“Reading the red tops or the right leaning websites which masquerade as news, it would be forgiveable to believe a secret civil war had been raging for years. A subversion of society; covert supplicants of foreign nations establishing dominion. Then come the other tabloids, a shouting voice inciting rage for no reason other than saleable value. Beyond, the broadsheets, carving public opinion in their own moulds. Some left, some right, and the neutral finding itself neutered by a lower quality of argument.

Reality, as reality almost always does, exists on the plane beneath. Lost in the quantum foam of alternate universes created for the sake of circulation figures. But real doesn’t sell. Fury sells. And to create fury, you have to create a bogeyman. Journalists know this, which is why they make such lethal politicians. They play games purist political figures can barely even grasp…”

Lord Atterbury, BBC Radio 4 Politics Show, First Referendum Special, May 2016

“Why should I muck this stable out?”

Sam Reid, outgoing Prime Minister, recorded while leaving Number 10 press conference on his resignation, June 2016

“We are putting our pride back into the world – a fleet of Rich Tea biscuits declaring to the world that Great Britain will no longer be dunked by foreign bureaucrats!”

Byron Willis, Declared Candidate as Prime Minister on the Leave The Union campaign trail in Yorkshire, June 2016

***

‘Well one of us is going to have to take the first bite.’

Smythe’s words hung in the air and nothing was uttered for over five minutes, the only sounds being a muted clattering of plates as service staff cleared the table – a dingy nook, hidden in one of London’s more exclusive lunch venues.

Willis sat silent, crumpled shirt and dishevelled jacket adding to his scarecrow-like appearance. An act, of course, waiting for the show to begin in front of the expected paps outside. This was not entirely how things had been intended to go, but Smythe was quite right — someone was going to have to take the first mouthful of the shit sandwich they’d spent years making and he’d resigned himself to the inevitable. It would have to be him. The alternatives were unbearable because it would mean he’d be forced to abstain from holding the power he’d always craved. Especially with Reid, the washed up fool, in the mix.

‘Okay. I’ll do it,’ he sighed, lips and growing jowls trembling as the air rushed out of him. He brushed the untamed hair back from his eyes and sipped at his whiskey. ‘But it’s conditional.’

Smythe squirmed in his chair. This would mean he was in, as Chancellor. A promotion but a poisoned chalice all the same. The one saving grace being his exit strategy, which was to be kept out of sight unless it became absolutely necessary to deploy it. He raised his glass.

‘Chin chin.’

‘To this brave new world of ours,’ Willis replied, half-hearted and shoulders slumping as the glasses clinked together in the otherwise silent club.

***

The kettle wasn’t working. At least it didn’t seem to be. Even the household appliances are conspiring against me these days, Sam Reid thought to himself as he tried to make a cup of tea in Number 10 Downing Street.

The kitchen cupboard with the mugs in had a glass fronted door and he caught sight of a haggard reflection. Black hair going rapidly grey, bags under his eyes. The combination of mid-life crisis – which brought the statutory widening of the waistline – and the looming Armageddon of the national referendum on membership of the European Union was taking its toll.

It would be time to step down. Of that much he’d made his mind up as the kettle finally bubbled, then clicked itself off and quietened down. It sounded smug, too. A self satisfied little harrumph after making him wait. I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed, Reid thought to himself, a wan smile crossing his face at the old Douglas Adams quote. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom had more in common with Marvin than any being on the planet. He stirred his tea, admonishing his error of adding the milk first, a layer of strange scum forming on the surface of the drink, which also refused to darken. My capacity for happiness, his inner Marvin said, you could fit into a matchbox without taking out the matches first.

Slowly, he started to bang his head against the cupboard, not hard enough to break the glass, but enough for the mugs to rattle. It was probably bullet proof anyway. A lot of things were inside the most famous address in the world – the White House having no street name keeping it out of the running. Even one of the toilet bowls was bullet proof. It was Thatcher, in her third term. After she’d lost the plot. The Brighton bomb came back to haunt her as she deteriorated, so everything that could be projectile resistant was made so. That was the story anyway, and no one came into Number 10 with a gun so it had never been put to the test. He gave up banging his head and sipped his weak, scummy tea then sighed just as a young clerk walked into the kitchen.

‘Sam,’ he insisted that everyone called him Sam, ‘Myers is on the phone, he says it’s important.’

Reid despised the President of the United States, often referring to him by the name Withered Tangerine Devilspawn and, if he was really in a low mood, Ferret-Faced Bollock. Endearing terms first used by the Scots when Ron Myers had still been on the campaign trail and it looked as though common sense might prevail. It hadn’t, so the world was landed with what he’d overheard the young clerk refer to as the personification of Blue Waffle. The PM had Googled it, leaving the image burned into his mind but the sentiment well and truly understood.

‘Can you tell that walking bundle of VD I’ll call him back? I have a pressing engagement with a blowtorch and my left testicle.’

‘I’ll tell him you’re at the budget meeting next door,’ the clerk laughed, then added, ‘Sam, are you okay?’

A myriad of honest thoughts clamoured to escape from Reid’s mouth but, in the end, he let Marvin do the talking.

‘Life! Don’t talk to me about life.’

The clerk paused then backed out of the door, dreading the day he’d reach middle age if it meant ending up like that.

***

‘…so…Marti…Centre…four years. Yes…next two weeks…usual…transfer is fine.’

The audio file was starting to get on Kenny’s nerves. He’d been up all night trying to get the levels right and remove the pocket fluff interference, and he was due back at the Guardian that morning. Freelance cover for Home Affairs, which meant next to nothing would be happening. He’d be tired and bored by the time he left at six, to go back to Channel Four for more of the same. The audio, on the other hand, was his baby.

Ten years ago, Kenny had won the prestigious Young Journalist award, fresh-faced and flying as he was. Full of dreams until he realised it’s not what you know, but who. After that came a series of hack jobs, including a bout as second fiddle on Snowden for the Guardian, while he tried to work on a big break.

He scrolled through the clean up options and filter settings which dropped down from Audacity’s menu and tweaked a couple of them, then pressed his headphones as tight as they would go without popping his skull like a balloon. His eyes widened. He added volume multipliers and played it again.

‘Get in!’ he laughed to the empty room, leaping up from the chair by the desk, pulling the headphone cable taught and launching a coffee cup onto the floor. He stumbled backwards laughing harder, the jack pulling free of the laptop completely and the recording playing itself into the room.

‘We’ll make the pages so. Stop worrying about it Martin. You had this from the start of the Policy Centre. This is your master stroke, in the making for four years. Yes, you should be proud and now it’s happening. A coup. We will start running the stories in the next two weeks. Yes, we appreciate how much this benefits us so the payment is the usual. As always, a Swiss transfer is from us is absolutely fine.’

He stumbled back onto the bed, scattering the papers stacked there, his head landing next to the photographs of the speaker and his companion — a British-American media mogul who owned most of Britain’s commercial, digital broadcast outlets along with four national newspapers, and the Editor in Chief or Britain’s largest right wing tabloid, branded the Daily Hate by industry folks, in a nod to Orwell.

Kenny picked up one of the photographs, a still from the video the audio was pulled from — filmed on a button hole as he sat in a restaurant trying to look inconspicuous, not two months ago. Ralph McIntyre and Philip Diamond. He kissed the image and launched it spinning into the air.

***

Norman pulled a pint of Abbot’s, working the old hand pump like a professional, and held it out towards the camera.

‘Cheers!’ he bellowed. ‘A good old-fashioned pint for a good, old-fashioned England.’

‘Christ’s sake, Norman,’ the man with the clipboard muttered, motioning a sliced throat at the camerawoman. ‘Cut, re-run it. How many times do I have to tell you, it’s Britain. You can’t just say England, even if that’s what we mean.’

Norman tipped the pint down his throat as if it was water, barely gulping, and held the empty glass under the tap, ready to go again. He knew he was getting good at this, as he never dropped his smile once. Every night he’d spend at least an hour in front of the mirror, practising his broad grin, his statesman’s laugh, his man-of-the-people concern.

He pulled the pint, cheered to Britain and that was a wrap.

***

Lord Atterbury’s Private Diaries:

Britain has changed an awful lot since the nineteen-sixties, back then being seen as the poor man of Europe. The decade when De Gaulle twice refused the United Kingdom’s entry into the fledgling union.

The country was swinging, having a belting good time. The decade of the Mini, the mini-skirt, and free love. But this is the view provided by little more than rose tinted spectacles and all the evidence you need that a population can be made to forget in relatively swift order. The phenomenon of the Goldfish In The Bowl – one complete circuit and the view is already forgotten. The Mini was a product of the fifties.

De Gaulle was right about us, in the long run more so than he would ever know. He doubted our commitment to the union, our ability to think above and beyond ourselves. A prescient and perceptive man.

The truth of the sixties was very different. Behind all the gloss of music and the colourful transformation of post war London into a fast moving, multicoloured haven for sex, drugs, and rock and roll, things were bleak. The failure of the National Plan, racial discrimination in Industry, the devaluation of the Pound, student protests, and rioting in Northern Ireland. Remove the spectacles for a moment and it’s hard not see De Gaulle’s point. We were a mess, still struggling to redefine ourselves after a bloody conflict. Trying to find our place in the world. We wanted Europe because we needed Europe, but they didn’t need us.

Harold Macmillan, the blithering idiot, kept prattling out the tired line that most of our people have never had it so good, a hollow catchphrase which heralded the separation of society into not two (rich and poor) but three dimensions. The elite, the dregs, and this bizarre concept of the middle class. People neither here nor there but with disdain for the poor and envy of the rich. Our economy was stop and go, the then Conservatives trying desperately to stop spiralling inflation while being equally dedicated to not snuffing out economic growth. We weren’t even half of a match for France or Germany, nor Japan for that matter.

We might have been particularly good at manufacturing for the home market, but the truth is we cocked up. Post war, we were world leaders in aviation and computer technology but never exploited it, focusing on domestic production of toilets and mass market consumer items instead. There was building too, commercial developments and public buildings, which kept the unemployment figures down, but people only need so many loos and places to sit on them.

After Macmillan came Wilson and Labour, which was marginally worse. They were unable to provide a solution and, after keeping the pound high, interest rates were up too, leaving them no option but to intervene in foreign currency reserves. In November of sixty-seven they devalued the pound by fourteen percent. It was a political embarrassment and the pound in your pocket sentence would haunt Westminster for many years. It didn’t solve anything either, productivity levels worsened as labour relations did. The nationalised industries were the worst — uncompetitive, union dominated and rich with the absence of vocational training and qualifications — but the primary failure was the short-term view of a government with a poor understanding of economics.

By the turn of the decade, as Heath returned the Conservatives to power, there had also been Enoch Powell, a pure-blood, inflammatory racist who I refuse to acknowledge. However, his rhetoric struck a chord with many and showed the power of immigration as a right wing, political tool. Powell’s shadow cast itself over many decades, an effect unimagined when he spoke in Wolverhampton. The politics of prejudice and fear have always run deep, as my friend Tony Benn once highlighted, referring to Dachau and Belsen.

The chaos really began as the effects of our lumbering economy were hobbled by strike actions, added to the oil crisis of seventy-three. This landed us with the three-day week.

The dying man of Europe, as we truly were, we finally managed to join the union and, after more chaos and rising unemployment – a trebling, in fact – we survived the Winter of Discontent and in came Thatcher and a new type of Conservatism, one that would spawn think-tanks.

People forget a lot of this. Always do. Most people would probably mention Enoch Powell, Thatcher, mini-skirts and flared trousers…

***

Kenny had booked in for the meeting at The Policy Centre, which occupied a floor of Clutha House, a stones through from the Houses of Westminster and Portcullis. It looked innocuous, barring the exclusivity of the postcode, and the policy wonk who met him seemed friendly enough at first. Until he was asked questions. Funding seemed to put him on edge.

‘We are as transparent as we need to be, we are funded by donations.’

Giles Blane had an Etonian face which Kenny, being a Macem, wanted to smash to pieces with a lump hammer. Privilege and pomp were writ large on the overly noble forehead, combed black hair and a nose which never had a fist near it. Standing around six feet tall, he appeared rugby-fit and should have obscured Kenny – a five-six, skinny lad with a wave of mousey hair – but he flinched back. He’d grown up in a prissy bubble and stayed there.

‘That’s not what I asked,’ Kenny was firm, taking no prisoners, ‘I asked why, out of all of the think tanks in the country, you rate consistently lowest for financial transparency yet appear to exert the most positive influence on government policy.’

Six out of the ten flagship policies of Sam Reid’s Conservative government had originated at the Centre. Five had been written by Blane, a one time assistant to the Crime and Justice minister who wrote the policing blueprint which caused uproar in all forty-three constabularies.

Blane settled back in his chair, trying to regain lost superiority.

‘There are nuances to the workings of government which somebody like you could never fully grasp.’

‘Well, setting aside my first degree and my prestigious award, I think I grasp it just fine. You accept money from businesses and churn out policy for and on behalf of ministers. It’s cash for policy, but what I’m interested in is the mechanism by which the kick back occurs. Which is why you hide your finances.’ It was a punt which paid off.

‘Time’s up, I’m afraid. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have real work to do.’

Kenny laughed, gathering his papers from the desk and helping himself to a few interesting looking sheaths he’d set them down upon.

‘Have yourself a wonderful day, try not to run into any plebs on your way home.’

Blane didn’t smile or say goodbye, simply waited until the journalist left then picked up the telephone.

‘We have a problem,’ he told the person on the other end of the line.

***

Mary Winter had a reputation to uphold. She had managed to escape almost all scrutiny levelled at her as Home Secretary, in an unheard of straight run of six years, and she had handbags to shop for. The latter being the reputation which appeared to keep her in the good books of the media, no matter what gaffes she pulled in the day job. Having a bunch of power-rabid junior ministers serve as her minions in Crime and Justice and Policing had helped – inexperience allowing their required sacrifices to go largely unnoticed.

‘Now that,’ she boomed into the boutique, picking up a lipstick-red crocodile skin with a solid gold clasp, ‘is a beautiful handbag.’

She slipped it over her shoulder and briefly closed her eyes, savouring the empty weight of it.

Mary enjoyed her life very much.

***

Smythe hadn’t enjoyed the telephone call from Blane. It was an inconvenience of the kind he met with nothing but uncontrollable hatred. Made worse, in this case, by discovering the journalist was not only educated in the public school system, but was bloody well Northern. Not even the good part of the North. These plebians had no concept of the delicate intricacies of politics and coup.

Smythe gripped the desk and dialled the number he always called in such emergencies. The familiar voice answered on the third ring.

‘Darling…yes, I know it’s the middle of the day………no, no, I haven’t broken the washer again…no, listen….okay…yes. I will, but…okay…darling…darling…we have a problem.’

Once he’d explained everything to his wife, Smythe felt much better.

***

Reid couldn’t stand Willis. Never had been able to. Though he never could decide whether it was the pantomime which hid the beady and selfish truth of him, or the ridiculous haircut. Perhaps it was because Willis had always retained the upper hand in their relationship since he became an unintentional witness to the Bullingdon incident. The hind quarters of that sheep had been the bane of Sam’s life and he shuddered at the memory standing behind it, pants around his ankles. Even the lamb displays at Waitrose hate me, he signed to himself.

Willis had made himself at home, sloppily dunking Digestives into his mug on the edge of the Prime Minister’s desk. His saturation count was as perfect as it ever would be, each biscuit held in the hot drink for precisely two and a half seconds before they were bitten back to the dry. Sam was thinking about the sheep again, Willis could see that. Good, he thought, this will go better than planned.

‘So, Sam,’ Willis began, pausing to scoff another deftly timed portion of biscuit, ‘we’ve both known this was coming for some time, so I just wanted to say thank you for making room for my return as an MP.’

‘I hardly think that Mark Thompson’s death from cancer can be looked upon as a favour, Byron.’

‘Terribly sad, of course,’ Willis replied, thinking anything but. ‘Necessary though, to get me out of that degrading city job and possibly the easiest by-election win there has ever been. Until I redraw the voting boundaries once I relieve you of your responsibilities, of course.’

Of the sixty million people who could have witnessed my brief love affair with a sheep, it had to be him, Sam thought to himself and slumped into his chair with a creak. In three months this pustule of fetid slime would be replacing him as Prime Minister and leading the country down the most dangerous road since the nineteen-thirties. He watched in horror as Willis scooped a congealed lump of fallen Digestive from his tea, using bare fingers to shovel it into his bullfrog mouth.

***

Sally Smythe liked to think of herself as a part-time politician and a full-time columnist, and, by Christ, did one role feed the other. By the end of the last tax year her newspaper earnings had overtaken her MP’s salary by a substantial margin.

Her husband was a limp-cocked buffoon of course, but he represented a unique opportunity for her to occupy a house on Downing Street, so she closed her laptop after his phone call and dialled the mobile number for Ralph.

‘Ralph, Michael’s just called me,’ she was friendly but blunt. ‘A journalist is sniffing around around the think-tank…no, not one of yours, a bloody comp school, bleeding-heart leftard…I know, right…good, I’ll leave it with you.’

She ended the call, sipped her gin and tonic and went back to the latest column – a character assassination of Sam Reid, the Prime Minister who was about to launch the official campaign to stay in Europe.

‘Take that, sheepboy!’ Sally shouted at the empty room.

***

Norman Jones often felt like the luckiest sod in the whole world. Here he was, balls deep in a Dutch hooker – one of the nicer ones, with the certificate – on the tax dollar of the very Union he was set to destroy.

Willis and Smythe had come to him with a plan so devilishly devious he couldn’t quite believe his stars kept coming up trumps. He tapped ash on the prostitute’s back, slapping her buttock for good measure when she squealed at a minor burn from the lit tobacco. When he finished, there’d be just enough time for a shower before he met the elite of Europe’s far right, to talk them through the details.

***

Sally Smythe: RIPrime Minister

We’ve sat and listened to the misery intoned codswallop from Sam Reid for five years now. A blathering windbag, hell-bent on the destruction of real British values with his left-leaning wobble leading us further up the European path.

Since he came to power foreigners have flocked to our shores, stealing jobs from the noble British working classes who suffer unemployment and the growth of bloody Polish supermarkets. You can’t even buy a Big Issue from a British tramp in some towns now!

We can’t leave Europe because economy this and long term future that. Well, we the Great British public have had enough. He knows nothing of the hell suffered on the streets up and down the country, what it’s like to hear every language but our own being spoken on a bus.

Immigrants don’t drive the economy, our beloved NHS is crumbling under the weight of them as they come here on tour for lavish benefits and send our money abroad to their families.

Well, you know what, Mr Reid? Come the referendum it’s time for the working classes to rise up against your soft elitism and bring our pounds home. British jobs for British people. The English language for England!

We will take back our kingdom and the likes of Sam Reid will become a thing of the past. A new politics is what we need, which drives out greedy immigrants and make our nation truly great again!

So enough of the liberal whining, this “democracy”, we must throw of the oppression and never again put our lives in the hands of someone who once boffed a…

***

‘Do you have even the slightest idea of how much it costs to have someone bumped off? Inflation is outrageous!’ McIntyre was ranting, as he often tended to. Diamond smiled pleasantly enough but was groaning inside.

‘Perhaps, Ralph, we could just keep this between ourselves.’ He eyed the open door which led into the heaving offices of McIntyre’s corporate headquarters, a visual clue which the old man seemed to finally understand.

‘Yes, you’re right. It’s cost me a fortune though!’

Diamond sighed and sipped his Scotch, reviewing his emergency strategy as he watched the old man do the same. This was the riskiest stunt he’d ever been involved in and he needed to satisfy himself he could walk off unscathed. If the worst came to the worst, he’d spend an outrageous amount of money himself and have them all put down.

***

Bull was called Bull because he was full of it.

He’d picked the nickname up in the Army, where he’d lasted three years before he was dishonourably discharged for violent behaviour and spreading right wing propaganda in the barracks. Still, he’d learned quite a lot about killing people, which was a bonus.

Christ knows what for, but they’d set him up to do this job with someone else, which is why he was sat in the pub nursing a pint of Guiness. He was waiting for a man whose name he’d heard before. White. That was it. No Mr, no first name, just White. Rumour on the underground had it this bloke was hard as nails and looking around Bull couldn’t see anyone matching a description to fill those boots. Which meant he was late.

‘Excuse me,’ the middle class man who’d been sitting along the bench piped up. He sounded as feeble as he looked. Skinny, tight fitting suit, little glasses which made his narrow face look even thinner. He sounded like one of those private school toffs.

‘What the hell do you want?’ Bull growled, giving him a stare that would have been at home on the face of an angry gorilla.

‘Speak to me like that again young man and I will tear out your kidneys and make you eat them before I slit your throat.’ White appeared delighted as he spoke, a tittering laugh escaping from him.

Bull had no idea quite what he’d gotten himself into.

***

Andersson could not stand Norman Jones, the very sight of his smug, goblin-like face bringing about a wave of nausea each time he caught sight of it. Why he was even in Brussels, Andersson – whose first name was Morten – couldn’t fathom. The cretin despised the union, actively campaigned against its continued existence. There was no conclusion pointing away from the healthy salary. It made sense, to Morten at least, because he’d looked into Jones and found he’d only ever held two jobs in his life, both of which he was dismissed from in short order.

Morten was one of two permanent Deputy Ambassadors appointed to represent Sweden in Brussels. His speciality policy areas were crime and economics, inspired in turn by his Dutch father – once a senior policeman – and his mother, an academic economist. They were killed in a car accident a year after Morten had been appointed in his secondary role — special advisor to the French and German heads of state on matters of the union.

His parents were proud of their son, the only frustration with him being the refusal to come out to them. He’d never felt comfortable enough to do it, with Sweden still having a lack of plan to tackle homophobia and even now sliding further in the Rainbow Index. As liberal as he was, Morten could be incredibly stuffy when it came to himself and part of that reason was the rise of voices like Norman Jones’ in the European Parliament.

Sitting in the bar, Morten saw the prominent figures of the far right from the member nations gravitating towards each other. A sneering bunch of bullies, intent on pulling the council to pieces.

Jones caught Andersson looking, held up one limp wrist and blew him a kiss with the other hand.

Morten finished his drink and left, Jones would need to keep for another day.

***

Sarah walked into her new office and shut the door, setting the box of her belongings down on the desk and falling into the chair which span almost a full turn, leaving her looking out at the Queen Elizabeth II centre on Storey’s Gate. It had been a long walk back to London after she’d flown Scotland Yard to head up Europol on a three year commission but here she was, chief of the United Kingdom’s answer to the FBI.

A loud knock came at the door.

‘Come in,’ she called and watched the door swing open to reveal Terry, one of her senior officers. She span the chair to face him and placed her elbows on the desk, hands clasped under her chin.

‘Ma’am, we’ve got a slight issue.’

‘Define issue.’

‘It’s another one of those people in the bag jobs.’

‘Bugger.’

Sarah Peters had been intent on spending her first afternoon setting up her desk but, within fifteen minutes of stepping into the building, she was about to become embroiled in something just as nasty as it sounded.

***

Financial Iceberg Ahead says leading Swedish Economist:

Following the economic crash of 2008/9 there have been a number of disputes over the continued financial viability of a globalised economy, with many adding dissenting political voices to the debate.

Four years on, the world’s leading economic researcher, Isabel Andersson, whose forecasts have helped her native Sweden drive their economy from strength to strength, has published her final paper. (She is retiring to take a tour of Europe with her husband).

“There are many arguments set down which claim globalisation is, in the long term, damaging to individual economies. These claims are often put forwards by nationalist leaning governments or by the ‘think-tanks’ working for them, providing external ‘research’.

The simple truth, from an economic point of view, is that globalisation provides a stable financial habitat in which it is much easier for central banks to exert a steadying hand with lower levels of quantitative easing. It also reduces the risk of bank runs, by bringing the volatile and profit driven stock markets into a more balanced degree of co-operation. Over the long term, this unification has stabilised currency markets which has provided a platform for the growth of balanced import and export markets across the world. It has been years, for example, since Britain was forced to devalue the Pound and drive itself into a dangerous financial position. Such a thing in the modern world would be disastrous but, on the surface, would seem normal at first.

To use an analogy everyone will understand, the Titanic appeared fine after striking the iceberg because the damage was below the water line. By the time the inevitable became visible to everyone, it was too late. The sad truth is, the survivors of the Titanic would be a reflection of those in society most likely to escape an economic iceberg strike caused by a nationalist financial and political policy…”

***

Bull realised he was in deep trouble as soon as they were in the Journalist’s flat. White was not just another gangland lump of muscle. This bloke was evil and he was making the disgraced soldier’s unmentionables sweat.

It was too late by the time he was zipping up the sports bag, fiddling the small padlock into place, to back out. That much he understood. So, nervously, he lifted the folded up journalist off the bathroom floor and set the bag down in the middle of the bath as he’d been instructed. Not asked, told. He turned back towards White and saw the gun was still trained on him, silencer on the end of the barrel pointing between his eyes with an almost idle precision. White was on the phone.

‘One clean up at primary, standard. Proceeding to secondary.’ He ended the call and tucked the strange looking phone back into the pocket of his grey trousers. To Bull it looked like a Blackberry with an extra half inch of battery on the back. White was grinning at him. ‘Standard issue, in certain circles,’ he said, more than a touch of shrill glee in his voice.

‘What do you mean secondary?’ Bull asked, the panic becoming very real within him now. He’d just watched a man being tortured with nothing more complex than a four inch length of copper tube and an eight inch length of barbed wire.

‘Oh dear boy, even you aren’t such a blithering idiot you don’t know I’m taking you somewhere to shoot you and dispose of your knuckle-dragging corpse.’

***

‘It’s spies, Ma’am,’ Terry grunted, causing Sarah to set down the file she was reading and glance at him, having almost forgotten he was hovering at the end of her desk like a lost puppy.

‘Sorry?’

‘Spies. Again.’

Sarah Peters hadn’t gotten to her position by blagging it alone. It was the exact same thing as the last body in bag, except the victim had a different employer. The link to Snowden seemed the most logical line, though the overt tactics of the security services destroying computer equipment at the Guardian offices left her with a niggling doubt. Too obvious. Besides, the body had been found too quickly. A day after death.

‘Even if it is spies, Terry, I don’t understand why…’ Something was off and she left the ellipsis hanging in the office until Terry shrugged.

‘Cup of tea?’ he asked.

***

Snowden Journalist Found Dead:

Award winning Channel 4 and Guardian journalist Kenny Diggens was found dead at his London home earlier today. The Metropolitan Police have issued no formal statement at this time but we have been contacted by a source close the investigation who wishes to remain anonymous for their own safety.

‘It looks like a sex game gone wrong. He had porn on his computer showing people being spanked and his most recent Google search was for ball-gags. The crime scene doesn’t show any signs of anyone else having been there and it doesn’t look like any foul play was involved.’

Scotland Yard have refused to comment on the claims, which seem to contradict Guardian reports quoting the cleaner who found the body as saying: ‘The house was simply too tidy. Someone else had definitely been there, and Mr Diggens never left his computer switched on.’

Both the Guardian and Channel 4 led tributes for Diggens with the Guardian asking the question Was Kenny Killed Over Snowden Leaks?

Our well positioned source dismisses the theory, despite its apparently remarkable similarities to a previous case involving a spy and the clear link to the most famous whistleblower in modern history.

‘It’s ridiculous to suggest to this death is anything but an accident. There is absolute nothing suspicious about it at all.’

A decision will be made as regards a Coroner’s Inquest in due course.

***

In her office on Marsham Street, Mary took her notebook from the bright red handbag and smiled to herself.

While the male, pale and stale crowd were busy outdoing each other, she had arrangements to make for her walk into Number 10. There was enough dirt on Willis and Smythe to put them in prison, let alone out of the running for Reid’s job. Being Home Secretary certainly had its perks, all manner of muckraking being at your fingertips.

Silly boys, she thought to herself and smiled before picking up the phone.

‘Morten, Hi! I know, it’s been too long…look, I need to have a chat with France and Germany…yes, to set their minds at rest…No, we’re not going anywhere…Oh that fool? Don’t worry about him.’

***

J.J.P.

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