SILHOUETTES - Ninteenth instalment - Chapter thirty-six. For more information on this novel, click Here.
Bruno was desperate for a walk and wouldn't give Debbie peace to have her breakfast. Although the dog belonged to her, and was her responsibility, it was supposed to be a done deal as part of the let that the first one up in the morning took the beast out for a quick pee. The way the poor animal was looking at her, she thought it probably hadn't been outdoors since Brian had it out early evening yesterday.
She pushed the porridge bowl aside and got her coat and the lead for the dog. It wagged its tail in a frenzy when it spied an imminent walk.
The day was dull but dry, cold but fresh, and although her head ached a bit from the bashing she'd got and the alcohol consumed last night, it wasn't bad enough to distract her from how good it felt today. She had no lectures, a sociology essay to finish half written, that may take an hour to polish off, but today she could finally catch up with some articles she was doing for Jo's Independence blog, Independence Really Matters. Her quietly stated pragmatism in writing, impartially stating arguments, countered the radical slanted and highly controversial style that Jo posted in the main, though together they had collected quite a following among the pro Scottish independence community. So much so, that even Brian, musical prodigy that he was not, had composed a few dirges that he would like posted once the videos were completed. Brian wasn't a political person at all and really wasn't interested in the cause, he had just noted the viewing stats and decided to get on board to hopefully gain some publicity for his music. With titles like Alien Visitors Leave Scotland Well Alone and Thistles Will Get You, Ya Sneaky Bastards, although instrumentals, and unspeakably awful, thought Debbie, they should attract some attention to his creativity.
When they got to the park, she unleashed Bruno and he made straight for the bushes, a scatter of small birds flew in panic as the beast stomped about sniffing for a suitable pissing point. Didn't matter how desperate it was, it could only let go its bladder over the scent of another animal.
She realised she had forgotten to bring the Frisbee and looked around for a suitable stick to use to exercise the dog. Bruno was a dog of habit, and a walk was not enough no matter how long or energetic, it had to be chasing and fetching to enjoy itself.
She wondered how Ben was doing at his new job. How long would it last, and would it make a difference to his drinking, and their relationship? How many last chances had she given him? Why was she even with him in the first place?
Bruno bounded back into sight, a decent sized stick in mouth, obviously the animal had decided if it was going to get a game of fetch, it would have to initiate the play.
She took up the stick the dog dropped at her feet and threw it through the air, instantly the animal was after it, almost catching it before it fell to earth. It bounded back, slobbers dripping from its chops all the way, dropped the stick at her feet, and gazed up at her expectantly. Again she threw the stick, back the way she came this time, a slight variation, but one that gave the animal a little more exercise as she walked forward the dogs return distance was longer. As they slowly circumnavigated their usual route she nodded at other dog owners, Bruno would briefly interact with another friendly hound, but generally left them alone too engrossed in his own little world of chase and fetch.
It would soon be warmer and the earth dry enough to walk down the steep bank to the river where the dog could jump in and swim and clean itself. It was far too muddy and treacherous to negotiate the bank now though, without risking falling on her arse and sliding down into the water herself, not an enjoyable prospect, it being still April.
She would have to get herself organised. In May she would be going home for a week, back to Cumnock to see her parents, reassure them university life hadn't corrupted her, turned her into a modern day libertine or sybarite, that she still had all her faculties and wits about her despite the deranged drug-taking parties her father had worried her mother was the main reason kids wanted to attend university these days.
Her father was a true Luddite though, and her mother, naive in the world through the sheltered life she led with her father. They were school yard sweethearts, married at sixteen, he worked in the family shop, at first delivering papers as a schoolboy, then working full time as an adult, and took over the running of the shop himself when his parents had retired. Her mother worked briefly on the checkout at the local, and at that time the only, supermarket in Cumnock till she joined him in the shop when he took over. Her father had expected her to do the same, and was bitterly disappointed when she had promoted the idea of going to university.
'Too much knowledge is a dangerous thing,' was his mantra whenever something bad in the world was seen in a news bulletin. 'People used to be happy with less,' he'd say when watching a demonstration for some kind of equality or fair treatment. They both lived in a bubble of their own making and liking, and anything going on in the wider world that involved disputes or disasters in another country or culture was of little significance to a couple who had never even been abroad on holiday. Their two week annual break was always spent with the Earl-Barr's. They ran a large farm in Cumbria, owned quite a bit of land, and would give them the use of the Gate Lodge, as it was called. Her mother, she believed, would have liked to have seen a romantic connection between James, the son and heir, and her daughter. James would have been perfect, and ticked all the boxes, but one. She discovered this to her surprise, when she caught him in an embarrassing clinch with a stable boy one evening she had ventured along to feed sugar cubes to the horses. Still, she loved Cousin James, as he was endearingly known to the Campbell family, although there was no real family connection. She had kept her silence about the incident. Both sets of parents would have been shocked. James and the lad were consenting adults though, and his private life was his own affair. He had actually got in touch recently regarding his nomination for a seat in the local constituency for the Tory party, 'he was going into politics,' he told her excitedly. After not seeing each other for so long though, Debbie knew he wanted reassurance she would keep quiet about his sexuality. He wanted more than that though.
She had grown up, a single child, no siblings, loved but lonely, and closeted, sheltered from the big wide world outside the parochial limits of her parents. She never had been allowed an adventure as a child, never singed her finger in a flame, and as she grew older, realising she had never stepped out of the bubble, she began to yearn for some excitement in life, and as she read more and questioned more, she realised that the big adventure she was craving was university, and she determined herself this was her goal, despite the rancour of her father and the reservations of her mother.
She had asked Ben to accompany her and he had assented, though now she hoped his job would put a damper on that. Her father would instantly hate Ben, and vice-versa, and her mother would try to, but not completely, hide her disappointment, for bringing home a boy to her was like an announcement of marriage, and even if she was as devoted to Ben as to remotely consider that proposition, she knew the timescale, and the type of marriage it would be, would be far different to the kind of wedlock that her mother tolerated and presumed to be the norm, and hoped eventually would be the kind of marriage that would settle her daughter and make her happy. To Debbie, nothing could be more repugnant.
She had another year to do at university, and she still had not considered what she would do once she had attained her degree. There was a world of options and possibilities out there though, so there was no hurry, no hurry at all, and she would take her time and make the decisions that suited her when the time came. After all, if everything went to shit, she could always return, like a prodigal to the fold, and work in the family grocer shop.
Bruno was greedily slurping water from a dirty puddle, then raised its head and sped off towards a park bench. Sat on the bench, and holding up the stick, was Dave from last night. He threw the stick towards her as the dog was almost on him, and Bruno turned on a sixpence and raced back chasing the bit of branch. She returned his wave, picked up the stick before Bruno could snatch it, turned and threw further away. The dog sped past her, panting. She walked over to the bench and sat down next to Dave.
'You're out and about early,' she said.
'How're you feeling?' he asked, 'how's the head?'
'Do you mean the bashing, or the drink?' she said, grinning, and gently felt at the hardening scab on her scalp.
'Both,' he said. 'How'd you get on with the police?'
He seemed distracted, thought Debbie, polite and amiable, but there was an awkwardness and a sense of sadness about him, perhaps she should have just walked on past with a wave instead of coming over. Perhaps he wanted to be alone.
'I think the police know who he is, though they wouldn't give out any information,' she said, and explained her and Jo's encounter with DS Hartless and DI Oswalk the night before.
'Hartless' Dave smiled, 'and is he?'
'He probably could be,' she laughed. 'If you were a criminal, I would imagine.'
He had been back at the Arches this morning early. The intent was to finally close down the comms centre and start to normalise his life for a while. That was his intent. His employers had decided otherwise though, and it was all because of his recent foray into the information held on the database of both Jo and Debbie. They had both been registered a scale higher, which meant closer, more intensive surveillance, and although he had never followed them home last night, he knew this was where Debbie walked the dog, and knew it was only a matter of time before she would come along. He had a number for Jo, but he thought it would be preferable to ingratiate himself into their close company without any pretence of a romantic encounter. It may be a possibility, or may not, but a quick fumble and then a parting of the ways would not leave the means to maintain a connection close enough to gather whatever information may be pertinent to glean from the pair, though in reality, he didn't expect to discover anything at all that would classify either one as a subversive.
His main reason for being here was ultimately to determine whether an independent Scotland would be a positive or negative issue in the wider interests of the United States. The chief worry his bosses back home had was the policy an independent Scotland would have on basing nuclear weapons, instrumentally, the nuclear submarines with their Trident missile capability, in Scotland. The main independence party in Scotland promised they would be shown the door, moved out, Scotland would become a nuclear free zone. The majority of the people of Scotland seemed to concur with this view. That was one of the questions he had to find an answer to, was this policy set in stone? Were there influential people prominent enough in Scotland that could sway this issue the other way. The US knew, eventually, the basing of nukes in Scotland, or anywhere in the UK for that matter, was more a short term issue than long. Eventually the US would dictate that the UK should not have that capability, they were only granted that privilege due to the fact that they paid through the nose for them, and it gave them a greater ranking in world affairs that suited the US when it needed a willing high level ally. Ultimately though, the UK had been punching far above its weight in world affairs and was becoming a rather tiresome buddy to have in tow. The UK seemed to regard itself as a partner, rather than as the main players in the rest of the world saw it, as a lapdog.
The other main issue was membership of NATO. Through membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, even without the nuke factor, Scotland could be controlled and swayed, whether by gentle cajoling, or subliminal threats, into the way of tacit agreement of purpose with US policy, especially in regard to Russia and the Euro zone of constantly chaotic states.
First step was to identify the main players, who was a potential ally, and who, in the wider scheme of things, would spend time promoting an anti-US agenda. Who were the rising stars that may have influence in the new state to come? Once the list was compiled, it was up to higher ranking members of the Agency back home what was to be done. Certain people could be helped along societies hurdles to boost their aspirations if they had the correct attitude. Nothing was ever off the table though, every scenario was thought out, analysed, software simulations conducted, until the best way forward was determined. It was when the best way forward was decided that sent a shiver down the spine of Dave at the moment. His sister's arrival was imminent, and she was a MAD (Missions Attacking Dissent) Agent. Whether by accident, deliberate assassination, or through means of some third party, someone was probably destined to die.
Next instalment coming soon...
To read this novel from the start go here.
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