The Barber Shop Quartet

The Barber Shop Quartet Part 1 - The Haircut

Clifton clutched his briefcase and looked around, the coast looked clear. He walked across the windswept Westminster Bridge on his way to Alexi’s - the best barber in town. Yes, there were barbers’ closer to the office and yes, there were places cheaper in Lambeth, but Clifton would only go to one place when it was time for his short back and sides. He looked around again; you could never be too careful.  His trained eyes scanned the others on the bridge; just normal people going about their normal work. The quarter bells chimed 12.45 and the sun glistened off Parliament’s windows, but it was the wind, not the architecture that took his breath away.
The obvious route to Shepherd Market was through the two parks, but Clifton never did the obvious. Today he’d go along to Buck House before heading across Green Park; he’d not been that way for a few months.
Alexi would be pleased to see him; he was a loyal customer, a friend and he always brought Alexi a present or two.
The door to the shop tinkled as Clifton walked in. He smiled; some things were reassuringly timeless. Alexi, as always, had a cigarette in his mouth with ash clinging to the tip; he was clipping, talking and smoking; scissors in the right hand, comb in the left; Radio 1 playing Abba’s Waterloo in the background. Alexi looked up and nodded at Clifton. Clifton returned the nod and looked around at the other customers waiting for their turn.
Despite Clifton’s best attempts at keeping hold of it, his smile vanished. He tried to call it back, but it was long gone; a grimace would have to do.
Clifton sat next to the other two men who had similar looks on their faces. He’d recognised them and they’d recognised him. Fardy-Russell fidgeted in his seat. He was in the same office at 100 Westminster Bridge Road, a member of Clifton’s club and a war hero. Henshall-Jones stared straight ahead; he was MI5’s greatest spy catcher and an absolute legend. Rumour had it he’d brought down the Berlin Ring on his own. Clifton concentrated on the barber. Jesus! Alexi was brushing hairs off the neck of Belanger, Clifton’s boss.
This was crazy, why were there four civil servants of the highest calibre in one small barber’s shop, two miles from base?
Were their links to Alexi the same as Clifton’s? Were they all bearing gifts? Or were they there for him, for Clifton? Maybe it was just purely a coincidence - Alexi was a good barber, but if it was coincidence, why hadn’t they spoken to each other? Why was the air so leaden with silence?
Clifton felt sweat form on his hands and his forehead. He wanted to say something but no words travelled from brain to mouth. The present for Alexi was burning a hole in his briefcase. He could see the other three faces in the mirrors. All of them were staring at him, scrutinising his face. Looking for clues.
He had options; he was last in the queue, when it was his turn, the others would be gone. Then he and Alexi could exchange gifts without anyone knowing. The other option was to leave, to mumble something about not having enough time and getting out of there. No, now he was here, leaving would look too suspicious. He had to stay. I’m just here for a haircut, he told himself.
“Lovely day,” he said, sounding calmer than he felt.
The two men seated next to him nodded. Alexi took the apron from Belanger’s neck and they discussed the price.
“In fact, it’s pretty mild,” Clifton just needed to speak, to keep the silence away, to stop his mind racing, but his colleagues preferred the peace and quiet, leaving him alone to his thoughts.
Belanger gone, it was Henshall-Jones was next into the chair and Alexi started snipping away. The faces of the three spies gave nothing away. Clifton looked at himself in the mirror checking his features were in neutral; not letting the panic in his heart show on his face.
Finally, Clifton was alone in the shop; he took in a deep breath of stale air. Alexi smiled at him and invited him to the seat. He could feel the clammy warmth of his colleagues’ bodies as Alexi put the apron on him. He’d made a decision.
“I don’t think I can pay you today,” he said.
Alexi understood. “No problem my friend, come back for a shave later in the week and settle your bill.”
Both men nodded their understanding.
The cool air hit him like a train. He walked through the narrow lanes of Mayfair unsure of what to do. He desperately needed to know if these men were friend or foe. Was the net closing in on him or did he have new friends in high places?
Pull yourself together man, get yourself back to work and act like everything is normal. So he retraced his steps, his mind elsewhere.
He sat behind his office desk; there was work to do, but it wasn’t being done. All he could see was that barbershop scene. Were they all in the same boat? Were they all wondering what was going on? He wanted to talk to them, but it was tricky, he couldn’t ask them straight out, he needed to wait, to bide his time.  He had to calm down, compose himself. He’d always known this day could come. A trip to the toilet might do the trick, he’d wash his hands, splash water on his face - freshen himself up. He walked down the stuffy corridor; there was Fardy-Russell, nice and smart with his new trim. Would he say something? They walked past each other in slow motion; Clifton avoided eye contact.
As Clifton got to the toilet, Belanger came out. Yesterday this would have been all so normal, but today it was oh so strange. Belanger ran his fingers through his newly cropped hair as if making a point. Should Clifton speak to his boss? Ask him what he was doing at the barbers? Or use the emergency code?  Their eyes met, Belanger holding Clifton’s gaze.  He tried to read his face but the older man gave nothing away.
“Thank you,” Clifton said taking the weight of the door. Belanger moved down the corridor. It seemed a sombre, executioner’s walk.
Clifton leant against the wall relieving himself, but the relief didn’t last long. He zipped up and turned around to see Henshall-Jones standing in front of him.
“You should never have gone to Alexi’s,” Henshall-Jones said.
Clifton noticed the gun in the spy-catcher’s left hand. Water dripped into the cistern of one of the toilets, the plop echoing around the room. He tried to compose himself.
“I needed a hair cut,” he said.
“Alexi was the best in the business,” Henshall-Jones nodded; Clifton noted the past tense. “But he’s been compromised," he paused. “He was arrested twenty minutes ago; they are bringing him here.” The two men stared at each other.
It was difficult to take in what H-J was saying. Why was he telling him this? Whose side was he on?
“We expect him to tell us everything, eventually. But he doesn’t need to. We’ve had the place bugged for months.”
That was not good news.
H-J was still giving nothing away.  He was impossible to read. The urinals flushed themselves breaking the silence.
“In one minute I’m going to turn my back, you will leave the toilet and calmly leave the building. You will then have exactly one hour before we launch a manhunt. Go home, get what you need and then disappear. Don’t leave London. When the coast is clear, contact K. He’ll tell you what to do. Understand?”
“Yes,” Clifton said. He understood the words all right but he didn’t understand the situation.
“And take this,” Henshall-Jones handed over his weapon. “You’ve got an hour. Go.”
The corridors felt smaller and darker. Freedom was a few steps away, but they were steps into the unknown.

The Cubicle
The door creaked as it closed and footsteps echoed down the corridor, slow and steady. Then the only sound was the drip of water into one of the cisterns; plop, plop, plop. 
Henshall-Jones had told the others he needed thirty minutes to deal with Clifton, thirty-five tops. They all knew he was guilty, but there were procedures to go through. When faced with Henshall-Jones suspects usually confessed but then, he had to decide if they would be better off alive or dead. They would stay alive if he thought they could be deployed as double agents, but if they were too flaky or too bolshie, then the only answer would be a bullet to the forehead. 
But with Clifton it was different. There was something about Clifton that told Henshall-Jones it would be better to have him on the run. 
He looked at his watch; he had plenty of time. He had to be back in Belanger’s office in thirty minutes; any longer and they’d come looking for him, any sooner, it would look suspicious. He went over to the urinal and relieved himself and then washed his hands. He then went into the cubicle and locked the door. He knew what he had to do, but he didn’t like it. He put the seat down and sat down. Water dripped into the cistern behind him. 
Would they believe his story? Would they believe that Clifton, a seven stone weakling, had overpowered the great spy-catcher Henshall-Jones? They had to believe it, and hopefully, his was the only version of events they would ever hear. But he had to make it believable, and that was the part he wasn’t looking forward to. 
He stood up and unlocked the door and knelt in front of the toilet bowl. He gripped it hard and then tried to head-butt the ceramic ridge. The first time he failed; it’s hard trying to hurt yourself. The second time he hit his head but not hard enough. The third time he did it; he threw his face at the toilet and knocked himself out. 
“H-J, H-J!” Someone slapped his face and tried to sit him up. “H-J, what happened? Where’s Clifton?” 
Henshall-Jones slowly came round blinking in the light. Fardy-Russell was just about to slap him again. 
“Where? What?” Henshall-Jones said. 
“Where’s Clifton?” Fardy-Russell barked again. 
“Give him a minute," Belanger said. "Let’s get him to my office, give him a brandy and we’ll find out what’s going on. Grab his arms.” 
Henshall-Jones felt himself being lifted up and carted out of the toilets. His head ached but he was glad Belanger had suggested brandy; that would sort him out. 
They slumped him into a seat and he heard the glug of liquid passing into a glass. The glass was placed in his hand, and he took a swig. 
“So what happened?” Fardy-Russell barked. Henshall-Jones looked at him. He was a Harrow boy, not to be trusted. 
“He swung at me, then smashed my head into the toilet, I passed out,” Henshall-Jones said. “Where’s my gun? Where’s my gun?” he added patting his pockets. 
“Go to see if the gun is in the toilet,” Belanger said. 
Fardy-Russell went out of the door, glancing back at Henshall-Jones as he did so. 
“Everything’s okay, old chap.” Belanger patted Henshall-Jones on the shoulder. H-J took another sip of brandy and stared at Belanger. What did that mean? Did Belanger believe him or did that mean he knew more? 
“No gun,” Fardy-Russell was back. 
“Okay,” Belanger said. “Put out an all-points bulletin and gets some cops over to his house. Let them know he’s armed. Let’s catch him ASAP.”
Henshall-Jones stole a glance at his watch. He’d promised Clifton an hour; he’d delivered fifty minutes. Belanger turned to H-J “let’s get the doc to check out that head then we’ll have a full debrief.” Henshall-Jones stood up and headed towards the door. “Oh, and tell the doc you slipped and fell eh?”
H-J nodded and left the office.
In the corridor, Fardy-Russell was waiting. Henshall Jones tried to walk past him but Fardy-Russell wouldn't let him go. “I don’t believe a word of it H-J; something smells rum. No one overpowers you. Especially not a fool like Clifton.” They stood nose to nose. They looked like a mirror image of each other, neither man blinked. 
Then Henshall-Jones smiled. 
“It doesn’t matter what you believe; I can have you eliminated in seconds,” he said. He pushed past the other man and headed for the sick bay. 
"Is that a threat?" Fardy-Russell yelled after him. 
"No, it's a promise," Henshall-Jones replied. 

The Office
Fardy -Russell went straight back into the office. 
”Sir, something doesn't add up,” he said.
Belanger looked at him over half-moon glasses. “It all seems reasonable to me,” he said and tapped his pipe. “Maybe we underestimated Clifton.”

“Balderdash!" Fardy-Russell said. 
Belanger gave him one of his stares.
“Sorry sir,” Fardy-Russell said. Belanger nodded to show his apology had been accepted. “It's just that no one overpowers Henshall-Jones and I can tell he’s hiding something.”

“Think very carefully about what you are saying Mr Fardy-Russell.” Belanger took some tobacco from his pouch and transferred it to his pipe. “You are accusing our top spy-catcher of helping a known spy to escape. That implies an awful lot of things.” Belanger put his pipe between his lips but didn't light it. “Do you have any proof?” 
Fardy-Russell shifted his weight. “No sir, just.”
“There're no justs. Bring me proof and I'll act, but I'm not chasing after MI5’s finest on a gut feeling. Now if that's all.”
Fardy-Russell shook his head, and stared at Belanger lighting his pipe. Everyone knew when the boss lit the tobacco it was time to go, but Fardy-Russell stayed where he was. 
"Is there anything else?" Belanger said.
Faddy-Russell wanted to say something but decided discretion was the better part of valour. He turned on his heel and headed for the door.
Why had Belanger been so dismissive? Was he in on this too? Was he part of it? If indeed there was an it to be part of and not just a figment of Fardy-Russell’s imagination. Bring me proof he'd said. That was permission to investigate, wasn't it? Fardy-Russell would get to the bottom of this and he'd start with Clifton’s desk.
“What on earth are you doing?” Fardy-Russell barked at Henshall-Jones when he saw him clearing Clifton's desk. “Aren't you meant to be at the debrief with Belanger.”
Henshall-Jones ignored the younger man.
“I said what are you doing?” Fardy-Russell put an arm on H-J’s shoulder and pulled him around to face him.
The two men stood toe to toe again.
“MI5 work. I’m trying to catch a spy.” Henshall-Jones said, scratching his nose. 
“One that you let go?”
“What are you saying?” Henshall-Jones roared.
Fardy-Russell wiped spittle off his face.
“I'm not saying anything, but I am thinking a lot of things,” he was angry now. He knew H-J had every right in the world to be clearing Clifton's desk and was annoyed at himself for not getting there first.
“You better stop thinking things, young man.” Henshall-Jones hissed. “Thinking is dangerous in this business.”
“I’m not scared of you,” Fardy-Russell said. He wanted to punch the smirk of the bastard’s face.

The Club 

Belanger thought about what Fardy-Russell had said. He had to admit that he had a point. It did seem incredulous that Clifton could overpower Henshall-Jones even if H-J was getting on a bit now. He sucked on his pipe and wondered what H-J was up to. Were MI5 running Clifton a double agent? Or was Clifton just an old school fag who H-J had taken pity on? One thing he was sure of was that H-J wasn't working for the Russians. That just wouldn't happen. But Fardy-Russel was right, he probably was up to something and that might be just as dangerous for Belanger. Of course Henshall-Jones might have been telling the truth. Clifton was a clever old fox even if he wasn't the strongest. Brains outwitting brawn, Belanger could believe that. Whatever it was it was in his interest to find out, not least so that he could put that Fardy-Russell back in his box; insubordination couldn't be tolerated.
“Glad you could join me Clive,” Belanger said, picking his pipe up. Henshall-Jones sat down in the leather chair opposite the MI6 man. 

“Always a pleasure James,” H-J said, catching the eye of the waiter and ordering two Brandies.

“How's the head?” Belanger asked.
“Just a scratch, old chum,” Henshall-Jones smiled.
“Nasty business.” Belanger looked up from filling his pipe.
“Do you think we'll catch him before he gets abroad?”

“My officers are working on it. We’ve got the ports and airports covered and a couple of safe houses under observation.”

“You do know” Belanger filled his pipe with tobacco, “that Fardy-Russell thinks there's something fishy going on?”

“Does he?” Henshall-Jones scratched his nose and waited for Belanger to say more.
The silence was broken by the waiter placing two generous brandies on the table.
“Anything else gentlemen,” the servant asked.
Belanger waved the man away, and looked at Henshall-Jones over his half moon glasses.
“So is he right Clive, is there something rotten about this.”

"That Fardy-Russell is too big for his boots." Henshall-Jones said. "You really should do something about him.”

“We're not here to talk about him. I want to know what you are up to?”

Henshall-Jones picked up his drink and swirled it in the glass. "How long have we known each other?” He asked.
Belanger thought for a moment “A long time,” Henshall-Jones continued. “And have I ever let you down?” He scratched his nose, took a swig of brandy and then put his glass back on the table. 

Belanger lit his pipe. He didn’t know what it was, but there was something about that response that Belanger didn't like; that he didn't like at all.


A rat the size of a small dog was looking straight at Clifton from no more than three feet away. He shivered in his doorway; the wind was finding its way through his trench coat and was seeping into his skin. Thank God the rain had stopped, but there were still large puddles dotted around the pavements. The rat took one last look, obviously decided he was no threat, and scampered away. Clifton hugged his knees closer to his chest and pulled the brim of his hat down over his eyes. A stray firework crackled in the night sky bringing brief pinks and golds to the grey before fizzling out and allowing darkness to return. Clifton closed his eyes; the hum of distant traffic reminding him London was a city that didn’t sleep.  He could feel his toenails against his shoes; that was a sure-fire sign that he was beyond tired, but sleep would not be an option; not tonight.  All he could do was rest up here for a bit, but it was best not to stay in one place too long; he had to keep moving.
He’d spent the afternoon in the Bethnal Green Washhouse; not a place he ever imagined himself in, but needs must. The man in the bath next to his nodded a greeting and exhaled a lungful of smoke. Clifton undressed shyly, and got into the warm water. He tried not to think about the germs or the grime; he just tried to enjoy the warmth of the water on his tired skin. There was music in the air; the women were washing their threadbare clothes whistling happy tunes; men were soaking in baths singing or humming or drumming their fingers drowning out the drone of the washing machines. A man came to the empty bath next to him.
“Bert,” he said and nodded to the smoker.
“Sid,” the smoker replied. No more words were spoken.
Did they look at him and wonder who he was? Maybe they did, but it felt like the kind of place where people left you alone, and, after a night on the streets, it was like a 5-star hotel.
So now he was washed and scrubbed but he’d decided not to shave; the beard added ten years. Maybe it would fool the public even if it wouldn’t fool the police. But he was regretting not using the razor now; the hair was beginning to itch around the nape of his neck. He tried not to scratch, but he kept finding his hand wandering to his chin. 
When he’d left the bathhouse he’d gone past his flat just out of curiosity. The place was swarming with police, two uniformed officers standing guard outside while plain-clothed detectives were going back and forth taking papers and clothes away for further investigation. A lone reporter stood outside being ignored by all and sundry. Clifton had gone there hoping this was all a false alarm, a silly game but there was no way he could go back home; this was serious now.
“And what are you doing out here sir?”
Clifton looked up to see a truncheon dangling from a belt in front of him. A copper was towering over him. He knew there would be an all points warning out, so it was a good guess that the copper was trying to work out where he’d seen this vagrant before.
 “Nowhere else to go,” Clifton said, trying to sound as working class as he could. The copper looked at him, taking in his face, taking in the strange accent.
 “Couldn’t get in the Sally?” the copper asked.
What on earth was the Sally? He looked blankly at the copper. The officer stared back like Clifton was some kind of fool.
 “Salvation Army. Just around the corner. They’ve got beds for you lot.” Clifton nearly protested; how dare the copper call him one of that lot? He stopped himself just in time, he was one of them now.  
“C’mon, I’ll take you,” the officer said leaning down and pulling Clifton up by his arm but Clifton resisted.
 “I’m okay,” he said, the thought of a warm bed was appealing but he was safer out here on the streets.
 “You can’t stay there sir. I have to move you on.” He yanked Clifton’s arm this time succeeding in lifting Clifton to his feet. There was a heavy clunk as metal met concrete. They both looked down to see the gun that had fallen from his pocket and bounced on the pavement. It was now lying on the ground in between them.  They stared at each other for long, slow seconds.
“What have we here sir?” Despite the sudden shift in circumstances, the copper was still extremely courteous.
Clifton hesitated. He kept eye-contact while he assessed his options. A car splashed past giving Clifton the opportunity to push the officer hard in the chest. The copper toppled, taken by surprise. Clifton grabbed the gun, snatched up his bag and ran. Behind him, he heard the police radio crackle to life and the policeman talking. He was flying now, through the deserted streets, splashing through puddles and hurdling bin bags. He was looking for an alleyway to duck down but there was nothing. He could hear sirens; they were calling his name, like a cat owner calling for her precious kitty, but he was not going to be taken in.
In front of him was an archway, an entrance to an old tenement building. He tried the gate. It was locked. Could he get over it? He looked around for other options; there were none. He hauled himself up. That was the easy part, now he had to scramble over and jump down. He took a deep breath. The sirens were getting louder. He had no choice; he closed his eyes and jumped. Like a cat, he landed on his feet.
He was in a car park surrounded on all four sides by dark flats. There was just one light on high above him. He ran across the courtyard and slipped down behind a car and held his breath.
Blue lights flashed around the dark courtyard and torch beam swept the place. He heard the gate being rattled and muffled voices. Clifton listened for signs that they were coming over the gate. More muffled voices, and then the blue lights moved away. He let out his breath and stretched out. It looked like he might be safe here until morning. Then he would try to get in touch with K again. He lay down on the wet concrete and tried to relax. He heard a noise. Had they come back for him?  He looked up to see a rat the size of a small dog looking straight at him from no more than three feet away.

The Street
Clifton looked at the scrap of paper in his hand and then at the street sign. This was definitely the right place, but it didn’t look promising, not promising at all. A grimy, suburban street that the streetlights struggled to illuminate; it could have been anywhere from Plymouth to Leeds.  A hedgehog scurried out from under a parked car and disappeared into the bushes. Clifton looked behind him to check no one was around and then continued peering down drives to see house numbers. An owl hooted somewhere in the distance and then in a beat another returned the call. 
Clifton was exhausted. It’d been three days since he’d last slept in his own bed, two days since his last hot meal. What he’d give for meat and two veg with a nice cup of tea. He longed for a hot shower and clean clothes. Was it really only yesterday he was in the washhouse? Most of all he wanted crisp, clean sheets and a soft downy pillow to sink into. 
The road was too quiet, too dark, was it a trap? Despite his tiredness, Clifton was on full alert; he might have been just a few steps from safety, but that didn’t mean he could let his guard down. K had told him not to knock the door if he thought there was anything suspicious.
The couple at number fifty-four would look after him; keep him safe until ‘the powers that be’ had figured out what to do with him. He checked his watch. Nine fifty-eight; he’d been told to arrive at ten exactly. He quickened his pace; he was only at twenty, still another sixteen houses to go. The wind rustled the trees and the owls exchanged calls again. Clifton’s shoulders ached and his heart sped. He was nearly there; he could almost taste the tea. 
“Good evening,” a figure emerged as if from nowhere.
It’s just a dog walker, Clifton told himself, it’s just a dog walker, but there was no dog to be seen. 
“Good evening,” he replied, trying to look as casual as he could. The man looked him up and down carefully but walked past, Clifton slowly let out his breath. He was at number forty-four now, just a few more houses, just twenty more steps. He checked over his shoulder; the non-dog walker hadn’t looked back; Clifton was in the clear. He checked his watch; it was time. 
Up ahead another man materialised, Clifton felt sweat drip off the backs of his knees. He instinctively looked around again to see the first man had turned and was retracing his steps. Clifton was the meat in the sandwich. 
He knew that this was it. It was over. He’d done his best, but now it was time to admit defeat. He walked on, ignoring the safe house. He wondered if it would be better to be shot or arrested. 
“Good evening,” the man said walking straight past Clifton. Clifton didn’t respond. 
“Good evening,” he heard the man say to the non-dog walker.
“Nice night,” came the reply. He watched them and understood. They looked around furtively and, deciding that Clifton was no threat, slipped into the bushes together. 
Clifton almost laughed at the absurdity of it all. How had it come to this? He felt a drop of rain land on his nose. It was time to get inside. He looked around one last time. The street was deserted - no dog walkers, no pleasure seekers. A hedgehog scurried out from the bushes and disappeared under a parked car. Clifton walked up the drive, rapped the door three times, paused and added another knock. The door inched open and Clifton disappeared into the safety of number fifty-four.

The Gun
Fardy-Russell barged into Henshall-Jones's office and was surprised to see the MI5 man pointing a gun at him. Instinctively he put his hands up in surrender. H-J's right hand was steady; his face passive. He was ready for the kill. Fardy-Russell heard the wall clock ticking what were potentially the last seconds of his life. He stared at Henshall-Jones trying to decipher if he was going to kill him. Then H-J laughed and lowered the gun.

“It's okay, I'm not going to shoot you,” he smiled at Fardy-Russell, “yet.”

“Not funny,” Fardy-Russell said.  “Did your search of Clifton's things turn anything up?”

“I don't see how that is any of your business.” Henshall-Jones sat back in his seat.
“And the sighting in East London?"

“Again, not your concern. You deal with Alexi, if you can, I'll worry about Clifton.”

“What are you up to Clive? Why didn’t your men catch Clifton while they had a chance?  I heard they had him cornered in Bethnal Green.”
“How the hell do you know that?” Henshall-Jones said.

Fardy-Russell watched for signs of worry on H-J's face. “Yet he still escaped, that must have been on your orders. ”

“Who told you this?” Henshall-Jones said.

“I have my sources,” Fardy-Russell replied, enjoying the slight power-shift. 

“Well your sources are wrong. Look Bernard, stop meddling in this. You're a good man, a good investigator, maybe too good. For your own sake let this go. Otherwise next time…” Henshall-Jones reached for his gun this time in his left hand. “I'll pull the damn trigger.” 

Fardy-Russell left the office but he wasn’t going to stop meddling. He’d get to the bottom of this if it killed him. He bought a box of cigarettes from the vendor across the street and smoked one as he waited.  As soon as Henshall-Jones came out of the building he dropped the butt, stamped on it and fell in behind him.

The Safe House
Clifton sat at the desk in the parlour and put his pen down. He took a sip of his brandy and thought about relighting his cigar. He'd been pleasantly surprised by the safe house. It hadn't looked promising from the outside but the front parlour resembled his club and Mr and Mrs Wilson were as good as gold. They mostly left him alone to write his memoirs, occasionally popping in to top up the brandy or empty the ashtray.
K was taking his time. Clifton knew they needed to let the dust settle; let the authorities think he'd fled the country; then movements would be easer. All he could do was lay low and keep himself busy by writing his version of events. He reflected for the umpteenth time on Henshall-Jones’s actions. He would be the last one that Clifton would have thought was working for the Russians, but how else could he explain what he did? Yes they went to the same school but old school ties didn't save you when treason was the crime and Henshall-Jones the spy-catcher. No, the only thing that made sense was that Henshall-Jones was batting for the opposition. 

“There’s someone here to see you, Mr Clifton.” Mrs Wilson said.
“Me? ” Clifton asked, he hadn’t had any visitors since arriving four nights ago.
“Yes, Mr Clifton. He says his name is K.”
Clifton sat up straight. “Well you better show him in then.”
Clifton didn’t know who he was expecting but it certainly wasn’t Henshall-Jones.
Henshall-Jones smiled. “Edward, good to see you.”
The two men shook hands warmly.
“Do you work for the Russians too?”
“God no old chap! You didn’t think that did you?”
“So why didn’t you shoot me? Why did you let me escape?”
“I’ve got plans for you old boy.”
“But you’re K?”
“Oh, no we intercepted him weeks ago.”
Clifton looked shocked.
“Listen here old boy, you’re in a bit of a pickle. You’ve been handing over secrets to Alexi and his Russian chums and that doesn’t look very good.”
Clifton bowed his head. It didn’t sound good either.  The doorbell rang but H-J continued. “But you’re small fry. I’ve got bigger fish to catch. I’ve been searching for a massive mole for the past two years and I’m close, but I can catch him with your help.”
“What do I need to do?”
The parlour door swung open, the gust of air causing the fire to dance.
“I’m sorry sir, I tired to keep him out but he had a gun,” Mrs Wilson said. They both looked around to see Fardy-Russell standing there.
“I knew it. I knew you were working for them.” Fardy-Russell said, and held his gun up.
Clifton looked on aghast as H-J whipped out a pistol and shot Fardy-Russell in the thigh. He fell to the ground gasping in pain.
“You shot him?” Clifton said.
Henshall-Jones ignored Clifton and turned to the stricken Fardy-Russell. “Silly boy, I told you not to get involved. But as you are here I supposed you can hear this.” Fardy-Russell was writing in pain.
“Be quiet man. Now where was I? Oh yes. I was just telling Edward here,” H-J said. “that the reason I let him escape was I needed his help.” HE turned back to Clifton. The Russians know you’ve escaped; they think you are on the run. They will help you get out of England and behind the iron curtain. When you are there, you will find out who this damn mole is and confirm my suspicions.”
“Are you sure there’s a mole,” Clifton asked. “Wouldn’t  have heard about it?”
“That’s the thing,” H-J continued. “He’s been run by the Czechs, not the Russians. They’re all the same side but it keeps us on our toes. But that’s why you’re perfect; you speak Czech.”
“I’m bleeding to death,” Fardy-Russell cried.
“Man-up man. The ambulance is on its way.” Henshall-Jones said.
Clifton looked at the man on the floor. “Shall I help him,” he said loosening his tie ready to make a tourniquet.
“If you must,’ H-J sighed.
“And if I do it? If I go to Czechoslovakia?” Clifton said, whilst tying the tie around the stricken man’s leg.
“All your crimes are forgotten.” H-J said, clicking his fingers.
“And you can get me out of there?”
“We can try.” That sounded ominous to Clifton, but it was the best offer he’d had all week. He didn’t need to think about it.
“I’m in,” he said. “But who do you think this mole is?” He asked.
The doorbell rang and two ambulance men came into the room.
“Go away,” barked Fardy-Russell, his desperation to hear the answer outweighing the pain. The ambulance men left the room, Henshall-Jones closed the door. He opened a file and showed both men a picture of Belanger.