The grey-uniformed guard only gave a cursory glance at Sir Henry’s identification before activating the main gates to the NATO biological research institute outside Swansea. Sir Henry knew that they were expected but did not approve of such slackness. The British Empire had not been built by slackers. (In Sir Henry’s understanding, it had been built by slaves, sugar and tea – three things of which he approved quite strongly.)
The large electrified gates slid silently apart, allowing the grey Bentley entry into the compound. Sir Henry looked around at the electrified perimeter fence, topped with razor wire and nodded to himself. High voltage fences topped with razor wire were things of which he approved. The guards may be a little lax but at least security in general seemed good.
Watson parked the grey car on the grey tarmac next to the entrance of the low grey building and got out.
“Would you like me to wait here, sir?” he asked, holding the car door open for his boss.
“Yes, thank you, Smithers,” Sir Henry replied, closing his grey briefcase and stepping out of the car. “I shall take things from here.”
Sir Henry strode with purpose towards the double doors of the Institute. He noted the swipe-card mechanism and security keypad next to the door. He had a swipe-card and, being a high level NATO technocrat, was privy to all the security codes of the building. He felt, however, that since the guard should have announced his arrival, it would be below his dignity to use such things.
The receptionist on duty did not disappoint him and over-rode the security system. The double doors slid silently open before him, silently closing behind him again once he was inside. He looked around at the closed circuit television cameras covering the reception area. CCTV was another thing of which Sir Henry approved.
The receptionist, whose security tag identified as one Miss Mabel Middlebottom, smiled nervously at Sir Henry. Sir Henry almost smiled back. He approved of security tags.
“I have notified Professor Johnson of your arrival, Sir Henry,” Miss Mabel Middlebottom informed him. “He will be with you shortly.”
“Thank you,” he replied with a slight subconscious frown. He did not approve of people keeping him waiting.
As if in answer to his impatience, there was the sound of a door closing down the corridor. Walking towards Sir Henry was a short, flustered-looking man with thinning brown hair and a gleam of sweat upon his brow. He was wearing a pristinely clean, white laboratory coat that came down almost to his knees. Beneath the coat were a pair of pale bare legs that terminated in brown sandals (much like a gladiator might wear) and argyle socks pulled halfway up his calves (much like a gladiator certainly would not wear). It was a combination of which Sir Henry did not approve. (More due to the flash of colour that he believed to be in the argyle socks than the inherent affront to fashion, which was the sandals and socks combination. Sir Henry did not really approve of fashion, either.)
As he drew to within a couple of feet of Sir Henry, the man offered his right hand.
“Welcome to Swansea, Sir Henry.”
Sir Henry took the proffered limb. “Deputy Director Johnson, I presume,” he said, shaking the man’s hand firmly.
“Er, yes, that’s right,” came the nervous reply. “Forgive my appearance,” Johnson added. “I am wearing shorts under this lab coat – it looked like a sunny day when I left home this morning.”
Sir Henry frowned. An odd bunch, these science types, he decided.
“I’m sorry, Professor,” he replied. “You appear to be confusing me with somebody who cares.”
Johnson almost took affront at such candid insensibility but, realising that he was standing trouserless before a superior that could have him fired on the spot, he decided to let it pass.
“I am anxious to get straight down to business,“ continued Sir Henry.
“I am most concerned about the apparent disappearance of Professor Greywood.”
“Don’t you mean Professor Greenwood, Sir Henry?”
“Don’t be ridiculous, man. Do you think I would forget the name of the Director of a NATO research centre?”
If Professor Johnson did think that Sir Henry would forget the name of the Director of a NATO research centre – and he most surely did – he was far too prudent to say so.