February 15th, 2007

International Kittens of Mystery

Pergonini MD: Part One (MFI Special Services)

To recap: it's September 1995. We'd just survived eight months in France and then this happened. Someone stole my identity and grabbed our life savings. The French police think it's an Irish crime and can't help us until Thursday. Now it's Monday...

Monday arrived with a flurry of activity. There were people to phone, people to fax, news to disseminate. We grabbed a very quick breakfast and rushed into St Gaudens with our much-honed letter to Mutual Friendly.

And the two suspicious pages from Elaine Varley.

It cost us £20 to fax eight pages. I was astonished and quickly added it to the money we were owed.

Someone would pay.

Back home, we waited ... and waited.

Surely Dublin would have received the fax by now? We'd asked them to ring us as soon as it arrived.

Approaching midday I could wait no longer. I picked up the phone and asked to speak to Trevor Graham, the Administrative Director.

He wasn't available. He was in an important meeting.

About my letter, hopefully.

I left a message and rung off. I'd have to wait until after dinner.

Two seconds after I put the phone down, it rang.

I stared at the receiver. Was this suspicious? I phone Dublin and someone rings me back immediately?

"Hello," I said warily.

"Mr Dolley? My name's Andy Chatfield, I work for Special Services. Trevor Graham asked me to call."

"Special Services?" I know I'd asked for the police to be involved but I didn't think I'd be talking to MI5.

"Yes, Mutual Friendly International Special Services."

MFI Special Services? It didn't have quite the same ring as MI5.

"I've read your letter and I'd like to ask you a few questions, if that's convenient?"

By all means. I was still intrigued as to how he managed to phone so quickly after I'd rung Dublin. Was he there at the time, but wanted to phone back to make sure I was who I said I was?

Or was I becoming paranoid?

"Have you been to the doctor recently?"

This was not a question I'd been expecting. Was it in code? Should I fetch Jean-Pierre and ask if he still had his code book? Are there two British airmen hiding in our outhouse?

"Er ... no?" I replied, waiting, breath well and truly baited for the next question.

"Do you know any doctors in Aurignac?"

"No."

"Does your wife know any doctors ... socially perhaps?"

I placed my hand over the receiver and turned to Shelagh who was standing alongside.

"He wants to know if you know any doctors ... socially."

"Who?"

I was beginning to wonder that myself. Why this fascination with doctors? And was he really who he said he was?

"No, she doesn't," I replied, thinking that about wrapped it up on the doctor front.

"Neither of you have any friends who are doctors or know anyone who'd sign MD after their name?"

I could not believe this.

"Why do you ask?"

He didn't want to say. Apparently it was early in the investigation and it was important that answers were uncoloured by context.

But he did provide me with one very important fact. The letter from Elaine Varley was a fake. The letterhead was not genuine and it wasn't Elaine's signature.

I phoned Simon almost straight away. I wanted to verify this Andy Chatfield. And MFI Special Services. Should I expect a phone call from B&Q?

Apparently not. MFI was the parent organisation of various Mutual Friendly companies in the UK and Europe. And there was such a person as Andy Chatfield who did work for Special Services who were indeed carrying out their own internal investigation.

But what on earth caused his obsession with doctors? Was he a hypochondriac? I wanted my context well and truly coloured

"Ah, I think I might know why he asked that," said Simon.

At last. I couldn't think of one sensible suggestion.

"I've got the letter here. Let me see ... Yes. Your signatures were witnessed by a Dr. Pergonini of Aurignac."

(next instalment: Pergonini MD)