“Welcome back, Sam.”

In January, the second Sam Wylde thriller, Nobody Gets Hurt, finally escapes from e-book limbo into the solid world of real books (pre-order here: https://tinyurl.com/ycvp2ga7). It features a villain with a complex backstory (IRA, ETA, MI5) and so we have written a companion piece about him, which will be available as a free download here and on robtryan.com. We’ll keep you posted.

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ONE LAST JOB

Bodyguard Sam Wylde is back. Coming soon is the e-book of NOBODY GETS HURT, with paperback to follow later.  Sam is searching for her daughter Jess, who was taken by her ex-husband at the end of  SAFE FROM HARM. Having depleted her bank account criss-crossing Europe, and desperate for money to pay experts to trace Jess online, she agrees to take a job from Colonel d’Arcy, the man who run’s Europe’s premier Personal Protection agency. It might be her last.

This is an extract, where she learns what she’ll be up against. Or thinks she does.

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Eventually the Colonel took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. ‘So, the good news is, I can advance you the money for a job. This one is right up your street. I mentioned it last time you were here, but it wasn’t greenlit then. PPO needed. Client has to be in Luxembourg for an emergency board meeting. Client lives in New York. And is afraid of flying.’

I  remembered now. ‘So what am I meant to do? Row across the Atlantic?’

He put his head to one side and gave me a quizzical look. I suspected he thought I should be more grateful. ‘They’ll come by sea.’

‘Not that much of an emergency then.’

‘The fear of flying dictates the transport. It means time will be of the essence once the client reaches this side of the Atlantic.

‘Why do they need a PPO?’

‘Well, apparently there are parties who would rather the Luxembourg meet didn’t take place.’

‘What kind of parties?’

‘The unpleasant kind.’

‘The armed and dangerous kind?’ I asked.

He showed me his palms in a what-can-you-do? gesture. ‘You could say that.’

‘Surely the client could bring their own home-grown muscle?’

‘Apparently not.’

I thought for a moment. ‘Even if I liked being an armed guard – which I don’t – I’m not licensed to carry a weapon in France. And I wouldn’t be approved in the current climate. Nor, it went without saying, with my SIA suspension. ‘I don’t want to end up doing five years in a French prison because I had to carry a pistol. Just on the off chance there’ll be trouble.’

 

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‘That’s not your problem. We have a FITLO.’

A FITLO was yet another of the acronyms the world of close protection loves. Firearms Trained and Licensed Operative. ‘French?’

‘Hungarian.’

I had a mental flash of a bullet-headed thug like Bojan, the Serbian who once tried to stab me in what was his idea of a fair fight (although only he had a knife). ‘Who is he?’

‘George Konrad.’

Europe is awash with gorillas with guns. They were mostly hitmen. That was where the easy money was. Offing someone’s rival for cash, no questions asked on either side except who, where and how much? But the real thing, the FITLO, was a rare bird, because his or her job was to stop the hit. Some did it because it was morally more attractive than mere assassination, others because it was more of a challenge. And then there was the attraction of it being a less crowded field. ‘George Konrad? I don’t know him, do I?’ I asked.

‘Unlikely. He’s good, so I am reliably informed, and that’s all you need to know.’ His eyes flicked to the screen. ‘Very good, so they say. You’ll be in charge of driving and choosing the route. He’ll be there in case a situation arises.’

The PPO world not only loves an acronym, it loves a euphemism, too. A ‘situation’ in this case meant some bastard opens fire on us. With real bullets. ‘I have control of all transportation? Right? No arguments?’

‘I’ll make it clear to him.’ You might think that two professionals assigned to look after a Principal would agree on most things. It was rarely the case. Even deciding which road to take could cause disagreement. It was much better if tasks and responsibilities were assigned beforehand. Compartmentalisation was the key to the harmonious and safe transport of a client.

‘Where is the client now?’

‘Somewhere in the Atlantic aboard a private yacht. They’ll be dropped off in France in a couple of days.’

‘Where in France?’

‘Do you want the job?’ he asked.

I was intrigued, but I gave a noncommittal shrug. ‘I assume a landing as close to Luxembourg as possible?’

‘Well, no. Don’t assume that. The coast towards Belgium is still very tightly patrolled, thanks to the refugee problem.’

A few tumblers clicked into place in my still-addled brain. I found a little cubicle for Jess and parked her there. There was something else he wasn’t telling me. It made no sense not to land close to the destination. Unless . . .

‘What’s the PoFU?’ Potential for Fuck Up.

‘A Red Notice.’ Colonel d’Arcy said this as if it were a golf handicap. But his eyes were darting about. I’d never seen him look properly shifty before. He usually stopped at mildly evasive.

I found myself wanting it spelled out. ‘An Interpol Red Notice?’

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‘Yes.’

‘Anything else?’

He cleared his throat. ‘The client is also carrying an outstanding EAW.’

‘A Europol Arrest Warrant?’

‘Yes,’ he snapped. ‘So it will all have to be under the radar.’

It would be best under the fucking ground – tunnelling to Luxembourg. A Red Notice was only a request to detain a suspect. The EAW was trickier. That required the police force of a member state to arrest the suspect. So if we came up against a cop with a computer, there would be an instruction to detain. And then what have I got – a Hungarian willing to shoot his way out?

‘What’s Konrad’s OD when it comes to the police?’ The Operational Directive established any ground rules. I just hoped there were some.

‘I’ll make sure he knows it’s the same OD that applies to all my people. To put his hands up and go quietly. He’s not there for cops. He’s there for . . . any others.’

That was something at least. A gunfight with cops was never a good idea.

‘And before you ask, we don’t know who the said “any others” are.’

Not so good. ‘You had time to prepare any fake documents?’

‘No, but that will be the first port of call after landing.’ He knew what my next question would be. What was the EAW for? Rape? Murder? There are some things that are beyond the pale even for a PPO.

‘The warrant is for bribing a trader at Deutsche Bank to rig the Euribor rate.’

The needle barely gave a jerk. Insider trading and market manipulation was the norm with many clients. Few of them got extremely rich and kept clean hands. Every yacht in Monaco harbour was built with somebody’s tears. Or somebody else’s money. I didn’t know much about finance, but knew the Euribor as some sort of exchange rate set between European banks. Like the better-known Libor, it could be manipulated to give traders an edge. And a big profit. ‘How serious is it? The offence?’

He tried to sound dismissive, as if it were nothing. ‘It’s an unsubstantiated historical allegation.’

‘How long ago?’

‘Four years.’

‘How seriously will the cops take it?’

The Colonel shrugged. ‘You can never tell. At the moment, as you know, bankers and investors are pariahs to some sections of the press. But in the scale of banking offences that have been committed in Europe? Small beer. However, there is always a risk of running across a policeman who thinks he is Eliot Ness reborn.’

‘Did he do it?’

The Colonel’s wrinkled visage gained a few more crevices as he frowned. ‘Who?’

‘The client. The man we’ve just been talking about for fifteen minutes. Did he bribe someone four years ago?’

The glint in the Colonel’s eyes illuminated the garden path I had been led up. ‘Didn’t I say? Why you are perfect for the job? The client isn’t a “he”. It’s a “she”.’

 

To be continued. A short story linking the events in Safe From Harm to Nobody Gets Hurt will also be available soon.

 

SEEING DOUBLE: THE BODYGUARD

Last Tuesday (April 18th) one of us had a piece published in The Times T2 about the rise of female bodyguards and how they are now paid more than men on the commercial “Circuit”. It featured interviews with Dublin-based Personal Protection Officer Lisa Baldwin and PPO trainer Neil Davis of Horizon, which is based in Glasgow. Later that same day an article appeared in the Independent (online) about how there is increased demand for female bodyguards etc. that featured quotes from, oh, Lisa and Neil. OK, so it mentioned The Times as a source, but there wasn’t anything original in the piece at all. And they managed to neglect to mention our book Safe From Harm, which was to some extent the object of the exercise. Still, as they borrowed the entire content from us, I am sure the Indy won’t mind if we borrow it back. Here it is:

 

 

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The chances are that when you picture a bodyguard, you’re imagining a tall, big, broad, burly man with biceps the size of tree-trunks and hands that could crush skulls.

But more and more these days, that image is wrong. Increasingly, women are being hired as bodyguards – and average-sized women too.

The reason is that huge stereotypical-looking bodyguards – technically called close protection, personal protection or executive protection officers (CPO/PPO/EPO) – actually draw attention to whomever is being protected.

Women, on the other hand, are more likely to be mistaken for nannies.

“Nine times out of ten the people I work for want someone who can blend in,” commercial PPO Lisa Baldwin explained to The Times. “They don’t want obvious security, like the kind used by Madonna or Britney Spears. Those bodyguards, the big guys, actually draw attention to the clients and put them at more stress and risk.”

Baldwin dresses down which allows her to look like a friend or nanny. “With the bulkier guys, people will think: ‘Why have those kids got a bodyguard?’” she says.

“And I’d like to see those big guys run. They are fine if you are just keeping fans back, but I am dealing with things like kidnap threat and might have to get out of a situation very quickly. Pure muscle isn’t enough.”

Baldwin is by no means a huge woman either and believes the ex-military look can be a disadvantage: “I remember the first job interview I had, when I was 20, I was up against another candidate who looked like GI Jane, all muscles and shaved head. And I got the job.

“They were more interested in whether I had protective driving skills, which I had, and a firearms cert, which I also had. In fact they didn’t want me to carry a firearm, but to show I had training in that field.”

       Since Baldwin became a PPO 13 years ago, the number of women in the industry has soared along with demand. She says that there’s been more interest from Muslim families in particular, “who might not want the women mixing too closely with men. And then there are the bathrooms — if you have a male bodyguard and a female client, that’s going to be an issue.”

But there are still relatively few female PPOs and not enough to satisfy demand, according to Neil Davis, a former army officer who runs a Glasgow-based security company called Horizon.

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“Clients who might not want their children looked after by a man often specify a woman,” he told The Times. “These days, the good female PPOs can work all year round while men struggle to find jobs, especially as there has been an influx from eastern Europe competing for work. Such is the demand for women, they get paid more than the men at the moment.”

However, Davis says women have to be the whole package – not only do they need to be trained but they usually have to be fluent in one or two foreign languages and qualified in something like scuba diving or skiing.

David Cameron and Tony Blair both had female bodyguards, and Davis says there are certain advantages to using a female CPO when the client is male.

“If I was putting together a security team of eight, I’d like at least two, maybe three, women in the mix. Do that and the group dynamic instantly changes. Women lower the testosterone level.”

To illustrate his point, Davis gives the example of when things start kicking off in a bar or pub: “If a man steps up to confront [your client] then the situation can escalate.

“If a woman does it, the aggression levels drop because, no matter how drunk they are, most men are conditioned to know it is wrong to hit a woman. A female PPO tends to be better at conflict resolution rather than making the situation worse.”

ENDS

Neil Davis by the way has a CV that reads like something from a Gerald Seymour novel:

“Neil is a former Warrant Officer in the British Army, serving for 24 years, leaving in 2006. His last 5 years was as an Advanced Agent Handler with JSG(NI) where he successfully recruited and ran covert HUMINT Sources from within terrorist organisations in various countries around the world and for which he was awarded a QCVS in the 2006 Honours List.”

       That’s not to mention a wealth of CPO experience in the world’s most hostile environments.

 

Armoured Cars

One of the first things we discovered when we started researching Safe From Harm is that cars feature prominently in the life of a Personal Protection Officer. They rarely like their clients to travel on regular transport – the general public are to be avoided (there is a phrase for them in the book that cannot be repeated here) – and they will often be driving specially modified vehicles. Companies such as Jaguar, Mercedes and BMW offer powerful, off-the-shelf bullet- and blast-proof models for diplomats, potentates and unpopular oligarchs (although I suspect every oligarch is unpopular with someone; I guess they just have to hope it isn’t Putin).

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In Safe From Harm Sam Wylde drives a long wheelbase, armoured 7 series BMW. The 7HS is compliant with the requirements of the class VR7 ballistic protection standard. Which means you can fire 400 7.62mm rounds at it from every angle with zero penetration. It is also blast-proofed against fragmentation and ordinance hand grenades. Each of the corners is reinforced for those times when the driver has to punch through parked vehicles or reverse his or her way out of trouble.

Sam’s version has been somewhat modified by a character called One-Eyed Jack. He is actually based on a guy who used to do my MOTs when one of us was involved in the car business (racing and renovating) in South East London. The real Jack had two perfectly good peepers, but if he spotted a fault he’d always say: “I’ll turn a blind eye to it this time, but get it fixed.” Hence the nickname.

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Sam regularly loses her no-claims bonus

When air bags first appeared, one of his customers came in and asked for them to be disabled on the driver’s side. Why? I asked. Because if you collide with another vehicle, Jack explained, you don’t want a Rover-style balloon (that’s a reference to The Prisoner for you youngsters) exploding in your face. It turned out the customer was one of the last of the old-school robbers who liked to stop armoured cars by ramming them. So it gave me the idea that Sam would have her air bag disabled in case she had to ram her way out of trouble. Which she does.

So, cars of many stripes play an important role throughout Safe From Harm, as a means of secure transport, rapid escape and, in two cases, as a lethal weapon. They figure even more prominently in the sequel, Nobody Gets Hurt, when Sam is faced with that old conundrum: how do you bump-start a vehicle with no battery? In this case a vintage Facel Vega. You’ll have to wait and see for that one.

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The beautiful but capricious Facel Vega.

 

Part of this piece first appeared in Crimetime (www.crimetime.co.uk). Thanks to @BarryForshaw3.