Harry heads to ye prison exit. On a table by ye gate are a number of weapons: crossbows, sabres, and daggers. He grabs a crossbow, a handful of crossbow bolts, a sabre, and a couple of daggers.
Harry: Can’t be too careful. I can’t be sure where in ye world I am.
(Harry exits ye gate and finds himself in an alley. He heads to ye street.)
Harry: Did I ‘ear someone speaking English?
(Harry exits ye alley and turns down ye street. In front of him is The Mermaid Tavern. Beyond is visible ye dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.)
Harry: Well that’s a knock to ye noggin’, I’m still in London. I been set up. Hmmm, but by whom? Dalby or Ross? I need to get ye upper hand on both of ‘em.
(Harry reverses course and heads to London Bridge. There he spots a couple of street urchins from his network.)
Harry: Oi, lads! Come here. I got a message for each of you to deliver.
Street Urchin: Whatcha gonna pay?
Harry: Double the usual rate.
Street Urchin: A’right. But you don't look like you got any coin on ye.
Harry: I am good for it.
Street Urchin: You look halfway dead. Just in case you end up all dead I want one of them daggers in your waistband.
Street Urchin #2: I want a dagger, too.
Harry: Would you like my underwear while we’re at it?
Street Urchin #2: No, you smell rank.
Harry: Fine. (He hands ye boys ye daggers) Find me some scraps of paper and something to write with. I have very specific set of instructions to be sent to a Major Dalby and a Colonel Ross.
Dalby struts into a darkened warehouse, tunelessly humming ye Imperial March.
Dalby: Hum hum-hum, diddly-hum, diddly-hum. Palmer? Palmer? Where art thou Palmer?
Palmer: (Emerging from ye shadows, in a nasty mood, holding a crossbow aimed at Dalby's heart.) 'ere I am, sir.
Dalby: ?!!? What the deuce are you playing at Palmer?
Palmer: Neffer you mind 'at sir, just you back up against that wall, real nice 'n' slow...
Dalby: But how darest thee, Palmer? I am your commanding officer!!! And where is Colonel Ross? I distinctly told you to invite Colonel Ross!
Palmer: Oh he'll be 'ere any second sir, 'cordin' t'that church steeple across the street.
Dalby: But you cant tell time by a church steeple at night! There ist no sun out to measure its position by in relation to ye church steeple! It could be any time between dusk and dawn for all that church steeple knows!
Palmer: Aw yeh, I dint think o that, did I? Hmmm…
(Palmer sarts to lower ye crossbow as he scratches his head in confusion. Dalby tries to rush Palmer, who quickly points ye crossbow at him again.)
Palmer: Naw sir you stay right where you are!
(They both hear a noise from the entrance.)
Ross: Hello? Anybody home? My, ‘tis dark in here! Palmer? Palmer? Where art thou Palmer?
Palmer: 'ere I am sir. You just back up against that wall over there. Real nice n slow...
Ross: What the deuce are you playing at Palmer?
Dalby: That's what I said!
Ross: Dalby! You here too?
Dalby: I say, this is rather a coincidence! What are the odds?
Ross: But what's Palmer doing with that crossbow?
Dalby: He's dashed insubordinate, that's what he is!
Ross: That's what I always said! Didn't I always say you were insubordinate Palmer? I always said that!
Palmer: Thass right, I'm so insubordinate I'm holdin’ bofe me bosses at crossbow-point at ye same time! Now, I know as a fact one of you two's a traitor, I just don't know which one!
Dalby: He's the traitor Palmer! Kill Ross!
Ross: What?!!? No!!! I'm not the traitor! If anybody's a traitor it's Dalby!
Palmer: Alright alright shut up! Shut up the both o’ ya's! Lemme think..
Ross: I'm begging you Palmer, come on. Remember how much fun we had ye time we both met by coincidence at ye Farmers Market with all ye exotic American imported foods? Good times wasn't it? Good times!
Palmer: Bloody embarrassin's more like it! You don't know a damn thing bout American imported foods!
Dalby: But what about ye time you and I met at ye Bandshell and we bopped to out of date military marches? And we both waved our torches during ye closing anthem? That was "hellacool" as ye youth of today put it!
Palmer: (Lowers crossbow and points finger in genuine anger, red in the face.) Now that was bleedin 'oomiliating 's what that was! I don't give a tinkers cuss if ye does frow me back inna gaol, you are never! ever! being seen in public wif me again!!!
(Dalby and Ross both try to rush Palmer but he quickly aims ye crossbow and backs them both against ye wall.)
Dalby: Listen to me Palmer... do as I say... kill the traitor.... (He gestures with his eyes towards Ross.)
Palmer: (Confused) Why are you talkin' all funny like at sir? All slow ‘n; emphasisin' certain words?
Dalby: Oh for heavens sake, Palmer, didn't they teach you anything at that expensive brain-washing session I sent you to? Those are ye post-hypnotic trigger words!
Palmer: I haffnt got a bleedin clue whats your talking bout, sir, you are ye weirdest boss I ever worked for!! (Ross giggles.) 'n' thats sayin sompfin! (Ross looks sad.)
Ross: Please, in ye name of God Palmer, let's you and I meet at ye Farmer's Market again this Saturday, and I swear I'll read up on American imported foods before I go and won't embarrass you in front of your trendy friends at all this time! I swear! I'll play it real lowkey and cool and, and ironic even, just like you!
Palmer: Now thass a point, you were square, but relatively lowkey.
Dalby: Palmer! I have two tickets to the big KISS Army Marching Band concert this Friday! Ye concert's sold out but these seats are front row centre, and you and I can dress up in costume and makeup, I'll be the Vampire and you can be ye StarChild. and then after ye show we can go backstage and...
(Palmer fires ye crossbow right into Dalby's heart. Dalby clutches his profusely bleeding chest, crosses his eyes, his tongue hangs out, and he sinks to ye floor.)
Ross: But Palmer! How did you decide he's ye traitor?
Palmer: It was his hammy scene-stealin' over-actin' sir, thass always ye sign o’ ye villain in these Playes!
(Ross and Palmer exit ye warehouse.)
Palmer: I could o’ been killed.
Ross: That’s why we pay you, Palmer.
(A young girl approaches ye pair.)
Young Girl: Excuse me, Sirs. Hast thou perhapst seen my pet parrot? He was lost near here. He don't talk much, but makes a lot of funny sounds.
(Ross and Palmer exchange a look.)
Ross: Actually, we have. Dost thou have a name, young lady?
Young Girl: (Curtseys.) Irene, Sir. Irene Penelope Cress.
Ross: Nice to meet you, Young Miss Cress. I am The Colonel and this is Mister Harry Palmer.
Palmer: My name ain’t ‘arry.
(Based on the fragments of a mercenary’s journal)
A former mercenary who holds the informal rank of Colonel is escorted into a library at Westminster.
Already seated, enjoying a glass of wine is William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Lord High Treasurer and Chief Advisor to Queen Elizabeth. Standing near him is his son Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury.
The Colonel acknowledges both men and refrains from staring at the Earl of Salisbury’s hunchback.
Baron Burghley: Colonel, you’ve been instrumental in rebuilding our network of spies since the passing of Sir Francis Walsingham. That’s why I’ve summoned you to assist with the removal of a growing problem, the poet Christopher Marlowe.
The Colonel: What hast he done this time, My Lord?
Baron Burghley: You’ve just come from The Ipcress Folio as instructed? (The Colonel nods, slightly bewildered at the seeming change of subject.) Good. What you are about to hear will not ever be repeated outside this room, understood?
The Colonel: Yes, My Lord.
Baron Burghley: What if I were to tell you the “brain washing” project, to use the rather colourful term from the playe, actually existed? Various men were conditioned, some to reveal deep buried secrets of the enemy and some to commit murder, all with having no memory of doing so.
Earl of Salisbury: The alchemist who invented this mental conditioning betrayed Her Majesty and used one of the conditioning subjects, a constable and tailor by trade named Spicer, to murder Sir Francis with a rare poison.
The Colonel: I’m speechless. I was of the knowledge that Sir Francis died of cancer of the scrotum.
Earl of Salisbury: A convenient fiction. He had been in ill health for several years.
The Colonel: This man Spicer was tortured and eliminated, of course?
Baron Burghley: No. He has no memory of his deeds. We deemed it best to monitor his actions and observe the long term effects of the mental conditioning as well as seeing whether the alchemist traitor tried to contact him again. Spicer has led an exemplary life the last three years. There’s talk he may run for Parliament one day.
The Colonel: I can see why the conceit of the playe is disturbing, but why do you think it is connected to actual events?
Earl of Salisbury: Let’s begin with Constable Spicer. S-P-I-C-E-R. Rearrange the letters of his name and you get I-P-C-R-E-S.
The Colonel: And Marlowe? The Ipcress Folio had no authorial attribution on the handbills. I’m familiar with his past work and this play was nothing like it. No blank verse and no massacres.
Baron Burghley: Marlowe was attempting to conceal his authorship through everyday speech. The French call it Théâtre de Vérité. It will never catch on. As for the tone of the playe did you not see his last work, Maiden Holiday?
The Colonel: (Wistfully.) Ahh, Maiden Holiday.
Earl of Salisbury: Yes, it was a performance that made me greatly wish the female roles were played by actual women.
(They all chuckle knowingly.)
Earl of Salisbury: (Once again serious.) We’ve seen the ledger of the theatre company. Marlowe was most certainly the author.
The Colonel: But if I may ask, what in the play was so damning to Marlowe? Why could not the title of the playe be seeing a connection that is not actually there and the use of mental conditioning as a plot be a mere coincidence? Before this meeting I would consider the play a harmless, fantastical farce.
Baron Burghley: The parrot.
The Colonel: My Lord?
Baron Burghley: The parrot is named Ipcress, or Spicer. What colour was the parrot, Colonel?
The Colonel: Blue and gold.
Baron Burghley: The same colours as Spicer’s constable uniform. I see you are not yet convinced. Inventing patterns and all. What did the parrot say?
The Colonel: Say? Um...Ipcress. Polly wants a cracker? Give us a kiss?
Baron Burghley: Not exactly. What else?
The Colonel: Hmmm...Attack Saint Cyril?
Baron Burghley: It was “ATAC to St Cyril’s.” The programme in question was named Assassination Though Alchemical Conditioning. ATAC. It was run by a Scottish alchemist from St Andrew named Cyril.
The Colonel: I see. The playe is a cypher, telling the people of ATAC and the betrayals within the government.
Earl of Salisbury: This information must remain under cloak. Marlowe’s knowledge is very dangerous, indeed. There must be other clues in the playe we have yet to decode.
The Colonel: Could this Constable Spicer be used to deal with Marlowe? A poetic retribution?
Earl of Salisbury: No. The conditioning triggers wear off over time and Cyril destroyed the notes on his method before he disappeared.
The Colonel: Like the missing alchemists in the play.
Earl of Salisbury: Yes. Like the missing alchemists.
Baron Burghley: We considered having Marlowe arrested on the charges of Atheism and Sodomy. In Marlowe’s case it happens to be true. However, Her Majesty’s Government has been aware of his proclivities since he was at Cambridge. If it becomes public at trial we turned a blind eye to these crimes for all these years, or that Marlowe was a spy under Sir Francis….
The Colonel: I see. There must be no arrest and no trial. I’m certain I can arrange a fatal tavern fight or street robbery.
Baron Burghley: Excellent. Furthermore, collect and burn all copies of The Ipcress Folio. It is too dangerous to be public, especially once Marlowe is dealt with. After those deeds are done you will lead a renewed effort to locate and capture the alchemist Cyril.
The Colonel: Yes M’Lord.
New readers - please start at the beginning. Thanks!