The clouds of smoke and steam drifted down the platform as the pressure was built up for departure. Crowds of last minute arrivals were pushing through the barrier desperate to not miss the last train of the day for the North. A tall man, in a blue blazer and grey flannels, flashed some form of ID at the ticket collector and moved on to board the train. He wore a red poppy in his lapel and a single row of medal ribbons on his breast pocket. At his side he carried a small attaché case.
Carter glanced out of the First Class carriage window and caught sight of the man. For a moment he seemed familiar, but then Carter put the thought out of his mind and returned to reading the Sunday Times.
Mitchell moved through the crowd with a determined walk. He never actually pushed anyone aside; it was just that everyone seemed to sense that it would be a good idea to get out of his way.
He boarded the last Second Class carriage, walked through the restaurant car, into First Class and then proceeded through the first of those carriages into the second, where he found the compartment he was looking for. He was just about to enter when a conductor approached him.
“I’m sorry, Sir, but this compartment is reserved.”
“Of course it is,” Mitchell responded, removing a document from his inside pocket. The conductor looked at the travel warrant then opened the compartment door.
“Excuse me, Milord, but you have a travelling companion for this trip.”
Mr Justice Carter looked up from his paper with some surprise. Mitchell stepped past the conductor and seated himself in the seat diagonally opposite Carter, placing his attaché case down on the seat beside him. Carter looked at him over the top of his glasses; the feeling of familiarity returned.
The train started to move out of the station. Its next stop would be Rugby. Mitchell opened his attaché case and removed from it a slim volume which he started to read. Carter glanced up and noticed the book. The cover was just visible to him and he saw that it was in Greek. It was The Phadreus, by Plato. It was not a work which Carter approved of and he indicated this by giving a snort. Mitchell looked at him over the top of the book, his pale green eyes looking into Carter’s.
Carter finally remembered him. “Mitchell?”
“What on earth are you doing in this compartment?”
“I am travelling, Your Honour, to Rugby, on the King’s business.”
“The King’s business! You’re a fucking queer. What are you doing on the King’s business?”
“It appears, Your Honour, that the King can find work for all his subjects. It seems my particular inclinations produce a lifestyle that is highly conductive to obtaining certain skills.”
“I can’t see how living as a queer gives you any skills. You truly fucked up at school.”
“Quite, Your Honour... in no small part due to your assistance in the matter.”
“I did what was required. We could not have a queer in the House, it could corrupt morals.”
“As I recall you seemed to enjoy my corrupt morals.”
“That’s the point, you were corrupting us. Your filthy desires enticed us into acts that were unnatural.”
“As, I suppose, were your acts with Selfridge and Caruthers?”
His Honour Judge Carter went white.
“I don’t like what you are insinuating. There were no acts with Selfridge and Caruthers; they were good upstanding boys who went on to be fine men who died serving their country.”
“Yes, I suppose it is quite fortunate from your point of view that they died. As they say, dead men tell no tales. Unfortunately, sometimes they leave behind diaries.”
His Honour the Judge took a deep breath; this was going somewhere he did not like.
“Diaries written by queers and pimps — they have no standing.”
“A short time ago you were describing them as fine men.”
“That was before I knew they were queers.”
“Just how did you know they were queers?”
“No, Your Honour, I did not. I said they left diaries. It appears to be common amongst your friends to keep diaries.” His Honour had started to sweat. “Reading them can be quite informative.”
“You read my friends’ diaries!”
“Oh, no, Your Honour, that’s not my job. As you pointed out, I’m a fucking queer. We have far more deviant types who do that, though I do see extracts from time to time. Like your visit to Wynyard Hall, November ’thirty six. You seemed to get on well with Herr Ribbentrop.”
“The German Ambassador is a very intelligent man and an honour to his country.”
“No doubt, though that is more than can be said for many who were at Wynyard Hall,” Mitchell commented.
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well it seems that quite a lot of you are somewhat more friendly to Germany than to your own country.”
“Don’t be absurd, I love my country. I want to see it a strong country, a country with fibre, with morals, without degenerates like you. I want to see a country that is led by a strong government with moral fibre where English values are valued.”
“I suspect we might have different opinions as to what are English values.”
“There can be no dispute what English values are. They are the traditional values of the Anglo-Saxons.”
“I believe they were mostly about plunder and rape. By all accounts they made the Vikings look like amateurs. They certainly disposed of the Britons.”
“Don’t be facetious. I am referring to respect for the law and the true authorities in the land.”
“By which I suppose you mean you and your mates?”
“If by my mates you are referring to right-thinking English people who uphold the true values of this country, then yes. It is only right that England has a strong government headed by people who have the best interests of this country at heart; a country in which the citizen can make his contribution by working physically and spiritually for the betterment of the country and the English people.”
“By that, no doubt, you mean that you wish to see this country in league with Herr Hitler and his ilk?”
“And why not? The Führer has shown the way to give good government, and how to bring about a law abiding state without the influence of degenerates and perverts. By following his example we will avoid an armed conflict — which is inevitable if we continue with the lily-livered policies of Mr Chamberlain and his support for the French and their position on Poland.
“We need a strong government, a government that will cleanse the land of the malign influences of your kind, and degenerates like you, the Jews and the Bolsheviks. All the inferior influences on the land must be removed. If we don’t then you and your kind will take us into another war — for what, to support some liberal ideal of freedom or to make money for Jewish bankers and their arms dealing cousins?”
“And what gives you the right to make the decision as to who is degenerate or not? Who are you to decide how I or others should live or what we should believe in?” Mitchell queried.
“I am a patriot and act for the good of the country; I defend it against those who would upset the proper order of things. This country needs right-thinking people who will stand up and defend it against the moral degeneration that is corrupting it.
“Look at you, you fucking queer. I remember you, the scholarship boy who did not know his place, who thought himself equal to his betters. It’s people like you and your liberal, freethinking chums who are dragging this country into a war that nobody wants. Herr Hitler does not want it; the right-thinking people of this country do not want it. It is not too late for the country to come to its senses, for a strong and effective government to be put into place under strong and effective leadership, a government that understands the needs of the country and the people, one that would cease this stupid dash into hostilities with Germany and bring about a settlement that would give us peace.” Carter relaxed back into his seat, a satisfied expression on his face.
“And what would be the cost of that peace?” Mitchell asked. “What of the thinkers, the writers, the artists and the people that Herr Hitler and his like despise. What happens to them?”
“That is not a problem for us; such people have no place in a well-ordered and disciplined society under a strong and effective government. They are the disruptors of such order, and corruptors of law-abiding citizens. They should leave and go somewhere where they are wanted.”
“And if there should be no such place?”
“Then they have no right to be part of society and must be removed from it before their influence corrupts it.”
“Do you realise, Your Honour, just what a society without them would be? They are the outsiders, and you need the outsiders. For they question the ‘what is’ and challenge the accepted. They bring in new ideas and new modes of thought; they are the introducers of change. The fact that they are different means they are not bound by the mores that restrict the thinking and action of the masses. They can go outside the convention and do the unconventional.
“Without them a society will stagnate, it will become trapped in a cycle of thought that allows no movement, no development.
“Yes, for a few years, maybe even a generation or two, such a society will prosper and flourish within the stability that has been produced but eventually that very stability will induce necrosis within its own form and structures. Then it will linger on into torpidity before spiralling down into a collapse of the very thing it wished to promote.
“Any society needs the outsiders, it needs the different, it needs the non-conformist; for only through their challenges to what is acceptable and what is allowed are the standards of a society put up to question. Only when they are questioned can they be changed when they are found to fail.
“You see, Carter, your kind appal me. You hate me and my kind, for in us you see your true self. You build a fiction about yourselves and define yourselves by saying what you are not — us. You persecute us, and drive us to a hidden life: a life where we spend every moment of our day in the light pretending to be who we are not; a life where our every public action is a lie intended to deceive. We have deceit forced into our very being, and we have to accept it if we are to survive in the world you have made for us. I am just thankful that it has trained me well for the job I do for my King and my country.”
“And what job is that?” Carter asked, watching Mitchell remove a small atomiser from his attaché case, the glass bottle of which contained a pale blue liquid. Mitchell stood and stepped towards Lord Justice Carter, leaned past him and opened the window, then faced the man. One gloved hand raised a handkerchief to cover his mouth, whilst the other pressed the plunger on the atomiser. A fine mist sprayed out in front of Carter’s face. Mitchell stepped back, moving well away from the other man.
“A disposer of troublesome individuals.”
He placed the atomiser back inside the case, opened the compartment door and stepped out into the corridor. He stood there for five minutes, estimating it would take that long for the air to clear. Then he returned to the compartment, closed the window and removed his gloves.
Stepping into the corridor once more he went back to the front First Class carriage, where he entered the second compartment. Several businessmen turned to look at him.
“Dr Marks, good, it is you; I thought I saw you getting on the train,” he said, addressing an elderly man sitting just inside the compartment. “I wonder if you can be of assistance. Mr Justice Carter seems to be unwell.” Dr Marks stood and took hold of a small medical bag from the overhead luggage rack, and joined Mitchell in the corridor.
“A heart attack, I presume?”
“Of course, Doctor.”
“Really, Mitchell, you really ought to find some other method; this is the third heart attack of yours I have had to certify this month. Have you considered curare?”
Note: This story was inspired by a comment I read in a book many years ago that whilst the life of the queer was one spent in hiding and deceit it meant that they made some of the best spies and assassins as deceit and camouflage became as second nature to them.
My thanks to Alien Son for his work editing this story.
© 2014 Nigel Gordon