George Moonbat, green activist and investigative reporter, attending the climate change seminar in the Hampstead mansion of green hedge fund millionaire Tom Huntingdon, is still trying to track down the elusive Mata Hari-like Miranda Doyle-Rigg, whom he suspects of being a police secret agent. Now read on:
While the audience surged towards the stage, anxious to touch the trouserleg of the cuddly, soft micro-professor, George strode from the lecture hall, in search of the elusive Miranda.
She was nowhere to be seen. Angry, confused, humiliated and frustrated, George had to remind himself that he was still, after all, England’s premier investigative journalist. He pulled himself together and steeled himself to the task before him. He slipped into the TV room, where Professor Jones was snoozing in an armchair, and pulled out his I-phone.
“Hello. Is that the Norfolk Constabulary?”
“It is. What of it?”
“I want to enquire about a Miranda Doyle-Rigg. Inspector Doyle-Rigg.”
“What about ‘er?”
“Er, I wanted to know if you have an inspector Doyle-Rigg on your, er, books.”
“What if we ‘ave? What business is it of yours?”
“Well, er, I’ve got a card here, with that name on, and I just wanted to check if it’s, er, genuine, that’s to say, if she’s …”
”Well you’d better give it back pretty sharpish hadn’t you Mr..” (there was a brief pause) “..Mr Moonbot, because obtaining a police identity card, masquerading as a police officer, witholding official documents, those are all very serious offences”.
“Well, yes, but I was just wanting to enquire… but how did you know my name?”
“Because,” and the voice at the other end suddenly sounded very weary and just a little impatient “…you are using a device known as a portable telephone. You may not be aware of this, Mr Monboot, but we are living in the twenty first century, what is known as the Information Age, and we know everything about you. We know who you are, we know where you are, to the nearest few yards, and if you don’t pop right round to the Police Station on..” (there was another short pause) “…Haverstock Hill, London, North West Three, in the next ten minutes and hand in the aforesaid document, we’ll be round to fetch you, and you can spend the next seventy two hours explaining at length how you came to be impersonating a police officer.”
George pocketed the I-phone and took a deep breath. If he handed in the card, he would be giving up the scoop of the century. The police were spying on no less a person than Tom Huntingdon, green activist millionaire philanthropist, potential saviour of the planet. And, of course, on himself, top Guardian journalist and activist blogger. No, he wouldn’t give it in. It was his passport to glory in the defence of all the principles he’d fought for all his life. Besides, now her cover was blown, it was the only hold he had over Miranda, the only chance of getting to grips with… with the enigma of her and why she had been pressing her blasted Watermelons on him all weekend.
He had to get out immediately. But where to? He could decide that later. He rushed out of the tv room and across the hall into the kitchen, where his host Tom Huntingdon and his faithful companion, Bob the barking palaeopiezometrist, were sharing a tin of Winalot.
“Tom, can you lend me a car for a few minutes, I need to pop over to Sainsbury’s in the Finchley Road..”
“I’ll get Bodislav to go for you..” Tom began, but, seeing George’s distraught look, he stopped and grinned. “Oh, something personal is it? Something for the weekend sir?”
“No, nothing personal Tom, I just have to..” His voice tailed off as he followed Tom down to the basement garage, where Tom kept a couple of relics of his hippy youth.
“There, VW or 2CV?” said Tom proudly showing off the two seventies crates, both still displaying their “Atomkraft, Nein Danke” stickers.
“VW,” said George at random, and, catching the keys which Tom proffered, he jumped in and was up the slope and away.
At the bottom of the hill he parked the car and got out. On the opposite side of the square a number 24 bus was waiting at the terminus. George bought a ticket and mounted onto the top deck. He took out his I-phone, programmed it to call the Norwich police station every hour, and tucked it down the side of the seat. Then he was down the stairs and off the bus before it started its long weary journey to Pimlico. That should keep Plod guessing for a while.
As he sped towards the M25, he reflected on where he was to go. He must leave the country, that was clear. All his friends would be surveyed by the fuzz in this Big Brother state he had done so much to warn against and decry, and which had come to pass, just as he had foreseen.
For a moment, the thought crossed his mind that, if he hadn’t been so busy these past ten years saving the planet from frying, he’d have had more time to devote to saving the country from its present sub-Orwellian fate. But he quickly dismissed this ignoble thought. Bloody George Galloway. Bloody anarchists, Trotskyists, lefties in general. They were right of course, all of them, in their general analysis of what was wrong with the bloody country, but why did they have to be such a bunch of useless wankers? Why did they always disagree with him?
He passed in review the different countries he knew and where he felt he could hole up, the time to research his scoop and then announce it to the world. His many friends could offer him innumerable hideouts in Tuscany or the Dordogne, in Ireland or the Caribbean, but there would always be the danger of someone talking. He had too many admirers, too many potential groupies. It was the story of his life – too many Boswells, and only one Johnson.
He had to get away to some isolated Gaia-foresaken corner of the world, where he would be immune from the temptations of our crass consumer culture and free to commune with real people, share their hopes and fears, their joy and suffering under a darkening sky of ever increasing (or decreasing, as the case may be) floods and droughts, monsoons and typhoons.
He thought back to the adventure playgrounds of his youth, Ethiopia and the Amazon rainforest , where he had fought the forces of darkness and nearly died of diseases which would be totally preventable, if only we in the West weren’t squandering nature’s resources on idle pleasures and useless windmills – no! – what was he saying? His mind was wandering… He must pull himself together…
He thought back to his days defending the Amazon tribespeople from the loggers,
the innocent girl who had amazed him with her blowpipe technique… (he still bore the scars of her nose bone…)
And Ethiopia, scene of his first encounters with a pure, unspoilt culture. Ethiopia, where men were men, and women were – well – women were hidden under burkas mostly, as far as he remembered, (though outside Addis Ababa he had heard that many were still animists – whatever that meant).
There, he could ride out the Apocalypse. Learn to ride a horse. Yes, become a horseman. Horseman of the Apocalypse. A modern Albert Schweitzer, helping lepers, (though without the medical qualifications of course). Hadn’t he read somewhere that winter greens were good against leprosy? Or a modern Prester John. That would show that Mark Lyingas, sitting in the Bodleian wetting himself about rising sea levels…
He was coming up to the junction with the M25. He was heading for one of London’s many airports – but which one? He had no luggage with him except his I-pad, but what did that matter? He had his credit cards, and the annotated Delingpole with Miranda’s Police Identity Card – his passport to fame and the scoop of the century…
It was back at the cottage in the Welsh hills. There was nothing for it but to go home and get it. It would delay his departure several hours, but he should still have time to get away. The fuzz would be searching for him up and down Charing Cross Road until the battery of his phone ran out.
He headed West.
* * *
On Camden Road, a phone rang.
The man on the 24 bus felt down the side of the seat and answered.
“Hello, George, Tom Huntingdon here. The queue at Sainsbury’s must be quite something. Listen. I can’t get away from this seminar thing. Can you do me a huge favour? It’s most terribly urgent.”
“Could you pop down to Godalming to the WWF headquarters. There’ll be a girl on the desk until seven, you should just make it. Just say to her: ‘You can’t make a tree house without chopping down a tree’. She’ll give you a briefcase, which you’ll bring back here sharpish, OK?”
“Fine. Repeat what I just said.”
“You can’t mek a treehouse widout choppin’ down a tree”.
“Excellent. You’re a real friend, George. But lay off the silly accents, it’s not your forte.’
* * *
At MI5 headquarters, two men sat listening intently to the recorder. The older man looked up nervously at the younger.
“What do you think, James? Should we move in?”
The younger man frowned and shook his head. “Not yet, Minister”, “ he said decisively. “For one thing, that wasn’t George. I know his range of funny accents, and that wasn’t one of them. We’ll pick up the courier, but call off the roundup. ”
The phone rang. The younger man picked it up and listened in silence for a minute. “Fine. Order the helicopter. I’ll be ready in five minutes.”
He put the phone down, a frown passed over the noble forehead below the receding hairline. He held out his hand to the older man. “Thank you Minister, for all your support. You’ll be shown out the back way, as usual. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Wales.”
“Thank you, James. The country has no idea of the debt it owes you.”
James allowed a modest smile to play over the finely sculptured lips. As soon as the Minister had been ushered out, he donned his camouflage jacket and took the lift to the heliport on the roof.
* * *
As soon as he got to the border, with its familiar bilingual signposts wider than the roads, it started raining, and it continued across Daffyd, Triffyd, and Perritonnitys, all the way to the foothills of Cader Stroffig. It was past midnight when George arrived home. He drove slowly up the narrow lane leading to the cottage, narrowly missing a car parked crazily under a tree. He parked in the lea of the stone wall and paddled up the path, his sandaled feet soaked within seconds. Was there any water in the world as wet as Welsh rain?
A shadow huddled in the tiny porch greeted him.
“Miranda! How? Why? …”
“Ssh George, listen. There’s not much time,” she whispered. “We knew you’d come home. Everything about you, your history, your psychological profile, your star sign, said that, in case of sudden danger, you’d return to your roots, your shelter, your shell.”
“Yes. Well, I’m not staying. We? What do you mean, we?”
“George, you didn’t really think I was working for the Norfolk Constabulary, did you?”
“Well, I did have my doubts. That’s why I phoned them.”
You phoned them???
For the first time since he had first met her, all those hours ago, Miranda seemed rattled. Composed, she was a lovely sight. Stirred – severely shaken even – and soaking wet to the tips of her eight painted fingernails, she was… indescribable. Her clothes clung like clingfilm to a clafoutis. George felt a sudden protective urge, an overwheming desire to – how could he put it? – dry her things.
“Of course I did. I am an investigative reporter, after all,” he said defensively. “I looked them up in the yellow pages,” he added with a tinge of pride.
“Oh, George! George, you fool! What have you done? ” The magnificent Mata Hari dissolved before his eyes, the dominatrice melted like an Arctic icecap, as she clasped him in her arms, pressing him against her leather-blousoned form. “I’ve been analysing your every utterance for years now, but I never thought you’d be capable of doing something so stupid!”
George froze. Something about her physical shape made it difficult to feel close to her, even when she had her arms round you. But her declaration of Boswell-like devotion to his writings stirred the Johnson in him.
“Why? … Miranda? .. What, what have I done?” gasped George, panting for breath, as he tried to detach himself from the bovine odour of her blouson.
“Nothing, nothing,” replied Miranda, regaining her composure. “I’ll explain when I’ve had a shower and got into some dry clothes.”
George led her into the charming stone-built cottage – a little chilly, since it was heated only by sustainable means, which, in the absence of George’s body heat, meant mostly the natural radon emanating from the granite walls. “The shower’s upstairs”.
“I don’t want to drip all over the carpet” said Miranda, as she slipped off her leather jacket and boots on the doormat.
“Don’t worry, there isn’t any carpet …” but she was already completely naked and heading for the stairs. George followed, keeping a close eye on her as she ascended, lest she slip on the treacherous slate floor.
Suddenly, the lights went out.
“Bugger, the wind must have dropped.”
There was a silence, broken only by the occasional grunt and gasp. It seemed to go on for hours, but probably lasted no more than two minutes twenty five seconds. Then:
“George, Have you finished with my ..?”
“Not.. quite. Not just … yet”.
T he wind howled round the cottage, and the lights rose slowly, as on the last act of a West End farce.
The lights. In the plural.
Not just the downstairs light, but also the light in his upstairs office, against which George could faintly discern the silhouettes of a number of figures..
One of them approached the head of the stairs.
Could this be – him?
The head of the whole worldwide sceptical conspiracy?
Mister Big Oil?
The brain behind the worldwide campaign to destroy the planet?
A familiar voice addressed him.