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A Man of Soiled Virtue

Peter Mills

Peter Mills was educated at the Methodist College Belfast during ‘The Troubles’ until leaving Ireland to read Political Science at Warwick University. In 1973 he moved to London working in human resource management and then strategy consulting for British and American firms including JP Morgan and PwC. He has travelled widely and led large-scale projects for many well-known companies at home and abroad in places as diverse as Budapest, Manila, Philadelphia, Melbourne and Limerick. Peter is a member of the Chipping Norton Creative writing Group, living in the area with his wife in a 17th Century thatched cottage. He has two daughters, is a keen fly fisherman and downhill skier, loves the countryside and yet is frequently drawn to the metropolis. Peter is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Peter Mills

Peter Mills

Peter Mills was educated at the Methodist College Belfast during ‘The Troubles’ until leaving Ireland to read Political Science at Warwick University. In 1973 he moved to London working in human resource management and then strategy consulting for British and American firms including JP Morgan and PwC. He has travelled widely and led large-scale projects for many well-known companies at home and abroad in places as diverse as Budapest, Manila, Philadelphia, Melbourne and Limerick. Peter is a member of the Chipping Norton Creative writing Group, living in the area with his wife in a 17th Century thatched cottage. He has two daughters, is a keen fly fisherman and downhill skier, loves the countryside and yet is frequently drawn to the metropolis. Peter is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

‘Virtue, without which terror is destructive; terror, without which virtue is impotent. Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue; it is not so much a special principle as it is a consequence of the general principle of democracy applied to our country’s most urgent needs.’

Maximilien Robespierre: ‘Sur les principes de morale politique’


Brian opened his eyes slowly. He had not slept well and was now coping with the after effects of Tamazepam. His mouth was dry, he had a stiff neck and he felt nauseous. All this would pass, as it had on so many mornings over the last five long years. There were the usual incessant cries during the night of ‘Help me! Help me!’ and ‘I want to die!’. It was always better in the daytime. After the morning ablutions had been completed and the faecal smells had been overwhelmed by carbolic, things settled down into a numbing reality of ‘nothing at all’ once again.

It had not always been like this for Brian. He had been a real player once. Years in the Civil Service had given him contacts, which made for his success in merchant banking (as it once was). He was one of those elegant, stylish chaps in and around Throgmorton Street, drinking in the Arbitrager and lunching at Sweetings, the famous fish restaurant by the Bank.

Then came ‘The Big Bang’, the overnight change in banking from the old face-to face trading between dealers and jobbers to virtual trading using ‘new’ technology. Almost at once there was a scramble to merge and the landscape changed forever. His house was swallowed up by one of the big high street banks which was becoming hopelessly out of its depth with little clue about the risks it was taking on. He was rapidly headhunted to a City consulting firm.

Arriving at Bowers Farrin Associates, his name was proudly emblazoned on the door of his glass fishbowl office: ‘Brian Kincaid, Vice President’. Only a few years later, nobody had their name on an office door. Nobody had their own office, or any of the traditional accoutrements of senior management, swept away as they were in a frenzy of cost cutting and modernisation.

‘Good morning Brian!’

It was Emily. Dear Emily. She was such a treasure and he was very fond of her. Not in a sexual way. She was pretty if a little dumpy and she could do a lot more with her hair than scrape it up into an unflattering ponytail. She was, though, objectively good-looking for thirty and she was way ahead of the other female members of staff. But, Brian had never married and was not at all interested in women. He was ‘queer’ or ‘gay’. Nowadays he’d be known as ‘a member of the LGBT community’. He hated all this PC nonsense. He was not a member of anything and was not about to come out of the closet he had been hiding in for so many years. He had been promiscuous. He liked young men and tired of them quite quickly. In his twenties and thirties this was fine but as he aged it had become more difficult to find adult young men to be with. He was not into boys or anything like that. Just clean, healthy young men. He had no desire to marry any man and he protected his privacy with a vengeance. He had been celibate for thirty five years now as it all had become too tiresome and high risk.

‘We have visitors today, we have,’ said Emily with a touch of pride.

‘Really, Emily? Visitors? How strange. I haven’t had a visitor in a long time’

‘Well, Brian, they’re not exactly your normal visitors. They’re two people from a special police operation who want to get your help with something they are working on. A lady named Jayne and her assistant Tom. They wouldn’t say any more but we’re going to set up the conservatory for you so you can have a private meeting with them. I’ve been told I should stay with you to make sure you’re OK and you don’t get too tired.’

‘Seems strange to me, Emily. Why would Mr. and Mrs. Plod want to talk to me?’

‘I really don’t know but we will soon find out. Now out of bed and let’s get you showered and dressed for breakfast. Maybe we should lay off the sleeping pills for a bit, Brian. I’ll speak to the doctor’

* * *

Brian still cut a decent figure despite his advancing years. He was tall and lean, if somewhat bent over his black ash cane. He wore black chinos and a dark shirt under a heavy cardigan. His brogues were clean and shiny with an unmistakable look of quality. Emily made sure his hair was cut and brushed and his manicure was good.

Breakfast was not something to look forward to here. Cornflakes, ‘real’ jam, butter, white ‘value’ bread as toast and instant coffee or rather a brown chicory flavoured water as standard fare. The ‘hot option’ amounted always to porridge or rubberised egg, scrambled with fatty yet cremated bacon. He always did his best to eat but this was not what he had anticipated years ago. Eggs Benedict, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, kedgeree and maybe a glass of freshly squeezed mango juice. Now that was more like it.

They were here. Early, but his appointments diary was a little empty.

Emily walked with him to the conservatory and settled him down in one of the purplish-brown faux leather wing armchairs and promised another coffee.

Detective Inspector Jayne Hardy had been left hanging around in the reception area with her sergeant DS Tom Garrett. They were both struggling to cope with the overwhelming heat and had already discarded coats and now jackets, which they folded over their arms. There was a pervading whiff of human faeces and other unmentionable aromas mixed in with burnt kitchen fat. Both looked at each other, sharing a desire to throw up. They would cope. They had experienced far worse.

As Jayne Hardy turned around from her silent dialogue with Tom her face was an inch from a woman clutching a suitcase. She seemed out of place here as she was maybe fifty at most. Her face had a strange vacant look about it.

‘I’m going home today!’ announced the woman proudly.

She went on, ‘I’m only here for a visit and the taxi will be picking me up any minute now.’

She caressed her small suitcase like a baby and stood by the door.

The door was locked and there was a complex system of keypad and physical lock and key to exit and enter. The senior staff controlled this. It had taken at least ten minutes before they Jayne and Tom had been able to enter.

‘Ah, I see you’ve met Sarah’, said Emily.

‘Hello Sarah, how are we today?’ said Emily as she stretched out her hand to the two visitors.

Then sotto voce, she said, ‘I’m afraid Sarah has advanced dementia despite her age. She’s quite harmless but this is what she does all day and every day. She can’t be allowed out.  We have a signed ‘Deprivation of Liberty’ order on file. We took her in as she wouldn’t have been able to cope in a secure home with people who are violent and very disturbed. We’ll look after her for as long as we can. Our boss is good like that. She really cares.’

Jayne was perplexed by all of this. She had read about care homes and Alzheimer’s disease but it wasn’t really top of her agenda. In any case, these people had generally had a good life with free university education, a proper NHS, exploding house prices, great pensions and free everything as an OAP. There was the war, of course, but it couldn’t have been that bad as they never stopped talking about it and she was convinced many people had amazing adventures. Nowadays, young people had to go all around the world doing harebrained things to get close to the dangers and challenges this lot faced.

‘Let’s go to the conservatory. It’s really nice there, you’ll like it. We have it all set up for you and Mr. Kincaid is there already. I’ve been told I need to stay with him. I’m sure you’ll be alright with that, won’t you?’

‘Yes…’ Jayne hesitated. She would have preferred not to have this girl present at all. It would only make her job harder.

‘Good. Just a few more turns of the corridor’, said Emily as she navigated the labyrinthine house, now more than five times its original size after sizeable bolt-on extensions.

They entered the conservatory. Brian made an effort to get up but gave in with a resigned smile.

‘Good morning, Mr Kincaid,’ said Jayne. ‘My name is Detective Inspector Jayne Hardy, please call me Jayne. This is Tom, my colleague Detective Sergeant Tom Garrett who works with me. Emily says she’ll be staying for the meeting to make sure everything is all right’.

‘No problem. Fine. What’s all this about?’ said Brian. ‘Am I in any sort of trouble?’

‘We just need to ask you a few questions. It won’t take too long. Tom will take a few notes if you don’t mind. It’s about something that happened a long time ago. Can you cast your mind back to September 1987? I know that might be hard, but try.’

‘What! I can hardly remember what I had for dinner last night. Be realistic. What precisely should I be trying to remember?’

‘We know about the two young girls in Jersey,’ stated Jayne firmly.

‘Girls, what girls?’

‘There were two girls in Jersey from Belfast – Maeve O’Sullivan and Theresa Devlin. Does that ring any bells with you?

‘Nothing at all’

‘They say that you had sex with them when they were just fifteen years old and in a children’s home there. It seems that there may be others too. I stress this investigation is at an early stage and it was a long time ago but I need you to answer my questions on this, however difficult and awkward.’

Brian had gone pale and vomited onto his lap splashing Jayne’s skirt and the pink carpet.

Emily cut in, ‘I think this should be handled in a different way. We need to make sure Brian is well enough for this and that he knows in advance what you’re talking about. Shouldn’t he have a solicitor or something?’ She was already attending to Brian’s mess with professional alacrity.

‘That is not necessary. In cases of historical sexual abuse, we can question the accused in this way and will only arrest someone if it becomes absolutely necessary. We are at a very early stage in our enquiries anyway and we are not accusing Brian, Mr. Kincaid, of anything. It’s our duty to investigate any and every accusation we receive. You will appreciate that,’ said Jayne.

It was now hot and most uncomfortable and it was clear this was a false start. Jayne voted in her mind to withdraw and regroup.

‘Perhaps we could come back another time soon or you could come to us, at the station, Brian’ said Jayne.

‘No,’ said Brian, ‘This is awful, it was the sleeping pills and that breakfast … I’m so terribly sorry. Let me get cleaned up and we can start afresh. Alright?’

‘We’ll come back in an hour. Would that work?’

Jayne and Tom left the building and rallied in a nearby coffee shop to plan the next meeting.

Brian returned to his room to think. He had been promised protection for life. He would never be questioned by the police about anything. He had this from the top. They weren’t reneging on their arrangement, were they? These things were acceptable in those dark days but now such things were exposed and the press had a field day. He had to think, and quickly.

* * *

            Jayne and Tom returned as arranged. Emily had arranged for the special day room upstairs to be made available for the meeting.

Brian had decided how he would deal with the situation. Accused of sexual misconduct with two underage girls in Jersey… that would not be something he could endure. He would be humiliated, face prison – at his age! He would be roughed up inside and would have no future at all. What could he do? It seems his people had abandoned him and he had lost his protection. He had decided to activate ‘Operation Samson’ and bring down all those around him who knew and were involved. He would tell it all if he had to.

‘Mr. Kincaid,’ Jayne said formally, ‘Cast your mind back to September 1987, or a month either side, and tell me what you were doing in Jersey.’

Emily sat in silence. She was shocked by what was happening. She loved Brian. Not in that way… she was a lesbian, in love with Hannah and proud of it. But Brian was a real friend and she was very fond of him. He couldn’t be guilty of the things they were accusing him of, surely?

‘Come now, Mr. Kincaid,’ interjected Tom Garrett, ‘I know this is hard for you. It will be a terrible shock just for us to be asking you at all. Look, just think about that period… if it helps, try to think of anything around that time that might be relevant. We can take as long as you like over this and, honestly, we just want to get to the bottom of it.’

Brian immediately liked this sergeant. He looked a bit wet, shiny suit, no tie and pink face but he was thoughtful and not brash and pushy like his boss.

‘I would like to tell you all I know but I will speak to Mr Garrett here alone. You can tape record the conversation if you like,’ said Brian.

‘I don’t think that will be possible, Mr. Kincaid,’ said Jayne, ‘These are serious matters and we need to hear from you. Despite your age I believe we have sufficient reason to arrest you on suspicion of child sex abuse.’

‘Well, if that is how you want to play it, I can do nothing, can I?’

‘Go on, Brian’ said Tom.

‘I have been guaranteed protection at the highest level. I strongly advise you to speak to your Chief Constable before going any further.’

‘Not interested!’ said Jane, ‘We are independent and have a direct line to the Home Secretary in the event of any interference from up the line. Too many people, as you well know, thought they were too well connected in the Establishment to be touched. They believed, correctly until now, that they would get away with anything. Some did, but they are now beyond the grave. Sorry. Now carry on please’

‘As you wish. But I have warned you.’

‘I don’t think threats to the police will be helpful, Mister Kincaid,’ said Jayne.

‘Come on Brian; just tell us what you can. We can take this at your own pace,’ said Tom.

‘Very well. After university, I joined the Civil Service. What does that mean? I became a spy. A special kind of spy – less of a bird watcher, more of a hunter. Her Majesty’s Government needed help with ‘the Irish Question’ and I gave them that help. There were a lot of very nasty people about in those days… Provos, Red Hand Commandos, INLA and plenty of splinter groups with Libyan arms and American money.’

‘We are talking about illegal underage sex with girls here, Brian, not your James Bond fantasies … Brian?’

‘So, I had a special brief to deal with the unpleasant types when they were at their most vulnerable. On trips abroad, on holiday (if they took any), at conferences and when they would least expect trouble. I was never trained as an assassin really – only basic stuff. My skill was timing and an unremitting and focused determination to get the person I was assigned to eliminate.’

‘This is nonsense’ said Jayne to Tom. ‘We’re wasting our time’

‘I would normally deal with my ‘marks’ using either a silenced Beretta or an untraceable poison which would induce sudden heart failure. I preferred the gun but the needle was more realistic and was the method of choice as time went by. There would be no inquiry that way. I would say that over that period I managed to help the British Government with a dozen or so projects. Over the years until I retired, it was north of thirty. Oh, and by the way, I am a homosexual and don’t have sex with women or girls. I tried it once and it disagreed with me. It was most unpleasant.’

‘Enough of this! Thank you, Mr. Kincaid. We shall be in touch. So sorry to have wasted your time and I do hope you feel a lot better. Please don’t get up, we will see ourselves out.’

‘That will be difficult … you need to have me to get you through the door’, said Emily, quite shocked by what she had heard.

They left Brian alone.
When Emily returned she looked at Brian.

‘I never knew you were gay too?’

‘What, had you never guessed? Do you not have anything to say about the assassin stuff?’

‘You’re mad, Brian, I really wonder whether when they say you “have capacity” they’re totally wrong. How can you make such fantasies up when you’re usually so together?’

‘What fantasies?’

* * *

            ‘Chief Constable, you had my email about Mr Brian Kincaid, currently in The Laurels Care Home in Amersham?’

‘Yes, I have it.’

‘We need to proceed on his likely involvement in historic child sexual abuse… multiple counts, we think at this stage? He claims he’s some kind of M15 operative, an assassin of some kind. This is clearly a fantasy from a man with senile dementia but I must check it out before I make any further progress.’

‘Detective Inspector Hardy, listen to me very carefully. Do not speak to this man again. Drop any investigations and potential charges involving him. Is that clear?’ There was silence at both ends of the line.

He went on, ‘You will be asked late today along with your sergeant to sign an amendment to the Official Secrets Act and this must be the end of the matter.’

‘But, Sir, we have to follow the evidence. We have to listen to the victims. There can be no cover ups…’

‘So, you go right ahead but, be warned, this cannot enter the public domain and if it does, well then… Her Majesty’s Government will have a problem, won’t it, Jayne?’

Jayne said nothing.


PJ Mills asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work


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