31 October 2009

Unholy Crusade, part twenty


Gretl crept toward the shadows where Allemand had been stood. She half expected that he would still be there, watching impassively as Baron's men dealt with his own. As she stepped off the gravel path onto the scuffed and stained concrete yard, her heart sank. Allemand was nowhere to be seen.

Her fists clenched. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath and swallowed her urge to scream. She had been so close! He had been right there in front of her and now? Nowhere. She had lost him again.

He could not have gone far, however. For all his years and all his skill, he could still not fly or just disappear into thin air. He had to be close by. She could still find him, if she hurried.

Someone grabbed her from behind; an arm around her shoulders, a hand grabbing her hair. Before she could react, her head was slammed against a shipping container. She staggered, saw stars, but steadied herself and turned around before her assailant could act again.

She stopped dead when her eyes fell on who had attacked her.

'Hans Allemand,' she said. 'I've been looking for you.'

'Your German needs some work,' said Allemand.

His comment took her by surprise; a fact Allemand played to his advantage. He stuck fast and low, slamming his fist into her gut. She doubled over in pain, sinking to her knees; steadying herself with one hand on the floor, the other clutching her stomach.

'Bastard,' she spat as she fought back the pain. She was well fed that evening, the pain would pass quickly.

As she climbed back onto her feet, he struck again. This time she was ready for him. She grabbed his arm as he lashed out, ducked under it and pulled around to his back, then kicked his right leg out from under him. He fell, and she fell with him; landing on the middle of his back with his arm still in her grip.

For all his skills as a manipulator, Allemand's street fighting needed some work.

'I've been looking for you for a long time,' said Gretl.

'I don't care,' said Allemand. He struggled, but she held on tightly to him. He could not get free now.

'In fact, I've been looking for you since January of 1963. Do you remember where you were then?'

'Get off me, bitch. I'm going to fuck you up!'

'That's hardly an incentive for me to let you go then, is it?' Gretl said, as calmly as she could. 'I'll tell you where you were in January 1963. You were in Harderwijk. One evening, you came to my door claiming you had been robbed and needed to call the Police.'

'Is this going anywhere?' asked Allemand. Gretl ignored him.

'You looked hurt. You were covered in blood. I took pity on you, let you in. Do you remember what happened next?'

'No.' His voice was flat, almost bored.

Her heart sank. She knew it would be unlikely. He probably did all he did to her to so many people. Why would she be different? Why would one more matter to him?

But it mattered to her. She felt a fire in her belly now. After decades of hunting, she had him and she was going to make him pay.

She leaned in close, still holding on to his arm. She would be risking pulling it out of its socket now, but she simply did not care. She put her lips to his ear. She could feel him squirm as he tried to break free.

'Well I remember,' she said.

With her free hand, she pulled a syringe from her jacket and in one swift motion, emptied its contents into Allemand's neck.


'Put the gun down,' said Dupont. 'Put it down slowly, and step away.'

'No,' said Cartwright.

'Do it or I'll blow his fucking head off.'

'And then he'll shoot you,' said Seth. 'Or if not him, one of the snipers.'

Dupont said nothing; and at that moment, Seth knew he would win. He lowered his hands and turned around slowly. Dupont was still holding the gun at his head and he did not feel confident enough to challenge him on that just yet, but that time was coming.

'It's over,' he said. 'Put the gun down and come quietly.'

Dupont shook his head. 'No.'

'There's really no good way out of this for you,' Seth continued. 'But it would be best if you came out of it alive.'

'Why? So you can have revenge for your son? Don't think I don't know why you're here. This was never about my deal, was it? It was about payback.'

'You're wrong,' said Seth. 'What you did to my family was terrible, but I'm not here for that now. All I'm here for is to take you in.'

'No,' said Dupont. 'I'll not be some trophy, rotting in prison while you brag to your friends.'

'Look, we can do this– No!'

Seth lunged forward as Dupont turned the gun on himself, but he was too late. The shot echoed around the yard and Seth's glasses smeared with blood and other things he did not care to identify. The dead man fell to the ground, and Seth dropped to his knees beside him.

'No!' he roared. 'Damn you, you bastard! Damn you!'

He pounded the corpse with all his might, pouring his grief and rage into every blow. His hands were red, his soul empty.

When Cartwright eventually pulled him to his feet, whatever had been left of Seth Baron had died.


Gretl dragged Allemand to his feet and hauled him into the yard. He staggered along in front of her, his head lolling to one side and rocking as they walked.

Seth was sitting on the bonnet of Allemand's Mercedes. Cartwright stood beside him, smoking a cigarette and looking concerned. By the gates, two men in cheap grey suits were reading three men in expensive black suits their rights.

'You got your man, then,' said Cartwright, bitterly.

Gretl said nothing.

'What will you do now?' asked Seth. His voice sounded distant, like he had become detached from the world.

'We're going to wait for sunrise,' she said.

'Won't that kill you?' asked Cartwright.

Gretl looked at the young man, weighing up the likelihood that he meant what he had just said. She decided he did. He really was not the sharpest tack in the box.

'You never planned to come out of this, did you?' asked Seth.

'No,' she said.

Seth snorted a dry laugh but his face told her he found nothing about the situation all that funny.

'Go home,' she said. 'Go home to your wife. You can deal with this mess in the morning.'

Seth nodded slowly.

Cartwright put his arm around his boss' shoulders and led him away.



When they returned in the morning, all that remained was yellow police tape flapping in the wind, and a new charred mark on the concrete.

'Think she actually did it?' asked Cartwright.

Seth stood with his hands buried deep in his coat pockets, staring blankly at the mark on the ground.

'Yeah,' he said. 'She'd spent too long chasing her man. When she got him, what else was there to live for?'

'You see, I just don't get that,' said Cartwright. 'There's always something to live for. It might not be obvious right there and then, but there's always something 'round the corner if you look hard enough.'

He pulled a packet of cigarettes from his pocket, lit one and offered the packet to Seth. The older man shook his head.

'Let's hope your right,' said Seth, although from his tone it was clear he did not mean it.

Cartwright patted the old man on the shoulder. 'Come on, let's go and get breakfast. It's my shout.'

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