Story: Heroes of the Revolution (Divide & Rule)
Flavor(s): White Chocolate #17 (disappointment)
Toppings/Extras: Hot Fudge
Word Count: 1377
Notes: 1959; Ron Whittaker, Thomas Hallam, Alan Jemmings. (I seem to have had this one hanging around for a while.)
Summary: Whittaker isn’t happy about anything this evening.
Ron Whittaker knew that Tom Hallam was currently frustrated, and that a frustrated Tom was a powder keg liable to go off at any moment. Despite his best attempts to be careful, he'd wound up on the worse end of his temper several times during their meetings in a backroom of a smoky working men’s club with a handful of others who also didn’t think the government was doing enough to handle the present crisis.
Tonight, however, was different. The meeting had largely been another round of complaints without solution, but Tom had throughout been reining in not frustration but something else, maybe triumph. He said nothing, however, until the others had gone and it was only Whittaker and Jemmings left.
“Come on, then, Alan,” said Tom. “Now’s your moment. Let’s see this document of yours and whether it’s as explosive as you think.”
Jemmings gave a smile. “Oh, I think you’ll find it is,” he said, as he pulled a folder out of his briefcase, and placed it on the uneven table between them. “And since it was passed directly to me, no one else knows. As you can see, it’s unquestionably from the Foreign Secretary’s office.”
“What is it?” asked Whittaker, twisting his head slightly to read it. When they both looked at him, he tapped a finger on the paper. “Naturally, I can see what that it’s confidential material, but isn’t that only what one would expect? I take it there’s something else?”
Jemmings glanced at Tom, who nodded, and then he leant forward. “This is leaked information. What’s more, it’s privileged information – very few people would have had access to it. It seems it came into the hands of a pressure group called United Europe via Julia Iveson. I take it the implications are now plain?”
They were, indeed. Whittaker subsided, engaging in lighting another cigarette, but he couldn’t keep back a sensation of dismay. A couple of years ago when he’d been a new, very green MP, he’d spent a lot of time at the Ivesons’s. Iveson had been very generous with his advice, never even hinting that he found Whittaker or his questions tiresome. Whittaker had grown impatient with Iveson since – he gave into Fields too easily in Whittaker’s opinion, and he never troubled to fully conceal his dislike of Tom – but he’d considered him to be too idealistic rather than the reverse. The mention of Mrs Iveson made it even worse.
“Look, are you sure?” said Whittaker. “I can see the implications for us once it becomes public, of course – but what if someone else is the source of the leak, not Iveson?”
Jemmings lifted his head. “It’s irrelevant, if Mrs Iveson is involved. It’s still a scandal – and either he doesn’t know, in which case it’s going to be something of a shock to him, or he does and at the very least kept quiet about her activities. And now we can see why she married him. The man’s a traitor or a fool, or both.”
“I see,” said Whittaker, although his first, irrational instinct was to protest. If he was absolutely honest with himself, the initial reason for his drifting out of their circle was his decision that it’d be best to avoid seeing too much more of Julia Iveson. He’d not got beyond finding himself admiring her perhaps a little more than he ought, but it wouldn’t be wise – and, anyway, they’d always given the impression of having a good marriage. To find out that she at least must be in it for such reasons made him feel sick. It shouldn’t make a difference now, but he felt as if he’d been played for a fool.
Tom pushed the file back to Jemmings. “The question now is do we make it public? The other option is to use it for leverage with Iveson.”
“God, no, Tom,” said Whittaker, that at least driving his disillusionment out of the forefront of his thoughts. “You can’t. Call it whatever names you like, that’d be blackmail. And if Iveson’s leaking information, that’s got to be stopped at once.” He felt another urge to protest again at the accusation: the Foreign Secretary wouldn’t leak information in that back-handed fashion – he wouldn’t ever need to. It was ridiculous, or it ought to have been, if the other two weren’t taking it entirely seriously.
Jemmings raised an eyebrow. “Send it through the official channels, you mean, Whittaker? You know what they’d do – deal with it discreetly. Iveson would resign for personal reasons, and possibly there would be an investigation later on, but chances are it’d be swept under the carpet rather than let it be known the Foreign Secretary was abusing his position in that way.”
“Well, send it to the papers, then,” said Whittaker. “That’ll be enough. What on earth can Iveson give you anyway?”
Hallam had a disturbing light in his eye. “Harding,” he said.
“Oh, now, look here, that’s preposterous!”
“He’s known him for years. He’ll have the information I don’t. Then there’s the aspect of trying to get a bit more sense into Foreign Policy – I mean, whoever Fields appoints in place of him would be inevitably more inward looking, but it’d be somebody new – someone we don’t have anything on. And Fields wanted Iveson for Foreign Secretary; his next choice might not be any better.”
Whittaker shook his head. “But it’s blackmail. Never mind what they do, are we going to stoop to that sort of level? What if Iveson refuses and resigns and tells Fields why? You’ll be finished, too. It’s not worth it.”
“He won’t do that,” said Hallam.
Whittaker found himself again in this uncomfortable, unjustifiable position of wanting to defend Iveson. “How the hell do you know what he’ll do?”
“He let his wife do this,” said Hallam. “If he’s willing to commit treachery for her, I’d imagine there are few things he won’t do to keep her out of prison. And treachery’s still a hanging offence, don’t forget. Besides, he goes along with Fields when he hates the man, all to protect a coalition he disagrees with – and to keep his position, of course.”
Whittaker got up. “Whatever you do, it’s your own business – but I won’t be a party to this. I don’t care what you say, if we cross the line into criminal activity, you tell me where it ends.”
“What do you suppose my people do all day?” asked Jemmings with interest. He waved his cigarette, leaving a trail of smoke in the air. “We do what we must to keep the country secure and sometimes, yes, that does include blackmail and other measures you’d call criminal. All done with the taxpayer’s money and you don’t mind because you don’t see it.”
Whittaker shrugged. “Oh, I expect you’re right. I’m being unrealistic – naïve, I suppose. But I draw the line at this. Whatever you do, just don’t tell me.”
Hallam rose, cutting off Jemmings in the beginnings of an angry retort. “Fair enough,” he said. “It leaves an unpleasant taste in my mouth, too, but I’ll do any damned thing I think will get results. I want to stop this country from going under, and we can’t leave it to Fields and his ilk, that’s become self-evident.”
“Yes,” said Whittaker. “I know. And maybe this makes me as bad as the rest of them, but I can’t go along with this. It’s not just about legality – I was – well, I suppose I’d have counted Iveson as a friend once. And whatever he’s turned out to be, I couldn’t go through with this.”
Hallam nodded. “See how far you get legally, Ron – and how far I get by my methods.”
“Oh, you’ll go far,” said Whittaker. “Seems this sort of thing is what it takes – so I should think my career won’t get much further.”
He walked out, angry, but underneath that, with a sinking feeling in his heart. He hadn’t wanted to hear that Edward Iveson had sold out his country, or that Julia Iveson was effectively a work of fiction, but it was even more uncomfortable to know how far Tom would go. And how far, he wondered, did any of them have to go before there wasn’t a country left worth saving?