I declined her veiled offer of an invite in a brief phone conversation. She informed me that she was taking a professional sabbatical in the New Year and joining a team of Médecins Sans Frontières for a mission to the Central African Republic. I was not happy about that. We argued briefly and the call ended as it typically does, with her telling me to have sex with myself. I declined after some thought.
Donna refused my offer of airfare to Bali. Her job as a PA to a director of a specialist City accounting firm demanded her presence at several holiday functions. I celebrated my celibacy by going to a bar. I looked for ‘I am a Rock’ by Simon and Garfunkel on the juke box, but it wasn’t there.
I returned to London two days into the New Year. England was cold. Donna was not.
“It’s time you met some of my family,” I said to the ceiling of her bedroom when I had gathered enough oxygen to speak. I could feel her turn and face me, and she put her chin on my shoulder. I continued to look at the ceiling.
“I thought you were an orphan, no living relatives. What are you talking about?”
“Some guys I was in the military with, we’re sort of close. They run a private security company and I help them out with contracts sometimes. They’re having a meeting in London and I thought we’d hit the town one evening. You know London. I want you to think of a place we can all go for a good meal and some conversation.”
“Great, tell me about them.”
I did, almost. Just the stuff she could and would see on the Black Horse Group website when she looked it up.
She listened intently, asking several good questions, then she said, looking at the ceiling. “First place I can think of is Pentonville Prison. Broadmoor might be good, but they book up early so I will have to check…Foreign Legion, Royal Marine Commandos, and Italian Special Forces? For a night out?”
She was buzzing, but I was yet to see where she was going with her little rant.
“We could kill and eat our own food at the Battersea Dogs Home, and then we could go along to Tower Hamlets and shoot drug dealers for a bit of entertainment.”
She punched me on the arm. It hurt.
“When were you going to tell me any of this? What you mean, you ‘help them out with contracts sometimes’?”
I got out of bed and walked to her kitchen. “So that’s a ‘No’, then?”
She followed me into the kitchen and put her arms around me. “So your friends are psycho-mercenaries, I’m cool with it.” She took a deep breath. “A night on the town with the A Team. Yeah, sounds like fun. Why not? Leave it to me.”
Dinner was arranged and wives and girlfriends were encouraged to attend in order to keep the shooting to a minimum. Donna had used her corporate connections and secured the private bar and dining room in the basement of Hawksmoor at Spitafield for the last Thursday in January.
We took a train from her place in Richmond and stepped out of the tube station at Shoreditch. Donna had on her Power PA kit and looked perfectly professional. As we left the tube station I waved off a Lithuanian trying to sell me Cockney Heather, and bought a Big Issue off a weedy guy who looked hungry.
Two security guys at the top of the stairs stopped us and one of them waved a small metal detector around. It beeped reassuringly as he moved it across the small of my back.
“Sorry sir, you’ll have to check your weapon at the door.”
“I did, it works just fine,” I said as I stepped aside for Donna.
The larger of the two security guys smiled and nodded towards the staircase, and we descended.
One of the quirks of working with professionally paranoid military types is that they perform their due-diligence. As we entered the bar, Rico came up to Donna and smiled his 100 watt smile.
“Hello, Donna. It is lovely to meet you, finally. Jefferson has told me only lies about you.”
“Rico,” she smiled. “All the way from Milan, I’m so glad you could join us tonight on such short notice.”
They kissed, European style, and I said. “Hey, do you know where that mouth has been?” They both looked at me with the same amused disdain.
Donna waltzed through the room without an introduction. Her job as a PA gave her the skills to win them all over, and record their words and their mannerisms to determine how to deal with them. I was enthralled to watch her version of flanking and supported assaults.
In a quiet corner, I saw Dave and Steve chatting over an untouched bottle of Ardbeg single malt. Neither of them was bleeding, which was a good sign.
Dinner was perfect and a genuine mood of good will prevailed. I hoped the meeting in the morning would retain some of the same promise. Drinks followed at the private bar and I caught up with Donna. She was glowing, and as happy as I had seen her.
“Your friends are the scariest, most polite and gracious people I have ever met. They seem to think a lot of you. Henson doesn’t say much but Rico is amazing. What exactly do they do?”
“Mostly they take a lot of shit from foreign dignitaries and try to keep them alive,” I said.
“Dave Foure’s girlfriend, Kathy seems slightly distracted. I can’t place her accent, and she was a bit vague when I asked her about herself,” she said.
“Great tits, though,” I said, as I ordered another whisky.
She rolled her eyes and walked away.
At midnight we all began to file out. We huddled in the cold outside chatting while waiting for cars. Several lit cigarettes, including Donna. The air was refreshingly cold and tended to waken up my senses. As a black SUV approached for Dave’s people, a door slid open on the side of a van parked on the opposite side of the street.
I dived across to cover Donna but they had already opened fire before I could reach her. As I tackled her, I felt the shock as bullets hit her torso. We crashed to the pavement, and I rolled us between two parked cars. The sounds around me of bullets hitting parked cars, the building wall, and people were ringing in my ears.
I had my Glock out and began to search for targets. Donna was silent between the parked cars, maybe dead. Around me several people were hit and in various states of rage or shock. Henson was face down and not moving as was one of the security guys. Steve had been hit, but had his pistol in hand and was seeking targets.
Dave began to return fire, steady, fast, aimed shots. Steve followed suit as Dave changed magazines. I had seen that rhythm before. Immediately the automatic fire lessened from our ambushers. They were not pro’s.
I couldn’t see Rico, and I moved to my left to see if I could get on their flanks while Dave and Steve returned fire from the kill zone. Without even hand signals, everyone was reacting to the situation as trained. I saw a shape move ahead of me, and realized it was Rico, also looking to flank them.
As Rico moved forward across the street, I saw a shape move from the cab of the van in his direction. I shot the shape and it bounced off the building wall before falling to the footpath. Rico didn’t slow down. I was now three steps behind him when we reached the van. He shot the remaining two gunmen before I could get into position.
There were no other targets standing. Three bad guys dead, maybe another ran away. Around us the echoes of gunfire ebbed away and were replaced by the sounds of approaching sirens and screams from our group. Steve and Dave were performing first aid and Rico was sorting out the extractions of those still standing. After engaging my safety, I threw my Glock into a sports bag in Rico’s SUV before the driver moved off.
Donna was still alive, but she had that pale blue look of someone dying. Steve had stopped the bleeding with a torn shirt sleeve and was applying pressure to the wound. The police and ambulances arrived in a few seconds of an eternity. Donna, Henson and Henson’s wife were loaded into the first ambulance. The security guy who had waved the metal detector over me would not be needing an ambulance and neither would the three ambushers.
Rico reported to Dave. “One dead security guy, Henson and Donna look bad, Henson’s wife is ok. Three Boo Boos dead, one ran away. They had MP5s. I dragged one of them over to our side so the cops would think it was a gang hit gone wrong. I can’t find Kathy. Her moby is switched off.”
The cops breezed through us, and Rico did a great job of convincing them that we had walked into the middle of a gang war between local drug dealers. He showed them some sort of ID and mentioned diplomatic status, which puzzled me. They quickly changed their demeanour.
Twelve hours later, I was released from the police station at Waterloo, and took a cab to St Thomas hospital. I bought a clean T-shirt from a terrified clerk at a shop across the street from the entrance, and went into the main entrance.
The reception desk directed me to the critical care unit, and I moved as quickly as I could to it. I asked a fat Filipino nurse on the ward desk where Donna was. She pointed down a corridor, but started to protest something I ignored as I walked down the hallway.
The door to Donna’s room was open and her bed was surrounded by a partially open curtain. Tubes of IVs and wires to monitors were connecting her to the machines around her bed. Sitting on a chair was her estranged husband, Brian. He was holding her hand.
I paused and watched from the side, out of sight. He whispered something to her, and I saw her slightly nod her head. He gently squeezed her hand, and I saw her squeeze back as a few tears dripped down her face.
I turned and walked away.
That is all for now. I hope you enjoyed the sample. If so, please let me know. Thanks.