You must login to vote
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 go away 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 stand 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 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 saddo,.’
The way Malc playfully took the Mickey, 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 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 Mickey, 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 the 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 quiet for a moment, thinking.
‘I had a big family, I came from a poor area, and 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.’
‘Jesus Steve, you were hand picked son.’
He thought that Malc looked slightly cheesed 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 had 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 no, 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 cheesed 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.’
On his way across London, Granger sat back in the taxi and closed his eyes, he was still tired from the slow night of surveillance and he had managed to get less than three hours sleep. Thinking about Emma, he prayed that this mornings training was only going to be for a couple of hours at the most. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in the rear view mirror, rough he thought, he licked his palms and combed his fingers through his short brown hair, no difference.
He hated letting his girlfriend down again, they had been together just less than two years and had recently moved in with each other. It was still new to them both, sitting down to meals and looking into each others eyes, having sex when and where they wanted, shopping for groceries together. It was good. Of course she knew what he did for a living and was usually Ok with his hours. But this was their first proper Christmas, they both new that it was important.
As the taxi pulled in at Piccadilly Station, Granger knew that he had to switch to work mode, He paid the driver and headed down into the tube.
The ‘Big Man’ was already waiting with Malc when Granger arrived. He looked exactly the same as when he had first met him, smiling at his twin boys scrapping on a Ju Jitsu mat. Straight backed and sharp eyed. He was five foot nine, looked around forty five but could have been fifty five, he was wearing an immaculate three piece suit that must have cost more than a small family car.
Granger thought that most people didn’t like the Colonel, found his manner a little too blunt.
As a Yorkshireman, he admired the briskness; he liked to know where he stood. The Colonel always cut to the proverbial chase, succinct, you knew when he spoke to you that it was facts and not bull.
‘Morning Steve, suitably refreshed I hope?’
Granger was instantly confused, he had never once heard the Colonel use pleasantries.
‘Err, yes Sir’
He glanced at Malc who widened his eyes at him, also suitably baffled.
‘Right lads’ said the Colonel, ‘Let’s carry on’.
It was all ears on the ‘Big Man’ now, the chitchat was over and it was down to business. Granger immediately felt more comfortable with this line of conversation as he was far more used to blunt instructions and barked orders, than please and thank you.
The two men didn’t visibly relax as both were listening intently to their orders for the operation, instead they slotted into professional mode like a couple of walnuts in a Christmas sock.
‘OK’ barked the Colonel. ‘First things first, Kit! Follow me’. The two men took up stride with the Colonel as he peeled out of the busy tube station and headed across Haymarket, towards the back of the national gallery and the Whitcomb Street car park. Where, no doubt his big, black three point five litre Range Rover would be waiting with its boot full of goodies.
Granger felt that he and Malc looked like a pair of Burton dropouts as they followed the smartly dressed Colonel across the busy London streets, faded blue jeans, Nike trainers and similar brown bomber jackets; this seemed to be the unofficial uniform of G4. As hiding a camera and a shoulder holster with a loaded Browning, came very high up on the important list when trying to stay unnoticed.
Granger saw that the black V8 Range Rover was slotted in next to a blue Saab which had definitely seen better days. he approached the rear of the ‘Big Mans’ car and did a quick reccé of the rest of the car park, making sure that there was no one hanging around or looking suspicious enough, for them to move the location of the meeting.
Malc gave the Big Man a thumbs up, to indicate that his end of the car park was clean but Granger raised his palm slightly and began to pretend to look for his lost keys, as an overweight balding man with a stockbrokers dress sense, got out of a nearby BMW and made his way to the exit, without giving the men as much as a second glance.
All clear, he gave the thumbs up and sauntered over to where the other two were standing.
‘Right lads’ said the Colonel using his keys to swing open the tailgate of the Range Rover.
‘You’ve each got a bag for a three day op.’ The Big Man glanced at them both judging their reactions to the length of operation. Granger kept his face professionally impassive, as both he and Malc had been on the receiving end of the Colonels displeasure in the past.
He thought, even if this training rubbish would take them both well into Christmas Day, he would not want to experience it ever again.
‘Let’s go through your kit shall we lads?’
‘Yes sir’ they said in stereo.
‘You both got a full SOP Kit with you?’
Granger quickly ticked off on his head the contents of his Surveillance Operation Kit. Water, Mars bar, bog roll, baby wipes, mouthwash he couldn’t remember if he had any pro plus or not, he would have to check it later.
‘You’ve each a got fully loaded Nikon and spare films, a clean mobile and spare battery and I have signed out your weapons from the armoury, they are in the lock box inside the car.’
Granger took the brown canvass bags from the Colonel and made his way to the passenger door of the Range Rover where he jumped in the back seat.
The tinted black windows of the vehicle made it safer to check kit, well away from any nosy shoppers that might stumble past as he was donning his shoulder holster or checking chamber and making a snug fit for the Browning.
The Browning 140 was Granger’s issued weapon, he had practiced for hours on the range with it. He weighed it in his palm, just right, he thought, he then turned it over and studied it, re-familiarising himself with the hand gun.
It had a light alloy case and a steel slide with no sharp corners that, if he had to pull it out of his jeans in a hurry could snag on his clothes. It was small by handgun standards but it packed a nine millimetre punch and held thirteen rounds in its mag. Granger really liked the 140, It was a safe weapon to carry, with its double trigger action and a large thumb safety switch on both sides of the gun, it could easily be fired with either the right or left hand. The gun felt comfortable to Granger and he could use it like he was firing from his own finger.
‘You’re on your own today lads, forty eight hours.’
Granger felt his heart jump, but his face remained impassive.
‘At eleven thirty hours we will convene at the Pall Mall Starbucks. Where I will point out your Rabbit for you… OK so far?’
‘Sir’ they both nodded.
Granger was listening to his instructions but he couldn’t stop his brain revolving ten to the dozen, trying to work out a plausible excuse to give Emma. As to why he had gone out for a meeting with the boss and not come back until Christmas Day without a single gold spangley object to show for it.
‘We will find a table near the back and I will point out yours first Steve’
‘Ten minutes later, I will indicate your rabbit Malc OK’
‘Yes Sir’ nodded Malc.
‘Right’ proclaimed the Colonel, slapping his palms flat on his knees obviously being careful not to cut himself on the crease in his trousers.
‘You out first lads… I will lock up and join you in five, three blokes just having a meeting eh?’
Granger thought that the Starbucks was a bit quiet for the time of day but that didn’t stop the Barista’s cranking the steam valve and tamping the freshly ground coffee as though they were expecting the entire cast of Friends to walk in at any moment.
He purchased a couple of double shot Latte’s from a happy Swedish guy with a wispy blond moustache, then headed to the back of the room where an orange oval table and four brown velvet bucket chairs awaited.
At exactly the moment his bottom touched the lush velvet chair the Colonel entered the coffee shop. He bought a single espresso from the happy Swede and made to join them.
So as not to attract attention, Malc had been reading the sports pages of a ‘free copy’ Daily Mirror that he gracefully folded and put down on the spare empty chair. The Colonel checked his watch and tentatively held out his hand in the normal businessman’s greeting, Granger shook, beginning the pretence of a normal meeting, all the time checking nearby tables for anyone looking remotely suspicious.
Apart from a large woman, with a sleeping toddler in a carrier bag laden buggy and a pretty Japanese student crinkling her forehead to study a ream of English handwritten notes, it all seemed OK.
‘Right’ said the Colonel all business ‘It’s eleven thirty two, lets find you a Rabbit Steve.’