The envelope in Aunt Molly’s bag was unopened. It was also very old and bore a name and address which had not appeared amongst any of the other of her possessions. Julie had been sitting amongst all the rest of her aunt’s belongings staring at the thing when her husband Doug arrived. Encouraged by him she opened it and unwittingly started a chain of events which traversed the entire country.
It had been written by a soldier returning home after the end of the Second World War to a nurse in Cleethorpes. They had met at a rehabilitation hospital in Kent and fell head over heels in love. That much was clear from the brief note, but what remained was a mystery. Julie loved mysteries and set off on a quest to locate the intended recipient of the communication.
That quest was to take her and her long-suffering husband on a journey from the peaceful and idyllic town of Tewkesbury on the River Avon in Gloucestershire to the East Coast holiday resort of Cleethorpes. Their discoveries at these locations unearthed an organisation whose roots lay deep within the Fascism which had threatened to engulf Europe in the 1940s, and activated a series of triggers which had lain dormant since that time.
Roger Fretwell, the soldier, had brought back from Germany a package of documents dropped by a fleeing German in the uniform of the Third Reich. He neither read nor spoke the language at the time and they lay hidden in a place known only to his wife Madeline, the nurse, since then. Now that Julie’s enquiries had alerted competing parties to the existence of Roger and Madeline, events started to move with a sinister and threatening pace as opposing forces fought for possession of a set of documents so sensitive that their publication would shatter the very foundations of democracy in Britain.
Julie’s unwitting and innocent revelation to Miranda Farnley of her possession of the letter set ‘The Organisation’ on a collision course with MI5. The sleeper cell run by the Farnleys in Cleethorpes had been waiting for such an opportunity but the involvement of a local historian, Tom Skerrit set their plans awry when Miranda was shown to be less then honest in her dealings. Skerritt had fought alongside Roger Fretwell at the end of the war, but Roger’s disappearance off the radar had foiled any attempt to relieve him of the files which he had acquired. Now, through a chance meeting at a local library with Julie and Doug he was back on the trail.
The story takes a number of unpredictable twists and turns as both sides struggle to gain control of a situation which constantly changes. The Organisation, fronted by a Scotland Yard detective by the name of Alan Mason, takes on a role involving espionage, burglary and murder as it struggles to maintain its status and preserve the plans developed for its vision of Britain. MI5, headed by the inscrutable George Watkinson, keeps one very small step ahead throughout the novel hindered in part by the existence of a mole within its midst and also by the killing of its main agent, Tom Skerritt.
Coming close to his final solution on more than one occasion, Watkinson is thwarted by chance and the inexperience of a number of participants in the chase. When the end comes and The Organisation appears to have been finally destroyed, we come full circle to the town of Tewkesbury and the picturesque cottage where the Fretwells once lived. Julie and Doug have moved into Roger and Madeline’s former home, but cannot seem to make friends with the new neighbours at the end of the lane and the visitor turning up out of the blue bears a resemblance to someone Doug has seen before.
Other writing by Phil Neale 1952 A Shot in the Dark Marks Trilogy Part 1 - A Secret Life Marks Trilogy Part 2 - Identifying Marks Bitter Sweet Marks Trilogy Part 3 - Footsteps in the Darkness Loose Ends