The Missing Manuscript Affair

Gwynedd

Stream near Bethesda in Gwynedd county, Wales on 23 Dec 2013 after a storm – Photo credit: BBC.com

Only about a dozen or so people knew that Olivia Lewis, the woman discovered drowned in a fast-flowing stream near Bethesda after a storm, was a retired SIS operative. She never carried a gun, for her talents were in finding the right approach to a target and then getting them to tell her anything she wanted.

Aging MI6 agent Ian Dennis took part of his training under her decades ago, which was when she had confided with him. He knew why she was murdered. She had owned the first draft of one of World War Two veteran Leslie Bonnet’s short stories, which contained a seventy-year-old secret he had learned while training pilots in China.

Now the draft was missing, and it was a race to discover the true location of lost Sichuan Temple, which legend said contained an ancient device more powerful than all the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a Google Maps image and location and use them to inspire crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to Gwynedd, Wales.

Of course I looked up the county of Gwynedd and discovered, among many other things, that World War Two veteran turned author made his home there after the war. Before that, he had spent some time in China in 1943 helping to create the Chinese Air Force as a service separate from their army.

I also found a 23 December 2013 BBC news story that reported a woman had drowned in a stream in Nant Ffrancon near Bethesda after a storm.

The lost temple is totally made up, though loosely based on this news article.

I created the beginning of yet another “Ian Dennis” mystery just for fun. Some of you may remember Ian from my short series The Mauritius Robbery Affair.

To read other stories based on the prompt, visit InLinkz.com.

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The Überlingen Collision Affair

briefcase

© Kyle Thompson

2 July 2002 – London

“Are you out of your fucking mind?” MI6 operative Ian Dennis could hear himself asking that question in his mind over and over again. How the hell was he supposed to find the courier’s briefcase amid the widely scattered wreckage of the Tupolev passenger jet? The horrendous mid-air collision with the 757 cargo plane could have sent it anywhere and by rights it and it’s classified contents should have been destroyed.

“The case is covered with genuine faux leather to be sure Dennis, but that conceals the titanium shell. Our man paid a small fortune in bribes to get in on board in Moscow so rest assured, it would survive the crash. It was designed to do just that.”

“Yes sir, Mr. Wilks. But why? This was supposed to be a milk run from Moscow to Barcelona. The courier was part of a UNESCO committee escorting a bunch of children on a school trip to Costa Dorada.”

“Thank you, Dennis. I am familiar with the facts of the Op.” A casual observer would conclude that Richard Wilks was in ill temper because what Ian had called a “milk run Op” had gone terribly sour but in actuality, he was always disgruntled. At age 72, he was one of the last of the old guard at MI6, his career as a field agent having spanned three decades. He was a young agent at the start of the cold war and he had a hand in the fall of the Berlin Wall (though very few were aware of that fact). Truth be told, he hated life behind a desk, but he had been forced to it at age 60 due to a botched hip replacement after being severely wounded in shootout in Sangi, Pakistan.

“Your security clearance does not justify you knowing the full details of the courier’s Op, Dennis. Your job is to go to Überlingen in the guise of an adviser to the German Air Accident investigators, retrieve the briefcase, and return it to London. You are not under any circumstances to attempt to open it.”

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: The Woman is Deadly

Chapter Five: The Woman is Deadly

“Phillip is at football practice, but Marcie and Roger are right here, Ian.”

It was good to hear Evie’s voice again. They’d divorced not because they lost their love for each other, but because of the stresses of his career. Even if he’d have quit MI6, his history with the agency was such that he’d always attract the “interest” of certain parties. He’d never be completely safe, and as long as he lived with his family, they’d never be safe either.

“It’s okay, Evie. I’d love to talk with them.”

“Here. Let me put you on speaker.” Then in the background Ian heard her say, “It’s Daddy calling.” He could hear Marcie and Roger squeal.

“Daddy, Daddy, how are you? When are you coming to visit?” Little Roger was all of five and always full of enthusiasm. He didn’t recall a time when Ian actually lived at home or the family living in London at all.

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The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Patterns

Port Louis

Port Louis, Mauritius – Found at Mauritius Life

Chapter Four: Patterns

In spite of Ian Dennis’s determination to keep working, he found his brain too clouded to concentrate on even the idea of addressing Krista Bernham’s work. Krista was a brilliant researcher with the unique gift of taking data which seemed absolutely unrelated and finding patterns that even the most complex computer algorithm might not associate.

After her divorce from Malcolm Bernham, she moved with her son Ian from their home in Edinburgh to the island of Mauritius. Frankly, she could work from anywhere with internet access that could be secured by her employer, but her grandmother was originally from the island and she found she wanted to go “home.” Krista recalled visiting “old Gran” many times as a child and loving the beauty, the serenity, and even the profound loneliness of living on a tiny bit of land surrounded by thousands of kilometers of ocean.

She thought raising her only child here might give him a better life than in the UK. That might have been true for many other mothers of many other sons, but not for Krista Bernham. She had been set up on Mauritius with a cover identity by the British Secret Intelligence Service, provided with very expensive, highly secure hardware and software with which to work, and for the past five years, had broken some of the most profound and delicate intelligence cases for SIS.

Now she was dead. The only witness to the murder, her eleven-year-old autistic child Ian, a boy the MI6 agent had befriended and then further traumatized for the sake of his investigation.

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Mauritius Intrigue

airport

Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport – Mauritius

Everyone at Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport supposed Ian Dennis was another British tourist on holiday. Only a few police officials knew the MI6 agent was there to investigate the murder of an accountant from Scotland and the brutalization of her child. The recent string of robberies was unusual for a small island, but this was no robbery.

“G’morning, Dennis. Good flight?” Winston Permalloo shook hands. Supposed casual chauffeur, he was actually a lieutenant on the Police Force, which handled security and military functions. Permalloo was the only covert agent native to Mauritius and an MI6 double-agent.

“Bloody didn’t sleep a wink. Thanks for the pick-up, Permalloo.”

Dennis’s bags retrieved, they arrived at the car.

“All secure. We’re free to talk, Dennis.”

“Just how the hell did enemy agents assassinate a top SIS data analyst who had the perfect cover?”

“That’s what you’re here to help me find out, Ian.”

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to take a location and Google street maps image and use them as the prompt for writing a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 150.

Today, the Pegman takes us to the island of Mauritius which is in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa. The island has a fascinating history and culture and would certainly be worthy of a vacation visit someday.

Doing my research, I discovered that last July, the murder of a 47-year-old woman was reported. The act was supposedly to have been committed by robbers and witnessed by the victim’s ten-year-old autistic son.

I used that as the jumping off point for my small story. It does seem strange that on such a small piece of real estate, it would be possible to commit what amounts to a crime spree and not be detected after very long.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

The mystery continues in The Lady is Murder.

I’ve expanded the original stories into a small series. The first chapter is called The Mauritius Robbery Affair: Arrival.