Andy McNab

Also by Andy McNab


 Bravo Two Zero

 Immediate Action 


 Remote Control 

Crisis Four


by Andy McNab



Monday, December G, 1999 The Russians were serious players. If things didn't go as planned, Sergei said, I'd be lucky to be shot dead in the hotel lobby. If they captured me, I'd be taken to a remote bit of wasteland and have my stomach slit open. They'd pull my intestines out and leave me to watch them squirm around on my chest like a bucket of freshly caught eels for the thirty minutes it would take me to die. These things happen, he had explained, when you mess with the main men in ROC (Russian Organized Crime). But I didn't have a choice; I desperately needed the cash.

'What's it called again, Sergei?' I mimed the disembowelment Eyes staring straight ahead, he gave a brief, somber smile and muttered, 'Viking's revenge.'

It was just before seven p.m. and it had already been dark for three and a half hours. The air temperature had been well below freezing all day; it hadn't snowed for a while, but there was still a lot of the stuff about, plowed to the sides of the roads.

The two of us had been sitting very still for the best part of an hour.

Until I'd just spoken, our breathing was the only sign of movement. We were parked two blocks away from the Intercontinental Hotel, using the shadows between the streetlights to conceal our presence in the dirty black Nissan 4x4. The rear seats were down flat to make it easier to hide the target inside, complete with me wrapped round him like a wrestler to keep him there. The 4x4 was sterile: no prints and completely empty apart from the trauma pack lying on the folded seats. Our boy had to be delivered across the border alive, and a couple of liters of Ringer's solution might come in handy if this job turned into a gang fuck Right now, it certainly had all the ingredients of one. I found myself hoping it wouldn't be me needing the infusion.

It had been a while since I'd felt the need to pre canulate making it quicker for me to replace any fluid from gunshot wounds, but today had just that feel about it. I'd brought a catheter from the U.K. and it was already inserted into a vein under my left forearm, secured by tape and protected by an Ace bandage. Anticoagulant was preloaded inside the catheter's needle and chamber to stop the blood that filled it from clotting. Ringer's solution isn't as good as plasma to replace blood loss-it's only a saline mix-but I didn't want anything plasma-based.

Russian quality control was a contradiction in terms, and money was what I wanted to return to the U.K. with, not HIV. I'd spent enough time in Africa not treating anyone's gunshot wounds because of the risk of infection, and I wasn't about to let it happen now.

We sat facing Mannerheimintie, 600 feet down the hill from our position. The boulevard was the main drag into the city center, just a fifteen minute walk away to the right. It carried a constant stream of slow, obedient traffic each side of the streetcar lines. Up here it was like a different world. Low-level apartment buildings hugged each side of the quiet street and an inverted V of white Christmas lights sparkled in almost every window.

People walked past, straining under the weight of their purchases, crammed into large shopping bags with pictures of holly and Santa. They didn't notice us as they headed home to their smart apartments; they were too busy keeping their footing on the icy sidewalks and their heads down against the wind that howled and buffeted the 4x4.

The engine had been off all the time we'd been here, and it was like sitting in a fridge. Our breath billowed like low cloud as we waited.

I kept visualizing how, when, and where I was going to do my stuff, and more importantly, what I was going to do if things got fucked up. Once the target has been selected the basic sequence of a kidnapping is nearly always the same. First comes reconnaissance; second, abduction; third, detention; fourth, negotiation; fifth, ransom payment; and finally, release-though sometimes that doesn't happen. My job was to plan and implement the first three phases; the rest of the task was out of my hands.

Three members of the loud-tie-and-suspenders brigade from a private bank had approached me in London. They'd been given my name by an ex-Regiment SAS) mate who now worked for one of the big security companies, and who'd been nice enough to recommend me when this particular commission had been declined.

'Britain,' they said to me as we sat at a window table in the roof bar of the Hilton, looking down on to the gardens of Buckingham Palace, 'is facing an explosion in Russian mafia-organized crime. London is a money- laundering haven. The ROC are moving as much as 20 billion through the City each year, and up to two hundred of their senior players either live in Britain or visit regularly.'

The executives went on to say they'd discovered that millions had been channeled through Valentin Lebed's accounts at their bank in just three years. They didn't like that, and were none too keen on the thought of the boys with the blue flashing lights paying him a visit and seeing the name on all his paying-in slips. Their solution was to have Val lifted and taken to St. Petersburg, where, I presumed, they had either made arrangements to persuade him to move his account to a different bank, or to channel even more through them to make the risk more acceptable. Whichever, I didn't give a fuck so long as I got paid.

I looked over at Sergei. His eyes glinted as he stared at the traffic below us and his Adam's apple moved as he swallowed. There wasn't anything left to say; we'd done enough talking during the two-week buildup. It was now time to do.

The conference of European Council members was due to start in Helsinki in two days. Blue EU flags already lined the main roads, and large black convoys of Eurocrats drove around with motorcycle outriders, heading from premeeting to premeeting. The police had set up diversions to control the flow of traffic around the city, and orange reflective cones and barriers were springing up everywhere. I'd already had to change our escape route twice because of it.

Like all the high-class hotels, the Intercontinental was housing the exodus from Brussels. All the suits had been in the city since last week, wheeling and dealing so that when the heads of state hit town, all they'd have to do was politely refuse Tony Blair's invitation to eat British beef at some dinner for the media, then leave. All very good, but for me security around here was tighter than a duck's ass-everything from sealed manholes to prevent bombs being planted to a heavy police presence on the streets. They would certainly have contingency plans for every possible event, especially armed attack.

Sergei had a folding-stock AK-a Russian automatic, 7.62mm short assault rifle-under his feet. His cropped, thinning brown hair was covered by a dark-blue woolen hat, and the old Soviet Army body armor he wore under his down jacket made him look like the Michelin man. If Hollywood was looking for a Russian hardhead, Sergei would win the screen test every time. Late forties, square jaw, high cheekbones, and blue eyes that didn't just pierce, they chopped you into tiny pieces.

The only reason he would never be a leading man was his badly pockmarked skin. Either he'd steered away from the Clearasil in his youth or he'd been burned; I couldn't tell, and I didn't want to ask.

He was a hard, reliable man, and one I felt it was okay to do business with, but he wasn't going to be on my Christmas-card list.

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