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Into the Shadows

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Into the Shadows

‘But there’s a hundred miles of tunnel down there on a dozen different levels. You’re gonna need some sort of three-dimensional map to find your way around. Tell you what – you find a proper route – maybe I’ll go down there with you,’ Jedburgh declared. He had grown determined over the past few weeks to let the world know what Emma Craven had found going on at Northmoor, to make people see what it was that the nuclear age meant to their future. Even to find some justice for Emma’s murderers. It had become personal as few things did these days; not just CIA business.

‘That’s what I hoped you’d say.’ Ron Craven sat by Jedburgh on the sofa, shoulder to shoulder. He sank comfortably down, bemusedly watching Jedburgh’s tape of Come Dancing.

‘Nobody dances like the British,’ Jedburgh said. ‘They deserved the Falklands.’ He reached for the bottles, poured Craven more vodka, himself more scotch. Then he sat back, placing the enormous bowl of popcorn in Craven’s lap for easy access. ‘Don’t you watch this show?’

‘Intelligent people everywhere go out of their way to avoid it.’

‘No appreciation of the finer things in life, that’s your trouble, Craven.’

In another room of the luxurious apartment, the wailing continued unabated, punctuating the passionless swirl of the dance music. Jedburgh ignored the grieving, seeming to have forgotten the fact that he’d had to leave one of his colleagues to die alone in a country where he didn’t belong.

Craven relaxed for the first time in weeks. It wasn’t that his outrage at Emma’s death had abated, not at all. But he was at last getting closer to the heart of the matter, with Jedburgh beside him all the way; it seemed that, for the present at least, the CIA’s agenda coincided with Craven’s own. And Emma had returned to him now that he’d found some sort of balance, made some sort of progress. She spoke to him at every turn with her usual wry affection, seemed proud of what he was doing, pushed him to see things her way with growing success. Craven idly wondered what he would have done differently if he’d discovered all these secrets about his only daughter and Northmoor and all the rest while she was still alive.

‘Are you sure you’re all right?’ Jedburgh asked after a while, pausing in his enjoyment of life for one sceptical moment. ‘I hear you checked yourself out of that hospital.’

‘Of course I’m all right.’ But Craven gave him a smile that belied the exasperation. They both turned back to the television, to the controlled and contrived dancing. ‘And if Pendleton says anything about trees, ignore him.’

‘You should get some sleep.’

Jedburgh turned from the window, already too used to Craven to be startled by his quiet approach. They were in Craven’s house, in Craven’s bedroom. Jedburgh liked the place, the comfort of it, the clutter of the old and the ordinary and the personal. The home of a long-widowed English cop and his growing, precious, precocious daughter. ‘You have a few more stars here in Yorkshire than you do in London,’ Jedburgh said.

‘But less than you do in Texas, I suppose,’ came the dryly amused observation.

‘Yes, sir, more of everything in Texas,’ Jedburgh agreed with his rich chuckle, as he was expected to. ‘And it’s all bigger and better, too.’

Craven came to stand by his side to stare out at the night sky. It was the first clear night they’d had for days and, looking to the south, he saw it wouldn’t last. The clouds were even now gathering where the Earth’s surface curved away from them. Craven cast an eye at Jedburgh’s sturdy frame, not wanting to halt the pointless conversation. ‘Bigger, anyway,’ he remarked.

Jedburgh met his glance, face as usual glowing with frank good humour. Craven stood beside him, slim in his pyjamas and worn old dressing gown, his face gaunt and deceptively passive. It must have been after midnight, but they were both too aware of what they’d be doing the following morning to have much chance of relaxing now.

‘Godbolt’s asleep?’ Jedburgh asked.

‘Sleeping bag on the dining room floor.’

‘Wouldn’t even use the lounge suite?’

‘What does a Yorkshire miner want with cushions?’

‘So the old skin-and-bones caver gets the floor and the fully-padded intelligence agent gets your bed?’

‘Intelligence agent?’ Craven echoed with mock dismay. ‘I thought you were an energy attaché with the embassy.’

Jedburgh cast him an amused look. ‘Get out of here.’

Serious again, Craven shrugged. ‘I’ll sleep in Emma’s room.’

Groaning, Jedburgh said, ‘You’ll be up talking with her all night like some damn kids’ slumber party. And you tell me to get some sleep.’

A moment of silence stretched as Craven reflected that they were simply following in Emma’s footsteps, that she had done all this not three months ago. ‘I can’t remember that night before she went down the mine,’ he said, pensive. ‘It must have been an evening like any other evening. I wonder what she could have been thinking.’

‘Much the same as you, I imagine.’

‘You say she planned the whole thing.’ Craven shook his head, dumbfounded anew at all the simplicities and complexities, the gentleness and the strength that had been his daughter. He had known her ideals, her passion, had enjoyed endlessly debating right and wrong with her, yet he had had no idea of what she was capable of doing, of what actions she deemed necessary.

‘The kid was one gutsy fighter, and had a good cause to believe in,’ Jedburgh agreed. Despite all his earnest attempts to make Craven see that his beloved Emma had been a terrorist, Jedburgh had found plenty to admire in her. He said now, sly and amused, ‘I’ll bet she was running high that evening.’

‘She would have had the sense to be scared,’ the man protested.

‘You’re scared, Craven?’

‘Wary,’ he allowed, shrugging. Too much else was at stake for Craven to worry overly for himself. Not that either of them knew what they would find tomorrow along with the plutonium, or knew how Northmoor and its inhabitants would greet their guests. Ultimate force, that’s what he’d warned Emma she’d be met with, back when he’d had no idea she would indeed find a way, follow Godbolt down the mines with five of her GAIA friends. And when he and Jedburgh had the proof of what they all knew was happening down there, what would the next move be in this mad game? How would the other players react to the effrontery of the two pawns when they emerged? For Craven planned to get through this alive; he would not fail Emma this time, though the chances weighed heavily against him.

‘Me, I’m flying,’ the American was saying cheerfully. ‘Always like this before a mission. It’s no good telling me I should sleep, given my present state.’

‘Nevertheless…’ Craven smiled and turned to go. ‘I’ll wake you early.’

‘What I’d normally be doing right now,’ Jedburgh continued as if Craven hadn’t spoken, ‘is finding a willing woman, and a comfortable bed, and…’ He proceeded to relate, in happy detail, exactly what he would have done with such a companion. ‘Is this turning you on, Craven?’ he asked at last.

‘Yes, sir,’ was the flat reply.

Jedburgh laughed. He’d always enjoyed the man’s wry directness, his honesty, even his dry seriousness, right from when he’d first seen Craven wading through the crap of an interview on the BBC. Harcourt, who was more obscure than even British Intelligence was wont to be, had asked Jedburgh to show Craven the CIA’s file on Northmoor, the file that asked how on earth Craven could not have known what his daughter had been planning. After seeing the television interview, Jedburgh had called him, told Craven to come visit though it was after eleven at night. And they had sat in the only light in the empty restaurant, facing each other between Jedburgh’s two drunk and snoring colleagues, and the sober Craven had sung with him. It was the time of the preacher, In the year of oh-one… Jedburgh had been close to spellbound by the quiet voice, the grey-blue gaze holding his, the words somehow significant, the tune relentless and involving. ‘Good,’ Jedburgh said now. ‘I think a little trans-Atlantic cooperation is in order.’

‘Do you?’

‘Sure.’ Jedburgh turned to face Craven, reached to loosen the dressing gown, placing his right hand against Craven’s half-hearted engorgement. ‘A little mutual satisfaction.’

‘Just what do you have in mind?’ But, despite the suspicious words, Craven stayed still. As Jedburgh’s accommodating palm began to gently rub at him, his erection strengthened.

‘You haven’t forgotten what your right hand is for, have you?’ Jedburgh asked.

‘I haven’t forgotten,’ Craven said. Bleak nights in this bed he now stood beside, creating his own lonely warmth. And Emma, perhaps, seeking the same comfort in her room. They were not, could not be, everything to each other after all. Craven tried to banish thoughts of Emma loving the ghoulish Terry Shields. It was a physical thing, the young man had said in blunt explanation to her bereaved father. He shuddered.

‘Hey,’ Jedburgh complained softly. ‘A friend’s right hand instead of your own? Is it such a big deal?’

‘No, sir.’ And still he did not move.

Sighing in exasperation, Jedburgh grabbed Craven’s hand and brought it to answer his own needs. ‘A little enthusiasm wouldn’t go astray, Craven.’

Obediently, Craven began matching Jedburgh’s moves, following the slow strokes in perfect time. It was not what he’d ever expected to be doing: tossing off and being tossed off by a CIA agent in his own bedroom the night before Godbolt of all people led them in a raid on a plutonium plant… But humanity, although always complicated by crime and sordid intrigue, had become strange and unfriendly as well over the past few weeks. This man, on balance, could not be the worst of it.

Jedburgh let out a long breath, crooked his free arm around Craven’s neck to draw him closer. Bending to lean his forehead against Craven’s shoulder, he set the tempo faster, nerves singing in weird excitement. Imagine an Englishman, a provincial cop letting him do this. The scenario would enliven many a future dull, private moment, he was sure. Smoothly, his fingers slipped through the fly of Craven’s pyjamas, and Craven’s hand followed suit, unzipping Jedburgh’s trousers and pushing them apart. Then the careful, precise fingers were skimming his hard hungry flesh, varying pressure and rhythm as Jedburgh silently dictated.

The speed of it surprised Jedburgh. Not that he’d planned on stringing this out, allowing Craven time for doubts. But after only moments, Jedburgh let out a breathless chuckle as he felt orgasm threaten. Now it was Craven who took the initiative, who encouraged the end with firm, confident caresses.

Their joint release was a bittersweet, panting completeness. Jedburgh looked up after a moment’s stillness to see Craven’s face; the eyes closed, the brow lifted on an indrawn breath. Then the lips parted, and Craven looked at him, expression grave.

Jedburgh beamed happily, disentangled his hand from flesh and cloth. Even now, Craven copied his every move. They each sat, then lay back across the bed, the barest touch of shoulder to shoulder. For once the American found himself with nothing to say.

Craven broke the easy silence. ‘Emma always said I was obsessed with sex,’ he commented. ‘Though I think this would have surprised her.’

‘I don’t think much would have surprised that kid,’ Jedburgh said.

Glancing over, Craven saw Emma standing at the foot of the bed, hand on her hip, amusement on her face. He smiled, and essayed a shrug.

‘Chalk it up to male bonding, Daddy,’ was her mock sage advice.

Craven’s smile widened, and he turned to Jedburgh. ‘Are you going to get some sleep now?’

‘Just possibly, Craven.’ But the man seemed content and relaxed. As Craven stood and rearranged his pyjamas, Jedburgh chuckled. ‘Then again, it is highly probable that I am already asleep and dreaming.’

Craven left Jedburgh sitting replete at the table, and took his glass of wine to browse around the fallout shelter. He had expected to solve mysteries within the depths of Northmoor, but not to find a forgotten curio. The shelter was functional only in its location and its profuseness; more like a buried museum than anything, preserving bits and pieces of humanity for the lonely enjoyment of whoever survived a nuclear war. It had apparently been built in 1962 – and if anyone had visited since, there was no sign of it. Craven absently picked up and replaced a book of Shakespeare, a jewellery box, a round pewter teapot. Examined a display case of staked butterflies, a painting by Delacroix, a world globe. Everything over twenty years old and untouched below a fine patina of dust. A child’s nursery, a recluse’s haven.

The music stopped, and there was silence for a while. Then the sad beautiful strains of a Mozart piece for woodwind crept through the dark rooms.

Jedburgh walked past a fascinated Craven, another bottle of wine in hand, more interested in the provisions from Harrods. ‘Some crazy place,’ he said.

The timelessness of it was seductive. Craven wandered on into the next cluttered room, following his companion. ‘All the creature comforts,’ Craven observed.

‘Couldn’t have arranged it better myself,’ Jedburgh said, sitting propped up happily on the pillows of a double bed. He poured himself more wine, beckoned Craven over to fill his glass as well. ‘Come sit here. Take a load off ’em.’

Craven let himself lie back on the bed beside the American, eyes still roving around the room’s contents. He wondered what was in the wardrobe – he assumed the finest, most impeccable evening suits – but was too comfortable to get up and find out. When he felt a hand warm and heavy on his stomach, Craven looked up to see Jedburgh leaning over him. ‘What do you want?’ Craven asked.

‘Dessert was to be announced,’ Jedburgh reminded him.

‘So it was.’

‘What better to follow lobster omelette and the finest wines?’

‘Coffee,’ Craven suggested blandly.

‘Clemmy’s been looking after you too well, Craven. I knew I shouldn’t have introduced you.’ Jedburgh sighed, lying back again. ‘One glass of champagne, and I always want another,’ he murmured regretfully.

Silent, Craven contemplated the cold absence of Jedburgh’s hand on him. Turned to look at the man lying there, sleek and strong in his uniform. Jedburgh, who usually demanded, and who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Jedburgh, who, along with a Texan’s jovial excessiveness, had a taste for the finer things in life. ‘What do you have in mind?’ Craven asked.

‘Come here.’

Jedburgh drew the man close, careful not to let the dry English cop’s reluctance tum into denial. He would have liked to meet Craven’s mouth with his own, but knew not to. Instead he initiated the same game as the night before, different only in the clumsy closeness of their bodies on the bed.

Again, it was over quickly. Jedburgh buried his face between Craven’s shoulder and the dusty pillows, tried to remain still through the surprisingly potent climax. After a moment, his faltering hand remembered the right rhythm, and he chased Craven to the edge, let him spill over. He was rewarded by a gasp and the clutch of the man’s hands.

There was silence then, as even the Mozart serenade completed. The pair lay close by each other, not quite embracing, uncomfortable but unwilling for various reasons to move.

Craven stirred first, and climbed wearily to his feet. ‘Let’s get a move on.’

‘There’s a pot of coffee waiting, cigars…’

‘We’ve wasted enough time.’

‘That hot cell of your daughter’s isn’t going anywhere.’

Walking out of the room, heading for their discarded packs and jackets and gear, Craven sighed. None of this was what he’d ever expected to be involved with. He’d once had a place in life, he’d known where he was going. He’d been respected. ‘What am I doing here, Emma?’ he asked the musty air, not knowing how to express his dissatisfaction.

‘You’re finishing what I started,’ she said.

‘Harcourt sanctioned it,’ he said bitterly. ‘He knew I was coming down anyway. They’re using me, like they used you.’

‘I know, Dad. All that matters is that you’re here.’

Craven laughed, an angry sound. ‘What’s he doing here?’

‘You need him. He’s a friend.’

‘I don’t know him!’

‘No, you don’t. But to a certain point you can trust him.’

‘Are you sure about that?’

There was no reply. The air was empty where Emma had been.

Craven sat at the table as Jedburgh walked in. He was restless to be going, but he didn’t complain when the American poured them each coffee, picked himself out a cigar. ‘They know we’re down here, don’t they?’ Craven asked, calm despite his frustration and helplessness.

‘Yeah,’ was the easy answer.

‘Who told them?’

Jedburgh shrugged. ‘Could have been anybody.’

‘What exactly were your orders?’ Craven insisted, determined to discover at least some measure of the truth.