into a run-down provincial cafe, just as it started to rain, he ordered foo=
pointing at it on the menu – a few words in German used, a coffee
requested. He settled down, adjusting the jacket of his well-worn black sui=
sandwich soon brought out and placed down, the tablecloth having seen better
days. The walls had also seen better days, the blood-spattered remains of m=
swatted flies making their own decorative patterns, interrupted by the fade=
of posters long since pulled down. It did nothing for his appetite.<=
forwards from where he sat, and around the edge of a small square table that
wobbled, he was afforded a good view of the mark. The man now sat across the
street and in another cafe, chatting to a pale and skinny girl that looked =
a Russian hooker, and not a local girl; they had a darker complexion. Kobus
sipped his coffee.
to use the bathroom, he eased up, edging past a few bored-looking locals
tackling soup, and ducked sideways through a narrow opening and into a dark=
a hatch on the right displaying the kitchen - and the earnest cooking going=
within. A strong smell of boiled cabbage assaulted his nostrils as he peered
through the dark for the gent’s toilet. The toilet signs were in
Bulgarian, but he knew the difference between ladies and gents in Bulgarian
from previous visits this charming country.
Pushing the door for “Maze=
”, he squeezed s=
into a cramped and tatty toilet, cursing the pungent aroma. With the door
closed he regarded the flimsy lock, not bothering with it. He peed into the
bowl, his urine stirring fag-ends floating in a dark brown pool. When finis=
he didn’t bother to flush. Since it looked like no one else had flush=
the toilet since the establishment had opened, why should he bother.=
cracked mirror above a small corner sink presented Kobus with his own image,
the slight variance in the angle of the broken glass pieces making his face
seem a little thinner. ‘You’ve lost weight, boy,’ he told=
his head, and moved to where the larger of the mirror fragments offered him=
full, yet slanted view of his own face. He took in his forty-two year old
features, the lines around his eyes, his tanned olive skin, the scar below =
hairline and his dyed-black hair; his roots would need doing in a week or s=
a face, he gave his own image a peeved look.
at his table he eased down, his coffee cooling, his sandwich unappetising. =
mark was still sat eating, but the girl was now gone. Staring at the mark, =
focusing on the face of his target, the mark turned his head, and stared
straight back into Kobus’s eyes.
managed to get his hand inside his jacket as the shot rang out, the sharp m=
forwards saving his life. The cafe’s window shattered as a scream went
up. Turning, and drawing his pistol, Kobus could see the fair-skinned girl =
over the road, standing now behind him, and taking careful aim with both ha=
Focused on the end of the barrel, that small black circle, he imagined a bu=
being released in slow motion – and how it might feel as it impacted =
pistol had been lifting up in slow motion, and had lined up with her mid
section as she stared at him in surprise, her features turning quickly to a=
terror. With his pistol horizontal he fired, his arm still rising. She was
knocked back and bent double, a hit just below her heart, the report of the
discharge sounding odd in the confined space of the cafe. Kobus had
straightened, and was moving towards her before the spent 9mm cartridge had=
tinkled off the lino floor.
all taken little more than two seconds, Kobus now beginning the move to leap
over her before she had even hit the floor and settled. His foot landed just
beyond her shoulder, gained purchase, and allowed him to continue onwards,
straight into the kitchens. The chef was now staring at the girl’s
unnatural form as she lay on the cafe’s lino floor, a horrified look
etched into his face as Kobus picked up speed.
kitchen aisle wasn’t big enough for two.
from Kobus, and the chef - along with several boiling hot pans - went flyin=
scream issued, a flare of flame caught from the corner of Kobus’s eye=
he focused on the open back door - and on freedom. He could see that the do=
wedged open by a seat, a waiter now sat on it having a cigarette. The young=
looked up with wild eyes as Kobus moved closer, the waiter soon throwing
himself the out of the gunman’s way and towards a line of cardboard b=
air signified a safe exit, but was anyone waiting? A split second choice, a=
chose the bushes and trees over an open door in a brick wall, ducking left =
right as he ran through the back yard. Moist branches caressed his cheeks a=
he ran, assuming the worst; assuming that the girl had an accomplice, and t=
a shot would probably ring out any time now. He tore through the bushes and
straddled a crumbling stone wall, halting once over and spinning, bringing =
pistol to bear on the rear of the cafe.
now did he notice his own rapid breathing and pounding heart as he scanned =
garden. No one visible, it was clear. He turned and ran.
knew the layout of the area in general, and the cafe in particular, and he =
the exits. He had at least done that part of his homework right.
lane he had reached now led him to the end of the block of shops and cafes,=
he turned left, not towards his hire car. He sprinted to the end of the blo=
an old lady seeing the gun in his hand, but he didn’t care; he was no=
against the clock. Reaching the main street and halting, a van and car drov=
past, and between them he glimpsed the mark ducking down the side of the ca=
that the man had been sat in.
the traffic, Kobus sprinted across the main road and kept going, pistol in
hand, now on a parallel course to the mark and six shops away. An alley
presented itself. He turned into it at speed, breathing heavily, and made t=
fast paces before he saw the mark reach a car, a black BMW saloon. The mark
stopped, and stared at the image of Kobus charging towards him, the man soo=
into his jacket.
fired twice as he ran, neither shot being well aimed, but one found flesh, =
mark doubled up and knocked backwards as Kobus charged forwards. Reaching t=
mark, the man now on his back and grimacing - holding his stomach where his
appendix might be, Kobus quickly put a round into the man’s knee,
dropping his weight onto the man, a knee onto the man’s thigh causing=
burst of air.
the exchange?’ Kobus shouted. ‘I know you speak English, fuck f=
Where’s the exchange!’ Kobus thrust his pistol into the bloodied
appendix area, eliciting an oddly unnatural sound from the man.
the man cried out, reaching for a jacket pocket, his features contorted.
got there first with his left hand, pulling out a folded piece of paper, wh=
he shook by a corner till open. It revealed a map and directions. Stuffing =
paper into his jacket pocket, Kobus relived the man of a silver .45 pistol,
finally grabbing the car keys, which had been lying on the damp ground.
his feet, Kobus glanced over his shoulder and down the alley, noticing now =
people staring towards him from the road as he moved towards the driverR=
side of the black BMW. Pressing the OPEN button on the key, the manual door
button clicked up, the door opened a second later, the seat claimed. Key in=
ignition, engine started and revved, Kobus selected R-Reverse and floored t=
pedal. A loud bump, and the rising of the car, confirmed the position of the
mark, and the fact that he was still lying prone, a second bump signifying =
front wheels making contact.
yards down the alley, and braking hard, Kobus could now see the body of the
mark through a rain-spattered windscreen, one leg across another in an
unnatural position. He turned the wipers on, selected D-Drive and sped
forwards, two jolts signifying contact.
tap,’ Kobus said with some satisfaction, soon reaching the end of the
alley and joining what passed for a main road around rural Bulgaria. He cut=
front of a small white car, almost forcing it off the road, and sped off be=
main highway, heading back towards Sofia, and now catching his breath, he
called in to his CIA handler, Riggs.
worked for yet another newly formed taskforce, this particular new task for=
responsible for gun running through the former Soviet Block countries, he a=
his team working out of Amsterdam. The Dutch capital was close enough to be
close, but far enough across an ocean and a jurisdictional border to allow =
some plausible deniability; a rented office, no IDs carried, jobs paid for =
Euros. They were a long way from a Congressional Oversight Committee.
had been the responsibility of the CIA’s former Russian Section ̵=
Europe/East, which had little to occupy its time with these days. The good
jobs, and the good staff, all worked in the Mid East section, save that few=
wanted to work in the Mid East section these days. And, since this particul=
had started in Greece - the assigned territory of Kobus, he had been allowe=
follow his lead into Bulgaria. It was not far on the map, as he had reported
the fact. Hardly an inch. A thumbnail in distance.
got a problem.’ Only now did Kobus register that he was wet from the
good news, boss, and there’s bad news. The good news is ... I know wh=
the exchange will be, I have a map.’
the bad news?’
made me; girl nearly took my head off. Her fucking gun jammed.’
if it hadn’t..?’
not be having this chat. She was stood two feet away.’
Kobus, too close.’
didn’t know you cared.’
the paperwork; if you’re killed I have lots of forms to fill in. And =
be up and about and walking for ... a year or so, if at all.’<=
shot him in the legs?’
shot him in the appendix, then the knee, then ran him over – twice
– with his own damn car.’
didn’t plan it that way, but I knew I’d never get another chance
after he made me. I had to move quickly.’
place the other side of Sophia, in the hills, I’ll be there before
nightfall. And I have his gun, so I’ll use that. And I’ll leave=
car at the scene, his prints all over it. All I’d need for a full set=
is his girlfriend, but I shot her.’
me know if they turn up and buy the weapons. Personally, I think it’s
nothing. But we’ll see.’ The line was cut.
see,’ Kobus repeated as he lowered the phone. He eased back into the
vehicle’s comfortable seat, and eased off the gas, taking a moment to
calm himself. He blew out. ‘Fucking hell, boy, you should be dead.
a packet of cigarettes in a well under the handbrake, he flicked open the c=
lid with a thumb, revealing both a plastic lighter and a row of cigarettes.
Shaking the pack, he loosened a cigarette, pulling it out with his lips, the
lighter shaken out onto his lap. He lit up.
hell, boy,’ he softly let out, barely above a whisper. He shook his h=
and closed his eyes for a second. ‘What the hell are you doing?’=
Of heaven and hell
Beyond the high rise blocks of Sofia, Kobus followed the map=
directions into the hills, negotiating narrow winding roads, finally haltin=
a village a few miles short of the intended exchange location. Pulling up n=
to a cafe, the hunger hit him like a kick in the stomach. Was it nerves, or=
adrenaline rush? He shook it off, soon sat in a cafe and tackling a beef st=
that wasn’t half bad.
two cups of coffee, and six cigarettes, just passing the time and watching =
world go by, he went for a stroll, the rain having eased off. Around a corn=
he slowly climbed up well-worn stone steps leading to a narrow lane, findin=
small enclosed square at the top, the local tourist trap, a dated church wi=
numerous gargoyles staring down at the sinners below. Placing a cigarette on
his lip, he peered up at a row of particularly grotesque animal gargoyles.<=
American accent caused him to turn his head, a large lady in a hat now focu=
on a gargoyle. ‘They’re to ward off evil,’ she told her l=
friend in a southern drawl.
Kobus told her. She turned, and waited. ‘They divert water away from =
stone, so that the water doesn’t erode the stone and mortar. They sta=
as simple spouts, but then became decorative – mostly human faces, th=
animals. You’ll find them in Greece, Rome, everywhere.’ He poin=
up at them. ‘Those have been altered, and re-carved to scare people.
Thank the Catholic church for that.’
never knew that,’ she admitted.
Paris, the gargoyles are not functional, they’re there to scare peopl=
people with really good eyesight – because they’re mostly over =
hundred feet up.’
just ... passing through,’ Kobus said before placing the cigarette ba=
on his lip. He stepped inside the church, dropping a coin in the collection
smoking, please,’ a priest said with an accent.
there anything in the Bible about smoking?’ Kobus toyed.
priest’s eyes widened. ‘I ... believe not, but it could be
considered a selfish act of pleasure.’
all acts of pleasure are selfish,’ Kobus responded, now staring down =
aisle and towards distant flickering candles. ‘Smoking helps me think,
and that helps me do my job, and my job keeps people safe. As someone once
said, good people sleep safely at night because bad people patrol the stree=
... are a policeman?’
a sort.’ Kobus focused on the statue of Mary. ‘But today I̵=
a dead man walking.’
priest blinked, and adopted a curious frowned. ‘Then perhaps, dead man walking, you should turn =
thoughts to what you might say to God.’
say ... that I broke a great many laws, and hurt a great many people to keep
the borders safe, and so I’ll be judged.’ He faced the priest.
‘I was raised a Christian, and I know the difference between right and
wrong, and I know much of what I’ve done is wrong. So I’ll fight
on, sinning all the while, and not be judged on my accumulated sins, but on=
tally of those I saved. Hopefully, the scales will tip in my favour.’=
priest edged closer. ‘And do you believe that ... one justifies the
believe that sacrificing my eternal soul to save a child is a reasonable
trade-off. Don’t ... you?’
priest held out his hand, a gesture for the cigarette. Kobus made a face, a=
handed over the cigarette. The priest glanced around, took a quick drag, and
handed it back. ‘We shall both be judged, and hopefully by those we
helped, not our own score cards.’
smiled. ‘I should have been judged today, a few hours ago, but I̵=
still upright and warm.’
priest clasped his hands. ‘A near-death experience can ... give us all
focus, a time of reflection.’
usually sit and think about the morgue, about being cut up,’ Kobus sa=
with a shrug, staring down the aisle.
will the world suffer a great loss, if you left us?’
puzzled the priest’s meaning. ‘I’d have one person at the
graveside,’ he said with menace, leaning in towards the priest.
‘And he’d be checking that I was actually in it.’ He
carefully mouthed, ‘So no.’
woman walked past, also American, talking about ghosts.
place supposed to be haunted?’ Kobus idly enquired of the priest.
don’t believe that a church can be haunted, since it is the house of =
Ghosts ... are those who have failed to find their way, and exist outside of
what of you, what would you do if you ... saw a ghost?’ the priest as=
easy; I’d embrace it.’
... it?’ the priest puzzled.
made firm eye contact. ‘If ghosts exist, truly exist, then it proves =
your user manual is not just a pile of crap thought up by the early church =
control people and to collect taxes. It would mean ... that this abominatio=
a species is not just some cosmic accident, and that there is a purpose. It would mean ... that I could retire to a beach =
a cold beer, because someone else would have a plan, and ... and it
wouldn’t be my responsibility anymore.’
... odd view on things. But the lack of tangible proof is what tips the sca=
between curiosity, faith, and belief. Everyone is curious, some have faith
without conviction, and some believe.’
in the first camp, at the edge, an eye on the border and a beer in my hand.=
Three hours later, darkness claimed this damp night in the Bul=
hills. And Kobus should have known that no one would show up, not now, not =
the principal mark being damp road-kill. He scouted around the area at leng=
but found no international arms dealers huddled about the campfire chatting=
stopped and froze. A camper van, parked in the bushes.
full ten minutes he stood under a tree and observed the van, no signs of
movement, no sounds issued from within. Could it be a courting couple, or j=
broken down? He slowly circled the area, twenty yards from the van, and
returned to the tree, his jacket now damp from the continuous drizzle. It h=
a warm day, and he hadn’t bother with a coat, but he knew that his su=
was getting wetter by the hour.
the van, each step measured, each footing tested before he placed his weight
down, he finally put an ear to the van’s wet glass; nothing, no sex g=
on within. He peered in as best he could, and managed to see right through =
glass and out the other side, no one visible.
he followed the track higher through the dark, the track that had been clea=
on the map. That track now wound its way through thick trees, and towards t=
base of a cliff, heading towards a gorge. As he climbed higher, he consider=
that no vehicles had been up this track recently; it was grassed over, he c=
feel it under his shoes. He also figured it was a dead end, and a bad place=
arms smugglers to meet up for a cup of tea and a chat in the dead of night;
vehicles would have had to labour up this track.
the cliff face, he turned and took in the view, now panting a little. ̵=
of shape, boy,’ he whispered to himself. Turning, a tiny point of lig=
caught his attention. His pistol was out a second later, Kobus frozen to the
spot. He stood motionless and silent in the dark for five minutes, checking
every shadow and rock, listening intently, an ear to the breeze.
advanced slowly up the path, secure in the knowledge that anyone laying a t=
would probably not put out a light to guide weary strangers closer.<=
stopped and backed up, crouching down and tapping the damp grass with his l=
hand. A pen, a plastic pen; someone had been here. But when had they been h=
And had the deal been done hours ago? He advanced again, soon seeing the bl=
of a cave in a dark grey cliff, as well as the outline of a metal fence. He
couldn’t make out the detail, just dark grey or black outlines afford=
him in the available illumination on this dark night.
knelt, his pistol pointed towards the cave entrance. Kneeling there for two
minutes, his eyes finally focused on a body, a black outline against dark g=
beyond it the point of light. Something had happened here, and he had missed
it. It now looked like the arms dealers had not enjoyed a sing-a-long around
the campfire after meeting up; these arseholes had shot each other. But did=
buyers shoot the sellers, or the other way around. And, more importantly, w=
he learn anything useful by staying.
straightened and turned, certain that an approaching car would not only be
heard, but also seen a long way off down the hill. Unless there was someone
hanging around, he’d have plenty of warning. And then there was the c=
face and its gorges; he had an escape route.
done, he stepped cautiously forwards, each shoe delicately placed down, the
ground beneath tested. The body moaned again. With his pistol aimed at the
mid-section of the body’s outline, Kobus felt for a pulse at the neck.
Weak, rapid; the man was going into shock. Kobus rudely tapped the man on t=
head with the end of his pistol, several times, no response given. He patted
the man down: no weapons, but a shit load of what felt like climbing gear. =
this poor fellow been in the wrong place at the wrong time, happening across
the arms dealers after a pleasant day’s climbing?
lifted his head to the cliff as he straightened. Could there be something up
there? Hidden weapons stash? No, that was stupid; arms dealers didn’t
climb mountains, they met in secluded places with several exits, and then
places with easy access. He moved towards the point of light, stepping thro=
a wide gap left by open gates in a high fence, some sort of sign hanging at=
battery torch revealed itself, lying on the ground, probably belonging to t=
hapless climber. Had the man fallen from above, or had he been in the cave?
Approaching the torch, Kobus scanned the immediate area, finding it all qui=
enough. Lifting the torch, he used it to check the ground around the body.
Blood, a blood trail leading from the cave to the hapless climber. This cli=
hadn’t fallen from the cliff; he’d been in the cave.
glistened in the torch light as Kobus slowly advanced. Kneeling, he found a
brass shell casing, 9mm. His pistol was still in his hand, and now he tight=
his grip. It brought him right back to the conclusion that hapless climber =
stumbled across the arms dealers. Could they have used this cave for some
reason, he wondered. Only if they were the most stupid arms dealers in the
world; it was a dead end at the top of a terrible track.
shook his head dismissively as he inched towards the entrance to the cave,
finding another sign, this one fixed to the rocks. He illuminated it with t=
dull torch light. He didn’t understand much of the Bulgarian, but got=
gist of the writing – as well as the skull and crossbones; what was
inside was dangerous.
steps inside the cave, and another body presented itself, illuminated by the
dull yellow light from the torch. Kneeling, Kobus could find no pulse, but =
body was not cold yet; this guy had died within a few hours. Noticing a
jumbo-sized torch alongside the body, Kobus upgraded his equipment. Turning=
new torch on, its batteries seemingly fresh, he now had a good view of the =
of the cave, and its dimensions. With a glance over his shoulder, he stepped
creature opened an eye.
yards in, and the cave split left and right, the remnants of a narrow-gauge
train track visible, but buried in dirt for the most part; this had been a
working mine at some point. The blood trail led off to the right, and he
followed it deeper into the mine, his pistol still prone, the only sound be=
the odd drip of water echoing from the dark. He slowly passed and inspected=
buckets, and a line of open-top miniature train carriages that must have be=
used for carrying ore at some point.
through mud, he followed the blood trail on, soon finding a brand new backp=
again looking like a climber’s pack. Another torch in the dirt signif=
that he was on the right track, and it also signified what had happened her=
The hapless climbers, cum hapless cave explorers, had met a few bad guys. B=
they his bad guys?
body, this one face up, blood on the man’s chest, the man’s jum=
soaked in blood. No pulse, but still warm. He patted down the body, finding=
weapon, but a wallet with the usual family photographs in it, a picture of =
no gun runner, my friend. You ... were in the wrong place at the wrong time=
the look of it.’
and listening intently, he advanced slowly along the tunnel, his powerful t=
affording him a great depth of vision ahead, concentric rings of varying br=
created by the torch’s uneven lens. Sixty yards in, having turned a b=
to the left, another body presented itself, this one sat against a wall. The
man’s eyes were open, but there was nobody home. At the man’s f=
lay shovels, a pickaxe, a crowbar, and more rope.
were you after, boys? Kobus puzzled.
a few steps, he approached a section of tunnel wall, loose chippings at its
base - the signs of recent excavation. At first glance the wall appeared to=
part of the mine, but at closer inspection he could see that a brick wall h=
been made to look like it was a natural part of the mine. A fist-sized hole
presented itself, revealing that the wall was two or three bricks thick,
finally covered in concrete; a solid wall.
a finger, Kobus held it in front of the hole, detecting a slight draft.
‘So, where do you go, and
what’s on the other side? Something worth dying for, I’d
hope.’ He took in the dead man. ‘What were you after, my
inspection of the wall revealed that it had not been recently made, that it=
at least fifty years old, and clearly nothing to do with modern-day gun
runners. Kobus put away his pistol, and stood staring at the hole for a mom=
nothing but the echo of dripping water for company. Placing down the torch,=
lifted the pickaxe, and slammed it into the wall near the existing hole.
creature opened both eyes fully, staring into the dark as loud reverberatio=
minutes of earnest labouring resulted in the removal of a jacket, as well as
the removal of much of the outer layer of the wall. As that layer had come =
- the ravages of time helping by loosening the mortar’s adhesive abil=
the hole had enlarged, soon a large section falling inwards. Lifting the to=
and thrusting it through, a new tunnel revealed itself, and its dimensions,=
damp smell now escaping the hole.
eased back, and turned his head away to breath. ‘Fuck me that’s
stale.’ He forced several breaths, held the last one, and thrust his =
inside the hole again. There, in the dirt, rested a helmet, circa Second Wo=
War, a rifle – a Garand M1, US Army issue, and a body, a pair of boots
his head and arm from the hole, Kobus stepped back to breathe, adopting a
puzzled frown. ‘American servicemen? In Bulgaria?’
knew that no American servicemen had reached Bulgaria during the Second Wor=
War, so where had they come from? And, more to the point, what where they d=
down the torch, the pickaxe retrieved, the edges of the hole were made larg=
with several powerful swings - the impacts echoing and repeating down the
tunnel, many of the bricks falling away unseen into the interior. With a ho=
now big enough to crawl through, Kobus retrieved the torch, taking a minute=
listen down the tunnel.
Just a slight breeze and the constant drips of water.
a leg through the hole, he bent double, and eased inside. ‘God,
that’s a bad smell,’ he said to himself as he straightened.
Turning, he could see writing scratched onto the wall, but couldn’t m=
out the words, or even what language the words were in. His torch illuminat=
the entire inside of the wall, behind him only blackness, a gentle caress of
his ears by a cool draft.
around, he knelt next to the soldier, finding a skeleton with hair still
visible, thin fingers, silver dog tags shining back in the torch light.
‘What were you doing in here, my friend?’
he walked past the skeleton, four steps and to another skeleton. But this o=
had a leather jacket and a flying cap. ‘Aircrew, downed after a raid =
some sort.’ He nodded to himself. ‘And the local Gestapo, they
walled you up in here.’
his head, he remembered the Garand rifle, something that the local Gestapo
would never have left behind. He adopted a puzzled frown and walked on, soon
finding several wooden desks – the wood badly rotten, a few faded pap=
pencils, a faded map on the wall, its surface black with mould.
weren’t walled in here, boys, this was a local resistance cell.’=
the torch beam, he discovered rusted tins - opened and empty, bottles of wh=
could have been local wine, and stand-up wooden lockers that were now black
with mould and rotten through. Another three airmen presented themselves, t=
final one lying at an odd angle, and he seemed to be reaching towards an
opening in the tunnel wall, a hole dug out. There, inside a room partially
hidden by the remnants of an old stone wall ... rested a large sarcophagus,=
sarcophagus looking oddly out of place. Curious, he scrambled over loose ro=
and ducked inside.
over the sarcophagus, the object appearing to be some six feet long and two=
wide, he illuminated the engravings on the lid, not understanding any of the
words. The words didn’t even appear to be Bulgarian. He shrugged and =
on down the tunnel, Kobus convinced himself that the cave had been used by =
resistance, a resistance that had oddly walled-in half a dozen American air=
during the war. Splashing through half an inch of water, Kobus plodded alon=
good sixty yards, finally finding a rusted ladder leading upwards, just bef=
the tunnel ended. Licking the back of his hand, he raised it as high as he
could, detecting the breeze. It was the way in and out, the wall there to f=
the local Gestapo, not to keep anyone inside.
tapping sound caused him to turn, and to freeze. He knocked off the torch, =
slowly pulled his pistol out of its holster, soon stood motionless in the p=
blackness. He could feel the gentle breeze on his face, and hear the distant
drip of water.
again, a faint tapping sound.
were no visible lights down the tunnel, so no one was moving around and loo=
for him. Ah! A revelation hit him. One of the cave explorers in here was st=
alive and moving around. He sighed heavily.
the torch back on, he strode back towards the wall, sloshing through the mud
and the water. Drawing level with the sarcophagus he stopped dead. The sound
was here, close by, not the other side of the brick wall. But the men in he=
had been dead a long time, a very long time. He stopped and listened.
scratching sound. A rat?
almost rhythmical. A rat that could tap things? A rat skilled in Morse Code=
illuminated the sarcophagus fully with the torch, slowly walking around it =
the confined space. It appeared as if it had not been disturbed in a hundred
years, still covered in dirt and sat in mud, no marks on it suggesting that=
had been opened recently. Could the rat be inside?
distinct now, and it was definitely coming from within the sarcophagus. And=
was no damn rat, that he was certain of.
over the sarcophagus, pistol in hand, he swung the torch about, checking ev=
inch of the walls. Where the sarcophagus lay, the opening it occupied was
simply rock, and it appeared as if this small area had been roughly chisell=
out, no care for straight walls or an even floor. It was just big enough for
fucking me off now,’ Kobus quietly cursed. After again diligently che=
the tunnel, he returned to the sarcophagus and sat on it, the cold stone fe=
through his damp trousers.
tapping, and definitely coming from within, he could feel it through his ha=
He tapped the sarcophagus three times with his pistol, getting three taps b=
With a heavy frown taking hold, he tapped twice, getting two taps back. Jum=
up, he quickly walked to the end of the tunnel, to the body of the first
airman, halting and lighting up.
dark, he could not be sure of the passing of time, and time passed very slo=
enough time for three cigarettes and a great deal of thought. ‘What a=
you afraid of, boy?’ he finally asked himself. ‘It’s not
dying, so what is it. Afraid of a ghost, of a monster? You said you’d
embrace it. Well, here’s your chance.’
shook his head, rubbed his forehead and took a long drag, exhaling slowly
through pursed lips. ‘It’s not the idea of a ghost that worries
you, is it. What did the priest say: curiosity, faith, or belief. That̵=
what you’re afraid of, boy, you’re afraid of being right.’=
his head, he went and fetched his jacket from where he had left it in the m=
tunnel, placing it on because he was now getting chilled, the sweat from hi=
labours in opening the hole now cooling on him. Stood at the entrance to the
hole he had made, he almost turned and left, finding himself stood there fo=
good ten minutes.
stood thinking, thinking about a great many things, of life and death, and =
his death. He finally made a face and shrugged, ducking back into the hole.=
on the sarcophagus, he lit a fresh cigarette, taking a moment in the dull t=
that girl didn’t miss me. Maybe ... I’m in a coma in hospital, =
dreaming this.’ He heaved a sigh. ‘Fuck it.’
banged the sarcophagus hard with his pistol, twice. Two taps came back. Eas=
down onto a knee, the cold damp mud ignored, he examined the edge of the
sarcophagus in detail. It had not been opened recently. Three taps came.
up, he sighed, kicking the side of the sarcophagus in anger and frustration.
Retrieving the pickaxe, he stomped back to the sarcophagus with determinati=
placed down the torch, and gave the stone lid an almighty whack at one end.
Several cracks appeared, as well as a small hole. Dropping the pickaxe, he =
two fingers into the hole and pulled out a piece of stone.
slowly reached out, the pale white fingers feeling the edges of the cracked
stone, long nails scraping.
have so ... got to be shitting me.’
hand slipped inside. ‘Help me,’ came in a whisper, a man’s
voice, the words English but accented.
stared down at the hole, and into the black interior, his mouth hanging ope=
He cleared his dry throat. ‘Hello?’
came back in a whisper.
took a long drag of his cigarette, pursing his lips as he exhaled. ‘T=
is so fucking weird.’ Loudly, he asked, ‘Who ... who are
am ... Cornelius De Vargo,’ came a whisper, almost a plea.
took another long drag of his cigarette, studying the hole. ‘And ... =
survived in there ... how?’
answer came back.
speak the tongue ... of the men from the colonies.’
puzzled that. ‘Colonies?’ he repeated to himself. ‘The
American servicemen? You, eh, you been in there sixty years, my friend?R=
much ... longer.’
took a final drag, flicking away his cigarette. He lifted the pickaxe, and
smashed it down with anger and determination, three heavy blows cracking the
lid in many places. Throwing down the pickaxe with anger, he sat on the edg=
the sarcophagus and lifted out a large section of lid, straining with it as=
threw it down. There, lying inside, was a frightened young man, deathly pal=
long white hair, big brown nervous eyes.
stared down at the young man in the torch light. Lifting the torch, he shon=
directly towards the young man, the man squinting away from the bright ligh=
‘What ... the fuck ... are you?’
... am like you.’
survive in there for ten minutes before the air ran out,’ Kobus point=
out, examining the young man’s clothes. ‘So no, my friend,
you’re not like me.’
have little fear,’ the young man noted.
‘Should I fear you?’=
... should fear me,’ the young man said, now with some strength in his
moved closer, inching his face towards the young man. He placed a hand insi=
the sarcophagus, and felt the mouldy old fabric of the clothes that the you=
man wore. ‘There are many things I fear, but you’re not one of
young man squinted towards Kobus. ‘You dance with death, you do not f=
it. You are a warrior.’ He turned his head and sniffed the air several
times. ‘You did not kill the men who sought treasure. You take the ki=
schilling and work for the magistrate.’
did you survive in there?’ Kobus repeated. ‘And what, the fuck,=
was a man like you, once, a long time ago. I danced and made merry when new=
the West Indies reached our town.’
have ... been here a long time.’
what are you? And why do you speak English?’
speak the tongue of the men from the colonies. They ... taught me.’=
... who came in strange craft through the air, a war with Germania.’<=
back to my other question, what=
... am a man like you, but...’
... one that can survive a few hundred years without air, or ... food, or
water.’ Kobus waited.
am a man of two halves, and wish not to be judged.’
puzzled that. ‘I’m not here to judge you, my friend.’
would judge the darker side of me, that which keeps me alive.’=
side?’ Kobus nudged. He waited.
of me lives a demon, not what you see now.’
... demon? Like ... heaven and hell, demon from hell ... kind of demon?R=
men from the colonies called me ... a vampire.’
eyes widened. ‘A vampire?’
... change when the creature has control.’
young man stared up at Kobus, trying to make some sense of the man who had
released him from eternal darkness. ‘You ... have no fear. You ... wi=
to dance with death, to be close, to smell death. You ... seek answers, I c=
read it in your thoughts.’
slowly nodded to himself. ‘We all seek answers, not least what the fu=
you are. So, change for me.R=
I give in to the demon, it will be =
who you talk with, not me. He may kill you.’
don’t ... care,’ Kobus stated with some attitude. ‘Right =
I’m sat on an old stone sarcophagus with someone who should be dead, =
yes – I have a few questions. One of those questions, asked of me
recently, was ... what would I do if I truly saw a ghost. Well, what I woul=
... would be to embrace it.’
young man puzzled that odd statement, tipping his head as he looked up.
my friend, I’d embrace it, because it would mean that there is a God,=
there is a heaven and hell, and that maybe, just maybe, there’s a plan
for all this shit – a plan that makes sense to someone. It would mean=
that mankind is not some giant cosmic accident, that we’re not just w=
our time. It would mean ... that our pathetic little lives have some meanin=
the grand scheme of things. So you, my friend, and your demon within,
don’t worry me. I have a few demons of my own to deal with.’
drew his pistol, the weapon being carefully observed by the young man.
‘So, let the demon out, or I’ll leave you here ... with a few e=
holes in your skull for ventilation.’
young man smiled, a weak and thin smile formed. ‘If I thought your we=
might kill me, I would – as you say - embrace it. Those from the
colonies, they made loud noise and fire, small things passing into me and
through me. But I went on.’
lifted a pale white hand, long and curled fingernails. ‘Put your noise
and fire in my hand, and observe.’
took a moment to study the young man, aimed at his palm, and fired a round
through with a loud echoing report. Studying the skin in the dull torchligh=
Kobus could see a little blood around the wound but, as he observed, the ho=
closed itself, the fingers of the hand flexed. ‘Fuck me.’ He
grabbed the hand and turned it over, inspecting both sides.
you still wish to see the demon?’
nodded. ‘I do,’ he said after a moment.
young man lowered his head and closed his eyes, grimacing. His chest rose u=
deep breath inhaled, his mouth stretched wide and contorted as Kobus eased =
a little. Rising from the sarcophagus, a new face appeared, lifting up into=
upright sitting position. The new face offered prominent bones, an older fa=
– that of a middle-aged man, wild and strong eyes, and a set of pointy
teeth right across the mouth.
took a long drag, and slowly exhaled. Easing forwards, he put his own face =
within a few inches of the demon.
hold no fear,’ came a deep and resonating voice. ‘You tempt dea=
you puzzle it and probe it, even welcome it.
slowly nodded to himself. ‘Do you know anything of heaven and
... know only of myself, and this prison within a prison.’
... within a prison?’
am imprisoned within this body, this body within these walls.’=
pointed with the fingers holding his cigarette. ‘Door’s
creature turned its head and upper body towards the main tunnel. And then
wrong?’ Kobus probed when he caught the creature’s look. He wai=
taking a drag. ‘Big wide world out there.’
my world,’ Kobus said with a sigh. ‘A great many people, a great
many police officers and soldiers with guns, and weapons far more dangerous
than this pistol.’ He waved the pistol. ‘But the fact is ... no=
would want to harm you, they’d want to study you; you could make your=
a lot of money and live well in the world you’d find out there.’=
sighed. ‘If Michael Jackson did it, so can you. Of course, they
wouldn’t let you run around and kill people; you’d have to get =
on processed food, the occasional fatted calf.’
yet ... you haven’t tried to kill me.’
creature again looked over its shoulder at the tunnel, and at freedom.
easier for you to ... live out ther=
if ... well, if you had a little help.’
creature focused on Kobus. ‘You would have me do your bidding.’=
can always stay here, if you like.’
creature stared back. ‘You take the king’s schilling and kill f=
the magistrate. You are like those who pursued me.’
like those, exactly. And right now, you, my friend, are the most important
thing in the world to me, because you represent hope.’
that there’s a meaning to this life, hope that God has a grand plan f=
us, that there is a goal for us. You see, my annual psychiatric report says
that I have a constructive personal=
that I like to make things, fix things, and see things work. I like to make=
to work things out, and to see progress. I care ... very much for my fellow=
– as a whole – but I don’t mind losing a few along the wa=
like the cave explorers here. It’s important to me that the ship gets=
port in good condition, not that all of the sailors survive. Can you ...
understand any of that?’
can read your thoughts, some of your thoughts, yes. You would have me do yo=
bidding for the king’s schilling, to restore order to chaos.’=
in return...’ Kobus floated.
in return ... I survive in your world, with your help. And what would a man=
the magistrate see me do?’
would see you kill men, and – you know – drink blood or eat the=
whatever it is that you do, but just those that displease the magistrate. T=
would also be pleasures of the flesh - women, drink and food in excess.
It’s a big wide world, plenty to do and to enjoy, and in a few places
you’d be less than scary.’
other will resist me.’
young man? I’ll talk to him, since I don’t think he wants to st=
here either. Does he ... fear the outside?’
greatly fears your world, yes.’
took a drag. ‘What else does he fear?’
fears that I may gain control, and that he will see my world through his own
you kill, does he see and feel everything?’
And when he’s in control, do =
see and feel everything?’
old man nodded. ‘Yes.’
placed you in here?’
did,’ the creature snarled. ‘He sought out those who would help,
and paid them in gold coin, to place him here and build walls, to be here f=
kid,’ Kobus commended. ‘He didn’t want to live with you
running around killing people. Which begs the question ... as to why you let yourself be sealed in
creature lowered its head.
can control you, can’t he.’
... learned to take control, in the tenth year.’
young lad. And now, you speaking to me? Would I be right in assuming that
he’s allowing it?’
creature did not answer.
I have your agreement in principal ... to work with me, not against me, and=
work with the young lad, not against him? In return, you get the pleasures =
the world through his eyes – and my guidance through my world.’=
be it, because you are more like me than him.’ With a curled lip of
smile, the creature lay down, its features relaxing, soon the frightened fa=
of the young man peering up. He eased upright.
heard all that?’ Kobus asked.
did so hear the agreement you made.’
the half in control, what do you say?’
... wish to live, to see the sun and smell flowers...’
... am afraid, and afraid that I will do evil.’
want you to do evil, that’s the whole point, but to the bad people, a=
then for the king’s schilling. If you kill the bad men, you’re
doing good – by protecting the good people from harm.’=
young man peered over his shoulder at the tunnel.
great journey starts with a single step,’ Kobus stated. Easing up, he
grabbed the young man by the armpits and lifted him upright. The young man
wobbled, carefully taking a step outside of the sarcophagus, barely able to
take his weight. ‘Will your strength come back?’
But ... there is a faster way.’
me to the men who are dead, but still warm.’
that faster way,’ Kobus realised. He helped the young man into the
tunnel, to the right and slowly along, past the airmen. ‘These
we killed them and drank their blood.’
you refer to the demon in you as yourself?’ Kobus puzzled as he helped
the young man along.
men here, they found us after the demon had made a noise to attract them. I
could have fought harder to stop the demon, but I was weak.’=
didn’t kill them straight away, not if you learnt English,’ Kob=
noted as he eased through the hole in the wall. He helped the young man
through, a mass of long white hair coming through first.
did not die quickly, and ... one man I kept alive for many cycles of the mo=
The men from the Americas, they had food inside of steel, and he lived off
that man taught you English?’ Kobus asked as they approached a dead c=
demon can learn very quickly, and I know what it knows. I can hear the word=
read thoughts to know what is meant.’
make for a hell of a card player.’
seek to benefit from me, to make profit,’ the young man said as he kn=
making of the profit is not as important as how it’s used – to =
turned up, that of the creature, the older man. It stared dispassionately up
for a moment, then sunk its teeth in the cave explorer’s neck, a slur=
sound issued, mixed with a growl like a lion.
four minutes later the demon stood, now more steady on his feet, as well as
adopting healthier skin colour; pale instead of white. It licked its blood-=
Kobus asked. ‘Need more?’
creature studied Kobus for a moment. ‘Enough.’ He closed his ey=
the young man soon back.
does not trouble you,’ the young man said as he glanced down the leng=
of the tunnel.
are a great many things that trouble me, and on certain days – you
feeding might trouble me on some level. But that guy was dead, and you
didn’t kill him. And if it helps you, and you help me fight the bad g=
then it’s a good act.’
would justify the means by the end.’
most people? Does a father beat his child for discipline, for the childR=
benefit in later life, or for pleasure?’ Kobus grabbed the young
man’s arm and led him forwards, holding the torch in his left hand. <=
magic gives you light in this strange lantern?’ the young man asked as
and cheap imports from Asia.’
know nothing of your world,’ the young man sighed.
At the mouth of the cave, the young man stopped and breathed d=
lungs filled with clean and fresh air.
a while, huh,’ Kobus let out.
stepped forwards, the young man lifting a hand to feel the falling rain. He
stopped. ‘What awaits me, these wonders that the men from the colonies
than they knew of awaits you, and in some cases less – a lot less. Th=
were from the year 1944, it’s now 2010 – sixty years later. And=
hell of a lot has changed.’
lights in the distance, these fires burning.’
street lamps and house lights. All houses have lights at night;
young man turned his head, and waited.
Kobus faced the distant lights. ‘How the fuck do I explain
electricity?’ He blew out. ‘Some things can only be explained at
length, and step by step.’
young man took a step backwards, back from the rain, and from the world that
lay beyond the cave. He glanced over his shoulder at the dark cave.<=
second thoughts?’ Kobus asked.
fear that the demon will hurt many.’
is a new world, and your demon wouldn’t last long here. There are more
magistrates than blades of grass, more guns than birds in the sky. And ...
there are many men here who do far more evil than he ever could.’
see me as a child.’
are, and what’s out there will shock you; you’re not so scary to
these people. They make TV programmes about vampires; they’re very
band of travelling actors, a stage drama.’
I see. They tell stories of my terrible deeds.’
they make light of your terrible deeds, and laugh and smile at them.’=
manner of person would smile as such deeds?’
a different world. And, after you’ve seen the traffic and eaten at Mc=
you may just want to be back in the damn cave.’
your estate far?’
estate ... is in Britain.’
of the Angles? Across the water to the north?’
across the water to the north. But I doubt we’d get you on a plane wi=
a haircut and a manicure. So, there’s a motel I passed, rooms with
discreet access, so you’ve got a date with a hot bath.’<=
bath would be good. Is there a fire ready to heat the water?’<=
... yes, the fire is burning ready. And we’ll get you some clothes th=
are less than five hundred years old,’ Kobus quipped.
young man regarded the tattered clothes that hung on him. ‘Yes, a new
shirt. You have coin?’
have coin, Cornelius.’
young man took a moment. ‘That name hurts my ears.’
took a moment to puzzle the lad’s meaning. He shrugged. ‘What n=
would you like to use?’
... don’t know.’
call you Drake.’
used to refer to vampires as Count Dracula, so Drake for short.’
is ... this Count Dracula?’
was supposed to be you, but I guess it lost a little in translation over the
was not a Count, but a tailor’s son and apprentice.’
lit a fresh cigarette as they stood there in the dark mouth of the cave.
‘How did the demon get into you? Did you ... rape, pillage and slaugh=
bring down the wrath of God or something?’
shot Kobus a look, frowning heavily. ‘No,’ he insisted. He lowe=
his head. ‘But I did sin. I drank mead and lay down with girls out of
slowly exhaled, nodding his head. ‘Drank mead ... and lay down with g=
out of wedlock, eh.’ He shook his head. ‘You have no idea what
waits for you out there, do you.’
greatly fear this new world,’ Drake softly admitted.
first things first. Can you break those nails off, you look a bit ... you k=
like a weird old Chinaman.’
to snap the long nails as Kobus took out a pocket knife, soon sawing through
long white hair and letting it fall.
done, Kobus stood back and lifted the torch. ‘You still look like shi=
so we’ll get you a haircut tomorrow. You ... ready to leave?’=
focused on the distant twinkling lights, the lights of houses down the hill=
straightened. ‘I am ready.’ They walked forwards, and into the
the BMW, Drake halted. ‘There is a man, hidden, he waits, he has ... =
fire stick that you have.’
had his pistol out in a second. ‘Where?’ he whispered. <=
pointed. ‘Fifty paces. And there, a second man, a third further down =
hill. They show fear, and anger, and they wait.’
killed their friend.’
turned his head, just a dark outline. ‘Why ... did you kill their fri=
criminals, and they seek to profit from selling weapons against the rules of
the magistrate. Those weapons will harm many.’
‘I will be judged by those I save,&=
you told a priest.
can read that in my mind?’ Kobus whispered.
can, since you thought it when you explained why you had killed the man.=
Drake faced forwards. ‘We must stop them from their commerce.’<=
here, I’ll get around behind them.’
Drake called as Kobus started to move off, a hand on Kobus’s arm.
‘They may harm you. They cannot harm me.’
halted, staring at the dark outline of the young man. ‘You’ve o=
been out the cave five minutes, are you up for this?’
must admit that ... killing these men is a task that best suits me, in this
time or mine, in your world or mine.’
let the demon out?’
it helps you, then yes.’
controlling the demon afterwards?’
is happy to wait, and to observe with great curiosity, since he thinks you =
lead me towards disaster.’
might just do that,’ Kobus whispered.
say the words, but you hope they are not true; I sense that you would guide=
and protect me. So I will do this act, and be judged by those I save, not b=
acts I commit.’ He ran forwards, and soon out of sight.
seconds later two shots rang out, followed by a scream. Kobus edged down the
track slowly, pistol prone. Another shot, a cry, two more reports echoing. =
just silence. A minute later Kobus could hear footsteps, a dark shadow walk=
up the path. He held off firing.
is done,’ Drake coldly stated.
straightened. ‘Did you ... you know, feed on them?’
I ... we snapped their necks li=
game before the plucking.’
Let’s go then.’ Kobus holstered his pistol, leading Drake to the
car. The BMW’s lights flashed and the door locks clicked open as they
neared, Drake halting.
is it?’ he asked, peering at the car.
took a moment. ‘It’s a ... carriage without horses, fire inside
that makes the wheels turn, and we don’t have time for a fucking less=
Get in.’ Now sat in the driver’s seat, Kobus waited, looking for
Drake. He sighed. ‘Like he knows how to use a fucking car door.’=
leant across the seats and opened the door, the light coming on. ‘Come
inside, and sit like me.’
nervously edged into the car.
pointed at his own car door. ‘Grab this part, and pull quickly towards
pulled the handle and closed the door with a click. Running an eye around t=
vehicle, he said, ‘Such wondrous workmanship, a carriage fit for a ki=
And glass, like in church, fine glass.’
you see, reliable. And ... all cars are like this, the same workmanship. We=
in Britain they’re not, but you’ll get used to that.’ He
started the engine.
Lessons start tomorrow.’ Kobus turned on the headlights, reversed out=
little, and started down the track, soon to a road and picking up speed.
was sat smiling widely. ‘This carriage moves at great speed, and glid=
like a swan.’ He pointed at the steering wheel. ‘This wheel cho=
where the nose of the beast follows.’
wheel, and yes – it chooses the direction.’
joined a main road, soon reaching eighty MPH, Drake smiling like an idiot. =
another car passed he panicked, a hand raised to his face. Looking over his
shoulder, he said, ‘I feared we would collide, to pass so closely.=
I’m a safe driver.’
is ... road-kill?’
well ... small animals that the beast accidentally kills as it moves.’=
a field mouse under the wheels of the cart.’
They pulled into the roadside motel, halting i=
quiet corner of the car park. ‘Stay here,’ Kobus said as he eas=
out, leaving Drake alone in the car. Paying for a room, Kobus ordered food =
be delivered, paying over the odds. Back at the BMW, he opened Drake’s
door. ‘Come on, before someone sees you.’
followed Kobus into a ground floor chalet, Kobus checking the car park with=
look back. With the light flicked on, the door closed and the curtains draw=
placed down the car keys and eased off his damp jacket.
workmanship,’ Drake noted, running a hand over the frame of a cheap
watercolour. ‘Such wonders, a suite fit for a king.’
this is poor quality. There are better rooms, and they’re cheap for t=
shook his head in admiration. ‘How you live.’
get used to it. Right, you stink, so follow me.’
followed Kobus into the bathroom, seeing his own image for the first time in
many centuries, and stopping to stare at the pale young man staring back.
‘I have not gained any years, but I am pale like the end of winter.=
looked over his shoulder as he tackled the shower settings. ‘How old =
you, I mean ... were you?’
was three years past twenty, to be wed to a fine and sturdy wench that my
father favoured.’ Drake turned as the shower came to life, puzzling i=
‘Where does this water come from?’ He lifted his head to the
metal pipes in the ground.’ Kobus eased past Drake, opening a wardrobe
and finding a white fluffy robe that needed a wash. Still, it was step up f=
what Drake had on. ‘This robe, you wear it after washing, OK. Your ot=
clothes, put them out through that small window.’ He lifted a motel-i=
soap bar in plastic and unwrapped it, handing it over.
wash with it, rubbing it all over your body when you’re stood upright=
the water.’ He grabbed a small shampoo vial and opened it. ‘And
this ... you squeeze this out onto your hair to wash it. Take your time, and
stay here; I’m going shopping for you.’
the chalet, and checking again the car park, Kobus wondered what Drake woul=
with the bidet, and what state the room would be in when he got back. And w=
this wise, leaving him in there.
edge of Sophia, Kobus noticed a supermarket that was still open at this hou=
and bought additional soap and shampoo, plus toothbrushes and paste, but not
just for Drake. Kobus’s overnight bag was still in his hire car,
abandoned earlier. It was no great loss, just inconvenient. He found two ge=
fleeces that seemed about the right size, and a cheap tracksuit - yellow wi=
black stripe. He could not guess Drake’s shoe size, so bought a pair =
slippers, a stretchable soft fabric. At the quiet checkout he grabbed biscu=
at the motel, he slowly circled, checking cars, finally parking the car in a
lane and under trees. Back at the chalet, he scanned the car park at length,
and turned the key in the lock. Inside, he saw no sign of Drake. ‘Sti=
stepped out from the bathroom, now in the white robe, his skin tone matching
the robe. ‘I sensed your approach,’ he said with a keen smile.<=
dumped the bags onto one of two single beds.
see,’ Drake called.
curious frown, and wondering about the state of the bathroom, Kobus stepped
forwards. Inside the bathroom he found it wet, wet in many places it should=
be wet, towels on the floor – and now very wet.
mastered the water, making it faster or slower, warmer or colder.’
done,’ Kobus sarcastically offered.
look.’ With a wide smile, Drake turned the cold water tap on, then of=
‘Water flows, water stops.’ He straightened. ‘Such wonder=
peeked into the toilet bowl. ‘Mastered the toilet?’
studied the toilet. ‘What does it do?’
know, after you drink a lot of mead ... you need to go.’
yes.’ He pointed. ‘You go here?’
then flush’ Kobus reached across and pressed the flush.
But I do not ... go.’
Drake stopped smiling. ‘If the demon feeds in the quarter, I need not
food or drink.’
... could you eat?’
I can, but the demon becomes irritable.’
Kobus called, leading Drake to the main room. He opened a plastic bag and
pulled out a track suit. ‘Go into the bathroom and place this on.R=
studied the yellow tracksuit intently as he turned for the bathroom. A minu=
later he emerged, the tracksuit a reasonable fit.
now you look like fucking Bruce Lee.’
clothes are not suitable?’ Drake puzzled. ‘They seem most finely
do for now. Here.’ Kobus handed over the slippers. ‘They’=
called slippers. What were they called in your day?’
Drake sat on the end of a bed and placed on the slippers, which fitted well
enough. Standing, he walked around in them. ‘Great softness for slipp=
no errant thread or stiffness.’
your old clothes?’
through the small window as you desired.’
thought it smelt better in here.’ From a bag, Kobus pulled out scisso=
‘Sit.’ With Drake sitting, Kobus cut his hair, a rough job.
‘Better, but it still needs work.’
ran a hand over his head. ‘Short hair for the summer.’=
presented a hand, and Kobus cut what was left of the long nails as best he
almost look human. Someday soon we’ll get you a dermatologist;
you’ve many oddly-large blackheads in your skin.’
you wish, if I will appear more fitting in this time.’
sat, opening a bag and retrieving a chocolate bar. He snapped a chunk off f=
himself and chewed, breaking off a lump for Drake as an afterthought.
sniffed the chocolate, before placing it into his mouth. Smiling as he chew=
he said, ‘Wondrous.’ He pointed towards the door. ‘A man
brings beverage and food. He approaches.’
eased up and stepped to the door, accepting pizza and cans of beer.
‘Danke,’ he offered the man, not wishing to seem British, or
Afrikaans for that matter.
sniffed the air. ‘What is it?’
the ... food of the Venetians. And mead. We call mead beer or lager.’ Kobus sat against the headboard, and
cracked open a can, soon munching on a pizza slice as Drake worked his way
slowly through the chocolate bar. Lifting the TV remote, Kobus turned on the
room’s small TV.
jumped back, startled. ‘What is it?’
used this word before; an ensemble of stage actors.’ He pointed. R=
see them, but where are they?’
TV shows you things happening in other places, like magic. They’re far
sat on the edge of the bed, now keenly focused on the TV, the news relaying
images of the Iraq conflict. ‘Where is this place?’
took a moment. ‘Iraq, a place in the east where ... I fought in a
focused on Kobus, and waited.
near the home of the Persian Empire.’
yes, the Moors; always a war with the Moors. They move towards Dacia. They =
in my time. And again now?’
took in the images, not happy with the topic. ‘No, now ... now we mov=
on their land, to remove a fals=
that hurt his people. But in the fighting we hurt many more than just the f=
are saddened by this, and angered,’ Drake softly noted.
you hurt those you go to help.’
the cavalry charges, their blood up, they know not the farmer or the peasant
boy from the enemy soldier in the heat and the dust.’
true,’ Kobus softly noted.
taking his eyes off the TV news, in Bulgarian, Drake said, ‘You were a
was. I was born in South Africa, a place you’ve probably never heard =
but went to school in Britain. After studying, I joined the British Queen=
army, an officer, and fought in the land of the Moors near Persia. And afte=
after ... I worked for the magistrate, for the American colony.’ Lift=
the handset, he changed channel. ‘That’s better for you, Friend=
And in English.’
drama about young friends in the American colonies.’ He turned the so=
up a bit. ‘You can practice your English.’
sat, transfixed, as Kobus munched through a large pizza, downing three cans=
lager. Forty minutes later, Kobus checked his pistol, kicked off his shoes,=
puffed up the pillows. He lay fully clothed, and now closed his eyes.
need sleep?’ Drake asked without moving his eyes of the TV.
can sleep just fine with the light on, and the TV, so you watch all you wan=
buddy. You have a few ... gaps =
your knowledge to fill. And they say TV is good for kids, or bad for them,
I’m not sure which.’
A new reality
At 7am Kobus opened an eye, the curtains revealing a dull grey
light. Turning his head, Drake smiled warmly, sat where he had been, the TV=
displaying a children’s programme.
put the pizza through the small window, and the small metal drums,’ D=
informed his roommate. ‘May I ask questions?’
let his legs down, and placed a cigarette on his lip. ‘Sure,’ he
said, rubbing his forehead.
go to small rooms with other people, to undertake gainful employment for co=
– known as dollars, which
transact the rent dues from the lord where they live. What dollars are left=
hand are used in the pursuit of partners for sex without wedlock, and to ma=
oneself appear better than those around them, a continuous struggle.’=
nodded, and then made a face. ‘Yep, pretty much, and definitely a
feel for Ross, he means well and struggles hard, but fails to succeed at ea=
stared at the side of Drake’s head. ‘I should have started you =
Dallas; you’d have a better fix on the world.’
saw images of the men I killed.’
the TV, images of the men of the magistrate in blue, and the three men I
you understand any of what was said?’ Kobus pressed.
and the magistrate believes the men to be criminals, members of a group =
a group of bad men.’
entered the cave, yes. The men who sought treasure were taken in bags, also=
men from the colonies. You are concerned.’
work for the magistrate in America, where Ross and Rachel live, not here. I
work in the shadows.’
are a spy.’
did you get that word?’ Kobus idly asked, yawning.
was spying on Rachel, and Chandler spied on a woman, and a man spied on Mon=
Spying is common in Friends. And they eat pizza like you, and are very care=
with the cleaning of teeth.’ He turned his head, a puzzled frown adop=
‘Joey lies down with many women out of wedlock, but always seeks more
company – and seems at a great loss to understand women. He has much
experience, but is always at a loss to understand them.’
stared down at Drake. ‘All women are different, and knowledge of the
moods of one does not help with=
think Rachel and Ross will unite again,’ Drake said as he turned back=
stared at the back of Drake’s head. ‘I’ve unleashed a
monster,’ he said as he headed to the toilet. Back in the room, and
stretching, he asked, ‘Sunlight, it doesn’t affect you?’<=
shook his head.
pleasant with some foods.’
shook his head.
would kill you?’=
wish I knew that,’ Drake said, a glance upwards, big sad eyes display=
a moment, Kobus said, ‘I’ll take a shower, then we’ll
I wash again?’ Drake keenly enquired.
seemed deflated, turning back to the TV. ‘In the night you made loud
noises with your nose. My father did this, so I placed you on your side many
don’t snore, I just breathe loudly. I’m too young to snore.R=
are offended by this idea.’
the damn TV.’
Out of the shower, and back in the same clothes, Kobus’s
are concerned about the magistrate,’ Drake noted. ‘About me.=
Now be quiet.’ Kobus lifted his phone, and pressed the green button.
you’re still alive. What the fuck happened, I’ve just seen it on
the news?’ Riggs asked.
I got there I found a bunch of dead cave explorers, weekend amateurs, and a=
shot by a 9mm. I think they stumbled on the gang.’
the cave? They found US servicemen from 1944!’
think the locals were looking for them, maybe they thought there was someth=
of value in there, but they stumbled on the meeting place for the
‘Did they meet?’
that was called off after I acciden=
ran over that guy.’
died in hospital,’ Riggs reported. ‘What about the gang
turned up looking for me, no deal going down. Bit of a squabble in the
sake, buddy, nine dead bodies in two days; the press and the local police w=
be all over this. Luckily, they’re calling it a gang incident –=
left no evidence behind, and I’ll ditch the car.’
still have that guy’s car? They’ll be looking for it!’
tucked away.’ He focused on Drake. ‘Anyway, some good news, of a
men, they led me to a safe house in Sophia; they were holding someone priso=
Drake now turned his head, and listened. ‘And this guy is a real find=
us, but I don’t want the Company to know yet.’
what? Who is he?’ Riggs asked.
... Romanian, a young lad who used to work in the circus.’
and he reads minds.’
read minds? You been drinking, Kobus?’
the real deal, that’s why they had him. If you hold up twenty playing
cards he gets nineteen right – every time.’
tested him on a few people already, at random. He told me their occupations=
names, and then I asked them; right every time – more or less.’=
hell, buddy. A mind reader?’
centuries of circus tricks, there was bound to be some truth in it. Anyway,
he’s my new partner, so keep that in mind if we’re seen, and I
don’t want this to go up the line; they’ll take him off us.R=
wanna work with this guy?’
has ... specific skills that I think will come in handy.’
much does he know about you? About us?’
a fucking mind reader, dummy, he knew before I told him.’
look, if this guy is on the level, he could be worth a lot the agency; you =
what they’re like with their weird programmes, Distance Viewing and a=
if he helps me ... and I help you, who gets the credit, and a be=
office?’ Kobus probed.
yeah, I would.’
I crack a big case, you get the smarty points, boss; desk in Langley, not t=
far from the water cooler, bit of a view.’
really think this guy is on the level?’ Riggs pressed.
do you think they had him holed-up? They were trying to get him to do the
that’s the future, he just reads minds.’
What’ll you do next?’
of days off, back to Athens, then the next job; the weapons deal will never
shit. They’re all dead!’
me something in a few days. Over and out.’ He cut the call.
gave false testimony about me,’ Drake noted, ‘to protect me, bu=
also gain me employment with the magistrate.’
otherwise they would ask. If my boss thinks you’re useful he’ll
protect you from others who may ... desire your particular skills. And in my
game, your skills are excellent.’
lowered his head. ‘We fight the bad men, in the hope that our tally is
good at the end.’
fight the bad men, and to hell with anyone who judges us,’ Kobus said=
With Drake helping, they pushed the car along the lane, and in=
field, finding a convenient slope down towards a lake. With a final shove t=
car started rolling, gaining speed.
a wondrous carriage, to meet such a fate,’ Drake lamented.
Kobus urged as he turned.
walked down to the nearest village, a taxi hailed, an odd look given to
Drake’s bright yellow tracksuit by the driver. In Sophia, they halted=
a row of shops, Drake having spent the time in the taxi staring wide-eyed at
everything, marvelling the buildings, and the cars on the roads.
the driver, Kobus led Drake on, walking past many shops till they found a
ladies hairdresser. It looked quiet enough. ‘You do men?’ Kobus
asked in English.
woman shrugged, glancing at Drake’s blue slippers.
thrust a fifty Euro note towards her, and pointed at Drake. The lady held t=
note, curled a lip at Drake’s hair-job, and finally gestured Bruce Lee
towards a chair, a bib thrown around him.
to do?’ she complained.
shrugged at her, and sat.
Bulgarian, Drake said, ‘I want look like Joey on Friends.’
ladies in the establishment laughed – at length, but then got to work.
They cut the mangled white mop, and dyed it, a thirty minute process. As th=
did so, Kobus paid another girl to tackle Drake’s finger nails, much
complaining issued, another twenty Euros handed over. When done, Drake stood
and faced Kobus with a keen childlike smile. The jet black hair stood out a=
drastic contrast to his deathly white skin.
need some sun, you’re pale,’ Kobus said as he stood. ‘Tha=
you, ladies. Oh, where can I find a dermatologist?’
understood the word, pointing down the block. Outside, they walked down the
block, Drake catching his reflection in the glass of many shops, Kobus roll=
his eyes and shaking his head. At the dermatologist, they needed an
appointment, so a bribe was paid, and soon found a Russian girl in a side r=
English?’ Kobus asked her.
grabbed Drake by the shoulders and placed him in the seat, soon pointing the
lady towards deep and dark blackheads across Drake’s chin, neck and
shoulders. A lip was curled, a glance at the blue slippers made, but the gi=
got on with the task, removing almost a hundred black lumps from under the
skin. At the end of it, she rubbed in an acne cream with her gloved hands.<=
was a pleasant experience,’ Drake admitted after they left. ‘So=
the cutting of my hair. I admit I felt ... aroused.’
OK, so do I on occasion when a nice young girl is giving me a cut. Right, we
need some clothes for you, and a shirt for me.’
entered a men’s clothes shop. ‘You speak English?’ Kobus
asked a girl stood waiting.
friend, he doesn’t know his size. Can you guess?’
looked Drake over, frowning at the blue slippers as Drake smiled keenly bac=
‘I think medium, or more smaller.’
want underwear, jeans, t-shirt, jumper, jacket, socks. Two of each, please.=
a good order for the shop assistant, and she got to work, Drake soon trying=
pants and jeans, a fit first time. The t-shirts were OK, plenty of room in =
jumpers and jackets. And finally they squeezed black trainers onto his feet=
we’ll take them all, and another of each,’ Kobus told the girl,
taking out the cash. He handed over two hundred and twenty Euros, and left a
happy shop assistant.
feel ... strange,’ Drake admitted as the emerged onto the street,
carrying the spare clothes and yellow tracksuit in a bag.
clothes feel good, and warm, a strange sensation. I feel ... protected.R=
guess we all feel vulnerable naked.’
is next?’ Drake keenly enquired.
pointed up. ‘Sun tan.’
sun from the sky, to make your face less ... white; you look like a sheet of
paper. In fact, I’d be happy if you just looked as pale as a sheet of
paper, I’d feel less conspicuous.’
minutes later, Drake stepped into the booth and took the clothes off his to=
he was instructed to. He placed on goggles – that were not necessary =
his case, and stood still for six minutes, enjoying the warmth. When done, =
wished more time.
pale, so you’ll burn. Probably. C’mon, enough sun for one day.&=
around a corner, Kobus noticed a suitably rundown hotel, and approached. The
establishment had a room with two single beds available, for one night, the
room paid for in cash, a curious glance shot at Drake from the receptionist.
Once in the room, Kobus turned on the TV, explain the changing of channels =
going to pick up a bag I left in another hotel, and get a car. I’ll b=
hour at most. Don’t ... go anywhere.’
shall study again the world through the magic box.’
asked. ‘You heal very quickly?’
have marks on you that will put people off, small holes from the girl today.
Can you cut them, and see them heal quickly?’
in the mirror in the bathroom, make many small cuts, see if the holes
go,’ Kobus suggested before he headed out.
Kobus returned an hour later, Drake seemingly damp, but back i=
same clothes. ‘I had another shower, and mastered the controls,’=
enthusiastically reported. ‘And now my skin is better.’<=
closed in, inspecting Drake’s chin. ‘Yeah, better. Be hard to k=
the girls off you now.’
Drake repeated. ‘Is there ... a local summer dance?’
hid a smile. ‘Would you ... like to lay down with a girl out of
... is the accepted custom here, no?’
is,’ Kobus agreed with a coy smile. ‘But I think what might best
suit you – for now – would be a girl who takes coin for such ..=
down out of wedlock.’
lady of the night.’
a lady of the night.’ Kobus checked his watch. ‘There is a club=
that’s open all day. C’mon then, let’s go meet a lady of =
night, now that you’re all keen, clean and raring to go.’
drove around to the club in question in a hired BMW, this one silver with a
wooden finish, Drake now adept at opening and closing the car door, as he
pointed out. Inside the club, they found three bored looking ladies in night
beckoned one over. ‘Speak English?’
friend here has not been with ... many women.’ He handed over sixty
lady led a keen Drake away. ‘I have had a shower,’ could be hea=
as Kobus headed to the bar.
Euros,’ the barman said with attitude.
Euros? Do I get a blowjob for that?’
minutes later, and Drake hurried back, beckoning a now concerned Kobus towa=
didn’t let the demon out?’ Kobus asked in a whisper as they ste=
out onto the street, glancing back at the club.
headed to the car.
lady, she knelt before me and ... took me in her mouth, a most enjoyable
sensation. After ... afterwards, she was sick like a rabid dog for many
minutes, and went to sleep on the carpet.’
stopped dead, his eyes wide. ‘You, er ... well ... you gave her some =
hundred year old seed. A bit ... of=
I’d guess.’ They walked on. ‘Christ, that’s more de=
than I needed to know.’
I done wrong?’ Drake worried.
but ... now that you’ve cleaned out your ... you know, next time will=
feel bad for this lady,’ Drake said as they got into the car.<=
won’t be welcome back in that club,’ Kobus suggested as they dr=
off. He shook his head, wide-eyed. ‘Bloody hell.’
it customary here to send flowers?’
gave him a look. ‘Eh ... no, not to hookers.’
ladies of the night. This word was in Friends, Phoebe was suspected of bein=
got to start choosing what you watch,’ Kobus said with a sigh.=
in the hotel room, Kobus selected a channel for Drake, a programme about the
Second World War.
men from the cave,’ Drake noted, keenly attentive.
leave when it gets dark; I prefer to drive at night.’
It’s a dirty job, but someon=
to do it
An hour later, and Kobus was snoozing after a large pizza had =
delivered and eaten.
shook him awake, a hand on Kobus’s mouth. ‘There are men at the
eased up, his pistol drawn. ‘What do they want?’ he whispered.<=
seek us from the first room,’ he said softly, pointing at the pizza b=
‘They know we are the same men.’
they work for the magistrate?’ Kobus whispered.
man does, but takes coin from bad men,’ Drake softly answered.
‘They have pistols, if I say it correct.’
you do,’ Kobus said as he considered his options.
are also men in a carriage, below us.’
looked to the window, then opened it. They were two storeys up.
head appeared alongside. ‘This car,’ he said, pointing.<=
onto it, and meet me in that park,’ Kobus requested, pointing at a pa=
block away. ‘Go.’
hesitate, on the ledge in an instant and launching himself off. He landed on
the roof, the vehicle’s windows blown out, a loud report of breaking
glass created, the roof bent in and crumpled. He steadied himself, jumped i=
the road, and ran towards the park.
put an ear to the door when Drake had leapt, now hearing the muffled sounds=
shouting as they moved away. Grabbing the bags, he opened the door with the
chain on, checking the corridor quickly before releasing the chain. He ran
along the corridor, down the back stairs and out of the rear, one block over
before circling around at a fast walk. Pausing, on a corner of the street t=
the hotel fronted, he could now see several men stood around a car, a man b=
dragged clear. Crossing over, he skirted around a block, and to the rear of=
park. Stood there, scanning the trees and bushes, Drake dropped from above,
I do well?’ Drake keenly enquired.
caught his breath. ‘You did. Are you hurt?’
I am not hurt,’ Drake said. ‘Thank you for enquiring as to my
‘Thank you for enquiring as to my healt=
Kobus repeated as they walked off.
is not correct?’
correct, but you can use fewer words.’
They waited in a second park till dark, and reclaimed the BMW =
it had been left, fortunately a block away from the hotel and not in their =
hotel’s car park. The damaged car had now been removed, two uniformed
police officers positioned either side of the hotel’s entrance.
they drove south, Kobus’s mobile went. ‘Yeah?’
me,’ Riggs began. ‘Listen, your prints just went through the sy=
made me, again, and they have the cops in their pockets.’
well your prints have you down as being dead for six years, and a Russian
gangster at that.’
will be confused.’
back towards Athens.’
got some intel, and your dead friends are linked to something big, al
lot, linked to al Qa’eda?’
to buy an advanced detonation system.’
devices, somehow,’ Riggs reported. ‘If you have any leads, no
matter how small, follow them up. You have two days before the boys from ab=
send in a team.’
Kobus took a moment. ‘OK, leave it with me. Over and out.’ He c=
are concerned,’ Drake said as Kobus turned the car around.
men you killed, their friends are trying to buy weapons still, and my people
worry about it.’
must find them?’
must find them,’ Kobus agreed.
have a place to sleep and to meet, above a club for ladies of the night.=
turned his head and stared at Drake as he relayed the information. ‘Y=
read their minds,’ he realised. ‘You know where it is?’=
club has the name of wild fowl.’
of that name.’
pulled up near a taxi rank and got out. Approaching a cab, he handed the dr=
a twenty Euro note through the open window. ‘I’m looking for a
club, for ladies, name like a duck or a bird.’
You mean Ockotan?’ came back, heavily accented.
where is it?’
centre, next to cinema.’
in the BMW, Kobus said, ‘I know where it is. So later, you, young man,
will have some money, and I’ll need you to lay down out of wedlock wi=
Drake asked with a huge grin.
Ask them questions, read their minds, and sit near men and read their minds.
shall work hard at this endeavour,’ Drake said with a straight face.<=
shot him a look, Drake avoiding eye contact.
they drove, Drake pointed at a sign for the local district council, a coat =
arms. ‘This shield on a pole, it is to say whose land this is?’=
on a ... pole?’ Kobus repeated. ‘Ah, the sign. No, it’s t=
local council.’ Drake waited. ‘A group of men who rule this
there’s no king anymore.’
took a moment as he gathered his thoughts. ‘Every four years, all the
people decide who they want to be leader and king.’
frowned heavily. ‘The people ... decide on who will be king? Serfs and
peasants have a say in the running of the land?’
smiled. ‘They do, yes.’
lifted his eyebrows and nodded.
after each four years on the throne … a new king is chosen?’ Dr=
does it not lead to chaos?’
my friend, is the subject of many newspaper inches and much debate.’<=
would seem like the ebb and flow of the tide,’ Drake puzzled.<=
... yep, pretty much. The next king undoes what the last king did, and we g=
nowhere. It’s called democracy.’
At 9pm, Drake entered the club, now dressed in his jeans and j=
four hundred Euros in his pocket. The large doorman looked him over, getting
back a pleasant smile. At the bar, Drake sat and looked a bit lost, a lady =
approaching, a few words exchanged in Bulgarian, a price fixed, money count=
out slowly and handed over, being handed on to the barman.
minutes later Drake returned, trying to hide a silly smile, the lady taking=
seat again. He sat at the bar, close to four large men, his back to them.
‘A tankard of your finest ale, innkeeper.’ As an afterthought, =
small beer was placed down. ‘Seven Euros.’
scanned the numbers on the notes, and then the few coins he carried. ‘=
there a seven Euro coin?’
the barman puzzled. ‘Give me the ten, I give you change.’
Drake handed over the ten Euro note, coins returned, and keenly examined. &=
are nice and shiny,’ he commended. ‘Thank you indeed.’
barman shot him a quizzical look.
Drake sat drinking, the men behind him chatted quietly about many things. W=
his drink finished, a different lady thought she might try her luck, another
price agreed. He headed off again, being curiously observed by the first ho=
an indignant look offered.
minutes later he returned, alone, another beer ordered with a cheery smile.=
hooker returned five minutes later, complaining ‘a long time
cumming’ to the other girls.
resumed his task, that of reading the minds of the bored men sat around the
bar. With his beer downed, Drake went to stand, but halted, a hand on his
stomach. He burped loud enough for everyone in the club to hear.
‘Sorry,’ he sheepishly offered.
fuck me,’ the barman complained, swiping a dishcloth around at the sm=
created. A punter moved away, and to another stool.
his chest with a fist, Drake approached a third girl, a price agreed, the r=
of the girls in the room – as well as the men – now wondering a=
the insatiable stud in their midst, the young man now on his third girl.
minutes later he returned, again a silly smile fixed to his face, all of the
men now watching him. He ordered another beer, the barman keeping his dista=
as he placed it down. With the beer downed, Drake felt unwell, and stood,
holding his stomach. The pain grew, his features contorted, people noticing,
everyone now focused on him.
bent double, but forced himself upright, a huge belch issued, like a randy
Walrus sounding his intentions. But in that same instant Drake passed wind,=
full six seconds worth, a hand on the bar stool to steady himself.=
Kobus was sat in the car with the window down, smoking and che=
his watch, wondering if this had been a good idea; the kid had been gone al=
an hour. He had a view of the club’s entrance, and now saw two men run
out, both men dropping to their knees. He sat upright in the car and flicked
out the cigarette, starting the engine.
observed, another three men staggered out, all appearing unwell, two of them
vomiting on the pavement, a girl in a nightdress tumbling out, soon followe=
two other hookers rushing out. A chair went through a window.
Kobus let out, pulling the car around and getting ready.
walked calmly out, past the people kneeling on the pavement with a glance b=
at them, and through parked cars towards Kobus. Sensing, and then seeing Ko=
in the BMW, Drake jogged across to the car and got in.
think I should avoid this establishment in future,’ Drake said as they
the hell did you do?’ Kobus puzzled, staring at the broken windows as
they passed the club.
did as you asked, and I gained information as you asked.’
you start a fight? Let the demon out?’
Kobus pressed after a moment’s silence.
... drank the beer, as you suggested, but ... it caused a great pain in my
you drink beer?’ Kobus puzzled. ‘Did you before?’<=
I drank mead and made merry, and ... also gave forth wind from ... below ..=
unpleasant odour, but not like this.’
stopped at the lights, turned his head, and stared wide-eyed at Drake.
‘You just evacuated a nightclub ... because you farted?’=
was ... a most disagreeable odour.’ He glanced at Kobus from under his
eyebrows. ‘Many people ... they fell to the ground, sick at the mouth,
stared back, his mouth opening. He pointed a finger at Drake’s face.
‘If you need to do that in this car, or near me, you fucking warn me
will endeavour to do so, yes.’
shook his head. ‘First you almost kill a hooker from a blowjob, now y=
destroy a club with a fart. Jesus, boy, you’re dangerous enough witho=
the damn demon.’
did learn of things,’ Drake offered.
should hope so after all that.’
is a man named Ramius, he will meet with a Cossack tomorrow at the coast, a=
buy something of value – but wanted by the magistrate – and sel=
a Moor from the place you fought the war.’
that information good?’
very good - in that we know, not so good ... in that they probably plan on
killing a great many people.’
we stop them, and save many, then we can count that many at the ends of our
should think so. But do me a favour: when you get to the Pearly Gates and s=
before St. Peter, tell him about what just happened in that club – th=
love stiff like that in heaven. Don’t leave out any detail.’
An hour later, and booked into yet another two-star hotel, the=
still in Sophia?’ Riggs asked.
boss, hard at it.’
story on the wire, some nightclub hit with a chemical weapon.’=
slid his gaze across to Drake. ‘Chemical ... weapon?’
people in hospital, firemen in respirators.’
seen it on the news yet,’ Kobus said, Drake now looking away and
pretending to concentrate on the TV. ‘But we got a lead. Guy name of
Ramius, deal going down on the coast tomorrow with a Russian seller, and it
sounds like the detonators. And get this, the buyer is Iraqi.’=
Shit, they’ll be all over this in Langley. But I want some hard evide=
before I rattle anyone’s cage.’
this Ramius fella through the computer, see what hardware he could get hold=
and get back to me.’
you heading down to the coast?’ Riggs asked.
dawn, deal is for 4pm apparently.’
need some back-up on this?’
I have my new partner in crime doing a good job.’
panning out?’ Riggs asked.
you think we got the intel?’
shitting me? And you trust this guy?’
the name, and see what you get. Over and out.’
Ten minutes later, Riggs was back on. ‘Kobus?’
the right name, and it’s flagged; I’ve already had a call from =
high. When I said he was selling to Iraqi’s you could hear the shouts=
Langley without a phone.’
that mean I’ll get some company?’
... may have mentioned that we don’t know about the buy location.R=
... that you’d like me to get you something solid, solid enough to he=
your career along.’
you offered, so go make me proud. I’m looking forwards to that
the phone, Kobus eased off the bed. ‘You did well.’
Drake keenly enquired with a boyish smile.
the name was correct. Anyway, did you get to lay down out of wedlock at the club.’
did, three times.’
sat opposite. ‘Us mere mortals couldn’t do it three times in an
hour.’ He waited.
... demon assisted.’
did the demon ... enjoy himself, by any chance?’
lowered his head and nodded. ‘He did.’
are many pleasures in this new world that don’t involve killing people
and drinking their blood.’
is indeed a wondrous place,’ Drake agreed.
watch TV, and I’ll catch a few hours before we leave.’ Kobus lay
down. ‘And Drake, if you need to release some air, do it in the damn =
I ask a question?’
images on the magic box, they are not ... true images sometimes.’
computer generated.’ Drake waited, Kobus explaining, ‘They̵=
magic, and not real.’
drink cannot make someone fly.’
shook his head.
cities in the land of the Chinese are not attacked regularly by a giant
creature that breathes fire.’
resisted a smile, and shook his head.
have not been trained to speak.’
Kobus shook his head.
still battle over Jerusalem, as they did in my time.’
stopped smiling. ‘Men still battle over Jerusalem, yes, and five hund=
years from now they’ll still be battling over it.’
An hour later, Drake turned Kobus onto his side, and returned =
TV. But as he sat there he slowly turned his head, moving it like a bird of
prey focusing on a distant mouse. He stood and walked to the door, then sho=
it off. Sitting back down, he turned his head again, now to the window, the=
curtains drawn tight. Stood in front of the curtains, he closed his eyes and
opened his mind.
woke with a jolt at the sound of breaking glass, the crack of a high-powered
round just a fuzzy memory, not sure now of what he had heard. He sat up and=
his legs down, seeing Drake on his back, a hole in his white t-shirt, a hin=
blood. The demon slowly sat up, an arm raised, an accusing finger pointed at
men, in a room, a long fire stick. They see clear in the dark.’
slammed his back to the wall. ‘A rifle with a thermal sight. Smart for
demon pointed at the bedside table. ‘This ... magic to talk with the
magistrate. They ... see it through the dark.’
tracking my mobile,’ Kobus realised. ‘Shit...’
gather below, the men leave.’
leapt over the bed, grabbed his jacket and their bags, and knocked the light
off. ‘Are you OK?’ he whispered. ‘Can you move?’
can walk, yes.’
near?’ Kobus asked as he opened the door.
the demon responded as he drew level.
opened the door, took a peek both ways, and ran down the corridor, away fro=
lift and stairs, the demon close behind. At the base of the stairs, Kobus
turned to find Drake. ‘You OK, buddy?’
was painful, a great jolt. But I am OK. These men, they came from the colon=
of Rachel and Ross.’
halted and froze, taking a moment. ‘They were Americans? Armed with a
rifle fitted with a thermal sight?’
need to find them ... before th=
move quickly to a carriage, some distance.’
took out his mobile phone, hesitated, and then pocketed it. ‘If
they’re tracking me, then they can come and damn well find me.’=
led Drake out of the rear of the hotel, checking the street carefully, and =
the road to the car, the vehicle thoughtfully parked well away from their c=
hotel - and in the car park of a second cheap hotel.
halted ten yards away from the car, and pointed the key-fob towards the BMW,
unlocking it. He waited a further two seconds. Running to it, he placed the
bags on the rear seat, but stopped to check the wheel arches and the unders=
of the car.
the driver’s seat, Kobus hesitated as he put the key in the ignition.=
are uncertain of the carriage,’ Drake noted.
may have put a bomb on it.’ Kobus heaved a breath. ‘Fuck it.=
He started the car and revved it.
bomb? Gunpowder, like a cannon ball.’
Kobus confirmed as he drove off.
headed straight out of Sophia and onto a highway, soon reaching a hundred m=
an hour, the roads quiet at this hour. At the first service station he pull=
in, and parked in a dark corner next to a cafe, just two patrons sat eating
will find us ... because of the magic to talk with the magistrate,’ D=
you sense their approach, if we wait here?’
eased back, folded his arms, and closed his eyes. After a moment, and with =
eyes still closed, he said, ‘You did well back there, you saved me; t=
bullet was meant for me. Question is: why?’
magistrate is not happy with you?’
opened his eyes. ‘The magistrate ... has many lords, and many men.=
After a moment, he lifted his mobile, and called Riggs.
got a problem. Two American gentlemen, with a high power rifle fitted with a
thermal sight, just took a shot at me.’
tracking me via my phone, a number known to very few, old friend. Is there =
something you’re not telling me?’
not Company,’ Riggs scoffed. ‘What the hell are you saying?R=
saying ... that the local cops probably can’t track a mobile, that th=
don’t have this fucking number, and they’d not use American
mercenaries with thermal sights. Would you not agree, arsehole?’
... yeah, seems like a long shot. Are you hurt?’
they missed by an inch, the shot taken through windows with the curtains
closed. Do me a favour, and see if there’s a team in the area –=
if I’ve strayed into something I shouldn’t have.’<=
... I have no idea, but maybe I’ve stepped on someone’s
I sent you there - it’s in the system, my name as handler. If there w=
an issue ... they’d come talk to me, or just order you off. Shooting =
would attract a lot of interest, questions asked, so let’s not write =
airport novel over this.’
going to have a chat with the nice gentlemen, and then ... maybe we’ll
have some answers.’
real careful, and pull out as soon as you can.’
you ordering me off this case?’ Kobus pressed.
but ... I’d like to know who the fuck they were as well.’
with a pistol under your pillow, old friend.’
Riggs dialled Langley.
Riggs, Amsterdam. There’s been an incident in Sophia, Bulgaria. One o=
team was just shot at by two Americans armed with a rifle fitted with a the=
sight, and he’s sure they’re tracking his mobile. I want a check
made of the area.’
get right back to you if we find anything,’ 14-10 offered with a plea=
and affirmative tone. ‘Good night.’
young man answering the phone turned to a second man sat in the same cubicl=
silver-haired man with a waxy stone complexion. The young man’s pleas=
expression slipped. ‘They missed Kobus, sir, who somehow guessed about
his mobile being tracked. But that’s not the most interesting aspect =
the call.’ He paused for effect. ‘Kobus reported the shooters as
being two Americans.’
silver-haired man stared dispassionately back for a moment, before slowly
adopting a frown. ‘How could he know? They fired from across a road, =
seen, no evidence left.’
Russell - sir, there’s only one way Kobus could have got himself out =
that hotel and known the detail=
that’s if the two assets employed are lying, and working with Kobus a=
Riggs. They reported a clean kill, but the hotel reported no bodies to the
police, no blood.’
blood? A chest shot with a sniper rifle?’ Russell eased back, and tur=
his head to a wall calendar, a pleasant Canadian wilderness displayed.
‘Remove both assets, check their phone logs.’
Kobus lowered his phone, and held it, gently tapping the steer=
wheel with it.
turned his head. ‘You suspect the magistrate wishes you dead.’<=
the magistrate, a ... family member with unwarranted designs on the
take the king’s schilling, but work false deeds.’ Drake pointed
across the car park, at a car approaching. ‘It is the two men from
America-land. They seek us.’
observed as the car in question slowed beyond the petrol pumps and finally =
its lights turned off. No one got out of the car. A minute later the car dr=
around to the opposite side of the cafe.
looked over his shoulder. ‘C’mon.’ Out of the car, he add=
‘I need them alive, but hurt, pistols removed.’ He led Drake on=
a jog, around to the rear of the café, and into the dark. Checking t=
immediate area, he drew his pistol and ducked behind tall metal bins, no
illumination coming from the rear of the cafe – just a god awful smel=
from the bins. He pointed to nearby bushes, ‘Hide there, jump on them
when ready - if they come this way.’
come this way,’ Drake confirmed as he dashed into the dark bushes.
checked his pistol and knelt, listening out for footsteps. Those footsteps =
came, barely discernible, the men moving cautiously.
the corner,’ came a whisper through the dark, an east coast American
accent, soon followed by a thud and muffled groans.
forwards,’ someone whispered.
burst out, finding two men face down, both dazed, and it was the demon knelt
over them. It lifted the hand-held scanner that the men had been using, his
face adopting a green tinge. Kobus grabbed the first man, the demon lifting=
second man without prompting, the duo soon dragging the would-be assassins
through the dark and to the edge of a field, dumping them down on a patch of
hard dry soil, the ground studded with the short remnants of a harvested cr=
down the men, Kobus removed their pistols, throwing them away into the dark.
Wallets were removed and pocketed. Turning one of the men over, Kobus slapp=
man’s face a few times, before presenting the man’s outstretched
arm to the demon. ‘Snack on his hand.’
of sharp teeth into the flesh of the hand elicited a loud cry.
are you?’ Kobus asked. No answer came back. He turned his head to the
demon. ‘Bite off a finger.’
flesh of the finger was torn away, a growl issued, the man screamed.=
... are you, and why are you trying to kill me?’ Kobus pressed, a kne=
the man’s thigh preventing the man from moving.
the man resisted.
the thumb off,’ Kobus coldly ordered, not needing to prompt the demon=
loud cry released as the demon tore the flesh with his teeth, the thumb com=
up, fella: I’m going to let him eat all of your fingers and toes, fin=
your cock. And then ... then I’ll let him keep going.’=
demon tore off another finger without prompting, causing a sharp cry.
Company sent us,’ the man forced out in a strained whisper.
lifted his head, and stared across at at distant house with its lights on,
taking a moment. ‘And would they, by any chance, have told you ... why?’
the man strained to get out.
other assets in the area?’
was cried out.
lowered his gaze to the dark outline of the man. ‘Are you on the book=
came out as another finger went, a horrible crunching noise created.=
get our orders ... from our boss, not The Company,’ the man cried out.
‘You know ... how it works, you bastard.’
stood. ‘Remove both thumbs of both men, but leave them alive. Quickly=
He turned and headed back as growls and screams penetrated the dark night.<=
joined Kobus in the car a minute later. He sat, and waited, facing a pensive
lifted his phone and called Riggs. ‘You awake?’
and I have a call in to find out what the hell’s going on.’
caught up with the two shooters.’
did?’ Riggs asked, clearly surprised. ‘Already? What happened?&=
made them talk. They’re a private firm, hired by the agency to track =
and ... to kill me. I have their IDs.’
Riggs let out. Now sounding angered, he said, ‘Give me a name.’=
lifted a wallet, and read out a name and a drivers license number. When don=
he hung up, tossing the wallets out of the car. Starting the car, he pulled
forwards and halted, a final look at his mobile before he tossed it away. T=
pulled off, and got back onto the highway, heading east for the coast.
feel for the magistrate ... like a son betrayed by his father,’ Drake
noted, no energy in his voice.
a bad analogy,’ Kobus said with a sigh. ‘And now ... now we nee=
find the bad men and stop them, whilst looking over our shoulders for other=
men – those trying to stop us from stopping the first group of bad me=
more bad men we fight, the greater the tally,’ Drake enthused. ‘=
difficult task ... is a worthy task.’
glanced at him as they drove, and forced a weak smile. ‘If you look a=
that way, then yes – it probably is.’
drove through the night, east, always east.
Russell stood at a window, peering through the blinds, his han=
clasped behind his back. A man approached, heard but unseen.
the two assets we sent after Kobus, they were intercepted by Kobus himself =
unknown others, mutilated, made to talk.’
turned his head. ‘Mutilated?’
turned back to window. ‘Unusual. Are they dead?’
they’re both alive, sir, and they’ve definitely identified Kobu=
left them alive.’ Russell nodded gently. ‘A ... message to us?&=
if Kobus mutilated the men, then they couldn’t have been working toge=
as we believed.’
there’s someone else whispering in his ear, and not Riggs.’
doesn’t seem to be in the loop, sir.’
our people look for Kobus at the marina.’
The smell of sun tan lotion=
At noon, Kobus and Drake reached the coast, Drake sat staring =
the window as normal, a curious study of anything and everything he noticed
along the road.
idly enquired. ‘Does the demon have a name?’
turned, and took a moment. ‘His name is Marcus, I heard it in his
nodded. ‘He has few memories, but some. He was, once, a man.’=
would have figured that. Do you know anything more about him?’=
of his time here. He lived in a village near the sea, with a wife and
daughters. I see little more than images.’
sleeping for a few hundred years, I would have thought that you would have
dreamt of more.’
took a moment. ‘We ... dreamt of much, but not of places and people w=
seen with our own eyes, we dreamt of strange images.’
guess dreams are abstract,’ Kobus idly noted. ‘Does he believe =
heaven and hell?’
He’s a fucking demon! How does he explain what he is to himself?̵=
has no knowledge of heaven and hell, and serves no master. He ... knows only
hunger and anger.’
he be keeping things from you?’ Kobus pressed.
kept many things from me, for a great many years, but all became clear.R=
from where he came from - and how he became what he is. And you don’t
know how he got inside you?’
stared at the dashboard for several seconds. ‘I met a man on the road=
old man, Marcus. He killed me with a sword, and I awoke to know two
blew out. ‘Well, it’s a long way from the vampire stories they =
here. Guess that it lost a lot in translation over the years, just like the
bible.’ He turned his head. ‘Have you read the bible?’
holy book was only to be read by the men of the cloth. I read the mind of o=
before ... before we killed him, and the words were laid down in Latin so t=
only those of the cloth could read them, a great secret.’
stop the common man from drawing his own conclusions,’ Kobus noted,
placing a cigarette on his lip. Mumbling a little, he continued, ‘It =
deliberately mysterious – and they meant it to be so, and heavily edi=
to be hard to read, and they re=
certain things. One Pope removed all favourable references to women.’=
men of the cloth, they did not believe in the book, and lay down with women=
lit up. ‘Sounds just like the men of the cloth from this time, except=
they like small boys. It is ... a =
not a calling.’ As an afterthought, he offered Drake a cigarette.
have tasted the tobacco, with the men in the cave.’ He made a face.
‘I did not desire it.’
held up his lit cigarette. ‘Does it bother you if I smoke?’
Drake replied with a smile. ‘You are most con-sid-e-rate.’ Faci=
forwards, he added, ‘The fragrance is pleasant when first happened
an hour later they stopped for lunch at a service station, choosing to sit
outside on wooden benches as the day warmed up, Drake happy with the strong
summer sun on his skin. Kobus munched on a burger, a can of Sprite to wash =
down, Drake chewing on gum.
don’t feel that different,’ Kobus noted, staring out of focus.<=
ran a hand across the wooden bench they sat at, someone’s initials ca=
into it. ‘Knowing that demons actually exist; I figured I would change
more. I’m not sure what Marcus is, or where he came from, and that le=
a doubt. I had hoped to look God in the face and shout a little.’
glanced across, taking his time to think through his response. ‘I had
believed that God was punishing me for sinning, but ... a great many men do
more sin, and yet have no demon. And here, in this place, my sins are not
swiped away a fly. ‘The demon took you because you happened along that
road, not because you sinned,’ he commented before sinking his teeth =
seek the water to be round when the bucket is removed.’
adopted a slight frown as he chewed. ‘What?’
in the bucket takes the shape of the bucket, but without the bucket the wat=
takes a new shape. So they said in my time.’
considered the analogy, watching kids running around. ‘The water ... =
defined by the object that holds it.’ He nodded. ‘We call it ro=
because the bucket is round, and we label human nature as good and evil. Go=
and evil is only seen - and measured – in the context of people. No
people, no evil.’ He focused on Drake. ‘They may have been righ=
your time; we observe and measure something that’s only there because=
make it there – and chose to measure it. And some people make a career
out of studying it.’
said – evil is as evil does.’
act is evil, not the person,’ Kobus noted, making a face. ‘And =
act comes from within, from the primitive monster in us all, and without
conscious thought. And if it’s there in us all it’s not evil -
it’s just part of nature and evolution. And religion – thatR=
the battle between the inner self and the rules of the game.’<=
of the game?’ Drake puzzled.
held his hands wide, a gesture at those people around them. ‘This: so=
democracy. It has rules, many rules in order to function, and most of those
rules came from the Ten Commandments; don’t kill, don’t lie,
don’t steal - the basis of a civilised society. But does that society
still need religion?’ Kobus sipped his sprite.
my time, few knelt in church. The nobility and learn-ed men knelt in church,
sometimes a gathering in a field for the poor of the village.’ Drake
stared across the car park. ‘When the rich man died, many priests and
many people walked behind the carriage. When a poor man died, he was buried
quickly, a few short words from the priest.’
Kobus let out. ‘Typical bloody church.’
knelt in church?’
took a moment. ‘I grew up in Durban, South Africa, a beautiful place =
the coast. We went to church twice a week, and I attended what they called
Sunday School on a Sunday afternoon, Saturday sometimes, two evenings of the
week. I was seven years old when my father moved to Britain, a difficult ti=
at first. But I liked London, lots to see and do.
a family we went to church till I was maybe twelve or thirteen, then just
seemed to stop, only going for special occasions. In Britain, well – =
most places, people only go to church to be married, for christenings, and
did not kneel in church often, because I did not have coin for the
slowly nodded to himself, thinking about many things.
Approaching the car, Drake said, ‘Shall I not study the
control of the carriage?’
halted after unlocking the car. He took a moment, staring across the
car’s roof at Drake. Making a face, he said, ‘Come around this
keenly came around, accepting the keys. Kobus jumped into the passenger sea=
Drake placing the key in the ignition. ‘Letter N,’ he said,
pointing at the automatic gear handle. ‘Turn of key.’ The engine
started. ‘Letter D. Look forwards, foot down.’
shot forwards, Drake soon braking. Kobus had been forced back into his seat,
and now lurched forwards, a steadying hand on the dashboard.
Kobus encouraged. ‘Small movements.’
started again, a gentle press of the pedal, soon going around in a circle,
around the car park’s limits.
pointed. ‘There, stop in that small space, between the lines.’<=
manoeuvred as requested – not crossing his arms as he turned the whee=
easing to a halt before mounting a curb.
bad,’ Kobus offered. ‘Reverse into the space behind.’
R for going backwards,’ Drake stated as he selected the right setting,
looking over his shoulder as he manoeuvred back, braking after a gentle nud=
of another car. ‘I shall master it,’ he insisted.
bad for a first time,’ Kobus said as he opened the door and stepped o=
At Drake’s side he opened the driver’s door.
was a very short lesson,’ Drake nudged as he emerged.
have a job to do, and you can have lessons when we have the time.’
Back on the road, they made good time to Varna, driving to a p=
on the coast just north of Varna town. As they drove, Drake keenly studied =
map he had been given, now tasked with navigation based on those place name=
remembered, names given up in thought by the men in the club. Drake’s
navigation was not too bad considering that he had never visited the place
– or ever seen a roadmap before, and they soon found an area that Dra=
believed to the right place. Thirty minutes of driving around led to a hote=
Drake recognising the image of it – as well as its name. They pulled =
opposite the hotel, the street sloping gently down towards the sea, many
tourists now out and about on this hot day.
leant across Drake and peered up at the hotel. ‘I could get a room, b=
think they know what I look like. I have a fake passport, but I don’t
know if they have the name.’
can go inside,’ Drake volunteered.
took a moment, studying the hotel. ‘It looks like a tourist hotel, and
too big to be a brothel or private club. We’ll chance it. But you stay
here; they know your face from that club.’ Kobus made a face towards
Drake. ‘Those still conscious.’
retrieved his bags from the back seat, and stepped across to the hotel. In a
busy reception, he enquired in English about rooms. They had a single room,
yes, a British passport shown, payment made for three days, full board. Kob=
found the room on the fourth floor, and found it to be basic; painted concr=
walls and bland water colours, bedding with cigarette burns.
his bags dumped down, he walked down the back stairs to the ground floor,
finding a side door wedged open. Through it he found the edge of the pool,
screaming kids running around, adults sunning themselves. Walking around to=
front of the hotel, he retrieved Drake, locking the car.
mean to leave the carriage here,’ Drake noted as they walked back tow=
the hotel. ‘Something about a ... small smelly fish.’
smiled at the analogy. ‘Bait,’ he carefully mouthed. ‘If =
have its license number, it’ll attract them to us.’
desire the confrontation.’
do,’ Kobus noted as they slipped in through the open side-door, and up
the back stairs. In the room, he pointed Drake towards a seat. ‘Sit d=
close your eyes, and see if you can sense anyone.’
did as asked, Kobus lighting up before sitting on a bed, his back against t=
headboard. After five minutes, Drake said, ‘There are a great many mi=
here, and children. Nothing is clear.’
keep at it,’ Kobus sighed. ‘Something may turn up.’
stepped to the window, and peered down. When he struggled with the balcony
door’s lock, Kobus opened it. They both stood on the balcony, the roa=
kids splashing around the pool rising up to them.
are many undressed people here,’ Drake noted.
an acceptable custom to wear such small clothes for swimming, and sunning
we ... not purchase such clothing?’ Drake asked, fixed on the ladies =
hid a smile. ‘We’re on the clock, young man. C’mon,
we’ll go for a walk, see if anyone takes an interest in us.’
base of the back stairs they passed two teenage girls in bikinis coming up,
Drake smiling politely at them, and getting a coy smile back. At the edge of
the area of mown grass Kobus hesitated, but then turned towards the pool,
looking a bit odd in his dark suit. He led Drake around the edge of the noi=
pool and to a poolside bar, cold drinks ordered. Grabbing a table, they sat=
the shade, Drake focused on the boisterous kids splashing around the water.=
the river at the height of summer,’ Drake noted. ‘When I was a =
I liked to swim in the river, and to jump off a tall rock.’ A shapely
woman in a bikini, walking past, caused him to turn his head and to follow =
in this time, you shouldn’t watch women so obviously; they can be
offended by it. Not to mention their husbands.’
nodded. Pointing at a man, he said, ‘I have noticed the glass eyes wo=
by many.’ He waited.
people have bad eyesight, and the glass helps. Also, when the sun is bright,
the dark glass helps. We’ll buy some today; it’ll help to disgu=
us. And then you can watch girls in bikinis without
yes.’ He sipped his drink, and studied the glass. ‘I like this
if you drink a lot it’ll cause wind, like beer.’
... shall partake in moderation.’
all you like, just stand away from me when you need to make wind.’
sat studying the pool scene for twenty minutes, Drake not detecting anything
before they decided to wander. Around the front of the hotel, Kobus bought
cheap plastic sunglasses, placing a pair on Drake.
do not cause pain.’ Drake lifted the sunglasses and took in the view =
normal vision, lowered them, and lifted them again, puzzling the difference=
placed on his own sunglasses, and led Drake down the street towards the bea=
the crowds thick.
promenade, Drake took in the scene. ‘So many people, and ... all with
on holiday with their families,’ Kobus explained. ‘Should hope
they’re bloody happy.’
men are observing us, from ... Seetle?’ Drake said without turning.=
and one from ... Bos-o-ton.’
And they know of ... a Beemer. What is a Beemer?’
led Drake along the promenade, a slow amble of a pace, the crowds thick and=
day hot. ‘BMW is called a Beemer; the car.’
Drake repeated. ‘Two other men are at the hotel, these men think of i=
a girl in a bikini, a well-endowed young lady, Drake came to a dead stop.=
Kobus halted. ‘You like big boobs as well, eh.’
must admit to be most aroused by this display.’
smiling, his thoughts on the men behind him, Kobus said, ‘That’s
OK, you’re supposed to be.’
a small park, they ducked into it, quickening their pace, soon edging aroun=
large dried bush that looked like it needed a little water, or any water, a=
out of a side gate at the jog, ducking into a cafe.
quickly through the café and towards the toilets, past the toilets w=
a glance back, and out into the garden, stepping through an open gate to a =
He ran to the left, down the lane with Drake close behind, and turned right=
the end, as if to double back towards the promenade. He found a narrow stre=
cars packed with two wheels on the pavement, overhanging trees offering ple=
of shade, and no one about.
you sense them?’ Kobus asked Drake, some urgency in his voice.=
lifted an arm, towards the street of the cafe. ‘They come around this
way, and will turn to this road.’
a tree, monkey boy, and jump on them. I’ll be at the end of this stre=
and distracting them.’
exchanged nods and turned separate ways. ‘Back on the clock,’ D=
said as he stepped away.
more than twenty seconds later, the two pursuing men walked around the corn=
in light coloured suits, noticing Kobus sixty yards down the street, a hand=
a car door. As Kobus noticed the men – he had been waiting by the car
deliberately, he walked slowly off, and back towards the beach, halting beh=
a camper van. The junk in the back of the camper camp van offered him a par=
view of the two men as they walked down the narrow street, the men’s
images alternating between being brightly lit in the sun, or darkened by sh=
of a tree.
blur, and Drake fell on the men. Kobus ran to the opposite side of the road,
seeing now the two men on the pavement, Drake twisting a head like it
wasn’t even attached to a body. When done, Drake ran along the street=
between light and dark as he progressed. He handed over a wallet as he drew
and Tom, they were known as.’ He fell into step with Kobus, both men
glancing back before they left the street, stepping into a short and narrow
alley joining the rear of the promenade. ‘They felt much anger towards
you, for what I did to the other men.’
... makes professionals sloppy,’ Kobus commented as they joined the
crowds, opening the wallet and scanning it. He kept the driver’s lice=
and the cash, but casually tossed the wallet into a bin. Pointing Drake tow=
a bustling beachfront cafe, they stepped casually inside and claimed a vaca=
table. A girl came over, collecting old glasses and wiping down the table t=
Two,’ Kobus ordered, the girl withdrawing. After a moment of observing
the beach, and its oiled-up sunbathers, he idly enquired. ‘Both
dead. And I sensed that they moved with some urgency, something important a=
dark – that they wished you not know of.’ He pointed.
looked over his shoulder, at a rock breakwater jutting out into the sea, the
masts of yachts beyond. ‘The marina?’
will meet on a boat, commerce to be had.’
are concerned about something,’ Drake said as the two drinks were bro=
over and placed down. Drake struggled with the twist top, but got it
took off his sunglasses, and attempted to peel a very small sticker off the
glasses. ‘The commerce ... is something that should be stopped, but it
won’t be stopped, it will be ... observed, and allowed to go
ahead.’ He placed his sunglasses back on.
do not understand the magistrate in this matter.’
... wish to wait for a time when greater commerce is transacted, to ... cat=
larger fish, and receive greater reward.’
believe I understand,’ Drake offered before sipping his drink, an eye=
the bikini-clad girls at the next table. ‘Is it common for a lady to =
the painted skin of a deck hand?’
hand?’ Kobus repeated, a glance at the girls. ‘Ah. Tattoos, we =
them, and I guess in your time it was just sailors that had them. And yes, =
is common these days.’
the cafe, Kobus approached a payphone, counting out his coins, Drake helpfu=
handing over Euro coins. Drake keenly observed as Kobus placed the coins in=
the slot, a finger pointed at the digital tally, a long number entered.
To a background
of screaming kids, as well as traffic, Kobus said, ‘That you,
where are you?’
He put a hand over his ear.
I got a blank wall about any other operations in your area. That may be tru=
or it may be a blank wall. And I just got a report from the Bulgarian polic=
two Americans hospitalised after their fingers had been ripped off. Was that
a time when you got answers quietly; I’m surprised at you, Kobus.R=
came to kill me, so forgive my lack of charity,’ Kobus snarled down t=
phone. ‘And I just dispatched another two in the street.’
raised the drivers license, and read the detail.
reported, ‘The other two, they’re reported as working in the
Kurdish north of Iraq, so the computer’s been altered.’<=
it will have been with this pair, but I got a few sentences out of them. Th=
here to stop me from interfering in the deal; they want it to go ahead.R=
a few pay grades higher than me is taking a risk here.’
have friends above, so go chat.’
might just want to catch the buyers later, but that doesn’t explain t=
interest in you; one word to me and you’d be pulled back. And no fuck=
took in the small colourful business cards of hookers, wedged into the edge=
the plastic display of national dialling codes. ‘It’s your call,
operating outside the rules, and the computer says they’re not even in
that country. So fuck ‘em. If I expose this I’ll get some bonus
you’ll get us both killed.’
took a moment. ‘You ... they’re already after, but I’d ho=
that their interest stops at the border. And as for me, what do I do? Prete=
this never fucking happened? They tried to kill one of my team on a sanctio=
operation. They ... are in the wrong here.’
hold on to that thought, it might be your last one.’
sighed loudly. ‘What’ll you do next?’
have a lead on the meeting, so I’ll ... observe the meeting, make not=
with my neat handwriting, and send you a report – like I’m paid=
seen your handwriting buddy; thank God for email reports!’
couldn’t resist the smile. ‘I’ll let you know what happen=
Over and out.’
up, and joining Drake at the promenade wall, sirens could now be heard.
turned. ‘They know of the dead men.’
nodded to himself, staring across at the inviting ocean. ‘C’mon=
have a few men to ... chat to.’
ambled slowly through the crowds, crossed the road behind the promenade, and
returned to the street of their hotel, walking slowly past the hotel on the
opposite side of the road. Drake sensed no one near the car. At the top of =
road they crossed over, slowly walking back down, ducking into the side
entrance of their hotel, and to the door wedged open by the pool.
the stairs, Drake halted on the third floor. ‘They have a room here.&=
the stairwell on that floor, and stood staring down the darkened corridor, =
compared to the bright sunlight outside. Drake pointed to a room facing the
the door in, close it, and then ... throw both the fuckers down onto the st=
from the balcony. Check the corridor before leaving, and before entering the
stepped purposefully forwards, Kobus climbing the stairs again. At the room=
question, Drake halted for several seconds. Checking the corridor both ways=
knocked on the door. When it clicked open he shoved it, knocking the first =
across the room, Drake moving inside quickly and closing the door. A second=
emerged from the bathroom, lunging towards the beds, where the men’s =
were laid out. Drake got there first.
Kobus had walked to his room, but then backtracked to the stai=
a dust-covered sliding window opening to the street below. Thirty seconds
later, a naked body flew out and down, impacting the road. It didn’t
bounce or roll, Kobus noted, it just seemed to crumple and stay flat, a
horrible noise created by the impact. Screams rose up, people rushing towar=
it, a yellow taxi slowing down.
second body, also naked, didn’t fly into the road, but landed on a
dilapidated fence, skewered through the abdomen and punctured. Screams now
filled the air, people rushing about below. A couple coming down the stairs
behind Kobus could hear the screams from the open window. Kobus turned, a h=
to his mouth, pretending to be sickened, and pointed towards the window. Cu=
the middle-aged couple peered out, soon sickened themselves, but Kobus now =
his reliable witnesses.
his room, he left the door ajar, and took his jacket off, throwing it over =
back of a chair. Removing his holster, he placed it above a ceiling tile, a=
checked the room, finally checking his pockets and the bags as Drake steppe=
Kobus asked, lifting his head to Drake.
thought it when you asked me.’ Drake waited.
big deal, it’ll give the Company something to think about. But the po=
will want to talk to everyone, and you have no identification, my lad.̵=
He glanced at the window. ‘Still, be getting dark in an hour or two. =
the police arrive before then, hop over to another balcony.’=
turned the TV on, and sat, fumbling with the remote.
Bob Russell took a call.
it convenient, sir?’
four assets in Varna have been killed, sir. Two suffered broken necks in the
street, weapons and ID found on them, and two ... two were stripped naked a=
thrown from a hotel balcony down onto the street, weapons and ID left in the
room. Local police are all over it.’
... naked, from a hotel balcony,’ Russell repeated. ‘Jesus. Any
sign of Kobus?’
confirmed, sir, no one in the marina saw him, but they found his hire car at
the hotel in question.’
the current mission reports for Kobus?’
alone, following a lead on gun runners from the Ukraine.’
didn’t get the better of four men working alone.’
sir, but the agency has no one else in the area.’
records can be altered.’
we increment, sir?’
we’ll wait and see what happens with the meeting. If someone wants it
stepped on, let them reveal themselves.’
The local police did the rounds in the hotel, but did not both=
er to go
room to room. As with the first two freelancers, the police were focused on=
weapons, awkward questions asked of the US Ambassador in Sophia, who asked a
few awkward questions of his own through the State Department.
7pm, and with the sun just below the horizon, Kobus led Drake out the back =
the hotel’s food not sampled, the bustling restaurant ignored in favo=
of a lamb kebab on the street. Kobus stood eating as Drake examined postcar=
nude girls, a carousel on display outside a tacky tourist shop.
ready, Kobus led Drake down to the marina, a tissue grabbed from a
restaurant’s pavement table and used to wipe down sticky lips and che=
The marina offered a gate, fixed open, a bored–looking young guard sat
nearby. Sat next to the guard was a ginger cat awaiting some scraps, and th=
looked like it might offer more of a diligent screening of people entering =
marina than the guard. Still, Kobus and Drake walked past the marina entran=
and to the first cafe on the promenade, the first of the resort’s tou=
now sat eating their evening meal. Kobus took a table overlooking the marin=
he and Drake now studying the layout.
these small boats ply their trade across the ocean?’ Drake puzzled.=
they’re for pleasure.’
enjoy being on the boats, sailing out in the sun, and the ... skilful
application of the sails to master the wind. A challenge.’
sit here and go through the motions, you go for a stroll to the beach, up o=
the rocks, and wander around the boats slowly.’
slipped out of the restaurant as Kobus ordered food and a beer. Drake could=
seen below the cafe, his white t-shirt standing out as he ambled along the
beach in the dying light, picking up things and examining them, soon scramb=
over the breakwater and down the other side, still in sight as he walked al=
to where locals fished with battery torches and paraffin lanterns.=
reached the end of the walkway, Drake turned about, still just about visibl=
the bright illumination coming from the promenade, a promenade now full of
people just out walking, or looking for a little inspiration as to where to=
and eat their evening meal. Kobus detected a few Russian words, but noted v=
little English spoken in the streets here.
was halfway through his starters, and halfway through his first beer, when
Drake appeared and sat.
glanced at those sitting nearby, and eased forwards. Softly, he reported,
‘I have discovered the commerce. Three men await the arrival of other=
a time not yet hence, many coin and dollar to be handed over, the object to=
handed to another boat after the turn of midnight.’
work.’ Kobus sipped his beer as he studied the outline of the marina,
that which he could see from this angle. He adopted a curious frown. ‘=
I can swim well,’ Drake keenly offered.
eased back, thinking.
are uncertain as to a course of action.’
they – whoever they may be - might be right; it m=
be best to see where the object goes. But ... but I still don’t know =
they tried to kill me, and that alters the plan.’
... object?’ Drake whispered, glancing around.
allow many cannon balls to explode at once, much damage done. It’s of
interest, but not of very great interest, and that’s what has me worr=
He made a face, a peeved expression adopted. ‘That and their desire to
men in the boat know nothing of you.’
Kobus queried, Drake shaking his head. He stared towards the dark form of T=
Black Sea for a moment, noticing a few sailboats with their lights on, befo=
sipping his beer. Without facing Drake, he commented, ‘The false
magistrate wants this to go ahead, and for me to be killed. But they could =
it go ahead with my
wish you dead for another reason?’
nodded slowly, thinking.
have you done to be so worthy of such a warrant of death to be issued?̵=
Nothing. Seen or heard ... hard to say. My last few jobs in Athens were ...
you must have seen or heard som=
at an earlier time.’
sighed. ‘That’s nine years of work.’
An hour later, Drake turned his head. ‘A boat approaches=
men in it are ... most anxious.’
eased up, leaving payment on the table, and led Drake out, down to the sand=
across to the breakwater, soon hopping from one foot to the next across lar=
boulders. On the far side, they dropped down to the poorly lit concrete
walkway, scaring feral cats, and towards a central pontoon.
sure how to play this,’ Kobus admitted. ‘I might just make it
seek answers. Maybe the men have answers.’
men are ... simply doing what they’ve planned; a commerce. It’s=
reason that they want me dead, and =
link to the commerce, that puzzles me.’
they wish you dead because of this commerce, or simply wish you dead?’=
came to a halt, and faced the dim outline of Drake. ‘The two could be
unrelated, just bad timing.’ He faced the boats lined up against the
pontoons, ropes tapping against masts in the gentle breeze. ‘If
that’s true, then it’s my job to stop the commerce; I’ve =
been ordered otherwise. And after ... after I need to figure out why they w=
me dead. Good thinking, Drake, you might be correct.’
was pleased, his silly grin visible even in this dim light. They walked on,=
wooden slats beneath their feet creaking as they progressed. At the end of a
darkened pontoon, Drake pointed at a yacht across the way, now manoeuvring =
its engine into a vacant space. ‘They are Cossacks.’
Kobus correct him.
man watches them from another boat, a man from this place.’
he watch us?’
first things first. Lead on.’
walked at a fast pace, the wooden pontoon moving a little in the gentle swe=
the men’s current movements not very stealthy. Still, they looked like
tourists out for a stroll. They again stepped onto the main concrete jetty,
following the edge of the pontoons for fifty yards before walking down a
parallel pontoon to the previous, passing a few people sat on their boats a=
enjoying life on the ocean wave on this pleasant evening.
Kobus had a chance to say or do anything, Drake had leapt onto a boat and
disappeared into its galley. Kobus glanced over his shoulder, taking in tho=
with their lights on, noting the smell of cooking on the breeze and music
coming from two directions. No one seemed to have noticed Drake’s
movement, and none were now reacting to it. He approached the boat in quest=
all quiet below, and stepped across, a hand on his pistol, drawing it as he
ducked into the galley.
darkened interior he levelled the pistol, seeing Drake’s white t-shir=
Drake now bent over a dark figure.
lives,’ Drake stated.
clicked on his lighter, finding a torch on the wooden galley table. He turn=
it on, and examined the semi-conscious man, a middle-aged man of dark hair =
tanned skin, a pot belly, and looking like a local Bulgarian. Reaching arou=
behind the man, he lifted out a wallet, finding a mobile phone in a pocket =
the man groaned.
punched a number into the mobile, his face adopting a blue tinge as he did =
this number back, it belongs to a Bulgarian watching the deal going
down.’ Kobus spelt out the name.
is going ahead then?’
we speak, or soon. Russians just arrived by boat.’
work. And you spotted them ... how?’
story, and I’ll explain it at some point. Check out our friend here, =
his associations.’ Kobus paused. ‘What are my orders, regarding=
out what you can, and stop it. Why?’
just wanted to hear you say the words, because I suspect that someone wants=
deal to go ahead, maybe to catch them later on when the bombs are assembled.
That would make for better coverage on CNN than the discovery of a few
a cynic, you know that.’
keep shooting at me, otherwise I’d be as well balanced as you,’
run this number, and the name. What about the deal?’
happening real soon.’
be sat by the phone ready.’
hung up, and pocketed the phone, closing in on the watcher. ‘Did you
sense anything from him?’
he was filled with fear he believed me to be an America man, sent by a
Kobus corrected. ‘And that name sounds familiar.’ Hunting around
the galley, Kobus found the fridge, and pulled out a plastic bag full of ic=
Tearing the bag, he emptied the ice cubes over the watcher, dumping most of
them down the front of the man’s t-shirt. The man stirred, eyes slowly
opening. The man’s hand instinctively came to his head, where he had =
speak English?’ Kobus asked.
does,’ Drake put in.
waited. ‘Talk, or you go for a swim, a long swim.’
man looked up at Drake, finding a pleasant-faced young man. Kobus pulled out
his pistol, and rudely tapped the man on the forehead with it.
do you want, I have nothing here,’ the man said in a thick accent.
not interested in what you have, we’re interested in what you know ab=
the detonators, over on the Russian boat. And no, Johansson didn’t se=
... who are you?’ the man asked, puzzling his assailants identity, and
now fidgeting as he tried to remove ice cubes from inside his shirt.=
work for Johansson,’ the man protested, pulling out his t-shirt so th=
the ice cubes fell to the galley’s wooden flooring.
considered his answer. ‘Johansson is under investigation for ... ille=
operations. We’re here to kill anyone involved.’
just take money and instruction,’ the man protested, his wet hands sp=
wide. ‘I know nothing else!’
are your instructions?’=
the boat when it come, say when it come and they go, only this.’
men in the town?’
don’t know of men in the town, I came to the boat early and hide beca=
four American men – they was killed.’
lifted his head to Drake.
tells the truth, he hides nothing.’ <=
straightened as best he could in the low-ceiling galley. ‘Drake, put a
hand on his mouth, and show him your other side.’
growl preceded a muffled scream, the man’s eyes wild with terror.
pushed the man along the galley.
grabbed the man by the arm. ‘Go home, my friend; say nothing, do
man hurried out, scrambling over the back of the boat and stumbling many ti=
faced Drake. ‘Does he intend to report this?’
One more on the tally?’
smiled in the dim light from the torch. ‘One more on the tally,’=
sat on a bunk. ‘Do you sense them?’
they sit and wait with fear, for men to bring much gold coin.’=
they have the detonators.’ Kobus slowly blew out. Shaking his head, he
said, ‘I have a terrible feeling that I’m not doing the right t=
here, but I can’t pin it down.’ He rubbed his forehead. ‘=
you swim far underwater?’
the other boat? Yes?’
off your clothes here, go quietly into the water to the other boat, and pun=
hole into the bottom. Could you ... punch a hole through?’
straight back. No, no when the boat starts to take on water they’ll n=
want the detonators on them, they’ll panic. Go aboard the boat if you=
the chance, and take the object of great value.’
will do so,’ Drake keenly stated as he started to strip off, soon a
ghostly stick of white flesh leaving the galley, a gentle plop into the wat=
lit a cigarette. ‘Man from Atlantis, eat your fucking heart out.̵=
Exhaling, he frowned to himself in the dark. ‘Man from Atlantis was B=
in Dallas.’ He shook his head. ‘Should have definitely started
Drake off with Dallas.’
Aboard the other yacht, six men sat nervously waiting, the lig=
out, many eyes now focused on the darkened pontoon, a large holdall sat on =
crack caused them all to jump, and to exchange looks. A second loud crack, =
rushing water could be heard.
we hit something?’ a voice asked through the dark.
stationary, idiot!’ came back.
crouched down and listened, ears against the hull as the roar of water
taking on water,’ someone suggested, an instant before a thin metal p=
came through the the fibreglass hull, impaling a man through the chest. Sho=
and screams went up as the pole was withdrawn, the body slumping, a spout of
water shooting across the galley floor. The pole came in again, through a b=
straight through a man’s thigh, a scream issued by the man as others
tried to help him.
loud taps followed, the yacht now at an angle as men scrambled about in the
dark trying to help each other. The pole sliced up through the hull, a crac=
sound issued just prior to a man being skewered from beneath, through the j=
the pole exiting the top of his head. With the pole extracted the body slum=
The final three men fled, the holdall left. As they ran along the pontoon,
being observed by Kobus in the distance, the white fish that was Drake
slithered aboard the stricken yacht, the holdall retrieved and dragged under
stood at the wheel, and listened intently for any signs of Drake, the boat
gently rocking at its mooring. A wet holdall landing on deck was the first
sign, a hand offered to Drake’s white form as he clambered over the s=
nudged straight into the galley.
handed him a towel. ‘Dry yourself, you’ll catch your death.R=
was a saying from my time, but I do not believe I will perish from the chil=
the water – which was most pleasant.’
opened the holdall, water gushing out onto the galley table, and unwrapped a
heavy tangle of wire, finding dozens of stainless steel tubes the size of AA
batteries, all connected by thick green wires.
is it?’ Drake asked as he dressed.
by the look of them, but ... very specialised.’ Kobus followed the wi=
back to a hub, on it writing in Russian, a few of the words recognised. He
found three hubs, each of which was connected by a thicker wire to a master
control, a black plastic box the size of a house brick.
dressed, Drake sat and keenly observed Kobus in the dull torch light.
explained, ‘Each of these silver fingers makes fire, and they’r=
connected together, so they make fire at the exact same time. But ... but t=
are fixed cables, two or three metres long, not radio controlled. This ...
would set-off bombs that are very close to each other.’ With a heavy
frown, he carefully unscrewed a detonator, and examined the workings.
are greatly troubled,’ Drake noted.
... is a very odd detonator; it’s more like a firework. It would shoot
out many sparks, and in here are what looks like magnesium and phosphorous
eased back. ‘Central hub, nine feet, three smaller hubs, six feet and=
detonators.’ He unravelled the wires. ‘They’re in a daisy
chain, not parallel.’ He stared down at the assembly, his eyes wideni=
troubles you?’ Drake asked, sounding concerned.
seen this before, and now I know why they want me dead.’ He closed his
eyes and sighed loudly. Opening his eyes, he faced Drake squarely.
‘We’re in trouble, buddy, big trouble; they’ll stop at
nothing to keep me quiet about this.’
turned to day, a brilliant flash, the outside world suddenly in daylight. T=
blast rocked the boat, a mini tsunami created, Drake and Kobus hanging on as
their boat bobbed up and down, startled looks exchanged.
you start a fire over there?’ Kobus shouted.
that was a bomb, a big bomb. Quick, tear up these wires, smash these plastic
got to work with fervour, all wires torn, boxes smashed.
it over the side. Quick, we need to go.’
dropped the bundle of wires into the sea as Kobus clambered up onto the
pontoon, Kobus soon staring across at a huge cloud of grey smoke, illuminat=
from within by an unseen fire. They joined others running along the pontoon,
acrid smoke filling their lungs, soon out of the marina and onto the promen=
as sirens registered.
in the hotel room, Kobus stopped and lit up, sitting on the bed with his ba=
against the headboard, his legs stretched out.
did well, no?’ Drake asked from across the room, turning on the TV.=
did well,’ Kobus confirmed without looking up, no energy in his voice.
are greatly troubled by what you learnt.’
nodded before rubbing the bridge of his nose. Drake focused on his sponsor,=
Kobus made no comment, Kobus slowly working down the cigarette as he thought
about many things, not least the implications of the detonator, a detonator
with only one purpose.
a second cigarette, Kobus grabbed the watcher’s mobile, and dialled R=
Riggs asked after a moment.
... intercepted the sellers, and got hold of the detonators.’<=
know, buddy, you’ve done better in the past few days than I’ve =
seen you do. I thought you were good before, but this is fucking incredible
as incredible as what comes next.’
detonator only has one purpose, and I know what that purpose is; I worked o=
with the British Army.’
the British Army? What, in Iraq?’
need you to do something, no arguments; this is serious now.’<=
when was it not; they’ve been trying to kill you!’
more at stake now, a great deal more. I need you to contact Deputy Director
Mason, and give him the following message as coming from me, and this
Director? What the fuck’s going on, Kobus?’
was a project I worked on that you’re not supposed to know about.R=
was a pause at Riggs end. ‘Oh.’
you push it, you’ll be censured for sure.’
came another pause. ‘What’s the message?’
Mason from me that the Pop-Dragon is out the box.’
And I’m not supposed to know what it is.’
are twelve people who know what it is, I’m one of them. Just send him=
message, and give him this number, or I’ll have no choice but to go
took a moment. ‘I’ll send the message.’
difficult and insistent, just in case your message is ... blocked.’=
like this is getting out of
control,’ Riggs solemnly noted.
way beyond that, boss. Make the call.’ Kobus hung up, and grabbed a f=
are not confident of our fight,’ Drake noted, now sat watching a cart=
soon won’t be our fight.’
will fight shoulder to shoulder with others?’
... pass the fight on to others, yes.’
seemed deflated. ‘And who will we fight?’
fight small fights, and you ... you can learn to drive.’
turned his head, smiling. ‘Yes?’
forced a weak smile. ‘Yes.’
the phone went, it was Riggs. ‘Kobus, there’s something on the
wire, a blast at that marina in Varna, a big fucking blast.’=
‘Someone ... was covering their tra=
And no, it wasn’t me.’ He hung up.
The hand of God
Ten minutes after speaking with Riggs, the mobile trilled, Kob=
raising it. ‘Number unknown,’ it displayed. Kobus hit the green
got your message, which came as a shock, because I’ve just finished
reading a report on the subject matter.’
I need to verify that you are
actually you. Who was the princ=
who designed the bomb?’
Dr Kamil, a Kurd of all people.’
you know the detail.’
what detail do you know?’ Mason pressed.
was working on a job in Athens, which led to Bulgaria, to Sophia –=
body count has opened an investigation, a second investigation as to why the
computer says that the dead men are in Iraq as we speak. Have you ... lost
came for me, I reacted. They kept coming, I fought back; it was no more
complicated than that.’
sit before a review board soon enough to explain that.’
why the message?’
followed a few leads to a marina in Varna, Bulgaria, and relieved a few Rus=
gentlemen of a holdall with what I was led to believe were detonators of so=
description. Inside, I found a master synchroniser, nine feet of thick cabl=
three hubs, breaking to six feet of cable and to specialised detonators ful=
phosphorous. The rig was designed to detonate at high temperature, and at
eighteen points simultaneously.’
can see why I sent the message. That rig was familiar.’
it only has one use,’ Mason agreed. ‘Kamil is missing, so are h=
all due respect, sir, might I ask why someone with a desk close to yours is
trying to kill me?’
came a long pause. ‘That matter is subject to a high level
it draw a conclusion after I=
in the ground?’
far, Kobus, it looks like you can handle yourself, a few people around here
mentioning your name.’
be happy to take less notoriety and a dull assignment, sir.’=
like that train has left the station.’
you have any instructions for me?’
investigating, any and all leads, and send it all through regular
talk again soon.’ Mason hung up.
news?’ Drake enquired, looking hopeful.
he wants me dead,’ Kobus said as he stood, walking to the window. He
closed a crack in the curtains.
man ... is the magistrate?’ Drake puzzled.
nodded, appearing drained. ‘He’s the second in command to the
magistrate.’ He heaved a breath. ‘Given what’s happened, =
what I told him, he should have ordered me back to debrief, others to take
over. I’m ... someone they use for small jobs, not important jobs. Wh=
he asked me to stay with this most
important of jobs, I knew he was lying.’
does he wish you to continue, if you are not the tradesman for the job?R=
that he knows what I know and, more importantly, that=
knows where I am.’ Kobus closed his eyes, and rubbed the bridge of his
nose. ‘We’ll leave in ten minutes.’
his eyes, Kobus stared down at Drake, as Drake offered a curious expression
back. Kobus finally said, ‘If the bomb goes off, a million people will
many is that?’
people than there are blades of grass in a meadow.’
lowered his head as he considered the idea. ‘That is a great many peo=
a great tally if we save them.’
took a moment, staring down. ‘Drake, there’s only one thing that
stands between those people ... and their deaths, and that’s you.R=
puzzled that. ‘Me?’
and Marcus, are the only ones that can stop this. And I found you ... found=
in a cave after you’d been there for hundreds of years. After all tho=
years ... you were found now, t=
week, when this happens. And me, I’m one of a few people who knew abo=
the bomb and what it does, one of a grand total of ... just the one CIA
freelancer on this planet who could recognise that device.’
seems as if many things are in alignment,’ Drake stated with a heavy
reason they tried to kill me a few days ago, was because I could recognise =
detonator. The Russians, they probably have no idea what it does, they just
made it to spec.’
sat on the end of the bed, thinking. Staring at the carpet, he began,
‘When I was in the cave, and I heard you tapping, I almost left. Not
because I was afraid of you or a ... ghost or something, but because I was
afraid to being right, right about something beyond this life.’
rubbed his forehead. ‘The day I found you, I spoke to a priest, and he
suggested that many people are curious, that some accept religious teachings
without conviction, and some actually believe. Well, buddy, there’s a
fourth group: those that know.’ He stood, and looked down at Drake, t=
pale young man with dyed black hair. ‘You weren’t cursed by God=
unfortunate young friend, you were sent by God for this very purpose.’=
made ready to leave, Drake staring at the carpet for a whole two minutes be=
Drake said, ‘I have a purpose?’
stopped packing, taking a moment. ‘You have a purpose, you always
did.’ He turned his head. ‘You learnt to master the demon, a
remarkable feat, and something you should be proud of. I’m ... proud =
for doing that. And now, now your ... unique
skills might just stop the bomb.’ Kobus took a moment. ‘Par=
me would like you to take charge, to be the strong one, to ... take the
know little of this world.’
slowly nodded his head. ‘We were partnered up for a reason, I’m
afraid, and neither of us will survive it.’
stepped forwards. ‘But if we possess a very great tally at the end of=
lives, we shall be saved, no.’
forced a weak smile. ‘Part of me believes that, and part of me ... ju=
wants to walk away.’
are a strong man, pure of thought and swift of sword. We shall prevail,
friend, we fight with a small pistol ... and a large amount of hope.’=
They said nothing to each other as they headed out, the car
abandoned. A taxi whisked them down to central Varna, a cheap hotel found a=
walking around for twenty minutes. Cash secured a tatty room, no questions
asked. And the watcher’s mobile, that was now in the taxi, stuffed un=
the seat and being driven around Varna.
will we find this bomb?’ Drake asked once inside the small and poorly
watcher on the boat gave up the name of Johansson; I think he’s a CIA
section manager in Berlin, Germany. I met him once.’
will journey there? To Germania?’
will. And we’ll look for another detonator, because they can’t =
off the bomb without one.’
the men with gold coin for the object?’ Drake asked. ‘They were
be long gone,’ Kobus suggested.
men with coin have a house called “villa”, not far.’
took a moment, placing a cigarette on his lip. ‘They’d be just
coin would assist us in this fight,’ Drake finished off.
nodded, and then checked his watch. ‘We’ll leave at midnight. Do
you have a name for the area?’
do,’ Drake offered. He sat, turning on a black and white TV as Kobus =
At midnight, Kobus was snoring, nudged awake by Drake. ‘=
eased up, and yawned, rubbing his face. ‘Can you actually tell
have learnt from the TV, Big Bird taught me; the small hand and the big
shook his cigarette packet, pulling out his last cigarette. Lighting up, he
said, ‘Big Bird, eh.’
is spelt C –A – T, dog is spelt D – O – G.’=
slowly cranked his head around to Drake. ‘I might just live long enou=
to see you spell disillusionment.’
sounds like a long word,’ Drake noted. ‘What does it mean?̵=
stood. ‘It means ... that the magistrate should do no evil. When he d=
we – his servants - are disillusioned.’
good word, yes. But today on the TV, the word of the day is house.’
a quick wash, and the use of the toilet, Kobus was ready. ‘I need a n=
shirt,’ he commented as he placed on his jacket.
you not wash your shirts?’ Drake puzzled.
I have the time. C’mon.’
of the hotel, Drake described the villa’s area and name as best as he=
and Kobus relayed the detail to a taxi driver, who thought he knew the plac=
Twenty minutes later, and after a few dead ends, Drake pointed at a cafe th=
was still open. Paying the taxi driver, Kobus straightened, taking in the q=
men meet here often, I know this image.’ Drake turned. ‘When th=
leave ... they go this way.’ He pointed off to the right. ‘Not
a dark pavement, few street lamps working, and past houses with high walls =
high wooden gates, cats dashing under parked cars. Dogs barked unseen, the
other sides of those high walls. At the next corner, Drake took a moment,
turning right, halting after ten yards.
headlights caused them to duck behind a parked car.
is them,’ Drake whispered.
car passed, heard but not seen, and slowed twenty yards down the road that =
were on. Lifting their heads up, they could see the car enter a villa throu=
large gates held open by a guard. That guard checked the street carefully f=
moment before closing the gates.
means ... we have won, or we are correct, or good, or we found something of
interest,’ Kobus whispered.
Drake repeated in a whisper as they stood. They checked both ways down the
road, seeing no one, no vehicles approaching, and ran across, ducking behin=
row of three tall metal bins.
Drake, Kobus interlaced his fingers – palms upwards, and instructed,
‘Do this with your hands, so that I can step up and over the wall.=
Drake nodded, led to the wall bent double, his hands soon interlocked. Kobus
placed a foot in, and was launched upwards, landing on the top of the wall =
wobbling. ‘Fuck me.’ He crouched, placed a hand down, and jumped
inside, hitting the dirt at the base of a tree.
landed next to the tree, almost silently, just as a dog barked in the house
next door. After a moment crouched in dark shadows, Kobus ran forwards bent
double. He crunched across dried grass, and slipped around to the rear of t=
property, lights now on in the upstairs windows, a few cracks of light esca=
wooden shutters on the downstairs windows. He turned, Drake nowhere to be s=
he whispered, just as a body hit the ground beside him, air bursting from t=
lungs, followed by a moan.
landed, straddling the man. ‘He was watching us from above.’
move.’ Kobus relieved the man of a pistol, then moved around a large =
to view the rear of the property. Turning his head, he whispered, ‘Can
you make a loud noise in the street, and come back.’
was gone in a blur. Six seconds later, it sounded like one car had landed on
top of another, a car alarm sounding, a ghostly image turning solid as Drake
said a loud noise, not to wake up the whole damn city!’ Kobus whisper=
a fist shaken. Bent double, he moved stealthily forwards, up onto a stone w=
bracketing steps, along it whilst trying to balance - his arms stretched ou=
and up onto a balcony with ease. The balcony doors were not locked, sounds =
coming from the front of the house, echoing off the neighbouring houses. As=
moved inside, he could feel rather than see that Drake was close behind. =
crack of light, from a door open just a fraction, gave away the room’s
outline and dimensions, the light coming from the hallway. Pistol in hand,
Kobus moved quietly around a central sofa and glass coffee table to the doo=
now hearing raised voices on a lower level, yet distant and distorted. He
turned to Drake. ‘How many men, and where?’
above, at the front of the house,’ Drake whispered. ‘Six below,=
the front of the house, a woman below.’
at the front, with a man who stands guard.’
just started to open the door, an eye on the hallway, when Drake grabbed his
arm. He turned his head.
is ... a man, near, he ... puzzles the noise I made at the front, and ... m=
ready to kill all here.’
does he plan on doing that?’
Kobus let out as he sprinted towards the balcony door.
scrambled back down to the wall, balancing as best he could along the wall,=
jumped, rolling as he hit the ground and impacting a small stone statue, the
statue falling into a pond with a splash. Cursing, he jumped up and ran to =
rear of the garden, pistol still in hand, but found a high stone wall block=
in the dark, he called for Drake, who was nowhere to be seen. Backtracking a
few paces, Kobus placed a foot on a wobbly statue, reached up to a tree bra=
with one hand, and gained purchase on a ledge in the wall. With his hand on=
branch, one shoe on the ledge and one shoe on the statue’s head, he
reached for the top of the wall and got the pistol hand over, then a leg,
cursing at the pain caused by scraping over the wall’s rough edges. He
dropped eight feet, right onto his back, landing on hard dry soil, the wind
knocked out of him.
agony, and stunned, Kobus lifted his head a few inches, seeing the black
outline of a dog stood with its legs wide, growling down at him. Drake land=
next to the dog, scaring it and causing it to jump sideways in shock. The d=
composed itself quickly, and growled towards Drake through the dark. Drake
growled back, the dog retreating just as Kobus brought his pistol to bear on
leapt six feet, and landed straddle over Kobus as night turned to day for t=
second time, the wall collapsing onto them.
could see images, blurred images: light and dark, a bag, a bin, a curb ston=
Water, water splashed onto his face. He opened his eyes, finding Drake̵=
image, Drake looking worried.
you hear me?’ Drake asked.
... what happened?’
house of the men with coin was damaged by a bomb.’
... should go.’ Kobus tried to move, grimacing in pain.
are some distance from the house named “villa”, in a garden of =
trees and paths, things for children.’
slowly eased up with Drake’s help, finding a dull yellow street lamp,=
lamp covered in spiders webs and surrounded by flittering moths. Peering
around, he could see swings and roundabouts, now registering the echo of di=
sirens, a low bush immediately in front of him, and distant houses beyond.
not hurt badly, just winded. I’ll ... be OK.’
lifted Kobus to his feet. ‘You will need more clothing, I fear.’=
took in his clothes in the dull yellow light, starting to brush down the du=
shall buy fine thread now that we have coin.’
pointed towards a large holdall. ‘I believe the number of the paper is
tested his legs and took a few steps, kneeling painfully to open the bag.
is much gold coin?’
is ... and more than would have been needed to buy that detonator.’=
puzzled that as he knelt. ‘They ... would buy more than one?’=
would. Or ... something else.’ He stuffed a wad into his inside pocke=
handing one to Drake – who placed it into a pocket in his casual jack=
must return to the hotel, for you to rest.’ Drake lifted the hefty ba=
cash after zipping it up, and grabbed Kobus under the armpit.
took ten minutes of slow hobbling to reach a main road, a taxi flagged down.
Once in, Kobus asked for the centre of Varna, and halted the taxi several
blocks away from the hotel. He hobbled the short distance, putting on a bra=
face when let in by the night porter.
happen you?’ the man asked, heavily accented.
fight me for money,’ Kobus replied, and pushed past, soon in the room=
under a hot shower.
the shower, and with just his trousers back on, he found Drake sat watching=
‘Counted the money yet?’
looked over his shoulder and focused on the holdall. ‘I am uncertain =
how to count this paper.’
sat next to the holdall. Retrieving a wad of fifty Euro notes, he counted f=
notes in each bundle, and estimated fifty bundles. ‘A hundred thousan=
so, which may have been a fair price for the detonator if it was precision =
and tested. Less than I thought though.’
out another wad, Kobus frowned down at the wad below. It was different. He
peeled back the top fifty, and found notes valued at five hundred Euros.
‘OK, that’s ... odd.’
is odd?’ Drake asked without taking his eyes of the TV.
top note is a fifty, the rest five hundreds. It’s a trick. But ... it
should be the other way around; five hundred on top and fifty underneath. A=
... there’s more than a million Euros here.’
million was what you said was very big, yes?’
We could ... retire somewhere nice and turn our backs on the world. But the=
still want me dead, and this money isn’t really enough to disappear w=
do not wish to give up the fight,’ Drake noted.
took a moment, throwing down a wad. ‘No, I don’t, so I need my
fucking head examined.’
the house named “villa”, there was a women below, very sad. She=
prisoner?’ Kobus queried as he rifled through the bag.
from the land you fought in.’
pulled his nose out of the bag, staring at the back of Drake’s head.
And I smelt death in the house, a body hidden below where the woman was hel=
the body of a child.’
reached for his cigarettes, finding the box empty and cursing.
I go to the shop for cigarettes?’ Drake keenly offered, now standing.=
considered if that particular task was wise, but handed over a twenty Euro
note. ‘Don’t be long.’
handed back the note. ‘I have coin.’ He turned, opened the wind=
and launched himself through before Kobus could stop him. Rushing to the
window, Kobus found a flat roof one floor down, a row of brightly lit shops
visible a hundred yards away. Shaking his head, he moved to the bed and lay
down, aching all over, and now bruised in many places.
minutes later, Drake came back through the window with effortless grace, two
bags in hand. He placed the bags down, and lifted out several packs of
cigarettes - the correct brand, and a new plastic lighter.
kid,’ Kobus commended.
we have chocolate biscuits, other biscuits, Sprite, and this.’ He hand
Kobus a small medical kit for tourists, the wording English. ‘To make=
eased up onto an elbow, letting his legs down. ‘Excellent.’ Sir=
registered through the open window. He slid his gaze across to Drake, and
lowered his head. ‘A man wished to part me from my money.’
Kobus pressed, louder this time.
... kicked him, and he went to the inside of a shop.’
the shop have one of those new fangled glass windows at the front?’=
... believe so.’
just kicked someone through a plate glass window?’ Drake did not answ=
‘At the villa, what did you do to make that noise in the street?̵=
large metal bin. I ... threw it onto a car.’
twisted the top of a Sprite bottle. ‘I didn’t thank you. You sa=
my life.’ He toasted a smiling Drake with his Sprite.
smiled widely. ‘Good health, long life, and many fine sons.’
well don’t know about the last part.’
mobile phone began ringing, causing Kobus to puzzle it; he had left the
previous phone in a taxi.
took out the phone, from his pocket. ‘The man who wanted to part me f=
my money dropped this.’ He handed it to Kobus. ‘I thought you m=
have use of it.’
thinking.’ Kobus answered the call. ‘Malek? No, he’s
shopping, try later.’ Kobus cut the call, and punched in the number f=
Riggs. ‘That you, boss?’
and there’s more on the wire, a villa blown apart in Varna, ten or mo=
dead they’re saying.’
Company took care of the boat, and the villa.’
this is all way over my pay grade.’
me a favour, and run the names of the people at the villa, you should find
Ramius in there. And see if there’s an ID on a woman and child.’=
you know who was in the villa, Kobus?’ Riggs demanded.
was watching it when it blew, a bit busted up; fucking wall fell on me.R=
Bulgarian authorities are jumping up and down.’
you do next? Do you ... have any leads?’
and it’s a long shot, so I’ll be heading to Paris.’
turned his head, and listened in.
Riggs queried. ‘You’re leaving the area?’
a bit hot around here right now, and no one will be making any deals for a
fucking police are all over it. They’re saying its drug related, Russ=
gangs. That name you gave me, it was for a low grade watcher, but he was li=
to Berlin station.’
nothing. Anyway, I’ll call you in a day or so when I get to Paris.=
He cut the call, noticing Drake’s look. ‘When I use the phone, =
magistrate can listen in.’
you gave a falsehood. We shall journey by another road.’
shall, starting right now.’
Drake turned off the TV. ‘What is a tamp-oon?’
halted, considered his answer, and lifted the holdall. ‘You figure it
would appear to cause great pleasure to women, much smiling and dancing alo=
the street after purchase.’
and cocked an eyebrow. ‘TV advertising has a great deal to answer
bored taxi driver was offered as much money as he made in a month for the s=
trip to Bucharest in Romania, Kobus explaining that they had a problem with=
aeroplane, a delay. They set off north after the taxi had taken on fuel, and
the driver had picked up his passport from home.
with his head against the door’s cool glass, staring up at yellow hig=
lights as they flittered past. The only sound was the high-pitched whine of
tyres on concrete, Kobus sat mesmerised by the rhythmical passing of the ye=
lamps against the black night sky. The lamps became white for certain stret=
of road, an occasional lamp out, and time moved slowly.
driver had puzzled the route, since it was not the most direct route, but K=
wanted a particular border crossing-point used. They had stopped for a bite=
eat in the hills near the border, and now approached a quiet border-crossin=
the dead of night.
at a cafe just short of the border, Kobus handed the taxi driver another
month’s pay. He thumbed towards Drake in the back seat. ‘The bo=
no passport, but I know a man here, he goes around. No ... questions.’=
taxi driver took the money, making a face and shrugging.
stepped out, followed by Drake, Kobus handing Drake the holdall – whi=
also contained Kobus’s holster and pistol. He pointed. ‘You see=
bend in the road, past the border controls?’
us there. Go around, quietly, don’t be seen.’
headed off down a slope without a second thought, the curious taxi driver
watching him go. With Kobus back in the car, they drove up to the border,
passports shown, no checks made of the vehicle; this was Europe, one big ha=
the border, they halted around the first bend, Drake opening the door little
more than two minutes later, and surprising the taxi driver. The man glance=
Kobus – who didn’t respond, made a face and drove on, heading n=
for twenty miles before crossing the Danube, soon heading west along its no=
banks, now on the Romanian side.
early hours they reached Bucharest, passing bland white high-rise blocks fo=
few minutes before approaching the historic centre, picture postcard buildi=
glimpsed by Drake in the grey half-light. Kobus tipped the driver even more
money, thanks given. And stuffed under the back seat of the taxi was the mo=
that Kobus had used to call Riggs, now on its way back to Varna.
found a cafe that was open at this early hour, and sat with cups of coffee =
two uniformed police officers. Drake copied his mentor by adding milk and
sugar, and then tasted coffee for the first time. Kobus waited.
do not greatly favour its taste.’ Drake shrugged.
helps us mere mortals to have more energy, to be awake more.’<=
Drake nodded. ‘Like Red Bullshit.’
cocked an eyebrow. ‘Red Bull<=
he carefully mouthed. ‘Although, I think you were right the first
is it, bullshit? Men say this o=
in the colonies of America.’
what a cow does in a field after feeding.’
As I child we collected these when dry, for the fire in winter.’
people say it ... they mean to suggest disbelief in something.’
seem to disbelieve a great many things,’ Drake puzzled.
sipped his coffee. ‘You must have picked up some sun yesterday; your =
is less ... white.’
appear more fitting?’ Drake keenly asked.
nodded. ‘Be hard to keep the young girls off you.’ As Kobus
observed, he watched a demon blush, sat now in a cafe in Romania before daw=
holdall full of cash less than four feet away from armed police officers. It
was a surreal moment.
Two hours later, at 7am, they flagged down a taxi, soon to a s=
hand car lot that was just opening up. Kobus found a ten year old BMW cover=
in morning dew, the offer price being just over ten thousand Euros. He grab=
the salesman. ‘You speak English?’
take this car, now, fifteen thousand Euros, no name or paper.
man hesitated. ‘I must give name.’
... can give any name, my friend.’
man glanced around the quiet lot before coming to a decision. He fetched the
showroom, Kobus counted out the money, handing it over. When done, he made =
eye contact with the salesman. ‘If there is problem, my friend, I come
back – and I talk with you.’
man handed over the keys, and the vehicle’s documents, whilst avoiding
the car, and running a hand over the leather, Drake said, ‘Beemer, ye=
Kobus confirmed as he drove out of the lot, stopping to adjust the seat.
pleasant smell,’ Drake noted. He faced Kobus. ‘I can ... study =
can, because I don’t care if you damage it.’
headed northwest, and towards Germany, a long drive, and a few border cross=
to negotiate along the way.
I not have papers?’ Drake asked. ‘For safe conduct across the
should, but the best forger I know is in Switzerland, in Zurich. We’re
heading that way, so we’ll make a stop. There’s a guy in Prague=
know, he’s OK. In fact, he’s less known to the magistrate. OK,
Prague it is.’
A1 took them towards the hills, soon spectacular views glimpsed as the morn=
warmed up, ornate and dated houses on the roadside reminiscent of Switzerla=
or Austria, proud castles glimpsed atop distant ridges.
stopped off in a small town and bought fresh clothes, Kobus now dressed in
jeans and t-shirt, a brown leather jacket bought, one of those new and very=
leather jackets that looked like it had been worn out already. Drake picked=
a pair of shoes he liked, Kobus a pair of ankle boots and two holdalls.
three hours, and rounding a bend, Drake pointed. ‘I know this
eased to a halt in a lay-by, peering across a deep wooded valley at a castl=
three spires surrounded by trees. ‘Are we near your home village?R=
but I was here in the eighth year, I believe. I travelled with a group of
minstrels, and hid my identity from those who pursued me.’ Drake star=
across at the castle, appearing saddened. Softly, he said, ‘I did gre=
took a moment, and sighed. ‘Nothing we can do about that, it was a ve=
long time ago. Place is probably a hotel for tourists.’
who travel for pleasure.’
nodded. ‘The lord of these lands, I killed him as he tried to hide his
turned his head. ‘Treasure?’
coins. Many. After I killed him, I closed the wall he had opened with a hea=
stone, so that his family would not benefit from the money; he did not trust
them to know of his treasure. I made good the render on the wall.’
is this word?’
means, that you didn’t just kill him, but that you wanted to enjoy the
family’s discomfort afterwards as well. It means ... that it served no
practical purpose ... other than to cause suffering.’
nodded. ‘I was ... sadistic, yes.’
was, you ... were not. Don’t forget that.’ Kobus took a moment.
‘Do you want to look around the place for an hour?’
release of such memories would only hurt me. But should we not collect the =
all this time they would have been found.’
was well hidden,’ Drake suggested.
eased the car out. ‘Well, if you’re sure that it won’t up=
you too much we’ll have a look.’
we have more coin, we have means to wage war, no?’
have means to wage war,’ Kobus agreed. He noticed a sign for a hotel,=
picture of the castle, and turned off the main road, circling underneath the
main road before negotiating a dated stone bridge that was single lane for
traffic, finally climbing through dense woods up to the castle grounds.
out of the car, Drake said, ‘It has not changed.’
like these old castles, and they look after them. A ... curiosity.’ <=
wandered inside, and to reception, three attractive ladies in black and whi=
uniforms stood ready to assist.
English or Deutsche?’ Kobus asked the first receptionist. The lady
receptionist spoke both languages. ‘Do you have a room for tonight?=
we see one, please?’
receptionist called a porter, Kobus pointing Drake towards a diagram on the
wall without the lady noticing. Drake closed in on the diagram, and held a
finger on a room, a third of the way up a south-facing tower, the tower that
they were stood under.
eased closer to the receptionist. ‘Do you have a room above us, a view
south - of the river?’
have two, sir,’ she confirmed after attending a computer screen. She
handed the porter the keys, the man leading them off, and into a lift that
simply took them up one floor.
the lift door opened, Drake hesitated, before taking a single large stride =
and turning fully around, puzzling just how the hell he was now on a differ=
floor without walking up the stairs. Kobus grabbed him by the arm as the po=
opened a room.
the spacious room, Kobus noted a giant four-poster bed, a sofa, an ornate a=
dated dresser, and a great view through tall and narrow windows, one whole =
of the room curved. He turned to Drake, and waited.
faced the porter. ‘May we enter another room?’
man led them out, and to the second room on the same floor. As they entered,
Drake made brief eye contact with Kobus, a nod given.
take both rooms,’ Kobus loudly stated.
porter led them back down, Drake puzzling the magical box that transported =
between floors, inspecting the floor numbers at length before being dragged=
hundred Euros were handed over for the two rooms, one night with breakfast.
This was a five star establishment. The porter carried their bags from the =
a tight squeeze in the lift for the three of them with luggage. Kobus took =
first room, Drake the second.
had dumped down his bags, quickly following the porter into Drake’s r=
tipping him and thanking him. With the door closed, Kobus turned to find Dr=
running a hand across a wall, a section of wall to the left of a huge stone
fireplace. Kobus closed in on the wall, examining it.
walls of the rooms were bare stone, adorned with a few shields and tapestri=
That stone had been worked down to a finish that was smooth, but one that d=
not completely destroy the stone effect. The mortar between the stones was a
pale grey, and finished to a very high standard.
is here,’ Drake stated.
can sense it?’
have till the morning, when the maids will come in and clean the room ̵=
1; after calling the police.’ K=
put a hand in a pocket. ‘Opening that up will cause a great deal of f=
noise. They’ll tolerate young couples having loud sex, but demolishing
old stone walls is generally against hotel policy.’
grabbed a poker from the fireplace, inspecting it. ‘The stone is
at the centre, here,’ he explained as he touched the wall, the lower
mid-point of the stone in question. The mortar was obviously modern era, but
the outline of the large stone was clear, some six feet across and four feet
high. ‘The stone need only be turned, not levered.’
up, and checked out the view as Drake quietly chipped at the mortar, making=
mess on the carpet. There was a “No Smoking” sign on the wall b=
given what they were doing to the room, Kobus figured it was the least that=
hotel owners would be pissed about.
have purchase,’ Drake said after little more three six minutes of eff=
He shoved the poker in, to a depth of around two feet, turned it so that its
barb caught the stone, and pulled. Increasing his effort, he pulled again,
mortar popping out of the far join and peppering the previously clean room.=
loud crack revealed the sinking of the far end of the massive stone. Another
tug, and a scraping sound was issued, Kobus concerned that it may be loud
enough to attract attention.
was unperturbed by the noise and yanked again, an opening revealed. Drake l=
go of the poker, and managed to get an arm inside, a knee against the wall,=
Kobus stood keenly observing, a cigarette balanced on his lip.
rose up and mortar fell as the stone moved twelve inches, now revealing the
curved side of the adjoining stone, and a hollow space behind. Wedging his
upper body sideways into the hole, Drake moved the huge stone around till it
was almost at a right angle to the wall. He jumped up, a foot on the base of
the hole, a hand on the top of the stone, and slid in sideways. And
Kobus closed in, a hand appeared, holding out gold coins. He picked one out.
‘They’re big, and heavy, worth some money. If you hold on,
I’ll pass you a bag.’ He dumped the clothes from a strong holda=
onto the bed, and squeezed the air out from it, shoving it through. Clicking
his lighter, he peered into the gap.
the stone, a small space revealed itself, just big enough for Drake to stan=
in, just wide enough for him to avoid scraping his shoulders. Several rotten
wooden boxes lay stacked up, now a loud tinkling from the coins as they fil=
the bag. Drake passed the bag through, Kobus taking hold of it. But when Dr=
let go, the bag dropped to the floor, almost pulling Kobus’s arm out =
me,’ Kobus let out as he straightened, rubbing a shoulder. ‘You can carry that. But I think the
fucking handle will come off.’
is more,’ echoed out, the words oddly distorted.
out, thinking. He glanced over his shoulder. ‘We need more bags.̵=
He took a drag before dumping clothes out of a second bag, passing it throu=
to Drake. Stepping to the bedside cabinet, he dialled reception. ‘Hel=
Would it be possible to purchase a new suitcase, a strong plastic one with
wheels? If you could have it brought up, room Six. Thanks.’
down the receiver, the phone clearly indicating that this was room seven, h=
to the hole, Drake now filling the second bag. ‘We’ll need some
help,’ Kobus thought out loud.
went back to the phone, taking out his wallet. He found a number on a folder
sheet of paper, and dialled it after transposing two digits. Many code-words
and numbers were listed on the paper, but each number had certain digits
swapped. ‘Georgiou? It’s Kobus, I’ve got a job for you. A=
you free for a few days?’
You want someone followed?’ came an accented voice.
But this job, it pays you twenty thousand Euros, and a percentage. The ... =
got hold of some gold coins, from a Russian gangster that won’t be
could be heard.
I need you to find a second driver, someone you can trust, and two strong c=
Audi or BMW. Drive to northwest Hungary, head for the town of Deva.
What’s your mobile number these days?’
wrote it down on a pad next to the phone. ‘OK, got that. How soon do =
think you could get here from Athens?’
the morning. What money for the second man?’
is a good job. You want to use =
to fence them?’
of them, yes, but I don’t want them all fenced in the same place.
know a few people,’ the man offered.
why we’re talking,’ Kobus quipped. ‘And not a word to
course. I’ll leave in an hour. Shall I call Maros?’
have him send someone to Zurich, ready to hand me cash, maybe ... two milli=
Euros. And ask him where he wants the gold dropped, and don’t use the
phone; go see him if you can.’
will do. Call me in the morning.’
returned to the dusty hole in the wall, Drake now shoving a heavy bag throu=
Kobus got under it, but getting it on the bed nearly killed him.
‘Fuck,’ he blew out, the bag bouncing before settling, the anti=
bed creaking - and none too pleased at its treatment.
scraped through the hole and dropped down. ‘It is much coin.’=
is, and it may come in handy.’ Kobus took a breath. ‘But first,
first we need to get it to the car, then we need to see if the car will take
the damn weight, then we need to hand it to a man who’ll turn it into
paper money. And we need to do all that without any fucker noticing.’=
are not confident.’
lit a fresh cigarette. Exhaling, and pointing at the bag with the cigarette=
said, ‘We can do it, but can we do it without anyone noticing.’=
minutes later, a knock could be heard at Kobus’s room. He stepped into
the corridor, and paid the porter for the suitcase. ‘Keep the
in Drake’s room, the air now thick with dust, he examined the strong =
plastic case. ‘This’ll hold a bag’s worth of coins for su=
he suggested. He grabbed a pillow and placed it into the case, Drake lifting
over the smaller bag and placing it down, the case just about zipped up. Ko=
wheeled the case around the bedroom. ‘It’ll do. Stay here.̵=
wheeled the case to the door and out, to the lift and down, and out to the =
He had to wait a few seconds to make sure that no one was about, struggling=
get it in the boot - and cursing. Back at Drake’s room he knocked, the
door soon opened by a grubby looking Drake. ‘Job done.’<=
is more coin,’ Drake informed Kobus.
peered into the hole, and gave it some thought. Turning, he said,
‘I’ll be back.’
Twenty minutes later he returned, the case now empty save the =
‘No one saw me, so they won’t think I’m stealing pillows
– or removing dead bodies in suitcases! And at two-fifty a night, we =
should be stealing the fucking pil=
lifted the second bag of coins into the suitcase, plus many small plastic b=
filled with the coins. ‘You have hidden the coins nearby, in a wooded
area, for collection later?’
nodded. ‘Hey, buddy, where’d you get the little white plastic b=
he enquired, pointing at them.
were in the small room for washing.’
Kobus said, nodding. Somehow, stuffing plastic bags designed for sanitary
towels full of priceless gold coins seemed wrong.
the third holdall utilised, and the majority of the coins now removed, Drake
moved the stone back into place. Apart from the obvious missing mortar, a t=
layer of grey dust everywhere and mortar on the carpet, their handiwork wou=
not have been noticed. And the hotel owners were unlikely to remove the sto=
to see what lay behind it. It would simply have appeared that the guests had
... dug out the stone’s mortar for something to do.
placed the cigarette on his lip, and studied the large stone, wondering if =
mortar could be touched up, and not caring either way. Grabbing a pad next =
the phone, he wrote a note: “Sorry about the mess”. He placed i=
a pillow, along with ten thousand Euros. It might just keep Interpol out of
I shower?’ Drake nudged, the lad keen to get wet and soapy again.
I was just about to do the same. We’ll leave in an hour or so.’=
his own room, Kobus ordered a sandwich, and sat eating it in the bay of the=
with his feet up, taking in the view through the trees, the picture-postcard
view of the river and its ancient stone bridge. And he tried to imagine Dra=
dressed like a wandering minstrel, moving around the castle and killing its
occupants. A green and yellow striped hat, with points with bells on, came =
mind, Kobus shaking off the image.
being here rammed home the realism of what Drake was, a realism that was ea=
to forget when looking at the fresh-faced young lad. Drake had been here,
hundreds of years ago. And his sadistic deed, that of hiding the coins, wou=
now benefit Kobus in particular, and the world in general, an odd symmetry.=
As dusk came on in the valley, Kobus packed up as best he coul=
utilising the plastic bags that the clothes had been bought in. In
Drake’s room he took charge of the suitcase, wheeling it slowly, and
struggling to get it onto the back seat, nearly breaking his back.=
to the hotel, he stepped to reception, and asked for a map, enquiring about
local bars and restaurants. Later, when the reception staff saw him drive o=
would seem that he would be returning, nothing amiss.
Drake’s room, the lad now clean and fresh - and heavily scented from =
complimentary aftershave, they lifted the remaining bag of coins, the plast=
bags with clothes in, and headed out via the stairs. Drake checked ahead, as
well as checking around the corners. They made it to the car without incide=
their bags placed onto the back seat, and drove off across the narrow stone
bridge without checking out. Kobus did, however, fill in the little survey =
that asked how well the rooms had been cleaned.
the main road, they turned west and towards the town of Deva, the car heavy=
sluggish. As they joined the highway, Drake pulled from his pocket a
complimentary toothbrush with a short handle, and examined it.
been stealing stuff from the hotel, have you? Kobus mock scolded.
is for the cleaning of teeth.’
teeth won’t rot ... because of what you are.’
I should still have good breath, no.’
shot him a playful look. ‘Sure. But that’s what gum is for.R=
retrieved the gum from his pocket, unwrapped it, and started to chew. Speak=
whilst eating, he said, ‘The small paper says: do not swallow.’=
made a face. ‘I’ve swallowed many. It won’t do you any ha=
but I guess they don’t figure it’ll do you any good either. Lab=
like that are for kids.’
men in the cave, they had gum, but not like this.’ Drake stared ahead=
a moment. ‘Kobus, now that we have much coin, I would request some for
the families of the men in the cave.’
glanced at Drake, and considered for a moment what he was suggesting.
‘We’d have to find their names, and living relatives.’
... can be done?’
can be done,’ Kobus agreed. ‘The bodies would be flown home in a
I can ... make amends.’
glanced across at Drake, but said nothing as they drove through the dark.=
Bob Russell lifted his phone. ‘Yes?’
some odd intel, very ... odd.’
been monitoring calls into Kobus’s handler, Riggs, for the past
forty-eight hours. Kobus knew there was a woman and kid in the villa, he was
there when it blew, minor injuries picked up.’
he know who they were?’
sir, he asked if the bodies had been identified.’
he have seen them, through a window?’
possible, sir. I guess Ramius was sloppy.’
something we’re overlooking, and that’s the British.’
made no enquiries since the project was mothballed, and we’re not awa=
of any British assets in the area, sir.’
sign of Kobus?’
tracked a mobile he used to call Riggs. He drove over to Bucharest and
assets to Varna. Find him.’
he informed Riggs that he’s heading to Paris.’
There’s no element of this in Paris. What’s in Paris?’
don’t know, sir.’
They reached the town of Deva quickly, noticing a roadside mot=
beyond the town that seemed quiet enough - just the one car in the car park.
Kobus paid cash, no ID shown, the night porter heavily tipped. He parked th=
car right next to their room, Drake effortlessly carrying the heavy suitcase
and bag inside - just in case someone stole the damn car in the night. All
told, they had around three million Euros on them, in either notes or coins=
the door closed, the lights turned on, Drake settled in front of the TV. Not
having got much in the way of good sleep in the past twenty-four hours, Kob=
lay down and closed his eyes, soon snoring, and soon turned on his side by
A pleasant drive
The dawn light woke Kobus at 6am.
Drake asked with a cheery smile.
Kobus puzzled as he eased up, rubbing his face.
pointed at a plastic kettle on a tray, cups, and coffee sachets. ‘It =
for coffee, I have read and understood. Watch.’ Drake switched on the
kettle as if it was a prize-winning effort, and stood back. ‘The water
will become hot.’
lad,’ Kobus commended as he used the bathroom. Returning after flushi=
Drake was stirring powdered milk into the coffee.
small paper bags of sugar,’ Drake stated, proudly handing over the cu=
Kobus said as he took the cup. He took a sip. ‘Not bad. But the powde=
milk is never the same.’
handed over a mobile, Kobus immediately worried. Drake explained, ‘In=
night I sensed men fighting nearby, and I climbed through the window without
waking you. One of the men dropped this as he fought.’
were they fighting over?’
of the men was married to a woman in a room here, the other man lying down =
a motel,’ Kobus said dismissively. ‘Did they see you?’ he=
as sipped his coffee.
his coffee downed, a second cup threatened and on the boil, Kobus used the
mobile to call Georgiou.
Georgiou cautiously answered.
Yes, awake, and we are here.’
the town, follow the road northwest a mile, you’ll see a motel on the
right. Room 10.’
be fifteen minutes.’
watched the road as Kobus made a second coffee, the coffee downed before two
black Audis pulled in.
do you sense?’ Kobus asked Drake as he readied the bags of coins.
approach, they are ... cautious ... not worried.’
you sense a falsehood?’ Kobus asked as he approached the door.=
... think they may gain more commerce than you agreed.’
blame them for that,’ Kobus said as he opened the door. Georgiou reve=
his car close, halted and jumped out, the boot popped-open ready. Between t=
they lugged the heavy suitcase into the boot, slamming it, the holdall hand=
the second man.
the cars locked, the two drivers came into the room after a cursory check of
the car park, a nod at Drake as they entered. They all sat on the edges of
a dark haired and tanned Greek, began, ‘I have two buyers, maybe thre=
Maros has two million Euros ready, in Zurich. We’ll drive these coins=
a rendezvous here, a truck to take it across to Switzerland.’<=
but we’ll need to tally it squarely; my boss knows how many coins the=
are.’ Kobus handed Georgiou a coin.
know these coins, and they’re rare; worth a great deal. I think it is=
than two million, much more.’
Maros we’ll settle after he’s sold some. Right, there’s a=
load, and the sale of those will be down to you alone. I’ll want the
money paid into the usual account, bit by bit, but try and shift some of th=
quickly. Oh, ask Maros for a great many traveller’s cheques, a few ba=
drafts made to cash.’
handed Georgiou a hand-drawn map with directions. ‘The place isn̵=
far, it’s south east of here, an hour or less. Fetch it when you
I get some sleep!’ Georgiou joked, he and the other man laughing.
‘We drove all night.’
swivelled, and pulled out wads of Euros from his jacket, handing over thirty
thousand Euros in large notes. ‘Here, a cure for insomnia.’
best kind of cure,’ Georgiou agreed. ‘With this I can drink mys=
you go, my friend,’ Kobus encouraged. They stood, handshakes given, D=
practising his handshaking.
the door closed, Kobus turned to Drake, and waited.
sensed no deception.’
then ... next stop Zurich. Do we have any coins left on us?’=
volunteered six coins.
them on you,’ Kobus requested as he grabbed the plastic bags holding
their clothes. ‘We have a border or two to cross, and I don’t w=
to be found with those on me.’
hesitated, noticed by Drake, placed down the bags and lifted the stolen mob=
After a moment, he punched in Riggs number. ‘Did I wake you?’=
about, I’m still in the apartment. Had a late night meeting with my b=
he flew over, everyone talking about Varna.’
you identify the woman?’
say she was an Arab, but no ID on her.’
they find the body of a kid?’
did, buried in the basement. Tell me, do you have fucking X-Ray vision
that thing I told you I found in a safe house.’
paused. ‘You’ve got to be shitting me.’
why I’m still alive, and why you’re now probably in danger. So =
it under wraps as long as you can.’
many people know about Varna, no way anyone could bury the detail. Already =
of a Congressional Hearing, the White House asking questions.’=
will be buried, made to look like Russians shooting a Russians,’ Kobus
scoffed. ‘Still, it doesn’t matter now.’
‘Doesn’t ... matter now=
I’ll call you from Paris.’ He hung up.
In Langley, an operator lowered his headset and made notes on =
‘Safe house. Kobus found something. What?’
email was sent to Bob Russell. ‘Our boy is in Romania, near town of D=
Paris could be the destination after all.’
Kobus was moody as they drove off. After a while, Drake said,
‘You are uncertain about involving someone, someone who may help
considered his answer as they wound their way around tight bends in a fores=
‘I was a soldier in the British Army, an officer, a Captain in the Ir=
War. When I was there I was involved in analysing – studying – a type of bomb we found. That bomb was kept
secret, and few who knew about it, very few. The British Government knows a=
it, a few senior people.’
they help us?’
took a moment. ‘Yes, and no. Yes, they’d try and stop a bomb go=
off, but they’re good friends with America, and they can be easily bu=
do you not take coin from them, if they are your people?’
not my people, they’re my ... adopted people. And I offered them my
turned his head. ‘They did not wish you in their service?’
Kobus changed lane. ‘I was angry with them for a while, but not
see.’ A moment later, Drake asked, ‘Who will the bomb kill?R=
my friend, has been troubling me; the target. If the magistrate knows about=
then ... well, they know and don’t care. My fear, my very old young
friend, is that they’ll allow the bomb to go off.’
puzzled that. ‘Why would they wish such a thing upon themselves?̵=
glanced across at Drake. ‘If the bomb kills many, the king will grant=
magistrate more coin for more men.’
faced forwards. ‘I see. In my time, Moors were paid to sail near the
coast, and the magistrate and the guard captain received more coin from the
king in fear.’
things never change.’
crossed the border with Hungary by jumping the fence, and met Kobus on the =
side, with the holdall full of money. En route, he left the mobile on the
mountain, something for the CIA to puzzle over. They continued their journey
all that day, a few stops made for petrol and food, and faced the Austrian
border in the dark. Drake had to take the mountain route at this border, al=
an hour to rejoin Kobus, an anxious hour for both of them.
miles beyond the border they spotted a motel and pulled in. Kobus did not w=
to risk his fake ID again, he had used it too often of late. They observed =
ten minutes those chalet rooms furthest from reception, as well as being on=
second floor, a door quietly forced by Drake. They claimed the room without
turning on the lights, the TV turned to face away from the window, the soun=
down. Kobus lay down fully clothed after a wash and the use of the toilet, =
closed his eyes.
5.30am, Drake woke Kobus as planned, the aim being to leave the motel before
anyone spotted them. After using the bathroom, Kobus led Drake back to the =
before it got fully light, and pulled away quietly under a dark blue sky, t=
day promising to be warm and clear in Austria.
noon they were at the Swiss border, Drake finding Austria in the summer a v=
beautiful place. He again lugged the holdall up and over a mountain before
meeting the car, but did so this time in daylight and taking a risk. Driving
on, they headed towards Zurich through steep gorges, through long tunnels, =
around the edges of steeply sided mountains.
at the edge of Zurich, at a service station, Kobus eased out and used the p=
a call in to Georgiou first. ‘Georgiou? It’s Kobus.’
my friend, how goes it?’
was just about to ask you that.’
got the other coins – from the woods, and Maros had the first batch o=
truck. I’m back in Athens, and those coins – they’re wort=
lot more than two million, my friend.’
get ten percent, that’s all, and I had to work hard to get you
won’t let you down, I’ll offload them slowly.’
the money for me in Switzerland?’
Nova, Maros will be there tonight for 6pm.’
drove into the centre of the city as Drake sat taking in the detail, crossi=
the rivers and into the run-down part of town, selecting the worst hotel he
could find after circling for ten minutes. The hotel had a room, cash offer=
No, I lost it,’ Kobus said in near perfect German.
receptionist, who was also the owner - and looked like the only employee, s=
accepting the hundred Euros handed over. When he saw Drake he just grinned.=
room, Drake said, ‘This man believes me to be a young boy who takes c=
for pleasuring old men.’
a hotel like this, such things are common. Don’t worry about it. And =
don’t ... kill him.’=
room was stuffy and warm, no air conditioning working, but it was a base. A=
it was anonymous. Drake tackled the black and white TV as Kobus took the fi=
5.45pm they set out again, driving to the Hotel Nova, their target not far =
the lake. They parked on the street outside the hotel and paid the fixed me=
does it do?’ Drake enquired.
put in a coin, and that allows your car to be here for two hours. If not, t=
car is removed and you have to pay a hundred Euros or more for its return.
It’s to stop too many cars from blocking easy access down the streets=
He nudged Drake away, but they walked right past the Nova Hotel, Kobus chec=
faces and cars, but - more importantly – he allowed Drake time to get=
feel for anyone who was anxious.
a meandering stroll right around the hotel, Drake didn’t sense anythi=
amiss. They entered the hotel, moving through reception and to the bar. Kob=
spotted Maros sat in a corner, the buyer a silver-haired Greek of sixty yea=
of age - and of a morally casual attitude. A younger man sat with him, a fit
men looked up as Kobus approached, then lifted up. They shook, smiles
sit, have a drink,’ Maros urged. ‘It has been six months, my
friend. I don’t see you at the casino.’
working, you know me.’ They sat. ‘This is Drake, he’s a .=
wizard. A hacker, you know.’
nodded towards Drake with a forced smile. Turning back to Kobus, he began,
waving a finger, ‘Some of those coins are very rare, not all the same;
worth a fortune without regard to the base gold.’
You get forty percent.’
Maros pursed his lips and blew out. ‘They must be very hot for you to=
so be careful.’
beckoned a waitress, Kobus ordering a beer and a Sprite. ‘I have
travellers cheques and bank drafts, so be careful; don’t leave them l=
around.’ He handed over drafts for half a million Euros in total, and=
travellers cheques for the same amount again, a thick bundle. ‘Dollar
travellers cheques were easier.’
problem,’ Kobus offered.
is in the car. No hurry. So, what have you been up to?’
stood. ‘Please excuse myself for moving away for a small time.’=
stepped away, curiously observed by Kobus.
nationality is he?’ Maros puzzled.
Romanian, just learning English.’
sounds like a damn computer,’ Maros quipped.
minutes later, Drake returned and sat. ‘Excuse me, Mister Maros, do y=
know a man called Vargas?’
lost his smile. ‘Yes. Why?’
glanced at Kobus. ‘I ... saw a face I considered of interest, and
listened at their table. Mister Vargas wants to take the cash, and to ... slice you up.’
and his minder stiffened.
continued, ‘He employs three men who sit across the room, men from
Maros repeated with a frown.
Kobus quickly stated. ‘Drake, stay here and ... follow the men.’ Kobus turned to Maros. ‘Let’s
get to the car. Act natural, don’t look back.’ He tapped his
jacket, signifying a weapon.
stony-faced Maros left money on the table for the drinks, the three of them=
moving off as a group. As they entered the stairwell, the three would-be
assailants followed at a discreet distance, Drake trailing close behind the=
underground car park, Kobus checked over his shoulder as they reached
Maros’s car, no signs of trouble yet. Maros opened the car whilst
scanning the darkened structure, handing over a hefty holdall.
echoing report of a shot reached them.
Kobus told Maros, rushing to the stairwell whilst lugging the holdall, two
additional reports echoing. As he reached the base of the concrete steps, D=
ran down to him. Glancing up, Kobus could see a hand hanging into the stair=
are dead,’ Drake flatly stated.
spun, and led Drake out, running. He passed the bag over like a rugby ball.
carried the hefty bag without difficulty, both men running through the park=
cars and across to a second set of steps. Running up the steps – thei=
echoing – they happened into an area that appeared to lead to the
swimming pool. An emergency exit presented itself, the street beyond glimps=
through glass panes containing a wire mesh. Breathing heavily, Kobus pushed
down on the silver rail with a clatter and opened the door, soon in bright
sunlight, turning a corner and slowing right down, the car in sight.=
they reclaimed the car, sirens wailed, Kobus holding off pulling out yet. T=
police car passed, halting at the main entrance, its officers inside the ho=
when Kobus pulled slowly away.
lifted two wallets and three phones, and smiled across as they slowed in
couldn’t resist a smile. ‘You’re quite the thief. I’=
the phones trilled, Drake offering it to Kobus.
can’t be for me, so why don’t you answer it.’
peered at the phone. ‘The small green button, yes?’
Kobus confirmed as they pulled away from the lights.
pressed the button, and held it to his ear, as he had seen Kobus do.
‘Hello, and greetings ... I am called Drake, by what name are you cal=
... he is deceased and no more ... yes, I killed him ... you sound most
displeased, perhaps a tampon would put a skip in your step and a smile of y=
turned and stared for a moment.
finished, ‘Thank you for your call.’ He peered at the phone.
pressed the red button several times.
did he say?’ Kobus idly enquired as he drove.
was looking for his friend, and most displeased at his friend’s
surprised the tampon advice didn’t cheer him up.’
He said he would kill me, and very slowly.’ Drake examined his hoard.=
now have three phones.’
done. But that hotel probably had cameras, so we’ll need to leave
This word seems familiar.’
camera takes your image so that people can see it later.’
yes. In the cave, the man I kept alive, he did this.’
photography, from the bomber,’ Kobus noted.
their small and run down hotel, Drake remained with the car, the bags of
clothes reclaimed, the holdall of cash having been in the boot all the whil=
They pointed the Beemer north, towards the German border.
now have much coin?’ Drake asked.
have a very great amount,’ Kobus confirmed. Drake waited. Kobus said,
‘You ... want to send some to the servicemen’s families?’=
Kobus spotted an internet cafe he pulled up and led Drake inside. Paying two
Euros, they sat behind a screen.
TV?’ Drake queried.
it’s called the Internet, a computer, a ... magic oracle of
information.’ He typed in “US SERVICEMEN FOUND IN BULGARIA̶=
and several stories appeared, Drake watching the mouse like a bird of prey
after the mouse’s namesake. Kobus opened one story, scrolled down, and
found a list of names, units and years served, home towns.
he said, ‘There may be an easier way.’ He Googled for veteran
associations, found the right one, and clicked on the donations page, noting
down an address. The girl sat at the counter had paper and a few airmail
envelopes, a Euro coin handed over for them. Kobus wrote out the name of the
veterans association onto several high-value travellers cheques, totalling =
than two hundred thousand dollars.
popped them into envelopes with a note about who the money was for, sealed =
envelopes, and wrote the address on the the front. Around the corner he bou=
Airmail stamps, and finally put the letters in the post box.
explained, ‘The letters will be collected, here from this box, and ta=
by aeroplane to America, and to the people who look after old soldiers.
They’ll know what to do with it and ... good lad.’ He gave Drak=
smiled back as they headed to the car. ‘We sent much coin?’
large amount, yes,’ Kobus confirmed as they drove off.
German border, Drake repeated the previous border hopping exercise, but now
with two holdalls, Kobus having pointed out a distant church across the bor=
There he met Drake forty minutes later, just as it started to get dark.
is Germania?’ Drake asked as he clambered in, the holdalls now in the
is, but we’ll head north for a bit, then across to the Czech
Bob Russell answered his phone. ‘Yes?’
the computer has thrown up a likely match to Kobus, an old fake passport
– one of ours listed as destroyed. It shows use in Varna in Bulgaria,
Romania, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, and now the Swiss border with Germa=
don’t have a map,’ Russell curtly stated.
does put him on a course for Paris, sir.’
assets that way, we have enough people in Germany.’
I put him on Interpol’s list?’
others will see it.’
As they drove north through the dark, Drake said, ‘You a=
keeping something from me.’ He waited. ‘Something about this ca=
and ... your papers at the crossing point.’
took a moment. ‘Part of me ... wants to face them head on, to be foun=
and ... I could have been more careful than I have been.’
they come, we would fight them,’ Drake enthused.
men that the magistrate would send are ... men like me, men who take coin t=
a job. If you kill them, you’re breaking the sword, not killing the
took a moment. ‘I understand. And this troubles you.’
of me believes that the magistrate is lying to the king, but part of me won=
if they have another plan, a valid plan. But the one thing that convinces me
that this is important, as well=
very wrong, is you.’
is an odd alignment of the heavens, to be for nothing,’ Drake solemnly
order to fight the magistrate, you have to fight his soldiers, and this tro=
you. But is this not a test?’
test?’ Kobus repeated as they drove.
the fight was ... as play for a child with a sword of wood, would there be =
alignment of the forces of heaven, and would such a fight be a worthy one? =
will have to see the end, not the means.’
wiser than you look,’ Kobus complained.
have lived a long time ... and thought much. I was awakened by you, and you=
for a purpose.’ Drake took a moment, staring out of focus at the
dashboard. ‘In the tenth year I mastered the demon, and tried many ti=
to end my life. I was not successful, and worked with men of the cloth to
create the cave within a cave, and to have my thoughts alone so that I would
now, awake, I am being tested again by God, tested to do a great good, or m=
great goods. I believe that I was wrong to place myself in the cave.’=
wrong. I should have been stronger, and I should have fought the demon and =
used its strength and ... done good deeds. You, Kobus, have taught me how t=
good deeds through evil acts. In my time, they said: evil is as evil does. I
was not evil, the acts of the demon were evil. And now I do evil when I kil=
but I am not evil, and my means will produce the ends; you will guide me
– that I trust.’
his head to face Kobus. ‘But you also have your own demons within, and
you also have to fight, and you also are being tested.’
glanced at Drake as he drove along a quiet highway north. Facing ahead, he
said, ‘How do you turn half a belief ... into a full belief, and sleep
you can answer that, since you fight your own heart, Kobus van der Schule. =
you must give in to what your heart is telling you to do.’
pulled off at the next service station. After a moment sat thinking, he
attended a payphone, many coins placed in, and dialled a number. As he wait=
he took in the fire-fighting equipment laid out against the wall; sand, a f=
blanket, an extinguisher.
officer?’ came a British voice, a dull roar of traffic surrounding Ko=
know you’re recording this.’ He took a breath. ‘This is K=
van der Schule, South African national with a British passport, currently in
the employment of the CIA. Message for your director: Pop-Dragon is out of =
box, Uncle Sam happy to see it go pop somewhere - it’ll justify a few
years worth of budget increase. I’ll be on this number for the next
hung up and stepped to the car, Drake easing out. After a moment, the traff=
roaring past, Kobus glanced up at the yellow lights illuminating the foreco=
He finally said, ‘As far as the magistrate is concerned, I just slit =
you feel lighter?’
made a face and nodded.
minutes later the phone rang, Kobus stepping across to it. ‘Kobus.=
Director, at home. But when our people ran the name, well – I figured
we’d best chat.’
familiar with Pop-Dragon?’
am, and the system says that you used to be a Captain in our Army, a questi=
mark now as to your ... loyalties.’
offered you my services, but you declined, so I work for the CIA - all part=
NATO and on the same side. A bit like an RAF pilot on secondment to the
... quite the same.’
you been following the action in Bulgaria?’
report is on my desk.’
that happened there was either about me, done by me, or to do with me.̵=
... most disturbing.’
well you’ll not like this next part then. A few CIA freelancers, list=
as being in Iraq, came for me in Bulgaria - and missed. I was on an innocuo=
job, following a lead, something to do with the sale of arms. Four determin=
individuals tried to kill me, and I had a chat afterwards; I identified the=
Varna, I followed a lead to a marina, and got a detonator off a boat before=
blew. That detonator was made to order by the Russians: a master synchronis=
wired to three hubs, six wires down to specialised thermal detonators, fixed
length, good workmanship. And I’d seen it before, in Iraq with Dr
certain of that?’
killed quite a few people lately, that’s how certain I am. It only ha=
one use, and that’s Pop-Dragon.’
study we’ve conducted says that Pop-Dragon is ... extremely difficult=
make go pop, extremely difficult.’
Kamil is missing, and I think his wife and kid were in the villa that
he puts his mind to it, he might make it go pop. His chemicals are missing =
supposed to be guarded by US forces in Iraq. Which begs the questions as to=
how they were released.’
own people have been taking shots at me, and Pop-Dragon is out. Put two and=
together ... and justify your fucking salary.’
exactly are you looking for from
is, what are you looking for, n=
that you know that it’s out the box? They won’t sneak it into t=
think the target may be closer to home?’
enough to justify a budget increase, not so close as to destroy the US econ=
Is there anyone else’s economy that they don’t give a shit abou=
Would a nice target be ... Paris, or Rome maybe?’
will need to be handled with the utmost discretion -’
do you think they’re trying to kill me? And if you keep this quiet, a=
Rome goes, I’d not like to be the one that explains it to the Italian=
I said, it’s a delicate matter. Do you need a little ... close
I can look after myself,’ Kobus said, a glance at Drake sat in the ca=
‘I was in this fight at the start, and I’ll see it through. Jus=
a channel open to me, and if I find the weapon be ready to act quickly, eve=
you have to step on a few toes.’
in the car, Kobus sat and stared at the traffic whizzing past for a minute.=
you have a course of action?’ Drake finally asked.
hindsight, we should have tried to extract more information from the people=
Varna, but I suspect that they wouldn’t have known much more.’<=
what lies in Germania?’
man who may have some answers.’
exchanged looks, and drove on.
North of Munich, on Route 93, Drake turned fully around in his=
and peered behind. ‘Men follow.’
forwards, don’t let them see that we know,’ Kobus urged. ‘=
cars, but another comes closer from afar. Eight men. These men are ... sadi=
if I say it correctly.’ <=
Kobus repeated as he checked his mirrors.
wish not only to complete their assigned task, but to enjoy it.’
wish I hadn’t explained that word to you,’ Kobus said as he
indicated, changing lanes for the next exit. ‘And their assigned task?’
kill you,’ Drake flatly stated. ‘But they wish to question you
no doubt,’ Kobus said as he took the next exit. An off-ramp led them
lower, and to a roundabout under the highway, traffic lights controlling the
traffic. ‘Hang on,’ Kobus said with some menace.
swerved around the line of cars, and sped straight through the lights, maki=
side contact with another BMW, Drake staring wide-eyed at the other driver =
that man swerved. Horns sounded as Kobus threw the car the wrong way around=
roundabout - coming off left as cars screeched to a halt, and bounced over a
median into the right lane, flooring it as the road ahead seemed clear.
follow,’ Drake stated, looking back. ‘But their carriage is in =
took the next exit, seeing ahead of him the dark outline of a forested area=
hard, Drake placing a hand on the dashboard, Kobus slowed down enough to tu=
safely. He left the main road, crashing straight through a metal cattle gate
and onto a rough concrete road, a private road through ploughed fields, a
hundred yards and to the start of the trees.
come,’ Drake stated as the Beemer’s tyres growled over the hard
concrete surface, the car’s headlights soon only penetrating a few ya=
ahead of them as they followed a winding path. Another gate presented itsel=
no time to react, smashed through, a headlight now out, the windscreen crac=
on one side.
path straightened out for fifty yards, Kobus flooring it when he could see
ahead clearly, and they passed a large metal shed. To Kobus, it reminded hi=
a cattle shed. Beyond it, he turned off the headlights.
ready to jump out!’ he told Drake, the car now issuing an unhealthy
scraping sound. ‘When I say, jump out and wait for them, but wait for=
second or third car before attacking them. I’ll distract them.’=
swung the car tightly around a bend, and sped past a line of trees, the
concrete track a dark grey against the black of the trees. As the end of the
straight stretch of track neared, Kobus hit the brakes and skidded in the m=
despite the ABS brakes. He and Drake jumped out, Kobus grabbing a holdall w=
money, but not for the cash; his pistol was in it. Lugging the heavy bag, he
disappeared into the thick trees, approaching headlights glimpsed out of the
corner of his eye.
first tail car slowed, noticing the Beemer at a standstill, the Beemer̵=
doors now hanging wide open.
passenger lifted his radio. ‘They are on foot.’
The driver switched his vehicleR=
lights off, and eased slowly forwards, coming to a stop twenty yards from t=
BMW. They opened doors and drew pistols, but waited for a second vehicle to
pull up, a jeep with four men in. Those four men jumped down with MP5’=
clicks of weapons cocking being the only sound to penetrate the blackness as
eyes scanned the dark tree line.
passenger of the lead car gave a hand signal. Three men moved left, two to =
a third vehicle approaching at speed. It skidded to a halt, the passenger of
the lead car directing its two men out and forwards.
tried to slow his breathing, his knees now on moist soil, his nostrils full=
the smell of cow dung. He unzipped the holdall and pulled out his pistol,
checking it as quietly as he could whilst staring through the trees and bus=
at the light given off by his BMW. He knew that three vehicles had halted, =
that he could be facing ten or twelve men – all armed. Not to mention
branch broke, in his two o’clock position. He froze. Lowering his hea=
the dark outline of the bag, he pulled out a thick wad and launched it back
towards the car, the wad landing just two yards from the BMW. The
Beemer’s doors were open, the internal light on, and the wad should h=
been visible where it lay.
his neck, he lifted up, now noticing two men edging slowly towards the car,
pistols levelled. The men could see no one in the car, and moved to the open
doors, both men turning in opposite directions and outwards from the car, e=
step slowly measured, pistols moving back and forth ready.
Someone was in Kobus’s three o’clock position, maybe ten yards
away. Time was running short.
grinned; the first man had found the wad. Easing up, he could see the man
back-tracking to the car, a second and third man soon there. They opened the
boot with pistols drawn, as if someone might be hiding in the boot, and
discovered one of the holdall stuffed full of Euros. The other men were cal=
in, soon something of a debate going on in hushed tones, the debate becoming
something of a heated argument. Kobus moved.
made it to the edge of the trees, unheard and unseen, finding a very nice
target; six men closely bunched up. Taking a deep breath, his raised his
pistol, took aim, and fired off eight rounds in quick succession before
throwing himself to one side and crawling desperately.
shots came back, rounds pinging off trees as he crawled frantically through=
undergrowth. Automatic fire sounded out, the trees above him registering do=
crawled away on his elbows, now covered in dirt and leaves, groans and moans
registered through the dark, coming from the men he had shot. And he figured
that each of the eight rounds fired had found a target, possibly some men h=
twice. He found the holdall by accidentally clambering over it, noting its
texture, and eased up. The wild shooting towards him had halted, and now he
could see men being dragged. Lifting the holdall, he edged closer; two roun=
left in the pistol, one spare magazine.
through the “V” made by two branches, he suddenly remembered Dr=
as a body landed on the BMW, penetrating the rear windscreen head first wit=
h a loud
smash. Those men that had been wounded, and had been leant against the car,
were surprised to say the least.
distant scream registered, the reports of two rounds echoing about the tree=
But as Kobus focused on the men near the car, a long metal pole flew in from
the side, skewering two men and pinning them to the BMW. Kobus had to look
twice, as the men hung there like limp rag dolls threaded by a giant knitti=
sound of distant glass breaking, and two cracks of pistol shot, encouraged =
to inch closer to the car. Noticing a wounded man, sat against a wheel but =
raising a hand and pistol towards the other vehicles, Kobus fired at the ma=
chest shot. The man slumped.
crack past Kobus’s head caused him to duck. Crawling on his elbows ag=
he could see the darkened outline of a wounded man pulling back the slide o=
pistol. As he made ready, a body fell out of the sky and landed on the man,
knocking down both that man, and a second wounded man.
edged closer again, seeing a darkened figure crawling on his knees on the f=
side of the track. A single shot, a head shot, and the man slumped. Kobus
dropped the magazine into his hand and pocketed it, a fresh magazine slapped
in, the slide pulled back and released.
appeared on the track, a long metal pole in his hand. He stood over the last
man that Kobus had shot, stretched up and stabbed down, pulling the pole ba=
up afterwards. In turned, he skewered each man on the ground, two only woun=
and still moving before being skewered.
moved cautiously out to Drake, his pistol aimed back down the track.=
are all now dead,’ Drake flatly stated. He left the pole in the last
victim, and studied the BMW. ‘We shall require a further carriage.=
shit,’ Kobus said as he straightened. ‘Grab the money. Quickly.=
to lift the boot and edge it upright - the two skewered men left vertical, =
lifted out the bags, catching up to Kobus at the first vehicle. That vehicle
now had a gunman through its windscreen, so was passed around. The second c=
on its roof, legs sticking out from beneath, but the third vehicle, a Range
Rover, was fine, keys in the ignition.
dumped the holdall on the back seat, Drake hurriedly throwing in the other
bags. ‘Quick. Go back and check the car for anything that’s
ours,’ Kobus said as he jumped in. He started the car, closed his door
and pulled along the track, past the car on its roof, edging past the second
vehicle and approaching their Beemer with the Range Rover’s lights on=
ran to the passenger door, holding their clothes bags, but also holding up =
disposable toothbrush. He waited.
wouldn’t want to leave that, now would you,’ Kobus sarcastically
told Drake. Drake jumped in, the Range Rover bumping over legs as it edged
around the BMW, low tree branches scraping over it. Sirens could now be hea=
followed the track to a junction, seeing street lamps across a ploughed fie=
‘Hold on.’ He floored the pedal in a low gear, and sped across =
hard brown soil, creating an unnatural sound for any driver or passenger, d=
pinging off the mudguards and wheel arches, quite a roar. They bumped across
the field, smashed through a wooden gate, and lurched onto the road,
straightening up. Turning right, they could now see flashing blue lights in=
blew out, steadying himself. ‘Fuck.’
are well?’ Drake enquired.
be OK after a bite to eat, a hot bath, a few beers and a good cry.’=
reached into his jacket, and produced two mobile phones, holding them up. O=
started to pulse and flash. ‘What is it doing?’
ringing, but silently; the volume was turned off.’ He shot Drake a lo=
don’t you answer it?’
turned a corner, and followed a road with a sign for the highway.
pressed the green button. ‘Hello, how are you?’ Drake flatly
stated, getting a look from Kobus. ‘I am being called Drake. Hans? He=
dead. Yes, dead, I killed him. Also his seven friends. If we are messing with the wrong people, the=
should we be messing with? Where
might we find them? Hello?’
lowered the phone and pressed the red button. ‘What is ... messing?’
means ... to involve yourself with someone else’s commerce.’
phone is very pretty.’
can also be used to track us,’ Kobus pointed out. ‘Turn them off
the red button and hold, or a button on the top. The lights will go out.=
took Drake a few minutes, each phone being passed over to make sure that it=
Rules of the game
As they drove northeast, Drake complained that he had not lear=
drive the Beemer before the car had been abandoned, Kobus promising faithfu=
start lessons soon – whilst pointing out who wrecked the Beemer. The
debate raged as to who was responsible for the damage.
the Czech border, Kobus figured that their new vehicle would, most likely, =
stopped, and that his fake ID was probably now flagged. He couldn’t r=
using it again, not unless he wanted to attract some attention. They abando=
the car on a dark hillside, a gentle push starting it off, the Range Rover
bouncing down a steep grassy slope towards trees, a crash heard through the=
And Drake, he complained at length about the waste of the fine carriage, one
that he could have learnt to drive in.
dark woods, Drake lugged the bags of cash, Kobus the bags of clothes.
Fortunately, it was warm night, no sign of rain to spoil things. At the bor=
fence they ignored the warning signs, Kobus directing Drake towards a secti=
of wire that was often cut, and a section that the authorities didn’t
care too much about. Halting every once and a while, Drake felt for the
presence of anyone nearby.
slipped through a part of the modest border fence that was already cut, acr=
a neatly trimmed section of grass and a paved road, and to a second parallel
fence, that barrier also already cut.
important wall between kingdoms has a hole,’ Drake noted as he pushed
through with the money bags, now just a dark outline ahead of Kobus.=
use it for child trafficking into Germany,’ Kobus whispered through t=
dark. ‘Criminal gangs bring teenage girls across to Germany so that f=
old men can lay down with them for coin.’
is against the law of the magistrate?’ came from up ahead.
is. A girl must be sixteen years of age first.’
started up a grass bank.
my time, a girl would be married by this age, or sold into the service of a
house or castle.’
panted as he climbed the slope. ‘I think we can safely say ... that y=
girls ... are treated better these days. They go to school ... to college .=
and get good jobs.’
often thought of the girl I was promised to, when I was in the cave, of what
may have become of us and our children. I had wished for fine sons.’<=
reached a ridge and halted, standing in a cooling breeze for a moment whils=
down at the lights of a village. ‘She may have found a nice man after=
left, and may have been happy.’
what of you?’ Drake asked.
was engaged once, betrothed, bu=
it didn’t work out. I had my job in the Army, she had a job with a
charity called UNICEF, and we hardly ever saw each other.’
started down the slope. ‘A group of people who ... petition others for
money to ... do good for the poor and needy.’
sounds like a good person, to fight for good in a charity.’ =
most of the money given to charities is used on the good lives of the peopl=
e in the charity, not on the poor and
needy. The people in the charity drive fine carriages.’
would seem a falsehood; to petition for the needy, yet enjoy the trappings.=
noticed that as well, did you,’ Kobus quipped.
village, they found a lonely yellow taxi in the main square, and made the
driver’s day with a fare to Prague, two hundred Euros agreed. They co=
have haggled that fare down to sixty, but Kobus didn’t care; he had a=
Euros to hand.
central Prague, they stood and waited for the taxi to drive off, and approa=
a second, soon taken to a small and tacky hotel near the red light district.
Cash secured a room with two single beds, no questions asked, a tip left for
the fat old night porter. With Drake watching TV, and also watching the mon=
Kobus headed out; money in his jacket, pistol in its holster.
familiar and busy streets, he eventually found the bar he was looking for, =
the tattoo parlour next door. Stepping into the tattoo parlour, and into a
sickly fragrance, he asked for Blok. Being shown through, he walked past a =
having a tattoo of an apple put on her arse cheek, a second girl sat with h=
legs spread wide, a cobweb being tattooed around her pussy. She smiled up a=
passed, smoking a joint.
back room, Kobus again asked for Blok, being pointed up narrow winding step=
and to a room that was not just painted red, but illuminated by red bulbs. A
girl sat waiting, reading a magazine, a second having her clit pierced. Kob=
winced as he passed, soon through to a very small bar with as many patrons =
bar staff; one of each.
girl behind the bar, adorned with continuous tattoos behind her flimsy white
t-shirt, pointed to a door. Kobus knocked and entered, a face turning up fr=
a young man acknowledged; bald, ears pierced many times, a stud in his nose.
‘Been a few years, man.’
plonked down onto a bright red leather sofa. ‘Need some fast work, an=
pays very well.’
hey, like ... cool,’ Blok let out. ‘For you?’
me and one other.’ Kobus counted out five thousand Euros. ‘Has =
be good work, and it has to pass under scrutiny.’
thousand?’ The man lifted his eyebrows. ‘You’re employers=
three thousand when I see them. I want two or three for me, same for a frie=
German and British for me, German and Bulgarian for him.’
passport will be checked at the airport, man. No fucker likes Bulgarians
– ain’t properly in Europe an all.’
considered that. ‘Make it British; they’re all foreigners anyway
have to drop the smack tonight, man, and work. Bummer.’
checked his watch. ‘It’s 3am, so not much of the night left.=
work nine to five man, like ... 9pm to 5am. After work we go out, me and the
an exception tonight. Next, is that crazy girl Roxy still around?’
man, she’s out of the hole and loose on the street; on bail or someth=
her for me, I have a job. Oh, and there’re a few people looking for
me.’ He eased forwards and counted out another five thousand. ‘=
someone comes looking, point them to a hotel, any hotel, say I was in today=
... coming back in a day or two, then make sure that they don’t wake =
for a week, and then with a tattoo on their faces.’
you want the tat’ to be, man?’
your imagination, but something that would make them ... unemployable for s=
will do, man.’
stood. ‘Got a camera for me and the second face?’
passed up a small silver digital camera.
be fifteen minutes,’ Kobus said before he stepped out.
reversed course, trying not to look at the bodily alterations and adornments
going on in each room. Out in the busy street – busy despite the hour=
walked two streets over, and around to the hotel after doubling back. Drake
opened the door before it was knocked. Inside, Drake combed his hair as he
wanted it, hesitated, combed a different way, then finally settled on a sty=
several snaps taken after being told not to smile so much.
with Blok, Kobus handed over the camera. ‘Kid’s image is on the=
knock at the door, and Kobus reached into his jacket. Blok eased up and ste=
to the door, opening a slide. Happy with what he found, he opened the door,=
shapely and attractive woman stepping in. She was five eleven, tanned, blea=
hair combed straight back, a diamond stud in her nose, and now wore a one-p=
long red dress that suggested she made a living on her back. On each arm she
wore black opera gloves up to her elbows.
look familiar,’ Roxy said, heavily accented.
did a job for me a few years back,’ Kobus told her. ‘A fat old
German businessman; you liberated his briefcase, then cut his dick off just=
made a face and shrugged. ‘He was a pig.’ She glided across the
room and eased down into a comfortable chair. ‘What is this job?̵=
stop.’ Kobus counted out ten thousand Euros in large notes. ‘You
know that shit hotel, Camileri?’
there for a few days, coming back here tomorrow. Bring in some help if you =
to, the people after me are ... pro=
And you get a bonus for each action.’ He handed her a mobile, one from
the men killed at the farm. ‘Turn it on and use it, and leave it
somewhere; they’ll track it. See who comes out to play. Oh, thereR=
a young lad with me. He is ... naive, inexperienced, but deadly when angere=
He makes you look like a girl scout.’
handed Blok two thousand Euros. ‘Invest it for me.’
didn’t bother to ask what that meant, and slipped out past the naked
girls, a scream signifying a new piercing. Back in the hotel room, he found
Drake watching porn.
go blind,’ he told the lad, Drake puzzling that.
is much nakedness and sex on this TV. I could not find the news programme.&=
gave Drake a look. Finally, he commented, ‘It’s that kind of
sniffed towards Kobus. ‘A great many strange new scents.’
would have liked the place I just visited,’ Kobus said as he lay down.
‘And tomorrow, you’ll have papers for the borders.’
seem happier,’ Drake noted, still focused on a gyrating threesome on =
Kobus considered his own mood. ‘I just decided to play a few games wi=
some people ... and to hurt them. Maybe that makes me happy on some level.&=
feel comfortable in this city,’ Drake suggested.
worked here for two years, I know the place, and it offers us the chance to
fight on better terms.’
pointed to his left without taking his gaze off the TV. ‘The people h=
are having sex, also above, and in this other direction. This is a place for
sex with coin?’
this is a flea-bag hotel, but right next door is where you find the girls. =
come from far away to this city, because the magistrate here doesn’t =
about girls who sell sex; in most cities they do. Right, turn the sound dow=
need some sleep. Better still, turn it off, lie on the bed, and focus on the
minds of those having sex.’
knocked the TV off and lay down, closing his eyes. ‘This man above, he
has two girls with him.’
bugger,’ Kobus said, his own eyes closed.
have much coin, but you do not lay down with a girl.’
took a moment, opening his eyes and staring at the ceiling. ‘I like n=
girls, quiet meals and walks in the park, but this job ... well, it
doesn’t suit that lifestyle.’
The last day of innocence=
With the sun beating through the window, Kobus eased up, findi=
damp young man. ‘You showered?’ he puzzled, not having heard Dr=
during the night.
closed the door, and I was quiet. Did I disturb you?’
Kobus coughed out, reaching for a cigarette.
are not many people in the hotel now, only ladies cleaning.’=
about right,’ Kobus muttered as he lit up. He stood and peered out of=
window, finding an ugly view - the rear of another hotel and its rusted fire
exits. Turning inwards, he took a long drag, and slowly blew out. ‘Be=
go buy a car. You can have some lessons. Stay and guard the money, and keep=
eye on the cleaners when they come in.’
have found a place to hide our coin. Come.’
followed Drake into the bathroom. Drake knelt, sliding a wooden bath panel
along. It revealed a grubby area of old toilet rolls, an inch of dust peppe=
with dried-out old condoms, but under it all was a twelve inch metal grate.=
lifted it up with his fingers and slid it to one side. ‘It is heavy to
lift, difficult to move. Here, this space, it has no scent of people, only
rats; I have looked inside.’
Put the money in plastic bags, then shove it in, but ... you know, keep it
within arm’s reach - or we won’t get it back. Oh, and wash your
hands afterwards. Thoroughly.’
got to work, Kobus stuffing twenty thousand Euros in his jacket pocket, just
forty 500 euro notes.
An hour later, and after a late breakfast in a cafe, they jump=
a taxi and headed across town, and to a row of used-car lots next to an
industrial area. Drake picked out a BMW he liked, a 520 in silver, wood fin=
nine years old. With Drake stood admiring it, the salesman came over.
work in Germany,’ Kobus suggested. He pointed at the car in question =
his cigarette fingers. ‘How much?’
forgot my passport and drivers license, they’re at the hotel.’
Kobus faced the man squarely. ‘Could I still buy it, for cash?’=
salesman took a moment. ‘Thirteen thousand, with no papers.’
glanced at the car again, Drake keenly waiting, and finally nodded. Ten min=
later they drove out of the lot, and the short distance to the industrial a=
There, they swapped seats.
hour and a half, Drake drove around the empty industrial units. He tried a =
roundabout, signalled and reversed, and just about mastered parallel parking
after a few minor scrapes. It was a good start, apart from the numerous cha=
of seating position, Drake adjusting his seat up and down, back and forth.<=
a quick learner,’ Kobus commended as they swapped seats again. ‘=
took me weeks and weeks to get it right.’
learns quickly, and we share the knowledge,’ Drake explained as they
joined the traffic back towards the hotel. ‘But I have noticed that w=
you drive you do not think about what you do, you just seem ... to do
you drive for many years, then it becomes as natural as breathing.’=
had a bite to eat around the corner from the hotel, genuine tourists out and
about and enjoying the historic buildings – not sex tourists, before
reclaiming the room. The beds had been made, causing Drake to check the met=
grill, finding it as he had left it; covered in the kind of crap that no sa=
person would touch without rubber gloves, a wooden stick, and a gas mask.=
get some rest,’ Kobus sighed. ‘We may be out and about tonight,=
Bob Russell was sat at a large table, just the one file open, =
his assistant knocked and entered with a file. The man approached, but wait=
lifted his head.
night, eight German assets picked up Kobus’s car at a car station nor=
of Munich. They followed, but Kobus made them, turning off the highway. The=
chase led to an isolated farm, shots fired. Kobus and one other escaped in a
vehicle used by the assets.’ The man paused.
assistant opened a file, placing down a dozen A4 black and white photograph=
‘From the German police.’
slowly moved the photographs aside in sequence, till they were spread across
the table, lingering on an image of two men skewered into the top of the BM=
a wad of money was found by the police, serial numbers matching the payment
made to Ramius.’
glanced up as he eased back into his chair. ‘Kobus was in the villa.’
something else, sir. A Greek man named Maros, with links to Kobus and our
Athens office, paid Kobus two million Euros in Zurich, for a large stash of
... coins?’ Russell puzzled.
sir. This man Maros is selling them on the assumption that they were ours,
money to be paid into Company accounts in Athens, less the two million he
handed Kobus. The coins, sir, are estimated to be worth five million dollar=
the fuck was Kobus doing with five million dollars worth of gold coins?R=
Russell banged the table with his faced. ‘Who is this man!’
obviously not who we thought, sir, he’s been playing us for years.=
for ... who,’ Russell said as he stood, stepping to the window and
peering through the blinds.
... Russians, sir?’
Russians couldn’t organise a tea party. No, this smacks of a private
the British, sir?’
they’d not go up against us. Besides, they only have half a dozen fie=
agents worth a damn, and they don’t carry weapons.’ He turned.
‘Have the money, the deaths, and Kobus linked, put him on our wanted =
– no one could argue with that now. Send our best teams to hunt him
Russell confirmed, turning back to the window.
An hour later, Drake shook Kobus awake, a hand over Kobus̵=
mouth. ‘A woman approaches.’
knock came at the door.
her name?’ Kobus whispered.
She means no harm.’
nodded, eased up and answered the door to Roxy, letting her in. Stood now in
jeans and a white t-shirt, a blue denim jacket, she looked Drake over as he
smiled politely back, and finally claimed a chair. ‘Drake, this is Ro=
Roxy, this is Drake.’ Kobus and Drake eased down onto the beds, facing
put on the phone and called some numbers of girls,’ Roxy began.
‘After I saw you. Now, two stiff fuckers sit in the cafe where I use =
and drink coffee like they want a laxative.’
streets over, on the main road.’
pulled out a 500 euro note. ‘Take my young friend to the cafe, sit and
talk for ten minutes close to them. He may know their faces ... from ...
eased up, pocketed the money, and led Drake towards the door after looking =
Kobus called. ‘He is more than he seems.’
stared back for a moment, shrugging a shoulder before leading a keen Drake =
the corridor. Outside the hotel, and now in bright sunlight, Drake walked
alongside her as they navigated around the middle-aged tourist couples, the=
have been learning to drive a car,’ Drake volunteered.
glanced his way. ‘I don’t drive,’ she curtly got out,
enjoy it greatly,’ Drake informed her as they crossed a road.<=
are young to be working with Kobus,’ she queried.
am ... older than I appear.’
shot him a disbelieving look. ‘You like danger, eh?’
took a moment, adopting his serious head. ‘Death has no meaning for m=
But I hope to live long enough to do great goods, for which I shall be
puzzled that as they walked.
cafe, they approached the counter and ordered drinks, a cappuccino for her =
a Sprite for him, and sat behind the men in question, one of the men idly l=
them over as they sat. Drake sat facing the watchers, both men appearing to=
in their late thirties, thickset and strong, now sat with padded jackets and
baseball caps - and nursing coffee cups.
whispered, ‘You know...?’ she ended by gesturing with her eyes =
tipping her head slightly.
nodded, a phone trilling a second later, one of the men taking a call. Drake
listened in, much “yeah, yeah” and “right”, little
else. After the call, Drake decided to make small talk. ‘Do you ... h=
stared back for a moment. ‘No.’ She looked away.
thought up another question ‘Do you ... like TV?’
stared back for several seconds. ‘Sometimes.’
drinks were placed down by a girl in an apron.
shrugged, disinterested. ‘I saw it once.’
had been reading her mind, and now changed track. ‘Do you like small
raised a Spaniel in Bulgaria,’ he lied.
brightened. ‘I have a Spaniel.’
was orange-brown, a white nose.’
tried to hide a smile. ‘Mine too, always eating my fucking shoes.R=
put my slippers and shoes up high,’ Drake said, having read it in her=
coughed out a laugh. ‘That just makes mine scratch the chair.’<=
there ... a good park here?’
thumbed over her shoulder. ‘Across the river, a nice walk next to the
good to be alone with just the dog, I can ... leave the world behind for a =
nodded, taking several seconds. ‘How did you get into this work?̵=
... began when I was young.’
you ... killed anyone?’
inched his head closer. ‘A great many.’
are young enough to study, to do something ... better.’
is no better calling ... than what I now do.’
trust him? He might get you killed.’
are both equal partners in the game of chance, as are you.’
glanced out of the window. ‘I stabbed a man when I was thirteen, was a
prostitute at fourteen, in prison at sixteen.’ She made a dismissive
face, and tackled her coffee.
yet ... you care for a dog. You walk it, feed it, and love it. You are not
lost, you only think you are lost.’
frowned back. ‘Now you do sound older, much older.’
stepped in, to the counter, but noticed Roxy. ‘You fucking bitch!R=
he loudly called.
was up quickly, and presented himself in the man’s path, the two watc=
now keenly attentive to what might be a situation. The man, middle-aged and
fat, swung an arm to move Drake aside, startled by the immovable object. He
stepped around, only to be blocked by Drake, who now had his chin on his ch=
his eyes half closed.
the man threw a punch, hitting Drake in the chin. Drake hardly moved, the m=
shaking his fist.
Drake firmly suggested.
man shook off his hand, and shook off his surprise, intent on getting to Ro=
Drake read the man’s mind, and made up his own mind. He grabbed the m=
by the arm, swung him around at waist height, and launched him straight at =
heads of the two watchers. Screams rose up as the man smashed through the p=
glass window, the two watchers stunned from the impact, following the man
through the window and into the street.
jumped up onto seats and out into the street, landing in broken glass next =
the watchers and relieving one of them of a mobile without anyone seeing. A
glance back at Roxy, and Drake walked off at a pace, ducking through the
tourists. At the hotel, he knocked on the room door, Kobus opening it with a
hand inside his jacket.
it go?’ Kobus asked, a glance down the corridor before closing the do=
Drake handed over a mobile. ‘The man who possessed this phone spoke to
Johansson, who is here in the city.’
Kobus loudly queried.
here, at a Hotel Grand.’
waved the mobile. ‘And Roxy?’
two men?’ Kobus pressed, his eyebrows raised.
knock came at the door.
is Roxy,’ Drake stated, Kobus answering the door. She walked in, and
stopped at Drake, her hands on her hips. After a second, she turned to Kobu=
‘He is stronger than he looks.’
smiled and nodded.
threw a man through a window,’ she reported.
wouldn’t be the first time,’ Kobus responded.
lifted a mobile. ‘From the other man.’
turned them both off. ‘OK, Roxy, go to the Hotel Grand, and see who l=
out of place. Take a girlfriend; I want twenty-four hour cover.’ He
handed her another 500 Euro note.
studied Drake for a few seconds, and stepped out.
like her,’ Drake said as the door was closed. ‘She has a good
good heart? She’s a killer. And she enjoys it!’
enjoys hurting men who like to hurt women, because when she was ten years o=
she was hurt many times by her father and uncle.’
took a moment, looking away. ‘Ah.’
she has a dog she loves. She fights the bad men her way, and we fight them =
guess there are parallels.’
will attack the men at this hotel?’
will,’ Kobus firmly stated. ‘And we’ll get some
Johansson ran a hand over his shortly cropped grey hair, and t=
away from the window of his room at the Grand Hotel. ‘You lost your
phones?’ He waited.
two watchers from the cafe stood with plasters on the faces and hands, a th=
sat near. They glanced at each other. ‘Someone picked them up
you were taking a nap; a stunt made to look like a simple brawl, intended to
liberate your phones. If your wallets had gone I could have put it down to
locals – but they took only your phones.’
man in the chair put in, ‘Kobus has no phone tracking kit, and the ph=
were switched off within minutes, meaning that someone simply sold them
took a moment. ‘Maybe.’ He closed in on the two watchers.
‘Last call made.’ He pointed at the first man.
he said, motioning towards his buddy.
slid his finger across to the second man.
betting results,’ the man admitted.
either of you call this hotel?’
got the number; we’d call your mobile, and that re-directs.’
glanced at the man sat down, and turned back to the window. ‘Describe=
thin, jet black hair. It looked dyed.’
complexion?’ Johansson nudged as he turned back towards them.<=
two men nodded, Johansson making eye contact with the man in the chair.
and get cleaned up.’ With the men gone, Johansson joined the man sat
down. ‘Same kid. They’re here.’
‘Why ... are they here?̵=
second man asked.
they have the money, then to offload it maybe, launder it maybe. First,
they’ll need a new ID.’
start checking the forgers. You know Kobus worked this patch for two years.=
nodded. ‘He knows the turf, we don’t. He’ll have connecti=
here, he won’t be in a hotel room; he’ll be shacked up with some
old girlfriend, or a hooker.’
still don’t know what he’s into,’ the second man cautione=
‘Or with whom? They chopp=
four guys in Sophia, four in Varna – in broad daylight, and eight in
Germany – Kobus leading our people straight into a carefully prepared
trap.’ The man eased forwards. ‘They were sliced and diced, so =
has to be a Russian gang thing.’
took a moment. ‘We’re thin on the evidence - either way; fucking
Kobus has been playing both sides for years. Riggs has been suspended;
he’s back Stateside having a torch shone up his ass.’
man stood. ‘I’ll make you this bet: when you find him,
there’ll be twenty Russian gunmen over your shoulder, all wanting a s=
piece of you.’
left Johansson with that thought.
At 7pm, as it started to get dark, Kobus led Drake out, and
Johansson’s associate was correct - there would be a few Russian
gangsters about. With their jackets stuffed full of cash, they walked a few
streets through early revellers, and to a club that was just opening, a nod=
the doorman. Inside the quiet club, just the one lone punter starting early,
Kobus asked for a Demitri, being shown to a table to wait.
was a short and grey-haired man, dressed now in a casual blue blazer that
appeared too big for him. He came flanked by two heavies, both men around t=
feet taller than their boss. ‘Kobus, long time,’ he offered as =
shook, his words accented.
a private room?’
this way, we’ll talk.’ Demitri led them to an office, and to a
cluttered desk of invoices and receipts. ‘Drink?’
yet, it’s going to be a long night.’
have something on tonight, no?’ Demitri asked, pouring himself a drin=
need a few boys,’ Kobus began, taking out the wads of cash. Drake fol=
suit with a cheery smile, soon quite a bundle handed over. ‘That shou=
be a hundred thousand Euros, more or less.’
many fucking boys do you want?’ Demtri asked, motioning towards the m=
‘And for what?’
... fallen out with my former paymasters, they’ve ... sent a team for
they wish to close the chapter in the book, clean up the mess, sweep it und=
the rug,’ Demitri said, waving an arm.
for the analogy,’ Kobus quipped.
thanks for your hard work, eh? It’s poor that they do not look after
so, down to business. There’ll be another hundred thousand tomorrow
– if I’m still alive. Starting ten minutes ago, I want your peo=
out looking for Americans who can handle themselves. When they find them, I
want them injected with morphine, even if it’s done in the street.=
want them asleep, not dead,’ Demitri noted, easing back and cradling =
just doing their jobs,’ Kobus responded. ‘It’s their boss
I’m interested in. At ten o’clock exactly I want a car set on f=
a hundred yards from the Grand Hotel. At ten thirty exactly I want smoke
canisters let loose inside the hotel, and around the outsides.’
all for now.’
hope there’s not an American football team visiting,’ Demitri
quipped. ‘We will use a lot of morphine for nothing!’
smiled as he stood. ‘They’ll get over it. Oh, do you have some =
opened a desk draw and produced two boxes. ‘Enough?’
tipped his head towards Drake as he stood. ‘You play a dangerous game,
for such young company.’
... much stronger than he looks, a top agent.’
Demitri made a face, a big shrug issued. ‘We’ll be ready,
don’t worry, my friend.’
Kobus asked, ‘Did you sense deceit?’
he will do as asked.’
navigated their way down busy streets, tourists out for their evening meals,
the first hard-core sex tourists on the prowl. Around the first corner, Dra=
shoved Kobus into a noisy bar, flashing neon everywhere, the two of them
immersed into the droning beat of techno.
placed his mouth close to Kobus’s ear. ‘Someone approaches; they
think they know your face.’
eased past the drinkers, most people in this bar drinking whilst standing, =
towards the toilets.
Kobus asked, Drake nodding. He halted behind a pillar. ‘Punch to the
stomach.’ He tapped his abdomen. ‘Here. Don’t hurt them t=
spun around the pillar as Kobus stood with his back to it, and weaved throu=
party of Brits on a stag weekend. Sensing the two men enter, Drake edged
through the Brits, the two large men now looking every which way apart from=
him. Drake stepped left, smiling at a group of people - as if part of their
group, and edged side-on to the two men. At the last moment, one of the men
stared straight at him, a glance at the dyed black hair.
moved quickly, ducking low and coming up, a punch to the stomach that bent =
big man in half. A strong hand slapped down onto Drake’s shoulder from
behind. Drake took a half step back and bent forwards a little, soon elbowi=
the man in the solar plexus, the man crumbling to the floor.
had now moved back, a gap formed, two bouncers rushing over.
tapped his back pocket. Loudly, he said, ‘They try to take my
the reputation of bars in this city, no one was surprised, and no one had a=
sympathy for the men on the floor. Drake headed quickly to the door, Kobus
outside a minute later. They said nothing as they weaved through the crowds=
being extra careful, and managed to get safely back to the hotel after doub=
room, Kobus said, ‘Time for a change of hair colour I think.’ He
stepped out of the room, and to a store cupboard at the end of the corridor,
pinching a bottle of bleach. Back in the room, he directed a curious Drake
towards the bathroom, soon running the warm water into the sink, the plug in
the hole. With the sink almost full, Kobus squeezed out a little bleach, sl=
swirling it with a hand.
your head in, close your eyes, and wash your hair in it for five minutes.=
left the lad to it. Back in the room, he took off his jacket and lit up,
opening the window. As an afterthought he closed the curtains tightly and s=
on the bed.
time he finished his cigarette, Drake was out, towelling his hair, which was
now black in places, grey in others, blonde spots visible. ‘You ... y=
paused, and returned to the bathroom to study his new hairstyle the mirror.
‘This is fitting?’ he loudly asked.
you have ... highlights,’=
appeared. ‘You find this new style amusing.’ He waited.<=
eased up. ‘The important thing ... is not to look as we did
before,’ he said as he brushed past and into the bathroom.
took off his t-shirt, squirted more bleach into the sink, and washed his own
hair in it at length. When done, he wrapped his head in a towel and took
another cigarette, Drake combing his hair in a dresser mirror.
look fine,’ Kobus insisted. ‘And you must have seen people here
with hair like this.’
do you appear?’ Drake ask=
looking up, and looking none too pleased.
wash out the bleach in the shower in a minute, save smelling of it all nigh=
You can hop in first if you like.’ Drake stood. ‘Use a lot of s=
on your hair, to get rid of the smell.’
still find my hair amusing,’ Drake complained as he headed to the sho=
Kobus resisting a smile.
Kobus had showered, his hair was closer to a natural dark brown, but lighte=
a few places, not too many streaks. But Drake was not a happy bunny.=
Kobus said. ‘Tomorrow we’ll go to a hairdresser, and you can ha=
any colour you like, just ... not black.’
bent over and studied himself in the dresser mirror again.
Into the fire
At 9.15pm, Kobus checked his pistol, placed a bundle of cash i=
jacket, but then hesitated. He leant against the dresser and lit up.=
are again uncertain of a course of action,’ Drake noted, sat in front=
the TV, the sound turned down.
his lips, and slowly blew out a pall of grey smoke. Softly, he began, ̵=
of me ... part of me still thinks like a normal person, not one who’l=
dead in a few days. Part of me ... still foolishly believes that ... that o=
this is all over he’ll go back to work, or maybe change jobs, or take=
holiday.’ He coughed out a small laugh, and shook his head.
are following your head, but not your heart.’
nodded, and took a drag. ‘Part of me ... wants to go on, to ... take =
in that constant struggle of Rachel and Ross, that struggle of work, and
family, and relationships. I want to have ... options, and I have no options.’ He took in their run-down
hotel room. ‘They may not have a perfect life, Rachel and Ross, but t=
have options, and they don’t have anyone shooting at them.’
must consider the mission, the end, and not the means - or the steps in
Kobus finally agreed. ‘I know that, I just wish I could ... rid mysel=
that ... urge to survive.’
you did that, you would not be a person,’ Drake noted. ‘The tes=
your test, is the battle you now have, that of a person who wishes the life=
Rachel and Ross, yet must step into fire for the good of others. Your rewar=
Kobus van der Schule, will be in your own heart.’
across to the window, and peered through a crack in the curtains, a slight
breeze caressing his face. ‘Self sacrifice. And, even with all the
evidence laid out in front of me, I still have a doubt.’
turned off the TV, checked his watch, and stood. ‘If you did not have=
doubt, you would not be a man.’ He waited. ‘It is time.’<=
flicked his cigarette out of the window. ‘Into the fire we go.’=
on his jacket, he said, ‘I wonder how the young soldiers felt on D-Da=
during the war.’
too would have this struggle, between the urge to live, and the need for
sacrifice,’ Drake stated.
drew alongside Drake. After a moment, he said, ‘If I’m killed, =
this money, try and do some good. And you, young man, should also follow yo=
appeared saddened. ‘I fear not death, but I find that I greatly fear =
death. I have this struggle within, as you do.’
nodded to himself. ‘Well, then. Let’s go do something real dumb
– but for the right reasons.’ He glanced at Drake’s hair.
‘And if anyone says that you look like a badger, just ignore them.=
is a badger?’ Drake asked=
they left the room.
animal of the forest.’
appear like an animal of the forest?’ Drake loudly complained.=
... strong and noble animal of the forest,’ Kobus insisted.
still think my hair to be funny!’
least you look ... different.’
walked with his head down, grinding his teeth.
Johansson peered through the spy-hole in his door, and unlocke=
letting in his assistant.
have three men down,’ the man stated as he pushed past his boss.
Johansson closed the door, but held it. He waited. His assistant added,
‘Injected in the ass with morphine, by girls for the most part, who
disappeared into the crowds. Our guys are safe, they’re just ... fast
asleep and dreaming pleasant dreams.’
gangsters would have shot them, or stabbed them,’ Johansson puzzled a=
stepped across his room and to the window.
a puzzler,’ the other man admitted.
everyone about crowds, to avoid them.’
taken a look out the fucking window lately, boss?’
peered down at the crowds in the street. ‘This is his turf, and
he’s making use of that fact. Fine, we’ll swallow the hook.R=
Louder, he said, ‘Have our ladies follow our guys, and tell the guys =
be a bit obvious. When they get stabbed in the arse, grab the girls doing t=
He faced his assistant. ‘Move, and counter move,’ he loudly
commended. ‘And I’m smarter than he is.’
One street away from their hotel, Kobus moved into a dark door=
switching on one of the watchers mobiles. He punched in the number for Rigg=
but his finger hovered over the green button. Finally he pressed it.=
came after six rings.
not Riggs,’ Kobus said, an eye on the crowds.
Kobus, I’m his boss, Brad Martins. We have met.’
his associations to you.’
a few dead agents, a few million in gold coins. Is there ... something
you’d like to get off your chest?’
is clean, he had nothing to do with anything that happened here. And for the
record, I’m clean as well, and someday ... someday that fact might see
the light of day.’
a large pile of gold coins that spe=
volumes about how clean you are.’
took a moment. ‘That would take
some explaining. But you need to ask yourself one thing, when you consider =
I have three million dollars in cash in a bag, and that’s why I’=
looking for answers, when I could be sitting on a beach. Keep that thought =
mind in the next few days, and then … then when a very large bomb goes
off – one that’ll make 9/11 look like a sideshow – you mi=
consider why I’m not sitting on a beach.’ He hung up.
a teenager walking past, he stopped the youth. ‘Here, this is for you.
Keep it. Go on.’ The teenager walked off examining the phone.<=
are saddened,’ Drake noted.
... previous boss, who was a boss a=
friend, he’s ... in the dungeon of the magistrate.’
is sad, yes. But many an innocent man went to the dungeon.’
took in the crowds, and the flashing neon signs of the many bars. ‘In
your time and mine,’ he said, sighing. He turned, and led Drake off a=
approached the Imperial Hotel from the rear, a glimpse of the neon sign for=
Grand Hotel, their target hotel being third large hotel in a row on this bl=
With Drake a step or two ahead, moving slowly through the dark and sensing =
danger, they weaved through stationary cars in a dimly lit parking area at
street level, and to the base of a fire exit.
whispered. ‘Jump up, and turn the wheel so that the ladder comes
crouched and jumped, climbing hand over hand onto a landing, and soon
hand-cranking the ladder down, a few loud squeaks issued. When the ladder w=
low enough, Kobus jumped up, getting a knee in the bottom rung as Drake
reversed his actions, the ladder rising quickly. Safely onto the first land=
Kobus stepped slowly and quietly higher, up six flights of metal steps and =
the roof, a padlocked gate preventing access onto the roof.
considered the lock, and the gate, finally the metal grill that housed the =
exit. He yanked at a corner, breaking the thin metal strands, and pulled it
back, enough room for him to climb through. Kobus followed, struggling after
snagging his jacket.
found themselves on a sloping roof of grey lead flashing, the slope around =
metres and leading up to a flat top. Along the edge of the roof ran a stone
balustrade some three feet high, and they now edged along it in the dark be=
double, enjoying a good view of the city’s neon lights.
had taken little more than five steps when Drake pushed him down. They wait=
‘What?’ Kobus finally whispered.
man with a rifle, and a ... thing for looking at night, as before in
night sight,’ Kobus noted. ‘Stay low, and out of line of
started to crawl, dead pigeons pushed aside.
end of the balustrade, Drake peeked up and over the top. ‘There is a =
thing for the smoke of the fire. The man does not see us.’
eased, up, scrambling up and over a wall and down onto the next roof, this =
flat, but with a similar stone balustrade, two lift housings sat perched at
either end. And, oddly enough, a clothes line with a few clothes pegged out.
Kobus looked up and made a face as he crawled past it.
hand on Kobus’s leg, yanking him back a few inches, and Drake was up =
running to the lift housing, and around it. Kobus drew his pistol, and lay
flat. Ahead of him he could see the darkened outline of the lift housing, t=
tops of hotel signs across the road, the glow from the street below highlig=
the gaps in the balustrade opposite.
stepped out, stubbing out a cigarette with his shoe. Kobus froze, wondering
just how dark this damn roof was. He took aim. The man turned towards him, =
as a dark figure appeared behind the man. Kobus tapped the roof with his
pistol, the man inching his head forwards to see what the tapping might be.=
blow from Drake, the sound of cracking bone, and the man went down. =
got up to his knees, to his feet, but ran across bent double, dropping to t=
lying position next to the man, Drake now knelt beside his victim.=
lives, but has damage,’ Drake whispered as the man groaned.
checked his watch. ‘Fifteen minutes.’ He relived the man of his
pistol, tossing it up onto the top of the lift housing as Drake pulled out =
and mobile phone. The phone was tossed up onto the lift housing, the radio
the man with the rifle looking this way?’ Kobus whispered.
he ... eats something, and faces away.’
eased up and ran to the balustrade at the front of this hotel, peering down=
the bustling street below, a pedestrian walkway without traffic. There, in =
middle of the street, sat a small garden, a few tall bushes. Kobus studied =
radio, finally retrieving a twenty Euro note from his pocket. He turned the
radio on, jammed the folded note into the side of the TRANSMIT button, pres=
the key down – it held, and tossed it into the bushes below.=
turned his head towards the Grand Hotel. ‘Men puzzle the lack of word=
and ... curse the lack of words. They ... believe someone to be in error,
someone ... in the many people below.’
they should,’ Kobus whispered, running bent double to wall that separ=
this hotel from the Grand.
Johansson opened his bedroom door to his assistant.
grabbed two ladies, and I use t=
words sparingly,’ the man said as he entered. Johansson shut the door.
‘They were paid by a local Russian hood. And get this: tonight at ten
thirty they were due to set off the fire alarm in this hotel, tossing aroun=
few smoke canisters.’
was momentarily shocked, but tried to hide it. Stepping past his assistant,=
noted, ‘He knows I’m here, and he wants me.’
his gripe with you?’
I knew that. He put in a call Riggs’s boss, Brad Martins, a little wh=
ago, and asked Martins to consider why he – Kobus – was not sat=
a beach. He has three million in cash, apparently.’
why ain’t he sat on a bea=
with the loot?’
has an axe to grind, or maybe those he works for do.’
ya pissed off?’
took a moment. ‘Good ... question. Another good question ... would be=
he knew about this place.’ He checked his watch.
what he wants, for me to be out on the street.’
pack quickly. Have the cars brought around the back and into the underground
car park. Check it all carefully.’
fox to hen ... in one minute,’ the man noted, getting a pointed finger
On the roof, Drake focused on the real sniper, not the imagine=
Lowering his head, he whispered, ‘They make ready to leave.’
... for a drink, for some food ... or leave for another hotel?’
do not wish to return to this place.’
you get that sniper quietly?’
eased his head up. ‘He makes ready to leave, he does not care for
anything else. He talks with another man, much ... bullshit spoken of. What is a bullshit
would mean that they don’t believe in the merits of their task.’=
should be easy to defeat such people.’
Kobus urged in a strong whisper.
leapt over the wall, a thud heard a few seconds later, the clatter of somet=
hitting the roof. He returned quickly. ‘The man thought of many cars
under the hotel.’
Kobus let out. Bent double, he crawled like a crab sideways, and peered over
the balustrade at the rear of the hotel. After a moment, peering down into =
dark car park of the Grand Hotel, he could see that two cars were being
attended by at least two men each. Turning to Drake, he said, ‘You se=
men and those two cars?’
peered down. ‘Yes, they are anxious.’
till I reach the metal steps and start down, then throw the man you just hit
down onto those cars, and the m=
from this roof. Can you ... throw that far?’
Drake leapt over the wall, and back onto the roof of the Grand.
turned, running bent double next to the balustrade, and over to the Imperia=
a hand on the lead flashing as he made his way along the balustrade. At the
fire exit he clambered through, again snagging his jacket and cursing, soon
stepping quietly down the metal steps.
made it down to the second landing when a loud smash caused him to stop and
look. He could not see the far car park clearly from where he was, but he c=
guess what had caused the sound. He descended another two landings, another
loud crash signifying an impact. Clambering down the ladder, he dropped the
last four feet, suddenly scared rigid by the car next to him exploding,
showering him with glass.
lifted Kobus upright. ‘Sorry, I ... was not sure of the merits of
shit!’ Kobus whispered, a quick look at a saloon that had unwittingly
become a soft-top. He led Drake out of the rear of the car park, took posit=
in a dark corner, and waited.
Johansson had opened his door, had half stepped into the corri=
but was pushed back inside by his assistant. ‘What is it?’ he a=
as he closed the door.
just lost the two guys on the roof, and two cars in the lot,’ the man
reported, now a little out of breath. ‘The guys on the roof took a run
and jump, and demolished the cars. Three guys badly hurt out back. We ... ain’t going nowhere.&=
dropped his bag and stepped back into the room, kicking over a chair. He
checked his pistol, and checked his watch. ‘The smoke will be just a
decoy to get us out; they won’t set the hotel on fire.’ He kick=
the upturned chair. ‘Call everyone back here. Now!’
assistant lifted his phone, as Johansson moved to the window, peering throu=
crack in the thick curtains, the street below full of revellers oblivious to
the drama unfolding above their heads. ‘What do they want?’ he
whispered to himself.
Bob Russell answered his phone. ‘Yes.’
to disturb you, sir, but there’s a situation developing in Prague.=
has nine men down, and he’s now holed-up in his hotel, surrounded.=
don’t know, sir, but local Russians gangsters were used to disable so=
of our men.’
in the ass with morphine, right in the street in public.’
that Alpha Team?’
awaiting a suitable target, sir. And sir, the front of that hotel has a
thousand people in the street.’
‘They can move through the crowds, =
don’t dare shoot. Move the Alpha Team to the rear of the hotel, not to
make contact with Johansson and his people, but to see who’s watching=
lowered his phone, and peered across at the Deputy Director.
much so, and we’re getting sidetracked with this man Kobus. Whoever
he’s working for is expending a great deal of time, energy, and money,
not only on keeping him alive, but hitting back at anyone getting close. Our
people in Prague are nine men down and stuck in a hotel.’
who the hell has that kind of nerve, and the resources to pull it off?̵=
the Deputy angrily considered.
can fight this war, or we can concentrate on other things.’
there’s someone out there with those kinds of resources, willing to
interfere with us, then I want to know,’ the Deputy Director insisted=
As Kobus and Drake hid in the shadows, two ambulances and two =
cars pulled into the rear of the Grand Hotel.
to move,’ Kobus said. He led Drake back into the car park of the first
hotel, and ducked between parked cars. Flashing blue lights then penetrated
this car park, the police moving towards the car that Drake had landed on. =
moved off, keeping low, an eye on the police. Finding a bin next to a wall,=
a convenient ledge on the wall, Kobus made a choice and lunged upwards. A f=
on the bin, and second foot on the ledge, a hand on the wall, and he rolled
over the top, landing between two cars. Drake landed next to him, on all fo=
like a cat.
you sense anyone?’ Kobus urgently whispered.
man makes ready to leave, two people walk to the hotel.’
headlights preceded the car pulling out, the vehicle soon in the lane.
is no one near,’ Drake finally whispered.
lifted up, running bent double to the wall of the Grand Hotel’s car p=
Flickering blue lights could be seen, reflecting off the back of the hotel,
people peering out of windows at the action below.
go to hospital,’ Drake began. ‘Two men go inside. They believe =
Johansson will remain in the hotel.’
checked his watch. ‘Two minutes.’ He forced a breath, releasing=
heavy sigh. ‘C’mon.’
double, they ran behind parked cars, and to the rear entrance of this hotel.
Once there, they straightened, and tried to look like guests. Inside, they
ducked left and into the stairwell, rushing straight up to the top floor. <=
halted at the emergency door. ‘If we open this an alarm will
sound.’ He took a moment, before rushing down the corridor to the fro=
of the hotel. Halting at a door, he asked Drake, ‘Anyone inside?̵=
neared the door, shaking his head after a moment. Kobus ran a hand over the
door, finding it solid. He gestured Drake towards it, a shoulder taking the
lock off. They quickly moved inside, the room dark, and closed the door - as
best they could with its frame splintered.
balcony door was unlocked, and they now slid it open, the two of them engul=
in a roar from the street below. They had no view of the front on the Grand,
but were visible from across the street.
across the street? Watching the hotel?’
peered across. ‘Two men, they watch the street.’
enough away.’ Kobus hopped up onto the balcony wall, a quick and nerv=
down five floors as he wobbled, grabbed a drainpipe, and placed a foot on a
sill over the balcony door. Reaching up to a gap in the balustrade, he soon=
a hand on the top of the stone balustrade, a knee on the base of the
balustrade, and over, landing in a heap. Drake was already there, crouched
woman on a balcony, with a small dog, saw us. She calls the hotel
great,’ Kobus whispered as he eased up. They ran to the wall of the
Grand, scrambled over, and kept low as they headed to the stairwell.
the stairwell, and opening the door, a shaft of light illuminated them, Dra=
shot a second later. He spun, landing flat, and seemingly lifeless. The cra=
registered with Kobus as a high velocity round, but probably with a silencer
fitted, and it came from behind them. He let go of the door, the light cut
away, and crawled over in darkness.
am alive, but playing like an animal that has been killed; a blossom,’
Drake flatly stated.
a Possum; playing Possum.’
I appear like a creature of the forest, is it not fitting?’
you’re quite ready,’ Kobus curtly nudged.
lifeless form lifted up onto all fours, both men staying low as they headed=
the stairwell and down. As they moved lower, Drake pulled out a wad of cash=
wad now with a hole in it. He showed it to Kobus, who tossed it away after a
this money not be good?’ Drake enquired, a look over his shoulder at =
we could take it to the bank and ask if they’ll change it for us. Just
need to explain that it was in your jacket when you were hit with a high
velocity round!’ He turned away, and down the stairwell, just as the =
has begun,’ Drake noted. ‘There is much concern from many
‘They’ll evacuate, our boys
won’t.’ He forced a breath. ‘We wait.’ He sat on the
stairs, soon hearing people on the stairs below, clattering lower.=
ten minutes the stairs fell silent, but the smell of smoke hit them.=
people remain,’ Drake suggested. ‘I sense men with guns, anxious
men.’ Drake stood, and stepped down to the landing below, a puzzled f=
taking hold. ‘I sense Roxy, here, afraid and held.’
must have made her,’ Kobus noted as he stepped down. ‘Can you f=
can.’ He led on. One floor down, he stopped at the access door to this
floor. ‘Men watch this door.’
coughed in the smoke, the fire alarm now ending.
peered down the stairwell. ‘Men make ready to come up, men ... who wi=
good for people, and to help.’
Kobus led Drake back up to the roof. They bent double and rushed across to =
middle of the hotel, and peered down at the rear through the balustrade; ro=
at the rear did not offer their guests balconies. There was also the small
matter of a hundred firemen running around, and a sniper.
is two floors below. Here, this room.’
you climb down there?’
but men now look up.’
we go in the front.’
ran across the flat roof, and hardly paused before scrambling over the side=
dropping down onto a balcony. Tourists peered up and screamed at them ̵=
as if they might fall, the two men now appearing as if escaping the blaze. =
on the balcony, they scrambled lower another floor, Drake kicking in the gl=
Kobus hesitated, turned back to the balcony and shouted ‘Help us,R=
before entering the bedroom.
wish help from others?’ Drake puzzled.
that’s so they’ll think we’re guests.’
was not following, but rushed to the room door, placing an ear against it.
‘They are close.’ He pointed to the right. ‘They do not l=
slowly turned the handle, opening the door a few inches and letting in a sh=
of light, noting now a thin layer of smoke creeping along the corridor̵=
With the door fully open, magnolia walls and bland watercolours exposed, Dr=
inched closer to the door frame, peeked out, then burst out in a blur. Kobus
followed closely, looking every which way, his pistol levelled.
hit the first man with a punch, kicking the door that the second man stood =
behind - a room directly opposite the first. He barged into the room that h=
Roxy, Kobus shouldering his way into the room opposite. Kobus found a man o=
cold, lying in the dark, blood covering his face, a pistol on the carpet. T=
room was clear. He opened the door again, pistol prone, and moved into the
light, checking the corridor both ways.
off to the right.
lifted his pistol and fired twice as he moved, leaping across to the room
opposite. Inside, he stepped over an unconscious man, finding a second man =
cold and lying in an unnatural position, Drake untying Roxy as she lay trus=
on the bed, the lights on in this room.
the curtains were open, he noticed as an afterthought. A new thought entered
Kobus’s head, a good instinct.
he shouted. He was too late.
window cracked, not a loud noise, and Roxy’s head exploded, blood
spattered across the wall.
spun, staring at the window, dragged down by Kobus a second later, who star=
to crawl on his hands and knees to the door. Drake moved just two feet, and
stopped, staring at Roxy’s lifeless eyes as she hung over the side of=
bed, blood spurting down to the carpet. The image held his attention for ma=
the door and peeking out, Kobus could see a dozen firemen in dark uniforms =
shiny metal helmets now coming down the corridor towards him. He lifted his
pistol, aimed at the ceiling, and fired three times, the firemen withdrawin=
a mad scramble. Turning back into the room, Kobus caught his breath, sat no=
his back against the door frame - his legs keeping the sprung door open, an=
staring at Drake’s expression. Several seconds passed.
death was my fault,’ Kobus finally said. ‘Because I followed my
heart, and not my head.’
turned his head to make eye contact. ‘The end, not the means,’ =
said, no energy in his voice, his eyelids seemingly heavy.
need to find Johansson,’ Kobus finally said, the broken window lettin=
the sound of sirens.
floor below, a ... room over the street. He waits, and he is afraid.’=
perhaps, my young friend, we should help him realise his fears.’
moved painfully slowly, Kobus holding the door whilst staying low. With the
door shut they eased up, Kobus now starting to cough in the smoke.
‘Another man is close, but hurt from you.’
must have winged him.’
stepped to a door, kicked it through with a roar, and entered, three rounds
fired before a scream was issued. A loud smashing sound signalled the man
exiting the hotel via the window without opening it first, falling three fl=
to down to the car park below.
moved past the room, pistol still prone, now watchful of the doors, and ran=
the stairwell. He found it clear, Drake behind him a second later. They wal=
down one floor. Kobus made ready, grabbed the door, and ducked to the hinge
side, yanking it open. The smoke was thicker here, and he put his face in h=
elbow as Drake walked brazenly into the corridor.
had taken ten steps two shots rang out, closely followed by a second two, s=
the sound of a door being kicked off its hinges registering with Kobus. Ano=
two reports, a scream. Kobus ran forwards as best he could, bent double and
trying to breathe through part of his t-shirt that he know held over his mo=
He reached an open door on the left, open because it was laying flat on the
floor, off its hinges, Drake heard moving around inside.
door opposite opened.
slow motion, Kobus dropped to a knee, his back against the magnolia corridor
wall, two shots fired into a figure. He could see the slide moving in slow
motion, the expelled cartridges flying out. The figure gasped and fell
backwards, the door slamming shut after being released.
composed himself, catching his breath, making a check of the corridor both
ways. Turning, he scrambled over the slippery door as it lay flat, and
straightened up in the darkened interior of the room, flashing neon light
entering the room from the hotel opposite, a lime green hue applied to the =
images within. Someone had turned the room lights off, but had opened the
over a man on a bed, and as Kobus closed in he could see that the man’=
thumbs were now missing, the blood an odd brown colour in the green light,
alternating to shades of grey. The man turned his head towards Kobus, trying
desperately to control his breathing, breathing through his nose, his nostr=
Johansson?’ Kobus demanded.
is,’ Drake put in.
‘What do you know about Pop-Dragon?̵=
... is ... he?’ came back in a strained whisper.
and you get an ambulance. If not, I’ll let him eat you alive, finger =
finger. What do you know about Pop-Dragon?’
... is headed by ... Bob Russell.’
the Deputy Director knows?’
the question that will decide if he bites your fucking pecker off: whatR=
You’re not about to blow up your own troops, or diplomats. So
what’s the target?’
... the suburbs,’ Johansson strained out, controlling the pain.
roast the Shia, cause another civil war, keep you there for another decade,=
convince the folks back home that WMDs do exist - and that budgets need to =
increased of course. And who would get the blame? Iranian backed militias
lifted his head to Drake.
speaks the truth.’
stepped to the window, peering down at the police now moving people back, t=
road taped-off both ends, flashing blue lights everywhere, his face being
bathed in the green flashing light from across the road.
getting to Iraq, and finding them and stopping them would ... be almost imp=
even with the money and the best will in the world. Even with you at my side.’ He turned.
‘I don’t think we’re meant to go to Iraq, I think ... we&=
returned to Johansson, whose eyes were now moist with the pain. ‘Who =
the woman and child in the villa? Kamil’s family?’
was squeezed out from fitful lungs.
would you kill your only bargaining chip with Kamil? And after the delivery of the detonator was screwed up? Maybe .=
because you didn’t need the detonator, because you could make one eas=
enough yourselves. Maybe, you needed the world - and the agency - to think =
someone was buying the detonator. Help you to ... apportion blame later, pi=
off the Russians; two birds with one stone.’
heaved a sigh, and turned away. ‘Drake, we have fought the dragon, and
we’re in the castle talking with the pretender to the throne, but ...
there is no answer here, no maiden to rescue. Something ... is not
back, and lowered his head to Johansson. ‘Is there anything that
you’re not telling me that might save your life, because right now I&=
not tempted to let you live. What ... was the last thing you heard about
took a moment, but Drake cut in with, ‘Contact was lost with ... Spec=
what does Special Unit 14 do?’ Kobus asked Johansson.
... transport the device,’ came back in a strained whisper.
stared down. ‘You ... stupid son of a bitch,’ he slowly let out.
‘You lost the fucking device.’ Kobus tipped his head back, and
sighed heavily. Lowering his head, he asked, ‘How long ago?’
... overdue ... reporting in. Twelve ... hours,’ Johansson strained to
get out. ‘Might just be ... faulty kit.’
question: was Dr Kamil with Special Unit 14; along for the ride, under
took a moment. ‘Yes.’
took a step back, a last look at Johansson. ‘Drake, I’ll be on =
roof. You have one minute to vent some anger.’
reached the corridor as the screaming began, and the scream echoed all the =
down the corridor as he ran through the smoke. On the roof he dropped to his
knees and gasped for breath, the smoke now starting to have an effect. The =
was full of the sound of sirens, now the sound of a helicopter.
flash of red in his eyes.
dropped flat, a crack of air, and he knew that a laser designator had been
used. Snipers, those that had killed Roxy; they now had a better angle on t=
hotel roof. He had forgotten about them, and had nearly gotten himself kill=
Cursing himself, he shuffled backwards into the stairwell, and down a few s=
as he studied the rising smoke. Had Demitri’s people set fire to the
hotel for real, or just used half a tonne of smoke canisters?
leapt up the steps, halting on the landing below as Kobus kept his head dow=
stared, wide-eyed; not an inch of Drake’s clothing or skin was free of
blood. He looked like he had been swimming in it, and now stood rigid, his =
on his chest, his eyes wild. After a moment, Kobus said, ‘I guess you=
vent some anger after all.’
do not feel better,’ Drake stated.
welcome to the club; I just missed a sniper by an inch.’
lifted his head, and peered up to the roof door. ‘The man who shot Ro=
he is ... many paces, maybe ... one hundred. There are ... six of them with
may be able to get across a balcony at the front, but I’d not make it;
there’s a sniper out front as well. Basement is a possibility.’=
for my signal, wait here.’
... will the signal be?’ Kobus puzzled.
I jumped onto the car, so this noise it made.’ He leapt over Kobus in=
single bound and out of the roof door, several cracks registering almost
immediately, high velocity rounds. Kobus turned, and inched higher - as far=
he dare go, additional cracks registering through the night sky.
waited a full three minutes, wondering if the police would be coming up the
stairs, or any of Johansson’s men, or if the damn hotel would burn do=
around him. Maybe he would just choke to death, he considered as he waited =
distant burst of machinegun fire.
smash, just like the men hitting the cars before, and now a car alarm.
second smash, a third, a fourth, more car alarms. At six, Kobus eased up and
crawled to the balustrade, peering down. The police, the firemen, and now t=
crews were attending men’s bodies on damaged cars, the men looking li=
they had dropped from a plane.
a breath, and making a choice, a choice of faith and belief, he lifted up a=
ran as fast as he could, his heart pounding. He reaching the wall, still al=
he noted to himself, and lunged over it. Across the flat rood he sprinted,
pistol in hand, ducking under the oddly placed clothes line. On the roof of=
Imperial Hotel, he crouched down and crawled frantically along the lead
flashing, and to the fire escape. Seeing the flashing blue lights below, he
hotel roof ended abruptly, an eight foot gap across to a lower roof. A leap=
faith was now required. Literally. He put his pistol away, stood on the edg=
bent his knees and leapt forwards, landing and rolling. He slammed into a
skylight and stopped, testing his ankles while still on his back. They hurt,
but did not seem broken. Easing up, he ran to a door, finding it locked. Two
rounds fired, and the lock gave.
inside of the stairwell was dark, the stairs unlit for the first two flight=
then normal hotel stairs appeared, carpeted in a light brown. He ran down,
three flights before he heard a door slam above him, but kept going, right =
to the ground level. There he stopped dead in front of a huge mirror, and
checked himself over. Composing himself, a hand through his hair, he stepped
into the main reception area. Seeing a leaflet carousel, he grabbed two tou=
leaflets, studying them as he walked straight out of the front of the hotel,
the police cordon ending just before the entrance of this hotel. He disappe=
into the thick crowds.
at the hotel, he placed a thousand Euros on the desk, under the nose of the=
old porter. ‘Men look for me. If they find me, I’ll kill
you.’ From the look he gave the man, the man was left in no doubt.
checked the corridor outside his room, an ear to his own door for a few
seconds. With pistol in hand, he turned the key without being in the firing
line. Nothing. He reached an arm inside and flicked the light on, inching in
slowly, every angle checked, even under the beds, finally the bathroom.
off his jacket, and issuing a huge sigh, a knock came at the window, startl=
him. Since they were five floors up, he figured it was Drake. He knocked the
lights off, opened the curtains, and let Drake in. Closing the curtains, he
flicked the lights on, Drake stood soaked in blood.
took a moment as Drake stood staring back. ‘Did anyone see you?’=
took a while before answering. ‘I used high places.’
into the bathroom, take off everything, and have a hot shower.’
a moment, Drake turned and entered the bathroom. Kobus rifled through
Drake’s bags, finding the spare set of clothes. He placed them on the=
of the bed.
a large plastic bag, he handed it through to Drake. ‘Put all of your
clothes in this, and shoes and socks. I’m going downstairs, I wonR=
put his denim jacket back on, and took the stairs down, checking every turn.
Reaching the night porter, he said, ‘Coca Cola?’
man brought back a large plastic bottle of Cola, sheepishly handing it over.
Back in the room, Kobus now found the plastic bag containing Drake’s
clothes left outside the bathroom door. Into it he poured the Cola, mixing =
around. Pulling a pillow case off a pillow, he soaked it in Cola and wiped =
the window ledge, the floors, and spots on the wall and bed covers. With th=
done, he sat on his own bed, his back to the headboard, and lit up. =
emerged naked ten minutes later, taking the clothes and dressing in silence,
the new shoes placed on, not yet worn. When done, and still not having said
anything, he sat on the edge of the second bed, facing away. Kobus eased up,
and took the plastic bag of Drake’s clothes into the bathroom. He pou=
Cola into the bath, down the sink, and wiped down surfaces where he could s=
blood. Placing the bag of clothes in the bathtub, he poured most of the Cola
into it, and left it to soak.
in the room, he sat down next to Drake, almost shoulder to shoulder. ‘=
... feel bad for letting the demon out?’ Kobus softly enquired.
did great evil, and enjoyed it.’
... enjoyed hurting those who hurt Roxy, you didn’t kill for fun. You
helped me, you saved me for sure – I should be dead now.’
the bomb he spoke of?’
have killed a million people yes, and may still do. But the betrayer has be=
betrayed, and the bomb is now in the hands of mad men.’
shall fight more.’
shall fight ... till the bomb is no more, and we will count those we
shall count those we saved,’ Drake repeated.
Bob Russell answered his phone. ‘Yes?’
news from ... from Prague.’
hotel that Johansson was at, it was hit, none of our people walked out of it
that weren’t already on their way to hospital earlier.’<=
paused. ‘And Johansson?’
... try and identify him by DNA records, sir.’
records? What the hell are you talking about?’
... didn’t find a piece of him big enough to identify, sir, his entra=
hanging from the light fittings.’
pause preceded, ‘And the Alpha team?’
dead, sir. Initial reports are odd, but not as odd as the rest of these
reports, considering. They’re ... trying to match heads to torsos.=
dead or wounded enemy agents?’
sniper teams reported at least three clean kills, but no blood or bodies we=
recovered, no sign of Kobus. Shell casings were found around the hotel, bul=
holes, but no bodies - except our people, sir.’
other end, the junior member of staff placed down the phone, closed his eyes
and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Taking off his headset, he slowly swivel=
chair and looked up at the cold stares of Brad Martins, Riggs, and two other
men. As a group, they moved off without saying anything.
Sat in the hotel room, Kobus eased up and said, ‘We̵=
best make use of the confusion out there, and get our new papers.’
eased up, and placed his jacket on without having lifted his eyes off the
took a moment. ‘I never had any children, but if I had a son, then I =
he would have turned out as well as you have.’
lifted his face, lightening a little.
have a good heart, and you’re doing the right thing. And never forget
that if we fail ... a great many people will die. Keep those people in your
found some fortitude before Kobus led him out. They walked through the crow=
and around to Blok’s tattoo parlour, their nasal passages assaulted on
entry with a mix of spice and pot. They were immersed in deep red light as =
walked through, past girls having tattoos added to odd areas, or being pier=
Drake shocked by the activities. Kobus had to drag him by the arm, twice.=
on Blok’s door, the slide opened, their faces examined. With the door
open, Blok said, ‘Dude, have you heard about all the shooting and
been keeping a low profile,’ Kobus said as they entered. ‘Why,
what’s been happening?’
big shoot-out and a fire at some hotel, like the Grand, man. Bodies
made a face. ‘Russian gangs. Got the papers?’
opened a drawer and produced six passports, a few drivers licenses, Kobus
checking the work, and the likenesses, Drake very curious about his own ima=
Smith?’ Drake queried.
the name you would use at the border,’ Kobus explained.
‘You’d say that you were British.’ He faced Blok. ‘=
solid are these?’
friend got the names and numbers from Interpol, so like – they’=
real people, and current passports, man.’
nodded. ‘Good.’ He handed over another three thousand Euros.
‘Destroy anything linking them to me.’
‘We got a dude next door; he came looking for you, man.’=
me,’ Kobus said with a puzzled frown.
led them through to a second room, a man being working on, a new tattoo bei=
Only this man was drugged-up and out of it. ‘Gave him a beer with a
little extra in, man.’
closed in, peering at the tattoos. The man’s face now held a Nazi
Swastika on his forehead, a dick with balls on a cheek, and “Fuck
you” on the other cheek. ‘Should slow him up a bit,’ he
away the fake IDs, Kobus said, ‘Have you seen or heard from Roxy
shook his head. ‘No, man.’
was watching a few people for me. Hope they didn’t make her.’ He
thanked Blok, and led Drake out, past the naked bodies.
Drake said, ‘You created a falsehood about Roxy.’
halted in the street, the never ending sea of drunken revellers moving past,
and lit up. ‘Nothing we can do to bring her back, but we can divert b=
away from us.’
are to blame,’ Drake sull=
a few more may die before this is over.’
in the hotel room, they packed up, Drake retrieving the money, the holdalls
filled, his hands washed. Thoroughly. Reclaiming the car, from a spot a few
streets away, Kobus threw off the parking tickets and eased in.
shall we go?’ Drake enquired.
from here, and then ... then we’ll decide, because right now I haven&=
any leads to follow.’
the car, the engine started, Drake pointed. ‘This girl is greatly
took a moment. ‘So?’
are probably a great many people around these
streets we could help,’ Kobus said dismissively.
turned his head to Kobus, and waited. After a moment, Kobus switched off the
engine. ‘OK, fine.’ They stepped out, and approached the sobbing
girl. She seemed to be aged around twenty, cute, blonde hair, a skimpy short
dress, and now stood looking very lost.
you ... speak English?’ Kobus asked.
you OK, love?’ Kobus asked.
had all my stuff stolen, my bags, my phone, my money, everything. I only ha=
my passport left. Now the hotel won’t help,’ she sobbed. ‘=
don’t even have a coin to call the British Embassy.’
took out twenty thousand Euros, being stared at by Kobus, and handed it ove=
‘Now you have coin. Please, don’t be sad.’
stared at the wad in her hand. ‘My god.’
rolled his eyes, and turned, grabbing Drake by the arm and leading him away=
she called. She stepped after them. ‘This is too much.’ She too=
500 Euro note off the top, and handed Drake the remainder. ‘Give me y=
address, I’ll send it back to you.’
no need,’ Kobus assured her, stepping towards the car.
I want to,’ she insisted, rushing after them, Drake giving Kobus a nu=
with his look.
in the car,’ Kobus finally told her. ‘I know where the embassy =
They have twenty-four hour staff for lost Brits.’
all got into the car, Drake making room for her in the back, moving the
they pulled off, she dabbed her runny mascara with the back of a hand, and
asked, ‘Are you here on a stag weekend?’
... really,’ Kobus said as they drove towards the embassy.
turned his head. ‘We work for Interpol, and thus travel much through
shot him a look without the girl noticing.
interesting,’ she offered.
is your home?’ Drake enquired.
live in Gibraltar with my father, my mother lives in England, in Essex.R=
were you hoping to fly back to?’ Kobus asked.
to Gibraltar. I work for my dad, in shipping.’ She took a moment.
‘I don’t even know your names.’
am called Drake.’
like the duck?’
stared at the side of Kobus’s head. ‘A duck?’
a male duck,’ she added.
male duck,’ Drake repeated, still staring at the side of Kobus’s
name is Paul Smith, but I call him Drake because he looks like a vampire af=
a late night out.’
Cathy, but my friends call me Cat. I was named after a saint that was burne=
saint?’ Drake repeated with a frown. ‘Your father, he is a
is, I suppose. He met my mum when she was on holiday in Spain; he’s f=
work is it ... that you do?’ Drake enquired, trying to make conversat=
as they drove.
a clerk, a shipping clerk, I do the paperwork for my dad; stevedoring and
warehousing, freight forwarding. Mostly we ship around the Mediterranean, s=
Middle East and Africa.’
glanced at Drake. ‘What ... Middle East countries do you ship
handle Syria and Lebanon, but just landed a good contract for UN goods in a=
out of Iraq.’
slowed and pulled over, a look exchanged with Drake. ‘Cat, my young
friend here has been nagging me for some time for a driving holiday across
Europe. We were going to head for southern Spain and ... it wouldn’t =
out of our way to drop you off in Gibraltar. Are you ... in a hurry?’=
well, I have to be back in work in four days.’
come you’re here alone?’ Kobus asked, looking the girl over in =
had a row with the two girls I came with, and stupid me – I moved to
another hotel. I was only there a few hours when they raided my room.’=
could find the girls,’ Kobus suggested. ‘Go to their hotel?R=
rather go home, they’re bitches; one had been seeing my ex for six mo=
and never told me.’
Kobus said with a sigh. ‘We can take you, and buy some clothes for you
along the way.’
‘It’s odd, but I don’t know =
yet I trust you.’
and Drake exchanged a look. ‘We’re police officers,’ Kobus
said. ‘Guess we look trustworthy.’ He pulled away. ‘OK, n=
smiled widely as they turned onto the highway, the three of them soon power=
down the quiet road and towards the German border.
A friend for Drake to play with
They drove to the border in the dark, making good time, passpo=
shown - fake and real, and found a hotel on the German side – a five =
hotel. Two rooms were booked, Cat with her own room, and she headed off for=
few hours sleep in a huge and luxurious bed. Kobus caught four hours sleep,
Drake sat watching the TV as normal.
knocked on their door at 2pm – the sun high and the day warm, having
showered, and having bought a bag of toiletries from the hotel shop with sm=
notes that Drake had given her. They ate a quick meal together in the hotel
bar, bar snacks, and re-started their journey, halting at the first town to=
clothes. And en-route Kobus explained away Drake’s lack of appetite by
suggested he had pigged out with room service. Since both Kobus and Drake
required clothes, the town was a worthwhile and practical stop.
insisted that Cat could have anything she wanted. She wondered what he earn=
as a police officer stationed in Bulgaria, and did not wish to be too indeb=
but Drake was insistent. She relented, and bought a great many items, the c=
soon stuffed full of bags.
a cigarette break away from the car and standing on a grass verge, the sun
beating down, Kobus lifted one of the stolen mobiles, not even sure who it =
belonged to. He turned it on, waited to find a signal, and dialled London.<=
officer?’ came a woman’s voice.
Kobus van der Shule. Your deputy director has thirty minutes to call me bac=
on, don’t go yet,’ she urged. ‘I’ll put you through=
little more than ten seconds, the same man came on. ‘Kobus,’ he
flatly answered, waiting.
was supposed to be set-off in the Shia east of Baghdad, reasons and politics
aside, but they lost it.’
lost contact with the convoy transporting it.’
where is it?’
in the east of Baghdad, in the hands of those least suitable to possess it,
possibly on its way to Iran.’
you make a few discreet enquiries, you might get some answers. And don̵=
worry about me, they have no idea how I might know that fact.’=
also ... have no idea how you knew that fact. And Prague?’
haven’t caught the news lately? It’s all over every news outlet=
Europe, and the States. Czech’s are trying to claim that a fire at a
hotel killed a group of Americans, but the individual witnesses – man=
drunken Brit on holiday - testify to a lengthy gun battle, and two dozen bo=
being taken away. Even we are being stone-walled by the Czech authorities.&=
they don’t want to harm the sex trade, valuable tourist dollars.̵=
in Germany, so no.’
we be getting anything further on Pop-Dragon?’
I know, and it’s relevant, you’ll know.’
of you, and ... I’m well aware of the difficult situation this leaves=
in with regard to your employers...’
there be a light left on in the window for me?’ Kobus asked, watching
kids playing in a nearby park.
have a long list of questions, not so many answers. So we’d play nice=
for a while at least.’
a nice thought, but I don’t think I’ll make my next birthday. In
fact, I’d bet good money against myself.’
could send a plane. You’d be in Northolt in a few hours for a
not finished, not yet.’
we be concerned?’
you should.’ He hung up.
a cigarette, most of the time spent staring down at the innocuous phone, Ko=
called Riggs old number.
sighed. ‘Listen, nothing I say is going to alter anyone’s opini=
about me, but there’s something you need to know.’
a very nasty bomb called Pop-Dragon, invented by an Iraqi scientist working=
Saddam Hussein, a genuine WMD. Bob Russell and a few others, like Johansson,
were planning on letting it go bang in the east of Baghdad, for ... reasons
best known to themselves. Yesterday, Special Unit 14 was transporting the b=
... towards the target I guess, and they were jumped. They, and the bomb, a=
missing, the bomb now in the hands of the militias, possibly on its way to
just put the last piece in the puzzle, and sat next to me is a senior figure
from the FBI, this call recorded.’
the deaths in Europe a lot of questions were asked, not so much answered. A=
yesterday, some of Bob Russell’s trusted aides switched sides and own=
up. Some even figured they might be killed by ... persons or groups unknown.
Bob Russell has been suspended, pending a full enquiry.’
a few unanswered questions, not least his competency in running you.’=
competency was fine, and he’s clean.’
like to believe that. Unfortunately, we have a high body count. On the plus
side, the operations were not sanctioned, and so in some way you could say =
the dead men were operating outside of the law. Still, we’ve lost more
people in a week than the last twenty years, the President getting daily
not over yet,’ Kobus said, kicking grass stalks with his shoes.
just that; don’t take your eye off the ball.’
suppose you’d like to come in.’
mentioned something to me, about a young lad. Is there ... any truth in
knows about him?’
the two of us, and Riggs, for now.’
took a moment, and looked across the road, Drake and Cat sat on a bench and
enjoying ice cream. ‘There is some truth to it, yes.’
would the skills demonstrated have ... gained you a large sum of money?R=
the money was used for...?’
help in various places. I was trying to find out about Pop-Dragon, they were
trying to kill me; it was no more complicated than that. And I’d stro=
suggest that you not send anyone after me for a chat.’
can’t decide if you’re our most wanted, or our most helpful.
Fortunately, Bob Russell’s minions are backing up your story and
admitting to sending a hit squad after you. They admit to a bomb on the boa=
and blowing the villa.’ Martins took a moment. ‘Some of the rep=
from that hotel in Prague are ... X-Files stuff. Is there ... anything you =
spent a million dollars on some good Russian lads to help protect me; guess
they got carried away. And for the record, I greatly regret the loss of lif=
the young lad?’
took a moment, kicking dandelion heads. ‘Talk to those above, discree=
and see what deal you can get us; the asset is more valuable than you could
ever imagine. I’ll call again in a day or two.’ He hung up, Dra=
now walking over.
are troubled, and you have given a falsehood again, about me.’=
took a moment, tossing the phone into a bin. ‘If the magistrate belie=
that you can read minds ... then he’ll be interested in working with =
but ... they’d want you to do bad things for them, and ... they’=
never let you go. I said what I did so that we’d have some time, time=
figure this out and stop the bomb.’
is our destiny.’
slowly nodded, ‘It would seem that way. So I think they may back off,=
cooperate for a while, long enough for us to stop the bomb.’=
after ... I’ll be dead and you’ll be in the dungeon.’
is not a good forecast,’ Drake noted.
brave knights, those with a destiny, did not rescue the fair maiden. The dr=
roasted them in their own armour, peeled them like a banana, and ate them w=
the knight’s lance used as a toothpick. In the real world, the heroes
don’t come back.’
They set off again, and through the beautiful hills of Bavaria=
west. And in no particular hurry.
get your money back,’ Cat insisted, now sat in sunglasses, a new white
t-shirt – no bra, and new blue jeans.
I have a confession to make,’ Kobus began, also now wearing sunglasse=
he drove. ‘The last job we did, we infiltrated a Russian gang, a gang=
arms smugglers and drug dealers. We were there when the warehouse was raide=
but we snuck out unseen. Take a look in the holdall.’
unzipped the holdall. ‘My God! How much money is here?’<=
to a million Euros.’
million? My God, what’ll you do with it all?’
no one has reported it missing; it’s drug money. Drake here, he wante=
... hand it out people in need, like you were back there. Kid’s been =
away money since we got it,’ Kobus lied.
you got caught you’d be sacked, and sent to prison,’ she said,
holding a thick wad and thumbing through it.
drug money, so no one will miss it. And no one knows about it,’ Kobus
shall use it to help those in need,’ Drake explained.
took a moment. ‘Know anyone in need?’ he asked Cat, glancing at=
in the mirror.
there’s a charity my dad works with. They help barmaids –’=
Kobus loudly queried.
from eastern Europe or Russia who went to Spain or Europe to work, who had
their passports taken off them by the boss, many forced into
like a worthy cause,’ Kobus noted. ‘We’ll give you some m=
to give them.’
lot of money,’ Drake added, a glance at Kobus.
a lot of money.’
stopped at a hotel just short of the French border, another expensive hotel,
and booked in. This hotel sat in the well of a curved hillside, a stream
running along the edge of its grounds - beautiful and extensive gardens of =
grass. Kobus paid cash for one night’s stay, fake IDs shown, the hote=
best suites booked. Bags were carried by porters in black waistcoats, Cat
overwhelmed by her room. She placed on some of the new clothes and shoes, a=
made herself look pretty for the evening meal.
changed clothes several times after his shower, Kobus starting to get fed up
with offering advice. ‘You look fine,’ he kept saying.=
Drake opted for casual shirts for the evening meal, only to find that they
would not be allowed into the posh restaurant without jackets. Kobus decide=
eat out, Cat not fussed with the posh restaurant. They grabbed their casual
jackets from their rooms and drove off, and into the town of Baden Baden. L=
the car at the edge of town, they took a gentle stroll as the sun dipped be=
the horizon, the evening warm. Many people were out and walking, bands play=
a few stalls on the side of the pedestrian precinct areas. It was all very
pleasant, and a complete contrast to Prague.
a church, Cat suggested that they donate something. Drake was keen, Kobus
following them inside. A priest stood pointing out interesting features of =
stained glass windows, two ushers in dark morning suits greeting them in
like to donate some money,’ Kobus said in German.
course,’ the men said, pointing towards a collections box.
don’t think the slit in the box is big enough,’ Kobus told the =
Drake handing over a wad. One of the men started to examine the wad, adopti=
heavy frown. Kobus handed over a wad, Drake a third. ‘That’s ab=
thirty thousand Euros,’ Kobus informed the two men, who now looked li=
they’d been caught snoring in church.
led the gang out, the ushers stood rigid. Outside, she said, ‘It̵=
good that the drug money will go towards something useful.’
good feeling, to help others,’ Drake agreed.
strolled through the crowds, past a line of stalls selling paintings, others
selling brass pots or crystal glass, the air heavy with the smell of onions,
music now coming from several different directions. Seeing a colourful tent=
a sign, Kobus nudged the gang towards it, and inside. He handed the lady in
costume ten Euros, Drake sat puzzling the function of the tent.
read your mind and tell you your future,’ Kobus said.
a travelling fortune teller,’ Drake realised.
is your name?’ she asked.
but I’m called Paul Smith for my papers.’
puzzled that. ‘You are English?’
but I’m from Bulgaria.’
was now even more confused, Kobus stood staring down with a coy smile.
have made a journey, for ... work, I believe.’
is not work, it is a calling,’ Drake responded.
see. You like fashion and clothes, and someday may work in fashion.’<=
do not believe so, and neither do you,’ Drake said. ‘Now, let me
tell you something about yourself.’ She wanted to cut in, but Drake
continued, ‘You cheat on your husband with a man named Rolf, but you =
not satisfied by his small penis.’
sniggered, a hand to her mouth.
continued, ‘You don’t like to have sex with the lights on becau=
of your arse, and you hide money from the government in a flowerpot.’=
are you?’ she demanded. ‘Get out!’
eased up. ‘Thank you for the reading,’ he politely offered, the
Cat burst out laughing. ‘That was so cheeky. Still, it’s all
nonsense isn’t it.’
walked on, Kobus and Drake exchanging coy smiles. At the coconut shy, Drake=
a pink stuffed elephant for Cat. Noticing a machine to hit with a hammer, a=
raise a metal striker to hit a bell, Kobus stopped. Drake turned, adopted a
puzzled frown, and then focused on the machine. He stepped forwards, and pa=
two Euros, examining the large wooden mallet.
as hard as you can,’ Kobus instructed.
shrug, and a puzzled frown, Drake hit the base. The striker shot up and bro=
off the bell, the base collapsing and splitting, the mallet’s handle
splintered. Drake handed it back to the man, in two parts.
workmanship,’ Kobus loudly announced, in German. Others, nearby, agre=
the man left with a lump of mangled wood.
the tourist trap, and leaving the crowded streets behind, they followed
picturesque cobbled streets higher at a slow stroll, and found a Chinese
restaurant in a back street. Shown to a table by a German girl in a Chinese
dress, they sat, menus handed out and now studied, the only guests so far.<=
Kobus asked Drake with a straight face.
stared back. ‘Duck would be acceptable, unless they serve badger.R=
the waitress and Cat queried at the same time.
a ... delicacy in Bulgaria,’ Kobus explained.
came from Cat, grimacing.
lifted his gaze to the girl as she waited, pad in hand. ‘Enough duck =
pancakes for three, please. Oh, and a beer, a Sprite, and ... Cat?’=
lifted her head to the waitress. ‘Beer.’
please,’ Drake cut in with.
girl headed off, a lip curled.
faced Drake. ‘They eat badgers in Bulgaria?’
mountain villages,’ Kobus quickly put in, a glance at Drake’s h=
how long have you two worked together?’ Cat idly enquired.
long,’ Drake answered. ‘Tell me of Gibraltar, I have not
described the best and worst features of Gibraltar, the very unusual runway
that had a working road across its middle, the mountain and its famous
mischievous monkeys – the draw for the tourists.
small collapsible stand was soon placed next to their table, the duck cut u=
rice pancakes handed over with sauce. When the duck was ready, the waitress
withdrawing, Kobus took charge. He placed pieces of duck on three plates, D=
then observing the ritual of placing the duck across the centre of a pancak=
adding sauce, rolling up, and eating like a fat cigar.
most agreeable taste,’ Drake enthused.
talk funny,’ Cat noted. ‘Were you raised in Bulgaria?’
was, yes, and learnt English ... after. Please, correct me if you wish.R=
OK,’ Cat insisted. ‘But a bit like people used to talk in old b=
and white movies.’
bright, and a quick learner,’ Kobus put in before sipping his beer.
‘He learnt English quicker than we’d learn Bulgarian.’
grew up with the Spanish language,’ Cat idly mentioned as she rolled
another duck pancake. ‘So it was easier. Tried to learn French in sch=
but I never got far. At sixteen I started to work for my dad’s compan=
used to work there in the holidays when I wanted some pocket money.’<=
made small talk for half an hour, soon onto the main course, a few tables n=
occupied. And Drake, he was on his third beer, Kobus keeping a careful eye =
the lad, not because he thought Drake might get drunk, but because of noxio=
time they had finished, Kobus felt mellow, more relaxed than he had been fo=
while. It was not to last. Drake turned his head and focused on a couple th=
entered, and who seated themselves near the toilets. When Cat was distracte=
Drake tipped his head.
clocked the couple, both in their mid thirties, conversing in German and
appearing for all intents and purposes like a married couple. He placed more
than enough money on the table to cover the meal, and suggested that Drake =
the bill. Cat eased up and started for the door.
bent towards Drake. ‘Wait thirty seconds, sit next to them, and ... l=
some wind.’ Outside, he led Cat away, explaining that Drake would pay=
use the toilet.
minute later, Drake walked out, Kobus leading cat down an alley, Drake catc=
OK?’ Kobus asked as Drake fell into step.
I gave the money, and more. They will be happy.’
lifted his eyebrows as he walked.
for Cat, when she peered into an antique shop, sirens could be heard.
faced Drake, whispering, ‘What happened?’
did as asked,’ Drake responded. ‘They were most unhappy.’=
know about the hotel?’
nodded. ‘Something about numbers on the paper money. They follow from
led them on, and back into the crowds, the music, and the smell of onions, =
in lederhosen dancing in the street. They negotiated the crowds at a leisur=
pace, stalls glimpsed at, curiosities peaked at. With the crowds thinning o=
they beat a path back towards the car. Kobus used the key fob to open the c=
from ten yards, no explosion spoiling their night. At the car, Kobus mentio=
the tyre pressure. Cat jumped in, Drake and Kobus peeking under the car,
nothing found. They started back to the hotel.
back, Drake looked over his shoulder at a car some distance behind, Kobus
getting the message. But Kobus had few options with Cat in the car. He drov=
a steady pace back to the hotel, along lonely dark roads banked with thick
trees. They made it to the hotel without incident, Cat tired after the meal=
the drinks and heading up to bed, waved goodnight by the men folk.=
soon as Cat had turned the corner, Kobus moved at a jog, down the back stai=
Drake close behind. In the car park, Drake took the lead, Kobus checking his
pointed down the access road. ‘They wait, they ... try and talk with
others, and puzzle why they cannot.’
hundred paces or more.’
pointed to the dark tree line, and ran across the mown lawn, past bright li=
sunk into the grass to illuminate the picturesque hotel, the lights now att=
moths and insects. Just inside the tree line, they turned left and ran towa=
the unseen vehicle, Drake leading the way. They leapt across the stream in =
dark, Drake’s effort more graceful, and approached the car from the s=
its headlights now out.
Drake reported, ‘A man and a woman, but not from before with the food=
China. They hesitate.’
don’t need attention drawn to the hotel,’ Kobus suggested in a
whisper. He stopped behind a tree. The road the car now sat on branched aft=
few yards, leading into the hotel. ‘Could you pull a wheel off?’=
can try. But why not push the car over? There, look, where the car sits - a
brook is beyond it.’
look like a simple accident,’ Kobus agreed, but did not seem convince=
he took in the straight road. ‘OK, go.’
leapt forwards through the dark, Kobus following as fast as he could through
the trees, his pistol drawn. Drake reached the car unseen and unheard, and
rushed to its side, grabbing the underside. In that instant the woman passe=
turned her head and look straight at him, startled, even more startled when=
car flipped over. It rolled on its roof, the windscreen shattering, and lan=
on its side in the stream. Water started to enter.
ran across the road, checking for anyone about. Drake leapt up onto the car=
it lay on its side, and onto the car’s rear passenger door. The front=
door was forced open and upwards, the lady’s hand pushed through, gro=
in the dark. Drake opened the door, and lifted her straight up by the arm,
holding her with her legs dangling inside the car.
sent you?’ he calmly enquired.
instant, he lowered her into the cold water, shocking her, and back up.
‘Who sent you?’ he calmly repeated, the lady now trying to scra=
his face. Drake grabbed her by the hair and let go of her arm, her hair now
taking her weight. ‘Might I enquire … as to who sent you?’=
shook her back and forth like a rag doll, the lady now holding his arm with
both hands to try and relieve the stress on her hair.
Drake finally stated, having read her mind.
When?’ Kobus queried from the road.
days before now,’ Drake stated as she struggled, dunking her in the
rising water, very chilly water.
it was before we killed him,’ Kobus realised. ‘How many
is aware of two others, in the town, no more.’
the man dead?’
is,’ Drake confirmed.
lowered the woman, but yanked he hair to the side as he crouched, slamming =
door down onto her neck, a horrible sound produced. Kobus winced. Lifting t=
door, Drake released her, letting her fall into the cold water, the car door
slamming shut. Jumping down to Kobus, he added, ‘The life leaves
Kobus urged, leading Drake back across the road and into the woods, a check=
of the dark road both ways. As they reached the well-tended lawn and the
lights, they slowed and walked casually back to the hotel. ‘The other=
will be around in the morning, but suspicious of the lack of contact with t=
team. My guess is they’ll try and follow us.’
climbed the stairs to their room, Drake taking a moment with his head close=
the door before they entered.
Kobus threw off his jacket. ‘Johansson hired them before he was kille=
and there may be more out there. The boss of Johansson has been removed, but
... they may not know who else is out there.’ He paused, taking a deep
breath. ‘We should think about putting Cat on a plane.’<=
was concerned by the suggestion. ‘We shall part company?’
she’s in the car with us...’ Kobus said, his hands wide.=
can protect her,’ Drake insisted as Kobus kicked off his shoes.
only needs protection because she’s with us! If she wasn’t with=
she wouldn’t need protection.’
believe her to be part of the alignment; I read it in your mind many
sat on the bed, taking a moment. ‘I do. But –’
we shall save many, and we also=
you like her, like ... Roxy?’
sat, suddenly saddened. ‘I like her more,’ he admitted.<=
if they kill her?’ Kobus posed.
lowered his head. ‘It ... would be a great madness in my head.’=
lifted his eyes. ‘We were meant to find her, and to be travelling
companions. You believe her father is a piece of something.’=
piece of the puzzle, yes. But that’s a guess, and ... a leap of faith,
not based on fact.’
shall trust your faith and judgement, since I have nothing else. And if she=
meant to help –’
what? You’d accept her death, you’d sacrifice her? Roxy was meant to help, and look what happe=
lowered his head again. ‘You don’t believe the bomb will come t=
for many days, you think seven days or more.’
took a moment. Quietly, he said, ‘It takes less time than that to fal=
lifted his head. ‘You think that when the bomb comes we will both die,
that I am destined to die.’ Kobus didn’t respond. ‘I have=
days, Kobus van der Schule, seven days in this wondrous place.’
when the time comes, will you step into the fire?’
stared back, and for the first time appeared tired. ‘If you give me t=
seven days, I will step into the fire.’
not my choice to make. If it was, then I’d give you your seven
we shall pretend that it is your wish to grant.’ He waited.
smiled. ‘Then I wish you well for seven days, as far as it’s wi=
my power. I don’t think the universe could begrudge you that.’ =
paused, and stopped smiling. ‘But I’ll make you this promise: w=
time comes, leaving this wondrous world – and Cat, will hurt like not=
has hurt you before.’
gazed at the windows. ‘It already hurts.’
she may not even like you.’
could not hide a coy smile. ‘She likes me.’
stretched out. ‘Even with that stupid hairstyle?’
said it was fitting! Tomorrow, we shall go to the girls who will make it
wrong with looking like a badger?’ Kobus asked, his arms folded, his =
are a circle in the rear for the passing of shit.’
It’s called an asshole. And keep the damn sound down.’=
Kobus woke with a start at 2am, not sure why he was suddenly a=
The window was open, the curtains moving slightly in the breeze. ‘Dra=
he whispered. No one answered.
his legs down and pulled out his pistol, dropping to a knee between the bed=
moment taken to check dark corners of the room, the lights now out. A quick
dash into the bathroom revealed no one, so he ran bent-double to the window=
dropped down, peeking out. He could see the lights sunken into the lawn, the
black line that was the distant wood, a blue-grey night sky above, no stars
his head forwards, the cool evening breeze now caressing his face, he peeked
out and studied the gravel forecourt immediately below the window. Drake was
gone, but where had he gone, and why?
Drake, Kobus considered that the lad may be in trouble, but then dismissed =
idea; Drake could take care of himself. So where had he gone? Had the other=
people - from the Chinese restaurant, come to the hotel, and had the lad go=
to deal with them by himself?
was now resigned to the fact that there was little point in running around =
woods looking for Drake, so he settled down next to the window. And waited.
Fifteen minutes later, a light caught his attention. Easing up, he could se=
car approaching, soon seeing that it was a police car. It did not bode well.
The car halted near reception, two officers easing out, but chatting casual=
and making a joke. They didn’t seem to be concerned, or in a hurry.=
minutes passed, the two officers finally leaving, Kobus observing them driv=
away. As the lights from the car diminished, Kobus stuck his head out of the
window, suddenly scared rigid and knocked back by Drake bursting through the
I disturb you?’ Drake calmly enquired after landing quietly, now just=
dark outline in the room.
several levels,’ Kobus said as he eased up, closing the window and the
curtains. ‘Where’ve you been?’
sensed the approach of the police, and went to see. I stood hidden, and
Kobus asked, knocking on a side light.
believe that the car was not subject to duck
tipped his head. ‘Foul play?’
foul play. They believe that the man drank much wine. But another car visit=
the scene, the two people from the place of food from China. They believe u=
are they now?’
have moved to the town, but wish to return at the sixth hour.’=
checked his watch. ‘At the fifth hour, go out and wait for them. Dama=
their car, maybe ... throw something at it. They can’t follow without=
know the number of our car.’
buy another tomorrow, or change the plates across the border. But, if they
don’t have CIA backing, they won’t get to access the plates at =
border. And if they do call in they’ll realise that something is wron=
or be told to stand down.’
magistrate now favours us?’ Drake puzzled as Kobus returned to the be=
magistrate ... can see that Johansson was a betrayer, but the magistrate is
still not convinced about me.’
told the magistrate that I could read the minds of others, and you believe =
they will value me greatly.’ He waited.
bird in cage may be greatly valued by its owner.’ He folded his arms =
closed his eyes, leaving Drake with that image.
The White House
The President stepped into the situation room, the room already
occupied by the security advisory staff. Everyone had stood as the President
you. Please, sit. And thank you for meeting at this late hour.’
settled, now some twenty-six men in attendance, almost a full turnout. Notes
were presented in front of the President as he sat.
to his National Security Advisor first, the President nodded.
President, there’s ... no sign of the bomb. We fear ... it may be in
there any hard evidence of that?’ the President asked.
‘No hard evidence,’ the National
Security Advisor admitted.
President turned to the Director of The CIA. He took a moment. ‘And t=
investigation into the incidents in Prague and Bulgaria?’
trying to contain it as much as we can, but ... the unauthorised movement of
assets has harmed us greatly, Mister President.’
think ... that what happened to those men ... has harmed us greatly.’=
President left his gaze on the CIA director.
what further evidence have you uncovered?’
beyond what we originally knew, Mister President.’
still no arrests,’ the President nudged.
kills twenty or more of our people, mutilating and decapitating them, and no
arrests are made, not even arrest warrants for suspects on the run.’ =
was involved ... left little evidence behind, Mister President,’ the =
director reported. ‘Fortunately, the Czech authorities are cooperatin=
since they don’t wish to harm tourism. It’s being contained, to=
President nodded to himself. ‘As good as that containment is - to save
your agency from looking incompetent and tarnishing us all – I’d
like some answers. I’d like ... to know where the bomb is, and I̵=
like to know what happened in Bulgaria and in Prague and, if I don’t =
some answers, then it will be diffi=
to keep some of you in your posts.’
men exchanged looks.
President continued, ‘There w=
be a Congressional Hearing, and we can only delay that for a certain time. =
suggest, gentlemen, firmly suggest, that you find some answers.’ He
turned to the FBI director. ‘Ted?’
FBI director collected his thoughts, both looking and feeling out of place =
this group. ‘Mister President. As far as we can determine, the freela=
agent known as Kobus was assigned to try and intercept detonators in Bulgar=
He was performing that task when four Americans – listed as being pri=
security staff in Iraq – tried to kill him.
that fact, he continued with his assigned task, reporting in. But I must sa=
this point that the man admitted to mutilating his attackers, torturing them
for information. He proceeded to Varna, where – somehow – he ga=
information about the hand-over of a detonator on a boat in a marina. He
secured the detonator, recognised its sole function – that of detonat=
the Pop-Dragon device, and withdrew before a bomb blast rocked the marina.<=
later turned up at a villa before it blew, and admitted that to his handler.
Prior to the boat exploding, four freelance CIA agents were killed, two of =
... stripped naked and thrown out of a hotel window. He admits to having ki=
them. Kobus did, in his favour, report the discovery of the Pop-Dragon deto=
and he did so securely; he followed procedure. At this juncture, Mister
President, all evidence suggests that Kobus killed just those trying to kil=
l him – without seeming to agr=
with what he did.
villa that exploded contained many people, including a woman and child.
Subsequent DNA evidence confirms that they were the family of Dr Kamil - the
inventor of Pop-Dragon, being held by a Russian gangster. That Russian gang=
had ordered the manufacture of the detonator – but it’s unclear=
gave him the design. There’s no evidence to suggest that he knew what=
President cut in with, ‘A detonator outside
my firm belief that it was a red herring, Mister President,’ the FBI
director stated. ‘Pop-Dragon never left Iraq.’
on,’ the President nudged.
to the deaths and explosions in Varna, Bulgaria, we come to the gold coins.=
in Romania was damaged, and an inspection of a stone wall by the hotel staf=
gold coins in boxes that had been mostly emptied. The descriptions given we=
of Kobus and a travelling companion. The coins match those being sold ̵=
in the name of the CIA, and the boxes match the quantities. It’s not
clear how Kobus knew about the hidden coins.
collected two million dollars in Zurich, down payment for the coins, at a h=
where there was a subsequent gun battle, three Italian hit-men killed. A day
later, Kobus and unknown others tangled with eight German men known to hire=
themselves to the CIA. All eight men were killed, some most bizarrely. Money
was found at the scene, the serial numbers matching money paid by the CIA to
Ramius, the Russian gangster blown up in a villa in Varna. Somehow, Kobus
obtained money from Ramius, which we could consider a black mark, and a lar=
question mark as to his loyalties.
then travelled to Prague, where he hired locals to watch out for any CIA
agents, and is known to have directly paid to have Americans injected with
morphine in the street. He also paid to have smoke canisters released at a
hotel being used by a CIA unit in the city. I must state at this point, that
the particular CIA unit seems to have been there to specifically find Kobus=
happened at the hotel isn’t clear, and statements from those that
survived are still being examined. Snipers confirm shooting people, yet no
bodies or blood were ever found. Inside the hotel, shots were fired after t=
smoke canisters were released, yet no bodies were found - from anyone other
than the CIA unit present. No civilians were hurt in the hotel.
men were killed, another six injured, not including those drugged. Some of
those men, having been drugged, had tattoos added to their faces. I must st=
at this juncture that some of the deceased at the hotel had been tortured or
mutilated. I must also state that there is no evidence that Kobus entered t=
hotel at any time, or took part in the deaths or mutilations.’=
took a deep breath. ‘Some of the detail from that hotel is contradict=
and ... quite fantastic. Six snipers fired off almost a hundred rounds on a
rooftop, the firing of their weapons witnessed. Those six heavily armed men were then decapitated, carried to the Grand
Hotel, and thrown off the roof, down onto cars below. Their heads were left=
God,’ the President let out.
FBI director continued, ‘Subsequent to Prague, two CIA freelancers we=
killed in Germany, an apparent accident, their two colleagues injured ̵=
details unknown. The whereabouts of Kobus – and the money - are unkno=
at this time, but Kobus has called in and provided useful evidence. There i=
evidence of his involvement with other countries or agencies, although
I’m informed that the British started asking questions about Pop-Drag=
President faced the CIA director. ‘And the senior staff you
refusing to talk, Mister President. The senior staff, that is.’
President took a moment. ‘At this juncture, I’m ordering that
Homeland Security and the FBI to jointly run an investigation into all curr=
CIA operations, the FBI to head the investigation into Pop-Dragon with the
cooperation of all agencies. And let me be clear ... when I say that people=
will end up in prison.’
turned his head to the CIA director. ‘Given that your deputy seems to=
involved at some level, perhaps your resignation would be ...
appropriate.’ The President opened a file and slid a sheet across to =
studying the paper, the man stared back at the President for a few seconds.=
before he stood. ‘Mister President,’ he said, a quick bow of his
head before he left the room.
President made eye contact with an Admiral. ‘Admiral?’=
checking all ships leaving the Gulf area, Mister President.’=
President interlaced his fingers. ‘Gentlemen, this nation and its
security services could be seriously tarnished and harmed by this
episode.’ He faced the FBI director. ‘Send a team to Prague, and
Bulgaria. Go over everything, leave no stone unturned.’
At 7am, Cat was awake, but was not hungry. They decided to mov=
the hotel a little posh for her taste; she felt out of place, Drake eager to
checked the car, and the underside, at length before they loaded up, the mo=
having been taken into the room during the night – at least one holda=
had, one left in the boot for any lucky car thief. Leaving the hotel ground=
they found two police cars on the main road, a crane attending the car in t=
stream. Kobus eased to halt next to a bored looking police office. In Germa=
he asked, ‘What happened?’
drove into the stream, two killed.’
shocking,’ Kobus offered.
drinking, it was late.’
could see another car on the side of the road, further along. ‘Did th=
collide with another car?’
that car hit a deer.’
deer?’ Kobus repeated.
officer nodded. ‘Yes, smashed through the windscreen and injured two
people. Busy night here last night.’
eased off, a glance at Drake. ‘Hit a deer, eh.’
thing,’ Cat said from the rear seat. ‘Car’s shouldn’=
be going so fast along this road if there’re deer about.’
happens, sometimes,’ Kobus said with a sigh, another glance at Drake.=
a bright red sign for a roadside diner, they stopped for breakfast, Drake n=
making an effort to eat normal food when in front of Cat. After a pleasant
breakfast, the sun beating through the window, Cat headed back to the car f=
seemed apprehensive. ‘I must sit on the ... thing for going after
looked over his shoulder, and pointed towards the toilets, then took a mome=
‘Here’s some advice. Wipe the seat first with the soft paper
you’ll see, put the seat down, sit on it, do what you need to do and
flush – flush more than once if you can see anything ... left behind,=
open a window first if there is one. Afterwards, you use the soft paper to
clean and wipe your ... you know. Then wash your hands.’
was deep in thought as he headed off, Kobus shaking his head. ‘This
should be good.’ He paid for their food, but waited near the door, a =
through the window at Cat.
four minutes passed, Kobus stepping out for a cigarette. Back inside, raised
voices caught his attention, diners now complaining of the smell coming from
the toilets. Kobus turned, to see a man walk into the gents. But the man co=
straight back out. A male member of staff listened to the complaints, at
length, before bravely stepping inside himself. He could not have been insi=
for more than a few seconds when he emerged, a hand to his mouth and nose.<=
image appeared, coming around the outside of the diner, Kobus moving out to
meet him. Kobus stood and waited.
are greatly amused by this,’ Drake unhappily noted.
our society, such things are fu=
But ... but Cat would not be amused by such things, and not in the car.R=
you ... emptied what needed emptying, and expelled air?’
have, and washed with scented soap, both my hands and ... other parts.̵=
did you get out?’
... broke a window, save facing those I distressed.’
rolled his eyes. ‘If you need to let out air in the car, tell me to p=
stepped towards the car, breakfast diners now evacuating the establishment.=
you suffer this problem?’ Drake asked.
after Indian food. I’d guess, I’d hope, that your insides would=
used to it. But, since you don’t produce stomach acid to digest food,
it’ll always be a problem. Just eat small amounts in front of Cat.=
got back into the car, Cat puzzling the mass exodus of the diner as they pu=
No.10 Downing Street, London.
The Prime Minister stepped purposefully into Cabinet Office Br=
Room ‘A’, known as COBRA. With him now was the Home Secretary, =
Defence Secretary, the Directors of SIS and MI5, the deputy head of the
Metropolitan Police – responsible for terrorism, an SAS representativ=
and a Colonel from the Royal Army Ordnance Corps. Everyone settled. The Pri=
Minister gestured towards the head of SIS.
Minister, might I start by reminding all here that the subject matter is mo=
grave, and top secret; notes, should be sparingly used. We’ve complet=
our preliminary investigation into Pop-Dragon, and we’ve spoken to our
American counter-parts, some of whom were ... distressed and concerned as to
how we obtained some of the information.’ He straightened, running a =
down his tie. ‘But, we can now confirm much of the detail. First, Col=
Blake here will brief us all on the technical aspects of the threat. Colone=
Colonel eased forwards. ‘Before the allied forces liberated Iraq, an
Iraqi scientist – a Dr. Kamil, a Kurd, accidentally made a discovery
whilst experimenting with liquid binary explosives. That discovery blew up =
lab and killed eight people, wounding more. What was noteworthy was the sma=
amount of chemical that was used. That chemical leaked, its smell detected,=
had been ignited by a naked flame.
Kamil went on to experiment with the chemical, simple trial and error over
several years, and found a formula that made a nice big bang when detonated=
a vapour. He lost thirty two members of staff, but Saddam Hussein wasn̵=
bothered. Rather, he was encouraged, and funded further research, out in the
the invasion, Dr Kamil identified himself to advancing American units, and
explained his discovery. A team of British and American ordnance officers w=
assigned the task, at a time when we were looking for weapons of mass
destruction. I was one of those officers, Captain Kobus van der Schule was
another; my assistant.
spent four weeks trying to re-create the conditions that Dr Kamil described,
for a test blast. That test blast failed thirty-eight times, but succeeded =
the last attempt. That blast, Prime Minister, killed eight people standing =
six hundred yards away, for six litres of chemical used.’
Colonel continued, ‘Close to the blast site was a stone bunker, as we=
as several old cars spaced out, a line of street lamps. The cars melted, and
street lamps up to three hundred yards away melting like ice cream in the s=
Without knowing the exact science, Prime Minister, the binary liquid burns =
hot and melts steel - anything in its path catches fire. Our good friends in
the American Army then produced a computer simulation, of what might happen=
a city if the bomb was detonated in a sky scraper.
sky scraper would fall, the metal girders melted – as with 9/11. All =
the combustible material in the building would catch alight, the windows wo=
out, and the windows of nearby buildings would blow out. The super-heated g=
would spread out, finding additional fuel in the paper and wood found in of=
cars bursting into flames as if a nuclear bomb had gone off next to them. A=
... self-fuelling system, the spread of flames could be total - across an a=
a few miles wide.’
God,’ the Prime Minister let out.
Blake added, ‘If set off in Manhattan, they’d lose New York, the
effect less in London or Paris; you need tall buildings, tightly packed.=
director of SIS put in, ‘Might I state, at this juncture, that settin=
the device is extremely hard – the conditions need to be just right,
including no wind outside; they’d have less than a one in twenty chan=
of making it work. If they did detonate it, it would cause a fire for certa=
– a building lost, but the main effect seems to be damned hard to
if it did go off in London?’ the Home Secretary asked.
could lose a mile radius, to buildings on fire,’ Colonel Blake answer=
covers most of central London,’ the Prime Minister pointed out.
‘And we don’t know where this device is?’
director of SIS replied, ‘Most likely in the hands of Iranian backed
militias. But the Americans assure us that it will never get out of
weapons can be smuggled into Iraq, they can be smuggled back out,’ the
Prime Minister noted. ‘There’s also the Iranian border.’<=
Iranians may see Dubai or Bahrain as targets,’ the director of SIS
suggested. ‘For the device to work, you need a cluster of sky scraper=
Otherwise, you just set fire to a small area.’
Prime Minister stood, everyone following him up. ‘Iraq is a long way =
Increase checks at ports if you like, warn the Dubai authorities, but
let’s not make a drama out of this; the bomb will probably go off ins=
Iraq, or be found. Thank you all.’
They crossed the French border without incident after a pleasa=
drive through the hills, and headed southwest towards Dijon, the beautiful
countryside enjoyed. Kobus pretended to be lost a few times, and circled
around, Drake scanning for trouble. So far, no one was following them. Halt=
for lunch, they found an old watermill that had been converted into a
restaurant, numerous patient ducks and swans sat awaiting a little bread fr=
kind patrons of the establishment.
trio sat on rustic wooden benches, cheese and bread soon placed down, three
cold lemonades arriving. Cat broke off bits of bread and threw them to the
ducks, Drake copying. When he started to throw bits of cheese, a look from
Kobus halted him.
day was hot, the sky clear, little sound other than the ducks squabbling ov=
the scraps. Cat wandered to the water with Drake, pointing and naming thing=
English for him. They inspected the old water wheel – it still turned,
and peered down at small fish in the shallows.
a very pleasant hour spent at the watermill, they paid up and drove off,
following a picturesque canal lined with tall trees, ploughed fields beyond.
The locals were out in boats, a few people fishing, a few cyclists passed a=
slowing down, horses passed after slowing right down, waves given by their
on the highway, now heading south towards Lyon, they made good time, either=
away or simply looking out of the window at the wonderful scenery. North of
Lyon they turned west, and found a castle set in rolling hills that had been
converted into an up-market country retreat, the castle surrounded by magni=
tended grounds. Rooms were available, paid for in cash, Cat and Drake soon
exploring the grounds as Kobus sat with a beer on an elevated patio, enjoyi=
the view as the sun rested just above the far horizon.
Cat and Drake in the grounds, he saw her hold Drake’s hand as they wa=
and she had initiated the move. With his beer in his hand, he stared across=
the young couple, suddenly both happy and sad, concerned, angered at the wo=
in general, and at nothing in particular.
days, he considered; Drake deserved more, he deserved a chance at a life, d=
or not. Alone with his thoughts, beer in hand, cigarette on his lip, he wat=
the sun setting alight the distant hills with a fantastic orange glow.
an hour later, a woman in her late thirties came and sat down without being
invited. ‘May I join you?’ she asked with a French accent.
an odd question, since she was already sat and making herself comfortable, =
drink placed down.
Kobus offered, eyeing the lady as she made herself comfortable. She was not
unattractive, and she did have a large pair of breasts, a great cleavage
exposed from a figured-hugging light grey dress.
South Africa originally. I’m Kobus.’
An unusual name. I’m Marlene.’
a sort. Since my husband passed away I spend a lot of time in places like t=
trying to find something, some peace and serenity.’
is a nice spot,’ Kobus agreed.
work do you do?’ she asked.
Kobus made up on the spot. ‘Mines in Africa.’
must pay well, if you’re staying here
with your family.’
Ah, no, the young man works for me, and the young lady ... we found in Prag=
she’d had her things stolen. We were heading to Spain, so we’re
giving her a lift there.’
kind of you.’ She sipped her wine. ‘Do you ... rescue young lad=
often as we can,’ Kobus quipped. ‘Sometimes, we rescue cats from
trees, and have been known to donate to churches.’
studied him carefully, not sure if he was taking the piss. ‘And is th=
a woman waiting for you at home?’
no one is waiting for me. My life is ... just work.’
nice hotels in the country.’
nice hotels in the country, from time time. What ... do you do?’
live off what my husband left me.’ She shrugged. ‘A woman of
must be a great many women who envy you.’
find myself busy doing nothing.’
there must be a great many men who would like to meet a rich and single
cocked an eyebrow. ‘I could not be with such a man.’
took in the view, and sipped his beer. ‘Have you never been tempted to
find a nice young man from Turkey who ... needs a few Euros?’<=
took in the view, and sipped her wine. ‘I tried that once, but it did=
where she now leant forwards, her elbows on the table, her ample breasts hu=
down. Kobus lifted his hand, and caressed a breast for a few seconds.
slowly turned her head. ‘I don’t remember giving you permission=
forwards on your chair a little.’
stared back for moment, but then did as asked.
your legs a little wider.’
eased her knees wider, Kobus running a hand up her thigh unseen by the other
patrons of the bar.
have a room...’ she began.
would be ... dull and unimaginative.’ He stood. ‘Let’s go=
downed her wine quickly as she stood, eyeing Kobus, a mixture of curiosity,
interest, and caution. Hand in hand, they walked down the steps from the pa=
and onto sloping grass that had been well tended; it looked good enough to =
golf on. A carp pond was inspected, the white and red fish moving slowly ab=
their limited enclosure.
edge of the grounds, they claimed a bench facing distant farmland, the hori=
an orange glow beyond. Sat on the bench, Kobus eased his hand across to her
thigh, and up to her knickers, starting to gently rub her.
may be seen,’ she toyed, making it sound like she didn’t care.<=
risk ... is part of the fun.’
a minute of attention, Marlene was starting to breathe louder.
for now, we wouldn’t want you to peak too
soon.’ Easing up, he took her hand, and they strolled slowly towa=
trim hedges. Inside of the parallel rows of a maze-like hedge, the shrub hi=
enough to just about cover her shoulders, Kobus halted her, and eased out an
ample breast, taking his time to examine it, to measure it dimensions in his
hand, to weigh it. He finally tucked it away without saying anything, and l=
small maze led to a fake water-wheel, no water anywhere nearby – now =
in the past by the look of it, the object examined. A path led them around =
castle walls, parts of the walls appearing modern day reproductions, other
parts authentic – but with in-fills in places. Finding a bench beneath
high walls, a well-trimmed waist high bush running past, he pushed her down
onto it, and unzipped. Holding his firm dick, she opened her mouth, but he =
slapped her cheeks with it for a minute, finally allowing her to suck it, a
hand now inside her bra.
out rudely, he lifted her up and turned her over as the light faded, soon
thrusting in with little regard for any preparation. Thinking of many thing=
such as damp slate roofs, books on taxation, the mortar used on the castle
walls, Kobus held off finishing for long enough to know that she had achiev=
shot,’ he said. ‘Pulling out sharply, and eliciting a groan, he
spun her around and sat her down. Masturbating quickly, he came over her fa=
– whether she was ready and willing or not, grabbed her hair and thru=
into her mouth. She moaned, but from surprise and being choked as much as
out, he zipped up, a glance around as she opened her bag, in need of a wet-=
best get back, before they think we’re up to something,’ he told
her with a grin.
back around, she continued to wipe herself down. ‘You’re a bad =
you know that,’ she mock scolded.
... how long are you here?’
in room six,’ she volunteered.
pop by later, if I feel like it.’
glanced at the side of his head as they walked, but said nothing, soon
glimpsing Drake and Cat walking hand in hand towards them. Both couples met=
below the patio.
evening,’ Drake formally offered Marlene, shaking her hand. ‘Did
you have a pleasant walk?’
did,’ she confirmed. ‘If you’ll ... excuse me.’ She
glanced at Kobus before heading towards her room for a clean-up, Drake watc=
anything interesting?’ Kobus asked Drake as he lit up.
gardens are most splendid,’ Drake responded.
turned as a group and climbed up to the patio, drinks ordered. When Cat tro=
off to the toilet, Kobus asked about Marlene; did Drake sense anything.
had sex with her, in the castle gardens.’
that,’ he urged.
seeks a man with money, she has very little of her own.’
Kobus let out.
now likes to hold my hand,’ Drake said, but did so as a discovery, no=
boast of her growing affections for him.
a nice looking young lad, you behave well around her – what’s n=
make many a falsehood about my past,’ Drake reported.
than the truth, much better,’ Kobus urged. He carefully mouthed,
‘Don’t be tempted to tell her.’
you not tell me what to say?’
would take a long time. Just ... try not to think of yourself, but her,
discover things with her – don’t tell her about them, and let h=
take the lead. Tell her you have little experience of women, and definitely
don’t tell her about brothels, about Roxy, or about women who take co=
Be as innocent as we both know you are ... and you’ll be fine.’=
am troubled. Should I not ... think as you think, and not desire a friendsh=
with her because of what lies ahead.’
placed the cigarette back onto his lips, and slowly inhaled, lifting his he=
towards the dull purple glow on the horizon. He blew out. ‘Drake, enj=
yourself, and to hell with what lies ahead. Enjoy yourself while you can, y=
deserve it.’ He made eye contact. ‘You didn’t choose to h=
the demon inside you. You battled it for ten years, and then you locked
yourself away for a few hundred years - a brave and selfless act. And now, =
the universe conspires to make you suffer more. So fuck the universe, and e=
it while you can.’
we stand before St. Peter, you shall have to account for such curses.’=
when I stand before St. Peter he’ll hear a lot more than that. I have=
few things to get off my chest.’
like this woman of the Gaul lands?’
was ... giving in to temptation, but not really what I want. What I want ..=
what you have, but that’s not available to people like me.’
did you take this woman?’ Drake puzzled.
... it was there, and ... I have needs like any man. But, like most men the=
short-term gratification is just that; short-term, fleeting, of the moment.=
afterwards, afterwards we wonder why we did it, and why such things donR=
make us happy – truly happy. It’s part of the human condition.&=
nodded. ‘I laid down with a woman for coin, when I considered betroth=
My father suggested I might ... be less of a fool on the wedding night.R=
made a face. ‘Practice makes perfect. And I’m still practising,
trying to figure out what makes me happy. Unfortunately, the job makes me
happier than the thought of family life.’ He heaved a heavy sigh.
‘I’m a lost cause.’
Cat back at the table, talk returned to castles, and interesting facts, Cat
nosey about Kobus’s new lady friend. For the evening meal they drove =
another castle, this one even less authentic, and sat on a long table watch=
dancing horses on the stage, followed by a troop of black disco stars from =
found the knights in armour and mock fighting to be a little off-putting;
he’d been on the receiving end of a few of the weapons displayed. They
sat at the bar till closing time, and chatted to a British couple down on
holiday, finally driving back when the hall closed, their rooms reclaimed.<=
Kobus found himself alone for the first forty minutes, tempted to go to room
six for a visit, and to play with the large breasts again. Drake finally
appeared, and now with a silly grin.
Kobus knowingly asked.
lay down, and I made her very happy,’ he proudly stated.
all those hours watching porn in hotel rooms, I should damn well hope you k=
what you’re doing.’
admit to cheating.’
Kobus puzzled, wondering how anyone could cheat at sex, and did Drake have a
vibrator hidden away.
read her mind, and did what she desired at each stage,’ Drake reporte=
bastard,’ Kobus quipped, looking peeved.
Drake readied his clean clothes, and took a long hot shower. Fortunately, he
didn’t sing in the shower, or put on a little soul music.
checked his pistol, lay down fully clothed, folded his arms whilst muttering
and cursing, and closed his eyes.
They skipped a formal hotel breakfast in the morning, and left=
- no sign of Marlene. They were soon on the road, the day promising to be c=
and warm. Kobus pointed the car due south, and towards Marseilles, soon
cruising down the highway at a steady 80mph, the BMW a smooth ride. North of
Marseilles they turned west, avoiding the city, and glimpsed the coast afte=
hour. Mindful of the few days remaining, days till Cat had to be back in wo=
they kept going, finding a hotel near Perpignan as the sun set.
two rooms again booked, Kobus found himself sat on a balcony after a lengthy
meal at a local cafe, a private smoke now enjoyed whilst taking in the view=
distant pearl-string of lights delineating the end of the darkened land and=
start of the darkened Mediterranean.
appeared an hour later, still carrying about him his silly smug grin. He jo=
Kobus on the balcony, sitting without saying anything.
well in the marital bedroom?’ Kobus finally asked.
is ... very well, yes. We undertook a bath together.’
it is to be young,’ Kobus quipped, staring out into the night sky.
‘Except that you’re not. You’re a ... living
falsehood.’ He turned his head, and waited.
are concerned ... for Cat.’
concerned for you both. Cat, she’ll get over you quickly and find ano=
man to interest her; never underestimate a young girl’s ability to mo=
on quickly. And you, well, you and I will be dead soon enough. Or worse.=
meaning they take you alive, and study you.’
do not believe the magistrate to be strong enough to do this,’ Drake =
be foolish, they’ll find a way.’
you have already sold my merits to them, and suggested a deal of some
took the cigarette from his mouth. ‘I was playing for time, buddy.
I’d hate for you to end up working for them, or to be in their custod=
think dark thoughts.’
took a moment. ‘I wish there was more I could do to help you.’<=
me? And what of yourself?’
myself?’ He sighed. ‘I don’t think I have any choices lef=
I’ve been shown a light at the end of the tunnel, but that light is y=
I just carry the torch. You ... have a destiny, a destiny to stop that bomb,
and then ... then the universe will have little further use for the torch
believe the alignment to signal your death.’
nodded, staring across at the distant twinkling lights. ‘Funny thing =
it doesn’t bother me that much, and ... and part of me is delighted to
see that the alignment is there to stop the bomb. And ... part of me would =
been delighted to know that there is a God, just ... not under these
... circumstances?’ Drake nudged.
turned to face Drake. ‘Under no circumstances can you allow yourself =
be captured, and to be put on TV. If they get close, bury yourself somewhere
deep, or swim down to the ocean depths, anything, just don’t let the
world see that you really exist.’
I exist - if the demon exists, then i