31 July 2009

Unholy Crusade, part sixteen


Jeremy Pellier pulled up behind the deep blue Mercedes and climbed out, turning up the collar on his jacket and wishing the rain would ease up for a while, give everyone a break and a chance to dry off a little. He hated weather like this. Why he had ever come back from France was a mystery right now. Better weather, cheaper food, good drink. Oh, how he wished he was back there instead of being here in this cold, wet, miserable country.

The rear door on the Mercedes opened with a clunk. He rushed over and climbed inside.

'Jesus, it's wet out there,' he said. He could feel himself shaking and tried to convince himself that it was just because of the cold. An attack of the nerves would not be a good thing right now.

The man in the driver's seat passed a plastic bag over his shoulder to Jeremy. 'You'll be needing this.'

Jeremy looked in the bag. Inside was a 9mm Glock; several rounds of ammunition in standard black clips; and one tarnished silver clip.

'Remember our agreement,' said the driver.

'Yeah.' Jeremy's voice was flat, betraying no emotion. 'I remember.'

He slipped the bag under his jacket, stepped out of the Mercedes and headed back to his Toyota.

By the time he had fastened his seat belt, the other car was gone.


Gretl had set herself up in the video room of the factory whose yard was to be the meeting place for that night's deal. Getting in had not been a problem. She vaulted the rear wall of the warehouse next door, climbed its fire escape and jumped onto the factory roof, then let herself in through an access point put there to make maintenance of the factory's flat roof easier. Now the guards were unconscious in a corner and she was sat in front of a bank of monitors. She pulled the bluetooth earpiece out of her pocket and fastened it to her ear. It felt uncomfortable; she imagined people would get used to them if they used them enough but she hated it, always would.

'I'm in,' she said.

'Good,' said Seth through the earpiece. His voice was crackled with a little static but the message came through clearly. 'We're almost in position. Keep this channel open.'

'Will do.'

She sat back in the chair and waited. It was up to the enemy to make their move now. All she could do was wait.

22 July 2009

Unholy Crusade, part fifteen

Chapter Six


'I don't see her,' said Cartwright. 'Think she's actually going to come?'

Seth kept his eyes on the street ahead. The rain had eased off during the afternoon but showed no signs of abating entirely. 'Of course she'll come. She wants this just as much as we do.'

They sat in Seth's black sedan and waited, watching the rain fall and the pedestrians hurry down the road in the hope of getting out of the weather quickly.

The minutes dragged by and Seth was beginning to give up hope when he spotted a redhead in black glasses walking toward the car. It took him a moment to recognise her, but he did. All his training coupled with years of on-the-streets experience had made him an expert in recognising people. It had been three days since they had met in person but she was still fresh in his memory thanks to spending days analysing photographs and other records. Her hair might be different and her spectacles changed the eye-to-face ratio slightly, but her overall face shape was the same. She may be able to fool the average person with her disguises, but he was not having any of it.

He unlocked the car doors and she climbed into the back.

'We were starting to think you weren't coming,' he said.

'I got delayed. Let's not hang around here. You were easy to spot; chances are I'm not the only one who saw you.'

Seth turned the ignition, pulled out into the road and headed off at a steady twenty miles per hour. There was no sense drawing attention to them by speeding.

'What was the delay?' asked Cartwright.

'It doesn't matter,' Gretl replied, sounding edgy. 'It won't affect tonight.'

Seth hoped Cartwright knew better than to push for more information. He glanced in the rear-view mirror, noted the vampire's smarter appearance: black suit, black blouse; all neat and ironed. She had even brushed her hair. Maybe she had been telling the truth about how important tonight was to her.

'So what have you found out?' Gretl asked.

'Dupont is meeting with Reggie Dixon again tonight. They're trying for another deal. What about you?'

'Allemand will be there too. So will his new lackey.'

'What new lackey?' asked Cartwright. 'Why didn't we hear about this?'

'His name is Pellier. He's been sniffing around town, asking about me for the last couple of days. I just found out tonight that he's working with Allemand.'

'If that's true, tonight is going to be more complicated than I thought,' Seth said.

'It doesn't change the plan.' Gretl's tone was firm. 'Everyone we want is going to be at the meeting tonight. If we're going to hit them, tonight is the time to do it. The last thing we need is to give them time to work out what's happening and go to ground. Agreed?'

'Agreed,' said Seth.

'Then let's get our gear ready and get in there.'

Unholy Crusade, part fourteen


Gretl rinsed her hair with the shower attachment of her bath, leaning over the side in a most undignified and uncomfortable position as she did so, and wondered why so many women felt the need to go through this process regularly. It made no sense to her; such a rigmarole for little real gain. If she had no pressing need to change her appearance after the fight at the warehouse, she would never in a million years want to have to waste time on this.

Still, it beats the old methods, she thought. At least now it's just a case of rinse, soak, rinse.

She squeezed as much water out of her hair as she could, grabbed an old towel and dried herself off. Her hair was still damp but that was fine. She looked at herself in the mirror, making sure she had covered every patch of hair she could see, picked up a pair of scissors and began cutting her hair into a short, spiky style. It would not look great since she was doing it herself, but it would be passable and that was all she needed for now.

There was only one thing left to do: fake tan. She had not been looking forward to that; it was even more hassle and undignified posturing than the hair dye.

It can wait until I've had a cigarette, she decided.

21 July 2009

Unholy Crusade, part thirteen


Gretl pulled up in the car park outside a large supermarket and finished her cigarette as she watched people going in and out of the giant building. She needed a change of clothes after last night's escapades and in the early evening, most shops were closed. This place sold clothes that looked cheap but at least she would not stand out amongst the regular crowds. It would do, for now.

She tossed the cigarette butt out of the car window, checked herself in the passenger side mirror, and climbed out of the car.

The choice of clothes was surprisingly large and better than she had expected. She selected three black trouser suits, blouses is a variety of colours and two pairs of decent, black shoes with low heels. The idea was to look like she was an average office worker; the kind of person one would not think was out of place where she would be hanging out. If she wanted to look like a street urchin or a student, her current clothing would serve perfectly well.

With her outfits chosen, she headed for the hair and makeup aisle and bought tanning lotion, makeup to suit a darker complexion and hair dye in as natural a red as she could find. She passed by the optician then stopped, turned around and headed back. She had never needed spectacles but they helped change the face enough that anyone not paying real attention might mistake her for someone else. Every little helped.

On her way to the checkout, she picked up more orange juice.


Jeremy sat in the King's Arms, nursing a pint of Sovereign ale and waiting for Reggie to show his face. He had been there for almost twenty minutes, which was par for the course for the old bastard, but tonight he was not in the mood to be messed around. If he didn't turn up in the next ten minutes, there would be hell to pay.

'Jeremy my old son,' Reggie called from across the room. 'It's good to see you looking so well.'

'I've been better,' said Jeremy. 'What did you want to see me about.'

Reggie took a seat across the table from Jeremy and leaned in close. Horton, his stocky minder took up position watching the crowd.

'Someone set us up last night,' said Reggie. 'And I think I know who.'

Yeah, I bet you fucking do, thought Jeremy.

'Oh yeah?' he said.

'There's a guy in Broughton called Simon Trafford. You know him?'

'Can't say I do.'

'No, I thought not. He's small time, but he makes a little on the side as a police informer. I've had my eye on that little shit for a while now, and he's been good for me; telling the rozzers what I want them to know and all that.'

'What's this got to do with last night?'

'Hold your horses, old son. I'm just getting to that.' He nodded to Horton, who passed an envelope to Jeremy. 'That was on my desk this morning.'

Jeremy opened the envelope and pulled out two photographs. Both showed a middle aged man with receding hair and very little chin talking to a short woman in a long coat.

'I assume this bloke is Trafford,' said Jeremy. 'The woman looks like the bitch from last night.'

'Right on both counts.'

'So what do you want from me?'

'Isn't it obvious? These two wronged us last night, old son, and if we are wronged, should we not be avenged?'

Reggie stood up and made to leave. 'Give me a call when this is sorted out.'

Jeremy looked at the photographs again. This made no sense to him. Reggie had been the setup merchant. He had seen that, had he not? So what was this?

He downed his pint, stuffed the photographs and the envelope in his pocket and headed out into the street. He needed to think this over.