DUDLEY GREEN ASSOCIATES – PRIVATE INVESTIGATION AGENCY
Sick of working in a world of spies and bureaucracy, Ena Green, nee Dudley, leaves the Home Office and starts her own investigating agency. Working for herself she can choose which investigations to take and, more importantly, which to turn down. While working on two investigations, Ena is called as a prosecution witness in the Old Bailey trial of a cold-blooded killer who she exposed as a spy the year before.
Extract from Chapter Two
Hearing a male voice in what she thought was a locked office, Ena looked up. ‘Ouch!’ She had forgotten the cutlery drawer in the kitchen cabinet was open. ‘Artie?’
Artie Mallory, her colleague from their days working together on cold cases, sounded as surprised to see her as she was to see him. ‘What are you doing?’
‘Cleaning. What does it look like?’ Ena touched the top of her head where an egg-like swelling had already begun to form. Thankfully, no traces of blood were evident on her hand, meaning she hadn’t cut her head.
‘I thought you were going to rent offices above the coffee bar in Maiden Lane. I went in there and the chap behind the counter said you’d decided against working upstairs so I popped into the theatre and the stage doorman showed me your advert in The Times.’
‘It’s been in The Times for two days. It’s in The Lady too. Neither ads have brought in any business.’
Artie looked around the empty office. ‘I’d say that’s a good thing. You’re not ready for business yet.’
‘I should have been. The Home Office did everything at a snail’s pace. The paperwork took an age as everything was tied up in red tape. Then, when everything appeared to be going to plan, the furniture people let me down. Anyway, we’re back on track now.’
‘You and Henry?’
‘No, just me. Henry’s at GCHQ.’ Ena dropped the cloth she’d been cleaning the cupboards with into the bucket, dried her hands and put on the kettle. ‘Which begs the question, why aren’t you there?’
‘I’ve resigned,’ Artie announced with an air of grandeur, giving a wide berth to the area in the middle of the room, where the dead body of Helen Crowther, the mole at MI5, had been found the previous year.
As the kettle began to whistle, Ena looked over her shoulder to ask Artie if he wanted tea or coffee. She laughed. ‘I scrubbed the floor within an inch of its lino-ed life before the new carpet went down. There was nothing to see anyway.’
‘I know. It’s just the thought…’ He gave a dramatic shiver. ‘You’re not really going to work in here are you?’
‘Why not?’ Ena carried two mugs of steaming coffee into the office and put them on the windowsill. Side-stepping the middle of the room, Artie joined her. Ena laughed again. ‘So,’ she said, taking a sip of her coffee, ‘to what do I owe the pleasure?’
Artie dropped his gaze and then looked up at her shyly. ‘I’m looking for a job and I can’t think of anyone I’d rather work with than you, Ena. Since you’re the Dudley, and Henry is the Green, I was hoping I could be the Associate.’
‘Henry’s only a sleeping partner and it would be fun to work with you again–’
‘So I’ve got the job?’
‘No, Artie, I’m sorry. If I could afford an associate, you’d be the first person I’d ask, but I just don’t have the money to employ anyone at the moment.’
Artie sighed heavily. ‘I understand.’
‘I don’t think you do,’ Ena replied. ‘Every penny The Home Office gave me when -’ Ena put up her hands and made quotation signs with her forefingers – ‘I was made redundant, and most of Henry’s golden handshake when he left MI5, has gone into buying this place and the flat above. I don’t have a bean left. I couldn’t pay you a salary, Artie. Not at the moment, anyway. Stick it out at GCHQ for a little while longer and as soon as I get some work – and I’m paid for it – we’ll talk again. Just give me six months to get on my feet.’
Artie’s mouth fell open. ‘Six months? I’d be a shadow of myself by then. That is if I don’t die of exhaustion first.’
Ena put her hand on her old colleague’s arm. ‘Is Highsmith that bad?’
‘Ye-es! Rupert doesn’t need an assistant, he needs an errand boy,’ Artie said. ‘He treats me like he’s the Head Boy of a public school and I’m his Fag. Character building, he calls it. A way of getting to know each other. Huh! I told him, I said, Rupert, I am thirty-eight years old! I am not an eleven-year-old child living away from home for the first time.’
‘You’re talking in the past tense. Artie, have you resigned?’
‘I would have, but he got in first and let me go. He got accounts to pay me until the end of the month though.’
‘That was good of him.’
‘I’ve earned every penny and more.’
Ena laughed. She knew Rupert Highsmith well. She had crossed swords with him on several occasions in the past. ‘I’m sure you have.’
‘He insists we remain friends. No hard feelings and all that,’ Artie scoffed. ‘I’m not sure Highsmith knows the meaning of the word, ‘friend.’ Still, whatever we are, we’re meeting for a drink tonight.’
‘Is there any chance Highsmith will give you your job back?’
‘No.’ Artie grinned. ‘I kind of implied I was coming to work with you.’
Ena blew out her cheeks. ‘Oh, Artie! It would be lovely, but…’
‘We worked well together before. And, you said on the day Highsmith offered me the job at GCHQ that if I changed my mind–’
‘I did, and I meant it.’ Artie’s face lit up. ‘But, as I said, I can’t afford to take you on at the moment. Not you, not anyone.’ Artie looked downcast and absent-mindedly stirred his cooling coffee. ‘As soon as I can afford an associate, I’ll let you know, I promise you, Artie.’
Her old colleague sighed. ‘I suppose I’d better let you get on,’ he said, making no attempt to leave.
Banging in the flat above the office resumed. ‘I tell you what. I’ve done enough cleaning for one day.’ Ena looked at her watch. ‘It’s half-past eleven. Let’s get out of here. I need to show my face upstairs and say hello to the builders. Why don’t you come up with me and tell me what you think of the work they’ve done so far. The office furniture’s being delivered this afternoon, sometime after one, which gives us plenty of time to go to Café Romano at the top of Mercer Street and have a coffee and a sandwich. Fancy something to eat?’
‘I am hungry…’
‘It’s a date then. Give me five minutes to get changed.’ Ena pulled off the scarf she had tied around her head like a turban to keep her hair clean and out of her eyes and shook her hair out.