Written by Swan Morrison – the award winning author of Judgement Day – Deep Black is yet another affectionate comic tribute to many classic storylines.
Deep Black is a true story. To preserve confidentiality, however, all the characters, facts and circumstances have been changed.
When retired accountant, detective fiction devotee and lifelong philanderer, Philip Ramsbottom, set up a private investigation agency, he had thought it wise to accept only straightforward surveillance tasks – after all, his entire experience of detective work had been gained from reading crime novels.
Philip had thus not expected his very first commission to draw him into the murky world of espionage, and he was definitely not prepared for the death-defying mission that was to follow.
Elite special agents were required to save the British and NATO nuclear submarine fleets from annihilation. Such a complex and dangerous assignment, however, would have been far more suitably allocated to people with relevant experience – in preference to Philip and his former lover, Rebecca Carter.
In a sensible world, the quest for the Sirens’ Song Configuration would have been much better pursued by the ultra-secret group of super-spies known as Deep Black.
Handley looked towards Jefferies in a manner indicating his expectation of a response.
‘I don’t have to answer to a Russian double agent, Mr Handley,’ said Jefferies calmly.
Handley looked thoughtfully at Jefferies.
No one spoke.
I have this unconscious habit of playing with keys and other such objects that are in my pocket – turning them over in my hand.
In addition, I wasn’t used to having a loaded gun with me, and, on reflection, I hadn’t adequately understood the section in the gun manual that covered the operation of the safety catch.
Anyway, to cut a very short story even shorter, five seconds later, the Browning had accidently gone off.
Handley lay dead, his lifeless body slumped forward onto the table.
Blood was seeping from the bullet hole in the centre of his forehead, and dark red rivulets were beginning to flow slowly across the oak surface of the table.
Jefferies appeared remarkably calm. The expressions of Rebecca and Broadlands, however, betrayed considerable shock and alarm.
Both, nevertheless, remained seated – one might say that they appeared rooted to the spot.
Jefferies stood up, walked around the table and checked the pulse in Handley’s neck. ‘He’s dead,’ he confirmed.
Jefferies looked towards me. ‘It seems that Deep Black are every bit as efficient and ruthless as your reputation implies,’ he said. ‘I only learned this morning that Handley was a Russian double agent. I’d come here to arrest him for interrogation, however, not to kill him.’
Jefferies reached into his own pocket and withdrew a sheet of paper. ‘I have the detention warrant here,’ he held up the document, ‘but I wanted to be in a room with Handley before I revealed what I was planning so that he’d no prior opportunity to become suspicious.’
Jefferies handed the warrant to Broadlands who spent several moments reading it.
‘So you’re not a Russian double agent,’ said Broadlands to Jefferies with considerable surprise in his voice.
‘Your surveillance of me was all part of a plan to flush out Handley,’ Jefferies replied.
Broadlands looked at me. ‘Even if Matthew was a Russian agent,’ he said, ‘you could have let Jefferies arrest him. Why did you need to kill him?’ His final words were expressed with great passion.
I reflected that Broadlands had raised an extremely good question to which I didn’t have an immediate answer.
I withdrew the gun from my pocket. I reasoned that carefully resetting the safety catch would buy me time to consider a suitable response.
When I’d set the safety catch, Rebecca reached over and took the weapon from my hands.
I assumed that she was adopting a “better safe than sorry” approach – I seemed to have almost got away with randomly shooting one person in the room; my luck probably wouldn’t have held, however, had I killed anyone else.
There was also the danger, as Rebecca later pointed out, that I might have accidently shot myself – which would have left her with an even greater challenge than I now faced in inventing a realistic sounding explanation.
Discover more and download Deep Black at: http://www.short-humour.org.uk/writersshowcase/deepblack.htm.