Jo was waiting at the base of the stairs as Dirk descended. A look of fear on her face that subsided as Dirk entered the bunker. She was leaning against the wall. Her injured foot rose off the floor. Blood plastered her hair to her face, obscuring the vision in her left eye, but she was once again holding the timber in her hands, raised to swing at the tunnel entrance. For an instant her arms tensed, beginning to bring the timber in another downwards arc, but she arrested the swing upon sight of Dirk.
Gratefully she released her hands, letting the timber clatter to the floor and eased herself down after it. Her hands slick with blood she cradled in her lap, and finally she let herself cry, releasing the tension she had been building all day. Dirk stood uncomfortably for a moment, before awkwardly patting her on the shoulder. He stood like that for a minute, allowing her the catharsis of her tears, as her breathing slowed and she started to lift the sleeve of her jacket to wipe her eyes he stepped away. Turning his back to allow her to compose herself he walked over to where the small satchel dropped by the man he suspected to be
Picking it up him turned it over in his hands. A foot wide, maybe 8 inches high it was made of fine brown leather, a loose flap could fold over with a small silver buckle to secure its contents. The buckle was intact, with the leather unbroken, only Dirk’s interruption of
had made him rush, his urgency not allowing his time to secure the bag fully. Opening it Dirk examined its contents, within it was lined with black felt, a handful of cotton wool layered the bottom, presumably to provide some protection for its intended contents. Behind him he could hear Jo getting to her feet and he turned. Granby
“He got away then?”
Dirk mutely nodded.
“Who was he? What was that he dropped?” She hesitated and looked around her. “Where are we?”
Dirk held up her hand forestalling any more questions. “I believe that was ‘Dead Eye,’ I’m not sure, I only know of him through whispers and his reputation, but the dagger, the stylish suit… I’d say that’s our man.” He walked across to where the assassin’s hat lay discarded on the floor and picked it up. “A trilby, don’t see many of those around these days.”
He turned the hat over in his hands a few times, running his fingers along the band inside and feeling the quality. “Good work as well. As to what he was after, well…” He reached into his pocket; withdrawing a small stone statuette he held it out to Jo. “I believe it was this.”
Jo’s jaw dropped. “But I saw him with that in his hand, I saw him leave with it!”
“He left with something,” Dirk murmured, “but it wasn’t what he thought it was, I swapped this with a fake last night. He’ll figure it out soon enough, but it should buy me some time.”
“Time for what?” Jo reached out and took the carving from Dirks outstretched hand. It was an exquisitely carved turtle, 4 inches across. It was carved of what appeared to be dark granite, its head outstretched, fins splayed open. Its front fins reached forwards, the left one running alongside the head, the right one reaching at a wider angle. The rear fins were similarly asymmetrical, one straight, the other bent. The entire impression being given of a creature caught in motion.
Its shell was inlaid with delicate whorls of jade and copper, cunningly set flush into grooves carved into the stone. They traced out a delicate pattern that hinted at images that never seemed to resolve to the eye. Jo stared at it for a moment, undecided on whether the pattern was there to represent something, or was merely random geometric shapes. Its head, unlike the rest of the carving was simple and unadorned, it looked unfinished compared to the rest of the piece. A rough splinter of stone, a crooked triangle ending in a sharp point, two beads of jade forming its eyes being the only adornment.
She turned it over. The bottom of the statuette was as unfinished as the head appeared. The base roughly smoothed to a flat plane, but no decoration or detail had been added. She repeated herself, “Time for what?”
Dirk shrugged. “No idea, but I’ll find out.”
“Good. That bastard tried to kill me! I saw him kill that poor woman in
! If I can help at all let me know.” Algiers
“Poor woman? You obviously never met Marcella, but that’s another matter. Come, I’ll get you out of here before the police arrive, you don’t want to be involved in this.”
Jo’s face set into a scowl and Dirk realised he had made a mistake. “I meant…”
“I know what you meant Dick! You think I’m some shrinking violet that can’t look after herself! Well I’m not.” She thrust the stone turtle back into his hands. “Who the hell do you think you are to talk down to me.” Forgetting herself she stamped her foot on the ground, lifting herself to her full height to stare him in the eyes. For a moment she held herself there, before the pain in her ankle made her wince and she stepped back to lean against the wall. Unconsciously wiping her hands on her jacket smearing blood across it.
“It’s Dirk. Not Dick. Dirk Jones, I don’t believe I have introduced myself properly.” Reaching up he removed his tatty fedora and bowed.
“Dirk then. Who are you?” Again she glanced around. “And where the hell are we?”
“I’m an archaeologist Jo, or at least I try to be. These days I find myself more in the odd job business. As to where we are? I believe we are in a World War Two bomb shelter. At a guess this was one of Churchill’s secret ancillary bunkers. Must have been top secret to have been forgotten after the war. Through that tunnel you’ll find yourself in the basement store rooms of the
. I’d kill to know how Dead Eye found out about this.” British Museum
“Odd jobs?” Jo enquired.
“I find things. Not quite your standard field work” he patted the revolver sticking out of his pocket, “but it pays well, and I get to claim expenses. At this particular moment I am trying to track down a certain manuscript from
, however I think I may need to up my fee.” Algiers
Suddenly Dirk stiffened, the sound of voices could be heard echoing through the tunnel, coming from the direction of the museum, “Bear with me a second.” He walked over to the desks set alongside the wall, pulling open a couple of drawers and shutting them. The third he opened seemed to meet his approval, removing his revolver he pulled the drawer out fully and dropped the gun into the compartment behind, swiftly followed by the stone turtle. Replacing the drawer he turned to Jo and winked comically, a finger over his lips as a variety of police and security guards came rushing out of the tunnel.