Destroyer: Chapter 14

No idea why this hasn’t autoposted the last couple of weeks, but then the whole thing is available at the link at the bottom if anyone gets too desperate for the next chapter

The drive back towards Bletchley was, for the most part, a quiet one. Turing and Fleming sat in silence, watching the world go by and thinking about the conversation they’d just had, and about its implications for their own work.

Most of the time, the only sound other than the engine was Turing drumming his fingers on his trousers, and occasionally humming to himself. Fleming had driven this route enough times that the distraction wasn’t too annoying, and so he let his companion think without asking him to contain himself. Experience had shown that Turing’s eccentricities often led to brilliant insights.

After half an hour had passed, Turing finally spoke up.

“You don’t really believe all this tosh about magic do you?”

“Of course not. But it doesn’t matter if we believe it. What matters is that the Nazis do. They’re a bunch of superstitious cowards, and we can use that against them.”

“But Wheatley does?”

“Oh yes. He’s one of those freethinkers who will believe in literally anything except Christianity. He has a violent aversion to the Church – particularly the Anglican Church – but he will believe in the Pagan gods, the life-force of Bernard Shaw, evolution, the power of Satan, magic, spiritualism…you name it, and he’ll believe it. Some of it even with good reason.”

“What do you mean, good reason?”

“Oh, Wheatley’s got a very sharp mind under the hail-fellow-well-met stuff and the bluster. Any individual opinion he has is as likely to be rot as anything – he picks up opinions from everything from the Daily Mail to the Gem and Magnet, and doesn’t really discriminate between them as far as I can see. But if you only listen to him when he’s talking about his own experiences, rather than something he’s read somewhere…well, he’s a lot more interesting then.”

“I see. So you think there’s something to what he says?”

“Oh, no. Well, probably not. Again, he’s picked up most of this from Charles Fort and from the rot Crowley talks, rather than from anything that’s happened to him. But I wouldn’t completely dismiss it. He’s not a stupid man, and he may well know more than he’s saying.”

The drive continued in silence for a while, until Fleming suddenly said “Of course, you realise that we have to pass the documents on to their intended recipients?”

Turing looked over to Fleming as if the older man had gone mad. “I beg your pardon?”

“We need to give the documents to the people Hess was trying to get them to.”

“I’m sorry, I must seem very dense, but are you seriously suggesting that we give top secret Nazi documents to fifth columnists?”

“I’m suggesting exactly that.”

“Why?”

“Well, look at it this way. The documents themselves just describe a magical ritual, which we know won’t work. With me so far?”

“Yes.”

“The ritual can’t possibly do any real harm. But it could be used to smoke the Link out. The reason Hess fell for the story about a group of Nazi-sympathising occultists in the aristocracy is that such people probably do exist. Not in any great number, and they’re certainly not as powerful as we convinced Hess they were, but there are some out there, and we should do our best to track them down.”

“You’re joking?”

“I’m afraid not. Not everyone in the aristocracy has Britain’s best interests at heart, I’m afraid. Many of them are cosmopolitan types, world travellers who don’t see Britain as their home. They feel far closer to Berlin than to Barking or Dagenham, and have no great loyalty to the British people.”

“But surely that kind of cosmopolitan would loathe everything the Nazis stand for?”

“Oh, I don’t see why. Hitler is apparently a very charming man, according to those who have spent time in his presence. German culture is very easy to admire, and one can understand wanting to see the land of Goethe and Beethoven made great again, even if one doesn’t share that view. Shit!”

Fleming had been momentarily distracted by a cyclist riding into the car’s path without looking. He slammed on the brakes and hit the horn. Turing was almost as startled as his driver, and it took a few minutes for the two of them to calm down enough to resume their conversation. It was Fleming who managed to bring himself to speak first.

“Bloody cyclists. Absolute menaces. As likely to get killed by one of them as by the Hun. Where were we? Oh yes…Have you ever heard of Tom Driberg?”

“No, I don’t believe I have.”

“You don’t want to. A nasty little spiv, a Communist and a homosexual. But a charmer. Knows everybody.”

Turing coughed, embarrassedly, and Fleming looked at him curiously.

“Anyway,” Fleming continued, “you’ve probably read his stuff, even if you don’t know it. Writes for the Express under the name William Hickey”

“Oh, really? I always thought that was his real name!”

“No, it’s a staff name they give to a variety of writers. But Driberg writes most of his stuff. You read it?”

“I’ve flicked through it. I’m not really an Express reader – more of a Manchester Guardian man – but I’ve always found him quite witty. He’s a Communist, you say?”

Fleming nodded. “But he’s also a patriot, in his own way. He’s not one of those who lets a loyalty to Stalin override his loyalty to the King, which is the important thing.”

“Hmm…and you’re sure he can be trusted with a job like this?”

“Absolutely. The man is many things, but he’s not a traitor. He’ll do the job, and keep his own counsel about it. I’d not trust him not to steal sixpence from a blind beggar, but on a job like this he’ll manage to be discreet, all right.”

They drove on in silence, with both men thinking their own thoughts. Fleming had almost forgotten the reason they’d travelled down in the first place, when Turing spoke up again once more.

“But Ian, what if he’s too discreet to actually find the traitors?”

Fleming laughed. “Believe me, that won’t be a problem.”


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.

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