The policeman shouted as they calmly walked away. They did not look back, just carried on casually walking, almost sauntering, just like it was any other day. The policeman stopped and stooped over the man spread over the waste bin and felt his pulse. He was just stirring. The policeman’s radio crackled and he said something about an ambulance and described the two men. Black jacket. Blue jacket. Both mid-height and stocky. Short hair. One blond. One dark. That was all. The radio crackled again and he said he understood. No terrorist involvement so he knew the response would take a while.
Eddie was rubbing his knuckles as they joined the concourse melee. He had a grimace on his face as he said, “That one sure was a bony bastard….Did he get it?”
“He got it,” replied Mike wiping some dust off of his black jacket sleeve, “I felt him right off but he was quick. He was just too quick to grab. And away like a rabbit. Anyone else and they wouldn't have realised. Lucky you were watching, eh?”
Eddie nodded as he thought for a moment, “He must have dumped it en route then. I saw him deviate past this blond girl. She was standing at the board there looking up. Obviously waiting for a train time to show. She had a wheelie bag and a big open bag stuck between her feet. My bet…. It’s in that bag.”
“What time was that?”
“I’d say about 10.05. No later that’s for sure.”
Mike looked up at the board visually flicking through the lists stopping on the fifth one, “That one there. The Exeter train. See the departure time? 10.20. It’s probably the only one that would have lit up about then.”
“Mostly but it’s all we’ve got.”
They were kind of hemmed in. In front of the information board people were crammed together all peering up and not minding who they were close to. Pushing their way through they found a more open space and sprinted to platform 4. The guard was there standing erect with one hand resting on the barrier with the barriers shut, looking very official and turning people away.
Walking up to the him Mike said, “We need to get that train. It’s very important.”
“That’s what they all say, isn’t it?” said the guard with a kind of bored expression.
“But it’s urgent,” said Mike, thinking about a brick wall.
“No can do Boss,” said the guard looking about and waving more people away.
“How much?” said Mike, pulling out a bunch of fifties and looking the guard straight in the eyes.
“No can do,” said the guard again returning the stare, “even if I took your money and I would, it’s no good. She’s leaving.” And pointed at the train slowly picking up speed with that whirring noise noise trains make.
The crowd was building again waiting for the barrier to open for the next train.
They were on the street heading down the Cut towards Blackfriars Road. The pavement was not too busy. Being a weekend the commuters were out of town. Predominantly restaurants and bars it was a slow street to wake up at the weekend and lunchtime service was still some way off.
Leaving the guard opening up for the next train Mike had said, “We need to get outta here. The cops will be all over us anytime soon,” So they left cutting across the concourse under the clock and out by the main entrance. Then down the steps hitting the pavement and turned right heading towards the Cut.
Slipping into the coffee shop on the left just before The Anchor and Hope they took a table in the back corner. The squeaky swishing gurgle of the coffee machines and that all familiar aroma made this place special. The hiss of the milk frother breaking through the general chatter, a sort of echoey background of busy people. The place was about half full with mostly late breakfast people who lived nearby.
“You get the snaps?” said Mike, grabbing the menu standing in the slotted prop out of habit but already knowing what he would order.
“Sure. He looked straight at me. Got a load of good'uns.”
“That just about wraps this…..”
The server was there. She said with a bright smile as she looked at them through large brown eyes, “Hi, what can I get you guys today?”
“Hi Clare,” said Eddie beaming at her liking that cheery look and the eyes that creased with the smile, “What’s it then Mike? Black?” Mike nodded, “Strong black and a cappuccino with extra chocolate sprinkles please.” As she was walking away he added making her turn, “Say Clare. Stick a chocolate muffin with that can you. Mike, you want anything?” and Mike shook his head, “No thanks,” he said, so Eddie said, “Just the muffin please Clare.” And watched her walking down the aisle swinging her hips with a bit of exaggeration knowing he was watching. She stood at the counter, handed over the order and looked back at him and grinned and twiddled her long brown hair a bit.
“She fancies me. You know that, don't you?”
“Sure she does or maybe she just wants to change her dad.”
“Mate, we’re in the modern age. Age doesn’t count. Anyway, what's she? Near thirty I’d guess.”
“You’d hope. But you don’t have the time, do you? We’ve a lady to find.”
“You’re right….but on the upside though there’s always another day, isn’t there and she’ll still fancy me next week eh?”
Mike looked at Eddie and just smiled, “I was saying…..”
“Here you are fellas,” said Clare, putting down the cups and muffin with a fork and napkin. Mike flicking up that coffee smell with a wave of his hand.
“That’s such a great smell,” he said, “I could breathe that in all day.”
Clare said with a frown, “I work with it and all day. It’s not hard to get a bit fed up with it,” Then she threw a big smile Eddie’s way as she left.
“See,” he said.
“Yeah right,” said Mike, “You and all that chocolate. If you were younger you wouldn't be recognised for spots.”
“I’ll burn it off. Going to beat up the heavy one later. That bag’s nearly as tall as me. Forty five kilos of sand and sawdust. Push some weights and run a few. You wanna come?”
“Not me. I’m done with all the weight stuff. If anyone needs a tickle I’m happy for you to enjoy the opportunity. I’ll do the usual run around though. When it’s dark. You know I like to run in the dark.”
Eddie knew the reason. Afghanistan and night patrols. The demons in the head. Those that flew out of the darkness. Spooking already jumpy men that were getting tired. With tiredness they started to get sloppy. Getting shot at. Getting shot. The two sergeants holding it all together. He ran at night to try to expunge those demons. It kept him sane. It helped but he still had nightmares.
“Anyway as I was saying,” said Mike staring after Clare as she left making sure she wasn’t coming back, “those smudges just about wraps that up. That was the last exchange. Our clients have almost all they need.”
“Except the last pages. The conclusion I would think. All the other nine are probably worthless without those pages. Why’d we agree that they were drip fed?”
“Because he didn’t trust us. That’s why. It was the only way. There was no way this would’ve happened otherwise. It was a risk and a huge one at that but we needed the business, didn’t we? Ten drops at ten grand a drop. See how it goes each time. Make sure there’s no hitches. Our problem was the last one. We’d handed over ninety grand and the last drop is the key. As you say without that all the other information is near useless. He could’ve been stringing us along. Then the last one doesn’t appear. What can we do? That’s why we smudged him each time. The photos are date stamped. Pictures of fat packets changing hands and his face. Hang that over him and make him deliver. You must’ve seen him through the lens.”
“I did and he didn’t look too happy. He stormed off like a good’un. Nearly flattened that old lady.”
“Yeah. I told him and told him where the pictures would go. Anyway it worked.”
“Except for that creep.”
“Except for that bloody creep. The bastard,” said Mike and looked about to see if his raised voice had stirred the room. “Well we’ll just have to get them back, won’t we? That was our ten grand in that envelope. I want that back and the bonus.”
“Will they pay it, the bonus?”
“Sure. We hand them the report and give them the pictures. They’ll know the source. Who it is. With the proof. Corporate espionage. We’ll make them a fortune. They’ll pay it alright.”
“But we gotta get that package back. And quickly. How long do you think we’ve got before they’ll want the goods?”
“About a week. They need to close it down soon otherwise it’ll be too late.”
“A week then….So she’s on that Exeter train. That blonde girl.” Eddie said, his eyebrows frowned like they did when he was thinking.
“Did you get a good look-see at her?”
“She passed me coming in when I was smudging that guy. She caught my attention,” and Eddie grinned, “She was a bit curious but I looked at her and smiled the Eddie smile and she walked off. I saw that fella, the pickpocket brush by her.”
“You took your eyes off our man?” said Mike in a kind of criticising way.
“I’d already got him good. He stood still and posed like a peacock. Got him full on and on his best side. There’s more than everything we need there. Besides, a good looking lady brightens up the day eh? And it was just as well I did. I remember her like a picture.”
“Yeah I’m sure you do, you villain. OK I’ll accept that. So what’s she like?”
“Tall, long legs, blond and well fit with a great smile.”
“She smile at you?”
“Nah but I saw her smile at this small girl that tripped on her foot as she walked into the station. Not looking where she was going, the kid, and the mum was rushing, dragging her a bit.”
“Anything else? That’s a bit slim all that blonde and long leg stuff. You only look at the nice bits?”
“Hard not too. She’s right up there though. A posh girl. The way she moved and dressed. She walked like she was floating on air and imposing. A proper head turner and with style. A bucket full of it. Posh girl style. And the bag. One of those Tote bags. Cream leather. That soft sort of leather. Thick and expensive. A posh girl’s bag.”
“OK I get the picture. She’s posh and….?”
“Thirty something, maybe pushing towards forty. And she came in from the taxi rank so she came by cab. Money is a private taxi. She’s not a black cab sort of girl.”
“I’m sure. Who’s the girl expert in this outfit? Trust me. I know a private taxi girl when I see one.”
“So the taxi rank entrance. You still in with that computer whizz nerd?”
“Sure we do the video games now and then. And I know what you’re thinking and I’ll see what I can do.”
“We need car, colour and type and if possible the registration.”
“OK, I’m straight on it and you?”
“I’m back to the office and putting the file together. I’ll take the camera and download the snaps to a stick. By five it’ll be complete.”
“Well in that case I’ll see you later. It’s what 11.45 now? Back at the office by three with luck.” And he was up. Last bite of muffin. That soft sticky ultra chocolate bit in the middle. The bit he always liked to savour. Last sip of coffee then rattling the cup back down as he wiped froth from his lips. Smacked them with an, “Ahhh.” Then out the door shouting for a black cab to take him to see a computer nerd. Taking out his phone he dialled Carter’s number.
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