Prologue

Monday 2nd May 2005

Bishopbriggs

Glasgow

Reid was strolling along the sixth fairway of the golf course which was situated nearest to his operational HQ—The Saracen’s Head bar. His opponent was ‘Lethal’ Bob Lalonde, one of the best hitmen in the UK. It was frustrating for the crime boss that the hitman was as accurate with a golf club as he was with a rifle. The pair stopped when they reached Reid’s ball on the fairway.

“Bob, I heard you don’t have any qualms about topping a woman.”

“I plugged a female police inspector three days ago down in London. I don’t give a fuck. As long as the money is good, the job will be done.”

“I haven’t set eyes on this vigilante. Apparently, she’s nice-looking, but fucking deadly.”

“George, I didn’t come up here to take her out for a drink—I came up to take her out; permanently.”

Both men turned when a man ran down the fairway towards them.

“Who the fuck is that?” Lalonde reached down into his golf trolley and started to bring out a gun.

“He’s one of mine,” Reid said and nodded for the hitman and the two caddies to relax. “Hey, Ned,” he called to the running man. “Calm down, mate. What’s the panic?”

Ned was in his mid-thirties, but he was overweight and unfit. “A motorbike—” He leant forward with his hands on his knees, breathing as if he’d just completed a marathon instead of running a few hundred yards. “A motorbike pulled up … into the car park … about … half an hour ago.”

Lalonde looked from the messenger to his opponent in the game. “I know I’m not in Glasgow much these days, George, but is a fucking motorbike in a carpark so unusual?” He laughed.

The out of shape messenger glared at the visitor and turned to Reid, opening his right hand to give his boss something. “One of the guys in the clubhouse came out a short while ago and handed me that fucking card. The biker left it for you.”

Reid looked at the purple flowers and the name on the card before he turned it over. “I think the fucking bitch is here, Bob.” He lowered the card and looked around. Like any golf course, there were trees, bushes, and a variety of contours. Reid licked his lips as he looked at the distant boundaries and the high hedgerows surrounding the course.

“Give me a look at that fucking thing.” The hitman took the card and read the front. “Atropa Belladonna—very fucking poetic.” He turned the card over to read the message. “This is a warning. Lalonde turned to his temporary employer and shook his head. “Are you telling me that you guys are afraid of this bullshit—she’s a fucking dead woman walking.”

“Bob, trust me … she is sending a serious message.”

“I’ll be sending her a fucking serious message—from a rifle barrel.” Lalonde made a show of looking around the vast expanse of the golf course as he held up the calling card and tore it in half. “Come on out, you little slut.” He held the two torn halves together and started to tear them in half, but following a sharp crack in the air, a hole appeared in Lalonde’s forehead, and his body crumpled to land on the fairway. The pieces of the torn card floated down and fell on the dead hitman.

Reid, Ned, and the two caddies all hit the deck in a race to get below the grass. They lay flat and for a few minutes; silent.

“Boss … what do we fucking do … now?” Ned was still catching his breath.

“Shut up, Ned, for fuck’s sake. Give me time to think.”

*

Three hundred yards away, two women were lying under a bush on the southern boundary of the golf course.

Rachel resisted the temptation to say, ‘Hole in One’. She lowered her binoculars. “You’ve successfully initiated our new campaign, Dominique.”

The auburn-haired woman applied the safety on her rifle. “Thank you.” She shed no tears—no regrets about ending the life of the man on the fairway. He was no longer a concern, or a killer.

The two operatives slid backwards out of position, packed away their equipment and then uncovered their machines. They continued to chat as they changed into leathers and packed away their camouflage outfits, ready to ride back to Pitlochry.

“Tomorrow,” Rachel said. “We’ll look at the house in Perth that you’d like to buy and convert, and next week we go to Stirling.”

“Have we got the building we wanted?”

“Yes, it’s a self-contained unit and sits in a small trading estate just north of Stirling Castle. The motorway system is two minutes away, and all that remains is for us to meet the contractors and confirm the requirements for our new organisation—ATTACS.”

Dominique laughed. “Go on—I have to hear what it stands for.”

“Alternative Training, Tasking And Consultation Services.” Rachel pulled on her gloves.

“When will I get to meet the rest of our team?” Dominique adjusted her gloves and lifted her helmet.

“In early August, if all goes well during their initial training.” Rachel pulled on her helmet and mounted her bike.

“Do you think I’ll be deep enough into my new role by then?” Dominique raised her shapely eyebrows hopefully.

“Yes, you will—today was a big step in the right direction.” Rachel dropped her visor, revved her bike and pulled away. As the pair cruised along a narrow path to the nearest main road, Rachel recalled a piece of advice given by Annabel in 1996:

‘However, you feel inside; you must deceive others—be in character.’ 

Rachel had worked hard to apply this theory, but no longer had to deceive anybody—she was the best. Rachel was Nightshade. Dominique would be Foxglove.

***

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