Over the Hill

by John Charles

Charles looked at the young man across the desk. Fit, healthy, keen all described him.

"Can I put Ian Black with you for a couple of hours Charley" Tamsin the department head had asked.

"Of course, no problem". What else could he say?

No, Sod off. If I am not good enough for section Head why should I be good enough to train new boys? That was what he wanted to answer. Oh and by the way DON'T CALL ME FUCKING CHARLEY, MY NAME IS CHARLES!!!

But of course all that came out as:

"What time would you like me to see him?"

And so here he was. Another in the long line of recruits Charles had met in his 40 odd years in the intelligence services. 40 odd years which now saw him washed up, serving out time to retirement. Charles had been passed over for a section head job at Christmas, an opportunity he regarded as his last hurrah. And of course he had been passed over in favor of one of the young recruits he had trained.

The brief for new recruits was to give them a background of the sorts of cases this department worked on, and an insight to the processes and procedures the desk bound staff followed. This was supposed to help the recruits when they went out in to the field. It didn't of course. If over thirty years as a field agent had taught Charles one thing it was that processes, procedures and rules counted for nothing when you are out there, maybe looking down the wrong end of a gun.

But this was the world Charles had to inhabit since he was "made redundant" by the front line department he had been working for. Made redundant is a euphemism the service likes to use when it put agents it considered past active service out to grass. Charles operational usefulness might have carried him through a few more years of active service but his outspoken comments about how the department was being run since it's chief had been sent to run the Washington field office made him a prime target when money needed to be saved. And once you are declared unfit for active service in the job there was no right of appeal, no going back. It had to be that way; Charles accepted that, you can't have any weak links out there when the bullets are flying.

So it was a somewhat jaundiced, disillusioned and depressed Charles who was now looking across the desk at the young man. With a shrug and with no interest in what he was doing Charles started the young man's education in the dark arts of administering a security service.


Ian Black at 24 was a typical product of the services current recruitment policy. Physically fit, rugby blue at Oxford where he had won a first in Politics he had stood out when the recruiters had visited the university to cast their eyes over the best of the crop of undergraduates. The first approach had been vague; Ian had been left with the impression that he was being interviewed for something in the city or possibly the diplomatic corps.

But after weeks of rigorous vetting, psychological profiling and aptitude testing he had been offered a position in the intelligence services with the aim of him becoming a field agent.

And so it was as a keen and eager young recruit that he sat across the table from Charles now.

Whilst Ian was unknown to Charles, Charles was known to Ian. Indeed Charles was known well throughout the security services. He was in fact something of a legend. A veteran of the IRA troubles, scourge of Militant Islam, drug dealers' nemesis. The stories were legion in the service and now Ian was in front of the great man.

Charles spoke for twenty minutes. Ian listened, taking in every word. When Tamsin came to move him on to another part of his training Ian left reluctantly.

"Sorry", she said to Ian, "we run all of our new starters past the old man, he knows so much about how we work here"

As she ushered Ian in to her office she said quietly "I am truly sorry, I only meant to leave you with him for ten minutes, I got caught on a conference call. God, he can bore for England"

Ian looked back across the office at the "old man". And he looked across at Tamsin. How could two people read somebody so differently?

"Right" said Tamsin, "how do you take your coffee?"

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