Snides - where Hitler's SS fight the British SAS - thirty years after WW2 has ended!
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This excerpt from 'Snides' is where the lead character, John Pilgrim, first meets the female lead, Sally Brandon. They are sitting in Pilgrim's militaria shop in London.
Sally had been watching as the transaction was taking place. She looked at the bayonets that Pilgrim had bought and said, “Do people really collect these? Things like that give me the shivers.”
Pilgrim laughed and took the bayonets across to a display case. “There are quite a few people who collect them, but that list he showed me, and those pictures;” he whistled softly, “if I could get them for the right price, that would be a tasty little tickle, so long as there’s no snides amongst them.” Seeing the look of puzzlement on Sally’s face, he went on:
“A tasty little tickle means a good profit on a deal. Snides? Well, they’re fakes, forgeries, whatever you want to call them. Some of them were made in Germany by the original manufacturers; they’re the ones that are really hard to pick out, seeing as they use the original dies and moulds. With ones like those, you’ll find that some dealers artificially age them.” He gave a chuckle. “It’s amazing how original a snide can look after you’ve had it buried in the garden for a month or two. Other snides are made in Taiwan or Pakistan, but they’re dead easy to detect. In this game, you have to keep your eyes open.” He looked at his watch and said, “Look, why don’t we go to the pub? It’s nearly lunchtime and we can talk over a drink and something to eat.”
She hesitated for a moment, and came to a quick decision. She smiled. “Yes,” she said, “I’d like that. I do have a few more questions that I’d like to ask you; background stuff mainly.”
Just then, the door opened, and a man walked in. He was over six feet tall and well- built, as if he worked out regularly in a gym. His fair hair was cropped short in a crew cut and a scar bisected his right eyebrow. He was wearing a conservatively-cut suit, with a white shirt and a maroon silk tie. Black, well-polished shoes completed the outfit. He walked over to Pilgrim and smiled pleasantly. “Morning, Mr. Pilgrim,” he said. “I’ve got a message for you from Mr. Gambetta.” He turned to Sally apologetically and said meaningfully, “a private message, if you know what I mean. Sort of business, like.”
Pilgrim shrugged and looked at Sally, then said, “Sorry about this; it shouldn’t take too long. Tell you what, how about meeting you in the Salisbury in ten minutes. Will that be OK?’
She nodded, picked up her notebook and bag and went to the door. “See you in ten minutes then,” she said, and went out.
Pilgrim turned to the man, who was leaning on the counter, and said, “Right, pal, who are you, and what does Gambetta want now? I’ve had all his letters, and you can tell him that I don’t want to sell this place; I’m happy where I am, so just go and tell that to Gambetta, will you?”
The man straightened up and smiled again. The smile had no humor in it, and his eyes were cold as he looked at Pilgrim. He unbuttoned his jacket and said calmly, “It’s Mister Gambetta to you. Who I am doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that I work for Mr. Gambetta. I sort out any little business problems for him, and it does seem like we’ve got ourselves a little problem here. Mr. Gambetta wants your shop. He’s written to you and made a fair offer, so I’d suggest that you take it. In this part of town, whatever Mr. Gambetta wants, Mr. Gambetta gets. It’s my business to see he gets this place, and that you’re out of here pretty quick.”
His hand went casually inside his jacket and emerged, holding a switchblade knife, which he flicked open. He placed the blade at the side of Pilgrim’s throat. “Now then,” he said, the smile fading from his face, “I’ve a check in my pocket, payable to you; a very large check, together with a bill of sale.” He paused, looking for a response from Pilgrim, then went on; “Mr. Gambetta doesn’t like you; in fact, he hates your guts. So, if you want to stay healthy, I’d suggest that you take the check, sign the shop over to him, and then,” pressing the knife closer to Pilgrim’s throat, “move out; fast.” He pressed harder with the knife. “Got the message, have we?”
Pilgrim reacted instantly. His left hand moved to sweep the knife away, and at the same time, his right hand came up to strike the man under the nose with the heel of his hand. The nose squashed like a ripe tomato and blood began to pour from it. Pilgrim made a half-turn and locked his hands around the man’s knife hand, and twisted hard. There was a muffled snap as the man’s wrist broke, and he dropped the knife. The man hissed in pain and fell to his knees, blood dripping from his broken nose.
Pilgrim bent down and grabbed the man by the throat and put his face close to him. “Tell your boss this place isn’t for sale. It wasn’t for sale yesterday, it isn’t for sale today, and,” banging the man’s head on the floor to add emphasis, “it won’t be for sale tomorrow, especially to a pimp like Gambetta.”
He dragged the man to his feet and pushed him towards the door, and propelled him outside. Wagging his finger under the man’s nose, which was dripping blood down the front of his shirt, he added; “Don’t bother coming back; next time I might really lose my temper. By the way,” he said, as the man staggered away, “I’ll keep the knife, you might cut yourself with it.”
As the man stumbled off down the street, Pilgrim watched, and called out helpfully: “Charing Cross hospital’s just down the road. They’ve got lots of doctors there, and I’m sure they’ll appreciate the practice.” He saw the man walk away, then shrugged and looked at his watch. He saw that only five minutes had elapsed since Sally had left, so he picked up the man’s switchblade and put it under the counter. He locked up the shop and walked out to meet her.
London - 1977
John Pilgrim groaned as the radio alarm woke him, and aimed a well-timed blow to the top of the radio, instantly silencing the disc jockey’s inane early morning chatter. Sitting up, he stretched and yawned. Jinks, his gray and white tabby cat, leapt on to the bed and rubbed her head against Pilgrim’s hand.
He looked down and saw the cat staring back at him, so he rolled out of bed. Stopping only to pull on a pair of jeans, he walked barefoot into the flat’s small kitchen. He switched on the coffee machine, then opened a can of food for Jinks, who was rubbing impatiently against his legs. Setting the cat’s food down, Pilgrim went into the bathroom and started the shower.
The water revived him somewhat, and he applied shaving cream to his face. It’s all very well having a dimple like Kirk Douglas, he thought for the thousandth time, but it’s a bugger when you shave. He stretched the skin carefully, making sure he got a clean shave round the ball of his chin. When he finished, he dried his face and looked in the mirror.
The face that looked back at him was decidedly bleary eyed this morning. Too much beer last night, he decided, then thought, Christ, I must be really getting past it if I’m thinking like that. He shook his head ruefully, grinning at his reflection as he gave it a two fingered salute.