• Guy Martyr

'La Dolce Vita' a novel by Guy Martyr 15.

La Dolce Vita instalment 15 of 20


He: "We need someone of your experience, abilities, to take command, to 'design out' the holes in the wire, so to speak . . . "

She: "And to run the place . . . the places . . . It's all in the file. You'll see when you've finished it."

He, to her: "Shall we go into 'Sector 15' ?"

She: "Yes, oh yes, I think we must. He's come this far."

"Sector 15 ?" gulped the poor boy.

He: "It's where the worst ones go, the ones who keep trying to escape, abscond"

She: "and they won't come out."

He: "It's all in here." Jack Wylie took a pale, solid looking envelope from an inside pocket and handed it over to Horatio. "Plenty of reading . . . " was all Horatio could muster, then "Doesn't this come on a disc?"

"Sensitive material is kept on paper now. Disc communication is too insecure" said Wylie.

"Someone has lost an 'all files identity allocation disc' . . . it may be in the wrong hands . . . " added his partner.

"We probably shouldn't say anything more on that one, Catherine."

"No, Jack" and they regarded one another momentarily to confirm these limits.

"Oh, and one more thing," said Jack to the boy, "there's a promotion in this for you: it's Captain Smith now. Congratulations!"

"That's business concluded" Catherine declared. "Shall we eat?" and she led the way to the dining room, where a sumptuous, simple feast awaited, waited upon by the attentive servant.


In the back of Horatio's mind he was trying to think of a way to confront Jack Wylie about Victoria, but the surroundings seemed so comfortable, the wine so amenable, and he felt so unfocussed with tiredness, that the matter drifted away.

*

Next morning, Horatio was bound further north. He felt very rested, after a sound sleep on that fairy tale bed. He was in a military carriage, in uniform, with a driver, proceeding along a main road, which was interspersed with groups of straggling walkers heading north.

"They're looking for camp allocation" said the driver. "They better find it before they get where we're going."


A little later, signs by the road began to be seen: "YOU ARE NOW ENTERING SECTOR 15: ALL PERSONS ARE SUBJECT TO COMPULSORY TRANSPORTATION".


After three hours they reached Otterburn Camp: "Northern Command, Sector 15 HQ".

The usual: bare, cold, bleak, tarmac, huts.

Transitional Habitation? wondered Horatio. Not sure . . .


Horatio was set down before the Camp Commander's hut. The carriage drove off. Horatio entered the hut up a few wooden steps. The hut was empty of people, and of practically everything else. He found a likely office and dropped his bag. A desk. A chair. A land-line telephone: no dial tone.

Horatio took the envelope given him the night before by Jack Wylie, marked 'ORDERS: TO BE OPENED ON ARRIVAL AT OTTERBURN CAMP', and dropped it on the desk. He searched for an implement with which to open it: Papers were becoming more and more common these days! Before he succeeded, the hollow rhythm of boot on board announced a visitor. Horatio looked up.

"Sergeant Sparrow, Orderly Sergeant, sir! . . . " said the interloper, and then, of course, stopped gob-smacked.

"Sergeant Sparrow!" Horatio didn't know whether to laugh or cry, or shake his hand, or clap him in irons. But Sergeant Sparrow recovered his composure swiftly: "Camp Orders . . . daily

routine . . . cook house . . . sleeping quarters . . . "

"What are you doing here, Sergeant Sparrow? What happened to you at Fairfield Farm?"

"Called away, sir."

"Officially?" asked Horatio, but he received no answer.

"If that will be all, sir?"

"Do you know what this camp is to be used for, Sergeant

Sparrow?"

"They wouldn't tell me things like that, sir. All I know is . . . It's 'people'."


Horatio sat down alone and opened his Orders, using the back of a tea spoon to messy effect.

'OTTERBURN CAMP, Special Orders, Sector 15

1. Anticipated influx rate: 2,000 per week

2. Current dispersal capacity: 1,000 per week

3. Task: construction of further dispersal capacity

4. Special Materials: to arrive separately

5. Special Squads: Service conscripts'

What on earth did all this mean? Horatio hadn't a clue. He put the sheaf of Orders down, unread, and decided on a tour of the camp. It was huge: there was accommodation for thousands, even though the camp was practically empty. Horatio was confronted by many huts in many lines, mostly of a size, long, thin, pitched roofs, wooden cladding; also, in one area, a few larger buildings, flat-roofed, concrete, perhaps toilet blocks.

One or two soldiers stood about, not doing very much.

Horatio approached one of them.

"What is your name?"

"Private Atkins, sir."

"What are you doing here, Private Atkins?"

"I don't know, sir. I'm on my Service. They sent me here. That's all I know."

Horatio walked on and came across a likely-looking building: 'Special Store'. He entered. A corporal behind the counter faced him.

"Sir?"

"I'm Captain Smith, new Camp Commander."

"Sir."

"What is this store for?"

"Special Materials, sir" and a wave towards shelves containing a few large tin cans.

"What are they?"

"I don't know, sir."

"I'll have a look, if I may" and gestured for a can to be passed to him. The corporal passed one of the tin cans to Horatio: an old-looking, grey, lack-lustre tin can, as if a catering tin of baked beans, with a darkened label, scarcely legible, but which if scrutinised, and with difficulty, announced itself: 'ZYKLON B'.

Horatio was not sure what this was: the name rang a bell: something he had seen in a museum in Continental-main - the name of an art-actioner, perhaps? He couldn't remember.


Horatio spent a couple of days at the camp doing very little: he was the only officer, so instead of attempting to occupy a lonely officers’ mess, he set up a camp bed in his lonely office. An uneasy truce descended in his relationship with Sergeant Sparrow: basically they avoided each other, or, when compelled by camp routine, undertook necessary business with the minimum basic courtesy. Sergeant Sparrow spent much of his time in the company of a small band of regular soldiers, doing very little, and having virtually no dealings with the sloppy group of conscripts which populated the camp besides.

Horatio read his Orders, inspected the camp, paraded the men, but really he did not know what he should be doing. Communications with any sort of Command structure proved hopeless: his phone remained useless, his communicator did not work, he had no vehicle, and Sergeant Sparrow proved unhelpful upon receiving enquiries about his own telephone.

What Horatio needed was his platoon, the lads he knew, they'd soon sort this place out. And that's what he got! On the third morning a lorry pulled into camp, and out jumped his lads. Sir!

Hallo! Darren, Javed, Simon, all of them!

“What are we supposed to be doing?”

“Something to do with deportees. I don't know.”

But that bright start to the day was not to last.

The weather suddenly started to get colder. The sky darkened.

Horatio heard vehicles: more lorries approaching the camp.

The lorries entered and disgorged dazed-looking occupants: the type of people he had seen traipsing up the roads ever since Doncaster.

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