December 7th (1995)
When Vogel woke up in his apartment later that morning, he was fully dressed and lying face down on the couch.
The telephone was ringing.
Considering how far his hangover had progressed since he’d passed out in the early hours of the morning, the sound of a phone might as well have been the rumblings of a major earthquake.
He glanced over at the digital clock on the window ledge. 7:34 am.
Vogel put a hand to his head. It felt like there was a berserker up there wielding a pneumatic drill and doing bad things to his cranium. He sat up slowly on the couch, almost gagging on the scent of his own breath, which consisted of a dense cloud of stale tobacco and alcohol.
Dear God, said the old Vogel.
He got to his feet and staggered over to the small desk on the other side of the room.
The large wooden desk was buried beneath a pile of papers and unopened mail, as well as empty takeaway boxes, coffee cups, and beer bottles. Just one glance at the takeaway boxes, with little bits of stale food clinging to the cardboard, was enough to make Vogel’s guts heave.
He picked up the phone, glancing around for a source of water. No such luck. He noticed however, that there was a little liquid left inside one of the beer bottles. Christ knew how long it had been there, but it was wet and at that moment, Vogel’s throat felt like the surface of the Atacama Desert.
He put the bottle to his lips and drained what was left. His body convulsed mildly at the impact, but nonetheless Vogel looked at the other bottles on the table, shaking them and checking for any leftovers.
“Frank Vogel,” he said in a croaky voice, bringing the receiver to his ear.
“Frank,” said a man’s voice. “How are you old chap?”
Vogel recognised the chirpy, upper-class English accent immediately. It was an old colleague of his from the UK, but damn it, he’d only gone and forgotten the guy’s name.
“Oh couldn’t be better,” Vogel said. “How about you? How’s, uhh…”
The other man was laughing down the phone.
“You’ve forgotten my name, haven’t you?” the caller said. “Has it really been that long Frank?”
“No,” Vogel said. “Yes, I guess it has. I’m sorry, I had kind of a rough night. You’re my London friend, aren’t you?”
“It has been a long time Frank.”
Finally it clicked.
“Owen!” Vogel said. “Owen Baird. MI5. Shit, I’m so sorry man.”
Owen Baird laughed again. “It’s so wonderful to be remembered.”
Frank Vogel and Owen Baird had known each other since the early eighties. In his FBI days, Vogel had had several European contacts during the Cold War era – a handy thing to have when dealing with the threat of foreign spies sneaking into the United States on a constant basis. Likewise, Vogel had proved to be a reliable source of information for Baird regarding American defectors making their way into the UK and Europe.
The two men were about the same age. Baird was an old hand at the security game, having been involved in specialist intelligence roles, concerning Northern Ireland and other internal threats to the UK. The Brit was old school: efficient, disciplined and above all, effective. In short, he was the British equivalent of everything that Vogel used to be.
Despite their years of mutual cooperation, Vogel and Baird had met only once – in London back in 1986. And that had been a personal occasion, as Vogel and Angie had been holidaying in the UK at the time. Vogel had mentioned the trip in advance to Baird, and the Englishman had suggested they meet up with their spouses. It had been a pleasant night all round, spent in a charming West End restaurant, before the two couples had taken in a few local bars.
Had they lived closer to one another, the Vogels and the Bairds would have undoubtedly been best friends.
But what mattered most of all, was that since Vogel’s fall from grace in 1988, Owen Baird – who Vogel recalled as a dead ringer for the old English actor, James Mason – had been the only one of his international contacts not to slam the door in his face. On the contrary, Baird had helped Vogel in his ongoing search for John Lennon, sending occasional tips his way. But it had been a long time since the last one. Not surprising, as sightings of Lennon had dipped with the passing of the years.
“You do sound rough Frank,” Baird said. “Is everything alright? Are you and Angie still…?”
“Separated?” Vogel said, sitting down behind the desk. “Yeah.”
“I’m sorry to hear that Frank.”
“Yeah,” Vogel said. “Me too. How’s Cecilia?”
“Smashing,” Baird said. “She’s taken up a new hobby lately – lawn bowls. I’ve even had to join in with her on Sunday afternoons. God help us Frank, we’ve turned into a right pair of stodgy old gits.”
Vogel smiled. “Sounds great. Is she any good?”
“At bowls?” Baird said. “Good lord, no. There’s more chance of England winning another World Cup than there is of Cecilia hitting the jack. She’s bloody hopeless.”
“Yeah,” Vogel said. “Still, it sounds nice.”
“Anyway,” Baird said, moving on. “Enough with the pleasantries. I’m sorry to hear you’re not feeling well Frank. It’s not surprising of course, considering what you’ve been through these past few years. Ghastly business.”
“It sure is,” Vogel said, wincing at the morning light outside. He reached over and pulled the blinds, plunging the room into a pleasant grey-darkness.
“Well,” Baird said. “I might have just the thing to make you feel better.”
Vogel raised his eyebrows. “Oh yeah?”
“Of course it might be nothing,” Baird said. “And I most certainly don’t want to get your hopes up. But would I be right to assume that you’re still interested in any news regarding our absent Liverpudlian friend?”
“”That depends Owen,” Vogel said. “Is it as good as Paris?”
“Ahh,” Baird said. “Paris. We came so close, didn’t we? I had a good feeling about Paris. And I’ve got a good feeling about this one too. Oh and by the way, did you get the package I sent over?”
Vogel glanced at a small mountain of unopened mail on his desk. “Package?”
“Yes,” Baird said. “Well, not much of a package really – just a magazine. I sent it over a couple of weeks ago. Should be there by now.”
“Give me a second Owen, will you?” Vogel said.
Vogel put the phone on the desk and began rummaging through a pile of letters. Bills and more bills – how could such a small apartment gather so many bills? He’d really have to start opening his mail. It was either that or come home one night and find the electricity cut off. There was something else on the desk that looked like a birthday card – was it his birthday soon? There were at least a dozen letters from the bank too, which he pushed aside to reveal an A4 sized manila envelope. Vogel pulled it free and looked at the postmark in the corner – London.
He picked up the phone. “Got it Owen,” he said. “Sorry, I must have put it down and lost track.”
“Open it now,” Baird said.
Vogel tucked the receiver in between his ear and shoulder, and then ran his finger over the top of the envelope, tearing it open. From inside, he pulled out a magazine – a pop music magazine called Sounds and Beats. On the front cover were four scruffy looking lads in their early twenties wearing sweaters and jeans. All four of them were holding a corner of a large Union Jack flag and looking at the camera. None of them were smiling.
The headline read:
THE ANGELICAS: BRITPOP’S LATEST SENSATION!
In particular, Vogel noticed the style of haircuts on the young men – Beatle haircuts.
“What’s this Owen?” he said.
“Are you looking at the magazine?” Baird asked.
“Yeah I am,” Vogel said. “I’m looking. Does Cecilia know you’ve got a thing for these guys?”
Owen Baird laughed. “Have you ever heard of The Angelicas?” he asked. “Come to think of it, have you ever heard of this ‘Britpop’ music phenomenon? It’s going down a storm over here in the UK.”
“Britpop?” Vogel said. “What the hell is Britpop? Is that some sort of limey soda?”
“Not quite,” Baird said. His tone was all business now. “I didn’t think it would be big news in the States. Not yet anyway, hence why I’m getting in touch to give you a nudge. And that’s why I sent that Angelicas article over for you to read.”
“What’s Britpop Owen?”
“Oh it’s a name they’ve given to this sound – this movement – an explosion of guitar bands that’s taken off with all the kids over here. Oasis, Blur – you’ve heard of them, haven’t you?”
“No,” Vogel said.
“Then you’ve absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, do you?”
“No,” Vogel said. “C’mon spit it out Owen. I’m feeling a little delicate here.”
“Listen Frank,” Baird said. “One of the most striking things about Britpop and all these bands is the huge Beatles influence upon them. I mean, look at the haircuts on those lads. They’re all like that, all these bands – they’re all obsessed with ripping off The Beatles apparently.”
Vogel looked at the cover. “Yeah I see the hair,” he said. “But I’m still not sure where you’re going with this.”
“Just read the article,” Baird said. “You’ll understand everything after you’ve read it. Remember, it might be nothing Frank. But you always said you wanted to know about any leads about Lennon.”
Vogel sat up straight. “What’s the lead?”
“The Fifth Angel,” Baird said.
“The Fifth Angel,” Baird said again. “The Angelicas are affectionately known by their fans as ‘the Angels’. It’s like a nickname. You understand?”
“Yeah,” Vogel said.
“The article in that magazine is called ‘The Fifth Angel’. And as you can see from the cover, there are only four members of The Angelicas. Look Frank, it’ll all make sense once you’ve read the article.”
Vogel sighed. It sounded confusing. “You’re saying this is as good as Paris?”
“I am,” Baird said.
Paris had been Owen Baird’s best tip about the whereabouts of John Lennon. It had come six years ago in 1989, before Vogel had left the FBI and before his wife had thrown him out of the family home in Manhattan. Baird had contacted Vogel about an Englishman named Jon Leyden, who was found to be living in Paris at that time. Baird had received word from an MI6 contact based in Paris that Leyden, a British citizen, bore a remarkable resemblance to John Lennon. The MI6 agent had undertaken a short period of part-time surveillance, and after watching Leyden for a few days, was convinced that it was indeed John Lennon.
The agent sent a report to Baird about Leyden’s daily routine. Leyden laid low by day, working as a caretaker in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. He was also discovered to be playing rhythm guitar in a local rock band and occasionally performed in a small club on the outskirts of the city. After finding this out, Baird had subsequently reported the findings to Vogel, who was in Buenos Aires following up on another Lennon lead.
After hearing this, Vogel had abandoned his lead in Argentina. He’d already neglected his immediate duties with the FBI to travel to Buenos Aires, so a few more days in Paris wouldn’t make much difference. He flew to France the next day. The plan was that he would take over from the MI6 agent on surveillance at the Pere Lachaise. Then, if fully convinced that Leyden was Lennon, he would swoop in and take him down.
Vogel had arrived in Paris at about five o’clock in the morning. After freshening up in the airport restroom, he took a taxi straight to Pere Lachaise. In hindsight, he should have gone to the hotel and got some rest, but he was far too excited about the possibility of encountering Lennon again to think about sleep.
The cemetery opened at 8:00 am. Vogel arrived outside the gates almost an hour early, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the caretaker, the man called Jon Leyden.
Time passed slowly. Vogel had positioned himself near the wall at the main gate and sat down for a few minutes. Then his eyelids began to grow heavy. He felt his brain shutting down and everything inside him was crying out for a proper sleep. A few minutes later, he closed his eyes, intending to shut them only for a few minutes. To rest them, as they say.
When Vogel awoke, it was 8.27am.
In a state of panic, he covered every inch of the cemetery – passing the graves of famous and long-dead people such as Oscar Wilde, Frederic Chopin, and Jim Morrison. But no matter how much ground he covered – and he covered a lot – there was no sign of the caretaker. There was no sign of Jon Leyden.
Vogel had returned to the cemetery the following three mornings. But Jon Leyden was never seen or heard of again in Paris. Vogel talked to his employers in the cemetery and with people at the club where Leydon had been known to play occasionally. Nobody had seen him for a few days, they’d said. It was as if he’d just upped and disappeared without a trace.
Vogel had taken this near miss particularly hard. His self-loathing had only increased due to the fact that he’d blown it by falling asleep outside Pere Lachaise. He was convinced that Lennon must have seen him sleeping outside the gates and recognised him as that FBI agent from New York. It was the only explanation for Leyden’s sudden disappearance that made sense.
Vogel had fucked up.
Paris was the best tip he’d ever had in his search for Lennon. And as Baird said, they’d come so close – so close to catching Lennon and ending it. If only Vogel had been able to hold his shit together, it would have happened. Baird’s information had been good then, and Vogel had no reason to believe that this Fifth Angel thing – whatever it was – wasn’t worth looking into further.
“Thanks for this Owen,” Vogel said. “I’ll read the article, but I’m not sure I can just hop on a plane and jet around the world anymore.”
“Do whatever you think best Frank,” Baird said. “Let it go if you have to. God knows, you’ve tried enough as it is.”
“Yeah,” Vogel said. “I’ve tried.”
“Read the article and take it from there,” Baird said. “Okay? And if you think there’s something interesting in all this and you do decide to come over, let me know – we’ll do dinner in the West End. You, me and Cecilia. Our treat.”
“Sure will Owen. Thanks.”
“Let me give you my private number,” Baird said. “If you need to contact me – it’ll save you faffing about trying to get a hold of me at the office. This one comes direct to me.”
Vogel scribbled down the number on the back of a discarded envelope.
“Thanks Owen,” he said. “Appreciate it.”
“Goodbye Frank,” Baird said. “Look after yourself.”
Vogel hung up the phone. He stole another glance at the magazine lying on the desk and before he knew what he was doing, he was reaching across the table, his fingers eagerly turning the pages.
FAB: The Fifth Angel is available here.
The first book in the series ‘FAB’ is free to purchase at most retailers – Click here.