Macbeth | Chapter 8 of 54

Author: Jo Nesbo | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 12814 Views | Add a Review

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1

THE SHINY RAINDROP FELL FROM the sky, through the darkness, towards the shivering lights of the port below. Cold gusting north-westerlies drove the raindrop over the dried-up riverbed that divided the town lengthwise and the disused railway line that divided it diagonally. The four quadrants of the town were numbered clockwise; beyond that they had no name. No name the inhabitants remembered anyway. And if you met those same inhabitants a long way from home and asked them where they came from they were likely to maintain they couldn’t remember the name of the town either.

The raindrop went from shiny to grey as it penetrated the soot and poison that lay like a constant lid of mist over the town despite the fact that in recent years the factories had closed one after the other. Despite the fact that the unemployed could no longer afford to light their stoves. In spite of the capricious but stormy wind and the incessant rain that some claimed hadn’t started to fall until the Second World War had been ended by two atom bombs a quarter of a century ago. In other words, around the time Kenneth was installed as police commissioner. From his office on the top floor of police HQ Chief Commissioner Kenneth had then misruled the town with an iron fist for twenty-five years, irrespective of who the mayor was and what he was or wasn’t doing, or what the powers-that-be were saying or not saying over in Capitol, as the country’s second-largest and once most important industrial centre sank into a quagmire of corruption, bankruptcies, crime and chaos. Six months ago Chief Commissioner Kenneth had fallen from a chair in his summer house. Three weeks later, he was dead. The funeral had been paid for by the town – a council decision made long ago that Kenneth himself had incidentally engineered. After a funeral worthy of a dictator the council and mayor had brought in Duncan, a broad-browed bishop’s son and the head of Organised Crime in Capitol, as the new chief commissioner. And hope had been kindled amongst the city’s inhabitants. It had been a surprising appointment because Duncan didn’t come from the old school of politically pragmatic officers, but from the new generation of well educated police administrators who supported reforms, transparency, modernisation and the fight against corruption – which the majority of the town’s elected get-rich-quick politicians did not.

And the inhabitants’ hope that they now had an upright, honest and visionary chief commissioner who could drag the town up from the quagmire had been nourished by Duncan’s replacement of the old guard at the top with his own hand-picked officers. Young, untarnished idealists who really wanted the town to become a better place to live.

The wind carried the raindrop over District 4 West and the town’s highest point, the radio tower on top of the studio where the lone, morally indignant voice of Walt Kite expressed the hope, leaving no ‘r’ unrolled, that they finally had a saviour. While Kenneth had been alive Kite had been the sole person with the courage to openly criticise the chief commissioner and accuse him of some of the crimes he had committed. This evening Kite reported that the town council would do what it could to rescind the powers that Kenneth had forced through making the police commissioner the real authority in town. Paradoxically this would mean that his successor, Duncan the good democrat, would struggle to drive through the reforms he, rightly, wanted. Kite also added that in the imminent mayoral elections it was ‘Tourtell, the sitting and therefore fattest mayor in the country, versus no one. Absolutely no one. For who can compete against the turtle, Tourtell, with his shell of folky joviality and unsullied morality, which all criticism bounces off?’

In District 4 East the raindrop passed over the Obelisk, a twenty-storey glass hotel and casino that stood up like an illuminated index finger from the brownish-black four-storey wretchedness that constituted the rest of the town. It was a contradiction to many that the less industry and more unemployment there was, the more popular it had become amongst the inhabitants to gamble away money they didn’t have at the town’s two casinos.

‘The town that stopped giving and started taking,’ Kite trilled over the radio waves. ‘First of all we abandoned industry, then the railway so that no one could get away. Then we started selling drugs to our citizens, supplying them from where they used to buy train tickets, so that we could rob them at our convenience. I would never have believed I would say I missed the profit-sucking masters of industry, but at least they worked in respectable trades. Unlike the three other businesses where people can still get rich: casinos, drugs and politics.’

In District 3 the rain-laden wind swept across police HQ, Inverness Casino and streets where the rain had driven most people indoors, although some still hurried around searching or escaping. Across the central station, where trains no longer arrived and departed but which was populated by ghosts and itinerants. The ghosts of those – and their successors – who had once built this town with self-belief, a work ethic, God and their technology. The itinerants at the twenty-four hour dope market for brew; a ticket to heaven and certain hell. In District 2 the wind whistled in the chimneys of the town’s two biggest, though recently closed, factories: Graven and Estex. They had both manufactured a metal alloy, but what it consisted of not even those who had operated the furnaces could say for sure, only that the Koreans had started making the same alloy cheaper. Perhaps it was the town’s climate that made the decay visible or perhaps it was imagination; perhaps it was just the certainty of bankruptcy and ruin that made the silent, dead factories stand there like what Kite called ‘capitalism’s plundered cathedrals in a town of drop-outs and disbelief’.

The rain drifted to the south-east, across streets of smashed street lamps where jackals on the lookout huddled against walls, sheltering from the sky’s endless precipitation while their prey hurried towards light and greater safety. In a recent interview Kite had asked Chief Commissioner Duncan why the risk of being robbed was six times higher here than in Capitol, and Duncan had answered that he was glad to finally get an easy question: it was because the unemployment rate was six times higher and the number of drug users ten times greater.

At the docks stood graffiti-covered containers and run-down freighters with captains who had met the port’s corrupt representatives in deserted spots and given them brown envelopes to ensure quicker entry permits and mooring slots, sums the shipping companies would log in their miscellaneous-expenses accounts swearing they would never undertake work that would lead them to this town again.

One of these ships was the MS Leningrad, a Soviet vessel losing so much rust from its hull in the rain it looked as if it was bleeding into the harbour.

The raindrop fell into a cone of light from a lamp on the roof of one two-storey timber building with a storeroom, an office and a closed boxing club, continued down between the wall and a rusting hulk and landed on a bull’s horn. It followed the horn down to the motorbike helmet it was joined to, ran off the helmet down the back of a leather jacket embroidered with NORSE RIDERS in Gothic letters. And to the seat of a red Indian Chief motorbike and finally into the hub of its slowly revolving rear wheel where, as it was hurled out again, it ceased to be a drop and became part of the polluted water of the town, of everything.

Behind the red motorbike followed eleven others. They passed under one of the lamps on the wall of an unilluminated two-storey port building.

The light from the lamp fell through the window of a shipping office on the first floor, onto a hand resting on a poster: MS GLAMIS SEEKS GALLEY HAND. The fingers were long and slim like a concert pianist’s and the nails well manicured. Even though the face was in shadow, preventing you from seeing the intense blue eyes, the resolute chin, the thin, miserly lips and nose shaped like an aggressive beak, the scar shone like a white shooting star, running diagonally from the jaw to the forehead.

‘They’re here,’ Inspector Duff said, hoping his men in the Narcotics Unit couldn’t hear the involuntary vibrato in his voice. He had assumed the Norse Riders would send three to four, maximum five, men to get the dope. But he counted twelve motorbikes in the procession slowly emerging from the darkness. The two at the back each had a pillion rider. Fourteen men to his nine. And there was every reason to believe the Norse Riders were armed. Heavily armed. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the sight of superior numbers that had produced the tremor in his vocal cords. It was that Duff had achieved his dearest wish. It was that he was leading the convoy; finally he was within striking distance.

The man hadn’t shown himself for months, but only one person owned that helmet and the red Indian Chief motorbike. Rumour had it the bike was one of fifty the New York Police Department had manufactured in total secrecy in 1955. The steel of the curved scabbard attached to its side shone.

Sweno.

Some claimed he was dead, others that he had fled the country, that he had changed his identity, cut off his blond plaits and was sitting on a terrazza in Argentina enjoying his old age and pencil-thin cigarillos.

But here he was. The leader of the gang and the cop-killer who, along with his sergeant, had started up the Norse Riders some time after the Second World War. They had picked rootless young men, most of them from dilapidated factory-worker houses along the sewage-fouled river, and trained them, disciplined them, brainwashed them until they were an army of fearless soldiers Sweno could use for his own purposes. To gain control of the town, to monopolise the growing dope market. And for a while it had looked as if Sweno would succeed, certainly Kenneth and police HQ hadn’t stopped him; rather the opposite, Sweno had bought in all the help he needed. It was the competition. Hecate’s home-made dope, brew, was much better, cheaper and always readily available on the market. But if the anonymous tip-off Duff had received was right, this consignment was big enough to solve the Norse Riders’ supply problems for some time. Duff had hoped, but not quite believed, what he read in the brief typewritten lines addressed to him was true. It was simply too much of a gift horse. The sort of gift that – if handled correctly – could send the head of the Narco Unit further up the ladder. Chief Commissioner Duncan still hadn’t filled all the important positions at police HQ with his own people. There was, for example, the Gang Unit, where Kenneth’s old rogue Inspector Cawdor had managed to hang on to his seat as they still had no concrete evidence of corruption, but that could only be a question of time. And Duff was one of Duncan’s men. When there were signs that Duncan might be appointed chief commissioner Duff had rung him in Capitol and clearly, if somewhat pompously, stated that if the council didn’t make Duncan the new commissioner, and chose one of Kenneth’s henchmen instead, Duff would resign. It was not beyond the bounds of possibility that Duncan had suspected a personal motive behind this unconditional declaration of loyalty, but so what? Duff had a genuine desire to support Duncan’s plan for an honest police force that primarily served the people, he really did. But he also wanted an office at HQ as close to heaven as possible. Who wouldn’t? And he wanted to cut off the head of the man out there.

Sweno.

He was the means and the end.

Duff looked at his watch. The time tallied with what was in the letter, to the minute. He rested the tips of his fingers on the inside of his wrist. To feel his pulse. He was no longer hoping, he was about to become a believer.

‘Are there many of them, Duff?’ a voice whispered.

‘More than enough for great honour, Seyton. And one of them’s so big, when he falls, it’ll be heard all over the country.’

Duff cleaned the condensation off the window. Ten nervous, sweaty police officers in a small room. Men who didn’t usually get this type of assignment. As head of the Narco Unit it was Duff alone who had taken the decision not to show the letter to other officers; he was using only men from his unit for this raid. The tradition of corruption and leaks was too long for him to risk it. At least that is what he would tell Duncan if asked. But there wouldn’t be much cavilling. Not if they could seize the drugs and catch thirteen Norse Riders red-handed.

Thirteen, yes. Not fourteen. One of them would be left lying on the battlefield. If the chance came along.

Duff clenched his teeth.

‘You said there’d only be four or five,’ said Seyton, who had joined him at the window.

‘Worried, Seyton?’

‘No, but you should be, Duff. You’ve got nine men in this room and I’m the only one with experience of a stake-out.’ He said this without raising his voice. He was a lean, sinewy, bald man. Duff wasn’t sure how long he had been in the police, only that he had been in the force when Kenneth was chief commissioner. Duff had tried to get rid of Seyton. Not because he had anything concrete on him; there was just something about him, something Duff couldn’t put his finger on, that made him feel a strong antipathy.

‘Why didn’t you bring in the SWAT team, Duff?’

‘The fewer involved the better.’

‘The fewer you have to share the honours with. Because unless I’m very much mistaken that’s either the ghost of Sweno or the man himself.’ Seyton nodded towards the Indian Chief motorbike, which had stopped by the gangway of MS Leningrad.

‘Did you say Sweno?’ said a nervous voice from the darkness behind them.

‘Yes, and there’s at least a dozen of them,’ Seyton said loudly without taking his eyes off Duff. ‘Minimum.’

‘Oh shit,’ mumbled a second voice.

‘Shouldn’t we ring Macbeth?’ asked a third.

‘Do you hear?’ Seyton said. ‘Even your own men want SWAT to take over.’

‘Shut up!’ Duff hissed. He turned and pointed a finger at the poster on the wall. ‘It says here MS Glamis is sailing to Capitol on Friday at 0600 hours and is looking for galley staff. You said you wanted to take part in this assignment, but you hereby have my blessing to apply for employment there instead. The money and the food are supposed to be better. A show of hands?’

Duff peered into the darkness, at the faceless, unmoving figures. Tried to interpret the silence. Already regretting that he had challenged them. What if some of them actually did put up their hands? Usually he avoided putting himself in situations where he was dependent on others, but now he needed every single one of the men in front of him. His wife said he preferred to operate solo because he didn’t like people. There could have been something in that, but the truth was probably the reverse. People didn’t like him. Not that everyone actively disliked him, although some did; there was something about his personality that put people off. He just didn’t know what. He knew his appearance and confidence attracted a certain kind of woman, and he was polite, knowledgeable and more intelligent than most people he knew.

‘No one? Really? Good, so let’s do what we planned, but with a few minor adjustments. Seyton goes to the right with his three men when we come out and covers the rear half of them. I go to the left with my three men. While you, Sivart, sprint off to the left, out of the light, and run in an arc in the darkness until you’re behind the Norse Riders. Position yourself on the gangway so that no one can escape into the boat. All understood?’

Seyton cleared his throat. ‘Sivart’s the youngest and—’

‘—fastest,’ Duff interrupted. ‘I didn’t ask for objections, I asked if my instructions were understood.’ He scanned the blank faces in front of him. ‘I’ll take that as a yes.’ He turned back to the window.

A short bow-legged man with a white captain’s hat waddled down the gangway in the pouring rain. Stopped by the man on the red motorbike. The rider hadn’t removed his helmet, he had just flipped up the visor, nor had he switched off his engine. He sat with his legs splayed obscenely astride the saddle and listened to the captain. From under the helmet protruded two blond plaits, which hung down over the Norse Rider logo.

Duff took a deep breath. Checked his gun.

The worst was that Macbeth had rung. He had been given the same tip-off via an anonymous phone call and offered Duff the SWAT team. But Duff had turned down his offer, saying all they had to do was pick up a lorry, and had asked Macbeth to keep the tip-off quiet.

At a signal from the man in the Viking helmet one of the other bikers moved forward, and Duff saw the sergeant’s stripes on the upper arm of his leather jacket when the rider opened a briefcase in front of the ship’s captain. The captain nodded, raised his hand, and a second later iron screamed against iron, and light appeared in the crane swinging over its arm from the quayside.

‘We’re almost there,’ Duff said. His voice was firmer now. ‘We’ll wait until the dope and the money have changed hands, then we’ll go in.’

Silent nods in the semi-darkness. They had gone through the plans in painstaking detail, but they had imagined a maximum of five couriers. Could Sweno have been tipped off about a possible intervention by the police? Was that why they had turned up in such strength? No. If so, they would have called it all off.

‘Can you smell it?’ Seyton whispered beside him.

‘Smell what?’

‘Their fear.’ Seyton had closed his eyes and his nostrils were quivering. Duff stared into the rainy night. Would he have accepted Macbeth’s offer of the SWAT team now? Duff stroked his face with his long fingers, down the diagonal scar. There was nothing to think about now; he had to do this, he’d always had to do this. Sweno was here now, and Macbeth and SWAT were in their beds asleep.

Macbeth yawned as he lay on his back. He listened to the rain drumming down. Felt stiff and turned onto his side.

A white-haired man lifted up the tarpaulin and crept inside. Sat shivering and cursing in the darkness.

‘Wet, Banquo?’ Macbeth asked, placing the palms of his hands on the rough roofing felt beneath him.

‘It’s a bugger for a gout-ridden old man like me to have to live in this piss-hole of a town. I should grab my pension and move into the country. Get myself a little house in Fife or thereabouts, sit on a veranda where the sun shines, bees hum and birds sing.’

‘Instead of being on a roof in a container port in the middle of the night? You’ve got to be joking?’

They chuckled.

Banquo switched on a penlight. ‘This is what I wanted to show you.’

Macbeth held the light and shone it on the drawing Banquo passed him.

‘There’s your Gatling gun. Beautiful job, isn’t she?’

‘It’s not the appearance that’s the problem, Banquo.’

‘Show it to Duncan then. Explain that SWAT needs it. Now.’

Macbeth sighed. ‘He doesn’t want it.’

‘Tell him we’ll lose as long as Hecate and the Norse Riders have heavier weaponry than us. Explain to him what a Gatling can do. Explain what two can do!’

‘Duncan won’t agree to any escalation of arms, Banquo. And I think he’s right. Since he’s been the commissioner there have been fewer shooting incidents.’

‘This town is still being depopulated by crime.’

‘It’s a start. Duncan has a plan. And he wants to do what’s right.’

‘Yes, yes, I don’t disagree. Duncan’s a good man.’ Banquo groaned. ‘Naive though. And with this weapon we could clear up and—’

They were interrupted by a tap on the tarpaulin. ‘They’ve started unloading, sir.’ Slight lisp. It was SWAT’s young new sharpshooter, Olafson. Along with the other equally young officer Angus, there were only four of them present, but Macbeth knew that all twenty-five SWAT officers would have said yes to sitting here and freezing with them without a moment’s hesitation.

Macbeth switched off the light, handed it back to Banquo and slid the drawing inside his black SWAT leather jacket. Then he pulled away the tarpaulin and wriggled on his stomach to the edge of the roof.

Banquo crawled up beside him.

In front of them in the floodlights, over the deck of MS Leningrad, hovered a prehistoric-looking military-green lorry.

‘A ZIS-5,’ Banquo whispered.

‘From the war?’

‘Yep. The S stands for Stalin. What do you reckon?’

‘I reckon the Norse Riders have more men than Duff counted on. Sweno’s obviously worried.’

‘Do you think he suspects the police have been tipped off?’

‘He wouldn’t have come if he did. He’s afraid of Hecate. He knows Hecate has bigger ears and eyes than us.’

‘So what do we do?’

‘We wait and watch. Duff might be able to pull this off on his own. In which case, we don’t go in.’

‘Do you mean to say you’ve dragged these kids out here in the middle of the night to sit and watch ?’

Macbeth chortled. ‘It was voluntary, and I did say it might be boring.’

Banquo shook his head. ‘You’ve got too much free time, Macbeth. You should get yourself a family.’

Macbeth raised his hands. His smile lit up the beard on his broad dark face. ‘You and the boys are my family, Banquo. What else do I need?’

Olafson and Angus chuckled happily behind them.

‘When’s the boy going to grow up?’ Banquo mumbled in desperation and wiped water off the sights of his Remington 700 rifle.

Bonus had the town at his feet. The glass pane in front of him went from floor to ceiling, and without the low cloud cover he would have had a view of absolutely the whole town. He held out his champagne glass, and one of the two young boys in riding jodhpurs and white gloves rushed over and recharged it. He should drink less, he knew that. The champagne was expensive, but it wasn’t him paying. The doctor had said a man of his age should begin to think about his lifestyle. But it was so good. Yes, it was as simple as that. It was so good. Just like oysters and crawfish tails. The soft, deep chair. And the young boys. Not that he had access to them. On the other hand, he hadn’t asked.

He had been picked up from reception at the Obelisk and taken to the penthouse suite on the top floor with a view of the harbour on one side and the central station, Workers’ Square and Inverness Casino on the other. Bonus had been received by the great man with the soft cheeks, the friendly smile, the dark wavy hair and the cold eyes. The man who was called Hecate. Or the Invisible Hand. Invisible, as very few people had ever seen him. The Hand, as most people in the town over the last ten years had been affected in some way or other by his activities. That is, his product. A synthetic drug he manufactured himself called brew. Which, according to Bonus’ rough estimate, had made Hecate one of the town’s four richest men.

Hecate turned away from the telescope on the stand by the window. ‘It’s difficult to see clearly in this rain,’ he said, pulling at the braces of his own jodhpurs, and took a pipe from the tweed jacket hanging over the back of the chair. If he’d known that they would turn out dressed as an English hunting party he would have chosen something other than a boring everyday suit, Bonus thought.

‘But the crane’s working, so that means they’re unloading. Are they feeding you properly, Bonus?’

‘Excellent food,’ Bonus said, sipping his champagne. ‘But I have to confess I’m a little unsure what it is we’re celebrating. And why I’m entitled to be here.’

Hecate laughed and raised his walking stick, pointing to the window. ‘We’re celebrating the view, my dear flounder. As a seabed fish you’ve only seen the belly of the world.’

Bonus smiled. It would never have occurred to him to object to the way Hecate addressed him. The great man had too much power to do good things for him. And less good.

‘The world is more beautiful from up here,’ Hecate continued. ‘Not more real but more beautiful. And then we’re celebrating this, of course.’ The stick pointed to the harbour.

‘And this is?’

‘The biggest single stash ever smuggled in, dear Bonus. Four and a half tons of pure amphetamine. Sweno has invested everything the club owns plus a little more. What you see below is a man who has put all his eggs in one basket.’

‘Why would he do that?’

‘Because he’s desperate, of course. He can see that the Riders’ mediocre Turkish product is outclassed by my brew. But with such a large quantity of quality speed from the Soviets, bulk discount and reduced transport costs will makes it competitive in price and quality per kilo.’ Hecate rested the stick on the thick wall-to-wall carpet and caressed its gilt handle. ‘Well calculated by Sweno, and if he succeeds it’s enough to upset the balance of power in this town. So here’s to our worthy competitor.’

He raised his glass, and Bonus obediently followed suit. But as Hecate was about to put it to his lips he studied the glass with a raised eyebrow, pointed to something and handed the glass back to one of the boys, who immediately cleaned it with his glove.

‘Unfortunately for Sweno,’ Hecate continued, ‘it’s difficult to obtain such a large order from a completely new source without someone in the same line of business catching wind of it. And unfortunately it seems this “someone” may have passed on to the police an anonymous, though reliable, tip-off about where and when.’

‘Such as you?’

Hecate smirked. Took the glass, turned his broad bottom towards Bonus and leaned down to the telescope. ‘They’re lowering the lorry now.’

Bonus got up and went over to the window. ‘Tell me, why didn’t you launch an attack on Sweno instead of watching from the sidelines? You would have got rid of your sole competitor and acquired four and a half tons of quality amphetamine at a stroke. And you could have sold it on the street for how many millions?’

Hecate sipped from his glass without raising his eye from the telescope. ‘Krug,’ he said. ‘They say it’s the best champagne. So it’s the only one I drink. But who knows? If I’d been served something else I might have acquired a taste for it and switched brands.’

‘You don’t want the market to try anything else but your brew?’

‘My religion is capitalism and the free market my creed. But it’s everyone’s right to follow their nature and fight for a monopoly and world domination. And society’s duty to oppose us. We’re just playing our roles, Bonus.’

‘Amen to that.’

‘Shh! Now they’re handing over the money.’ Hecate rubbed his hands. ‘Showtime . . .’

Duff stood by the front door with his fingers around the handle listening to his breathing while trying to get eye contact with his men. They were standing in a line on the narrow staircase right behind him. Busy with their thoughts. Releasing the safety catch. A last word of advice to the man next to them. A last prayer.

‘The suitcase has been handed over,’ Seyton called down from the first floor.

‘Now!’ Duff shouted, wrenching open the door and hugging the wall.

The men pushed past him into the darkness. Duff followed. Felt the rain on his head. Saw figures moving. Saw a couple of motorbikes left unmanned. Raised the megaphone to his mouth.

‘Police! Stay where you are with your hands in the air! I repeat, this is the police. Stay where—’

The first shot smashed the glass in the door behind him, the second caught the inside leg of his trousers. Then came a sound like when his kids made popcorn on a Saturday night. Automatic weapons. Fuck.

‘Fire!’ Duff screamed, throwing down the megaphone. He dived onto his stomach, tried to raise his gun in front of him and realised he had landed in a puddle.

‘Don’t,’ whispered a voice beside him. Duff looked up. It was Seyton. He stood stationary with his rifle hanging down by his side. Was he sabotaging the action? Was he . . . ?

‘They’ve got Sivart,’ Seyton whispered.

Duff blinked filthy water from his eyes and kept looking, a Norse Rider in his sights. But the man was sitting calmly on his motorbike with his gun pointed at them, not shooting. What the hell was going on?

‘Nobody move a fuckin’ finger now and this’ll be fine.’

The deep voice came from outside the circle of light and needed no megaphone. Duff saw first the abandoned Indian Chief. Then saw the two figures in the darkness merge into one. The horns sticking up from the helmet of the taller of the two. The figure he held in front of him was a head shorter. With every prospect of being another head shorter. The blade of the sabre glinted as Sweno held it to young Sivart’s throat.

‘What will happen now—’ Sweno’s bass voice rumbled from out of the visor opening ‘—is that we’ll take our stuff with us and go. Nice and quietly. Two of my men will stay and make sure none of you does anything stupid. Like trying to come after us. Got that?’

Duff hunched up and was about to stand.

‘If I were you I’d stay in the puddle, Duff,’ Seyton whispered. ‘You’ve screwed this up enough as it is.’

Duff took a deep breath. Let it out. Drew another. Shit, shit, shit.

‘Well?’ said Banquo, training the binoculars on the protagonists on the quayside.

‘Looks like we’ll have to activate the young ones after all,’ Macbeth said. ‘But not quite yet. We’ll let Sweno and his men leave the scene first.’

‘What? We’re going to let them get away with the lorry and all the stash?’

‘I didn’t say that, dear Banquo. But if we start anything now we’ll have a bloodbath down there. Angus?’

‘Sir?’ came the quick response from the lad with the deep blue eyes and the long blond hair unlikely to have been allowed by any other team leader but Macbeth. His emotions were written over all his open face. Angus and Olafson had the training, now they just needed some more experience. Angus especially needed to toughen up. During his job interview Angus had explained that he had dropped out of training to become a priest when he saw there was no god; people could only save themselves and one another, so he wanted to become a policeman instead. That had been good enough for Macbeth; he liked the fearless attitude, the boy dealing with the consequences of his beliefs. But Angus also needed to learn how to master his feelings and realise that in SWAT they became practical men of action, the long, and rough, arm of the law. Others could take care of reflection.

‘Go down the back, fetch the car and be ready by the door.’

‘Right,’ Angus said, got up and was gone.

‘Olafson?’

‘Yes?’

Macbeth glanced at him. The constant slack jaw, the lisping, the semi-closed eyes and his grades at police college meant that when Olafson had come to Macbeth, begging to be moved to SWAT, he had had his doubts. But the lad had wanted the move, and Macbeth decided to give him a chance, as he himself had been given a chance. Macbeth needed a sharpshooter, and even if Olafson was not spectacularly talented in theoretical subjects, he was a highly gifted marksman.

‘At the last shooting test you beat the twenty-year-old record held by him over there.’ Macbeth nodded to Banquo. ‘Congratulations, that’s a damn fine achievement. You know what it means right here and now?’

‘Er . . . no, sir.’

‘Good, because it means absolutely nothing. What you have to do here is watch and listen to Inspector Banquo and learn. You won’t save the day today. That’s for later. Understand?’

Olafson’s slack jaw and lower lip were working but were clearly unable to produce a sound, so he just nodded.

Macbeth laid a hand on the young man’s shoulder. ‘Bit nervous?’

‘Bit, sir.’

‘That’s normal. Try to relax. And one more thing, Olafson.’

‘Yes?’

‘Don’t mess up.’

‘What’s happening?’ Bonus asked.

‘I know what’s going to happen,’ Hecate said, straightening his back and swinging his telescope away from the quay. ‘So I don’t need this.’ He sat down beside Bonus. Bonus had noticed that he often did that. Sat down beside you instead of opposite. As though he didn’t like you looking straight at him.

‘They’ve got Sweno and the amphetamine?’

‘On the contrary. Sweno’s seized one of Duff’s men.’

‘What? Aren’t you worried?’

‘I never bet on one horse, Bonus. And I’m more worried about the bigger picture. What do you think of Chief Commissioner Duncan?’

‘His promise that you’ll be arrested?’

‘That doesn’t concern me at all, but he’s removed many of my former associates in the police and that’s already created problems in the markets. Come on, you’re a good judge of character. You’ve seen him, heard him. Is he as incorruptible as they say?’

Bonus shrugged. ‘Everyone has a price.’

‘You’re right there, but the price is not always money. Not everyone is as simple as you.’

Bonus ignored the insult by not perceiving it as such. ‘To know how Duncan can be bribed you have to know what he wants.’

‘Duncan wants to serve the herd,’ Hecate said. ‘Earn the town’s love. Have a statue erected he didn’t order himself.’

‘Tricky. It’s easier to bribe greedy vermin like us than pillars of society like Duncan.’

‘You’re right as far as bribery is concerned,’ Hecate said. ‘And wrong with respect to pillars of society and vermin.’

‘Oh?’

‘The foundation of capitalism, dear Bonus. The individual’s attempt to get rich enriches the herd. It’s mechanics pure and simple and happens without us seeing or thinking about it. You and I are pillars of society, not deluded idealists like Duncan.’

‘Do you think so?’

‘The moral philosopher Adam Hand thought so.’

‘Producing and selling drugs serves society?’

‘Anyone who supplies a demand helps to build society. People like Duncan who want to regulate and limit are unnatural and in the long run harmful to us all. So how can Duncan, for the good of the town, be rendered harmless? What’s his weakness? What can we use? Sex, dope, family secrets?’

‘Thank you for your confidence, Hecate, but I really don’t know.’

‘That’s a shame,’ said Hecate, gently tapping his stick on the carpet as he observed one of the boys remove the wire from the cork of a new bottle of champagne. ‘You see, I’ve begun to suspect Duncan has only one weak point.’

‘And that is?’

‘The length of his life.’

Bonus recoiled in his chair. ‘I really hope you haven’t invited me here to ask me to . . .’

‘Not at all, my dear flounder. You’ll be allowed to lie still in the mud.’

Bonus heaved a sigh of relief as he watched the boy struggle with the cork.

‘But,’ Hecate said, ‘you have the gifts of ruthlessness, disloyalty and influence that give you power over the people I need to have power over. I hope I can rely on you when help is needed. I hope you can be my invisible hand.’

There was a loud bang.

‘There we are!’ Bonus laughed, patting the boy on the back as he tried to get as much of the unrestrained champagne into the glasses.

Duff lay still on the tarmac. Beside him his men stood equally still watching the Norse Riders, less than ten metres away, preparing to leave. Sivart and Sweno stood in the darkness outside the cone of light, but Duff could see the young officer’s body shaking and Sweno’s sabre blade, which rested against Sivart’s throat. Duff could see that the least pressure or movement would pierce the skin, the artery and drain the man’s blood in seconds. And Duff could feel his own panic when he considered the consequences. Not only the consequences of having one of his men’s blood on his hands and record, but the consequences of his privately orchestrated actions failing miserably just as the chief commissioner was about to appoint a head of Organised Crime. Sweno nodded to one of the Norse Riders, who dismounted from his motorbike, stood behind Sivart and pointed a gun at his head. Sweno pulled down his visor, stepped into the light, spoke to the man with the sergeant’s stripes on his leather jacket, straddled his bike, saluted with two fingers to his helmet and rode off down the quayside. Duff had to control himself not to loose off a shot at him. The sergeant gave some orders and a second later the motorbikes growled off into the night. Only two unmanned motorbikes were left after the others had followed Sweno and the sergeant.

Duff told himself not to give way to panic, told himself to think. Breathe, think. Four men in Norse Rider regalia were left on the quay. One stood behind Sivart in the shadows. One stood in the light keeping the police covered with an assault rifle, an AK-47. Two men, presumably the pillion riders, got into the lorry. Duff heard the continuous strained whine as the ignition key was turned and for a second he hoped that the old iron monster wouldn’t start. Cursed as the first low growl rose to a loud rumbling rattle. The lorry moved off.

‘We’ll give them ten minutes,’ shouted the man with the AK-47. ‘Think of something pleasant in the meantime.’

Duff stared at the lorry’s rear lights slowly fading into the darkness. Something pleasant? A mere four and a half tons of drugs heading away from him, along with what would have been the biggest mass arrest this side of the war. It didn’t help that they knew Sweno and his people had been there right in front of them if they couldn’t tell the judge and jury they had seen their faces and not just fourteen sodding helmets. Something pleasant ? Duff closed his eyes.

Sweno.

He’d had him here in the palm of his hand. Shit, shit, shit!

Duff listened. Listened for something, anything. But all that could be heard was the meaningless whisper of the rain.

‘Banquo’s got the guy holding the lad in his sights,’ Macbeth said. ‘Have you got the other one, Olafson?’

‘Yes, sir.’

‘You have to shoot at the same time, OK. Fire on the count of three. Banquo?’

‘I need more light on the target. Or younger eyes. I might hit the boy as it is.’

‘My target has lots of light,’ Olafson whispered. ‘We can swap.’

‘If we miss and our lad is killed, we’d prefer it if it was Banquo who missed. Banquo, what’s the maximum speed of a fully loaded Stalin lorry, do you reckon?’

‘Hm. Sixty maybe.’

‘Good, but time’s getting short to achieve all our objectives. So we’d better do a bit of improvising.’

‘Are you going to try your daggers?’ Banquo asked Macbeth.

‘From this distance? Thanks for your confidence. No, you’ll soon see, old man. As in see.’

Banquo looked up from his binoculars and discovered that Macbeth had stood up and grabbed the pole on to which the light on the roof was bolted. The veins in Macbeth’s powerful neck stood out and his teeth shone in either a grimace or a grin, Banquo couldn’t decide which. The pole was screwed down to withstand the feisty north-westerlies that blew for eight of the year’s twelve months, but Banquo had seen Macbeth lift cars out of snowdrifts before now.

‘Three,’ Macbeth groaned.

The first screws popped out of their sockets.

‘Two.’

The pole came loose and with a jerk tore the cable away from the wall below.

‘One.’

Macbeth pointed the light at the gangway.

‘Now.’

It sounded like two whiplashes. Duff opened his eyes in time to see the man with the automatic weapon topple forward and hit the ground helmet first. Where Sivart stood there was now light, and Duff could see him clearly and also the man behind him. He was no longer holding a gun to Sivart’s head but resting his chin on Sivart’s shoulder. And in the light Duff also saw the hole in the visor. Then, like a jellyfish, he slid down Sivart’s back to the ground.

Duff turned.

‘Up here, Duff!’

He shaded his eyes. A peal of laughter rang out behind the dazzling light and the shadow of a gigantic man fell over the quay.

But the laughter was enough.

It was Macbeth. Of course it was Macbeth.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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