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Twice Granger asked him to stop hanging around his car and twice he got the finger.
‘I’m waiting for a mate’ the scruffy man mumbled.
The stench of alcohol mixed with the stink of tobacco took his breath and made him gag silently, he swallowed down the vile smell and stepped closer to the tramp, invading his space with his body.
‘Listen’ he snarled
‘why don’t you piss off and wait for your mate somewhere else.’
The homeless man shuffled from foot to foot and stood his ground, used to conflict and under the influence; Granger saw that his glassy eyes betrayed a stubbornness born of the streets and the day to day hardness of surviving there.
He began to feel compromised so he made a quick, tactical decision. From the leather sheaf buttoned into his right hip pocket He pulled the seven inch Tanto knife and swiftly placed it against the man’s face, making a dented line against the blackheads and old acne scars on his cheek.
‘I value my property. You so much as breathe on my car and I will slit your throat till you bleed out. Then I will leave your body on a land fill site for the gulls to shit on. Do you understand?’
He traced the sharp point of the knife across the tramps scabby lips, making him feel the carbon steel blade. He knew that his message had been understood.
‘Please. I don’t want any trouble, I’m going.’
‘Of course you are.’
He patted him roughly on the head and the homeless man blinked wildly then moved away at speed.
Closing the boot of the Subaru, he put the knife back snugly in its sheaf, looked around and sighed at the job in hand. He didn’t enjoy having to scare the poor guy out of his wits, he half felt sorry for him but he couldn’t see any other option. The last thing that he needed was his cover compromised over another bloody car incident; he would never live it down.
The shaven headed man who was silently watching from the doorway thirty yards up the alley, clicked off a few more shots with his Nikon then wrote up the incident in a small black notebook. Granger was completely unaware of his prescience.
His shoulders ached from carrying the equipment up four flights of stairs and the beads of sweat on his lower back were beginning to feel clammy and uncomfortable.
‘You locked the car?’ asked the Welshmen, his partner, in the most condescending tone that he could muster.
‘Are you sure’ Malcolm grinned, showing the little nicotine stained gap in his front two teeth.
‘Get lost Malc. I only forgot once.’
An audio lead went sailing past the Welshman’s head, making him chuckle and duck for cover.
‘And I had the flu.’
‘A surveillance officer must secure and is responsible for all equipment under his charge. Home Office Secret Service Regulation, eighty seven point two.’
‘You must have memorised that just for me you sad git,.’
The way Malc playfully took the piss, reminded him a little of being back at home and playing with his older brother Pete.
He sat down on an old grey plank and looked around, he took in the sights and smells of the ‘under construction’ office block that the ‘Firm’ had commandeered for their latest surveillance operation.
He noticed that the fresh plaster that layered the walls was still a little damp in the corners and the gold effect window locks were smeared with putty oiled finger prints. Probably left by builders eager to test the mechanisms then quickly shut out the chill December wind, funny how the little things that people do can tell you so much about there motives.
‘You got the file?’
The Welshman reached into one of the brown canvas bags at his feet and handed over a black plastic coated folder.
Granger flicked past the red coloured first page which denoted MILITARY INTELLIGENCE, Official Eyes Only, and skipped to the second page and the details of the job. He noticed that his boss had scribbled a few words on the bottom of the paper.
‘Ut A Muris’ he read out loud.
‘As a mouse… he wants us to be extra careful on this one.’
‘Nothing new there then’
‘Got to be out of here by zero seven hundred mate.’
‘The day guys can work from the roof But we’ve got to take the mikes, logs only for them.’
‘No problem, you can carry them all back down again.’
He knew that Malc was taking the piss, but as his senior officer, he also knew that he could order him do it if he wanted.
He kept trying to get comfortable, the plank that he sat on felt hard and cold. The rough edges of the wood were constantly rubbing against the underside of his thigh, leaving little sharp splinters that poked him through his overall. He began again to fill his mind with the injustices of his situation.
He did like his job but he couldn’t help thinking that some of the work that they had been doing recently was a bit tame. Long surveillance hours spent in cars and on rooftops logging proceedings with no fixed end. They just seemed to him to be bits of jobs, parts of enquiries, that he wasn’t cleared highly enough to be privy to. This pissed him off, he hated not knowing the whole story and it really riled him that his boss didn’t think him worthy of anything other than standard grunt work.
He could feel his mood darkening, another night spent freezing his nuts off, with no action to show for it. It disgruntled him that he couldn’t seem to get a leg up.
He’d been in for over two years and he’d not been shy in applying for extra duties. He felt that he had shined on all the training courses, passing everything from ‘Urban Blending’ to ‘Counter Surveillance Driving’. He was beginning to wonder exactly how long it took to get promoted in MI5.
He sat on the cold plank and wondered not for the first time whether it came down to schooling, He hadn’t had the privilege of private school education but he had hoped that the lack of an old school tie wouldn’t make any difference to his career in Civil Service. He was now beginning to think otherwise.
‘How come we pulled the night shift again.’ He adjusted his position for the twentieth time.
‘Dunno, just lucky I guess.’
‘I hate having to sleep in the day, I always feel knackered.’
‘You ever work nights before?’ asked Malc, for something to say.
He thought back to leaving school and starting work at the local Mine.
‘Yea, I worked down the Pit for a few months but it wasn’t for me... That was mostly nights.’
‘I thought you ran a bar in Covent Garden?’
‘Yea I did, I came down here to work for my Uncle when I couldn’t get work back at home.’
‘You moved to London for a bar job?’
Granger sat quite for a moment, thinking.
‘I had a big family, I came from a poor area, it was pretty rough you know.’
He began to feel uncomfortable; even to his friends he didn’t like talking about his past. He changed the subject.
‘Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?’
Malcolm huffed at the question.
‘No chance mate, that’s Gail’s job. Anyway… How did you get into this then, did you answer the ad?’
Granger felt slightly annoyed that they were still talking about him.
‘No, I’d never even thought about it. I used to teach Ju Jitsu in my spare time, I taught the Colonels twins, he recruited me.’
‘Bloody hell Steve, you were hand picked son.’
He thought that Malc looked slightly pissed off.
‘I don’t think so; He just wanted a Northerner, easier to blend in on the jobs out of London.’
He pictured the first time that he met the Colonel, he was sat amongst the other proud fathers, watching his twin boys as they battled their way through a tough Martial arts grading. He had picked up on the intensity of his gaze, as his boys fought and sweated before him. This is one serious man, he thought, looks military, straight backed, sharp creases and polished shoes, could be a policeman?
He had thought back to conversations with the twins, he didn’t recall if they had mentioned their dad. Pity, he concluded, He would have to make a mental note to ask them what he did, he looked like an interesting guy.
He remembered that after the grading, with the two boys proudly showing off their new belts, The Colonel had come over to him, he thought at first that he was going to thank him for their success but he asked something completely different.
‘Do you know what I noticed about tonight?’
Granger remembered that he had taken the man’s offered hand while he answered the question, as though the answer in itself was some kind of test.
‘There were no Mothers watching their children fight?’
The Colonel had smiled and released him.
‘That’s exactly it, I wonder why that is… It’s Steve isn’t it?’
He remembered feeling that the question was more of a statement that he already knew who he was.
‘Big Man’s in town tomorrow’ mumbled Malc, twiddling with the range finder on the spare mike.
‘Oh shit, you know what that means…’
‘Shadow re-training, I was hoping to get some Christmas shopping in’
Oh God, thought Granger, shadow re-training, he really didn’t need this tomorrow, following some hapless member of the public around for hours in this weather. He just hoped that he would have the time to call in at H Samuel’s and pick up Emma’s Christmas present.
Malc checked his notebook.
‘Eleven hundred hours, Piccadilly tube station.’
‘Oh well, that’s just fucking great, night shift till five then an eleven O’clock training session in central London.’
‘You’ve no need to preach to me Boyo.’
Granger really was feeling pissed off, he threw down the job file and picked up one of the ‘face’ manuals from the bottom of the bag.
‘Get your head down for a bit mate, I’ll stay awake with this, then we’ll swap.’
‘Face manuals wouldn’t keep me awake, I’d soon be dozing.’
‘Yea well, horses for courses. I like looking at all the bad people. You never know, I might spot Bin Laden next time I’m in Tesco.’
‘You would defiantly get a place on the spook course then.’
The comment reminded Granger that his latest application to G1 had failed.
‘Get some sleep Malc.’