In the House of Mrs Quinn

The Assumption is my latest novel in-progress. It’s about mistaken identities, free will and assassinations. As I create it I’m adding extracts such as this one for you to see in advance.

Mrs Quinn is an extraordinary women. Aged around 70 or more she has all the qualities of a spymaster, a killer and London cabbie. In this early scene she’s trying to convince the protagonist, Remi Oakes, to take up on a mission.

Mrs Quinn didn’t do anything by accident, so of course we were already standing outside her house when the conversation stopped. It was a mill house with a small but busy river running alongside its far side.

She opened the unlocked door and invited me in. We walked along a narrow, low ceilinged hallway, past the kitchen. As we passed it I saw a large, green range cooker that look as if it was made of wrought iron and weighed several tonnes standing on a red tiled floor. Soon we were in the large room that was dominated by two over-stuffed sofas. There a massive fireplace with a blazing log fire in it and still enough room for a two people to sit opposite each other on on each side of the fire and eat a supper. Running along the side of the room was a large window made of thick green, sound-proofing glass that looked out on a slowly turning mill wheel.

Mr Quinn nodded towards the sofa that looked the least likely to swallow me whole. It was covered in a deep orange cloth with images of medieval horses and knights embroidered on it. I sat down and found my level while she pulled up an expensive, and weirdly in the environment, modernist chair I’d not noticed before. As she made herself comfortable a tall, slim gentleman with grey hair and a full, grey, well kept beard walked into the room. He wore a comfortable looking wool cardigan and thickly corded trousers, his brogues were hard shined and well used. I noticed a small, round pin badge on the breast of his brown chequered shirt. Above all else, and like Mrs Quinn, he exuded a dark and exhilarating energy.

“Crusoe, dear man. Let me introduce you to our latest friend and comrade, Remi Oakes”.

“Good morning to you”, said the gentleman in a very bright tone. Despite his age, his voice had none of the cracks or scratches you might have expected.

“Remi, this is Major General Sir Arthur Quinn, or Crusoe for short, my husband of many, many years good standing”.

I made to stand up for the kind of formal greeting that I imagined was required for some reason I couldn’t fathom then and can only barely fathom now.

“Stay sat-sitting for goodness sake. I’m retired now…”

“Semi-retired”, Mrs Quinn interrupted him.

“Either way, there is absolutely no need to stand on ceremony. Who wants a mug of tea before we settle down to talk about the murderous mission in hand?” He said with no a little glee.

“Task, I think, don’t you dear?”

He looked slightly downcast but picked up again quickly, “Teas all round, and why not a few biscuits?”

“Just the ticket!” said Mrs Quinn and her husband snapped around and walked off to the kitchen.

She leant towards me and handed me a thin file made of civil service green cardboard with an ‘Eyes Only’ stamp on the front over a name I was more than familiar with. I left the file in her hand and leaned back into the sofa. She mirrored my behaviour.

“Questions my dear?”, she said icily and in a way that suggested that this was the last thing she wanted”.

“I honestly have nothing to ask”, I said trying to be understanding of her mistake. “You have made a mistake. I admit that it’s been interesting, or rather it’s been curious to this point, but as of ten second ago it is going no further. I am very definitely not the person you need”.

“Excellent! Excellent! Good stuff! Keep it up! Deep cover, glorious work!” Mutley Quinn yelled from the kitchen.

I sat up straight, “Look, I didn’t have the faintest idea I was even going to get off at this stop. That was sheer whimsy on my part, pure bad luck now I consider it.”

“All that as it may well be, but are you interested?”, said Mrs Quinn quietly.

“Even a little bit!?” Major General Quinn shouted from his domestic duty, I ignored him and instead looked at Mrs Quinn.

To be continued…

Don’t forget to read my first novel, The Water Meadow Man – a novel about hope. Free-to-read chapters here.