SEPTEMBER 20, 2005
It was a quiet day at SIS Headquarters. The Mole stared out across Pimlico for a while and then wandered to the other side of the building and watched a Eurostar cruising along below, heading out to Paris. For a moment it seemed like a nice idea but then he was drawn back to the real world by the sight of Miss Pringle-Featherby (of the Berkshire Pringle-Featherbys) tottering into the department with the post. He sauntered back to the office.
"Where is Penelope (Roedean)?" he asked.
"Oh," replied Miss Pringle-Featherby, "she's out."
This was abundantly clear to The Mole. The office was quiet and, like every good cowboy, he had recognised that it was simply too quiet. Something was going on which he did not know about.
Miss Pringle-Featherby's tone, though relatively normal for a country girl from the Home Counties, aroused The Mole's interest. He had noticed that all background noise in the office had died after he asked the question. The Mole heard one of the other Penelopes drop a pin.
"Out where?" he asked, trying to be as casual as possible.
The reply, when it came, was a mumbled and slightly garbled sentence about Penelope being off "doing research".
The Mole, fully alerted by now to a scandal in their midst, pressed on until the information he required was finally, if unwillingly, delivered. Penelope, it seemed, was attending The London Fashion Week events, being held at the Natural History Museum.
"Full of dinosaurs when I last went there," The Mole grumbled. "Are dinosaurs back in fashion?"
"It is all to do with Jenson Button," said Annabel the new girl. "Apparently Penelope is getting to be big buddies with Louise Thingy, you know the girlfriend who tried to be a singer. The word is that she and Jenson are back together again."
"I couldn't give a monkey's who Jenson is button-holing at parties," said The Mole. "I want to know if he has done the deal with Williams!"
"Ah," said Annabel, "I think I can probably help you on that one. I was down at the Goodwood Revival at the weekend and I met this very nice chap, dressed as a World War II fighter pilot. He said that Jenson's going to stay at BAR. He seemed to know what he was talking about."
"I expect that was Nick Fry," said The Mole dismissively. "Silly girl!"
Annabel looked a little crestfallen.
"Well, he wouldn't tell me how much it had cost Jenson to buy his way out of the contract," she said. "So I guess he must have known."
The Mole looked up to the ceiling and retreated to his office, muttering about "Hello Magazine Undercover Agents".
For a moment he sat there, irritated. But then he decided on a course of action and, unlocking the bottom drawer of his desk, pulled out a red telephone that lived there amid the paperclips. He pressed the Recall button.
"Allo" said the voice. "What d'you want?"
"I need to know if Jenson has bought his way out of the Williams contract."
"Do you?" said the voice.
"Yes, I do." said The Mole.
"I don't know," said the voice.
"Yes you do," said The Mole.
"You're right," came the reply. "I do know. But why should I want to tell you?"
"It is a matter of national importance," replied The Mole, crossing his fingers behind his back.
There was a pause.
"Well," said the voice. "The deal's done. Jenson paid old Frank about $30m to get out. FW must be laughing all the way to the bank. Thirty mill in real money, what's that?"
"Sixteen point six million pounds," said The Mole, doodling on his blotter.
"Yeah," said the voice. "That's about right. And Frank gets another $20m which he saves in salary."
The Mole did some quick calculation. Eleven million Pounds.
"So that's twenty-seven point six million quid he's made on that deal," said the voice. "Not bad for doing nothing."
"That's rather a lot of money," said The Mole.
"Nah," came the reply. "The hedge fund blokes these days make that before lunch."
"So why did Williams sell?" asked The Mole.
"He needed a new title sponsor," replied the voice. "I 'ear they are going call the team Button Team Williams next year."
"Very drole," said The Mole. "I expect Williams is well advanced, chasing a big deal for 2006."
"Aren't we all?" said the voice.
"All this money," said The Mole. "Button's done nearly 100 races and not won one of them and he's worth this much."
"Yeah," said the voice. "Strange isn't it? One day you're nothing and then you're a star."
"And then you're a dinosaur," said the voice.
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