A week later, Fleming was beginning to think that he’d made a major mistake in giving the papers to Driberg. No-one – literally nobody – had heard from Driberg since that moment.
He was no longer answering his phone, his door had gone unanswered when Fleming had visited his home, and telegrams and letters had gone unanswered. His column in the Express had turned up as normal, but it had read like the kind of column a writer puts in a desk drawer in case it’s needed in the future, and a call to the editor had confirmed that Driberg had not spoken to him, either. The column had turned up in the post, with no return address.
In short, it appeared as if Driberg had vanished off the face of the earth. This was not entirely unusual for Driberg – he was not the most reliable of men at the best of times, and was likely to act on a whim without thought for the troubles to which it would put others – but still the coincidence of the timings nagged at Fleming. Perhaps something had happened to Driberg?
But there was no time to worry about Driberg’s health and wellbeing – not that the subject would have overly concerned Fleming anyway – as he had arranged to meet up with Wheatley at his club once again, to discuss ideas for dealing with the Hess problem.
Wheatley’s reaction to being told of Driberg’s disappearance was to give a look so withering that Fleming could almost feel himself cringing.
“You really risked state secrets with that buffoon Driberg?”
“I didn’t have a great deal of choice. Anyone in those circles would know that you or I were too sensible. We needed someone a little unpredictable.”
“Still. Couldn’t you have thought of anyone less likely to disappear on you?”
“Anyone less likely to go AWOL would also have been a less convincing infiltrator. My options were rather limited, you know.”
Wheatley nodded. Fleming had a point.
“You do realise that this is almost certainly the work of Aleister Crowley, don’t you? We may never see Driberg alive again. He’s gone over to the other side.”
“The other side? Crowley’s on our side, isn’t he?”
“On the contrary, Crowley’s never on any side but his own. He’ll take any opportunity to cause mischief. He and Driberg are alike in that respect, at least. Probably more, if the rumours about Driberg being a queer are true.”
“So what do you think Crowley wants with him?”
“Well, it depends very much on what particular hideous practices he’s up to at present. I’d be very surprised, though, if this wasn’t Crowley’s plan from the start. Driberg’s a Bolshevik, isn’t he?”
“Well, not exactly…”
“Oh come now, don’t play games with me. We’re not pissing about with definitions here. He’s a bolshie.”
“He is, but he’s also a patriot.”
“No such thing as a patriotic socialist. Their only loyalty is to their cause – and right now their great Man of Steel says that the cause is on the side of Adolf.”
“Be that as it may, Crowley’s no socialist.”
“No. He’s after power for himself, and he’ll be working with the reds and the Germans to get it in whatever way he can.”
Wheatley paused to sip his brandy and continued.
“You do realise, don’t you, that the Nazis and the Communists are both just faces of a single conspiracy – one that has been meddling in man’s affairs for centuries?”
“In man’s affairs? What do you mean?”
“I mean that they are both tools of a higher – or should I say lower – power. The beast known to the Carthaginians as Moloch, to the Jews as Baal, and to Christians as the Devil.”
“I would never joke about such matters. You should know that by now. There are powers in this world which are far beyond men’s imaginings, and which work through the shape of history. We are at a great tipping point in history at the moment, my friend, and the scales are tipping towards the dark.”
Wheatley took another sip, and continued talking. “Crowley, you see, is a most dangerous fellow. He has experience in espionage, and connections with the leadership of both the Nazis and the Bolshies. He’s almost certainly got Driberg involved in his filthy ceremonies. Driberg’s not on our side any more. We need someone else to infiltrate Crowley’s coven. I’d suggest your young friend Alan.”
“Firstly, because he’s a young, naive, head-in-the-clouds type. Exactly the kind of man that was always hanging on Crowley’s every word. Secondly, because we have to keep this known to as small a group as possible.”
Fleming mused on this for a short while, then nodded.
“That makes sense. He does seem the sort that would appeal to Crowley. Someone who he could look clever in front of, but also someone intelligent enough to appreciate that cleverness.”
“And he’s queer, isn’t he?”
“Oh yes, you can tell a mile off. Disgusting perversion. But Crowley is attracted to that sort.”
“Really? He seems quite manly to me. Wouldn’t have thought him the type.”
“If there is some disgusting, depraved, practice you can conceive of, Crowley will have engaged in it – along with many you find inconceivable.”
“Hmm. Well, you know him better than I do. But I would have said that when I met him he wasn’t capable of anything much more strenuous than drinking a weak glass of lemon squash. But I can see that maybe in his younger days he got up to that sort of thing.”
Wheatley smiled. “One doesn’t lose one’s appetites the second one turns forty, you know. And that goes just as well for his type as anyone else. From what I’ve heard he is still quite active, in his own disgusting way.”
“You talk almost as if you admire him for it!”
Wheatley looked disgusted. “Oh Christ no. This isn’t about what I like. It’s just a fact.”
Fleming nodded. He was still not at all happy with this, but he could see the logic of the older man’s position.
“So that’s it then. We have to send Alan into the den of the Beast.” He took another sip of his drink. “I just hope God – and the PM – will forgive us if we lose him.”
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.