Tuesday 6th September 2005
Joseph Russell opened the front door of his swanky house. The ghost of a smile passed over the fifty-year-old’s lips as he appreciated the dark-haired young beauty. “Well, hello.”
“Hello, Mr Russell, my name is Foxglove.”
“That’s an unusual but pretty name. How can I help you, Foxglove?”
“I was wondering if you knew what a dictionary provided?”
“Of course,” he said and smiled. “It’s a reference book which gives the meaning of words in a given language.” He squinted. The long tresses, the face and the figure suggested a model, as did the smart jacket and short skirt. Her introduction suggested a canvasser or possibly a scammer. “What is this about?”
“If you don’t mind, I have three more questions.”
“Go on.” He assessed her slowly from head to toe.
“How would you describe integrity?”
Russell slowly shook his head, and his gaze drifted over her before he looked her in the eye. “Integrity is honesty and sincerity. It could also be an undamaged or unimpaired condition.”
“Oh, you’re very quick, but then you are a lawyer. How about the difference between an integrator and an interrogator?”
“Wait—how do you know I’m a lawyer?”
“My questions first, please, Mr Russell.” Even white teeth briefly sunk into her glossy lower lip.
“An integrator is somebody or something which brings things together, and an interrogator is someone like you—a person asking questions.”
“And, of course, you are an integrator. Okay, last question.” She arched a shapely eyebrow. “Is there anyone else in the house at the moment?”
He started to shake his head, glanced once again at her cleavage, and hesitated. “Wait, why—”
“Let’s go inside.” From inside her jacket, Dominique produced her Walther PPK. It was small but looked menacing with the suppressor attached.
“Right, young lady.” Russell panted as he tried to hold his nerve. “I don’t know what this is about … I’ll give you a chance. Put the gun away and go. I won’t press charges.”
Behind him, he heard the distinctive metallic clunk of a handgun being cocked, loading a round into the chamber.
Russell swallowed hard and slowly turned, his lips trembling. “Who—”
“Allow me to introduce myself,” the attractive blonde said and smiled briefly. “My name is Nightshade. I’m glad you gave my friend a chance, because now, I’ll give you a chance. Invite her in, or I’ll shoot you on your fucking doorstep.”
Five minutes after answering the front door, Joseph Russell was standing in his lounge. He looked nervously from the blonde standing in the far corner of the large room to the brunette standing in the doorway.
Apart from their hair colour, the two women were young and attractive. Unknown to Russell at this point, they had other things in common, like ruthless efficiency, and superb firearms skills.
“I don’t keep a lot of cash—” The lawyer’s head switched back and forth as if he were watching the two top seeds in a Wimbledon final.
Dominique nodded towards the sofa. “Sit down, Russell. You’re making the place look untidy.”
He glanced at them both again and obeyed. “I’ve got visitors—”
“Okay, stop there,” she said. “That’s two cliches you’ve used, and if you use another one, you won’t hear my gun being fired—you’ll already have a bullet in your skull.”
Rachel said, “The point my associate is trying to press home is that we don’t want to hear any bullshit. We know about your naughty sidelines and your backroom deals, and now, we know that you were willing to play the innocent party—which you are not.” She raised her pistol in a two-handed grip and aimed at Russell. “You can have five more seconds to decide if we are bluffing or if we’re actually prepared to kill you. At the end of that time, you tell us that you’ll co-operate, or I’ll fucking shoot you.”
“If I co-operate regarding my unofficial business … I’ll be dead by this evening.”
Dominique said, “If you don’t co-operate, you’ll be dead by the time your fancy clock chimes again.”
Russell glanced at the expensive wall clock and saw the sweep hand marching steadily toward the vertical position. He looked at their expressions. “Okay, okay, but I’ll need protection.”
“We don’t offer condoms,” Dominique said. “Where are your safes.”
The brunette beauty slowly shook her head as she tucked her weapon under her arm and pulled on a pair of latex gloves.
Russell rephrased what he’d been about to say. “I only have one safe downstairs, and the other is in my bedroom.”
“Which one contains the forged documents?” When the lawyer squinted, Dominique stepped forward quickly and pressed the end of her suppressor into the man’s groin. “If I have to repeat myself, your balls are gonna get heavier, and it won’t be fluid.”
“Upstairs … the bedroom safe.”
Dominique straightened up, glanced at the damp patch on his trousers and stepped back. “Stand up, slide your right hand down inside the front of your underwear and lead the way.” She nodded for him to get going and rolled her eyes at Rachel before she followed the man out of the room.
Russell didn’t understand the motive for such an idea until his right hand had been thrust down into his damp boxers for a minute longer. As he started walking to the stairs, it became clear. He was right-handed and automatically wanted to hold the bannister, but moving that arm would probably result in him being shot. He walked up the middle of the stairs, accepting that any retaliation would be feeble. He arrived on the landing, paused briefly, turned left, and walked towards a door.
Rachel was standing back into a living room corner. She was out of sight but had a good view of the long driveway through the panoramic windows. Five minutes after Dominique had gone upstairs with the lawyer, a high-spec red Jaguar turned into the driveway and slowly crept along the side of the house to park around at the back.
Heavy footsteps forewarned of a person either unaware of or who didn’t care about noisy footsteps. “Mr Russell, the back door was unlock—who the fuck—” He reached inside his jacket.
“Don’t.” Rachel was already in the aim.
The thug in the suit continued oblivious to the threat and brought his hand out, holding a Glock pistol. While it was in the shoulder holster under the jacket, the gun wasn’t a worry, but it changed the threat level in the hands of a stupid man.
“Which part of ‘Don’t’ didn’t you understand?” Rachel took a few steps forward, holstered her Browning and lifted the Clock. She unclipped the magazine, emptied the rounds rapidly with her thumb and dropped the magazine on the floor. Her following action was to clear the chamber, but like so many amateurs, the dead man didn’t have the gun ready to fire. Rachel unclipped the slide, and in less than five seconds, several pieces of the weapon were thrown into a corner. Rachel thrust the barrel section into a large potted plant’s earth and covered the end with soil. Her skintight leather gloves ensured no telltale prints would be found on anything.
When satisfied, she drew her weapon and stepped back into the corner.
Multiple footsteps sounded on the stairs, and Russell walked into the room first.
“Fuck!” He dropped the pillowcase full of documents he’d been carrying. “You killed Gary?”
“No, I didn’t,” Rachel said in a matter-of-fact tone. “I shot him—the bullet killed him.” She looked from Russell to the dead man. “Was Gary deaf?”
Russell squinted and shook his head, looking from the corpse to the blonde. “No, he wasn’t—why?”
“I just wanted to confirm which it was—he was either deaf or fucking stupid.”
Dominique said, “Pick up the pillowcase and those items which fell out and put everything on the table.”
If Russell had been nervous previously, it was nothing in comparison to how he appeared now. He squatted and fumbled to replace various things back into the pillowcase and placed it on the large coffee table.
“And now, the next safe.” Dominique inclined her lovely head towards him. “Unless you’d like to join Gary.” She nodded at his front. “Right hand … back in the damp straitjacket.”
Russell slipped his wet and smelly right hand back inside his underwear. “The other safe is over there, in the bookcase.” He walked across the room, and using only his left hand, he lifted out what appeared to be several large leather-bound books, but it was a painted block of balsa wood. He tapped a wooden panel, which fell forward, revealing a small safe with a digital keypad. Unlike earlier, he no longer hesitated but pressed the appropriate combination and opened the door.
Dominique said, “Remove everything and place it on the table.”
“Can I use both hands?”
“Did I tell you to use both hands?”
“Well, fucking don’t then—stand back.”
“I just wanted—” The end of the suppressor against his ear cut short his desire to speak.
“Please tell me that you weren’t about to do something silly.” When the lawyer stepped back, Dominique reached into the wall safe and lifted a Beretta pistol, which was not large but still deadly. She smashed the butt of the small weapon into the bridge of Russell’s nose.
“Fuckid’ ell—you’d broke ba’ doze.” Tears streamed down his contorted face.
Dominique next used the butt of the Beretta to smash the keypad of the safe and passed the weapon to Rachel, who set about stripping it down as she had the Clock.
Five minutes later, a weeping Russell was kneeling on his upturned, open hands beside the coffee table, dripping blood from his face onto the expensive rug.
While Rachel stood in her corner, keeping a wary eye on the immediate area outside, Dominique organised her haul from the two safes. “Four passports, property deeds to five businesses, three wills, and thousands in pounds, dollars and euros.” She turned to look at the broken man. “You’re in the wrong profession, Russell.”
“I did’t haf’ ‘eddy choice.”
“Don’t talk a load of bollocks,” Dominique said. “You defended the scum of the earth, and you were acting as a safe house for this shit—you’re as bad as them, you arsehole.” She shook her head. “Pick up the phone and call Ray Mason. When you get through, you tell him what’s happened up until this point. You say that the two women have left with all the contents of the safes but don’t give him our descriptions. When you’ve made the call—hang up.”
“He’d fuckid kill be—”
Rachel said, “Are you sure you don’t want to join Gary?”
Russell considered his bodyguard for a moment before he picked up his phone and dialled.
Rachel waited two minutes, pulled out her mobile and made a call. “We’re on—confirm departure.” She listened for a response, put the phone away, and nodded to Dominique.
Ray Mason was within two days of leaving the country with a new identity, deeds to a luxury house, and a sizeable lump sum of cash. He was fuming as he sat in the back of his Range Rover Sport, speeding southwest out of Glasgow.
‘Handy’ Andy Grainger was the gang leader’s driver and principal bodyguard. “Boss—there’s a motorway patrol car up ahead in the lay-by. I’ll have to drop to seventy until we pass him.”
“Just do it, Andy—I don’t need a fucking running commentary. I need answers from that ponce, Russell.”
Grainger slowed from one hundred down to seventy miles per hour and moved into the middle lane. He cast a sideways glance at the white BMW with the large fluorescent blue and yellow chequered side panels. His lips twisted into a smirk as he cruised past, hovering on the national speed limit. He checked his rearview to see that the other car had recognised the issue. One minute later, the black Range Rover was back up to one hundred miles per hour. A short distance behind it were the other two men accompanying Mason. The second car was a red Range Rover. Everything was going smoothly for the unscheduled visit to the lawyer’s house until two miles from the exit to Erskine.
The phone in the centre console buzzed. Andy hit the speaker button. “Go on, Billy. The boss is listening.”
“That fucking copper we passed has zipped up the outside lane—with blue lights on.”
Mason leant forward slightly from his comfortable back seat and shouted, “Fucking ignore them—they might be going after somebody else.”
“They’re holding speed beside us, Boss, and the guy in the passenger seat is pointing for us to pull over.”
“Bastards,” Mason growled. “We’re nearly there. Okay, Billy … the next exit is ours, so I want you to lead those fuckers away. Get rid of them, and then make your way to Russell’s place.”
“Boss, they’re in a BMW 7-Series—we’d need a fucking racing car to outrun them.”
Mason said, “Billy, do whatever it takes and meet us at Russell’s house.” He inhaled deeply and half-turned to his right. The red Range Rover went past in the outside lane accelerating beyond one hundred miles per hour, followed by the BMW, now using ‘blues and twos’; flashing lights and sirens. The police driver behind the wheel appeared un-phased by the high speed, unlike the driver he pursued.
As the red car and the police car screamed off into the distance along the motorway, Andy braked and took the exit for Erskine. “Do you want me to pull over and wait for the other two guys, Boss?”
“No, mate, just get me to that weasel’s house before he does a fucking runner.”
On the outskirts of Erskine, a large oak tree was the recognition point for taking the next turn towards Russell’s big fancy house. It had pleasant views of the local countryside but was screened from any major roadways.
Andy steered carefully along the narrow and winding road until he reached the long driveway to the impressive detached home. “No car out front, Boss. Do you think he’s asked Gary to get him away?”
“No. Gary is on my payroll, and he’d call if anything funny was going on. He’s probably parked the car around the back.” He inhaled deeply once again. “We’ll park at the front.”
Andy took it slowly along the gravel driveway, more to preserve the car bodywork than any other reason. He eased the vehicle to a stop. Before Andy had unclipped his seatbelt, his boss was out and on the way to the front door. The driver climbed out of the car and looked around cautiously before sliding his automatic from inside his jacket.
Mason turned. “Run around the back, Andy, just in case I frighten this shithouse, and he runs.”
Andy ran to the corner and then walked along the side of the house. Even before he reached the back, he heard his boss banging the front door and shouting.
“Russell, open the fucking door!”
Rachel slipped her phone away, and as she walked past Dominique, she whispered, “The boys in blue have taken care of Mason’s backup. I’ll leave you with him.”
Dominique nodded and turned to Russell. “Answer the door, and remember—you fuck up, you die first.”
“Ab’ cubbig!” Russell called as his fractured nose bled profusely once more. He opened the front door and was pushed back by his overbearing client, who then closed the door.
The big man was breathing like a bull. “Talk to me,” Mason demanded. “What’s all this bollocks about a couple of tarts doing you over and emptying the fucking safes?” As he charged along the hallway, he shouted towards the back of the house, “Andy, come through here!”
“Bode lasses weh’ priddy. Bud had dak-hayha and d’ udda’ had blod hayha.” The usually posh-sounding man sounded like a second-rate New York thug from the forties. He touched his nose gingerly as he followed the genuine gangster into the lounge and stopped behind him.
Mason was standing in the room, halfway to the coffee table, which was covered in money and documents. The bullish man was looking down the business end of Dominique’s gun. “Who the fuck are you?”
“You can call me Foxglove—I’ll call you Dickhead.”
Mason winced and turned. “Where’s my fucking driver?”
Rachel walked into the room. “Is he a big blond guy?”
“Yeah, so where the fuck is he … and who the fuck are you?”
“Well,” Rachel said. “Blondie had an attitude problem, so Mr Browning whispered in his ear.”
“What?” Mason squinted.
Rachel held her automatic up and out to the side by way of explanation. “Savvy?” She paused for a few seconds. “To answer your second question, my name is Nightshade … Deadly Nightshade.”
Mason shook his head, refusing to accept the light-hearted tone of these two attractive but obviously dangerous young women. “You’re the fucking vigilante bitches.”
“Dote addoy dem.” Russell had learned a new level of respect.
Mason shook his head at the subdued lawyer and addressed Rachel. “So, if you’re gonna shoot me, fucking shoot me if you’re so fucking hot.”
“Don’t tempt me,” Rachel said. “I’m here in a supporting role. This is my associate’s case.”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
Dominique said, “We share responsibility for what we do, and now, I’ll share something with you, Dickhead.” She looked him up and down as if he’d just dropped from under a horse’s tail. “You will now sit with your legal lapdog and write a confession for the murder of two unarmed police officers. The sheet of paper at one end of the table is Mr Russell’s statement. He’s admitted that he knew of your guilt before he took the case. He has also explained his part in providing your alibi, obtaining false documents and swindling property owners on your behalf.”
Mason turned and glared at Russell. “Tell me she’s fucking bluffing, you tosser.”
Russell slowly shook his head and looked at the rug. “Day doe’ aboud yo’ escape plad.”
Dominique said, “If you’d find it easier to concentrate, I can put a bullet in your leg—it’s up to you. One way or the other, you’ll write that statement.” She raised her pistol and held it firmly with both hands as she aimed at Mason’s right thigh. “Five … four … three … two—”
“Okay … fuck it.” Mason ground his teeth and turned again to glare at Russell before he sat down and lifted the pen. He started to write and paused to look up at Dominique. “I’ve got more than one lawyer in my pocket, love. I’ll look forward to being back on the street within twenty-four hours, and we’ll meet again.”
Dominique held his gaze. “In that case, Dickhead, I promise, I’ll see you dead before you get away with the murder of unarmed police officers.”