Authors: Winona Kent
A Division of Diversion Publishing Corp.
443 Park Avenue South, Suite 1008
New York, NY 10016
Copyright © 2001 by Winona Kent
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
For more information, email
First Diversion Books edition July 2015
Seasound Radio and Romilly Square Underground station do not—and have never—existed.
Everything else could be true.
“Isn’t she lovely? Dusty Springfield—you only wanna be with me? What a surprise, because funnily enough—
I Only Want to Be With You
. This is mad Mark Braden, bobbing up and down in the water at a comfortable wavelength of 308 meters—broadcasting to Greater London, the Home Counties, the South, Midlands, East Anglia and Northern Europe. What a mouthful. Graham Stanshall’s up next—keep those lovely cards and letters coming and I’ll see you all again tomorrow night. This is Colourful 308, Radio Seasound, Britain’s most listened-to pop pirate—and here they are, our very own Fab Four—The Beatles—
I Feel Fine
Evan Harris was listening to his oldest son’s transistor radio. It was a miserable night, a cold and wet night, and the seas were rough. It was a horrible night to be making a journey like this, but the journey was necessary, and he was It.
The tender ploughed through the rising waves, bucking the swells, dipping and crashing. Through the driving rain Evan could see, off to starboard, the swaying lights of the
, her decks, her portholes, her 200 foot mast. She was an old minesweeper, converted after the war to cargo, refitted again in the 1960’s to join the legion of illegal broadcasters anchored in England’s coastal waters.
The captain of the supply boat made two passes at the
. On the third try, he was successful, and lines were hurled out to secure a mooring.
“Come on, then, if you’re going aboard.”
Evan stowed the radio in the pocket of his thick winter duffel, and accepted the steady helping hand of one of the tender’s crew. He stepped gingerly over the chasm, with the sea spuming up between the two bows, and landed safely on the wet wooden deck.
“Half an hour,” the sailor warned him. “If you’re not back in time, here you stay.”
“Tender’s here.” Graham Stanshall poked his head inside the tiny, windowless control room.
“Cheers, mate.” Mark collected the litter of his airshift—stacks of taped adverts, IDs and jingles, record albums and singles, scraps of scribbled copy—and vacated his post. Outside, he could hear the crew from the supply boat making their way along to the galley for tea and chat. At the other end of the ship, next week’s provisions were being off-loaded. Mark left his colleague in the gangway and climbed topside to see what the tender had brought aboard.
“Hallo, Evan.” A friend from shore. “Come out to keep an eye on me? Always glad to see a pal. Stinking night for it, though.” He lit a cigarette, turning his back to the rain and shielding the flame from the wind with his hand. Evan caught the silent look of warning in his colleague’s eyes. “Want a tour?”
“All right,” he agreed, easily.
“Mind how you go on the stairs, then—she tends to roll quite a bit when the sea’s coming up.”
Mark unlocked the door to his cabin and held it open. “Home sweet home. Cramped but comfy. All the mod. cons.”
It was a tiny room, with a radiant heater plugged in beside a narrow cot, a multi-duty table littered with magazines, oranges, cigarettes, an electric fan. Mirror on the wall over the sink. Chest of drawers. Cupboard. Lifejacket.
Evan hung onto a wooden handrail in the corridor. He was no stranger to the sea. It coursed through his body, courtesy of a fiery, red-headed Irishman of a grandfather who had been the captain of a merchant sailing vessel. He felt the surge of Connor Harris’s salty blood in his veins and tasted and smelled the tang of the open waters in the ship’s wood and steel and pitch and paint.
He loved the sea.
Unfortunately, the sea did not much love him.
A Dramamine would have helped, but Dramamine had side effects, and he could not afford to be drowsy, his reflexes slowed, his mind off-guard.
“What do you do during storms?” he said, gripping the railing. “Take up the anchor?”
Mark was digging through a drawer. “One of them. She’s got two—one forward, one aft. We haul one up when it starts to get rough and ride ’round in circles til it stops.” He found what he was looking for: a missal-sized book, of the sort one would expect to find in the darkest depths of the second-hand shops along Charing Cross Road. Its cloth cover was worn, its colour fading to grey.
Muirhead’s Short Blue Guide to London
Evan slipped the book quickly into the pocket of his jacket as a bearded DJ appeared from the cabin next door, lugging a duffel bag.
“Simon Darrow,” Mark said, stepping back out into the companionway, shutting his door again and locking it. “The most recognizable voice in Britain.”
“Yes, I’ve heard of you.” Evan shook his hand.
“Evan Harris,” Mark added. “The actor.”
“I’ve heard of you, too,” Darrow said. They walked together down the hallway. “Heard any updates on that gale warning?”
“It’s been extended to all of the south-east,” Evan said.
Darrow flashed a grin at Mark. “You’re in for a rough night, my old mate.”
“You cheerful sod. Enjoy your shore leave, won’t you? I was just telling my pal here all about Seasound.”
“We’re the Number Two pop pirate in the country,” Simon Darrow said, pushing the door to the deck open and pulling up his hood. “Our main competition comes from Caroline, anchored fifteen miles in that direction —” He nodded towards Frinton-on-Sea. “There’s another ship nearby—Atlanta. And there’s that old wartime defence fort off Whitstable at Shivering Sands.”
“Radio City,” Mark supplied. “The brainchild of Screaming Lord Sutch.”
The wind and the rain had increased appreciably. Evan steeled himself for the return journey over the pitching decks as one of the other DJ’s with shore leave braved the leap. “Makes you wonder where we’ll all be thirty years from now, though, doesn’t it?”
“Earning big fat paycheques in London, I hope,” Mark said. “The government’s doing its level best to scuttle the pirates at the moment—but you watch. Once we’ve lured all the listeners away from old mother BBC and begun to show a profit—they’ll start up their own bloody music stations.”
He held the duffel bag as Darrow leaped over the chasm onto the tender, then pitched it across to his colleague’s waiting arms.
“Have a safe trip back,” he said, to Evan.
“You take care of yourself,” Evan answered. There was danger, still, in Mark’s eyes.
He made the crossing, and the lines were loosed, and the tender pulled away, growling into the storming night.
Saturday, 17 August 1991
The mood, Evan thought, matched the day: raincoats and umbrellas, grey skies, traffic lights reflected on wet pavement, tires sloshing.
The service had been brief, the attendance small. Expatriate Soviets, most of them elderly, some white-haired Poles and Ukrainians, half a dozen locals—neighbours, he would have guessed. Yuri Gregchenko’s body had been cremated, the ashes claimed by a relative who had travelled at great expense from somewhere behind the rapidly disintegrating Iron Curtain, a weary-looking woman with untidy hair.
There, too, was Victor Barnfather from MI5. A courtesy call. Gregchenko was Barnfather’s most famous defector. Had made Barnfather’s career, had propelled him up the corporate ladder in record time, had guaranteed Barnfather a place in the
of Secret Spydom.
There were others from the secret world in attendance whose faces Evan recognized, though their names were by now somewhat hazy in his mind. Agents long retired. Sleepers who had never been called into active service. A Surbiton grandmother who had been on the KGB’s payroll for years.
Each paid their own private respects and departed quietly, as was their habit, seeking little attention, attracting only the disaffected interest of passing motorists.
Walking back to his car in the rain, Evan was offered the protection of a large black umbrella.
“Nicholas,” he said. “How are you?”
“There’s another one gone,” the DG of Canada’s Special Overseas Intelligence Unit replied, philosophically. “The Cold War relics. Dropping like flies. One more defecting Soviet who long ago ran out of entertaining stories.” He patted his pockets, and found what he wanted. “I understand in Moscow they’re plotting the overthrow of Gorbachev. Have a sweet.”
“Thank you,” Evan said.
Nicholas Armstrong had spent a good many years in London. His nautical grey beard and gold-rimmed spectacles often caused his newer subordinates to mistake him for a retired man of the sea. His portly countenance and passionate fondness for blackcurrant fruit gums tempered the illusion with a certain sense of benevolence. He reminded Evan, as they circumnavigated the puddles in the parking lot, of Peter Ustinov.
“I’ve half a mind to retire,” Nicholas said.
Evan cast him a dubious, sideways glance.
“What, I’ve amused you? Here we are, Evan, a couple of old spies, not quite worn out but well on our way. Do you know, ever since the Wall came down, I’ve felt positively ancient.”
“You don’t look it,” Evan answered, humouring him.
“Yes, well, you don’t look it either, but that’s beside the point, isn’t it? I feel old. And I can tell you the precise moment, in fact, when the sensation came over me—it was when Gorby made that speech to the opening sitting of the Supreme Soviet. CNN had the foresight to cover it live. There I was, in front of my television, watching the stunned looks on the faces of those starched, old-guard soldiers as their esteemed leader went on about democracy and free market economics, and I don’t mind telling you, Evan, I felt redundant.”
“I actually found most of that rather fascinating, Nicholas.”
“Yes, you would. I won’t argue with you—it was history in the making. All the generals with their rows of ribbons, and the camera cutting to their dumbfounded reactions. The change was happening, right before their eyes—right before our eyes. The beginning of the end, live on CNN.” He shook his head. “Who’d have believed it back when we were in the thick of it, Evan. The Communists self-destructing, the Wall coming down, the Soviet Union coming apart at the seams.”
“It is an interesting thought, isn’t it,” Evan mused. “Apocalyptic change witnessed from one’s favourite armchair.”
“Wouldn’t have happened in our day,” Nicholas said. “We didn’t have the might. Mass communications. That’s what’s at the root of it. All credit due to Reagan and Bush—but it’s fax machines and satellite TV that are hammering the final nails home. Who said it? Knowledge is power.”
“Francis Bacon,” Evan replied, sensibly. They had reached their respective cars.
“I have something to show you,” Nicholas continued, disarming the alarm, and unlocking the doors. “If you’d care to join me inside.”
“You’re my best sweeper, Evan. It takes an agent like you, with more than a few years’ experience, to successfully go about tidying up the leftover odds and ends. Your track record’s impeccable.”
Nicholas dragged his briefcase out from under the front seat.
“Have a look in there, will you?”
Evan slipped on his spectacles and removed a large manila envelope. Inside was a manuscript, badly typed on yellow paper, single spaced.
“Yuri Gregchenko’s memoirs. They’re unfinished—he’d only got about a hundred pages out before he died.”