The atmosphere in Control’s office was definitely on the frosty side as Sir Henry took a seat next to Watson.
“Good morning, Sir Henry,” greeted M. “I assume that you have been briefed about 001 by now?”
Sir Henry nodded. “I’ve heard enough,” he answered, not wanting to hear the sordid details.
“Good. With any luck, and a bit of plastic surgery, we expect Wainbridge to make a full recovery. In the meantime, we still need to sort out this shit storm that is taking place in Swansea.”
Sir Henry opened his mouth to comment but the other man continued regardless. “I’ve just got off the phone with the PM. He’s keen for MI6 to take the lead on this one. I’m putting 003 on the case. He’ll be heading back to Swansea right after this meeting.”
Sir Henry looked at M and then glared at Watson. “So, I’m losing my car as well as my driver?”
“Alec was never on permanent assignment, Sir Henry.” M explained. “I’m sure you’ll get your old driver back. Er...”
“Smithers,” Alec told him. “His normal driver is Smithers.”
Alec turned to Sir Henry and met his stare, daring him to challenge the statement. “And don’t worry, Sir Henry. I think I should take the other car.”
“No, Sir Henry. The other car.”
Sir Henry grimaced. He did not approve of the other car. Charles Wainbridge would not have taken the other car.
“But,” he complained. “that’s the kind of car one of the office drones would drive. Good grief man, it’s not even British. Where’s your sense of style? Or patriotism!”
“I’d prefer to be a bit less conspicuous, Sir Henry. An Aston Martin might draw a lot of unwanted attention in the valleys.”
“Since when did that matter?” scoffed Sir Henry.
“I’m in the Secret Intelligence Service, Sir Henry,” Watson replied, coolly. “Perhaps I have misunderstood but I’ve always interpreted that to mean that the service should be secret, not the intelligence.”
“You didn’t go to Eton, did you?” Sir Henry sneered.
“Rhyl Valley Community College, Sir Henry,” Watson answered, emphasising Welsh accent.
Sir Henry looked across at M, who wore the expression of someone waiting for events to take their course. He could tell that he was not going to win this one.
“I’m not sure that the Home Secretary...”
“You can tell the Home Secretary,” interrupted M, rising to his feet. “That I shall keep her informed of progress. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have a potential terrorist threat to neutralise.”
It took Sir Henry a few seconds to realise that he had been dismissed. He was never dismissed. The two MI6 men watched in silence as he stood, opened his mouth to say something, then changed his mind and stormed out as words failed him.
Sir Henry had barely cleared the office before M pressed a button on the underside of his desk and the door panel slid shut once more. At the same time, the office windows overlooking the Thames darkened as the anti-espionage screens were activated and a sixty inch touch-screen computer slid into view from the centre of the conference table.
“Now, Alec.” said M, joining Watson on the other side of his desk. “Tell me what you know.”
Watson summarised the visits Sir Henry had made to BIRD-FLU over the past couple of days. Although he did not like the man, he had to admit that he made very thorough case notes.
“The police seem to think that a local pet shop owner, Peter Lloyd, is behind the original explosion,” he told M. “Professor Greenwood was just collateral damage. Sir Henry, on the other hand, seems to favour the Animal Liberation Front.”
“He doesn’t approve of liberals or liberators,” Watson offered as way of explanation.
“And you?” M asked.
Watson’s hands skimmed over the screen with practised ease. The screen began populating with all the available information on Patrick Edwards, including the video footage that Watson had taken the previous night.
“There’s something funny about the janitor, Patrick Edwards - also known as Ricky - and his relationship with the Professor,” Watson explained. “Stuff that was kept off his record. Then he was acting very strangely last night.”
Alec paused the footage from the previous night as the figure in the cottage was holding the unknown object aloft. “I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, sir, but something about him just doesn’t seem right. Personally, I think that Patrick Edwards is our man.”
M stood silently at the screen for almost a minute, taking in the information.
“I find that highly unlikely, 003,” he said eventually.
“Why is that, sir?” asked Watson, surprised that his superior had formed an opinion so quickly.
M pointed at the bottom right corner of the screen where a police report from the night before was blinking.
“According to Swansea CID,” he answered, “Edwards is dead.”