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Swallowtail - The First Jane Rand Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is my first Jane Rand - Special Agent, story, updated on 24th January 2020.

18+ contains scenes of psychological distress and violence which some readers may find upsetting.

Photo of Jane by Mystic Art Design, Pixabay

Submitted: August 06, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 06, 2019

A A A

A A A


Swallowtail

Picture your dream haunt, your secret place, a peaceful haven with abundant wildlife, a mirror glass-surfaced lake fringed with lily pads, peppered with bubbles from heavyweight carp and tench, large shoals of bream feeding down below. Now imagine an arena, a natural coliseum, offering every type of fighting you could possibly wish for. Whatever his dream, this was where she would make it come true. Or so he hoped.

The murky hollow, nestled in the bowels of the misty, drizzly South Downs, wasn’t exactly his idea of paradise. But then, their clandestine meeting: the dangerous liaison by the lakes, the raison d’être for her to put in such an unexpected appearance, was her idea not his.

Bernhard Schultz drove carefully over the ten-speed bumps on the hilly drive, through shady woodlands which enclosed her secret like a velvet baize on a card table, mindful of the dodgy exhaust on his badly-dented, silver titanium van. His rank of special agent precluded him from privileges such as her jet-pack or the shared use of her modified Aston Martin DB6. After one hell of an uphill struggle in first gear, the winding lane dipped. He switched off the engine to save diesel and coasted downhill to the car park arriving dead on 7am: their designated time of rendezvous.

There was a Nissen hut that had been converted into an angling tackle shop sans café, two portacabins with signs indicating they were her and his toilets. Her toilet made reference to additional baby changing facilities which struck him as odd given that men were now deemed as paternally capable of changing nappies and role-playing parents as women.

Schultz entered the toilet, slipping the latch, noting the sea-blue pump-action gravitational suction system in place for human waste disposal, and relieved himself. To his horror, the hand basin was bereft of bactericidal soap or handwash and there was no hand-dryer. Dismayed, he shook his hands dry and left the box.

It was pouring when he left. He traipsed through the teeming rain as far as the car and uploaded his well-honed, muscled-body with a fishing creel, collapsible lounger, telescopic carbon-fibre jungle stick rod, stout umbrella, a landing net and a body-sized unhooking mat.

He noticed that he wasn’t alone. An unscrupulous-looking oriental, Viet Cong probably, rolled up the shutter to the tackle shop, took down its panoply for him to stand under out of the driving rain, then vanished inside the hut. Schultz watched his mean face slide into view like a sitting duck at a fairground rifle range, instinctively feeling for the standard issue revolver stuffed inside his waterproofs. The face was as round as a fish plate, had dark-slit eyes, and a flat nose.

‘What you want?’ it said.

Schultz didn’t trust the oriental shady look. Was he one of them? Or one of us?

‘What have you got to offer me?’ he asked, cockily.

The Cong’s eyes lit up like Chinese lanterns. He said his name was Kim. Produced an exciting, glossy brochure of where dreams come true. Festooned with colour photos. A smiling man with a bend in his rod. A smiling man with carp. A smiling man with a zander. A smiling man with a brace of crucians, plump roach and a bream. A smiling man with a lunker. A smiling man with a brace of specimens...

‘Standing on the bank of the tree-lined estate…’ the oriental began.

Schultz thought of her, where was she? Her mission: to establish women’s equality across the world.

‘The women,’ he said firmly, ‘What have you done with the women?’

Schultz held Kim’s flimsy body with its feet suspended off the floor, one hand supporting the scrawny chin competently as the yellow-skinned git protested his innocence.

‘Not my fault! Not my fault!’ Kim protested, struggling to breathe, ‘Women not fish here!’

The German squeezed the puny head tighter, making its eyes stand out on sticks, the face flush crimson.

‘Why not?!’ he hassled, ‘Tell me, damn you!’

‘Women no like get hands dirty! Women no like dirty hands!’

Schultz let the pathetic little man slide to the bare wooden floor, leaving him slumped over a stack of carefully-assembled bags of ground bait.

‘Why, you pathetic, misogynist runt,’ he shouted, lifting his balled fist.

‘What you want?! What you want?!’ Kim screamed, attempting to climb into the portacabin.

Schultz sighed deeply, no good would come of pulping this creepy little turd. He was small fry.

‘I want her!’ he boasted.

‘She not availa-b-b-bubble at m-moment,’ stuttered Kim, ‘She out on bike!’

‘Where?’

‘How should I know? She out riding round lake!’ he whined, shaking like a lemon jelly.

‘Which lake?’ Schultz persisted.

Kim stroked the glossy gatefold brochure open with his crooked index finger. There was a map, trees, car park, directions from the A25, post code, a list of species, warm welcome, three lakes:

‘Standing on the bank of tree-lined estate,’ he read, ‘Secret Lake is like stepping back in time. Marvel at its dense beds of reeds and irises, or the wooded isle upon which sacred heron perch?’

‘Get on with it!’ barked Schultz impatiently.

‘Secret Lake was created in Victorian times, as a traditional mixed fishery. Platforms were built to create comfortable access. Large catches of bream and tench are not uncommon. The lake’s flat-bottomed punts provide the roving angler with the perfect means to explore the secret areas of the lake,’ Kim raised his head, and glanced at Schultz, ‘You want day ticket?’

He refused, suspecting that Secret Lake was a red herring, a baited trap with no adversary.

‘You got soft spot for true crucian carp?’ Kim enquired suggestively.

‘I might have!’ jested Schultz.

‘You got soft spot for crucian carp; then you love Wilting Lake. Huge shoals of these gorgeous, golden creatures have their homes in this lake, with its lush reed beds, lilies, and landscaped banks.’

‘Will I find her there?’

Kim looked away from him. The hut was lined with packets of hooks, floats, sinkers. ‘Maybe.’

‘Only maybe?’

‘Mm.’

Schultz liked his action fast and furious. Liked his arms to ache with pleasure. A steady stream of hand-to-hand fighting to leave him tired but happy, in a way that only a hard-fighting woman like her could.

‘Sell me two, day tickets for her lake,’ he demanded.

Kim produced the most exciting leisure vouchers he had ever seen.

‘I could get used to this!’ Schultz whooped.

‘Sorry?’

‘I was just being happy for a change,’

Schultz smiled grimly, scanning the voucher:

The attached till receipt shows the vouchers you have purchased and are permitted to use. Out of hours emergency ambulance service – please see board at the entrance to the fishery. Permitted fighting times: 7am until 30 minutes before sunset. Please ensure you have left the car park before the automated gates lock you in! Agents are reminded that no responsibility will be accepted for any injuries, fatality or damage to their persons, however sustained whilst fighting. Please read the rules below and display your voucher where it can be seen:

All fists and feet must be dipped in disinfectant before entering the fighting arena.

Do not disturb wildlife.

Access is only permitted to the pugilistic areas, do not climb gates or swim in the lakes.

Rottweilers may be let off the leash at any time. Please clear up after them.

Alcohol may be brought onto the fishery.

Do not fight agents if you are scared of them!

You must be in possession of a large unhooking mat to fight on, and a strong landing net.

Unhook agents using an unhooking mat, do not attempt to lift their heads off the ground.

Fight only on the platforms provided. Do not fight between swims.

The use of crying gas is banned.

Do not throw dead agents into the water.

When weighing corpses use a weigh sling.

Do not cut yourself on bankside vegetation.

Do not leave discarded clothing on the bank. Use the bonfires provided.

No fighting outside the permitted times. Night fighting is forbidden.

You must be in possession of a valid licence before fighting. Failure to observe the rules or acting in a way which interferes with other fighter’s enjoyment will result in your termination.

‘That will be £200, please,’ said Kim.

‘How much?!’

‘We accept American Express, Visa, Mastercard.’

Schultz settled with his cashless card, handling the fighting vouchers as if his life depended, which it did. He thought of the wind, the rain, the fractured fragments of her jaw. Thought of the win. There could be only one survivor. He thought of his wife, her unborn child. He thought of her. Schultz thought he heard a voice, calling him, the call of the wild. Her? No, a mallard.

‘Would you like sandwiches and drinks delivered to your swim?’ Kim offered a greasy menu.

‘Thanks,’ replied Schultz, ‘But my wife made me a packed lunch.’

He felt sad: the thought of his wife bearing their unborn child, waiting anxiously for his return. His intimate reflections were interrupted by a woman’s voice.

She dismounted from her hybrid mountain bike: her face, bum, thighs and calves spattered with mud from the gruelling uphill climb from Dorking, her chiselled cheekbones taut with the strain of breathing fresh morning air as she climbed. Under the grime and mud lay a simple slick of make-up. Her lips were plump with pout. Her large emerald eyes shone with the tears of one who faces an unknown fate at the hands of her foe. She removed her blue cycling helmet. Her head was bald, completely hairless. She extended a slim, beautifully-manicured hand, scarlet- varnished fingernails, no ring…

‘The name’s Rand,’ she said, sadly, ‘Jane Rand. Shall we get it over with?’

*****

It’s a game we play. A twisted endless game of mistrust and deceit. A necro-sexual foreplay that climaxes in death. We hide behind masques, trade futures on the dark web, leave no trace of human waste, corpses or detritus. The halcyon days of the illicit drop-off, the coded tell-tale slips of rice paper, are long gone. We trace, monitor, track, shut down, and kill. The foe has changed, the motives remain the same: disruption, disturbance, disinformation, disloyalty. In ways, the wet squad mirror the cruel, dispassionate society you live in. We owe no allegiance, have no respect for you, hold no morals, recognize no authority. Except the hand that feeds us. Officially, we don’t exist…

He stood on the right-hand side of the escalator and watched her pass, wiggling her bum at him, swaying her hips. The central aisle, between the two working ‘up’ escalators and long defunct ‘down’ metal staircase, was littered with newspapers flapping in the chill breeze. He wondered how long it would take before commuters endured a new fire-trap as a result of their laziness dismissing the notion from his clouded mind as he alighted in the ticket hall. He moved to one side of the throng and watched her pass through the ticket barrier.

Rand was wearing an unzipped black leather bomber jacket, clingy cream camisole, skin-tight faded denims slashed at her thighs and knees, pink sneakers, and a clootie bobble hat to keep her head warm. He watched as she lifted her camisole and rubbed a nasty gash under her full left breast, a flesh wound from her summer mud-wrestling fight at the fishery when she killed a man with her bare hands. Death was no stranger to this woman. She was tough, she would survive. For as long as she stayed young, fit, beautiful. She dropped her camisole, zipped up her jacket, and walked out of the station into the sleet-flecked wintry fresh air, turning right onto the high street.

He followed her at a discreet distance, stopping to find a newspaper without a ‘no deal’ headline at a kiosk. The old man with bushy grey eyebrows and a glass eye stared over him at the white vellum sky as he took his money in his gloved hand. He noticed his fingers were blue with cold where they poked through the gloves. Told him to keep warm.

The sleet turned to light snow, too light to settle, flakes flickered on his eyelashes. He blinked and saw her cross the street at a pelican crossing, turning right by a shopping arcade: an exotic greengrocer, halal butcher, pawn-brokers shop, a chemist, then walk under the railway bridge. He crossed the road at a break in the rush hour traffic and gazed up at the pigeon shit smearing the wrought ironwork, cowering inwardly in case the vermin’s mess ruined his navy Crombie coat.

Rand stopped at a left-hand turn, waited for an HGV to draw into the goods entrance of Wickes DIY superstore, then crossed the road when it was safe. Trust to no-one, the lorry might reverse, flatten her, squash her body into one long blood-trail under its huge wheels. Trust to no-one, except yourself: Rule no. 1 in the wet squad’s survival manual. She glanced back over her shoulder at him, her snub nose red with cold, her cheeks pallid. He knew her pre-ordained fate, and felt for her.

The rundown industrial estate was at the next turning on the left. Rand stood outside the three-storey ruin and waited for him. Five expensive-looking cars: three 4x4s, a Merx, and a Lexus; pulled in and parked on the puddled yellow line, in front of a disused soap factory with a tall redbrick chimney. Each car deposited a woman, doors slammed, kisses were blown, then the husbands went off to work, in the City probably, judging by the expensive attire of their ladies of leisure. There were six, gathered in the wet snow outside the converted workshop, stamping their dainty feet, waiting for him to unlock the rusty cast-iron door and let them into the warm: two colourful Caribbean, an Indian lady with a bindi on her forehead, an Arab wearing a burka, Essex Girl, and her…

For Christmas, she had received an unusual present from him, a pink voucher to attend a one-day dressmaking course where you learn to make a dress in a day. He knew her vital statistics, he had examined her from head to toe, the raised, dark chocolate mole in her left groin. Knew all there was to know about her medical history, illnesses, injuries, mental health, diet, wellbeing, even her sexual preferences. On the basis that he had a need to know.

He smiled as she undressed in front of the other, shocked, women and tried on a sample dress which fitted her exactly. The perfect gentleman, the ideal instructor, who posed no obvious threat to women. Each woman sat by her assigned sewing machine as he explained how to sew a dress. They cut out the material from a pattern first, then started sewing. He was patient and understanding. At noon they put on their snug winter coats and took a lunch break in the local café. All except her: she just sat, staring nervously at him, wondering what was to become of her as he scoffed his bland feta cheese sandwich. They didn’t speak.  They didn’t need to.

After lunch, the other women returned and finished their dresses, stood behind the screen, and tried them on. They were delighted, parading their hand-made frocks around the cutting room, flaunting themselves, wringing their hands, tipping him handsomely, promising to attend his next course, ‘Summer Casual Wear’, in March.

At 4:30, he led his happy smiling flock down six flights of stairs to the tiny lobby by the factory exit, waiting with them until their husbands pulled up to collect them. The industrial estate was dangerous after dark: drug addicts, rapists, beggars, rats, frequented the foetid-piddled streets.

He returned upstairs. Rand waited until he was seated. He nodded and watched as she wriggled out of her jeans, and pulled the loose camisole over her head. She was wearing a ruby red bra and pink cotton pants. He knew she felt apprehensive at the start of the day, about the colour, his reason for the pink. He beckoned for her to put on the dress. She pulled it on over her head, rolling the material carefully over her breasts and tummy, pressing the material to her body. Rand seemed pleased, had a very pretty pink dress with a flower on it to take home: a summer dress, sleeveless, cut just above the knee. The dress looked fashionable. She was very happy with her dress. And he was pleased for her.

He felt sad.

‘I’m sending you back to Nuremberg, to where it all began,’ he told her, passing her an A4 folder, stapled with a colour print of a ruddy-faced, chubby-cheeked man, with a Balbo beard.

‘You’re to wear the dress for him. He likes his women in pink. You’ll be contacted by Hans.’

He handed her a shot of a bearded blonde athlete with high cheekbones and a scowl.

‘Meet him tomorrow night at 6pm beside the Four Acts of Love. He’ll be riding an ice cream trike. You can’t miss him.’

She smiled. Her lips were plump with pout.

‘The Four Acts of Love? An ice cream tricycle in January? It’s minus 7C and snowing hard in Nuremberg!’ she said, very obviously, ‘What is this, N2? One of your sick jokes?’

‘This is for real. Read the instructions. Hans will issue you with a firearm. You are to acquire the target as he leaves The Old Boar, opposite Oude Kirk, take him to Hotel Elk, and despatch. Your expenses are pre-paid: train, flight, metro tickets, meals, hotel. You’ll pose as Nina Spitz. Your flight departs Stansted tonight at 8:30. Are there any questions?’

Rand’s emerald eyes shone with the tears of a woman who faces an unknown fate at the hands of her foe. She removed her clootie bobble hat. She was bald, completely hairless. She put out her left hand. The nail had been completely ripped off of her ring finger, and she had no left pinkie.

‘If they catch me, N2, will they tear off another nail, and saw off my little finger?’ she asked.

He couldn’t stare her in the face: the deceit. She looked so beautiful in pink. Such a terrible waste. He felt ashamed of himself.

‘Shall we get it over with?’ she said bravely.

Rand knew, sensed something was wrong. Call it a woman’s intuition. N2 looked down at his feet. Couldn’t tell her the dreadful truth.

Let her go, Nigel, he told himself, let her go…

*****

His initial reaction, when he read the WhatsApp in the gym, was one of intrigue. He couldn’t believe they were sending her back, after the pain and torture he inflicted on her last time. What is the matter with you English? Have you gone crazy? No wonder your country is still a member of our European Union! he said to himself.  

Heidrich sat down heavily on the seat of the shoulder press, having lifted 115kg, and watched a girl, a young-frau, perform on the treadmill opposite him. She wasn’t wearing her red sports bra today, just a loose turquoise vest, and tight-fitting shorts. He hoped that she had some warm clothes to change into when she went outside in the snow. On another occasion, he might have tested her, but he had more important priorities. He rubbed the ugly black and red tattoos of death and hate etched into his massive biceps as she slowed to a walk, checked her app, removed her headphones, and ground to a halt. The slim girl turned to walk off the belt, stood perfectly still - and admired his animal physique.

‘What are you looking at, liebe?’ he taunted, his withering look making her wilt in her trainers.

‘I’m sorry, I saw you smiling at me and thought you might like to…’

‘You didn’t see anything,’ he hissed menacingly, ‘Get out of here!’

‘If you say so, auf wiedersehen.’

The frightened blonde grabbed her towel and hurried out of the gym while he sought further clarification:

How will I recognize her?

She’ll be wearing a zipped black leather bomber jacket, over a pretty pink dress with a flower on it: a summer dress, sleeveless, cut just above the knee. The dress looks fashionable. Bare legs, pink sneakers, a white clootie bobble hat to keep her head warm.

Why does she need to keep her head warm?

Because she’s bald, completely hairless.

Why is she bald?

She suffers from alopecia.

What is the password?

Christmas Dream.

The song by Perry Como, right?

Correct.

Ha! I have the music as a jingle for my tricycle!

Then you can play it to your heart’s content, can’t you? I have to go. Danka!

Ich dien!

What?

I serve!

Ah, of course! Don’t we all, Hans? Auf wiedersehen.

Auf wiedersehen.

Heidrich grabbed his towel, left the gym, and went to the men’s changing room. The room was full of steam, like a Turkish Bath: the stench of sweat from the fat swine who showered there after their vain efforts to work off their pot-bellies. He opened his locker, retrieved a warm hoodie and baggy tracksuit bottoms, avoiding looking at the sumo-bellied, double-breasted baldies. They disgusted him, gone to fat on their sausages and beer, a disgrace to the land their fathers and grandfathers fought for. They should be ashamed. Quickly, he dressed and left. Outside, it had stopped snowing.

His cosy furnished apartment was a short walk away in Alstadt, the historic city centre. Alstadt is divided into Sebald, north of the River Pegnitz, and Lorenz to the south. The old town was almost completely destroyed by the allied bombing raids during the war, and had to be rebuilt. Heidrich would never forget what they did to his beautiful mediaeval city. He entered his student apartment in Sebald, a bargain rental at only 595 euros a month. There was a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. He ran a hot bath, stripped beside the pink bathtub, slid under the water and thought of her, wearing only the pink dress, floating face down in the muddy waters of the swollen river. He slept in the bath until the water turned cold, climbed out, shaved off his beard, brushed his teeth, then went to bed.

When he awoke it was dark, time for his injection. He kept his insulin in the fridge, along with the drug. His thighs and buttocks were covered with pinpricks, hollowed out by the countless jabs he had endured since he was diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic at the age of 4. He learned to inject himself using an orange, until he felt confident enough to slide the needle into his flesh at the correct angle. They say the pain is something you get used to, but each jab hurt him as much as the last. He rested his foot on the bedroom chair and stabbed himself in the thigh, imagining it was her thigh. Then he sterilized the needle with a swab, returning the syringe to the metal casing he stored in the kitchen cupboard.

The drug came in a small bottle with a rubber cap, sealed with a metal ring. He took one out of the fridge, unwrapped a fresh disposable syringe, and stuck the needle through the cap, drawing off the fluid until the syringe was half-full. There was an air bubble. Air trapped inside a syringe can, if injected into the human body, induce an embolism, a bubble of air in the bloodstream, which is fatal if it reaches the brain. He didn’t bother to expel the air. She was going to die anyway, so what was the point?

Heidrich felt uncomfortable about this assignment, about N2, his derogatory tone. More than that, he felt guilty about his act of deceit towards her, the danger his despicable act would cause. He felt for her, standing, waiting for him in the freezing cold, by the ice fountain, overlooked by a white tower of death. This was the choice he made when he was acquired by the wet squad. To kill men and women, or enable them to be despatched mercilessly. Without love. To exist as low-life in his squalid hovel inside the mediaeval city wall, a sleeper waiting to be activated by some faceless clown in an alien country that he would never visit, by a gay he couldn’t trust.

Rule no.1: Trust no-one!

He must comply with his instructions, or be found out, have his extreme political convictions broadcast instantly to a disparaging world. Heidrich believed in the sanctity of the Aryan race, the blue-eyed, blonde-haired boys and girls who marched with him in khaki-uniformed legions through the pine forest on Sunday mornings, waiting for their time to come. He was convinced that his legions would rise again. Until then, he’d lie low in his hole, a slug of contempt waiting for the rain of anarchy to fall on the unsuspecting heads of civilisation.

Heidrich walked slowly but steadily along the icy streets, crossing the flooded grey river at Maxbrüke, by the ancient Weinstadel, passing Unschlift Platz, to Karl-Grillenberg Strasse. He reached Weisser Turm and waited by the fountain. She would have taken the U1 transit from Hauptbanhof, the central railway terminal, to Weisser Turm, having arrived at Hotel Elk late last night. He hoped she spoke German. Her journey into the city by U2 transit from the airport was easy enough, but finding her hotel at night-time in the knot of narrow backstreets beside the river? Impossible!

He loitered by the mis-named Four Acts of Love. Wondering if she’d found the frozen fountain that is actually called The Marriage Merry-Go-Round: the four hilarious, if vulgar, bronzes of wedded bliss from courtship to skeletons, one of the largest figure fountains of the 20th Century. Despite his balaclava helmet, warm winter fleece and soft tracksuit bottoms, he was chilled to the bone. He stamped his feet on the pavement, removed his leather gloves, and blew into his hands. It started to snow again. A small group of forlorn tourists appeared at the top of the ornate tiled staircase, stepped out of the transit station, stopped, and took a photo of him by Death, the fourth bronze, laughing at him.

They’ll laugh on the other sides of their smug faces when we next march again! he mused.

The group disappeared in the direction of the beautiful Lorenzkirche church, a warm hostelry with a blonde beer, and waited for his signal.

Heidrich checked his watch: 18:15. The street was deserted. She was late. Where was she? A slim figure appeared at the top of the staircase, and disappeared from view. He walked slowly around the fountain. She was standing by the second bronze, Family: a sculpture of a mama and papa withered by their screaming infant son and baby girl. He sent a text. She was wearing a zipped, black leather bomber jacket over a skimpy pink dress, worn above the knee. Her legs were bare. She wore pink sneakers, a white bobble hat to keep her head warm.

‘Mein Gott!’ he swore under his breath, ‘She must be fucking freezing!’

He listened to her sing, his sweet, lilting songbird, dear little nightingale from Berkeley Square. She smiled at him, the smile that disarmed a thousand agents. Heidrich couldn’t help himself, couldn’t help but sing with her. She overwhelmed him with love and guilt. The guilt resonated in his hoarse voice:

‘The whole world needs a Christmas dream.’

They stared up at the starry night sky, white ticker-tape fluttering down onto their frozen cheeks and eyelashes. Tears of pride shone in their eyes, masking their true feelings, real expectations. The tourists reappeared beyond the fountain of Death. A taxi crept off its rank in Jacobs Platz.

Rand smiled.

‘Come to me,’ he told her, excitedly, ‘I have a present for you!’

She took his hand. He held her hand to his face. Her ring finger had no nail. Her hand had no little finger. They walked beyond the fountain of Death. Their footprints were covered in snow.

And still she sang.

The tourists closed in on her, taking her from him. One thug pulled her arms roughly behind her back. One kicked her hard in the calf, forcing her to slump onto the frozen ground. Another thug tore off her warm hat and held her head, twisting her confused face away from him, baring her gilded neck. Heidrich removed the metal case from his fleece pocket, took out the syringe, primed to inject her. Held her smooth, soft, chin still, smudging her cherry red lipstick off with his gloved thumb.

‘Hans?!’ she pleaded; her emerald eyes shiny with icy drops of fear.

‘Hans is dead!’ he jeered, ‘Hans is lying in the silt, rotting away in the Pegnitz!’

‘Then, who are you?’

Rand started to whimper and tremble. He felt her teeth chatter against his face. The taxi arrived. Her time was over. Heidrich stabbed the needle in her neck and depressed the plunger. Felt her body flop like a soggy sponge against his thighs. The thugs let her flaccid torso sink to the ground.

‘Go easy with the manicure,’ she whispered sexily, lapsing into unconsciousness.

*****

From what Rand could see and feel, she was lying on a hospital bed, incarcerated in a dungeon. The cell was hot, humid and claustrophobic. It must be many feet underground. At least, she felt snug and warm there, out of the cold snow.

‘I’m sending you back to Nuremberg, to where it all began,’ N2 had told her.

‘It’s minus 7, snowing in Nuremberg!’ she remembered crying at dress-making, ‘What is this, N2? One of your sick jokes?’

The cell was like a sauna. Ladies are only meant to perspire. But her body was spurting sweat like a human geyser. The crumpled sheet beneath her back was soaking wet, leaving her restless and uncomfortable. Fascinating, isn’t it, how the mind plays tricks on the body when in solitary confinement?

Rand was intrigued by the location, aware that the Castles hired out rooms for private functions. Must remember that for Timmy’s bar mitzvah, she thought. Tim, her bastard, illegitimate, son by N2, before he came out. N2, who agreed to pay her maintenance and school fees until Tim reached 21, on the express proviso that she mentioned his existence to no-one, particularly O1 who reported directly into the Home Secretary. In return for signing his non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement, N2 told her she was well-placed to take over from M11, who was slain in a gunfight with the fascists in the Black Forest.

It occurred to Rand that Tim had an exeat next weekend. She had to collect him from school. And a nice man was coming to fix the dishwasher on Friday. Rand had more pressing concerns. Like the heavy lump inside her bowel, the result of the constipated crud she ordered off the in-flight menu last night on the hop over from Stansted. At least, she thought it was last night. She had no idea of the time, and badly needed a pee. It’s hard to hold it in when your limbs are held under full restraint.

‘This is for real. Read the instructions,’ N2 had suggested.

She had read the A4 folder stapled with a colour print of the ruddy-faced, chubby-cheeked man with a Balbo beard on the flight over. Rand felt sad. At this rate, she would miss her flight home in the morning. She thought of the overnight bag: containing her slashed faded denims, cream camisole top, orange angora wool sweater, clean panties, bras, tights, toiletries, make-up, tampons, condoms (just in case), medication, handbag and passport; in her bedroom at The Elk. And wondered if N2 would settle the bill for her? Arrange for her stuff to be shipped back to England with her body when they dredged her out of the Pegnitz, emaciated by the eels and crays.

‘You’ll be contacted by Hans,’ N2 had confided, ‘Meet him tomorrow night at 6pm beside the Four Acts of Love. He’ll be riding an ice cream trike. You can’t miss him. Hans will issue you with a firearm.’

Well, that was a success, N2, wasn’t it? she reflected bitterly. Hans was slain, fermenting under the mill sill, caught in a sluice, bobbing like a dead chub as he passed the shadowy Henkerstag en route to the children’s clinic at Hallerweise. The Four Acts of Love? Honestly, N2 couldn’t even get the name right! Rand wondered what happened to the ice cream tricycle. So much for his Christmas Dream. Not for the first time since her isolation, her mind struggled to establish why the mission had failed. She came up with three possible reasons:

One: N2’s WhatsApp communication had been intercepted. Was Family WhatsApp really the most secure system for the wet squad to use for undercover work?

Two: The Nuremberg Ring had been infiltrated. But how, and by who? Rand wanted to rub the sore gash under her left breast, the flesh wound from her mud-wrestling fight in the hissing rain when she killed the man, snapping his neck like matchwood with her bare hands. She asked herself if there was any connection.

Her wrists were firmly manacled to the bed. The bruised creases of her elbows hurt where the leather straps rubbed against her needle-holes, punctures, made by a foe determined to pump her full of truth drug until she spoke. She thought of the leader, the man in the black balaclava helmet, who stabbed her in the neck at Weisser Turm and put her to sleep. Could he, and his tourist thugs, have infiltrated the Ring? He scared her. Who was he? Could he be the reason for her enslavement? Did he have a fetish for pink dresses?

‘You’re to wear the dress for him. He likes women in pink,’ N2 had said.

Her neck was stiff from staring up at the bare light bulb swinging from the craggy rock ceiling above her. Very slowly, she craned her head to the left. Her captors had gone to considerable lengths to install a coat rail with black plastic hangars beside the bed, confirming her worst suspicions. There, arranged in order of removal, clearly displayed for her attention, were her leather bomber jacket, pretty pink dress, and bra. She shivered and shuddered with fear, despite the cell’s heat, as a perilous truth hit her, like a steam-hammer pounding relentlessly inside her little heart…

Three: Hans was betrayed. Rand could think of only one person with a motive to betray him. It dawned on her, too late, that Tim’s father might not wish to pay maintenance and school fees till he reached 21. Her mind arrived at an improbable conclusion: N2 wanted her killed as part of some sinister domestic cost-saving exercise.

Rand heard the creaking noise of a heavy door opening. The thin, mild, zephyr of a slight draught blew over her bare head, making the skin wrinkle on her bald pate. She missed her comfy clootie bobble, sneakers, pink dress, her bra for that matter. The chill kissed her nipples which stiffened, as hard as the doorknobs on her medicine cabinet at home, in the picture box village of Little Chart. She heard heavy foot-steps, the metallic crank of a door being closed. Felt, smelt, them approaching her, sprawled over the bed. Rand craned her neck until her chin hugged her chest, watching them take up position at the end of the bed. The odd couple, the perpetrators of torture and assassination. She feared they had come to interrogate her, torment her, extract her intimate knowledge, then kill her.

The first man was tall, lanky, skeletal to look at, with a thin, blanched face, ice-blue eyes, long grey straggly hair, and a wispy grey goatee beard. He was wearing pebble-glassed bifocals and a full-length black leather trench coat, reminiscent of the Gestapo, and looked like a hybrid of Satan and Goebbels. The beanpole bowed from the waist for her in true gentlemanly fashion, then hastily looked away.  He was clearly embarrassed by her nakedness. She tried to close her legs but the leather straps wrapped round her thighs, above her knees, and chains around her ankles prevented her from doing so. He looked like fun, not. A failed family man perhaps, a divorcee or widower. His worried face told her he didn’t want to be there any more than she did, which was good to know. She christened him Dr Goat - after his beard.

His colleague was short, well-built, ruddy-faced, and chubby-cheeked. He had a Balbo beard and gold fillings which shone in the lamplight when he leered at her, which was far too often. He paced around the bed, examining her from head to toe, pausing to kiss the raised dark chocolate mole in her groin. She winced as he stroked her knife wound, casually appreciating her slim physique until he knew every inch of her. He looked up at the pretty pink dress. She felt a rush of adrenalin. It was him. The man she had come to kill. The slob gripped her petrified face and pressed a pair of pliers into her soft rosy cheeks, holding her deformed hand up like his trophy. He had halitosis. She wet herself.

‘You killed Bernhardt,’ he sprayed, leaving spittle on her face, ‘Now I’m going to kill you.’

‘After I have extracted the Nuremberg Ring from you!’ the tall man laughed. 

They didn’t speak for a few minutes.

When she was a little girl, her Mummy and Daddy took her on a boating holiday to the Norfolk Broads. Jane was perched on milk parsley, drinking in sweet nectar from the flowers. Her upper wings distinctively mottled with dark grey, her lower wings beautifully bordered with blue, the tell-tale red eyelets, the divinely curved tails.

‘Mummy! Daddy!’ the little girl cried, ‘Look! A Swallowtail!’

They’d looked. They’d seen. She’d distracted Daddy. He’d nearly rammed their barge into a low bridge. Mummy had to take the helm and reverse the boat up river, forcing the other boats to follow suit. Many years later, Jane toured the Brecks and Broads with Tim, but they never saw another Swallowtail. She supposed she never would. She shut her eyes, squeezing out the tears, and wondered what Tim, God forbid, would do in her situation.

‘Don’t give up, Mum,’ he’d say, she knew he would, ‘You’re the best Mummy in all the world.’

Jane loved Tim. She would never let him down. When she returned to England, she vowed to leave the wet squad for good. Find a safe house in the Brecks. A new school for Timmy. A new life. She was tough, she would survive for as long as she could stay alert. As long as she fought the drug spreading insidiously through her bloodstream. Jane imagined the butterfly settling on her lips. Imagined her sealing her lips closed for her Swallowtail. She would never betray the Nuremberg Ring to that beast: Gaulk. She called it Gaulk for want of a better name. He knelt between her open thighs and asked for her name.

‘My name is Spitz,’ she said, sadly, ‘Nina Spitz. I’d shake your hand but I’m rather tied up at the moment. Shall we get it over with?’

He slapped her face six times, bending her head left to right, screaming blue murder at her:

‘Your real name! Tell me your real name!’

She shut her eyes, imagining the Swallowtail resting on her lips, vowed not to speak to him for as long as she lived. Rand felt him being pulled off of her by the tall man. Dr Goat had a heart.

As soon as her captors left the room, she burst into tears of relief, pulling in vain at the shackles that bound her.

*****

The wheels on the train went around and round. All night long. At least, they seemed to. The journey to the quaint, pebble-dashed, stone-walled, unmanned halt at Mistleigh, seemed to take forever. N2 stared at his worried expression in the dark window, guilt coursing like treacle through his arteries. Only matched by the yellowed, dirty sea fog pervading the vale as the train squeaked its way round the homeward curve towards his destination. His chin was stubbled from where he hadn’t slept last night. He hadn’t heard from her for 48 hours. If she bleated, squealed. If his nightingale sang for the fascist renegades, then the whole bloody Ring would collapse, bringing their strategy to infiltrate, video, record and transmit the evidence needed to quash the despicable faction to a bloody end. The train slowed near the home signal. He sought relief, urgent clarification. Before he dined with O1. Scrolled through his screens to WhatsApp and sent the coded message. The response was instant, frighteningly instant.

Where is she?

She’s dead, N2! Dead!

What? That’s not possible!

Rand is dead! Hans is dead, also!

Who are you?

Ich dien!

Who are you?

I serve!

Auf wiedersehen.

N2 felt sickened, in his gut. The wet squad was a blame culture, deliberately perpetrated by O1 to keep the underlings on their toes. If the Ring fell, he’d have the blood of ten covert agents on his hands, not to mention her. He couldn’t believe Jane was dead. She bore his child, had his baby. He would have to care for Tim, collect him from school at exeats, cope with his grief, take him back to the Brecks, the Broads, the country havens that she treasured so much when she was alive. Nigel loved her. Before he came out. He climbed down from the train, his new white trainers scudding the grit on the platform as the door slid shut behind him. The train meandered off past the distant signal, towards the sea, its final resting place. His lungs sucked in the chill of the thick mist; the smack of salt tested his lips. He pulled his old school scarf tight round his neck, lifting his collar to warm his ears. As he huddled into his wool coat and edged towards the exit, he saw a form move. Saw a delicious, manly, form move towards him. O1 descended on him like a black bat flitting out of the lamplight. He drew him close. They man-hugged. He opened his mouth to him, letting his langue tumble down his throat. They kissed deeply, longingly, yearning for each other. It had been so long. Nigel felt him harden through his crisp stretch-cotton, khaki sharps. He pushed his hands inside the dark navy bullet-proofs and felt him throb. They stopped kissing. Nigel looked at him pleadingly, wanting him to share his bed, his passion. He wondered at the devious smile spread over O1’s bearded face. He was wearing a bobble hat, olive green with a red fish emblazon. He thought of Jane. Was she still alive and warm? Her head got so cold without her white clootie bobble. Or was her body cold? He decided to play his ace of hearts with O1 over dinner, and risk all: promotion, position, career, everything. He had to, for Tim. O1 seemed more preoccupied with his pants than the fate of his brave woman, the Ring. Nigel marvelled at his calm.

‘Love my new chuddies, Nigel!’ he hooted, ‘Absolute ripper of a product from S1! Like them?’

‘They suit you, Ossie,’ Nigel remarked, ‘Suit you down to the groin,’ they kissed again, ‘My perfect man. Do they…?’

‘No, they don’t deflect bullets, we’re not that advanced. Take my arm, boy. Supper’s Ready!’

‘Genesis!’ Nigel cried.

‘Why, of course! Foxtrot!’

‘Six saintly, shrouded men…’

‘Move across the lawn, slowly!’

Nigel relaxed. He loved this man. His humour. His smooth body. His sophistication. His taste. His sex. They moved off of the platform and into the booking hall: the glowing embers of a fireplace, seaside posters from last summer’s heatwave, 39C. He thought of her, mud-wrestling with Schultz at the fishery. Snapping his neck on the unhooking mat. As the rain poured down by the carp lake. As he watched him die in her hands from the safety of the birdwatching hut. He loved birds, birds that killed. Schultz was gay. He left a broken heart behind in Nuremberg. The notion struck an inner chord, a possible connection, as O1 wheeled him along the country lane, past the malt house, the dark stack of a brewery chimney. A broad estuary stretching into the distance. A hut, a strange hut. Nigel shuddered as his companion, his lover, his direct report, gripped his elbow and took him to one side, a naughty boy in Oswald’s middle class.

‘We’re here, dear,’ he said sincerely, ‘Step inside love.’

Nigel smiled once more, ‘Let me find you a place!’

They stepped inside the empty restaurant with rooms, stamped their feet, and waited patiently by the till. A smart young girl in black shirt and trousers set a polished wine goblet on the only laid table in the house, flicked her service cloth over her arm, came over and greeted them.

‘Hello!’ she said, cheering them with her lovely smile, ‘Is it Mr Michael Hadleigh, double room, breakfast, dinner for two at 730?’

‘It is indeed, dear,’ Oswald replied, giving Nigel a sly wink.

‘If you’d follow me, Gentlemen, I’ll show you to your room?’

She was wearing a gold name badge. They followed ‘Millie’ upstairs…

Nigel went to speak about her just as Millie arrived at their table with the menu. The place was empty…

‘The special tonight is Dover Sole,’ she announced confidently, adding, ‘I’m afraid the Halibut is finished.’

Finished, like Jane.

‘Finished, dear?’ Oswald whistled, ‘But you haven’t started yet!’

Nigel raised his brows at the server: don’t worry, Girl, he’s always like this: showy, posh. She looked glum, having disappointed her only guests tonight. Nigel thought of Jane, lying cold. He nodded. The server spoke, wanting to be of service. He encouraged her, his glum rag doll. She put on a face:

‘I’m sorree,’ she pandered, ‘Can I fetch you a drink?’

Fetch! He liked that! Fetch! As in fetch my slippers, girl. O1 smiled appreciatively, liked that:

‘Tanqueray. Double. Fever Tree. No Ice. Mixed. Think you can manage that?’

Oh, dear, we are in a funny mood tonight aren’t we Ossie? Nigel beamed at Millie. She blushed.

‘I’m sure I can!’ she crowed, looking daggers at him, ‘What can I get you to drink, Sir?’

‘Scotch.’

‘Ice?’

‘No, Scotch.’

‘Thank you.’

Millie trotted over to the bar. They browsed the menu. N2 went to speak. O1 placed his hand over his, pressing his fist to the table. His glass wobbled. The fish knife moved right. O1 said:

‘A little bird tells me your Rand has gone missing in Germany. She is yours, isn’t she dear? Had your bastard baby, I hear. Tim? You never told me you were straight? One is disappointed, N2.’

N2 slumped in his chair, his jaw flapped against his neck, stunned, speechless. He wasn’t hungry.

O1 continued, ‘She won’t sing, will she, your pretty nightingale? Won’t blow the whole show?’

Nigel struggled to speak, still in shock: Jane, Tim. His dearest Oswald. His acid. His spite.

O1 answered his own question, ‘Well then, think we should let sleeping birds lie, don’t you? No point stirring up a hornet’s nest with our German friends is there? Not with all this wretched Brexit business. I don’t think the new PM would take too kindly to a cock-up in our backyard, do you, N2?’

He shook his head at the hypocrisy, the incredible C-Y-A of his superior. He loved this man!

‘Now, can I suggest the Dover Sole?’ O1 said, unfurling his spotless pink cloth napkin, I hear the local fish is very good.’

*****

‘You won’t let him hurt me again, will you Daddy?’

‘No, Child, I won’t let him hurt you ever again. He’s gone away. He’s been sent far, far away.’

‘To where the faeries live?’

‘To where the faeries live.’

‘Good! He was horrid to me! Horrid! I hate him! Hate him!’

‘Calm down, Girl. He’s gone. Did you like Heidi?’

‘Mm! Heidi made me feel all nice inside!’

‘Did you tell her about the Ring?’

Jane shook her head from left to right, ‘Oh, no,’ she said, looking very grown-up, ‘I wouldn’t do that.’

Her body was spurting sweat, the crumpled sheet under her bum soaking wet, leaving her sore. Dr Goat had a heart, felt sorry for her, didn’t know where to rest his hand: her thigh, her tummy, her breast. In the end he settled for her rosy cheeks, brushing her face affectionately with the back of his hairy hand. Jane liked him, had always liked him. He looked ten years younger without the pebble-glass bifocals and leather trench coat. He reminded her of her Daddy.

Patiently, injecting her thigh with truth drug, listening, mostly listening, he emptied her mind of memories. Timmy, her son by N2 before he came out. How N2 agreed to pay maintenance and school fees until Tim reached 21. How he considered Rand well-placed to take over from M11. Tim’s exeat next weekend. The time he collected him from school. The nice man, coming to fix the dishwasher on Friday. The heavy lump inside her bowel. The colour print of the ruddy-faced, chubby-cheeked man she was meant to kill. Her flight, home. The contents of her overnight bag: her medication, handbag, passport. The number of her room at The Elk. The aborted meeting with Hans. Details of their insane communication system, Family WhatsApp.

He looked away. She could tell he was embarrassed by her, didn’t want to be there. They didn’t speak for a few minutes, then:

‘When I was a little girl,’ Jane told him, ‘Mummy and Daddy took me on a boating holiday to the Norfolk Broads. She was perched on milk parsley, drinking nectar from the flowers. Her upper wings were mottled, dark grey, her lower wings had blue borders, tell-tale red eyelets, curved tails. Mummy! Daddy! I cried. Look! A Swallowtail! Well, we looked! We saw! Daddy nearly rammed a low bridge. Mummy had to take the helm. Many years later, I toured the Broads, but I never saw another Swallowtail,’ she shook her head, ‘I suppose I never will now.’

‘I’m sorry,’ he said to her, patting her thigh, ‘So sorry.’

Jane shut her eyes, squeezing out more tears, and thought of Tim, trying to stay alert, to battle the drug. Imagining the butterfly settled on her lips. Imagining her, sealing her lips closed.

‘Girl,’ he said kindly, ‘Tell me the names of the Nuremberg Ring, and we can send you home.’

She vowed never to betray them for as long as she lived. She shook her head from side to side.

‘Please,’ he begged, ‘Tell me the names!’

She burst into tears. The Swallowtail flapped her wings, flitted above her face, then flew away. Jane knew she would never see her again. She turned her head to face him.

‘Will it hurt, Daddy?’ she asked.

His face went white as snow. His lips quivered. His hands trembled. Tears filled his eyes.

‘No, Child, it won’t hurt.’

The syringe lay in a kidney dish at the foot of the bed. She craned her neck and watched him hold it up to the light to expel a bubble of air. There was a brief respite as he dabbed her right thigh with a sterile swab. She lay back, couldn’t bear to watch. He slid the tip of the needle into her skin.

Jane closed her eyes and felt the heavy lump inside her bowel. H22 once told her some agents could put up a lot of resistance and that she, H22 opined, might be one of them. Her limbs were weary. Her joints were stiff. Her muscles ached. She braced herself, tensed the muscles in her legs, and arched her body upwards.

The needle snapped! The tip was lodged in her thigh! Thank the Lord! She relaxed and sank into the bed. Bliss! Jane recalled the corridor conversation, overheard between N2 and his old queen O1, the day prior to her despatch:

‘What’s the matter, Ossie? Why so perturbed?’

‘I need a hero, Nigel. Someone to do three jobbies in Nuremberg.’

‘Three jobbies, you say?’

‘Yes, any ideas, chum?’

‘How about Rand?’

‘Rand, a woman? Really? Are you sure about that, N2?’

‘Absolutely sure…’ 

Rand opened her eyes, craned her neck, and watched her executioner hold the full syringe up to the light, examining the break. To her horror, Dr Goat pottered to the end of the bed, took a fresh needle out of the kidney dish, and attached it to the hypodermic. He sat at her right thigh, and prepared to re-inject. She wondered if she was about to become the first woman to be put to sleep by lethal injection since the end of the War. A woman, she thought, I’m a woman! Not a little girl! She sensed her lucidity return as her pathetic host turned to face her with his sad, hound dog expression.

‘I’m sorry,’ he confessed, ‘I carry spares.’

He slid the needle into her thigh. She winced. This man was so weak! He clearly didn’t want to kill her. She raised her thin brows and hummed a tune inside her head: ‘please, release me, let me go’, concerned, Goat might not have put a woman to sleep before, worried that he didn’t have a clue as to what he was doing. She hadn’t bled when the needle snapped, wondered why he hadn’t found her vein. I’m about to die anyway, she mused, I’ll make a helpful suggestion.

‘My groin, Daddy,’ she piped childishly, having established the man’s prowess as a paedophile.

‘I’m sorry, Child?’

‘My groin,’ Jane repeated, despairing, ‘You’ll find a good vein in my groin? Next to my mole?’

‘Ah! Thank you!’

She felt him ease the needle out of her thigh, hold the hypo up to the light, and squeeze out an air bubble. He had injected her with an air bubble? Goat was useless. He could have killed her.

His incompetence prompted her to focus on her impending death. Depending on the serum, or cocktail, contained in the syringe, her death could be prolonged and painful, or pleasurable like falling asleep. The most efficient and cost-effective method would be for her foe to increase the concentration of truth drug, sodium thiopental, and administer a single dose. Her expiry could be expected to take as little as one and a half minutes. Rand preferred quick and painless.

The alternative, three-stage, final solution really didn’t bear thinking about. An initial shot of pentobarbital to render her unconscious. Followed by a neuromuscular blocking drug, neat pancuronium bromide, to paralyse all of her muscles, except her heart, and stop her breathing. Then a lethal dose of potassium chloride to arrest her heart. With luck she might be dead in ten minutes. The potassium irked her: given alone it caused terrible pain, akin to fire or electricity coursing through her veins.

Jane weighed up the advantages of dying. She would no longer be in pain. They wouldn’t be able to hurt her anymore. She supposed that constituted some kind of happy ending?

‘How will I die, Daddy?’ she asked.

The doctor sucked in his cheeks, palpated her vein, looked away, then jabbed the needle into her groin. His forehead frowned in concentration.

‘Well,’ he sighed, paternally, ‘I am injecting you with three different serums: a sedative, a neuromuscular blocker, and potassium chloride to arrest your heart.’

Jane shook her head sadly, and spoke from the heart, ‘I want you to know, I don’t blame you.’

Dr Goat seemed quite relieved: ‘Thank you.’

She thought of Tim crying, waiting for N2 to collect him from school in the headmaster’s study. Of the girl who wasn’t wearing her bra, just a loose turquoise vest, and tight-fitting shorts, who had removed her plastic headphones, and washed her body earlier.

‘What are you looking at?’ she’d asked her.

‘I’m sorry, I saw you smiling at me and thought you might like to…’

The young-frau who kissed and caressed her, then asked for the names of the Nuremberg Ring.

‘Get out!’ she’d cried.

‘If you say so, auf wiedersehen.’

The frightened blonde, who’d grabbed her wet flannels and towels, and hurried out of the cell.

She felt the heavy lump inside her bowel again. She was ready to die. ‘Can we get it over with?’

He looked at her as if she was mad. Felt sorry for her, she knew he did. Wanted to be somewhere else. Rand felt the needle move in her groin. He was about to depress the plunger. A thought occurred to her. Why now? When she was in training, A7 always told her that it was illogical for the foe to kill an agent before they had extracted the necessary information. Jane scanned his bovine face with teary, pleading eyes.

‘Why now, Daddy?’ she asked.

‘I’m sorry, Child,’ he moaned, ‘So sorry.’

Rand recovered, ‘For goodness sake! I get that! Why kill me now?’

‘He’s waiting for you outside the door,’ Goat brayed hurriedly, ‘He wants your body, then …’

A fate worse than death. Jane pleaded with her Daddy to kill her. He stared at the syringe. Rand heard a loud thud. A second loud thud. A jackhammer. Jane closed her eyes. Felt a twinge. Her Daddy depressed the plunger. A creaking noise. The door opened. Jane craned her neck to look. He looked up! At her! Standing over him!

‘Gerd, no!’ the girl shouted.

He let go of the syringe. It lay between Jane’s legs. The girl fired once, twice. Pew! Pew! Shot him, right between the eyes. With a .22 calibre semi-automatic. Jane was spattered with blood, brains, bits of shattered bone fragments. She shut her eyes, arched her body upwards, then relaxed, relaxed, relaxed, as the girl gently unshackled the straps that bound her.

‘Bit of a mess!’ the blonde young-frau said, obviously, ‘I must wash you. Please, don’t move.’

Jane flexed her muscles, clenched her fists, wiggled her toes. It felt good to be alive. She tried to sit up, couldn’t, wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry. She focused on the now. Her mind came alive.

‘What day is it?’ she asked.

The girl checked her digital watch, ‘The time is almost 21:00 hours on Thursday.’

Thursday? Her mind swam. Monday: the dress-making course. She stared at her clothes on the rail: covered in blood, the pink dress: ruined. Tuesday: her abduction by the frozen fountain. Today, yesterday: she shut out the carnage of her captivity. Tonight: liberation. Tomorrow: the man is coming to fix the dishwasher. Saturday: Collect her darling boy. Jane stared at the girl, bewildered.

‘Don’t worry,’ she soothed, ‘You’re safe now. I have checked you out of the Elk, brought all your things, your passport, handbag, case?’

‘Thank God!’ Jane started to cry, ‘Thank you! Thank you!’

Heidi took her in her arms, cradled her sobbing head to her chest, and rocked her like a baby, ‘It’s alright, it’s over, darling.’

‘Why?’ Jane asked, loving her warm caress, her soft hugs, the sweet kisses on her lips, ‘Why did you save me?’

They both knew why.

Epilogue:

Bernhardt Schultz, the fascist renegade and keen tench angler, killed by Jane in a mud wrestling fight at the fishery, is buried in a shallow grave in Bury Hill Woods, near Dorking, Surrey.

His brother, Maximillian Schultz aka Gaulk, the fascist renegade and pervert, was shot dead by Heidi outside the cell in Nuremberg and cremated.

Gerd Metz aka Dr Goat, the fascist renegade, fake medic, and paedophile, was cremated.

Heidrich, the fascist leader, fitness fanatic, and balaclava helmet-wearer, who offended Heidi, then sedated Rand, was assassinated by Heidi at a Sunday morning fascist rally in the pine forest on the outskirts of Nuremberg. The remains of his body have never been found.

The fascist renegade party was disbanded.

Oswald Dudley Hutton aka O1 was arrested and charged for being the leader of an illegal right-wing British political party. He is currently detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure - awaiting trial.

The Nuremberg Ring remains intact.

Nigel Mainwaring-Smyth, N2, collected Tim from boarding school. He remains a close friend of his ex-wife and visits her every Sunday. He still runs dress-making courses at his converted factory workshop in Seven Sisters, once a quarter.

Heidi aka H22, the girl in the gym, was promoted to M11, the youngest woman in the history of the wet squad to hold the esteemed position.

Following her ordeal, Heidi nursed and cared for Jane for two days at her bedsit in Alstadt. On Sunday, Jane flew into Stansted. She was collected by her ex-husband at drop-off and collect zone B. That evening Nigel treated his family to dinner, bed, and breakfast at a renowned fish restaurant in Mistleigh. The couple slept in separate beds.

Jane was found a safe house in the Brecks. She is currently recuperating at home following a successful operation at the Royal Marsden to remove a malignant tumour from her bowel. Heidi moved in with her, and Tim, so that she could nurse her until she was fit enough to return to active service. The couple were married at St Agnes Church in Myrtlesham on Saturday 12th December 2020. Jane finally found her Christmas Dream!

Jane Rand will next appear in The Girl with the Sun-Kissed Mole.


© Copyright 2020 HJFURL. All rights reserved.

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