This is a second extract from the new Sam Wylde thriller, Nobody Gets Hurt, which is available as an e-book now. Short of money to search for her missing daughter Jess, Sam has accepted a job to escort Mrs Irwin, a US citizen with a fear of flying, from Normandy to Luxembourg, where she has financial dealings. Sam has been hired as a driver. The muscle is George Konrad, a Hungarian who doubles gunman duties with working as an armourer on film sets. Here, they have just finished a meal and are set to pick up the car they will use to deliver the client. Contains strong language.
Konrad examined the carnage on the plate before him, dipped his fingers in the lemon water and wiped his hands on a napkin ‘I’m done here.’ He nudged the Gitanes packet. ‘Mind if I have a cigarette?’
‘Mind if I join you?’
‘You’d be very welcome.’
We smoked two each, not saying much, lost in our thoughts. Eventually he said: ‘How about we get the car now, drive back to the hotel, check out and drive down and look at our very own Omaha Beach.’
I glanced at him through the last wreaths of my smoke. ‘Omaha? Hardly. At least I hope not.’
‘I worked on Saving Private Ryan. Tom Hanks’s Thompson was one of mine. Nice guy.’
All this seemed a long way from Hollywood film stars and re-enactments of D-day. If it were me, I think I’d stay with replicas and bank the pay packet. At least nobody would be shooting real bullets at you. But then again, it was possible that men like Konrad needed the adrenaline that the work gave you. And I was one to talk. What the fuck was I doing there, smelling the breeze off the ocean, wondering where a woman who was worried about her secret fortune was right now? You can tell yourself you are doing it all for Jess, but part of you wants this.
‘What’s your real story?’ he asked.
‘How do you mean?’
‘Everyone on the Circuit has something inside them, a little kernel of hate or addiction or love that brings them back.’ He looked at me. ‘We’re all damaged in some way.’
‘Apparently, you know more about me than I do. You tell me.’
‘I heard lots of things about you. Dead husband, missing daughter, some trouble in a garage in London. It’s hard to know what’s true and what isn’t.’
I laughed. ‘Thing is, it’s all true.’
He gave a low whistle. ‘Wow. I guess some of us are more damaged than others.’
‘Fuck off,’ I said softly, but with feeling.
‘Sorry. I meant.. some of us carry a heavier burden. My English..’ An apologetic shrug. ‘It doesn’t always work right.’
‘Yeah. Forget it. OK, let’s go see what wheels they left us. Let’s hope it comes in black.’
We settled the bill. I checked the Seamaster. It was after nine and the streets were growing dark as we walked towards the car’s location, but the air was still warm. I refused a third cigarette but Konrad lit up. ‘Last one for a while,’ he promised. I didn’t have to ask why. It wasn’t because he was worried about passive smoking risks for me or the client. It was so he would always have his hands free and never have to worry about dropping a lit fag in his lap in the heat of the moment.
I had asked the Colonel for a French car and something with a boot, rather than a hatchback, which ruled out the Citroen DS5 that I would really have liked. The Colonel had sourced me a Peugeot 508 GT Line saloon, which was nice and roomy for three people, with enough space in the rear for the Principal to lie down if need be. Not the fastest car on the road, maybe, but more anonymous than, say a BMW M5. And besides, I was hoping to avoid any high-speed chases. Slow but steady would be my watchword. I saw it as soon as we turned into the place, parked at the southern end of the square, well away from a brightly lit brasserie.
I found the keys on the wheel and pointed the fob to unlock it. Konrad put a hand on my wrist to stop me.
‘Not yet,’ he said. ‘Give me a minute.’
He shucked the knees of his trousers and got down on the ground. From his pocket he took out a compact Maglite and examined the chassis. He ran his hands around the bumpers, too, and the wheel arches.
‘OK, open her up.’
I pressed the button. The car flashed its sidelights and the interior lit up. I opened the door and was hit by the new-car smell of leather, plastics and faux-wood. I sat in, adjusted the rake of the steering wheel and moved to fire it up. ‘No. Before you start the engine.’
He leaned inside and looked under the dash, checking all the panels were tight.
‘Pull the bonnet release, can you?’
Another quick inspection around the engine bay and he slammed it closed.
‘Boot,’ I corrected. It took me a while to find that one.
‘Sorry, we’ll be doing this every time we have left it unattended. I need to check.’
‘Yes. I’ve got a GPS and RF detector I’ll run over it too. But I’m also looking for something nastier. Used to be they used mercury tilt switches,’ he said. ‘Easy to spot. Now they use the same technology that puts a spirit level in your iPhone.’ He held thumb and forefinger a few millimeters apart. ‘Tiny. But the first corner you lean into…Boom.’
‘You honestly think..?’ I began.
‘I don’t know. No stone unturned, eh?’ He brushed dirt off his hands, then his knees, and walked to the rear of the vehicle.
‘Right. No stone unturned.’ I watched a cohort of jerky black shadows diving above the lights on the square, scooping up a final meal of insects. Bats. My insides felt as if there were a couple of them trapped inside me, flapping about. I hadn’t figured on worrying about bombs.
‘Sam,’ Konrad said. ‘Come here a second.’
I got out and walked around to the rear of the Peugeot. At first I couldn’t see what he was referring to, just the yawing black hole of the boot’s interior, but then he flicked the Maglite’s beam on, just for a second, long enough for me to take in the curled-up body and the grey pallor that only death can lend to human skin. The delivery driver, I assumed.
‘Welcome to Omaha Beach,’ said Konrad softly.
Nobody Gets Hurt is available here from July 6: