Fort William, Grampian Mountains
The wide expanse of Loch Linnhe became an ever-present feature left of the A82 on the approach to Fort William. Across the rippling water, snow-capped hills spread from north to south. To the right of the road, a little further inland, was the majesty of Ben Nevis. Snow covered the summit, and the peak was periodically hidden by cloud, as per usual.
Cameron gazed left over the expanse of water. Two hardy souls were leaping around in a yacht fighting to catch a breeze, while a tourist cruise was underway with foreign visitors clutching cameras and shooting at anything that moved.
“Would you like a fish supper Mr Cameron?”
“Aye, Norrie,” Cameron said as he turned briefly and smiled. “I’d like that very much. Thanks.” He sounded civil, for a heartless murderer.
Simpson steered the Range Rover left, off the main road and down into the large public car park overlooking the loch. He paid for a ticket and walked into town to locate the nearest takeaway. Cameron climbed out of the rear and sat in the front passenger seat.
Simpson returned 15 minutes later. He opened the driver’s door and the tantalising fragrance of freshly cooked fish and chips wafted through the 4 x 4. The appetising smell was accompanied by the aroma of coffee. It was mid-afternoon. Simpson set the fan, and the two men eased the seats further back in the spacious vehicle to relax and enjoy their late lunch.
“This is a better view than the one you had at the start of the day,” Simpson said.
“Aye, it is indeed mate,” Cameron said. “If everything goes to plan I’ll be back in the summer and have a different view again.” He tore himself a large piece of golden battered cod and savoured the moment.
Freedom is the taste of fish and chips, he thought.
Simpson said, “I remember when you were banged-up – your right-hand man was one of the witnesses for the Crown. I bet he’s somewhere with a fuckin’ nice view.”
“He might be Norrie, but he owes a debt which will have to be repaid. No matter what Mr Smith calls himself now, he’ll be found. His days are numbered.” Cameron stared out across the loch as he spoke. His gaze was as cold as the water to his front.
Simpson was silent, except for the sound of him chomping on his fish and chips.
“Norrie, have you ever been to Australia?” Cameron asked without turning.
“No I haven’t Mr Cameron, but I’ve always wanted to go there.”
“Why would you want to go there?”
“My brother lives there.”
“Is he anything like you?”
“Well he is in some ways,” Simpson said, and laughed. “He’s happy to take payment to do things other people might not want to do, if you get my meaning.”
“Does he look like you?”
“We’re the same build, and although we’re not twins, we could be mistaken for each other. Why do you ask?”
“I’ll tell you during the next leg of our journey.” Cameron’s eyes sparkled and his lips twisted into a grin.
Simpson said, “Have you got a new lieutenant for your operation, Mr Cameron?”
Cameron swallowed the piece of cod he was savouring, and then glanced at the man beside him. He nodded as he considered how calm and capable Simpson had been under pressure, and it was he who had arranged the team and transport for the escape.
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do Norrie,” Cameron said, and sipped his coffee. He gazed at the snow-covered hills across the loch. “When we continue our journey, we’ll have a wee chat about the requirements of my right hand man.”
Simpson had a mouthful of food, so nodded as he continued chewing.
Cameron continued. “I have high expectations of my right-hand man, but the rewards are commensurate with such a position.”
Simpson was about to ask if commensurate was a good thing, but swallowed his food and the word was forgotten. “It’ll be a couple of hours before we reach the port,” he said. “Do you think it will be time enough to chat about your requirements?”
“Aye, a couple of hours will be more than enough time, Norrie.”
The two gangsters fell into a companionable silence as they continued with their lunch and looked out over the wintry landscape before them. Cameron smiled as he considered his relatively new habit of using the Scottish ‘aye’, as an affirmative.
He’d started using the word in prison to mimic and irritate one of the prison officers, but had since found himself using the word all the time, instead of yes, or yeah.
Glenbrittle, Isle of Skye
It was early evening and dark when the two men arrived on the south-west coast of Skye. They’d had a long and interesting conversation since their lunch break. Glenbrittle had the appearance of the coastal fishing villages featured in old movies.
Simpson parked near to the small dockside and held up a hand to his new employer.
“Wait there for a minute, boss.” Simpson opened the door to climb out, and a gust of wind blew snowflakes into the warm interior of the vehicle. Cameron shivered and pulled up his collar. He was looking forward to the contrasting climate of his destination.
Simpson opened the tailgate, rummaged around, and returned to the front of the vehicle. He opened the driver’s door and threw in a heavy duffle coat. At first Cameron looked at the unflattering garment with its hood and wooden toggles, but accepted it would be more beneficial than the leather jacket. He shuffled around on the seat to change coats and left the comfort of the Range Rover.
Simpson was already wearing a duffle coat and woolly hat. He handed a similar hat to Cameron, who pulled it on immediately down over his ears. They both pulled up their hoods and squinted as tiny frozen flakes blasted into their eyes. There was little sign of life, which was just as the two gangsters would prefer.
“Hey boss,” Simpson called against the chilling Atlantic breeze. “If you want to give your wife a call, this is the time.” He held out a mobile phone. “I’ve punched in the contact number in Spain.”
“What about this number being traced?”
“Make your call, and then take the phone with you and drop it over the side. I’ve put two other phones in your baggage.” The two men went to the rear of the vehicle and Simpson opened the tailgate. He pulled back a holdall which he’d prepared prior to the escape.
Cameron stood at the tailgate out of the wind, unzipped the large bag and poked around inside. Apart from footwear and an assortment of clothing, there was a small plastic wallet. He opened the wallet to find a passport and American Express card in his new name. There was also a wad of banknotes for use in the destination country, and two phones. He nodded with satisfaction and re-zipped the holdall. He turned to Simpson and gave him a thumbs-up. Simpson nodded.
As Cameron leaned away from the increasing snowfall he spotted a sheltered area. It was no more than a wooden partition on the end of a building, but he went there to make his single brief call.
Simpson lifted the holdall from the back of the 4 x 4, and edged carefully down the slippery stone path to the small dock. A fishing vessel of no more than 20 metres in length was rising and falling beside the jetty. Old tyres secured to the wooden panels squeaked as the boat’s hull rubbed against them.
A short, swarthy man in yellow fisherman’s wet-weather garb crossed the deck and accepted a buff-coloured envelope from Simpson. The sailor gripped the envelope and made a quick appraisal of the contents. He nodded towards the man in the shadows making the phone call.
“Is he our passenger?”
“He is,” Simpson said. “Advise your crew to steer clear of him.”
“They’ve already been told.”
Cameron squinted as he observed his new employee and the sailor. He used his free hand to cover his left ear and held the small device to his right ear. The number rang only twice before his wife answered.
“Hello,” Cameron shouted, without use of a name, or emotion. “I only have a couple of minutes, and it’s fucking freezing here, so listen.” He paused before continuing. “Everything has gone according to plan so far.” He stopped again when he heard his wife asking questions. He gritted his teeth and then interrupted.
“Listen. This is imperative. Tomorrow is the second stage. Get it done and get used to it. Get the third stage sorted by tomorrow afternoon. I’ll be in touch.” He ended the call and pocketed the phone.
“Okay boss?” Simpson shouted into the wind. He held out the holdall as Cameron came down the flat rocks, slipping and cursing into the spray and snowflakes.
He got his lips close to Simpson’s left ear. “Norrie, everything is fine. You call MacDonald from a public call box in the next 24 hours.” Simpson nodded. Cameron went on. “Tell him where you want the deposit paid. He’ll give you enough to pay the whole team for today.”
“I’ll take care of it,” Simpson said and paused. “Is there anything else?” The two men were forced to turn away from the sea breeze, taking turns shouting into each other’s ear.
“Keep an eye on my interests, Norrie, and I’ll make it worth your while.”
“How will you contact me?”
“I’ll be in touch with the solicitor the first time. He’ll let you know when I’m calling you. When I make that call, we’ll sort out a new method.”
“Okay boss, no problem.”
The two men shook hands and blinked against the strengthening wind and rain. They looked into each other’s eyes with mutual respect – a respect understood by hard men.
Norrie Simpson watched as Cameron grabbed at the handrail. He knew his new boss wouldn’t be happy accepting help from the skipper, but the boat was lolling around as the sea became lively. The ride would get worse before Cameron reached his next transport – a freighter sitting 100 miles off the west coast of Ireland.
Simpson watched from the comfort of the Range Rover until the small vessel left the coast. “Rather you than me Mr Cameron,” he said as he saw the craft lift and fall. He set off for a hotel on the east coast of Skye. A couple of beers and a good night’s rest would be in order before heading back to Glasgow.
He was eager to commence the tasks on which his new boss had already briefed him. The first would be to contact Kevin MacDonald, the bent lawyer. Another key person to check out was his new boss’s wife. Plus of course there were a couple of business trips abroad. Yes, Norrie Simpson was a happy man.
Saturday, 28th February 2004
Rachel grinned as she slid behind the wheel of her pre-booked rental car at Madrid Airport, Barajas. Even after seven years as a member of BTL Enterprises, she still preferred the thrill of taking a vehicle without permission. She had learned however, there were times to keep things legal – like now.
She was pleased to be getting away from the British winter for a couple of days, but uppermost in her thoughts was the trust being placed in her by her two idols. Rachel steered out into the traffic, and thrust her map into the centre console to accompany her phrasebook. Sat-nav devices were okay for some, but Rachel had more confidence in her map-reading.
“To the A3, the south-east and Valencia,” she said, in a comic dramatic voice. Her grin widened as she depressed her right foot, and her back was forced against the comfortable backrest of the BMW 5-Series.