On Her Majesty’s Bloody Service

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Chapter 2

While I’d assumed correctly that a passer-by wouldn’t see me, the hotel had guards positioned outside as well as in. Thankfully they were guards who were a terrible shot and the person firing at me had missed by a good foot. Enough to get the adrenaline going, however and I skipped right as fast as I could, hoping to get around the corner and out of sight.

Another shot pinged off the ledge itself and I swung one-handed around the corner, both feet actually leaving the concrete for a second. My suit was getting scuffed and I was not happy.

Planting my feet again, I reached to the small of my back and drew my gun. Small enough to be discrete but big enough to pack a punch.

Staring carefully across the street I spotted my assailant. Two floors up with a silenced rifle propped on a tripod, tracking and trying to get a bead on me again.

Closing one eye, I looked down the sights of my Walther (what can I say? I have a soft spot for the classics) and pulled the trigger.

Bullseye.

From this distance I couldn’t see more than the jerk of his head, but I knew the back of his skull would now be decorating the wall behind him. No problem for our boys to find a DNA sample later on.

Problem resolved, I shuffled further along until I spotted another open window, this one looking in on the corridor. Sure enough, two more so-called “tough guys” were waiting near the toilet. They also looked a little edgy, like they’d expected someone to come out by now.

No way I could climb through the window without them seeing me and it would only be a matter of time before they got impatient and barged in to find their friends lying on the floor.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. Lining up a shot as best I could I aimed at the neck of the nearest one and waited for him to move forward slightly, obscuring the second man. The moment he did… I pulled the trigger.

One shot is always less likely to cause alarm than two. It can be put down to anything – cars backfiring, a novelty mobile ringtone. Anything. Plus, it saves the taxpayer that bit of money. Money, incidentally that I’d be claiming for a new suit.

The lone bullet punched through the window glass and straight into the trachea of the nearest man. Thick set though he was, the bullet continued through and slammed into the second thug’s face, as it happens just by his eye socket. The bone shattered and the bullet penetrated his eyeball causing a thick jelly of blood and vitreous fluid to erupt from his face.

The first man dropped with barely a sound. Certainly he’d not be shouting for help. The second, however, was seriously injured but conscious. He wouldn’t be putting up much of a struggle, blinded as he was, his eye socket empty and his mouth wide open, not quite able to scream although I knew it would be coming if I didn’t get to him quickly.

Popping the window open fully, I swung inside and sprinted up to him. Before he even knew I was there, I grabbed his Adam’s apple and squeezed tight, feeling the delicate cartilage crunch under my fingers. He struggled in my grip, trying to draw breath but finally realising that wouldn’t be happening again.

Looking over my shoulder, I made sure nobody had seen what was going on and pushed him into the men’s room. He fell and landed on the first of the knife-wielders and was followed by the other guy from outside. Quite a pile and one I couldn’t afford to have discovered too soon.

Fortunately, the door had one of those locks on you can flick from the inside and then pull shut from the hallway, which is just what I did. Simple enough to keep people out and buy me some time.

Nothing I could do about the blood on the carpet, but if I was lucky they’d probably put it down to a £500 a bottle red wine that the type of people who stayed here would drink and care nothing about splashing around.

Next stop, penthouse. My target awaited and going by my watch I had maybe 5 minutes before he was due to leave the building. I doubled back and crossed the corridor to call a lift. Well, why get all out of breath running up all those stairs? Besides, the penthouse was supposedly secure. The lift required clearance whereas the stairs would simply be guarded.

With a gently “ping”, the doors opened in front of me and I stepped into the empty lift. The penthouse – in fact the top two floors – were private and had a key slot instead of a button. Again courtesy of our rather thorough interrogation techniques I had just such a key in my pocket. The fact that our rather unwilling interview subject had tried to swallow it was neither here nor there. Unfortunately for him we didn’t have the time to wait for nature to take its course, but a dose of ipecac is far less unpleasant than a scalpel. He can think himself lucky it wasn’t Al Qaeda who were after his boss. Those bastards would have thought nothing of decapitating him and reaching down his throat for it.

From the time the lift doors closed to arriving at the top floor I knew I had just under 30 seconds. I used the time to reload my gun, screw a suppressor onto the barrel and ditch my jacket. It was beyond scuffed and I’d lost a button coming through the window.

Chambering a round I waited for the doors to open. I’d have the element of surprise – at least I hoped so, but only briefly.

The floor number indicated 18. The lift slowed. A “ping” sounded. The doors started to open.

And… go.

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