Line of Descent chapter 14

Chapter 14

Walters raged and stormed. Drayton had never seen such a complete loss of control by a man of his position. He and Campbell sat silent for five full minutes, while he told them in vitriolic detail what he thought of the way they had handled the situation at the safe house. His language like his demur had long since sunk to the level of the gutter. Any attempt to interrupt was simply talked over. They gave up and let him rage on, waiting patiently until he ran down before trying to speak. Now I know how Hitler’s generals felt, thought Drayton, his eyes following Walters as he paced back and forth behind his desk like a caged animal, ranting and raving, too livid to sit down. The comparison was all too accurate. The double cross was his idea and it had gone wrong. Now he was blaming them.

He finally sat down. Drayton watched Walters fighting to regain some self-control. He was actually shaking. He clenched his fists as they lay on the desk. I hope you’ve got a good heart sunshine, he thought, because it won’t take many more years of that sort of treatment.

‘Would it be too much to hope, that you’ve actually got some bloody idea of where he is now?’ he asked Campbell. He glared at him, lips pulled back to reveal his teeth in a nasty rictus‑like grin.

Campbell paused before answering, wondering if he would be allowed to finish his reply before setting Walters off again. He took the chance.

‘We’re back to square one’ he began, pausing for Walters to interrupt before continuing. Walters visibly restrained himself and Campbell continued evenly.

‘We’re still going over the wreckage, but we don’t expect to find any more bodies. We’re sure he wasn’t one of the dead.’

‘Super’ commented Walters acidly.

‘To be frank, we have to go back to the search methods we were using before our friend Krupmeyer came along. All we can do is keep his picture in the TV and newspapers and hope someone who’s seen him comes forward’ he finished. Drayton could see that his patience was running thin. Campbell was not in line for Vinton’s job and had no need to curry favour with Walters. The powers that be thought him to be a touch too operational for the top spot and he knew it.

‘That’s it, is it?’ said Walters. ‘Is that the master plan? Sit on your backside and hope?’

‘Well we had him, didn’t we? But we weren’t allowed to play him our way, were we?’ Campbell reminded him, biting out the words and returning Walters’ stare truculently. Walters backed off. He took a deep breath and sat back in his large leather chair. It creaked as he tilted it back.

‘What about the other one, Krupmeyer?’ he said irritably.

‘He’s ok except for some cuts and bruises. Remarkable really, considering the way the building caved in.

Drayton remembered the ordinance expert’s description of Canfield’s handy work. By placing the charges in just the right positions on the structural members of the building, he had collapsed it in a controlled fashion like a house of cards, and still managed to drop it in such a way as to leave a lean‑to shelter for himself when it all came down. He thought the surveillance team upstairs had been incinerated by some sort of two stage mechanism. One shaped charge to make a hole in the ceiling and some sort of gas air device exploded up through the hole. A double whammy as he had irreverently termed it. There was nothing recognisable left of Wainright and his team.

What a mess, thought Drayton. We totally underestimated him. We were expecting one man with a gun, another run like the Hammersmith house. But he’d been ready and prepared.

‘You say we knew about the house?’ asked Walters.

‘Yes, it was under passive surveillance. Bugs. But they weren’t picking up anything. He must have disabled them’ said Campbell.

‘So we’ve no record of what Canfield said to Krupmeyer?’ asked Walters. A worried frown crossed his forehead.

‘No. Of course, we haven’t fully debriefed Krupmeyer yet. He’s still in the Hospital. We’re keeping him there under observation. He’s due to be interviewed today.’

‘I want to see him’ said Walters. ‘Bring him to me.’

Campbell turned to Drayton and nodded, giving him the job of fetching Krupmeyer. Drayton wondered why Walters wanted to see Krupmeyer personally. What could have passed between he and Canfield to cause Walters such concern?

‘I presume you’re visiting all other houses that are under passive surveillance?’ said Walters, emphasising the words passive surveillance sarcastically.

‘Of course’ replied Campbell.

‘Why did he stay in the place if he knew it was bugged?’ asked Walters as the thought occurred.

‘We’ve been wondering exactly that ourselves’ replied Campbell with a shrug. He decided to broach the subject that he had been putting off since the meeting began. The man looked as if he was calm enough now.

‘It’s obvious that this man represents a great personal danger to you, more dangerous than we’d originally thought. We would like you to co‑operate more fully in the area of your own security.’

‘What sort of co‑operation ‑ go into hiding?’ asked Walters, hitting the nail on the head. He was starting to get excited again. Campbell continued quickly.

‘Frankly, yes. This man is simply too dangerous. If you continue with public engagements, it will give him too many opportunities.’ Walters stared at him, then his eyes cast around. They settled for no apparent reason on Drayton.

‘Well, what do you think?’ he asked Drayton, venting his annoyance in that direction for the first time.

‘I think he’s going to kill you’ said Drayton, calmly returning his stare.

It nonplussed Walters. He was expecting something more wordy, something more persuasive, nothing as direct as that. Especially from a nobody like Drayton. For the first time he looked worried. A doubt had crept in. Good, thought Drayton, maybe now you’ll stop acting like a jackass and let us save your miserable life.

‘How long for?’ he asked turning back to Campbell. There was a tentative tone about the question. He’s ready to co‑operate, thought Drayton, hoping Campbell would play him right.

‘His face is on the Television and in all the papers. It’s only a matter of time till we catch up. In the meantime, you could take a week off. Let us get you safely tucked away in Cosgrave Hall. It’s perfect. Safe. And you can still carry on working from there.’

Walters thought it over. What’s holding him back, thought Drayton, the danger must be obvious by now, even to him.

‘We can say you’re under the weather. Got a flu. Nobody need even know’ added Campbell. It was the clincher. Walters finally agreed. Campbell had read him right, put his finger on it exactly, thought Drayton. Walters would rather run the risk of being killed by Canfield than for it to be known that he was hiding from him. They packed him off to Cosgrave hall that afternoon.

After the meeting, Campbell and Drayton walked back to their offices along the Embankment. It was not far and they walked in silence. Drayton was still angry at Campbell for the double cross and Campbell knew it.

‘Thank you for your help back there, Phillip’ said Campbell breaking the silence. ‘Sometimes a less senior member of staff can get away with being more direct with a Minister.’

‘You mean like saying no to murder?’ replied Drayton rejecting the olive branch but doing a little fishing as well. Campbell grimaced at the explicitness of Drayton’s words but nodded his head as if in agreement.

‘Powerful men like Walters operate on different levels than we do. We mustn’t fool ourselves into thinking that we know the whole of the story. We don’t. At the end of the day, we must assume that they do know best and we must follow their orders, no matter how unpalatable they may seem to us personally’ said Campbell.

So it was definitely Walters who had ordered Canfield’s death, thought Drayton, pleased at the success of the fishing expedition. That was also as close as Campbell was going to come to an explanation or an apology.

‘Why does he want to see Krupmeyer?’ asked Drayton.

‘Yes, I’d wondered at that myself. Perhaps you’ll find out when you run him down there. Which brings me rather neatly on to my next point. I’d like you to take charge of things down there’ he announced. Drayton’s step faltered but Campbell walked on.

‘Why me?’ asked Drayton, catching up with him. The thought of being cooped up with Walters in Cosgrave Hall was anathema to him. There must be a way out, he thought racking his brains for an excuse. There were none he could get away with.

‘Come, come, Phillip, let’s not be modest. I need someone good down there and you’re the man’ he said. Drayton realised there was no escape.

‘Who’s in charge there at the moment?’ he asked. Campbell smiled at the question, knowing that it signified Drayton’s acceptance of the job.

‘A chap named Harting but he’s a technician really. I need someone who can really take charge and stand up to Walters if need be’ he added.

By the time they got back to the office, Drayton had agreed grudgingly. He picked up his car from the park there and drove over to the hospital to fetch Krupmeyer. He found him lying dressed on top of the bed reading a paper. His head was covered in a swathe of bandages. It was the first time he had seen him since the double cross at Canfield’s safe house.

Krupmeyer looked up at his appearance and discarded the newspaper. He got off the bed and started searching beneath it for his shoes.

‘How long do you think you can keep me cooped up here?’ he asked angrily.

‘I’m here to pick you up’ replied Drayton, not sure of his reception. Did Krupmeyer blame him for the abortive attempt to kill Canfield?

‘OK. Let’s go’ said Krupmeyer, sitting down on the bed to slip his shoes on. Drayton took the moment to clear up the position.

‘I want you to know, I didn’t know about the double cross’ said Drayton. ‘As far as I knew, they wanted him alive. They didn’t tell me anything.’

Krupmeyer looked around at him in surprise.

‘Jesus, you still haven’t got it, have you?’ he said. Drayton watched the look of incredulity on his face being replaced with one of pity. He felt a stab of irritation at it as he wondered what Krupmeyer was talking about.

‘Neither of us were supposed to come out of there alive’ said Krupmeyer. ‘Don’t you see, it was too good a chance for them to tidy up all the loose ends in one go.’

With a sinking feeling, Drayton realised he was right. That was what Cheetham and Walters’ flunky Grantley had been cooking up at the meeting. He should have known when they supported his decision to let Krupmeyer have his chance. Killing everyone in the flat would save a lot of embarrassment on both sides of the Atlantic.

‘Great people you work for’ said Krupmeyer clapping him on the shoulder. ‘Ever think you’re on the wrong side?’ he asked with a bitter grin.

Drayton shook off the Krupmeyer’s hand with a convulsive jerk of his shoulders. He was angry. Angry at himself for not having see it and just as angry at the suggestion. It had struck home. He had never expected to serve perfect masters but this whole business was stretching his sense of obligation severely. All those lives lost. Wainright and his men weren’t the only people who’d been killed at the flat. He remembered the survivors struggling out of the wreckage of the ruined building. They weren’t in anybody’s army. And all because of a toad like Walters. And here he was, the faithful retainer, still working to save his miserable neck.

‘Walters wants to see you’ he said. ‘Let’s go.’

‘What about?’ asked Krupmeyer.

‘How the hell should I know. You want to get out of here, don’t you?’ He was getting sick of this big Yank and his holier than thou insinuations. It didn’t help that he suspected they might be right.

‘Just gophering, hey?’ said Krupmeyer, in a mood to needle him further.

Drayton bit back on his anger and left the room, heading for reception, with a smiling Krupmeyer trailing along behind. There, he impatiently completed some paper work to effect Krupmeyer’s release from the hospital and they left for Cosgrave Hall in his car.

They drove out of the city in silence. Krupmeyer looked out of the speeding car’s window at the streets and people scurrying home along them at the end of their day’s work. He wondered why Walters wanted to see him personally. It was a lot of trouble to take just to tell him to keep his mouth shut before packing him onto a flight home across the Atlantic. Walters need not have bothered. Krupmeyer had failed and he knew it. There was no way he was going to get Canfield back to the States now, he finally admitted to himself. All the deals had been done, all the moves had been made. There was nothing left.

He was a gregarious creature and Drayton’s silence began to grate on him. He decided to patch things up with him.

‘I’m sorry about what I said back there’ he offered. ‘I was feeling pissed at being screwed over by your bosses and needed someone to take it out on. It was you. I’m sorry. Friends?’

Drayton glanced across the car at him. He had been so deep in his own thoughts, that it had not occurred to him that Krupmeyer might think he was having an attack of the sulks. He smiled over at Krupmeyer.

‘OK. We owe you one anyway’ he admitted with a nod of the head and concentrated on his driving again. The streets gradually gave way to the sloping hills of Kent as they got out of the city. They were finally out of the rush hour jams. Drayton twisted his wrist off the steering wheel to glance at his watch. They would be at Cosgrave Hall within twenty minutes, early for the meeting with Walters. He eased off on the accelerator and relaxed.

‘What was it like in there?’ he asked Krupmeyer out of the blue. ‘With Canfield, I mean’ he added as an after thought.

‘Truly weird’ answered Krupmeyer, casting his mind back to the encounter. ‘I don’t think he’s altogether sane. It was like talking to someone in a trance ‑ no, that’s not right’ he said correcting himself. He searched around for a suitable way of describing Canfield’s manner.

‘It was like talking to someone at a party who’s not interested in you, know what I mean? You’re standing there, yammering like a dork and they’re looking around for someone more interesting. It was like he was waiting, or something.’

‘Waiting for what?’ asked Drayton.

‘Your guess is as good as mine’ replied Krupmeyer. ‘Like I said, I don’t think he’s all there any more.’

‘Do you think he’ll still try for Walters?’ asked Drayton.

‘You can bet the house on it’ replied Krupmeyer with emphasis, remembering Canfield’s words. This time there was going to be a reckoning.

© Pointman

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