The manila folder arrived with the morning mail and Mr Albertson — not his real name — expected the mail to be on his desk when he arrived — around 10:30 am.
His secretary didn’t particularly like her job, but she didn’t hate it either — her feelings, as she expressed them to her girlfriends over wine on a Friday evening, in the pub just off the High Street, were of a banal kind of acceptance — “Until something better comes along, or when Mr Right gets off his fat rear end (she rarely used bad language) and asks me to marry him.” Fortunately for her, ‘Mr Right’ was sitting at the other end of the bar watching her — every Friday night for the past two months. When she suddenly stopped coming on a Friday night after work, he went looking for her. Her sudden absence was the ‘spur to courage’ that he had needed.
As it happened, several manila folders were being delivered on this morning, but Mr Albertson — not his birth name — was the first to open his.
The silver and gold letter opener — a present from his mistress — cut through the thick yellow paper and when he tipped the envelope, a copy of the first page of his dossier fell out. On the bottom of the page were the words ‘ONLY THE FIRST PAGE’. A smaller piece of paper labelled ‘instructions’ fell to the floor. Mr Albertson — not the name he was born with or used during his collaboration with the enemy — picked up the piece of paper and read it carefully. He sat quietly for a moment in his government office with the pleasant view and shiny wood panelled walls. His next move was to press the intercom button and tell his secretary he was not to be disturbed and could she get him an outside line. The phone went click as she connected him and he dialled the number. The phone on the other end answered and a man said, ‘Hello’.
“They’ve found us,” said Mr Albertson. “I knew this day would come. Did you get an envelope?”
“Yes,” said the voice on the line. “What are you going to do?”
“I haven’t decided yet. I might pay them. I haven’t decided.”
Mr Albertson hung up the phone, reached into the top drawer of his desk, opened the chamber on his revolver. Satisfied that it was loaded, he put his keys and his watch on the desk, emptied the considerable contents of his wallet into a white envelope and wrote his secretary’s name on it with the words, “Don’t believe everything they will say about me.”
He had practised this move many times in his head, but now that the moment had come, he couldn’t decide — under the chin, on the temple or in the mouth.
The bang made Mr Albertson’s secretary jump. Several thoughts ran through her head as she sat in her chair. She didn’t think she was the kind of person who would sit in a chair after hearing an enormous bang, but apparently, she was.
The fog in her brain cleared and she rushed into her boss’s office. There was a lot of blood, and some of it mixed with what looked like sticky grey matter was sliding down the walls — Mr Albertson had gone for the ‘in the mouth’ option.
The secretary didn’t scream, she just stared. Mr Alberston was her first dead body. The blood-spattered envelope caught her eye, and she scooped it up and put it in her desk before she called for help.
In other parts of Paris and a few provincial centres, the activity was less dramatic.
Many large yellow envelopes were opened, many shocked expressions were given, many decisions were made, but only Mr Alberston, who had changed his name to hide his past collaboration, decided to take the fatal way out.
The amounts asked for were not large, but they were to be regular. The thinking behind the amounts asked was to make it easy for the person being blackmailed to see reason.
Some letters did not contain a ‘request’ for money. Instead, there was the strong suggestion that Farr and Dent should not be pursued lest the file falls into the wrong hands. These notes were delivered to those who had State resources and who were not frightened to use them to deadly ends — never poke the tiger.
The plan was well thought out and well executed. The result was a modest amount of constant income mixed with a bit of breathing room for the deadly Canadians.
You might think that one or two of the people who received the yellow envelopes would have tried their luck — called their bluff. That had been thought out as well.
That same morning, the most prominent newspapers in France ran the story of a bunch of wartime enemy dossiers being found, implicating several high ranking public servants and two successful industrialists. The President promised that there would be a full inquiry and “Anyone found wanting will be punished to the extent of the law.”
The enquiry did go ahead, but mysteriously, all those accused had been able to flee the country before capture. Another enquiry was ordered to investigate how this could happen.
When Daisy arrived home that night, there was a yellow envelope under her door.
Her little dog had chewed on the corner after it was pushed through, but the message inside was untouched.
“The piper has been paid. Just like old times — we work well together. Until the next adventure, keep your eyes open Daisy and thank you.
Judy and Christian.”