In this Duncan James sequel to 'Motorbike Men', Russian agents are uncovered at the heart of one of the UK's most secret intelligence agencies. The spies escape before they can be arrested, and the investigation into how they managed to get away leads inevitably to a hunt for their controller who managed to tip them off. An action-packed tale, with a surprise ending, moves swiftly between England, Switzerland and the Russian capital itself.
DMITRI MAKIENKO - MISSING, PRESUMED ALIVE
Professor Jack Barclay had been wanted for years, but mostly by fellow scientists who sought to work with him in his increasingly successful research into a controllable form of nuclear fusion, seen as the ultimate solution to the world's energy crisis. He was leading the research work, with a small team, at their secret laboratory at Culham, in Oxfordshire.
The Russians, however, wanted Jack Barclay dead.
They had worked out that if he succeeded, as was becoming increasingly likely, the political power they wielded through their vast reserves of fossil fuels would be put at risk. They wanted the work stopped, and judged that the only way of achieving that was to kill him. The professor and his team were all unaware of this unwelcome attention, but some of Britain's commercial attach?s overseas, and elements of the intelligence fraternity, had already begun to pick up the unhealthy interest being shown in his work. Slowly, news of this focus on Barclay filtered upwards through the diplomatic and intelligence networks until it reached the higher echelons of the establishment in Whitehall.
It was at a meeting of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) that the issue was first discussed, albeit briefly. Sir Robin Algar, the Cabinet Secretary and Chairman of JIC, told the meeting that some leading questions were being asked in some quarters which could indicate more than a natural curiosity in the work of Barclay and his team
Sir Frederick Forsyth, Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, agreed that recent telegrams had suggested that a couple of governments overseas, including Russia, were taking rather more than a scientific interest in the work being pioneered in this country. The Home Office man, James Burgess, agreed. That meant that both MI6 and MI5 were hearing the same thing.
Algar told them all to check.
"I'd like to know at our next meeting if anything suggesting a threat is developing, so that we can react accordingly. Get the usual checks done by the Security Services, and I'd like your people, Len, to report anything they may have picked up." This was not only to Sir Len Watkins, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence but also to the Chief of Defence Intelligence Staff (DIS). "We will discuss it again when next we meet," he said, and adjourned the meeting.
The next meeting turned out to be quite interesting.
Forsyth, the Foreign Office man, summed up.
"There are two rival camps here, so I believe. My Intelligence people are indicating that there are those who are desperately head-hunting Professor Barclay, to get him to work for them rather than us, and there are others - or at least one other, I should say- who simply want him removed from the scene. Perhaps permanently."
"I agree," said Algar. "I know for a fact that the Americans have offered Barclay very attractive terms indeed to work for them at the National Ignition Facility based at the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in California. Barclay seems interested, I'm told, but so far has decided to stay put."
"What about this apparent threat to remove him from the scene?" asked Watkins.
"According to our information," said the Head of SIS, "the Russians at least want him out of the way. There seem to be two reasons for this, but the main one is to slow down the development of an alternative energy source until their own vast reserves of oil and gas are nearing depletion, and then to capture the new market to themselves. In particular, they are keen that he doesn't work for the Americans."
"So are we," agreed Algar, "but for different reasons."
"So how do we assess the threat?" asked Watkins.
"Ignoring the danger to our own national interests for the moment, Barclay himself seems to face a real risk of either kidnap or assassination," said Algar. "My view is that Section 11 should be tasked to keep a close eye on the man."
Which was why Section 11 had been charged with providing protection for Barclay.
It's what they did.
From their unobtrusive and rather down-at-heel Headquarters above a row of shops in the Clerkenwell area of London, quietly and secretly S.11 had a worldwide remit to guard high value UK citizens, when they were at maximum risk, and, if necessary, to 'eliminate' any serious threat to their safety. They were all individuals who, because of their exceptional importance to the country, were naturally also of interest to the country's enemies.
The subjects of Section 11's attention rarely knew anything about it, or even noticed the constant surveillance and protection that was being devoted to them.
Barclay certainly had no idea.
Run jointly by MI5 and MI6, Section 11 (5+6) was a small, very top-secret unit, which had so far managed to remain top secret. They went out of their way to remain - well, out of the way. It was one of those organisations that reported directly to Downing Street. It wasn't concerned with royalty or senior ministers or foreign dignitaries. The Royalty and Diplomatic Protection Unit, run by the Metropolitan Police from Scotland Yard, looked after them. Section 11 looked after other, less obvious but none the less high value targets.
At the sharp-end of Section 11 was a flexible force of specially trained field officers, mostly drawn from military special forces and police special branch, but with a few from the security services. There was no telling how many might be needed at any one time, or where they might be deployed, so there was an 'on call' reserve pool available at 'no notice' if required. Although when out in the field they normally worked in pairs, they were otherwise on their own with little or no immediate back up or support. Their first priority, for which they were specially trained, was to remain invisible, un-noticed.
They were very special men and women. Most were fluent in at least two languages other than their native tongue; they were all parachute trained, survival specialists and sniper marksmen. And they were mostly armed. They were also experts in pursuit driving, and had available a range of vehicles in the garage immediately below the headquarters building, including a selection of motorbikes from 50cc Vesper scooters to BMW R1159s and Honda CBR 900s. Most of the vehicles had been modified in some way. The mechanics that worked on them were particularly proud of an old Morris Minor, which although sounding as if it needed a new exhaust, could actually do nearly a ton. But the motorbikes were the most popular with the agents. Easy to use in traffic, not normally out of place anywhere, and ideal for two people.
The staff who were based in the rather gloomy Headquarters did all the things that get done in any other head office, as well as quite a few other things that don't. But it was a small and tightly knit community, and the operatives in the field had been trained to be largely self-supporting, so when they did get on to HQ, it was usually important enough for people to take notice and do something. In a hurry. There were always people there, at night and at weekends, and any one of them could summon help from on-call staff at home, who reacted immediately, whatever they were doing.
At the top of this shabby looking but extremely efficient organisation, was the Head of Section, retired Colonel Bill Clayton. He was known simply as 'S', in the same way that the Director General of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6 as most people called it, was known as 'C', and the head of MI5 was known as 'M'. 'S' had a deputy, Commander Nick Marsden of the Special Boat Service, and one or other of them was always available. And that meant 'always': 24/7, as the idiom had it. The hierarchy was really quite small for an organisation that had a worldwide remit, and they were all widely experienced members of the intelligence community. Their job now was not so much to gather intelligence, or even interpret it, but rather to act upon it.
The fact was that Bill Clayton and his small but highly professional team were finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with Barclay, who worked excessively long hours and travelled a lot. He had a flat in London, as well as one at Harwell, near the Culham laboratory, he often visited colleagues in France and America, gave lectures and delivered learned papers, and, more recently, had even visited The Gulf for talks with the UAE Government. Looking after Barclay was proving very labour intensive. Even the people in Section 11 had trouble keeping up, and they were the best you could find in the intelligence world.
To make things worse, the Top Secret agency was itself responsible for creating some of the extra workload, as they also had to keep an eye on the ex-Head of Section, Alan Jarvis. The Russians had contacted him for some reason, and until they knew the reason, he also had to be watched, like a hawk.
Jarvis had virtually been sacked from leading Section 11, and had a chip on his shoulder. He also had an illegitimate son, who the Russians had threatened to kidnap. All this meant that S.11 needed new recruits who Jarvis wouldn't recognise from his time as 'S'.
Bill Clayton was lucky enough to be on good terms with the Head of Defence Intelligence at the Defence Ministry, who immediately recognised the problem.
As he put it, "You could be in deep shit old man, d'you know that?"
But he had just the man to help out.
"My best chap", he said, "Special Forces, Staff Sergeant, tough as old boots and more secure than the Bank of England's vault. No family ties, happy to work all hours, and itching to get back into the field. I think he's just the man you want."
That's how General Pearson-Jones had described him to Bill Clayton.
"I'll tell him about you straight away. He's already aware of Section 11, of course. He can be with you later this afternoon. I'll send his personal record file over by messenger immediately, and send him over on the bus a bit later."
"Why can't he bring his Service record with him?"
"Because he'd read the bloody thing, that's why! He's like that."
"What's his name, by the way?"
"Miller. 'Dusty' Miller. Your good lady wife Catherine is bound to know him; they served together in Iraq."
"Don't mention it. And good luck. You're probably going to need it."
Dusty Miller did a few checks of his own before he went to Clerkenwell that afternoon. He believed in knowing as much as possible about what he was getting involved in and the people he would be working with before he got involved. 'Rule one', he called it.