The heavy clouds were under lit by the orange glow of the city's gas lamps.
Pierre Flume whistled a merry tune as he walked the perimeter of Augustine House, his torch lighting up the gravel pathway as he went.
The night watchman would be passing this point again in fifteen minutes and twenty-six
Atop the high wall surrounding the estate, a figure clad in dark clothing softly clicked the cover of his pocket watch closed.
Thirty five seconds and the watchman would be out of sight around the corner.
Rope over the wall, descend, sprint across the garden to the corner of the north wing and pause, fifty five seconds.
Climb drain pipe to roof of wing, thirty seconds.
Cross to attic window, choose tool number three, slide through gap, twist wrist just so and disengage clasp. Drop of oil on each hinges and wait. One minute.
Open window, climb through. Cross attic, avoiding train set. Pause and for sheer buggery take figure of woman off platform and place her on track. A smile. Move on through the dark room, risking a short burst from the illuminator. Stairs found, descend. Pause at bottom and listen. One minute, twelve seconds.
Out the door into the plush but dimly lit passage. Turn left, take fourth door on the right, should be an empty bedroom. It is. Eighteen seconds.
To the east facing panelled wall, there's a catch, a push panel. A quiet click signals the hidden door is released. Through the door, down the spiral stairs to the door at the bottom. Wait, listen. Twenty three seconds.
Again, all is quiet.
Turn the knob, crack the door open slightly. Pause and gather nerves when a bright light shows through the growing gap. Cautiously the door is pushed open further and a furtive glance shows that there is a rotund gentleman asleep in an armchair. Luckily the chair faces the big fireplace in which the embers glow invitingly.
Creep through the lounge past the sleeping man, Monsieur Bains, and enter the study, the safe is large and easy to locate. Should have been fifteen seconds but took thirty four. Behind schedule.
Go to display cabinet, ignoring the safe for the moment. The lock is sturdy but easy to pick given time. One minute exactly.
Open pack, remove two ornate duelling pistols from the case and place in cloth from pack. Remove bundle from pack and place contents, two poorer looking replicas back into the case. They are good enough to pass a cursory inspection, but close examination would reveal them to be fakes.
Across now to the safe, Bains is old fashioned and doesn't like to place his stuff in the ether.
Stethoscope to the door turn the dial. Find the combination and turn the first handle. Pick the secondary lock and turn the second handle. Three minutes and fifteen seconds.
Open the safe, take the bag of diamonds and the currency. Marks were easy to get rid of in London so long as it was done in small doses. Close the safe, spin the wheel lock. Pause to make sure the coast remains clear. Twenty three seconds.
Back outside the same way as the figure came in. Four minutes and sixteen seconds.
Climb rope and haul up out of sight. Twelve seconds.
The figure pauses atop the wall, shrouded once more in darkness.
Twenty-one seconds later the watchman emerges from the stone archway.
â€œMy, my!â€ the dark clad figure thinks to himself, â€œaren't we the sprightly one this evening Mr Flume?â€
The figure waits until the watchman has once more disappeared out of sight, then climbs down the outside. Quickly yet cautiously he makes his way through the parkland to the river where there is a small boat tied up.
This he takes until he gets to a small dock in the centre of Paris. From there he walks briskly through the damp night air to the rail station. Climbing the fence is simple enough and he picks his way through the silent hulks of rolling stock towards the train waiting at the nearest platform.
This train will be running to London and in addition to the usual carriages is a private coach.
The figure approaches the private coach from the dark unlit side of the platform and gingerly climbs aboard.
The rear of the coach has a bedroom and wardrobe. Quickly the figure changes from his dirty working clothes into an expensive evening suit and coat. He dons a top hat and gloves, retrieves his cane from the corner of the room and places his pack in a hidden compartment.
Stepping out onto the rear of the coach he checks the platform. Seeing it clear he walked to the front end of the coach and with blow and bluster made his entrance into the lounge.
Samuel, the butler looked up as the man entered. â€œLord Reynolds, Sir. May I take your coat?â€
Reynolds smiled at Sam. â€œThank you, Samuel.â€ He removed the coat and handed it to the butler.
â€œMr Secretary!â€ Reynolds called in greeting to the man sat in the plush green armchair.
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Mr Norman Tebbit smiled and stood to take the hand of the man who approached. â€œSeb, good to see you again. Thanks for the offer of a lift. Damned inconvenient of the weather over the Channel keeping the old Zep's grounded. Bloody good luck you were in Paris.â€
â€œNonsense! Don't mention it! We should be in Calais in a few hours and then Dover by mid afternoon. Should have you home in London in time for supper! May I offer you a drink Norman?â€
â€œWell, your chap's been keeping me topped up but a brandy would be splendid,â€ Tebbit pushed his wire framed glasses up his nose. â€œA good night?â€
â€œIndeed, Mr Secretary, a good night indeed!â€ Reynolds gave the Minister a sly wink. The minister would put his Reynolds' reputation with that wink and assume he was either in some gambling establishment or with a woman. These of course would both be situations demanding discretion, especially from a man in his position who was practically begging for a lift!
â€œAnd your fellows there, I assume they will not be drinking whilst on duty, however there is tea and coffee should they wish it.â€
The three men of the Secretary's security details offered various thanks for the gentleman's generosity.
Sitting back and talking politics until the sun came up, Reynolds finally bid the Secretary a good morning and retired to his bedroom. England was only a few hours away and he'd feel all the better for being on home soil.
Fiction from within the Imperialistic World of Prime Reality and the Scope.
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