22 Switzerland

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I

Luke finally got there, was refreshed by the ladies, and here was the plan in more detail, on a need to know basis.

Thing was that there was a certain bastard who needed removing as he was impeding the Patron’s outfit to the same extent that the Patron was disrupting the occasional trainload, nothing much more to it than that. Europe was well aware the Patron’s main interests were elsewhere, that trains were of secondary importance to him, except as a recruitment pool.

But this jumped-up big-noter, Joaquim Keller, is on a higher level than the norm, someone with money has upped the ante in order to test the Patron’s team out, it smells ‘trap’ all the way along the line, at a level higher than what my boss normally messes with. We’re talking here of the Man himself, whoever that might be, the one in the shadows.

The opposition is well aware that a pretty neat team of malcontents is being assembled in the northwest of Britain and they want to know why – so this is beyond a normal Patron operation, more than the usual payback here, filling the coffers there. This Keller is not just threatening the Patron’s operations, plus Gabby’s free movement and that of many others – he’s targetting us with moolah and expertise, they mean business here. There might be a ghost of Mara in this, but we feel they didn’t care about her in the least.

To put it simply, guys, the forces on the continent who ordinarily don’t concern themselves with these things … now are concerning themselves with these pests … us. This Keller is a bit more clever, Gabby’s agents also found they were using sulphur and nitrogen mustards along with the new EU force hardware – so muh for conventional warfare. Doubtless there’d EMPs will come into this too.

My boss has the notion that we’re being set up as guinea pigs for some sort of experimental exercise, something they want to test out … taking this Keller out altogether is no option, he’ll just be replaced and it will spill into open warfare. Nasty. They were using ‘unmanned’ aircraft as well, drones – that puts this thing on a whole new level. We’ll be doing the same.

Specifically, in Keller’s building in the unnamed city, we already know how to get through as far as Level 2 personnel, we’ve coopted two girls there who accepted our terms, two that Keller came onto, one of them from a family he messed with and the other just despises him, seems genuine, we’ve been observing for a month – we’re thinking Jenny and Livvi get to those girls early, one on the first morning, one in the afternoon and explain to them what needs doing – I’m getting to that.

We know Keller’s wired.

We need Jenny to nick whatever he has in his inside coat pocket, we think it might be a mini computer, smaller than a smartphone, about two inches by three, not just a hard drive or stick. We know he’s sweet on some girl at Level Two other than our girls who are watching from a distance – neither knows who the other is.

He visits that floor level at times and asks innocent questions of this muse, they have some code. We know the building layout and the security is pretty tight, we think he takes her up to Level Four and they do the dirty in break times. We’ve no way to get to those levels, we can get one of ours to open lower door E8 from inside.

The other never makes contact with her, she stays shtum and just observes for us, even after the event. This door-opener must go with Jenny or Jodi though, must get out, we spirit her away.

So far, it sounds as if Livvi is not involved but she is, she triggers the EMP which should allow enough time for our people to get out.

Unfortunately, it jams our transport too and we can’t collect the three until sometime later – more about that on the day. So the three girls are a unit, Julie is with Gabby, making things go wrong in the city, Miles is with us.’

Luke went on. ‘This mission lacks your usual gung-ho, ladies, we can’t take any chances. There’ll be more missions of our kind, we don’t need heroines this time round, just people playing their part, OK?’

The heroines now nodded, he went on. ‘Now to the pulse weapon. Jenny and Livvi have these, we wanted to use gas but as our other girl’s still in there, we can’t. Jodi will be happy with her weapon my boss wants tried out.’ Jodi smiled.

Jenny made the obvious comment which Livvi would have made too: ‘When they do their postmortem of the day, they’re going to want to know why no one was touched, apart from Keller, no one on floor two was really hurt … why? They have a traitress in there, don’t they.’

‘Yes we know,’ said Luke, ‘what do you suggest?’

‘She needs one of your high level people, one of the funders, to spirit her away on some pretext, just prior to it going down. She can’t stay in there, Luke. It will cost your Patron a favour but she must be protected because others on both sides, including us, are noting your outfit … and so the degree of loyalty top down is pretty critical.’

‘Don’t I know it,’ said Luke. ‘OK, I’ll get onto that too. Right, I have to go, no refreshments thanks all the same.’ Jenny handed him a grab bag on the way out, some dessert type things inside. Luke grinned and took his leave.

II

So many last minute changes took place at the witching hour, which Jenny called it, so many permutations were going to see this through or turn it into an unmitigated disaster.

For a start, every main player had a team of two watching and protecting him or her but so did the opposition and thus, in that crazee-paved public way which swept past Gate E8, with the concrete wall and railing above it some two metres from the door, there were, moving through that space, a dozen from their side, a dozen from the ‘good side’ as well, even recognising each other but waiting to see what moves were made – it never occurred to take each other out … yet.

Livvi was going to be the one casually strolling past at 10:30 a.m., Jenny was relieving the kiosk stallholder about thirty metres from the gate, closer to the public square, she and her boys had an all round view of operations and it was Jenny controlling the ground forces. Gabby was with Luke some distance away, also with an overview.

What was clear was the Keller people had tumbled to it – the placement of their own people this morning. so close to that of the patroni raised the question how? That was Livvi’s and Luke’s job at HQ in the town, to sort that out. If necessary, they’d get Jenny up there.

Jenny was sure no one was coming through that door … then suddenly someone did and it was the one they’d met the day before, the one called Elyse or Elli, of the other there was no sign.

Livvi instantly backtracked to follow this Elli but Jenny called no, keep slowly walking the way you are, Keller’s goons are five metres away, call your boys around you, she was already doing that but then she promptly disappeared, did Livvi – Jenny was going to have to ask her how the hell she did that, one of the boys signalled back, ‘Ok,’ suddenly Jenny almost fell over with shock as who should come straight to the stall, as if to buy something but Keller himself, he had the dart gun out but Jenny was quicker, Keller slumped, two boys went out and ‘helped’ him through to the back of the stall, Jenny closed the shutter, the boys had already relieved him of the mini-computer, the dart gun, spare darts, a full Glock, his ID, the computer was not even specialised, it used USB-C, they lifted the data, then Jenny noticed a curious recurrence of some numbers and letters within some file titles, she thought to herself hmmmm, one of the boys found a slip in the jacket lining, that number was on the list, it was just too good to be true, where do we want the money to go to?

By that, she meant that they had the deposit and other details of five worthy charities, all were on Keller … the male sexual dysfunction clinic on Baumanstrasse, plus the refuge for unmarried mothers which still operated further out of town, plus three others, she texted back on the device the details of one other ‘charity’ which only she knew of and no one knew that she knew, it went through, she’d taken from one of his accounts only, no point being greedy, the rest of that account was now deposited in those legit charities of Keller’s, they had about eight minutes before he would stir, the rest of the boys were around the kiosk by now, identifying themselves, nothing was taken but the device, everything else was returned to Keller, including a wallet of cash and cards – they took him over to a bench, apologised to two girls sitting there that their friend was tired, Livvi and Jodi were already inside, their man closest to where Elli had come out having put a knife on the ground to stop the door closing.

Livvi called Jenny, thirty seconds later all electric devices ceased in the town for a distance roughly the perimeter of the town, mayhem on the streets and sidewalks, the malls, in shops, the street behind the shops had eighteen bicycles among the hundreds left in racks – eighteen bicycles which were theirs.

.o0o.

In a field 5km out of town, the range of the EMP was almost zero, also outside were hospitals, there were no flight paths over the radius around the building which had triggered the pulses, all was switched back on and three minutes later, eight cars pulled onto the field, a ninth car not going anywhere but up the road to a house carried all the incriminating. Anyone connected with anyone else was in a separate car, driven by one of the patroni, local. Payment was made in cash.

Gabby’s network now took over.

III

Not the Sarah Marie Daniels, a lesser craft Miles had seconded in the second harbour now hosted a group of ten for a slap up lunch five days after they’d made it back to safety … relative safety … for now.

Keller was now a local hero, the last thing he’d wanted – everyone in that town and across the canton now knew of him, the great philanthropist, unmarried mothers flocked to him, as did formerly dysfunctional men, it was all quite jolly, they’d returned his mini-computer via courier. Keller was privately vowing revenge but as his laughing colleagues pointed out, he’d got off lightly.

The Patron was not amused either but what could he do? A seven figure sum deposited in five accounts in various countries across the ditch worried him and infuriated him. ‘How the hell did you know, Jenny? It was meant to go to the other account I told you, should you find anything.’

‘Livvi told me.’

‘Livvi!’

Livvi smiled innocently and explained. ‘That account was being monitored by Revenue, many govt departments were greatly interested, especially as we’re all going cashless soon. People such as Jenny and I might become useful now.’

The Patron shook his head, but not in disbelief. ‘It seems I owe you both an abject apology. Not only did you clean out almost my entire account but you put it into unassailable form in Switzerland, albeit at a higher annual cost. I don’t know what to say, plus this meal too.’

‘Said Miles: ‘We just want the brownie points, that’s all. Would we have touched even one penny when we knew you to be a man of such largesse,’ he smiled.

The Patron laughed out loud and slapped his thigh. ‘Well well well. Untrustworthy sod that I am, for now you’ve done yourselves proud. Usual disbursements in the fullness of this month, ok? Right, we need to go, who needs a ride? Gabby? Romy? Livvi? Miles, I’ve been speaking to Julie behind your back I’m afraid. You’ve done right by Julie but she does have more scope with us. We do get reports on how things are, things are brewing in your harbour, it can’t afford the vulnerable. Plus you have logistics issues. Plus temporary cash flow.’

Julie now came from the front cabin, bag packed, she profusely hugged the three boat-dwellers, there were copious tears.

‘Till soon,’ said Luke, and off they went.

‘All change eh?’ said Miles as they began the washing up, they’d not return to the Sarah Marie Daniels until quite safe to do so. Maybe for weeks.

IV

The shock aboard the Sarah Marie Daniels was profound as they’d not been aboard for more than three hours when the Patron’s flagship, a much grander affair than the SMD, swept into the harbour, dead of night, the Patron was ferried over, watered but not fed, he asked if they’d seen the American news about the split into red and blue states too, the blue about to be charnel houses, the red about to be flooded by refugees from other states, Europe had financially collapsed and while fishing would always exist, the grounds were about to be commandeered, they needed to get out now … as in right now.

They were aware of that and they’d also packed, just in case.

He’d released his lower ranks with payouts in pounds sterling, the only viable currency left in the west now, there were four staff and friends still with him, plus family, Luke had rejoined Romy in The Hague and as it was her home, they’d decided to stick it out there.

Livvi now had to decide on Europe, that is, going with his ship, or else where would Miles and Jenny take her?

Jenny looked at Miles, it must have been telepathy because he said, ‘Interested in going to the southern part of America, not South America?

Livvi put her bags back in the for’ard cabin and came back.

‘Jodi,’ said Miles, ‘decision time for you.’

‘May I see my mother?’ She kept her bags with her. ‘Mr. Patron, sir, I need to see her to decide, will you give me thirty minutes?’

The Patron glanced at Miles who nodded. ‘Boys will ferry you over and back. But we must be away in forty minutes, no later.’

Jodi and the two patroni went out quickly.

.o0o.

The Patron, now re-snacked, saw Jodi returning, did that two forearm farewell grip thing with Miles, then a hug, same with Jenny, plus a kiss on her cheek, they saw him out, Julie waved to them from his boat, they were gone.

.o0o.

The Sarah Marie Daniels was underway southwards, all were seated around the table, Miles thought about what he’d say to the ladies.

‘Jodi first. What decided you to stay?’

‘Better medical care for my mum and bro over there, he has access, you have just a medical kit and adventure here, it’s also you two, it’s obvious I’d be here.’

‘Thank you, we do mean that. Ladies, we have enough fuel as far as South America if we need but no more.’

‘How much fuel?’ asked Jenny.

‘Maybe 50 days continuous, cruising speed.’

‘What the hell happened?’ asked Jenny. ‘I can get no communication with my sources in Europe. Is my mother safe?’

‘You want us to bring her?’

‘She wouldn’t come, she’s as independent as I am. As long as she can get food, she’s comfortable, loves her modest dwelling, she was fine when Luke spoke to her earlier today by phone. I’ll find ways.’

‘We’ll find ways … and for Jodi too. The Patron will be headed for Ireland, I know the bay, he’ll be able to get the access he needs. It’s just us – we need to stay alive and well for now. Europe had the plug pulled by those above, as simple as that.’

Livvi said, ‘I have some options with the boat and fuel, Miles.’

‘Speak to us.’

‘The Caribbean … I know some places we can get both fuel and sail, also we can sell this boat and get a sailing craft if we wanted … if you wanted. It’s pirate territory,’ she warned, ‘hurricanes too but let’s not worry about that. Carry on.’

‘Point is, we can’t sail well against the wind in a motorboat, not that much fun with sail either. Our engines are fine, our rudders though, as they are, are small, just trim tabs. So we can only go across or downwind.’

‘Forever?’ asked Jenny.

‘Hopefully not. There are places among those islands which will take our boat out of the water for a reasonable cost – well, in the old days reasonable – and we can build in rudders, adding complexity but still, maybe even a drop keel … we can work it out once we’re there.’

‘Right,’ said Livvi, ‘time for true confessions. There’s a man who owes me big time, he’s on an island we’re going to in the Caribbean if you let me take you there, it’s dangerous, not for natives and pirates but because of the globo-fugitives. I’m not going into detail on all that but I was at a level in Europe, on the legal side, where we discovered … certain things.

I’m not a blackmailer but if they offer money to keep me quiet … and they do, quite often … then I do take it if it won’t come back on me. I was in a key role … Jenny can confirm this now because she and I looked at it in England, we accessed it and I showed her … this man discovered I’d failed to pass on some intel on Gabby which would have seen her caught.

But I managed to turn the tables … all his approaches were recorded, including his demand for … you know what women are asked for … and though I can be sassy as you’ll find out, I’d never do that … not with someone like him. Once he knew I had the goods on him and that my death or any attack on me or mine would trigger intel on his operations being sent to places he would not want … I did accept enough to mean we, my hubby and I, did not need for some time.

It was running out about the time things fell apart because we only took enough at the time. But I reminded him of what he’d offered and we’d be collecting some time down the track. My man got out of there, close to but not quite back home, close enough to see Atlanta Braves games let’s say, he knows me, he trusts me.

‘Wow,’ said Miles. ‘Like wow.’

‘Down boy!’ said Jenny.

Livvi had actually gone a bit red. ‘You need to understand that money is no object to him, it’s other people’s anyway, but he does owe me this amount and being an accountant, these people are often sticklers. He’d also often spoken of boats such as the SMD and the idea crossed my mind once I was here on your boat. I know it’s your nest egg, guys, but if it ever came to such a situation … well … there are some options, that’s all.

I also happen to know there’s a long native type longboat, a sailing craft using primitive sails, for sale there at that island, it was advertised online … and it’s about 70 feet long. There are many natives there good at building too … you see how my mind’s working? If this man is paying and I offer a deal never to trouble him again if he’ll do this one thing for us … well, who knows?’

There was silence. Now her natural anxiety showed through, which Jodi for one liked very much.

It was Miles who spoke. ‘If we could make this happen, if Jenny were for it, if Jodi would feel ok with it all too …’

‘I do.’

‘Ok, well let’s not count our chickens just yet. Let’s lighten the atmosphere for awhile, the boat’s chugging along well enough on auto, any ideas?’

‘I have,’ Livvi jumped in. ‘Charades.’

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