On his way across London the next morning, Granger sat back in the taxi and closed his eyes, he was still tired from the slow night of surveillance and 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.
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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 that when he spoke to you it was facts and not bullshit.
‘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. 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 two 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 bullshit 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.’
Granger noticed a slim red haired young woman at the counter who was paying for a cappuccino and thanking the happy Swede in a soft Irish lilt.
‘Green jacket blue jeans red haired female at the counter. She’s yours.’
As he watched her, she didn’t as much as glance in his direction, she grabbed a handful of napkins, balanced her coffee in her left hand and swung her burgundy cord bag onto her right shoulder. She thanked the Swede once more and made her way to the door. Granger casually got out of his bucket chair. Keeping up the charade, he shook hands with both Malc and the ‘Big Man,’ who winked at him… This is still a bit too strange, he thought.
He made his way out of the coffee shop and thanked the happy Swede who was busy explaining the difference between Latte and Cappuccino to an elderly American couple. Stopping at the curb outside, he turned to face the reflective glass of the coffee shop window whilst pulling his brown baseball cap from his bomber jacket pocket, all the time he was constantly looking for that tell tale flash of red hair that had left only fifteen seconds before.
He marked her twenty-five yards to his right, walking briskly up Pall Mall to the corner of Haymarket. She stopped briefly then crossed and headed towards Soho. There was something about the way she carried herself that spoke of free time and money. She walked with the grace of a professional catwalk model but didn’t nearly have the height. He could also see that there was no obvious hand jewellery to state that she was married. She wore designer shoes and clothes and her hair seemed to be more Nicky Clark than Audrey Roberts. He really couldn’t decide if she was rich from marriage, self-made or Daddy’s little girl.
Granger felt it was important to form a mental picture of his mark. He liked to understand their habits, likes and dislikes although this was not always easy, as most of the time he would never hear them speak or be able to ask them questions. All he had to go on was visual evidence, training and experience.
He followed her to the end of Haymarket and she headed up Windmill Street, she made a right onto Shaftsbury Avenue. Where, for a frightening moment, he thought she was going to enter the rear of the Trocadero.
It had become second nature for Granger to look inconspicuous, but he thought hanging around a shopping centre, carrying a backpack, sporting a bulging bomber jacket whilst trying to look interested in shiny disco T-shirts, was just a bit too obvious, even for a man of his skills.
Leaving Shaftsbury he followed ‘the rabbit’ as she headed up Dean Street, her red hair blowing in the chilled winter air. She was heading right into the heart of Soho, his old stomping ground.
The last thing he needed, was some old drinking pal recognising him and shouting his name, with long lost joy, across the busy London street.