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About the Author

Majid Salim was born in 1976. His work has been published by
Springer-Verlag and The Guardian newspaper. The Eye of Control
is his second novel. He likes wine and cooking. He is married
with children and lives in Birmingham.

This novel is dedicated to my children

Majid Salim




Copyright Majid Salim (2015)

The right of Majid Salim to be identified as author of this work
has been asserted by him in accordance with section 77 and 78 of
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the
Any person who commits any unauthorized act in relation to this
publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims
for damages.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British
ISBN 9781785541476 (Paperback)
ISBN 9781785541483 (Hardback)
First Published (2015)
Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.
25 Canada Square
Canary Wharf
E14 5LQ

Printed and bound in Great Britain

Thank you to all my friends and family for their support.

Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had mens views

confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the
United States, in the field of commerce and manufacture, are
afraid of somebody, afraid of something. They know there is a
power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so
interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they better not
speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of
- The New Freedom, by President Woodrow Wilson

Chapter One

It was a despondent morning in London on 3rd May 1940,

four months before the Blitz. Germany had invaded Norway a
month before.
The cloudy sky over Russell Square seemed monochrome
this morning, or so the boy thought. Reality had become
monochrome since the start of the war. Most of his
information about the war came from newsreels, so he saw the
planet as one vast smoky black and white cauldron of violence
and death.
The boy was sat on a small blue stool in Russell Square,
selling yellow daffodils wrapped in cheap grey paper. It was
six oclock in the morning and Russell Square was lifeless. He
was wearing a thin red coat and felt a little chilly. A pall of
mist hung over the greenery in the square. There was also a
psychic pall: some agonised feeling amongst Londoners who,
along with their loved ones, were very frightened. The boy
sold his daffodils for four pence. The whole of London
seemed lifeless this morning, apart from the occasional
military vehicle racing down the street to Whitehall. News
about the war made people feel punch drunk sometimes. Fears
about the future, alongside the gradually increasing difficulty
in purchasing food, meant that nobody in London was in the
mood for mirth. There were still pockets of life in London,
like Leicester Square and Camden town centre. But on this
particular morning, London felt a little defeated.
Russell Square was a large square built on the gardens of
the Duke of Bedford. He was also responsible for many

buildings in Covent Garden, and many street names around

here were named after his family, such as Woburn Square and
Tavistock Square. The famous poet T S Eliot worked in a
building overlooking the square for Faber and Faber, although
the boy did not know if he was still doing that during the war.
It was a pleasant space, cool and green in summer and
vibrantly coloured by flowers in spring.
The boy was hoping that when the first Underground train
stopped, someone would buy some daffodils. He wanted to
sell all of them by noon. Everyone in the city had eyes that
seemed distant, as if listening to some faraway voice
hypnotising them, perhaps with stories of the power that the
winner of the war would wield. And of course there were the
stories of atrocities in Europe. What if all that evil crossed the
Channel someday?
The boy looked at the ground. Ants were scurrying in the
runnels between paving slabs, looking for food. The trees
were tall in Russell Square, and their foliage had returned
after winter. Their branches, mottled with fresh, small light
green leaves, swayed in the breeze. The boy felt relaxed. He
had had a good nights sleep. He lived in a terraced house in
Camden, and had cycled here earlier on. His bicycle was
leaning up against the railings twenty feet behind him. It had a
large basket, which he had transported his small stool and the
flowers in.
The boy spent a few minutes thinking about how the war
had changed London. Mainly the city was terrified of Adolf
Hitler. There were stories that he was an Occultist. There had
been Occultists in London in the thirties; some of whom had
admired Hitler. Mainly they had been harmless enough
members of upper middle class caf society, but word was on
the street in London that they had all been swallowed up by
the Secret Services, and were now doing various sinister
things all over the world. The war had seemed to somehow
cause lots of such spooky people to appear out of the ether and

onto the streets of London, and sometimes the air was thick
with paranoia about Nazi spies. It was a hard time, war, made
harder by the strange element of espionage. Spies were
working throughout the capital cities of Europe every day.
Nobody knew who these people were, but everyone was afraid
of them and they had given London a disconnected, slightly
on hold feeling. Nobody seemed to know how to lead a
normal life in London any more. Once in a while everyone felt
as if they were heading for, or had come straight out of, a
There was a ripple of fear that ran through London
sometimes, and that was when somebody said the word that
filled everyone with a stage dread invasion. What if the
Nazis invaded Britain? With tanks and millions of troops?
What would that be like? It wasnt a sentiment that was
openly discussed, because it was important to keep shared
morale high, and nobody was permitted to wonder aloud with
such pessimism. But the word stalked the streets of London,
under everyones breath, and sent a shiver of terror down
every spine. Nobody could imagine how mortifying it would
be to see Nazi tanks trundling down London roads like Oxford
Street and Regent Street, machine gunning people. Horrors
like that had engulfed other countries, and everyone prayed
that it wouldnt land here, and that the war would be won in
The boy wondered how long the war would last. Everyone
was hoping it would be over soon. Then it would be a real
springtime in London, not mirthless purgatory. Over the
British Museum there was an airship, moving East with a deep
bass engine burr that echoed around the buildings. It had a
massive bristling radio antenna hanging sideways from its
cabin; it was probably designed for relaying encrypted code to
ships in the Atlantic fleet. On the other side of the road there
was a man in a trilby and expensive grey overcoat. He had the
Times under his arm. He walked towards the boy. He saw the

flowers and fished in his back pocket for change. His gold
watch glittered.
Hello lad, he said, handing over four pennies. Have you
seen any train drivers today?
No sir, said the boy. He picked up a bunch and handed
them to the man.
If you see any train drivers, tell them theres a meeting at
Euston at five pm today. All the train drivers have to be there
because the War Office wants to talk to them. Its been well
advertised in advance, but just on the off chance a reminder
wouldnt hurt, theres a good lad.
Yes sir, said the boy.
The man regarded the boy. He had a tired face and
searching, war-haunted eyes. He nodded at the boy.
All right then, he said. Have a good day lad.
You too sir.
The man moved off, flowers in hand. His copy of the
Times showed a burning warship in the Mediterranean. He
was probably a civilian, but the war had affected everybody,
and cast a shadow over every bureaucracy in the land. It was a
war economy and the possibility of invasion had put the
frighteners in every company.
By this time the airship had moved a hundred feet east,
and was approaching Bloomsbury Square. The boy thought its
drone sounded sinister - it was a sound of war. Someone on
the radio had been talking about street by street fighting in
towns in Southern Europe. Would it be like that in London?
The boy shuddered.

The boy watched the man as he walked away from the

square. He passed a blonde woman, who saw his daffodils,
and then looked through the railings of the square and noticed
the boy on his stool. She pursed her lips and paused to think
for a moment, and then entered the square. She had blonde
hair and wore a black overcoat. She looked in her late
twenties. She was attractive, but with a somnolent, distant
feel, as if she was on medication for some nervous condition.
As she walked towards the boy, she made eye contact and
smiled a small smile. The boy wondered if she was an inpatient at a hospital somewhere.
Hello, she said. She had a thoughtful but worried voice.
She sounded well educated, as if a former public schoolgirl.
Hello miss, said the boy. Would you like a bunch of
daffodils? Four pence.
She reached for her handbag, and took out a purse.
Here, have a shilling, she said. He handed over the
Thank you miss.
Youre welcome. Have you sold many flowers today?
No miss, just two bunches.
London isnt really in the mood for flowers any more,
said the woman in a depressed voice.
Yes miss, said the boy. Is your husband in the Forces
She shook her head.
Im not married. I live by myself.

They are saying we might win in France, miss, the boy

said mutely.
The woman looked distant.
The war will never be over for some people, she said. I
often think about those poor men, and how they are mangled
by all the terrible machines that have been invented these past
few years. Some weapons of war are a depravity. Were on a
long evil journey, us Londoners. I suppose we have to hope
for the best and keep fighting.
Yes miss, said the boy, lowering his head.
The woman looked at her daffodils. The boy noticed her
eye makeup, and pale red lipstick. Yes, she was quite pretty.
These are lovely, she said. Where did you grow them?
Allotments in Chalk Farm miss.
Theyll commandeer all those allotments to grow food
soon. But I suppose we should enjoy little pleasures like
flowers whilst we can. Thank you, young man.
Youre welcome, miss.
The woman walked away. The boy watched her cross the
road and walk down Guildford Street. She seemed like
someone who would probably be all right, so long as the
Germans didnt invade. If they did, shed be best off catching
the train to Scotland and living there.

Chapter Two

Five minutes after she left Russell Square, the woman who
bought the daffodils for a shilling was nearing her flat. She
lived in St Smithfields, a locality just east of Russell Square. It
was a bohemian, artistic quarter, full of young people renting.
The area had always had an Art Deco feel, but the war had
cast a sombre mood, and in many ways the young people who
lived in St Smithfields bore the psychological brunt of the war
worst of all Londoners.
The buildings around here were all seven stories high, and
mostly full of apartments. St Smithfields was named because
of an old legend about a Saxon Catholic saint who saw a
vision of the Lady here, when London was just a village. On
eerie mornings like this all the buildings were suffused in the
minds eye with a strange sort of glow. It was the sort of
morning where people might want to sit and think about
meaningful things. But she tended to be too fretful ever to
think anything philosophical properly through, and anyway
she liked simpler things in life like flowers and earrings.
She needed to paint her nails. Makeup was getting more
expensive because of the war in the Atlantic. She wanted to
look good for as long as possible. Absently, she brushed a
blonde lock of hair away from her face. Her daffodils were
fresh with droplets of dew on them, and they brightened her
spirits somewhat. It had been a pleasant walk this morning.
Her name was Laura McDermott. She was twenty nine.
Her grandfather had been an Irish immigrant to London from
a moneyed family, and he had made a lot of money himself by