Turing had never been in this office before, but it wasn’t as if any of the offices in Bletchley were radically different from each other anyway. While the main hall was pretty enough, in an ostentatious sort of way, the surrounding buildings were functional rather than beautiful.
The same could be said for the rather angular-looking man with the beaky nose in front of him, looking at him through eyes which seemed permanently half-closed. Nobody would ever call him beautiful, but at the same time there was an air of confidence from him, as if he knew exactly what his purpose in life was, and so could go through his existence with no further worry. He looked a little older than Turing, and a little taller, but those few years and inches seemed to have given him the confidence that Turing had always lacked. He was clearly in his element, and Turing envied him immensely.
“Doctor Turing, actually.”
“I do beg your pardon, Doctor Turing. My name’s Ian Fleming.”
“Have we? Oh, that’s right! I’ve seen you around Bletchley before. Do take a seat. Drink?”
“Not at this time of day, thank you. I like to keep a clear head for my work.”
“Suit yourself. Personally, I find having a clear head a dreadful handicap. You don’t mind if I do, though?”
“No, go ahead.”
Fleming got up and walked over to a small cabinet, from which he removed a bottle of whisky and a glass. He poured himself a small measure, tipped the bottle half-way back to vertical, then stopped, gazed thoughtfully at the bottle, and seemed to make a decision. He poured again, giving himself a large double, before replacing the bottle, closing the cabinet, and sitting back down. He took a sip, and paused for a second to savour the taste.
He seemed to compose his thoughts, and then asked almost casually, “Has the news about Hess permeated to the general public yet?”
“What news about Hess?”
“Ah, that’s what I thought. It’ll be all over the news in a few hours, I’m sure. Do you know who Rudolf Hess is?”
“Of course. Hitler’s second in command.”
“Well, technically. He’s been more or less pushed aside as the war’s gone on, in favour of Goering and Goebbels. Anyway, he’s in Britain right now.”
“You mean he’s defected? Good God!”
“Not defected, exactly. He’s come over in the hope of making peace. Apparently as a rogue agent.”
“Well, we know different. It was us who persuaded him to come over.”
Fleming paused to appreciate the look of shock on Turing’s face, and it took Turing a few moments to recover sufficiently to respond.
Eventually, however, he managed to ask the obvious next question. “How in the world did you do that?”
“Have you heard about The Link?”
“It’s a group of rich Nazis. Mostly from the Mitford set, those sort of people.”
“What sort of people are those? I’m sorry, I don’t know who the Mitford set are.”
Fleming gave a slight smirk, and hesitated a fraction of a second before replying.
“I do beg your pardon, Doctor Turing. One forgets sometimes that not everybody has society connections. You’re rather better off not knowing who the Mitfords are, so I shall refrain from explanation. Just think of rich idiots who have a superficial, dilettantish interest in political dogmas – an interest which, while tissue-thin, is still stronger than their commitment to the country.”
Turing nodded. “I think I know the sort.”
“Anyway, some of those people are supporters of the Nazis, and it has suited our interests to have them believe we are unaware of this, while we feed them information. Hess didn’t just decide to come here on a whim. We’ve been working on him for months, through various intermediaries. We’ve got him convinced that Britain wants peace with the Nazis on their terms. He thinks we’re desperate to install a puppet government and become Berlin’s slaves. Because we’ve told him that.”
“Surely – surely! – no-one could really be that gullible. This is the second most important man in Germany. He can’t have been taken in by a basic confidence trick, can he?”
“I think you’re severely underestimating the gullibility of the Nazis. They’re not known for their intelligence and discretion, you know.”
Fleming smiled. “I know you boffins think the rest of us are a bunch of fools who don’t know anything – no, don’t deny it, I’ve heard enough of your conversations – but there are skills in the world other than mathematics and fiddling with vacuum tubes.”
Fleming walked over to a filing cabinet, unlocked it with a key taken from his inside jacket pocket, and pulled out a handful of papers. He flicked through them to make sure they were what he thought they were, extracted a couple of sheets, which he returned to the cabinet, and then handed the rest to Turing.
“Take a look at these. What do you think?”
The papers were covered with letters. They were handwritten, rather than typed, and clearly in a Germanic hand, but Turing recognised what he was looking at.
“It’s a ciphertext of some sort, yes?”
“It is. If anything, you see, our plan has worked rather too well. Hess brought these papers over to share with the members of the Link. Now we need to know what they say.”
“And it’s not the standard Enigma code?”
“I’m afraid not. And we can’t just turn this over to the girls in the huts. We need you to take personal responsibility for this. I, on the other hand, am going to take responsibility for Hess himself.”
“Do you have any clues at all as to what kind of code it is?”
“Not at the moment. But I believe I can probably persuade Hess to give us a clue. In the meantime, though, I’d like you to do what you can, and let me know what you think.”
Turing gathered the papers together, stood up, and left the room, forgetting even to nod to Fleming as he left. He was already planning his first line of investigation.
This is an excerpt from my novel, Destroyer. If you like this chapter, please buy the book. It can be bought in hardback from Lulu. The Kindle and paperback editions are available from Amazon (UK) and (US). For non-Kindle ebook versions This Books2Read Universal Link will give you links for your preferred ebook retailer. My Patreon backers also get free copies of all my books. If you like this one, please consider reviewing it on Amazon.