Croonford Detective Case 22: State Property
Author's note: I do want to complete the mystery over Chelle's 'alien abduction', but with current world events in Ukraine, this story is very appropriate.
This story is entirely fictional.
"Dad, you'll be missing my choral and dance act yet again," Catherine Summers complained at breakfast time.
"So sorry, sweetie, I often have to work late and today I might have to travel abroad. I'll get you another present from my trip." Kate wanted to say she was reaching the age where dolls or feminine toys weren't her interest anymore but stop complaining.
Michelle Summers, by now a veteran teen detective, quickly picked up. "Dad, what exactly do you do at work?"
"Just boring government stuff," came the hurried answer.
"Focus on your studies Michelle and try to avoid weird encounters." Chelle's parents no longer barred from her detective activities yet they were still not exactly happy with what she and her colleagues got into, especially since the last alien-like encounter was not resolved. Mr. Arthur Summers drank the remainder of his coffee, hugged each of his girls and left.
"Mum, what exactly does dad do at work?" Chelle repeated her question.
"Just government work. Finish up or you'll be late for school." Chelle didn't accept that answer but obeyed and walked out with her younger sister. The late spring weather was warm enough for both girls to wear socks instead of tights. Chelle made a quick decision and told her sister she'll walk to school -- Chell paid a monthly fare for the school bus, it was the last day of school anyway. As she turned the first block, she met up with her fellow girl detectives Lin Ling and Jennifer who also were taking advantage from the warmer weather. Despite that their school skirts were long enough -- one centimetre above their knees, Jenn always feared she might produce an unwanted upskirt and always wished the school would produce trousers for girls.
Chelle interrupted Jenn's thoughts, repeating the breakfast conversation at her house. "Maybe your dad is just some civil servant at the Foreign Office or...he's a spy," remarked Lin.
Lin's comment was close to accurate as Arthur Summers didn't head to King Charles Street where the funnily named Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) was located but instead to St George Wharf Car Park. Heading to the second floor, he pulled opened a cleaner's door which actually revealed a metal panel with a keypad and retinal scanner. That unlocked the whole panel, revealing a darken narrow corridor. An equally dark-clothed man armed with a HK416 and Glock 17 approached him, examined his identification card, face and scanned his fingerprints before escorting him to an electric car. The car sped through three armoured doors before stopping in an open area. Arthur had to enter another combination lock and pull open an electric-secured handle that was monitored by staff inside before entering the UK's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS).
The SIS, more commonly and actually inaccurately known as MI6, is one of the UK’s key intelligence organisations. Made famous by the James Bond movies and other British spy films, British intelligence officers, not agents, don't act at all like Mr. Bond. In a short summary, SIS officers gather intelligence data along with the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the Security Service or better known as MI5 and Defence Intelligence – military intelligence and pass it on to the act like Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) which is supported by the Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO), where the data is assessed.
"Chelle, you could double check the gov dot uk site to check if your dad is just working in some civil servant department," Jenn suggested as they entered the school grounds.
"I have and searched the archives and couldn't find any mention of his name or initials."
"Chelle, as I guess he's working in intelligence, there won't be any mention of him or his work, " Lin added. "But working in such an organisation is not a crime."
The SIS, unlike its larger American counterpart, has not provide its organisational structure on its bland website or public sources for unknown reasons. This has created both misunderstandings and constant for calls for transparency from the media, think tanks and campaigners. It also allowed the SIS to almost freely conduct its work, with some oversight freely and form even more secretive cells within its own organisation. This was where Arthur Summers came in – he was the Director of Exploitative Operations in Eastern Europe. Arthur was viewing files some current operations when he was called into the Director General's private office.
School ended for May break with the usual announcements and homework distributed. Chelle tried to get the gang together but due to the last two cases, the others had to give their statements again to the police, especially Lin along with Julia Humes as Detective Sergeant (DS) Bluebell Ransom was liaising with her American counterparts regarding the online harassment. Chelle found herself trapped with her literature and media club activities.
Louisa Grant, her senior, wanted her to head down to some East London school to help build up its media club. Chelle initially wanted to refuse then accept as a London trip might help reveal her father's work.
Arthur had already suspected the reason he was call for before he entered the electronically-controlled office. A cup of coffee was already poured. "Arthur," the moustached Director General, George Healey "Our American friends aren't pleased with the death of their officer Claire Stirrup." Arthur countered the operation for Stirrup was to survey from a wide distance and knew the risk as a CIA officer. "The Malaysian authorities still stopped a nuclear IED thanks to all the intelligence. He knew his elder daughter and her friends helped stop the IED and nearly got radiation sickness but didn't bring it up.
Healey took a large puff of his cigar then continued. "Well, they’re still grumbling about it and you have Operation Monitor to complete, especially with all the ruckus going in Ukraine. If the communications don't work well here, there's a flight out of Northolt after noon." He meant RAF Northolt, a RAF base which conduct military and civilian flights, the latter comprising of British intelligence flights to overseas stations.
Chelle was quite tired, not just from the delayed train journey and her period, yet managed to given a substantial presentation to the London school's media club. After using the toilet, she was about to turn to the exit, she heard voice call out her name and encountered five girls advanced towards her. "Hey, you're the great detective from Cromford, right?" one who introduced herself as Amber.
"We need you for our fundraising. For your looks and fame," Amber explained Chelle just had to sit down while students donate money due to her looks. The teen detective initially wanted to refuse, then learnt the money would help the homeless.
"That was long but at least tucked away, “Reinhard remarked as he and Lin exited the police station, having given additional statements to Detective Sergeant (DS) Bluebell Ransom. Lin noticing how bright the weather was, suddenly asked him if he played any sport. When she heard swimming, Lin suggested the small river behind the town library. "See you there in an hour," she waved.
Chelle was actually surprised her looks and her fame actually gather £100 from the rest of the school population within fifteenth minutes. She got up thinking it was over but some of the other girls pushed her back down. A black cloth was securely tied around her eyes, causing her to yelp but a hand covered her jaw with a voice telling her to stop struggling and be quiet.
"So, this is the girl the boss lady wants?" Chelle heard another girl ask.
"That's her," Chelle heard Amber reply. "Her name's Michelle and she thinks she's some real detective. I mean look at her, does she look like Nancy Drew to you?"
"Don't know," another girl replied. "I was more into the Famous Five myself. Come on, let's get her ready I want the money."
Chelle immediately heard plastic snapping and a sweet aroma pervaded her senses.
"The lady invented them," she heard Amber explain, "Stun phials, you crack them open, hold them under the target's nose and boom!'"
"So, she's now unconscious?" She heard the first voice ask.
No Chelle thought silently I can hear every word you say. But I can't move my muscles at all! I can’t speak! Wait, I've been through this before!
"Not fully. As I understand, it she'll only be able to hear us. The drug paralyses every muscle, then sleep comes a little later. We can shortly safely to move her."
Sure enough, Chelle saw, not felt the girls easily lift her up and took her out with no teacher in sight just before her eyes closed. She woke up quickly, finding the blindfold removed and her limbs moveable but felt extremely weak. Chelle scanned around and assumed she was no longer in the school. Naturally she tried to move, however a figure approached and she gasped immediately recognising. "Madame Priscilla Redmond! You nearly killed me and Lin with an IED last time!"
"I make my sincere apologies. Your father..." Chelle, despite her weakness started protesting until the fake teacher managed to calm her down. "Michelle your father is in danger. Yes, he has been working for British intelligence, no not for normal SIS operations; he's in charge of deep covert operations in Eastern Europe and is currently personally gathering information that will aid the Ukrainians. However, the Black Shirts, a group that I used to be with, is targeting him for revenge." She held up her hand and threw a piece of paper near Chelle. "You'll get your strength back in a few minutes and oh, you might need this," she tossed a sanitary towel down as well, then disappeared in the shadows.
Arthur Summers in fact was in Przemyśl, a Polish town near the Ukrainian border. Operation Monitor was centred on using a local asset codenamed Rainbow monitoring if there was pro-Russian Ukrainians or activity in Western Ukraine and to counter any misinformation with a special device named Zeus. The communications were of course far better here than in SIS HQ yet were choppy at rare times. Arthur was intensely focused on liaising with Rainbow, the communication link suddenly faded. He tapped the set furiously and then called the SIS technician twice but received no answer. Frowning, he turned, only to hear a loud explosion.
"That was actually wonderful, "Reinhard remarked as he got out of the town river. "And thanks for helping me improve my backstroke."
"No problem," Lin replied. She chose to wear a normal one-piece black swimsuit as opposed to her usual bikinis as she recalled last time she wore reveal clothing near him. With a towel wrapped around her head, she retrieved their mobile phones from the buried box which was her latest gadget -- if you enter the wrong combination code the first time, a foul stench would emit. What surprised them was a photograph of the paper Priscilla Redmond left at Chelle's feet.
"It's German," the shorter teenager muttered, typing a translation. “It’s directions to some carpark in some area in North London, but I can't translate the next paragraph, not sure what language that is."
"And there's some faded symbol at the side. Let's get changed out and gather the others," Lin suggested, hoping Chelle was heading to that location alone.
Chelle did in fact head to that location since it was along the train route back home. The car park was partly shaded and there weren't many parked. She quickly walked past each vehicle until she saw two vans, one white with black stripes, the other in a cream colour. As she approached the striped van, she was felt like she was pushed and fell into the other van. It was either the day's events or some odourless gas that made the girl detective sleep.
Lin thought the language was Romanian, Jenn thought Polish or some language from the Baltic region. Reinhard and Mark neither had success enhancing and enlarging Finally Jenn wildly mentioned that they should show it to Chelle's mum; it was way beyond their abilities and wasn't a police-centred case.
Chelle awoke to the sound of engines; they weren't jet engines but propeller-driven ones. She felt the vehicle jerk not from its engine and soon realised the van inside some transport plane that was descending down. Soon enough, she heard wheel touch the ground and the plane shift around finally breaking to a halt and the sound of an aircraft ramp lowered. The van she was in, started reversing and despite the blacked windows, she could surmise that it had drove into a hangar. The vehicle stopped and the back door popped open.
By luck, Mrs Margaret Summers was at home. As usual, he faced turn to a worried look when learn from Lin and Jenn her elder daughter wasn't contactable. Upon seeing the faded symbol on the paper, her face turned ashen and asked for a copy.
"What does that mean?" Lin asked but Maggie Summers just thanked them, went to her bedroom and dialled a private number.
The open door of then van reveal pitch darkness and hardly any smell. Chelle waited for nearly a minute before getting out slowly. There was hardly any objects as far as she could make out or any way out. Just as she was trying to guess which country she was now in or what move to make, there was an electronic buzzing sound.
"Hello, Michelle Summers, great teenaged detective, daughter of Arthur Jason Summers," Chelle tried not to flinch upon hearing her father's full name. "I know you want to see daddy right?" Chelle kept silent.
"I take as a 'yes'. What we want is full cooperation. We’ll let you see daddy, then we'll let you go too. That's a guarantee," the muffled voice continued. Small beans of light shone, revealing rifles pointing at her.
Chelle did not really like her chances. She wished she had contacted the authorities or the others were here.
"What do you want me actually to do?"
"Walk to the light that I'll shine and you find a small table. There'll be a roll of cloth, duct tape and a pair of handcuffs. You're to stuff the cloth into your mouth, gag yourself and cuff yourself with your hands behind your back, make sure it is behind your back. Wait there. We'll then pick you up and you'll see daddy dearest. After that there'll be some small talk then we'll let you go. Any silly moves at all and daddy will see your dead body. Nod in agreement."
Chelle nodded and tried not to be frightened. But having heard her father's name easily meant he was captured by this group. With the light shone, she walked, quite confidently and found the items as mentioned. She grimaced with distaste at the tight roll of cloth. It was thick, a torn piece of bed sheet, with some marks on it. Sighing internally, she didn't stuff the cloth completely in her mouth an tore a short piece of the silvery tape. The handcuffs were small steel circlets connected by a single link of chain. Chelle slipped her right wrist into one circlet and clicked it shut. Then, taking a deep breath, she placed her arms behind her back and found the other cuff with her left hand. Carefully, she slipped her wrist into the metal ring, braced herself, then clicked it into place. The single link of chain definitely allowed very little freedom of movement.
Michelle looked up and before she could turn around, another vehicle drove up next to her. Arms pulled her inside and no seat belt was clipped on, nearly throwing her against the front seat. She was suddenly grabbed and felt the handcuffs were tightened. Another. set of hands had locked handcuffs over her socks. The vehicle sped out of the hangar and Chelle's attention was on her gag. The cloth penetrated deep into her mouth against her tongue, causing a gagging reflex that she had to fight for the first few minutes. The tightness of the tape created more difficulty for her to breathe and thus she slumped slightly seat. No I've have to focus, she reminded herself and sat up between the two armed men, she assumed they were men sitting next to her. Like the van previously, this car's windows were shaded but there was enough light and Chelle saw truck with another person holding one to some small box. She tried to raise her head, but one thug next to her pushed her down and muttering in a language she did not comprehend, a black hood was thrown over her head, keeping her in pure darkness.
The car ride wasn't long and Chelle soon felt herself being carried. The two men carried her, one at her shoulders and the other holding her bare legs. She now guessed that she was being carried into a factory or a building that smelt of old machines and some odour she couldn't identify. She was lowered with unsurprising roughness onto what felt like a stone surface. One of the men rolled her onto her face, less gently now. Her legs were folded behind her so that her trainers rested against her buttocks, possibly creating and upskirt.
Despite all the lethargy, Chelle raised her head and breathed as best as the hood and tape stretched taut across her face allowed. That was She felt dizzy and nauseous. She felt a bit sick but dare not vomit because of the gag. The dead air of the cellar still was a little refreshing if only the hood could be removed. She breathed a sigh of relief when the sounds of the men's shoes receded and footfalls and a heavy door closed. Chelle started rubbing the hood and trying to yank her arms from her back to her front when she heard the footsteps return. Arms held her extremely tight as she felt her blazer cut away, then her blouse, and her skirt, Chelle struggled as best as she could but her trainers were pulled away and the leg cuffs were temporarily removed to allow her socks pulled off. Bound and gagged in my undies, and hooded, what a way to spend the holidays.
As Chelle was unceremoniously undressed, there was a discussion between Director General Healey, the Chief of the SIS and the Chair of the JIC in a secure room in the Cabinet Office. The Head of Station in Poland had sent and urgent report when discovering the destruction of their secret base in Przemyśl and deaths of its personnel. A quick examination of the bodies informed SIS who was behind the attack. "Only Summers is not amongst the bodies, the asset Rainbow is out of contact and the special Zeus device is missing. Summers’ wife also confirmed he's an a ‘in danger’ message sent," Healey summarised.
"How big of a mess is this?" Asked the SIS head, waving away his deputy's cigar.
The answer was huge, both from the device data and ability and how much Arthur Summer's knew about the UK's intelligence operations. The JIC Chairman remarked, "We can launch an op to find the device, but for one man? I don't want to explain to the PM how we start an international incident. Or get the ISC breathing down our necks." The ISC was of course the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament, made famous to the world from the Bond movie Skyfall. The three men debated and the decision finally was made to contact the DSF, the unnamed Director of Special Forces.
Chelle was suddenly pulled to sit up and as she heard the sound or a door opening, the hood was removed. "DmmmD!" She cried, recognising the figure guarded by a hooded thug. Her father's hands were cuffed in front of him.
"Piotr!" Arthur yelled, shouting the actual name of the asset code named Rainbow. "You traitor!"
"Your country, was the traitor, leaving my parents tortured by the Soviets! And still is! And you're in no place to lecture me while I hold you darling daughter!" Chelle cried again through her gag as she felt her hair yanked. She was naturally embarrassed to encounter her dad undressed down to her bra and knickers. At least her period was over...
"Oh really? I have your special device which will sell extremely to any state or non-state actors. And given me the list of current British intelligence operations, first in Europe then in East Asia..."
There was a short pause then the floro next to Chelle opened up, revealing a large pool of water. "Or your girl gets dunk in a pool of piranhas!" All the thugs laughed.
"Leave her alone!"
"Names please," Chelle looked up to see the former SIS asset holding a notepad. Facing her father she cried once again through her gag, trying to tell him not to give in, although another part of her did not wish to suffer a gruesome death or bite There was a pause then Chelle found herself pushed into the pool.
"No!!!" Arthur Summers yelled in response but just before than push, Chelle had managed to cut off the handcuff's chain with the only gadget she had, Lin's special watch cutter. Flying down, luck was with her as a pipe was within reach and she quickly grabbed it. The water was still extremely close to her bare feet and she could see the outline of the deadly fishes.
"Hemmlp! Hemmlp! Hemmlp!" Chelle cried and heard multiple shots. Was Dad dead?! No!!! Suddenly three thugs fell into the water and Chelle saw blood in their heads. The shots came from eight men of the UK Special Forces most elite and clandestine unit, E Squadron, which had a strong history operating with the SIS.
Within less than three minutes, all the thugs were killed and the Troop leader, lowered his LWRC International Ultra Compact Individual Weapon (UCIW) and radioed a report, "All enemies present KIA," meaning killed in action. "Rainbow not in sight, device not present."
"Hey! Help my daughter up," Arthur called and Chelle was really grateful as she was hauled up. As her removed her gag, she recalled want the SAS leader radioed and after taking a large drip of water, she recalled what she saw from the car.
"Thanks, stay with them," the leader told one of his men while the others exited and father and daughter shared a large hug.
The E squadron team had managed to find and kill Piotr just before he could drive across the border and sell the special device. Being clandestine in nature, the unit whisked father, daughter and themselves back to UK soil as shadowy as they arrived and the SIS leaders were glad it was kept that way. The shadowy lady, Priscilla Redmond was picked up by UK customs officers but was making a deal, revealing the Black Shirts' activities and her own.
Back in the Summers home, the whole family was sitting quietly for a small meal, Chelle rubbing much ointment over the cuts on her wrists and moisturiser on her face. Arthur was the first the break the ice.
"Today, I lied once again to my girls, and nearly got my wonderful detective daughter eaten up,"
"Dad..." Chelle started but Arthur held up his hands.
"I know, SIS rules are very strict in telling family members what their staff really do. My wife knows." The symbol on the paper was Arthur's danger message. Maggie Summers was once an executive assistant at MI5 and met her husband at a function. They had moved the girls up to Croonford in case SIS adversaries would find the family. How Priscilla Redmond discovered the symbol was still under investigation.
"No more secrets, no more. Thank you, Michelle, thank you Maggie and I'll attend your choral act Kate. I’m changing jobs." he hugged each girl, kissing Chelle on her forehead before returning to his room.
Michelle, Lin Ling, Jennifer, Mark and Reinhard will return in 'The Truth Revealed?'