A/N: Kudos owns Spooks characters. Jude Trinder was formed in my head... as was Dr Andrew Khan and Douglas Moore.
This story takes a little setting up, so bear with me.
"Where does one go from a world of insanity? Somewhere on the other side of despair."
T S Eliot.
Thames embankment – Thursday 1.12 pm:
"I'd been waiting for you to contact me," Jude said soberly, desultorily picking at the shredded lettuce in her ham salad sandwich. "I think this sandwich was made around the time of the Roman invasion." She looked across the bench to her companion. "How is he? How's Harry?"
"I've only seen him once since the funeral. He's …... not good. He looks like he died along with her, but his body has had to go on."
"Mmm. I've seen that look." Jude took a wary bite from her sandwich, and then smiled slightly. "This is not bad at all. It must be the mayonnaise. Here, do you want some?" She held out the other half of her sandwich towards Malcolm, who shook his head.
"There's a reason I wanted to talk to you …... out here, away from your office."
"I thought there might be. The walls have ears and all that. I don't do killing, Malcolm, not unless I have to, anyway. If you want Ruth's killer neutralised, you'll have to pay someone else."
Malcolm looked across the bench at Jude and smiled. She reminded him a lot of Ruth when she'd first come to work at Section D…... spontaneous and unselfconscious, more than a little bit ditsy. "I do have a reason. Yes. When did you last see Ruth to talk to?"
"Oh, that would be back soon after Harry suggested she move out of his house. It was a year ago, give or take …. maybe nine, ten months. It was after that kerfuffle over that genetic weapon, and one of Harry's less mentally balanced officers kidnapped her. Harry found temporary accommodation for her in a MI5 safe house for her protection. Really! Sometimes Harry can be a first class prat. Ruth was so low. She didn't know whether they could ever get back together. Did they?"
"I spoke to her only a week before she …... she wanted my advice on something. She was looking to buy a house in the country, and had put in an offer on a cottage in Suffolk, her idea being to convince Harry to leave the service and retire with her. They seemed to be …... moving closer together again. But there were …... problems with the Russians, and the CIA wanted him for questioning over Jim Coaver's death. I hadn't spoken to Harry, but I knew he cared deeply for her, and only ever wanted what was best for her."
"As he sees it."
"True. One of his many shortcomings is his tunnel vision …... fine in the job, but disastrous in relationships of the heart." Malcolm hesitated, watching Jude as she tucked into her sandwich. "Oh …... and I bought you this," he said, pushing a take-away coffee across the bench to her.
"Oh goody – caffeine. Just what I need," she quipped, smiling up at him.
"There is something I needed to talk to you about, but it is quite delicate."
"I thought it might be. You're not about to ask me out, are you Malcolm?"
"Heavens no. I recognise my limitations." He smiled across at her, the skin crinkling at the corners of his eyes. Jude threw her head back and laughed, exposing the skin of her throat. For a mid-fifties woman, Malcolm thought, she's quite …... delightful. He felt sad suddenly that he wasn't more forthright, more a man of the world.
"So what's the big secret?" Jude asked, tucking into the remains of her sandwich. "I must go back to that snack bar and ask them the brand of this mayonnaise. It's really very good." She looked up at Malcolm to see him staring at her. "Sorry, it must be the caffeine. My brain cells get a bit scrambled, and my mouth just veers off on tangents of a random nature." Jude's free hand flapped around her face as she spoke.
"I've been doing some delving," Malcolm began.
"Tell me something I don't know, Malcolm."
"I'm not normally one to follow my gut feelings. That's for those with more confidence that I possess. I generally rely on my technological skills to guide me, to show me where to go next, what to do. Technology is logical, programming is logical. You put in information in an ordered and predictable sequence, and the outcomes delivered can be relied upon as being accurate. This belief has never let me down."
"Until now," Jude said, scrunching the paper bag her sandwich had been in.
"Until now. It was at Ruth's funeral that I first had the feeling. The whole of Section D was there, and they were all in pieces. Harry sat beside me with a straight back, but I could feel how much he was holding in. His face was grey, and he couldn't speak; he barely uttered a word for the whole day, and I was with him for most of it. He was strung like piano wire. I felt that were anyone to have touched him, he would have shattered into a thousand pieces. It was the politicians who gave something away. Towers, and the rest of that Whitehall crowd – there were at least six or seven of them there. They seemed …... triumphant …... like they'd achieved something. There was not a look of regret or sadness on the faces of any of them. Oh, I know that politicians are unctuous and self-serving, and that's on their better days, but there was a jovial air about them. They seemed puffed up and pleased with themselves. After the service, Towers shook Harry's hand and said a whole lot of meaningless words about Ruth. Harry barely heard him, which is something for which I'm grateful. Had Harry seen in Towers' face the same breeziness and confidence I saw, he may have acted in a way not in keeping with the gravity of the occasion. Their strange behaviour got me thinking, and then when Harry went back to work just under three weeks after Ruth died, my intuition went into overdrive."
"So you suspect Whitehall of something, Malcolm. You're not saying that they killed Ruth. They're self-serving, as you say, but what would they gain by killing her?"
Jude took a large swig from her take-away coffee, and seeing a film of milky foam on her upper lip, Malcolm touched his own upper lip, and then pointed to her.
"Sorry," she said, "you can take the girl out of the country, but not the country out of the girl," as she delicately dabbed her lip with a tissue.
"Your father's estate in Hertfordshire is hardly the country, Jude."
"It was in the 1960's. Lots of cows and horses, rain, mud and manure. That's country in my book."
Malcolm waited until Jude had once again settled, and was paying attention to him.
"Jude …... I pursued the thought that Whitehall may have had a secret …... and I've uncovered something …... strange. I need you to come around to my place – now, or after work, it doesn't matter. There's something I need to show you. I need another set of eyes, just in case I'm chasing shadows. Do you remember where I live?"
"Vaguely, but you'd better give me the address. I haven't time now, but I can be there between 7 and 7.30."
London. Home of Malcolm Wynn-Jones. 7.37 pm:
Jude sat in an armchair in Malcolm's office, a tub of take-away chicken and almonds in one hand, and a plastic fork in the other. She tapped the fork on her bottom lip while Malcolm brought up a series of documents on the desktop of his computer.
"You must do something about your diet, Jude. Do you ever cook for yourself?"
"I didn't know my apartment had a kitchen until one morning I decided I wanted to make myself some Marmite on toast. I find kitchens daunting. I'd rather someone else do the cooking. That was one thing Douglas was good at."
"And how is Douglas?"
"In denial. Still chasing women half his age. Whenever he wails about how lonely he is, I suggest he get a dog."
"As ex-husbands go, though -"
"Yes, I know. He's better than most."
"Here they are," Malcolm said, stepping back so that Jude could get a closer look.
Jude put down her Chinese dinner on the end of the desk, and peered at the screen, the plastic fork still in her right hand. "This is paperwork from St Thomas's Hospital," she said, squinting at the screen, even though she was wearing reading glasses. As she was about to touch the screen with her fork, Malcolm's hand intervened.
"This series of documents on the monitor on the left is the official record of Ruth Evershed's stay in St Thomas's. It gives a date and time of admission - DOA - and this next one is her body being transferred to the morgue. Note the name of the person who formally identified her body."
"William Towers. But he was her employer at the time."
"I also happen to know that she had Harry down as her next of kin. Harry never saw her body in the hospital. When he rang to ask if they needed him to identify her, he was told it had already been done by the Home Secretary. Harry wasn't happy, but nor was he suspicious. At the time, neither was I." Malcolm shifted his attention to the next monitor in his bank of four monitors. "I need you to look at this next series of hospital documents. These are the real records. They remain on the hospital's mainframe, and only a first class hacker can access them." Malcolm smiled at Jude, a rare look of pride in his eyes. "These are the original documents, and they remain for good."
Jude leaned over Malcolm's shoulder, and again peered at the screen. "The admission form looks the same …... then the discharge form. Discharge?"
"Check out the date of discharge."
"Twenty-fourth. Twelve days later. She was discharged."
"Which means?" prompted Malcolm.
"Holy Mother Of God! I'm not even a Catholic, Malcolm, but it looks like …..."
"She's alive," they said together.
A/N: Yes, I know ... a predictable development, but please bear with me. There is a point (I think ...)