George had been arrested before, but never in South America, and never while disguised as someone else. His first attempts to explain that he was not Tony Blair, the well known war criminal, were met with aggressive rebuffs. As he continued in his protestations, the aggression turned to suspicion. It was only when a doctor was called in, accompanied by two large male nurses, that George realised that his continued protestations might lead to him being incarcerated somewhere worse than Georgetown Jail. He shut up, and was led away to the cells.
A double bunk bed almost filled the ill-lit cell, and George sat down on the lower one. It was only after a while that a creaking from above made him realise that he was not alone. A faint silhouette appeared over the edge of the upper bunk, and a frail, wizened figure in a beige pullover held out a withered hand. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Doctor Jones”.
Moonbat, deprived of his glasses, perceived only a dim, stooped silhouette in the gloom. Then he noticed that the hand proffered was of a distinct brown colour. “You’re not Phil Jones. I know him well”.
“No. I’m his half-brother, Jim. Jim Jones of Jonestown, Guyana. I never took the Kool-Aid, you see. But THEY don’t want you to know that”.
There was a long pause as Moonbat took this in.
The frail figure continued, “How is Phil anyway? Haven’t seen him since we was kids. Fate led us on different paths.” Then he added, “Well, not that different, when you think about it.
And he launched into an account of how he came to be there, hidden in a Guyanan jail thirty five years after his supposed suicide, abandoned and forgotten by his CIA masters once they had completed their successful experiment with suicide-inducing drugs.
Moonbat listened spellbound to Jones’s account of his life as a CIA triple agent. The story took in Dallas, the deaths of the three Kennedys, Martin Luther King, President Lumumba of the Congo, the Lockerbie air crash and the Oklahoma bombing, not forgetting 9/11 and the death of Lady Di, plus the two coups d’états which toppled Cheddi Jagan ex-president of Guyana, the world’s first elected Marxist head of state – the first one ordered by Winston Churchill, and the second by Margaret Thatcher.
After an hour that felt more like a week of listening to the hypnotic monotone of the supposed religious cult leader who had been responsible for the assassination of the only American Congressman ever to have revealed the truth about his country’s secret services, George felt somehow cleansed, liberated – a free man, shorn of all illusions, an older but wiser investigative journalist.
“What an incredible story,” ventured Moonbat at last. “We must get it out to someone powerful who can make it public. This will rock the foundations of Western society.” He thought for a moment. “I know just the person. Have you heard of Professor Lobachewsky?”
“Heard of him?” Jones gave a hollow laugh that died away to a tubercular rattle. Who do you think got me in here? Stephan knows more dirty state secrets than the Queen Mother’s equerry.” George couldn’t stop himself. The habits of a lifetime of journalistic enquiry die hard. “What’s the Queen Mother’s equerry got to do with it?” he asked in a respectful whisper.
Jones gave a low chuckle and approached his sallow wrinked brown face close to George’s. “Have you ever heard of the Reichstag fire? According to Stephan and the Honourable…”
“Prisoner Jones!” came a shout from the doorway, and the stooped figure of one of the twentieth century’s most enigmaticpersonalities was led away, leaving Moonbat alone with his thoughts. George never saw him again.
George had no idea how long he’d been asleep – it could have been hours or days – but the next thing he remembered was being woken by the prison warder shouting: “Prisoner Blair, it’s your lawyer from Human Rights Watch.”
George looked up from his bunk to see an elegant female form filling the doorway, looking stunning in a dark grey suit fresh from Rome’s top couturier. She dropped her briefcase on the stone floor, and sat down on the bunk next to him.
“Cheri .. it can’t be …” whispered Moonbat, as the lawyer removed her jacket and enveloped him in a passionate embrace. After several minutes George managed to tear his lips free and gasp: “I’m not… I’m not who … not who you think I am..”
“I know who you are, George, replied Cheri, “Quick”, she panted, “There’s no time to lose. Just do as I say and I’ll have you out of this thing in no time.” And in a frenzy she began unbuttoning the jacket of his convict uniform…
* * *
It was all over in a matter of days. They said goodbye on the airport tarmac. George felt more comfortable once his sooty curls had started to grow back and he’d bought a pair of square-rimmed specs at the flea market.
“But what about you Cheri? Aren’t you coming?”
“I’ve got things to do here. Now you get on that plane.”
“We’ll always have Georgetown, George. I’ve got a job to do, and where I’m going you can’t follow, and what I’ve got to do you can’t be any part of. I’m only a world-famous human rights lawyer, but the problems of two little people like us don’t mean a hill of beans in this crazy world.”
And she walked smartly off into the twilight, pausing only to tap an appointment on her i-phone with her coiffeuse in Rio.
* * *
The terrace at number four Apocalypse Close hadn’t changed, though the leaves had fallen from the vines and gathered in piles at their feet as Old Briffa traipsed up the path with a decanter of single malt and four glasses.
The debriefing was a tedious affair, nothing like in the Le Carré novels. Barry and Miranda were lovely people in their different ways, but neither had quite the depth of character to raise the confrontation to that pitch of intensity … If only they’d been to public school, as he and dear Dellers had.
“I’m really sorry Mr Moonbat,” said Barry Woods, “But I just had to do it. It was de only way we could tink of of mekin’ a big enough fuss to cover up the fac’ of your cover up bein’ blown all off to smidereens, if you see what I mean.”
“I understand totally Barry. It was all my fault.” Moonbat replied humbly. “What a total idiot I was, signing a cheque in my own name, disguised as Tony Blair. I suppose Dr Weintrobe went straight to the police.”
“What’s Weintrobe got to do with it?” asked Miranda, genuinely puzzled. “It was Vivienne Westwood who raised the alarm. Cheri Blair’s one of her best customers, and she knew the Blairs were in Rome. So she texted Naomi, who has an audience with the Pope most Thursdays, to check it out.
“We could have let things run their course, let them arrest you for impersonation, and left you in prison. You’d have only got a few years for fraud, but our cover would have been blown. Then Dellers had this brilliant idea. Blow the story off the front page with a bigger story. ‘Blair Arrested! Human Rights Lawyer Wife’s Passionate Plea Pulls It Off!’ Who’d want to ruin a beautiful story like that by revealing the truth? Not Blair, not Cheri, and certainly not the newspapers.”
“And the Blairs are letting you keep the conference fee”, added Delingpole from the hammock.
Moonbat shook his head in disbelief. “It never ceases to amaze me how facts are invented, scandals covered up, and the truth is buried and forgotten”, he reflected, “Just as if none of it ever happened.”
“But it’s perfectly normal,” remarked Dellers philosophically, pulling on the hookah on the table beside him. “Remember the time at the UNEP conference that Pachauri took his trousers off and waggled his AR5 at the assembled delegates? Or when Sir Crispin Tickell illustrated the importance of zero growth to Mrs Thatcher’s government by mooning at them in the Cabinet Room? Some scandal happens, and then it’s forgotten as another one replaces it on the front pages.”
“No, I don’t remember that, actually,” replied Moonbat.
“Well, there we are then. it just goes to show.” said Dellers with an air of finality. “Oh, by the way George, the Minister is frightfully pleased with you. You’ve got your stripe. You’ve been promoted to full lieutenant.”
“What do you mean?” George expostulated, “I haven’t got a rank! I’m not in the ruddy services!”
“Poor George, you really have a lot to learn,” and Delingpole shook his head in amusement. “But at least you won’t have to call me Captain Delingpole any more. And Barry here will shine your shoes from now on. Isn’t social class a wonderful thing? And you’ve got it George – class I mean.”
“And so have you Barry, in your way,” added Delingpole, turning to the beaming Jamaican.