This is the sequel to Burning Wolfhound. An action adventure thriller. Naughty scenes, violence, sex, naughty words. Actually, not that many. Anyway, the novel sold no copies on Amazon, and now you can’t get it on Amazon, here it is then, a complete novel:
©2020 Justin Tuijl
Darjeeling, India – March 1968
Jack Davenport lay there for some time, it was bitterly cold. The burning of hate within him kept the light of life alive inside. It was all clear in his head, that damn English man, how had he got the upper hand? They had fought with Kung Fu on telegraph hill in Darjeeling. He liked it there, just the place to kill a limey amongst the prayer flags. It had failed. The Limey was alive and now Jack wondered if he was. Hate burned in his soul; such it had always been since he was a kid. His body was cut and bleeding. Way way up above was the hill on which they had fought. Then Jack had lost his footing, bad work. The drop to the bottom of the valley had been a long and painful one.
Through the night he had lain there, the hate his tinder spark. Just enough to sustain him through the bitter long cold darkness. The night had turned into a long and cold day. He felt the life going from him at last as the day started to end. Above was the red sunset, narrowly he perceived it as the life force died with the sun. Even the grip of hate could not hold it anymore. Just as the spark was about to extinguish a tired mule forced on by a man came into the rough path where Jack lay. The man saw the corpse. He was a good man: when there was no profit. Jack’s pockets revealed nothing, and he consoled himself with taking the ebbing human back to his house. Rewards would come when this cut and bleeding rich man was well.
Jack Davenport was tough, it would take more than some cold to finish him. He had been bought up in a rough area in New York. Life had made him hard as iron. The same forge that had made is body made his soul and that was hard: ruthless, indeed near insane. Luck had been on his side; the mule driver had saved him. Was he grateful? Was he hell. sucker.
The man nursed him in his own bed in a small wooden house on the edge of Darjeeling. The guy’s wife sat with Jack, his nurse, another sucker. They gave him the best of their food and bought medicine they could not afford for his cuts. The cuts were deep and severe, his clothes had been torn to shreds, the skin ripped deep on every part of body and face. Bernhart Smith the limey had clearly wanted him to suffer, Jack was no fool, the guy thought he had handed out a punishment for Jack’s fondness for slicing up his victims. Add another sucker to the list. Jack’s iron soul cared little, all he wanted was to carry on hating and indulging, the state of the body was not important.
Pretty soon Jack was fine. Cuts where no worry to him, once the body had warmed he was good for action. The man and his wife had left his possessions by the bed. There was nothing much. The knife had been dropped during his fall but the gun was there. He checked it over, all was fine, the silencer still in place. There were only four bullets in the magazine. The wife sat by in a small chair knitting. Sunlight stretched across the floor in the mid cool day. As he looked at the gun she smiled at him, a sort of ‘we leave your things for you, we are good, give us money’ look. He levelled the gun and pumped two rounds into her. The woman sprawled back in the chair, blood dripping from the holes in her forehead and down the wall behind her. Flat nosed bullets always blew the brains out the back he mused with satisfaction, a good substitute for the lack of his knife. It was good to see some blood again.
He no longer wanted to be here. Time was wasting. Looking around the small house he found something like clothes to wear. There was food to have, though it tasted like shit, he thought. This was a hard man but he had got used to fine things with ill-gotten gains. He guessed the old man would be back in the evening, that would be the time when this would be finished. Stood to reason, the time would be about the time the man had found him. Deciding to wait, he sat by the little wooden table. Better shut the man’s mouth first.
There were only a few hours to wait. Jack sat impassively, meditating on his hate and plans from here. As the rays of the sun faded the little wooden door opened. A small man came in and smiled. Jack spied the mule tethered in the yard behind. As the door shut the man’s brains dripped down it. Good, thought Jack. Now it was time to move.
He stood, pocketing the gun. Finding a small bag he stuffed in the last of their food. Forcing the door open, as it had to move the dead Samaritan, he avoided getting blood on his native garb. Outside he suddenly realised that his body was still frail, but he forced it on. Darjeeling was a mystery in this part of the town. He knew the club, the hotel, the restaurants but not this squalid hole. Ignoring the mule he walked down the path towards the town.
Chapora River, Goa, India – 1994
“Why have you bought me here?” said Kurt, as he wiped the sweat from his forehead.
“I thought you might be interested,” said Bernhart.
The thick jungle ahead was seemingly quite impenetrable and Kurt looked back at the path they had already hacked with dismay. The thought of going on seemed pointless.
“I’d be interested if you weren’t being so damn secretive,” he said.
Bernhart just laughed and started hacking into the jungle again with his machete. Kurt watched him for a few minutes, breathing heavily, shook his head and then followed after his father, already vanished into the dense growth.
They hacked steadily, taking turns in taking the lead. Sweat poured off them and the bugs got to work on their skin. Kurt swiped at the sweat bees on his face often, but Bernhart just ignored them. In truth, after years in the tropics, he failed to sweat like his son, who was used to the climbs of London.
After another twenty minutes, they arrived at a narrow tributary of a wide river beyond it. The tributary was stagnant and narrow. Undergrowth hid it from the main river. Kurt could see the area would be hard to find. But it wasn’t this that took his attention. The thing that left him standing speechless was on the stagnant water. It was a ship. The grey paint left him in no doubt as to what ship: the Wolfhound.
With a twinkle in his eye, Bernhart looked at his unusually tongue-tied son.
“I bet you weren’t expecting that,” he laughed.
Kurt could see that there had been a thorough attempt to camouflage it. Netting with undergrowth intertwined. From the air it would be impossible to make out. He could also see that the grey paint was flaking and rusty. The ship was listing which suggested either a shallow tributary or that the ship was taking on water. They walked over to it and Bernhart unearthed the access ramp, which had been hidden in the undergrowth. They laid it across the gap together. Bernhart was the first to board. Kurt followed.
Onboard the ship was in good condition. Debris of a few years had built up on the decks, but not that much. The glass was clean and clear. They were standing on the rear deck and Bernhart walked over to the main door to let them in. To one side was the small galley, to the other steps up to the bridge. Ahead was the main living area. Everything was dark and tinged with green light from the camouflaged windows.
“How long has it been here?” asked Kurt as they walked into the saloon.
“Oh, good question,” returned Bernhart as they sat at the big table.
“Not a rough idea?”
“Well, as you guessed, they didn’t sink it.”
“Well, no. You said they did…”
“Well, I was lying.”
“Ah, as usual.
“They did sink something though…”
“Hum, ok. Will the engines work now?”
“She’s beached though?”
“I think so, there is no water seeping in and I operate the bilge now and again. I think at high tide there may be just enough depth to get her moving. She’s had few bits and pieces done-”
Bernhart broke off at there was a thump on the cabin roof and he looked up alarmed. Then a scrabbling noise came from above. Kurt hurried through to the door but as he passed he saw a face at the galley window. His back tingled with fear, only to replaced a moment later with humour. A monkey was staring at him and clearly finding his alarm amusing. Kurt returned to the saloon.
“Bloody monkeys?” said Bernhart.
“Huh, yeah,” Kurt said, shrugging. “I wasn’t scared.”
Bernhart got up to make coffee in a galley. “They like to remove stuff, like aerials. At home, they broke a satellite dish the day after it was installed.”
“So how did the Wolfhound get here? It must have been left alone for ages, judging by the hacking we did.”
“No, the undergrowth grows fast, and how it got here would be a long story.”
“Yeah, and you’ll probably lie all-over again.”
“Ok, well, we’ve got nothing else to do, you might as well tell me your story.”
“What do you think happened originally?”
“The story you told me?”
“The one full of lies?”
“Why would I lie?” asked Bernhart, as he finished making the coffee and handed a mug to Kurt.
“You confessed to lying to the others in your story, so you probably lied to me, or overdid it, like Wild Bill Hickok,” said Kurt, sipping the coffee.
“Wild Bill Hickok?”
“Yeah, suggestion was he rather exaggerated his stories.”
“Ha, or Calamity Jane.”
“Yeah, so you do know what I’m talking about.”
“Well,” said Kurt. “The story you told me. You are hanging out in your boat in Blakeney in March ’68. And you get sent on a job, as an assassin, to do in two guys on their ship. You do that, escape by the skin of your teeth from Jack Davenport, the American gangster and his gang of waifs and strays. Back at the Wolfhound in Blakeney the M16 come to see you.”
“Yeah, Jones and Shepherd.”
“Yeah and a policeman. They leave, and next day in Blakeney you bump into Tanya, my mum, and you do filthy things, ewww.”
“So then you bump off the MI6 guy Shepherd, after a fight.”
“Killed by accident.”
“Then you head to Sheringham and see A. your brother Colin B. Amanda your ex-girlfriend and C. Jack again. The spark with Amanda gets rekindled just before she is bumped off by Jack at the Little Theatre. Then you head to Weybourne where Colin gets it from Jack. Not a good day so far?”
“A very bad day.”
“So you, understandably get a bit pissy about that, and then chase Jack right to fucking Darjeeling. Not to mention collecting Peter C Davis, millionaire nutter, and Charlie your colleague, also being ex-girlfriend no. 2, who you also get all the way to India, and then lose her.”
“Yeah, well done.”
“So after trying to bump off Jack, you realise Peter C Davis was the boss, and not Jack. So you kind of wasted a lot of travelling and fuel to find that out. Anyway, you head back to Goa where Peter is waiting with my mum in his ship the Sea Vixen. You have a bomb that you collected in Gibraltar and you try to set it off, but Jones, supposed MI6 man, hits you over the head before you can. They then set fire to the Wolfhound and it sinks.”
“I was doing Samuel L Jackson actually.”
“Samuel L Jackson quoting the Fonze. Surprised you have Pulp Fiction here.”
“We have satellite TV at home, as you know. Also, I didn’t live the last forty years in Goa, I lied. No passports, my arse.”
“Yeah, and you lied about the Wolfhound being sunk, clearly,” said Kurt, gesturing at the ship.
“Not really, I thought briefly that it had, but they wanted me to think so. They set fire to a decoy boat painted grey. They made off with the Wolfhound. The idea was to make everyone think the Wolfhound was done for. But it wasn’t.”
“Another story of lies?”
“Maybe. But you probably should know the story as it isn’t over yet, there is a lot still to be resolved, and you’re involved now, whether you like it or not.”
“Ok dad, come on then, let’s have it.”
Anjuna Beach, Goa, India – March 1968
I wondered who the naked woman was. It was hard to tell, the body was familiar, so to was the other naked woman. The sound of Big Ben came to my ears, weird, I was unsure where I was, but this was not London. It looked like a shack with dry palm leaves for the walls. My bed was hard, just a thin mattress on the sand. The bright sun came in through the door-less frame. An English voice started to speak of the news: distant voice of England. The sound of crows interrupted all.
The woman came to me again. A cup was thrust to my lips. Fiery water burned down my throat, whisky or gin. The body was not offered, which made me change my mind that we had been intimate. The woman moved slowly, superbly relaxed, almost not in this world. That was how I felt, I was sure the world had been different very recently, before the explosion.
Then I found my skin was sore and burnt as I tried to move. The pain was intense. My lips were cracked, throat dry, and the eyes rasping. The other woman, very small, lay across from me. I had seen her drink the rum, now she lay as if asleep. The relaxed woman had also re-joined her mattress and lay quietly smoking a joint.
The burning of my body left me the same way, bonding with the hard bed. I tried to piece together what had happened. The ship on the deep blue water. A bomb. The huge explosion. There had been no flames, which confused me, why was I burnt? Where was the ship? My ex-wife had been there and some peculiar fat man. They both stood almost naked. Yes, I remembered that much. The bomb, I had set it off. As they stood there laughing at me, I pulled the pin. I had expected to die then, but something had happened, something not part of his plan.
“How’s the guy Thea?” said an American accent from the door.
She looked slowly up at the man smiling. “Oh, I think he’ll live.”
“Yea, those creeps on the ship ain’t up to much good around here.”
“Oh, Rainbow, Bernhart was trying to get rid of them,” she said gesturing in my direction with her joint. “He told Theodore all about it. Some nasty gang, this man was after them.”
“Ah hu,” said Rainbow looking at me narrowly, “Small army. Guess he will want my bike after all.”
“He bought it off you. You got your money, be cool. ”
“Yea, guess so. One of those creeps is still up at the south end of the beach, seems there is a dead guy up there also.”
“Word gets round this little place.” laughed Thea.
“The locals ain’t got much more to talk about in Anjuna. They have gone mad with excitement since Johnny was stabbed and a ship blew up by the beach.”
“It is the Indian way, it’s cool. They will tell stories of it for years.”
“Ha, they will harp on about evil spirits, not knowing the facts. How’s the Russian broad?” he nodded at the small naked woman laying as if asleep.
“Natasha, she’s cool. Likes her drink, said to me: “is the Russian way” I like her. The gang dragged her along with them.”
“Yea, she’s a looker.”
I fell asleep with the American drawl and the English accent alternating in my ears.
When I woke later I decided the first thing to do was to get out of here. Quite how to do it was the problem. The naked Thea had briefly woken me and given me food then rubbed some liquid on my skin. I had slept again, now I was feeling a little better, though a dreadful confusion kept assailing my mind. The night had passed with painful mosquito bites. I was quite used to rough conditions but the mattress on sand was starting to ache, more for having lain there for too long.
As the dawn broke I found my things lying next to me in a small bag. I managed to stand and walk to the door, as my body moved my head jarred unpleasantly. I took my stuff with me. Misty pale sunlight filled the palms with an ethereal glow, a few shacks of the same design stood around. About the sandy area was the odd group of chickens with a miscellaneous little black pig or two. There were no dogs to be seen, I knew I mistrusted the dogs here. There are no people around but the crows were already busy scavenging noisily.
To my left lay the deep blue sea. It was a surprise to see no ships at all, I was sure there had been. There had been a ship burning, it was all too confusing. To one side, near the beach, was a Royal Enfield motorbike, the one I had bought from Rainbow, the deserter GI. The motorbike I had chased Jack the American gangster to Darjeeling with. Then I remembered Charlie, where was she now? What had the Sea Vixen man said? Charlie was in peril? It was hard to focus on the recent past.
I walked slowly out and towards the sand as a native fishing boat beached. The fishermen jumped off and hauled into onto the sand. A little further down was the powerboat I had chased half across the world, a wreck on the beach now; I doubted it would ever float again.
I sat on the sand, opened my little bag, and took out a bunch of photographs; my boss had sent these with instructions written on the back. I had little else to go on. My memory was phasing in and out, everything was confused. The pictures and instructions made sense. I knew there was no phone in the village. These would have to do. My habit was always to burn the photos once they had been dealt with, in other words, once I had killed the subject, the photo needed to be destroyed. I knew then that these were valid targets.
Now the sun was soaring up from behind India, the beach practically deserted but for the fishermen who were hauling their catch away. The Europeans who lived there, or ‘Freaks’, never rose too early. I spent some time sorting through the pictures, closest distance first. I looked through my other things and which included a small gun.
A few days ago I had been on the North Norfolk coast of England, I wished I was back there now, with no need to kill anyone. It was unclear in my mind where I was in a life journey now, the last few days were strange and fleeting. My cover was as a naturalist, and it had been a good one for the Norfolk coast, birdwatching. I looked around the beach and saw Red Kites circling above and the usual crows all around. I’d have been happy to sit there watching them for hours. The Red Kites were coming in low over the sand, no need for binoculars. Birdwatcher heaven. There were chipmunks as well, jumping about on shacks and in the palms. In this early morning, there was an explosion of wildlife.
I decided I had to move or I’d lapse into birdwatching. I stood and my head jarred as I did so, almost like it would fall off my neck. I remembered again that I had been hit over the head hard while standing on the Sex Vixen. Now there were a few Westerners about. I walked back towards the huts as JJ Cale drifted to my ears over a tinny speaker. By the beginning of the palms was my motorbike, a black and silver Royal Enfield India. It had got me to Darjeeling and back with no problems at all, I remembered that much.
Climbing on, I checked that the three keys were still inserted, then gave her compression and kick-started her. The machine burbled into life. Rolling her off the stand, I engaged first, let out the clutch and pulled away, heading down the dirt track into the village.
It was by the football ground that the policeman tried to stop me.
A man in a dusty coloured uniform practically jumped on me as I was negotiating the speed humps by the school opposite the football ground. I felt little like stopping, making as if to pull over to placate the man I then crashed the clutch back in and pulled away. It had been a strange little dance, neither talking, the language not in common.
The bike burbled and popped away from the uniformed man standing watching me go. I snatched a glance back. The man probably wanted some money as a bribe to let the English man on his way. Usually the police were unconcerned about foreigners. I entered the main part of the otherwise sprawling village, this was where Jack Davenport had stabbed an Indian mechanic while attempting to take a motorbike from the unfortunate Indian.
As usual, the village was empty and this was the lazy hot time of the day when everything slept. So I thought, but someone was very awake. Between the barbers and another shop, a man, unseen to me, had a gun pointed my way. The weapon was silenced and the blunt muzzle spat forth high-velocity lead with no sound over the noise of the Enfield engine.
The first I knew of this was as a searing pain burnt into my upper arm. In the shock, I turned the handlebars, in a moment the bike was unsettled and I was no longer the master of the machine but a passenger. A million options presented themselves to stop with no damage, but none were available in the split second that the bike was now a runaway. It veered sharply and the wheels hit the massive high kerb, she went down on her side and I went down with it, starting to leave skin behind on the tarmac. Soon this ended as I had been driving slowly. This Enfield had the optional leg bar, which bent back but had enough strength not to deposit the bike on my leg.
For a moment I lay there, shocked as the pain then surged into my brain from the deep scratches on my arm and leg. Luckily, my head had hit nothing. From this position I snatched a look around, my assailant was standing in the road, arm holding a gun high, ready to fire more pain. Now the pain in my arm took over. Concrete powder flew into the air near my head as a bullet buried in the building near me. I grabbed my gun, which was under me, and could be got hold of with the un-shot arm. Currently the silencer was not fitted, no matter. I quickly pulled myself small behind the bike, levelled the gun and fired. The man went down.
I stood, pain burning through me, the man had been flung off balance as the shot hit him but he was very much alive, the gun was aimed again. I flung himself at a gap between the houses. Blood was pouring down my arm and making the gun hand slippery. A shot buried itself into the whitewashed concrete wall with a thud, a flattened bullet, lucky the one that had passed through my arm had been regular, otherwise I would have lost half of it. This explained why the first shot had been on target and the others wide, the flattened bullet would travel through the gun and the air badly.
Quickly I span round and fired at the man, who was now on his feet and running towards me. The shot missed but gave him something to think about. I ran down the alleyway, sweat was now pouring off me and mixing with the blood. The building ended, typically opening into a dusty dry paddy field. I rounded the corner and followed the back of the building, there would be no salvation in the open field.
At the end of the building, I stepped behind it and knelt down, waiting for my assailant to round the corner. Nothing happened. Either the man was being cautious or had doubled back and would surprise me from the other direction, I reasoned. But the man did not come. After five minutes or so I gave it up, slowly making my way back over my footsteps. The other was nowhere to be seen. I peeped round the corner to see an empty street and a scratched Enfield.
Deciding to give it up, I simply walked out to the bike. The pain in my arm made me wince and I hauled it up onto its stand. If the guy was still there, let him shoot again, I thought, I was sick of this game. Then I saw a trail of blood. I followed it for a bit as it got thicker and thicker. I had obviously hit him in a vital place with my wild shooting. I would come back and clean up later if he was still alive, I thought.
Expecting a searing pain of a shot again, I walked back to the bike and mounted it. First bending the leg bar back straight, I then fired her up. I knew there was a doctor down to the left near a crossroads. The blood was still dripping from the wound, mixing with the dried stuff. It was a painful ride.
I found the doctor who was not busy. She cleaned the wound; it had not gone through my arm, just a flesh wound, searing my skin open. She applied antiseptic and dressed it. She asked no questions, which suited me. When she did talk, her English was impeccable. I paid some Rupees and was soon back on the bike. With the bandage in place, my arm felt much less tender. Back on my original course, I headed out of the village. All the time expecting to be shot again. Who the man was I had no idea, though something was in my memory about a gang member up on the south of the beach. It was all unclear to me right now. I could only assume that my shot had hurt him too much and he had given up. He would keep.
Now it was about the photographs in my pocket, I cleared my mind and tried not to think about it anymore.
Out on the road I realised quite soon that I was in no shape for the ride, especially in the burning sun. The road to Mapsa was mostly shaded by trees, but each time the sun cast over the road I felt the insidious heat searing into my already burnt skin and hitting my head like a hammer. Add to that the bumps in the road were jarring my neck unbearably. The odd monkey surprised me and proved quite distracting. Then I reached the top of the hill that stood over the town and looked down at the winding road, all bathed in sunshine. There was nothing for it and I pushed on as fast as I dared. The bike thundered down the switchback corners and I took them as wide and fast as possible, veering around trucks, motorbikes and pedestrians.
In no time I entered the former Portuguese town and felt an incredible relief at the shade from the buildings. Quickly I found a clothes shop and bought a hat and material. At the bike I clamped the hat on my head and then with the material bound it around my face and head, just leaving a gap for his eyes. Then I carried on binding the material around my neck and the exposed parts of my body. I specifically put several layers around my neck to act as a brace. The last thing were strips around my hands. The bike had a small toolkit, which included a penknife to cut the strips.
Soon I climbed stiffly onto the bike, as the padding made it quite hard to move. As I started up I realised that I was going to sweat copiously inside this mummy-like suit. An advantage being that nobody was staring at me anymore.
I drove out of the town; the traffic was low at that time of the day. Soon I threaded out to the main highway being scorched by the sun. Big unwieldy lorries sped by, but soon I was keeping up with them. I was content to take up my own space, as overtaking these trucks was a dangerous operation. Not to mention the motorbikes containing a whole family: father, mother riding side-saddle with an infant in her arms, and kids of various ages front and back. Then the herds of cows resting on the hot tarmac. It was enough to avoid these without adding overtaking to the issues.
I tried to think about what I was doing in general while driving, but my brain was all over the place. I fleetingly remembered incidence, having driven this way before, and Charlie. Nothing was quite adding up to much, in the end just driving made me feel better, I let my thoughts drift away with the roar of the exhaust and the blearing of lorry horns.
I stopped once to buy coke and then piss around the back of a shack. Apart from that, I was in the saddle for hours. Then the sight of Bombay appeared over the pains. I drove on into the city, along the long hot roads. The smell of incense built up with the population. As I neared the station, the rickshaws were thick, and the sounds were boring into my cracked skull. Then I was nearing the gateway to India. The first photo had an address. I consulted a small map I had. Then I wound into a backstreet near some cafes. I climbed off, saddle sore. The street was empty. I turned to a cobbler’s shop, and at the same moment checked the picture. I took matches from my pocket and burnt the picture.
Deliberately I took the, now silenced gun, from my breast pocket. The cobbler was sitting down, to one side, in his open-fronted shop. It was the man in the picture. I walked closer. Something felt wrong, why was I to kill this man? He seemed harmless. He stood and smiled. Grey hair and a long beard. I raised the gun and fired. The man sprawled over his wares and crumpled at the back of the small shop. I pocketed the gun and walked back to my motorbike, nobody had seen the deed. I already had the next address memorised and drove off slowly.
Little did I notice that a motorbike rider was following me.
I drove only a few blocks away from Colaba Causeway. Something was troubling me. I stopped and climbed off near a café. I went in and asked for chai. The guy serving me made no notice of the weird outfit I was wearing, or the fact that I had to pull some of the binding away from my mouth to talk. The chai came and I sipped the sweet hot stuff while looking out at the street. There was a motorbike rider wearing a helmet while sitting on his machine outside. I thought this odd; most people shunned helmets in India. I dismissed it from my mind.
I sipped the tea and tried to make sense of things. Nothing was feeling quite right. I tried to focus, but I found my thoughts shifting around. I kept forgetting what I was trying to remember as soon as the glimmers of it came. The cobbler worried me. The photos always were for valid targets, but this had felt very wrong. How could an old and grey cobbler be of any use to the dark underworld? Who had marked this guy? I tried to think about it, but my mind was just a hazy mess.
I took out the next photo and studied it covertly. It was an Indian woman but she was dressed in European clothes, the hair long and free-flowing. She gazed into the camera levelly. I detected an air of sadness in her eyes. The background was blurred and gave no idea as to her location. On the back was an address. How could this woman be a threat to anyone? My job was to kill without question, or, always had been, but something was telling me that I’d been having doubts recently, the only problem was I really could not place it. Why would I be doubting it? I vaguely remembered the trip to India in the Wolfhound with Charlie, but nothing seemed real, and I found working out what was important absolutely impossible.
I pocketed the photo and paid, then regained the street. I strode to the Enfield and climbed on, then looked back. The motorbike rider was still there. Our eyes met but the other looked away sharply, as if I was of no concern. I pulled away and then turned left several times until I was coming down the same street again. The other bike regained the street behind me too. No doubts then, and pretty sloppy work by the tail.
I jammed the throttle wide open and the bike roared. I then flung it around the next bend, swerving around traffic and pedestrians. The bike came alive and I clicked up and down the gears, braking and accelerating while taking crazy risks in each corner. I snatched a glance behind, the bike had gone. Then I skidded into a tight small alcove. The machine was hidden. I got off, crouched and inched forward until I could see up and down the street. I waited several minutes, the bike did not come.
I then climbed back on and, checking all the time behind, made my way to the address on the back of the photo.
It was a European clothes shop. I sat across the street and watched through the windows. The woman was there. I took the binding from my head and removed the hat. My skin was fairly like a prune after the sweaty material on my face. No matter. After stowing the bindings in the saddlebag, I left the bike and walked to the clothes shop. I felt the gun under my top with my right hand. Then I entered.
She looked a little confused at a man coming into her clothes shop. I felt awkward. I briefly looked around at the shop from where I stood. European clothes in Bombay, I mused. I turned my gaze to the woman, there was a small amount of fear in her eyes, but mostly defiance. She also wore European clothes but was undoubtedly of Indian descent. Her hair was done in a European style.
“Who are you? What do you want in here?” she asked curtly, her speech was perfect English with only tones of Indian inflexions.
“I’m nobody,” I returned.
“Well, Mr Nobody, you can get out of my shop.”
I wavered, I could feel the pressure of the gun, I knew he had a job to do; this was a bad move on my part. She was probably all the photo suggested: a valid target.
“I… I needed to talk to you.”
A stern look replaced the fear. “Ah, a pervert.”
“Oh come now, do I look like a weird guy.”
She looked him up and down markedly. “You think you do not?”
“Ok, ok. It’s been a long journey.” I walked closer to her desk, she backed away. “Look, I’m tired, I’m a nice guy, I really wanted to talk to you. What’s your name?”
“I’m Bernhart. I was sent to Bombay to do a job…”
“You better go and do your job, Mr Bernhart.” I looked out of the window in my frustration, straight at the helmet of the bike rider. Varsha did not miss the look of apprehension on my face, as when I looked back at her she was scrutinising me and the rider in turn. “Your friend?” she asked.
“I have no idea who that guy is.”
“So, you bought another freak with you.”
“Oh, damn it. Look Varsha-” I snatched a glance out of the window and looked back at her to see a small pistol in her hand. “There’s no need for that.”
“I think you’d better leave.”
At that moment the door opened. The rider stood there, a silenced gun in his hand. He deliberately aimed at Varsha. In a split second I flung myself over the desk and pulled her down, not before she had fired, and the bullet whistled past me. Meanwhile, as we went down, several holes appeared in the wall behind where Varsha had stood and plaster plumed out over us.
“Wrong target,” I hissed at the struggling woman as I held her down.
The rider was advancing into the room. Luckily, the desk was heavy and, as the rider was shooting at us, I saw the splinters appearing in the strong wood. He was firing fairly wildly, pumping at the trigger. I released the woman and got quickly under the desk. With all my strength I pushed the heavy load up and back towards the man. My head jarred, but I pushed through, feeling satisfaction as it hit him fair and square, and the man was pinned down briefly, though struggling wildly.
Varsha had taken this moment to flee to the back of the room, where she vanished through a small door. I rushed after her as the door shut in front of me. I grabbed the handle but it was firmly bolted.
“Damn it, Varsha.”
The rider was up the gun in his hand. He levelled it and pulled the trigger. The gun clicked: empty. I ran headlong and tackled the man even though I was hurting wildly. Taken off guard, he went down. I delivered several blows to his body. The guy was winded laying clutching his stomach on the floor. I abandoned him, left the shop, and ran to a side alley I had seen, leading to the back. Here it stunk of sewers. I soon saw that the back of the shop was simply a storeroom. The door stood open, of Varsha there was no sign.
From here there were only two ways to go, back the way I had come, or down a narrow alley that ran between the buildings. I followed the alley. The way was winding, made irregular by the intrusions of the roadside buildings. Some backs opened into stinking yards, others were simply barred doors in rough walls. She could have entered any of these buildings, I thought, but hopefully she just followed the alley.
Then the way opened out into a wide busy area, I failed to see her anywhere, but at that moment I had other things to think about. I was jumped on from behind and blows rained on me. I collapsed to the floor, the assault continued and I had no energy to fight back. Then it stopped and the body lay cripplingly heavy on me, unmoving. I was pinned down and hurt badly.
After a few moments I felt that the body was being moved, but not enough to free me. I regained a little energy and did my best to roll the body away with help. It slumped to one side and rolled onto his back. All around was the general hubbub of an Indian street, but no one was taking any notice. My eyes looked upwards to the sky and a face looked down at me. It was Varsha.
“Thank you,” I said. “But why?”
“I do not like to see anyone defenceless and being beaten like that.”
“Did you hit him?”
“Yes,” she showed me a lump of wood in her hand. “Across the shoulders.”
“Good idea, I expect he kept the helmet on for a reason. Why didn’t you kill him?”
“Oh come, knocking him out is one thing…”
I sat up slowly and then tried to rise. She helped me. “Well, I’m glad you changed your mind.”
“Oh, do not think you are my friend now.”
I turned to the man, pulled the helmet strap and removed it.
“Do you know him?” I asked.
I kept it to myself, but I did know the face. It was the next photo in my pocket. The photo had a name: “Shiv” written under it. I puzzled to myself what was happening. A pre-emptive attack? But the target had been Varsha originally.
“Ok, so we’re not friends then,” I said, “but, how about some chai together?”
She looked at me coolly. “Ok, I need some chai.” Leaving the man in the street, nobody was looking at us or seemed to care, we walked to a café a few streets away and went inside. There were no windows. Varsha ordered her chai. “What do you want?” I ordered in Hindi also. “Oh, I’m impressed,” she said.
“My Hindi is very rusty, but chai is important.”
She was amused, I detected a softening in her attitude. “So what is an Englishman doing in Bombay trying to save my life but getting mugged in the process?”
“Well, first of all, I’m not originally English.”
“You sound English, you look English.”
“I have lived in England since the war, I’m actually Dutch, originally, but yes, I have a British passport now.”
“Ah. I lived in the Netherlands.”
“Oh, that’s a coincidence. I’m originally from Rotterdam.”
“It is a good city. You did not answer my question…”
“I have very little idea why I’m here, much less why I now find myself drinking chai with you-“
“And being mugged.”
“-and being mugged. Well, though I have little idea, I’m very keen to work out why I’m here-“
“Drinking chai with a strange woman?”
“Yes. A very European Indian woman, who has lived in my home city, and carries a gun.”
“You phrase it like a question.”
“If you like.”
“Oh, I’m not such an open book Mr Bernhart-“
“Smith, Mr Bernhart Smith.” I watched her face as I said my name, it was very faint, but I detected the slightest stiffening. “Ever heard the name before?”
She touched her face briefly, and said, “No. Should I?”
“Of course not, I’m-“
“Nobody. Yes, you said. Mr Nobody.”
“I find it strange that we were ignored in the street.”
“Beatings happen all the time. People probably thought he was my husband and you the lover. Why would anyone interfere in these matters?”
“Why would anyone want to kill you?”
“I can not imagine.”
I took the photo of her from my pocket and put it on the table. “Any idea when that was taken?”
She looked shocked. “Yes. It was for a newspaper article. Why on earth would you have it?”
“I was given it, as I was, ah, sent to look for you.”
She studied me carefully; there was no fear in her eyes. “I see. Well, now you find me. And, you do not know why.”
“Oh, I think I know why, but I no longer see that as an option.”
“I’m probably wrong. My memory is hazy right now.”
We were quiet for a bit.
“I better go home,” she said. “And check on the shop.” She stood and I rose too. “No need to accompany me.”
“Oh but there is. That guy is still at large and we know he tried to kill you.”
“And you too, so am I anymore safe with you?”
“Four eyes are better than two.”
We left the café and returned to the shop unmolested. Inside nothing had changed. Varsha locked all the doors. She turned to me. “Goodbye, Mr Nobody.”
“Do you live far?”
“I honestly think I should come with you.”
“Oh do you? I think I can look after myself.”
She turned on her heel and walked off down the street. I was tired, I watched her go and decided not to follow. As she reached the end of the street I saw her enter a doorway. I thought it better I should know where she had gone and I walked to the door. It was the door for a small block of flats. There was little point going in, as I had no idea which flat, but at least I knew where I might find her.
I turned back to the street, for a Bombay street it was very quiet. Looking up and down I saw what looked like a boarding house. Negotiating the road, I found myself in the tiny tiled reception. My Hindi was enough to get a small room.
In the room there was no window. I turned off the dim bulb, flung myself on the narrow bed and was almost instantly asleep.
The room was blessedly free of mosquitos, and noise, due to the lack of windows, and I passed a good night of sleep. Quite early I showered (throwing cold water over myself from a jug) in the tiny en-suite toilet/shower room and left the building. The street was virtually empty, but even so, I felt I was being watched. I passed Varsha’s shop, which was still closed. Even in the early hours the café was open. I ordered chai and masala dosa. There were only a few other customers.
During my breakfast, I spent all my time thinking as hard as I could, which was not that hard. My brain still felt fuzzy and I kept losing the thread of thought. Nothing was making sense. Before the pictures in my pocket had made sense, a purpose, now they were as confusing as everything else. I guessed the pictures were a common thread in my life until now, something subconsciously understood, something before the bang to the head.
I considered leaving Bombay and going home, but the problem was I didn’t know where home was now. Goa? London? With Charlie? By myself? I craved somewhere to go, away from it all, somewhere to think and get my brain working again. But I was clearly onto something or the bike rider, and Varsha, would not have both reacted the way they did. I could not give it up.
Covertly I took the photos from my pocket again, and equally secretly, looked through them. Just faces with locations written on the back. The writing gave no clue, block capitals, probably written with the wrong writing hand. I doubted my former boss had written them, more likely an admin person. I studied the faces and backgrounds, and then checked the addresses again. I specifically studied the picture of the bike rider and Varsha.
I had another chai and then left. The street was busy now, I followed it back to the turn onto Varsha’s street. Here it was still quiet and the shop still closed. I wondered if she was ok and if I should have insisted on staying with her.
I went to the flat but the closed wooden door gave no clues. I tried the handle but it was locked. I crossed the street and stood by the wall, watching the door. I scrutinised the windows, but they were all small, mostly shuttered. It was hard to tell where the flats ended and the next buildings began. It was definitely only on three floors, or so it appeared. I felt like I was wasting my time.
For another ten minutes I stood there, the door never opened. I looked further down the street and saw a gap, an opening to the rear, I speculated. Crossing the road again, I reached the opening. The low alley lead to the back of the building. It opened out into a narrow way that ended quickly in a blank wall with a few barred doors either side. I looked around and up at the sheer walls. Then I noticed a rough protrusion of stone bricks. There was just enough to climb. I tried the first few feet. My head was in no shape for this sort of work, but I found himself scaling the tight stairs all the same. I knew this was a stupid thing to do.
Luckily the steps only went up a few yards and arrived at a narrow catwalk below the first set of windows. Most of the windows were barred, but just one had enough room to get through. I eased back the wooden shutter to see a dark corridor, better than I could have hoped for, I thought, this window had no metal bars, like many Indian windows. With as little noise as possible, I squeezed through and then lowered myself onto the floor. The building was quiet. I looked around at the drab and uninteresting corridor. It was clean and functional, but with little light. I could smell incense burning.
Now that I had gained entrance to the building I wondered what I was going to do. I followed the corridor and came to a window looking down onto the street. But for the humidity, it felt just like my flat block in London, I expected both had been built by the British: the tiled floor, the wooden doors with a misted glass window above, the tiles to shoulder height and paint above. The unusually quiet Bombay street was similar to my street in East London, and again, both close to some maritime activity.
I glanced at one of the doors to a flat. There was a name on it, initial and surname. The initial was M. I walked to the next door, G. I tried the next and then the next. Then, after turning a corner, the initial was V. The chance it was her was quite high I thought, but what could I do? I stood there for several minutes. Then the problem was solved for me, the door opened. Varsha stood before me with her gun in her hand.
“Oh, Mr Nobody, I wondered who was skulking outside my door. What are you doing here?”
“I just wanted to see you were ok.”
“Well, you can see I am; now you can go.”
I turned and walked away without saying anything. I heard the door close behind me. I continued to the stairs; they had the same style of metal bannisters as my flat block. They led down to the entrance door, which was a heavy wooden affair. It had a conventional handle and the lock separate above. I clicked the latch up so the door would not lock, just in case, and then let myself out.
The street was hot and sunny, and a stark contrast to the dark and cool corridors. I shaded my eyes briefly and then crossed to the other side. Again I dithered as to the best course of action, I felt like I should move on, find a task, but something was keeping me there. Too much had happened the night before to ignore it.
Then I saw two men enter the wooden door I had just left, one had gone to use a key but found it was not needed. I recognised the key holder; it was Shiv, the aggressive bike rider, now sans helmet. I crossed back and tried the door to find it was locked again. I cursed and made my way quickly to his secret staircase. I climbed it, a little too fast, as my head jarred horribly. It had taken some time to get there and once inside I found all was quiet. Making my way to Varsha’s door, I found it closed. I wondered if the men had anything to do with visiting her at all. I didn’t want another telling off.
I dithered outside the door for a moment longer, but the thought of a repeat of the earlier performance hastened me to action. It seemed likely to me that the men had come for her, and that I would not be creating another faux pas. I tried the handle, the door was unlocked, I pushed it open and surveyed the corridor beyond. It was a clean, white-tiled corridor, and short. Four doors, two each side, led into the rooms. I crept slowly in, it all seemed too quiet. The first door was open, a kitchen beyond, the opposite door was closed. I moved further down. The next door was to a sitting room, and again the opposite door was closed.
I stood in the doorway of the sitting room. Everything was quiet, the room was tidy. I turned back to the other doors. I opened the first slowly, then peeped into the room, a bedroom, equally tidy. Then I went to the last door and inched it open. There was nothing to see in the white-tiled bathroom, everything was tidy and spotless. The flat was showing no signs that any struggle had happened. Or indeed of any occupation at all. I stood by the open front door and pondered.
I left, closing the door behind me. I followed the corridor in the opposite direction. and shortly arrived at a narrow set of steps down. I took them slowly, worried where they might deliver me. The answer was soon coming, into another narrow corridor. I realised I was now heading directly back from the block of flats. Which meant that this corridor was passing through another building. Again, the answer as to the destination of this one came soon. After a turn right I found myself in what appeared to be an identical block of flats, this time the corridor was heading past wooden doors to the front of the street behind Varsha’s block. Two blocks of flats built back to back, no wonder there had been no back door, I mused.
I arrived at the front door of the block and opened it a little. The street beyond was a slightly busier version, but very similar. I surveyed it for a little while, wondering if the men and Varsha had come this way.
As I stood there I started to feel angry. Why was I caring about this? She was a valid target and all I had got from her was derision. Ok, she had rescued me from the attack of Shiv, but I now wondered why I was concerned. I should just shoot the lot of them. Making my mind up, I closed the door and made my way back to the front of Varsha’s block. As I walked I checked the address on Shiv’s photo, I also looked at my map.
Out on the street the sun hit me like a hammer blow. I crossed over to the shady side and returned to the, now very dusty, Enfield. I took out my bandages and hat. Then I bound myself up again. Nobody was taking any notice of me, though this street was still fairly empty. Once done, I climbed onto the machine and started up. I felt a thrill at the old girl burbling away and was half tempted to drive away into the hills.
As it was, I drove off into the depths of Bombay.
Beyond Varsha’s street India proper started. The roads were a mass of humanity. Cycle Rickshaws and motor Rickshaws swerved about. Large Morris Oxford and small Padmini taxis and London style red busses; all with pedestrians, cyclists and holy cows between. And there was me, one of many motorbikes. Quite often I had to walk the bike around stationary objects, I became a weird two-legged, two-wheeled animal. There was always the sound of engines, hooters and bicycle bells, interspaced with calls from Chai Wallahs for tea and coffee.
The buildings either side were low, two or three stories, always with shops at the front. These were fairly hidden by endless stalls and carts. At one point I stopped by a cart selling omelettes and chai. Without dismounting, I did the transaction and then forced the food and liquid between my bindings. The omelette was deliciously spicy and the chai deliciously masala. The lunch had made me feel a lot better.
No one had looked at me at all, the bindings hiding the while beacon of my face. I was pretty sure I was not followed, though it would be hard to know is this busy city. I wondered if the men and Varsha and come this way, and how long it had taken them. The traffic was thick. I guessed they may have known a shortcut, the benefit of local knowledge. I had no issues with the slow progress as such; just the knowledge that time was slipping away. I knew what to expect in Bombay. All the same, the delay was frustrating.
I found I kept getting into the whole journey, thinking of little else. I knew that usually I didn’t think this way, I’d have many plans running around in my head as I drove, but now my thoughts were muddled and jumbled. The only time I felt ok was just driving and forgetting everything else. I expected just sitting on board the Wolfhound listening to the radio would be just as favourable. In fact, I knew it would be more favourable, as my beaten body could do with the rest. But there were unanswered questions to be solved.
As I was reaching the destination, I kept glancing behind. It was still far too busy to tell if I was followed and I took a few turns to come back on the main road again, I could see no one I thought was following, but it was hard to tell.
I checked my map and soon turned off the main road and followed some quieter ones. The buildings were low and open-fronted, gradually giving way to smaller closed fronted houses. Then I came to another road, which was very quiet and the houses much larger. Finally, I arrived at the address on the photograph of Shiv.
It was a detached house in a fairly large and overgrown garden. However, the house was fairly small compared to many in the street. Usually Indian houses grew over the years, but it looked as if Shiv, or his family, had never had the funds to expand it. It looked to be a one-story three-bedroom house, probably four rooms in all. Furthermore, it appeared to be deserted. There were no motorbikes or cars outside and the street was devoid of any traffic. The road was a little shaded by palm trees and a few sprouted from Shiv’s garden. I was unable to see the back of the house due to the herbage. To one side of the house was a small garage, the door was closed.
I climbed off the bike and walked to the steps up to the wooden and windowless door. There was no point in concealment, as there was nowhere to hide. I looked either side, the windows were shuttered. I climbed the three steps and quietly tried the door, it was locked. I felt disinclined to knock. It seemed better to check around the place before deciding anything else. The only accessible way not blocked by weeds was to the garage. This was also locked. I took a look around in case I was observed, but the houses opposite were staggered and hidden by palm trees. Down the side of the garage was a narrow path. I felt trepidation to try it, as it was a great place for an ambush. An attack could come from any angle and I would be hemmed in. I took out my gun and quietly followed the path.
Inching my way along, I soon arrived at the corner of the house. Here it opened out to a small clear area of unremarkable garden. I checked the area, expecting someone to be there, but it appeared to be empty. Three steps led up to a back door. A shuttered window each side of the door was a replica of the front of the house. I quietly climbed the steps and tried the door. Locked. Now I was left with a dilemma, wait for someone to arrive, or force my way in. I was unsure what any course of action would result in.
It was then I became aware of a noise behind me. I spun around, expecting an attack. A man was standing at the back of the garden. I crouched and bought up the gun. He instantly raised his hands. There was a bulge of a gun under the shirt. Then I recognised him and I was convinced it was a ghost.
“Oh my word, Dean, but you’re dead? Charlie and I buried you at sea.”
He lowered a hand and raised a finger to his mouth, then beckoned. Without a further word I followed him. There was a hidden path at the back of the garden. It meandered widely and in some places was barely a path at all. I followed him for someway, and I was sure the boundary of Shiv’s land was far behind. Then presently the bush gently gave way and ahead was a sight that somewhat surprised me. It looked like a ruined castle. As we walked up to it, I realised that was exactly what it was, an old palace, much dilapidated.
Presently Dean stopped. “How are you doing old chap.” He held out his hand. “And what’s with the bandages?”
“Oh sunburn,” I said, unwrapping the material from my face. “Rather surprised to see you. Last I thought you were a bloody mess on the Wolfhound.”
“How did you recognise a cut-up corpse?”
“Ah, I see.”
“That was a lackey of the gang, got in the way of Jack’s knife when he was coming for me, so I bolted. By the time I got to the shore you were tearing about the bay in Alex shooting the place up.”
“I did rather lose the plot.”
“Yes. Anyway, I see you haven’t lost the secret of self-preservation either,” he laughed.
“I’m not sure that I’m doing so well, I seem to have got pretty close to being broken this time.”
“We all know about you. That’s why I was sent on here.”
“Ah, so this isn’t a coincidence.”
We had arrived at the broken down palace. I saw that despite looking like a castle, it was very much a ruin. Dean led the way to a small door on the far side. It had no door, just a door shape hole in the wall. Inside I realised it was just a room stacked on the side of the big broken walls. There was a table and a couple of chairs. A very few odds and ends lay about of general living accessories. Dean poured some tea from an urn, it was heated by a small burner and had a small gas bottle with it. We sat on the chairs and sipped chai.
“I assume you have Shiv’s place under surveillance?”
“You assume incorrectly. I was here for one thing…”
“Oh come, Bernhart, I was here to meet you. Shiv doesn’t live here now, the house may be under surveillance. We knew you were on your way, it was just how long.”
“I see, bit unlikely.”
“Yes, maybe. Doesn’t change the fact that it was you I was waiting for.”
“So, now I’m here.”
“You are. You know Jack is after you?”
“I thought he’d be dead too.”
“Nearly was, but we got reports, he murdered the couple who saved him.”
“No idea where he is now, but there is no doubt he’ll be coming for you.”
“How would he know I’m alive?”
“I expect he could find out either way.”
“So where is Charlie?”
“Good question, last we heard she was also coming to find you after checking out of the hospital in Varanasi. We don’t know where she is now.”
“Oh hell. And what happened to Peter, Tanya and Jones?”
“When Peter C Davis and your ex-wife Tanya confronted you on the Sea Vixen. Jones, so-called MI6, bashed you over the head when you tried to set off a bomb.”
“I see. I remember vague details.”
“Amazing you remember anything.”
“And the Wolfhound?”
“No, they did sink a ship to make it look like the Wolfhound was lost. The ship is the key. There is something of great value to them on-board. It’s the Wolfhound we need to find. Jack didn’t just vandalise the Wolfhound, he was looking for something very specific, but couldn’t find it. So he decided to play the waiting game until you got into Peter’s clutches again. Jack was playing a double game.”
“As he always does.”
“Jones knew too, also playing a double game, but his plan to pinch the ship failed due to me and you.”
“Ah, now Bernhart, you do yourself down. You and Charlie arrived just at the right moment.”
“What about the pictures in my pocket?”
“We did it to draw you here. But it was pre-planned a very long time ago and it went off half-cocked. The shoe store guy was your contact, but he’d gone rogue. Shooting him was a good idea in the end.”
“I’m confused. And Varsha?”
“We don’t know what game she is playing anymore. Your photos have become a mixed bag, but we did know you’d prioritise them, we knew what your hit list would be, but we got the first two wrong. We thought you’d come for Shiv first, and I couldn’t watch three places at once. There is no-one else to call on in India, but for Charlie-“
“Who has vanished.”
“Who has vanished, yes.”
“Why didn’t you come to Goa?”
“I was going to, but we heard you had left by the time I’d got here.”
“Ah, so there is an agent in Goa?”
“No, not really. It gets complicated.”
“You know Varsha has been kidnapped by Shiv?”
“N-no, I didn’t. That is complicated too. We don’t know anymore what side she is on.”
“Well, I think she knows more about me than she lets on.”
“Yes, she probably does. At least one of your photo hit list is the key to this business, that is still a sure fact.”
“So, as far as our boss is concerned, is it ‘all sins forgiven?’”
“He’s pretty livid with you, but I convinced him you had our best interests at heart.”
I had been looking through the door as I drank my chai and talked. At that moment I thought he saw a movement outside. I raised his hand and pointed covertly so only Dean could see. We continued to talk, but of trivialities, in order not to show we realised we had company. I walked to the door and looked out around the frame. I could see someone squatting in the undergrowth. Dean joined me on the other side of the frame. We then bolted from the door in opposite directions to cut off the intruder. We circled opposite directions and came back on the figure. The intruder realised he was rumbled and leapt up, crashing back into the undergrowth. Dean was on him first but the man was like a slippery eel and twisted away though a tiny gap in the dense undergrowth. We heard him crashing away but it was too tight to follow.
“That’s annoying,” said Dean. “I hope he didn’t hear too much. Looks like it is time to get out of here.”
“How did you get here?”
“I’ve got an Enfield stashed nearby.”
“I need to find out what is happening with Varsha and Shiv.”
“It might be worth it. I have a few leads to follow too. Would be a good idea to find out where Charlie and Jack are.”
“Not to mention Peter and his lot. I’d like to get the Wolfhound back.”
“I’ll go and phone the boss.”
“Where do you think Shiv will be?”
“He has a few friends in high places. Show me your photos.”
Dean shuffled through the pack and removed three and showed them to me. “One of them, it’s likely he has gone to any of those addresses.”
“Are these targets still?”
“That, you’ll have to use your magic intuition for. Oh, and by the way, we have given you a codename.”
“Yes, codename Wolfhound.”
I parted from Dean and was soon on the bike again, heading for another part of Bombay. I had wrapped my face up again. I had to find out what had happened with Shiv and Varsha. After that, I could think about getting the Wolfhound back. Or even, give up the whole sorry affair.
At the first address, the house was empty, no sign of life. I decided to move on and not explore the grounds. It was a large house and would waste a lot of time, I needed more concrete evidence before committing to exploring.
At the next house I found my evidence. I had skirted the city and was approaching the docks. There were several large houses close to the water. But what took my attention was a ship in the harbour, a ship I knew well, and probably the ugliest thing on the water. It was the Sea Vixen, owned by the millionaire Peter C Davis, who, I was pretty sure, was the reason I had been bashed around the head. This was all the confirmation I needed that I was in the right place. Peter C Davis was the reason I had travelled from England to India in the Wolfhound as I followed his twisted little gang. I felt anger rising inside when I thought of the merry dance he had led me. Now there was the fact that it was he who had absconded with my ship, the Wolfhound, not to mention teaming up with my insane ex-wife.
I bought the bike to a stop and looked out across the water. There was no sign of life on the Sea Vixen. It still jarred how ugly the ship was, such a terrible misjudging on how to fashion a large yacht. The dock was fairly busy but nothing was heading to the ugly ship. I examined the other shipping. There was a large while liner and several work ships, some looked like tramp steamers. Far over to one side was a small seaplane. Nothing was unusual or interesting.
I took the photo from my pocket and checked the address, I also memorised the face on the front. Before moving off I checked all around to see if I was followed, I’d neglected to check until now, wrapped up in my thoughts. No one seemed to be interested in me, but it was hard to tell here in busy Bombay. There were many people about, and most were ignoring me as with the material wrapped around my face I seemed fairly invisible.
I soon found the house. It was an old colonial place, probably built by the British Raj a hundred years ago. It looked to be in poor condition with some windows boarded up, or they were possibly badly fashioned shutters, I mused. I pulled the bike over on the far side of the road, which directly fronted the water. The Sea Vixen was closer now but entirely devoid of life. I looked carefully at the house, but not directly, trying not to give my intention away to any possible observer. There was no sign of life, but this was probably not surprising, especially at this time of the day. I decided not to approach from the front and drove the bike into the back streets, coming back on myself a few times to check I wasn’t followed. Soon I was approaching the back of the house. There was a walled garden but in places the wall had crumbled, showing an overgrown garden beyond.
I stopped the bike near the wall and climbed off. Checking up and down the narrow and quiet backstreet first, I then slipped into the garden. It was so overgrown that I could not see the house. However there were many little paths, and this was obviously a fairly public thoroughfare, or shortcut. The plants were immensely overgrown and arched over the paths above. I made my way, as near as I could judge, towards the house. However, it was an immense garden and it took me several false tries until I finally glimpsed the roof though the shrubbery. The whole time the paths were deserted, though I did hear human sounds now and then, without seeing anyone. It was dead quiet as I approached the back of the house.
There was little to see, glimpses of window and wall as I followed a path that was finally going the right direction. I hoped I would see the whole back of the house, but in this I was frustrated, the undergrowth was right up to the back wall. The first sighting of the house was as I turned a corner and the path led directly to a ramshackle door. I greatly expected to be challenged at any moment and tried to approach stealthily. However, I arrived at the door and nothing happened. It was horrendously quiet. The door has once been a fine wooden door, and large, but now it was tatty and damaged. I tried the large handle carefully. Then I shoved the door gently and it inched open, I felt a tingle of fear down my back. Beyond was in darkness. I gradually pushed the door wider and attempted to see beyond. In contrast to the garden is was just a black void.
The door was not easy to open, but the first two foot was enough. I gradually put my head around the jam. Then, as my eyes adjusted, I was several wooden walls, about five yards away; there were a few wooden doors, some standing open. The floor was filthy. I stepped inside and closed the door, but had to stand there for several minutes until I could see anything at all. All the time I listened, but there were no sounds, other than my breath, which sounded little an express train.
I thought about going back. I still could not understand why I was on this fool’s errand. But it also felt like I had come too far to give up. I’d never be happy with an unsolved mystery. I inched forward and then looked through the first door, it was the beginning of a staircase. It seemed as easy to go up than anything else, so I followed it. The walls were all dark wood panelling, which was no help with seeing where I was going. Eventually the stairs came to another open door and a dark corridor. There were still no sounds. Every step I took forward was making me wish I was running away, but some lunacy was making me push forward.
Then the left wall gave away to an open area, and I was looking over an old ballroom. It was entirely empty. No furniture, nothing. The floor was covered with litter. All the windows were boarded, or shuttered, with only cracks of sunlight coming in through the odd gap. It was still eerily quiet with only the vaguest noise of traffic. I followed the corridor until it entered another door, this opened to another corridor, I started to wonder how vast this place was. There were a few doors either side but I decided not to look inside yet. Then I arrived at a double door, one side was open. It opened out to a vast covered space, some wide steps led down. The roof was like that of a railway station. There was nothing in the area but two parts marked out on the wooden floor with white lines for tennis. It was an old gym but on a very large scale. I could quite imagine old colonials rushing around on roller-skates.
I was starting to think I was wasting my time on an empty building, then I heard sounds. It was coming from below me, impossible to make out. I descended the stairs carefully, checking all the time. The walls of the gym were all solid, with no windows in any wall, all the light came from glass in the roof. There were a few doors. Only one stood open. I made my way to it. Steps led down. The sound had stopped. I descended the stairs. At the bottom, I now realised I was in the basement, it opened up into a medium-size room. Light came in from narrow glass, high up on the wall.
There was no doubt this was a dungeon. There were various racks, ropes and shackles. The place was done out for torture, one way or another, if it were for interrogation or pleasure I was unsure, nothing gave away the function of the room as to which it was. This was the first room with any furniture at all. A corridor led off ahead and there were several doors. The sound had not come again. The room was disturbing and my desire to turn back was desperately eating away at me. Nothing about this was good.
I decided that I would see what was down the end of the corridor and then leave it at that. My nerves could not take anymore and I’d come back once I had the lay of the land. I followed the corridor which got darker as the light from the dungeon faded. At the end was a dark door, I looked in. It was a low and heavy built room. I looked at the door, standing open to the corridor as my suspicion was confirmed, it was a heavy metal safe door.
Inside were many boxes mounted on metal runners. I wondered what was in them. I stepped in and walked to a box, trying the handle. It was locked. I tried a few others, all locked. There was nothing else. Every inch of the room was locked safe boxes. Then the unthinkable happened, the door slammed shut and I was plunged into darkness.
As I stood there in utter blackness I realised I had just walked into a trap with my eyes wide open. A really stupid move. I had been drawn in, been played all the way to this room, like a puppet on a string. What an idiot, I reprimanded myself. I slumped down despondently on the floor with my back to the safe-deposit boxes. I sat there for a few minutes and then stood and groped my way to the door. I thought there was a chance it had just slammed shut with a gust of wind. But no, the hard metal remained unmovable, it was certainly locked from the outside. I sat down again, there was no point groping around the bare room in the darkness.
I’m not sure how long I sat there, it was a sort of fatalistic feeling, like I had given up. No rushing to the door, no grappling with the lock, I had just stood there while the door slammed, resigned to the fate of being trapped. I was unsurprised to have been led to a snare. I wondered what was wrong with me. I wondered if the fire had finally gone out, if I were now past it. My mind was entirely flawed. I felt muzzy and like jelly.
I looked at my watch, the luminous hands stared back, I didn’t take in the time. I tried to make some plans, but nothing happened. I felt resigned to being locked up and almost happy that I’d shortly die of asphyxiation as the air ran out. I tried to think about the situation but there was nothing, I felt completely numb.
I’m not sure how long I sat there until finally the door was opened. I had heard nothing before was thrown open, a testament to how thick the strong room was. One moment I was sitting dejectedly in the dark, the next the door was open and a strong light trained on me. Then some heavies came in and I was roughly pulled to my feet and manhandled through the corridor and torture room. They bustled me along right to an open door in the gym room and out to a narrow street. There was a car waiting. I was shoved inside. The whole time I had taken in few details, resigned to this treatment, resigned to my fate.
The car was large and the backseat empty. There was a dark glass partition ahead and I could not see the driver. I tried the door but it was locked and there were no window winder handles. It was dark outside. The car moved off. It pulled straight out onto the streetlamp lit harbour road and followed it. There were almost people around. The car drove for only a little distance and then stopped. Right outside was the white cruise ship. I looked up at her. It was a tall, probably five decks high, cruse ship. The whole thing was in white with a black lettered name on the bow: Andes. Above was a single yellow funnel topping the open decks with a row of lifeboats at the top. A tall mast at either end. She was a mighty ship, I guessed about 600ft long. Many portholes lined her sides. There was a lot of light emanating from her.
The door was opened and the heavies pulled me out. I was escorted roughly to the boarding gangway and we climbed up, it was a fairly easy climb and we were inside the ship in no time. It was quite plush inside, though I was given little chance to see much. There was no one around, it was strangely quiet. I was taken up a corridor and pushed inside a cabin. The door was closed behind me and locked.
I stood there and looked around. It was a comfortable cabin with a window out onto a promenade. The style was art deco. A double bed, desk, chair. A door led to an en-suite bathroom. Just like a plush hotel. I tried the window, locked. There was no one outside. I decided to make the best of it and washed, then lay on the bed. My watch had stopped, but I little cared what time it was. Despite everything I fell asleep.
I was woken when a heavy came in the room. He was holding a tray of food. He watched me carefully all the time, as if I was going to attack him. Little did he know I just didn’t care. He left and locked the door after placing the tray. I looked at it and decided I was hungry. It took no time to polish off the curry and chai. The curry was superbly hot and I enjoyed the spicy fire. I was quite happy to stay like this, they kept feeding me, what did I care? No more stress. I then realised dawn was breaking and wondered why they were bringing curry for breakfast. I suspected I was observed and had missed a meal, so they bought it now. I checked the room, there were no obvious cameras. I studied the mirror next to the desk and decided it could a one-way mirror. Though it seemed unlikely this liner would have such a thing.
Gradually it got brighter. I looked out at Bombay, but felt uninterested. I could not see much of the harbour from this angle. I could see a very rough-looking fishing boat, fairly close, it was quite large, but there was no activity on it. It was the oddest-looking fishing boat I had ever seen, it looked like it had been tacked together and made out of odd bits. It was extremely untidy with nets hanging about and various other seafaring junk.
There was little else to see. I pulled the curtains closed and flung myself on the bed.
As time passed, I stopped feeling resigned to my fate, as much, and started to feel more like a caged animal. But not enough to do anything. The muffled sound of Bombay came through the window: car horns and human sounds. The liner remained quiet, eerily quiet. Then in the distance, I was sure on board, I heard what sounded like chanting. Not unusual in India, but it seemed out of place in a liner.
Time dragged by and the cabin warmed as the sun soared up above India. Nothing changed. Then the heavy returned, again with a tray of food, some chai and a flask of water. He said nothing and I returned the compliment. I felt a complete disinterest in why I was being held here, and no desire to question him. He left. I remained feeling caged but with no desire to do anything about it. I did wonder what game they were playing, why the prolonged incarceration. Though it occurred to me I might now be a hostage, due to spend a long time here.
I ate, then showered, then flung myself on the bed again. Then the sound of the chanting came to my ears again. I stood up and put my ear to the door. I could now make it out and it sounded like a large number of people. I was puzzled that there could be so little noise on the ship but clearly the chanting of a crowd. While I was pressing my ear to the door it miraculously opened.
The heavy was standing there. He had no tray this time and the other heavy stood behind him in the corridor. I realised it was time to say goodbye to my cabin, I actually felt some regret, life alone in the cabin had been straightforward. The first heavy beckoned. I followed him with the other stepping in behind. We walked down the corridors for some way and went up a plush art deco staircase. The next floor was first class and the liner started to burst with opulence. It no longer felt like I was in a ship, so over the top the heavy finery was. I wondered how the ship managed to float at all.
I was then shown into a large room. It was a first-class lounge. There was a domed window in the ceiling with plants growing up to it. There were several chandeliers, all burning brightly. The room had curtained windows, many soft chairs, soft carpets and rugs, and the walls were all dark wood. There were several ornate pillars to the ceiling.
It was devoid of life but for one woman sitting on a soft chair pulled up to a table. The table had a cloth and a vase of flowers. Her hand was resting on the table near a teacup and saucer. In her other hand was a book which, as I entered, she was reading. I was escorted to the table and invited to sit down, actually, shoved into the seat. The woman continued to read. I studied her. She wore a formal dress in dark colours. Her dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail, the effect was harsh and made her sharp features more so. She wore no makeup. I put her age in her early or late forties, it was hard to place exactly.
The heavies retreated a few paces and she continued to read. We sat like that for several minutes. I was too drained to feel insulted or embarrassed. Finally, she replaced her bookmark and closed the book. She placed it on the table and then drank the last of her tea. Then she turned her piercing blue eyes on me.
“Who are you?” she asked, in a low voice. There was an accent that I failed to place, she certainly was not Indian. When I failed to reply, without being signalled, a heavy walked over and thumped me around the head. Due to the damage from my head injury, I passed out. When I came round I was still in the chair and a heavy was pushing water in my mouth. “Whoever you are, you’re not very strong,” she resumed. I stayed silent. “Or talkative.”
“What would you have me say?”
“Ah, it talks. First, your name, then we can go from there.”
“Go to hell.”
A heavy walked over and was about to deliver another blow but she waved him away. “I probably will. I can only assume you are damaged already. You certainly look in a bad way. I’d like to know why you were sneaking around my friend’s house? I’m also interested in your photo collection.” I felt for my pocket and for the first time realised they had been emptied. “Not to mention your little weapon collection, this makes you not the standard house thief.”
“Well, I see you have me summed up anyway.” I was stunned that my things had been taken without my knowledge or that I failed to notice anything missing. Though I felt I had a valid excuse for not being up to speed.
“Oh, you’ll keep. I shall think of a way to get you to speak.” She waved to the heavies.
I was pulled to my feet and marched out. Back in the corridor, I hoped we were going back to the room, that would have suited me fine, but I realised quickly we were not. We marched down several flights of steps, the way becoming more utilitarian and functional as we went. The opulence gave way to normal lino steps and light grey walls. I guessed we were getting close to the waterline. Presently we came to a door, very plain, it was opened and I was shoved inside. There was no light, I saw a functional cabin with no porthole before they slammed the door.
I spent some time looking for a light switch but found nothing in the dark. I knew there was a bed and a toilet. From my brief look at the room I realised there was nothing else. I found the bed and lay on it, it was hard.
I fell asleep for a little while. When I woke I thought I’d not been asleep for long. I got up and tried the door and to my surprise it opened. I stepped into the ill-lit corridor. It was uniform and went for a little distance. I soon realised why the door was not locked, there was nowhere to go. There were doors either side, they opened onto the same style room as mine and were all empty. Soon I got to the end of the corridor and a locked door. I followed it to the other end and found the same result. Or, I suspected the same result, to my surprise this door was not locked.
Beyond was a narrow stairwell. I followed it up. I looked out at the next level but it was similar to the last. I took the next flight and arrived in what was possibly second-class. I started to suspect I was being played again, led like a rat in a maze, but freedom was better than the dark cell. I went up the staircase further, and at that moment heard the distant chanting, it was coming from the next level. The steps opened out into another second-class corridor. Before stepping through the door I checked ahead. Several people were walking along. They all wore the same type of clothing, mostly white, almost like dressing gowns. They were all heading in the same direction, not looking back. I decided to follow as they were heading to the chanting.
As I followed I realised there was little chance of detection as the people were almost zombie-like. They had a listless quality, like they were hypnotised. I started to think that was exactly it, they were hypnotised. Presently we came to a door which opened onto a plush ballroom, it was full of people in white, all sitting on the floor and chanting. It was extremely eerie. I saw no heavies of any kind and the chanters were completely ignoring me. I walked in and, due to the size of the room, was able to skirt the room, with various fittings between me and the people, so I remained unobserved. Though I still suspected they were unaware of me it was better not to call attention to myself.
I was now able to see their faces, as all the people were facing one way. They were all facing a central, and exotic, statue. I examined faces one by one from where I stood. They all had a vacant look and I’d look closely, not recognising them, and moving on. Until my gaze fell on one, very familiar face, it was Varsha. She was chanting with the others.
I wondered what to do. I little imagined she wanted to be there, especially in this hypnotised state. After ten minutes or so, there was the sound of a bell. The chanting stopped on queue. The people became active again and started to disperse down the corridor. Varsha was at the front of the room and so was the last to leave. I followed discreetly. The people were all dispersing to cabins. I trailed Varsha until she stopped to enter a cabin door. Normally I would have been too polite to follow her in, but due to her hypnotised state, I walked straight in behind her, she failed to notice. I stepped out of the way, as mechanically, she turned to close the door. Then, fairly like an android, she took a seat on one of the comfortable chairs. As she did so her eyes fell on me, but for all the effect it had, I may as well have been invisible.
Again I wondered what to do. I was unsure if she was hypnotised, or drugged, but I had heard waking a hypnotised person might be a dangerous thing to do. I decided that nothing was more dangerous than this ship and that I should wake her. She sat placidly in her chair as I walked over; I wondered what to do. It felt like an invasion of space. I tapped her hand, nothing; her eyes gazed blankly on the wall. I tried a little pinch. I slapped her cheek gently. It had no effect, so I did it a little harder. Her eyes turned to me but were still vacant.
“Varsha, it’s me…”
“Mr Nobody,” there was the vaguest flicker in her eyes as she said the words quietly.
“Yes, Mr Nobody.”
Her hand clutched mine. “Where am I?” she asked as her eyes uncomprehendingly took in the room.
“On a cruise ship, not far from your shop.”
“That I don’t know.”
“Oh my, I feel so strange.”
I thought about how strange I was feeling but declined to tell her. “Well, things seem strange on this ship,” I said, collecting a glass from the items on the sideboard and then pouring some water. She took it and sipped.
“Though, I have a little idea,” she said. “A few fleeting images. A woman, in first class…”
“Yes, I met her.”
“Oh, yes, I think the name… Mary. I think I know something about her, it is not coming.”
“Don’t worry. I might visit her, to straighten all this out.”
“I just want to get out of here,” said Varsha.
“Yes,” I looked out of the window. “Night is falling, probably a good time to leave. Are you up to it?”
“I am fine.”
She stood and I opened the door slightly to check if anyone was around. We sneaked out. I thought I could find my way back to the boarding ramp. We followed the long softly carpeted corridor. Then came some wide stairs, typical of ship design, it was definitely leading to the exit. I was surprised how quiet it was. I wanted to ask Varsha some questions but it was better not to speak, even with the lack of personnel. The steps led to another, lower level, and I recognised the way to the exit. We arrived there unmolested; it was all too easy, suspiciously easy. I had a feeling again that I was being led, like a puppet, but the desire to escape was too strong to think of it more.
I surveyed the gangway, there was no-one around. No guards, nothing. It was too easy. I held back.
“What is wrong?” asked Varsha.
“I don’t know, this is all too easy.”
“They are just sloppy, lazy.”
We descended the gangway. Soon we arrived at the dock level. There were a few beggars around, but no one close. We walked to the road. I tried to get my bearings, I knew the bike was fairly close, but I wasn’t exactly sure where the car had taken me.
“We can get a rickshaw,” said Varsha.
The traffic was sparse but the operation of getting a cycle rickshaw was simple. Soon the rickshaw wallah was pedalling us in the direction of Varsha’s flat. It was then I realised that we had not got away unobserved. I was looking behind when I became aware of a car coming towards us at high speed. Then I recognised the car was my previous conveyance. The rickshaw was freewheeling down a slight slope, but we were still moving slowly. The car was gaining at a terrific speed and I realised he was going to ram us, headlights blazing.
Right then we were close to the water; on the other three sides was tarmac. I snapped a glance back; the car was about on us. I made to disembark; Varsha was on the side close to the water.
“Jump, Varsha, jump for your life.”
She looked at me startled but stood. I yanked the unfortunate rickshaw wallah’s handlebars and the vehicle veered to the side. I practically pushed Varsha into the sea and followed instantly. Behind was a rending scream of metal and the scream of the poor wallah. Varsha and I plunged into the deep dark water. When our heads broke the surface I looked up and a crowd was already around the rickshaw. The car was speeding off. No one looked our way; they must have missed our departure. I looked around. Varsha trod water beside me but said nothing. Then I noticed we were close to a vessel. I then realised it was the weird-looking fishing boat. I directed Varsha with a nod of my head and we struck out to the ship.
Soon we are close to it. The sides were greatly overhung with fishing equipment and it was hard to see a way to board. I noticed the keel was grey painted metal, mostly hidden by a wooden deck and boards on the side. We swam around it, looking for a way to get on. It was soon apparent that there was no way on. At that moment a small motorboat rounded the keel of the liner and headed directly for us. A searchlight stabbed out and hit us fair and square, there was no escaping.
“That was a short bit for freedom,” I said. Varsha just looked at me, there was no expression on her face, just a resigned look. The boat rounded on us. We were both roughly plucked from the water. The boat contained three heavies who I’d not seen before. It was turned and pointed back at the liner. “Looks like we’re going back to Mary’s liner.”
“No,” said Varsha. “It is only being chartered for a short time, she told me. She does not own it.”
“Ah, that explains a lot.”
The heavies ignored us. Luckily it was a warm night and our drenched clothes were little to worry about. The boat returned to the liner where a hatch was open near the waterline for us to enter. Once we reached it, we were pushed on board and taken up stairs. Soon I realised we were on the way to see Mary. Presently we arrived in the first-class section and were shown to the same room, Mary was not there. We sat down. The heavies left, but one, he remained standing by the door. Shortly another came back with food and tea. I was quite surprised, but at the same time, I was certainly in need of it. We ate in science.
When finished we sat back and drank our chai.
“So,” she said, “we are drinking chai together again.” Her former bravado had gone, her response flat and dejected.
“We are. I must say, I feel even more confused now.”
“Yes. I do too.”
“This is a weird commune I assume, hypnotising a lot of people.”
“It does seem so. If they feel like I did, they have no idea what is happening.”
“Humm, I wonder what it’s all about?”
Any further speculation was dismissed as Mary came into the room. She did not join us and went back to her former seat. Presently, it was quite clear that we were expected to join her. We went over and sat before her like naughty schoolchildren.
“So. Bernhart Smith, you came back.”
“Ah, so you found out my name.”
“No,” she gestured as if it were a matter of fact. “I knew you from the start. This was a little game to find your partner in crime.”
“I know nothing of this man,” said Varsha.
“Rubbish. You are lucky I got bored of the game and stopped it when I did.”
“You hurt a Rickshaw Wallah into the bargain,” I said.
“He will be looked after.”
How do you know of me?” I asked.
“I knew your father. And you can be of a little service to me.”
“Why would my father know of a crook like you?”
“Oh, poor Bernhart. You kept it from Aart all those years that you were an assassin, but all along he knew. He was in a different game, but still in British Intelligence.” I thought she was lying, but it made me think. My father was certainly capable. “Anyway,” she resumed, “he put a very important secret on your ship, the Wolfhound. Only I know what it is, I want it back.”
“So, I will let you go to find the Wolfhound for me-“
“Why should I do that?”
“Because I shall keep Varsha here, as my insurance that you will.”
“I have no idea where to look.”
“Oh Bernhart, you disappoint me. The Sea Vixen out there,” she gestured to the docks. “And your colleagues all at large, if anyone can find it, you can.”
“And if I refuse?”
“You have seen the torture chamber, I’m not sure she is so strong.”
“Ha!” exclaimed Varsha. “I am strong, stronger than you.”
“Now Varsha, this isn’t about you,” said Mary. “He can get something I want, it doesn’t matter about you.”
Varsha just stared at Mary. I looked around and realised the heavy had deserted his post. I had quite enough of this fiasco and decided to assert myself, some of my former fire was coming back. I placed my hands under the table and then flipped it towards Mary. She went over on her back in a most undignified manner and was winded, she was unable to call out. I grabbed Varsha’s hand and pulled her towards the door. With no hesitation, I burst through it with her in tow and we ran down the corridor.
“Your table trick again. Where to?” she asked.
“Back down to that hatch. Well, it works, don’t knock a flying table.”
We both knew the way and returned quickly. I heard sounds of pursuit but they must have assumed we were going back to the companionway and they went in the wrong direction. We arrived at the loading door and the boat was still there, unattended. We climbed aboard and I cast off. The engine started easily, I pointed it towards Colaba Causeway and fully opened the throttle. Then, in an instant, I changed my mind and pointed her towards the house with the torture chamber.
“Where are you going?” asked Varsha.
“To see if I can find someone, and get my motorbike. I feel trapped on this boat and we’ll land at Colaba with no transport otherwise.”
Varsha said nothing, just looked at the shore. She still seemed vague and distant, not like the fiery Varsha I had first met. I tried for a moment to think more carefully, but I still had a very unreliable head on my shoulders. Thinking seemed like a troublesome thing to do.
We passed the strange fishing boat again, but I felt little desire to explore it now, even though we probably had the height to board her. I looked back to the Sea Vixen. One or two lights were showing but she was moored quite a distance away. Then I looked to the dock edge and pointed the boat directly to the house. There were very few people around now and no traffic. I suspected it was very early morning, though the sky was still dark with no glimmers of dawn. I hoped this would mean there would be no trouble.
Shortly the little boat reached the dockside. I motioned Varsha to step off onto to the quay. Then, as the boat was alongside, I cut the engine and stepped off to join her. The boat drifted away. Then I turned to the house to seek a way back in.
“If you don’t want to come in, you can stay here, or get a Rickshaw home?”
“No, I’ll come with you.”
I found the door that I had been shown out of to get into the car. It was unlocked. Inside the gym was eerily quiet and just enough light from the moon came in through the high windows to see what we were doing. I crossed to the door where the steps led down to the dungeon. Varsha followed. At the top of the steps I looked down. There was a light. I looked at Varsha, she returned a worried frown.
As I followed the steps Varsha held back. There were no sounds ahead. I looked back; Varsha was looking terrified. Then I turned the corner at the bottom. I looked around, a light was on, but the room was empty. I returned to the steps and looked sharply up; expecting another trap, but all I saw was Varsha looking very nervous. I returned to her.
“Sorry, Varsha, I was wrong, it was only a hunch, something Mary said. Let’s get out of here.”
We returned to the gym. The light from the moon made the place even scarier than the empty torture room. We both quickly went to the door and out. Varsha was incredibly nervous which was making me on edge too. We snapped a look up and down the street. I pointed in the direction towards the bike and we followed the dark street. I half expected the bike to be missing, but soon, with surprise, I picked out the dark silhouette of the Enfield. When we reached it, I inspected it closely, but it appeared not to have been tampered with.
“Where are we going,” said Varsha, as I climbed on and beckoned to her.
“Either your flat, or we get a hotel. I’m all out of any other ideas.”
“I do not know either.”
Well, there is a boarding house near your flat, we could stay there for a bit and then decide; see if anything is going on at Colaba.”
She nodded and climbed on the bike. I started up and guided us onto the main road. There was still no one around and I was able to open it up, making good time. As we drove the dawn started to break.
When we arrived at Varsha’s street it was getting quite light. I had expected to encounter trouble the whole journey, but nothing had happened. I stopped the bike and we climbed off.
“Well, there is the boarding house,” I said.
“If we are going to have a room I would rather something better,” she said, pointing to the hotel a little further down.
It was a fairly shabby hotel, another relic of the Raj, but I had to admit, better than the boarding house. The reception made no fuss and gave us two adjoining rooms. When we got to the rooms I realised that I had been fairly roughing it. I suggested to Varsha that she lock her front door and only open the internal door if I knocked.
Once alone I stripped and sent my clothes down to be washed. Then I showered and put on the supplied pyjamas and dressing gown. I had to admit the hotel was a little plusher than I gave it credit for, even though most about it was threadbare and faded.
I assumed Varsha was doing the same as me, or sleeping, so I lay on the bed, and despite myself, fell asleep.
I was aware that a sound woke me. The sunlight was still strong coming through the window. There was little sound from the street. I looked at my, long stopped watch, out of habit. I made a mental note that I really should set it right again. Then the sound came again, just a gentle tap on the main door. I looked around the room for a method of defence, but failed to find one. I just hoped, if the person intended violence, that fisticuffs would be enough.
I walked over to the door and opened it carefully. A dhobi wallah stood there, holding a packet of clothes. I fished in the notes on the table by the door, we did the exchange and I closed the door. I returned to the room and changed unto the blissfully non-sweaty version of my clothes.
I threw the pyjamas and dressing gown over the back of the chair. It was only then I realised that someone had walked in and was standing watching me. I span around expecting the fisticuffs to start then and there. However, my eyes fell on a silenced gun pointed at me. Then I looked at the face. It was Dean.
“Jesus Dean, if you want to kill me with a heart attack you are going the right way about it.”
Dean raised the gun and fired. The shot passed by me and I threw myself on the floor, my head jarred horribly. In a moment I looked up.
“You can get up now,” he said. “Party is over.”
I stood, feeling very confused. Dean waved the gun to the window, a dead man lay in a pool of blood.
“Ah, I see.”
“Lucky I came in when I did, he had you sitting.”
“Yes, I’m slipping. I don’t deserve to be alive.”
“No. Lucky you leave a trail wide enough for anyone to follow, friends and enemies.”
“Who the hell is that guy?”
“I’m not sure, possibly one of Shiv’s lot.”
“Ok, what is going on?”
“Quite simple, some people want you to find the Wolfhound, and its secret, some people don’t want you too.”
“I don’t know why they think I care, all of them.”
“Where is Varsha?”
I pointed to the connecting door. We walked over and I tapped on it. There was no answer. I tried it and it opened. I looked in: the room was empty.
“Ah, I see,” I said. “It looks like she went straight out.”
“Yes, no sign anyone used the room.”
“What are we going to do about a dead person in here?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll sort it out. Maybe you should go and find Varsha.”
“I have a feeling she wants to remain lost.”
“Maybe it’s not a choice she has to make.”
“I think it is her who holds the secret of the Wolfhound.”
“Why would she do that?”
“Varsha isn’t quite what she seems.”
“No, probably not.”
“Has anything been heard of Jack?”
“Nothing, he could be close, who knows?”
I left Dean to sort the body out and returned to the street. I little felt like checking if Varsha was in her flat or shop. I was feeling sick of the whole pointless business again. I decided I was hungry and returned to the café. As I sat with my chai and food, I tried to make sense of it all again, but nothing was. I sat there for some time looking out of the door at the street. I had a few more drinks. I wished I could go back to the hotel room and ignore all that was happening, but now the hotel was a place to be avoided. I seriously considered getting on the bike and heading back to Goa, or anywhere away from Bombay.
Then my thoughts returned to the Wolfhound and the secret my father had placed on her. It seemed a lot of people wanted the secret, or so was my assumption, with all these interested parties following me about. Or perhaps I was just being paranoid and getting mixed up with affairs I had no place in. I considered phoning my former boss in the British Secret Service, but Dean was telling me he was the direct link. Somehow I was unsure if I could trust Dean either, I still found his story about escaping from the Wolfhound in Alex hard to swallow. Nothing much was adding up and the whole affair was patchy and muddled, or perhaps it was just my brain that felt patchy and muddled. I decided against contacting my former boss, I was unsure if I trusted him either. In fact, I was pretty sure I did not trust him. That left very few people I could rely on, no matter, I thought, just me against the world, again.
Then I had a thought, there was nothing here at Colaba for me. Varsha could be anywhere, she had made her choice to run away. It seemed the secrets were back around the Andes, the Sea Vixen, and that house. Furthermore, Mary still had my stuff, and I started to feel angry about that. It seemed like jumping back into the lion’s den, but the answer was to go and have it out with Mary. She had more answers than she had let on. I was fed up with being pushed about and running.
Then I wondered if Varsha had run away. To confirm it I returned to the street and down to her shop. It was empty. I then went to the flat, taking the back way. When I got there, I found the door still unlocked, the flat was also empty. I returned to the street and then to my bike. I was soon threading my way back to the Andes.
The traffic was the usual chaos, but I cut through it fairly quickly, and recklessly. After a while, I was again approaching the Andes. I had made no plan on how to avoid the heavies, so I decided to go with that, no plan. I abandoned the bike at the bottom of the gangway and went up to the ship. There were no heavies about. Then I reached the lounge.
I walked straight in. Before me, Mary was sitting in her usual seat. There were no heavies. She was holding a cup and saucer.
“Ah, Mr Smith. I had a feeling you’d come back.”
“I have a feeling I was manipulated to come back.”
“I was hoping you were away looking for the Wolfhound. After that degrading display with knocking me on the floor, I hoped you’d manage to make some headway elsewhere. But knowing how you shed companions it was no surprise to see you back here.”
“You’re very well informed.”
“You’re very simple Mr Smith.”
“Thank you for that. Now, how do you know my father?”
“Ah, poor, dear Aart. We always knew his son would be trouble. Of course, you never knew your mother.”
“No, friendly bombs over Rotterdam in the war.”
“Yes, yes. I knew Aart back in the war. Back in Oldenzaal.”
“Ah, he spoke of Oldenzaal a lot.”
“Yes, he would.”
“He kept in touch then?”
“I don’t think he ever mentioned a Mary.”
“Aart kept much to himself.”
As we were talking I had seated myself across from her. At that moment the door burst open and two heavies came in. Mary waved them away.
“So I gather,” I said. “Today has been full of surprises.”
“I’m not your enemy Bernhart.”
“You’re doing a pretty good impression of one.”
“It’s the people over in the Sea Vixen you need to worry about, they want the Wolfhound’s secret too, but they are ruthless.”
“And you’re not?”
“You’re still alive aren’t you?”
“Only just. Anyway, I’d like my things back.”
“Ah, yes, your little armoury and photo collection.” While we spoke a heavy came in with a cup of coffee. I was quite surprised. “I know you like coffee,” she said, gesturing to the cup. “Bring Mr Smith’s items will you?” she said to the heavy. I picked up the cup and sniffed it. “Don’t worry, it isn’t poisoned, a waste of good coffee.”
I sipped it. “A Brazilian bean.”
The heavy returned and placed my things on the table. I drank the coffee down and returned my items to my person. Then, without a word, I left.
I went back to the bike, feeling no remorse for being rude to Mary, she had wasted too much of my time, and I still regarded her operation, whatever it was, as shady. I really had no time for her and her lunatic commune. When back at the bike I looked through my photos. I selected the closest, looked at my map and started the bike. I then looked back at the Sea Vixen. I briefly thought of going over to it, but I had no desire to see the owner and crew, and whoever else might be over there. It could wait.
The address I had selected was north of the dock. This part of Bombay was fairly quiet, and the heat of the day had knocked most sideways. Soon I was approaching Versova Beach. It was lined with palms and a few white bungalows nestled between. Across the water was a little outcrop with the ruins of Madh Fort perched on it.
The bungalow I wanted was right next to the sandy beach. There were a few motorbikes outside and the sound of a barking dog. I was unable to see most of the bungalow due to dense trees, I suspected grown as a fence. Its white bulk was hidden behind foliage. I parked the bike a distance away and covered the rest on foot, not walking directly up to the front veranda. I had followed the road a little and then cut across to the trees around it. I saw there was no way through and moved gradually to the white painted wall closest.
If I followed the wall I would have rounded on the veranda, but I slowly closed on the corner to listen for sounds of occupation first. I reached the corner and stopped, then inched my head around. The veranda was empty.
“Can I help you?” said a voice, close at hand.
I span around to see a young woman behind me. I put her age in the early twenties. She was dressed in a swimsuit and spoke with a German accent. Her blonde hair was in a ponytail. I wondered where she had come from.
“I’m just looking for a friend.”
“This is how you visit friends? Like a burglar or something?”
“Moritz doesn’t like to be disturbed, so I wanted to see if he was sitting out the front first.”
“Yah, I think he’s sleeping. You want talk to Caren?”
“Ok. What’s your name?”
“Ella. Who are you?”
She returned to the side of the bungalow and down to the trees. Further down was an opening that I had failed to notice. We followed a faint path in, and there were a couple of bends before opening into a garden. It was overgrown to the back, but close to the house was a small lawn. Two young women were sunbathing on the grass. Neither looked at us. Ella went in the back door and I followed.
The room was a sitting room, fairly large, and quite messy. Then a deep growl came from the door to the front. A German Shepherd stood there, baring teeth.
“Shut up Seth,” said Ella.
I tried to connect with the dog, but it was having none of it and started barking. I moved away slowly. “Doesn’t want to be friends.”
“He is a cunt. And you wake everyone, hu?”
There was another door to the side and she went to it calling for Caren. Shortly Caren came. She was roughly mid 30’s, also in a swimsuit.
“Who is this?” she said.
“Calls himself Bernhart, says he knows Moritz.”
“What do you want with him,” asked Caren of me.
“Well, we’re friends from way back. I just got here from Holland, thought I’d look him up.”
“Moritz don’t like visitors, he’s sleeping.”
The dog started growling at me again as the other two women appeared at the door and looked at me.
“Oh, I’m sure he’d like to see me, we go way back.”
“Yeah? Well, mister, you can get lost.”
“What are you all doing here anyway?” I walked towards the door Caren was still standing in. She bared my way. I looked her in the face. “Never mind. I’m sure Moritz would be happy to see me.”
“We’re not going to know, are we?” she rasped.
“You wouldn’t be hiding anything back there then?”
“Why should I let you wake Moritz, I look after him.”
“Why would you not want his old buddy to see him?”
“Oh, damn it, go on then,” she said, with a dramatic gesture, and stood away from the door.
The room beyond was dark. There was a form over by the wall. I approached it.
“Hey, Moritz, that you? Remember me, Bernhart Smith?”
“Nar, what do you want?”
“Come now Moritz, Holland, back in the day. You remember.”
“I just wanna sleep, ask Caren.”
I felt for my gun. He turned and I could see his face in the semi-gloom. It was the man from the photograph. Dark hair and drawn features.
“Oh, come now, is that a way to treat an old friend?” I knew I should kill him there and then, but the doubts started to come back. I decided to give it up, this all felt wrong. “Ah, I’ll come back when you want to talk.” I walked back to the door, the women were standing around and the dog growled again. I went to the back door. “He said he wants a rest.” I stepped out.
I then walked to the gap, but changed my mind. I went to the deep undergrowth and hid. I took out my gun. Very shortly there was shouting from the bungalow and after a moment Moritz burst from the back door. He held a gun. He was a wiry man, just wearing shorts. The dog started barking but failed to make an appearance, for which I was grateful. Moritz headed to the path. Once he vanished I followed. However, as I reached the gap Caren appeared at the doorway with a gun and fired at me. The bullet crashed through the trees. I shot through the gap.
Moritz was running along the side of the house. I lifted my gun but he slipped around the front. I followed, only for the crash of a gun to greet me. He missed, as he was still running, shooting backwards. He ran along the beach. Then I heard the dog again, it was coming down the side of the house. I ran after Moritz but then saw he was heading to another bungalow, shouting. Several men swarmed out of the front door. I realised that this was not a healthy place to be.
I swerved around the bungalow and along the trees on the other side. I could hear the dog coming and I swarmed up a tree. I realised I had now cornered myself. I could hear the men shouting and returning my way. I wondered what to do and cursed myself for not shooting the dog, or indeed Moritz when I had had the chance.
The dog continued to bark at the foot of the tree. I tested the branch and found I could move across to the next. I moved inwards, towards the roof of the bungalow. I heard the men arriving where at the dog, which was sending it crazy. They the crazy dog to deal with before me. I found the roof was below as the first shots came. Not wasting any time, I dropped onto the roof.
Unfortunately, the roof was weak and I went straight through, as soon as my feet touched the slates I realised how fragile it was. There was a splintering crash and it felt like no more than jumping into water. Luckily the bungalow was low, and I crashed into the bed that Moritz had recently occupied, my drop had been short. I could only assume the rafters were rotten with woodworm. The house was empty. I left quickly, unscathed but for a few scratches from my fall, but I started to feel my head swimming again, and pain was shooting down the back of my head. The fall had set my head off again. As I exited the door, I heard people coming down the path. I could still hear the men and the dog retracing around the front, having heard my crash. I plummeted into the dense undergrowth at the end of the garden.
As I reached the back of the undergrowth, I found a narrow stream; it was a manmade channel and shallow. I walked along it for a way, hoping it would put the dog off my scent. I was walking in the opposite direction of the bike. I could hear various sounds of pursuit but was unsure if anyone was following me. Presently I came to a gap that allowed me onto the road. Though it was fairly open I could not see the bungalow, or my bike.
I followed the road back to the bike. I could hear them searching the garden. Then I rounded the corner, there was no one around, and I trotted up to my bike. Just as I groped for the keys I heard the dog, it had stalked me, and I snatched a glance round as it began a charge, it was too late to get on the bike. I pulled out the gun and groped for the trigger, but the dog pulled up as a whistle cut the air. It stood there, teeth bared, growling. I followed my line of sight to the whistle. By the path, Moritz, several of the men and Caren had guns trained on me.
I held my hands up.
“Drop the gun,” said Moritz.
I did so and one of the men walked over. He was small, muscular and bald. He reached me and then jabbed me hard in the stomach. I doubled up and he kneed me in the face, just missing breaking my nose. I felt the world go black as I pitched forward to the ground.
When I woke, it was dark. Or, I was locked in a dark room. I felt for my things, most had gone, but the photos I had put in a secret pocket. The head injury seemed to be saving me from severe beatings, as with any sort of treatment I was passing out, however I felt rather groggy again.
I discovered I had been dumped on the floor of a small room. There was no window but some electric light was spilling through the gap under the door. I stood up and knocked over some pots that I had failed to notice. They made a fair noise, no-one would be in any doubt I was conscious now. The door was flung open almost immediately and my bald assailant stood there. He walked in and grabbed me unceremoniously, he got me in a headlock and dragged me out. My head started to swim and I expected to pass out again any second.
The journey was short. We were in a fairly comfortable sitting room. This one was quite tidy too. The bald man let me go and I stood straight.
“Thank you Ernz,” said a man sitting on a large overstuffed sofa.
I looked around. There were two men sitting playing cards in one corner at a small table. The other corner contained an overstuffed armchair, which contained Moritz, who was laying back in a very relaxed manner. I suspected he was high on something. In front of me was the sofa with the man who had talked. He was about sixty and very well dressed. I took him to be German, but his skin was very tanned.
“Can you tell Ernz that if he yanks my head again I shall very probably pass out.”
Ernz turned to me and was about to hit me.
“No, Ernz,” said the man. “I want to ask him something before you kill him.”
“Very well Max, sir.”
“Now Mr Bernhart Smith. That is what Moritz here says you called yourself. Why are you here?”
“Well Moritz knows, we are old friends, he’s just a bit sore that we have some old scores to settle. All rather over-reacting.”
“Bullshit,” said Moritz.
“Fuck yourself, Moritz,” I said.
Ernz took this as a queue to hit me in the stomach. I doubled up and wheezed in agony. After a few moments I straightened again. “Can you call your ape off Max?”
Just as Ernz decided to come at me again Max called him to stop.
“Ernz likes to express himself with his fists. Unfortunately, Moritz has decided to take rather more heroin than is good for him, so we will have to find out if you are the liar you appear to be latter.”
“Well, you should ask Shiv, he knows.”
Max looked startled, “Shiv, how do you know him? Who are you?”
“Well, like you say, Moritz will know,” I said, hoping it would buy me time.
“Ah, I can wait. Put him back in the cooler Ernz.”
The ape grabbed me again and practically flung me into the room. While being abused like this I tried to look at the layout of the house before being bundled into the room. All I noticed was a short corridor and a couple of doors, not much to go on, however, I noted that the room I was in did not adjoin the sitting room directly. When I tried to escape, that information would be useful, I thought.
Unfortunately, once I stopped feeling nauseated and spaced out, I checked the door and lock, only to find out they were unbeatable. I was well and truly locked in. I sat back against the wall and waited for my fate, which I doubted was going to be a long-lived one.
I’m not sure how long I sat there. I tried to do some thinking, but my brain was a mess. The house was quiet. Outside there was no sound, though I was unsure how much I would be able to hear from the room. I was staring blindly into space, thinking of very little, when I heard a faint scratching sound at the door. Then gradually I realised someone was very slowly and quietly inserting a key. I stared at the door incredulously. Then the key completed its journey and I heard the bolt gently click back. Then the handle was turned very slowly. Soundlessly the latch was free and the door began to open. The hinges protested, but the door slowed and they were silent.
Then I saw an arm holding the outer handle. The door became wider and its owner stepped into view. She was now dressed in normal western clothes, but there was no mistaking, it was Ella. I looked on, fairly stunned. Then with her other hand she gestured wildly. I stood quietly and stepped into the corridor. My bald assailant lay in a chair nearby, his throat had been cut and blood was oozing down his front. I looked at Ella, she held her finger to her lips. She closed the door very slowly and removed the key with infinite care.
She then led the way and we walked stealthily through an open door. This led to a kitchen. At the end was a door out. Beyond it was black night. Ella closed the inner door and I walked to the back door. She followed. Once outside she closed the door. I followed her as she led the way along a path through the undergrowth. Soon I recognised where we were, and the path opened onto the road. Presently we were at my motorbike.
“Ok, we leave,” she whispered. “I killed that fucking dog and that fucking bald cunt.”
“They took my keys,” I whispered back.
She looked at me and removed something from her pocket, it was the bike keys.
“Look, policeman, I save your life, now you save me, ok?”
“I’m no policeman.”
She took some other things from another pocket. My ID and a few other bits, including my gun.
“Fucking policeman enough for me. Don’t think it’s because I fancy you, you’re old enough to be my dad.”
I gave her a withering look, took the bike handlebars and kicked the stand. Then proceeded to push it up the road.
After a hundred yards or so, I started it up and we climbed on. I then pointed it back to Colaba, for any better place to go.
“They will be after us,” she said.
“I expect so.”
I thought it was roughly two and night, there was no one around. I pushed the bike hard all the way and we arrived in no time. I had decided what to do while we drove. I parked the bike up a side opening, to not make it obvious where I was. I then told Ella to wait in the gap that led to the back of Varsha’s flat. I went up and then back down inside, and opened the front door. I called Ella quietly. We then went up to Varsha’s flat.
I opened the door quietly and checked the rooms. It was empty. It had been a fairly safe bet, and I doubted Varsha had used it much, it was just too spotless. Ella sat on a chair, I took one also.
“So why?” I said.
“Why did you save me and want to leave?”
“Ha, you saw those guys?”
“Yes, I didn’t like the look of them.”
“Fucking pimps. They were prostituting us. Bad shit. Girls were being hurt, killed. A bad fucking deal. Very rich perverts being invited there. Sick perverts.”
“Ah. Why didn’t you leave before?”
“How? You think that was fucking possible? No money, no clothes. I stole these from Caren tonight. I fucking drugged her. Killed that shit dog, bastard dog. And that bald cunt. They deserved it.”
“Bad stuff. But what can I do for you?”
“Oh, fucking policeman, lighten up. I could have taken your money and gun if that was all I needed. I know how to shoot, I am good with a knife, not much fucking use against them, me with a gun and knife against those thugs? I might have been forced to be a prostitute, but I’m not a cunt, I wasn’t going to leave you there.”
“You think you’re safer with me?”
“You don’t have policeman friends then?”
“Oh Ella, a few days ago I was bashed about the head, pretty hard, I don’t know who my friends are. Granted, where you were wasn’t too healthy, but my policeman friends might be just as dangerous. I don’t know anymore. I’m also not doing a very good job of looking after myself.”
“You’re still alive aren’t you?”
“Funny, you’re not the first to say that these last few days.”
I noticed through the window that a pale dawn was coming. I went to the window and looked out, hiding to one side. The street was empty. I then looked through the kitchen for some food, there was none, not even a rice grain. Varsha’s so-called flat seemed very phoney. It did occur to me that it was the wrong flat, but I didn’t get far with that line of thinking. I went back to Ella.
“No food here,” I said. “I could do with some sleep.”
“If I do, don’t be going anywhere. I already lost a woman yesterday. She was the supposed owner of this flat.”
“Huh, I don’t want to go anywhere.”
I lay on the couch, opposite the chair she was in, and closed my eyes.
It was a disturbed sleep, as bad things tended to happen when I woke. However, I managed an hour or two, which was enough. When I opened my eyes Ella was still sitting the same way, but her eyes were closed. I lay there thinking for a little while. I didn’t manage to sort much out in my head. One thing I wanted to do was get away from there, there was a good chance I had stirred up a hornets’ nest, they would be coming for me now. The photo targets I had, all seemed linked somehow. Certainly, Moritz, Max, Mary, Shiv and Varsha were linked in some way, but I could make little sense of it. I wasn’t doing a very good job of bumping them off, but I was having severe doubts any of my targets were valid. And I had still to find out where the lunatic millionaire Peter C Davis, my ex-wife Tanya, and the bent MI6 man Jones had got to. I still wondered where Jack Davenport was, disappeared on the way back from Darjeeling, last rumoured to be after me. Not to mention Dean and my ex-boss at the British Secret Service were doing. Most of all, where was Charlie.
My, now ex-boss, Sir Wilson Brown had always been a rule unto himself. I had never trusted him, part of why I went rogue. I was pretty sure he had been instrumental in a lot of my problems after I had resigned by phone back in Sheringham in England. He had spluttered down the phone as me for several minutes. In the end I had hung up on him. I was sure Jones, the MI6 man, had been bought in to get me, but Jones had been playing his own corrupt game. It was Jones who nearly stoved my head in. He had tried to kill me several times.
And then there was Dean, suddenly coming alive again. I felt like I’d been played for a fool, and I probably was, and I felt like I was still being played. And Charlie, last heard of still in Varanasi where I had left her. What on earth was going on?
I needed to find all these people and have the truth out of them. I seemed to have several other items of baggage, a lost Varsha, and a young German woman.
I looked at her again. Her eyes were still shut.
“Having a good look?” she said, eyes still closed, obviously covertly looking under slightly open lids.
“I was trying to decide if you were asleep or not.”
“What do you want to do then? Shall I find some colleagues of mine, who might be able to help, though I don’t trust them myself, or you go alone or come with me?”
“Doesn’t sound like much of choice.”
“I was wondered why the police didn’t turn up yesterday, that mini-war,” I said, as I moved to the window.
“Backsheesh, they are paid well by Max, so he can do what he wants.”
I looked down into the street. Several westerner men were in the street, looking up at the buildings. I ducked quickly way.
“Talking of Max.”
“They are here?”
“Well, looks like Moritz is among them. We better get out of here. I said all these people seem linked. They must know about this flat.”
“Yes, but why would they think you would come here?”
“Where else is there to go? Come on, this is going to be a bad place to be shortly. Dean, my colleague, says I leave a trail a mile wide to follow.”
We left the flat in a hurry and I found the way to the flat block that backed into this one. We were soon at the other door. I opened it carefully, there seemed to be no danger. We slipped out and quickly crossed the street. I stopped briefly at a small clothes shop and pointed at a black Berka outfit, complete with hood and gap for the eyes.
“Not on your fucking life,” said Ella.
I shrugged and we quickly found a side street. While it was away from Varsha it was also away from the bike. I stopped.
“I don’t know if we should risk getting the bike.”
“Are you crazy? We don’t need it.”
“Maybe. Anyway, I’d like to know what they are doing back there.”
We returned a little way so we could see the street. I then noticed a small café. It was dark and mostly open to the street. We ordered some food and chai. I kept my eyes on the street, mostly on the door we had just exited. Our vigilance was rewarded when two white men came out and scrutinised the street. I pointed them out to Ella.
“Yeah, they are cunts of Max.”
Then I had a big shock, walking up the street was Dean. I tensed up.
“That is my colleague Dean.”
“Why would Max’s cunts know him?”
“Maybe not,” I said, still tense.
Dean reached the men and I received further a horrible shock. Dean talked to them like long lost friends, worst of all, he seemed to be directing them.
“Seems to like them, what a cunt,” said Ella.
“Oh, well that’s a kick in the teeth.”
The men hurried off, Dean followed, though at his own pace. I must have been mistaken, it was too much, who could I trust? Ella was looking at me, clearly expecting some action. Luckily, Indian style, the food had come immediately and we now had empty plates. I paid the bill. The owner had good English and wanted to talk about cricket with us, but I said we had to leave for an urgent appointment.
“Maybe I should buy a burka and go get the bike,” I said.
“It’s a lot of money, and you don’t have that much left.”
“Yes, but I only have one life.”
The dilemma was solved for us. As we stepped into the side street there was a shout. One of the men was on the main street. I cursed myself for not having been more vigilant. We ran down the side street, away from him. At the next main street, Ella and I took different directions. I ran straight over to another alleyway, she turned right and followed the main road. I snatched a glance back, the man was following me. I dived into the alleyway, a donkey and owner were coming the other way. I squeezed past and turned down another alley. The guy was right behind as I snatched another glance back. I switched down another path. The way was getting more narrow.
Then the path ended in a blank wall, the man was straight on me, knocking me over. I groped for the gun but it was impossible. He lifted a fist, I knew I’d pass out any second, once the blow came. Then he slumped to one side. Ella lifted her arm and thrust the blade back into the man again. She did it again, and then again. I stood.
“Thanks. I seem to be making a habit of needing to be rescued.”
She snatched a glance at me with wild eyes.
“He’s a fucking bastard,” she said, wiping her blade on his shirt. I got my breath back as she went through his pockets. She handed me a gun and some ammo. Then his wallet contained a fair amount of cash. “Bingo!” she said as she pocketed it.
Ella grabbed some sheets drying nearby and threw them over the body. We then retraced our steps to a turning that led somewhere. Shortly we came out onto a road by the bay. I realised we had got close to the moorings for small boats.
“We could take one of those,” I said, pointing.
“Ok, anything to get away from here.”
“I have an idea, last of my ideas.”
“You don’t seem to have many.”
We kept a sharp eye out and crossed to the moorings. There was a little boat with an outboard tied to the bay wall. We climbed on and I started it. Ella cast off.
“You know boats then?”
“Yeah, I’m full of fucking surprises.”
I pointed the boat up the coast. I watched the land but saw no one following us. I kept the boat close in so we weren’t easily seen from the shore.
“I afraid,” I said, “that my colleague looks like he’s bent.”
“You English, always fucking afraid.”
“You sound English.”
“Anyway, my policeman friends look to have dried up. So you’re stuck with me.”
“If you aren’t going to murder me, better than Max and Caren.”
“I won’t, but the people I keep mixing with might.”
“Yeah, but now I can use my knife.”
Soon we came in sight of the harbour. A few boats had moved but most were the same. The Andes, Sea Vixen and weird-looking fishing boat were still there. So too was the floatplane I had had my eye on. I took a roundabout course to deceive any watchers but soon had us heading to the Sea Vixen. Ella turned enquiring eyes on me, I nodded and she looked back at the ugly ship. The ship was exactly as I remembered her since having first seen it in Blakeney bay in England. The ugliest thing I had ever seen float.
As we neared it, I still saw no signs of life. It had appeared so in Blakeney, but ever after that it had been teeming with crew. Peter C Davis, his wife, sons and daughter part of the floating palace. Tanya and Jones had also hitched rides on her. I thought of the old girl attempting to get to Goa at speed, I was amazed she had made it. It was a yacht for showing off, not high-speed pursuit.
Presently we edged into the rear platform. My last visit to this had been just before Jones tried to break my head in two. We came alongside and Ella jumped off with the rope and tied it up. I switched off and climbed over too. The ship seemed deserted.
We took the first flight of steps. Here were two doors with steps up to the next level either side. I had never been inside her. We took the next steps. The rear was composed of a large panoramic window with, before them, a small and empty swimming pool. Behind the window was a plush lounge. There were steps up to the next level on one side. Still there was no sign of anyone on board.
With mutual accord, we went up to the sun deck. This was quite long and ended in several windows. There was a double door in the middle. Various sun loungers were deposited about. There was little else to see. I could just see the bridge on the next level ahead. Steps either side led to the final level, but for the bridge. We walked over to the windows and looked in. A couple of cabins either side, and the doors led into a corridor. I was expecting to bump into an ugly reception committee any minute, but the ship was spookily quiet.
I shrugged to Ella and she just glared back. I opened the door and walked in, and after Ella stepped in, I closed it. The silence was deafening, not even an auxiliary generator could be heard. We walked forward and I tried a few doors, they were all empty cabins. Then came a small galley, this was connected to a comfortable looking sitting room. I assumed this was a separate galley to the main one. I returned to the galley and started to make coffee.
“What the fuck?” whispered Ella.
“Oh, if there is anyone here, let them find us,” I said in a normal voice.
“What with fucking guns in their hands?”
“Well, I have two guns now. And a knife-wielding woman.”
“Fucking crazy man.”
She went through the connecting door and sat on a comfortable looking chair. I made the coffee while looking out over the docks. Nothing had changed. I then looked at the Sea Vixen’s fixtures and fittings. Though she was an ugly ship on the outside, the inside was quite drab, and not as opulent as I had expected. It felt more like a military ship, quite utilitarian. I had been surprised how well it had kept up with the Wolfhound, for a ship of its size that was. Certainly something, well, many things, didn’t add up about the Sea Vixen. It looked appalling, it appeared to move through the water like a brick, but it was always there, always only a step behind. I walked through and handed Ella a coffee. I then sat across from her, noting how hard the chair was, not the fluffy luxury I had expected at all, despite the look of it.
I sipped my coffee, then placed it on the table between us. There was a pack of cards. I picked it up.
“Game of cards while we wait?” I said.
“What, are you nuts? You’ll probably want to play strip poker.”
“Really, Ella, you think everyone is a pervert.”
“Can you blame me, people are sick.”
I put down the cards and picked up my coffee.
“I don’t know many card games, snap is my limit. Or solitaire.”
“Yeah, I expect you spend a lot of time alone.”
“He does,” said a voice right next to us.
I nearly threw my coffee over my face as I turned startled to the owner of the voice.
“Where the hell did you come from?” I said.
“Ah, hell, probably. Certainly not by magic.”
He was a slim short man, dark hair, blue eyes, and completely unremarkable. One thing that hit me immediately was, he was a face from my photo collection, though the address was certainly not an ugly ship on the Bombay docks.
“I see,” he resumed, “you have made yourself at home on my ship.”
“Yes. I could have you executed for less.”
“He’s just another cunt,” said Ella.
“Indeed,” returned the man, “I am a cunt. Torvik, Odin Torvik at your service.”
He held out his hand, I shook it. He did the same to Ella who tutted and ignored it.
“Do you know this thug?” she said to me.
“No. So, you’re Norwegian?”
“Well done, Mr?”
“Smith. Bernhart Smith.”
“And?” he said looking at Ella.
“I’m also a cunt,” she said.
“Ah, Bernhart Smith and Cunt.”
“Three cunts together,” said Ella.
There was a sound from the corridor. I noticed the door was open, obviously how Odin had come in. Five men trooped in.
“Ah, you caught them,” said the first.
“Yes Klepp, I have, and where have you been?”
“Ok Torvik, I admit you were here first, but-“
“But nothing. Everything will be in my report. And these two…”
“Fuck you,” said Ella.
“Just lock them up,” said Torvik
We were roughly taken and marched down steps to a lower cabin. On the way I was surprised to notice that the Sex Vixen was indeed military. The walls, as you got lower, were very austere, and there were various notices in Norwegian of a navy theme. The Sea Vixen really was other than it pretended. This was proved when we came to genuine cells in the lower decks. I had also got progressively darker as the lights were quite dim.
“You need to turn on a generator,” I said.
“We’re working on it,” said one of the men.
“Just shut up,” said Klepp.
Klepp and his men took our weapons when we got to the cell, but nothing else. They pushed us inside and slammed the door. The lights here were also dim.
“Well,” said Ella when they had gone, “you’re not a reliable escort after all.”
“No, I did tell you I’d probably get you killed.”
“Why did you come here?”
“I thought I might get answers, but I now have a lot more questions. I was hoping to meet the person I thought owned this ship, but it seems I was misled.”
“Huh, fine,” she said, sitting on one of the rough benches.
“There is something fishy going on here, none of it adds up. This ship is not what it pretends to be.”
“It looks like a luxury, if ugly, cruise ship, but it is military under the skin. The lounge we were in, it looked the part, but it was fake. The swimming pool was empty, why fill it if it is just a red herring?”
“Well, I’d guess this is a stealth navy ship. It’s the only thing that makes sense. If Torvik is the owner, he’d have to be Norwegian Navy.”
“Or a pirate.”
“Yes, there is that, indeed, it would go a long way to explain a few things, but I don’t think so, those men know this ship, and their bearing is military.”
“They could still be pirates.”
“Yes. Gone rogue Norwegian Navy, indeed, it is possible. I wonder…”
I speculated to myself that they may have been tied up in my business after-all. I wondered if they also were looking for the Wolfhound. They were certainly linked to me via the Sea Vixen. Why did I have a photo of Torvik? Maybe that was the connection, maybe all these targets knew about the Wolfhound’s secret? I sat quietly thinking for several minutes.
“Yes, I fucking wonder too,” said Ella.
She snapped me out of my reflection. I had sat on the other bench, but now I got up and examined the door.
“If they put a guard outside, we just gave him a bunch of stuff to report.” I pushed the door, it swung open, and then came to rest on the body of our guard. A knife stuck out of his back, it was Ella’s knife. “That was a clever trick, Ella.”
“Not guilty,” she said, staring to the corpse. “We better get out of here, they’ll pin this on us.” She removed her knife and cleaned the blood off it, again, using the guard’s shirt.
“This isn’t a healthy place to be. Leaving seems like a good idea.” I searched the guard to find he had my guns and ammo. “That is strange. It was him who had your knife, so he appears to have stabbed himself in the back. I also don’t remember that it was him who took the guns off me.”
“No, it wasn’t,” she said as she removed cash from the guard’s wallet.
I looked around at the small area, the anteroom for the cells. There were a few lockers, none locked. Though I found nothing of use but for a bunch of keys. We retraced our steps and then found a way that headed back to the stern. It was getting very gloomy as the main batteries for the lights ran down.
We had only gone a few paces when the sound of voices reached us. We slipped in through a door, which turned out to be a small storeroom. After closing the door we could still hear them. Presently they passed by, it sounded like three people. I recognised it was Torvik and Klepp doing the main talking.
“The generator has been disabled,” said Klepp. “That wasn’t us… Sir.”
“’That wasn’t us’,” parodied Torvik. “You and your fucking useless men.”
“Shut up. We’ll ask this Smith, he knows ships.”
“We know this ship… Sir.”
“Clearly you don’t Klepp.
They passed by. The voices retreated to the cells. Ella nudged me to leave, but as she did so they returned to the corridor.
“Well how did Rindol stab himself and let them out?” demanded Torvik.
“I don’t know, sir.”
They went running past, back to the stern. I waited a few minutes.
“Hear that?” I said.
“Klepp calling Torvik “sir”. Strange. Also, he clearly didn’t like doing it. Anyway, how did Torvik know I knew anything about boats?”
Ella shrugged, and said: “We could follow them to the back, maybe they won’t expect us to be behind them.”
We slipped out of the room and carefully followed our former captors. Just as we approached a dividing way, where the corridor split across the ship, we were ambushed. Torvik, Klepp and another leapt out of a doorway. They held guns. Ella and I departed quickly, so quickly that no shots were fired, so quickly that we chose different escape routes. Mine was greeted by a sharp corner and then a ladder running down. I took it at speed, forwards. The way split left and right and I chose the right. This doubled around so I was heading back again. However, I was clearly on a low level and I suspected heading to the engine room. I was unsure if I was being pursued. It was also getting stupidly hard to see.
Another turn came up, even though there was a way ahead, and I took it. This was wider and another ladder down presented itself. I dropped down and found myself in the engine room. Three massive engines filled the space. I ducked between them, the gloom made it a good place to hide. Making my way back I came to the rear of the ship. I stopped and waited. There was no sound of anyone behind me. Either I had made a good job of losing them, or they had all gone after Ella. That seemed unlikely.
I waited. Presently I heard someone running. They came down the ladder. I was unable to seem them. I hid further behind the engine. I could hear them searching. I found a small door which led to an engine compartment. I slipped in and closed the door. I could vaguely hear the searcher. I heard more running. Someone else came down the ladder. There was muffled talking. Then a struggle, finally blows, then quiet.
I heard footsteps walking away and up the ladder. It went quiet again. I waited for several minutes and opened the door. Another of the party lay there, completely dead; it looked like he had been strangled.
I searched for a way up at the back but there was nothing to get to the upper level. I made my way back and up the ladder, out of the engine room. I searched around the back of the deck but could find no way out. Frustrating, as I guessed the boat deck was right behind the rear wall. I also assumed that the area around which I was walking was actually where the swimming pool was recessed into. This also put paid to this being a luxury cruising ship, there was no swimming pool plumbing, nothing. It was just an empty space at the back.
I made my way forward, searching for a way up. It was getting hard to see. If there was some way, it was hidden, and I was forced further forward. It was hard to judge exactly how far forward I was getting. I was worried if the lights went out completely that I’d never get out. Then they did exactly that. Luckily there were one or two self-powered emergency lamps, but it looked like the batteries were weak. Then I saw daylight coming from behind a door. This led to a narrow flight of steps. The steps went up to the sun deck level first. I inched open the door to see what the lay of the land was like. There were two of Klepp’s men searching the area. I closed the door and went up to the next level. This I knew was the level where Ella and I had drunk the coffee.
Rather than leave on that level I wondered how far these steps would take me. They went up to the bridge level. Here I opened the door carefully. The room beyond was the equipment room for the bridge, which meant the bridge was just up ahead. I passed into the next room, which was the navigation and radio room. Up ahead was the door to the bridge, which was ajar. I went over quietly and peeped in.
Torvik was sitting in the captain’s chair. He was alone. I wondered what to do.
“Come in Mr Smith.”
It was Torvik speaking. I walked in, I felt like I’d been played again.
“Well done Mr Torvik.”
“Yes, but don’t worry, I have decided that privateering is a better opportunity.”
“So Ella is right, you are a bunch of pirates.”
“This is so.”
“And Klepp and his men?”
“They too were Norwegian Navy, but have also switched to piracy.”
“So this ship really is navy?”
“Not anymore, it’s mine.”
“Not if I can help it.”
“So it was you who bumped off his men?”
“It was. And gave you your guns back.”
“I expect Klepp is not going to be happy about that.”
“I don’t want to share the bounty with them. It was me who disabled the generator; I thought it might be beneficial to bumping them off.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“The gone rouge Bernhart Smith? Who better?”
“I see. So you know more about me than you pretended?”
“Yes, who couldn’t have?”
“Klepp and his men?”
“True. But you’ve been in the newspapers. How could you not be, shooting guns all over the place around the world? Alex was the worst.”
“Yes, it would have been, I lost it a bit. Anyway, what about Peter C Davis, his crew, Jones, Tanya…”
“I know nothing of them.”
“Former owners of this ship? How did the Sea Vixen get here?”
“Quite simple,” said another voice. I turned around. Klepp stood before me, gun in hand. “It’s here because that’s what we wanted.”
I turned back to Torvik, he also now held a gun.
“Who are you pointing that at Torvik?”
“If it comes to that, who is Klepp pointing his at?” replied Torvik.
“I happen,” said Klepp, “to be about to kill both of you.”
Klepp aimed the gun directly at me but at that moment an arm and blade appeared from behind. Klepp’s eye caught the glint of steel, but before he realised what was happening the blade neatly sliced his throat open. The gun drooped in his hand, blood gushed from his throat, a look if extreme mystification crossed his face, then he slumped to the floor, and then fell flat on his face.
Standing behind was Ella, looking pleased with her work. “What a cunt,” she said.
“Thank you, Ella, you saved the day.” I looked back at Torvik, he still held the gun. “So what side are you on now?”
Torvik looked at me, then at the body of Klepp, then to Ella.
“Oh, the winning one,” he said, lowering the gun.
I looked through my collection of photos. I took out the one of Tanya and Jack with Peter C Davis standing in the background with his wife.
“That was the guy who I thought owns this ship,” I said, showing it to Torvik. Ella came over and looked, both did an intake of breath. I looked up at them both in turn. “I see, now that is interesting.”
“Yes, maybe, but you remember there is one of Klepp’s men left?” said Torvik.
“No there isn’t,” returned Ella. She simulated a throat being cut with her finger.
“Ah, good,” said Torvik. “You are very useful with that knife.”
“That means there is only us left living on this ship,” I said.
“Yes, and living is what I want to keep doing,” said Ella, eyeing Torvik.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “I need you both alive.”
“Why?” she asked.
He pointed at the picture. “Because we’re in pretty big trouble.”
I was now mid-afternoon and the sun burnt over the docks and beat down on the Sea Vixen. I looked over Bombay through the bridge windows. I watched cars and busses on the roads, but it was a million miles away now. Torvik was making coffee and Ella sat in the captain’s chair, her blue eyes brooding over the scene, or just blank, I could not tell which. One thing I knew about her now was, her brain would be active, working something out.
My brain was very much a big slug in my head. I had no idea what was going on and wanted to have a nice rest. One minute I could put things together, the next, I had no idea what was happening. All I knew was we were in serious trouble. Torvik had dropped a bombshell in our midst.
He had gone on to say, “That is not Peter C Davis, even if he calls himself that sometimes, that is Emil Yannick. Nobody knows what his nationality is, I always thought Austrian, but who knows? Something like twenty years ago he appeared in the Mafia in Europe. There was no country in particular where you’d find him. But find him you did, his influence was backed by money, big, big money. The origins of his wealth and power are unknown, but wealth and power he has now. I’d say he took the wealth from others, by force.
“He is also affiliated with several political parties, always on the right side of the law, but only just. That buffoon act he does, it is just that, and act. I had no idea it was him I was taking the Sea Vixen away from, he’s going to be mighty pissed off. He won’t be long getting a force together in order to take us. We could just leave, but we are marked now, there is no escaping this, he will know all that has happened.”
We had been silent after this. Torvik and I spent a little while removing dead bodies. I pocketed some cash from wallets of the deceased. “I need it more than they do,” I had said to an enquiring Torvik. After this I went back to the bridge and he went to make coffee. And that was how we were, Ella brooding, me looking at Bombay.
“So you saw something in my picture too?” She turned her eyes on me but said nothing. “It might help?”
She shook her head. We sat in silence for several minutes. Torvik returned with three cups. No one spoke. Presently Ella got up and went down the steps. Torvik and I remained silent for a good while.
“Why did Yannick leave the ship?” eventually I asked Torvik.
“He has a house on the outskirts of Bombay. He would have gone there.”
“Why did he leave the ship empty?”
“I didn’t, we killed the guards. Three of them. Yannick is looking for his daughter, I expect that stopped him doing something quickly. He’d be getting someone else to look for her, but still.”
“She was with my colleague Charlie in Varanasi. He threatened he’d get the girl to do mischief to her.”
“I just hope Charlie escaped. The daughter is a nasty thing. Yannick might be slowed down a bit coming to get the Sea Vixen because of that, but who knows?”
“Maybe we should go and get Yannick first?”
“You’re nuts Bernhart, getting to him would be impossible.”
As we were talking I was looking over the docks. Then I noticed a small boat, under power, heading for the quay. I realised that the skipper was Ella.
“Ah, left you in the lurch.”
“Yes, no way to follow her.”
“I have a boat.”
“I didn’t see one.”
“It’s on the other side of the ship. Come on then,”
We went down to Torvik’s boat. It was roughly the same size as the one at the Andes. We got underway and started to overhaul Ella rapidly, but not enough. She reached the quay wall before us and, without looking back, tied up and mounted the steps up to the road. We soon reached the wall and I scrambled onto the steps.
“I shall await fate back on the Sea Vixen,” said Torvik.
I raised my hand in acknowledgement and scanned the area for Ella. She was just climbing aboard a crowded bus. It was underway immediately. I looked for some way to follow. I noted the number on the bus. At that moment another, with the same number, passed me. I ran to the stop and got there just in time to board. I gave the conductor a few rupees. Then I looked out towards the other bus without taking a seat, I just hung at the platform at the back.
We went for several blocks. Each time the bus in front stopped I thought I might be able to jump busses, but as we got there the other pulled away. My bus was less crowded than the one in front, which was slowing it down. I hoped that I might jump forward eventually, but the chance never came and we headed further east. We had practically traversed Bombay when I saw Ella leave the bus. Mine had dropped back a bit, so by the time we got there she was someway up a street. I then saw her board another bus.
Leaping out of mine I ran up the street but was too late as her bus pulled away. I looked around desperately for another way to keep up. My eyes fell on a bicycle. I strode over and grabbed it, then mounted the old fashioned thing and pedalled away. No one seemed to care. I was able to keep up with the bus, even with the swarming traffic around. Eventually, we were nearing the northern parts of the city and the buildings started to become scattered and detached. These were villas, and I started to have an idea where she was going. Then she disembarked. I pedalled hard, but she was already at her destination, a huge while villa. There were several cars and motorbikes outside. I guessed things were about to take a turn for the worse.
I noticed night was falling fast as Ella vanished through the front door, just as I arrived at the drive. I abandoned my bicycle and ran up to the door. It was a truly enormous rambling villa of at least three floors and I was worried I would lose her in there. With little care for my safety, I burst in through the door and discovered I had indeed lost her. Luckily my brazen entry didn’t lose my life, as there were no guards of any sort.
I took a moment to cast a glance over the large entrance hall. It was a replica of the first-class lounge of the Andes, only on a much bigger scale. I guessed the rear reached to the back of the building and that it took up all three floors. The ceiling was glass and there were two tiers of balconies. The scale of it fairly took my breath away.
There were a few people about but none took any notice of me. I looked around for a way into the inner parts of the building. Some heavy double wooden doors with glass panels stood to one side. I thought they would do for a start. Beyond the doors, I found a wide and tall wood-panelled corridor. I speculated it had taken a lot of trees to appoint this villa. Ornate wall lamps were lighting the way. The corridor stretched into the distance. On one side were dark windows, the other side contained door after door.
I decided that busting through each door, in turn, would probably get me in a lot of bother, so I followed the corridor first to see if I could find out anything else before getting more brazen. The floor was not carpet but slate, still by feet made no sound on them. I passed several closed doors and then a corridor opened out. This led to the back of the building, up one side was a wide staircase. I was unsure which way to go but plumped for exploring to the end of the first corridor. After two closed doors, I came to a wide double door. One was ajar.
Tentatively, fearing hostile security beyond, I put my eye to the gap. In one second I clocked what this place was about. It was a large room, luxuriously appointed, thick carpets, heavy curtains, overstuffed furniture, and a general opulence of a luxury villa. However, that was not what took my eye. Draped around the room were quite a few naked and semi-clothed bodies. I was gazing upon a full-blown orgy. There seemed little point in seeing more, Ella was unlikely to have been looking for an orgy I suspected.
I turned away and returned to the corridor that led to the back. Down the side that the orgy room occupied, it was a little while before I came to a door. Beyond the steps up, the doors were mostly standing open. Without exception the rooms were lavishly appointed bedrooms. One or two contained scantily clad females. I expected any moment to encounter some heavy security, as my freedom of movement here seemed most unlikely.
I reached the end of the corridor. It faced the rear garden. The back was a long glass veranda. It was filled with furniture and naked people. The garden was along the same lines. I wondered if any of the naked people were Ella. It seemed unlikely, though probably a good disguise, as everyone looked the same.
There seemed little point in staying there and I returned to the stairs. The next floor was very different. The whole feel of this floor became much more like an upmarket bank, rather than a brothel. The steps ended at a blank wall, so I could not see into the garden. I turned into another corridor. This was some sort of office area. Most of the doors were open and, more often than not, contained desks and filing cabinets. There were no people about here, I assumed they had all knocked off work and gone home, or joined the orgy.
I followed the corridor to the front of the villa. Here the way split to each side and another flight of steps lead up. I decided to double round and follow the corridor that would lead me back to the entrance hall. This is exactly what happened. Soon I stood on the first tier of the gallery above the hall. I followed it to the back of the building again. The rear of the gallery had several windows that overlooked the garden. Behind the brothel was the garden, full of naked debauchery. To the other side was a wall that I could not quite see over. The wall enclosed the rear of the other wing.
I followed the gallery along the back wall, which was over the back of the big hall. I came to a door at the end of the gallery walkway. I tried the handle and found it was unlocked. I opened it very slightly and looked though. I did so nervously, expecting to be apprehended any minute, it was the first door I had opened since the front door.
Beyond it was very different. This time it was completely functional. It looked like an army barracks and it was quite ill-lit. I slipped through the door and closed it. I could hear several voices. There was a window overlooking the garden. Again, I could see the brothel garden, but this time I could see into the walled area.
I was taken aback by what I saw, but not surprised; I had already concluded I knew what this place was. The walled area contained quite a lot of military hardware. Several lightly uniformed people were walking about attending to jobs. The hardware ranged from jeeps to fairly large mobile guns. A brace of personnel carriers were being loaded at the far end near some closed wide gates.
The voices were getting louder, not because they were coming closer, but because they were being raised in anger. I stood where I was, trying to pinpoint where it was coming from. I could make out several male voices and one female. The voices turned to shouting. Then a door further down burst open and two men came out clutching a woman. She was struggling violently. It was Ella.
I launched myself down the corridor, but just as I was about to grapple the first man when one of them knocked Ella unconscious. I landed on my target and fairly knocked the man out. However, the other one, relieving himself of the limp form of Ella, turned his attention on me. He was a muscular brute, and two blows finished me off. I copied Ella in becoming a limp body crumpling to the floor.
When I came round I found myself on a hard bench. I looked around gingerly as my body was in severe pain again. The room was dim but I saw straight away that it was a cell. I was alone. I was unsure how long I had been out. Yet again I had lost my weapons but the money and photos had not been found in the secret pocket. I stood, and feeling very nauseous explored the room. There was nothing to find. There was no way out of this hard cell. I lay back on the bench.
I was unsure how long it was, but I became aware of a scraping outside the door. Then the blots drew back. The door was opened. The room beyond was dim but I saw straightway who it was. I was about to talk, but Varsha put her finger to her lips urgently. She then beckoned quickly. I followed her into the main area. Cells were lined around the walls. She then made to leave. I grabbed her arm.
“What about Ella?” I whispered.
“The girl they beat up.”
“You know her?”
“Yes, I followed her here.”
Varsha shrugged. In turn I tried the cell doors. They were all unlocked and empty but for one. Varsha handed me a key. It was the master key and opened the door. Inside Ella was laying on the bench, she was couscous, just about. Varsha and I helped her up and we all made our way to the cells exit.
Varsha was heading for somewhere. We followed a corridor for a little way. I had no idea what part of the building we were in. We arrived at a door and Varsha used the master key. We went into the dark room and she closed and locked the door. She then turned on the light. It was a small room with a few hard chairs. There was a small table with a water bottle and some food on it. That was it.
“Eat,” Varsha whispered. “It’s four a.m. most are sleeping.”
Ella was coming round a bit more now and sat in a chair. I took some food and handed some to her. I then got some myself and sat down. I thought of asking Varsha why she was there, but it was all too confusing to even know where to start. Varsha also ate and took a chair. I simply had no desire to speak. We ate in silence. I had to admit that I was famished, the food helped revive me a lot.
I knew now that this was Yannick’s villa. The military hardware collection, offices and brothel added up to one thing only. They were clearly getting ready to mount an attack on the Sea Vixen, though it would take very little to reclaim it. Torvik was a dead man, and I doubted my chances to get back and help, or that my help would be of any consequence, but for providing another dead man.
I wanted to question Varsha, why she had let me out, why she was there. I wanted to ask Ella similar questions, but the words weren’t there. All I felt like doing was shouting, but there was nothing I could think to shout about. This whole affair was driving me nuts.
Finally I ground out through clenched teeth: “Where is Yannick?”
Both Varsha and Ella looked at me and then to each other, I hadn’t addressed anyone in particular.
“He’s gone,” said Varsha, hesitantly. I said nothing but raised my eyebrows. There was clearly an inner struggle going on with Varsha, finally, she said, “He’s gone up north, to the Himalayas. Your colleague… Charlie, they caught her, they have a place up there…”
Her voice faded as I stood sharply. I grabbed the door handle, and then remembered she had locked it. I held out my hand for the key. Reluctantly she gave it to me. Out in the corridor I had no idea where I was in the building, but I strode briskly down a corridor anyway. Then I was aware that the other two were following.
I turned around sharply. “This is my problem, not yours,” I said. “You should stay.”
“You’ll get yourself killed,” returned Varsha.
“What does that matter?”
I turned and walked on. I then realised I was near the front of the building. There were sounds of people behind and the other two followed me, they were both looking alarmed. I found a door to the drive, it was locked, but the key worked for it. The sounds of pursuit increased and I locked the door after closing it. I gave the key to Varsha. I was still quite dark but there was a glimmer of dawn. We hurried down the drive. I turned sharply down a path after arriving at the road. Immediately I realised this was a slum area, butting right up against the moneyed villas.
The way underfoot was slimy and there was a pungent smell of excretions. A large white cow was disturbed by our passing and lumbered up onto its feet, barely missing goring me with its horns. The buildings were all made of odds and ends, some of corrugated iron, some of wood, others even just chicken wire or tarpaulin. There were already several people about doing ablutions. The sound of clearing phlegm the predominant one. Most would be rising now.
We passed as quick as we could along the ramshackle street.
“This is not a good place for white people,” said Varsha. “They will also think you are my bosses.”
“Well, hopefully they’ll ignore us in favour of them,” I said, pointing back at the thugs coming behind us.
We started to run, and a shout came from the thugs. We took a sharp turning and then another. I hoped it would slow the big men. We slipped through several small connection gaps. Several Indians complained as we barged through their makeshift homes. Varsha apologised in Hindi. Behind was an even bigger uproar as the thugs blundered about.
“They are getting in trouble,” reported Varsha.
We ran harder. Then the way opened out into a clearer street and we made better time. Sound of any pursuit faded. We took another turning and doglegged. The way opened onto a fairly normal road. A bus came alongside slowly and I jumped on the platform at the back. Varsha and Ella seemed determined to stay with me, so I turned and helped them board.
“How do we get back to the dock?” I asked Varsha.
“This bus goes halfway there.”
I looked out the back and there was no sign of the thugs. Presently she suggested we change busses. Climbing off we stood wand waited or the next. None of us wanted to talk. The bus came and we boarded. After several minutes of us sitting in stony silence, the dock was sighted through gaps in buildings. Presently we came to a stop and disembarked. I walked to the dock wall and saw the boat we had used before, I went over to it.
“What are you going to do?” I asked them.
“What are you doing?” said Ella.
“I’m going to get Charlie.”
“I’ll go to the Sea Vixen,” said Ella. “You’re nuts.”
“Ok Mr Bernhart,” said Varsha. “I will go with you. Someone needs to stop you from getting killed.”
“Do they?” asked Ella. “Personally, he can go hang.”
We went to the little boat and put out to the Sea Vixen. We dropped Ella on the platform at the back. I then pointed the boat at the seaplane.
Varsha looked at me with alarm. “You are really going to that?”
“Can you fly?”
“She is right that girl, you are crazy.”
“I am crazy, I had a bump on the head.”
We said no more as the plane became clearer. It was a fairly small, single-engine floatplane. I’d done a few hours flying, but I wondered if I was capable of flying a floatplane. Presently we arrived at her and I tied up the boat. I then inspected the plane.
I removed the mooring ropes and then climbed onto a float. The doors were not locked, indeed, had no locks. I opened up and climbed in, then shuffled across to the next seat. This was the pilot’s seat. I quickly looked back at the six-seat cabin, then inspected the controls as Varsha climbed in.
I operated the engine starter controls and it turned, without catching. I tried again. I expected it would take a bit to get it going that early morning, cold by Bombay standards. On the third try, it caught and roared to life. I retarded the throttle and let it warm up. There was no one around to take any notice. After a few minutes I gave it power and we moved away. I taxied someway to the dock mouth. The sea was like a millpond and we taxied out into it. There was no dedicated area for the plane to use as a runway. I turned her to point along the coast and used the Gateway to India as a marker. Quite ironic I thought. I gave her some flap and opened up the throttle. She roared ahead. For an unfeasibly long time we stuck to the water, then, just as I was getting worried, there was a bump and she unstuck. We soared into the air.
I looked at Varsha, she was very pale indeed. After a while, I levelled off and pointed the nose north. I then let the plane settle down to cruise. I did some rapid calculations in my head. It was about a thousand miles to the Himalaya. The plane was cruising at about 120 mph. I thought the range of it was about a thousand miles, as I noticed there were wingtip extended range tanks. Still, it was cutting it fine. I then occurred to me I had no idea where I was going.
“Err, do you happen to know where this place is of Yannicks?”
“I know, but I will need to see a few towns to guide me.”
“See if you can find a map, there must be one. Navigation is something I do know about.”
She searched the cockpit, found a brace of maps, and sorted through them. Presently she opened one, then found the location and pointed at it. I took the map and did some checks.
“Do you think we will make it?” she asked.
“Maybe. Something between 8 to 10 hours. We’ll be running on fumes by that time. See if there is a river or lake nearby the destination.”
“This crate has no wheels.”
“Mr Bernhart, you are a crazy man.”
“So I keep being told.”
She turned her attention to the map. Soon she told me that there was a lake close to the destination. I asked her where we were heading.
“It is an old monastery,” she said. “Yannick made the monks leave.”
“Someone should make Yannick leave. What transport has he used to get there?”
“Can he fly?”
“No, there is a pilot.”
“What sort of aircraft is it?”
“I do not know. It has two engines, normal wheels. The back has comfortable seats and a bar. It has a stewardess.”
“Plush. With two engines I expect it will beat us fairly up there. I assume there is a landing ground?”
“Yes. It is grass, close to the monastery.”
“Do you know if there are more thugs up there?”
“I do not know. I went once, many years ago.”
“Knowing Yannick there are, and probably a few tanks.”
“Why do you care Mr Bernhart.”
“I don’t know. All I want to do is get Charlie away from him. Anything else, I don’t know.”
“And your ship? Mary?”
“I’d like that back, but not for her. I’ve nothing else left. That boat will probably become my home. If I ever find it.”
“If not, I don’t really care. I care about very little now.”
The little plane droned on through the clear blue sky as the sun beat down on us. Presently Varsha explored the cabin and found a store cupboard of supplies. There was drinking water and some tins of food: emergency stocks. We were so thirsty and hungry it was enough like an emergency. As I had stolen a whole plane, I didn’t think the emergency supplies would worry the owners too much in comparison to the loss of an aircraft.
The hours ticked by and I watched the landscape passing. Much open land of scrub and large cites passed. Wide rivers and ruins. Ribbons of roads. Mostly it was flat, the Indian plains. Up ahead we could see the distant rising of the Himalaya.
I also kept a close look on the sky, feeling quite surprised something hadn’t been sent up to intercept us. I had left the radio switched off, as I really didn’t care. If something came up I’d deal with it then. Obviously, I had gone off the rails, what did any further craziness matter?
I still wondered about Varsha. What was she to do with all this? Why was she with me? And her spark had gone, she wasn’t like the woman I had first met. But I didn’t want to ask her, I doubted I would get the truth, I expected I’d find out soon enough. Right now I just wanted to get Charlie, I didn’t even care about Yannick, revenge, or anything.
The sun described an arc above us. Not only did it mean the day was running out, but our fuel. The gauge was on empty. The Himalaya was up ahead, now grown above us. We were nowhere near the Himalaya yet, just in the rocky rising land of India still. I calculated that we should still have an hour of fuel left. Varsha and I had not spoken for hours. Then she pointed up ahead. On a low rocky crag was a knobbly large building. A monastery. To one side was a landing strip and below it a small lake. It was still some distance away, but clear to see. I had no idea of the time but the sun was still a little clear of the horizon.
It was then the engine coughed, picked up, coughed again, then stopped dead. I looked at Varsha, she looked back and raised her hands. I shrugged. I then put the plane into a glide. My calculations were clearly at fault, or the tanks had been shy of full. It was hard to say if we would make the lake, even harder to say if I was skilled enough to glide that far, and then land with just one shot at it. I was on the side of it being pretty hopeless. I looked for some other water between us and the lake, but it was just a rocky landscape below. We would certainly die if we didn’t make the water.
The plane sunk lower and lower. The lake was appearing not to get any closer. Then gradually the land was falling away faster. The altimeter had hit zero as we were well above sea level. The controls felt sloppy in my hands. The lake seemed just too far away. We sunk lower and lower. The lip of the lake started to lift and fill the view and the water gradually vanished. I knew we’d never make it as the land rose before the lake. I looked at the jagged rocks below.
“Can’t we throw things out of the window?” asked Varsha.
“Go ahead, but it won’t make any difference.”
Then, as we were getting close to the ground I realised to one side it was sloping away. I followed the depression and side slipped into it. The plane lot height alarmingly but the ground was going away enough to make up for it. The sides of the depression gained height above us. I realised this was a gully, hopefully an old river bed leading down to the lake. Then gradually the corner of the wall slipped away and water showed ahead.
We were still sinking fast and the ground stopped falling away. However, the water ahead became wider. It was then I became alarmed how narrow the lake was. I realised we could not land directly ahead. I slipped to one side and the ground started to come up to us quickly. Just as I thought we’d had it the rocks slipped away and we were over water. The rocks had ended in a drop, an old waterfall.
Now the opposite problem occurred, I had too much height left. I pulled back the flaps and opened the spoilers. The plane started to stall. I put the nose down a little. She started to go woolly. We were now passengers. She wallowed and then surged. The water came up to meet us quickly. There was an enormous splash. The plane shuddered. I feared we would cartwheel. But then the speed bushed off. She bumped and splashed again. Then surged to a stop.
We sat for a few blissful moments and still being alive. Then I head the gentle putt-putt of a small engine. I looked out. We were in the bowl of the lake. Rising above was the monastery and the mountains behind. A little motorboat with two people in it was coming to meet us. As the boat neared, I recognised one of the men.
Never had I wished more that I still had my gun. I climbed onto the float as the boat pulled up. The driver threw me a rope. I tied it to the float strut. The other man was unable to throw a rope as in his hand he held a gun, pointing directly at me.
“Well Jones, it’s lucky you have that gun, otherwise I’d kill you.”
“You know this man?” said Varsha, joining me on the float.
“This man says he is MI6, he turns up all over the place where he is most unwelcome. He also keeps trying to kill me.”
“Oh now Smith,” said Jones. “If I actually wanted to kill you, you’d be dead.”
“Just GBH then?”
“Something like that.”
“This man is a crook,” said Varsha. “He was with Yannick in Bombay.”
“All crooks together,” I said.
Further conversation was halted as the boat was turned and the engine opened up. The rope paid out a few yards and we were towed in the direction of the monastery. Shortly we arrived at a small jetty. The boat was made fast by the driver and he hauled the plane in. We climbed off the float onto the jetty to be covered by Jones’ gun again. He waved it in the direction of the monastery.
The way up to it was a gently sloping hill. It was a fairly low building with a mild attempt at a wall around it. All in grey stone. I had seen a few Himalayan monasteries in books but this one was a very modest affair as far as they went. I had some time to study it as we trudged up the hill. The way was not steep but the air was a little thinner and our breath a little short due to it.
Presently the hill slackened into level land and I saw the airstrip. There was a small hanger but nothing else. I wondered if the hanger contained an aircraft or not. Soon we arrived at the monastery door and passed inside.
The interior was the same as the exterior, modest. It looked like Yannick had done little so far to better the monks. I expected getting supplies to the building would take some time in this remote place. Jones herded us through the entrance hall. Then a voice sounded from one side.
“You got him then?”
We turned, it was Julia, Yannick’s daughter.
“As you see,” said Jones.
“Well,” she said to me, “looks like you wasted your time. Dad has gone, with your girlfriend. But I see you have a new one?”
I just stared at her, wishing again that I had my gun.
“You are so simple to lead Smith,” said Jones. “We want to move you about the globe, it doesn’t take much.”
“I never said I was smart,” I said. “So the gloves are off, you really are a crook.”
“I never said I wasn’t.”
I had moved quite close to him as I was speaking, he had let his guard down momentarily, my fist shot out and caught him in the stomach. The gun clattered to the floor, Varsha snatched it up. However, there was a commotion and the door at the far end flung open. A few thugs ran in. But this wasn’t what took my attention. Following the thugs was Shiv, my attacker from Bombay. I realised things were going to get ugly.
“Come on Varsha.”
I grabbed her hand and pulled her through the doorway we’d be heading to before. It led into a corridor. The door was heavy wood. I slammed it closed and locked it.
“We could have held Jones hostage,” said Varsha.
“I don’t think that would have worked, we don’t know who is on any side here. They didn’t risk shooting at us. Let’s just get moving so I can think.”
We followed the corridor and arrived at a door that opened onto the stairs. I locked this one too. There was no sound of pursuit. The steps went up to several rooms. The way then became very convoluted, many small turnings and little rooms. We arrived at a door that opened onto a ledge at the back of the building. Only then did I realise it was quite black outside as there was a distinct lack of windows in the monastery. There were several buildings and we ran and hid in the complicated mess of them. It was a large area and I could only assume it had once been a little village, now deserted. There were several winding alleys and many little dwellings. There was no sound of pursuit.
“I think we lost them.”
“No, they just know we have nowhere to go and don’t want to risk being shot in the dark.” We found a little house at the edge of the village. There were two rough wooden benches for furniture. “I’m for some sleep,” I said.
“You are crazy. How can you sleep?”
“I’m going to have a hard time not. An hour or two will do.”
“Go on, I cannot.”
I laid down on a bench and Varsha sat on the other. I was exhausted and soon fell asleep.
It was a disturbed and uncomfortable sleep, but when I decided I’d had enough I felt better for what I’d had. The moon was lighting the room now. Varsha, despite complaints, was dozing while sitting up. I explored the room looking for food but found none. When I looked at her again she had her eyes open.
“I’m going to go back to the monastery,” I said.
“Jones. I need to ask him some questions. I might also try to get something out of Shiv. I don’t know what side anyone is on. And don’t you think it was strange we weren’t followed?”
“It is strange.”
“Are you coming?”
“I am not staying here.”
We headed back to the big building. I looked for a way down and around to the lower floors, I suspected we’d get lost in the rabbit warren of the upper floors. There were steps to one side of the building and we followed them down. They turned around the side. Eventually they led down to the ground level of the front door. We traversed the front of the building and arrived at the door. I carefully tried the handle. It was unlocked. I pushed it slowly and it opened with no noise. We both went in and I closed it behind us.
There was a sound of voices, but the hall was empty and dark. I could see light coming from under a door. Varsha hung back as I made my way to the door. I placed my ear to it. The voices were quite clear and I recognised Julia and a man talking. The conversation was of trivial things but I picked up Shiv’s name a few times, to which I concluded it was Julia and Shiv in the room. Presently I heard a few mentions of things that were worth hearing.
“What about Smith and Varsha?” said Shiv.
“They’ll keep, they won’t come back here with the guards around. We’ll get them when it’s light, there is nowhere else to go around here.”
They spoke of other random things again and I started to lose interest, I was just about to give up, being worried about the guards they have spoken of, when they started to talk of useful things again.
“Well, at least their plane is refuelled, nice of Smith to give us a floatplane, more useful than the one we have,” said Shiv.
“Dad will be livid, so you know where the Wolfhound is?”
“Yes, I hid it. The floatplane is ideal. Jones knows too. Leaving Smith and Jones here is a good idea.”
“They can’t cause trouble from here, and it is a long way back any other way.”
“Jones will probably die of hunger down in the cells.”
“So what?” said Julia.
“Killing MI6 is probably a bad idea.”
“He’s gone rogue, but true, the guards will let him out before they take our plane and follow us. Jones and Smith can then fight it out here. Smith is so easily led, right into our trap. He’s merely a man after all.”
“Some of us men are more bright than others,” laughed Shiv.
“Do you know yet where the secret is that Mary spoke of on the Wolfhound?”
“No, but I think Jack does.”
“Where is he now?”
“With Max, he is in a pretty bad way, half dead. Julia, my love, after this we run away together…”
Ah, I thought, that is how he is her puppet. Though hearing I was still a puppet was disconcerting, led away again, what a fool. I left the door, I found it too all hard to stomach. I’d go and get Jones and have it out with him. I had learnt from Shiv that the cells were “down” somewhere, it was just a matter of finding where that was. I went over to Varsha.
“I’m going to find Jones,” I whispered very quietly. “He’s down in some cells.”
“I know where they are,” she returned, and moved away.
I followed her as we went away from the room Julia and Shiv were in. She followed a few corridors and we arrived at a narrow flight of spiral steps downwards.
“Careful of guards,” I whispered.
“I will stay here, you go.”
“Ok. Still, be careful of guards.”
I descended the steps, they were dark but light showed at the bottom. It was fairly slow going and I had a feeling I’d bump into something nasty, and muscular, at the bottom. However, that failed to happen. I reached the bottom. There were two cells with conventional bars. A small lamp was burning and I could see Jones in the shadows of one cell, laying on a rough bed.
“Ah, Mr Smith. Here you are,” said Jones, quietly.
“I hear you know where the Wolfhound is, and the secret?”
“You are correct.”
“Ah, now Smith, you know it won’t be as easy as that.”
“Get me out of this stinking place. I’ll show you where it is.”
“At least tell me how far away it is.”
“Back in Bombay. But I know exactly where it is.”
I looked around for the key. They were hanging from a hook. It was all feeling too easy. This was either a trap or a setup I thought.
“All too easy?” said Jones, mirroring my thoughts.
“Yes. Where are the guards?”
“They never were very devoted to their jobs, probably drunk, or womanising.”
“There is another village, they have a jeep. Julia has too much faith in them, I told her, but she doesn’t listen.”
“Why should I trust you?” I said.
“You have been very untrustworthy so far, and you have tried to kill me a few times.”
“Well, I didn’t know who you were then.”
“Pretty dense of you. Who am I then?”
“Bernhart Smith, right now, rather unemployed.”
“Yes, and I feel you had a part in that.”
“Oh really Mr Smith.”
I opened the door.
“Let’s get out of here.”
“There is an aircraft in the hanger, we can escape in that. Yannick took the bigger one but there is another that Julia uses.”
“Can you fly?”
“No. I assumed you could.”
“Did you see me land?”
“Well, you got here.”
“Shiv has had the floatplane refuelled, says it would be useful.”
“Yes, it would.”
“If you double-cross me this time I’ll chuck you out without a parachute.”
“Well, I better not then.”
“Give me your word that you won’t try anything stupid and we don’t need to do pointing guns etc.”
“I give you my word I won’t try anything, I want to get out of here too and I can’t fly.”
We stopped talking and went up the stairs. At the top Varsha looked alarmed at the tall figure of Jones. But I held my hand up and then waved to the exit. There was no sound of talking now as we made our way across the hall to the door. Though we could hear some moaning, heavy breathing and squeaking springs coming from the room I had eavesdropped on before. Outside it was still moonlit and we made haste down the hill to the lake. There was no sound but the trudge of our feet. I expected to be jumped any second, it was just too easy.
We reached the plane with no incident, though each little thing was alarming me. In the end we untied the plane and pushed it off. The plane drifted out into the lake. We all climbed in off the float. Varsha nominated herself to sit in the back, so she could watch what Jones was up to, she said. Jones and I sat up the front. Varsha mentioned there was still some of the emergency supplies left and we all had a snack as the plane drew into the middle of the lake. I then started her. After the second try, the engine kicked into life. I let it warm. Looking back at the monastery I saw the lights ablaze from windows and doors.
“We’ve stirred up a hornets’ nest,” I said
“I guess so,” said Jones. “Some staff there, other than guards.”
I opened the throttle and the plane surged across the lake. It took a long time to unstick and I was getting worried when it finally lifted. Then I pulled the yoke back and turned it as I pushed my foot on the rudder pedal. We skimmed around the edge of the deep rocky side of the lake. I swore we brushed the herbage with our floats. We came around the edge, over the lower shore and the plane gained height quickly.
“Pretty amateur take-off,” I said.
“Yes,” agreed Jones.
The plane soared up into the moonlit sky. I took my rough bearing by the moon and pointed the nose to Bombay. It was quite simple navigation, the coast of India was plain to see in the distance as we gained height. I wondered if we would run out of fuel before we got there again, or if the original load had been short. Soon I could tell we had a tailwind, which would help very much.
I found it hard to believe that I had Jones with me again as a passenger, especially as he had been so untrustworthy in the past. How many times can someone try to kill you and you still trust them? At least the gloves were off, I didn’t trust him a bit.
After a couple of hours I started to feel very sleepy. Jones noticed.
“I can fly if you want to sleep?” he said.
“You said you can’t fly.”
“This is a: just holding the yoke pointing at Bombay, any idiot can do that.”
“Ok. One false move and you go out the door.”
“No problem, get some rest.”
I let him take the dual controls. I didn’t trust him enough to relinquish my seat. I settled back and closed my eyes.
I awoke with a start, not quite sure where I was. Dawn was breaking to our left. My eyes fell on Jones. Then I looked ahead. Bombay looked closer. He had held it true without any funny business. If he’d tried anything I would probably have woken, not a heavy sleeper.
“Ah, Mr Smith. Welcome back.”
I took the controls and he settled back and closed his eyes. I looked around into the cabin. Varsha nodded to me, then she sat back and closed her eyes. The plane droned on into the gathering light. Again I marvelled that no one had been sent up to intercept us. However, I hadn’t gained all that much height now, or before, so we might have been missing radar. Or they just weren’t that concerned about a small aircraft. Either way, it was lucky, as I doubted I could land her anywhere useful if challenged, and I didn’t fancy being shot down in flames.
This time it did play on my mind more, now the adrenaline of the flight up had gone. I was much jumpier and scanned the sky a lot. Again, I avoided switching on the radio and summoning doom. However, I was enjoying flying the thing, and though the hours wore away heavily, in a lot of ways I wished it could carry on for eternity, but I knew it wouldn’t, and trouble lay ahead.
I felt better that I knew Charlie and Yannick were in Bombay and the Wolfhound secret, also in Bombay, was with the man sitting next to me. As long as I could get to Charlie quickly, before anything else happened, and hope it wasn’t another trap. They could little expect I was going to make off with the plane and be heading back to Bombay with Jones. I hoped this was a move where they had failed to lead me anywhere for once.
Gradually Bombay drew closer. I started to make out features and landmarks. Jones and Varsha both woke as the city became clearer, despite a heat haze. Eventually we crossed the over the first dwellings and I’d dropped down someway. The buildings were clear to see.
“Where are we heading?” I asked Jones.
“The docks, where the Sea Vixen is. But the Wolfhound isn’t there.”
Jones tapped his nose with his finger. I stared at him but he remained resolute. We sunk closer to the docks. I had picked out the huge while Andes liner ages ago, but now the dock traffic was clear and the Sea Vixen was as we had left it.
I took the plane out to sea a little and did a circuit to line up with the coast. I had no idea how long a run I needed, having never landed correctly in the thing before. She sank down to the sea. Then gradually I let her drop until we must touch the water. Then there was a swish of water and the plane bumped, bumped again, and then ran on into the water, slowing quickly. She gradually slowed to a stop and I turned to taxi into the docks. We ran in slowly, everything in the docks was the same.
“I hope the owners of this thing haven’t taken exception to us borrowing it. We need it to get the Wolfhound, so Shiv said?”
Jones looked at me, “Ok, confession time. I have no idea where your boat is.”
“You utter cretin,” I said, making to grab him and do him a mischief
He fended me off and said, “But, but, Shiv said he had hidden it in this dock, so there is your clue.”
“Yes,” I said, “there is nothing here, what, did he hide it under the Andes, or that fishing boat…”
I pointed, but as I did the words faded on my lips.
“That,” said Varsha from behind us, “was not too hard to work out.”
“Yes,” I said, “it’s been looking us in the face all along. I should have known, that grey keel reminded me of something all along.”
“I think,” added Jones, “the most stupid one here is apparent. How could you not know your own ship?”
“It’s a matter of perception, as if I was looking for it here before. Shiv did a good job there.”
I had taxied close to the fishing boat. Now it was known the whole thing was so obvious, but what to do with the knowledge was the problem.
“I expect,” said Jones. “Shiv was going to tow it away with the plane.”
“Yes, but we need to pretend we haven’t rumbled the secret. Next you’ll tell me you have no idea where the secret my dad put on her is?”
“I have no idea, Shiv said Jack Davenport knows.”
“I don’t think he does.”
In this time I had taxied back to the plane’s mooring. No one was around. I bought her in, Jones jumped down to tie her off, and Varsha followed. I switched everything off and then joined them on the quayside.
“Well, I hope no one was too worried I borrowed it.”
“Doesn’t seem so,” said Jones. “These are here for emergencies, I doubt it has been used for months.”
“I’m going to Yannick, to get Charlie back,” I said.
“Yannick will get you,” said Varsha. “You know it is a trap.”
“Yes,” I said. “Probably.”
“You may want to do something else first,” said Jones pointing.
He was pointing at the fishing boat, or the disguise over the Wolfhound. The boat from the Andes was heading out to it; there were several of Mary’s heavies aboard.
“Oh hell,” I said. “How could they know that?”
Jones shrugged. Varsha just stared at the boats. The heavies arrived and boarded. They climbed on the deck but were unable to find a way in. Then one of them tore a panel away, it was now plain to see the camouflage. He went inside. After a minute he was back and handed out instructions. Three remained on the Wolfhound and the rest went back with the boat to the Andes. Three seemed just the wrong number of thugs, for us, in order to do anything about it. I also had no idea of the state of the ship under the camouflage.
“I don’t see,” I resumed. “How I can do anything about that,” I said looking at the Wolfhound, I then looked out to the Sea Vixen. There was no sign of life. “As far as I’m concerned I shall go and find Charlie, all this can wait.”
“Do you want help?” said Varsha.
“Count me out,” said Jones. “I did what you asked.”
“It seems to me you were lucky,” said Varsha.
Jones shrugged. “In truth, there’s nothing left for me to do. I was hoodwinked by Julia and Shiv, I’m probably also unemployed now.”
“As if I want you to come along Jones, with you around I never know who’s going to hit me on the head next.”
“I will come with you,” said Varsha. “I know Yannick.”
“I’ll come too,” said Jones. “I’m all for solving mysteries and rescuing damsels. I won’t hit you again.”
“Ok,” I said. “I’m also worried about Julia and Shiv. I assume they will be heading here at full pelt in the other aircraft, damage limitation mission. I expect Yannick will be none too pleased with his daughter.”
“He is used to it,” said Varsha.
“Yes,” added Jones. “Seems to enjoy his rebel daughter.”
“We need some transport to get to Yannicks,” I said, looking around for something likely.
A black Padmini taxi stood by the road, it looked empty. I walked over to it, suspecting the driver would be sleeping in the back. However, it was empty. The driver had also, thoughtfully, left the windows open and the keys in the ignition. I pointed at the car to let the others know my intention. We climbed in. It started first turn and I fumbled with the controls. Everything was very lose and sloppy. Then we heard a shout. I didn’t trouble to look around and pulled away into the traffic. I then saw the driver running after us, though he stopped quite quickly and threw up his hands.
“His wife is going to be very angry with him,” said Varsha who was sitting next to me.
“Ah, he’ll get it back soon enough,” I said. “I expect he was sleeping in the shade during the midday sun.”
“He should have known about mad dogs and Englishmen,” said Jones from the back seat.
“And Dutchmen,” I said.
“Though you are English,” said Varsha.
The streets were fairly clear and we made good time getting back to the villa. I pulled to the side of the road several yards away when we arrived. The villa looked the same, though there were a lot less forms of transport standing outside.
“Look’s like the orgy is over,” I said.
We all got out and made our way to the side of the building that housed the little army. We saw no guards but we were keeping away from any vantage points. Presently we arrived at a small side door. Varsha used the master key and it worked. We slipped in quietly.
Inside it was quiet but we could hear a lot of activity at the back. This seemed to be a fairly unused door, in a nondescript entrance hall. I suspected it became superfluous when Yannick repurposed the building from a residence. We followed a narrow corridor leading to the rear.
“This is the way to Yannick’s penthouse,” said Varsha, pointing to some steps up. “He lives on the top floor.”
We followed the steps. They turned out onto the next floor. No one was around and we found the next flight. At the top was a small room with a locked door.
“In here?” I asked Varsha.
“Yes, this is the back way in.”
She opened the door with the key. Inside it was quiet. The penthouse was very plain, it had the same feel as the Sea Vixen about it, looked the part, but very utilitarian underneath. The first room was a small lounge. This opened up to several others. We made our way through to a larger lounge with a dining table.
“No one about,” said Jones.
Then there was the sound of voices.
“Someone is coming up the main staircase,” said Varsha.
We found a room off the main lounge. I closed the door enough to see who came in. The voices arrived close by and the large double doors opened. Julia and Shiv came in with some thugs. There was also a small blonde man with them.
“Luca, what do you mean dad didn’t want to see us?” said Julia.
“He’s gone,” said Luca, “he said he knew you’d let Jones and Smith escape and he didn’t want you leading them here to find the Charlotte woman.”
“Why would Yannick think they would come here?” said Shiv.
“Of course Smith would chase after the woman,” said Julia, “He’s obsessed with her.”
Varsha held me back as I made to try and go in. She shook her head at me violently.
“Also,” said Luca. “Yannick didn’t want to be here when they attack the Sea Vixen. Even he has to think of his reputation. This way he can say he did not know of it.”
“Stupid of daddy to let them get it. Let’s go and see how things are going.”
They moved to the back rooms and the voices were lost.
“There is another way down at the back,” said Varsha.
We went out and walked to the back of the penthouse. The others had gone. I looked out of the windows at the back and down into the yard. The troop carriers still sat there with several bodies around doing various tasks.
“I expect they shall wait until night,” said Jones.
“Yes,” I said. “There is no point us being here, we should get to the Sea Vixen and warn them.”
We returned to the side steps and down to the side door. The taxi was still there and I drove back to the dock. When we arrived I parked it in the same place and we left it.
“No one is going to believe him now,” said Varsha.
“Hopefully he didn’t go to the police,” I said.
“They won’t come for that,” said Jones.
We returned to the dock wall and looked out. The heavies had made themselves scarce on the Wolfhound, even the camouflage was back in place.
“I wonder if they are still on board,” I said.
I motioned to the little boat, it was still near the plane. We climbed on board and headed out to the Sea Vixen, giving the Wolfhound a wide berth. It was apparent that the engines were running at the Sea Vixen. Other than that it appeared there was no one about. We disembarked on the diving platform. Then we went to the bridge.
On the bridge we found Torvik and Ella sitting in the captain and co-pilot seats. Nothing had changed but for several dirty cups of coffee. Ella nodded and Torvik pointed at a table holding some food and drink.
“You seem to have bought the MI6 with you,” said Torvik.
“Ex-MI6,” said Jones.
“Ah, here to join the pirates?” said Torvik.
“Anything for a dishonest living.”
“We probably do not have long for living,” said Varsha.
“Yannick’s men, looking busy, we were at the villa just now,” I explained.
“Ah, well, I started the engines, quick getaway,” returned Torvik.
“Quick way to fucking death,” said Ella from the captain’s seat.
Jones, Varsha and I all turned to the food and drink. There was a little portable stove for making hot drinks.
“Why don’t we just leave?” said Jones.
“Well, until now there weren’t enough people to run the ship,” said Torvik.
“So what are we waiting for?”
“Good question, though I think wherever we go they’ll find us.”
“Well, it’s stupid just waiting for it.”
“Ok, we go,” said Torvik.
“Too late,” said Ella, who had been looking out the windows.
We all looked, the two troop carriers stood by the dock wall.
“And what can they do from there?” said Varsha.
“Well, by the look of it they’ll be on us in minutes,” I said. “Those are duck boats.”
As if calling it up, the duck boats made for the slipway and were very soon in the water. I rushed out of the bridge and down to the mooring ropes. I slipped them and ran back to the bridge.
“Go,” I said.
The Sea Vixen was already moving. I looked out and saw the duck boats gaining on us.
“They can’t be very fast in the water,” said Jones.
“They are fast,” said Torvik, “they used to belong to us, the us before I was a pirate, that is. The Sea Vixen will not outrun them, even if we had already started out to sea. We’re most definitely for it.”
“Doesn’t someone need to get down to the engine room or something?” returned Jones.
“No, the ship is modern, at can all be done from the bridge.”
“Well, what do we do?” persisted Jones.
“Take a look, none of this is rocket science.”
We all tried to make sense of the Sea Vixen’s controls. Torvik seemed to be doing quite well all by himself despite having said there needed to be more crew. Even with my boat experience the controls meant little and I failed to see what I could add to the proceedings. I watched the duck boats approaching with a sense of doom. I felt completely trapped on this unfamiliar ship. We cleared the harbour wall and were out to sea, the water was still like a millpond. The duck boats simply stationed either side of us. We could see the troops looking back.
“What are they doing?” said Varsha.
“Waiting,” I said, “to take us without many witnesses.”
“So why are we leaving then?” she said.
“They will take us either way,” said Torvik. “We have better odds with space to move. Yannick pays well to have anything he does ignored in Bombay.”
The Sea Vixen was heading north. Torvik opened her up and she put on a credible turn of speed, however, the duck boats effortlessly kept up with us. We were drawing close to Versova Beach when it happened. I had just picked out the bungalow belonging to Max when the sound of the engines died away. I looked at Torvik at the controls, but he was looking as confused as all of us. I tried the throttles, but the engines continued to run down. The Sea Vixen lost headway. Gradually she coasted to a stop. Torvik shrugged and pressed the anchor release, we heard the chains rattling and the splash of the anchors.
I looked out at the duck boats, they were still there but holding station. Then an aircraft flashed by. It was a twin-engine job and a conventional plane, not a floatplane. It did two low passes and then sped away.
“That was the aircraft from the monastery I think,” said Jones. “Or it could be Yannick’s plane, it was the same model. One was larger than the other but they look similar.”
“I guess we should have realised this might happen,” said Torvik. “What a fool I am.”
“Well,” said Jones, “you probably should have known the ship was wired. Yannick would have thought of that. I expect the plane had the device to disable it.”
“Now they just wait for the night before they board and then pick us off,” I said. Everyone looked at me and I shrugged. “There’s no getting away, past them.” I pointed at our escort.
“You have a way of putting things,” said Ella.
It was already late afternoon when the Sea Vixen was disabled. There was little we could do but wait for dark. I made coffee and ate some food. The others were quiet. Jones went to explore the ship, and make plans, he said. Torvik sat in the captain’s seat and glared at the duck boats. Ella had retired to the comfortable seats at the back of the bridge. Varsha also ate more food while looking out at Bombay.
I surveyed the ship from the windows. Both Torvik’s boat and our little one had remained attached to the Sea Vixen. I contemplated them but their use seemed quite hopeless. The duck boats had stationed at each end of the ship, so no part was unobserved. There seemed little we could do but wait for our fate. Then I had a thought.
“So, there are two duck boats out there,” I said.
“Yes, top marks,” said Ella.
“But, we have two boats…”
“How does that help,” she said, grimacing.
“They can only follow one each,” I said. “Or, if one left, would they both go?”
“It’s all wild guessing,” she said.
“But,” said Torvik. “Anything is better than sitting here just waiting for it.”
“I agree with that,” said Varsha.
“Question is: how do we go about it?” I said.
As the light started to fade we made a plan.
Ella, Varsha and I waited by the doors that led to the diving deck at the back. We had seen no sign of Jones. Torvik had gone to his boat.
“How will we know when he is leaving?” asked Ella
“We should see the duck boats move off,” I replied. “Or hear them.” I eyed the little boat still tied to the diving platform. “It looks ok,” I said.
“If only one goes after Torvik,” said Varsha. “It is going to be bad for us.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “but like he said, we wait for it one way or another, better to do something. I guess. I wish I knew where Jones has got to.”
“Why?” asked Ella. “One less to think about.”
“He has a nasty habit of popping up and knocking me on the head.”
Darkness had come quickly, as it always does near the equator. Then came the sound of a boat engine, which was quickly followed by the noise of the duck boats revving up.
“Let’s go,” I said, opening the doors.
We made our way to the boat and were soon heading across the water to the beach. I scanned back, looking for the boats, but the sound of engines came from behind the Sea Vixen.
“Heading out to sea,” I said. “He’s crazy.”
“I hope Torvik is going to be alright,” said Ella.
“Hard to say,” I said. “His boat is quite fast.”
She looked back to the beach with apprehension. “I only just left this fucking place.”
We were a few yards from the beach when the engine spluttered and cut out. I found oars in the bottom and paddled it close into the sand. We climbed out in the gentle surf and I dragged the boat clear of the water. The beach was quiet and dark, the moon yet to rise.
“We can either wait here to see if Torvik comes back,” I said. “Or try to get away somewhere. I heard that Jack is with Max and knows the secret in the Wolfhound.”
“Ah, your stupid secret,” said Ella. “It’s not worth being here for.”
“I would like to find the secret,” said Varsha.
I looked at her with a little surprise but she seemed deadly serious. Out at sea I could still hear the boats.
“I don’t think Torvik is coming back too soon,” I said. “If at all. I can go to the bungalows and see if I can find Jack.”
“I will come too,” said Varsha.
“Oh crap,” said Ella. “I’m not staying here alone, and you’ll need me to show you around or I’ll have to come and rescue both of you. At least I killed that cunt dog.”
We made our way carefully to the bungalows, the moon had still not made an appearance, so being observed was quite unlikely. As we approached the area where I had parked the bike before, we noticed a jeep. It was empty. I surveyed it with a plan forming in my head.
“This could be handy,” I said quietly.
“No keys in it this time,” said Varsha.
“Oh, it should be easy to hotwire.”
The jeep was entirely open, no doors or roof. The windscreen was folded down on the bonnet. I reached in and felt for the ignition wires. In a couple of minutes I had it ready.
“One touch of these wires together and it will start,” I said, showing the wires to the others.
“I hope the owner doesn’t come out to find this,” said Varsha.
“I hope we shall be gone before that,” I said.
We turned to the bungalows. “Jack will be staying in the other bungalow,” said Ella.
We skirted around the first one and then made our way quietly to the other. There were lights on in both buildings but no one was on the verandas. We approached the side of Max’ bungalow and made our way to a window. The view inside was of the room where I had been interrogated. It was empty.
Ella motioned us to follow and we went round to a side door. This was not the rear door we had exited before. The place seemed eerily quiet. The door was unlocked and we entered stealthily. Again, there was no sound. Ella went ahead down a short corridor and tried a few doors. On opening the last and looking in she motioned to us. We joined her at the door. Jack Davenport lay on the bed inside. A dim bedside lamp was burning. I could see he had his eyes shut. He was quite horribly scarred on the face and hands, the rest was hidden by pyjamas.
I walked over and covered his mouth, and then roused him. There was only a vague response.
“Drugged,” I said quietly.
I pulled him up, he was lighter than I expected. Even in his drugged state, it was possible to get him to walk, with a lot of guidance. I pulled his arm over my shoulder and herded him along, out to the side door. The bungalow remained quiet, strangely so.
We got outside. The moon had made an appearance, though it was still low. We made our way slowly to the jeep. Just as we arrived a voice cut through the night.
“You should probably stop there.”
We turned, it was Max, holding a gun.
“Why?” I said.
“You have someone I know, in fact, you have two people I know and one belongs to me.”
“Fuck you,” said Ella.
“Oh no, that’s not the arrangement,” said Max with an unpleasant chuckle. “I should make your way back to the bungalow.”
We turned to retrace our steps but another voice cut through the night.
“I don’t think they want to Max.”
I turned to view the new visitor, it was Jones, holding a gun and looking very wet. I looked back at Max, he was obviously undecided but in the end lowed his gun.
“Get his gun Ella,” said Jones.
“Gladly,” she said, taking the gun.
“Good, keep him covered, useful you decided not to try a shooting match,” said Jones. “I’m not sure my gun would work after the soaking it got.”
“Where were you?” I asked.
“You all left me in the Sea Vixen, when the duck boats came back I decided to swim for it.”
We climbed into the jeep. Ella covered Max when the rest of us got Jack in. Then the gun went off in Ella’s hand, Max stumbled and fell.
“Oh, what a shame, the gun went off,” said Ella, clearly she had pulled the trigger. “Well, the cunt deserved it.”
“He isn’t dead,” I said.”
“Fuck him,” she said.
“Let’s go,” said Jones urgently, as the closest bungalow started to swarm with life.
Everyone got on board. For some reason they had left the driving seat for me, so I climbed in and started it. I gunned it into life and wheel span it away, the wind buffeting us over the bonnet. Ella was sitting next to me and looking back at the crumpled form of Max. Several people were spilling out of the bungalow and then our view was cut off by trees, as we rounded the corner.
“What are we going to do now yelled Ella over the engine noise.”
“I can think of only one thing to do,” I said.
She looked at me questioningly. “Yeah?”
“Well, back into the vipers’ nest I think.”
We were soon heading back into the main city. The roads were busy and we had many curious looks. Soon the docks came into view.
“Probably not the viper you were thinking of,” I said.
I drove up to the Andes. I killed the engine and we climbed out. Jones and I supported the still vacant Jack up the gangway. At the top a heavy challenged us.
“Forget it,” I said. “We’re going to Mary with what she wanted.”
We followed the corridors back to the lounge. Mary was there reading a book.
“Yes, and Jack Davenport,” I said as we sat him in a chair. “Somewhat worse for wear.”
“And why?” she asked.
“He has your secret it seems.”
“I see, and how do I get it out of him?”
“I expect you have your ways, it’s not as if anyone cares about him. Or should I take him to Yannick?”
Mary considered. “Very well.” She motioned to the heavy. “Look after the wreckage and see he is returned to the land of the living, for now.”
The heavy escorted Jack away.
“And, now,” I said. “You have the Wolfhound. So you have it all. Get your secret and give me the ship, it’s no use to you.”
“Very demanding Mr Smith.”
“Yes, well, I’m tired.”
“I see you have collected several bodies now.”
Most of the others had sat down, all looking exhausted.
“Yes, it looks that way.”
“Ok, Mr Smith. Myler will take you all to some cabins, get some rest and food. You see, I’m not the ogre you think I am.”
We followed the heavy indicated.
“Do you trust her?” said Ella when we were out of earshot.
“No, of course not,” I returned.
We were shown to a first-class cabin. It had a lounge connected to four bedrooms, two on each side.
“Very plush,” said Jones. “MI6 was clearly the wrong career.”
“It makes me sick,” said Varsha.
“Agreed,” said Ella.
Shortly Myler came back with a trolley containing food and drink. We ate in silence. After eating the others drifted into the bedrooms. Each had en-suite bathrooms. We were all starting to be somewhat the worse for wear. I sat in the lounge thinking for some time. Though, as usual, I made little progress. I then showered. Though I fully intended to do something, I took a moment to lay on the bed, and could not stop the sleep coming.
I woke and looked at the clock on the bedside table. It had been two hours. I wondered if I should take the chance to have some more sleep. For a little I was undecided but my ticking brain had other ideas. I got up and went into the lounge. It was empty. I then went out and returned to Mary’s lounge. There was no one around. When I got to the door I heard voices beyond. Worried that a heavy would come any minute I listened apprehensively.
The voices were Mary and a man. As he spoke I gradually recognised the voice. It was Dean.
“So what are you going to do now?” said Dean.
“Well, Varsha has led them here, she did her job well.”
“Yes, a bit of blackmail and hypnotism, and a very willing informant.”
“It was going well, but the effect is slipping now, and her transmitter died.”
“Lucky the mind control helped get them here,” said Dean.
“Well, that is odd, as it seems it was Smith’s idea to come here.”
“What about Varsha’s sister then?”
“She’s fine, I never did the things I told Varsha I was going to. Yannick has her at the villa now.”
“Ah, ok, will you get Jack to talk?”
“Then we’re getting somewhere.”
“And your boss?”
“I’ve done everything he wants,” said Dean. “But the last piece, maybe I keep the bounty.”
“That is if it is bounty.”
“One way or another it has to be.”
“Smith was doing his part in it so well, until he wasn’t.”
“You can lead a horse to water…”
At that moment I heard someone coming and I slipped away to a nearby door. The conversation I had just heard running through my head. The door opened into an empty bedroom, I entered and stood behind the door and watched through a small gap. It was just Myler. He went in. I slipped back out and listened again.
“Jack is recovering,” said Myler. “I hope to have something out of him soon.”
“What of the Wolfhound?”
“We have got the engines to work. Refuelling is done. All the fishing boat panels have been loosened so they can be pushed off.”
“Good. And they are ready at Diu?”
“Yes, I spoke on the radio to them an hour ago. In the Wolfhound it should take about four or five hours.”
“I’m coming too,” said Dean.
“When are you going?” asked Mary.
“As soon as possible.”
“Good, the sooner the better.”
I heard someone approaching the door and took refuge again. From my door jam, I saw Myler and Dean leave. I followed them at a discrete distance, but it was soon clear they were heading for the main door. I held back for a bit so as not to be seen and then made my way to the door. I looked out and saw them at the bottom of the ramp. They walked rapidly along the quay wall. Their usual boat was waiting. This seemed odd as it usually collected them from the loading hatch in the side of the ship. I was soon to have an answer to my question. It was an answer I could have done without.
As I watched Myler and Dean approach their boat, a car drew up. A woman stepped out, it was Julia. Then a man climbed out of the driver’s seat: Shiv. The other rear door opened and a woman got out. I nearly fell over the side into the water. The last person I was expecting to see: Charlie.
She looked neither prisoner or jubilant with her company. They all got on the boat. I was already running down the steps. I snatched glances at the boat as I ran, nearly killing myself several times. At the bottom I sprinted down the quay, but I knew it was hopeless, the boat was well on the way to the Wolfhound.
When I got there I forlornly watched it nearing the fake fishing boat. The passengers disembarked and the boat set off for the Andes. Then the fishing boat started to move. A couple of heavies were on the deck and they started to kick the panels off. As the ship drew close to the exit, though it was quite dark, it was clear it was the Wolfhound. Then it opened up and sped away north.
I looked around in despair, then my eyes fell on a boat nearby and I recognised it as Torvik’s. I walked over. It was laced with bullet holes. So they had got him and then bought the boat back here, I thought. It seemed nothing could get any worse. But then I looked around at a shout and several heavies were running towards me. I had no idea which band of thugs this one was. Then I became aware that a man was running well before them. Gradually I realised it was Torvik. He was gesticulating wildly.
I climbed on his boat and cast off. I then fiddled with the controls and found the starter. The engines came to life. I looked around as Torvik was leaping on board. The thugs then realised they were better using guns. Bullets thudded into the boat as Torvik went down in the stern. I ducked low and opened her up, spinning the wheel. We shot away from the quay and out into the docks. Bullets thudded into the boat and I couldn’t believe she took it.
Presently we were out of range and I slowed the boat. I then went back to check on Torvik. There was a crumpled heap in the back.
“I am ok, just winded, I landed on the spare fuel drums,” he said, getting up and rubbing his stomach.
“Good. How does the boat put up with this?”
“It’s bullet proof at key points.”
“The Wolfhound has gone,” I said. “Charlie was on it.”
“Ah. No idea where they went?”
“Yes actually, I heard them talking of Diu.”
“Let’s go then, no point going back to them,” he said, pointing at the thugs onshore.
I went back to the wheel and set the boat pointing to the cooling trail of the Wolfhound, and the woman I loved.
Torvik’s boat was fast, but nothing like as fast as the Wolfhound. However, soon I was wondering what we were chasing, and that this may be another blind. Had I run away from Bombay too quickly?
The sea was smooth and the boat was easily planing over the waves. The moon was out and the view around was only of the sea. Diu stuck out into the Arabian Sea and so we were cutting across, far from land.
After a couple of hours we refuelled the boat from several bullet dented jerry cans. As the boat idled, and the relentless noise of the engines had abated for the moment, I was able to speak normally without shouting.
“Have you been to Diu before?” I asked Torvik
“Yes, a few times.”
“I’ve not seen it.”
“It was a Portuguese enclave once, there is a big fort on the tip of the island.”
“It’s an island?”
“Yes, there is a very narrow strip of water between India proper and Diu. Very narrow, a short bridge crosses it. It was only reclaimed by India back in ’61, about the same time as Goa.”
“Not long ago.”
“Still a lot of Portuguese influence there, just like Goa.”
“Why would they be taking the Wolfhound there? And Charlie for that matter?”
“I don’t know. But it wouldn’t surprise me if Yannick had commandeered the old fort. No one would be using it now the Portuguese have gone.”
“Any idea where Yannick is?”
“He didn’t accompany Charlie onto the Wolfhound. I can’t see the Wolfhound being of any use to him but for this so-called secret. It’s just and old gunboat.”
“Well, let’s get to Diu and find out,” said Torvik, as we finished filling the tank.
There was no food on the boat but Torvik unearthed some canteens of water. I was feeling deadly tired but the boat was not a place for sleeping. A typical powerboat, it was skimming over the low waves with the odd thump of higher crests. Sleeping would have been impossible. Aside from that the engines were maxed out and making a horrendous noise. It was with pleasure that I saw the first glimmers of dawn.
As the light became stronger I could see a landmass ahead. All other directions were the sea. I knew from what Torvik had said that Diu was a low lying island. Gujarat was also low, to start with, most of the country there just mud banks, good for salt, but not much else. Though Gujarat proper was rich in oil, gas and agriculture. So Torvik had told me, but I doubted his detailed knowledge. I had only half-listened, as all I wanted was to rescue Charlie and get the Wolfhound back. Well, in truth, I wanted to go lay down somewhere, but that didn’t seem an option.
Gradually the landmass drew close. I made out Diu and the large fort of sandstone. Behind was a white cathedral. Then I became aware of a white ship to the right of the fort. I tapped Torvik on the shoulder and pointed.
“What’s that ship?” I yelled.
He looked at me like I was stupid. “That’s no ship,” he yelled back. “It’s the Pani Kotha, it’s a small fort out in the harbour mouth.”
I mocked slapping myself on the head. Now he had explained, I could see it was the shape of a ship but a white stone structure, completely isolated out in the water. Diu was becoming clearer and I made out the Wolfhound sitting on a jetty on the right of the high stone walls of the fortress. Again I pointed, Torvik just nodded.
I was at the controls as we neared Diu. I could see the Pani Kotha clearly now. In my defence, it did look like a ship, with a tall bridge structure as the front and the low deck at the back. I knocked the engines down and their incessant wail calmed down to a burble. The speed dropped and the nose came up. We had decided to throw caution to the wind and tie up by the Wolfhound. As we passed the Pani Kotha and I turned to port, cutting into the jetty. The fort towered over us. As I came alongside the jetty, Torvik jumped down with the rope and tied up. I cut the engines and threw the stern rope to him. Then I switched off.
There was nobody about. The Wolfhound, looking rather the worse for wear, sat quietly and empty. We looked up the slipway. Ahead was a door in a wall, to the right of a high and wide turret with cannons poking out over the castellated walls. A little bell tower was visible above and a lighthouse beyond. To our right the land dropped into the town of Diu. I noted some Portuguese style buildings, but the architecture was the last thing on my mind. To our left were the high castellated walls of the fort that stretched away around the corner. The tall walls blocked out most of the view.
I disembarked and joined Torvik on the jetty. We made our way to the open doorway, which was lacking anything resembling an actual door. Arriving at the doorway unmolested, and unchallenged, we then peeped around inside. Beyond was a space between the walls and then another doorway. Passing to this we found a winding passageway beyond, heading into the fortress.
“We’ll be like rats in a trap in there,” said Torvik.
“We will, I don’t know if there is another way in.”
Without further hesitation, we both carried on into the maze. I expected to be challenged at any moment. Surprisingly the narrow way opened up fairly quickly. To one side there was an open courtyard with a large windowed guardhouse. After scrutinising the areas we realised it was devoid of life. Lining the path and along the courtyard were whitewashed cannonballs.
“Little else to do with them,” I said, pointing at the decorative former projectiles.
The path split here but the most obvious way was up to the top of the tower. It soon opened out onto a wide area above the walls that contained the cannons. This was above the long sea wall. A set of further steps led to the top of the tower. We looked around for any signs of life. From here, most of the fort looked flat. There were thick and tall curtain walls, a double skin to the fort. Inside were several buildings and what looked like a small church. To one side was a low tower with the lighthouse stuck in the middle.
“Seems fairly abandoned,” said Torvik.
I looked around at the Pani Kotha. “Ah,” I said, pointing out to sea.
While we had been in the fort a very large warship had been edging towards the bay. It stood out to sea and I doubted there was much more depth for it to come in closer.
“What country is that from?” said Torvik.
“No idea, seems to be flying no flags.”
We watched the ship come to a halt. The anchors dropped. Then a large motorboat was launched.
“Glad you could join us all here,” said a voice from behind.
We span round, to be confronted with a brace of gun barrels. A bunch of thugs stood before us. In front were Myler and Dean. I flicked my glance at the tower where a wooden door was standing open.
“I assume you are pointing those at us?” I said.
“You assume correctly,” said Dean.
“If I live to be a hundred, Dean.”
“You’ll nothing, Smith. Move.”
We were herded back down to the jetty. As we got there the boat arrived. There was a brace of guards on board, all armed. We were invited to board at the point of guns. Dean and the thugs stayed on land. Soon the boat was heading over to the ship. There was only one identification to see which was a 63 on the bow.
“Probably stolen,” said Torvik quietly. “Yannick is my guess.”
We arrived at the ship number 63 and were shown into a side hatch at the stern. Then we followed some steps up to a wide-open viewing area. As we stood there Torvik looked out to sea and stiffened. I followed the direction of his stare. Coming at high speed was another ship. It was quite easy to tell what ship, due to the ugly lines: the Sea Vixen. I looked back at the fort to see the Wolfhound being moved and bought over to the 63.
“I think we’ve been played again,” I said.
“All caught in the same net.”
I watched as the Wolfhound was bought alongside and connected to a tow rope. Dean, Myler and the thugs disembarked. By then the Sea Vixen was arriving. It came alongside and a ramp was put across to the 63. A few people appeared, looking very upset. I recognised Ella and Varsha. Behind a couple of thugs were half carrying Jack. And after that two more with guns.
“All friends together,” said a voice behind us.
I span around. Standing there was Yannick, behind him was Charlie and my ex-wife Tanya. Julia and Shiv bought up the back with, either side, several guards.
“Why?” I said.
“Very simple,” he returned. “And you shall find that out shortly.”
He signalled to a guard who motioned for me to follow. I looked towards Charlie but her face was expressionless. Tanya just looked at me scornfully. Julia looked smug. I was then escorted along a passage into the heart of the ship.
I was taken to a cabin and locked in. It was a typical battleship cabin, sparse and utilitarian. It contained a single bed, a built-in desk and a small toilet cubicle. It also had a porthole. I looked out and was able to see the fort but little else. The porthole could not be opened. Then the door opened and a guard placed a tray of food on the bed. He left and the door was locked again.
I sat on the bed. It was unbelievable that I was incarcerated again, and the food was stale bread and water. I ate it mechanically, regardless. I was deadly tired and once I finished eating I lay on the bed in order to relax. Though I tried not to, I ended up napping.
When I woke, I looked at the brass wall clock. A couple of hours had gone. I lifted my head to look out of the porthole. The view was the same and nothing had changed. There were noises on the ship, but just the usual sounds of activity and the engines were not running. I wondered what was happening to the others. I felt responsible for their involvement, getting several of them away from Yannick seemed desirable. Though my own fate was by no means certain. I was unsure what Yannick wanted with any of us. Clearly he wanted the Wolfhound, or the damn secret on it. Other than that it was all a mystery to me.
At about one o’clock my door was opened. Two guards escorted me through the ship. We arrived at a double door. I was shown in. Inside it was like a sparse boardroom. Seated at the head of a table was a man wearing a lot of gold braid. Next to him was a woman also dressed in gold braid, but not on the scale of the man.
She spoke, “This is Admiral Nerada,” she motioned to him. “I am Lieutenant Livia. The admiral has bought your ship and your colleagues from Commander Yannick.”
“Strange, I didn’t know we were for sale.”
“You were, and you are now the property of Admiral Nerada. The secret on the ship the Wolfhound is also his. You, or one of your colleagues, knows the secret. We expect to extract it.”
“Where is Yannick?”
“Commander Yannick has left.”
I just stared at them, words had failed me. Nerada spoke to the woman in a language I did not know.
“The admiral,” she continued, “has said that you would be advised to impart the secret and then he may be lenient with you. Meanwhile, you’ll be escorted back to your cabin to think it over.”
The guards motioned me to follow. I shrugged and went with them. As we walked down the corridor I decided to take some action. There was a hatch in the floor just past a bulkhead door. The first guard bent down to pass through and I followed. As the guard behind bent down, I grabbed the handrail and swung myself sharply over the open hatch. I then placed my feet either side of the metal ladder and slid to the floor below.
The guards were completely taken by surprise and I was sprinting down the corridor before they even negotiated the ladder. I took several sharp turns and raced up another ladder. The guards were shouting. I took another turn and found myself near an open outside door. Once through this, I was on a short deck, which led to steps down. I took these at speed and doubled back on the next level. I was now heading to the stern. The shouts of the guards had been lost. I assumed they had gone the wrong way. I slowed to a fast walk. There were few people about and they seemed unconcerned at a civilian walking about.
I was nearing the rear of the ship and could glimpse the stern. The Sea Vixen had gone but the Wolfhound was still there. I thought I could get to it but was unable to see if there were guards down there. However, I could not leave the others. I turned into the ship through a hatch just as an announcement came over the Tannoy. I suspected it was to do with me, even though I didn’t understand the language, I head “Smith” a few times. I suspected the benign people I had seen would now not be so friendly.
In the corridor I tried a few doors. As I opened a cabin door a man in uniform confronted me. I greeted him with fists and he went down winded. Grabbing what I could for a binding, a shirt was just fine, I bound his hands. He was about to shout when I gave him a hard left hook. I looked in his wardrobe and used another shirt to gag him. I noted there was a spare uniform in there. I then bound his feet. He seemed to be fairly out of it so I quickly changed into his spare uniform. I left the cabin, but it was only then that I wondered where I was going to find the others. As I strode down the corridor the answer came unexpectedly.
As I passed across a corridor a person stepped out at the same moment. We nearly collided. I had a brief moment to register they were female and also wearing a ship’s uniform, it was quite baggy. Then I looked at her face and it took some moments to register.
“Gawping at me again huh?” said Ella.
“How on earth?”
She raised her finger to her lips and beckoned down the corridor she had just been following. I followed her as she walked to a door and went in. It was a cabin like the one I had been put in. She closed the door.
“I slipped away,” she said quietly, “when no one was looking. They appear not to have missed me. I found this uniform in a communal area and then this cabin. It seems not to be in use.”
“Do you know where the others are?”
“I have an idea, but I was just going to look around when I bumped into you.”
“Yannick sold us to some admiral.”
“Figures, the bastard.”
“Seems to me a plan would be to rescue the others and escape in the Wolfhound.”
“Sounds impossible to me.”
“Probably, but I can’t leave them here.”
“Where did you get that uniform?”
“I hit a man and took it. He’s tied up in his cabin.”
“Huh, well, I want to get out of here. Some of the others might be worth collecting.”
“If you show me where they might be I’ll try and get it done.”
“Ok, come on, I’ll help.”
We left the cabin and made our way through the ship. There seemed to be a skeleton crew aboard, which made it easier for us. We passed several sailors but they failed to give is a second glance. I noticed that the sailors were evenly mixed, male and female, which suggested to me a country like Israel. I had certainly failed to recognise any country for the ship, and there were no hints. The uniform was generic and the ship lacked any identifications. I had failed to look at the stern and if there was a home city written on there. I noticed the odd plaque with text on it, but it was indecipherable. I didn’t spend much more thought on the issue as I really didn’t care where the ship came from, all I cared about was the others. I hoped Charlie would be with them.
Eventually, we came to an area where Ella said she had seen the others. We heard voices before we got there. It was down in the lower levels of the ship and the corridor opened out into a room. As we neared it I was about to slow us up for caution when a man stepped out in front holding a gun.
“Dean, you have a way of really annoying me,” I said.
Dean was wearing a uniform too. He just gestured with his gun for us to follow to the voices. The room was mostly bare metal. There was one chair, clearly a torture device. Strapped to the chair was a man, Torvik. A woman stood near him, Lieutenant Livia. Another man stood close by, Myler. He was holding a brutal looking device, like an axe.
“You are just a bunch of pirates,” said Torvik. “I’ll tell you nothing.”
“True, we are pirates,” said Livia. “But we are the best pirates, Myler will get what he needs out of you.”
Just then Dean interrupted. “I found these lurking outside.”
“Ah, the annoying Mr Smith and the runaway girl,” said Livia. “I think with all these we shall get the information we need sooner rather than later. Ok Myler, go ahead.”
With obvious delight, Myler walked over to Torvik holding the axe like device. He lined it up with Torvik’s kneecap and was about to swing, when a voice cut across the room.
“Ok, stop there.” I looked around to see it was Dean who had said it and was pointing his gun at Myler. “That’s quite enough of all that.”
“Don’t be stupid Dean,” snarled Myler, he straightened up. “You are one of us.”
“No Myler, sorry, I never was, I have been pretending, I never swapped sides at all.”
Myler unexpectedly lowered his head and charged at Dean, swinging the axe. Dean’s gun spat and Myler did a headlong dive to the floor. The next moment there was a scuffle as Livia flew past Ella on her way to the door. Ella had tried to grapple her, but now just held a fistful of a blonde wig. The gold braid hat lay on the floor.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” said Ella, who threw the wig to the floor disgustedly.
“Problem is,” I said. “We don’t know what she looks like now.”
“Problem is,” said Dean. “We need to get out of here, now.”
“Where are the others? Varsha, Charlie, Jones…” I said.
“Charlie has gone, Yannick took her. Jones did a runner in Bombay. I know where Varsha is, but I don’t know where they took Jack.”
“We can forget Jack,” I said, as I released Torvik. “Let’s get Varsha and get out of here.”
“Get out of here, with?” returned Dean.
“There are several thugs on her.”
“We’ll think of something, Varsha first,” I said. “Why did Charlie go with Yannick?”
“I don’t know why Charlie went with Yannick,” said Dean, “but I think she’s been hypnotised by Mary, she’s not herself. My theory is that Yannick is holding on to her to have some power over us. He knows she’s not a bargaining chip for the Wolfhound secret.”
“Yes, probably,” I said. “Varsha was hypnotised too.”
“Yes,” said Dean. “But Mary has a bargaining chip there too, she kidnapped Varsha’s sister. She’s being held at Yannick’s villa.”
Ah, that explains things.” I said. “So, what side are you on Dean?”
“Our side, I never left it, but it was better to pretend for a bit; until I saw real mischief was about to happen.”
“Good. What about that?” I pointed at the form of Myler.
“Leave him,” said Torvik. “He can bleed to death.”
Myler was clearly not dead, but bleeding and laying on his face.
“I expect it will be swarming with crew here soon anyway,” said Dean. “They’ll sort him out.”
“Let’s go then,” said Ella. “All this stupid yapping.”
“One more thing,” I said. “What is Mary up to?”
“It’s an agent farm,” said Dean. “Likely people are taken and hypnotised to work as agents for a customer. Yannick is a big customer.”
“Ah, ok, I see,” I said. “Let’s get out of here,” I added as the sound of several people coming our way came to our ears.
“This way,” said Dean. He took a corridor leading to the back of the ship.
“Who is Nerada?” I said as we hurried along.
“A pirate,” said Torvik. “A very modern pirate, but a pirate all the same.”
“Very expensive ship to run,” said Ella.
“Yes,” I agreed. “Very hard to hide it too.”
“He only went rouge recently,” said Torvik. “I expect he won’t last long. Yannick helped him.”
“I’d say Yannick is a pirate too,” said Ella.
“Yes, so would I,” returned Torvik. “A very successful one.”
We took a flight of steps. There was the sound of pursuit but it was hard to know what direction they were coming from. Shortly we arrived at a cell area. A man was sitting in the reception. Dean behaved like he was in charge.
“We are here to deliver a prisoner,” he said, indicating Torvik.
Dean closed on the man and bought Torvik forward. As he did so he raised his gun and thumped the man on the back of the neck. He slumped onto the desk. Dean grabbed some keys from a rack and went to a cell door. Opening it, he pushed it open and Varsha was standing there.
“Glad to see you,” she said.
“We’re going to try and take the Wolfhound and get away,” I said.
Sounds of pursuit were coming from behind now. We headed along a corridor between the cells. At the end, another flight of steps led down. We were getting closer to the back of the ship. Then the sounds of people came from ahead and we diverted across the ship. This was taking us closer to the Wolfhound.
“They’ll have thought we’ll head to the Wolfhound,” said Ella.
“I know,” I said. “Hand me the gun, Dean.” I took the gun and smashed a nearby fire alarm with the butt. I handed the gun back to Dean as the alarms started sounding. “Will give them something else to think about.”
We carried on to the back of the ship. As we approached the rear loading hatch we held back. I went forward and checked the way ahead. I could just see the shape of a man sitting by the door with a rifle resting by his side. I returned to the others and lifted one finger to indicate one guard. I then shrugged. Ella tutted and tossed her head. She took Dean’s gun and give it to me, she then beckoned to me to follow. As we got close to the hatch she held her palm up for me to wait. She did a little mime to show her plan. I nodded.
Then she walked slowly up to the guard. I was unable to see him clearly. She was smiling at him. Then she unbuttoned her tunic and let the front open. The guard stood up and I could see him clearly, his eyes were fairly bulging out of his head and tongue flipped over his lips. Ella moved around him so he turned to track her. His back was now to me. I walked quietly over and bought the gun down on his head. The man crumpled to the floor.
“Why didn’t you shoot him?” she asked and she buttoned her tunic.
“Quieter, there might be others on the Wolfhound. Also, I might have shot you too.”
“Ha, there is that.”
The others had heard our voices and arrived quietly.
“I’ll go and check the Wolfhound,” I said.
With the gun still in my hand, I went forward to the Wolfhound. A little gangway had been laid across. Quietly I went forward. I stepped onto the low deck at the back and then entered the cabin door behind the bridge structure. I passed the steps up to the bridge with the galley on the opposite side. The saloon was empty. I went ahead and checked the two cabins on either side of the passageway and my study at the front. All was empty of life and strewn with rubbish. I quickly returned to the deck and beckoned to the others. They crossed over. Ella went to the rope binding us to the ship and cast off. She shoved our boat away. Dean had removed the gangplank. The Wolfhound was floating away.
Then came a shout from the ship. We all went inside the Wolfhound. Dean and Ella followed me up to the bridge. I started the engines as bullets began to hit us.
“Just handguns,” I said. “If they get anything bigger on us there will be trouble.”
The engines gained momentum and I gave it power straight away. The Wolfhound surged forward. Then Torvik came up to the bridge.
“Take me to my boat, I’ll follow in that,” he said.
I did as directed. As I came alongside his boat he jumped off. I then turned to port and got the Wolfhound pointed out to sea. Looking behind we saw several craft launching from the ship, but they were no match for the Wolfhound and we sped away.
“Can you see what is happening to Torvik?” I said.
“No,” said Ella. “There are a lot of boats out there.”
Shortly Diu dropped away over the horizon, though we could see the 63 for a long time. Of Torvik’s boat, there was no sign, but a hazy mist from the bright sun had set in.
“The 63 isn’t moving,” said Dean. “Would probably take some time to start the engines, even if they could be bothered to follow.”
“I don’t think any of the other boats were fast enough to follow us,” I said.
Varsha came up to the steps. “Where are we going now?”
“Well,” I returned, “I only have two things I want to do, rescue Charlie and find your sister.”
“Ah, you know about that.”
“Yes, I do.”
“If we catch the Sea Vixen we might find Charlie,” said Dean.
“Unfortunately,” I said. “We don’t have much fuel.” The gauge that still worked registered half full. “At full chat, we have enough to get back to Bombay, maybe. The Sea Vixen is slower than the Wolfhound. Also, they may not see any need to hurry.”
“Why do you think it would go back to Bombay?” asked Varsha.
“I don’t. We may be wasting our time. Though, while Yannick is away we have a good chance of rescuing your sister. Did the thugs leave any food on this boat? I’m starving.”
“I’ll go and look,” said Dean.
Ella walked over to me, “Can I have a go?” she said, nodding to the slightly broken wheel.
“Sure,” I said and relinquished the position. I mentioned the course I was steering and she nodded as she sat back on the driver’s seat.
Then Dean popped his head up the stairs, “There is bounty down here.”
“Ok, we’ll come,” I said. “You can lock the wheel off if you like,” I said to Ella.
“No, just bring me a few bits.”
I followed Varsha and Dean down. On the table were a few odd bits of food Dean had found, a tin of bully beef, a few bits of bread. There was also a jug of water. I put some on a plate from the galley and filled a cup, and then took it to Ella. She seemed very happy driving, so I gave her the food and went back down to eat. On the way I searched the galley for coffee and found that the thugs clearly didn’t have a taste for it. I set up the stovetop percolator and made some. When I distributed it to the others, we all agreed it was bitter and old, but better than nothing.
After this, I checked the main water tank and found it was too low for showers but there was enough for immediate needs. I then went to my cabin and found some clothes and got out of the uniform. I went back to the saloon.
“You can use some of my clothes,” I said to Dean. “You may not want the pirate uniform anymore.”
I then went up to Ella to impart the same information.
“Your clothes won’t fit me. Anyway, I quite like this uniform,” she said.
I had to admit that, despite being a bit baggy, it did suit her. To which she informed me that I was getting fruity with her again. I then looked up ahead and scanned for other shipping. The waters were empty, the fishermen would have gone home by now. There was a mist from the burning sun, a humidity haze, which was cutting visibility down quite substantially. I made some calculations and tried to guess if the Sea Vixen was up ahead, how far ahead it might be. It was only possible to guess by a fairly wide margin and it was hard to know how urgent the current captain might be about getting to Bombay. I also could not decide if the Sea Vixen would even be heading that way. Although I was unsure where else Yannick would want to go. It occurred to me again that this could be yet another setup, escaping had been rather too easy. Yes, the thugs might have run off to see where the fire was on the ship, but one guard was a little sparse. I had a nasty feeling I was doing exactly what Yannick wanted me to do, yet again.
I then speculated about the secret on the Wolfhound, but even being on board gave me no idea where to look, my father would have hidden it well. Or would he, I wondered. He may have hidden it in plain sight. How could I know? I had sat in the co-pilot chair while I pondered these issues, my gaze blankly looking ahead. Then I became aware of a ship. We had been motoring for nearly two hours and the sun was heading to the horizon. Visibility was still short. I got some binoculars. It was the Sea Vixen. I pointed. Ella nodded. I went down and told the others, and returned to the bridge.
The Sea Vixen was making a leisurely pace and we were catching up fast. The others came up to see.
“What are we going to do when we catch up?” said Varsha.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” I said. “I wasn’t really expecting to see them.”
“I suppose it depends what we want with them,” said Ella.
“I just want to get Charlie away from Yannick,” I said.
“Who knows how many thugs he has on board,” said Dean.
We were pulling up to the other ship, then finally cruising alongside. I looked in the bridge windows but even with the binoculars, it was hard to make out who was there. I could see a face in the window looking at us. Then, quite unexpectedly the Wolfhound’s engines stopped dead. I looked at the fuel gauge, there was still fuel, even if it was very low. We exchanged confused glances.
I looked back at the Sea Vixen to see it had slowed. However, more worrying than that, it was turning, turning directly towards us.
“He’s going to ram us,” said Ella.
“Look,” said Dean, who had been looking back behind.
We turned to see a boat coming at an incredible pace. It was bearing directly on the rear of the Sea Vixen.
“It’s Torvik,” said Ella. “My god, he’s going to die.”
The boat sped directly on, at the last moment we saw something detach from it. The boat collided with the Sea Vixen. There was a blinding flash and the sound of an explosion reached us. Flames shot up from her. The Sea Vixen lost way and gradually came to a stop. Dean had the binoculars.
“There is a man swimming,” he said. “I think it’s Torvik, he bailed out.”
I went down the steps and out onto the deck. There was no boat ready on the Wolfhound now, so I had no way to go and rescue Torvik. There was a rubber dingy but uninflated. However, I had him marked and he was swimming strongly. I found a rope and stood waiting. I looked at the Sea Vixen, there was black smoke billowing from the back. She was showing no signs of life. Torvik gradually closed on the Wolfhound and I threw the rope, then pulled him on board. He was barely out of breath.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “Swimming is good exercise.”
“Nice job stopping the Sea Vixen.”
“Yeah, I rigged a charge on my boat. Why don’t you listen to your radio?”
“The radio was broken back in Alex by Yannick’s gang.”
“Charlie isn’t on the Sea Vixen, Yannick left in his plane while you were on the 63. There are only enough crew on the Sea Vixen to pilot it, no one else. I found this out on the radio and tried to tell you. The plane came into the little airstrip near Diu. Jack went with them, he convinced Yannick he was worth more to him than being sold to Nerada. Julia and Shiv went on the plane too.”
“Ok, the Sea Vixen is pretty empty then. If we can board her we could get some fuel, we’re very short. There is a spare dingy to get over to her.”
“Just go in the Wolfhound.”
“It is the same trick as before, they rigged a cut-out device on the Wolfhound, the beam is from the Sea Vixen. It’s probably wired in near your engines.”
“Ah, I see, I’ll go and look. You should go inside and get dry. There is food too.”
Torvik did just that while I opened the deck hatch for the engines. I dropped down inside and turned on the lights. Straight away I saw the device. It took a matter of minutes to remove it and replace the wires. I then went back to the bridge.
“The engines should start again now,” I said. Ella was still in the driving seat and she pressed the starters. The engines came to life. “We can go alongside the Sea Vixen and attempt to steal some fuel.”
“What about the crew?” she asked.
“Torvik tells me there are very few crew on her. Most of Yannick’s lot went back to Bombay in his plane.”
As we approached the Sea Vixen, Torvik came to the bridge. We could see a lot of smoke from the back.
“We can get fuel from a hatch at the side,” said Torvik. “It’s quite easy.”
Ella bought the Wolfhound close to the Sea Vixen, as per Torvik’s instructions. There was a ring for a mooring rope. I went out and tied the Wolfhound up. Torvik came onto the deck and together we connected the fuel pipe to an opening hatch on the side of the other ship. He operated controls in the panel recess and fuel started to pump.
“Handy,” I said.
“For us. I expect Yannick never knew of this fuel exchanger. Watch the windows up there, someone might try to discourage us.”
There was no sign of life on the Sea Vixen and the fuel pumped constantly, though quite slowly. Then we heard a voice, I looked up. Ella was leaning out of the bridge window.
“Look over there, Dean saw them,” she said, pointing.
We looked in the direction indicated; on the horizon was a huge black shape, the 63.
“No problem, we’ll outrun it,” I said,
“We might outrun it, but the guns can get us from there,” said Torvik.
“Will they risk hitting the Sex Vixen?”
“Do you think they care?”
As if in answer a great plume of seawater burst into the air several yards distant.
“There is the answer,” I said.
We hastily disconnected, cast off and returned to the bridge. Ella already had the Wolfhound moving. Another great plume of seawater burst into the air, rather too close for comfort. Ella started to weave the ship in wide curves to spoil the gunner’s aim. Torvik and I got to the bridge. The Wolfhound was speeding away. Another plume of water shot up in the air but the aim was now wild.
“What is the range of that thing?” said Ella.
“We should be getting fairly away now,” returned Torvik.
“Great driving Ella,” I said.
She just nodded and carried on piloting the ship. There were no more shots from the 63.
“I expect they don’t want to waste any more ammo,” said Torvik.
“And take the Sea Vixen,” added Dean.
We looked back at the huge shape of the 63 and the billowing black clouds from the Sea Vixen.
“Well,” I said. “That is going to be noticed.”
After a while, Ella left the controls to Torvik and the others went down to rest in the saloon. I stayed on the bridge. Presently the sun started to burn into the misty horizon, and fairly soon after, the last of the dying embers had gone, the night set in quickly. We had taken a bearing on Bombay beforehand, but now was when fishing boats would come out, so we reduced speed a long way, as visibility was very short. However, there was a certain light from the moon, which was still to make an appearance but casting light up over the horizon.
I found that I had been dozing in the co-pilot chair when I woke with a start. The moon was up and visibility was good, though a haze remained. Ahead were the muted lights of Bombay.
“Back again,” I said.
“Yeah, we must like it here,” said Torvik.
Presently Ella came up. “What happened to Julia and Shiv?”
“Dean told me they went in the plane too,” said Torvik. “Yannick was fuming, it seems.”
“Did Tanya go too?” I asked.
“Who?” said Torvik.
“The other woman who was with Yannick.”
“Yes, I think so.”
“That leaves Jack. I don’t know Nerada will have much use for him now. Not that I care.”
“Jack is a cunt,” said Ella. “One of Yannick’s lot, a bad man. Don’t shed any tears for him.”
“No, certainly not,” I said.
“Dean didn’t mention Jack,” said Torvik.
Bombay was getting close and Torvik reduced speed. The nose came up as she slowed.
“So, we go to the villa and get Yannick’s prisoners?” asked Torvik.
“That is what I want to do,” I said. “But if any of you have had enough…”
“I’ll get it done,” said Ella.
“Me too,” added Torvik, casting an admiring glance at Ella.
“I think Dean and Varsha will be ok with it,” I speculated.
“What about this secret thing?” said Ella.
“Good question,” I said. “Maybe we’ll find some answers at the villa.” Shortly we arrived back at the dock. Nothing had changed since we had left. I directed Torvik to park the ship further down beyond the Andes, “To avoid losing it again,” I added.
Presently we tied the Wolfhound up, much further down from the big liner. We had a conference in the saloon. The others had all elected to come to the villa. Dean had pointed out how small an army we were and luckily, the others all wanted to finish what had started. Varsha was the only one who could recognise her sister and the others insisted they had scores to settle with Yannick.
We all disembarked into the humid Bombay night. Now the road was quite busy and we cast around for some transport. I noticed a Morris Oxford taxi. We walked over to it and saw the driver was sitting inside.
“Ok, do we hire it or pinch it?” said Ella.
“It will be a squeeze, but we could just hire it,” I said.
“This type is quite spacious,” said Torvik.
We bargained with the driver and were soon on the way to the villa. The traffic was quite heavy and I was happy to leave it to the experienced driver. We had given him an address close to the villa, but not the exact location. One reason was, that he would think we had money to burn, and the other was, so he could not be cross-examined later. Not that he was likely to be found after the job.
The sounds and smells of Bombay filled my head as we drove, however, my thoughts were already ahead, I barely noticed the drive. Soon we were drawing near to the villa. I had grave misgivings about going into Yannick’s den again; it felt like I had been drawn here, he had always been using Charlie as bait. Each time I tried to deal with a situation there was the call back to Yannick holding Charlie. Sooner or later it was going to get one of us killed.
The taxi driver pulled to the curb at the address we had given him. He was paid his rupees and we left him, following the busy pavement. This stretch of road, before it gave way to the villas, was a busy street of shops and traffic. We negotiated the broken pavement and the street vendors, and the open shop fronts. Then the main street swept away to the right and the quiet road split off, away ahead we could already see the villa as it was so huge.
Presently we neared it and could see the driveway. There were only a few cars and motorbikes sitting in front of the villa, it seemed very quiet. Trying to keep a low profile I spied down the side at the door we had used before. There was no one around. I signalled to the others. As we had walked to the villa we had pre-arranged that Torvik and Ella would take the side door first to check the way ahead. Then Varsha and I would follow when they gave the all-clear. Torvik and Ella were less recognisable than Varsha and me to Yannick’s people. Dean had elected to stay on guard outside.
Ella went ahead and Torvik followed to the side door. Just as they reached it a previously unseen guard stepped out. Varsha clutched my arm, she looked alarmed.
“That’s torn it,” I muttered.
Then a strange thing happened. “How may I help you ma’am?” said the guard who then saluted.
I then realised that the uniform Ella was wearing was marked a superior rank.
“I am bringing this prisoner for direct questioning by Commander Yannick,” she said.
“Very good ma’am,” he said. “This way.”
The guard opened the door and they all went inside.
“It’s a trap,” said Varsha.
I turned to her. “Is it?”
“Yes, he should have asked for ID. That was too easy.”
“Damn it. And I thought it was the uniform.”
“Just useful for them, not us.”
“Ok, best follow then,” I said.
“If you need help just call,” said Dean. “I’ll keep an eye on things out here.”
Varsha and I headed for the door but found it locked. She produced the master key that I had forgotten about. We entered the building. Above we could hear the others going up the stairs. We followed quietly. We heard them pass through a door which led to the living area. We arrived at it and stealthily passed inside. There was a sound of music coming from the main room. We heard the others ahead. A door was opened and closed. Briefly, the music had become louder. We followed the sound to the door, though we both knew the layout now. I could hear talking inside. I put my hand on the handle and inched the door open a crack. What I saw took my breath away. Before I could move back a voice rang out inside.
“Come in Mr Smith.” I recognised Yannick’s voice.
I had no intention of going in but on cue, a sound came from behind us. Several guards walked in holding weapons. The lead guard urged us forward with a gesture of his gun.
“You heard what Commander Yannick said.”
I pushed the door open and walked in.
The room was dimly lit. Low music was playing. To one side Ella and Torvik stood, being covered with a gun, held by the guard from the door. Ahead of us, arranged in the room on various forms, were semi-naked people. Before us, in the middle was Yannick, wearing only trunks, reclining on a very large chaise lounge, so large it was more like a big bed. To one side of him was Tanya, and to the other Charlie, both wore bikinis. Next to the chaise lounge was another, this contained Julia and Shiv, similarly half-naked. On the other side was Jack, looking more alert now and with a female next to him. There were several other bodies in the room, none of whom I recognised, though I had seen quite enough to bother looking in the shadows.
“I am afraid,” said Yannick. “That you have wasted a lot of time and energy. Charlotte wants to stay with me now, as you can see.” I looked at Charlie; they had painted her face with thick makeup and permed her hair. She never made herself look like that, it made me feel sick what they had done to her. She looked blankly back at me. “Tell them Charlotte,” added Yannick. “That you want to be with Yannick now.”
“I want to be with Yannick now,” she said, mechanically.
I felt anger rising inside me. I looked back at Yannick. “I don’t believe it, you had Mary hypnotise her, she’s not in her right mind. You’ve used her as bait each time I came close to breaking your operation.”
“Oh, Mr Smith, breaking my operation? You were never even close. We have had you where we want you all along. All the way across the world, and now all over India. No, you have been a splendid puppet. Charlotte doesn’t want you, she knows a winning side.”
“As if she would want you anyway, Bernhart,” said Tanya.
I ignored her. “What about Varsha’s sister?” I said. “I expect she wants to stay here too?”
At that moment the building fairly shook on its foundations, then a great rumble filled the room. Everybody looked alarmed. At first, I thought it was an earthquake, but then I saw a bright light at the back windows, flames. Then things happened quickly.
First, there was a scuffle in the corner of the room. Ella had grappled the guard and used her knife, he sunk to his knees with blood pouring around his hands clutched to his throat. Ella now held his gun. Torvik was running head down at one of the guards near Varsha and grappled him before he could level his weapon.
The guard near me was fairly spinning in circles, and I was about to thump him, when he fell to his knees and swan dived to the floor. I looked up, Ella held a smoking gun. Torvik had the other guard down and now held his gun. He covered the room along with Ella.
I looked back at Yannick, only to find he had gone, also missing was Charlie and Tanya. Julia and Shiv sat where they were looking terrified. Jack had not moved, as he was still obviously not all that mobile.
“Where the hell did they go?” I ground out.
“There is a door at the back,” said Varsha.
I was about to move to the door when Jack spoke. “Stay there guy.” I looked at him, he was holding a sawn-off shotgun. “I might be an invalid but this thing has a wide reach.”
“If you fire that in here you’ll spray everyone,” I said.
“That’s a good idea,” he moved his finger to the trigger.
We stood in the way of the direction of fire from Torvik and Ella, no one could do anything. Then a red mark appeared on his forehead, he looked briefly bewildered and then pitched forward on the lap of the woman with him, she screamed. The sawn-off fell to the floor.
One of the semi-naked women, wearing a bikini, who had been in the shadows, stood up, a silenced gun in her hand. It struck me she was very manly looking. Then she lifted her hand and removed her wig. Recognition was instant.
“Oh my word, Jones, what a disguise,” I said, fairly horrified at the same time.
Then another shot was fired. I looked around wildly, Shiv was standing holding a gun, but he then crumpled to the floor.
“He nearly had us then,” said Torvik, lowering his own gun.
“Is that it?” I said. “I’m going after Yannick.” I made my way to the door at the back, passing Julia, who was sitting white as a sheet with Shiv at her feet. Jones was walking into the room as I left. I remarked just before I reached the door, “Jones, put some other clothes on for heaven’s sake.”
Beyond the door was a small private room, obviously a changing room. It was empty. Another door led out. Some clothes were lying about, so I assumed Yannick was now dressed, and maybe armed.
The next door opened onto a corridor, which ran to the back. I could see flames at the window at the end. There was a door to my right, I ran to it and looked out. This overlooked the courtyard in the middle. There was a bright flicker of flames coming from the glass at the back. Then I saw Yannick at the front balcony crossing over to the other wing, Charlie was with him, he was gripping her hand. He was dressed but she was still in a bikini. Anger filled me again that he was treating her like this.
I slipped out of the door and ran along the balcony, and then found some steps down. This was the lower balcony; I was now on the same level as Yannick. I ran along it, heading to the front of the building. I then crossed the companionway where I had just seen Yannick. I hoped he hadn’t stopped and taken cover to shoot me as I passed.
I reached the other side without any trouble. I remembered this level was offices. Now I was slowing down, as I had no idea where they might go. The doors were mostly standing open. I stood for a moment to listen. There was a commotion at the back of the building. Then closer, I heard footsteps, they were coming from the steps downwards. I made my way to them, and a bullet flew past and hit the plaster near my head. I ducked back and peeped back around. They had gone. I followed the steps down.
The bottom level was deserted. At the first room I looked in and my eyes fell on Yannick sitting in a chair. Charlie was sitting on the floor. Yannick made no move as I walked in. Then I noticed that a big red mark was expanding on his chest. I walked over, he was stone dead.
“You’re quite right,” said a voice. “He’s quite dead.”
I span round to have a silenced gun pointing back at me. My stare came up to look at the owner of the gun. It was Tanya.
“Tanya, why? What happened?”
“He was of no more use to me.”
“Oh Bernhart, and you think you are so clever.”
“It’s quite simple. I am the boss, I am Yannick too. He was a handy frontman, but he made too many mistakes recently, so he had to go. This was the last straw. He said he led you here and you were a puppet, partly true, but he kept messing it up and you did indeed get further than you should have. I would not have made those mistakes. Still, he was only a man…”
“All those years of marriage and you never knew. You thought you kept the assassin job secret from me, but you were my assassin, your boss got you to do jobs for me. Then your boss turned on me, so I gave you all those photos to clear out his network. I admit the photos got all mixed up.”
“So Varsha is on my side?”
“Yes, you failed me too, silly boy,”
“And Shiv? Julia got him to come over to us, but before that we used him how we wanted, he was once on your side. Also a silly boy. Anyway, I shall be going now.”
“What about this secret?”
“Oh, that was a useful little lie of mine. Mary was quite fooled and it made a good payment from Nerada. All silly boys and girls.”
She walked to a door on the side of the building. She opened it and stepped out. When it closed I went over. I opened it and looked out. An expensive looking car was just pulling out of the drive.”
I closed the door and returned to Charlie and helped her up. “Are you ok?”
“I am ok,” she said mechanically.
I took her hand and walked out into the corridor. I looked in a few rooms and noticed some clothes. Grabbing a few, I dressed Charlie. It was far from her style, but much better than walking her around nearly naked. I then followed the corridor out to the courtyard. As we stepped out a man was walking across. Flames were vigorously burning at the back of the other wing so it was hard to see who it was. Then the man came closer and I was able to make out Dean.
“Varsha has found her sister,” he said. “We better get out of here. Where did Yannick go?”
“Yannick the man is dead.”
“Long story, Dean, long story.”
We followed Dean to the back of the wing that wasn’t burning. Outside there was a troop transport truck. Jones, Torvik, Ella, Varsha and a woman who looked like Varsha were all climbing aboard. Jones was now wearing normal clothes. Dean went ahead and I took Charlie over.
“Where to?” asked Dean.
“We need to take Charlie to Mary to get rid of this spell she put on her,” I said. “Why is the villa on fire?”
“I drove one of their trucks full of ammunition into it.”
“Where are all the guards?”
“Dealing with the fire. I don’t think they ever had any idea about us being here, but for the three upstairs who are now dead.”
“She’s gone to pieces, just keeps saying it was all daddies fault. And Tanya?”
“Well Dean, she was really Yannick all along.”
Dean just looked shocked. “Oh my.”
“Tanya was using Yannick as a puppet. Tanya was the boss all along. Anyway, she’s got away. Let’s get to Mary.”
We climbed into the truck and Dean drove it to the docks. The streets were now quieter and we made good time. Dean drove the truck up to the Wolfhound. We all climbed down.
“I’ll take Charlie to Mary,” I said.
“Ok,” said Dean. “Well, I shall go back to London shortly and try to sort out this mess. Jones wants to go back too.”
“What about you Ella?” I asked.
“Torvik has offered me a job,” she said.
“As a pirate?”
“Something like that,” said Torvik, smiling.
“It was mostly my idea,” said Ella.
“How about you Varsha?” I said.
“Well, Yannick has ruined my business. We have friends in Ratnagiri, we’ll go there.”
“I can give you a lift in the Wolfhound. I shall go back to Goa to tidy up there once Charlies is sorted out.”
“Back in a minute.”
I took Charlie’s hand and we walked to the Andes. There were no thugs to greet us, I assumed most had been left in the 63. We walked straight to the lounge. Mary was sitting where she always did.
“Ah, Mr Smith, and Charlotte.”
“We call her Charlie and I want this mischief you have done removed.”
“Oh now, how about this secret?”
“The secret is fake, you were lied too, Yannick is dead.”
For the first time I saw Mary lost for words. She groped for some time, but finally said, “Ok, I’ll have her sorted out, but it’s not a five-minute job, we did a very special job on her.”
“Three days, a week.”
At that moment the door burst open, I expected thugs but it was Dean. “The 63 is arriving outside the dock,” he said. “The place will we swarming with pirates in a minute, they are launching craft.”
“Looks like a week isn’t an option,” I said to Mary.
“Nerada has no idea I have a connection with Yannick,” she said. “Charlie will be fine here. Come back in a week.”
“How do I know you won’t double-cross me?”
“What do I have to gain anymore? I give you my word I’ll remove what we did.”
“Ok, let’s go, Dean,” I said. “Nerada will be after the Wolfhound.” I turned to Charlie who looked at me blankly. “Goodbye Charlie, see you soon.”
“See you soon,” she repeated.
I felt my heart going to break but we left quickly and ran to the companionway.
“The others are all in the truck ready to go,” said Dean. “Varsha and her sister are on the Wolfhound.”
We arrived at the bottom of the gangway. The truck stood idling.
“Ok Dean, look after them,” I said.
We shook hands. Dean made haste to the truck and I ran down to the Wolfhound as the truck revved up and pulled away. When I got to the Wolfhound I noticed the engines were already running. I cast off and got on-board. I went in and saw Varsha’s sister sitting in the saloon. I went up the steps and found Varsha on the bridge. She was looking out towards the lights of the 63. A bunch of other lights were heading away from it.
“They left the engines running,” said Varsha, she seemed mighty downcast.
“Ah, thanks, Varsha.”
I grabbed the helm and pushed the throttles open. The ship pulled away from the quay. I turned her around and headed to towards the harbour mouth. The Wolfhound beat the other boats to it and I shot out across them. I heard guns rattling over the noise of the engines, but that was it. I pushed the throttles wide open and the Wolfhound sped down the coast to Ratnagiri.
Chapora River, Goa, India – 1994
“Seriously dad?” exclaimed Kurt. “You expect me to believe mum was a secret mafia boss?”
“It is what it is.”
“Oh man, you’re nuts.”
Kurt stood up and stormed out, slamming the door behind him, or trying to, but the frame was warped and it failed to slam. Bernhart just sat there and looked at his coffee cup, thinking it should really be filled again, and that Kurt had the same temper as his mum. Shortly Kurt came back.
“Ok dad, what have you got to tell me? Oh, and the ramp fell off so I couldn’t get back onshore. And there is no mobile signal here.”
“Or just bull headishness.”
“Kurt, you were sent to boarding school, so was your sister. What do you think your mum was doing all that time?”
“In truth, no idea.”
“Indeed. It was a tangled web. You think I was happy to find out I had been a monkey for years? Thinking I was killing for the British Government, but in truth, for her, my own wife.”
“So she was married to Yannick too?”
“Yes. Long before, god knows where or when. The reputation of ‘Yannick’,” Bernhart mimed the quotes. “Was of two people, not one, but Tanya was always the boss, the secret boss.”
“And it didn’t stop there in ‘68. The mopping up went on for years after. What really grates is that my former boss never got bought to justice.”
“Sounds like mum never did either.”
“Well no, not as such. The organisation thrashed about for a long time afterwards, but she did make a lot of mistakes after that. Killing Yannick wasn’t the most sensible move.”
“I saw her in the holidays,” said Kurt. “But she was always busy, on the phone, rushing off.”
“Yeah. When I lived with her it was the same. Though we were both busy rushing off. Now I know why, it feels a bit of a rub. ‘Get Bernhart on this job, get him out of my hair.’ What a chimp I was.”
“What about Charlie? And Varsha?”
“I took Varsha and her sister to Ratnagiri.”
“And that was the end of them?”
“Well no, Varsha is still around.”
“And Charlie? Did you go back and get her?”
“It didn’t work out that way, but it’s another long story…”
“It would be. Well, you can tell me that one someday soon. Though you’ll probably lie.”
London, England – 2020
Pictures of the grey gunboat were all over Instagram and Twitter. It was sitting near London Bridge, tied up next to the HMS Belfast. It was causing a sensation.
Sir Wilson Brown GCMG looked at his mobile phone again. He knew that ship, he also knew Bernhart Smith was dead. Damn it, he was almost dead himself. How could it have got here piloted by a ghost? He had secretly chuckled five years ago on his 88th birthday when he heard Bernhart was dead. No comebacks then, he had thought. Now the Wolfhound, sitting there, with a gun reinstated on the deck no less.
He finished his Earl Grey and mused that no ghosts ever were going to get to him. The house was impregnable. His butler came up and removed the dinner plates. It was then he realised that it wasn’t his usual butler. As their eyes met the man winked at him.
“Who the hell are you?” said Brown.
“I’m your worst nightmare, as the saying goes, my name is Kurt Smith. Ah, I see the name means something to you.” Brown searched for the alarm button and pressed it. “Oh, I’m sorry, but that button no longer works.”
“What do you want?”
“Ah, it’s not about what I want. Dad left instructions in his will, you see?”
“Well, kill me now, I’m ready to go anyway.”
“Oh no, not that easy I’m afraid, meet nurse Ella,” said Kurt as a woman entered. “Well, she’s not really a nurse, more a pirate, but she is going to stop you taking the easy way out.”
“You can’t do anything.”
“Oh yes we can. Already we have complete control of your assets. Power of attorney and all that, everything. From now on you don’t exist, we are you.”
“No, you were the foolish one. We know what you have been doing, you and your fellow collaborators in the government. We are going to undo it all and destroy your reputation, and a lot of others. The key is through you. I’m no hacker, but we have a lot of them. You are going to be kept alive to see all the crap you have done thrown in your face. It will go on if you die, but we want you to see it happen. Bernhart had the keys a long time ago, but he let us unlock it all, a little present, for us. Bernhart planned it all, and he died happy knowing it was going to be given to us when he was gone.”
“No, damn you. You’ll burn in hell, and hell will be here. And by the way, Bernhard classified this as Codename: Wolfhound.”