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August 14 2012 19:48:23.
Today Wednesday 19 June 2013 12:54:26
Things had got so bad that I'd even taken to sleeping with my door
barred and my weapon ready. If the team wasn't complaining to him about my
planning, Sergei said, they were moaning about who was earning what and how
they might get ripped off when it came to payday. Carpenter was so
homophobic he made Hitler look like a wet liberal, and it had taken as much
effort keeping the two pairs away from each other as it had preparing for
the job. I did my best to keep out of their way and concentrated on dealing
exclusively with Sergei; he was the one I had to keep happy, because he was
the only one who could help me get the target into Russia. But they'd got me
nervous; people were going to die today, and I didn't want to be one of
I was with a scary crew, against a scary target, with the whole of
Western Europe's leadership due in town, bringing along enough security to
take on China. This wasn't a good day out but, fuck it, desperation makes
people do desperate things.
I blew out another cloud of breath. The digital display on the
dashboard told me another twenty minutes had passed--time for a radio check.
Reaching into my inside jacket pocket, I felt for the send button of my very
yellow Motorola handset, the sort that parents use to keep tabs on their
kids on the ski slopes or in the shopping mall. All six of us had one, each
connected to an earpiece which was hooked in place. With so many people
on their mobile phones, we wouldn't be conspicuous wandering around
with them in.
I pressed twice, the squelch sounding off in my ear, then checked with
Sergei. He nodded; I was sending. Jesse and Frank replied with two
squelches, then Carpenter and Nightmare followed with three. If I'd hit the
send button and there was nothing from the Jameses, Carpenter and Nightmare
would have waited thirty seconds and replied anyway. We would have no option
then but to close in on the target and wait for the Meres to arrive not
good, as it exposed us three in the hotel and messed up coordination. There
was radio silence for two reasons. One, I couldn't speak the language, and
two, EU land security would be listening in. With any luck, a few clicks
here and there wouldn't mean a thing. There were many other standby com ms I
could have used, mobile phones for instance, but everything had to be kept
pretty basic for Nightmare and Carpenter. Anything else to remember and they
would have blown up. The old principle of planning keep it simple, stupid
rang true yet again.
While Sergei had gone for the Michelin man look, I was very much the
businessman: single-breasted suit, jacket one size up, dark-gray overcoat,
black woolen scarf and thin leather gloves, and the stress to match.
Nightmare and Carpenter were dressed in the same style. All three of us were
clean shaven, hair washed, and well groomed. Detail counts; we had to move
about the hotel without anyone giving us a second glance, looking as if we
were part of the all-expenses-paid, outrageously salaried Brussels
freeloaders. Across my lap I even had today's edition of the Herald Tribune.
My overcoat was doing a good job of concealing the body armor under my
shirt. Sergei's might be as thick as the paving slabs outside the Kremlin,
but mine consisted of just twelve paper-thin sheets of Kevlar not enough to
stop one of Sergei's AP rounds, but enough to see off the mini-Uzis that
might soon be trying to hose me down. There was a pocket in the body armor
for a ceramic plate to cover my chest area, but unlike Sergei I couldn't
wear one as it was far too bulky. Carpenter had refused to wear any at all
because it wasn't manly, and Nightmare had followed suit. Fucking mad; if I
could have, I'd have covered myself from head to toe in the stuff. My feet
were in all sorts of shit; with nothing on but thin socks and a pair of
lace-up shoes, they were as cold as bags of frozen peas. I could no
longer feel anything below my ankles, and had given up moving them
around to generate heat.
I was carrying a South African Z88, which looked like a 9mm Berreta,
the sort of pistol Mel Gibson uses in the Lethal Weapon films. When the
world banned weapons exports to South Africa during apartheid, the boys just
set about making their own gear and were now exporting more assault weapons
and helicopters than the
I had three twenty-round extended mags, which meant an extra two inches
hanging out of the pistol grip, looking as if it had partially fallen out.