My series of interviews outside London had been only partially successful. Several of the people I wanted to talk with about UNIT and its activities were happy to speak with me but only as ‘deep background’, meaning they would never be identified in print and would only confirm or deny facts I had already gleaned from other sources. Others were dubious about talking with me at all, while several threatened to get the authorities on to me. But nobody was willing to go on the record and speak publicly about UNIT, C19 or the Doctor.
One of my primary targets was Professor Elizabeth Shaw, who was leading a highly secretive new research project at Cambridge. My old contact Martha at the Ministry of Science had tipped me off that Professor Shaw had been seconded from Cambridge in 1969 to work with a certain top secret intelligence taskforce, but had left after a year to go back to Cambridge. If I could get her to talk, it would be a major breakthrough for my investigation. After several of my messages for Professor Shaw met with a stony silence, I gave up for a while and got on with other work.
The new Heath Government had a very short honeymoon, with blame for the collapse of the World Peace Conference in November 1970 being laid squarely at its door. There were rumours circulating about lapses in security for the conference, which had been provided by an unnamed but highly regarded ‘international intelligence taskforce’ under the Government's authority. That got my attention, but as usual, getting anyone to talk openly about this incident proved impossible.
The Government responded to this loss of confidence by creating a new department, the Ministry of Security. Its purpose was to gather all of Britain's intelligence divisions and agencies under one umbrella, bringing about a greater coordination and cooperation between them. A source of mine likened the task of this new ministry to putting a cobra, a hammerhead shark and a man-eating tiger into a small wicker basket together, giving them a good shake and expecting them all to come out as the best of friends.
‘Not very realistic,’ my source said wearily. I had known him off and on for two and a half years and trusted him impeccably. He disappeared for long periods at a time and always contacted me when he wanted to talk. Highly placed within the intelligence community, it seemed to amuse him to have an investigative journalist like myself as a confidant. He never lied to me, he never exaggerated and he always gave a direct answer to any direct question - if he could. The only time he hesitated from revealing a fact was when it could in turn reveal him as the source of such a leak. During all my dealings with him, we never used each other's real names. Instead we adopted codenames. He was Cassandra, I was Whiti. It was a contrivance, but one that amused us both.
Cassandra absolutely refused to talk about UNIT except on one occasion. In all our other meetings, he would not be drawn on the subject. ‘If I told you what they really do, you wouldn't believe me,’ was all he would say about the matter. Talking about C19 was just as much off limits. Indeed, it was Cassandra who had warned me off investigating C19.
‘Keep away. You think you know all about C19 - it's just the spy ministry, and that's partially true. But there is a much darker side to it. There's a secret within the secret service - a team of operatives that has got near total autonomy and dirty tricks that defy belief. Even I can't bring it under control,’ my source confided, genuine fear in his voice.
In January 1971, I had a rare face-to-face meeting with Cassandra to talk about the new Government department and its role and functions. We met in a busy road services café halfway to Bath at noon one Friday, the location being Cassandra's suggestion. ‘This way, if anybody sees us together, I can claim to be sitting opposite you by chance because all the other seats were taken,’ he explained.
He was scathing about the Ministry of Security. ‘Amateurs and idiots’ was his considered opinion. Cassandra said the civil service had used the establishment of this new ministry to transfer every half-wit, malcontent and piece of deadwood from other departments into one place. ‘The whole set-up is a farce and the Ministry of Security will be lucky to see the end of the year. It's been sabotaged from within by mutual agreement of all the intelligence services. First thing they've agreed on in years,’ he said wryly over a large fried lunch.
Cassandra cited as an example of this sabotage the case of one Horatio Chinn. ‘The man's a buffoon! He'd been knocking around various Government departments since the war, thinking he's some sort of trouble-shooting Napoleon, cutting through red tape and bureaucracy.’
‘I don't hear a hint of self interest here, do I?’ I said cheekily. Cassandra just glared at me before continuing.
‘In reality Chinn's only talent is stroking the egos of insecure Ministers and parliamentary private secretaries of Her Majesty's Government. That's how he had managed to get so far in the civil service while maintaining his reputation as a congenital idiot with everyone not motivated by politics and a hunger for winning votes.
‘Anyway, it was decided that this tin-pot, power-crazed fool would be the perfect candidate for inclusion at the new Ministry of Security,’ my source explained. ‘Subtle hints were dropped in Chinn's presence about a high-flying new posting at the MoS and he was round at the Minister's house currying favour before you could say Charles Manson.
‘A few days later it was announced within Whitehall that Horatio Chinn had been appointed as a special advisor to the Minister of Security and we all breathed a sigh of relief. But a few weeks something happened that could be particularly relevant to your current investigations,’ Cassandra said.
‘For once the Government had picked a Minister with something between his ears. The new boy quickly realized that Chinn might be good at flattery, but failed miserably at almost everything else. After a few weeks, the Minister couldn't stand this little megalomaniac any longer and came to my humble self for advice. He wanted a poison chalice to finish Chinn off once and for all, so I gave him the name of some friends of yours, Whiti.’
I always got the impression that my source had missed his calling in life and should have been a storyteller, due to his great love of building suspense in an audience. I happily played along. ‘Friends of mine?’
By now the café was emptying out and the seats around us were empty. Cassandra bent forward to whisper a name in my ear, checking first to make sure no one was within hearing. ‘UNIT.’
‘I thought you'd appreciate that. I told the Minister that UNIT was impossible to control and had been a thorn in the side of the intelligence community for years. It needed a strong-willed dynamo who would not be put off by rules, regulations or red tape. Confidentially, I also told him that by putting the highly combustible Horatio Chinn on UNIT's back, he could pit two of his biggest irritants against each other, thus killing two birds with one stone. With any luck, at least one of them might self-destruct - certainly they would cancel each other out for a while and the Minister could get on with some real work.’
By now I was intrigued but did not start taking notes of the conversation. Cassandra and I had an unspoken agreement that his information was strictly deep background and certainly never for attribution. I spent our rare talks desperately cramming his information into my brain for later recall and investigation. ‘So, what happened?’
‘A battle royal apparently, between the civil servant from hell and the career soldier with a mandate from Geneva, Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart. Just when Chinn was beginning to wear Lethbridge-Stewart down, UNIT was called to an "incident" near the Nuton Power Complex. Nuton is a nuclear power station which supplies power for most of Southern England and any threats to its safety are taken very seriously.
‘A discovery was made near Nuton, something of great importance to the world - that was the whisper around Whitehall.’ Cassandra held up a hand to silence me before I could speak. ‘Don't even ask me what, I am not at liberty to reveal that information and you wouldn't believe me even if I did tell you. Suffice to say, Chinn seized upon this discovery as his ticket to the top.
‘But something went very, very wrong and the power complex itself was affected. Nuton was within minutes of going critical and most of the Home Counties would have been utterly irradiated in the resulting meltdown. Considering the number of Tory voters that would have vaporized, you can understand the Minister's irritation. UNIT's operatives were able to prevent the disaster and the highly classified official investigation into the incident laid the blame for the whole fiasco firmly at the door of Horatio Chinn. He got an early retirement - with a generous pay-off and full pension, of course! - and UNIT became flavour of the month with the Minister. As I understand it, they're still rebuilding parts of the power complex destroyed in the incident.’
I wanted to press Cassandra for more information but had learnt to take whatever he was willing to let slip and carefully follow it up afterwards. We left the café separately, with Cassandra slipping out first, leaving me with the bill and a lot to think about.
I spent the rest of January trying to discover more about the Nuton crisis without success. The Government had slapped enough D-notices on the incident to wallpaper Whitehall and no-one intimately involved with what had happened was willing to talk. I got a few hints, a description of one of the UNIT operatives that matched the Doctor operative I had seen at Stangmoor, and a bizarre story from a former worker at the complex about orange monsters from outer space trying to take over the world. But after nearly three weeks investigation, I could find nothing concrete or useful. Intriguing as Cassandra's tip-off had been, it was just another unanswered riddle in the larger mystery about UNIT's activities and the enigmatic Doctor.
In late February 1971 I realized I could easily spend the rest of my life researching a book about UNIT, C19, and the Glasshouse without ever getting any closer to the truth. It was time to start writing. I was certain that once the book was published it would bring all manner of hell down upon me. But I also believed it would encourage a lot of people to come forward who had so far been unwilling to talk. But before I could begin writing, there was another twist of events.
The phone call from Cambridge came as a complete surprise. It was just after nine on a chilly morning in March 1971, and I was finishing my daily trawl through the papers in search of leads on new UNIT activity or appearances by one of the men known as ‘the Doctor’. On my office desk the page proofs for my JFK book awaited my attention. I was just about to tackle them when the telephone rang.
‘Is that James Stevens?’ a haughty female voice asked.
‘I understand you've been trying to contact me.’
‘Quite possible,’ I replied, slightly mystified. ‘What's your name?’
‘Shaw. Professor Elizabeth Shaw.’ That got my attention. I had been leaving messages for Professor Shaw across Cambridge for months but had given up hope of ever getting a reply. Now, it seemed, she was calling me - but would she be willing to talk? I decided to take the gentle approach. Quickly grabbing a notebook and pen, I began scrawling down key points I wished to put to her, while asking my first question.
‘I'm an investigative journalist looking into new advances in British scientific research,’ I fibbed, crossing my fingers. This was not a complete lie, but it was pretty close. My caller could hang up at any time and that would be a wasted opportunity. With her apparent closeness to UNIT, she was potentially an incredible source of vital information about the taskforce's activities. I had no idea how delicate she was about the subject of UNIT, so I decided to work my way to the topic slowly. But Professor Shaw was rather more blunt than I expected.
‘That's funny,’ she said, ‘I heard you were investigating a certain intelligence taskforce linked to the United Nations.’
‘Yes, that too,’ I replied with a smile, trying to keep the tension out of my voice. She had spoken the words that almost nobody else would even acknowledge as easily as if she had said her own name. I decided to shoot for the Moon. ‘I was wondering if we could meet to talk about your time with UNIT?’
There was a long, ominous silence, finally broken up by a strange puffing noise that I could not identify, like some organic steam train approaching, coming ever closer. What the hell was going on? ‘Professor Shaw, are you still there? Are you alright? Professor Shaw?’
‘Sorry,’ she laughed. ‘I'm just lighting my pipe. Look, I don't get down to London very often, can you come up here to Cambridge?’
‘Yes, of course. When and where should we meet?’ We quickly arranged an appointment to meet at lunchtime in the science section of Heffer's Books for the following Friday. Professor Shaw bid me farewell and rung off, still puffing her pipe.
I sat back in my office chair, feeling elated. My armpits were drenched with sweat and my heart was racing. I had an appointment with a scientific researcher who was a former member of the UNIT staff. This was the breakthrough I had been working towards these long months. Of course, there was no guarantee Professor Shaw would talk. This could all be an elaborate plan to entrap me into some crime or some admission.
Yet, for once, I felt my paranoia was unjustified. I had not been threatened or followed for months as far as I was aware, and the strange clicking noises on the phone had stopped too. Since Dodo's arrival in my life, everything was better, happier and even the malevolent shadow of C19's dirty tricks team seemed to have lifted from my life. Also, Professor Shaw had been nothing but courteous and helpful, had not flinched away from talking about UNIT the way almost everybody else did. Perhaps, for once, I had found someone who was willing and able to talk about my quarry. All would be revealed at our meeting this Friday.
Despite myself, I could not help taking Dodo out for a meal to celebrate. Even if the breakthrough was just another wild-goose chase, it had lifted my spirits. Dodo said that was worth celebrating in itself. We went on to a nightclub afterwards and finally got home around three in the morning to discover the front door hanging off its hinges. The scene inside the house sobered me up damn quickly.
The interior of the house had been trashed, seemingly by burglars. Chairs and tables were smashed, obscene graffiti had been painted onto the walls, and the stereo and television were both missing. But there was something too precise, too measured about the damage. Even the graffiti was just too neat and grammatically perfect. Either the intruders were well educated, or else they were not really burglars at all. Sick realization drove me towards my office, where the triple deadbolts had been smashed open with a mallet, while the main lock had been delicately picked open first with no sign of damage - hardly the behaviour of petty criminals.
Inside, the floor was strewn with papers and notebooks, with a smouldering pile of documents burning feebly in the centre of the rug. The fire had gone out at least an hour before - the intruders had long since left the scene. Dodo was nearly hysterical at all the damage. ‘Your notes, all your work!’ she sobbed.
I did my best to soothe her. ‘It's not that bad, I've kept back-up copies of the most important documents,’ I reassured her. ‘Why don't you fix us both a brandy for our nerves while I start cleaning up in here?’ She nodded, her lower lip still trembling and went out of the room.
I pulled back my heavy wooden desk to reveal the old safe I had installed in the floor when I first moved into the house. At the time I had thought myself deeply paranoid but the last break-in at the flat in Chelsea had convinced me to take such extreme precautions. I had bought the floor safe from an old pawnbroker I knew, when he was going out of business. Saul had a shop near Fleet Street and had got good business from reporters through the years, who frequently went through periods of financial embarrassment. I had even bought my wedding ring from Saul.
He once told me he had hoped to pass the business on to his son, Jacob, but the boy had died during the war and now it was time for Saul to retire to the family home in Golders Green. I bought his own jewellery safe and now used it to store all my most important notes and files. But had the intruders discovered this vital hiding place?
I opened the safe to find its contents untouched and offered up a little prayer of thanks to Saul. He was still helping out journalists, even in retirement. After locking everything back into the safe and shifting my desk back into position, I went into the kitchen and shared a large brandy with Dodo to steady my nerves.
We spent the next three days repainting the walls and tidying up after the break-in. I never reported it to the police because I did not trust the authorities anymore. What would I do if two C19 operatives turned up to deal with my complaint? That was what I believed had happened when I was still at the Chronicle and I did not feel like inviting them into my home again. They seemed to be making their own appointments, anyway.
Friday came and I debated long and hard before travelling up to Cambridge for my meeting with Professor Shaw. It seemed to be no coincidence that the break-in happened while I was out celebrating my phone call from her. Grimly determined to confront her with accusations to this effect, I took the train up to Cambridge. A short taxi ride delivered me into the centre of the university town and I quickly located the science section in the main branch of Heffers' Bookshop.
I mulled my way through several weighty tomes about genetics without understanding a word before I was finally approached by a young woman.
‘Can I help you?’ she asked politely.
‘Actually, no,’ I admitted guiltily. She looked familiar but I did not say so out loud, in case she thought I was making a pass at her. ‘I'm not really interested in buying a book, I'm just here waiting to meet someone.’
‘I know,’ said the woman, offering me her hand to shake. ‘I'm Professor Shaw, but you can call me Liz - everybody does.’
I shook her hand, finally remembering where I had seen her before. Professor Shaw had been the young woman accompanying Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart when he visited the Ashbridge Cottage Hospital back in October ‘69, just before the Black Thursday incident. I had hardly glanced at her then, not realizing the significance of her presence. Now I had a chance to study her more closely. Professor Shaw was barely thirty, her honey-brown hair framing a finely featured face with twinkling, mischievous eyes. She was dressed in a smart but casual trouser suit.
‘You were expecting someone older?’ she asked.
‘Actually, yes, I was,’ I admitted, wrong-footed again.
‘Don't worry, I'm not offended, everybody does it. It's still hard enough being taken seriously as a woman scientist without having to worry that you're not old enough to be credible either.’
‘It's not just that, I suddenly realized I've seen you before. You were with Lethbridge-Stewart at Ashbridge Cottage Hospital where they had the meteor man from space scare.’
‘Ah yes, not one of tabloid journalism's greatest moments,’ she said. ‘Come on - let's go get some lunch!’
Liz led me through a dizzying series of back streets and narrow alleyways, all the while discussing the worrying state of global affairs. Clouds of smoke billowed from a pipe she started smoking. ‘Disgusting habit, I know, but what can you do? Anyway - in here!’ She disappeared down a thin wooden staircase and I followed cautiously after.
We emerged in the smoke-shrouded basement of a pub. Two old men playing chess in a corner acknowledged a cheerful greeting from the scientist. Liz hammered on the bar several times and was eventually rewarded with the appearance of a glowering barmaid. After ordering drinks and food, we sat in an alcove at the back of the basement bar. Before I could say a word, the professor took control of the conversation.
‘At this point I am required to tell you that under the terms of the Official Secrets Act, the Peacetime Nuclear Emergency Act, and several other pieces of legislation that carry lengthy prison sentences and even the death penalty as punishments, I am unable to tell you anything about almost anything. However, I'm interested to hear what questions you have to ask me, and you may discover the accuracy or otherwise of your findings so far,’ she said happily. ‘No notetaking, no recording, nothing on the record, and certainly no mention of my name in any publication or broadcast. So, that's the guidelines laid out - what do you want to know?’
I put my notebook back in my pocket and sighed. This was not going to be easy. ‘You were seconded from Cambridge in ‘69 to work for UNIT -’
‘Yes, I was seconded from Cambridge in 1969. I went to work in London for an international taskforce whose name I am neither able to confirm nor deny,’ replied Liz.
‘What was your role at - err - this taskforce?’
‘Try to avoid open-ended questions. Put statements to me and I may be able to give you yes or no answers. I can't go any further than that,’ she suggested. At this point the barmaid stomped over with our drinks and food. Despite my misgivings about the pub, the ale was excellent and my shepherd's pie was tasty and filling.
Once the meal was underway and we were alone again, I began the delicate task of trying to prise information out of Professor Shaw. It was a bit like walking through a minefield blindfolded, never knowing when a question would blow up in my face. Liz apologized twice for not being more forthcoming but she was not free to do so. Gradually, I built up a picture of her time at UNIT.
She had not gone to the ‘international taskforce’ willingly, but soon grew to like it there. She worked as a scientific adviser alongside another person whom she could not discuss. She was directly answerable to Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, the British head of the international taskforce. ‘That's a matter of public record,’ she said.
Professor Shaw would neither confirm nor deny anything about anyone known as ‘the Doctor’ or as ‘Doctor John Smith’. She had been present at or involved with several of the flashpoints I had detailed in my Bad Science book, including Wenley Moor, the Mars Probe crisis and Project Inferno, but was unable to discuss them further. She had left the international taskforce amicably some months after the closure of Project Inferno and was now undertaking research into genetic engineering and genetic diseases, with a special focus on the reptile world. No, she had not remained in regular contact with the other members of the international taskforce; the nature of their work precluded such contact.
Obtaining these few scraps of information had taken me nearly an hour, at the end of which I felt Liz knew a lot more about my investigations than I knew about her work at UNIT. I put it to her that she had been asked by UNIT or the Doctor to find out how much I already knew. Perhaps she was now linked to C19...?
She flinched at the last name. ‘I can tell you categorically that I am not and never have been a willing participant in the activities of the organization you have just mentioned.’
‘I can also tell you that the international taskforce for which I worked liaised with the Government via the department you have just named. I'm sorry, that's all I can say on the subject.’
Liz was no longer smiling or cheerful. All colour had drained from her face and she seemed genuinely afraid at the mention of the name C19. Had she been threatened by an operative from C19? I asked her several different questions to get at the topic but she would not budge. ‘Change the subject or I'll walk out that door immediately,’ she warned.
‘OK, OK!’ I said, trying to soothe her. I went to the bar to get more drinks. When I returned to the alcove, Liz apologized for her outburst.
‘It's just that there are things I've seen, things that I've experienced that I would prefer never to have to think about again. All right?’
‘Look, I'm sorry I can't give you the sort of information that you want. I wish I could,’ Liz said. ‘I honestly think you've got some of your facts wrong, or rather that you've interpreted events the wrong way round and it's going to get you into trouble. I wish I could tell you what really happened at Wenley Moor and other places, but even if I did you'd never believe me.’ She stood to leave. ‘Just be careful, that's all I'm saying. Be careful.’
I pondered her words while I finished my pint. Liz had come across as caring about what I would write and genuinely concerned I should get facts straight. But she was unwilling or unable to give me any evidence to support what little she had said. Like Greg Sutton, Isobel Watkins and others before, she had seemed credible, yet the version of UNIT reality she offered was totally at odds with the evidence I had gathered.
I was so absorbed by my thoughts, I hardly noticed that the barmaid had disappeared during my interview with Professor Shaw and the chess players had wandered out soon after her as well. Now a large man with straw-coloured hair stood in the shadows behind the bar. I was contemplating another pint when he came over to the alcove. Probably hoping to clear the glasses away, I guessed, and offered him my empty pint. Instead he grabbed my shirt and hauled me up out of my chair.
‘This is your first and last warning. Stop messing with C19 or else we'll mess you up - permanent! Understand?’ He spat the words into my face, a meaty fist pulled back ready to strike. I nodded hastily, all the while trying to burn his features into my memory.
The face was broad and deeply tanned, eyes brown and wide with anger, his top lip curled in a snarl. Just inches away from his face, I realised his hair was more blond than yellow, its lightness accentuated by the depth of his tan. Willing myself to concentrate, I tried to prepare myself for the blows that would surely come.
Instead the blond man hurled me across the room. I skidded on the wooden floor and crashed against the base of the stairs. My attacker stomped across the basement to stand over me. ‘Go to the police about this and we'll find you and kill you. Now get out, while you can still walk, you little parasite!’ he shouted, kicking me in the stomach. I managed to haul myself up the stairs and out into the street, where I vomited my lunch out on to the pub's steps. It was a long stagger to the nearest street before I could hail a taxi to the station and my train back to London.
The next few days I spent in bed recovering from my injuries. I had a cracked rib and my stomach muscles were severely bruised. Dodo doted over me, keeping up a brave face but I knew she was just trying to hide her fears. Eventually, she broke down and admitted her real feelings.
‘I just get so scared sometimes,’ she sobbed. ‘Everything before I met you is a jumble. I don't know what's truth and what's not anymore. You're the only concrete thing I've got to hang on to and if anything ever happened to you...’
‘Nothing's going to happen to me, we'll both be fine,’ I assured her.
Dodo tried to believe me, but still said she felt haunted. ‘It's as if something is out there, waiting to get me, circling. I can almost feel its hands around my throat,’ she cried, clutching at her neck.
I held her and caressed her and soothed away her tears. How could I tell her how scared I really was?
Outside, the world seemed to be plunging ever closer to a nuclear conflict from which no one nation could ever hope to emerge as victor. The collapse of the World Peace Conference in London had pushed events that much closer to nuclear conflict. Reports from behind the Iron Curtain suggested the health of Nikita Khrushchev was failing. Although it was nearly seven years since his removal from the office of Premier, the old, cold warrior still exerted considerable influence over the ruling Politburo in the Soviet Union.
Now, as that influence waned with his health, hardliners were taking over crucial seats in the ruling communist committee. Border incidents between the USSR and China were increasing and war was becoming increasingly inevitable. If those two superpowers clashed, the entire world would quickly be dragged down with them, according to worried-looking political pundits on the news and late-night TV shows.
I was aware of these events happening, but unless they directly infringed upon my investigation into UNIT, C19, and the Glasshouse, this escalation towards a third world war had little effect on me. I was utterly focussed on my quest for the truth, to the exclusion of everything outside that focus - excluding Dodo. When I stopped work each day, Dodo and I would eat supper and watch the news. She was becoming increasingly worried about the world situation but I barely noticed. For the first time in my life, I was falling in love.
Now that I had some distance from my marriage to Natasha, I realized it had been about everything but us. She married me to enrage her father, and I had the same reasons. But I also wanted to thumb my nose at authority; to upset the rich and powerful by marrying into their cosy little world; to be a brash colonial upstart creating some hell in high places. The two of us were young and immature. Being in love or making a life-long commitment had been the last things on our minds.
Natasha tried to make the marriage work far more than I ever did, and for a time we were happy together. But the intervention of C19 destroyed that happiness, making me all the more determined to expose covert agencies. Occasionally I could not help but wonder what had happened to our child? Had Natasha gone ahead with the pregnancy, and if so, was it a boy or a girl? It was hard to believe I was probably a father and yet I would never see my own son or daughter.
Instead I turned all my affections toward Dodo. Both of us had been badly hurt; both of us were missing something in our lives. Now, I was finding out what love really meant with Dodo and I had never been happier. Our relationship had a fragile quality, because we both knew how special it was to find real love and friendship. Before we had ever made love, we became good friends, learning to trust each other.
The grim shadows of war forming in the world outside could not penetrate our joy - or so I thought. The whole world seethed with discontent, hatred, and distrust, but I did not recognize the growing threat as Dodo already had, a threat that was so close.
Before May 1971, I had never heard the name Victor Magister, but I had already unknowingly witnessed his handiwork. Soon I would know his name all too well, like everyone else in Britain. Soon we would all bear witness to the works of Victor Magister.