Red-haired Interventions 2
Harlots All 7
Kefira Resurfaces 12
Kefira’s Apprentice in England 21
The Hordes Reappear 28
Two Years Earlier in Samarkand 45
On the Road to Locorotondo Base Camp 50
Locorotondo Revelations 54
Al Jazeera Newsroom 76
Near Sapporo Japan 78
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Out of the corner of his eye, Thomas caught Kefira touching something on her wrist. The same greyish fog he had seen in the photo she had shown him got sucked into her watch. It dissipated, leaving behind the woman that had been a man, without the burqa. Tom almost slammed on the brakes, but thought better of it at the last second. His elbows stiffened onto the steering wheel and he did a double take, shifting his glance from the M4 to her and back again several times.
Kefira reached into her briefcase and started pulling out the burqa she was wearing when they met in the airport.
“You don’t have to bother with that here. It’s only used in official places. People, especially in England, haven’t taken to it easily,” said Kearney.
“That’s a relief. What about at the office?”
“At the office if the cameras are rolling, people put on the pretense. It’ll never work here.”
“What? No questions?” asked Kefira.
“Let me get my head around it first. Things are getting clearer. It wouldn’t be the first time the Yard and Mossad worked on something. It’ll be need to know, I’d imagine.”
“I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time but there was some scuttlebutt around the office last week about a special agent from Mossad coming over here. I just never thought it would have anything to do with me,” said Thomas.
“Give it time to sink in. I’ll fill you in as much as I can as the investigation requires it. Deal?”
“Whatever you say,” said Thomas.
Thomas’d never felt unnerved before at his work. Kefira’d unsettled him from the first moment in the airport. She sat in the passenger seat and flipped a very real looking Inspector’s badge.
“Unusual combination of skills that, Investigator,” said Kearney.
“What skills would those be, Tommy?”
“First, no one’s called me Tommy since I was in jodhpurs and second, the skills would be magician and private eye.”
“That little palming trick with the Inspector’s badge.”
“I guess we need to back up a bit here. I thought you’d ‘ave been briefed before we met.”
“How should I start this. Let me see. I know. Do you have a smart phone or a tablet?” asked Kefira.
“Blackberry,” said Kearney, as he extended his right hand in between gearshifts.
Kefira noticed that the phone was open when she took it from his hand. She navigated to a virtual private network (VPN)owned by some of her less above the board friends and searched for a video she had picked up from The New Scotland Yard’s internal web server.
“You must know a pub near here,” said Kefira.
Kearney shook his head. He thought that this little assignment was getting more and dicier by the minute.
“What exactly can we say in a pub that we can’t discuss here in my car?”
“You’ll get it when you see the video and I fill you in on my status here a little more fully.”
“Filled in on your status? Pardon my French but what the bloody hell is going on here?” asked Kearney.
The unsettled feeling in Inspector Kearney’s stomach left him regretting the heavy lunch he’d had earlier in the day. Normally heavy food, his favourite steak and kidney pie, calmed him down and prepared him to take on the world. The 9 am meeting with his boss, had gone well. What could be simpler than providing support for an ongoing investigation and reporting only to his immediate supervisor, thought Kearney. He hadn’t bargained on a amber-skinned beauty and a bag of tricks that required stopping off in a pub to be explained. Without knowing it, he stretched the muscles in his neck, displaying the downward sloping chords of his neck muscles as they disappeared under his starched, white collar.
“You play poker, Thomas?”
“Where’s this bullshit going, Investigator?”
“My friends all call me Keffy. Since we’re gonna be working together, maybe Keffy would do, n’est-ce pas?”
“Now it’s multi-lingual bull.”
“Hey, cut me some slack. I called you Thomas, not Tommy, didn’t I?”
“Okay. We got off on the wrong foot somehow here, Investigator Keffy.”
“Just Keffy. I’m not one for formalities. We’re near Brentford. There must be something just off the M4,” added Kefira.
“Now that you mention it, there is The Globe on, I think it’s Windmill Road. We’re coming up on the exit now. This time of day, they probably have live music.”
“Right up my alley. Go for it, Tommy.”
Kearney looked sideways at her but he smirked, showing pearly white, perfectly straight teeth. Maybe I am all work and no play, he thought. Kefira winked at him and the scent of her unique, homemade perfume drifted past him as she slipped a cd from her purse into the cd player. Soothing Bossa Nova filled the car.
“Something tells me I am going to like this assignment,” said Kearney.
“Gotta take the ‘RnR’ when you can, Tommy, oops sorry, er, Thomas.”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. That’s what my niece always says to me. Well, here it is, The Globe. We might have to drive around a bit to find some parking but we’re here.”
“Drop me here. I’ll get us up some grub and a table while you find the parking. A pint of bitter, fish‘n chips ok with you?” asked Kefira.
Kearney glanced at his watch and nodded his agreement. Kefira got out of the yellow Volvo 240 and crossed Windmill Road. She stopped beside the Cherry wood bar and sat down at two empty stools. The air smelled of fried food and the band was pumping out country and western music. She turned her back to the bar and watched the crowd. Feeling her thirty-seven years, but turning the heads of all the young men in the room. That’s why he’s so stiff. How dense I am sometimes. He’s in his mid-twenties, thought Kefira.
“What’ll it be, Milady?” said the barkeep, a 50-ish man, obviously the owner.
“Two fish‘n chips and two pints of your best bitter, please Mister Publican.”
“You been watching too many movies, lass. I’ll tell ya, the lads’ll be disappointed you’re not alone,” added the barkeep with a wink.
Kearney made his way through the crowded bar. He nodded his head to someone at the back of the room and pulled up the stool beside Kefira. A whistle and whoop started up from the table where Kearney’s friends sat.
“Comin’ in her with you, I’ll move up a notch around here.”
“Was that a complement, I just heard?”
“Sure was, but this is work. Let’s see that video,” said Kearney.
Kefira pushed the start and handed it to him. He plugged one ear into an earpiece. The look on his face went from surprised to stern. He stopped the video and leaned closer to Kefira. Her perfume invaded his senses and he found himself inhaling before he spoke.
“That’s some perfume you’re wearing. Sorry about that. How did you get access to that stuff? I don’t ever get to see stuff on that server. I know it exists only by chance,” said Kearney.
Kefira didn’t answer right away. She let sink in that she could access ultra, top secret data on The New Scotland Yard’s most secure server.
“Let’s just say I have high-level skills and contacts. In this case, it was the latter. Your boss forwarded me that video to get me to come over here. He had no idea, though; I could use the video to find its source.”
“Sorry but what I saw means nothing to me, except for the final scene with the murder in it,” said Kearney.
“That’s where my skills come in. Look at the first scene on that surveillance camera stuff. Look closely this time,” she said.
Kefira held the Blackberry for him and leaned over close to him so she could see as well. She stopped the video at a specific point.
“What do you see there?” asked Kefira.
“I can’t see much. It’s like there’s a problem with the camera. It’s kind of foggy staring at his waist and moving up and after that the guy just vanishes.”
“That’s what I wanted you to see. That’s why I’m here.”
The barkeep slid their food down between them and pressed some bitter into fresh glasses before he handed it to them.
The smell of fried food floated up to them and they both dug in. Kearney shook his head back and forth as he dabbed a fried potato into some ketchup. He followed up with a large fork full of fried cod smothered in tartar sauce. Kefira kept up with him. They both ate without speaking. Their beer finished, Kearney stood and signalled the barkeep for the bill. When he didn’t come right away, Kearney left 21 pounds and some change. He got up to leave, nodding to Kefira.
When they got back to the car, Kefira took out her cell phone and fiddled with it, changing the shape of one end of the phone by twisting the bottom half open. She pointed at the inside of the car and ran the phone over the whole inside of the vehicle. She stopped by the passenger seat headrest and removed a small electronic device. She repeated the same search of the outside of the car and stopped to reach under the back left bumper. A second device appeared in her hand. She put a finger to her lips and reached under the car parked in front of Kearney. A piece of gum appeared from her mouth and she stuck it under the back bumper. A small electronic device from her purse made quick use of the front door lock of the car. Kefira bent into the car and placed the listening device under the headrest. She closed the door and turned to face Kearney.
“Now the work starts, Tommy. Get in the car and I’ll open your eyes, if you’ll let me.”
A subdued Inspector Thomson Kearney got into the driver’s seat and popped the lock for his passenger. Kefira got into the passenger seat. They drove toward London’s north end started in silence.
“We’re going to Thaxton Road. It’s on the way to London from here. It’s not the kind of place we usually have murders, especially gruesome murders,” said Kearney.
“She’s got the words, ‘Harlots All’, tattooed on her breasts and forehead, doesn’t she?”
“That hasn’t been released yet. How the fuck do you know that?”
“It’s just like the murders up in York, isn’t it?”
“Looks like, but we don’t want to scare people. It may just be a copy cat,” said Kearney.
“Who might want to listen to you Kearney?”
“Honestly, I don’t have a clue. I’m too junior. I love my work but I’m still a nobody.”
“You must be pretty good. I’m bad news and they hooked us up.”
“Maybe that’s why. No one else is stupid enough to do it.”
“Did you park indoors today at the office?”
“You must be kidding. Indoor parking at The Yard is way above my pay grade.”
Kearney didn’t have to use his GPS because North London was his beat. He drove with confidence, taking side roads when traffic jammed up.