Five minutes early, Sir John was reminded of his dislike of any zoo and London’s in particular. It wasn’t the animals; if they looked bored it was with good reason, going by the banality of the people gawking at them.
‘Mr Gordon, what can I do for you sir?’ The voice was, soft, bordering on gentle but with the subdued power of a tank. Its owner’s manner and bearing the epitome of a guardsman but for one thing, he was as black as night. Sir John didn’t have a name to return the greeting; they’d no connection other than these transactions. At their first meeting he’d asked what he should call him and been told politely but firmly. – “It isn’t necessary for you to call me anything sir, only to inform me precisely what is wanted and to pay my fee in cash. That way we do business not harm to one another.”
John Dickson patted the briefcase between them. ’The details are in here, along with the questions to be asked and the answers we expect from them. I want the information to be leaked to senior people in the National and Principality banks. I’ll confirm when and if the information is to be passed on and I would like the operation to be completed by Thursday. I’ve taken the liberty of doubling your normal fee in anticipation of the exposure being to two parties and our need for visual as well as sound tapes.’
‘Very good Mr Gordon; is there anybody in either of the banks you don’t want implicated?’
‘Anybody I wouldn’t want implicated is not likely to be, so I wouldn’t worry about that.’
‘Then you’ll be informed in the normal way when we have completed the extraction phase, then we’ll wait for your confirmation before implementing the instruction phase.’
Both stood and walked their separate ways. The Zulu head and shoulder above the crowd, carrying the briefcase bought and brought by Sir John.
Saturday morning had a crispness that managed to permeate the turgid ethers of the city, he hoped the board meeting would absorb some of the crispness, but doubted it. Nicholsen was holding centre stage at eleven thirty with the adroitness of a pensions salesman in a roomful of lifers. Sir John left it to the others to rein him in. Eventually Eric Morel, glancing at his watch, interrupted the prattle.
‘It seems to me, all we’re meeting for is to sanction a loan, subject to the usual for an amount that could vary between nothing and two billion.
What I want to know is what will the effect be on proposals already in the pipeline, including the ones from the regions? We can hardly stop everything on the could of this and Uniclor hasn’t got the track record to warrant it.’
Nicholsen sprang at that, ‘That’s what’s going to change Eric.’
‘No doubt it will, I just don’t want this bank paying for it.’
Their Chairman nodded his understanding. ‘Quite right Eric, I suggest we continue as normal with the regional applications. On the international front we mark time. Only on the twelfth will we decide the funds that can be offered. I’ll ask each of you to know your department’s position on the eleventh. Depending on these and should we get this one under our belt we can then afford to be more choosy. Now I think we have discussed this enough, so I’ll put it to a vote.’
Thirteen agreed, Sir Johns casting vote wasn’t needed.
Nicholsen struggled to get his eyes to focus. Gradually the red flickers that had confused, merged and formed a discernable pattern that told him it was nine forty – then confused him by being there. Slowly focus travelled from his eyes to his brain and he knew there would be no office for him this morning. Christ his head was spaced out, his tongue felt as though it had been Velcro’d to a dockers armpit and his body had moved to the astral plane. Cautiously he felt for his flaccid member and peeled it from the smothering sack of his balls. Memories began to flicker then form. He re-wound till he found the beginning- what had they been this time? Iraqi’s, four of them, each desperate to keep their funds from disappearing down the plughole of expensive ironmongery. He couldn’t remember their names Christ; even in flashback the bastards all looked the same. Perhaps they were still here wherever here was. Still it didn’t matter, the girl might be a whore but she was a bright one. She’d have all the details on them and with a bit of clever talk he’d have four more serious accounts in the bag.
The girl beside him turned in her sleep. He wondered why women could look so innocent when, looking at his own reflection he looked completely and utterly fucked, debauched, a perv? His memory became panoramic; something that only happened when snort rather than booze had been the predominant stimulant. He counted the participants during the early awkward semi conversing stage before the dope had kicked in and they lost any embarrassment leering at the girls while they flaunted their sex. He remembered the girl lying next to him sucking him hard and his annoyance when the Iraqi mounted her while she was doing it. “One for babies” he cried in his keening climax, “this for pleasure”. Maybe the reason the girls had taken him through to the bedroom and made love to one another while he watched and smoked. After that memory fudged. Recollections of being fucked, more smokes and talking- something else- vomiting. No memory of nausea or embarrassment, just vomiting. The collections of memory created a reaction that was a triumph of spirit over fatigue. As though transferred by esp. his companion straddled him and started rubbing his erection between her thighs and vaginal lips, ‘My, my big boy, we’re up early this morning.’ Slowly as her juices began to lubricate them both she lowered till her soft core gripped him.
Waking an hour later he found a breakfast tray on the bedside table and stretching felt the coffee and toast was still hot. Hot enough to suppose it was the placing of the tray that woke him. Hearing the shower he shouted, ‘Do you want some of this?’
‘Just coffee, I’ve swallowed enough calories last night to survive for a week.’ She came through towelling her hair. ‘You can treat me to lunch and tell where to invest my fat fee and I’ll give you all the details on our guests.’
‘Good girl, get me a livener will you. I need something though Christ knows what.
By late afternoon a courier sporting the livery of a London store delivered a gift-wrapped parcel to Sir John. It contained two cassettes. Both would be carefully edited and synchronised. Turning quickly he snatched up the document box, replaced the video and sound tape then locked the wall safe.
‘There’s little to go on.’ Neil having arranged the meeting in Manchester’s Midland Hotel looked hard at his lunch companion. David Hamilton, ex Chief Superintendent now head of the security firm shifted his considerable bulk in the seat and prodded absently at his food. ‘It’s no use looking at me like that, even the bloody cans come from the same Belgian manufacturer and while they recognise yours by the heavier gauge the others could have been anybodies. And since the cans in question were the first off it means they were the last loaded so they could have been switched anytime. We’ve checked Runcorn and are checking the vehicles that went through there. I’m not hopeful; the security is pretty well state of the art. Leaves us with Mannheim or on route, Mannheim we’ve got all the names from Spienz and checked them out. We questioned him about them and them about him, it all tallied. We then concentrated on the Ferry thinking it was the most vulnerable place. Made sense until we checked. The wagons are packed like sardines and all facing one direction. And it isn’t possible to plan being next to a specific wagon, but in case somebody’s bribed the loaders we have the list of all the wagons that travelled with yours, I’m having them checked out. Personally, having seen how close they load the boat I’d regard it happening on board as a moon shot.
So we’re concentrating on the route. Spienz admitted and I believe him that he didn’t know the route only when the wagon was due.’
‘How do you know he didn’t?’
‘The shipping clerk,’ Hamilton checked his note book, ‘Name of Stark, confirmed he hadn’t heard from Spienz other than when he gave him the instructions and when Stark rang back to confirm the delivery date. From our questioning in Mannheim we’re pretty certain Spienz didn’t talk to the driver. I don’t know whether you want to hear this or not but I’m pretty certain your man Spienz is in the clear.’
Neil took a sip of his water, ‘Who or what does that leave us with?’
‘Kolp the driver and Stark. We found out Stark had rang his counterpart in Germany asking if he knew anything about the load. He said he was querying it because it was so unusual. Starks trying hard to look helpful and gives the honest John impression. I haven’t made my mind up on him yet.
Kolp, he’s a moron. His interests are beer, and even more beer. From what he told us, and it’s about all I believe because your records bore it out, he used to drive the route regularly. He was surprised at the ferry crossing used, that apart he used, he says, the same route he always did A45-M1-M6 and his Tacho only shows two stops Blue Boar and Knutsford. Both of these have police units so not the place to be transferring part loads. My gut tells me Kolps lying, not that I think he’s involved he’s too thick for that. He’s lying about something and he’s thick enough to stubbornly stick to his story when somebody with an ounce more sense would know his lie could be stopping us from getting at the facts.
Anyway, your transport people have finally tracked down the trailer and I hope to get something from it we can confront him with. I suspect all we’ll get is something that uncovers his petty lie. Sorry I don’t rate him enough to see him seriously involved.’
‘David somebody chose to take that stuff for a reason. It was too well organised to be chance. This Stark isn’t he about the only one who had warning, even control over both time and route. Perhaps you should be more persuasive with him and with Kolp. I’m not interested in building a case against them, just who and why.’ Glancing at his watch Neil dropped his napkin on the plate, ‘I’ve lost my appetite. You enjoy your meal and let me know the minute you get anything.’
Hamilton watched his senior partner thread his way through the diners. You’re jittery on this one Neil Hopkins, far too jittery for two hundred and fifty gallons even if the crates were solid and the contents liquid gold. He wondered what the hell sort of stuff he was looking for.
Of all the assumptions Hamilton had made this one was widest off the mark. With the deadline closing Neil’s concern was lessening. Either Deerbrucker should get an Oscar for his globe chasing or he hadn’t a whim of Kalex’s existence. Tomorrow would see the waiting down to three weeks.
When I got back to the house I probably looked as bad as I felt. ‘Pat I’m bloody knackered. I’ve been rounding up more cylinders in case we have to use them handling the cans, got another fourteen. Pour me a drink will you and I’ll bring you up to date and you can tell me why you missed the last bus home.’
Handing me my drink Pat asked, ‘Something bothering you?’
‘Your right, I waited up to discuss it and when you weren’t here this morning I did the bottle chase as a sort of exorcism.’
‘You’re peeved because I wasn’t here to help?’
I laughed, ‘Nothing to do with that. If your news is good, spit it out, mine will keep.’
Pat shrugged, ‘Nothing much to tell. The files back in her fathers study. Jane Huntington’s okay and she’s going to let me know if there’s any reaction.’
‘You didn’t give her details to contact you?’
‘Don’t be daft.’
Sensing Pats discomfort I put on an ironic grin, ‘Oh I see, you’ll contact her. Is she another Troward, you know academic, CND, Green peace type?’
‘Hell Brian I’ve only known her one night and she didn’t bend my ear with causes, and she didn’t strike me as a guppy, okay.’
‘Was that “known” in the biblical sense?’
‘None of your fucking business. But if you want to talk sense I think we should consider Huntington’s house and its location. It struck me as a better place than the one we’ve planned to kick off from.’
I shrugged. ‘Possibly, but before we go into that I better enlighten you of the development here. You might find you’re too busy pouring oil on troubled waters to bother with any fringe benefits. But first, did you take your glass with you last night?’
‘What the fuck? Oh that, yea I dumped it on a room service trolley.’
‘Shit I more or less accused John and Joanna of lifting it. Things got fairly heated after that over this report thing.’
‘You know Brian you are one stubborn git. What are you going to do with the bloody thing?’ he answered his own question, ‘Absolutely bugger all till were rid of the chemical soup and turn it into cash. That’s more than enough for me to be going on with.’
‘John did hint that the situation could turn nasty. In view of that perhaps we should create an insurance.’
‘Fine Brian, you think one up and we’ll discuss it. All I know is we’ve three weeks to complete, if we manage the schedule. You’ve already changed the plans so instead of making the job easier you insist in spreading it further to strengthen our hand. Now I agree with that, we’re in it to win and it would be blind stupid not to use the maximum persuasion.
What’s important is every decision made was ours to make and ours to control, anything else was merely a matter of supply. Leave the sodding report out of it and that’s how it’ll be again. Otherwise the best “insurance” I can think off is the get out clause. I’ll take these cylinders down to the unit and I want you’re answer when I come back whether we carry on or not.’
Pat used the drive to the unit to qualify his anger. Damn the bloody report. Until it had turned up all the complications had been with methods, planning and logistics, all definable, solvable and private. Now the devious element of ideology had been introduced, the bloody thing that makes thinking people stab one another in the back. Opening the roller door he reversed the car between the two vans then closed it before switching on the lights and pensively eyed the crates stacked at the end for any sign of dampness. ‘Crazy bugger, we’ve got three weeks of handling this lot of instant oblivion and he’s worrying about politics.’ Realising he was talking to himself didn’t diminish the appeal of walking out. Except he ran more risk from working with the movement than Brian. Even advising the authorities of the chemical would leave them exposed. Paradoxically, once the deed was done, its Armageddon capability on London almost guaranteed their demands being met. Pat sighed, it was useless thinking like this but bloody difficult not to once doubt crept in. He’d one question that needed and answer and for that he’d have to ring Ireland.
Otherwise, use Mike, cut down the number of cans in each location and cut out the feeders and let Mike help with the distribution. Mike was better than either of them with the aqua gear and he’d probably be willing to help with the collection. Brian was right; insurance wasn’t such a bad idea. Now it seemed fair game, not merely to protect his future but to give him one.
I was in cheerful mode when Pat got back though I was well aware how vulnerable I’d become. I needed to guide Pat and Mike along a particular route. I’d let other methods be kicked around then gradually introduce the one I wanted. Hopefully both would add refinements till it was forgotten who first introduced the idea. Nothing would give me total protection but no way was the job going to turn into a simple rip off. .
Friday morning and the atmosphere between us was as normal as our consciences allowed. We spent the day at the unit marking the final details on the maps and overlays. It was a slow process combining areas that wouldn’t be disturbed by the normal working of the reservoirs but would stop any emergency emptying and allowed fixes in minutes and seconds of degrees without searching for tenths. The practicalities pushed other issues to the back of our minds; so much so, it surprised both of us when the phone rang.
Mikes disappointment at finding he wasn’t allowed some social time evaporated like sex in a VD clinic when I emphasised the crates contents and where they were going to be used. He asked, ‘How accurate is this ten meter depth?’
I shrugged, ‘It isn’t. We’ve calculated it from the area of each reservoir and its maximum volume.’
‘Okay, use pressure switches and set them to blow in less than four meters pressure.’
‘Can they be that sensitive? We don’t want them going off by mistake, and once they’ve done one, they’ll know how to handle the rest.’
Mike gave me a puzzled look. ‘Under water’s not the most comfortable place to defuse explosives. I take it you do want them to be removable?’
‘Yes, but we want it to be practically impossible without the details of where they are and how they’re wired up.’
Jesus H, you want them booby trapped?’ My nod had Mike looking to Pat to see if he’d anything to say before turning back to me. ‘Bill for the money you’re paying I’ll work my butt off in this chicken coup but there’s a limit. You want two hundred and forty some done in fourteen days. That’s…’
‘Seventeen a day.’
‘Thanks Bill, but it’s not what I was looking for. It’ll take me that time just to design the circuits.’
I didn’t relent. ‘We realise it’s tight and just so you’ll know all of the problems about forty of the cans could be in less the three meters of water and the bad news is…’
Bad news, Christ I thought you had already pitched that to me.’
‘We need all your requirements listed by tomorrow morning. The good news is you’ll have me helping you for the first week most of the time and Jim for some of the time.’
Listen you two, this sucks.’
‘Mike give it a try. As you said yourself we have to keep them simple in order to get it done.’ I tried not to smile as knowing I was only at my first stage and waited for Mike’s reaction.
Mike threw his jacket over the table. ‘Alright, let’s get our thinking caps on.’
Two hours were wasted considering methods and gadgetry. Each ended up in the waste bin until Mike, throwing down his pencil stretched and rubbed his eyes. ‘I wish you’d given me some warning. Just an outline would have helped me come up with something.’
I considered my second stage was imminent and allowed Mike to continue.
‘Fourteen days to devise a method capable of being used over two hundred times without being duplicated; sorry fella's can’t be done.’
‘Shit.’ Pat exploded with frustration. One glimmer of disaster was attracting more like flies to crap. I got the benefit of his spleen, ‘We’ve got to go with one of the methods, even if it does mean they’re easier lifted.’
Shrugging I said, ‘Or we make it impossible?’
‘No, I won’t go along with that.’
I tried to look suitably repentant, ‘No you’re right. But maybe we’re complicating things on technicalities. I’m speaking for myself here, but I’ll be a lot happier if we had the cans sealed in something.’
Mike nodded, ‘Makes sense Bill if you think it’ll be worth the effort. That raises the question, how?’
‘Fibreglass, simple to get and use; might be useless if the stuff leaks but could prevent it happening. The other thought I had was when you mentioned permutations.’
Mike couldn’t remember saying anything on permutations, ‘Yeh?’
‘We’ll over here we have a thing called football pools. Every week millions of people try to win a fortune by getting eight draws from maybe fifty matches. Well we have over two hundred matches all we need is the three elements of chance in each one.’
Mike rubbed his hands, ‘I’m with you. You’re saying we keep the mechanism’s simple and throw in a lot of variations?’
I nodded as though not yet convinced myself, ‘Yes, if we can and we’ll hold the key-the master plan-and that’s what they’ll be buying.’
‘Okay.’ Mike held up his hand to stop my flow, ‘I saw some diving cylinders. Is the rest of the gear here?’
‘Pat asked, ‘Why?’
‘It’ll protect me while I’m measuring up a can and how about a coffee. The hospitality here sucks.’
The kettle was beginning to whimper as Mike slid the can from its box. Scrutinising it he gave then the thumb before holding the pad against it and gliding the pencil round the outline. Pat felt his right hand gripping on to his handkerchief. ‘Crazy fucker.’ His shout had me running from the coffee making. Mike had removed the mask and was carefully examining the can. Grinning he shouted, ‘This’s as tight as a nut. Let’s hope the rest are like it.’
With the can replaced and Mike back in the office I left to attend to the shrieking kettle while Pat shrieked at Mike, ‘You’re one crazy bastard, that was plain fucking stupid.’
‘Not so crazy, but it’s nice to know you care. James my man, the crates are neither air or watertight so if the stuff’s as potent as you say it means none of the cans are leaking. What it does mean is, if we handle them carefully we can risk it without a load of protective gear slowing us down. Now mother hen, shut the clucking up till I think this out.’
Mikes draught left a lot to be desired but having nudged the concept I could see the form. All Pat could see was something usually lovingly stuck to a fridge, a two year olds concept of a giant amoeba with six non functional legs. ‘It’s as clear as mud.’ He told Mike.
‘Okay, we sheath the can in fibreglass. That’s used as the core for these six tubes I’ve shown round the middle of the can. Each tube will be about eight inches long with a hole about two inches from the can end. That hole needs to be big enough to let a wire pass through freely. That’s critical because these squiggly lines are springs and they must be able to retract if the wires released or tampered with. On the end of each wire are anchor stakes. These stakes hold the can in place and kept the tension on the springs. Four springs are simply attached to the fibreglass. Of the two others one goes to the detonator and the other to the safety breaker. That’s the last one you set when you lay the cans.’
‘What if they simply clamp all the wires, nothing would happen so they could lift them and make them safe on land?’
Mike nodded. ‘Not a problem Bill, we reverse one or two in each location. By pulling them out you prime them, if they don’t release the wires they’ll go off when they’re moved. Same equipment just different set up. This’ll all be blind to them because once we’ve attached everything we circle the whole thing into a ball with chicken wire and cover the lot with plaster. It’ll need a pretty thick coating because we want negative buoyancy so we’ll need lots of sacking or muslin to wrap the lot in until the plasters formed. Better if we glassed round the plaster but I doubt if we have the time.’
My phase three was almost there, ‘I’ve got one other suggestion which may foil any chance pattern. Jim if you select random numbers between one and two hundred and forty six and apply a selection to each location. Mike you select which of the numbers for a location are specials and I’ll select where they’re positioned and detail them on the master list. Couple of other points. We need a persuader Mike, one to prove we’re not bluffing and the ones for the treatment works will be sitting in concrete so they’ll need to be flat bottomed.’
‘I’ll fit the persuader with a timer that overrides everything else. The shapes only a plastering job and the wires in these can be clamped at the tube end, they still won’t know whether to release or keep them tensioned.’
By the time they were satisfied with designs and list it had crept past midnight. I volunteered to stretch my cooking skills to the limit and throw something like cheese on toast from the provisions we’d bought for Mike and suggested James might like to collect the rest of the shopping from the car. I reckoned Mike had earned his bourbon and I could do with a drink as well.
Pat was a long time collecting the Bourbon, enough for me to start worrying and to look out in time to see headlights pass over the Saab and for Pat to emerge once they’d passed him. When he came in I asked. ‘Who the hell was that Pat?’
‘Some sort of security lot. Can’t be very regular otherwise we’d have seen them before now. We better tell Mike to keep an eye out.’
‘Who’s Pat?’ we both turned to find Mike with an impish grin leaning against the doorframe.
Pat shrugged, ‘Over to you.’
‘It’s quite simple Mike. Bill Gallacher and James Strachan are not our real names.’
‘Gee, now there’s a surprise.’
‘It’s better this way Mike.’
‘No problem, I’ll be Donald, Mickey’s too obvious.’
Taking our leave of Mike, Pat let me drive back to the house and asked. ‘What are your travelling arrangements for tomorrow?’
I glanced at the cars clock. ‘You mean today. I thought if you drop me at Heathrow I’d shuttle to Glasgow and hire a car there. I was going to ask for your Strachan licence so we can add to the web.’
‘Can’t do any harm. We seem to be going through a right jittery stage. Though I remember a similar thing before the Leeds job so it may be a good omen but I’ll be pleased when we’re through it.’
‘You and me both Pat, anyway you have the Jane Huntington thing to handle and with the way things are going it’s maybe something we’d be better without.’
‘No leave it as we planned. I’ll stay with Mike tomorrow and arrange to see her Sunday night provided I know you’re on your way back. If we start falling behind the schedule we’ll drop her then.’
‘I suppose so, but it’s a bit galling to know while I’m forming plaster you’ll be forming something else.’
‘What the hell’s that got to do with you?’
‘Calm down Paddy. Opinion I meant, only forming a opinion.’
‘Sod off Haggis, just remember to take the glass with her prints on it.’
‘What about yours, show them we’re co-operating?’
© Eoin Taylor
Chapter 1,Chapter 2, Chapter 3,Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Chapter10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16