“We’ve lost him haven’t we,” it was a statement rather than a question. Finn O’Brien’s chest was still heaving after the short chase through the airport and out onto the road.
“The bastard’s disappeared around the corner of that hotel over there,” his older brother replied as he leaned against the metal barrier, squinting with his one good eye into the distance, equally breathless.
“Come on then, let’s get after him,” Finn said.
“You’re kidding me. He’s like a focken’ whippet. By the time we get over there he’ll be long gone,” came the reply.
“Come on. The old man’s going to go berserk when we get home if we don’t take him, especially after giving us all that money. We at least had better try and find the bastard,” said Finn.
“For Christ’s sake will you listen to yourself! I’m telling you, it would be a waste of time. He knows we’re after him now. He could be anywhere and he’ll be looking out for us. Now think about it. We know where he’ll be after Monday. We’ll get up to this place called Soltau and work out a better plan. We’ve still got plenty of cash and we don’t have to rush things. I want us to do this properly now. He’s really pissed me off.”
“You know what the old man said Cal. We’re not supposed to go anywhere near that place. He’ll go focken’ mental if he finds out,” said Finn.
“Sure, and what do you think he’ll do if we go home with our tails between our legs and tell him we let the naughty soldier get away because he could run faster than us eh? Do you think you’ll get a pat on the back for trying your best? We would never hear the focken’ end of it. We can’t go back. I tell you I’m not leaving Germany until I’ve done what we came to do. We’re driving to Soltau in that van and when I find the bastard I’m going to make him wish he’d never been born so I am. I can’t see why it should matter where we do it, it’s the result that counts. Besides, when we get home we don’t have to tell anyone we went to focken’ Soltau,” Callum was losing his rag and Finn knew better than to argue with him when he was in this sort of mood.
The two brothers dejectedly walked the few yards back to where they had left their drab little vehicle, right outside the main airport entrance opposite the taxi rank. One or two onlookers still appeared to be interested in what was going on. Before anyone had time to interfere the brothers got into the van and pulled away. Finn had to admit that the bungled kidnap attempt had been ill conceived, absolutely dire. Callum was right, they needed to take the job more seriously to have any chance of succeeding. No more messing about. They drove into town to get some supplies which included food and some cheap bedding, having agreed to live in the van rather than risk attracting any more attention by booking into another hotel. Then it was on to the nearest petrol station to fill up and buy a decent road map which they studied in detail before heading North.
Finn drove the van while Callum got his head down, stretched out in the back. It was a long and boring journey and by the time they arrived neither of them felt much like doing anything other than find an out of the way bar where they polished off a few beers and stuffed themselves on bockwurst, chips and pickles before calling it a night. They parked well off the road behind a hedgerow in a field beyond the outskirts of town where they hoped to remain unseen and undisturbed. The plan was to get a good sleep then check out the district around the barracks in the morning to get a feel for the area, maybe see where the soldiers hung out when off duty. Then it was a matter of surveillance until they could track down their quarry, follow him as far and as often as it took until they were presented with a situation where they could snatch him easily and do the business. Before turning in, Callum had one more idea to put to Finn.
“When we’re done I’m not keen to travel in this bloody van all the way back to Frankfurt airport. Look at this Finn,” said Callum pointing to the top half of the map.
“It looks like it’s not far to Hamburg from here, maybe only forty miles or so, an hour’s drive at most. I’ve heard that Hamburg is the kind of place where we could have ourselves a rare old time before we go back home. We can ditch the van there when we’re ready and catch ourselves a ferry back across the North Sea to England. Or maybe we can take the van on the ferry, drive to Liverpool and dump it there before we cross to Belfast.”
Finn nodded his agreement, too tired to discuss it. Once Callum had an idea in his head it was pointless anyway.
On the Monday morning, having misjudged how low the temperature would drop and therefore sleeping fitfully for the majority of the night, the brothers arose late and by the time they’d both sorted themselves out they had to drive at top speed to get to the army barracks for fear of missing Woolf when he arrived to report for duty. Approaching the camp with one eye on the entrance and one looking for a suitable place to park, Finn couldn’t believe his luck when he spotted someone who resembled Woolf walking along the pavement close by. Only having glimpsed him fleetingly on the Saturday morning back at the airport, recognition wasn’t absolutely certain.
“There he is!” Finn exclaimed.
“Are you sure?” replied Callum. “He looks a bit different. His hair seems shorter.”
“It must be him. He’s carrying that same bag, it’s still caked with mud. And look, it’s got an airport ticked tied to it!” Finn’s eyesight was one of his better attributes.
“Yes, I think you’re right, it is him,” agreed Callum.
Not paying attention to his driving, Finn didn’t spot a slow moving elderly pedestrian crossing the street and heading for the pavement right in front of the van. In the nick of time he slammed on the brakes, just avoiding hitting the old lady. Without thinking he blasted the horn and yelled something obscene out of the window in her direction, startling her even more. This caused an angry reaction from some of the other locals passing by, causing a commotion that the brothers could have done without. So much for a discreet surveillance. By the time they had told the angry Germans in no uncertain terms where to go using universal sign language, the British soldier had disappeared from view, there was no trace of him on the street.
Callum cuffed Finn about the ears with frustration. “For fuck’s sake think what you’re doing man. We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves now do we.”
“OK, keep your hair on Cal,” said Finn, pointing to an archway between two buildings. “He must have gone in there. That’s the army camp entrance isn’t it?”
“Never mind,” said Callum. “We couldn’t do anything about him here on the street anyway could we, but at least we know where he is now. Come on, we’ll scout out the area around the camp and see if we can work out where and how to get him.”
A short while later Finn had navigated his way two miles or so around a narrow, winding perimeter road which brought them out well beyond the back of the camp. The area was dominated by a huge vehicle park and several buildings, the largest of which was obviously a workshop. Finn pulled up and parked the van out of sight but in a position from where they could survey the goings on discretely from behind a chain link wire perimeter fence.
“You keep watch for now while I catch up with some rest, I’ve got a splitting headache,” said Callum, closing his eye. As he rested he tried hard to come up with some sort of a plan to lure the Englishman away from his work and outside. Somewhere he’d be vulnerable but not easily visible to his comrades.
About two hours later with little in the way of ideas despite having smoked half a pack of cigarettes and thinking hard, Callum got out of the van and stretched his limbs, huffing and puffing with the cold, still stiff from the previous day’s journey and another uncomfortable night’s sleep.
“OK, this is how I see it,” he said. “This must be where he’ll be working every day and it’s the best place to snatch him if we can get him on his own. Nobody seems to be too bothered about security here do they. Come on, let’s get over this fence and take a closer look around.”
With that the boys found a suitable place not far away from the van where some trees and shrubbery grew right up to the perimeter. There, with little chance of being noticed by anyone who happened to be looking that way from the workshop, they both scaled the fence and dropped down on the other side. Using the shadows from the trees and what other cover was available they began to make their way towards the vehicle park.
Moments later, before they had even moved ten yards from the wire Callum’s prayers appeared to be answered when the figure they’d been seeking strolled purposefully from the back door of the workshop and across a tarmacked area towards the rows of armoured vehicles beyond, studying a sheet of paper as he went. The man was alone and not paying much attention to his surroundings. It seemed too good to be true but it was definitely him.
“Finn, quickly. Go and get the stuff out of the van, this could be it,” said Callum, excitedly. Finn looked a bit peeved but did as he was told, clambering back over the fence and jogging back to the van. A minute later he returned with the holdall containing the tools and other items they had put together for when they were ready to make the snatch.
“How the hell will we get him back over that bloody fence?” said Finn once he’d dropped from the top of it for the third time in five minutes, still breathless.
“We won’t. We’ll do the bastard right here and now. We may not get another chance as good as this,” replied Callum. “I’m fed up with pissing about. Come on, let’s be having him.”
With that they both selected their weapons of choice from the bag and began threading their way between the parked armoured vehicles towards where they had seen the soldier heading.