For part 1, go to the main menu and scroll down.
The man in front was tall, with short sandy hair brushed to the side, wearing heavy black NHS spectacles with straight sidebars. The second stranger held the blaster pointed loosely at Jimmy’s solar plexus as the third, a sharp-faced balding man with piercing eyes, went through Jimmy’s pockets and wallet. Jimmy looked over their suits and ties as they frisked him. They didn’t stink of cheap tobacco, so they probably weren’t plain-clothes coppers. Their threads marked them out more like civil servants; draped shoulders, wide lapels, button-down collar and crocodile zip boots. Jimmy narrowed his eyes, wondering how he should play it.
The balding man held up Jimmy’s PI card. “He’s a gumshoe.”
“Is he really?” The man with glasses holstered the ray gun and stepped closer. The three men were almost a head taller than Jimmy, and he was starting to feel quite intimidated.
“My name,” said the man with glasses, “is Harry Nightingale.” He had a broad Cockney accent and sounded quite a bit like the blokes Jimmy rubbed shoulders with down the local pub.
“These are my associates, Mr. Callum and Mr. Quill.” They both had eyes like bruisers, but their voices had more of an Oxbridge drawl … which Jimmy would expect, if they were who he thought they were.
“Are you from the government?” Jimmy asked.
“We’re from the Section,” Callum said.
“The Section that doesn’t have a name,” Nightingale said with a crafty smile. He turned away and looked down at the untidy mess of papers on Primble’s desk. Quill walked over to the smoking man-shaped scorch mark on the back wall, his face mildly entertained, as if he was looking at a Pop Art exhibit in a gallery.
“I think you’d better tell us what you’re doing here,” Callum said.
Jimmy didn’t have much to tell, just the truth – that Georgie had hired him to find her father.
“Dr. Radcliffe? Yes, we’re aware that he suddenly dropped out of sight. He was working on something rather … sensitive.”
“Which is why you turned up here instead of the rozzers?”
“Clever boy.” Nightingale put his attaché case on the desk, flipped the lid up and took out a small electronic device. It looked like a metal wand with a plastic flex connecting it to a small box with glass dials on the front. He joined Quill at the back wall, and waved the device carefully over the burns, from the black head-shape downwards. The box began to click quietly and Jimmy realized it was a Geiger counter.
“Do you know anything,” Nightingale asked while he worked, “about the British Venusian Society?”
Jimmy frowned. “Aren’t they that bunch of nutters who say they talk to space aliens? No, I’m not mixed up with them. I’m not that daft.”
“Not that rich, either.” Callum looked disparagingly at Jimmy’s suit. “The BVS have a rather exclusive membership.”
“Oi! I had this suit made to measure, you know.”
“Never mind the quality,” said Nightingale, putting away the Geiger counter. “Feel the width.”
“The lad doesn’t know anything, Harry,” said Callum.
Nightingale turned and stared out of the huge window. Through the transparent dome, the silver torpedo shape of a Pan Am Shuttle gleamed in the distance as it began its journey to the Moon. The man seemed to be contemplating something.
“All right, son, you can clear off,” he suddenly told Jimmy. “We’ll handle the Radcliffe case from here. If I were you, I’d apologize to Georgina, and give her the money back.”
“I’ve got bills to pay!” Jimmy protested.
Callum sighed and handed him a business card. “Call this number, and your expenses so far will be reimbursed.”
“We don’t need to tell you,” Nightingale said softly, “not to talk about this with anyone.”
“No. But I suppose you’ll do it anyway.”
“Just like in the War, but you’re too young to remember – ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’. These days they’re spaceships, but the principle’s the same. Goodbye, Mr. Diamond.”
Floating on his Vespa above the Isle of Dogs, eating greasy fish’n’chips out of yesterday’s newspaper. Jimmy couldn’t help feeling a little star-struck. He had no doubt what had happened; he’d just had a brush with MI5.
“The name is Bond,” he drawled to himself. “James Bond.”
Jimmy had read most of the Ian Fleming novels at school, and when they started coming out as films in 1961, he’d gone to see them at the Hammersmith Empire. Casino Royale …Live and Let Die … Moonraker … yeah, James Bond was another Mod icon – nice suits, cool attitude, and Patrick McGoohan was pretty solid in the part.
He threw the chip paper away and flew off. Beneath him, a patrolling litter-bot blasted the paper to ashes with an plasma charge. On his way back to Tottenham Court Road, he passed by an airbus full of Moon-stewardesses wearing silver miniskirts and purple wigs, on their way to Gatwick Spaceport, and gave them a cheery wave.
Back in his office, he refueled his Vespa from the rooftop battery charger and refueled his brain with double-strength espresso to get it working at its optimum ‘sneaky’ level. He activated the robo-finder function in his filing cabinet and set the mechanical claw to retrieve the index card for Peeping Tom.
Everyone called him that because Tom had never told anyone what his real surname was. He traded under the name of Thomas, with a studio over at Princes Place, and left it at that. Jimmy had called him Tommy the Lens for a while but it made him sound like a bloody Welshman. So the Carnaby Street set called him Peeping Tom – but not to his face.
The videophone screen crackled into life and Tom’s sharp, lean face snapped into view. Today he was sporting a bottle-green cashmere polo-neck and a French crop haircut – and looked, as always, severely pissed off.
“Hey, Jimmy!” he shouted, his voice crackling from the speaker. “Listen, I’ve got a job on, and I’ve got five models going cold in the back room.”
“You lucky bastard.”
“Not that lucky, mate, they won’t smile. I think they’ve forgotten what a smile is. So what’d you want, then?”
“Do you know anything about the British Venusian Society?’
“I know they’re a bunch of rich nutters, and that’s about it. What’s up, Jimmy? You want to trade in your crappy Vespa for one of their UFOs?”
“Well, I was thinking you’ve got an assistant, Isobel, right? And her uncle’s one of those egg-heads or something.”
“Yeah, sure. He’s a big noise in the world of cybernetics or whatever they call it.”
“He’s not a member of the BVS, is he?”
Tom sniffed. “Don’t think so. The old boy’s got more common sense.”
“Listen, could you spare Isobel for a couple of days? I need someone to take shots of the BVS offices in Knightsbridge. See who goes in and out, know what I mean?”
“Surveillance job, eh? She’d like that. And she needs the money because she ‘s just been kicked out of her studio for not paying the rent. I could spare her, I guess, all I’ve got on after this is the shoot at the Switched On Gallery, Bond Street…. Yeah, okay. Two days? I can’t give you a discount this time, mate.”
“No problem, I’ll even throw in a knicker to say thanks.”
Tom cut the connection without ceremony and Jimmy slipped his Parka back on, getting ready to do the rounds.
A PI needed sources of information from all over the place, and as Jimmy spent most of his time working on keeping his contacts and getting more. The drinking clubs of Soho had more informative gossip than a year’s worth of mags and newspapers. Even the tailors – all the salesmen on Carnaby Street knew each other, and they hung out at the same espresso palaces.
Jimmy started out at Harry’s Café on the Camden Road, where he met Brenda from the Too Much boutique. Then he flew over to the posh joints in Soho; Lederer’s where they sold hydroponic snacks and continental coffee in tall glasses, and the Belgravia gaff with the stupid name of The Last Days Of Pompeii, where advertising types sipped cappuccinos and nibbled cream cheese and gherkin sandwiches.
By the time the sun went down, Jimmy had a major coffee buzz and a few interesting bits and pieces on the British Venusian Society.
There were some pretty swinging clubs in London; Birdland, the Scotch, the Scene and the Marquee – but the hottest one, as far as Jimmy was concerned, was the Inferno in Covent Garden. And not because of its name, either.
When Jimmy got through the doors the DJ was belting out “Mama Julie” by Terry and Jerry. Jimmy swaggered across the dance floor to the small crowd of blokes in parkas and pork pie hats propping up the bar. He bumped into some young geezer in full Navy drag trying to dance, looking really pissed off about something. “Ain’t no law against standing here, is there?” the guy snarled at him.
“Hello, sailor,” Jimmy snarled back and flicked him the two-fingeed salute.
The mates at the bar, Chaz, Tinny, Cosmo, and Maisie – who had a bit of a crush on Jimmy – were all swigging bottles of Nukey Brown Ale and shouting at each other above the music.
“All right, Jimmy?”
“Yeah, not bad. What’s up, Chaz?”
“Good news, mate, I’m getting the scooter out of the garage. Then I can race you on that flyin’ rust-bucket of yours, mate!”
“Here, Jimmy.” Cosmo thrust a bottle of Nukey Brown Ale into his hands and leant in close. “You won’t believe what Tinny’s done now.”
Tinny, leaning back against the bar, looked like he’d got the hump but Jimmy knew he was enjoying the attention.
“He met this dodgy geezer in the Wellington up north, right? This guy was selling Blues so Tinny bought a quid’s worth.”
“And they weren’t Blues?”
“Were they fragg! They’re food pills, mate, for astronauts! E-rations and concen-tabs!”
“They must have been part of a shipment for Moon Zero Two!”
Even though he was a quid worse off, Tinny couldn’t help laughing with the rest. Jimmy gave the embarrassed Mod a thump on the shoulder. “Well, you’ll be all right if you feel a bit peckish, won’t ya? You’ll have a your own Sunday roast in a pill!”
“So what you up to Jimmy?”
“Taping more videophone calls from dirty old men to their tarts?”
“Nah.” Jimmy drew himself up to his full five feet six inches and put on a faxe Oxbridge accent. “I ham currently on the trail of han himportant missing scientist, old boy.”
Phil let rip with a massive belch. “Like fragg you are.”
“Nah, straight up. I’ve been hired by his daughter, yeah? And she’s a right bit of crumpet!”
“Get in there, mate!”
“Mama Julie” swerved into “Rukumbine” by Shenley Duffus on the turntables, and the rude boys and fly girls on the dance floor started skanking away like mad.
“Listen,” Maisie leaned over to shout into Jimmy’s ear over the Blue-Beat. “I want to ask you a favor, right? There’s this bloke I know at work called Jamie. Bit of a tosser, but he’s all right when you get to know him. He hasn’t got a girlfriend, right? He keeps bending my ear about can I fix him up with someone.”
“Well, bring him down here, then.” The DJ put on “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen and Jimmy started bopping up and down, itching to get on the dance floor.
“Yeah, but he says he doesn’t like clubs, does he? He wants to know some good pick-up lines.”
“So what he wants to know is, what’s the knack, and how to get it? He sounds like a right po-“
The words were drowned out by an almighty crash and a few frightened shouts and screams from the front door. Jimmy and his mates turned to look.
Framed in the doorway by the light coming in from the cloakroom were half a dozen Rockers in full leather gear and boots, their jackets decorated with hammer and sickle. On their heads they wore not the spiky pickelhaube helmets that the other gangs favored, but Cossack-style fur urshankas.
“Oh, fragg,” Jimmy blurted out. Red Fred and the Tovaricks. Self-styled Communist trouble-makers and the worst Rocker gang in London. Their leader, Red Fred, stepped out and bellowed above the music.
“Where the fragg is Jimmy Diamond?”
“Let’s fraggin’ ‘ave ‘em!” spat Chaz, putting his Nukie Brown down on the bar.
“Nah, ‘ang on, mate.” Tinny had gone pale. “Jimmy, it’s the whole gang. We’d better scarper.”
Jimmy stood, clenching his fists, torn between the urge for a rumble and the need for self-preservation. Luckily, the choice was taken out of his hands. Two of the club bouncers stepped forward, squat little machines like potato-guns in their arms. They gave off little ‘pops’ that Jimmy could hardly hear above the guitar and organ of the Kingsmen, but they fired white slugs that splashed and splattered against the Rockers’ leather jackets. The slugs swelled outwards, expanding into creamy foam that spread around the Rockers’ arms and legs, hardening as it grew.
“Oh, fragg! Foamers!”
“Get out and stay out!” the bouncers yelled as they dragged the immobile Rockers out through the cloakrooms.
Jimmy and his mates cheered and ordered another round of beers. “Why do those tossers hate you so much, anyway?” Dave asked.
“Something happened at Brighton and they’ve never forgiven me,” Jimmy said, and took a swig from the bottle. “I’ll tell ya some other time.”
TO BE CONTINUED IN “THE FUTURIST MANIFESTO” … COMING IN OCTOBER 2013!