04 August 2008

Unholy Crusade, part one

Chapter One


'Run it again,' said Seth.

The technician's fingers slid across his keyboard, lightly tapping a sequence of keys. On the large screen mounted on the wall, a video began playing.

Seth Baron leaned in for a closer look at the grainy footage. The CCTV cameras at Pearson's Holdings had not been the best model available and the film was far from high quality, but it was enough to see what had happened. One person, most likely female, entered the warehouse yard, upsetting a drug deal. When the dealers attacked her, she killed all but one of them; then left, taking the survivor with her.

'Stop!' he said.

The video froze. Seth pointed to a man firing a pistol. He was so close to the woman that missing was next to impossible.

But Seth had already seen what happened next. The man must have missed; and the woman broke his neck.

Seth squinted, trying to make out the man's features in the unfocussed footage. He knew him, he was certain of it.

He pointed to the man. 'Can you zoom in on him?' he asked.

The technician drew a box around the man on the screen, and tapped a few keys. The image shifted, became less focussed. The man was little more than a black-suited blur on a grainy, grey background. Then the image shifted again, became more clear as the software processed the video. It was not enough to make the man crystal clear, but it was enough.

'These cameras are shit,' said the technician. 'We're not going to get anything more from this.'

'We've got all I need,' said Seth.

He turned and hurried out.


'Thomas,' called Seth. 'Get Cartwright and meet me in my office.'

The younger man turned at the sound of Seth's voice. 'You got something?'

'It's not much, but it's the best we're going to get.'

Seth burst through the double doors into the main open-plan office and headed to his office without slowing down. Heads turned to watch him as he passed between the rows of desks, each overloaded with trays of paperwork. He pushed open his office door, and began rifling through one of the three tall filing cabinets in the corner.

There was a knock on the door. Timid. He knew who it would be without even looking up.

'I'm busy, Porter!' he shouted.

'Sorry, Sir,' said the young woman at the door. 'It's just you wanted to know as soon as we found anything.'

Seth looked around. Joanne Porter stood in the doorway, her brown eyes wide with the same sense of fear she sported whenever she had cause to visit his office. She was gripping a blue file with both hands, like it was a shield.

'What did you find?' he asked.

She handed him the file. 'Bank records, mainly. Turns out Pearson's Holdings is owned by a front company run by Charles Longshaw.'

'Of the Blexham Green mob?' Seth flicked through the file. The records told him nothing at first glance. He would have to sit down and read them thoroughly, but that would have to wait.

'The same.'

He walked to his chair and sat down, ran a hand through his short, greying hair, and looked at the grey file he had pulled from the filing cabinet.

'This doesn't add up,' he said.


Seth looked surprised to see Porter still standing there. 'What? Oh. Nothing. That'll be all, Porter.'

As Porter left, Thomas and Cartwright entered.

'You wanted to see us?' said Cartwright.

Seth tossed the grey file onto the desk in front of him. 'Take a look at that.'

Cartwright picked up the file and flicked through its contents. It was full of photographs, police reports and newspaper clippings. 'Are these all the same person?'

'His name is Mark First,' said Seth. 'And he's something of an expert on disguises. He was at the warehouse tonight.'

Thomas looked surprised. 'He's dealing now?'

Seth shook his head. 'I don't think so. It's never been his area. He's an assassin.'

'So why would he be at a drug deal?'

'For a hit?' Cartwright suggested. He placed the file on the desk and pointed to a cut-out from The Times. 'It wouldn't be the first time. Says here he posed as muscle for a Canadian dealer over in Quebec, then killed him after the deal went down and fled with the cash.'

'That was twenty years ago,' said Seth. 'He doesn't take risks like that any more.'

'I'm just saying it's a possibility.'

'It's more likely he was there for something they were bringing in with the drugs,' said Thomas.

Seth nodded. 'Or because he knew someone would be there.'

'The girl, you mean?' said Thomas.


'What girl?' asked Cartwright.

Seth looked over at the door, saw it was closed, and hunted around in his jacket for a keyring. He unlocked the top drawer in his desk and removed a red, loose-leaf file. Stamped on the cover were the words 'Top secret, eyes only.'

He looked each of the men in the eye. 'What I'm about to tell you does not leave this room. Understand?'

The younger men nodded.

Seth opened the file and took out the grainy, monochrome photograph from the top of the pile of papers inside. He handed the photograph to Thomas.

'Her name is Greta Lune; or at least we think it is. She goes by several pseudonyms and, like First, she's a dab hand at disguises.'

Thomas looked at the photograph, handed it to Cartwright and said. 'She's the one who got him, then?'

'I think so,' said Seth. 'The footage from the CCTV isn't great.'

'So who is she?' asked Cartwright.

'Nobody knows,' said Seth as he sifted through the pile of papers. 'But here's where things get interesting.'

He selected a report from the paperwork and handed it to Thomas. Cartwright handed the photograph back.

'This is a coroner's report,' said Thomas. 'For... you've got to be joking.'

'No joke,' said Seth. 'Officially at least, Greta Lune died in 1963.'

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