Thursday, 29 September 2016

Blackening Church (part 5)

Previously: Georgia Callahan has no memory of her team of British spies being murdered, and yet it is almost certain she was present. Given a chance to prove her innocence by her boss, the man called Uncle, Callahan travels to Strasbourg on the tail of Julian Gielgud, a prime suspect. It transpires that Gielgud was set up and murdered by the same assassin that tried to murder Callahan in her Strasbourg hotel room. As a local computer hacker attempts to gain her access to the assassin's computer, Callahan goes in search of the assassin's handler, sending a message to his employers to meet her at Saint Paul's church. Unknown to Callahan, the assassin's employer is her own, the man called Uncle. We rejoin the story as Callahan waits for him to arrive…

It was five to midnight. Georgia Callahan was sat on a bench outside Saint Paul’s church in Strasbourg with a cigarette on her lip. She thought over the events of the evening so far. Two attempts on her life, both failed, and here she was smoking outside a church. She supposed that was how this had all started, with her smoking outside a church, the company psychologist coming to talk to her. What had he shouted? I’m not the enemy. The words of a guilty man. She shook her head. No, it was a funeral. Everyone felt guilty.
She was on her third cigarette of the chain smoke when Lucas Delon turned up. A car was driving past, its headlights glaring against her eyes, so she was momentarily blinded. She told herself that was how he’d managed to sneak up on her. 
“I got it open.” He said. 
She reached out her hand to accept it.
He shook his head. “You promised me an extra fifty.”
She begrudgingly gave him the note, accepting the computer and flipping the lid open.
“What’re you looking for?” He asked. 
“I’ll know when I find it.” She opened My Documents, beginning to scroll through them. Then she realised Lucas Delon was still there. “Don’t you have feminists to troll?”
“Are you feminist?” He asked.
“I have common sense. I find that that’s mostly the same thing.”
“I’ll troll you then.” He smiled. “Who’d this laptop come from anyway?”
“A guy who tried to kill me earlier.” She said. 
“Didn’t succeed then?”
“Nope.” She replied. Her attention was directed towards the list of files. There were pictures of her team, pictures of Julian Gielgud, even pictures of her. Near to the bottom, the files became videos. The titles were a delicate code she couldn’t understand but the dates were all from the night of her team’s murders. She clicked on the first title. A video came up of the assassin walking from his car through the backdoor of the Compiegne hotel. She checked the time stamp and then opened the next video, fast forwarding it to that time. This video showed him walking through the kitchen in his Bellhop outfit. She followed his progress through the hotel, until he got to the lobby. Not because he stopped there but because there was another thing of interest.
Watching yourself do something you can’t remember doing is a wholly unnerving feeling. She had absolutely no recollection of entering the hotel that evening; all she could remember was driving into the town. After that it was a pool of empty blankness until she woke up the following morning with a banging headache and three dead friends. According to the video, she wandered into the lobby where Alicia was waiting for her. Oh, Alicia. She was so pretty, her hair short and black, her face so young. You couldn’t tell from her accent that she’d grown up in India but there was something about the way she carried herself, the way she acted that made Georgia believe it. 
According to the video, Georgia had run over to Alicia, shared a brief kiss with her and then the two of them had held hands as they’d walked across the lobby. It paused. Delon turned to Georgia, to ask her why she’d paused it, only to see a tear silently rolling down her face.
“Miss Callahan? Are you okay?” He asked.
“No.” Georgia said, staring at the frozen image of herself and Alicia crossing the lobby. “No, I’m not bloody okay. I’ve just remembered what happened next.”
The milky blank where her memories should have been was filled with the subtlety of an exploding rocket ship.

A week and two days ago. Centre of Compiegne. On the other side of a thriving lobby, this hotel wasn’t three stars, were two women. Georgia Callahan, still a smoking, alcoholic but one with a little more youth to her eyes, held hands with Alicia Mitra. The two of them spoke softly as they traversed the corridors.
“Don’t the others think it’s weird that you’re coming down to meet me?” Georgia said. “I mean, you wouldn’t normally.”
“They’re spies, Georgie.” Alicia smiled, squeezing her hand. “I bet they’ve known since the first time I stayed over. They probably have people who follow us around in our spare time.”
“Jesus, way to make me feel paranoid!” Georgia cried. “And less with the shouting that we’re spies. We’re secret agents for a reason.”
“Whatever you say, Mrs Bond.” Alicia laughed. No wonder she was excited. It was her first operation in the field. Normally she stayed back at their base in London running the Situation Room, covering every angle, but one night over dinner she’d told Georgia her wishes to go out into the field and so it had been arranged. A special favour from the man called Uncle; apparently he’d been considering it anyway. 
“Do you reckon the others would notice if I slipped into your room tonight?” Alicia whispered, leaning close. With a laugh, she added, “I could always climb out of my window, scramble across the balcony, and then sneak in through yours if that’d make you more comfortable.”
“You’re such an idiot.” Georgia smiled. 
Alicia pulled her tight and held her head in her hands. “You’re idiot, darling.” 
They kissed passionately. Although it felt as if they were locked together for an eternity, both women agreed it still wasn’t long enough. They continued the last few steps up to the room regardless, knowing that the others would be getting suspicious. 
Inside the hotel room, a cloud of cigarette smoke hung around a lampshade. Lexi was typing something into one computer whilst Jack was relaxing back into his armchair, a cigarette in one hand and a glass of Bourbon in the other. A phone and a laptop were next to him. “The wanderers return, hey?” He was Scottish, mid thirties and ginger. He also had freckles and a limp from his service in Iraq. As they constantly laughed about, there wasn’t much going for him. “Get lost on the way up, did you?”
“Something like that.” Georgia said. “Lexi, anything back from the clean-up teams?”
Lexi, a Polish computer expert, nodded. “All four bodies identified. Anton Petrov, confirmed dead on scene. Other three bodies belong to an assassin named Tulip, a mercenary named Bertrand and, get this, the Sunday School Serial Killer from Grimsby!”
“Jean Thomas really knew some lovely people, didn’t he?” Georgia said. “I got the files that Petrov had collected. They’re in the Jag. I’ll go get them later. Don’t want to be spilling champagne on them.”
“Hm.” Jack said, climbing up. “Will Alicia be going to get the files with you?”
Georgia could feel Alicia blushing from where she was placing Georgia’s gun back into the padlocked box on the other side of the room. “Just pour the bloody drinks will you, Jack?”
He grinned at Lexi and picked up a bottle of Bourbon from the minibar, filling a glass of ice with it. He passed the glass to Georgia and then poured two more glasses, one for Alicia and another Lexi. They all accepted their glasses and then, to a toast of, “To Petrov,” they downed the liquor.
“God.” Lexi winced. “I don’t know how you drink this dragon piss.”
“Years of headaches the morning after toughen you.” Georgia grinned. “Anyway, I thought I told you to open the fizz?”
“You can thank Jack for that one!” Lexi grinned.
Georgia turned, frowning. “Jack? Would you care to fill me in on the location of the champagne?”
“Aye, well, I don’t really think it’s important as such.”
“He forgot to pack it.” Alicia said.
“I bloody well wish you’d stayed in the control room, lassie!” Jack cried. He caught Georgia’s icy glare. “Look, I’m really sorry Georgia. I’ll go get some from the bar if you’d like me to.”
“Nah, it’s alright.” Georgia sighed. “We probably shouldn’t be celebrating this one. Petrov was a good man.”
“Aye, he was.” Jack nodded. “I mean, he was a blackhearted, treasonous, son of a gun and a lying, immoral, two faced traitor but he was a good man overall.”
“You know what I mean.” Georgia said. “We worked ops with him in the past, didn’t we?”
“Yes.” Lexi said. “I remember the case in Siberia. He came onto me twice. I nearly had to break his finger to stop him from trying it the third time.”
“And don’t forget the time he nearly blew the Berlin job so he could flirt with a waitress.” Alicia pointed out. “I enjoyed listening to that one fall apart.”
“Okay!” Georgia cried. “Maybe he wasn’t such a good man after all. But he did manage to deceive us all.”
“Just goes to show, you never can tell.” Alicia sighed.
“Isn’t that a song?” Jack grinned. “Anyway, I think what we need to take from this is the importance of honesty. Of making sure that everyone knows the full story constantly. Of making sure you’re not hiding anything from your team mates. Isn’t that right, Georgia?”
Georgia rolled her eyes. “How long have you known?”
“Since Alicia got the job in the situation room.” Lexi said. “We had a bet going.”
“Jesus! That’s real nice of you.” Alicia said. Then she began to frown. “Nothing was even going on when I got that promotion.”
“We know.” Lexi said. “The bet was how long Georgia would last before coming onto you.”
“I don’t know whether I should be offended or honoured you know me so well.” Georgia laughed. She put her arm around Alicia. “Okay, I suppose we can admit it then. It means you won’t have to sneak out by the balcony tonight, hey darling?”
“What?” Lexi laughed.
“Long story.” Alicia smiled. “We are very happy and very proud to announce we’re a cou-“
There was a knock on the door. Georgia rolled her eyes. “That’s just brilliant timing, isn’t it? Incredible timing.” She took her arm from around Alicia and wandered over towards the door, undoing the chain and pulling it open. There was a bellhop stood there, a trolley in front of him. At the time, she felt too loved up to think about how he looked too muscular for his costume. He pointed to the bottle of champagne on his trolley. “On the house, madame.” She didn’t register his British accent either.
“Fantastic.” She grinned, taking the bottle. “Give my complements to whoever is giving away free alcohol.”
The door swung shut, she redid the chain and then plodded over to the centre of the room. “Look at this! Free fizz!”
“God’s making up for your mistake, Jack.” Alicia grinned, patting him on the back. Georgia took the wire cage off the cork, unscrewed it ever so slightly and then forced it out. There was a loud bang and the cork flew halfway across the room. 
“Get some glasses, Jack.” Georgia grinned. Jack picked some off the shelf to the side and she filled all four with bubbling champagne. She put the bottle down, unfortunately there was no ice bucket, and took her glass up. “We need a toast.”
“We’re in France. They eat French Stick, not toast.” Jack grinned.
Alicia rolled her eyes and then held up her glass. “Love and friendship.”
Georgia smiled. “Love and friendship.”
“Love and friendship.” The other two cheered. 
They clashed their glasses together and then drained the champagne. For a second, they were all caught in the celebratory moment, drinking and laughing, smiling and thinking. Then Lexi frowned. “Somebody has poisoned the champagne.”
Jack spat the sip he was taking out. “What?”
“There’s something in the champagne. The aftertaste had a chemical flavour.”
Georgia frowned, sniffing her glass. “Crap.” She whispered. “There is.”
Jack said, turning towards the box of guns. “It must have been that bellhop. I’ll make him give us an antidote.”
“No. He has no motive.” Alicia said. “There’s no way he could know what our jobs are. They think we’re tourists.”
“Are you saying one of us must have poisoned it?” Lexi frowned. 
“I’m not saying anything. That just seems to be logical.”
“But who out of the four of us would want to poison the other three?” Georgia frowned. “We just toasted to friendship, for God’s sake!”
Alicia turned to Jack. “You forgot the champagne.”
“Aye, because I’m a bloody idiot, not because I wanted to murder you. You’re the one who went down to the lobby, and potentially the bar, alone, Alicia.”
“Yeah, so I could snog my girlfriend, not so I could poison champagne I didn’t know we’d need. Use your bloody brain!”
“Well, it couldn’t have been me.” Lexi said. “I haven’t been near the champagne once.”
“Then the only suspect left is Georgia.” Alicia said. “Baby, please. Please don’t tell me you poisoned it.”
Georgia could see the tears in her eyes. She wrapped her arms around Alicia, pulling her tight. “Why would I have poisoned it? If I wanted to kill you all, I could have done it walking into the hotel room when I still had a gun. Don’t be so silly.”
“Then the only solution is that the bellhop did it.” Jack said, continuing over to the gun box. “Just as I suspected.”
“What’re you going to do to him?”
“Make him giv- hang on. Georgia’s gun is missing.”
Georgia frowned. “I gave it to Alicia to put it away, didn’t I, sweet?”
“I’m sorry.” Alicia said. She pulled the gun from her pocket. “I got distracted.”
“You poisoned the champagne, didn’t you?” Jack said. He drew his own gun from the box and pointed it at her. “You poisoned us!”
“Calm down.” Georgia said. “Why would Alicia want to poison us? What motive would she have?”
“Why would she not put the gun away?” Jack asked. “It’s instinct! Muscle memory!”
"She's never been out in the field before!" Georgia cried. "She has no muscle memory!"
“C’mon, Georgia.” Lexi said. “Don’t you think it’s a bit odd?”
“She’s a Russian sleeper, you can tell.” Jack said. “Probably poisoning us in revenge for killing Petrov!”
“If I was poisoning you, why would I have drunk the bloody poison, you idiot?” Alicia cried.
“You didn’t deny being a sleeper agent.” Georgia said.
“What?” Alicia replied, frowning.
“You said you didn’t poison us but you never said you weren’t a sleeper agent for the Russians.”
Jack raised his gun a little higher.
“I’m, I’m not a bloody sleeper agent!” Alicia cried. “Why would I be? Why would I betray you guys to the Russians? Georgia, I love you!”
“Those words could just be a desperate plea.” Georgia said, tears rolling. “Prove to me that you’re not a sleeper.”
Alicia reached out with her empty hand and took hold of Georgia’s own. She squeezed it. “I promise I’m not a sleeper agent.”
“Georgia, you can’t be buying this crap.” Jack cried.
“I am, and if you’ve got a problem with it, I’m more than happy to argue it out. No? Good.” Georgia turned to Lexi. “Send a message to Uncle. Tell him we have a leak somewhere.”
“NO!” Alicia cried. 
“I bloody told you.” Jack said, raising his gun again.
“Alicia? Do you have something to contribute?” Georgia asked.
“There’s no evidence there’s a leak.”
“Poison has been sent to our confidential hotel room following our execution of a Russian spy.” Georgia said. “We have plenty of evidence. Lexi, send the message.”
Lexi stalked across the room, over to the laptop from which she could send the message. That was when a bullet cut straight through her heart. She collapsed to the floor, her head bouncing off the keyboard as she fell to the floor.
A pool of blood was beginning to soak into the carpet as Alicia spun from Lexi to Jack, shooting him straight in the gut. He was knocked to the floor, breaking the table his laptop and phone were on, his head bouncing off the floor and then settling back. He blacked out.
Alicia turned, facing Georgia’s gun at her. “I’m sorry.”
Georgia stared, dumbfounded, tears rolling down her face. After what felt like an eternity, Georgia said three simple words. “Was it fake?”
“Yes.” Alicia said. “Everyone knows you take confidential files home. Command thought seduction would be the best to gain access to them.”
“How long?”
“How bloody long have you been a spy?”
“Since before I was employed by the company. It’s why I got a job in the company.” Alicia replied. “I’m sorry.”
“And, the Soviets? Are they good paymasters?”
She shrugged. “They helped my parents. That’s payment enough.”
“And the poison? In revenge for Petrov?”
“The poison wasn’t me.” Alicia said. “I swear. I’m a sleeper agent, yes, but I’m not a killer.”
“Try telling that to Jack and Lexi.” Georgia said, tears rolling down her face. “You’re a murderer Alicia. You killed our friends.”
“That was… that was…”
“Business? Part of the job. That’s what I told myself about Petrov, about the people I killed but it isn’t. Murder can never be cold. To pull that trigger, to end a life, you’ve got to care. You’ve got to hate the person with every inch of your soul because if you don’t, if you take a life without true emotion, then there’s something bloody wrong with you. So listen to me, Alicia. As cold as the spying might be, as cold as the betrayal of everyone you know might be, that murder then is not.” Georgia crept forward, took hold of her gun and pulled it up, pressing it aginst her forehead. “Are you going to kill me, Alicia? Are you going to end my life? Because I know there isn’t that level of hatred, or fear, or misery in your eyes. I know that you’re not going to kill me. I know that deep down, deep, deep down, there is some remaining love in there for me. Because murder and seduction, they aren’t things you can just do. There’s emotion there.”
Slowly, she pulled down the gun, bringing her face towards Alicia’s. “Tell me you mean any of this, Alicia. Tell me.”
Alicia’s head exploded. A crimson spray coated Georgia’s face. She let out a brief scream, then turned slowly to the direction of the bullet. Alicia’s body slumped onto Georgia, pouring blood over her shirt and trousers. Georgia didn’t notice the warm liquid coating her legs. She was too busy staring at Jack.
He laughed, blood from his mouth joining the blood on his shirt. “You said you really needed to hate someone to kill them. Well, I just killed her.”
“Jesus, Jack.” Georgia whispered. She looked down at Alicia’s dead body, slowing bleeding over her, and stepped away. She picked up the gun and then began to crawl across the floor towards Jack. He was slumped against his armchair, blood oozing out of his gut wound. He looked in excruciating pain, but that was no surprise. Everyone knew a gut shot was the most painful wound there was.
“Always pictured working as a spy as a Bond movie, not a Tarantino flick.” He laughed, but his muscle movement caused excruciating pain to cut through him. Blood soaked his top more. A small tear ran down his face. “I’d make a joke about your relationship being a complete screw-up but I’m the dead one.”
“You’re not dead yet. I’ll get a doctor.”
“There isn't a doc in the world who can save me, Georgia.” Jack smiled a sad smile, extenuated by the paleness of his face. “You patch this wound up, I’m still going to die of poisoning or you forget about that all of sudden? Nah, I dinnae think so. Anyway, even if I survive the poison, I’m still gonna be on tubes for the rest of my days. I don’t quite want that, Georgia.” He reached out and took her gun, raising it up. “So, what do you think? Fancy putting an old wretch out of his misery?”
“No. Nobody else is dying tonight. Nobody.”
Jack grinned but it thinly masked the pain. “We’re all going to be dead by the end of this. Please don’t make my death any more painful than it has to be.”
Georgia looked at him and decided he was right. She owed it him. She picked up her gun, held the barrel to his forehead and said, “Are you sure?”
His hands reached up, his fingers slipping over hers. He nodded. “Do it. Now.”
“Get a Bourbon in at the bar in Heaven.” Georgia smiled.
“Double on the rocks.” He smiled back. Then he pushed on her finger which pushed on the trigger. BANG.
Georgia clambered away from the dead body, accidentally stumbling onto one of Alicia’s fingers as if what remained of her was surrendering to the floor. Jumping away from that body, Georgia found Lexi’s, bleeding out over a fallen computer. She cursed and then wandered over to the nearest hotel room. She took a few sips of Bourbon and then wandered into her bedroom. Despite the blood covering her, she lay down on the fresh new sheets and closed her eyes.
The next thing she knew, she was waking up with no memory of the night before and her gun in her hand.

Now. The glare of another car’s headlights. Delon looked at Georgia. “Miss Callahan, are you okay?”
She smudged the tears from beneath her eyes and checked her watch. Twenty five minutes past midnight. She pulled her gun out and prepared it. “Lucas, get the hell out of here. It’s going to get bloody. I’ve got a date with the Lord.”

A car disguised like a taxi pulled to a stop behind the church. “Wait.” The man called Uncle said, looking at his watch. “Let’s watch for five minutes. See if anyone comes in or out.”
He slipped another magazine into his gun and pulled back the slide barrel. If Callahan was still alive, he’d shortly fix it.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Blackening Church (part 4)

Previously: Georgia Callahan has no memory of her team of British spies being murdered, and yet it is almost certain she was present. Given a chance to prove her innocence by her boss, the man called Uncle, Callahan travels to Strasbourg on the tail of Julian Gielgud, a prime suspect. As she relaxes in her Strasbourg hotel room, an assassin attempts to kill her. She manages to kill him first but not before learning the man who has put a price on her head is known as 'the Lord.' We rejoin the story as Callahan recovers from the fight...

Georgia stepped back into hotel room, took off her shirt and grabbed a towel from beneath the fallen bathroom door. She dried herself down, realising that smashing her head against that towel had caused a bleed and stepped over to the First Aid kit on the side of the bureau. She put a few plasters onto the cut, wiped away the blood running down the back of neck, and pulled her other shirt on. She picked up her gun from the floor, stepped out into the corridor and swung the gun left and right, sweeping across every doorway as she made her way to the reception. The girl was nowhere to be seen, but the door behind the bar was open, letting in a chilled breeze. She wandered over to it and poked her head out. There was a splash of blood against the large plastic bin at the back of the hotel. Pulling open the lid revealed the girl’s dead body lying on the rubbish, a bullet hole in her cheek.
Georgia slipped the gun away, took a bottle of whiskey from behind the bar and walked back to her hotel room, stepping inside and putting her bloody shirt on. She lay the gun and the whiskey on the bed and stepped into the bathroom, taking another complementary towel and using it to tie up the burst water pipe. The cold spray stopped and the room seemed to become calmer. She took her purple coat from where it was still miraculously hanging and carried it out, hanging it on the room’s door. Then she took a deep breath, before stepping back into the bathroom.
Clambering onto the dead body, she patted his pockets down. There was a flip phone in his back pocket, so she pocketed that and then continued to search him. A pair of car keys and a wallet were her only other finds. She stood up, tore down the shower curtain and covered the body with it. Then she stepped over to the sink and washed her hands of blood. Having dried her hand on the final towel in the bathroom, she dried the sink then emptied the assassin’s possessions into it. The car keys were for an Opel of some sort, she recognised the badge, and there was nothing in the wallet except for a dry cleaning ticket. She picked up the phone and opened the most recent text; her passport picture and a caption reading, “Georgia Callahan. British Operative. Alive if possible. Suicide if not.” She looked over to the body slowly turning the shower curtain red and smiled a grim smile.
“Done,” she said as she typed, her fingers too big for the tiny keys. She noticed she’d written, ‘Dobe,’ rather than, ‘Done,’ so she corrected her mistake and hit send. There were no other text messages; he must have deleted them after having finished the job. Slipping the mobile, the dry cleaning ticket and the car keys into her pocket, she went to fetch the bottle of whiskey. Her eyes happened to glance the clock which said it’d been five minutes since the assassin had turned up. The police hadn't turned up yet, so she still had time.
Georgia put the contents of her pocket into her bag and stripped off, bundling her clothes into the metal bin in the corner of the room. There was a complementary newspaper on the top of the bureau, so she tore a few pages of that out, screwed them up and threw them into the bin too. Then she sloshed it with whiskey, carried the bin into the bathroom and placed it onto the bathtub’s floor, between the assassin’s legs. She lit herself a cigarette, hung it on her lip and then filled up the sink with hot water, washing the dried blood from beneath her finger nails and in her joints. The back of her head screamed with agony as she took off her plasters, which had turned crimson with spilt blood, but she ignored it, throwing the plasters into the bin and taking some cotton wool from the First Aid kit. Her teeth clenched , her face grimacing, as she pressed the cotton wool, after dousing it in whiskey, to the back of her head. “Crap.” She whispered, staring at herself in the mirror. She was getting too old for this.
Once she was sure the wound was sterilised, she took a scalpel and some surgical thread. Peering over her shoulder into the mirror wasn’t exactly NHS standard medical care but she managed it, no matter how much pain it caused her. She once more washed her hands of blood, using the water to pull crumbs of dried crimson out of her hair. Taking one final drag on her cigarette, she threw it onto the alcohol doused bin. It began to burn.
She walked out of the bathroom, taking the bottle with her, and poured herself a glass of whiskey. She drunk it all in one sip and so she poured herself another, which again she consumed as quickly. Once her nerves were settled, she pulled on her other pair of trousers and her other shirt and stepped over to the door where her jacket was drying. It was still quite damp, so she left it where it was and pulled on her black suit jacket. It was the same one she’d worn whilst shooting Anton Petrov. And probably whilst my team died. The milky darkness that existed where her memories of that evening should have been made her shiver. It was as if some God had taken control of her brain, messing with it as they wanted. She wondered if they’d changed anything else.
She slipped her gun into her inside pocket, put the phone, keys and dry cleaning ticket into another pocket and then hurried out of her hotel room, down the stairs and through the bar. She walked past the bin holding the dead body of the receptionist and over to the Opel parked next to it. It answered to the click of the keys and so she walked round to the boot. It was an Opel Ascona, known to the British as the Vauxhall Cavalier, and that meant that the empty boot wasn’t what it seemed. She pulled up the floor, revealing the assassin’s hidden cache. There were two handguns, surplus ammunition, cable ties, masking tape and a laptop. She took the laptop round to the driver’s seat, climbing in and turning it on. Whilst it whirred and loaded, she slipped open the glovebox and looked inside. There was a bulb repair kit, a driver’s manual and a logbook. That was about it. The driver’s side map pocket held a half empty packet of Mento’s and a half dozen toll road tickets. She checked them over. They seemed to paint an image of a drive from Calais to Compiegne last week and then, the night after, a drive from Compiegne to Strasbourg. The same route as Julian Gielgud had taken.
The computer loaded to the login page. She tried the obvious passwords, ‘computer’, ‘1234567’, and ‘password’ but none of them worked. Sighing, she closed the computer and climbed out of the car. She needed a friendly computer expert. Good job she knew one.

Lucas Delon was still sat in the Internet cafe when she reached it. He was watching something unsavoury on his computer but he closed that tab as soon as he realised he had company. “Miss Callahan,” he smiled, “nice to see you again. Need a higher score on Pacman?”
Georgia smiled at him patronisingly before passing him the laptop and the phone. “I need all the deleted texts returned to the phone and I need the computer unlocked.”
“You steal these?”
“I inherited them.” She replied, wandering over to the kitchen. “Do you think the lady would mind if I had a cup of coffee?”
“Don’t expect so. The cow will be glad someone actually drinks that crap.” Delon replied. He plugged the laptop into his desktop computer and, whilst he waited for Windows XP to notice the connection, he turned to the phone. He clicked about four buttons and then handed it back to her.
Georgia took a seat opposite him, a cup of coffee on the table in front of her and a cigarette already in her hand. “Easy as that?” She asked.
“Easy as that.” He nodded. “This model has a backup system.”
She checked the texts. There were only three other texts. One was the address of the hotel she’d stayed at in Compiegne, another was a room number. The final text was the picture of Gielgud that the man called Uncle had shown her, probably from his Driver’s Licence or passport. It was accompanied by the caption, ‘Julian Gielgud. Bellhop. Make look guilty.” The replying text, sent by the assassin, was the word, ‘sunflower.’
She slipped the phone away and took a sip on her coffee. “How long will that take?”
“About three hours. Depends on how new this laptop is and how antiquated my software is in comparison.” Delon replied. “If you’ve got other things to do, I’ll come meet you when it’s ready.”
“That’d be appreciated.” She replied, checking her watch. “It’s nine now so say, midnight? There’s a church on the river-“
“There are a hell of a lot of churches in Strasbourg. You’ll have to be more specific.”
“I think it’s Saint Paul’s.”
He nodded. “Two spires?”
“I’ll meet you there at midnight with your computer freshly hacked. I’ll have to charge you.”
“How much?”
“Call it a hundred.”
She gave him fifty. “You can have the rest at St Paul’s. I’ll see you then.”
“Where are you off to?”
“The morgue.” She said. “I’ve got a date with a corpse.”

The guard sat in the morgue’s lobby was at first reluctant to let her in but a fifty euro note changed his mind and she was able to prowl amongst the bodies in no time. Julian Gielgud’s corpse was being kept in the section of the freezers for unidentified corpses. There was a file in a pocket on his door which stated he’d been fished out of the river and that his Post Mortem was pencilled in for the next day. Preliminaries reported that the cause of death was drowning. Despite this, she had her suspicions. She pulled open the door and wheeled out the body. Delon was right; the head had been shaved. It was still recognisably Gielgud. He had the horrible smell about him that corpses generally do. That was partially why she’d lit the fire in the bathtub; so the smell of smoke would outdo the scent of corpse.
Bending over towards the body, Georgia pulled his mouth open and took a deep inhale. The smell was obvious; Gielgud had been poisoned with something that smelled like bitter almonds. Cyanide. She was willing to bet that the poison on the assassin’s trolley had been cyanide too.
She pushed the body back into the freezer, locked the door, returned the file and began the walk back to the assassin’s car. The assassin had been ordered to kill her team and then frame Julian Gielgud before throwing him in the river to fake his suicide. Then there had been the order to finish his original job and kill her. The orders had been coming from ‘the Lord’, whoever the hell that was. She decided that the answers to all her questions would lie with that man and that meant finding him. Her next move was a hunch but successes had come from less.
She gave the guard another twenty to wipe the security footage and then hopped into the assassin’s car. It wasn’t quite her Jaguar Roadster but she could hardly be driving that, considering she was meant to be dead. She pulled out the assassin’s wallet and checked the dry cleaning ticket. The address was printed at the top. She accelerated away, quickly.

The Dry Cleaners was open, which was strange considering the time of night. She parked the car a block away and walked the rest of the way, smoking to calm her nerves. She squashed the cigarette beneath the heel of her shoe and then pushed open the dry cleaners’ door. There was a chime as it swung open and so she walked in, over to the counter. A woman with short black hair stared back at her. In French, she asked if she could help.
Georgia replied in English. “I want to collect some washing.”
“Do you have a ticket?”
Georgia handed over the ticket from the wallet. The woman looked it up and down, glanced nervously over her shoulder and said, “I’ll just go get your item.”
She wandered into the backroom, disappearing for a second. Georgia heard her picking up a phone, typing a number and then hitting ring. Whoever she was calling picked up straight away. They conversed in rapid French for a second and then the woman put the phone down. That was when Georgia heard the cocking of a revolver. “Bloody hell.” She whispered and whipped out her own gun, shooting the woman’s shoulder.
As the owner of the Dry Cleaners fell to the floor, Georgia hurried around the counter and into the backroom. There were three computers, a fax machine, a printer and a dozen telephones. One wall was covered in clocks for different timezones. Georgia put the gun in the woman’s face and said, “Tell me everything. Right now.”
“They will kill me if I do!” She cried. Her accent seemed to intensify with her discomfort.
“Who will? Who will kill you?”
“My employers.” The woman said.
“Who are your employers?” When the woman didn’t reply, Georgia slapped her with the gun and demanded an answer. “Who are your damn employers?”
Still, there was no response. The woman seemed too transfixed with terror to be able to reply. Georgia sighed and stood, sliding her gun away. Kicking the woman’s revolver out of reach, she stepped over to the nearest computer and turned it on. No password this time, but there was an open dialogue box. The most recent message that been sent was signed L- for Lord?- and read in French, ‘Supply asset with necessary capture gear. Target is to be held until she divulges information.’
Frowning, Georgia took the gun from her pocket and looked down at the woman on the floor, applying pressure to her shoulder wound. “You have one last chance to tell me who your employers are.”
“I don’t know!” She screamed. 
“Shame.” Georgia said and shot her. She stepped back towards the computer and typed, ‘Complications. Meet at St Paul’s church. Half midnight. Come alone.’ 
Then she flipped the Ouvert sign to Fermé and walked back to her car. She had two hours until she was due to meet Delon but it would do to get there first, to have a chance to prepare. She didn’t want anything left to chance. This time, she was going to walk in and out in complete control.

London. Military Intelligence building. A soft knock on the door. “Come in!” Hailed a voice damaged from too many years of smoking.
The door swung open. Becky, a new technician, stuck her head in. “Uncle, we have a bit of a situation.”
The man called Uncle frowned as he looked up form the piece of paper he was reading. “What the hell is it?”
“Callahan, sir. We’re not quite sure what’s happened with her.”
“You said that the asset texted to say the job was done.”
“Well, yes, sir.” The technician said. She’d said they should tell the man called Uncle the truth but the duty officer had insisted they just told him Callahan was dead. “You see, the asset texted back ‘Done’ which implies the job is done but breaks with protocol. Normally assets text ‘sunflower’ when a job is completed.”
“Is that so, hm?” The man called Uncle pondered. “The fool is probably just a bit giddy. Probably enjoys killing women, French wretch.”
“The asset was British, sir. And that isn’t it. About five minutes ago we had a call from a French handler reporting that Callahan had wandered into the Dry Cleaners safe house in Strasbourg. She was apparently carrying the ticket given to the asset.”
“And we ordered the handler to kill Callahan but since then, we’ve had radio silence. Except for one text transmission.”
“Reading, ‘Complications. Meet at St Paul’s church. Half midnight. Come alone.’ In English.”
The man called Uncle glanced at his wall, heavily sighing. “Want a job done, do it your bloody self. Ready the plane. I’ll fly over immediately. And get me a gun.”

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Blackening Church (part 3)

Previously: After a routine operation to take out a Russian mole, Georgia Callahan's team of British spies were assassinated in front of her. Despite this, she has no memory of the occurrence. After the funeral, she drunkenly beats up a group of lads and is arrested for her troubles. Whilst in prison, she is visited by the man called Uncle, the head of her branch of Military Intelligence. He gives her a chance for redemption by sending her after Julian Gielgud, a suspect in the murder investigation who fled to Strasbourg shortly after the murder took place. We pick up the story as Callahan arrives in France...

The Jaguar let out a healthy purr as Georgia pulled to a stop in the outskirts of Strasbourg. In the far distance, the city’s cathedral loomed up from the square it was situated in like a cliff of pure shadow. The buildings clustered around it were confused, some in the dress code of medieval Italy, others looking like they’d come straight from Bavaria. The part of the city that Georgia was in, overhanging the river in the glare of light reflected from the European Parliament, seemed to favour the architectural style of early twentieth century America. She didn’t have any complaints; having grown up in a terraced house in Accrington, she found it all rather beautiful.
The hotel was marked by a large neon sign declaring its business. A small sign on the door mentioned it had only received three stars. She’d stayed in better but she’d also stayed in worse. Life was one hotel after another when you were a spy.
Inside was a brief reception. The woman behind the counter spoke good English, handing over Georgia’s room key and explaining the bar was just through the doors at the back. Georgia thanked her and went up the stairs to her room, unlocking the door and placing her bag on the table. She locked the door, slid the chain into the place and then began to unpack.
Hotel rooms don’t have cameras. This isn’t a particularly surprising truth but it was an important one. It meant that you could do whatever the hell you wanted and nobody would know. Georgia opened her bag and took her gun out, studying it to make sure there was no damage. She gave it a wipe down with her cloth and then stored it in one of the bureau’s drawers. She then quickly hung a dress in the wardrobe next to a clean shirt and an extra pair of trousers before stashing the suitcase on top of the wardrobe and checking herself in a mirror. She picked up her jacket, a purple great coat that wasn’t overtly practical but would keep her warm against the cold outside, and pulled it on. The splash of rain grew louder as she buttoned it so she grabbed her umbrella and carried it quickly downstairs.
“Out already, Miss Callahan?” The girl behind the reception asked.
Georgia nodded, smiling at her and continuing out into the streets of Strasbourg. The umbrella was black, quickly extending and protecting her from the worst of the downpour. Around her neck hung a velvet scarf  and she reached up a hand to straighten it as she walked. There was a tough wind that played with her umbrella and her blonde curls. She was beginning to regret not driving.
The police station loomed up soon enough and she walked in, shaking off her brolly and sliding it into a box by the door. The desk sergeant looked up immediately and frowned. She looked as if she should be attending a mobster’s funeral, not gracing the lobby of a police station. He said something in French to her.
She replied in English. “The name’s Callahan. I’m looking for a missing person.”
“Name?” He asked, switching languages effortlessly.
“Julian Gielgud.” She said. “Mid twenties. Carrot top.”
The desk sergeant frowned.
“He’s ginger. He should have washed up just under a week ago. Hails from Compiegne.”
“We haven’t had any requests for anyone of that name. I can add him to the register, if you’d like.”
“I’d appreciate that dearly.” She replied. “If I give you my phone number, would you mind calling me should you hear anything?”
“Yes of course. Why are you looking for him?” The sergeant's eyes drifted up from his keyboard.
“He killed some of my friends.” She smiled and strutted out of the station. Her umbrella opening back up again, she set off in the direction of the underground. 

Georgia found a bridge crossing the river towards a C&A. There was a drunk on the bridge failing to direct the traffic but he wasn’t as interesting as the people beneath it. She plundered down some rain drenched steps and joined the group of hooded youths smoking weed in the rain protected shadows beneath the arch. One of them whistled when he saw her. She smiled at him and broke his nose with her umbrella.
“Any of the rest of you try something funny, you’ll receive much worse.” She said. “I’m looking for someone off grid. Who should I talk to?”
The hooded youths continued to stare at her.
She sighed. Maybe breaking the lad’s nose had been a little too strong. She pulled a cigarette from her pocket, let one of them light it for her, and took a deep drag. “Ginger guy. Mid twenties. You seen him?”
When they didn’t answer this time, she repeated it in French. This seem to snap the teenagers out of their trance. “You should try Lucas Delon.” One of them said. “He knows everyone.”
They told her where she could find Delon. She thanked them, finished her cigarette, and then flicked it into the canal before flicking her umbrella back up and marching on.

Lucas Delon could be found in a shady internet cafe so far into the back streets, it was almost out of Strasbourg. The Spice Girls played on a radio from the early two thousands and computers running Windows XP brought up the temperature of the room by about ten degrees. A Chinese woman behind the counter offered her a cup of coffee but Georgia ignored her, instead stepping over towards the only other occupant of the claustrophobic space.
Lucas Delon sat in front of one of the computers, staring at an email opening page. He was wearing a grey hoodie which Georgia pulled down with the tip of her umbrella. He turned around, pulling white earphones out. “What the hell do you want?”
She frowned. He was the first person that day to have greeted her in English.
“What?” Despite his English words, the French accent was strong. “You might as well be wearing a Union Jack in those clothes. You scream British.”
“It’s only called the Union Jack if it’s on a boat.” She replied.
“I know that, you know that. The general public doesn’t. I don’t wish to alienate them just because they’re stupid.”
“You don’t want to alienate people, you say, sat in an empty internet cafe with more grime on the windows than the average abandoned building.”
“That’s only because of the average abandoned building’s windows are smashed out. What do you want? I’m busy here.”
“You look like you’re buried head deep in work, aye.” Georgia said. “I’m looking for someone. Ginger. Mid twenties. Goes by the name of Julian Gielgud. Went off grid here about a week or so ago. Heard of him?”
“Got a picture?” Delon asked.
She reached into her pocket and gave him the hasty print out the man called Uncle had given her. Evidently this guy was a professional; he was the first person to have asked for a picture too. He studied the image for a second and then handed it back to her. “Yeah. I’ve seen him.”
“Morgue. Police fished him out of the river two days back.”
“They didn’t mention that when I spoke to them.”
“That’s because he had his head shaved. Your average uniformed grunt can’t look at a bald guy and a hairy guy and realise they’re the same person, but I can. I promise you, Gielgud is dead.”
“Which morgue?”
He wrote her the address on a sticky note. “That’ll be twenty euros.”
She flipped him a note. “Don’t spend it all on sweets like you youngsters are prone.”
“Funny.” He said in a voice that illustrated it wasn’t. “I didn’t catch your name?”
“Callahan.” She said. “Georgia Callahan.”
“Well, Miss Callahan, anything else I can do for you? I don’t just sit at a computer, you know. I can use one.”
“When I want a higher score on Pacman, I’ll come find you.” She said, and walked out.
The downpour had died down to a light drizzle, but such a drizzle was just as apt to soak her clothes and so she kept her umbrella up. Her flat shoes delivered her through the streets as she thought. There were a few workable possibilities. One was that Gielgud had thrown himself into the river shortly after arriving out of guilt. It was possible he’d shaved his head to avoid detection then realised he didn’t want to. She didn’t know how much she believed it but it was possible. Another option was that whoever had sanctioned the murder had killed Gielgud on arrival to tie off loose ends. The final possibility was that someone was framing Gielgud and that this murder was to stop him from being able to convince her he was innocent. Whichever way it was, she’d be able to tell better once she’d seen the body.
There was a school of thought that said you could buy your way anywhere you wanted to go but Georgia didn’t subscribe to it. Her school of thought was that, seeing as she was the good guy, she might as well try to act like it, and if that meant booking a ticket to the morgue for the morning so be it. She could enjoy the the wonderful weather whilst she passed the time.
She got back to the hotel and shook off her umbrella, stepping inside and peeling off her drowned jacket. The rain had begun to move diagonally towards the end of the trip so her umbrella had been unable to protect her complete. The same young woman was still on reception duty. She had dark brown hair and a lovely French twang to her English words. 
“Miss Callahan,” she said, “are you quite alright? You look drowned.”
“Nothing a towel and a stiff Bourbon won’t fix, I assure you.” Georgia smiled. “What time does the bar open?”
“When my shift ends in five minutes.” The young woman smiled.
“And I don’t suppose there are any other visitors to the hotel who you suspect will come down for a drink?”
“I don’t imagine so, Miss Callahan. You’re our only guest at this current moment.”
Georgia frowned for a second and then let a smile cross her lips. Alicia would understand, up there. She’d probably have done the same. “Would you like to have a drink with me, then? I find drinking on my own wonderfully miserable.”
“I, well,” the receptionist looked genuinely surprised. “I would love to but my other job begins in five minutes.”
“The pay here not very good?”
“Not really. My other job is to man the bar.” She said with a smile.
Georgia let out a laugh. “Well then, I’ll get changed and see you in five minutes.”
The receptionist smiling, Georgia set off up the stairs towards her room. She walked in, chained the door, stepped into the small bathroom and hung her jacket over the bath. She was giving her hair a rub with the towel when there was a knock on the door.
“She’s eager.” Georgia frowned, wandering over to the door. She flicked the chain off and pulled the door open. A man in a Bell Hop uniform smiled at her. His red velvet uniform looked recently dry cleaned and his pillbox was straightened on his head. He had a trolley in front of him, hidden beneath a white linen cloth. It held a bottle of champagne and two glasses. 
“I didn’t order anything.” Georgia told him.
“On the house, madame.” The man in the Bell Hop uniform said. He looked far too muscular and tall for such a costume. His accent was British.
“Hm.” Georgia said. Then she caught a glimpse of the champagne brand. Frowning, she looked up at the man and saw he had realised what she had seen. He looked worried. She shoved the trolley into him, forcing him against the opposite wall, and then slammed the door shut. Before she could slid the chain into place, however, he had kicked it open and sent her stumbling back.
She scampered across the room as he reached to his side, drawing the gun concealed there. She reached out and took an empty coat hanger from the wardrobe, hitting him with the wooden side and then trying to dig the hook into his eye. He forgot about his gun for a second and tried to swat it away but she ducked under his swings and jumped behind him, hitting him from behind. The small hotel room was much better suited to a woman of her stature than a man of his and she intended to make use of the advantage. As he turned, she caught his ear with the hook of the coat hanger and pulled it forwards. His tragus tore clean off, blood running down the side of his face. She dropped the hanger and threw out three quick punches, her thumb on the underside of her index and middle fingers, her nails digging deep into his face. She felt one of his teeth moving but it was as she considered this that she lost her advantage. He hit her hard and, as she stumbled to the floor, he jumped on her and began to strangle her.
Amateur. He wasn’t even trying to restrain her arms! She picked them up and began to hit his ears, applying lots of force to the one that was bleeding. It took three punches, by which point her smoker’s lungs were burning, but eventually he let go of her neck. It was at this point she swung up her knee and hit him straight in the groin. He rolled backwards and she jumped up, kicking him in the face and running towards the bureau at the front of the room. She reached for the drawer containing her gun when she heard the clicked of a gun being loaded.
“Stop where you are.” The man said.
She paused. “Who sent you?”
“I've been ordered to make it look like you killed yourself.”
“Well, I can tell you something, mate. I won’t have shot myself through the back.”
“I have poison on my trolley. You'll drink it.”
“Or what?”
“Or I will blow your brains out from under your chin and make it look like you shot yourself.”
“That sounds pretty effective.” Georgia nodded. “Go fetch your poison then.”
“No funny moves. My trigger finger gets nervous.”
She shrugged her shoulders in a way that said, “Funny moves? Me? As if.”
As she backed across the room, she gave the drawer the smallest tug. It seemed quite loose. If she pulled it with enough force, she could probably manage it. She’d have to be quick though, otherwise her would be assassin wouldn’t give her the chance to complete her spin. She’d have to very quick.
“No funny mov-“ The man began. Georgia didn’t give him a chance to finish his repetition. She pulled back with all her strength, tearing the drawer from the bureau and swinging around. The wood connected with his gun, knocking it out of his hand and clattering towards the floor. She grabbed her own gun from the swinging drawer, kept in place by centrifugal force, and fired a shot straight into his shoulder. The Walther, with its black silencer protruding from the front like a Victorian factory’s chimney, let out a soft thud and a spray of red jumped from the man’s shoulder. She stuck the gun into her waistband whilst he tried to recover and ran forwards, swinging one leg up and kicking him with such force, he broke down the bathroom door. It fell against the bath and he rolled off it, leaving a bloody smear after him. She ran towards him, clambering over him, reaching towards her gun when he grabbed her legs and knocked her down. He tried to leap onto her, to start strangling her again, but she didn’t give him the chance. She kicked him straight in the face, dislodging another tooth, and rolled backwards across the floor. They leapt up together, facing each other. The only difference was that, as Georgia Callahan stared at her would be assassin, she had her gun pointed at him too.
He ran forwards. She fired but he was at too close a range, knocking the gun. The bullet flew over his shoulder and hit the pipes connecting to the shower head. Water began to spray everywhere; even over her drying purple jacket. She was a little preoccupied, however, to notice.
The man slammed her into the white tiled wall, bashing her against it so hard a tile cracked. She managed to duck a punch, so his fist smashed another tile whilst she hit him once more in the groin and then in the wound in his shoulder. He screamed and she used this chance to knock him back, dodging another punch before slamming his head in the sink until his nose broke. She brought her knee up to his stomach, smashing her hands onto his back in an attempt to weaken his spine. He tried to knock her away but she wouldn’t let him, bringing punch after punch to his back. When he finally began to weaken, she threw him back into the bath tub and grabbed her gun from the slippery floor. 
The water spraying both of them, she leapt into the bath tub and dropped the gun on his stomach. She used her legs to hold down his arms- because she wasn’t an amateur- and then grabbed hold of his head, smashing it over and over again into the space between the taps. He began to slip in and out of consciousness, blood oozing from the back of his head. She then grabbed her gun from his chest, water spraying over them both, pulled back the slide barrel and stick it against his forehead.
“Who sent you?” She demanded.
He shook his head. “I can’t say.”
She held the silencer against his ear and shot the tap. More water sprayed as he screamed. Her face didn't waver. “Answer my bloody question!”
“I can’t!”
She shot him in the other shoulder. “Tell me now!”
“The Lord!” He screamed. “That’s all I know! I was sent by the Lord!”
“Thank you.” Georgia said and then shot him through the head.

She climbed off the body, her shirt bloody and wet, clinging to her sweaty skin. She took a few deep breaths, trying to calm herself. Her hands were shaking. She dropped her gun onto the floor of the hotel room and wandered out into the corridor. The trolley was on the floor. She knelt down and picked up the fallen bottle, reading the name of the brand. She’d read it correctly. Champagne Compiegne. The address beneath was the hotel she’d stayed at just a week ago.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Blackening Church (part 2)

Previously: Anton Petrov, a Russian mole in the British Secret Service, was dealt with by Georgia Callahan, an honest British agent working with her fellow agents Jack, Alicia and Lexi. After finishing the job with a single shot, Callahan returned to their hotel to celebrate. We rejoin the story a week later…

London still got foggy. Not as much as it did when dear stalker attired detectives strode its streets but enough for it to be significant. There was a church in the fog, hidden behind black railings, and despite the efforts of its lone bell ringer, the funeral toll couldn’t be heard.
Her head bowed, her hands behind her back, Georgia Callahan followed the three coffins. A light drizzle rolled in, clear splashes of water cutting through the grey clouds, and bouncing against her blonde curls. There were only six of them at the funeral, counting the vicar, the gravedigger and the bell ringer.
That was the thing about spies’ funerals. They weren’t generally very busy. 
Georgia helped the gravedigger and the bell ringer unload the coffins from the carts, carrying them down to the centre of the church. It wasn’t a big place, St. Brigid’s Church, but it was a fitting burial place. She knew because she’d been there before.
Make that seven of them. The Undertaker, a short woman who had a name Georgia didn’t care about, accompanied the coffins and laid a Union Flag over each of them. Then she reached into her box and began to position the pictures.
Georgia took a seat on the front pew. There were two columns of twenty rows. She sat on the left column. The other two people that the church didn’t employ were sat on the first row of the right column. She didn’t look at them. Her eyes were fixed on the pictures atop the coffins. They stared at her with their monochrome happiness, their eyes so young, so unknowing. Jack. Lexi. Alicia. An extra tear ran down her face for the last of those names. She looked once more at the photographs, for as long as she could manage. Her team for so many years and now they were all dead.
The vicar stepped behind his podium. She held eye contact with the photographs for as long as she could and then stood, padding towards the doors at the rear. The vicar watched her leaving. The two gentlemen on the right column didn’t. They could hear the squelch of her shoes against the grey stone of the floor. They didn’t need to turn.

The bell rung again, its monotonous toll loud in Georgia’s ears. The old wooden doors creaked open and one of the two men from the front row walked to join her. He was much shorter than her, so she had a full view of his bald head. Or, at least, she would have if she’d turn to him. Instead, she continued to stare out at the open graves where her friends would be laid to rest, the rain beginning to turn the grass coloured fabric on either side an altogether darker shade of green.
“It doesn’t get easier.” The little man said. 
“You don’t have to tell me.” Georgia replied, taking a deep drag on her cigarette.
“I’m here if you want to talk.” When she didn’t reply for a few seconds, he added, “It must haunt you each time you close your eyes.”
Georgia turned to him. “It would if I could remember it.”
The cigarette tumbled to the ground, the embers disappearing in a splash of dirty water. She began to wander away, down the path that led to the fog obscured reaches of the Great Beyond.
“I’m just trying to help.” The little man shouted. “I’m not the enemy.”
Georgia didn’t turn back, continuing to walk. As she reached the black chipped railings, she shouted, “Neither am I.”
Whether the little man heard her, she didn’t know. The fog, like some ancient phantom traversing the halls of a long forgotten manor, had swept across the path and now he was gone.

The wooden door creaked again. The other man joined the little man. This newcomer was taller but also wider, fattened by years of golf club dinners and expensive wines. He readjusted the buttons of his bulging waistcoat. “What do you think?” He asked. His voice was gravelly. Old, but not in the sense that it had been around for a long time. Old in the sense that it had experienced a lot.
“She doesn’t believe she did it.” The little man said. “But then, I don’t suppose she would.”
“Shall we pull her in for an evaluation?”
“No. We can carry it out without her. Let her drown her own sorrows. She’s no use to us like this.” 
“Where do you expect her to go?”
“Her file gives me the best estimation, Uncle.” The little man said. “I’d assume from her regularity that she has a lot of sorrows to drown.”

A red glow oozed through the fog like blood through a carpet. Georgia Callahan strolled up the street, the collar of her black trench coat pulled up around her ears, her eyes fixed on the cobbled floor, her cigarette giving off its own little cloud. There was a bleak nip in the air, a morgue-like chill which bobbled her flesh and reddened her nose. The intense warmth of her cigarette, like her neck itself was on fire, was almost therapeutic. 
She stepped through the fog towards the red light, like the back of a dragon’s throat, deep inside a cave of shadows. The red neon sign hurt her eyes to look at so she didn’t bother reading it, instead taking hold of the metal handle beneath it and pulling open the door. It was warm and loud on the other side, a contrast to the quiet gelidity of outside. Dropping her cigarette, Georgia stepped in. The door slammed shut behind her. The metallic clang was like a butcher’s knife reaching the worktop on the other side of a chick's neck. 
A few steps led her down into a densely populated hall. There were strobe lights on the roof and seemingly a thousand bodies on the dance floor. The beat of the music, some Yorkshire rock from the early two thousands, radiated through the floor, through the bodies and then through her. She felt her heart pumping slightly faster. 
Georgia wrestled her way through the crowd, the lights flashing on and off as the clientele threw themselves up and down. The floor seemed to shake every time they hit the ground. Some punk splashed his beer on her. Georgia threw out her elbow into his groin. He doubled over in agony. She kept walking.
Eventually, she reached the bar. It was abandoned; the dance floor obscured the parade of steps that led down to the bar so not many of the spaced out kids had found their way down there yet. Georgia strolled over to the bar and took one of the stools.
“Well, I say,” the bar tender said from across the room. He was sat in the corner, his feet up on the table, a newspaper hiding his face. He folded the paper up, swung his legs off the table and strolled towards her. “Georgia Callahan. What’re you doing in Soho? Last I heard you were across the pond.”
Georgia turned to him. “Double bourbon. On the rocks.”
The bar tender frowned. “Something wrong, sweet? You don’t seem your normal perky self.”
“I’ve never seemed my normal perky self, cause I don’t have a normal perky self. If you must know, I’ve just been to a funeral.”
“Who’s funeral? Anyone I know?”
She shrugged and waited for her Double Bourbon.
He shovelled ice into a glass and then doused it in Bourbon, pushing it over the counter towards her. She picked it up and drained it in one. “Another.”
“Hey, you may want to take it a little slower. That’s some strong drink.”
“Another, Jimmy.”
He obliged her. “Your friends not coming with you then?”
She took a smaller sip. 
“Just, well, I don’t like bringing it up but Jack owes me some money.”
“You should have come to the funeral.”
“Why? Was it someone from work? Was he there?”
“He was in the box.” Georgia said. “And Alicia and Lexi each had their own.”
Jimmy frowned. A woman wandered down from the dance floor, stumbling on the last step and swaying over towards the bar. She opened her bag and began to do her lippy. The bar tender leaned closer towards Georgia. “You’re telling me all three of them are dead?”
“I identified the bodies.” Georgia said. There was something about her eyes that terrified Jimmy. Like she wasn’t even present, just a human body speaking its tale of woes, fuelled by alcohol and grief. “Alicia should have been the hardest to identify because of the damage to her face, but I could recognise her body so it was easy enough. Whoever shot Jack was kind to him; he’d been shot in the gut at first and then put out of his misery by another shot to his forehead. Lexi was pretty quick; a straight shot to her heart is a good way to go.”
“How were they killed?”
“You see, that’s confidential.” Georgia laughed, the type of laugh that accompanies deep cynicism and depression. “Make me another drink and I’ll tell you everything.”
Jimmy took up the whiskey bottle from under the bar and poured away. She smiled and took another long sip. Then she gestured for him to lean closer. About six lads had just walked into the bar and she didn’t want them hearing. Jimmy was different. He was paid to gossip, making him the most trusted person she knew. Gossipers almost never told the truth; why tell the truth when you could enhance it? It was the same as putting a message through an encoding device; it came out completely different to the one that went in.
“You want to know all about how they died? How the tragical story of my friends’ deaths went down?”
“If it’s not too much trouble, honey.” Jimmy said, leaning in further.
Georgia looked over each of her shoulders. No one to the left but seven people to her right. The six lads were messing with a pool table in the corner and the girl with the lipstick was still sat on a stool, squinting into the reflective material that backed the shelves behind the bar. She turned back to Jimmy. “The big secret is, I have absolutely no idea.”
“You what?”
“I haven’t the foggiest how they died.” She grinned. “Isn’t it hilarious? I, the big shot intelligence officer, don’t even know how her three best friends were slaughtered in her hotel room!”
“They died in your hotel room?” Jimmy frowned.
“That’s right. I was on the way back to my hotel to have a celebratory drink, we’d just caught this mole you see, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up on my bed covered in their blood, my gun in my hand, completely unharmed with the three of them around me, dead.”
“I’m not being funny, Georgia honey, but is there, you know, any chance you killed them?”
After several moments of silence, Georgia said, “My boss thought that too.”
“And? Was he right?”
“I wouldn’t kill my friends.”
The lads at the pool table began to slap one of their number on the back, urging him over to the bar.
“And you can’t remember anything at all?” Jimmy frowned. “Do you reckon it was trauma induced amnesia?”
“You’ve watched the Bourne Identity too much.” Georgia said.
The single lad shrugged the others off him. He straightened his shirt and began to plod towards the bar.
Georgia caught Jimmy’s expectant eyes. She rolled her own. “I can’t remember anything at all.” She sighed. “Nothing in the slightest. All I know is that my friends are dead and by now they’re buried and by tomorrow the worms’ll be chewing into their coffins. Born in the blink of the eye and gone in the flash of a gun.”
“That’s real heavy.” Jimmy said.
Georgia pulled out a cigarette and lit it. “Life generally is.”
The lad began to chat to the woman.
Jimmy shook his head. “I remember one of my mates died. Ol’ Al. You remember him?”
“When was this?”
“About ninety four.”
“I was in the Middle East in ninety four.”
“Well, you wouldn’t know him then. Lovely chap. Just keeled over one day in the early morning. I came in a few days later, cause we were closed for the weekend cause of those riots, found him just there by the Jukebox, dead.” Jimmy went on but Georgia zoned out. Her ears were drawn towards the lad and the young woman to her side. The lad had offered the woman a drink but when she’d refused, he’d continued to nag her. The woman politely told him to go away a few times and yet he didn’t take the hint. 
“C’mon love.” The lad said. “One drink. What harm could it do?”
"And there I was, walking in with Pedro, the whole dive stinking to high heaven of Ol' Al." Jimmy said.
“Mate, what part of no do you not get?” The girl asked.
“If you really didn’t want a drink, you wouldn’t be staying at the bar, love. That’s your subconscious at work.”
“Excuse me Jimmy.” Georgia said, stubbing out her fag in the ashtray.
“Look, I’m telling you, I’m not interested.” The young woman began to regret not bringing her pepper spray.
“And I’m telling you that you most definitely are!” The lad grinned. Before he could utter a single beer stinking syllable, he felt a strong hand clamp on his shoulder.
“She’s telling you, pal, that she most definitely isn’t.” Georgia Callahan said. “Now, sod off punk,  or I will end you.”
The lad slowly turned around, staring down at the average height, middle aged blonde haired woman in front of him, frowning. The smell of alcohol was strong on his breath, hiding equally horrific halitosis. “You getting jealous, little lady?”
Georgia kneed him in the stomach, grabbed hold of his head and slammed it into the bar. His nose pulverised and he found himself unconscious before she flung him onto the beer sticky floor. The other five lads all turned and stared at her. Despite the horrible situation Georgia had just saved her from, the young lady still wished she’d brought her pepper spray.
“She just done in our gaffer!” One of the lads shouted.
Georgia rolled her eyes. “Jesus. Assault me with your fists, not your language.”
“Can we hit a woman?” Another one of the lads asked.
Georgia wandered over, picked up the cue ball from the Pool table and threw it with such force that it knocked its target straight out. “No, you can’t hit a woman. But a woman can hit you. Get the hell out of here before I reacquaint you with the floor.”
The four lads took the invitation and legged it. Georgia wandered back over to the bar, reached behind it and grabbed the bottle of whiskey, pouring herself another glass. She took a sip, lighted yet another cigarette and waited for the police turn up.

The response time was good so she was being processed within half an hour. They ran a breathalyser test and identified she was drunk then made her walk in a straight line and saw she wasn’t. They put her in a cell whilst they read her file and that was when the man from the church turned up. 
Georgia’s cell door creaked open and an officer walked her, unspeaking, down the corridor and towards the interrogating room. The officer’s hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail and her stab proof vest sat strangely on her shoulders. She looked uncomfortable and the glance of impending doom on her face didn’t help. She pushed open the door of the interrogation room and gestured for Georgia to enter. There was something about her body language that said, “There’s no way I’m following you.”
Georgia walked in and took a seat in front of the table. The man on the other side stared at her for a moment. The folder in front of him was perfectly lined up with the packet of cigars to its side. They were a custom blend.
He fixed her with an almighty stare and then said three words in a voice damaged by years of smoking. “I’m not impressed.”
“I’m not surprised, Uncle.” Georgia replied. “But I had a lot of anger to let off and those punks happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The man called Uncle fixed her with a stare for a moment. Then his wrinkled hands flipped open the file in front of him. “You have perfect timing, Miss Callahan. We received the call of your arrest mere moments before the close of your Psyche Appraisal. The company psychologist is begging us to fire you. He closed his argument with a line about the safety of the free world being in doubt should we give you an assignment.”
Georgia didn’t say anything. The man called Uncle had paused because his cigar smoking lungs had run out of oxygen, not because he expected her to speak.
“This file paints as pretty a picture of you as a hack cartoonist. Thrown out of the Marines for drug abuse, rejected from joining the army under false identities twice; according to this you’ve attended half the Alcoholic Anonymous groups in West London.”
“So much for Anonymous.” Georgia said.
“This isn’t a joke, Miss Callahan.” The man called Uncle replied. “You are a physical wreck. The very fact that you can walk in a straight line after having consumed enough Bourbon to take down a small elephant is evidence enough. I was brought into this department of Military Intelligence to root out the weeds ruining our garden. Not to feed them on fertiliser.”
“I was of the impression you’d been brought into the company because you play golf with the Home Secretary.”
The man called Uncle flicked to the next page. The golden ring on the little finger of his right hand glinted in the lighting above. “Miss Callahan, you do not need me to explain to you that our fine world is in its biggest mess since the Cold War. There is a place for cynical alcoholics and that is at her Majesty’s Pleasure. You either do as I tell you or you are dismissed. Allow me to lay the situation out for you. I sent you and three agents to execute a Russian mole. Of the five involved agents, four were executed. Anton Petrov by your gun as ordered and, according to a report I’ve just received from Ballistics, our mutual friends Jack and Lexi by the same gun that killed Petrov. Alicia, on the other hand, was killed by a gun officially sanctioned by the Tech department, with your signature on the paper. Five agents. Four of them dead. One survivor, and she’s the one in possession of all the guns. Now, tell me that doesn’t seem odd to you.”
Georgia said nothing. The man called Uncle took another long drag on the cold oxygen.
“But, just in case any doubt remains, you were present on the scene of the murder... drunk. And it’s drunk that you’ve been arrested, after assaulting a group of ‘punks’. So, explain to me why I shouldn’t have you arrested for three unsanctioned hits and a spate of ruthless assault”
“Uncle,” Georgia began, “I can’t prove anything to you but I can tell you one thing. I don’t kill in cold blood. I murdered Petrov because he betrayed our country. Jack, Alicia, Lexi, they loved this country as much as I do. I am a capable agent- no, I’m a damn good agent! Whatever happened in that hotel room was not my fault. Give me a chance to investigate and I promise I will find the man who ordered this.”
The man called Uncle surveyed her for a second and then sighed. “This is your last chance. We investigated the members of staff working at your hotel on the night of the murder. All of them checked out but one. A Julian Gielgud. He quit the night after the murder, packed up his stuff and left. Kept driving until he reached Strasbourg. He’s been off the grid since. No bank transactions, no parking tickets, nothing. He might as well have stopped existing.”
“You think he’s gone underground?”
“Either that or Mother Russia has supplied him with a false identity in return for his service.”
“You think the Soviets ordered the hit?”
“It’s possible.” The man called Uncle admitted. He shrugged. “If they got word that we were targeting Petrov, they could have arranged the hit in revenge. It doesn’t matter what we suspect, merely what you’ll discover. And you bet hurry with it. If you don’t produce any results quickly, I can’t imagine this ending well for either of us. Patriotism is dead, Callahan. It can’t protect you from reality.”
“No, Uncle. I don’t suppose anything can.”
The man called Uncle opened the packet of cigars and took one out, hanging it on his lip and lighting it. He took a deep inhale then said, “Good luck, Mis Callahan. You will need it.”

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Blackening Church

Outskirts of Compiegne. A forest houses a leaf strewn path, winding back and forth until it leads to a modest, if not run down, country house. The panels were once white but long since has the paint flecked and the wood rotted, the shutters above every window hang loose from their wind rattled nails and the tiles on the roof wait for unsuspecting passersby to crush. Not that there would be many passersby. The property was owned by one Jean Thomas, a French catholic priest turned extremist who wanted to take the fight to other religious extremists in a battle of God’s righteous men. Normally this kind of hate crime would be dealt with by the French Police, Interpol at a push, the French Secret Service if they got bored maybe. Everyday life was far from normal, however, and so, due to Jean Thomas’ potential connections to a leading International Arms Dealer, the situation was being dealt with by the British Secret Service. I use the term lightly.
Anton Petrov smiled at the three blokes before him. They were all wearing the white tabards of Christian crusaders, two of the gentlemen carrying machine guns and the third carrying an axe. All three of them had a silver crucifix hanging around their neck and all three of them had the honest belief that they were working in the name of God. Petrov continued to smile at them, despite the fact that the one with the axe was no longer smiling at him. Eventually, the sides of his face began to hurt, and he said, “Why the long face?”
The one with the axe didn’t reply. Petrov decided that he was either not the chatty type or playing bad cop. He turned to the other two guards, the two carrying machine guns, and decided that they couldn’t be playing good cops. “Tell you what, lads,” Petrov said, “how about you light me a cigarette and the four of us can have a good smoke and a chat about the old days? Back when religions were about school holidays and singing, rather than mindless, bloody murder.”
The one with the axe dropped the back of the axehead into his hand, allowing the soft thud it made to reverberate around the basement. 
“Yes, I rather thought not.” Petrov replied. “Are you going to brutally murder me?”
They said nothing.
“It’s just I’ve got a list of sins I’d like to confess before the Promised Land and, to be frank lads, I think I’ll need to start now lest Father Thomas thinks I’m stalling when it comes to my pre-execution absolution on his return.”
They continued to say nothing.
Petrov sighed. “Look, do any of you three speak English or have I managed to get myself trapped in the basement with the only three Frenchmen who don’t?”
“I’m from Grimsby, so I speak English rather well.” Said one of the men with machine guns. 
“You’ll be Kenny, then.” Petrov smiled. “I’ve read a file on you. All of you in fact. The majority of people who get radicalised in schools aren’t attending Sunday School and I don’t think any of those who are happen to be the teacher. One of a kind, huh, our Kenny?”
“You could say that. My bullets aren’t one of a kind though, and I’ll prove that to you when I bury a magazine of them in your head.” He replied. “We don’t talk about pasts here. I’m Brother Frankie now.”
“If you bless me, can I be Brother Bertrand? I’ve always fancied being called Bertrand.”
“Bertrand is my name.” The one with the axe said.
“And what a lovely name it is.” Petrov smiled. “Look, chaps, are you sure I can’t go and confess? There’s got to be something in the Henchman Handbook about religious practises.”
Kenny- or should that be Frankie?- looked at the man between him and Bertrand. The man nodded. “We will take you to confession, Mister Petrov, but if you try anything funny, we will have you shot.”
“Sounds no different to the last church I visited.” Petrov smiled.
He allowed them to drag him upstairs; he would have offered to walk but why waste the effort when other people are so happy to waste it for you? There was a confession box set up in the dilapidated living room of the French country house, next to a box of explosives, and Bertrand did a wonderful job of sitting Petrov down. The other man, the one in the middle, stepped into the other side and said, “Mister Pretrov, begin your confession before my patience runs out.”
“Well, old chap, I just thought I’d confess firstly about the way I snooped around your house before you fellas caught me. Not sure which of the commandments that breaks but, you know, I thought I’d confess nonetheless. You might want to do some confessing yourself, now I come to think of it.”
“Oh really?” The man said. “Why is that?”
“Firstly, you’re an armed terrorist with over twenty confirmed kills on your plate, Monsieur Tulip. That is your name, is it not?”
Tulip didn’t answer, which was answer enough.
“Secondly, I found a bottle of Scotch in the kitchen at a height that Brother Frankie couldn’t reach and Brother Bertrand wouldn’t sink too. Further more, it was obviously opened by a south paw, that is to say, someone who is left handed. As it happens, you’re the only person who held his weapon the wrong way down in the basement thus it must be you who secretly likes a drink. Want to know something that isn’t a secret?”
Tulip said nothing.
“Thought so. I like a drink too. What say we go have a drink together, huh? Just as buddies, though. I know how you religious types feel.”
Tulip said nothing for a second and then, “Okay, Mister Petrov. Let’s drink.”

Twenty minutes later, the four of them were sat around a table in the country house’s equally dilapidated kitchen, a shot glass of Scotch in front of them all and a deck of cards at the ready. Tulip’s handgun waited on the table next to Bertrand’s axe, a permanent reminder to Petrov not to try anything funny. In all honesty, the spy was more interested in Frankie’s gun, ready to be picked up.
“Any of you chaps ever played Rummy before?” Petrov asked, the deck of cards rippling from one of his hands to the other. 
“It isn't a gambling game is it? We're not allowed to gamble.” Brother Frankie warned.
Tulip, noticing the way Frankie’s eyes glanced towards the door, said, “Father Thomas is funny about it.”
“Don't worry. It's not gambling. Just fun. Some might say it's the same thing,” he realised his company, adding, “some might not. Now, chaps, listen here. You each have seven cards, then you have to make sets or runs.”
Bertrand raised one, meaty hand. “I can't run. Not since I hurt my leg.”
“Maybe it'd be best if you sit this one out, right?” He dealt three hands rather than four, pushing them out to Tulip and Frankie, keeping one for himself. Then he placed down a set in his hand. “Now, pay attention, you try to make sets or runs like these. The winner is the person who does it first.”
“I don't know if I feel comfortable playing this.” Frankie said. “If Father Thomas gets back…"
“You're not scared of him, are you?” Petrov asked.
“I wouldn't say scared…"
Tulip realised what Petrov was attempting. He interrupted Frankie with, “We have a healthy respect for his wishes. Simple as that. Brother Frankie is right. Let's not play this game.”
“Oh come on, chaps. Don't let the big bad bishop scare you out of a bit of fun! Just one game. Just for a laugh, if nothing else.”
“No.” Tulip sounded definite. “We're not going to disrespect the boss in his own house.”
“Look at that. The Butcher of Barcelona. Frightened by a vicar.”
“These files of yours.” That has seemed to get his attention. “How detailed were they?”
Petrov laughed. “Oh, the stories I could tell you guys. About your work as an assassin, Monsieur Tulip! Quite exceptional, coming from one trained killer to another.”
“Those days are behind me. I am at peace with them.”
Petrov raised an eyebrow. “Are the souls of the forty eight men and women you butchered? And you, Bertrand, I've read your file. How your father used to beat you. Is that why you cling so desperately to Jean Thomas; because he's finally a father figure who might love you back?”
Bertrand frowned. “I not like little man. Little man bad.”
“And you Brother Kenny. Oh the stories I know about you.”
Frankie turned to Tulip. “Let’s put him back in his cage now, Tulip. Let Father Thomas deal with him when he gets home.”
“Hit a nerve there, Kenneth?” Petrov interrupted.
“My name is Frankie.” He said, softly. “Brother Frankie.”
“Sorry. I know you preferred Kenny.
“Shut up!”
Tulip and Bertrand frowned. They’d obviously never seen Frankie express any majorly strong emotions before.
“That's what you got the kids at the Sunday school to call you, right? Uncle Kenny.” Petrov continued.
Slowly, calmly, Frankie picked up his gun and pointed it at Anton. “Mister Petrov. I want you to stop talking. Now. Please.”
Petrov ignored him. “Those poor kids. Ten of them. I suppose, however, it had been your mission all along to bring them closer to God.
Frankie jammed the gun in his face, knocking the table with such force he spilt some Scotch. “I’m warning you!”
Tulip’s gun went from lying on the table to being pointed towards Frankie in the blink of an eye. “No, I'm warning you. Father Thomas wants him alive and he'll have all our asses if we don't deliver him that way. I will not be made to look like a fool.”
Petrov continued regardless. “The first three kids, you shot them, didn't you? Straight through the head. They were lucky. Weren't they, Kenneth?
Frankie stared at him, gun raised, silent.
“You then lost the gun and tried other methods, didn't you? Stabbings. Drowning. You even kicked one of them to death. I wonder, did you wear loafers like you are now or did you use steel capped shoes? I wonder, hm.”
Frankie screamed, jerking the gun towards Petrov. His sweet, Sunday School teacher from Grimsby voice was gone, instantly replaced by a gruffer, grimmer tone. “You shut up right now, or I'll stab this gun into your eyes and shoot your brains out!”
Bertrand stared at the proceedings, confused. Tulip’s gun didn’t waver. “This is your final warning.”
Frankie stared straight at Petrov, eyes unblinking. “I changed my name. I made my retributions. I confessed my sins to God. I am purged. I buried Kenneth years ago. Just as I'll bury you.” 
Tulip sounded calm, as if he’d lived this a thousand times. Monotonously, he said, “I'll kill you before you get that chance.”
“Is that so?” Frankie asked. His eyes were afire with rage and, strangely, pleasure. He turned his gun towards Tulip. “Try me. I'll kill you.”
“I not like this,” warbled Bertrand.
Petrov used this opportunity to remove his revolver from his sock, its hiding place since he’d retrieved it following his trip to the confession box with Tulip earlier. Hiding your weapons in places you suspected you could get back to was an old trick and he was glad hiding it there whilst snooping around the house had paid off. He clicked the hammer and got ready.
“I’m warning you. Try anything, Tulip, and I will kill you.” Frankie said.
Tulip let his poker player face smile. “Course you will, Kenneth.”
Frankie pulled the trigger of his gun, Tulip’s head exploding, but not before Tulip could pull his gun. Both of them fell off their chairs, what remained of their heads bloody. Bertrand reached for his axe, turning towards Petrov, but the spy had already aimed his gun.
“Terribly sorry, old boy. I guess the game just wasn’t dealt fairly.” 
Bertrand fell off the chair too, his head smashing against the floor and blood beginning to ooze into the cracks between the tiles.
Strolling back to the living room, Petrov picked up some files he’d spotted earlier, slipped them into his grey blazer jacket and then headed towards the entrance.
Anton Petrov grinned to himself, feeling rather smug. He’d go back to his hotel room, go through the file, take out anything that would endanger Mother Russia or the International Arms Dealer it was supporting and then send everything else back to London. You see, this dapper gentleman turned isn’t the hero of our story. The lady who promptly shot him through the head is. 
The lady, named Georgia Callahan, knelt down and took the files out of Petrov’s jacket, slipping them between her white shirt and black suit jacket. She wiped down her gun with a rag she kept in her left pocket and then slipped both away into her jacket. Looking down at Anton Petrov, she sighed. He’d always been such a nice agent, such a lovely amenable person. A shame that he was a Russian mole after all. The kill order hadn’t been easy to follow but it was her job and so she’d done it. Britain had demanded it of her.
She wandered over to her car, a Jaguar XK120 Roadster parked around the corner. The perks of the job, she supposed. The engine roared into life, a powerful growl of petrol and aluminium. Before long, she was accelerating away.
Once she’d got out onto a quiet public road, she kept the car at a steady speed of sixty, one hand slipping towards her pack of cigarettes. Some people in the Service insisted on custom blended fags. She, however, was perfectly happy with whichever she could get for cheapest on the ferry. A silver lighter from her pocket produced a healthy flame with which she lit it. As it hung on her bottom lip, she pulled out her mobile and speed dialled a number. “Jack? I assume you haven’t been compromised?”
“No, Georgia.” Jack replied. “I assume the job went well?”
“Wonderfully. Tell Lexi to crack open the fizz. I’ll be back shortly.”
“We’ll have a double Bourbon waiting for you.”
“Excellent. Send in the clean up teams, if you wouldn’t mind. Our good friend Anton decided to kill a Frenchman, a Spaniard and whatever the hell you call someone from Grimsby before I had the chance to kill him.”
“Sounds like the beginning of a joke.” Jack said, before whispering some orders to Alicia across the room. “No one we liked, I hope?”
“Oh no. They were bad men. Bad, bad men. The world can cope without them.”
“Amen to that.”
“Crap.” Georgia said, upon glimpsing in the mirror. “I’ll have to hang up. Got a couple of rozzers coming up behind me.”
“You realise you’re allowed to talk on your phone in this country whilst driving, don’t you?”
“And there was me thinking Britain was the best.” Georgia smiled and began to accelerate back to the hotel. They’d celebrate a mission accomplished like they always did: by getting very, very drunk.