The Doomsday Conspiracy

Chapter Nineteen


Robert took a taxi to Whitechapel. They drove through the City, the business section of London, heading east until they reached the Whitechapel Road, the area made infamous a century earlier by Jack the Ripper. Along the Whitechapel Road were dozens of outside stalls selling everything from clothing to fresh vegetables, to carpets.
As the taxi neared Mothershed's address, the neighbourhood became more and more dilapidated. Graffiti was scrawled all over the peeling, brownstone buildings. They passed the Weaver's Arms pub. That would be Mothershed's local, Robert thought. Another sign read: "Walker Bookmaker" ... Mothershed probably places his bets on horses there.
They finally reached 213A Grove Road. Robert dismissed the taxi and studied the building in front of him. It was an ugly two-storey building that had been converted into small flats. Inside was the man who had a complete list of the witnesses Robert had been sent to find.
Leslie Mothershed was in the living room, poring over his windfall, when the doorbell rang. He looked up, startled, filled with a sudden inexplicable fear. The ring was repeated. Mothershed scooped up his precious photographs and hurried into the converted darkroom. He slipped the pictures into a pile of old prints, then walked back into the living room and opened the front door. He stared at the stranger who stood there.
"Leslie Mothershed?"
"That's right. What can I do for you?"
"May I come in?"
"I don't know. What is this about?"
Robert pulled out a Defence Ministry identification card and flashed it. "I'm here on official business, Mr Mothershed. We can either talk here or at the Ministry." It was a bluff. But he could see the sudden fear on the photographer's face.
Leslie Mothershed swallowed. "I don't know what you're talking about, but ... come in."
Robert entered the drab room. It was shabby-genteel, dreary, not a place where anyone would live by choice.
"Would you kindly explain what you're doing here?" Mothershed put the proper note of innocent exasperation in his voice.
"I'm here to question you about some photographs you took."
He knew it! He had known it from the moment he heard the bell. The bastards are going to try to take my fortune away from me. Well, I'm not going to let them do it. "What photographs are you talking about?"
Robert said patiently, "The ones you took at the site of the UFO crash."
Mothershed stared at Robert for a moment as though caught by surprise, and then forced a laugh. "Oh, those! I wish I had them to give to you."
"You did take those pictures?"
"I tried."
"What do you mean ... you tried?"
"The bloody things never came out." Mothershed gave a nervous cough. "My camera fogged. That's the second time that's happened to me." He was babbling now. "I even threw out the negatives. They were no good. It was a complete waste of film. And you know how expensive film is these days."
He's a bad liar, Robert thought. He's on the edge of panic. Robert said sympathetically, "Too bad. Those photographs would have been very helpful." He said nothing about the list of passengers. If Mothershed lied about the photographs, he would lie about the list. Robert glanced around. The photographs and the list had to be hidden here somewhere. They shouldn't be difficult to find. The flat consisted of the small living room, a bedroom, a bathroom and what looked like a door to a utility closet. There was no way he could force the man to hand over the material. He had no real authority. But he wanted those photographs and the list of witnesses before the SIS came and took them away. He needed that list for himself.
"Yes," Mothershed sighed. "Those pictures would have been worth a fortune."
"Tell me about the spaceship," Robert said.
Mothershed gave an involuntary shudder. The eerie scene was fixed in his mind forever. "I'll never forget it," he said. "The ship seemed to ... to pulsate, like it was alive. There was something evil about it. And then there were these two dead aliens inside."
"Can you tell me anything about the passengers on the bus?"
Sure I can, Mothershed gloated to himself. I have all their names and addresses. "No, I'm afraid I can't." Mothershed went on, talking to conceal his nervousness. "The reason I can't help you about the passengers is that I wasn't on that bus. They were all strangers."
"I see. Well, thank you for your cooperation, Mr Mothershed. I appreciate it. Sorry about your pictures."
"So am I," Mothershed said. He watched the door close behind the stranger and thought, happily, I've done it! I've outsmarted the sonsofbitches.
Outside in the hall, Robert was examining the lock on the door. A Chubb. And an old model. It would take him seconds to open it. He would start surveillance in the middle of the night and wait for the photographer to leave the flat in the morning. Once I have the list of passengers in my possession, the rest of the assignment will be simple.
Robert checked into a small hotel near Mothershed's flat, and telephoned General Hilliard.
"I have the name of the English witness, General."
"Just a moment. All right. Go ahead, Commander."
"Leslie Mothershed. He lives in Whitechapel. 213A Grove Road."
"Excellent. I'll arrange for the British authorities to speak to him."
Robert did not mention the passenger list or the photographs.
Those were his aces in the hole.
Reggie's Fish and Chip Shop was located in a little cul de sac off the Brompton Road. It was a small establishment with a clientele made up mainly of clerks and secretaries who worked in the neighbourhood. Its walls were covered with football posters and the parts that were exposed had not seen fresh paint since the Suez conflict.
The phone behind the counter rang twice before it was answered by a large man dressed in a greasy wool sweater. The man looked like a typical East Ender except for a gold-rimmed monocle fixed tightly in his left eye. The reason for the monocle was apparent to anyone who looked closely at the man - his other eye was made of glass and of a colour blue that was generally seen on travel posters.
"Reggie here."
"This is the Bishop."
"Yes, sir," said Reggie, his voice dropping to a whisper.
"Our client's name is Mothershed. Christian tag Leslie. Resides at 213A Grove Road, E3. We need this order filled quickly. Understood?"
"Consider it done, sir."