After a desperate rush, the Bad Science book was hurried out in hardback just days before the General Election in June. The publishers, the editor and I were attacked in many newspaper leader articles for trying to influence the outcome of the election by publishing a book critical of the Wilson Government so close to polling day.
I appeared on several late-night chat shows to answer the criticisms. On The Passing Parade, noted BBC3 broadcaster Alex MacIntosh demanded to know what right I had to play god with the fate of the election, to which I replied he was talking rubbish. For once in his career MacIntosh was rendered speechless, giving me a chance to explain further.
‘Look, Harold Wilson called the election for June 18 long after the publication date for Bad Science was announced. You can hardly blame me, my editor, or my publisher if the Prime Minister has a poor sense of timing,’ I said, trying not to perspire under the blazing studio lights.
‘Ah, but here you are now criticizing the PM for his poor sense of timing - you're at it again!’ MacIntosh said triumphantly.
‘Look, Alex, the people of Britain are perfectly capable of making their own minds up about who should run the country. I don't support any particular political party or philosophy, as you well know. But Harold Wilson has cast himself as the architect of the white heat of technology. My book shows that so-called white heat is about as effective as a single-bar heater in the Antarctic!’
After that the programme degenerated into a shouting match, during which I gave as good as I got. The producer of the show was an expatriate Kiwi, Vincent Mortimer, whom I knew vaguely from the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation. A red-haired dynamo, he had quickly risen through the ranks of the fledgling television service in New Zealand and was now making a name for himself with the new channel, BBC3. I had profiled him for a paper once in Auckland and was delighted to meet him again. He took me for a drink in the bar after the show and congratulated me on the success of my book.
‘You ever thought of getting into television? I thought you handled Alex really well, and it's not often that someone comes out ahead on points against him! We're desperate for good journos on BBC3; the old fogeys who run the main channels won't give us a sniff of anybody decent - we only got MacIntosh because he's a sanctimonious prick they couldn't wait to get shot of,’ he complained.
‘I would have thought my Kiwi accent would dissuade you - hardly the Queen's English,’ I replied.
‘No, we're ditching all that plum in the mouth crap. BBC3 - we're the Voice of the People!’ Vincent joked. I declined the chance of going into television. I was only just carving out a niche as a freelance writer, and did not feel sufficiently confident in my current career to launch myself into another. Vincent gave me his business card anyway, scrawling his home number on the back.
‘Look, if you get anything you think I might be interested in, give us a call, OK?’ he asked. ‘Ring anytime, day or night - I hardly get any sleep so you won't be disturbing me.’
Three days later the Tories led by Ted Heath were returned to power for the first time in seven years with a majority of 43. Henry immediately had all remaining copies of Bad Science stickered to read the book that brought down a government!, which even I thought was overstating the case a tad. But the first hardback edition sold out within weeks and I made sure never to criticize one of Henry's publishing decisions again.
For me it was time to get back to work writing my Kennedy book. The publicity generated by Bad Science had eaten up several valuable weeks of my writing schedule and it was going to be a push to meet my deadline. For once my UNIT log was standing idle, with few if any entries being added for several months. As soon as I handed in my Kennedy manuscript it would be time to restart my investigation of the covert intelligence taskforce.
Four months later and my second book was complete. The handsome royalty cheque I received for Bad Science from Henry in September had swollen my bank account considerably and given me the financial freedom to pursue my investigation into UNIT and Doctor John Smith for at least six months.
My first calls were to the long list of contacts I had built up within various Government agencies over the years. Having been out of circulation for several months there was a lot of catching up to do and a few well-placed bottles of expensive alcohol and perfume helped smooth the wheels considerably. Of particular interest was a piece of information I picked up from a friend within the Ministry of Science about a new initiative against crime.
‘It's a joint effort between the Justice Department, the Government, and the Prison Service,’ confided Martha, a highly placed secretary-cum-personal assistant to the Minister. She knew more about the workings of the ministry than her boss. ‘Apparently some Swiss scientist has come up with a revolutionary new technique to remove violent impulses from the minds of criminals. There's going to be a demonstration at one of Her Majesty's prisons next week.’
‘Which prison? Martha, can you get me in to see the demonstration?’ I asked. This sounded like an intriguingly Orwellian concept and exactly the sort of scientific meddling that Governments always denied they had any knowledge of or involvement with. A new brainwashing technique, with human prisoners being used as guinea pigs? This had scandal written all over it.
‘I don't know, James, you'll have to make this worth my while,’ she slurred slightly, clutching my inner thigh with her left hand. We were in a tiny backstreet pub near Whitehall, hidden away in a booth at the back. ‘My flat is just a few streets away...’
Three days later I was in the back of an unmarked black van, being driving up the long curving driveway to Her Majesty's Prison Stangmoor. Thanks to my gentle persuasion Martha had obtained an observer's pass for me to attend the first British demonstration of the Keller Process. I sat amongst five other observers, all of them dressed in grey suits with pens in the breast pockets and clutching clipboards. We had been met at the Stangmoor Railway Station six miles away by a surly-faced officer, who had then driven us to the prison in the back of his Black Maria.
The prison was a converted castle, and the stern stone walls and turrets gave it a gothic, forbidding feel that was testament to its former function as a fortress. Stopping outside, we had to hand over our observer's passes to another prison officer, clad in a long black greatcoat and peaked cap. A walkie-talkie crackled just inside his coat.
Fortunately, he did not ask for further identification, which would have quickly revealed my true profession. I had taken the chance of using my real name on the observer's pass. It was better to risk being revealed as a journalist early on and lose the story, than use a false name and face prison myself for unlawfully gaining entry to a prison. While the guard confirmed our right to enter, a security camera filmed us from a vantage point above the tall wooden doors into the prison. Satisfied that we were all to be allowed in, the surly guard called through on his walkie-talkie for the gates to be opened.
Once inside we were subjected to several more security checks before finally being ushered into a large chamber with white tiles on the walls, floor and ceiling. The smell of disinfectant suggested the room's usual purpose as an infirmary, but nearly all the furniture had been cleared out for the demonstration. A dozen wooden chairs were lined up along one wall in two rows, while a few more were pushed hard against the wall opposite. In one corner of the room stood a large control unit, covered in dials, switches and buttons - presumably part of the Keller Machine. But it was towards the centre of the room that all attention was focused.
On a low metal trolley sat a squat, upright cylinder made of some opaque plastic or glass, topped with a dark dome. The cylinder was set into a control unit the size of a briefcase. A series of spiralled wires led from this unit to a white plastic dome over a padded leather chair with metal arm rests. The dome's positioning over the chair was not unlike that of a hair dryer in a beauty salon, but there was something altogether more sinister about this contraption. Eventually I realized what the assemblage of machinery most reminded me of - an electric chair.
Several prison guards in their black uniforms lurked at the sides of the room to dissuade us from taking a closer look at the device, so I took a chair against the wall and sat down to wait. The seats around me quickly filled up, leaving only two chairs in the front row empty. After a few minutes two latecomers entered, looking slightly flustered. The woman was small, mousy and had a pleasant face. But the man accompanying her was instantly recognizable to me from the times others had described his appearance - it could only be the Doctor!
This was the first time I had seen one of the agent provocateurs knows as the Doctor in person. Previously I had watched this operative in the background of the Mars Probe broadcasts, not realizing the significance of his presence at the time. Now, I was in the same room as the so-called ‘scientific adviser’. I could not get an interview with him without blowing my cover, but at least I could observe him at close range.
All the descriptions I had heard of this person made much of his outlandish dress sense, yet they still had not prepared me for the ageing dandy who had entered the room. An extravagantly ruffled white shirt was barely held in check by a two-piece velvet suit. Over this was draped a black, silk-lined cape. His hair was a quiet explosion of greying curls over a lived-in face. The hawkish nose jutted from between a pair of piercing eyes that swept the room quickly to assess those present.
‘Morbid lot of sensation seekers,’ I heard him mutter.
After several more minutes of waiting, a barrage of noise began to shake the room, as the prisoners in the nearby cells began yelling out in protest. ‘What's all the racket about?’ I asked innocently. One of the prison officers overheard my question and muttered a reply under his breath.
‘It's traditional, when sentence is about to be carried out against a condemned man.’
‘Condemned? The Keller Process isn't fatal, is it?’
‘You'll see,’ the guard said gruffly before snapping to attention as two men entered the room. The taller of the two was a heavy-set man in his late forties, with bushy eyebrows and a glowering face. Probably Victor Camford, the prison's governor, judging by the brief physical description Martha has given me the day before. Beside him was a smaller, elegant man in his fifties, with greying hair and a dapper three-piece suit. He would not have looked out of place in Harley Street, but was certainly incongruous inside a prison.
The governor welcomed us to Stangmoor and handed over to the smaller man, whom he introduced as Professor Kettering. The professor addressed the gathering with the practised ease of someone who has given many lectures to distinguished audiences.
‘Today, ladies and gentlemen, we no longer execute even the most hardened criminals and killers. Society has progressed far beyond that primitive form of retribution,’ he began.
‘All depends what you mean by progress, doesn't it?’ interjected a voice from the row of chairs in front of me. I made sure I kept a complete transcript of everything that was being said, giving thanks for those extra nights spent brushing up my shorthand since going freelance. It looked like that was going to prove useful.
Kettering shot a stern look at his audience before continuing. ‘Today science has abolished the hangman's noose and substituted this infallible method,’ he said, grandly gesturing towards the machine at the centre of the room.
Again, he was interrupted by an impertinent voice from the audience, speaking in rich, fruity, rounded tones. I caught sight of the person making the interjections - it was the Doctor. ‘People who talk about infallibility are usually on very shaky ground!’
Kettering refused to be rattled by this heckling. Instead he walked slowly over towards us. ‘For the benefit of less sophisticated members of my audience,’ he said, pausing very pointedly to stare at the Doctor, ‘I will explain the process in very simple terms. Professor Emil Keller, the inventor of this process, discovered that anti-social behaviour was governed by certain negative or ‘evil’ impulses. This machine, the Keller Machine, isolates and extracts these impulses, leaving a rational, well-balanced individual.’
‘I bet it doesn't!’ the Doctor interjected.
By this time Kettering was visibly fuming but seemed determined to remain in control of the demonstration, despite the distractions. ‘May I continue?’ he asked the Doctor wearily.
‘By all means.’
‘Thank you.’ Kettering grimaced, before stepping back to point out the different components of the machine. ‘The condemned man is placed in this chair with his head beneath this dome. A series of probes are attached to his skull, so as to connect with the neural circuits.’ Now the professor moved across to the control console. ‘The extraction process is controlled from this console, and the negative impulses are stored in what we refer to as the reservoir box at the base of the machine.’
The Doctor did not seem satisfied. ‘Where do they go after that?’
‘Nowhere, sir. I repeat, they are stored in the box.’
‘Which, presumably, is full of your negative or evil impulses?’
Kettering smiled, as if lecturing an obtuse child. ‘Not full. The indicator registers only 65 per cent at the present time.’ As he spoke two men in the white garb of hospital porters wheeled in a trolley, on which lay a semi-conscious giant of a man, clad only in a patient's white smock. The trio were accompanied by a balding, nervous-faced man in a doctor's white coat with a stethoscope hung round his neck. While the two porters struggled to shift the huge, heavy patient from the trolley into the padded chair, Kettering continued his commentary.
‘The machine has already been used very successfully in Switzerland, in the processing of one hundred and twelve cases. This will be the one hundred and thirteenth.’ He stepped back to welcome the new arrivals. ‘Doctor Summers,’ he said, introducing the worrying-looking physician supervising the procedure. Summers lowered the helmet over the patient's head and began linking electrodes.
‘When this process is finished, the negative impulses which made this man a criminal will have been removed,’ Kettering said smugly. ‘He will take his place as a useful, if lowly, member of society. If you are ready, Doctor Summers?’
I could hardly believe what I was hearing. These doctors and professors were planning to electronically lobotomize this man because he had committed a crime. I wanted to shout out against this civilized act of barbarism but stilled the voice in my head. Protesting now would not stop what was about to happen. Better I got the full picture and used my skills as a journalist to stop this ever happening again.
Kettering was looking to Doctor Summers, who nodded the patient's readiness. The professor stepped to the control console and began manipulating the dials and switches. He paused to look at the governor, who addressed the semi- conscious patient and the audience. ‘Let the sentence of the court be carried out.’
Kettering turned a dial control and the lights in the chamber began to dim as the Keller Machine hummed into life. Again I was struck by the similarities to the power drain caused by an execution by electrocution. As the power surging through the Keller Machine increased, the domed reservoir began to emit a piercing, pulsating noise unlike any I had ever heard before. The dome over the patient's head glowed in time with the noise as it increased in volume, almost as if it were alive. I could not get an image out of my head of a vampire feeding, as if the machine were draining the life from the prisoner.
The process had barely been underway for ten seconds when the prisoner suddenly began to scream and thrash around in his chair, arching his back in apparent agony. There was a concerned muttering from the observers around me, including the Doctor and his companion. At the central console Kettering hurriedly began flicking off switches, craning his head around several times to check on the prisoner.
As the pulsing of the Keller Machine began to fade away, Doctor Summers quickly stepped in to monitor the patient's pulse and respiration. After a few anxious moments he nodded an assurance to the professor, before stopping to look at the reservoir indicator dial on the front of the machine. He gasped and called Kettering over. I could just hear a comment passed between them: ‘It's never been this high before.’
The professor returned to the console to reassure the governor in a hushed voice before loudly addressing the audience. ‘There was a minor malfunction, but the machine compensated. The process is now completed - satisfactorily.’
‘Satisfactorily be blowed,’ the Doctor said indignantly.
The warders stepped forward to shift the still-twitching prisoner back on to the trolley and wheel him away. ‘The subject will now be taken away to recuperate. Within an hour or two he will be perfectly normal,’ Professor Kettering said.
‘I admire your confidence, sir,’ the Doctor sneered.
‘Thank you, that is all, gentlemen.’ Around me the audience of observers got up and began leaving the room, whispering excitedly between themselves. Noticing the Doctor and his companion were advancing towards Kettering and the governor, I hung about just within earshot, doing my best to look knowledgeable as I examined the Keller Machine close-up.
‘Perhaps you could explain that unfortunate man's reaction?’ the Doctor was demanding to know.
‘An excess of negative particles - the machine over-reacted and then corrected itself,’ Professor Kettering replied smoothly.
‘In other words you don't know!’
The professor turned the questioning back on to the Doctor. ‘May I ask who you are, sir?’
Governor Camford interceded with an explanation. ‘The Doctor is Scientific Adviser to UNIT - the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce.’
‘How interesting,’ Kettering began, ‘though I really don't -’
‘UNIT, sir, was formed to deal with new and unusual menaces to mankind,’ the Doctor said. ‘In my view, that machine of yours is precisely that!’
At this point the governor moved to stop the disagreement becoming more heated. Noting my presence in the chamber, he suggested they continue their discussion later. Meanwhile a guard unceremoniously bundled me out of the room and into the waiting Black Maria for the return journey to the railway station. One of our number was conspicuous by his absence, a young medical student from a teaching hospital in London who had introduced himself as Arthur. Despite this, the van left without him.
I spent the journey back to London going over my notes. Several of Professor Kettering's blandly-made statements I had found utterly chilling. ‘He will take his place as a useful, if lowly, member of society’ rung in my mind with particular clarity. Not content with lobotomizing criminals, he seemed intent on creating some benign, mindless underclass to service those who were not deemed by society to harbour evil or negative impulses. The Keller Process was barbaric and I intended to expose it.
First of all I contacted Martha at the Ministry of Science and urged her to see me for lunch immediately. Having explained what I had seen at Stangmoor, she was happy to help me find out more about the mysterious Professor Emil Keller and his frightening new machine. She put me in contact with several leading medical and scientific figures in Switzerland, so I could get some background about Professor Keller and the 112 previous subjects of his process.
The authorities in Switzerland were full of praise for Professor Keller and his female Chinese assistant. In fact, they were almost over-effusive in their praise, as if they had been coached in how to give their replies. When I asked them for documentary evidence about the testing of the Keller Process, they were more than happy to send for their files. But a surprise came when each person or organization I spoke with discovered they did not possess any records relating to Professor Keller or his bold new initiative in reducing crime rates.
I spent the next 36 hours checking the credentials of everyone involved with the Keller Machine. No major university or scientific academy in Europe or Britain seemed to have any record of Professor Emil Keller or his machine. Indeed, none had any record of an Emil Keller studying for or obtaining his doctorate. There was something very rotten about all this - it was time to confront Professor Kettering. According to Martha he had sponsored Professor Keller's work in the United Kingdom, using his friends in high places and considerable powers of persuasion to get the Government approval for a series of tests at Stangmoor, with more at other prisons to follow.
I travelled to the professor's offices in Harley Street to find his personal assistant in tears. Through sobs she explained that Kettering had died in unusual but unspecified circumstances at Stangmoor not long after the test. I tried contacting Governor Camford at the prison but all lines to Stangmoor were out of service for an unspecified time, according to the nearest telephone exchange.
Instead I phoned the police station nearest to the prison and discovered there was a riot in progress at Stangmoor. No love was lost between Governor Camford and the local police chief, who was happy to talk to me off the record. The police were being kept back from the prison but they had gleaned some facts from injured prison officers brought out for treatment. It seemed the bodies of both the missing observer, Arthur Linwood, and Professor Kettering had been found at different times in the process chamber where the Keller Machine was tested.
I knew the riot at Stangmoor would probably be over within a day or two - prison riots rarely lasted much longer. But that would get the name of the prison into the minds of news editors around the country. My exclusive exposé of what had really been going on at Stangmoor before the riot would blow the lid off these sinister mind-control experiments the Government had condoned and encouraged. But I would have to act fast.
My first phone call was to Sally Lincoln, the editor of Metropolitan magazine. When I won my journalism award for the ‘Bad Science’ feature series six months before, I had promised her first option on any scoops I came up with. Now was the time to remind her of that promise. A phone call secured a breakfast meeting the next day with Sally at the Savoy.
‘Well? I haven't heard from you for half a year and now you drag me out of bed to talk. You better made this good, James,’ she warned. Sally Lincoln was a rarity: one of the best editors in the magazine business with an eye for hard news as well as high fashion. Despite the early hour she was dressed to kill in a white pantsuit with golden accessories, and had a startling brass rinse in her hair.
I quickly outlined the bare bones of my story and stressed its immediacy. Sally remained sceptical. ‘How will you ever prove all this? I know you have your sources, James, but this sounds like something a mad scientist would dream up!’
‘Ah, but I do have proof - I was there.’ The stories in which I usually plied my trade relied on sources and contacts, nods, winks and whispers. To have actually been an eyewitness to the key sequence of events outlined in my story made the proposed article all the more damning to those in power. Vague, unsourced allegations were easily dismissed; an eyewitness account would be much harder to shoot down.
Sally smiled. ‘James, you're a darling. When I can have your copy? This week's issue was going to focus on the peace talks and De Gaulle's death, but unless something dramatic happens, we can pull both of those stories off the cover for your piece.’
‘You'll have the article by noon tomorrow, I've already started writing it.’
‘Any pictures? What about this mysterious Professor Keller?’
‘Sorry. Only a handful of people have ever seen him, and at least one of those people is already dead.’
Sally sighed. ‘Oh well, artist's impression it is then. You don't mind if one of my boys calls you up for a full description of this chamber of horrors, do you?’
‘No, give him my office number. It's on here,’ I said, handing her my latest business card.
The following Monday all the broadsheets and several of the tabloids had picked up my story from Metropolitan, the day before it was due to be published. Most papers on Fleet Street kept a wary eye on other publications for possible scoops that they could freshen up as their own. The medical journal The Lancet was a favourite source of shocking revelations about the declining state of the National Health Service.
Weekly news magazines like Metropolitan were happy to occasionally leak some details of a big scoop, just enough to whet the appetites of the nationals. The papers would then run around trying to discover the full story and create a surge of publicity for the magazine's revelations. The theory behind the practice was that punters who would never normally buy the source magazine would pick the title up on the strength of it being mentioned in their regular rag. The practice was surprisingly successful.
So my scoop was transformed into headlines like british govt's brainwash horror shock! in the left-wing tabloids and mind-control experiments in british prisons across the front pages of the more tasteful broadsheets.
In the actual article in the Metropolitan I slipped in a sidebar about other Government-run or approved establishments where it was believed similar secret experiments were being carried out. This section of the story was kept deliberately vague, since there was actually very little evidence on which to base it. Instead, I was using the sidebar to include a reference to the Glasshouse, to see if anyone would come forward with information about this rarely mentioned containment facility.
The name of the Glasshouse had come up several times in my investigations, linked to either C19 or UNIT. ‘Glasshouse’ was army slang for a military prison - could UNIT be holding political prisoners or terrorists there? That might explain the intervention at Stangmoor. I had tried all my normal sources to get more information about the Glasshouse without success. Now I had decided to make a covert appeal to the public.
While I waited for the response - if any - there were follow-up articles to be done stemming from my Stangmoor scoop. Curiously, the police were never called in to stop the riot. It was quelled by prison officers, but then trouble flared up again. Instead of standard procedures being followed to stop the uprising, an unnamed paramilitary team stormed the former castle and secured peace.
Nobody in authority would explicitly state who recaptured the prison but a description of the lead officer confirmed my suspicions. It was the soldiers of UNIT, led by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart. But what was an international intelligence taskforce doing stopping a prison riot in rural England, when it was apparently meant to be providing security for the vital World Peace Conference in London? Indeed, why had UNIT's so-called scientific adviser been present at the testing of the Keller Machine a few days before? Was the testing of the Keller Process related to the riot? Was UNIT somehow involved in mind-control experiments, or merely trying to muddy the waters for a rival intelligence agency? More questions without answers for my UNIT log.