A comforting blast of arctic air hit me on the threshold. The front room, decorated in wagon-wheel Western complete with Remington bronzes and prints, included amongst the sofas and chairs a table of beechwood topped with a carved leather blotter, barely visible beneath an untidy sprawl of paperwork. As I closed the door, the young man seated behind the table turned the sheaf upside down and politely rose.
“May I help you?” he said.
A second and closer look at this gentleman, as I removed my service cap and my eyes grew gratefully accustomed to the cool dimness, made me pause again. He had to be the O.D. I sought; there was no one else about; but I recognized his tailored and obviously expensive uniform no more than that flag outside. My three years in the Army hadn’t introduced me to anything resembling a dove-grey jacket with pale shirt, matched with a coal-grey four-in-hand and trousers. I couldn’t identify his rank insignia and therefore wasn’t certain how to address him. And despite his youth—and if he was thirty, I was a hound dog—such an obvious air of sophistication and just plain high breeding flowed from him, that I found myself rethinking Aunt Edith’s seemingly silly conclusions: maybe I was in Ian Fleming territory, after all.
All Colonel Holmes had issued was an invitation to work for him. “No one warns lieutenants of anything,” I said.
His quick smile was appreciative. “Is that the problem?” He subjected me to a considering glance that lasted no longer than a second and, I’m certain, missed nothing, from the cut of my jib to the knot in my tie. Whatever conclusions he drew never made it to his expression. “They’re gathering in the conference room. Down that hall, all the way to the end; the door’s open.” He handed me back the orders. “Welcome to the NATO Response Team’s intelligence service, Lieutenant Ellandun.”
Next time, Robbie, ask first, volunteer second.
Thanks for stopping by. Cheers,