Fall Michael Fitzalan

Fall by Michael Fitzalan

Chapter 1 – Kidnap

You fall in a dream. You wake. It stops. A spy in a fall. She falls and falls. She has no one to catch her. The fuel tanker ground through its gears as we weaved through the forest road that seemed to meander endlessly. I knew we were heading for the border. And yet, I wasn’t following the tanker, I was not even driving the tanker, although I have a licence to do so. I was in the tanker.

Smuggling spies across the border is a tricky job, whether you are taking a spy from a country after they have revealed secrets about it or if you are a spy being taken to a country to be tortured to give up your country’s secrets.

Listening to the last vestiges of oil swilling in the belly of the tanker, I felt tired and cramped.

The drug they had administered to me left me in a half-conscious stupor. My neoprene leggings, Lycra sports top and thick, oatmeal wool jumper stopped me from freezing to death; it was surprisingly cold. There was a bruise throbbing over my eye. The big brute sitting next to me had hit me with the butt of his pistol when I made a smart remark.

Thugs like him hate intelligent women; they make them feel even more inadequate and reveal them to be the stupid and ignorant bullies that they are.

Maybe it was the anger that was keeping me from feeling the cold. His twin was on the other side – he had smiled at my quip.

I was not thrown around by the truck’s movement as I’ve been strapped to one of the ribs of the tanker. Masking tape had been wrapped around my shoulders and woven around my body to my waist like I was mummified. My mouth had been filled with what felt like a snooker ball. 

The only way I could get all this off was by being cut out. They clearly did not want me to escape. I might have been a valuable cargo, but I was being treated like a sack of potatoes, chucked into the back unceremoniously and forgotten about. The stench of fuel oil might have burnt my nostrils and the fumes might have stung my eyes, but I was wearing an old-fashioned gas mask, the rubber making my face sweat, the straps tugging at my hair.

Where the tube led or if indeed there was a tube leading from it, I could not tell; the darkness was absolute.

Looking left and right, up or down, made no difference. It was best just to keep my eyes shut, measure my breathing so I did not start to panic, and wait for my chance to escape. I was determined to get free.

My gluteus maximus ached; sitting in the bottom of a fuel tanker, is not easy, even though they had supplied some sort of cushion for my bottom; partly, I was convinced, to keep my body out of the dregs of the oil, not to provide me with a comfortable ride. Fall by Michael Fitzalan

My legs were bent, and I could feel my ballet shoes were soaked but my feet no longer felt cold, they must have been numb. I estimated we had been on the road for two hours.

Suddenly and violently the truck started to slow to a grinding stop; the sound of airbrakes and shuddering brake pads managed to pierce the steel shell around us.

My kidnapers were not as secure as me. The one on my left bumped into my shoulder, but there was no give, so I took the full force. I squealed in pain, but due to the ball in my mouth and the mask, which I wore over my face, it came out as a dull chirp.

This was the second bruise he had given me. I notched it up on the tally and imagined ways I would make him pay. I felt but could not see the smiley one on my right move away from me. As we stopped dead, the one on the left was released from my shoulder by the momentum and Smiling barrelled into my arm but at least he tried not to hurt me.
The border – it had to be. This was my chance.

I imagined the frontier posts, the lanes for all the cars, the sunshine in daylight, the yellow light of a night stop. Then, I imagined the dogs sniffing around the tyres and checking under the body, the soldiers with their torches probing the chassis of the truck and the subframe of the tanker attached to its back.

I imagined alerting them of my presence when they opened up one of lids to check the tanker was empty. Imagination is a powerful thing.

A tinny pinging signalled one guard’s ascent up the ladder, I mentally climbed the steps at his shoulder, counting each tinny step – there were nine. I heard him scuffling about somewhere above our heads.

The echoing resonance meant it was hard to detect where it was coming from. I heard him using the strange tool that unlocked the top. There was a mechanical gasp as the stopper was released from the bottle. The lid clanged on the roof, the sound cascading towards us in a resonant echo. There was a rush of air.

Immediately, I started drumming my feet on the bottom of the container, once, twice and then the pain. He must have been expecting it. I whimpered; I heard my own cry as a whisper. My eyes filled with tears, the pain shot through my body, spreading in waves that made me nauseous. I wanted to scream but you need to be able to breathe to scream and I was too busy breathing – no, panting – through the agony to cry out.

The pig had been waiting.

The handle of his pistol had assaulted me again; this time he had driven it between my legs as hard as he could. Maybe that was how he treated his male prisoners, and he was too stupid to realise I had no testicles to pummel. My anger and frustration grew as waves of pain washed over me. Fall by Michael Fitzalan

As I recovered from the excruciating pain and tried not to choke on the ball and my tears, I could only whimper as I saw the torchlight sweep the hold. The small, shallow, oily pools glistened in the light but of course we were out of sight in the shadows, well away from his sweeps. He was looking for contraband fuel supplies not smuggled spies.
The border guard would not hear me; even my loudest scream would be a muffled moan undetectable to his hearing.Fall by Michael Fitzalan

In my dazed state, I had suspected that they would choose to spirit me over the border at the dead of night, but that was so stupid of me.

If I had been mounting a similar operation, then I would have chosen a busy time, cars rushing by to provide noise to drown the sound of my drumming feet on the floor, keeping the engine running to disguise any sound in the tanker. I might have even chosen a border crossing near an airport, if it was possible, to keep noise levels outside at a maximum. Fall by Michael Fitzalan

The driver had turned the engine off as instructed, but as I realised while I was collecting my thoughts, he had turned the motor on, cranked it up, and then, started revving it hard once the border guard was on the roof, at the precise time that I started my bid for freedom by stomping on the floor. It had, of course, been a total waste of effort.

When I heard the lid clinking back into place, the sound of someone walking along the roof and the official’s footsteps coming down the side ladder of the tanker, I knew that I had failed in my attempt to attract attention.

My hopes had been destroyed; my imaginary escape was buried along with my hopes for freedom.

All I could do was wait like a captured animal; I would lick my wounds, rest and hope that my captors would make some mistake.

Aching all over and with the blows throbbing still, I laid my head back against the cool, sharp metal of the rib and tried to sleep. I wanted to analyse the events of the last few days, but I did not allow myself the luxury; I had to rest, get ready for the next opportunity. My bid to escape had failed that time. I was determined not to let failure cloud my thoughts. Fall by Michael Fitzalan

I willed myself to clear my mind, meditated on all things good and dozed in my uncomfortable position in my echoing sepulchre.

In a dream, the truck ground through its gears, snaked through the roads and a distant sloshing of fuel oil soothed my ears and the noise, reminiscent of whale music, accompanied me as I fell into the arms of Morpheus.

I dreamt of the times before captivity: a time when my chest and stomach were not compressed by tape; when my back was not pinned against a sharp metal rib that bit into my spine and dug into the back of my head; a time when I could move my legs to walk;  when my feet were dry and warm; a time when aches and throbs did not plague my body.

Every story has a beginning, middle and an end. 

looked like it was the end of my work for the government; the kidnappers had succeeded in getting me across the border. I only had days, or weeks or months of torture to look forward to, though at the time, I was only focused on making a break for it. Dying trying to escape seemed the sort of noble thing I should attempt. I was a bit tied up in the tanker but there would be opportunities.

Death held no fear for me; if it had I would never have agreed to be a spy. If you have ever been to Cambridge, you might have admired its beautiful buildings.

You may not have realised the fact that beyond the university colleges and the stillness of the river, there was a scientific community that provided income that was an eighth of the wealth generated by the rest of the country, an impressive feat for a city seemingly so small.

Computing and pharma were profitable and successful areas. That was what drew me to apply for Cambridge. With my background in maths, physics, biology and chemistry, it was an obvious choice.

Two years after graduating, I applied for a post at the Ministry of Defence laboratory at Porton Down; the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, ‘DSTL’. It was in my field and my parents lived in Redlynch, so I rented a cottage in Idmiston where I lived for the week and drove my old forest green VW Polo home at weekends to see my friends and family. They were carefree days – exciting work and a full social life.

Perhaps such details are unnecessary; maybe you have a picture of me already.

I can tell you that I was twenty-seven when I was recruited, and my career lasted for three years. My mother was from Guyana; her father was Irish, her mother from Demerara. She came to England to teach and met my father in Birmingham, the city he was born in. He gave me blue–green eyes and an even paler skin than my mother. She was the little girl from Guyana that God loved, she always told me, beaming at me. Fall by Michael Fitzalan

Whatever your picture of me, I am the ideal spy: non- descript, normal, of average height; too tall and you stand out in a crowd, too pretty and people remember you, too thin or too fat can also make you memorable.

My hair is frizzy and mousy, though in my work, I have been blonde, brunette and even ginger; yes, red hair stands out but there was a reason for the colour. I have played the prim professor, the ice maiden, the smashed and available, the man-eating vamp; I have done unspeakable things and had unspeakable things done to me.

Intelligent, pretty and competent women are easy to find but those prepared to give up their life for the service of the country are few and far between, believe me.

Perhaps I had been slightly press-ganged into the service, but I willingly took the King’s Shilling. I did not regret a moment of what I had done as the tanker ate up the miles to my prison. It did helped to keep the country safe and though I could not admit it to myself then,

I had to make sure that I did not betray any secrets. Maybe that was why planning and preparing for my escape gave me such succour. These were the only thoughts that I allowed myself. I dreamt as I slept. I was always able to sleep at 10. 

The drop of a hat; my father was in the services, a submarine commander in Singapore and we travelled a great deal. I was educated at Wycombe Abbey.

Travel and napping were in my DNA. I actually dreamt of a few days before the kidnap. The day when I should have realised that I had been found out. I knew that the man who purported to be my contact was a fraud and I even called him out on it.

Written by Michael Fitzalan

Michael Fitzalan’s first novel gained cult status and here are some others: Waterwitch was a hit with those who have ever sailed; two brothers battle storms and Spanish support for the Malvinas in an attempt to meet up with their girlfriends in Ibiza. They have to get from The Algarve to Ibiza, all very straightforward until engine failure and storms threaten to sink all their plans. The Taint Gallery tells the story of a modern Romeo and Juliet; the story is set in Cheslea and Fulham, not Verona, nevertheless, it is a doomed relationship. The book was shunned by big publishers for its highly charged and graphic sexual content and the small publisher who produced the book folded, copies are rare. A reprint is planned for its twentieth anniversary next year; it is still as pertinent and shocking today as it was back in 1996. Switch is an amazing mixture of Franz Kafka realism yet it reads like a Raymond Chandler thriller. Joe Ederer falls for a French girl but he is recovering from being dumped by his English girlfriend. A fish out of water in London, he chases her home only to be rejected. He hooks up with a suffocating drug addict and that is when his nightmares begin. Major Bruton’s Safari is the story of innocents abroad; a family invited to celebrate the coronation of the Kabaka of Buganda become indoctrinated into the ways of Africa. With an acerbic observer on hand, the family experience the warmth and ways of Uganda that help them to understand themselves a little better. IPG – Innocent Proven Guilty is about a teacher, Philip Hayward whose brother sold their shared flat and ran off to America with the proceeds. Philip bumps into his brother’s ex-girlfriend and she tells him his brother is back. Racing to the address she gave him, he arrives to find his brother with a knife in his back. As he leaves, his shoes leave bloody footprints and the police come looking for him. Carom – Finn McHugh and his team take on a swindler and smuggler, Didier, who is depraved in so many ways. They know he is smuggling art and drugs; he must be stopped before others take him out. The Cubans, want him dead, Finn wants to break the smuggling ring. Who will win? Remember the Fifth November – Guy Fawkes was innocent, Catesby was a broken man who brought his children up in the Anglican faith, yet Robert Cecil arranged for them to be portrayed as terrible villains. With a spy service second to none and with moles everywhere how could someone hatch a plot like this and fail to be discovered? The answer, they could not. Read the truth! One – Bullying does not go on anymore in schools. I would not bet on it. Weep as you read the terrible story of a school bully and the misery he dispenses to all the boys. Then, cheer as one of his victims takes revenge. Take a trip to a prep school in a time when kids built tree houses, danced and swung on Tarzan ropes!

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