Chapter Seven: The Admiral

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The black-timbered Red Ensign Pub stood at the end of a row of shops selling tourist tat and hard rock candy. It looked like it had barely changed in centuries while the town shifted around it. Fishermen had probably come here for generations for a post-work pint and a bag of pork scratchings.

The pub was empty, but fishermen work early hours; they would be flooding in to the place soon enough. The only person I saw when I entered was the lady behind the bar, who offered a cheerful good morning as she polished her wine glasses.

Grace led me to a frosted glass door at the back of the room.

"Go on ahead," she said. "I'll order some tea. Would you like anything?"

"I'm fine, thank—ow!"

I pulled my hand back from the brass door handle. A jolt had just shot up my arm.

"What the hell was that?" I said, a lot louder than I meant to.

"Static from the carpet. It did that to me the first time too," said Grace. "It should be fine now."

I glared at her sceptically. This whole situation had me on edge even before anyone tried to electrocute me. I felt like I might be walking into an interrogation.

I tried the handle again.

No shock.

Behind the door was a little wood-panelled room with diamond-shaped stained-glass windows and worn red velveteen benches. The tables were old dark wood, except for one that had a backgammon board set into its surface. Behind that table was a small, ash-blonde woman with a round peach face. Her eyes twinkled through the gold rims of her spectacles.

"Ben Frazer, I assume?" She rose to her feet and offered her hand. "I'm Admiral Edith Winstanley. So pleased you could come."

She had to be in her sixties, and not a hair over five feet tall, and she spoke with a Northern accent. She was not at all what I was expecting, but her dark blue uniform and the gold braid on her shoulder confirmed her words. She was the Admiral.

"I apologise for the outfit," she said. "I'm not normally one for all the trappings. I was meant to be at a very dull lunch with some very boring men, so if nothing else, I'm grateful to you for keeping me from that."

She resumed her seat and gestured for me to sit across from her.

"Tell me, Mr Frazer; why do you think I wanted to talk to you today?"

I decided to play dumb, which wasn't far from how I felt.

"I have no idea," I said.

"Is that so?"

The Admiral took a form from her dossier and slid it across the table, along with a pen.

"This states that you are a British citizen and subject to our laws, and that you understand that it is a criminal offence to divulge information that is sensitive to the state. I'd be grateful if you could sign it. You're bound by it either way, but it helps to make sure we're all on the same page."

I picked up the pen and read over the document. The pen was unusually cold and heavy.

Everything was exactly as she described. I wasn't selling my soul or buying a holiday cottage. Just confirming my name and nationality.

She watched as I signed.

The Admiral took back the form and the pen. "Now we can talk," she said. "Here's what you need to know, Mr Frazer. I'm the director-general of Horseshoe Division, the department of British military intelligence tasked with policing extra-normal events on British soil. Does that mean anything to you?"

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