Mrs Audrey Patterson reclined deep in thought in her simply furnished living room. The dark solid parquet floor was covered with a Persian rug in colours of blue and green. The large padded sofa was upholstered in a dark green material, that matched the velvet curtains on the bay window that was letting in the light of the afternoon sun. It was her favourite place to come and read a book or have a good think. A well-worn copy of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express lay abandoned for the time being on the sofa next to her as she stretched out. Curled up beside her was her black and white tomcat, Sherlock. Audrey Patterson was gently stroking her cat and looking off into the far-off distance. Anyone who knew her would know her to be loquacious in the extreme. She only stopped talking during those rare moments when she was sleeping, eating or thinking. She kept going over and over in her head about the events that had happened the week before. The death of that young scientist, Dr Lancaster, still loomed largely in her mind. Of course, she had been spoken to by those rather intimidating young men. They had always been polite, but they still had an air of menace about them and the way they managed to force their way into the house still made her shiver. They had used all of those nice phrases, ‘a patriotic love of one’s own country’ and ‘a sense of national pride at carrying out an important duty’. It had all boiled down to one thing. She was to keep her mouth shut, or else. They had suggested that her husbands career as a top scientist working for the government, would be in jeopardy if she didn’t agree to their proposal. He had worked so hard to attain his current position, and to provide this lovely house and lifestyle, she couldn’t put that in danger. She loved him too much to bring him any harm. So, she had agreed. She wasn’t at all happy about it though. Justice mattered to her too much to be put so easily aside. The more she thought about it, the more she thought that ‘His Majesty’s secret service’ had missed something. Something vitally important.
It was snowing lightly on a bleak, almost abandoned airfield when the noise of a propeller plane disturbed the silence. The plane emerged from the clouds and its descent was rapid as it came in to land despite the icy cross winds. It then pulled up on the bare concrete run-way. A large man in a grey overcoat and fur hat stood not far from where the plane had come to a halt. The door to the plane opened and a tall young man jumped down onto the icy ground. He was smartly dressed in a dark suit with a navy-blue overcoat, sadly inadequate for the cold he was now faced with. He pulled up his collar to protect his neck and wiped clean his round framed metal spectacles with his handkerchief.
The large man in grey stepped forward and shook his hand. They exchanged words which were instantly carried off into the wind, then they both started striding towards a small concrete building and the shelter it provided.
A fire roared in the hearth filling the room with heat, light and the smell of burning pine. The room was very bare. It had white-painted walls, a grey linoleum floor and one imposing desk behind which sat the large man who had removed his fur hat and grey overcoat revealing a rather plain grey uniform with shiny brass buttons, gold epaulettes and a medal in the shape of a red star. Behind him on the wall was a map of the world and a red flag.
On the other side of the desk, the young man had thrown off his navy over coat and had combed his blond hair, parted neatly on the left.
The older man spoke, his voice thick with accent.
“Mother Russia welcomes you, Dr Lancaster. I trust you found our agents in Mayfair were efficient?”
The young man’s blue eyes looked concerned as he responded.
“Yes, they managed to get me out OK, but that poor boy, who was he? Did he have to die?”
“Well, that was unfortunate. It wasn’t our fault, that was British intelligence who killed the boy, not us. Remember, they thought they were murdering you.”
“Yes, but who was he? Where did you find him?”
“He was just a tramp that happened to have somewhat of your colouring and had been sleeping rough outside the house. Providence provides and you need to make use of what you have. Our plan was that, afterwards, the young tramp would be sent off with some money in his pocket. He was, of course, not quite the same build as you, but luckily again our agents managed to find a grey suit that fitted him. They primed him about what to say, gave him some lines about mechanical engineering and physics, enough to get by. They had to work pretty rapidly, unfortunately we didn’t realise quite how close British intelligence was to infiltrating our group. We will have to find another method to get your family and your” He paused and gave a slight smile that made Dr Lancaster blush before continuing “friend Sydney Shawcross, out to join you. That may take some time. Don’t worry, you’ll be reunited with them soon.”
“Was everyone at that house involved? Mr Winthrop, the Butler, the maid?”
“No, no, only your lovely hostess, a great actress and a great faithful to our cause, and her Butler. No one else. Mr Winthrop doesn’t suspect a thing. Funny really, but then he is a rather self obsessed man, by all accounts and she is a very great actress. You may rest here tonight. There is a simple but comfortable room waiting for you upstairs. Tomorrow you will continue your way to Moscow and begin your work at our brand-new Science laboratories. We expect great things from you, Dr Lancaster. I hope you don’t disappoint us, considering all the effort we have gone to.”
I hope you have all enjoyed my little murder mystery / spy story. It ended up taking on a bit of a life of its own. I only envisaged writing one or two parts and it ended up 10 parts long plus epilogue. It was meant to be a tribute to Agatha Christie, I truly hope that she would have felt it a fitting tribute. I have learned a lot by writing it. Firstly, just how difficult this kind of writing can be and more importantly what a fantastic master of her craft Mrs Christie was.
If you want to read the story from the beginning, please use the link below.
Copyright: Kristian Fogarty 08/05/2018