Anglo-American author JP TREVOR offers Junto readers a 'first read' of his new thriller 'The Summit.'
First of three parts
Windy as hell. Perfect day to meet a dead man. Blow the smell away. Except this dead man was inside a concrete pillar that held up one of Chicago's biggest skyscrapers. So no smell.
Crow had a good night's sleep on the flight from Paris to Chicago. Time for his nerves and adrenals to recalibrate. He had no doubt the target might decide the man who was asleep in the casino and the mystery smoke bomb thug darting man might be one and the same. And turn up in Chicago.
The target had reasonably felt there was something not right about the man in the casino chair so he'd told his people to find him. So close to the summit deal and nothing would get in Mr Mozaar's way. Having won the first round of approval from the US Treasury Secretary and the President of Russia. All working so well, and so this irritating man who kept popping up must be stamped on like a cockroach.
London had put their VIO agent in a first class safe house just outside downtown Chicago, and his mountain bike was there on time pumped and primed for a little ride downtown. Some of the older buildings like the Hancock had concrete pillars supporting them and once they were in place and holding up the building, not much chance of a pillar being removed. Stupid also to go ask the authorities if they could take down one pillar. You want to do what? So as usual softly softly the VIO quietly contacted a man with a van and a camera that London had already briefed. Mr Locke at his finest. A very special camera. Then Crow looked for someone to put up a fake maintenance nylon dayglo fencing around the pillar.
Fourth pillar to the right behind the side door of the brand new eighty-floor Ashton Towers was what Sophia had told Mr Locke. She had overheard a conversation between her husband and the mafia who had dropped the man into the cement pillar casing and sent a bill to Mr Mozaar for $200,000 cash.
A special kind of X-ray camera which could see through concrete in extraordinary detail. One of London's sleeper helpers had located it in a home grown laboratory on the outskirts of Chicago. The camera was made by an ex-Marine who lived with his doberman. The ex- Marine was more than willing to help out the British agent. We were there with you in Normandy, and I'm here for you now dude so let's rock and roll. His home camera, the size of a jumbo packet of cornflakes, was based on a military experiment that went classified. It could magnify the X-ray and convert it to a positive image. The Zeiss lens was the costly part to the ex marines camera which fed the image into any laptop via USB cable. "Tomorrow? All right I'm with you man."
Before going to bed and using mind control to relax his system so it could get through jet lag more easily, Crow checked the streets below from his large ornate window in his five-star safe house, a reserved suite on the third floor of the five-star Regency Hotel. With steel fire escape stairs all the way down to street level. No need to exit the hotel through the main entrance, he could quietly slip out in the darkness of the fire escape. But this was absolutely field red so triple checks were to be done every few minutes until all clear. So clear that he could sleep like a baby. Crow was watching the shadows for any pattern of movement. Some tags would wait motionless for hours to get their man. Same as the snipers in Mostar. In which case Crow was happy to also wait breathing quietly behind a curtain. An hour later Crow was getting sore legs. Nothing down on the street that looked like tags. But just to make absolutely sure he got into a black suit and put a listening wire in his ear and tucked the other end of the useless wire into his inside pocket. Then went down the three flights of stairs to the ground floor and took a look around and told reception he was on night shift for a client. In hotels like that people generally do not ask questions, especially when the man in the suit with a wire looked the part.
Crow's dark glasses made it easy to spot a tag who might be hanging around in the hotel lobby and after ten minutes Crow sat down behind a huge potted plant so he could continue observing for another few minutes and then he went back upstairs his eyes scanning every corridor at each level and checked another five floors above then went back his floor. Before turning in, he did the elevators, then the strand of hair he had left across his door, and then went in. The no disturbance sign untouched. Nobody had been in his room. Removed his suit and listening wire and got into bed.
Two hundred tons of special mix concrete had made each pillar held up the recently-built sixties-style Ashton building. Five pillars held up the first floors overhang then five more holding up the side overhangs. Months ago Mr Mozaar had paid the local mafia to do a small job for him and a man was sent down into a wooden pillar casing a few days later never to be seen again. The mayor of Chicago had no idea someone was inside a pillar when he cut the ribbon at the recent opening of Ashton Towers, but if someone had told him he would had to have conceal his lack of surprise.
The dead man had no name and no home address and no nationality but way too much knowledge about the target's summit plans. Another detail that had escaped the usually meticulous Mr Mozaar. That when he told his wife Sophia and the pillar man his little secrets about the summit he had forgotten something. The target generally was drawn to people who were damaged goods. Easier to dominate and finish off what was left of their souls. But sometimes people with personality disorders and mental problems could have amazingly sharp minds inside their often childlike worlds. And could remember detail the way a child remembers details: without all the adult programming. And one man in particular had later written down what the target had told him. Had written it in secrecy with a smile on his face. Same smile as when a child found hidden candy.
Mr Mozaar had 'confessed' his summit plans in a childishly patronising sort of way, utterly confident that only about three percent of what he was saying would register in his damaged goods audience of two. The man in the pillar was to the target just another worthless piece of humanity who could not possibly retain anything the target told him with such a low intellect and dazed eyes from his hellish past. Not thinking for one moment that the man in the pillar would remember a word but as a precaution the target paid the mafia to drop him into cement. The Ashtown Towers first permanent resident. Who the British agent was at the moment looking at. On the laptop screen that belonged to the ex-Marine. The pillar man had put his note in his outside jacket pocket. And there it was on the screen although jibberish at first glance because the note had been folded.
The Chicago Outfit. Civilised word for the local mafia. Who respected the dead man. Drugged him before he was dropped into cement. And left the clothes on him. Respect and dignity. Lack of dignity and respect made mafia bosses wince sometimes. Nobody had checked inside his clothes. Why would they. Who was going to check. Just another cement job and the client said nothing about taking his clothes off and burning them before drugging him and dumping the body down a wooden pillar casing. Anyway how is anybody going to take a look at this guy once he's inside the pillar and holding up a great big building. This client is no capo di tutti capi so wedecide to leave his clothes on and is no problem the client pay good on time and the dead man is dead and we have done our job and time to go to Lucianos.
Crow didn’t know how London found people like the ex-Marine, and his special camera but both were a treat to behold. Crow was impressed by the American anything was possible attitude. Go to the moon, hell yes, put the Space Challenger on the back of a 747, hell yes, see through concrete and read a piece of paper inside a dead man's pocket, hell yes.
Crow and the ex-Marine and his ex-Vietnam vet assistant were huddled inside the dayglo nylon fencing that surrounded the pillar. A logo was stencilled on the outside of the fencing so the public would think people at work on maintenance of some kind under the halogen lights running off a generator. And the ex-Marine had a fake document to show curious police who would think there was not much they could do to a pillar.
Crow knew his head was inside an oven right now so hot was the field and the target's people very likely either watching or about to shoot off a few rounds from a machine gun as they drove past. Or send the mafia to do a hit for cash. The target had enough money to pay for round the clock surveillance on the Ashton Towers since it opened a few month ago. If he could bother. And he could bother because he was meticulous in leaving no trace of his G20 business. The dead man was in the pillar for as ling as the building stood. But it always paid to be extra cautious. And Mr Mozaar had received a note telling him his wife was free. So the surveillance on the Ashton Towers had been increased a little.
The machine gun option could miss though as all guns were only as good as their handlers and the sound of a slight increase in acceleration or screeching tires would send Crow flat on the floor in under a second.
Someone had been interested in the Issham al Baher yacht so it would make sense to up the surveillance in Chicago. The target's wife and the dead man in the pillar were the only people who knew about the summit business. And the British agent.
The target's reptilian brain had given him tiny warning signals that someone was on his trail and the pillar like any secret in such a busy world with mafia wanting more money was not a secret forever. Anyway Mr Mozaar had never fired a gun and hated the things. Something more discrete than a machine gun from a car. Make it look like an aggressive deranged person was found on the street. A danger to himself and others. Oh officer he was trying to assault a poor woman. A mental institution was even a safer bet than a concrete pillar. Mafia were human and talked. Nobody wanted to talk about insanity. Pay the mental facility well and lock him away and let him rot in pharma hell and the irritating man well out of the way of the summit dreams.
The ex-Marine had altered a scientific instrument with a Nikon lens then added a military grade Focus Beam X-ray. Which was showing the skeleton of the dead man inside the pillar. Crow asked the ex marine to move the camera around the dead man's body to see what else could be picked up. No metal and no pins in bones and no wires. Only the folded piece of paper in an outside pocket. The dead man had written his little secret down and put it away to look at now and then. His little secret for him only.
Crow was looking at the positive image on the laptop screen of the dead man's torso area wondering what had been done to him. Acid bath or burnt into a crisp then dropped down a concrete pillar casing. Thank you, poor sad dead man in there, I am grateful for your sharing. Hopefully the note is not your shopping list for Dominick's Foods. Then again it could be a soup kitchens meal ticket. To decode the words would take time. The water in the cement had deformed some of the words but the camera could make out the original acidity lines of the ink. Possibly a crappy ball point pen the dead man used to write a paragraph of around four lines it seemed at this stage. Good because that would mean pressure marks on the paper. Tomorrow maybe the words would make sense but right now Crow was feeling the hairs on his neck start to do their little dance and that his luck was being pushed to the limit. Time to shut down the halogen lights and get out of there and into his safe house in the gold plated hotel and report to London that tomorrow he would have the words on the dead man's note. That broccoli cost $1.05 a head, or something more interesting. The ex-Marine who wanted to help the British agent quickly unwrapped a mars bar and ate the whole thing in two mouth fulls when he saw Crow suddenly pack up the gear with a look in his eyes of total focus. Not that there was fear on Crows face. It was just the way he'd gone into action like a panther with total control and total focus. Didn’t know the Brits could do that. Hadn't been to Hereford then.
The ex marine said nothing and finished his mars bar with a small smudge of chocolate on the side of his mouth. The ex-Marine had also lived with post traumatic stress all his life so another bit of urgency was no biggy.
Mr Mozaar had found the dead man in the pillar on skid row on the east side of Chicago with booze bottles and dereliction all around him in a flop house. Mr Mozaar had bought the man lunch in a coffee house in a misguided attempt to help the poor. As a philanthropist he liked to help the needy and downtrodden as well as corporations. So grateful for the very nutritious lunch and the poor man had been dazzled by the god like creature in a white suit who was banging on about some vision he'd had about the G20 summit that he seemed desperate to share with someone. But something deep down in the drifter guy he had believed Mr Mozaar was not joking was not nuts was for real so convincing were his words and his way of speaking. And so the man had digested not only the nutritious lunch but a few words the kind stranger had shared with him. The Hollywood movie style words. Then he'd gone and written down his little secret and ended up inside a pillar.
Sophia. Her husband could not imagine she would ever recover enough from the relentless emotional abuse he'd inflicted on her. Recover enough to be be coherent or articulate. Or even remember any details of what he'd shared with her in the same childishly patronising way about the summit. Coherent or not who would believe in her fantastic story about her husband wanting to chair the G20 Troika. The man in the pillar had not been a problem. Booze and a crap childhood had already turned his mind to mush which had made it feel easier to unload his summit dreams onto him without feeling anxious the man might remember. But as a precaution. Cement. Holiday talk or cocktail talk or lunch with a tramp. Talk is talk. Whats the difference. In one ear and out of the other. In both cases Mr Mozaar in one ear and not out of the other. Little mistakes and maybe more to come.
It was not a Dominick's Foods shopping list or a meal ticket.
Almost packed up like a panther then suddenly the clouds opened up and the rain poured down on the group of three inside the dayglo nylon barrier next to the dead man's pillar, and the hot halogens hissed, and the ex-Marine with Mars bar bits in his mouth jumped into action to protect his laptop and his camera. In seconds all was under a tarpaulin that ran from the back of a white van parked with traffic cones on the pavement where a single Chicago cop protected the maintenance team. Paid for by London. No match for Mr Mozaar, but it made the maintenance crew look for real. Dead man pillar already had rain rivulets running down as tears of sadness from the man inside who would never see the blue sky again or knock back a good shot of rum, or enjoy hot soup from the mobile kitchen under an Illinois State highway.
It all happened so quickly. Crow's hairs had danced but not fast enough. This was becoming an annoying pattern for Crow. Same on the yacht. Slight slip in sixth sense awareness. Needed a little primer in extra sensory perception later in his luxury safe house.
Crow gave silent credit to Mr Mozaar's people for setting such an unpredictable trap. Crow was walking towards a shabby hotel to use a phone and report to London in case his cover was blown being so deep in field red. So he asked the ex-Marine to wait inside his white van near the curb outside the rough looking hotel for a few minutes. Inside was a dirty and cigarette burnt Illinois Bell phone half hanging off the wall, and no need to worry about finger prints. Nervous energy used up water fast and even a small amount of fight or flight would make the need to pee more urgent so Crow had to have a pee behind a group of rusty dumpsters down a side street behind the hotel.
On his way into the hotel lobby to make the call now. There was some derelict with a vast Afro on his head with a woolen cap that did not hold all the hair who wanted to sell Crow some crack. Then the Afro guy spat and lurched into the phone which did not help the attachment to the wall at all.
Mr Locke would be somewhere in America at the moement, but his boys in London would be running the mission. Crow did not want to alarm them because he did not want Mr Locke turning up with another mug of sweet tea and calling him dear boy. Crow would not be alarming them anyway because he had to tell a lie on the phone. It was too late to tell them what the note in the dead man's pocket had said.
The Office would have heard Crow's first signal made by pressing the dial buttons from the hotel phone in Chicago. Then the line went crackly then dead which usually meant problems. Which usually meant Tolstoy would be ready to get on a plane and go be nanny. But the afro guy came back and lurched into Crow and the phone and then Crow heard a quick burst of sirens outside on the street. Better to check his ex-Marine was OK and Crow's ride still there waiting for him. Probably an ambulance responding to some poor sod who had drunk too much.
So Crow left the phone and the aAfro guy dangling and then it all went completely tits-up when Crow walked back to the white van that was meant to have waited by the curb in front of the hotel. The white van had gone and in it's place was a Chicago ambulance with lights flashing. A small group of drifters were gawking at the strobing Chicago Ambulance Alliance unit. The speed of the set up was impressive to Crow who instinctively went into survival only mode once the three ambulance crew had grabbed Crow and given him a shot and got him inside all in about six seconds. The sleaze bags on the street started shouting abuse at the ambulance. Something about kidnap and ambulance my tits then with a quick burst of siren it was gone with Crow inside and already feeling the effects of the needle jab. Crow decided not to use his Ninjitsu because the drivers could be a problem. He went into a lets find out where this is going mind set. By staying very calm and using his diaphraghm breathing he could slow down the speed the drug was taking to spread around his body. He closed his eyes then opened them making the crew believe he was falling into a deep sleep but he wasn’t yet.
He doubted that he was being taken to a hospital, so he looked at nearby packaging to find out what they had injected him with. Was it a fatal dose. We found him on the street and people were saying he had tried to assault a woman then he tried us so we sedated him. Allergic reaction. These things happen. So easy to make people dissappear and the target knew this better than anyone. So probably an overdose. Unless the target had so much confidence that where Crow was being taken he would never walk the streets again. The target avoided police inquiries if at all possible.
Crow could see no sign of an open syringe packet or a drug bottle they might had used to inject him with so he lay there on the guerney sensing his body dealing with the drug and so far it seemed just a strong rapidly acting sedative as he felt no alarming reactions other than a sleepy feeling. And he could still maintain control of his concious state but that was years of training to allow vitals to be kept under his mind control.
If a yogi could sleep on a bed of nails then Crow could work with the drug they had injected. Had to or he might not make it alive out of this ambulance. Worrying thing was they had not checked his dilation so maybe they were just waiting for him to die then go from there with their story to the police.
What seemed like half an hour later the ambulance was going round a perimeter driveway into a huge concrete overhang with a broken exterior lamp stantion giving minimum light to the patient unloading area. A large sign Crow saw out of his almost closed lids said Danvers Psychiatric Facility. If it had anything in common with the one built in 1878 Crow had arrived at hell.
The ambulance slowed down. A voice then another voice then a swear word then silence then a door opened then he woke up the next morning in a waxy detergent smelling ward locked in behind four electronic steel doors. He was in a cuckoos nest. But better than in a hospital because Crow felt more comfortable around insane people than the so-called normal ones. His VIO papers were so well concealed nobody would find them unless they put his Stop Rip nylon Goretex trousers in a shredder. But his clothes were left on him so his Pen was also safe inside it's hidden compartment. And Crow had concealed his Watch before he'd started work on the pillar. Normal scanners and security detection would not be able to pick it up. If the new British warship HMS Daring had the radar signature of a fishing boat then Crow's Watch had one the size of a pin head.
So far he felt bloody stupid. Why had he not treble checked for tags and checked the white van was it still there hello two sandwhiches short of a picnic after making the aborted phone call to London was it the afro crack dealer who set off a lack of awarness. no good Better get grounded once out of this place so it did not happen again this is field red jesus. Crow had finished ranted in his mind and could get centered now he had a bed and a barred window and some food later perhaps such as jacket potatoes when nothing else looks edible. First find out why he's been taken to a funny farm. Play insane though so as not to scare the other patients and
Fortunately the drug had dimmed all his senses so he slurred a bit anyway which helped the I'm insane act. But it annoyed Crow who did not like feeling this vulnerable with people in white coats and a woman shuffling around with loose teeth and a wax rictus smile. Her father was a famous psychiatrist in Chicago who last came to see his rotting daughter three years ago. Let the FDA experiment their drugs on her. One more guinea pig will go unnoticed.
Crow had decided to let go of control and drift off to another dimension and hope he came back to this one later. A small bird sitting on the outside window ledge was the last thing Crow saw through the bars before floating away on a cloud of Ambien that had enough side effects to sink a ship so Crow would need to do some serious detoxing and immune system building once he got out of this place. And get out he would somehow or his grandmother was a Chinese bus driver.
Back in the land of the living hours later he had been given a blue plastic cup of some hot drink in it by a black lady in white who said, "You here honey because you was danger to the others out there but here you safe." Then she said goodnight her shift was over.
The small bird had gone from Crow's window sill but it's brief presence had given Crow the extra drive to get out. His years of training had made him resistant to suffering when it came to meds and chemicals and abuse. Althouth a mega sedative was no contest. There were not many types of suffering left on the list Crow had not experienced in life so a bit too much Ambien was not going to ruin his day. Let his highly trained body do what it had to do to survive the next few hours. Then he could try to make another phone call to London on that wall phone over there the other side of the well lit linoleom floor with boring patterns and plastic and metal chairs and travel posters on the beige institutional walls. He only wanted to call London to make sure they stayed off his back. Any alarm in his comms to London and Tolstoy would be in Chicago. And that must not happen. Not after what Crow had found in the dead man's pocket.
Nurse Ratchet was at the reception preparing the meds trolley for the evening consumption to the thirty odd patients. Not all mad but in a few months the side effects of the drugs would alter their minds some forever and ever. Crow took the tiny white paper cup that had pretty creases down the outside and had two pink pills inside which he popped into his mouth so the staff could see he was a good patient but he did not swallow them. Just pretended to gulp them down. The meds staff nodded at Crow then turned and left him sitting on his bed looking at a youngish man on the other bed with bandages around his wrists that showed slashing marks around the edges. "You are lucky." The youngish man said to Crow. "The last one who was in here walked around all night masturbating. All I am is a sad harmless case."
Crow smiled politely but said nothing. His room was otherwise all right. In his room shared with the wrist slasher Crow had his own crappy brown laminate wardrobe to put his jacket. H had already hidden his VIO papers and Watch and Pen inside the underneath six inch cavity by lifting up on end of the wardrobe. Institutional pyjamas and a puke colored pale yellow robe was the uniform. So the patient could not hide an offensive weapon.
Then it all went quiet and the lights went out again in Crows head and he slumped down on his bad. Was it the coating off the pill he'd pretended to swallow then he'd spat out that had mixed with the injected sedative. The next thing Crow knew he was sitting up in the middle of the night having a panic attack so he crawled out into the main area and asked another black nurse in a white uniform for help. He knew it was Ambien and the pill coating that was doing this. She looked down at him on the floor and took his pulse. "Well mister I guess you need a shot to bring you down."
The next morning he found himself alone lying on a restraint bed but not strapped down just feeling thankful to be alive. Suicide watch the staff had been told by the ambulance crew. And assault on a woman. So a section order and the ambulance crew would be able to pay off their mortgage and the target would be happy so he could get on with his summit plan and rule the world like Superman.
Blood tests showed Crow had not swallowed his pink pills last nigh,t so he was told to meet the facilities psychiatrists. There were three of them. Grey pasty faced unhealthy and had lost their souls years ago. "We are here to help you." They all said. A very big and fat man in a black security guard's uniform with a big gun sat perched on a stool in the right corner. He had lost the ability to smile so he just watched Crow with an extra bland look from having seen the other side of humanity. Three sandwhiches short of a picnic but one big gun so Crow behaved. The guard was there to make sure Crow did not attack the therapists who wanted to help. Assaulting a woman his report had said. And there were three women in here so his gun would feel itchy if it cared at all. Crow was feeling a little better having made a quick coded report to London across from the reception out of earshot. Crow could not tell London what was really happening. Out of the question. Crow's last call anyway for a few days as a major freak blizzard was moving into the Illinois area and phone lines would go down without a doubt.
But Crow was not going to stay more that a night in this place with these pasty faced psychiatrists. "We understand that you did not take your pills last night. Why is that?" With a sickly patronising smile that could kill off a weak patient. Crow smiled back but not too much incase they thought he was about to take a plastic fork and do a Hitchcock while still smiling. "We are here to help you get better but if you do not want to cooperate this will make our work difficult." Crow smiled and sat down and tried to look like he wanted to cooperate. The pasty faces wanted to drug the life out of him. It was their job. Then watch him lose his mind and eventually his one and only body from the drug's side effects and then write their reports. Might take a few years. It was their job.
The big bland gun on the fat guard's waist belt was looking intensely at Crow. Big guns and big bellies and big necks do not always spell grace but Crow knew that if he made a sudden move the gun would be out of its holster and aimed at his forehead in a wink yes sir. Behave and act like a puppy who wanted a home. They were smiling a sort of grimace. The session was over in twenty five minutes after endless notes had been taken and boxes ticked. Time for breakfast now just you make sure you take your meds this evening young man or it will be harder on you to get you back into society. Oh yes want to bet that won't ever happen if I continue not swallowing those pills. You will find many ways to justify permanent incarceration in this poisonous place and how much did the target pay you and what were his instructions. You want to help me. Bollocks. I will help myself thank you all the same and nice broach you have there on your large bosom lady did your aunt give you that you know the one who lives a quaint life in her Thomas Kinkade cottage by the river deluding herself that her relative was earnestly helping those poor desperate mental patients in that respectable facility.
It was not or a Dominick's Foods shopping list or a meal ticket.
Scrambled eggs and Coriander would be ideal for the task ahead later tonight but that probably would not happen. On his way to the canteen the agent took a look out of the windows. Perfect. A nice great big blizzard was building up momentum. Great cover. Crow loved watching escape films especially the one about Alcatraz with that extraordinary actor. Crow looked at the big pasty faced woman psychiatrist with the broach again as she walked past. Muttering quietly under his breath which would fit the part of a nutter. "Make my day punk. Just try to stop me leaving this place. Watch me toss your multi-colored pills in the canteen bin and then leave this dump. Not the normal way through the doors after signing a discharge paper or being fetched by someone who'll vouch for my safety and keep me out of trouble. Anyway you can't keep me out of trouble. Too late for that because I am already in deep trouble since I read the wording on the note inside the dead man's pocket."
In the next few hours the agent had to discard surplus weight from his psyche. The game on the board of this mission had changed forever. Except that forever only covered the next two days. The target had lit a fuse and it was short. So for starters Crow had calmed his nervous system way down and drunk loads of water to flush out the Ambien. And he was hungry so he checked out the nice man behind the canteen for protein.
"Any chance of a scrambled egg or two?"
The kitchen staff had seen so much emotional and mental death in here that someone asking a normal question got a weird look. No answer just a weird look. And eyes that said read the board lunatic. Friday night was omelette night and it came with a baked potato. The eggs looked like a scraping off an big bird's bottom and the potato looked like another scraping out of the big's bird nostrils but insane people cant be picky. To do a successful cookoo escape he needed high carbs and protein to give him a boost of energy to sustain who knew what it would be like out there in a full blown blizzard. Chill factor minus thirty twenty five maybe.
Things had got a little quieter in the dining room area. A few patients were fighting over which television channel to watch and one was dribbling a wet something and one was scribbling cunt on a wall with food. The staff hovered here and there doing not much except watching and abusing patients. Crow was quietly looking at the windows trying to measure by the way reflections played how thick the plate glass might be. Good strong glass installed by Torstenson Glass in Chicago. Was the glass hurtling a table at it proof. The big question this evening. Crow sat down with his big bird scrapings and partly closed his eyes as he'd done in the Monte Carlo casino but not so much he couldn't see where his fork was going or see where the staff were. And they were quite near him so he adjusted his body language and posture to complete the picture of someone who was starting to feel sleepy. Which was partly true because Crow was intentionally relaxing so when the time came he could do his escape thing very fast. As a whip. Or for car enthusiasts zero to sixty in two seconds and out into the white howling night but alive with relief to be out of the facility.
During the very brief coded phone call from the psychiatric hospital London had had only seconds to let Crow know the few crumbs of intelligence they had managed to pick up since Mr Locke had flown to America to clean up after agent Simpson's death. Cambridge Intelligence Network had picked up something interesting. The world's largest ocean going vessel was Cunard's Queen Mary Two. At the moment it was preparing to leave Long Beach Harbour in the next two days. A routine cruise was all Cunard had said sort of why the question tone of voice.
In the history of Cambridge Intelligence Network they had never been ordered to keep intel within the walls of their building in Cambridge. It had never happened. These days intel agencies were meant to share or it got in the media as a bad thing. For some reason The QM2 intel was under a total and absolute blackout. Nobody at CIN knew why this was. But knew they would be crucified if any of it leaked out. To anybody. Including MI6 or MI5 or the CIA. In any case it was only a rumour that might be a load of bollocks. Even if it was true Cunard would have been ordered to make the event mediaproof anway. Would have been paid a lot to do so. And once the QM2 was out at sea who was going to get past a cordon of air force jets or maybe a warship. Mr Locke had done a good job briefing CIN to keep their intel silent. Rumour was not a certainty but Mr Locke knew Crow was having to hide something to protect himself and others. Just something about Crow's comms on the phone. A feeling. Mr Locke felt there was a small connection between the G20 being all mysterious and a faint rumour that Cunard was preparing a very special cruise deep into the Pacific Ocean.
It was now the hours ticking by that was Crow's main obstacle. And the words on the note and London's intel had sent Crow so far into field red that all he could see was crimson. Every minute seemed like a whole day.
The window and the blizzard raging outside the psychiatric hospital was a piece of cake. Sheer intent and sheer bloody mindedness and highly focused chi could deal with it. The canteen tables were heavy but the scrapings had given Crow a boost of energy. Crow was now fully committed and prepared for take-off.
In martial arts Crow had learnt that to break a wooden board successfully he would need to close his eyes for a few seconds and imagine that he'd already broken through the board. If he was lacking in confidence that he could not break the board or the image in his mind that the board was already broken was weak - a broken finger could be the result. At the moment Crow was sitting on a cheap blue plastic and chrome canteen chair with his eyes half closed quietly imagining his body behind a table smashing through the plate glass window of the insane asylum. Outside the blizzard was howling beautifully.
The main reason this place existed at all was that truths had been buried since man had started walking the earth. But truth could liberate and liberation was very much on Crows mind this pretty pink and yellow pill evening as he watched the snow make patterns on the seven foot long windows. That would probably shatter like snow itself if it was safety glass. Which would save Crow cutting his arm badly. So thanks to Torstenson Glass in advance. Or if the old non-safety plate glass thanks taken back. Timing and angle of attack at the window was vital. Crow had already looked for cracks in the window when he'd walked past the windows towards the nice cook to ask for scrambled eggs. Crow had seen no cracks except one old yellowish line running from the right bottom corner of the last window on the left side of the canteen. His window tonight. His friend the window. Crow had pretended to appear clumsy and knocked a few chairs away from their corresponding tables. This allowed him a clear run towards the window with the old crack. Curl up against the inside of a table so it took most of the impact then turn quickly to go through the smashed space of the broken window using the table as protection. Then run like the wind.
The staff had not bothered to put the knocked about chairs back around the table for which Crow was thankful not to have to appear clumsy a second time. Patterns were red flags. Crow was weighing one of the older tables that had an extra chrome vertical support post which Crow was going to use. Hold it with his right hand gripping the round aluminium edge and together he and the table would move forwards so fast that no staff would have time to react. Oh he must have watched One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest oh he wont get far in this blizzard go call security incase the idiot cuts his hands poor asshole. Asshole yourself. Yes use anger to break the window as well as channeling chi and centering internal light and some darkness yes his rage into the solar plexus. Focus all that and there was a chance Crow would be outside soon.
Illusion was precious to Crow in these last moments before he escaped. That is if all went well. He had to maintain the illusion that he was just another insane patient who would end his life rotting away in here and had on some far away planet accepted this. Once in here that was it. Only slightly better than Green Oaks in Dallas. Only slightly. Which hell would you like to go to sir. The hot one or the very hot one. The staff in here believed that most patients would eventually leave in a box. One orderly was at the moment jumping on top of a patient feet from where Crow was sitting. But Crow did not interfere or he might be locked away. The orderly grabbed the white faced screaming female patient by the collar and started screaming back at her. Crow had seen staff taking patients into the restroom and roughing them up. And they were locking up elderly patients in small cells and covering up their windows and leaving them in there all night without checking on them. Crow could hear them yelling for help and no one went to see what they were yelling for help for. He even witnessed one elderly lady being hit over and over again. At night it got worse. They were billing insurance companies and government for beds and putting patients in chairs instead. Crow was lucky. He had a bed.
Patients were being purposely overdosed to make them appear worse than they really were. One doctor had patients purposely lie on forms he filled out so he could use shock therapy on them. Shock therapy was big business for them. Bringing in super amounts of cash. A patient - or vegetable - after shock therapy got special favors. Such as more snacks if a patient got this procedure done and they would be treated a little bit nicer. Some patients were walking around naked. The cold showers were communal and the water barely piddled out. The mattresses and tiny horrible smelly bumpy pillows were dirty and looked prison issued. The floors were rarely mopped. Many would get sick the first night in a room because they never cleaned the exhaust vents. Many times there was no water to drink. Most nurses were nonresponsive and the orderlies got upset if you asked for something such as towels to take a shower with. Only a matter of time before the Feds shut this place down. Might take a few years though.
So Crow was working hard on maintaining an illusion that he was a harmless patient ready to rot in here and not a coiled tiger about to get the hell out.
He continued to sit in his blue plastic chair and had discreetly lifted the end of his table about an inch off the ground with one foot. All the canteen tables measured four feet across so he knew a table would not be excessively heavy to lift and smash through the window. Peripheral vision on the staff. Up from his seat then he'd wait another half a second for muscles to understand that the next movements needed to be explosive. Then he'd focu his eyes on the table and move like a cheetah. Grab lift and focus. On the weak part of the window to make sure the table would fit through and not bounce him back into a room full of screaming patients Then turn his shoulder into the underneath of the table which would be taking the main shock of going through the glass and he would not even turn to look back at the shocked faces and staff who'd been watching television jumping up his with eyes on stalks. Job well done and no more pretty Pfizer pills. But an orderly put his big fat hand on the agent's shoulder to see if he was dead or just dozing. Then the orderly screamed at Crow and tilted Crow's chair so far back that he almost fell off it. This was the spark. Crow got out. Rage had pressed a button in Crow's mind. Out into fresh air. After using a lightening fast elbow strike to the guy's temple. Not dead but close. Then out into the blizzard wrapped in his bed blanket. Staff hadn't noticed the blanket underneath his jacket. Wouldn't have meant much anyway. Most patients were dressed as zombies. So the guy had problems with circulation.
The arctic cold on Crow's exposed head was a cryogenic taster. To avoid rapid cooling of his core his neck and chest and lower back areas needed protecting. And he had to pull some of the blanket up to filter the freezing air and give his lungs warmth so the blanket was all over the place in the sixty mile and hour wind. Crow kept moving and ran and hid and recovered a little and got himself centered and calmed his nervous system and adrenals and brought his pulse down then took out the photocopy of the dead man's words and stored it in his memory. He'd burn the photocopy as soon as possible.
Crow had noticed that of all the places or situations he'd been in since he started working as an agent Danvers was the most dangerous of the lot. He normally never had sweaty palms. Only now were his palms drying out.
Gangrene or mummification necrosis had not happened but it had been close. First Crow could feel his core temperature dropping then he noticed that mild panic made it seem to drop further. So he switched off the panic button in his mind. And hot wired a diesel truck in Danver's delivery yard and left the lights off and slowly and quietly as possible pulled out in the howling snow storm and cranked up the heaters.
The pieces fitted. Crow had known all along that there was much more to Mr Mozaar. For starters his name was not Mr Mozaar. To Crow he now was just the target. A very dangerous one. The moment Crow had seen the target he'd known who he was dealing with. It was the way he walked.There were no medals or gold medallion caps on Mr Mozaar but the rest of the mad dictator personality was there. He was the same as others like him in history. Take off their tin medals and fancy uniforms and take them far away from the their self made temples of worship and media attention and feverish disciples tugging at their hems. Then watch them wandering around in their underwear with their willies dangling around. Nothing left of their self-importance just a pudgy body in the desert looking for mummy. But give them back an audience and pin their medals back on and off they go again strutting about and holding forth from a deranged mind but calculated as in the target's case to sound the opposite. Some religions market themselves the same way. Smoke and mirrors. An illusion of spirituality. Jesus accepts American Express. And rip away the facade from many dictators and many will panic and throw a childish fit or send off a few skud missiles. Most have no actual dignity and most have built enormous egos to fool themselves and their blind followers with a flawless act of omnipotence. But behind all this was often a small child desperate for approval. What was at the root of a targets character was what Crow needed to know. Not how many guns he had. And the only thing that had changed in some of these megalomaniacs since the lack of bonding with a mother or some other problem was that time had gone by and their bodies had physically grown. But the seeds of destruction had been there all the time waiting to come out.
Escaping the insane asylum had been clean and lean without major cuts. Only a lacerated right hand thumb and a cut on right wrist on which Crow dabbed tea tree oil. Excellent antiseptic and healing properties. Crow kept a bottle in his black kit bag. And dried shitake and reishi mushrooms and garlic to chew on to keep his immune system strong. The immune and anti viral & bacterial and adrenal support supplements from New Zealand gave his body physical and psychological support to go through windows with the heavy tables from canteens that smelt of decaying food and decaying people or get out of a nasty situation with bullets flying all over the place.
The Prime Minister's brief had simple. Observe the target and find out what business he had with the G20.
A few hours ago Crow had wanted to tell Mr Locke to pull him off this mission. There was a group of Triads plotting something big in France and someone in the United States preparing another 9/11 style attack. Far more interesting for Crow.
That was hours ago. And the target was not Mr Mozaar. Crow was certainly cool. The blizzard had taken care of that. Calm would come later when the mission was over.
One way or another.
Buddhust temple a few minutes from his hotel. That came first. Then Crow had to get some sleep and flush his drugged system Then get to California much faster than a commercial jet.
Before Crow had been kidnapped by the ambulance crew the ex marine's camera and software had rapidly made sense of the words from the piece of paper. The acid in the cement had decomposed the ink on the A6 size piece of paper but the ink's own acid had left a yellowish imprint which was just enough to scan and apply a coding software that assembled the broken letters.
The letters 'QM2' were clear. Time had a way of becoming surreal when a major event was on the horizon. Inside the nylon fencing around the pillar Crow had stared at the laptop screen once the words on the note had been made clear. Then all began to change. The air and the halogen lights on the pillar seemed to Crow super bight and the air super cool. And all the hairs on his neck went up then down then up. Then they stayed standing up. Words on the note that meant a call to the police or the US Defense or the White House or NORAD or the CIA was out of the question. Impossible.
Back at his safe house with frozen toes Crow tried one last call to London. The snow storm had not knocked all lines out. Crow needed just one more bit of intel. Anything to tell him the words on the note were to be taken seriousely.
Christmas. London said. "CIN has just informed us that someone in San Diego has recently sold a very specific torpedo…" Static caused by the blizzard mushed the remaining words but that was enough for Crow. San Diego was close to Long Beach. Coincidence or not.
Crow pressed a few buttons on his hotel phone then said a few words then London said. "Yes we can arrange transport by United States Air Force by eleven tonight…" Static then the line went dead for three seconds. Blizzard playing with phone lines again. In the static London's Chief Executive managed to say. "Tolstoy is standing by do you need him?"
Crow. "Tell Tolstoy not to come anywhere near me. Or Mr Locke…and if Locke is sniffing around Chicago with sweet tea then get him out of here fast. This mission has gone off the board and nobodycan come near me…is that understood? Is that absolutely clear?" Crow's toes hurt which had made him want to scream the words at the Chief Executive.
Brief static. London. "Understood."
Crow to London. "I'll report back in ten to get ETA and LOC of US Air Force flight. Please listen carefully. It is too late I repeat too late to warn the summit members. Do not send any support at all. Do you get that?"
London immediately. "Affirmative yes commander."
Crow replaced the receiver back in it's holder then checked his Watch then closed his eyes for a few seconds and took a long deep breath. Splashed cold water on his face in the illuminated and warm-towelled hotel bathroom.
Put the Queen of England in a downtown Motel Six or Travelodge instead of Buckingham Palace as her office and her perceived power would lessen. Put her on the QM2 and her power would rise again. The target knew how to put on a show for the G20. But this was his last show.
The note and some quick intel checks confirmed Mr Mozaar was actually a Mr William Fisher. Born in the desert near Mt Ararat in eastern Turkey. Who had been on CIA's most wanted for years after it was discovered he'd been working closely with Osama Bin Laden on another 9/11 idea. A flawless change that must have cost. Facial surgery that would make Beverly Hills stars shine bright with envy.
If the torpedo had nothing to do with the mission. And the writing in the dead mans pocket was a hoax. Then what. What about years of Crow training his instinct. What about it. Ignore it and then what. Just assume the target was a Mr Mozzar. A wealthy eccentric with Saudi friends with their own private submarine.
Or get to California and trust his instincts. Because if this really was Mr William Fisher.
Crow asked one thing from London as time was not on his side. Immediately send a sleeper agent to have a chat with the torpedo seller in San Diego. Then tell the sleeper to fuck off fast. The torpedo seller was a woman who was high on meds for epilepsy. Her reply to the sleeper agent was not helpful. She had no idea where the torpedo had gone. But she had been paid enough money to get private treatment for her condition that was triggered by grief and stress from losing her husband in the World Trade Center atrocities. And pay cash for a mansion in Florida with peacocks. After all what was it to her. Some man had paid her loads and told her the torpedo was to be used against a still at large financier of the 9/11 attacks. The torpedo was a modified Spearfish designed to penetrate the hull of a vessel with reinforced double steel.
To guarantee sinking a heavyweight vessel the weight of the charge needed to be increased. The Spearfish normally had a 300Kg charge. But the warhead must also hit a lethal spot. The guidance system would need to program the Spearfish made by BAE systems to hit a vessel amidships or the torpedo could simply miss and wander off.
Crow could feel fine neurons in his brain telling him his instincts were all correct and the clock was ticking.
Where was the target at this moment. Alone and he might feel a bit jittery. Before a major event these types of men often sank into dark matter and black holes of despair if their sense of delusion was not completely watertight or they had a little nagging voice telling them you cant pull this one off because it's way too big. Something will go wrong or someone will interfere. Jittery as hell Crow hoped.
Crow was aware tags might have found out his escape from the insane asylum and were looking for him. So he controlling his diaphragm breathing and stayed aware of his nervous system fluttering. Shit scared actually. He had always told London he worked alone. But he had always known there was a rescue unit standing by. And cups of sweet tea. But this time he'd had to tell London to back off and forget Tolstoy and send him home basically. The way soldiers tell others to back way off when another walked in silence towards a buried mine. Alone or more than one soldier could die.
So Crow had never ever felt this alone.
No time for a full Ikebana ceremony so Crow gave himself just five precious minutes for one flower. Little ritual that he had to do. Could not explain why. Just had to.
One flower into the black vase then he watched the light from a single candle catch each petal. Push back the fear and draw up spinefrom somewhere. Who knew where courage came from. Doesn’t matter. One flower for a grave. And breath in tranquility and add water into the vase. Calmer as Crow felt warmth flowing back into his hands and face where nerves had channeled blood away to supply vital organs for fight or flight. Stronger and more confident. In front of the vase of one flower he went into a kneeling postion on the luxury carpet and did mokusofor five minutes. The only ight in his hotel safe house was a candle which helped his brief meditation.
Then he needed the yang to balance the ying. But he could not risk people hearing and calling reception so he did the martial arts kiai in silence in his mind. Not enough so he got a pillow and did it full force into the pillow and felt a difference. A silent battle cry that sheathed his nerves in tungsten. So that if he was to walk into a convenience store at that moment and buy some milk people would notice from deep within their primitive brain something unusual about him but would not be able to put their finger on it.
The mission had changed and so Crow had changed.
So if someone in the store decided to have a go at the commander or try to grab his Watch. Then when the dust had settled.
A silent battle cry was something a Samurai would understand and respect. One flower and one candle also. Samurai training included poetry and flower arranging. What a samurai would really respect was that Crow had no sword or weapon. So he had to make his mind into a weapon. And the most important element was silence. Only in silence could he hear the tiniest ripples on the Universal pond. Faint messages that might be a live or die one. So not to be ignored. Don’t get on that plane or he is on the other side of the door in the shadows.
There was a beautiful mirror in the small living room. Gold and black frame. Stunning craftsmanship. Beveleld edges. Four feet high above a marble mantle piece. Crow took the candle and put it near the mirror. Then he sat near the mirror and looked down slightly so his face was not too visible.
Quietly. "Remember my theory that there are no two grains of sand in any desert or anywhere on our planet that are one hundred percent identical. It's impossible. Like perfection it is impossible. It is impossible that this mission fails. Remember how the closer I look the more I see" Everything had gone very quiet in his hotel room and the blizzard had slowed down and the wind had quietened.
The one flower in the dark room was stunning and silent. Five minutes were up. Crow got kitted out for the freezing snowy streets and went down the stairs two at a time. Elevators could be traps.
On his way to a temple to ask permission to take a life.
The end of Part One.
JP Trevor, a painter, set designer, and author, has lived in the United States, France, and Russia. He lives in south-east England.
© JP TREVOR 2012.
WGA Registration Number: 1527862.