Author: Batteredpen PM
Post 10.6. Harry has returned to the Grid trying to cope with the death of Ruth. Then his personal life again intrudes ...can he cope with yet more potential loss? H/R shippers don't hate me. Should have added Kudos has the character copyright.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Drama - Harry P. - Chapters: 34 - Words: 165,647 - Reviews: 287 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 21 - Updated: 06-19-13 - Published: 04-23-12 - id: 8052749
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Thanks to all those who read and even more thanks to those who reviewed.
Back to Catherine's Flat. Approx 6.30pm
At Jane's announcement an involuntary gasp escaped the assembled spooks. Harry was the first to recover from the shock as he seized the proffered card from a dazed and trembling Jane. Turning it over in his hand he noticed, as he would have expected, that it was adorned with a first class stamp and a London postmark. Jane's address and the message were handwritten, from the appearance of the writing it seemed that it had been scrawled in haste. A chance afterthought perhaps? Harry squinted slightly in his attempt to decipher the words. As he read them aloud to the equally stunned audience he wasn't sure that they made sense.
Dear Mum, Looking forward to seeing you in a couple of days, if I'm not around when you arrive Mr Snuggles has a message for you and Dad. Love Catherine.
Calum was the next to emerge from a stunned state as he ventured the obvious query. "Who exactly is Mr Snuggles – the Mr Man who ran away?"
Watching Jane shudder Erin was inclined to take Calum to task for inappropriate frivolity but was prevented by Harry commenting with touch of reproof: "Not quite how I would have phrased the question Calum but it needed asking." Turning to Jane he saw her biting her lip in an attempt to hold back the tears. "Please Jane – any suggestions as to the identity of Mr Snuggles."
Having struggled to conquer her own emotions Jane wondered how Harry was going to react to her reply. She was aware that the work persona he adopted had given rise to the popular belief that the Arctic wastes would melt more readily than the heart of Sir Harry Pearce, she'd encountered the permafrost herself on more than one occasion since their divorce, but she had also known a different Harry, the glimmers of whom had briefly surfaced during the past few hours, the Harry who in all matters pertaining to his daughter made a marshmallow look as tough as girder. Graham's accusations that Catherine was a Daddy's girl had been well founded. Taking a deep breath she answered him.
"Mr Snuggles was a present from you."
Harry's expression shifted from puzzled to dumbfounded. When he failed to respond Jane, with a sigh, expounded further.
"Remember when she was eight, the time you took both children on holiday for a week? Graham came back with a broken leg and Catherine with a teddy bear." Even at the remove of years her eyes glowed with annoyance at that memory.
Harry recalled the week well. For the first time since he and Jane had split up he'd had the children to himself. Aided by the gorgeously sunny weather, so rarely experienced in an English summer, he'd been relaxed and happy, able to give the children his full attention as they all scampered along the beach, buried each other in the sand, scoffed their own body weight in ice creams. During that all too brief time he'd fooled himself that despite the divorce he'd still remain a regular fixture in their lives; that he'd be able to maintain the hands on relationship he so desperately wanted. Then on the final day Graham had decided to show off and demonstrate how well he could climb a tree. Unfortunately at five years old his assessment of his skill had been overly optimistic, flushed with excitement he'd pressed his full weight on a rotten branch and his impersonation of Tarzan had ended with his being sent tumbling to the ground in a flurry of leaves and broken twigs, collecting a mild concussion and a snapped femur along the way. The final few hours of their holiday had been spent not in having fun scrambling amidst rock pools and sea cut caves but in the subdued surroundings of the local A&E unit. Awaiting the return of Graham from the plaster room Harry, in an attempt to keep Catherine amused, had taken her into the hospital shop where she'd fallen in love with a small furry brown teddy bear. Wanting to cheer her up Harry had bought it for her. Until Jane's reminder his memory of that purchase had been banished, blotted out by Jane's reaction when she'd caught sight of Graham's holiday souvenir. 'I knew you couldn't be trusted with a pet hamster, let alone my children. Other women get potted plants, I get a potted child.' Faced with that opening statement he'd shut his eyes, closed his mouth and thought of England while the subsequent tirade raged over him.
He still didn't quite see the connection between that week and the postcard. With a sharpness that reflected his worry he snapped. "Jane could you avoid referring to all our yesterdays in vague terms and be more specific?"
"Yes well I can see why you don't want that particular yesterday recalled. The teddy bear, Catherine called it Mr Snuggles, she still has it. He's a bit threadbare and been restuffed a couple of times but she's always refused to part with him. I noticed him sitting on her bed today."
Harry swivelled his entire body round, ostensibly to read the card again under a better light, but in reality to hide the sudden quivering of his chin. Over all those years, when Catherine had hated him for ordering Tom Quinn to drug and drag her out of Iran, interfering with her freedom of choice she and Jane had called it, when she'd loathed him to the point of telling Danny Hunter that her father was dead, she'd clung onto that teddy bear. A lingering memory of happy times before their increasing estrangement or a symbol that deep down she'd hoped for an eventual reconciliation even while she rejected his efforts at contact? They had come a long way since those days of mutual silence and now, judging from the scribbled postcard, she was relying upon him to ride to her rescue. Of course he would. From the moment Jane had announced she was pregnant he'd vowed to be a good father. He'd been unable to keep that promise. He had failed his daughter in so often and in so many ways, some avoidable, such as his foolishness in destroying his marriage, some not, such as the demands of his job combined with the machinations of Jane and Robin. All of which had simply made him the more determined to not to let her down now when she needed him.
Features firmly concreted to impassive he turned back to address his team.
"This postcard tells us two things. Firstly Catherine thought she was at some risk and secondly that it came from someone who could trace and or hack into mobile phones. She knew Jane was due to visit so she sent it as a precaution."
Jane was privately heaving a sigh of gratitude that Harry had, with his customary arrogance, overridden her objections when insisting that she returned home to collect her clothes. Without that unscheduled intervention the clue on the doormat would have fallen into the hands of either the CIA or Robin and been lost to them forever. The CIA would have stolen it, Robin having seen the oblique reference to Harry would, without hesitation, have destroyed it. If her relief showed in her face Harry, the usually all seeing, hadn't noticed. Turning the card over and over in his hands as if he was reluctant to part with something handled so recently by their daughter he seemed trapped in a trance like state as he considered their options. No one dared interrupt his reverie by speaking but when Erin gave a gentle wriggle, that may have an eagerness to move forward, the action must have registered with Harry.
Recalled to his surroundings he decided his most immediate priority was to get his hands on Mr Snuggles. Placing the card gently on the table he began to issue his instructions.
"Dimitri we need to retrieve that teddy bear. Ring whoever is on watch duty and let them know that we're on our way. Erin and Calum you have your tasks, Jane I've pulled out some basic details about the Reception which I suggest you look at, Dimitri will give you more Intel when we return."
Recognising that speed was essential Dimitri disappeared to obey orders. Harry, desperate to set off, was less than pleased when the others failed to follow his example. Most individuals would have quailed under the gaze Harry was casting in their direction. It was a clear directive that they should absent themselves. Unfortunately for Harry they were all to some extent immune, Jane had rarely been intimidated by his thunderous expressions while Calum and Erin had not survived this long as members of Harry's senior team without developing an invisible Teflon overcoat. While none of them were impervious to the hints he was throwing out they all had something to say and so stood their ground in the face of Harry's bristling impatience.
Calum opted to get in first before Harry exploded. "Harry, is Malcolm taking over Tariq's old desk – I believe it was originally his."
Grateful as Harry was for an enquiry that did not revolve around his family affairs he was slightly irritated at the waste of time as he answered harshly, "Yes, what about it?"
The tone was ominous but achieved its intent of making Calum decide to be quick. "As I can't do much until the various checks finish running I thought I'd set up the computer with the updated software and prepare some information to get Malcolm up to speed." He suddenly realised that he might be implying that Malcolm was a useless geriatric and hastened on," not that I'm suggesting..."
Harry completed the sentence for him, "That Malcolm is out of date. Thank you Calum. I'm sure he'll appreciate your thoughtfulness, although knowing Malcolm he's probably more up to speed than any of us can guess at."
Calum gave an appreciative grin, "I take it I don't ask how." He saw an answering twinkle in Harry's eyes and decided to emulate Dimitri and melt away before Erin could voice whatever objections were lingering on the tip of her tongue, thankful as he did so that the age of chivalry had long since been trumped by the age of equality.
As Calum departed leaving the two women to tough it out he heard Harry rasp, "And then there were two." Before Erin could open her mouth he added, "Don't say it Erin, I'll be with Dimitri and I'm taking a gun."
Erin didn't get the chance to dispute as Jane stood up saying, "I'm coming with you." Harry, thoroughly distracted from Erin replied very positively, 'No you are not." Confronted by the Grid version of the monstrous regiment of women pinning him to the spot with blazing eyes and preparing to argue until dawn Harry's inner John Knox began roaring for release, giving him a sudden insight into the possibility that the Scottish divine was not the misogynist depicted in the history books but instead a much misunderstood man who had finally been pushed beyond his tolerance limit by endless disputes with feisty females.
Harry didn't have time to write a politically incorrect pamphlet promulgating this controversial theory, he had to rely on persuasion, otherwise Jane was quite capable of storming off the Grid and pursuing the spooks in a taxi, with dire consequences for her safety and their cover. "Jane, I know what the bear looks like and you're dropping with exhaustion. Please, I want you to be safe and you need to rest."
"Huh just like you are. Harry get your head around the fact that I'm not prepared to sit around being as useless a Christmas decoration in high summer."
"Given how early Christmas arrives these days you could have chosen a better simile. The answer is still no."
Jane recognised the finality in his voice but wasn't about to give in. Her intention to argue was halted by Erin's voice cutting into the momentary pause. "Actually Jane that's roughly what I wanted to talk to Harry about." Dragged away from their private quarrel both turned to stare at her. Harry indicated that she was to continue with one word. "Well?"
"Harry you know it's standard procedure to check with family and friends."
Harry's anxiety to get off the Grid and into Catherine's flat was beginning to exceed his courtesy. "Erin I wrote most of the bloody procedures, get on with it."
"Well we don't have Catherine's phone but you did bring back her address book and ...I wondered if it would be a job for Jane. She'd be the best person to do the concerned mother act." Erin winced as she realised the tactless inference. "I meant that because Jane is concerned and is Catherine's mother she'll sound convincing with the bonus that she knows who's family, who might be a friend, etcetera." 'And it will keep her out of our hair and avoid us being privy to any more embarrassing details about your dysfunctional family.'
Harry rubbed his hand over his face as he considered the merits of this proposition before swinging around to face Jane, "It's a sensible suggestion Jane. The only problem with it is that unlike my staff you're not trained to listen for lies and half truths."
He was rewarded with a sarcastic smile diluted with a few drops of patronage. "Harry, have you slightest notion as to how many total fibs I decode during the course of every working day without, I may add, the benefit of lie detectors or truth drugs. After years of fathoming the half truths told by your average teenager most teachers could give MI5 a run for their money. Overall I think it qualifies as transferable skill."
Harry was grateful that at least she'd stopped short of talking up her skills CV by referring to the plentiful practise she'd obtained during the downwards spiral of their marriage. He did however feel a need to remind her, "Whatever you do don't say that Catherine is missing. Your cue is you arrived early, she's not there and you're worried. You don't give information. You get it."
"Okay I know, open questions to make them expand, closed to get a definite answer, don't lead and listen for hesitations, things that don't stack up and don't comment beyond the necessary to keep them talking." The slight look of surprise they gave made her add, "Experience as detailed plus child protection training, I don't work in a world entirely dedicated to deconstructing the elegancies of Jane Austen and Shakespeare's comedies."
Harry's inward thoughts ran along the lines of 'Typical teacher. The entire world is her classroom' but at least Erin's intervention had provided them with a win win scenario. He kept Jane on the Grid and she got to do something useful. Acknowledging his acceptance of the plan he nodded, "Fine, find her a desk and phone Erin, one without the background noise of the office. And Jane when you've finished Erin is taking you on a visit to the Duty Doctor." He awaited the inevitable protest and was not disappointed as Jane proceeded to insist that she was fine, he was fussing unnecessarily, she hated doctors and it wasn't any of his business anyway.
"Jane the assertion that you hate doctors is vaguely true. You are not fine, I don't like the way you're moving on that ankle and with the speed Laura drove you back here at I'm prepared to guess that your ribs and shoulder were both badly jolted. So yes I am fussing and while you are on the Grid and under my roof your health is my business."
Placed in a position that made it difficult to argue did not faze Jane but as she prepared to refute his final claims she was completely disarmed by the soft look in his eyes as he said, "Please Jane I neglected you in the past, I know I can never atone for that but don't deny me the chance to try."
What could she say? She knew that Harry's cajoling ways included a deliberate use of charm when required, but she also recognised truthfulness when she heard it. How could she contradict him when he was making it so plain that he cared about her as a person, not a designer accessory? Nor could she deny that he was right. Having stubbornly rejected the option of painkillers she was aware of several acute aches combining with an ominously throbbing ankle. Jane gulped with shock at the realisation that once again he'd managed to corral her into an inarguable corner through an emotional sincerity that was indistinguishable from emotional blackmail. It was a master class in manipulation. No wonder he was the best in the business, she knew the pitfalls better than anyone and had still been persuaded to fall in with his requests. How did he do it? More importantly would she ever ever avoid walking into the traps he so cunningly baited? Somehow she doubted it. If she hadn't learnt by now she never would.
Seeing him still waiting with a well controlled testiness she replied as firmly as she could. "Very well Harry when you put it that way how can I refuse." Followed a half amazed," I just can't believe, given our history, how much I'm agreeing with you."
"I'm sure once the current crisis is over you'll manage to divest yourself of the unfortunate habit."
His rejoinder was delivered lightly but Jane thought she detected a real yearning for the opposite in his voice. What was going on between them at present? And would it be wise of her to analyse it? Later. For now she had a job to do, "Well if that's settled Harry I'd better get dialling. Erin lead me to a phone, I just hope that I don't get laryngitis on top of my other injuries."
If she thought she'd had the last word she was disappointed as Harry commented, "Neither do I, just think how much I'd miss your stimulating conversation." He'd intended his remark as a trifling piece of sarcasm but suddenly realised it that was the reality.
Watching Jane limp out of the room accompanied by Erin Harry wondered what was going on between them. And was it wise to analyse it? Unconsciously, because it was what he always did, he decided on think about this later, for now he had a job to do. Right, could he possibly get into his his office without further delay to prepare for the essentials of this mission? He needed to lose the tie, change his coat, collect the gun that he'd not signed back in and get down to the garage without further interruption. By now Dimitri should have commandeered a car and be sitting in the driver's seat revved up and ready to go.
He'd just reached the door of the Briefing Room when Calum reappeared. By now Harry's impatience was written across his face. "Is your passport up to date Calum?"
Risking the storm Calum apologised quickly, "Sorry. Unusable due to the picture. It doesn't show my best side."
"You'll be even more unrecognisable if this isn't important."
"I just wanted to ask. Do you want me to try to find out what happened at Jane's house after Laura got them away? Perhaps we should confirm that it was the CIA staking her out."
"It could be useful. Thanks Calum. Now can I go?"
Answer came there none but the picture of Calum vanishing computerwards was worth a thousand words, or in these inflationary times a hundred. Harry began his progress across the Grid only to be accosted once more by Erin.
"Sorry Harry but there is some paperwork on your desk that needs to be signed off."
Harry bit back his irritation at being held up yet again, as he struggled to remind himself that Erin was only doing her job. The Section did have had other ongoing operations which required supervision, even the midst of the priority given to his blended professional and personal concerns.
"Fine I'll check it and sign it off when I return. But we must get that teddy bear. This isn't just personal to me Erin. If the CIA are involved this smacks of international issues."
Glancing across the Grid at Jane who was seated at a desk talking animatedly into a phone while simultaneously making notes he felt a need to ask, "How's she doing Erin?"
"Well judging by what I overheard on the first call if I didn't know otherwise I'd think she'd been in the Service. I don't suppose she was recruited without your knowing?
Harry nearly laughed outright at that suggestion. The many vituperative comments Jane had made over the years about the 'bloody Queen and country' running through his mind. "Hardly Erin, she always hated the Service for what it did to us and Jane isn't an 'if you can't beat them join them' temperament'.
The thought occurred to Erin that Catherine might have taken after both parents. Jane had claimed Catherine was her father's daughter but it seemed to Erin that she may well have inherited a double dose of stubbornness combined with crusading spirit. Harry fought for the state and Jane for education. It explained to some degree Catherine's career choice. Graham it would seem had just inherited the stubbornness without any charm or sense of mission to offset it.
Harry unaware of her theories insisted, "If you've finished Erin I really need to go. Please keep an eye on Jane. If she seems wobbly I don't care what she says, get her to a medic. It's an order. And no more hold ups for me. That's also an order."
With that he dived into his office divesting himself of tie and suit jacket as he went. He didn't have time to change completely but reckoned that in the dark the mismatch of Savile Row trousers and casual jacket would not be tremendously obvious. Surely by now even the imbeciles employed by the CIA had realised that they were battling MI5. Whether they'd also finally twigged that the flat occupant they were tracking was the daughter of the loathed head of Section D, the man one disgruntled operative had reportedly designated as "Harry effing Houdini" when the sought after extradition had been cancelled was less certain. Jim Coaver would have known, but then Jim would never have authorised such a bungled operation in the first place. Deep down in his guts Harry felt as responsible for Jim's death as he did for Ruth's, although that didn't mean that he was about to accept for a second time the role of sacrificial lamb regarding the renewed threat of forcible removal to Uncle Sam. He'd only agreed to go quietly in the aftermath of Jim's murder on condition that the partnership was signed immediately. In strict terms he had no case to answer but in practice that wouldn't matter to the CIA for whom the accusation provided a convenient hook with which to first catch him and then extract, by whatever means they thought justified, the kernel of the many secrets he carried. Secrets, which once revealed, could do untold damage to his country's security. Harry had no illusions about his likely treatment, or his eventual ability to hold out against increasingly extreme torture. As Mani had very kindly reminded him on the day Ruth had been forcibly repatriated from Cyprus 'everyone breaks eventually.' Grabbing the gun he'd so reprehensibly retained he headed out of the office. He'd worry about Langley's plans for him later, for now his main concern was to remain within England's shores until he'd rescued his daughter from whatever dangers her questing nature had placed her in.
Having evaded any further distraction Harry practically ran down to the garage and within a few minutes was being driven by Dimitri towards his daughter's flat for the second time that day. It fell to Dimitri to open the conversation.
"Harry. I know you like to play your cards close to your chest but have you any idea at all about what Catherine's been involved with?"
Dimitri hadn't meant to sound critical or exasperated but Harry, being sensitive on the subject of his family failings, gave him a hard look before answering. "Not really. If I had to guess I'd plump for if it being something to do with her work. Jane was right about the risks she runs. Her programme on forced marriage may have been a critical success but it came accompanied by death threats."
"God, that was one of hers!" Recalling the documentary's very definite conclusions Dimitri realised why Harry was terrified for his daughter. "I can understand why you might prefer her to make a programme about fluffy animals." His boss gave a snort before saying with a hint of reluctant pride, "If she did you can bet that she'd upset either the animal rights lobby or the hunting shooting and science brigade."
After that a companionable silence fell between them, broken only when they reached their destination. Dimitri pulled up outside and stepped out, acknowledging the spook disguised as a policeman who was guarding the still open entrance to the flats. The officer on duty straightened up even more briskly when he glimpsed the person accompanying Dimitri. Harry as he approached asked, "Any trouble."
"None that you'd notice but.." He was aware of Harry staring at him and his mouth dried up for a moment before he continued, "the same man seems to have driven past three times today, always in a different car." Harry's eyes narrowed, "I take it that you are not implying that he's a car dealer." The spook nodded, "Not when he was also walking down the street twice, but in different clothes. I've sent the car registrations and a picture of him to the Grid. Sir." Harry ignored the belated salutation as he hissed, "No chance he got into the flat I suppose."
"None Sir, I took the liberty of rigging up a buzzer on the back door and all the windows. Plus a camera feed to here." Looking down Harry saw a small tablet computer screen in the spook's hand. He smiled "Good man, Jason isn't it? I didn't realise you were a technical expert."
"And a man of few words. Well done but can you turn this off for a few minutes? You can switch it back on when we leave." With that, not waiting to see if the youngster did as requested, Harry walked towards the main door of the flat. With a few expert turns of his picklock he was once again back in his daughter's sitting room.
The flat was exactly as Harry had left it, which suggested that the boast of his officer was accurate. When all this was over with Harry thought he'd have to check the file of that young spook. With his technical skills and initiative he was being seriously underused. First Laura surprising him and now Jason, hope for the service when he finally retired? The young pretenders would have to wait a while, at present he was still in a post that he had no intention of quitting voluntarily. His current task: Operation Mr Snuggles. Remembering Jane's words he headed for the bedroom. Sure enough battered, lumpy and looking distinctly worse for wear the bear sat resplendent on Catherine's pillow. Picking it up Harry wondered if he'd worn any better than the toy. He was nearly as bald and at least the bear had fulfilled its mission in life and nearly been cuddled to death by his daughter. It was more than Harry could boast. When in fact had anyone last given him a hug? Feeling the threadbare exterior carefully his fingers made contact with a lump that seemed harder than the rest of the body, impacted stuffing or something else entirely? Before he could investigate further he was recalled into the main sitting room by Dimitri's voice.
"Harry, Catherine's answer machine has a call on it. It's come in since we left with Graham."
Harry moved to the machine and pressed the play button. At once the recording reverberated into the room playing back the angry staccato tones of a male voice.
"Jane. I know you're there so pick up. You should be here. You know how important tonight is for me you ungrateful bitch. I don't know what's wrong with you these days but it stops now. After supporting you and the spawn from that little Hitler you were married too the least I can expect is your loyalty. Get on a train and back here or there will be consequences, starting with my contacting your current school to say that you're under investigation after leaving your last job under a cloud. For once in your selfish life put someone else first."
Dimitri thought he'd seen Harry at his raging worst on several occasions. He now knew he'd been mistaken. Harry's normally chubby features had hardened into something akin to a whitened mask, unfixed, unmoving except for two small anger darkened eyes boring into the wall opposite containing an expression of unadulterated fury mixed with contempt. He seemed to be in a world of his own in which nothing mattered beyond revenge. Watching Harry stroking his gun with a distinct air of menace Dimitri was relieved that Robin was safely ensconced in the martial home, otherwise some lucky person might have been tasked with removing a second corpse from Catherine's flat. He recalled Harry to his presence with a slight cough.
Looking around Harry remembered where he was. "Dimitri I'm going to record the message to play back to Jane but I'd be grateful if you didn't mention this to anyone else."
"I believe my cue is to say remember what. I won't talk Harry but I did find out..."
Harry held up a hand to halt him. "Dimitri I need Jane to tell me herself. The problem is I don't think she really trusts me." At the sight of Dimitri's concerned face he continued ruefully, "And objectively considering the hell I put her though when we were married I can't blame her."
Dimitri was amazed that the notoriously reticent Harry had confided even that general statement. He wasn't sure if it was owing to shock or an oblique cry for help. Cautiously he suggested, "Maybe she doesn't trust you Harry but are you really going to allow her walk back to someone who is blackmailing her in such a disgusting way?" Seeing that he had Harry's attention he gave what he hoped wasn't intrusive advice. "Perhaps you need to trust her first Harry." Treading even more delicately he finished, "I don't mean about well ...recent events but .." he concluded lamely, "just something."
To win trust you had to give it first. It sounded so easy and for most people it was, but Harry was not most people. He was a spy, a keeper of state secrets. For him trust was co-joined with a Siamese twin called betrayal. It had become a coin which, when flipped, had all too often revealed not the bland sculpture of the monarch's head, the symbol of all he served, but instead the unveiled countenances of Juliet, Connie, Nicholas Blake, Lucas, Elena all spitting malevolently in his face while deriding him as a foolish clown for his unswerving loyalty to a failing state. Since Ruth's death he had been unable to look at anyone without sensing that poison worm of doubt wriggling through virutally each and every relationship. And how far could he trust Jane? With their daughter's life at stake he could rely on her not to prejudice the current operation. He also believed her earlier assertion that she had remained tongue locked regarding the degrading details of their marriage, but the fact remained that she was married, and seemingly in thrall, to a man Harry detested. If her relationship with Robin the Smug was truly in tatters why hadn't she confided in him? Fear of seeing him triumphant? Surely she knew him well enough to know that he would never gloat over seeing her in such abject misery. Shame then: shame for her actions in alienating the children from him, shame for taking Robin's side now that the golden headmaster she'd eulogised had proved to be a man of dross, a prat on a plinth. Didn't she realise that few things in life would give Harry more pleasure than the chance to emulate a pigeon and crap from a great height over Robin's hyper inflated head. Yea Gods! Harry in his hatred for the man would even consider submitting himself to the indignity of a powerful enema if that ensured he made a thorough job of it, in every sense of the phrase. At present all Harry knew for certain was that he was standing at a crossroads, the place traditionally associated with the burial of suicides. The metaphor was apt, one incautious, unwise statement and his chance of establishing amicable future terms with Jane would be killed forever.
It was time to leave. With Mr Snuggles living up to his name in Harry's inner coat pocket the two men moved towards the sitting room door. Just as Dimitri reached out to grab the knob Harry became aware of a scrabbling noise at the rear of the flat, followed by a sudden click as the back door lock was released. Some person or persons unknown were seeking entry via the kitchen. Two minds, one thought. Dimitri instantly switched off the light as they both crept to position themselves on either side of the kitchen door. Breath held and guns grasped ready for action they stood as motionless as oversize ornaments watching as very slowly and carefully the door gently opened allowing a single figure to slink into the darkness of the room. Outlined against the minimal illumination coming in from the street lighting that filtered through the half closed blinds the intruder appeared to be male. Judging by the silence emanating from the kitchen this was a solo raid. As stranger moved forward into the room he suddenly felt the welcoming pressure of cold metal against the back of his neck as Harry uttered in tones that had frozen the marrow of his enemies for the past three decades.
"Drop your gun or have your head blown off. You have two seconds to make your choice starting from now."
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