Iron Way

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Location: Solihull, West Midlands, United Kingdom

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Chapter 1

I heard my cell phone ring and then I woke up feeling scared. When I reached out and picked it up it was off. Was it a dream? My heart was pounding in my chest. Cold sweat beaded my brow.
I sat bolt upright and very very still in the dark bedroom. I could hear breathing.

In the very faint blue light I saw a shadowy figure move towards me.
“Sorry dear, it's only me! I felt lonely at home.” whispered my girl friend Sarah as she came and give me a big hug,
“I let myself in with your spare key from under the stone.”
“Sarah you really scared me, but I need to sleep,” I replied,
“I have to finish my report on my latest research work at the archives”
“OK dear, lets just snuggle up” and we did like two spoons, and I love her smell, and graduallyI relaxed.
I was worried about what I had found out today at the archives and was slow to fall back asleep.
Suddenly I heard another instant message ring tone,
I shook Sarah awake to share my misery,
“Why didn't you switch off your mobile phone dear?”
“It must be yours because my battery is flat and I left it on the charger at home.”

We have twin Sony Ericsson tri-band cell phones on the 3g network, so we can talk endlessly if we feel like it, and we both grab for our phone when the other one rings, and then laugh together.

We have known each other for twenty nine months since we met in an AOL genealogy chat room, Sarah was adopted and I helped her search for her birth mother.

Sarah screamed.
A ninja-masked man stood in the bedroom doorway and had switched the lights on.
He had his right hand in his pocket in a menacing way
“Be cool guys” he said, “Bad idea to leave a key under a stone, I saw where to get it when Sarah put it back.”

“Sorry about the dramatics, Frederick, I have a secret mission for you to research. I found you on the web and you have a good reputation, and in this envelope are the details, a contact address and cash in advance, please don't try and follow me out or call the police”
He dropped my spare doorkey, and the envelope thudded as it hit the floor, he turned and ran down the stairs two at a time, the back door slammed and as I carefully peeked out between the curtains, I saw him turn left out of the back garden down the alley. Seconds later I heard the roar of a high powered motorcycle fading away.

Sarah walked over and picked up the envelope and key,
“I think I better keep this key in a safe palce for you,”
she smiled as she handed me the envelope,
“He must be an amateur not to have switched off his mobile before he came in”
Cool girl I thought, as she took me one step more on the dreaded path towards a second marriage.
I squinted into the brown A3 envelope, yes there was money and a thick wad of photocopies.

Sarah took it gently from me.
“Time for all that tomorrow, now shall I make you coffee, or shall we make love” she said and afterwards we fell happily asleep.
In the morning we woke up at about 11:00 am and went down to my scruffy kitchen and made ourselves a big brunch.
Over the second coup of coffee I emptied the envelope and when we cointed the money there was £900 and $3500.
“Wow” said Sarah and gathered it up.

There were about a dozen pages of A4 and two folded A2 copies of maps.
About time I told you a little more about the pair of us, I thirty four years old and am a military history researcher and two years ago I began to get enough paid jobs to let me give up my day job as a secondary school teacher.

I have a degree in history, but however dedicated you are it gets pretty exhausting teaching in the inner city, where so many boys and girls come from broken homes and really need a shrink more than they need GCSEs. I often wonder how is it the Nazis can still win the hearts and the minds of so many of the world's teenage losers, which makes for troubled teens in ethnically mixed classes.

Sarah is thirty five and studied drama and english literature at Edinburgh Uni., but turned out to be a brilliant infant teacher, the only trouble is she treats me too like a five year old sometimes. She is a tall delicate boned scot and I love her dearly.
I took another mouthful of my gourmet coffee, this week Tarrazu Highland Arabica beans from Costa Rica via Lidl, ground up in a old Moulinex grinder from the seventies and filter brewed in my big red Krupps machine, we tend to conveniently forget the slave labourers in their history.

The papers were about another silly treasure hunt (just imagine all those people who believed that the Da Vinci Code was histoically true). The pile was mostly copies of newpaper cuttings, some in foreign languages and scrawled hand written letters.

The maps looked more interesting. They were hand drawn, but by a professional draftsman with the neat stencilled lettering typical of about 60 years ago done before letraset.made that skill obsolete.
The covering note was short and to the point
I am an intermediary.
email me if you need more money
(it was a address)
these are from our client's family papers
if you need to employ a translator make certain of our confidentiallity.
Please email us weekly with a report of work done and monies spent
John S
“Monies spent.”
I liked that phrase, it has a smell of the civil service about it, or an old fashioned gentleman solicitor..
Back to reality, and I had a report to write, Sarah and I love computers, we grew up with Sinclair ZX81s and then Macintoshes, but I have graduated to a Sony Vaio laptop, but for my business in the archives I use pencil and note book because I remember what I write better that way and when a hard disk dies, as they always do, I have the notebooks as a fall back if I have been too dumb to back up my data.

The research is fun but the writing up is hard work.

I opened my mail at and in my gmail was a copy of the cover note with the additon:-
Each time you write to me you must only use that address once. My reply will come from new post box.