Michael Elliott lived alone and liked to read mystery novels. It was his one vice, except for single malt whisky, the occasional Turkish cigarette and the less than occasional pay-as-you-go sexual encounter. Fictional mysteries baffled him. He never knew ‘whodunnit” which was odd because, in real life, he had built a reputation on knowing exactly that, and bringing the perpetrators to a swift and permanent end. Sometimes, that meant jail time and sometimes – well – those results never made it into the files. Actually, he’d only killed three people in his life – an Iranian man (who turned out to be his wife’s brother) the man standing next to him (which was unfortunate) and, a few years later, an IRA hard boy (who was hindering negotiations.) These deaths didn’t bother Elliott: they were work-related, and he had been young and very eager. Soon after those heady days, however, his employers discovered he had a talent for administration which freed him from field work and found him a desk. And over the next 25 years, he turned that desk into a complex network of agents, informants, contacts, businesses and a number of locations that can only be describe as undisclosed. This organization ran parallel to (and just out of sight of) the one he actually worked for. It had earned him a seat at the most powerful tables in the realm and the nickname St. Michael, the Archangel who challenged Satan to personal combat – and won. The secret of St. Michael’s success was, of course, success. He got results. Chinese spies went home, Russian gangsters paid their taxes, arrogant drug dealers disappeared and the antics of the aristocracy remained behind closed doors. If it landed on St. Michael’s desk, it usually stayed there and was never heard of again. Therefore, Michael Elliott, Deputy Director of – well, nothing, really – was allowed to ply his trade in a nondescript building in Pimlico without prying eyes looking into how he did it. This was a good thing because St. Michael’s devotion to “England’s green and pleasant land” was relentless, ruthless and not for the squeamish.
Of course, the people on the leafy green suburban cul-de-sac where Elliott lived didn’t know any of this. To them, Michael Elliott was a pleasant fellow who had some vague but important job (He had a car and driver.) in The City. Banking was the general consensus. He was a regular, if largely absent, member of the neighbourhood who was always good for a charity raffle ticket or (when available) an emergency Pub Quiz replacement. He knew everyone by sight, and everyone knew him. Some of the older residents even remembered Mrs. Elliott, a lively, foreign woman who served with distinction on the local park, sports and school committees until her sudden death. And, of course, there were the children (two boys) who had been parcelled off to boarding school (after their mother’s death) and now made regular visits with tiny, teetering grandchildren. Elliott had a housekeeper, a gardener and an oddly well-dressed handyman who showed up in a clearly marked van at odd hours to fix things. He mostly declined social invitations but always had a good word to say and said it without fanfare. In all, Michael Elliott was the neighbour most people want — congenial, convivial and careful with the bins. So, his odd hours were ignored, and when his lights burned bright into the night, anyone who did notice simply put it down to “Elliott’s reading his Agatha Christies. It must be lonely rattling around that big house by himself.”
Ironically, that’s exactly what Michael Elliott was doing one cold December evening. He’d recently discovered Nordic Noir and had gotten his hands on an advance copy of a novel by some new fellow named Larsson. It was very good. He was enjoying it. And when the telephone rang, the interruption was an irritation.
“Yes?” he said, abruptly.
“I see Her Majesty’s government never sleeps.” It had lost its twang years ago, but the North American voice was Dreyfus Sinclair.
“I hope you’re calling me with a result.”
Dreyfus laughed. “Eighty years later, and I find your knickknacks in 24 hours? Miracles take time, Michael — even for me.”
“Fair enough. So why are you disturbing my warm milk and slippers, then?” It was a throwaway response but Elliott knew this wasn’t a social call and had already abandoned his book and placed it open on the side table.
“I need to know if you put any of your people on this. Some heavy boys to shake the bushes.” Dreyfus had found something. Elliott clicked over the possibilities, and the time frame dictated that there must be some connection to Lady Perry-Turner. He made a mental note to take a longer look at the Duchess of Weldon.
“No, this is a personal project,” he said. “I haven’t even reported it upstairs yet. Just in case I don’t have to.”
Like everyone else on the planet (including many of the people Elliott worked with) Dreyfus wasn’t certain exactly where St. Michael stood on the government ladder. However, experience told him that upstairs probably meant either Downing Street or Sandringham.
“Alright, good. I didn’t want to step on toes. Item two, then. Could you get your minions to work up a profile on Pamela Gilbert, spelled just like it sounds, and the company she owns, Gym and Swim? A chain of activity centres, I think. And I need anything you can find on an employee of hers named Paul. I don’t have a last name, but he’s late 30s, early 40s, square-rigged, six-two, maybe three, 230 or more — a hard case, and he looks the part. I’m pretty sure he’s in the system somewhere – GBH or worse. Tomorrow morning would be nice, but I’ll take what I’m given.”
Elliott looked at the mantle clock. He knew he could have anything he wanted within a couple of hours – including Ms. Gilbert in the back of a police van. But a large part of St. Michael’s genius for getting things done was not only knowing what to do but when to do it. Right now, the circle of secrets was small. And when even a minor indiscretion could rewrite European — and, more importantly, British — history in a less than favourable light, it was best to keep it that way. Elliott knew that Sinclair probably realized that there was more going on here than 40 million pounds’ worth of lost Faberge eggs, but he trusted him. Dreyfus Sinclair would find the eggs (if he had enough time) but, more importantly, he would keep quiet about it. So, even though the clock wasn’t working his corner, St. Michael decided not to commit any more ears and eyes to the project. He’d let Sinclair handle it, and put the finishing touches on Plan B if he didn’t.
“Tomorrow morning works,” he said. “I’ll come to you around nine. You have some files I need to pick up.”
“Thanks. You better get back to your milk before it gets cold, Michael.”
“See you in the morning, Sinclair.”
Dreyfus Sinclair went back into his flat, opened the slender cardboard box of police files and settled down with his coffee to read them.
Michael Elliott made two telephone calls, both of them short and direct, and he was back enjoying the adventures of Blomkvist and Salander in less than 15 minutes.
You can read more about Michael, Dreyfus and Lady Emily Perry-Turner here in Dreyfus and the Duchess