Revenge is Green

 

He was sliding deeper and deeper into the glutinous morass.

There were no handholds to escape the slurry dragging him down into oily oblivion.

Major Hardy expected his life to flash before him at any second. The soldier had hoped to put off that evil moment with all its gory details peppered with so many regrets. Then the sound of a woman’s voice reminded him of his greatest mistake of all - passing up domestic bliss for the sake of a uniform he could easily despise with the benefit of hindsight. Of what use was his extraordinary military experience now he was about to be suffocated in fracking waste?

A hand suddenly grabbed his and, without letting him slide from its grip, he was hauled back up to solid ground. The woman’s reassuring voice was like the mewing of a concerned cat’s as she pulled him from the oily quicksand. But the tone was deeper and much firmer than that of his recalled lost love, more tiger than kitten.

The only thing Major Hardy could now be sure of was that the ragtag group of eco-protesters she belonged to were not terrorists. They were just a motley collection from every level of society with banners and dress sense to match. None of them were armed, let alone wearing explosive vests.

The dazed and breathless soldier’s first sensible thought was relief that he had decided to reason with them before the civil authorities stepped in. He also shared their view that the oil plant was uncomfortably near the perimeter of the base he commanded. He just wished that he had not mistaken the demonstrators’ waving to warn him away from the firm looking crust on the pit of mud deposited by the drilling company as part of their protest.

Major Hardy pulled out his mobile phone only to find that had not survived being buried in the oily slurry. Someone thrust a smartphone into his hand so he could contact his unit to reassure them that he was safe. It was a quick call; the truth was too embarrassing for elucidation. The Major was a man with a severe reputation, dreaded by those in his command who did not meet his uncompromising standards on the parade ground, and it was bad enough they would see his uniform coated in evil-smelling black oil and close-cropped hair looking like a tarred hedgehog.

The woman who had risked being sucked down into the oil waste to rescue him had fared no better. She was his age - mid-forties - but dressed like a sixties beatnik and slightly taller. Despite this, the soldier felt an embarrassing pang of attraction to this willow-like woman, and not only because she had just saved him from suffocating oblivion.

He dare not show it. A tough man with the responsibility of life and death over a 120 soldiers could not be seen giving into romantic impulses, whether by his own men or this gathering of latter-day hippies.

The slender woman pushed a mug of something warm and comforting into his hands and her expression betrayed that the attraction was mutual. As their gazes met, cherubim should have sang in jubilation. Instead there was the screech of a badly-driven four-by-four ambulance slamming on its brakes.

The owner of the smartphone that had summoned assistance was still busily wiping away the oily fingerprints from it as an army doctor and a lieutenant sprang out of the vehicle to dash towards them.

Major Hardy’s subordinate suppressed any reaction to his superior’s dishevelled condition that he would later regret.

The doctor had no such qualms.

‘My God, Major, looks as though you’ve been swimming though an oil slick. Let’s make sure the sharks didn’t take a bite out of you. Undo his uniform,’ he ordered the unfortunate lieutenant. The doctor took out his stethoscope and listened to the patient’s heart. ‘Well the ticker sounds fine, but then I wouldn’t expect it to be anything else. I’ll take the blood pressure once we’ve got that uniform off.’ The doctor’s antique blood pressure monitor was not going to be contaminated by any noxious substances, even for the welfare of a senior officer. His patient had the constitution of an ox anyway and could survive anything, which was more could be said for the tall, dark woman next to him who had started to cough uncontrollably. ‘And you had better come along as well.’

‘I’m fine,’ Maddy managed to gasp, the reassuring purr now replaced by uncontrollable wheezing.

‘No you’re not. You’re asthmatic, probably diabetic, and need a thorough check-up.’

Major Hardy fought back the urge to put a comforting arm around her. ‘Don’t argue. This man is never wrong. It’s the only reason I put up with him.’

‘Well that’s sorted then.’ The doctor wiped his stethoscope and tossed it into his bag. He turned to the lieutenant and a couple of the eco-protestors. ‘You’d better help them back to base. I know one of them certainly won’t get on a stretcher, and I’m not going to miss my game of golf to clean up that ambulance yet again.’ He returned to the vehicle with a bounce in his stride that wasn’t natural for a man in his mid 60s and drove off.

‘He should have been pensioned off years ago,’ Major Hardy explained, ‘but his wife prefers we keep him.’

Unsure whether she would live down saving the life of a senior army officer, Maddy meekly allowed herself to be escorted into the barrack’s medical centre where a female attendant checked her over, washed the oily residue from her hair and places she would have never allowed a male orderly to go, and procured a reasonable change of clothes. Maddy’s much-loved, patchwork velvet dress seemed beyond help, and it would take several shampoos before her frizzy hair recovered from the experience.

The next time Maddy met Major Hardy he was in an immaculate dress uniform and she wore a smart white blouse and short, though sensible, skirt (on a smaller woman it would have been regulation length). Anyone who didn’t know better might have thought they were well-matched, but the choir of cherubim were still holding their breath while Heaven made up its mind.

The declaration of gratitude from a self-confident man for being rescued from the pit of oily oblivion was heartfelt, albeit somewhat hesitant at never having had to utter those words before. Major Hardy was usually the one who saved other people. He had a drawer full of medals to prove it. Maddy just hoped that she wouldn’t be offered an embarrassing award for doing something that was simply in her nature and, being diabetic, chocolates were also out. She doubted that he would have understood why she rejected any official recognition, and was grateful the matter was not broached. It was easier to politely accept his offer of dinner at a ridiculously expensive restaurant to avoid the awkwardness of refusing. And, though she fought to ignore it, there was something intriguing about this unsmiling man with the firm jaw and steel-grey eyes. She was also curious to know what he would look like out of uniform - in a civilian suit of course, though she wouldn’t have discounted taking the thought further at a later date.

Maddy’s main problem now became what to wear in such elite surroundings without embarrassing the man. Her wardrobe was a rail of exotic garments sent from odd corners of the world by family and well-wishers. The sarongs from the Far East were stunning, but not for up-market dining venues, and the floral silk dresses sent by her aunt in the Barbados, who still thought she was fifteen, were not right for someone her age and height. Her friend Sylvia had a very smart suit, which had only been worn once for her daughter’s wedding. The fellow campaigner was much shorter, but the calf-length skirt would at least reach Maddy’s knees.

The elegant surroundings of the rooftop restaurant patio were not the eco-campaigner’s natural habitat, though they did have a commendable vegan menu. To her surprise, Major Hardy opted for a vegetarian platter, and obviously not to impress her. The tone of the man’s fair skin and general fitness also suggested that he did not smoke or drink. Most of the men under his command might not have survived being sucked down into an oily morass quite so easily.

Conversation began awkwardly. It was limited to the activities of her eco-aware companions who had no secrets because it helped to have their agenda well advertised. The only reason they could have been mistaken for radical activists was that a more hard-core group had been reported in the area. Maddy and her companions were well aware of their extreme protests and steered clear of them. Their death-defying stunts held up traffic, cost local councils money to clear up, and risked alienating the general public against the cause they both strived to advance. They were the reason any activity so close to an army base had to be immediately dealt with.

All through the one-sided conversation the Major regarded Maddy with a half-smile that softened his stern expression. She wasn’t sure whether it was because he found her amusing or he was just bored. At least it wasn’t like the indulgent ones her religious family wore whenever she rattled on about rising sea levels, major extinctions and the climate change humans were inflicting on their God’s creation.

After telling him so much, Maddy felt entitled to ask the very question he would probably refuse to answer. ‘Don’t you have anyone who is going to wonder why you are taking this strange, black woman out to dinner?’

‘I doubt that my lieutenant would be jealous. He’s already in a full-time relationship and certainly doesn’t fancy me.’

Major Hardy gay? He had to be pulling her leg.

‘I meant...’

The soldier was indebted to this woman for pulling him from oily suffocation and she deserved an honest answer that would also let her know that he was not romantically attached. ‘There was someone a long while ago. Like you, she had a social conscience. She was a Quaker, and the idea of marrying a man liable to go to war was out of the question. She married a chemist instead. Now, I wouldn’t have thought twice about sacrificing the uniform for her.’

‘And you wish you had back then?’

‘I wish I had made many different decisions, but hindsight is pointless.’

‘Never look back?’

‘Never look back unless you want to confront demons.’

Maddy was willing to believe that this taciturn man had plenty of them in his closet. It made him all the more fascinating.

 

Had commonsense prevailed, the evening would have ended there with a polite handshake, but these two very down to earth people could not resist that inconvenient magnetism which draws individuals closer against their better judgement. When Nature decides that opposites attract, she will not be ignored.

There was another assignation; this time more secret. Comrades on both sides would have relished gossiping about the unlikely liaison between the man of steel and woman of social conscience.

So Maddy and the Major grew closer and closer until it could be kept secret no longer.

Her companions registered amazement to mild disapproval. Though Sylvia, the eternal romantic, thought her friend should be congratulated, if only for managing to infiltrate the enemy camp.

Major Hardy’s men dared say nothing within earshot, so he found that being unable to lip-read was somewhat of a relief.

 

While Maddy’s determination to save the planet was not diminished by her liaison with a soldier, the Major’s worldview began to widen. That deep-rooted commitment to duty and chain of command had already started to weaken before meeting her. Maddy was the breath of fresh air that allowed this expert in munitions and undercover sabotage to review his dedication to warfare in a way his Quaker love had not. For appearance’s sake he remained the same stiff, unbending martinet to his troops, humiliating anyone improperly dressed and pretending that he was unaware his lieutenant kept a lilac suit in his locker for dates with his boyfriend. Because the Major’s girlfriend had such a relaxed attitude to her hippy appearance, his men wondered how he allowed Maddy to get away with it, not to mention the fact that she and her companions still organised protests so near the boundary of his command. But Major Hardy’s love for her transcended his obsession with neatness, social order and military obligation. As far as he was concerned, however much it went against the grain, she was perfect, even when trying to wheedle him over to her point of view.

He only began to worry when Maddy casually mentioned that the eco-extremists had set up a base in a decommissioned coal-fired power station. Waving banners and shouting protests was one thing, but Maddy had the determination to look a crocodile in the teeth and persuade it to become a vegetarian.

There was no point in asking her what she intended to do. Her reaction would be a shrug of the shoulders and innocent smile. To Maddy, the survival of the world depended on her eco-aware companions getting their message over, and the last thing they needed was a few extremists undermining it with direct action that annoyed the public and wasted police time. Her group were proud of the fact they had never seen the inside of a magistrate’s court.

Major Hardy did not mention the matter again and allowed their relationship to carry on at its comfortable pace.

 

Maddy was introduced to his mother, who had been something of a renegade in her past. She immediately approved of her forthright view of the world, if not her politics. His son’s girlfriend was a better choice than that of the wan Quaker girl who probably would have reduced him to a sensible, boring, human being who put the needs of everyone else before his own. His mother was not an unreasonable woman, but had been determined her son would not become like his father who, she believed, died of a stroke as a consequence of trying to put the world to rights. So Mrs Hardy persuaded her only child to join the army, with little inkling that it would change her loving, innocent boy into a man she barely knew. As soon as he put on that uniform the charismatic smile, love of animals and Sunday afternoon games of cricket came to an end, and the obsession with weaponry and battlefield tactics took over. Mrs Hardy dreaded to think what he had been obliged to do in his many undercover operations, blaming the army sooner than herself: some things a mother should never have to own up to. Hopefully Maddy would snap him out of his mindset before he became too old for it to make any difference. She would have liked to see that caring child once more before she died.

 

Major Hardy soon became convinced that Maddy intended to try and reason with the eco extremists bunkered down in the redundant power station before they caused serious damage. As the only one prepared to jump into an oily pit to pull out a soldier about to disperse their demonstration, she wouldn’t think twice about confronting a ragtag group of people who had different ideas about how the world should be changed.

When Maddy hired a car (she had long since given up owning one after reports that particles from traffic pollution killed people) he decided to follow her. The Major was good at tracking quarry, but as that quarry happened to be the love of his life it was with some trepidation.

 

Karnbridge Power Station was one of those blots on the landscape Nature refused to recolonise. It was surrounded by slag piles and its towering walls, still intact, were like monolithic slate cliffs ruining an otherwise beautiful coastal view. The interior should have been sealed tight, but the company owning it had spent so much decommissioning the eyesore they had no intention of wasting any more to keep out the pigeons and idiots intent on doing themselves serious injury. All the useful machinery had been removed, and dismantling the massive turbines would have incurred more expense. Not even a government who paid lip service to environmentalists without listening to a word they said would have dared bring this coal-fired power monolith back online.

There was no sign of Maddy’s hired mini, though a black four-by-four was parked by the half open gates guarded by a man in a balaclava and combat gear. The Major instantly knew that he was no eco-activist. The sentry held his automatic weapon like a professional. Perhaps Maddy had realised at the last moment that it was unlikely the protesters had set up a base in this gutted eyesore when they could do all their plotting in the basement of one of their rundown squats, and promptly driven off.

The guard’s companions must have been inside. God forbid that Maddy was also in there advocating moral responsibility. The Major may not have known much about ecology, but he understood the mentality of men who carried weapons. Attempting to reason with them was not a good idea.

He was thankful to be carrying a side arm; he could hardly call for support before knowing what was going on. If Maddy was inside, under the impression she was confronting other people who supported the same cause, he would be her only hope.

The Major distracted the guard by hurling a stone at the perimeter fence and darted past to enter the corridor that had once been the power station’s admin centre. The place should have been cleared of all furniture and files, yet several rooms were occupied. Two of the larger ones appeared to be a makeshift dormitory and the largest of all contained chairs, monitors and tables. Whoever they belonged to, they certainly weren’t preparing to generate power for the National Grid.

In another room there was a rack of automatic rifles, which confirmed his worst suspicions. Major Hardy snatched the nearest loaded weapon and swiftly doubled back along the corridor into the hall housing the massive turbines. The thought that Maddy had walked in on these individuals made it difficult to focus.

There was no sign of anyone, so he noiselessly searched the vast turbine hall, still in the hope Maddy had already left.

Part of the roof had collapsed under the high winds, allowing shafts of sunlight to cut through the dusty atmosphere and spotlight a crumpled bundle on the floor a few yards ahead. There was something horribly familiar about it. The alarming oddness of the situation was disorientating and Major Hardy hesitated.

Then he saw the blood pooling about the patchwork dress Maddy had somehow managed to repair after rescuing him from the oily pit. Her coat was some distance away, discarded in her desperation to escape. The sight was so dreadful even his soldier’s instincts refused to accept it immediately.

Maddy had been shot with an automatic weapon and the life was rapidly seeping from her. The Major made a futile attempt to staunch the blood from multiple wounds with one hand while he tried to get a signal on his mobile with the other.

Maddy smiled. ‘Hi soldier...’ Then gave a small sigh and ceased to breathe.

Major Hardy allowed a small, pained gasp to escape. For the first time the soldier in him was too overcome to react. 

When he did it was too late.

Half a dozen automatic weapons were pointing at his head.

His first reaction was rage and grief, followed by the impulse to go down fighting. After losing the only other person he had been prepared to commit a lifetime to there seemed nothing left.

The leader of the armed men pulled off his balaclava to reveal disconcertingly avuncular features, the sort more likely to be seen behind the pub or chemist’s counter. ‘Don’t move, Sir. We don’t want to have to shoot you as well.’ His tone suggested that he would have already done that if the intruder hadn’t been wearing the uniform of a senior army officer.

‘Who the hell are you!’ the Major almost shrieked in anger.

‘Special Reconnaissance Regiment. Now just keep calm and put the guns down.’

The Major’s training kicked in. This was not the time to react.

Assess the situation first.

He laid his pistol and the automatic rifle on the ground. ‘What the devil are you doing here?’

‘Probably the same as you, Sir. Keeping tabs on eco terrorists.’

Maddy an eco terrorist! They had shot his lover because they believed she was a dangerous radical. It was beyond belief.

‘Why did you shoot this woman?’ He managed not to choke on the words.

‘It was an accident.’

No doubt an accident that would be hushed up so nobody was held to account for her death. Poor Maddy had come to talk peace with other committed green protesters, only to end up being shot by another soldier.

The Major’s stunned silence was taken as comprehension of the situation.

‘I know who this woman is,’ he eventually managed to tell them. ‘I was following her. I thought she was liaising with a group threatening my base. The body needs to be returned to her family.’

‘We’ll supply a cover story.’

Guaranteed to be one that blamed her murder on a climate activist.

‘I signed the Official Secrets Act,’ the Major managed to remind them. ‘They’ll be no trouble from me.’

‘Good man.’

The operations leader had to be a colonel at least. Any act of defiance would only limit the Major’s next move - when he managed to work out what it was going to be. He was too numb with grief to think straight at that moment and dependant on instinct to see him out of the situation. It would only be a matter of time before they discovered the relationship between him and the woman they had just shot. He would need his own cover story. It was necessary to bite the bullet and tell them that he had encouraged the liaison to keep track of the group which had set up camp next to the base he commanded.

 

The funeral was simple and only Christian because Maddy’s family insisted on it. Major Hardy’s uniform was uncomfortably out of place amongst her family and eco-aware friends. The ceremony was punctuated by glances of recrimination in his direction, and once outside the church Maddy’s older sister blamed him for her death. He could muster no sensible response and had to be rescued by the vicar who realised that the soldier felt Maddy’s loss as keenly as anyone else there. While the rest of the party left for the crematorium, Rev Wilson took him into the vestry where the cool quietness enabled him to at last think clearly.

Major Hardy sat motionless while she gathered up hymn books and tidied the church in readiness for the next service. By the time she returned he had decided on a plan of action Rev Wilson could tell she was better off not knowing about.

The firm set of his jaw could didn’t disguise his inner turmoil.

‘People can behave thoughtlessly in stressful situations. They sometimes lose the capacity to consider the feelings of others,’ she tried to console.

The soldier sensed that his young woman of the cloth had wisdom beyond her years. Although obliged to pay lip service to the Church because of his rank, he was not a believer. Being involved in too many horrendous events had convinced him that humans were not creations of some benign, all-seeing God. To soldiers, confidence in comrades was their gospel and he knew she could be trusted in a way he dare not confide to the army chaplain.

‘Tell me that this is all an illusion created by your God to baffle us?’

‘It could be an illusion to test us.’

‘I’ve the feeling that’s one test I’m going to fail.’

Rev Wilson knew better than to judge him. ‘You do realise that anything you tell me will be kept in confidence?’

‘I know, but some things are too dangerous to share.’ Major Hardy had said enough and rose. ‘I appreciate your concern.’

The vicar took a card from a pocket in her cassock. ‘In that case, keep this and bear in mind that I will be here to offer any help or counsel the Good Lord allows.’

He accepted the card and, with a brief nod of gratitude, left.

 

The next few months were filled with a numbed self-hatred for what he was doing, and at the loss of Maddy. His men took the lack of communication to be their commanding officer’s way of dealing with grief: a few were even persuaded that he had encouraged the relationship to keep track of the green protesters’ activities. Only the empathic and understanding lieutenant, the perfect counterbalance to his senior officer’s hard persona, had some inkling of what was going on. He knew better than to mention it. He also avoided noticing Major Hardy’s occasional absences and surreptitious searches of confidential army files. Somebody was secretly liaising with him, though over what the lieutenant could only guess, and preferred not to know, being well aware that the major’s relationship with Maddy had been genuine and the disinformation to cover up her death a fabrication.

The database of the very unit who had killed the love of the Major’s life was where he found the location of the group she had set out to reason with. At least he could now confront them, if only to find out if they were the dangerous activists the SRR were going to so much trouble to contain.

His first guess about them being based in some squat was right, and after he knocked their battered, basement door he wasn’t prepared to be invited in so readily or for them to be aware of who he was, despite being out of uniform.

The trauma of Maddy’s death was obvious to them and they already knew that Major Hardy’s romance with the activist had not been a ploy to get access to her group. He was a man in limbo, still wondering what he would be capable of when the opportunity presented itself.

The rooms the group occupied were filled with life’s basics and the tools of protest; banners, balaclavas, climbing equipment, and several laptops. Their leader was a skinny, lank-haired man in his early 40s. There was just enough sophistication in Rodney’s accent and waistcoat to suggest he had once been gainfully employed, possibly in the Stock Exchange or similar capitalistic occupation. The rest of his team seemed equally benign, despite their reputation. It was a cruel irony that if Maddy had managed to track them down she probably would have been able to reason Rodney and his group away from extreme action and it was her death that had hardened their commitment.

Before then, their targeting of oil refineries had been limited to breaching perimeters to paint slogans on storage tanks. Now the situation was different. The government intended to allow a foreign-owned refinery to expand and secretly process crude oil being shipped in from regions blacklisted worldwide. This would effectively undermine green legislation imposed by the previous administration, not to mention ruin an area of natural outstanding beauty. As soon as they had found out, Rodney’s group decided to take direct action, which would give the SRR genuine reason to be concerned. Major Hardy had also been apprised of the government’s plans and could easily surmise what the eco-warriors intended to do.

He warned them against it, but didn’t have Maddy’s persuasive powers. Rodney’s group were too committed to back out. They knew they were under surveillance, yet determined to go ahead with action even the experienced soldier would have thought twice about. By the amount of mountaineering gear being made ready, it involved extreme heights. There was also a collection of large fireworks, but no firearms or explosives anywhere to be seen. It was apparent they did not intend to harm anyone, so the Major knew he could walk away without the fear of anyone following to try and silence him.

Major Hardy took his leave, not expecting to see Rodney and his group again. The Colonel and his team would be watching their every move. These eco-warriors wouldn’t stand a chance.

 

While the soldier in Major Hardy insisted that it was necessary for the country to guarantee its oil supplies, his growing green awareness saw the absurdity of such a short-term fix at the expense of long-term future.

Then he realised that he was thinking like Maddy, and not only because he desperately missed her. However futile it was to try and change human nature, she would have fought on, endeavouring to secure the planet’s future by peaceful means. That was one reason why he still loved her. But however much he now reasoned like her, there was one thing he could not accept. The eco-warriors were right. Direct action was the only way, though not by scaling an oil refinery’s tall chimneys and hanging banners from them. Destroying them would be far more effective. Even if it had crossed the minds of Rodney’s group, they would have had no idea how to go about it... but the Major did.

The soldier’s stride stopped abruptly at the idea as he became aware of his surroundings.

The normality of the tree-lined high street with bustling shoppers and fragrance of lime blossom should have poured cold water on the thought. Then the sight of an airliner cutting across the sky, glinting like a shard of crystal in the troposphere, resolved the idea.

What was he thinking? Maddy would not have forgiven him for even considering it. But where had been the point in her death if he was not allowed to avenge it in some meaningful way? It would soften the blow of her loss to know that her life had counted for something.

 

The SRR team were aware of the eco-warriors’ plans and also Major Hardy’s visit to Rodney and his group, which meant he was now under suspicion as well, though probably not yet surveillance.

But before he could be questioned, a text from Rodney told him things had been set in motion.

By the time the Major arrived at the oil refinery the surrounding area had been evacuated and sealed off, so he remained outside the perimeter. Even if he could have done anything, it was too late.

He watched through binoculars as the bodies of Rodney’s group were brought out, one by one. Whatever they had been planning, like Maddy, they hadn’t stood a chance. The tragedy was, all air traffic had been diverted so there would have been no one to see the banners or fireworks they intended to set off from the tallest chimney.

There had been little point in killing the eco-warriors who were at the worst delusional, and at the best prepared to make the supreme sacrifice for their commitment.

Major Hardy drove to the highest point overlooking the oil refinery. His mother would never see that sweet, loving infant in him again as he removed the anti-aircraft gun from the back of his Land Rover, loaded it, and aimed for a storage tank on the far side of the plant. Unlike the SRR team, the major did not intend to kill anyone and it would give them, and himself, chance to escape before the whole refinery exploded in flame.

The conflagration made worldwide news. Naturally it was blamed on terrorists. Borders were closed and every suspect under surveillance brought in for questioning. All emergency services were put on alert and airports given armed security.

 

Nobody stopped the army Major in uniform and with genuine accreditation from boarding a flight to the other side of the world... whence he disappeared.

Over the following years there were multiple attacks on polluting power stations, oil refineries and fracking wells. They were so efficiently carried out nobody was injured or died in the catastrophes. Warnings were posted on every major social networking site, giving just enough time to evacuate before the explosives were remotely detonated.

No evidence remained after the conflagrations and experts were unable to work out how they had been planted. Whoever committed these acts was no ordinary terrorist. It was a phantom who could pass through security nets, plant sophisticated, undetectable devices, and disappear into thin air.

Then the attacks abruptly stopped. But this green avenger had done enough to persuade climate change deniers to admit that human pollution was destroying the planet instead of blaming politicians and God. Confirmed Nimbys began to accept the hydro, solar, and wind power installations they had previously protested about so vociferously, and the last intransigent statesman to claim that global warming was a myth at last fell silent.

 

After Major Hardy’s disappearance, it gradually occurred to his lieutenant that he had been responsible for the worldwide catastrophes. His partner frequently found it quite annoying. The senior officer had been a martinet after all, and now responsible for mass destruction.

 

One morning Rev Wilson received a small parcel.

It contained a biscuit tin filled with human ashes, two letters and a cheque to cover a donation to the church and cost of a simple funeral. One letter was from a solicitor, and the other in Major Hardy’s handwriting. The latter was quite shaky, but legible.

They both requested that his ashes to be scattered with those of his beloved Maddy.