Nicholas Maasten is a part-time agent for the Department.
As the series opens, Maasten is a partner in an antique store in England which is barely surviving. His source of many of the items, especially knickknacks and small figurines, might be questionable if examined too closely, but for the most post he is reputable. He wasn’t always quite so.
For a couple of years, Nicholas Maasten plied an "honest" living flying cargo between Africa and Europe. Usually the items were general goods but often there were other items onboard not mentioned in the bill of lading or the custom declarations. Never far from a jail cell and often living hand-to-mouth, it was nevertheless fun and exciting.
He got a bit of a reputation that he did not want to have when the plane he was flying over the Congo, loaded with illegal arms, crash landed near Brazzaville in an area where a mercenary band was stationed. This group, named 15 Commando, was in need of a radio operator and, in exchange for help getting out, he gave his services. This gave him more action than he wanted but it also resulted in a fair amount of money to take back home. Maasten put it into a garage, part ownership of a strip club, and the antique shop.
But before that, there had been the job with Air Chartel, a cargo flight service in and around Nigeria hauling anything and everything. And there was the Department, an unnamed British Intelligence group which operated the air freight business as a cover and who used men like Maasten to carry items with them on their journeys. He did it for a few years before deciding he could do better on his own.
Maasten would soon learn that once the Department learns what you can do, they do not forget. And when it comes to need someone to do it for them again, they always know where to reach you.