فصل 15

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فصل 15

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Biological disaster

There was a microphone on one of the tables in Carter’s laboratory. I picked it up with a shaking hand and spoke, ‘Can you hear me, Archie?’

He nodded and picked up another microphone.

‘What’s happened here, Malcolm?’ he asked.

‘This place is bloody dangerous, Archie. Don’t go into any of the laboratories - go and tell your men that, wow!’

Archie dropped the microphone and ran off quickly to tell his men. After a few minutes he came back and I told him to arrest everybody on the island. I showed him my official identity card and said, ‘That gives you the power to arrest people. The Government will support that. You’re working under my instructions.’

‘What do we do now?’ he wanted to know.

‘Ring Ogilvie and let me speak to him. I daren’t come out of this laboratory. I don’t know what experiments they’re doing here, but the bacteria we’ve accidentally released are almost certainly very dangerous.’

When I turned round, Cregar was starting to wake up, but he said nothing. The call to Ogilvie came through. Before he could start asking questions, I said sharply, ‘This is an emergency. Cregar’s laboratory has gone wrong. There’s one serious case of infection, and two suspected cases. The bacteria causing it are new to medicine, probably man-made, and highly infectious. We need immediate hospital treatment for three people in P4 conditions. I suggest the biological centre at Porton Down.’

‘I’ll get that arranged at once,’ said Ogilvie. Who are the three people in danger?’

‘The serious case is Penelope Ashton.’

There was a gasp at the other end of the line. ‘Oh, my God! I’m sorry, Malcolm,’ came Ogilvie’s voice.

I went on. ‘The suspected cases are Cregar and myself.’

‘For God’s sake, Malcolm! What’s been happening up there?’

‘You’d better ask Carter. He’s the man in charge of the experiments up here. But make it quick. I think Penny is dying.’

When I had finished talking to Ogilvie, Archie Ferguson picked up his microphone. He had been listening to the conversation and was very angry. He wanted to throw Cregar and the others into the sea, but I persuaded him that that was too dangerous - for the fish. I asked him to find me a cassette-recorder and food for Cregar and me. He was unhappy at the thought of getting food for Cregar, but did it and pushed it into the laboratory.

I got the cassette-recorder ready. Cregar did not seem interested. It was as if he had given up. ‘Nothing matters any more,’ he said.

‘How did Benson learn about Ashton’s work?’ I asked.

‘Oh, that was a long time ago… five years ago, at least. He saw that Ashton was helping his daughter with her studies, but also starting to do a lot of work on his own. We never knew what it was. He hid it from Benson and we thought it was hidden in his secret room.’ He stopped and looked up at me. ‘You’re a clever man. I never thought of the railway. I should have done. Ashton wasn’t the sort of man to play with toy trains.’

Now that he had started to tell the truth, Cregar’s voice flowed on. I suppose he thought there was no reason to keep silent. It was a sort of deathbed confession. I asked him about Mayberry’s attack on Gillian.

‘I had nothing to do with that,I said Cregar. It was senseless. I didn’t even know Mayberry existed until the. police found him. But I was ready to take advantage of it. I had the flat in Stockholm ready, and the false passport. It only needed Benson to persuade Ashton that his girls were in danger and that my department had a safe house for him in Sweden. He ran away. All I wanted to do was look in his secret room, but it was empty’.

‘I began to see why so many misunderstandings had happened. Ashton had never known the truth, and neither had I. But why on earth did Benson kill Ashton?’

‘Orders from thirty years ago, to make sure Ashton didn’t go back to the Russians. I never thought to cancel the order and Benson remembered it after all those years. I can hardly believe it!’ Cregar seemed almost proud of Benson’s loyalty - even though it had led to Ashton’s unnecessary death.

‘Out of curiosity’, I asked, ‘Cregar, why did you do all this?’

He looked at me in surprise. ‘A man must do something important in his life - something that people will remember.’ I stared at him and felt cold to my bones. He carried on talking about power and politics, but I was no longer interested. Finally Ogilvie rang to say there was a helicopter with a specialist medical team on its way to us.

The men who came were dressed in plastic clothing, from head to foot, just like men from space. They put us in plastic envelopes and carried us away to hospital. I never saw Cregar again.

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