‘Please sit down Jamie,’ my mother had started, ‘there’s something we need to tell you.’ I was concerned because both my parents looked worried. The pair of them took turns talking. For however long it was, I listened. My life had been a lie. For some reason, only days after my 18th birthday they saw fit to tell me I was adopted at birth. My natural mother had given me away.
I did as they suggested and slept on it. Another lie… I didn’t sleep at all. I lay in bed looking around, at my photos, certificates and posters. I looked with a different attitude at my trophies for football and cricket. The digital clock read 04.00 when I got up. It was 04.30 when I took a last look around my room.
It was fortunate that the first ride got me well clear of my hometown, Grimsby. At the roadside services outside Doncaster I tossed a coin and headed north to Scotland. I had to go north or south. By the early evening I’d hitch-hiked as far as Edinburgh. I realised too late that November wasn’t the best time to run away. ‘City Centre – 2 miles,’ a sign stated. I rubbed my numb hands together constantly. My hands were numb and my mind was numb. As I ambled along Dalkeith Road I caught the welcome aroma of a chippy. I’d have fish and chips and a coke, regular, not the diet stuff mother insisted on. I sniffed when I thought about her… and my other fake parent.
The Jaguar stood out because there wasn’t much traffic. About fifty yards away it pulled in. When the lights were switched off it became almost invisible, parked between dim street lighting. Suddenly I was a character in one of my favourite stories. I melted into a tenement doorway to watch. My backpack insulated me from the granite.
Until then I hadn’t seen the figure ahead of me. He was like a character from The Matrix, tall, in long black coat. He limped from a doorway towards the Jaguar. The driver of the car got out. He was a short blonde man in a leather jacket and jeans. They approached each other. First one, then the other held arms wide. I thought of the Godfather and expected them to embrace. I smiled when I became conscious of the thought. The smile quickly faded.
Both men suddenly dropped their arms. There was a flash and a muffled bang. For a moment time stood still. Blondie collapsed in a heap. The Matrix character glanced down briefly, looked around and seemed to look directly at me. He wore glasses. When he turned, I noticed he also had a beard. I became a part of the doorway, praying silently that he would go. I was transfixed as the Matrix man went striding off, coat flowing behind him. He wasn’t limping now.
It felt surreal. I was the only witness. There were only muted taps from my Timberlands as I sprinted to the fallen man. I knelt beside him. He looked ghostly in the dim light. His eyes were glazed and he continually blinked and gulped. I saw a dark, glistening patch on his chest. I whipped off my Paul Smith scarf, sighed and pressed it onto the wound. The casualty gripped my arm and tried to get up.
‘Police…’ he gasped.
‘Don’t worry mate,’ I said, ‘I’ll get the police… erm… and an ambulance.’
‘I am… police… ‘ he breathed.
‘Danny,’ the DCI had said, ‘I forbid you to meet this man.’
‘I want to prove myself sir,’ I said.
‘Look mate,’ he said, ‘I’ve heard the Starsky and Hutch stuff. It’s only humour.’
‘I want to be treated seriously.’ I replied.
‘Well stop bleaching your bloody hair,’ he said, ‘and lose the leather jacket.’
‘Yes sir.’ I turned to leave his office.
‘One more thing Danny… do not sign out a gun… or the Jaguar…’
That chat was an hour ago. I might only be 25, and not a big bloke but I would show them. I drove towards Edinburgh. For a year I’d put up with the piss-takers. After tonight, that would stop. I’d show them and finally get some respect.
Two miles from the city I spotted a young guy wandering along. He was wearing a striped scarf and a backpack. I’d have to watch out for him. Seconds later on the same side, I saw the contact. He was standing in a doorway in his distinctive long black leather coat. His glasses reflected a little light. I flexed my neck and shoulders to control a sudden twinge of nerves.
At Calton Hill I spun the car around and headed back. I pulled in and switched off the Jaguar’s lights. I had watched D.I. McKenzie make this meeting several times so I knew the drill. Each time I’d managed to blend in unseen with my red Nissan. It was a common car and colour.
When I first found out that D.I. McKenzie was handling an informer I was intrigued. It took some digging to find out that it was a big-time drug connection. I hatched my plan when I realised the meetings were monthly. On this particular evening the D.I was dealing with a last minute crisis. A crisis I had arranged. I would keep his appointment, but with an unexpected outcome.
Before getting out of the Jag’ I checked my automatic again. I would have to be quick. I got out of the car, then after a look for witnesses, stepped onto the pavement. The contact limped from the doorway towards me. He held his arms out and I did the same. It was what the D.I would normally do. We were two paces apart. The contact’s arms were still outstretched when I quickly reached for my gun.
He said, ‘You’re the Nissan driver….’
I heard a bang, felt extreme pressure, then blacked out
I tried to focus. The stars were clear at first, then they blurred. I was on my back and felt as if I had a house on my chest. I couldn’t control my breathing and there was a metallic taste in my mouth. I’d heard the stories and my mind raced. I got a hand to my chest and regretted it. I felt my own warm sticky blood. He had shot me…
I tried to apply pressure to my chest, but it hurt. I was feeling so stupid and realised I might end up dying right then, in a dark empty street on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Suddenly, a young lad knelt beside me. He tore off his scarf and pressed it on my chest. I grabbed his arm.
‘Police…’ I said and tried to raise myself up.
He told me not to worry, that he would get the police and an ambulance.
He didn’t seem to understand. I repeated myself, ‘I am police…’
I checked then pocketed my Blackberry. The contact at Rotterdam Europort sent an assurance that everything was organised. Within the hour I received the container number in coded text. As usual before a rendezvous, I replaced the top round of ammunition with one I had adapted. Ballistics had long been of interest to me, but I always remembered … small adjustments make big differences. I arrived at Dalkeith Road early, to observe, before making my way to the regular doorway in the line of majestic tenements. It was in that area between street lighting. The warm aroma of a nearby chippie urged me to eat. Perhaps I would after the meeting.
Traffic was light on road and pavement. Two minutes before my contact was due, I noticed movement to my left. The person was at least three hundred meters away. I knew it was a young man by the idle saunter. He was wearing a light scarf and something that reflected to the front of both shoulders. Possibly tabs on a backpack. He wasn’t an issue. Coming from the same direction I saw the Jaguar … recognisable because of it’s headlight configuration. The driver glanced at me as he passed and I recognised him, but he wasn’t my contact. My usual guy would never check.
Two minutes later, the Jag’ returned, approaching on my side of the road. There was something different … something missing. I remembered it as I observed a short blonde guy leave the Jag’. When he got out a courtesy light allowed me to see his shoulder holster. I also saw a gun in his waistband. I felt uneasy. I stepped out of the darkness and glanced left. The young lad was still approaching. I improvised a limp. The limp was a psychological ploy I had used before. It worked. My own pistol was in my waistband. The uneasiness was gone, replaced by alertness.
When a few paces apart I held my arms out. The blonde guy imitated my actions.
‘You’re the Nissan driver.’ I accused as my right hand flew down to my Beretta. My hand movement was much sharper than his attempt. His staring eyes and slightly dropped jaw were enough. I fired once. He went down. I had to stop myself from grinning when I glanced back along the pavement. The young lad was trying to blend into a doorway, which might have worked except for those reflective straps. I walked a hundred metres then looked back. The lad had run to the casualty, whipped off his scarf and pressed it to the wound. I was impressed.
I found a secluded, old-fashioned phone kiosk. It stunk of piss, shit and sex. After two rings I heard a familiar voice say abruptly, ‘Speak ….’
‘It’s Mister Anderson,’ I said casually, ‘do you know a short-arse with blonde hair?’
The voice on the other end informed me that the blonde guy was a Detective Constable.
‘Is he now?’ I felt my lip curl, ‘well, he’s a D.C. with a bloody hole in his chest.’
My contact asked in a worried tone if I’d killed the imposter.
‘Nahh …’ I laughed, ‘he’ll live … I put a Nick special into him. Time’s up … Resume our usual routine … tomorrow … and I’ve now got the merchandise details.’
DCI John McKenzie was more than a contact. We had been colleagues for twenty years but we’d been brothers since birth.
I went back to the corner to watch the young lad with the casualty. An ambulance and squad car had turned up. I felt my lip curl as I watched the youngster talk to the boys in uniform. I liked the lad and I didn’t even know him. It made me think back to my ex-girlfriend. We’d split up when I said I was joining the force. We shared a flat in Grimsby then and I didn’t know she was pregnant until I was training in Hendon. That was about nineteen years ago. I hoped if our kid was a boy he would end up like that decent young fella’ with the striped scarf.