"Mr Roach. Do come in. My name is Jerry Westerby"
William Roach, recent graduate of Leeds University, sat down on the hard metal chair and tried to look intelligent. The man opposite wore a three-piece suit and a tie whose width owed more to 1973 than 1985. His face had an odd reverse-shadow on it though, as if the man had recently shaved a rather full beard.
"Now, Mr Roach – or should I call you 'William'?"
"William would be fine, thank you Mr Westerby."
"Jerry, please. I feel terribly old when people call me 'mister'. Now, you've applied for a position in the Foreign Service. Tell me more about what you'd like to do …"
For the next half an hour, Jerry kept William on his toes by questioning his feelings about foreign policy, his membership of various societies, and his family background. William was starting to feel as if he was under a microscope, and a slight pressure in his bladder brought home the foolishness of the second cup of tea in the Whitehall cafe down the road. He was almost ready to ask outright whether all this questioning was necessary when Jerry asked him something odd.
"So, William, just a couple of small things to go. First of all, did you happen to notice anything about the door security officer as you came in?"
William stopped worrying about his bladder for a moment as the situation he'd seen as he came in swam back into his mind's eye.
"Do you mean the regular doorman who issued me the pass, the older man with the missing finger and the single streak of black in his hair? Or do you mean the thug sitting on a chair nearby who's watching everyone that comes in and out, wearing a brown polyester suit with a blue kerchief in the pocket? I think he's probably the real security you have here. And there was someone else, wasn't there?" William shut his eyes lightly and thought about her. He'd noticed her at first because her shoes were just like the ones his favourite History lecturer had worn last summer. And then he'd noticed …
"There was a woman, in her thirties I should think, in a green twin set and a grey tweed skirt. She had black Mary Janes and dark hair and she was pinning something to a notice board by the door." William opened his eyes and looked at Jerry, who was jotting down notes on his clipboard. "But she finished just as I came in, and followed me all the way upstairs. I think she was doing it on purpose, because when I stopped at the first floor and looked around, she slowed up behind me when she could have passed."
Jerry Westerby had been trained never to show anything. Not fear, not relief, and certainly not jubilation. But his pleasure at the response by the young man opposite shone through, as he looked into William's eyes and smiled a very genuine smile.
"I think you should know, William, that you were recommended for a position here. One of your old teachers suggested you, and I'm pleased to say that I agree with his assessment."
"A teacher?" William thought back to the years at Thursgood's, lonely, missing his parents and wondering if he'd done something to make them split up. "Which one?"
"If I told you," said Jerry, "that he told us that you were a very good watcher, and that you noticed things that no-one else had, would you know who it was?"
"Mr Prideaux! Goodness, I haven't seen him since he left. He told me Best watcher in the unit, Bill Roach is, I'll bet. Long as he's got his specs on." William's smile was wistful. "He took me, the lowest kid on the totem pole, and made me stand up for myself. He left after a year – where is he now?"
"I'm afraid I can't tell you that, but he wrote the recommendation years ago on the off-chance that you might consider applying. And luckily, our filing system works." Jerry Westerby shuffled his papers together, then stood up to indicate that the interview was over. Then he stopped, and looked back at William. "Specs?"
"Contacts now. Much easier to deal with." William stood too, and shook Jerry's hand. "How long until I hear something?"
"It could take a couple of weeks – you know how the Civil Service works, surely. But I think you will do very, very well." Jerry started to usher William out, but the younger man stopped and looked at him again.
"Mr Prideaux is dead, isn't he? And this isn't just the Foreign Service. Was Mr Prideaux a spy as well?"
Jerry said nothing, and William sighed and walked out, trying not to show his sorrow in front of anyone. Jerry watched him go, watched the slightly-slumped shoulders and the slower walk, and wished that he'd been able to tell him something better. He'd find out soon enough. That man would work very nicely in the Service – if he was interested.
He picked up the file and went to confer with Control.