Deceit, betrayal and bounty hunters... who is The Perfect Enemy?
|Prologue - Just a job
“26C.” A face of the airline pondered momentarily, “That’s halfway down the aisle to your right. Enjoy the flight sir.”
She beamed an essence of purity towards him. A lust flittered through him followed by an unusual jealousy that accompanied the glowing welcomes to each and every passenger that boarded the flight. Yet this was one of life’s little nuances; young attractive ladies, smiling, mocking, flaunting their sexuality in front of those who could only dream of taking such beauty in their insignificant arms. Now that he was at 26C there was a more immediate problem that was going to be more irritating than women parading themselves before his ravenous eyes. Seat 26C was an aisle seat! Aisle seats were a nightmare, especially on such lengthy flights, and to make matters that little bit more unbearable a stereotypical American, who would probably have to pay excess baggage charges were he a suitcase, was sat firmly next to him. Yet in his own sadistic way he noted that, in the event of a crash, he would be able to reach a fire exit quicker than the mass from New York beside.
“Would you like an in-flight magazine sir? I believe there is a nice watch in there!” It was the same pert air stewardess who was particularly noticeable even with the regulations she had to abide by. She smiled gently at her overly polite comment and it occurred to him that she must be new to the job making such an exaggerated attempt to engage with passengers.
The atmosphere was numb with boredom in the midst of which only the occasional wail of a small child dared permeate the processed, stifling air. He cast aside the magazine, which he had obligingly accepted from the young lady, and chose to read his copy of ‘Othello’ that he had brought with him to keep his sanity on such an arduous journey. By the time all the betrayal had been revealed the reader was in a tiresome slumber, not even disturbed by the duty free trolley rattling beside him.
The passenger awoke to a vicious rumbling that, he soon realised, was preventing anybody from sleeping, standing or anything else for that matter within the confined area. Still there were three hours of grey sky and clouds to travel through. So, with a brutal reluctance, he turned to the television set in the headrest of the seat in front and flicked through the distinctly limited choice of films and out of date television programmes. Another glance at his watch showed him that mere seconds had passed since the last momentary look. It seemed that he needed to take the advice of the airhostess and delve into the in flight magazine to cast a suspicious eye over this watch as his current one was more dull than a quiz show rerun. His surprise wasn’t great but it was definitely uplifting when he opened the magazine to page 15. The watch was the worst thing he had ever seen but it was an insert in the magazine that grabbed his attention. A small rectangle of paper leapt from the spine informing the reluctant traveller to meet the effervescent young lady in the toilets 2 hours before the scheduled arrival time.
He caught a view out of the window where pinpricks of light jumped through the darkness that adorned the city below. The air inside was filled with a fresh darkness blocked only by the light above a select few restless passengers seeking escape within a novel or the in flight magazine. Rough snores erupted from the American next to him, so the passenger turned both their lights on in a sadistic attempt to irritate the bulky man. He turned his attention to a copy of the Daily Mail that he had acquired from the airport shops and immersed himself in an article about a punk rock band. The journalist was fanatical to the point of insanity with their lead singer who had recently disappeared apparently due to the pressure and stress of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle and a plentiful sum of money in the bank.
The passenger could practically hear every monotonous tick of his watch. Mentally, he knew that he had 1 minute left before the airhostess would, he hoped, enrol him in the mile high club. It was inevitable that he would count the sixty seconds until he was required and as his breathing struck sixty, the second hand of his watch hit twelve, and he effortlessly lifted himself to his polished shoes and strolled confidently to the rear of the plane. As he reached the top of the stairs leading to the toilets an angry thought struck him. Casually but rapidly he returned to his designated seat and thrust his dry palms in search of his suitcase. Clasping the case from beneath the seat in front of his own he inserted it into the overhead locker after first checking the locking mechanism.
A few steep stairs led down to a small area and four cramped cubicles. With the turbulence now over he still felt as though his heart was higher than the plane. Suddenly he became aware of the fact that the stewardess was not there and his body plunged the 30,000 feet towards what he could only assume was the ocean below. He usually detested unexpected events as they usually resulted in overwhelming disappointment. Attempting to reassure his insecure self he remarked quietly that she was probably catering to the need of some intolerable passenger who was having difficulty slipping into the world of dreams. Then, like a meercat popping its head above the ground, her head leapt out of one of the cubicles that shut again after he followed her cheeky grin into the restrictive space. He wanted this to last for the full two hours. Even though he knew this would not happen the idea of the two of them being in ‘full flight’ while the plane was landing was mentally overpowering. Her warm breath against his wired cheek revitalised an exuberance for life that he had only experienced once before. At the age of 21, ten years ago, in the back of his Ford Fiesta was the first and only time he had experienced the pleasure that he was, hopefully, to experience imminently. It was, he had to admit, a saviour that she did not know of his past and also that there were still young women who believed that with age and experience came a certain finesse and quality. She, however, was only too aware of the space that he occupied! She pushed against him and for the slightest of seconds he felt something jab against his back. Paranoia took over, as it did in his line of work, and for that second he considered that she was there to kill him. A clunk in the cubicle registered in his ears as her disregarded air stewardess jacket, complete with name badge, fell to the soaring floor. For once in his sterile, monotonous life something was to be more than tolerable, dare he tempt fickle fate and say it would be exciting? Fate, it seems, was not on his side. The padded footsteps of the American from 26B thudded down the small stairs and the cubicle door slid open. He indicated that they both step out from the cubicle.
“Well, now that I have you together,” the cutting remark preceded a searing weakness that shot through the man from 26C who promptly collapsed. Moments later the second lifeless body lay as cold as a blanket of snow next to the first.
* * *
Drops of golden light sliced through the patterned leaves. The battered trail below was splattered with yellow beauty. I couldn’t see them but this jungle was temporary home to four valiant explorers. For them this was a frivolous escape, an excuse to postpone any meagre deskwork or commanding of ones minions.
Four golden cylinders, atop of each a golden stub like cone. These unusually small objects were amazingly effective when required. Some startled birds rapidly departed the vicinity and I prayed that it was them and not some vicious cat. It was the morning they were to depart for a better place and they had a golden ticket out of this emerald jungle; my bullets. Their office had sent them on a “team building exercise” whereas my instructions were indeed quite the opposite.
The verdant shrubbery twitched slightly then returned to its original, lifeless state. Three of the four burst through the plants, the fourth was already awake and had been for enough time to prepare. Their attire was exactly the same as that that covered my own average build. Two of the group were male and the other, for sexual equality’s sake, was female. The team leader and manager of the corporation were clearly older than the other two. His silvering hair was complimented by the startling gold of the dew filled morning. He walked with vigour, some may say an arrogance, but this man’s manner was perfect elegance. Like me he was British, stiff upper lip and all that “old chap.” In comparison to himself his two companions were epic in size. Especially his female cohort who was more masculine than many of the male species. They sought something, someone, their missing colleague, me. Believing me to be stolen from their team by the social degenerates that are poachers they followed the beaten path through the undergrowth. It was a shame they would not find me.
Nowhere, that’s where we currently resided. This vast, expansive void was comforting as the trio scurried into my sights. An immature monkey flew between the pillars on which the immense emerald ceiling was precariously balanced. The tentacle like vines clasped the trees, some of the stronger ones found themselves suspended; radiating lime light while others were a more dull olive. One of these duller climbing plants was russet consisting of several twines wound together. Its stark nature forced the attention of any passing creature to gaze in its direction. Still it complemented its surroundings and this camouflage was its purpose.
Coarse bark caressed the smooth leather gloves that adorned my hands; my boots were attracted to each protruding segment of the endless plant. Swiftly and unconsciously they found the humid soil of the floor below. I had obtained a particularly famous gun for this distinct job. My steely grip clutched a Walther PPK, personally not an awe-inspiring tool; its curves were all too feminine and it was the weapon used by Germans. Yes, the German secret police but it was a German weapon none the less. Yet this Brit would put patriotism aside and use the apparatus of a rival country purely because it was simple to conceal. The vulgar thing was incriminated further by the harsh black exterior and so I integrated a silencer to prevent the unnecessary alarm of any other creatures considering its repulsive nature.
A hand flew up to my mouth preventing me from disturbing a single airwave. To my astonishment it had been my own hand as adrenaline had ravaged my body like a cheap whore. It was an automatic protection system built into my usual bodily functions. This thrill temporarily invigorated my being as the prey came closer to their destiny.
They were now so exceedingly close that my nostrils were attacked by the pungent stench of the leader’s aftershave. It tangled itself intensely with the receptors inside my nose, tickling, agonising. My greatest fear in this unwelcoming location was now the simple sneeze, the ease of such an action induced dread as such a natural bodily function could be my execution.
The silhouette of a silent tube appeared from within the undergrowth, but was still seemingly invisible to those unprepared. Three metallic objects were then propelled and these plunged deep into flesh. The meat was shredded as the golden tickets devoured with unlimited ease. An almost perfect score; two head wounds and one to the chest. A wise man once reminded me there was always a “body count” wherever I took my job. I realised how correct this statement was when I pulled the trigger of the SIG Sauer placed against his forehead and the entire structure of his body plummeted as gravity took over. The crimson life fluids seeped across the arid yet absorbent soil. Productive ants, other insects and scavenging creatures would act as a clean up crew and within weeks the knowledge of these failed explorers would be disavowed.
A vicious wind gathered, perfectly punctual, above the blended vines. Every step was merely a set of pre programmed instructions for me now. It was my turn to depart the unsympathetic wilderness. Soaring like an eagle my mind arrived at the past, the events of the day, there was no pity, no sorrow, no regret. There was no emotion, only serenity. Just another day at the office.
* * *
London, another day, another office, a different worker. The vile jungle was not installed in any memory. The trees were grey, dreary filing cabinets and the luscious bushes were brown worktops with copious birds of paper nesting on top. Nimble fingers danced across endless letters of keyboards creating the only monotonous sound accompanied by the quiet murmuring and occasional metal clunks of unknown machinery somewhere within the school library. As he scanned the room methodically he noted he was rarely introduced to such a novel place in his job. Being a school teacher he was usually confined to the staff room or the classroom and rarely ventured far enough to reach the library.
“Congratulations Mr. Longman,” a passing 14 year old yelled, disturbing the dreary air of the school library.
Matthew Longman was a rare man and an even more unlikely candidate as a teacher. He marked the work of pupils religiously in any of his free periods. He was only 25 and his hair, although brown, had an unnatural red hue that surprisingly complemented his blue eyes. Considering he was a chemistry teacher he had a masculine jaw line and was physically attractive unlike the usual hairless sorts that tended to inform classes about endothermic and exothermic reactions. Many sixth formers were attracted to this man whereas the lower years directed schoolgirl crushes at Mr. Longman. However, as was protocol, he did not allow these crushes to become anything in his own mind and his religious marking prevented teaching from taking over his life like the other job had. His record showed that he was worthy of the job. After graduating from a University in Nottingham he rapidly became a familiar face in a school as a support teacher. Now, after gaining the trust of students, parents and colleagues alike, he had to leave the profession for a while. His partner was soon to give birth and so, in a week or two, Longman would be able to hold a small version of himself in his arms, or so they thought.
As Longman left the confines of the educational corridors sounds of giggles, laughs and cries played through his mind. He admitted he was fond of teaching until a heartbeat later it all stopped! His other job started now. There was no partner, he had not created an embryo that was now yearning to be expelled from a womb and he’d only ever been to a university for one and a half months. He knew all he needed to know and so it was time to leave. His education was over and home time set in. Now all that was left was the exam, the final, crucial test. Longman could only pass or fail; there were no grades. Passing allowed him to keep his life. Failing, did not. His background was, in truth, murky. He could barely remember the real details himself as he had to lie his way around the dank back streets of Liverpool fighting just to stay alive. In his mind this history justified the treacherous employment he was currently engaged in. His past was his greatest pain. It was his methodical nature that prevented arrogance gracing his body yet it frequently forced him to question the logic and intellect of those around him.
The steely grey vehicle sat waiting for his master to touch and tame it. The shimmering new BMW Z4 had an unnatural class that was only available to a select few when Longman acquired it. In Longman’s line of work many contacts were gained. Some were legitimate whereas others were most definitely not. This piece of German engineering was actually acquired as a special favour through a genuine source. Unbeknown to the retailer, the car and the money were the only real things used in the transaction. Everything else Longman had shown or told the car salesman was about as real as the tooth fairy. All the documents he showed the retailer bore the name Mr. C Phillips. Fortunately it is not a requirement when buying a car to state how the identity documents you present were obtained. In the school car park Longman fumbled in his jacket pocket and dropped his car keys. He swiftly followed the keys to the ground and adopted a pose as if he were doing press-ups. A mock search for the keys allowed a quick scan of the underside of the car. Fortune was on his side as the inspection showed no untoward packages had been left be it by lovers he left, husbands he stole women from or any other enemy he befriended.
The route he took was seemingly pre-programmed into his mind leading to Longman’s surprise when he realised the car was parked in front of the bank. His BMW sat comfortably on double yellow lines that seemed not to care. The officials outside the bank nodded an acknowledgement at him and shared in the ignoring of Longman’s law breaking. His hand touched the gold bar of the rotating doors. It was an inspiring piece of technology; by only allowing the door to rotate at a certain speed the bank stopped potential thieves from running out of the establishment with any amount of ‘borrowed’ money. As the door rotated through 180o Longman became Mr. O’Sullivan. The main reception always astounded him; it seemed more like a hotel than a bank. The sapphire faced Accurist wristwatch informed the newly christened Mr. O’Sullivan that he was five minutes early. However, he knew that after the hurried assistants attempted to cajole him into applying for all manner of investments, he would be precisely punctual.
An arrogant swagger in a suit was aiming straight for him expecting Mr. O’Sullivan to move. It was Longman’s mind that took over and angled his right shoulder confidently forward. Two well built momentums clashed as two exquisite suits; one Armani, the other made in a small tailor’s shop in central London, merged for a lingering second. The unfortunate, slight swagger was repelled towards the cool marble floor below as two husky gentlemen who, moments before had been attempting to blend in, hurriedly rushed to the aid of the felled arrogance. It was in moments like this that Tony Martinez wished such onlookers were his own subordinates rather than patrons of such an establishment. Martinez rose to his feet with a certain humility as Mr. O’Sullivan shook his hand and strolled away uninterested in the minor outburst that had just occurred.
“Mr. O’Sullivan, nice to see you again,” the young receptionist smiled cutely, “would you like to take a seat?”
Longman half contemplated joking that there was no room in his Z4 for an extra seat. Chuckling to himself he sat down noticing first the name badge pinned to her chest. The stark gold lettering radiated the name ‘Michelle’ to every client who was within a few meters of her. Next he noticed her breasts, yes, those breasts are perfect he confirmed to himself. They were cleverly protected from prying hands by a red trouser suit. He imagined her body to be pristine, a work of art rivalled only by the extravagant piece hanging from the wall just behind her. It was only his imagination though as the distinctly mock marble counter denied his eyes access to such an iridescent view. So he turned his attention to her face, her strong jaw line was not complimented by the dunes of make-up that Longman was sure added millimetres to the thickness of her already slightly over padded cheeks. Disappointing.
She motioned to him to come back over to the counter. As he did so he stated quite clearly the he needed to speak with the manager and the overly clichéd “I’m sorry he’s not available at the moment,” was the only response he got. It was at this moment that another suit opened a door and gestured to Mr. O’Sullivan to enter the office. As the door shut behind the two men the untrained eye would not have been able to see where this door was. The wooden panelling along the sides allowed for the manger’s office to be quietly hidden but the barely noticeable door seemed crude for such an executive. The office, in contrast, was that of a particular executive luxury. Although Longman’s adrenaline meant that the closing of the door turned into the sound of a slamming cell door of a seedy jail he remained calm and enjoyed his body absorbing the adrenaline while the bank manager fiddled with his cufflinks. The wizened bank manager wanted this to take as little time as possible.
“How can I help you Mr. O’Sullivan?” enquired the bank manager.
“I would like to withdraw my money.”
“Could you not have seen a cashier? I’m a very busy…”
“No no no, you misunderstand me. I wish to cancel my account and withdraw all my money, I believe you have to authorise this.”
“I’m sorry, you’ll have to make an appointment.”
Longman’s last day of school was progressing excellently. The exchange of words was now complete and it was at that moment that the manager realised who his client was. Like a ricocheting bullet the now inferior manager swiftly and excitedly exited the office. Mr O’Sullivan sat in the office waiting for manger’s return and noticed the remarkable artwork that was strewn dramatically across the walls of the office. They never failed to surprise him in their unique qualities. The tasks of the day ran through his head repeatedly when the manager returned accompanied by a hardened silver suitcase. The two men needed to say no more to each other so it was with a nod that Mr. O’Sullivan, eager to return to being Longman, picked up the case, and sharply departed. Sauntering towards the revolving doors he winked at the receptionist who grinned eagerly back at him and continued dialling the number on the reception desk’s phone. The comfortable weight pulled down from the suitcase on his left arm as he knew exactly how much the contents of the case weighed. He was unsure why the adrenaline had not run out but as he entered the classy revolving escape he was glad that he only had one more kill before it was all over. The doors appeared to take much longer on his exit. He still counted the degrees of turn. 90o were reached and he heard a small sharp electronic beep that echoed within the confines of the tube he was currently in. He knew it was well into the hour so he assumed it was a watch alarm of someone nearby. His theory was smashed as a roaring explosion resonated in his head. An eruption of shattering glass showered down upon him and as he fell to the floor a swamp of red liquid gathered around his tattered flesh. Accompanying the musical splintering were the equally musical screams of eyewitnesses and the moans of customers and pedestrians who were caught in the unexpected bizarre blast. Considering the utter panic around him, the whole thing seemed rather painless and peaceful to Longman.
Chapter 1 - Smoke and Water
Heavy rain battered the petrol hungry VW Golf along with the many other impatient cars dozing on the unfortunately busy motorway. Three overturned vehicles and the 6pm furious rush back to comfort from the harsh unease of work wrought mayhem and boredom through the weary workers. Beset in the minds of the irate were the images of sleeping children, cold food and bored partners that would now be the only greeting awaiting them on their eventual return. Night threw itself across the sky and the downpour pounded endlessly against the tortured windscreen yet the executive Ms. Reynolds remained soothed and relaxed. The thumping rhythm pulsed through her and as she once again lifted the slender handbrake she slowly closed her eyes. For the slightest of moments the woman, sporting a professional looking skirt and a white blouse, considered switching the radio on. Yet, before her hand had even left her lap she corrected the decision as she knew that the random babblings of ageing men or the youthful ‘popular’ music would only abuse her ears. At that moment she did not want that. With her right hand she pressed the small button that slid the glass pane down into the door and reached with her left hand to the passenger seat. She picked the box of passengers up and removed one and then flicked her lighter three times until the enraged orange glow attacked the cigarette between her gentle lips. As she inhaled her eyes remained fixed upon the flickering fire that danced in front of her. Then all too suddenly the calming rain smothered the adrenaline fuelled fire. The wisps of smoke left by the extinguished flame merged with the tobacco filled exhale as the cool water jumped through the window exorcising the day’s work from her mind.
Offices bored her and the exorcism rapidly breezed through her calm mind. She had, in the past, contemplated creating humourous reasons for her employers to ‘let her go’ but these were just whimsical plans that prevented her from looking at the slow moving hands of time. It had been four weeks into the new job that she realised she could touch-type proficiently. At first this pleased her, she used to type like an extremely slow moving pneumatic drill. With one finger she would cripple the keyboard as she bruised each key knowing she had eventually found the correct character. Reports formed themselves over extensive periods of time but Allison liked the interaction with other businessmen; the meetings, the contracts and especially the completion. Knowing the company, in which she had recently acquired a senior role, was to gain vast sums of money due to her work. Now that she had people to do her job for her before she would take the credit for it she decided to apply for another job. Temporary work just while a member of staff was ill, though considering the industry it was likely to be a lengthy illness.
Her newfangled mobile phone skittered across the passenger seat causing a couple of cigarettes to roll to the back of the chair. For a moment she felt like she should abide by the law and leave it to bounce across the chair. Yet, the apparently discreet vibrate function was less discreet and more annoying than she expected. As her eyes graced the phone she noted the caller ID was not a number she recognised so, after comfortably assuming her professional voice, she flipped open the phone and greeted the mysterious caller. After the ensuing laughs she flipped the phone closed and smirked. Finally Allison realised why people used the cliché ‘too good to be true’ as the words etched themselves into this memory. Ms. Reynolds was no longer just an executive name that subordinates feared but was to also be a term of affection, the name of a woman helping society. As the ‘fast lane’ crawled passed her unmoving vehicle she noticed the cat’s-eyes winking at the agitated drivers. The traffic seemed to hasten in that lane and the winks turned more to glares and it was this that had first reminded her of the job interview.
She had entered the room having first dutifully informed the reception she had arrived. Their chosen room was less like a conference room and more like a cupboard with a table and four pairs of eyes glaring at her. It seemed unusually claustrophobic especially because she knew she was guaranteed a job wherever she applied even if she did desire this one over the others. Before entering she had obligingly knocked and awaited a response and since the response was female she assumed the older and taller of the two women was the head mistress of the college. Mrs Jennings, in her late 40s and with her grey roots showing, reached her hand forward so Allison mimicking this offered a bold yet sophisticated hand, and after being asked to, lowered herself into the discomfort of the chair opposite the four colleagues. The Head’s hand was clammy, Ms. Reynolds as she hoped she would be known decided that the interviews that preceded this were less than pleasant for the vast panel before her. She didn’t understand why four people were sat disapprovingly before her when, although not arrogant about it, she knew she was exquisitely qualified for this desperate and hungry profession. The other three were non-descript. To the left of Mrs Jennings was a young lady at least 20 years the Head’s junior. She was probably a student teacher merely included in this recruitment exercise to satisfy those greater than the lowly teachers. To her recollection, Allison could remember only two occasions when this woman had spoken. The first man, to the left of the student teacher, emanated responsibility yet, throughout the interview, he engrossed her with his wit and character though she was not at all sexually interested in him. The fourth, a male, was closer to her 26 years in age. Originally she felt attracted to him, a slight rush of blood to her slim cheeks may have betrayed her. When he did not seem to notice a couple of her subtle flirtations she decided he was gay or far too arrogant to commit to more than a thunderous night of lust. She already had little tales of adventure and woe created for each of them and was eager to see if her preliminary judgements were accurate. Then, abruptly, after much conversation, occasional joking and the odd bit of paper shuffling she was back in her dark green car questioning why she tried to flirt and whether any of the teachers were astute enough to have noticed. In hindsight she was thankful they had not otherwise her current state of happiness could have morphed into something most different. She was a little annoyed that she could no longer remember the names of the faces from three days previous yet she was utterly thankful that she, Ms. Reynolds, was to teach Business Studies at Maxwell College and Sixth Form Centre. She liked that. She liked it a lot.