Life becomes, shall we say, more interesting when you, your wife and children are kidnapped and you are coerced into co-operating with the demands of a fanatical group of terrorists. Welcome to the world of Ian Vaughan! On this site you will learn more about Vaughan and those that are part of his life, be they friend or foe, together with the author of his experiences.
I look forward meeting you on the web.
Richard V Frankland
A Cast of Hawks
My hero is an ordinary family man and keen sailor who is given the opportunity to take his wife and young daughters along whilst delivering a brand new yacht to France. Within on a few metres of casting off they see another yacht run aground and go to help tow them off. To their horror they discover that the yacht is crewed by a gang of terrorist who hold Ian’s wife and daughters hostage ashore and coerce him into sailing with them across the Atlantic for an attack that could endanger the lives of thirty million US citizens.
As his family struggles to cope with the aftermath of their kidnapping, Ian Vaughan’s worst fears are realised when news reaches him of the two terrorists intent on revenge against him and the powers that thwarted their anti-imperialist ambitions. Faced with the prospects of a normal life disappearing fast and his marriage disintegrating within the confinement of a safe house, Vaughan chooses to emerge from hiding, but then the terrorists succeed in a daring attack to free their leader.
When fresh terrorist outrages are committed Ian Vaughan finds himself becoming inexorably embroiled in a deadly game of sleuthing and survival; when the body bags begin to fill before the clues can be pieced together, even the professionals are playing catch-up.
Shadows in Sunshine (The Ian Vaughan story continues)
Ian Vaughan. Family man… once. Now recruited to the SIS and fresh out of training, his first field op looks to be almost a breeze. His assignment sounds highly achievable – a mission to befriend a charismatic Tunisian politician, who, in the wake of the failed ‘Arab Spring’ has conceived a unification plan for the North African oil and gas producing nations. Western governments welcome the plan, but other forces are at work…
A conference to present the plan is to be held on the beautiful island of Madeira, and Vaughan, using the cover of a maritime author, is dispatched to the island, assisted by the Royal Navy. En route Vaughan rescues a boy adrift on a sailboard and comes in contact with his widowed mother who is host to her Brazilian uncle, unaware that his ambitions could destroy the entire European economy.
Greed and death lay in the shadows, as Vaughan finds himself embroiled in conspiracy and danger, challenging both his judgement and his courage.
SHADOWS IN SUNSHINE
By Richard V. Frankland
Scaling the wall, Vaughan dropped down the other side, landing in a parachute roll that brought him back onto his feet, just in time to parry the first two vicious and painful blows. In mid-air he had seen the man leap from cover towards his landing point and had prepared himself for the unpleasant reception. Regaining his balance, Vaughan immediately went on the attack with a barrage of punches and kicks intent on breaking through his assailant’s defences. The sight of others arriving at the edge of the clearing made Vaughan hesitate for just a moment, enough to allow his attacker an opening to launch another brutal assault. It was when the man’s last punch got past Vaughan’s left arm block that things changed. The blow struck Vaughan painfully on the chest just above his heart, sending him backwards off balance on his left leg. The attacker, thinking to follow through his advantage, took a step forward with his right leg. Seeing the opening, Vaughan, pivoting slightly on his left foot as he toppled back, lashed out with his right foot, kicking the man in the groin, to be rewarded by a loud agonised cry from the man, who fell to the ground doubled up in a ball of pain. ‘Got you, you bastard,’ thought Vaughan, and swiftly regaining his balance took some pleasure in delivering a second kick, striking his victim hard below the ribcage winding the man. ‘That’s payback.’ Breathing heavily and with heightened senses induced by the rapid adrenaline rush, Vaughan fell on his attacker and with his left leg trapping the man’s arms, grabbed his chin in his left hand and clasped the back of the man’s head with his right; one hard twist of the head would snap the spine like a twig. Vaughan could see the man’s neck muscles strain and a look of fear form in his eyes.
Two of the watching group rushed forward, in what would have been a vain attempt, to prevent Vaughan from completing the coup de grâce; stopping in their tracks the instant he released the hold, both wondering what would happen next.
“The next move would have been to break the neck,” Vaughan said coldly, before standing quickly and stepping away from his unarmed combat instructor, resisting a satisfied grin.
Sergeant Instructor McClellan rolled onto his hands and knees and slowly forced himself to his feet, blowing hard through his teeth. He was of the old school, that taught the self-preservation and killing skills of unarmed combat by the method of inflicting pain. The pain was such that it guaranteed rapid learning and in the preceding weeks all those undergoing training at ‘The Manor’ had received a lot of pain from the Sergeant.
“What are you doing… this evening… Mr Vaughan?” the sergeant asked, still fighting for breath.
“Studying code grouping notes, why?” Vaughan replied, dabbing at a split lip, now fearing that the sergeant wanted a return match in the gymnasium.
“Meet me… in ‘The Lazy Miller’ after…dinner, I’ll stand you enough beer…to give you a hangover for a week. That was the best reaction move… I’ve seen since a guy called Strachen… passed through here, and that was three years ago… at least. You also followed the golden rule… never lose your temper… it slows you down,” panted the sergeant, still bent, hands on his knees, trying to recover.
Aware of the anger he had still been feeling as he had seen the sergeant leap towards him, Vaughan smiled inwardly. Was that the difference he wondered, was his anger something he could coldly control? To lose his temper was, yes, different, irrational, not controlled. Was it that cold anger that had enabled him to efficiently kill Murata and the sadistic Fumiko Hamaura in what seemed a lifetime ago?
* * *
That morning Ian Vaughan had woken as usual five minutes before the bedside alarm was due to go off to yet another Monday at ‘The Manor’. Pulling the bedclothes aside he had swung his legs out of bed onto the cold stone floor of his spartanly furnished room. Stretching and yawning he had reached across to the bedside alarm clock and switched it off before it could ring. A mood of depression still hung over him like a dark cloud, generated by his weekend with his daughters. It was not their fault. Any child subjected to the subtle indoctrination that his, soon to be ex-wife, was so capable of, would be in fear of their father. It had taken a court action for him to even be allowed to see them once a month, and at each visit he had become aware of their changing feelings towards him. Nothing a court could do would change that. It was up to him to win back their affections, but he was determined to do that without resorting to bribery and the type of antics Sarah was employing. Her words were still ringing in his ears. “Why a court chooses to allow someone as dangerous as you to look after two young girls for a weekend is beyond me,” she had said as he had collected the girls the previous Friday afternoon.
Taking her to one side, out of earshot of their daughters who were sat in his hire car, Vaughan had said firmly, “You make anymore statements like that to me or about me, in front of the girls, and I will take all the steps in my power to have them removed from your care. It is not me that is dangerous, and what little danger they were in from Hamaura has been dealt with. He is secured in prison with assurances that he will never be released, so just you drop the dangerous man lines when referring to me, understood?” He had frightened her; he saw that at the time. ‘Damn, another reason for her to terrify the girls, no doubt egged on by that bitch Rebecca.’
Pulling on boxer shorts, tracksuit and trainers he had left his room and made his way downstairs, and leaving the old manor house by the butler’s corridor gently jogged across the courtyard and out into the grounds. Normally he would have waited for the rest of the group under training to gather, before going on the morning run, but today he had wanted to be alone. Taking the level path between North Wood and the lake he had run at a gentle pace until he got to the boundary wall, and then increased speed as the path swung away from the lake and began to wind its way up the hill through the wood to the assault course. His depression had turned to anger, more at himself for rising to the bait and threatening his wife, than at her inflammatory remark. So it was with some considerable aggression that he had charged at the climbing net, tyre trip course, rope climb, bars and barbed wire crawl tunnel before tackling the wall.
* * *
“Are you running back with the rest of us?” asked Sergeant McClellan, interrupting Vaughan’s thoughts.
“No, I’ll carry on clockwise, see you at breakfast,” Vaughan replied, now just irritated by McClellan’s intrusion into his personal gloom.
Without looking at the others, Vaughan jogged off up the slope back into the wood heading for the north boundary at the top of the rise. Here the wall gave way to a high chain link fence topped with coiled razor wire. The view through the fence was stunning and Vaughan stopped to admire it and get his breath back. The now familiar sound of horse’s hooves had him looking round to see a fine chestnut stallion cantering along the track the other side of the fence. ‘Here she is again,’ he thought, as the young lady rode past, smiling at him and waving. She had become almost a regular part of the group’s morning routine as they ran along that section of the course. Each day the sighting of her had brought admiring comments and some less honourable remarks. Vaughan returned the smile and waved back, then turning on his heels, started to run down the hill to ‘The Manor’, his mood now considerably lighter than before.
Seated in the midst of his group at breakfast listening to Bowen’s latest joke about getting to heaven from Scotland, Vaughan was surprised to be given a note by the last arrival, Mannings. “They asked me to give you this,” he said, shrugging his shoulders indicating that he knew nothing else about it. “Jesus, Vaughan, we thought you were going to kill Mac this morning.”
“Most of us wish you bloody had,” said Graham, with some feeling. Graham was one of those that at best would be put behind a desk, but would probably be given alternative career advice.
Vaughan tore open the envelope and pulling the note from inside read it, then glanced at his wristwatch. “Got to go guys, I’ve been summoned.”
Isabel Handley, the Director’s secretary, surreptitiously studied Vaughan over the file she was pretending to be reading. She had read his file and was well aware of his previous exploits. An interesting man, and brave too.
The buzzer on her desk sounded. “You can go in now Mr Vaughan,” she said, a little breathlessly. “The Director will see you now.”
In the Training Director’s office Vaughan was invited to take a seat on the chair set in the middle of the spacious office that made him feel exposed whilst sitting there.
“Apart from your appalling ability with languages we think that you have reached a sufficiently good standard to move onto operations. You did your stint of dangerous stuff before joining us, so you can expect something pretty boring as your first official field op,” said J.T. Marshal, the Director of Training. “I know I am repeating something that you have already been told, and that is, that most of what SIS does is watch and report and occasionally make contact with sympathetic people working for those ‘less friendly’ states. In fact the more ‘friends’ you make in those areas the better.”
Ian Vaughan nodded. “Yes, we were given very clear briefing on that area of our work.” He didn’t like Marshal, something about the man and the way his eyes constantly ranged over Vaughan’s body from head to toe, and that whining, almost sneering, tone of the voice, made his skin crawl.
“Sometimes a bargain needs to be struck that may offend your code of ethics. Be aware that you very rarely know the whole picture or what plans are in place for the future. Mention your concerns by all means, but never act without agreement from your controller. Independent action is not acceptable so separate your personal ideals from those of the Service and you will do well. Mix them up and you could well end up out in the cold.”
Vaughan left Marshal’s office half an hour later feeling uncomfortable about his future and wondering whether his conscience would become his downfall. ‘Obey the last order, that is the rule, and the last order was to collect my train ticket, weapon and start packing.’
His evening with Sergeant McClellan was both hilarious and highly educational. The stories of those who had passed and those who had failed in training were mainly very amusing and sometimes sad, but all were a lesson in themselves.
“You know that they try and break you while you’re here. Don’t think that because you passed you are accepted. They won’t trust you for years and maybe never will,” McClellan said, slurring his words slightly as the bell sounded for last orders. “Too many trained men have been turned, for them to give you their full confidence. At first you won’t like it, but as time passes you get used to the way they work; for what it’s worth, I think you’ll do okay. Come on, drink up, we’ve just got time for another.”
* * *
The following morning Vaughan found it difficult to keep up with the group on the morning run. On arrival back at ‘The Manor’ the previous evening he had drunk a pint of water, and each time he got up during the night he repeated the treatment, but he still had a sore head and uneasy stomach. He stunned the group by eating an enormous cooked breakfast washed down with three cups of black coffee, after which he felt a little better. There were no goodbyes, no one expected any, he just checked that he had not left anything behind, threw his case and sailing bag into the back of his van and drove out of the grounds and through the springtime countryside to Taunton. Near the station he found the industrial estate and the warehouse where he had been instructed to leave his vehicle; then, with sailing bag over his shoulder and pulling his suitcase, he walked to the station and boarded the London train.
He had not seen her on the platform and was surprised that in an almost empty first-class carriage she chose to sit opposite him. Her face was familiar and one that Vaughan classified as ‘county beauty’. Vaguely searching his memory he wondered whether he might have seen her photograph in one of the coffee table magazines at ‘The Manor’, then somewhere in the back of his mind alarm bells rang. ‘Miss County Magazine’ smiled, one of those flattering smiles that suggested she wanted to become immediate friends. Vaughan struggled not to respond, managing instead to give her a brief smile in return before opening his current copy of ‘Yachting Monthly’ and started reading the letters section.
Some five minutes must have passed before she said, “Excuse me keep looking at you, but have we met before? Your face is so familiar, I feel sure we have met.”
“No, we have never met, or at least, never been introduced. I have a very good memory for faces and I can assure you that I would have remembered yours,” replied Vaughan, pleasantly, before lowering his eyes again to the magazine.
“Those are nasty bruises on your face, have you been in an accident?” she asked, her expression one of apparently genuine concern. Her question made him look at her more closely noting that the eyes were seductively warm.
“My own fault, I came unglued from some equipment in the gym yesterday. More embarrassing than painful,” he replied with a quick smile before returning his gaze yet again to the letters page. ‘What the hell is this? Why the over familiar concern, surely she’s not picking me up. Is this Sarah’s last-ditch attempt to justify stopping me having any contact with Louise and Clare? Get a grip, how the hell would she know that I would be travelling on this train. She doesn’t even know I’ve been in training at ‘The Manor’ come to that.’
Surreptitiously he reached in his trouser pocket for his mobile phone and by feel unlocked it, dialled six ones followed by five threes and pressed send. After allowing time for the number to be dialled he pressed the ‘end call’ button and waited. ‘I wonder whether this trick will work?’
“Do you work up in London?” she asked.
Looking up from his magazine Vaughan was about to answer when his mobile rang. “Oh, excuse me I must answer this,” he said, having pulled the phone from his pocket and studied the screen. “Charlie old chap, where are you?” he said to the quick thinking DELCO switchboard operator.
“Greenways florists how may I help you?”
Vaughan turned his head away from the woman, apparently trying to get a clearer signal. As he did so he pressed the ‘end call’ button and switched the phone off. “Ah that’s better where did you say you are?” he paused. “Oh you got the earlier train after all, which carriage are you in? I’ll come and join you,” he paused again as if listening to the reply, “Right, hold on there I’ll come along to you.”
Looking across at ‘Miss County Magazine’ he said, “Please excuse me I must join a friend.” ‘Why am I running? Is it really this bloody divorce, or nerves about what awaits me?’
Hurriedly gathering up his belongings he left the carriage and worked his way back down the train. In the corner of the buffet car he switched his phone back on and dialled the number again, and this time waited for the operator to say something.
“Seven three seven eight two seven, Harrier,” he said, quoting the last six digits of his mobile number and temporary codeword. “I dialled in a few minutes ago, thanks for calling back, I needed an excuse to get away from someone being a little too friendly.”
“Understood, call if you need any further assistance.” With that the line went dead.
Vaughan moved on until he found a second-class seat opposite a man of similar age to himself. Stowing his luggage in the rack he sat and started a casual conversation with his new travelling companion. Looking out of the window at the countryside flashing by, he saw some horses in a field and made the link. He smiled, ‘so that was why I was given a first-class rail ticket. Very clumsy for a honey trap I would think.’
* * *
A week later Vaughan eased his rapidly numbing backside to another position on the hard plastic chair and idly looked at a yellowing bruise on the back of his left hand as a smile crept over his face at the memory of Sergeant McClellan.
“Out of the confusion of the Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa,” Ian Vaughan’s attention snapped back to the present and this, oh so long briefing; “climaxing with the brutal demise of Muammar Gaddafi and many of his close supporters, we have made a contact, which we and the FCO believe is worth pursuing, and indeed, giving support to.” The speaker hesitated, “Do you find this amusing?”
“No just er pleasantly fascinating,” Vaughan lied, removing the unconscious grin from his face.
“Oh,” the speaker replied, in that surprised tone that suggested he felt flattered by the reply.
Ian Vaughan watched as the pompous, pasty-faced little man with the lank greasy hair, bad breath and a strange odour of fish about him studied the ceiling, no doubt seeking heavenly guidance for the next passage of his sermon.
“Fortuitously, the man we have come to know as Walid al Djebbar arrived in Benghazi towards the end of the fighting with offers to try and negotiate a peaceful settlement and launch a programme of reconciliation.” Tristan Allsopp-Stevenson paused again. “There were moments when we thought it possible he would succeed, but as you know, that was not to be. It was during this time that we learnt he was actually Tunisian and was active in the ‘Jasmine Revolution’.” A superior smile crossed Allsopp-Stevenson’s face as he detected that Vaughan did not recognise the name given to the revolution. “The overthrow of the former government of Tunisia,” he said intently, almost preening himself. “He is a member of a desert nomadic style family living near the border with Libya and Algeria, in the Tataouine province.” Allsopp-Stevenson produced a large pink handkerchief, blew his nose loudly, and then mopped the perspiration from his forehead. “We think that he is of Berber heritage, which seems to give him cross-border affiliations that have enabled him to attract a very large rural support base across southern Libya, Algeria and Tunisia. It also appears that the current tensions between Morocco and Algeria have not deterred him from making powerful friends in Morocco, who are apparently willing to work with the Algerians in stabilising the region.” The pink handkerchief was pulled out again to mop the pasty brow. “Currently he has been busily drumming up support for a North African Unification Conference to discuss the prospects of forming a political, trade and military alliance; from what we understand, it would be a cross between OPEC and the EU.”
Ian Vaughan’s eyebrows raised in surprise at the concept. “From the point of view of the region he sounds too good to be true. Is he that well connected that he, and it appears he alone, can pull this together?”
“Obviously we, together with the French and Italians, are indicating our fullest support, though French support for the former Tunisian President, Ben Ali, and Italy’s anger over illegal immigration has, shall we say, restricted the number of avenues we have available at this time.”
“Where does the US stand in all of this?” Vaughan asked.
“Oh they are in full support as well. Strangely, we have heard that Al Djebbar has warned the American State Department not to make any offers of arms; any of the oil and gas exports, under the scheme he is proposing, are to be paid for in cash.” Allsopp-Stevenson smiled to himself, obviously finding the information amusing. “Needless to say from the European perspective we find Al Djebbar’s comment encouraging. Rumours emerging from his numerous talks indicate that he is intent on restricting military activity to the region’s southern borders with the rest of Africa, with the intention of controlling cross border migration. Should he be successful, it would greatly relieve the strain on European countries such as Spain and Italy, who are currently struggling to handle the influx of economic migrants, refugees, call them what you will.”
“This is all very fascinating, but where do I fit into this?”
Allsopp-Stevenson looked disappointed that his lecture was being short-circuited. “I am coming to that.” The pink handkerchief appeared again, to mop the now furrowed brow. “Intelligence reports just in, confirm that sufficient parties in the region have indicated a willingness to attend or be represented at a conference. Despite offers from us and the French it has been decided that the island of Madeira is to be the venue.”
“An interesting choice. A small island in the middle of an ocean would make security a lot easier than here or in Paris.”
“Possibly, but it also severely restricts our diplomatic opportunities. The PM was hoping to entertain some delegates and set up a series of discussion groups. This can hardly be done when the delegates are isolated on a, as you say, small island in the middle of an ocean.” Allsopp-Stevenson sounded as if the decision had been a personal insult to him. “Any significant diplomatic mission sent to the island would be too obvious and it has been agreed amongst EU members to avoid a circus that would disrupt what Al Djebbar is trying to achieve.”
It was Vaughan’s turn to smile, “So I still don’t understand why I’m here.”
“We have decided that you, being an unknown in the ‘security agent’ and diplomatic world, are to be teamed up with Arthur Claremont to make ‘friends’ with Al Djebbar and an Algerian delegate named El Alami.” His lecturer emphasised the titles, ‘security agent’ and ‘friend’ by holding up both hands and waggling stubby forefingers as if to mark apostrophes in the air. “Arthur Claremont retired to Madeira two years ago having worked in our embassy in Algiers for two full tours. El Alami and he became friends and we would expect Claremont to know of the visit and be in contact during El Alami’s stay on the island.” After another flourish of the handkerchief Allsopp-Stevenson continued, “Much against FCO advice and, I might add, my own, the Commodore has chosen you to be the friendly contact with Al Djebbar. Your entrée is through an Oxford University friend of Al Djebbar called Charles Stanthorpe-Ogilvey; apparently they sculled together and shared an interest in dinghy sailing. Both were reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics, Al Djebbar obtaining a first.”
“A very bright boy then,” said Vaughan.
“Highly intelligent, educated in France before coming to Oxford; speaks fluent French, faultless English, as well as several of the North African dialects.” Allsopp-Stevenson gave Vaughan a look of utter distain. “We have arranged for you to meet Stanthorpe-Ogilvey tomorrow. He will brief you on their friendship and others in their group at university. Take a notebook with you, he is now quite senior and does not have time to waste.”
“Neither have I,” replied Vaughan, annoyed by his comment.
Desperate to demonstrate his vast knowledge of North African politics and tribal relations Allsopp-Stevenson plunged back into his specialised subject keeping Vaughan bored, amused, irritated and occasionally interested for the next hour and a half.
“You cannot afford to meet with Al Djebbar unprepared,” said Allsopp-Stevenson as he began the final stage of his lecture. “He would expect a friend of Charles Stanthorpe-Ogilvey to have followed world events and be reasonably knowledgeable about the current North African situation.”
“You have not mentioned Islamic fundamentalism in the area,” Vaughan said, looking curiously at his lecturer.
“I have been saving the potential threats to last,” Allsopp-Stevenson replied, annoyed at being prompted. “On our radar is a man called Mohammed el Kamal al Bashir, a Libyan who was forced into exile some twelve years ago. We lost sight of him, but think that he went first to Pakistan then Afghanistan. His return to Libya is probably inspired by Taliban interests intent on destabilising the region by radicalising the Libyan youth. He brought with him several followers, most of whom received training in either Pakistan or Afghanistan. In the folder I will give you before you leave are photographs of the man and some of those close to him.” More brow mopping followed before Allsopp-Stevenson raised his head and carried on. “The few still loyal to the late Muammar Gaddafi do not appear to pose a threat to the conference. Their initial objective is to regain control at home and as such the Libyan delegation is limited to those with interests in oil and one or two of their military personnel, interested in what Al Djebbar has to say about border security. Another threat to the conference comes from Russian interests. They see European influence increasing/ post Arab Spring, particularly in Libya, where Europe played a strong supporting role in the removal of the old regime. We believe that Russia fears European investment in gas field development and transportation, threatening their interests in increasing domination of the wholesale energy market. Already they are firmly established in Algeria and since 2010 have been negotiating to expand their gas production interests in that country.”
“Surely the conference will not get into such economic detail?” queried Vaughan, realising almost instantly the stupidity of his comment; was it frustration with the length of time his lecturer was taking? Vaughan couldn’t decide.
“The region’s only major revenue is from oil and gas. Any discussion relating to economic co-operation cannot fail to have implications concerning the future development of those commodities,” replied Allsopp-Stevenson pompously, jumping on Vaughan’s apparent naivety. “There are some Russians living in Madeira, two of whom may have ties that could bring them into play during the conference. They will probably try to contact the Algerian delegation and ‘make proposals’ shall we say.” Again the stubby fingered hands were held high to mark the emphasis. “That is only to be expected, what we are anxious about is any move on Russia’s part to extend their interests into Morocco where there is a growing interest in exploration and development.”
Vaughan left SIS headquarters, with his head spinning, following the intensity and volume of the information presented. Jammed in his briefcase were notes of the briefing, supplied by his knowledgeable lecturer, and a folder of photographs to memorise. Now sat in the DELCO Publishing Offices he started work reading the notes.
The DELCO offices were really a front to disguise the location for field operatives reporting in or meeting with senior staff, and to work with MI6/SIS intelligence analysts. It had been decided that for this operation his cover was to be that of an author currently writing a pilotage book entitled ‘A Tramp’s Guide to the Islands of the Atlantic’ which, it was hoped, would cover any coastal sailing whilst in Madeiran waters, without people guessing the real reason for his presence.
“Your arrival problem is solved.”
Vaughan spun round in his chair. He had not heard Lieutenant Penny Heathcote enter the room.
“I thought it was already sorted. I fly to Funchal and charter a yacht,” he replied.
“I didn’t think that an author writing ‘A Tramp’s Guide to the Islands of the Atlantic’ would be credible if he arrived by plane, and the Commodore agreed.”
“What solution have you found?”
“Lifted aboard ‘Lusty’ as far as the Algarve then dropped in the water for the last few days. We thought your own boat would be best, just in case you bump into someone who knows you. We assumed that your boat was back in the water.”
“Yes it is. You’re chartering her?” he asked frowning, annoyed at their apparent presumption.
“Oh er yes,” she replied, looking a little taken aback by his question and reaction.
“By ‘Lusty’ I assume you are referring to ‘HMS Illustrious’?”
“Exactly, she is due to leave Portsmouth in six days, heading for Gib. I have arranged for you and your yacht to be lifted aboard in the early hours of Tuesday morning,” informed Heathcote, briskly.
“No pressure then,” Vaughan replied, sarcastically.
“South-westerly winds 4 to 6 forecast for the next few days. That should get you from Dartmouth to Portsmouth in good time. I’ll arrange for some euros to be waiting for you onboard; you will need to provision for a week, we don’t want you having MoD stuff in your galley when you get to Madeira. You are being issued with a company credit card; be careful how you use it, we have the Public Accounts Committee to answer to, so read the rules carefully.” Heathcote placed a brown folder on the table.
“Here is a full set of charts,” she said, patting a large cardboard tube stood on end by the door. “They are up to date, just make sure, during the voyage, that you mark your sailing passage on them and write up a log as if you had sailed all the way.”
“Yes Ma’am,” Vaughan said. “Is it possible to have weather information for the voyage covering say, the last two weeks?”
The pretty Lieutenant with the amazing red hair gave him a sharp look. “I will see what I can do and get it aboard Illustrious ready for you.”
“That would be great, thank you,” he replied. He was curious at the change in her manner since he had returned from training; before he had signed on she was charming and almost friendly, but now she was brisk and cold.
“See Lorna for an expenses advance to get you down to Devon and underway but first, the Commodore wants to see you in ten minutes time, you know where his office is.”
She left without waiting for any acknowledgement. Vaughan carefully packed the paperwork before hefting the fat tube containing the charts onto the table. He was tempted to open the tube to see what Lieutenant Penny Heathcote had supplied, but decided to wait until after his meeting with the Commodore. There also the relationship had changed. As Commander Campbell, he had shown something of a paternal side, especially during the initial break-up of Vaughan’s marriage, but now promoted, first to Captain then rapidly to Commodore and back inside MI6/SIS, he showed a much colder side to his personality.
“Come!” Vaughan heard in response to his knock on the Commodore’s office door.
“Ah, Vaughan, come in, take a seat over there at the table, I will be with you in a minute.”
Vaughan took a seat facing the door and looked about him. He was surprised to see that Campbell was wearing full dress uniform, the broad gold ring on the jacket sleeve the result of a well earned promotion. Until now Vaughan had only seen Campbell in suits, the uniform changed his appearance dramatically. Though the office décor had not changed the atmosphere within it definitely had; it wasn’t just the uniform, it was the man himself.
“I had to fight hard to get you on this one Vaughan. There were those in the FCO and that agoraphobic expert of ours, Allsopp-Stevenson, wanting one of their so called, trusted old hands, doing this,” announced Campbell, as he strode round his desk and across the office to sit opposite Vaughan at the table. “My reasoning is that you are an unknown in the dirty world of backroom diplomacy. Therefore you are more likely to appear genuine in your approach to Al Djebbar, who is no fool when it comes to assessing people. There are three major reasons why we need this North Africa Unification Conference and Al Djebbar to succeed. The first is to hold back the tide of Islamic fundamentalism and its associated extremist groups, the second is to reduce the influx of illegal immigrants from that region, and finally to loosen the stranglehold that Russia is gaining on European energy sources.”
“Yes sir, Allsopp-Stevenson was very clear on all of those issues.”
“Because of the location of the conference it is impossible for any of the European countries to form any type of sideshow for fear of upsetting the parties involved, it is all a very delicate situation at the moment.”
“Yes sir, he mentioned that too,” replied Vaughan, aware that the Commodore was trying to say something but was having trouble selecting the words. ‘For God’s sake Campbell stop faffing about. What’s this dancing around leading up to?’
“Initially we want you to concentrate on re-igniting Al Djebbar’s old affection for this country. I understand that whilst he was here he made some close friendships, all of whom he has kept in contact with over the years. Mostly this has been the occasional letter of polite news between them; it’s only with this chap Stanthorpe-Ogilvey that he has kept in really close contact. When you meet him tomorrow get as much out of him as you can, you have to make it appear that you are a longtime friend of his and the current set that he moves in. Don’t make the mistake of basing all your knowledge on his university group or you will be rumbled in seconds. Get to know about Stanthorpe-Ogilvey’s sailing pals and also the shooting set he moves about with in the winter.”
“Yes sir, but won’t he dislike the use of his friendship in this way? I mean, it is almost disloyal.”
“I think you may change your mind when you meet the FCO’s rising star himself,” responded Campbell, with an expression on his face that made Vaughan suspect that Stanthorpe-Ogilvey was not held in Campbell’s highest regard.
“Friendships don’t impede ambition I take it.”
“No, not in this case, fortunately for us,” replied Campbell. “Basically what we want you to do is to get close enough to Al Djebbar to see what other visitors he and the conference representatives have, especially any Russians hovering around the Moroccan team.”
“Do you want me to liaise with this Arthur Claremont who is living out there?”
“No, definitely not. If you two were seen together it would be obvious who you were actually working for. I had to let the ‘old guard’ thinkers use Claremont, who may get something useful, but I don’t hold out any real hope.”
There was a knock at the door and Lieutenant Heathcote appeared. “The Admiral has arrived sir, I have shown him into the interview room and given him a cup of coffee.”
“Mr Vaughan,” Lieutenant Heathcote said coolly. “Would you clear your things from the meeting room so that the Commodore and Admiral can get to work? Better take your things to interview room four where your next appointment is waiting.”
“Certainly, sorry I had no idea that the room would be needed,” Vaughan replied, leaping to his feet. “Er, was that all, sir?”
“Yes, Vaughan, that was all,” said Campbell, brusquely.
‘Bugger, he was leading up to something and Heathcote’s interruption stopped him from spitting it out.’
Struggling with chart tube, briefing folders and briefcase, Vaughan bumped into Lorna, the office’s talented receptionist, as he emerged from the meeting room. “Excuse me Lorna, but have I done something to upset the Lieutenant?”
“No, her change in attitude is to avoid any, even slightly close relationships. You people get involved in things that she may also wish to help with unofficially if she were to form a friendship; such actions could endanger you both, and the outcome of the operation you were involved in,” came the cool response.
“Yes, I understand,” replied Vaughan. “I should have worked that out for myself.”
“I won’t be giving you my phone number either,” Lorna said with a deadpan expression on her face, before turning away towards reception.
As she walked away, Vaughan could not see her face but was sure that she was grinning.
On reaching the interview room he used his elbow to open the door and almost fell into the room, dumping his load on the table. A lady stood at the window with her back to him, her perfume immediately recognisable as being the same as the lady’s on the train.
“Do I understand that we write for the same publisher?” Vaughan asked.
She turned and smiled, that polite smile which doesn’t touch the eyes. “Yes we do but I am actually the final part of your training.”
Vaughan smiled, “The ‘honey trap’. It was not until the train passed a field of horses that I made the connection. A very handsome chestnut stallion you ride, what’s his name?”
“Brigand,” she replied, unsmilingly. “A field of horses was not the most flattering of connections to make, but you are the first for a long time to make it.”
“If it is any consolation to those that failed, you do look very different with your hair in a net and wearing a riding hat and jodhpurs.”
‘I wonder what her reaction would have been if my response to her on the train had been different? I bet she would have had a good put down line.’
She nodded. “We thought your telephone trick was quite good. Be aware that they may be using phone hacking devices, though.”
“At ‘The Manor’ they mentioned that the ‘honey trap’ maybe wired for the first contact and any later meeting place bugged. I confess I didn’t think about phone hacking,” Vaughan replied.
“I wouldn’t let that bother you too much. It is quite difficult to arrange for one of our phones to be hacked. Places like restaurants perhaps would more likely be direction microphone listening,” she said, sounding a little less icy. “Just a few pointers; one, don’t kill the contact so quickly, it looked too er, nervy, if you see what I mean. If they think you have tumbled them it would confirm in their minds that you are just using a cover. Sometimes they are not sure that you are not who you are pretending to be. Two, they may be a former enemy asking for help. It has happened in the past and we have gained a great deal of information as a result. Three, try thinking of a way to turn them; as almost a bachelor you have little to lose by having an affair or friendship.”
The comment made Ian Vaughan’s hackles rise. Despite the current state of his marital relationship, he would not consider starting an affair; he was still hurting too much.
“The important thing,” she continued. “Is to recognise the trap, then to use it to our advantage, not theirs, whoever they may be. By the way, always make sure you report the contact. That way later blackmail attempts can be properly managed.”
Remembering J.T. Marshal’s lecture on personal ethics, Vaughan limited his response to nodding his understanding.
“You passed by the way, I guessed that you had recognised the approach when your eyes swept the rest of the almost empty carriage as I sat down,” she said, this time with a friendlier smile.
Vaughan nodded. “I don’t flatter myself that an attractive woman would choose to sit opposite me when almost a whole empty railway carriage is at her disposal.”
“I would not be that hard on myself if I were you,” she said, twitching her lips momentarily into a pout and smiling.
* * *
Charles Stanthorpe-Ogilvey had been well briefed as to what information Vaughan required. There were copies of photographs taken during his student years with Al Djebbar, details of his family home and pictures of ex-girlfriends and the student group both men were part of. Some two hours later Charles smiled across at him and said, “Take that lot back to your hotel and study it. We should meet again in the morning before you go down to Devon and I will test you on it. You had better be good, Walid is no fool, and for God’s sake don’t lose any of it.”
To Vaughan’s surprise he had taken an instant liking to Charles Stanthorpe-Ogilvey, whose greeting the following morning, showed a similar regard. The meeting had lasted even longer than the previous day’s, and Vaughan was relieved when his new friend Charles said, “My word you have been busy, did you get any sleep last night Ian?”
“Yes, a couple of hours at least,” Vaughan replied, returning the warm smile.
To Vaughan, Charles Stanthorpe-Ogilvey came across as a man who understood his role, and the implications that would result in failure to impart the fullest of information. His attitude had therefore produced a deeper exchange of background knowledge than a straightforward, bare facts briefing, could possibly have achieved.
“Fancy you knowing Rebecca the huntress,” said Charles, shaking his head in almost disbelief, “and she married Jerry Johnson-Lacey you say; poor old Jerry, it must have been like a rabbit caught in the headlights. He was never very quick on his feet where women were concerned.”
“I didn’t know that she was at Oxford,” said Vaughan, incredulously. “She never struck me as being that bright.”
“She’s bright all right, in finding a potentially rich husband,” replied Charles, smiling. “She studied some lightweight degree at Warwick and spent her weekends husband hunting in Oxford. Jerry was a year behind Walid and I so he must have been entrapped in his finals year. Poor old Jerry, I wonder if she’s emptied the bank account yet.”
“Will Walid remember her?”
“Oh yes, he will, she thought he was a prime target until he mentioned that he already had five wives,” Charles roared with laughter at the memory. “Apparently her face was a picture of shock and disapproval.”
“Just checking, Walid is not married is he? There is nothing about that in the briefing notes.”
“No, he is not married, but I understand that he has his eye on a young lady dentist from Jordan. Sorry, I should have mentioned that before, not that you should know about her, but you should definitely be aware that he is currently single.”
“It is often the most obvious thing that’s missed when trying hard to impart even the smallest of detail,” replied Vaughan.
As he left, Vaughan wondered why he had not mentioned that it was ‘Rebecca the huntress’ who was mainly responsible for the break-up of his own marriage. Why she had worked so hard to poison Sarah’s feelings for him he just could not understand. Then it dawned on him that if she had emptied Jerry’s bank account maybe she felt she could get her hands on his. ‘No chance you scrawny witch.’
* * *
On his way to Devon that afternoon Vaughan conducted imaginary conversations about his friendship with Charles Stanthorpe-Ogilvey. It helped reinforce his knowledge and confidence in the cover. One thing continued to puzzle him, however, and that was why Campbell had shown some dislike towards the man.
Getting off the train at Taunton Station, Vaughan walked to the warehouse where he had left his van, and drove the rest of the way to Kingswear’s Darthaven Marina where he kept his yacht, La Mouette sur le Vent.
At 0700 hours the following morning Vaughan was at the helm of his boat motoring downstream on the last of the ebb tide, under a mainsail with two reefs set in it, ready to face the blustery south-westerly force 5 to 6 winds out in the English Channel. As the yacht approached Henry VIII’s defensive castles near the mouth of the river the steep waves, caused by the outgoing river and tide running into the wind-driven waves rolling in from the English Channel, had the boat bucking as it rode out to sea. Setting a small area of foresail, he steered a course to clear the Mewstone and Black Rock, finding that the yacht’s motion settled now that it was running almost abeam of the seas. Once clear of the Black Rock, Vaughan adjusted his course again to strike out across Lyme Bay towards Portland Bill. Now with the wind on the stern quarter he eased the mainsail and increased the area of foresail until the yacht felt balanced with just a small amount of weather helm. In the quartering sea, the yacht took on a corkscrew motion and Vaughan remembered Sarah, his wife, insisting on a change of course when their old boat took on that unsettling gyration. It was the first time in weeks that he had thought of her in a fond way, the divorce proceedings and her new life in Derbyshire blocking the many pleasant memories of their years together. Strangely, he still could not find it in himself to really blame her or criticise strongly her crazy reactions that had brought about the break-up of their previously solid marriage.
The sun broke through at last and soon he was losing himself to that almost spiritual experience he felt when helming a yacht. The sense of oneness with the elements of wind and water, and isolation from the land and the pressures of modern living were, for him, calming and immensely therapeutic.
As the flood tide started to take effect the waves became less steep and, as the tide increased in strength, his progress improved with the passing of each hour. To Vaughan’s great pleasure, and some amazement, he found himself passing Portland Bill at 1300 hours, well ahead of schedule, and with still almost two hours left of favourable tide in which to push on and pass Anvil Point, Durlston Head and Peveril Point. Vaughan anchored the yacht off Swanage shortly after high tide, enjoying a good lunch and a doze before hauling the anchor at 1730 hours in the now gentler conditions of force 4 winds and clear skies. Enthusiastically setting full sail, he took the inshore passage, past Studland and Bournemouth, before entering Christchurch Bay to arrive at Hurst Narrows at slack low water just after 2100 hours, successfully avoiding the worst effects of the ebb tide. After passing through the narrow inshore channel he gybed the yacht and, slowed by the last of the ebb spilling from the western Solent, passed another of Henry VIII’s defences, Hurst Castle. Crossing astern of the Yarmouth to Lymington ferry Vaughan noted his yacht’s speed over the ground increasing as the new flood tide took effect, carrying him up the western Solent to Cowes in just over an hour. By midnight the boat was tied up alongside the visitors’ pontoon in Haslar Marina with Vaughan sat eating a sandwich and sipping hot soup, amazed that, thanks to a good wind and favourable tides, he had completed the trip in just 17 hours.