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   Chapter 10 PETER’S LEGACY

Dead Centre By Owen Jones Characters: 24930

Updated: 2018-02-09 19:01


"So, " asked Gareg of the old man in the Duke of York, "when do you want this job to take place?"

"First things first, my boy, Sláinte. It is so hot out there and I have been looking forward to a cold Guinness all morning. Ah! That is a true pleasure. They say it puts your blood pressure up, but at the moment, I don't give a monkey's! Bloody doctors are never satisfied, are they?

"Are you well? Is the family well?"

"Sure, we're all well, thanks for asking. I don't actually have much of a family. I've got more friends than family."

"Well, like they say, you can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family. It's true enough too.

"Now, as to your first question. As soon as possible, is the easy answer, but the fact of the matter is that there is no rush. The situation will not change and nor will the circumstances. It is not a matter of life or death for us. When can you be ready?"

"I will have to check when I have all the details, but my people are usually ready to move pretty quickly. Say, next week or the week after, I should imagine."

"Well, to be sure that is soon enough. Are you having a couple more?" They were back on the Guinness and Midletons.

"Yes, go on then, they make a good combination."

The old man got up and signalled for the same again.

"Thanks. I think it's about time we knew each other's names, don't you?" said Gareg.

"Certainly. You can call me Sean, and yours?"

"Gareg."

"Ah, another Celt. I thought so. I like to keep things within the family, so to speak. Your people and mine have been cousins for thousands of years." They shook hands again.

"Where do you want the event to take place, Sean?"

"Well, Gareg, the venue is not of my choosing, but it can only take place in one spot and that is Belfast."

Gareg waited to see if any more information was going to be forthcoming, but Sean reached for his beer.

"I see, are you going to be more specific?"

"I'm sorry my Welsh friend. I can hear your accent now. Not strong is it? Ironed out at Sandhurst, was it, I shouldn't wonder? Look, I am not trying to keep anything from you, it is just that it is not in my nature to say any more than I have to. A consequence of the bad old days, which I think you took part in too, if I'm not much mistaken, did you not?"

Gareg smiled and acknowledged the old man's perspicacity.

"Thank you for not denying it. NCND – neither confirm nor deny. It's the best tactic. You have backbone. It shows character. Perhaps I can tell you a little more. Let's just say that I have some friends who like to collect paintings. They have done me a few favours in the past, so I said that I might be able to help them build up their collections.

"One of them collects nudes, paintings of nudes, I mean. I prefer the real thing myself, but it takes all sorts, doesn't it. Luckily, a museum here in Belfast has a few there that he fancies owning, so I thought that I'd go and get them for him."

Gareg liked Sean's jocular, matter of fact way of explaining the raid and could not help smiling.

"Can you help me do that for them?"

"Do you need men to help with the raid too or do you have your own?"

"No, I only need one man, or woman, from you. I have plenty of people willing to do the job. In fact, it is all planned. We just need to dot a few 'I's' and cross a few 'T's'."

"I see. I am sure we can do something to help you on that score. I take it that you want our man to provide a diversion while your men take the paintings for your friend. You don't need us for that, right?"

"You have hit the nail on the head. I only want for you to be a smokescreen, as it were, a very scary smokescreen. Your man goes in, scares the bejesus out of them and our men do the rest. Is that acceptable to you, Gareg?"

"Yes, perfect! It is just the way we like it."

"And what is the cost of this service of yours?"

"$1.5 million in arrears."

"I see. I was told that you were expensive, but… nevertheless, I accept." They shook hands on the deal. "What happens now?"

"Basically, you just tell me where and when. Give me a week or so to get things sorted out my end and your job will be done."

"Excellent! Another round, Gareg?"

"Yes, but it is my round."

"I have just promised to pay you $1.5 million, so I think that I can stretch to another round. Not a Pembrokeshire farmer, are you? Some say they're the tightest in these Isles of ours."

Gareg had heard all the jokes about people from Pembroke being mean all his life, but it was his turn not to give anything away now, so he jut grinned, although he did trust this man, Sean. Sean didn't ask twice either. It didn't matter to him either way.

"Sláinte, Sean, do you want to set a date?"

"Right you are. A week Monday is a Bank Holiday, so that will stretch the staff anyway and cause maximum confusion and we can make sure that there are plenty of other things for the police and the army to be getting on with.

"Make it lunch time, there will be fewer visitors and staff in there then. One o' clock would be a good time."

"One o' clock a week Monday it is then, Sean."

"I'll get us another round just to prove a point about Wales and it's farmers and then I'll get on to it, although I could sit here and listen to this music all afternoon."

"You don't have to prove anything to me, Gareg, I've been to Pembroke many times, my lad."

Gareg phoned Bob, who was on the way back from South Africa. He mentioned the success of the trip to Belfast in code, so Bob offered to go change his ticket and fly straight to see Peter, the next one on his list. Peter was living in Amsterdam. He was a British junkie dying of Hepatitis C alone abroad.

Bob rang Peter from Schiphol airport.

"Peter, how are you, son? You sound awful. Are you still interested in what we talked about before? I'm in Amsterdam today, shall we meet up?"

"Yes, I am still interested. I've got nothing to lose, have I?"

"That's not my decision, Peter. You are the only one who can say how much your time is worth to you."

"It's not worth much to me, Jim. I'm in pain every day, but if I take this job at least my mum will get something out of it. She deserves a better life, the poor old girl. I've never been much use to her."

"Where shall we meet. Not in your gaff, if you don't mind. Can you get out?"

"Yes, I'm skint today, I'm doing cold turkey. How about the Milky Way? I can be there in thirty minutes."

"OK, I'll be a little longer. I need to leave my stuff in a hotel first, but I will be there within the hour."

"See you there within the hour then, Jim."

"Try to look a bit smart and we'll have a few drinks and a bite to eat too. You could probably do with it."

Bob took a taxi to Dam Square and booked into 'The Best Western Dam Square Inn', a hotel nearby. He had a shower, changed his clothes and walked the few minutes to the Milky Way. It had been famous with young people for decades as a venue for modern music. It was called the Melkweg in Dutch and many famous names had played there giving organised and free, impromptu performances.

Bob had been going there since the Eighties. It was one of his favourite venues in the world. It was an ideal place to meet Peter, because they could get a drink and food there and Peter could have a few joints to help him with the pain that he had to be feeling.

They met inside, Peter was drinking a large beer that he had pr

ey man insurance. He will need to accompany your man on Monday. For a while anyway."

Bob looked at Gareg, but his face did not give away that this was a surprise to him as well.

"Why the change of plan, Sean?"

"There is no real change of plan, it is just that we have heard of some extra security measures, so it is better if a man we have on the inside can plant the jacket in a cleaning cupboard on Sunday. Pat will lead your man to it on Monday and then take up his other duties. Any objections?"

Gareg didn't have any.

"When do you want us inside?"

"Oh, twelve forty will give us all plenty of time, but if you want to get there earlier to admire the paintings, you can. You may not get another chance. Pat will contact you at twelve forty-five in the first exhibition hall after the lobby.

"We can take the vest off you in the pub here tomorrow afternoon at opening time, say at noon. A man will call and ask for 'the jacket that wants dry cleaning'. Put it in the bag that is within this carrier bag. Will that cause you any problems?"

"No, none at all. However, if we are going to do it that way, and I do think it's a good idea, let's put a few things in the bag for Bob too."

"Sure, no problem either. If that is all, gentlemen, we will take our leave of you. Good night."

On Monday morning at eight o' clock, they ate a full Irish breakfast and ran through the plan with its minor amendment once again in Gareg's room.

"Have you written that letter to your mother, Peter?" asked Bob.

"Yes, it's in there. I haven't sealed it so you can check it if you like, but I haven't mentioned you or how I will die."

"Can I get you anything before I leave?"

"Some methadone and a few tots to stop me shaking wouldn't go amiss."

Bob got the methadone out of the fridge and poured three large whiskies, which he handed around.

"To those who are about to die, we salute you, " said Bob and he and Gareg raised their glasses. Then they took a taxi to a pub near the museum, where they each had a couple of rounds and waited for twelve thirty, when it would be time to leave. Gareg said goodbye to Peter in the pub, but Bob walked with him.

They entered the foyer and proceeded to their meeting point where Pat, dressed in a janitor's uniform approached them and led them away. They were shown to a well-hidden cupboard, which Peter and Bob entered. Bob helped him on with the large, heavy Crombie, then changed his own shirt, and put on a black wig, a jacket and a trilby.

"Take these, they will help steady your nerves, " said Bob.

Peter did not ask questions and swallowed them with a swig of whisky from the half-bottle that was in a pocket of the overcoat, then Bob helped him back outside.

"OK, Pat, we're ready. Aren't we, Peter?"

Peter nodded agreement and Bob held up the battery before Peter's face before slipping it into the coat's breast pocket.

"I'll go and join my men now. It was a pleasure to meet you both. Good luck, Peter. Perhaps we'll meet again one day, Bob."

Peter looked at him.

"Bob, is it. It doesn't matter now, but I'm glad I heard your real name. It was nice to get to know you this last week, Bob. I'm glad not to be dying in some poxy bedsit, where no-one would have found me until the rent was overdue."

They turned and walked back to the foyer, where they stopped at a poster about a forthcoming collection of artwork.

"This is it, Peter, you go over to that wall and I'll leave by that exit. Goodbye."

Peter looked over to the wall at the far side of the hall, but his face looked blank

"Go over there now, Peter, stand against the wall and pull the top button."

He started on his last walk, stopped after a half-a-dozen steps and looked over his shoulder, tears were forming in his eyes.

"Goodbye, say sorry to my mum for me, Bob."

"Sure thing, Peter, go on now. Stick to the plan, it makes things easier. Don't think, stick with the plan, do things automatically. All the thinking has been done, now it's time for action."

When Peter nodded and continued for the wall, Bob headed for the exit. He heard the blast, which took Peter's heart and disintegrated it, just as he reached the doorway and started to run. He turned to look and heard a series of explosions and saw flashes of intense light and clouds of thick black smoke.

Peter's body lay slumped against the foot of the wall with a hole right through him where his heart had been. A tobacco tin full of Semtex had done that and ignited whiz-bangs and the phosphorous sewn into the lining of the coat, the intense, white heat of which was melting and evaporating him.

The awful smell was suffocating.

As people ran screaming for the exits, Sean's men, their respirators and night-vision goggles giving them an unearthly appearance, threw tear gas canisters and fired shots into the ceiling to add to the confusion, while others stripped paintings from their frames on the first floor.

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