for Strasser’s killing. Then, and only then, you will receive the merchandise.” And the man waved the package in front of his face.

Number Six saw the stranger wave his hand in front of Renault’s face. Was there an argument? Number Thirty Five made a grab for the package. He would NOT be cheated, he would NOT be played with! The man side-stepped, Renault making another attempt to get the package away from him. He twisted on his ankle and felt his foot slip. He tried to catch himself. He saw himself falling over the railing. He saw the water below. And then …

Number Six watched as Renault crumpled to the ground. And in an instant he was racing towards the stone boat.

~

“You fool! Do you know what you’ve cost us?!” Number Two was screaming at Number Thirteen as she stood there wringing her hands, a frightened look on her pinched face.

“But I had no way of knowing … ”

“Number Thirty Five was our only link to Strasser’s assassin. The assassin obviously had contacts in Moscow AND Washington AND Tokyo. Do you have any idea the range of information someone like that could supply us with?!” Number Two slammed both fists down on his desk.

“But … ”

“There is no excuse! OUT! Get out! And you WILL be called for before the day is done!” Number Two watched, his rage still building, as the woman left the room trembling.

“A heart attack! A bloody heart attack over an illusion!” He was screaming into an empty room. Elsewhere the Supervisor, in no way involved in any of this, watching him on the monitor, cringed.

~

Number Six walked calmly around Number Two’s desk. They were face to face, Number Six a full five inches taller than the other man. Looking down into his eyes, in a low and even tone, he said, “I don’t know what you did to cause his death, but you know this and mark it down. You will pay!” The last three words were in a shout of anger. And as he turned and walked towards the door it was Number Two who cringed.

The Prisoner … “Deep Six” … Part One

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English: Portmeirion, showing the Green Dome a...

“Welcome, Number Forty One, to your home from home.”

He was aware of Rover. It lurked under the waves, behind him, at a distance. He swam slowly, as though relaxed. He was anything but. He was looking. Looking for a hint, a clue, an idea … A way out. From time to time he would dive. Closer to the shore there had been no marine life. He’d put it down to currents, perhaps pollution. But here, further out, there was still nothing. The water seemed dead. No plankton, no fish, nothing.

He began working his way back to the beach, diving from time to time. He tried to go as deep as he could. Without scuba gear he was limited. The clearness of the water, as strange as it was given its lifeless quality, helped him see even if he couldn’t reach the bottom. There was nothing. Finally, getting closer to shore, he put everything he had into one last attempt. This time, with only seconds left before he would have to surface, he touched the bottom with both hands. It was smooth, no sand or silt, but smooth and hard like finished concrete with a gentle tilt downward and out to sea.

~~~

“I will admit that you’re taking longer to convince than most. But you’ll learn, you’ll learn.” Number Two was looking intently at the chessboard as he spoke.

“I am an old dog, I shun new tricks.” Number Six watched as Number Two moved his queen’s pawn.

“Yes, well. Hmm,” Number Two raised an eyebrow as Number Six made his move. “I don’t believe I would have done that. Bad move on your part, Number Six.” And he moved his rook forward, capturing one of Number Six’s bishops. “Check. And your reason for playing chess with me today. You’re trying to gather information. That’s OUR job, Number Six.” Looking up from the board he smiled broadly. “You swam out further,” and he glanced towards the wooded area on their right, “than most yesterday.” Number Six didn’t bother looking towards the trees. He knew Rover was lurking there.

“And did you enjoy my swim?” Number Six asked as he made his move.

“Oh, I know you were aware of Rover and that you knew you were being watched.” Number Two, still smiling, looked up from the board.

“Is there ever a time that I’m not watched?”

“I believe you already know the answer to that. It’s for your own safety of course.” Number Two was looking towards the sea. “And I’m aware also of what you found. You’re very good at diving. I’d not be able to hold my breath for nearly so long. Of course, at this point, both of us understanding that your find and your curiosity are out in the open, you could simply ask …”

“”Questions are a burden to others,” Number Six replied.

“And answers a prison for one’s self, yes. You see, you are learning. Perhaps you’re not as old a dog as you think.” Number Two chuckled.

“Perhaps,” Number Six moved. “Checkmate.”

“Wha … ?!”

~~~

“Oh, let him swim to his heart’s content. Perhaps this will keep him out of serious mischief. If he’d swam another half mile or so the other day he would have encountered the Barrier.” Number Two was talking with the Supervisor. “And no one passes that point unless they,” and his voice lowered noticeably,”allow it.”

~~~

“No sir, I’m not aware of any such gear available in The Village. Perhaps if you inquired at the Citizen’s Council?” The shopkeeper said, a rather odd look on his face. Obviously no one had ever asked for scuba equipment before.

“Thank you, perhaps I will. Be seeing you.”

“And you.”

As Number Six was leaving the shop the public address system came to life. “Number Six, report to the Green Dome immediately. Number Six to the Green Dome immediately.”

~~~

“I’ll make you a deal, Number Six,” Number Two leaned forward in his round chair, the ever-present smile on his lips. This Number Two had lasted longer than most, several months now. He seemed almost a fixture in the control room, a part of the equipment, another button on the console.

“I’ll make NO deals!”

“Yes, well, at least do me the courtesy of hearing me out. You can always say no … again … after I’ve finished.” Number Two, getting up, walked around the desk and pointing to a screen said, “Tell me, Number Six, what do you see?”

The screen was currently showing the hospital and its grounds. Number Six remained silent.

“Supervisor. Hospital, first ward.” Number Two spoke to the air.

“Hospital, first ward, on screen now.” The air answered back.

“The gentleman in the bed nearest the door. Our new Number Forty One. Just arrived. Seems the mental shock was a tad much for him. He required sedation. Currently he’s being brought back to reality …”

“You mean YOUR reality,” interrupted Number Six.

“He’s being brought back to reality,” and Number Two sighed, “in stages. By morning he’ll be ready to become familiarized with The Village.”

“All of which in no way pertains to me.”

“Well, it might. You see I have a very simple request to make of you. In the morning I’ll give you access to a taxi. I’d like you to take Number Forty One on a tour of The Village. Answer any questions he might have, be as helpful as you can be given your, uh, individualism.”

“Why me? I’m sure you have more than enough suitable lackeys to accommodate your Number Forty One.”

“You are correct, but I have a rather simple,” the smile left now, ” and straightforward reason that I have no qualms about sharing. This man is of value to us. You will inform him, I’m sure, about escape attempts, Village security, drugging, surveillance, Rover and a host of other things. Of course I realize you may think him a plant and an attempt on my part to gather information from you, hoping you’ll let something slip, but now that I’ve admitted that we’ve gotten it out of the way and we both know you’ll be on guard against such an occurrence. As you always are,” and the smile returned. “You will have informed Number Forty One of whatever you would have shared with him had he but asked, he’ll be well versed in Village protocol with no doubts as to the situation, I’ll be saved the trouble of bothering with him, you’ll have compromised nothing, and I’ll do you a favor.”

“A favor? Really? A one way ticket to London?”

“I know you inquired about scuba gear at the General Store. You can have it, with three hours worth of oxygen, along with a small boat with oars. Dive, explore our coast as much as you care to. And you’ll have Rover as your guardian. Just to make sure there’s not an accident at sea. We wouldn’t want a man lost overboard.”

~~~

“And you think this a good idea?” The Supervisor asked Number Two.

“Not particularly, but then it isn’t a bad idea either. He’ll be occupied, searching out a dead-end and I’ll be better able to concentrate on Forty One without being bothered by him.” Number Two looked at the screen. “There’s nothing for him to find, and if there were there would be nothing he could do, given the Barrier, anyway.”

“And you’ve checked?”

“Yes, Number One,” and he took in a deep breath, “has been fully apprised of the situation and given Forty One’s importance he’s given me the go ahead.”

~~~

“Any questions?” Number Two asked as he brought the taxi to an abrupt halt.

“No,” replied a rather pale Forty One. He hadn’t been pale at the beginning of his Village tour.

“Very well then,” Number Six pointed to a door not far from them. A small sign hung near it. The sign read ‘Number Forty One’. “That’s your flat. Welcome to your home from home.”

Number Six, in spite of himself, felt rather sorry for the man. If he was a plant he made a very good show of fear.

~~~

End of Part One.

The Prisoner … Episode 19 … “Half Dozen of the Other.”

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Created using the free Village font. Saved in ...

(Note: For Episode 18 scroll down or use the search box on the right side of this page.)

The Prisoner … Episode 19 … “Half Dozen of the Other.”
~
“No further evidence is needed to show that ”mental illness”is not the name of a biological condition whose nature awaits to beelucidated, but is the name of a concept whose purpose is to obscure the obvious.” Thomas Szasz.
~
He hadn’t felt well for several days now. It wasn’t normal, he was never sick. Alternately he felt cold and hot, chilled or feverish. And his energy level was almost non-existent. He had to push himself constantly. He wondered at first if he’d been drugged. There was really no way of knowing. He actually thought he might have to present himself at hospital. He didn’t want tothink about that.
~
“Supervisor?” The new Number 2, a short, stout, balding man in his forties turned away from the screen. “Yes” “Surveillance on Number 31 and Area 6, both. Split screen.” “Done.” Number 2 turned back to the screen. Number 31 was relaxing in his chair. Normal enough for him. Number 6 was making his way through the woods, Area 6, to his contrived personal gym. “Time to pay a call on Number 31. Keep this going. I may want to review it later.” “Of course,” the Supervisor replied. Number 2 was already striding towards the door, moving much faster than one would expect from a man his size, headed for the home of Number 31. Nothing like the personal touch, a personal visit.
~
“And you’re very certain that I can’t persuade you?” Number 2 was speaking to Number 31 across the kitchen table, a wine glass in his hand. “More wine, Number 2? I have a passable white. Tastes the same, looks the same, costs …” “No thank you.” Number 2 interrupted. “This is sufficient. But back to your vocation. Surely you miss the practice?” “Yes, I do. Very much in fact. But I’ve seen no worthwhile subjects here.” “What if I could provide you with one? He’s currently in need of help such as yours. I’d consider it a personal favor, Number 31. And you know that one hand washes the other.” He winked knowingly. “I’d need to talk with him first. Casually, to gauge his receptivity,” Number 31 stated flatly, seemingly without any real interest. “A simple task to arrange an accidental meeting. Will you be near the phone in the morning?” “Certainly.” “Expect my call,”Number 2 smiled. After he returned to the Green Dome he reviewed the tape of Number 31s actions after he had left his flat. The glee was evident. “I have him,” Number 2 smiled at the Supervisor.
~
 “Number 6! Good morning! Good late morning I should say,” Number 2 waved pleasantly, “Its nearly lunch time. Come,” rising from his chair on the cafes patio and waving his hand towards a chair next to his. “I’ve not ordered yet. Please join me.” Number 6 walked over, smiled a stiff smile and accepted the seat. This particular Number 2 had been less intrusive than any other. In fact Number 6 often felt ignored by him. A blessing he counted almost hourly. “Number 6, you look a bit pale. Feeling alright I hope.” “Fine, thank you.” The waitress was approaching. “Give us a moment, will you, dear? You’re in no rush, are you umber 6?” “Not currently, no. I’ve been planning a trip to London but its been postponed.” Number 2 laughed heartily. “Oh, I say,” wiping tears from his eyes, “your wit always both catches me off guard and cheers me. You are a Village treasure.” “Yes, well, enjoy me while you can,” Number 6 smiled a tad more. Number 2, beginning to chuckle, choked back his mirth as he caught sight of … “Say, Number 31! What a piece of luck!” He waved at the new man. “Come, you must meet my good friend, Number 6.” Looking at Number 6, “This may turn into a regular party!” And the three men had what would have been, in any place other than the Village, a very pleasant lunch. Number 31s end of the conversation took odd turns at times but he seemed, Number 6 observed, rather eccentric. It takes all kinds to make a Village.
~
“And your impression?” Number 2 leaned closer to Number 31 as they sat, watching the human chess match. “Actually a very interesting prospect,” Number 31 answered. He referred to Number 6. “Then you’ll … ?” Number 2 had begun a question and then let the sentence trail off. Number 31 smiled. “With pleasure,” he said. “Oh, look!” Number 2 nearly squealed. “The whites in check!”
~
The chills, the fever, the lack of energy thankfully weren’t getting any worse. Regrettably they weren’t getting any better either. This was day six. Hot tea and a good nights rest. Sleep came in fits. And during a lull in the fits the over head light glowed, began to lower itself, began to pulsate.
~
“You should be glad that Village residents are watched. Its a sign of care. An active interest in you’re welfare, your well being. Who knows what might have happened if you hadn’t been watched. Be thankful, Number 6,” the doctor said sternly. He had opened his eyes only moments before. He had been in bed. He still was, just not the same one. “Where am I?” It was the first thing out of his mouth. “In the hospital,” had been the curt response. “We’re on your side, Number 6. What do you want?” “I want to know why I’m here!” “I meant would you like some tea, perhaps milk? And as to why you’re here, well, you have every indication of a rare form of meningitis,” the doctor answered firmly. “I’ve had chills.That’s not a symptom of meningitis.” “No, it isn’t. You also have a mild flu bug that seems to be hanging on, given the evidence in your blood work, much longer than normal. That’s what got you here earlier tonight. Surveillance noted your fitful sleep in the extreme tonight. It was while running tests, we are very thorough Number 6, that we found indications of meningitis.” “I wasn’t awakened by your ‘medics’. Was it a special blend of tea that I had prior to bed?!” The doctor shook his head, a sort of pity written on his face. “Oh, I know you’ve been drugged in the past, Number 6. But this time you were unconscious due to your illnesses. In fact, I had to give you a drug to wake you just now. You’re a very lucky man, Number 6. Catching it at this stage should make recovery a foregone conclusion. With the proper treatment of course,” he smiled faintly. “You are in the best of hands here. Meningitis isn’t that common among men of your age, but its not unheard of either. This type, rare as it is, requires a very specific care. But not to worry. We actually have a retired immunologist here in the Village. He specialized in the treatment of certain ailments, meningitis being one of them.” “Who?” Number 6 asked. “I wouldn’t think you’d know him, Number 6, but he’s Number 31.”
~
Number 31 stood next to his bed. “Fancy meeting you here,” he said. His voice was flat, flavorless. “You realize its been some time that I’ve been retired.” “So I’m told,” Number 6 replied. “Still, I’m willing. You provided an interesting chat the other day at lunch. I’d be glad to keep you around.” Number 31 smiled, patting Number 6 on the shoulder. So much for bedside manner.
~
“How did he respond?” Number 2 looked at Number 31 earnestly. “I believe he believes that he has meningitis. I don’t foresee a problem, do you?” He looked intently at Number 2. “No, from all indications he’s accepted this diagnosis. But we can’t afford to give him cause for suspicion.” “Then we won’t,” Number 31 said matter of factly.
~
He lay there, looking up at the ceiling, the blasted muzak never ending even in hospital. He didn’t notice it so much at the moment. He was to busy thinking. Thinking it was odd that he had met 31 just prior to his hospitalization. A coincidence? Fate? Luck? Number 2?
~
“We have wonder drugs now days, Number 6.” Number 31 was holding up a rather large syringe, looking at the contents. He looked down at Number 6. “I’d like to be able to say this won’t hurt a bit. It will.” The needle punctured the skin of his arm. Not so bad. Then Number 31 started to slowly inject the medicine. And Number 6 understood fully the words, “It will.”
~
“Number 6, there seems to be, well, certain complications. Nothing we can’t deal with, but there are things that you need to be aware of. The inflammation risks damaging brain tissue. We wouldn’t want the tissue damaged. The inflammation, in effecting the brain, can cause hallucinations, even symptoms approximating mental illness. In treating this form of meningitis we also have to treat these symptoms, just as we would if you were a truly mentally ill patient. This is necessary in order to keep the patient, in this case you, in a mental condition that’s conducive to the physical treatments. Otherwise you could well prove to much for hospital personnel to deal with necessitating that we keep you sedated. Then you wouldn’t be able to communicate with us. In other words you couldn’t tell us ‘where it hurts’. That would be worse than counter productive. I tell you all of this so that, in your more lucid moments, you’ll better understand what it is we’re doing.” Medically much of what he had said was nonsense. Close approximations to unrelated facts giving the impression of validity. Number 6 was intelligent, perhaps brilliant. Number 31 trusted that the medical misinformation fed to him by that mind-altering mental control administered by way of the pulsating light would keep things believable and him confused long enough to effect Number 31s mental treatments. Immunologist. What a farce. A Ph.D. in psychology from an Austrian university under Nazi control during World War 2. And he was very proud of it. This was his chance to both perfect and prove his mind control technique. “Unsere sache wird sich durchsetzen.”
~
“How long?” Number 2 queried. “Depends on his metabolism, but on average no more than twelve hours, no less than five,” Number 31 mumbled as he flipped through the chart. “Keep me posted. Hourly, day and night,” Number 2 said sternly. Number 31 looked up, smiled faintly, “I’ll see what I can do.”
~
Number 2 received hourly updates for six hours. Thirty three minutes after the seventh update he received one last note, short and to the point. It read, “Its working.”
~
Number 2, Number 31, and Number 14, one of the hospitals staff physicians who had dealt with Number 6 in the past, stood over an unconscious Number 6. His face went from placid to grotesquely twisted regularly. “And he’ll remember nothing of this?” Number 2 looked from one doctor to the other. Number 14, pushing blond hair back out of her eyes, answered, “When its over he’ll think he was cured of meningitis. He’ll remember nothing else. He may even be thankful to us for our help. In that, all of this may have a lasting positive effect. He might just decide to fit in after this.” Number 2 smiled at the thought. He would accomplish what nearly two dozen others had failed at. And his primary weapon would have been distance and a benevolent disregard. The others were, one and all, obviously amateurs.
~
The room was brightly painted. The curtains were of a type found in nurseries, horses dancing across their folds with clowns standing atop each steed wielding colorful parasols. A large plastic car, a grand toy, a Lotus with plate numbers KAR 120C, took up the middle of the room. There were three rocking chairs. And muzak. And Number 6, in pajamas with feet. A two way mirror on one wall, every corner hid a camera, every cranny hid a microphone. He could be seen, he could be heard. Most importantly, he could be talked to. The microphones provided the voices in his head.
~
“How do you feel today, son?” A smiling Number 2 entered the room. He walked over to Number 6, put his arm around his shoulder and gave him a fatherly squeeze. “I’ve been worried about you lad. You’ve been ill, most ill. We thought that your mind had left us, that you’d resigned the human race. But we care, son, we care. And you trust us, we’re going to help you be all better.” The arm still around his shoulder Number 2 gave another squeeze, his smile widening. Number 6 grinned. A bit of drool on his chin, Number 2 took out a handkerchief and wiped it away. “Set down my boy. Lets talk. The doctors, they’re your friends, tell me that talking about things, straightening out the past, will clear the way for the future. You talk with me, you’ll feel better, you’ll be better. You’ll see. There’s no shame in getting help, and you needn’t resign yourself to any illness, physical or, in this case, mental. Talking it out, all of it, will still those unwanted voices, the ones that taunt you with your own foibles. I’m here, I’m here for you. Remember that.” Number 6 continued to grin. Number 2 didn’t notice it, he had removed his arm from Number 6s shoulder, but as he said the words, “I’m here for you”, the spine stiffened and the shoulders grew taught. They sat in rockers, looking at each other. Number 2 smiled, Number 6 grinned.
~
Every day for five days he rephrased the same question, always avoiding the direct usage one word when forming the question but using it often in general conversation. The word took slightly different forms. “Resignation” or “resigned” or “resign”. When he slept these were all repeated though the microphones, along with one other word. “Why?”
~
It was day six. They seemed to be getting no where. Every time the conversation was steered in the desired direction by Number 2 something seemed to distract Number 6. The car, the curtains, the mirror, the walls, anything, everything. Number 2 cornered Number 31 in the hall. “Another dosage.” “That won’t help,” said 31. “Then what will? What will?!” “Let me talk with him. Introduce me in the morning, let him rest the remainder of today.” Number 2 exhaled as though he wanted to be rid of something from the inside out. “Oh, alright. Alright.”
~

“Number 6! I want you to meet the Doctor. He’s one of your good friends.” And Number 2 gently pushed Number 31 forward. They spent the day together, Doctor and Number 6, chatting away, the topics meandering, Number 6 stiffening imperceptibly every time he heard the word “resign”, “resignation”, “resigned”.
~

“I’m telling you it takes time and what you’re suggesting simply will not work. In order to produce the desired results …” Number 2 stopped him there, his finger shaking in his face. “Results? And you’ve obtained exactly what? So far you’ve made him drool. I need more than spittle!” Number 31 began to go livid. “Now look here, Number 2 … ” “NO! You’ll do the looking and what you’ll see is success on my part. You’re technique is lacking. We’ll try mine now and you’ll see, you’ll see!” “You’re going to ruin … ” “I’m going to WIN!” Number 2 shouted. “Nearly two dozen others have failed at this. Several more than once. I will NOT fail, YOU will NOT keep me from the prize! You’re drugs have worked a wonder and for that I say thank you. But beyond the drugs you’ve obviously lost the touch. Now its my turn and I’ll add MY touch!”
~

He spoke in a low, deliberate way. “Lad, I’m here to help. You know that.” Number 2 took a step forward, towards Number 6. “And you want me to help, we both know that. But,” Number 6 took a step back as Number 2 advanced again, “we can’t continue like this forever. For me to help you,” and he took yet another step towards Number 6, “for me to help you I need for you to help me. One hand washes the other, we both know how that works,” Number 6 took another step back. Now he had retreated as far as possible, now his back was against the wall. This physical reality, his back being against the wall, had a psychological impact. Number 2 continued to talk. “You want to please the old man, don’t you lad? And the Doctor. You like him, you know,” Number 6 was grinning but the grin was changing, “that he wants to help you. Its why he’s here,” and he took another step, slowly. This physical reality, this last forward step, with Number 6 backed up against the wall, had yet another psychological impact on the mind of 6. And this psychological turn took, in turn, a physical twist. The now twisted grin turned into a smile. A few minutes later, the room filled with guards holding Number 6 and medics attending Number 2. With the blood wiped away it was obvious that the nose was broken in more than one place. They were taking Number 2 to hospital. Number 6, even though held by several guards, was still smiling. A certain touch had been added to the whole affair. A boxers touch.
~

“I told you! Didn’t I say … ” Number 2 interrupted Number 31. “Yes, you did,” it was hard to talk through the bandages, “but just now I have other concerns. You’re excused, Number 31.” The tone lent itself to no quarter. Number 31, face red, teeth clinched, bowed slightly and walked up the ramp. In the foyer the butler handed him his hat. Number 14 stood close by Number 2. “You’ll be needing these,” she said, and handed him what seemed a rather large bottle of pain killers. “Thank you, Number 14. You may go now.” The red phone buzzed. Number 2 sighed, trying to exhale through his nose. He was at that point veryglad for the bottle of pills. He raised the phone to his ear. “Yes sir…”
~

Number 6 sat quietly. He wore regular hospital issue pajamas now. The laundry was washing the blood of Number 2 out of the others. He smiled to himself. Drugs could do so much, but only so much. The mind, the body, under certain types of stress, would create its own and these in turn might well off set the man made pharmaceuticals. Number 14 stepped into the room, a chart in her hand. “Ah, Number 6, whatever shall we do with you?” “If it were me I believe I’d send me home as a punishment,” he quipped. She looked at him, shook her head, turned to the medic with her and said, “See to his release.” Turning to Number 6 she smiled. “I’ll send you home Number 6. Remember that home is where ever you hang your hat. It is, after all, six of one …” “Half dozen of the other, yes, I know.”
~

Be seeing you.