THE EMPIRE'S TWILIGHT
by Anthony Wilkins
February 1st 1982
Notting Hill, London
Timothy poured the red wine into the tall glass for the young lady who sat opposite an the table outside the cafe. He loved Notting Hill, the class and sophistication of one of London's leading social centers appealed to him not because of the social status one might hope to attain being a frequent visitor to the area but rather because it offered an exercise for his mind. The complex social interactions that went on here demanded a sharp mind to keep working so as one could maintain their position. It was so easy to lose your mystique here. You had to choose your words carefully.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked him.
"I'm guessing that you're a lawyer," said Timothy returning to his seat having topped the two glasses up to a mildly excessive yet still sociably acceptable level.
"What makes you say that?" she said playfully.
"It's an inkling I have. You have confident eyes and you're briefcase was designed to carry paperwork specifically rather than have a lunchbox tucked inside like so many people who want to look important by carrying one."
"I do work at a law firm,” she confessed blushing slightly. “But I'm afraid I’m just a secretary.”
"Bugger! And here's me thinking I was on a roll."
"You've only just started," she said to him.
"Maybe to you but I've been analyzing you since I first saw you and thought she looks worth sharing a drink with."
"Really? And what else do you think you have learned?" she asked curious by the boldness of his admission.
"I know you speak French and quite often too," he explained before taking a sip of wine. "In fact I'd bet you haven't long been back in London from a trip across the channel, am I right?"
"I'm impressed. One question; how?"
"Two things. Firstly you're dress is in the French style with the square cut top half with white border that's in fashion there at the moment. While that's not concrete proof I admit, after all it could have been made in France and sold here. However when you say 'the' there is a hint of zee in your accent indicating that you've recently spoken French and quite frequently to the point where it's starting to creep through to your native tongue."
"Again impressive," she said. "So do you do this routine with a lot of women?"
"Just the ones I'm interested in," he replied.
"Well you seem to have missed one thing," she revealed looking forward to destroying his arrogant flair.
"The fact you're married?" he retorted looking like he knew all along.
"How did I know? The small tanline on your wedding finger. I'm guessing you got that tan from the south of France while you were there on business." He leaned in closer to her resting his elbows on the table. "I'm also guessing that your boss likes it when your clients think you're available and so he asks you to keep the ring off. You are also younger than you dress because you feel if people realized your true age of about twenty one or twenty three then they won’t take you as serious. Tell me I'm wrong."
"You're not wrong," she replied. "Not on the facts anyway, but making moves on a married woman is very wrong."
It was obvious something he had said had ruined the move. Without finishing her glass she stood up and collected her things.
"You never told me your name?"
"You're smart," she replied sharply. "You figure it out."
An hour later and Timothy was back at work. Timothy was an analyst for MI6. He worked in a department that concentrated on affairs in South America. He worked within a three man team and they occupied just a small office on the second floor of one of MI6's tertiary buildings along the Thames itself disguised as an investment company. On the door leading to the office was a small note that said 'Welcome to the brain'.
"Lunch hour!" said a voice as he walked inside. "The hint is in the name."
"I had a good lunch," joked Timothy to James Evans, one of his fellow analysts.
James Evans was a man who was passed his prime in terms of his body but retained a sharp and disciplined mind. He was on the wrong side of fifty with a rather well-fed build over the top of which was a burgundy sweater knitted by his wife. Tim often wondered if the fact James’ sweater seemed to match his bushy moustache was a private joke by his wife.
"Well while you've been living it up we've been looking at this," said James handing a photograph to Tim.
Tim held it up, glanced at the grainy black and white aerial photograph before handing it back and saying, "It's an F-14."
"I know it's an F-14," said James slightly annoyed with Tim's lack of interest.
"So?" repeated Angela Taylor who sat at the table in the middle of the room laid out on top of which was a map of Argentina and Chile. "Tim you're smart, supposedly, why do you think we'd be showing you a picture of an F-14?"
"Why?" asked Tim pouring himself a cup of coffee from the small machine in the corner of the room.
"Angela," interrupted James. "He knows full well what you're talking about. He's just being Tim."
Angela Taylor was the newest member of the group and was struggling to find a way of working with Tim. Angela was herself a gifted analyst having worked for several reputable newspapers over the years taking a keen interest in South America. When she lost her job at the Daily Mail she found herself headhunted by MI6.
"So Galtieri has had an F-14 handed to him from Santa," uttered Tim adding sugar to his cup. "Guess he's been a good boy."
"Tim, Whitehall's going nuts over this. While you were having lunch we've had the latest images from Operation Bluebell. A Chilean Canberra PR.59 took this over the base at Rio Gallegos. Tim, this could be the evidence we've been looking for that Galtieri wants to hit Chile."
"I don't think so," said Tim sipping his cup.
"Oh really?" asked Angela curiously.
"Look at it again," instructed Tim and James did as he was told. "It's in Air Force markings."
"Galtieri is scared shitless that he is going to have to face his own coup so soon after he toppled the previous government," explained Tim. "He knows the Army is behind him so it would probably come from the Navy or the Air Force. He's using his military re-equipment program such as acquiring Tomcats from the states to buy the Air Force's loyalty just like the Americans are buying his with those very same weapons."
"But Tomcats?" asked Angela. "That's pretty serious stuff. I don’t even understand why the Americans would be willing to part with them after Iran.
"Was the Canberra picked up on radar?" asked Tim.
"Almost certainly," replied Angela.
"Then the Argies and the Americans both know that we know they're sending F-14s."
"And F-4s, F-5s and even A-10s," added James.
"Again," added Angela. "Pretty serious stuff."
"It seems like they're gearing up for war," said Tim hinting he had more to say.
"With who?" asked Angela. "Chile?"
"The Americans haven't been too pleased with our influence in what is effectively their own backyard."
"So you definitely think they're planning something against Chile?" asked James. “Perhaps as a way of upsetting our own influence in the country?”
"Or they want Galtieri to pick a fight with Uruguay, Paraguay or maybe even the big one; Brazil. The Tomcat has excellent range that could make up for the lack of numbers in the Argentine Air Force. It would also give them the range to strike at strategic targets such as power stations."
“Wow, wow, wait a minute,” interrupted Angela. “Why the hell would the United States want to do that? Nearly all those countries receive US aid.”
“Yes but only as long as they play by Washington’s rules in helping to combat the flow of drugs into North America. Otherwise the United States would embargo the lot of them. They’re all little dictatorships who pay nothing but lip service to both democracy and fighting the war on drugs. Hell half their leaders own the drugs their armed forces confiscate and they just get sent back into circulation anyway.” Tim paused to take another sip of his coffee. “This is a situation the United States has never found itself in before. They have a major South American country with a leader they can totally manipulate and who wants to pick a fight with their neighbours. If Argentina stirs up trouble then it could knock the others into play when they come running to the United States for help. Then when they’re finished with him the US will sort Galtieri out themselves. I don’t think we have to worry too much about Chile right now though. The yanks know we have a vested interest in the country and they won’t want to upset the Commonwealth by anything rash.”
James then added, “Also Argentina is a useful ally in the US fight against Communist insurgencies all over South America.”
"Isn't the F-14 a naval fighter?" said Angela suddenly who had been staring at a small spot on the south eastern side of the map on the table while Tim had been talking.
"Yeah it’s designed to operate off their US carriers," explained James. "What of it?"
"Maybe they want to use the Tomcats for a maritime role?" she suggested.
"Well there's not much call for maritime fighters in South America. Only Argentina and Brazil have carriers."
“And Argentina’s carrier is too small to operate them,” added Tim.
"What about the Falklands?" added Angela.
"What of them?" scoffed Tim who had figured out what she was getting at.
"Maybe these aircraft are there to threaten the Falklands?"
"Why would Galtieri want to do that?" asked Tim.
James interjected, "Well he has promised to restore Argentina's pride and we all know that means a military victory or victories."
"Also the US has stated that they don't fully recognize Britain's claim to the islands," said Angela.
"Well then maybe they should give Hawaii back to the Hawaiians as well," joked Tim. "I seriously don't think Galtieri would threaten the Falklands not without direct US supoort and that would never happen. If he did threaten the Falklands then the US would have to either make a stand either with us, a major ally to confront any Soviet aggression which they are shit scared of, or Argentina and risk starting World War III with the Commonwealth. If Galtieri went it alone he'd be committing suicide. There would be a fleet of Commonwealth ships into the area and we’d knock his rag tag group of beaten conscripts he calls an Army into the next life. That's excluding Chile getting in on it. No, I'm not going to the PM with that. I stand by what I said. I believe this support from the US is aimed at Argentina’s neighbours not the Falklands."
"You love being right don't you?" asked Angela.
Tim smiled before taking one final sip of his coffee.
"The day I'm wrong I'll quit," replied Tim.