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.'

30 October 2009

Unholy Crusade, part nineteen


'Shots fired! Shots fired!'

The panicked cry came through the radio as Gretl ran down a grey-walled corridor toward the fire escape. It was Cartwright's voice, she could tell despite the interference. The guy clearly could not hold his own in a tense situation. He would get someone killed one day, that was for sure.

Hopefully he would not do it tonight.

She burst through the fire escape, grabbed the railing and leapt over it. The gravel crunched beneath her feet as she landed, and again as she dropped into a crouch. Over the commotion now going on in the yard, she doubted anyone would notice. Nevertheless, from here on in she needed to be careful.

Allemand was there. Allemand would hear her coming.

She looked around, scanning the area for trouble; for places anyone might hide now the shit had most definitely hit the fan; for places where she could sneak through the shadows and reach her man. Baron would take care of Dupont and the others, she only needed to deal with Allemand. He was the wildcard the Ministry were ill equipped to handle. If she did not catch him before he made his move, no one would leave the yard alive.

Keeping low and sticking to the shadows, she made her way into the yard.


The night was not going as Seth Baron had planned. Then again, few do. He had expected problems, but when the emaciated dogsbody had shot the city's most powerful drug lord, he knew there was no way he was getting the upper hand without a fight.

Cartwright stuck close to his left flank as they approached the entrance to the yard. Seth kept his eyes on the gunman, ready to fire if things turned nasty again. At present, it was stand-off; just lots of angry chatter, nobody wanting to make the first move. That was fine by him.

Cartwright moved to the left side of the entrance. Seth took the right side. Crouched and with his gun drawn, he waited for his backup to move in.


'That was a brave thing you did there,' said Dupont. 'There are going to be many men after you tonight.'

Jeremy Pellier looked down at the corpse piled at his feet, then at the fat man in the expensive suit. He was right. People would be out for his blood, and not just tonight. From here on in, he had to watch his back.

'You're going to need help just to stay alive,' Dupont continued.

'That sounds like an offer,' said Jeremy.

The Frenchman snorted. Jeremy did not understand the response.

'What do you want?'

'Fifty percent. Of everything.'

'Pull the other one,' Jeremy sneered. 'No one in their right mind would take that. Try harder.'

'Mister Pellier, I am trying to be reasonable here. The cost of setting you up in this town will be significant. If you want to work with us – and I assure you, you do want to work with us – then you have to accept our terms. Fifty percent, or you can take your chances out on the street.'

Jeremy looked down at the old man's body. It had been so simple. Would his end come so easily?

'Thirty five,' he said, mustering as much force as he could convey.

The Frenchman shook his head.

Jeremy felt his grip on the gun slipping. His palms were hot and sweating; his shirt clinging to his back. He needed to finish this and soon, before more problems arose.

'Fine,' he said.

The Frenchman smiled. 'Then let's do business.'


'We're in position now,' said Travis through Seth's earpiece.

Seth said nothing in reply, but looked over at Cartwright, who nodded to him. Seth held up three fingers: move in on three. Cartwright nodded again.




'Armed Government Agent!' called Seth as he stormed into the yard. 'Hands in the air!'

Pellier turned quickly, his gun raised. Cartwright shot him in the shoulder before Seth could react. The gun fell to the floor with the heavy thud of metal on concrete. Pellier clutched at the wound and screamed obscenities, but Seth hardly noticed. His eyes were fixed on Dupont. No one else mattered now.

No one except Allemand, wherever he might be. He was the rogue agent in all this. If the vampire woman did not hold up her side of the bargain, Allemand could prove their undoing.

He put those thoughts out of his mind and walked toward Dupont, his gun raised; ready to fire at the slightest provocation. Cartwright and the others cold deal with the monkeys, he wanted organ grinder all to himself.

Come on, you bastard. Give me an excuse.

But the fat Frenchman just stood there in his expensive suit, sucking on a cigarette and holding his hands up on either side of his bulbous head. His grey eyes followed Seth's every move but other than that, he said and did nothing.

'Marc Dupont, I am arresting you on suspicion of conspiracy to the murder of David Baron,' the words cut deep in Seth's throat. He held the gun so tightly it shook in his hand. Do something, you bastard! Give me a reason. GIVE ME A REASON!

'You do not have to say anything,' he heard himself say. 'But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you later rely on in court.'

The fat man sniffed, and lowered his hands. 'Is that it?' he asked. The tone made it sound like he was almost bored.

Seth grabbed the man's arm and forced him against a packing crate. He reached into his jacket for handcuffs when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Suddenly he was spun around and a black gloved fist smacked into his face. He lost his footing, and fell; his gun slipping from his grip.

'Cartwright!' he called as Dupont's guard came at him again.

A shot rang out. The guard's eyes glazed, and he crumpled. Behind the falling man, Cartwright walked forward, his gun pointed at Dupont's head.

'No!' cried Seth, scrambling to his feet and pushing Cartwright away. The younger man fought to keep his footing, but at least he was pointing his gun at the ground now. 'He's mine! I want him alive!'

He could feel tears welling in the corners of his eyes. He brushed them away. There would be time for grief later. Right now, he had a job to do.

He felt the gun on the back of his head, and went cold.

29 October 2009

Unholy Crusade, part eighteen

Chapter Seven


After the first target arrived, time passed so slowly Seth could almost imagine he felt his fingernails growing. This was the worst part of any job: knowing something is going to happen but being unable to interfere lest you make it worse, or stop it happening altogether. They had to hold off until the purpose of the meeting was established, and it became clear just what kind of crime was being committed. Without that, they were powerless to act.

The next car arrived twenty minutes later, amidst radio silence. Seth watched the silver Toyota pull into the yard and four men climb out. He did not recognise them immediately, but Cartwright did.

'That's Dupont,' he said. 'The one in the blue suit.'

Seth sipped his tea. The lukewarm liquid coated his dry throat, seeping its way through tensed muscles.

Dupont. The man who had ordered the hit on his son.

He would be his priority.


Gretl scoured the screens before her, searching for any clue about what Allemand intended to do. The old man was hiding the shadows between two storage tanks, near enough that he would be able to see and hear everything that happened at the meet, but far enough away that anyone in the yard would never spot him. He stood motionless, a feat rarely achieved by mortal and immortal men alike. She wondered how long he had practiced.

The radio crackled. She ignored it; paranoid that the moment she turned away from the screens, Allemand would disappear. She had come too close to let him slip away now.

'Black Mercedes on Woodrow Lane, heading to junction with Strathclyde Road,' said the radio.

Another voice crackled over the channel. She did not recognise it. 'Any word on the occupants?'

'Three men,' said the first voice. 'Looks like Dixon and Pellier in the back. Unknown male driving.'

'Here we go,' Gretl told herself. Leaning forward, her head almost pressed up against the largest of the monitors, her eyes fixed on Allemand. 'Let's see you get out of this one, you bastard.'


'We should be there in a minute, sir,' said the driver.

Reggie Dixon said nothing. Jeremy Pellier shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The gun the German had given him was taped uncomfortably to his thigh, hidden under his trousers but still conspicuous in how it made him walk. He wanted this over with quickly before anyone spotted anything amiss.

'When we get there, you keep close to me,' said Reggie. 'I don't trust this French tosser to play straight, so when he makes his move, I want you there to deal with 'im, got it?'

'Got it,' said Jeremy. God, he wanted this night over with.

The car pulled into the yard. There were two other cars already parked there, at the back; cutting off a clear run into the building. That was okay by Jeremy. What he wanted was a clear run out of the yard if things got bad.

'Here we go,' said Reggie. 'Remember: stick close to me.'

'I'll remember.'


'Mister Dixon,' said Dupont. The fat bastard was all shining teeth and crocodile smiles tonight, Jeremy noted. 'We meet again.'

'Dupont,' Reggie replied, making no effort to pronounce the name correctly. If Dupont minded, he made a good show of hiding it.

'Let's get straight to business, shall we?' said the Frenchman. 'I take it you have the money?'
Reggie grunted. 'I have it. Do you have the goods this time?'

'You need to ask? Mister Dixon, I am shocked. I really am.'

'After the shit you pulled, you're damn right I'm asking. I lost good men because of your fuckup.'

Dupont stepped forward and seemed to grow in size. 'I don't care for your insinuations, Mister Dixon.'

'Fuck you,' Reggie spat. While Jeremy had fought against his instinct to grab at his gun when Dupont moved, Reggie had not so much as flexed a pinkie. 'You want to make this trade or not? I don't have all night.'

'I'm afraid not, Mister Dixon. Not with you, at any rate.'

For the first time, Reggie's mask slipped and Jeremy saw the morass of range that boiled beneath the surface. In a blink of an eye, it was gone.

Jeremy knelt and made as if he was fastening his shoelaces.

'What are you talking about?' asked Reggie. 'You want to deal in this town, you deal with me. There's no one else. Get up, Pellie. For fuck's sake try to look professional, will you?'

Jeremy stood. 'I'm sorry, Reggie.'

'So you bloody should be. For fuck's sake man, we're supposed to be...'

His voice trailed off when his eyes latched on to the gun in Jeremy's hand. He began to ask what Jeremy thought he was playing at, but he did not have the time.

Jeremy squeezed the trigger three times. Reggie's body shuddered as each bullet cut deep into his chest.

He sank to the floor, coughing up blood and curses.

Finish him. The voice echoed in his head. He recognised it but did not know from where. Remember what he did to you. Finish him now!

He raised the gun to the old man's head, and fired.