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“Maddox” is an under cover operative with the Serious Organised Crime Agency in London, a 21st century avenger, ‘There’s a nice guy in there trying to get out’.
“Maddox” is a fallen angel, a tortured soul lying only just on the right side of the law. An under cover operative with the Serious Organised Crime Agency in London, he is a 21st century avenger, ‘There’s a nice guy in there trying to get out’.
Maddox close friend Ryan Fletcher is also an under cover operative involved with cocaine smuggling from South America. Fletcher is found murdered on a yacht in the Caribbean. Maddox is tasked with infiltrating the drug smuggling ring responsible and bringing Fletcher's murderers to justice.
Revised August 2012
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or they are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.
‘MADDOX... STAY WITH ME...’
The other marine moved swiftly to cover his oppo. Side by side they edged cautiously toward the cave opening, their weapons held at shoulder level. The early morning sun rising over the mountain range reducing their vision to a barely discernible haze as they approached the dark entrance. They were part of the one hundred men of the Special Boat Squadron detailed to work with the SAS Sabre Squadron and American special forces.
December 2001 was a very cold month in Afghanistan. The winter had been particularly harsh with snow and ice lying on the shaded slopes of the hills. Strongly chilled katabatic winds whistled along the narrow steep sided valleys, chafing the exposed skin of the soldiers. Their faces burned red by the sub zero wind, their fingers dry and stiff as they fought to stay alert, guns primed awaiting a counter attack at any moment.
The coalition forces had pushed the Taleban back to their mountain retreat. The Taleban were retreating to the Tora Bora cave system in the White Mountains, Kandahar Province. A final push would crush them, so the Generals said.
Maddox fought alongside his close friend Ryan Fletcher, his oppo. They had stayed together through thick and thin. First with the Royal Marines patrolling the Shat Al Arab waterway between Iraq and Iran, then with the Special Boat Service, the SB’s. They were mates, comrades in arms, Booties, they would live and die together.
Maddox felt the ice crack and the frozen gravel give beneath his boots. His collar turned up, a woolly cap beneath his helmet, the radio calls of his colleagues babbling in his left ear as they pushed into the cave system.
The entrance was dark and foreboding, they couldn’t make out any features from within. They hesitated. A few grenades thrown in for good measure to clear the passage. A quick burst of gunfire and rush in. Shoot anything that moved and a lot that didn’t.
‘I’m fuckin’ freezing...,’ Fletcher’s teeth chattering, his eyes acclimatizing to the dark entrance as they squatted down just inside the cave entrance,
‘Keep movin… keep movin…,’ from the Major blasting in his ear.
Sporadic gunfire close by echoing from somewhere deep inside.
‘Jesus this is getting serious,’ Maddox felt the tension rising, his muscles tightening in anticipation, flee or flight… keep moving… win the fire fight.
Advancing quickly and cautiously they moved into the darkness, as yet no resistance.
‘Stay in touch Fletch… we’re drifting away from the others.’ Muttering under his breath, ‘Holy Mary Mother of God stay with me now,’
The cave system was enormous and complex. Too easy to become separated from the rest of the squadron, Maddox thought.
A sudden burst of gunfire. Stone splinters exploded from the walls next to their heads,
‘Fuck me,’ from Fletcher instinctively down to a crouch returning fire toward the muzzle flash, deafening gunfire all around. Someone cried out. Get down. What the fuck is going on? Get a grip.
‘Jonesy’s been hit,’ Fletcher’s Lancashire accent cutting through the near panic as he glanced behind at figures crouched in the cave entrance. Jones tried not to scream out from the pain in his thigh, his mate rifling his kit for a sterile pack. Covering fire returned, then silence.
‘Move forward...,’ from the Major once more. Onto their feet, push on. ‘Drive the bastards back...,’
It was the only way to secure their wounded colleagues, drive the bastards back.
Fletch took a tunnel to the right, stop them coming in from behind. Maddox went with him. Two was better than one. Fuckin’ dark in here. Can’t see much, get down, light off. Just watch a moment. See what you can see.
They came fast. Fletcher and Maddox didn’t know what hit them. Maddox was knocked sideways from above, a heavy weight stamping him into the ground. He felt his left shoulder give under the sudden impact knocking air from his lungs. Screaming pain in his back as an unseen blade drove deep into his flesh grating across bone in his shoulder. In a reflex action Maddox grappled with an invisible assailant who was trying to stab the life out of him whilst pushing the searing pain of the stab wound from his mind. Life and death… fuckin’ LIFE AND DEATH.
Fletch’ was knocked backwards. His would be killer mistimed his jump. He could just make out the black form coming at him again but he was too close to turn his rifle. They wrestled with the gun, Fletch pulled the trigger. The gun fired a few rounds and locked. Falling over backwards they hugged one another in a killer’s embrace, a dance of death. Fletch underneath struggling to drive his leg between the legs of his assassin. His own gun pressed against his throat crushing his windpipe choking him to death.
He jerked his body sideways trying to dislodge his opponent. It was no good, his throat was being crushed, gasping for air, spittle and phlegm spraying from his mouth he felt the panic start to rise. The big fat bastard was winning. He could smell his stinking breath, see his wild eyes, the man that would take his life. No God not now... NOT NOW.
Maddox felt the weight ease off as a stray bullet from Fletcher’s gun caught his assailant. He pivoted around from his crouching position ripping the blade from his back. He was panting hard, his senses on fire, fighting back the pain in his shoulder vaguely aware of the blood freely flowing under his shirt. His opponent recovered quickly thrusting the knife at his chest. It hit Maddox dead centre, the blade stopped abruptly.
His protective vest had caught the full impact, there would be no second chance. Left arm deflecting, right hand to the face cracking his killers nose. Maddox dug his fingers into the skin of his opponent tearing the elastic flesh from his cheek, gouging his left eye socket. His opponent screamed, flailing wildly with the knife catching Maddox in the arm. Left hand under his, right foot behind he threw his man to the ground.
Gripping his assailants knife hand he disarmed him and using the same crude blade thrust it into his killer’s throat. Under the Adam’s Apple, up to the brain. A quick twist and he was already a dead man,
‘Fuck You,’ just like that.
He turned toward Fletch, leaping the three metre gap he gripped the assassins’ forehead snapping his head backward. He thrust the blade downwards from the throat, behind the ribs into the vital organs, wiggle it about a bit, his instructors voice shouting in his head.
‘You fucker...,’ red mist spraying upwards over his face, he could taste the salt of another mans’ life. Maddox let the body drop backwards.
Turning to face Fletch, their faces shining with sweat, eyes wild with adrenalin and breathing hard,
‘Fuck this for a game of soldiers,’ from Maddox.
They both laughed.
HORATIO FERNANDEZ GRAPPLED with the mono-filament fishing net lying heavily over the side of his boat. He grunted with the weight of the sodden net and the burgeoning catch.
'Look’s good man. I think we gonna eat well tonight Lamby. Help me man, don't just sit there,' in a strong West Indian patois.
James Hollow, known as 'Lamby' due to his bulging eyes, like a Lamby fish from a conch shell stirred from his rest in the bottom of the boat. A thirty foot wooden canoe shaped open boat with a large ford diesel engine. The bright blue hull complemented with a striking red interior and yellow top sides, an open Caribbean fishing boat. James Hollow a fit twenty two, slim and muscular from a healthy island diet of fruit and rice, his black skin shining from a thin film of sweat and twenty two years of unrelenting sunshine.
'Okay Trinny. Easy man easy. Don't fret yoursel'.'
Lamby moved next to Trinny, so called because of his Trinidad origins. Both men in shorts and nothing else leaned over the side their knees bearing down into the solid wooden strake. Pulling hard on the net with their calloused hands, the mono-filament line bit into the soft flesh of their fingers as the net slipped slowly into the boat.
'I told you it was better out 'ere man. Why you no listen before?'
'We a long way from Grenada. Too far for me. It dangerous out here man.'
'Look at the catch Lamby. We rich tonight, ha ha.'
The men had struggled to make a decent catch through the rainy season. Now it was December and the rain had passed. They had ventured further south and east than usual, further east than prudent. They were in the southern part of the North Atlantic where engine failure would strand them in an open boat at the mercy of the current. The prevailing currents in this region all pushed west toward the Caribbean but even so, it was a big risk in an open boat with nothing other than an old engine and a few bottles of water, not even a light or a radio.
Trinny was older, thirty two and uncle to Lamby. It was Trinny's boat and the pair worked for the few Carib dollars they could make. They lived near St. Georges in Grenada, poverty in paradise. Grenada lay at the southern end of the Windward Islands in the eastern Caribbean, first island north of Trinidad and Tobago. It was arguably the prettiest island in the whole Windward chain.
The weather was predictable for the time of year with humidity falling and clear blue skies. The stable air conditions produced a beautiful azure blue canvas, the sea a constant undulating mass of vivid blue and turquoise. Their boat slowly heaved up and down, riding along the radial swell that emanated from a storm somewhere far out in the mid-Atlantic.
'Here she come Lamby, here she come,’ Trinny calling out. Both men took the weight of the heavy cod end of the net as it came to the surface, full with red snapper.
'Hee hee. Ooooh look at this boy,' Trinny laughing out loud and Lamby feeling the excitement grow as they pulled the net over the gunwhale,
'What’s that,' Lamby pointing to a white shape glinting in the sunlight.
'It only a boat, don't worry. C'mon, finish the job'.
They finished heaving the load into the bottom of the boat.
'We'll gut them later. We head in now right?'
'That boat don't look right,' Lamby holding his hand over his forehead to shield the light as he stared into the distance.
'Don't worry about these things Lamby. Come on boy.'
But Lamby did worry about these things. He had crewed yachts as a boy for the red skins from the marina and he knew how to sail a yacht. The yacht didn't look right.
'I think they’re in trouble Trinny,' still peering from under his hand.
Trinny took time out from adjusting his new cargo to look over toward the yacht, bending at the knees to hold himself steady against the pile of moving fish slipping and moving over his feet.
'What wrong then?'
'The sails, look they are not full, just flapping. She is not sailing, just drifting.'
'Ya, but maybe they fuckin’ man. That’s what these people do all the time. C'mon, we got to get goin','
'I think we should look first. Make sure they’s okay.'
'Ahhh come on Lamby...,’ Trinny could see Lamby was concerned and sighed in defeat. ‘Okay man, we just give a quick look. Shout at them or something... okay?'
Trinny started the big Ford. It rumbled slowly into life as the heavy flywheel kept the pistons turning. A cloud of black smoke from the exhaust in the stern indicated they had power. Trinny prepared himself a rolled up cigarette and positioned the crumpled paper on his large lips. He clumped the gear into ahead and increased the revs. The old propeller started its labour like the willing donkey it was as Trinny turned the boat toward the yacht cutting a brief white crescent through the deep blue paint.
There were no signs of life as their boat closed on the yacht. It was a pretty yacht, a fifty foot sloop, European made and it looked modern. The sails were set on the main mast but not trimmed presenting an unnatural appearance to those who understood boats. It wasn’t right.
Trinny brought his boat up close and paralleled the heading putting his engine into neutral. They both strained their necks to look into the cockpit and they could see the cockpit hatch was open to down below.
'Hey. HEY. Anybody in there man...? ANYBODY THERE!' Lamby shouting. There was no response.
'Come alongside Trinny. I’ll take a look.'
'Maybe they fuckin' down there Lamby,’ Trinny becoming cautious now, more worried about accusations of illegal boarding than any problem onboard.
'I tell you it not right Trinny. Put me onboard.'
Once again Trinny manoeuvred his boat. Turning around in a broad arc he approached the yacht from the stern coming up on her port quarter. He nosed the bow alongside the stern of the yacht and Lamby nimbly climbed onto the small aft bathing platform pulling himself over the stern rails and into the cockpit. Squatting down, he peered into the open black interior.
'Ello. ELLO. Anybody there, everything okay?' He yelled into the boat.
There was no reply. Lamby looked over to Trinny who kept the boat idling close by, holding his arms out meaning, 'What do I do now.’
Trinny responded likewise with an 'I don't know’ gesture, ‘But get on with it.’
Lamby continued to yell into the hatchway, just in case there were people in there fucking. He started to enter the cabin, his feet gingerly seeking the steep gangway steps that led down inside the dark interior. Halfway on the ladder with his torso still exposed he took his first whiff of the cabin and baulked at the stench.
'Oh God, it stinks man,' holding his nose. 'IT STINKS.’
Trinny was paying close attention now. No one had appeared and he was growing nervous. He saw Lamby bend his body over to place his head inside the cabin. There was no movement for what seemed like minutes but was really only a hand full of seconds. Then Lamby sprang backward, the top of his head catching the cockpit hatch coaming and his hand covering his mouth. He stumbled backwards into the cock pit and scrambling to his feet reached for the side stanchions vomiting heavily over the side, unable to catch his breath.
'What is it Lamby,' Trinny now looking more like Lamby, his eyes popping out whilst straining to stand, keeping his hands on the tiller and the throttle.
Lamby struggled to breathe and slumped to his knees at the side of the boat. Pointing into the cabin, his body trembling,
'There’s dead people Trinny. Lots of them and it stinks. I think they ’ave been murdered.'
THE RIFLEMAN was not a friendly pub. It stood dominant commanding attention in the centre of the square in Moss Side Manchester. It was a tribute to nineteen sixties brutalist architecture, stubbornly located on an oasis of grass scrub land between four complimentary grey tower blocks threatening all who ventured into range. A dark brick single story pill box design, the top two feet wooden panelled in an attractive shade of faded brown, every window a steel grill cover. The flat roof with a scaffold perimeter railing laced with barbed wire.
An intimidating dark place where only locals could go, no outsiders here, so fuck off.
Maddox stood back a few hundred metres, pausing at the base of one of the tower blocks. Staring directly at the pub, he surveyed the immediate surround, he was hoping he was blending in to the background.
Quickly scanning the green wasteland between himself and the pub, he looked for twitching curtains or the sudden movement of someone trying not to be seen.
Three in the afternoon early December, a miserable fucking day and a miserable fucking place. Cold drizzle, grey skies, low cloud, welcome to sunny Britain. Maddox turned the collar up on his black wool pea jacket and pulled his small woollen cap forward to his eye line. It made him look meaner, or so he thought, like Steve McQueen. Unshaven for days and not sweet smelling, he needed a look that wouldn't get him noticed and in Moss Side, you had to look hard to survive, don’t fuck with me.
He couldn't pause too long or he would stand out. Someone would notice, got to get moving. Staring at the pub once again, the door must be around the far side, get on with it.
He set off across the waste land, should I stick to the path or walk over the grass, what looks natural? He went for both, walking half way along the pathway then following the well worn short cut across the muddy trail over the grass scrub toward the front doors.
As he approached the scarred blue doors of the pub he was startled by loud barking. It stopped him dead. He stared up into the growling mouth of a mean and hungry German Shepherd that was staring down from the flat roof of the pub, daring him to enter, saliva dripping from its ugly black mouth.
Jesus, that dog's got a problem. Maddox didn’t like dogs and dogs didn’t like Maddox. His right hand clutched a six inch blade deep in his right pocket. I'll run the fucker through. Eyes down, he continued at the same pace straight toward the double entrance doors. He could hear the deep throb of the music as he approached, the bass reverberating on the door windows. As he closed on the entrance the smell of stale beer and cigarette smoke permeated to a few metres outside, don't hesitate straight in, fuck them. Don't give a fuck for any of the cunts inside. If they want to try I'll fucking hurt them first, his right hand gripping his knife. Mother Mary sweet Jesus, stay with me now.
Right shoulder dipped, hands in his coat pockets he pushed through the right hand door. The door gave immediately letting him through to the inner sanctum. It spring loaded shut behind him. You're in, like it or not. Don't hesitate and look around, spot the bar and go for it. Look like a local, like you know what you’re doing.
In an instant he saw the bar was off to the left. He headed straight toward it, the soles of his shoes sticking to the beer stained tiled floor. At first glance he estimated ten men and a few women scattered around the room, all looking at him. The barman drying glasses looked up unsmiling. Fucking chimp. No cracks to your expression. Not threatening not vulnerable, keep it straight.
Maddox went straight to the barman, foot on the rail and leaned over,
'Pint of Fosters,’ he didn't maintain eye contact for more than a second and glanced away non-threateningly, no politeness. The barman responded in kind, no comment, no expression. He finished drying the glass and collected another from under the bar. He poured the pint. Maddox observed the distended veins in the barman’s forearms, his unnatural ruddy complexion and suppurating sores on his face and arms and wondered if the barman would still be alive in a year’s time.
The pause allowed Maddox to look harder at the others watching him. Which one was it, who was he supposed to meet. Three or four young homies playing pool, glancing at him, it's not them. Two guys and a girl to the left drinking and smoking, The smoking ban doesn't mean much down here. They were engaged in their own conversation, could be them.
The barman finished,
'Two twenty,' Maddox nodded.
Taking his hand off his knife he reached into his jeans pocket and sorted out two twenty from a handful of coins, no words, no pleasantries. He took a sip, cold and fizzing, clenching his teeth from the ice cold syrup and gas on his lips. Now he had to meet his contact and get out of the lime light, blend in.
A slot machine flashed away on the wall, inviting him to lose money, the only attractive thing in here. Holding his pint in his right hand Maddox moved over to the machine placing the glass on top. He put in a pound, should give me a few goes. The machine burst into life, take my time. Don't want to do all my money in, give me time to look around. He lit a cigarette, now I blend in.
A few minutes later the front doors sprung open and two black men pushed their way in, thirtyish, dirty, unshaven and unkempt. One of them with full rasta locks down his back, their hoodies under their leather jackets and their ridiculous baggy trousers, laughing and talking loud in their Mancunian accents. Maddox glanced over, now they look out of place and I look like a local.
The two men and the woman at the near table didn't even give him a glance. He surveyed the scene again around the bar and couldn't make anyone who was too interested in him. He pushed the start button, the slot machine flashed and pulsed. The flashing lights meant nothing to him, he pushed the over-sized yellow start button again. The panel lit up, dancing lights, weird electronic sounds,
'You wanna hold the middle one Mate', from over his right shoulder.
'Yeah,' Maddox glanced at the rasta over his shoulder,
'Thanks. Not much cop at this.’
He pushed the button again. More lights and the nudge lamp on.
'There y'are, nudge the other two.’
Maddox nudged the two outer buttons one step. The machine lit up and pumped out five pounds of pub tokens.
'Fuckin’ great, tokens.’
'Well you can get us a drink then.’
That's it, Maddox thought. This is the guy.
'Yeah okay. What do you want?'
'I'll have a Becks,'
'Yeah, me too,' the other said.
'Right,' Maddox went over to the bar. He had to wait a moment as the barman chose to ignore him for a few seconds more. Looking at Maddox, the barman nodded,
'Two Becks,' still playing it deadpan.
A minute later two bottles of Becks beer were open on the bar. Maddox paid with the tokens and returned to the machine handing them the beers,
'Ah right lads, cheers,'
'Cheers,' and they all took a drink, Maddox unfeeling gaze staring at them both above the rim of his glass. Ready in case they tried something.
'Aven't seen you 'ere before,' the rasta said.
'Na, well I aven't seen you 'ere either.'
The rasta nodded.
'You lookin' for somfin.'
'I might be. What you got?'
The two friends looked at one another.
'Well you only come 'ere if you lookin' for somfin.'
'Then I'm lookin’', the rasta nodded.
'Yeah okay. What you after... You plod?'
Maddox ignored the comment,
'I wanna piece. You got one or not,' his eyes hardened, his gaze didn't falter. The rasta nodded.
'Might 'ave somfin for yuh... Outside.'
Maddox put the glass on top of the slot machine having drunk barely an inch. He didn't want his concentration affected by alcohol, he had to think straight. He stuffed his hands in his pocket his right hand feeling the blade, he tightened his grip.
Here we go. Maddox hesitated indicating he wanted to follow them, reduce your exposure to a minimum. They understood, the rasta smirked and headed for the door followed by the other. Maddox stayed close to the second man so he couldn't move on him whilst trying to watch the guy ahead. Out into the bleak day the depressing landscape pushing in on him. The rasta walked off toward one of the tower blocks. Maddox followed.
As they arrived at the tower the rasta moved to a side entrance. The smell of stale piss and filth filled his senses. Walls dirty with neglect and coated in graffiti, discarded paper littered the stairwell. Maddox could see used needles lying around, spent condoms and the detritus of the untouchables pushing in. He tensed as he entered the space, could be a trap, no way out. He prepared himself for a fight, could be bad. The rasta turned,
'Aw right man, what d'you want?'
Maddox positioned himself against the wall at the bottom of the stairwell.
'I'm lookin for a piece, heard I could get one ‘ere.' The rasta nodded.
'What sort of piece?' Straight question, give a straight answer.
'Nothin fancy. A revolver will do… doesn't jam.' The rasta nodded.
After a brief pause,
'And fifty for a box of ammo,' emphasising the 'O'. Maddox barely nodded, no expression. A short pause,
'I'll be back in five, Joey will stay wiv' you.'
Maddox nodded again. So far so good. Get the piece and get out. No chat, don't get friendly, do it and fuck off. They stared at each other as the rasta left. The other guy was big but Maddox reckoned he could take him first. He positioned himself against the wall so no one could jump him from behind and it gave him one eye on the door.
Five minutes later and the rasta returned.
'Okay.' He said holding out a package wrapped in a brown paper bag. Maddox took it in his left hand and instantly felt the heavy weight of the steel revolver. He quickly inspected the gun, expertly opening the chamber and checking the cleanliness and condition, the action. He nodded,
'Okay. I'll take it. The shells, you got'em?'
'Four 'undred man.' Cunt, he was trying it on.
'Three fifty that's the deal,' transferring the gun again to his left hand his right slipping once more into his pocket and the secure feeling of the knife. A Mexican stand-off. Maddox was not going to back down and would fight his way out if he had to. The two stared at each other briefly,
'Alright man cool, only jokin'. Free fifty.' Maddox put the gun into his left pocket and removed a crumpled envelope of money. He quickly sorted three fifty and handed it to the rasta leaving him with about a hundred, the other two glancing at the remaining cash.
'The rounds,' Maddox repeated.
'Sure man sure.' The rasta handed him a box. Maddox felt the familiar weight of loaded bullets in the box. He stared straight at them as his left hand opened one end of the box and his thumb ran along the tips of the rounds, Maddox nodded,
'Alright then. Nice doing business with you gentlemen... We’ll skip the receipt.’
They sniggered and nodded. Maddox pushed between them and out into the afternoon. He hurried quickly around the first corner to put some distance between him and the other two glancing back over his shoulder.
He collided heavily with someone coming the other way, looking up, shit, coppers.
'This is 'im,'
Two uniformed police officers grabbed him as two others joined in. They forced his arms behind his back and the cuffs were on in seconds, he had no time to respond.
'Fuck, shit,' Maddox glanced over his shoulder to see the two blacks quickly walking the other way, the rasta briefly locking eyes with him.
Unauthorised firearms possession automatically carried a five year prison sentence in the UK.
JIM MACLEOD LEANED BACK in his leather executive desk chair, his ample girth pushing over his too tight trousers. Thank God for air conditioning he thought, his right hand loosening the collar around his burgeoning neckline. He glanced out of his window on the third floor of the British Embassy in Bridgetown Barbados and smiled to himself, What a laugh. Two months ago he was wandering about in the Glasgow office, usual case work chasing drug smugglers across Scotland and occasionally into Ulster. Now he was the SOCA Liaison Officer seconded to the British mission in the West Indies. He swapped his three bedroom semi in Bearsden for a detached villa and his two young children were enjoying a private education on the government, Bloody great. Five years here should see us top our mortgage and return home ahead of the game, hopefully with promotion.
His phone rang.
'Hello... Jim MacLeod,' his accent a mild highland brogue.
'Hello Mister MacLeod. Edward Bishop, St. Georges Customs office Sir,'
'Hello Eddie. How's life in Grenada,’ not waiting for an answer. ‘I've been meaning to try and get out to you in the next few weeks. In fact I've got to get around a few of the islands, you know... put myself about a bit,' Christ these people don’t leave you alone for a minute.
He had made contact during his first week with all the senior Customs Officials of the Windward Islands and they had responded with enthusiasm, almost overwhelming. Jim was an experienced intelligence Officer, ex- London HQ and knew how to network and build contacts, but he had taken the Barbados posting over Bogota hoping for an easier life, time for pay back.
'Hello Jim... Jim I have something you may be interested in, very interested.'
'Okay Eddie what have you got.' Ah well, my first bit of feedback. He lodged the receiver under his sweating fat chin and reached for a pen to make notes. It was all very well being given this plush appointment but he knew he had to get results. His career lived and died on it and SOCA was a very small specialist office where everyone knew everyone.
'Okay. I have a yacht in the harbour, St. Georges. It’s tied up outside my office. Two local fishermen brought it in about an hour ago.'
'Okay?' Enquiringly, 'so what's the interest?'
'I think it might be an English boat. Four dead men on it.' He had Jims full attention, he swung forward in his chair 'and some drugs, a large quantity of cocaine,'
'Okay, and you think the boat is British and the four dead men?'
'Yeah. We are waiting for police forensics to finish before we go inside but initial thought is that they are English,'
'Okay, and cocaine you say... I need to come over Eddie, straight away. D'you have a problem with that?'
'No man, that's why I called you,'
'Alright. Let me check the flights,' he glanced at his wall clock, it registered four in the afternoon.
'There is an inter island flight at five thirty Jim, the last one today if you can make it, I can meet you at the airport?'
'Yeah, okay. I'll try and book a flight and get straight over. Can you book me a hotel?
'I'll phone back and confirm, speak later,' and the call ended abruptly.
Bloody hell, four dead bodies and coke and a boat, but was it British? Where was it going? Still it didn't matter, he had the jump on it and even if there was no British interest it was valuable intelligence to trade off to another SLO. Maybe this place wasn’t a sleepy backwater after all.
He called through on the phone to his secretary,
'Rosemarie? I need an immediate reservation on the five thirty inter island flight to Grenada. Can you book it for me?'
'Of course Mr. MacLeod, right away.'
Five minutes later Rosemarie confirmed he had the booking. Her cousin worked at the reservations desk so there was no problem getting on the flight. Jim noticed everyone seemed to know everyone or was related somehow out here.
He called his wife, sorry darling got to go, usual scenario she was used to but not what he had promised her. He would leave the office immediately and spin past his villa on his way to Sir Grantley Adams International Airport, his wife would pack a grip that should last a few days. He told Rosemarie to log his movements in with the West Indies desk in London and hurriedly left.
Four dead bodies, coke and a boat, great stuff, his heart was already pounding.
He slipped on his obligatory lightweight beige suit jacket, uniform of the tropical ex-pats, checked his briefcase for mobile and PDA, wallet and other intelligence officer paraphernalia and quickly headed for the compound car park. Rosemarie had sorted him a driver and he wasted no time in heading off.
A pit-stop at the villa for his bag, a quick kiss for his wife and he was on his way.
MacLeod just made the Caribbean Star desk before the flight closed as he raced through security. He was then ushered across the sweltering tarmac to the waiting plane, a twin turbo Dash 8 and he could feel the sweat already flowing under his shirt sticking his collar and jacket to his back. Falling heavily into his seat, he filled its narrow construction and invaded the personal space of the small black woman sitting next to him. She pretended not to notice and tried to maintain a miserable face as she flicked through an in-flight magazine. Jim struggled to fasten the seatbelt around his ample girth, already uncomfortable for the short flight over to the Grenada, the first island hop.
The plane taxied over the runway and Jim had more time to adjust his clothes in the claustrophobic seat. He had a position adjacent to the wing and couldn't help staring at the spinning blades and the throbbing engine wondering what it would be like if the huge blade came through the cabin.
A sudden increase in revs and the plane accelerated down the runway, the engines continued their droning. At the point of no return the small aircraft lifted off and the steep incline pushed him back into his seat. He looked out across the shrinking landscape, the sub tropical lush green island and coral blue sea. Whirring and whining the undercarriage lifted and then there was reasonable silence, only the throbbing of the engines and constant noise of the air conditioning blowing a little too hard onto his face as condensation from the blowers trickled onto his jacket. No meals or drinks on this flight.
Thirty minutes later and they were circling over Grenada, another lush green fertile island with extensive banana plantations and fruit production. The Dash 8 banked steeply around the volcanic mountainous landscape as the pilot pushed first this way and then that, the ground suddenly magnifying at a rapid pace.
After what seemed like some frantic manoeuvring and feathering of the engines the small plane made a fast approach and a heavy landing but they were safely onto terra firma, always re-assuring. The plane taxied to its stand for its brief visit. It wouldn't stay long before continuing on to St. Vincent and St. Lucia and then back to Barbados.
Five minutes later Jim shuffled down the cabin, unable to stand upright in the small confines and low ceiling height, he squeezed past seated passengers in the cramped interior. A blast of humid hot air swept up the cabin as the fuselage door opened and he immediately started to sweat once again, he loosened his collar. As he climbed down the narrow aluminium steps a uniformed Customs official was waiting on the tarmac, his plastic ID badge read as Edward Bishop.
'Eddie? Jim MacLeod. At last we meet.'
A broad smile illuminated Eddie's face, 'Hello Jim. Thank you for coming straight away.'
'Not at all, thanks for calling me.' They shook hands and Jim followed Eddie to the side of the small air strip where a white Suzuki jeep with Grenada Customs painted on the side in blue stood waiting.
Eddie nimbly climbed in, there were no doors on this jeep. Jim thought the jeep looked like a tin can with wheels, no doors, no roof, just a roll bar. The blasting sun and seasonally thick humidity induced a suffocating feeling of breathing with cotton wool lungs and Jim found himself labouring. Carelessly he threw his grip into the rear and awkwardly sat beside Eddie. He noticed the tyres were nearly bald. Doesn’t seem to be a problem out this way, better grip on the road... unless it rained, which it seemed to on a regular basis.
They started the short journey to St. Georges harbour as Eddie briefed Jim with the recent events, the two fishermen, the boat, the occupants and the journey back to St. Georges.
From first account the murder scene started to sound quite gruesome and Jim's initial euphoria stated to wear off as he envisaged the scene awaiting him. The boat had arrived a few hours ago and the bodies had not been removed. That would take place more or less shortly after Jim arrived, a present for him. The heat and humidity were not conducive to cadaver preservation and they needed to be shifted to the local hospital morgue as soon as possible. Jim knew there was a possibility that Scotland Yard would be called in to deal with the murders, particularly if any of the bodies proved to be British.
The road twisted and turned winding up and down hill first left and then right through dense foliage and along the beach road. Eddie had calypso music playing from the radio as is the fashion in the islands. Don't let an inconvenient murder get in the way of good music.
Jim enjoyed the journey, he knew he had better get used to the tropical landscape and the humidity. In truth he revelled in the drama that his life had become. He enjoyed the sudden excitement of the unknown, of being called away at the drop of a hat. Not everybody liked it, some of his colleagues preferred the sedentary life of nine to five Monday to Friday, but that was never Jim, good job my wife is so understanding.
He had met his wife early on in his career when he was stationed at Heathrow Airport. She had been in the job too but as his career developed into investigation and then intelligence, she sacrificed her career for her family and to support him as women often do.
Eddie threw the little car with easy competence and although Jim knew he was safe he instinctively missed the seat belts and airbags that was normal back home. The road suddenly broadened out and the landscape opened up into St. Georges Bay as the jeep skirted past the yacht club and into town. What a pretty harbour Jim thought. The little boats all laid out, a large sailing ship anchored in the middle, a white banana boat tied up at the main quayside. He couldn't help but smile to himself, he had done well and he was going to enjoy this posting, so much for the easy life.
Almost immediately they entered the town the car ground to a halt. Eddie hit the horn and the market traders ignored him. Black women in bright clothes carrying baskets on their heads and loads on their arms jostled and moved at walking pace on the road, music filled the air. Suddenly they were within a manmade chaotic environment, vibrant and colourful filled with energy and it lifted the spirit.
Eddie let fly on the Spanish brake a few times in frustration,
'What’s the matter with these people,' exasperated. 'We got to get to the boat, before the po-lice finish. You need to see it Jim.'
Jim nodded, not really sure if he wanted to see the boat occupants and rather hoping that the empty boat would suffice. Eddie beeped the horn and shouted some unintelligible abuse over the windscreen receiving a similar response from the berated women ahead.
Slowly he nudged the car onward through the undulating mass of colourful humanity until the narrow dirty broken streets slowly opened. Dogs barked as dirty children played in water running across the broken roads, the smell of raw sewage an occasional affront to Jim’s senses. Eddie expertly guided them through the backstreets turning into one last ramshackle road until they emerged at the other side of the harbour next to his office on the quayside. Pulling on the handbrake, they had arrived.