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Day of the Phoenix

Steve Marshall was ready. This time there would be no mistakes – no-one to derail the plan, and no-one to step outside his ideas for the perfect Britain. Anyone standing in the way of progress would be brutally mown down.

Infiltrating the British Democratic Party was the ultimate solution to the establishment of a Fascist state – a state controlled by him and him alone. Robert Grafton, the party’s current leader, was going to be the perfect tool in the fulfilment of a dream, and would be just one more stepping stone on a path reaching back as far as the end of the Second World War.

Marshall had toiled hard and long at the plan since the debacle of 1992. The Organisation had come within a whisker of success, and but for some strokes of outrageous fortune, MI5 and its head, the imperious George Watkinson, would have been all but consigned to history. This time it would be different.

Neal James takes this sequel to ‘A Ticket to Tewkesbury’ into a frighteningly possible future. A future built upon the use of the ballot box to further the aims of a radical political society, and where the lessons of history are all too easily forgotten.

ISBN 9781782283560

Chapter 1

It had been twelve months since the meeting at the cottage on St Mary’s Lane. Twelve months of careful and highly secretive reconstruction. Carrying that out under the watchful gaze of all within the confine of Thames House had not be the easiest task which Steve Marshall had ever undertaken. Then there was George Watkinson. The head of MI5 had been led to believe that his own personal safety had been ensured with the killing of Gerald Montgomerey on the platform of Nottingham’s Midland Station, and Marshall’s stock within the secret service had risen several notches on that fateful day.

      Montgomerey had to go. Not the most stable of participants in the resurgence of the Fascist organisation, it was by no means certain that, under interrogation, he would have kept his mouth shut. In the event, the choice was clear, and the bullet took care of the entire situation.

      Now it was time to move on once more. Those chosen few at the meeting in Tewkesbury were about to step up to the mark. Upon their shoulders now rested the entire future of the organisation’s aims for Britain, and the ambitions of Steve Marshall personally.

      Of those who had given their lives for the cause, Montgomerey had been the megalomaniac. Useful at the outset with his financial clout, he was, nevertheless a liability when it came down to the rhetoric. Too many eyes were being cast in his direction at a critical time in the plan. With Timson it had been status, and the chance to sit at the top table of something special, as opposed to being at the beck and call of transient politicians. Mason was the idealist; close and careful with his words, he would have been a true asset. Even he had ‘lost it’ at the end, however. No, only Steve Marshall had the complete overview; only he was capable of steering the country into its true future.

      Staring out across the Thames and into the city, he was interrupted from his musings by the shrill tone of the telephone. It was a private line, and not linked to the outside world like most of the others inside Thames House. There were only a few of such connections, and Watkinson was the owner of one of the others. He looked at the number on the display and frowned. The mobile number was not one which he recognised, and a feeling of unease settled across his normally calm exterior. He could ignore it of course, but that would go against all of his instincts as a gatherer of information.

      Marshall let it ring out a little longer before pressing the green ‘connect’ key. He sat in silence. They both sat in silence. Nothing at the other end of the call gave the faintest clue as to location. The voice which broke the silence had a grating edge to it, and initially Steve did not recognise it.

      “Steve?” There was the rasp of an old man in the tone and timbre.

      “Who is this?” Marshall scowled at the familiarity of a voice which he could not place.

      “Steve. That you? I’m deep in it, and I need your help.”

      “Who are you, and why do you call me ‘Steve’?”

      “Chris. Chris Morse. Remember me?”

      Christopher Morse. The mole at the centre of so much of what Watkinson believed to be going wrong inside the agency. Morse had come close to bringing the entire thing down. Watkinson’s banishing him had been a stroke of pure luck; telling him to report in only to Marshall himself had been very fortuitous. That had enabled Steve to leave the man to his own devices, and simply forget all about what he had done. Until now. Now he resurfaces; now he needs help. Despite the fact that Morse was completely unaware of Marshall’s status as a double agent, this could be very dangerous, and would require handling of the utmost care.

      “Where are you?”

      “Oh no.” The laugh was that of an ancient man. “Been there - seen it all and done some of it as well. You won’t catch me out again that easily. Too many bad memories.”

      “Alright. What do you want?”

      “Help. I thought you were supposed to keep in touch. That’s what Watkinson said, wasn’t it? I’ve been hung out to dry.”

      “Ok, Chris. What have you done?” Marshall did not like the way that the conversation was going.

      “The police are after me. I need somewhere to hide until it all dies down.” Morse’s voice, shaky at the start, was now breaking up.

      “Calm down, Chris. What exactly has happened?”

      “It was an accident. I didn’t mean to kill her…”

      “What? You bloody fool! How do you expect me to protect you if you’ve killed someone?”

      There was an ominous silence at the other end of the line, and for a brief moment, Marshall thought that Morse was gone. He was wrong.

      “I could go to the press with what I know; don’t doubt that I wouldn’t. I’ve got nothing to lose now. The stuff I could tell the Sunday papers would blow a hole right through Whitehall, and you know it.”

      Marshall shuddered. Morse was right – he knew enough to compromise what remained of the organisation’s structure, even by exposing what had now ceased to operate. The ripples would still flow outwards far enough to expose what had been set in motion only twelve months earlier. His silence would have to be ensured, one way or another.

      “Alright. What do you want to do?”

      “I’ll meet you, but on my terms, and at a place of my choosing.”

      “Agreed. Where and when?”

      “The Blind Beggar – half an hour.”

      “The Blind Beggar? You expect me to pick you up in Whitechapel? Have you taken leave of your senses?”

      “It’s that or the papers. Make your mind up, Steve. I’m running out of time.” Morse coughed, and Marshall wondered at the wording of that last statement. If his health was failing, that in itself might push him towards the unthinkable. He gave in.

      “Ok. Look I’ll be there as soon as I can. Just don’t do anything that either of us might regret.”

      It took Marshall the better part of half an hour to get from Millbank to Whitechapel tube station. His training at MI5 had taught him to be prepared for any eventuality, and stopping off at his car, he opened the boot. A change of clothing, to give him a rough appearance, was enough to ensure that the sharp eyes of any one of a number of East End informants would not be alerted to his presence in their midst. The tap room at the Beggar was practically empty as he walked through the door. Morse was sitting in the far corner, nursing a half pint. Marshall nodded to the barman.

      “Two pints, mate.” His change of accent, skilfully perfected down the years, was enough to fool the man.

      “You took your time.” Morse downed the rest of his drink.

      “Try getting across town at the drop of a hat; and how do you think I’d fit in here, dressed as I was?”

      “Hmph! Well you better get me out of here, before the boys in blue find out where I am.”

      Over the course of the following half hour, and with an eye ever watchful for strangers, Morse related to Marshall the way in which his life had taken a nose dive since his departure from the employment of MI5. With no regular form of income, and despite an implied assurance from Watkinson that a use would be found for him, he had been forced to live off his wits on the dangerous streets of the capital.

      He had quickly slid into the murkier side of London’s society. Drink and drugs had taken their toll on him, and he had visibly aged a dozen or more years. It became clear to Marshall that, were he to find some way of using the man, he would need a sustained period of rehabilitation first. Then, and only then, would he be fit to use as a means of re-establishing the platform that had so nearly borne fruit ten years earlier.

      “Chris, we need to get you cleaned up. Then I might have a job for you, but you’re going to have to stick to the rehab programme. I won’t be able to help you if you can’t stay off the booze and the drugs.”

      Marshall had given considerable thought to the strategy which had failed them in the past. Perhaps it had lacked subtlety; maybe a more considered approach would be needed to get past the naturally cautious British psyche. The British Democratic Party would provide a vehicle for just such a purpose, and its aims were not too dissimilar from those which he, and those before him, had tried to instil by coercion. He may have underestimated the power of the ballot box after all.