Copyright 2016 Mike Ward
Published by Mike Ward at Shakespir
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This story was inspired one Saturday morning by listening to “Far, Far Away” by Slade. By mid afternoon the story was finished.
Table of Contents
The Old Rocker and the Healer
The house was quiet now. They’d all gone to bed. This would probably be his last night on Earth but he wasn’t ready to leave. He wanted to see his granddaughter grow up, to guide her through her teenage years. They had been big, his band. There had been a string of number ones, a lot of awards and travel, all that travel. He had loved playing concerts all over the world. They had agreed early on that they would moderate their behavior. There would be no trashing of hotel rooms, no treating people badly. They had been in a business that sometimes brought out the worst in humanity, and they had seen that, but somehow they had risen above it. There had never been any scandals. As far as he knew none of them had ever taken drugs. None of them had ever been drunk in public, even though it had happened in private.
He was old now. Frank had died last year, and now he was the last of the group. He had been the lead singer, and also played guitar. The songs were still fresh in his head, he still knew all the words. He had built this house when he retired. It was on Loch Snizort on the Isle of Skye. There was the blood of the Vikings in him, and they had been on all the islands around here. Snizort was not a Gaelic name, it was a Viking name. He wondered what it had been like, to walk these shores a thousand years ago in the heyday of the Vikings. They had controlled much of the Highlands and Islands, and their blood was everywhere including in him.
His granddaughter was fifteen. Fifteen was an awkward age, but grandfather and granddaughter shared a bond that was missing between his granddaughter, and her parents. She would come round, he knew that. Give her five years and she would be a model daughter. He had guided her, and been there for her at the times her parents had been too busy with their own careers. He knew that she needed him in her life. He wanted to be here until she was twenty two years old, and then he could leave, but it was in his head that he would be leaving tonight.
Just an hour ago his granddaughter had sat with him. She had opened up her chromebook and played one of his old songs on You Tube. He was there with the band. By God they’d had so much energy then. He was fronting the band, singing about all the places he’d been. Watching the sun rise over the mountains in Alaska. Standing on bridges around the world. He was lucky, the memories were all there. He could still remember that sunrise in Alaska. They’d played a concert in a place called Talkeetna. It wasn’t a big gig, but it had been an interesting town, a long way on the road from Anchorage. He’d thought then about giving it all up, and being a mountain man in Alaska. That idea had held appeal for a while. But they were a band, a group of four men together. They were bonded, and he needed them, and they needed him. He hadn’t mentioned any of this to the others, and he was glad he’d stayed. He thought of Robert, the other guitarist, with his long dark hair and easy smile. Robert had been a rock, a calm man who held the band together just by his prescence. They had all been calm in their own way. Sometimes the guys who played good music were the outsiders, the ones who didn’t fit in.
While he lay there, lost in his thoughts the man slipped quietly into the room. The old rocker looked up as the man sat down by the bed. “Who are you?” he said. “How did you get in here?”
“I’m just a fan,” the man said. I was only a young teenager when you guys were at your height, but I’ve never forgotten you. I still listen to you guys on You Tube.”
“What’s your favorite song?” the old rocker said. “I don’t know why I’m asking you this. You shouldn’t be here.”
The man put his hand on the old rocker’s arm. “It’s okay,’ he said. “People and animals are always calm around me. It’s just the way it is. When I lived in England I could cut a twig off a tree, and plant it in the soil, and it would always grow.” The man looked the old rocker in the eye. “I have been blessed with the gift of healing. That’s why I’m here.”
“Nobody can heal this,” the old rocker said. “The doctors have given up. They sent me home to die.”
“Will you let me try?” the healer said.
The old rocker nodded. “Do your worst,” he said.
The healer took his words literally, which was not how he had meant them. “I will do my best not my worst,” he said. The healing will take about five minutes. All I ask is that you stay still, and don’t say anything. Where does it hurt?”
“It hurts like hell in my chest,” the old rocker said. “The cancer is in there. It’s everywhere.”
The healer put his hands on the old rocker’s chest. He shut his eyes. He paused for a moment. “It’s not everywhere,” he said. “This will be difficult but not impossible.”
The old rocker looked at the healer. It was obvious the healer did not expect a reply. He wondered if the man even knew he had spoken. One hand stayed on the rocker’s right lung. That was where the worst of it was. The healer lifted his other hand and put it on the old rocker’s neck to the left of his Adam’s apple. There was a sense of calm in the room, a sense of incredible peace. The old rocker felt a light tingling in his chest, but nothing else.
After five minutes the healer stopped. “It is done. Later you will be hungry, but your stomach will not tolerate food. Ask your granddaughter to bring you milk from the fridge. Ask for as much as you feel you need. Sip it slowly when you are ready.
“I haven’t eaten anything for five days,” the old rocker said. “I doubt that I will eat now.”
The healer looked at him. “It will probably happen,” he said. “That is what I always tell people. Drink milk. It will do the job.”
The old rocker sat up. It was the first time he had sat up in bed for four days. He was surprised at the strength he had. “What did you do?” he said.
“I didn’t do it, God did it,” the healer said. “There are healers all over the world. Many do not even know they can heal, but God has put them there. There is not supposed to be the suffering on this world that there is.” The healer smiled. “I would like you to play for me. I would like you to play the song about waking up in the mountains of Alaska.”
The old rocker looked at the healer. He had been about to comment that now was not the time, but he realized he had a yearning to pick up a guitar. “I have a guitar in the adjoining room.” He pointed at a door in the wall. “It’s in there. Can you bring it to me.” He watched as the healer stood up, and walked into the other room. He guessed the man was only about ten years younger than he was, but the healer walked like a young man in his twenties. “Thank you,” he said as the healer handed him his guitar. The guitar was tuned, he still played regularly, and he had played through much of his illness. Unlike some of the other old rockers he had no arthritis, and he could still play the really complicated chords that had characterized the band’s music. He smiled at the healer, played the opening chords, and then his voice began to ring round the room. His pitch was perfect, and he wondered if the healer had done something to his voice. He wasn’t straining like he had done recently. Fascinating. He began to get into the song. He sang about the bridges, he sang about the sun rising over the mountains in Alaska. For a moment it seemed like the band members were there with him, and he could have sworn he could feel their prescence.
He finished the first song. “Would you like another?” he said.
The healer smiled. “There was a song you sang that didn’t make it to number one. After that all your singles were number ones. I really liked that one.”
The old rocker knew which one he was talking about. He liked that one too. Even though the song didn’t make it to number one it had gotten the band a lot of attention. After they could do no wrong in the eyes of the fans. The song was three and a half minutes. The old rocker was in the zone. He felt better than he had felt for twenty years. He was ready to play all night. “What would you like next?” he said.
The healer looked at him. There was some regret in his eyes. “We have awoken your granddaughter,” he said. “She will be up here in five minutes. She cannot see me.”
“Why not?” the old rocker said.
“Because I do not exist,” the healer said. He paused for a second and then he spoke again. “Your granddaughter did not want you to die. She has been praying for three days that you would not die. You mean a lot to her. Her prayer has been heard, so I have been sent.”
“What does this mean?”
“It means you will have extra time, time you would not have had. Spend the time wisely. Since it was granted to your granddaughter, and not necessarily to you then be there for her at the rough times, and the good times. You will be there to guide her through her teenage years just as you both wanted.”
The healer stood up, and walked over to the door. He stood behind the door just as it burst open. The old rocker’s granddaughter walked in. “Are you okay Granda?” she said. There was concern on her face.
“I’m okay,” the old rocker said. He watched the healer slip out through the open doorway. He was still watching as a white light enveloped the healer. The light was bright, and the rocker looked away. When he looked back the healer was gone. “Will you fetch me some milk please Rebekah,” he said. For a second he saw hope in his granddaughter’s eyes, and then he saw her shut it down. He put his hand on his granddaughter’s arm. “I feel better,” he said. “Perhaps I have been granted a reprieve. Bring me some milk, and I’ll play you some of the old songs.”
While his granddaughter went to fetch him some milk the old rocker stood up, and looked out of the window. Dawn was creeping slowly across the land. For a fleeting moment he saw Frank, Robert and Marc standing there together on the hillside. Frank lifted a hand and waved at him, and he waved back.
By the time his granddaughter came back the band was gone. He took a deep breath, and for the first time in nine months it didn’t hurt. He lifted his guitar, and began to sing the song about the sunrise in Alaska.
Some notes on healing
Healing is related to dowsing. If you can dowse you can heal. You can teach yourself to dowse in just a few minutes. Take a piece of string, and cut it to 50 inches long. Attach a light weight such as a piece of wood 1 inch by half an inch to the end of the string. Find an ordinary ball point pen. Wind the string around the pen until it is 31.5 inches long between the pen and the piece of wood. Take an ordinary table knife (a flatknife) made of steel, and put it on the floor, or on a table. Hold the pen with the string, and the piece of wood above it. You should hold the string between your thumb and forefinger with the distance of 31.5 inches being between your thumb and the piece of wood. Make minor adjustments to the length of the string until the weight begins to move. This movement is caused by tiny contractions in your wrist that are under the control of the autonomous nervous system. The rate for the element iron (steel) is 31.5 inches. When you have the string exactly the right length your wrist muscles will begin to contract, and the weight on the end of the string will begin to rotate in a circle. Once you have been successful in this you will have awoken the ability to heal inside yourself.
If you are interested in learning to dowse or to heal feel free to email me at email address below, and I will be happy to answer your questions. If enough people are interested I will be happy to write a short book on the subject. It really is much easier than you would think.
One of the greatest healers in the world in the last fifty years was a quiet, unassuming man in Britain called Ted Fricker. His autobiography is available free either as a kindle book or a pdf file at the following link. It is well worth reading.
Excerpt from A Cyclist Thrown into Another World by a Female Magician
The day started normally enough. Robert Gerard got up, ate and then got onto his bicycle. The cycling team he belonged to in Northeast Florida were practicing hard and there was a lot of competition to be on the team. In fact the competition was so tough that just lately Robert had begun to take steroids and that would be his undoing. Just before he left Robert popped his usual morning pill. Steroids will make a lot of changes to your body if you are foolish enough to take them. Apart from ugly side effects like a male looking face if you are female and enlarged nipples if you are male the main problem with steroids is what is commonly referred to as “roid rage” and Robert had that. Just lately he had taken to kicking the cars of motorists who got in his way. This was an ugly habit and Robert knew that if he didn’t stop it then sooner or later it would get him into trouble. The problem was the rage came with the steroids, he wished it didn’t happen but everyone else on the team was taking steroids apart from one guy so if he didn’t take them he wouldn’t be on the team,
Unfortunately for Robert it was already too late. Trouble was coming at him fast and it was coming at him in the form of a small woman in a hot car who was not what she seemed. Robert was already doing over 30 miles an hour when he shot off the pavement and crossed the street in front of a car at a stop sign. He had thought he had enough time, he miscalculated and as he was going past her as the woman began to move. He swerved quickly to one side, she slammed her brakes on and they just missed each other by literally a fraction of a second. Had Robert sat back and thought properly he would have realized that he was only intact due to the woman’s extremely fast reactions. He had made a mistake, a bad mistake and what he should have done was just waved and then rode off.
Instead he did what he always did. He yelled “Hey asshole, what do you think you’re doing.”
Even at that point there was still time to save the situation. The woman’s driver window was already open and she heard every word he said. Had she just sworn at him and driven off then he would have given chase, tried to catch her and she would have taken a side street, accelerated and he would have chased her some more and then given up. In some versions of reality this was his future until in six months time he kicked the side panel of an unmarked car belonging to a Jacksonville cop and ended up with two bullets in the chest and two in the brain.
It was Robert Gerard’s extremely bad luck that the woman looked horrified, stopped and began to apologize. It was no coincidence that most of the cars kicked by Robert Gerard belonged to women, especially to teenage girls. Robert was a bully, disliked women to a certain extent and liked to hear the sound of his voice raised.
The woman opened her window some more and began to say how sorry she was. In an instant Robert was off his bike and kicking the side panel of her car. He had time to realize that the car was very expensive and then the woman was out of the car and running at him. This was the point where he usually shouted at the girl if it was a young girl until she was in tears and then rode off. Something was screaming at him to ride off but the woman was short so he didn’t. Seconds later his wrist was grabbed by an arm that was incredibly strong and then he was slapped hard in the face. He was so shocked he fell over. And then he kicked at the woman and caught her on the back of the leg as she was walking back to her car.
Robert knew as soon as he had kicked the woman that he had made a mistake because he had never seen rage like the rage the woman showed on her face. She bent down, picked him up by the ankle and then threw him, only this wasn’t an ordinary throw. Robert looked down and saw trees underneath him. He sailed over two trees and then he began to turn over in the air. Suddenly he was dizzy. His mind was racing, he knew there was no way a woman could have thrown him the way this one did. He continued to spin and then he was falling. He hit the ground hard, bounced a couple of times and then rolled into a thorn bush. A few seconds later his bicycle landed with a crash in the same thorn bush. This annoyed him even more than the fact that the woman had thrown him. If his precious bike was damaged…
He stood up and looked around. The phrase from the Wizard of Oz about not being in Kansas anymore came right into his head. Instead of the asphalt road there was a dirt track. Instead of the neat Florida subdivision there was a row of wooden houses. And there was something looking at him that was definitely not human. Robert picked up his bike, jumped on it and began to ride. Whatever had been watching him was now chasing him. It was covered in dark hair, looked vaguely humanoid and it could speak after a fashion. He rode and then he watched as other creatures looking a lot like the first one came out of the houses. Some of the houses had humans in and some of them had the creatures in and it looked as though they lived together.
“Are you catching us a nice meal Raggart?” one of the humans yelled and Robert realized they were not going to help him.
“Look at him ride,” another one yelled. This one was a woman and was quite beautiful. Robert was still looking at her as one of the creatures jumped across the trail in front of him. It opened its mouth as it sailed past him and Robert saw long teeth, red hair and eyes that had rudimentary intelligence. He had time to realize that it had jumped from the top window of a house and then it was up and chasing after him. He emerged from the village with five of the creatures chasing him and as he passed the last house a woman stepped out onto the porch and threw a rock at his head. It hit his skull, hurt like hell and the shock of it almost made him fall off his bike. He hit a thorn bush, managed to stay in the saddle, swerved to avoid another of the creatures that jumped at him and then he was riding uphill out of the village. He was halfway up the hill when he realized that he was not going to make it. The creatures were baying behind him and he knew that sound. That was the sound that wolves made when they knew they had their prey cornered.
“Leave him alone,” a voice yelled and the creatures stopped suddenly.
He looked back and they were standing there all five of them. One of them had a knife in its hand. The knife was serrated and looked like it was made for killing. Robert looked at the knife and his blood ran cold.
“Can we have him Mary,” one of the creatures said. “He would make good eating.”
“Leave him be,” the woman said.
Robert looked at her and realized that she bore a resemblance to the woman in the car he had just kicked. “What’s going on?” he said. “Where am I?”
The woman looked at him and she seemed to be appraising him. “I see that you met my sister,” she said. “Annoyed her I see you have.”
“Speak English please,” Robert said.
For a moment something dark crossed the woman’s face and then it was gone as fast it had come. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I know your way of speaking but it has been sometime since I was in your world.”
“What do you mean in my world,” Robert said.
“I mean exactly what I said. It should be plain to you that this is not your world.”
The roid rage Robert had been feeling when he bumped into this woman’s sister was completely gone now and an ice cold fear had formed inside him instead. He was good at kicking women’s cars but a situation like this was a little unnerving. However, Robert was not dumb, he was just an asshole and to be honest he shouldn’t have been calling other people assholes when he was such a major one himself. That thought passed through his mind. That had been said to him by a young woman with a baby when he had kicked her car. Afterward he had felt bad about that but not bad enough to go back and apologize or pay for the damage he had done to her car.
He looked at the woman. “How do I get back to my world?” he asked putting on his best smile. Robert could actually be quite charming when he wanted to and he looked sincere.
“Don’t give me that,” she said. “My sister would not have thrown you out of your world unless you had been unpleasant to her.”
Robert had the odd feeling that the woman in front of him knew exactly what he had done to her sister but there was no way that could be. The thought was fleeting and he dismissed it immediately. He gave a jovial laugh. “Help me get back to my world and I will apologize to your sister if I have offended her.” He gave the woman another smile.
“If you smile at me like that again you will be the worse for it,” the woman said. “Walk with me a while and we’ll talk, I would like to know more about you.”
Robert looked around. The creatures with the red hair began to walk behind them. They were looking at him threateningly but at the woman nervously. She stopped and looked back.
“My Lady Mary, may we follow,” one of the creatures said. The creature showed a huge amount of teeth but somehow managed to convey a feeling of polite respect for the woman beside him.
“Why do you wish to follow?” the woman said.
Another of the creatures spoke up. “My lady if you tire of the creature we would like to eat him.”
This was too much for Robert. “You damn asshole,” he yelled at the creature who had spoken.
Instantly the woman’s hand was on his arm. The grip she had on his wrist was so tight that it was cutting off the blood flow. He had not realized her hands were so big, they looked too small to circle his wrist. For an instant there was fire in her eyes and then it was gone. “Please remember that you are a guest in this world, you will treat the villagers with respect.”
Villagers, good God. Robert was about to say something when he remembered that the creatures with the red hair had been going to eat him before the woman intervened. It would not do to upset her. He looked at her. “How should I address you?” he said. “I have noticed that the creatures are calling you my Lady Mary.” He caught himself quickly when he saw the look in her eye. She had called them villagers. “I’m sorry my Lady,” he said. “I meant to call our friends villagers.”
“They are not your friends if they want to eat you,” she said. “You may call me Mary but I would ask that you treat with me respect for I am all that stands between you and them.”
“Who are the villagers?” Robert asked.
“They are my servants,” she said “This was their world before humans came.”
“How long have humans been here?” Robert said.
“About fifteen thousand years,” she said. “We had to flee our world. This one did not flood like ours did.”
“Your world flooded?” Robert said.
“Yours did too,” she said. “Your ancestors were there, mine left. We have been on this world ever since.”
“Why don’t the creatures attack you,” Robert said.
“They don’t dare,” Mary said and left it at that.
Robert looked back. The creatures were following at a respectful distance. This was profoundly disturbing. “I would just like to go back to my world,” he said.
“I don’t think that’s possible,” Mary said. “You wouldn’t be here if my sister hadn’t wanted you to be here. There are others like you. The man who looks after my horses came from your world sixty years ago.”
“He must be very old now if he came here sixty years ago.”
“He is 32years old. He is very good with my horses so I keep him that way. He needs his strength. Some of the horses are very strong but he can handle them.”
“How do you do that?” Robert said.
“I am kind to my servants, actually he is not technically my servant because I gave him his freedom but that was a long time ago. As soon as I gave him his freedom I asked him if he would like to stay and look after my horses and he agreed to do that. He is a fine horseman. If you become one of my servants you will meet him.”
“I could never be anyone’s servant,” Robert said harshly. Instantly the creatures with the red hair were standing right next to him, literally an arm’s length away. They had covered the distance between them in just a fraction of a second. Robert was visibly shocked.
The leader looked at the woman beside him. “My lady?” he said questioningly.”
“It is not time yet,” she said. “He may not be so quick to refuse when I ask him again.”
Robert didn’t know where he found the courage from but he did. “I will not be anyone’s servant,” he said.
“Do not speak to me like that again or I will let them take you,” the Lady Mary said. She was looking at him as she said that and it was as though he was nothing to her. It was at that point that Robert realized that he was in deep, deep trouble. The woman appeared to want him to be her servant. He was about to say something and then he realized that he should wait for her to speak.
“Walk with me,” she said and smiled. She looked back at the creatures with the red hair. “You may follow us.”
Robert could not get it out of his head that he was being played with. Realization came into his head that if he had not kicked the woman’s car he would not be in this situation. “I’m sorry if I have offended you or your sister,” he said.
“You already know that you have offended my sister,” the woman said. “You have not offended me. Yet. If I were you I would try to make sure it stays that way. Now we will walk.”
She held her arm out and Robert took it. In another situation this would have been quite pleasant. She was dressed in the kind of clothes they wore in the Victorian era and Robert was dressed in his bike shorts and a t shirt. She smiled at him. “Let’s talk,” she said. “I would like to know more about this man my sister has sent me.”
“What would you like to know?” Robert said.
“I would like to know what drove you to kick the car of a woman you didn’t know and a small one at that.”
“How do you know I kicked your sister’s car?” Robert asked.
“That is not your business nor would you understand if I told you.”
“Try me,” Robert said.
“Mind your manners of I will let them take a finger,’ the Lady Mary said. She smiled and her face was pleasant. Robert realized he was actually a little attracted to her. Then it occurred to him that it was probably up to her whether he lived or died in this world and he put that thought out of his mind. However, she would look real good in a bikini or on second thoughts just the bottom half of a bikini European style. For a second she looked at him and there was a slight smile on her face and he could have sworn she knew what he was thinking. His stomach turned to ice. If he thought a bad thought and she picked it up…
She looked at him again. “Be careful what you wish for,” she said. That was said in a California accent.
“Have you been to my world?” Robert said.
“Dozens of times,” the Lady Mary said.
“Do you like it?”
“It is always good for a day or two and then I have had enough. The endless adverts on the television and on billboards as you drive always begin to irritate me after a while. And the food, your food is so tasteless compared to ours.”
Robert had just paid $170 for dinner a couple of nights before, another reason why he was a dumb asshole. “Our food is not that bad,” he said.
“Wait until you taste ours,” she said.
Robert interrupted. “What did you like about our world?” he said.
“I like the wide open spaces, I like doing 200 miles an hour down the freeways. My sister always drives fast cars and she is an excellent driver.”
“Don’t you get arrested doing that?” Robert said.
“The police on your freeways are not always able to see us,” she said. “They only see us when my sister lets them.”
“Has your sister even been arrested?” Robert said.
“She was arrested once in Serbia when she was sightseeing during the Bosnian War. The policeman who arrested her was corrupt. He is still in a glass cage in her basement.”
This woman and her sister were a couple of nut jobs. Robert wondered when he would get out of this situation. “I see that you don’t believe me,” the Lady Mary said. “I would be happy to install you in a glass cage in the stables if you like. Of course you would die, the glass cages we use for this purpose are only ten inches tall so I would have to shrink you first. There is no going back from that I’m afraid.”
Okay she wasn’t just a nut case, she was a double nut case.
“Keep your thoughts as pure as the water or by God I’ll let the villagers have you,” the Lady Mary said.
Robert was visibly shocked. “I am sorry my Lady,” he said.
“Be careful or you will not be offered the chance to be my servant,” she said. “If that happens you will get a one hundred yard head start and it will be good sport with blood flying.”
Robert choked off the thought that came as fast as he could. He was shocked and also a little scared by this woman. Did she have any real power or was it all just bluff. Could she really read minds? “Can we have a conversation where you are not reading my mind,” Robert said. “It is making me nervous.”
The Lady Mary thought for a second and then he saw her thumb touch the inside of her wrist. It was an odd gesture and it made Robert wonder. He wondered if she had just switched something off. Was there some kind of advanced technology here, he wondered.
“How do you and your sister communicate?” he asked.
“We have ways of communication that are way beyond your perception,” the Lady Mary said.
“Do you use a tight beam radio transmission?” Robert said. He was testing her.
“Don’t be a dolt. The wavelength of radio waves would be completely the wrong length for transmission between worlds. Surely you would know that. Studied physics have you or are you stupid?”
Robert pushed but gently. I am interested to know,” he said.
“We use magic,” the Lady Mary said. That is something you seem to have forgotten in your world along with everything else that makes life easy for humanity.”
Robert was immediately struck by Arthur C. Clarke’s statement that once science became advanced enough it would be indistinguishable from magic. Was that what was happening here? She said her ancestors had left earth 15,000 years ago. What if they had had the science to move between worlds?
She laughed. “I see that you are wondering whether my magic is advanced science. I assure you it is not. Magic is real, especially when everyone in the world believes it exists.”
“I would like to learn your magic,” he said.
“You cannot,” the Lady Mary said. “You have to start at age six, the pathways in the brain close by age 12, and if you have not studied by then you will never learn.”
“Show me a spell,” he said. Right after he said that his left hand fell off and landed on the ground. Roger looked down in horror and then looked at the stump of his arm. He was about to start screaming when she bent down, picked up the hand and then put it back on.
“We can’t leave it off for too long or the nerves will have trouble reconnecting,” she said. Robert looked at his hand. It looked normal but his entire hand was numb and he couldn’t move it.
“Wait until your tendons reconnect and then you’ll be able to move it,” the Lady Mary said. “And don’t ask me to do a parlor trick like that again or I’ll make your head fall off next time.”
Robert was stunned. It had felt like his hand had really fallen off. He wondered if it was some kind of illusion or if his hand really had fallen off. Either way it was profoundly disturbing. He looked at her with a kind of awe.
“Are you ready to be my servant yet?” she said.
Good God no. He wasn’t but she was scaring him. She had too much power this woman and she had him because he had kicked her sister’s car. Robert began to realize that there were things going on in his world that he and many other people had absolutely no comprehension of. “Are there many of you in our world?” he said.
End of excerpt from A Cyclist Thrown into Another World by a Female Magician by Mike Ward – if you enjoyed this excerpt you can download the book from your favorite ebook retailer
Mike Ward’s books are all coming to your favorite ebook retailer soon. If the book above is not there yet then check back weekly until it is.
About Mike Ward
Mike Ward was born in Glasgow, Scotland and currently lives in Florida, United States with his wife and two children. He is the author of two novels, two non-fiction books and four series of novellas. He is the author of the Stephen Haggerty Assassin series, the Jacksonville Jack series, the Lisa Molin Assassin series and the Dangerous Scotsman series. He is also the author of 24 short stories and novellas. Read Mike’s Shakespir Interview at
Other books by Mike Ward
Please visit your favorite ebook retailer to discover other books by Mike Ward:
The Banker With a Face Full of Evil – Scandinavian Crime Novel
The World Jumpers
How to Attack Type 2 Diabetes Like a Viking and Win
The House on Mars Series
The House on Mars
The House on Mars 2 – Return to Mars
Lisa Molin Assassin Series
Lisa Molin Assassin – A Kind and Gentle Assassination in Geneva
Lisa Molin Assassin – One Hell of an Execution in Tallinn in Estonia
Lisa Molin Assassin – One Hell of an Execution in the Frisian Islands
Lisa Molin Assassin – The Execution of a Spaniard in Ibiza
Lisa Molin Assassin – The Execution of a Man From Stuttgart in Hawaii
Lisa Molin Assassin – The Night Train from Switzerland
Lisa Molin Assassin – The Execution of a Vice President in Sweden
Lisa Molin Assassin – The Execution of a Drug Dealer Dressed as Saddam
Lisa Molin – A Hit Ordered by a Woman from London
Lisa Molin – A Quiet Kill in Interlaken
Dangerous Scotsman Series
A dangerous Scotsman in Afghanistan
A Dangerous Scotsman in Tajikistan
Assassin Stephen Haggerty Series
Assassination in Washington D.C.
Assassination in Miami
Assassination in Alaska
Assassination in Detroit
Assassination in Jacksonville
Assassination in Orlando
Assassination in Annapolis
Assassination in Los Angeles
Assassination in Portland
Assassination in Toronto
Assassination of an ISIS Field Commander in Washington D.C.
Jacksonville Jack Series
Jacksonville Jack 2 – Moonrise
Jacksonville Jack 3 – Helen in Georgia
Jacksonville Jack 4 – Susan in Mandarin
Jacksonville Jack 5 – A Lesson for Molly Syracuse
Jacksonville Jack 6 – Jack Goes Hunting on Skyline Drive – Part 1
Jacksonville Jack 7 – Jack Goes Hunting on Skyline Drive – Part 2
The Beach at the End of Time Series
The Beach at the End of Time
My Lady Clarissa Saves the Day
Incident in the City of the Blue Spires
Short Story Books
SHORTS 1 – Five Short Stories
SHORTS 2 – Five Short Stories
SHORTS 3 – Five Short Stories
SHORTS 4 – Five Short Stories
Individual Short Stories
An Artist in This Life
City of the New South
Come and Hunt a Rich Man
Darkworld 1 – Will Black’s Story
Dead Man’s Switch
Dreaming of a Greek Beach and a Handsome Man With Fire in his Heart
England is the Property of New Delhi
I sold my soul to the Devil
Judgment Day is Today and it Begins in Miami
Parallel Reality Man
Roman Time Coordinator
Scottish Island Festival – An Erotic Story for American Women
Sometimes Women Want Revenge
Storming the Compound of a Rich Man
Summoning the Wrath of God
The Civilization of the Ravens
The Conquest of France AD 2023
The Death of Antonio Vargas by the Evil Rich People of the World
The Devil Came Down to Georgia
The Ferryman and the Riverlyn
The House That Collected Realtors
The Old Rocker and the Healer
The Order of the Holy Assassins
The Russian Conquest of France
The Vampire Who Sold Houses
Two Thousand Years Later
Your Mission is to go Back in Time and Kill Saint Paul on Malta
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Go to the next page for an excerpt from The Banker With a Face Full of Evil, a Scandinavian crime novel by Mike Ward. Available from your favorite ebook retailer.
Excerpt from The Banker With a Face Full of Evil
Dieter Köhler sat in his rental car on Nybrogatan in the Östermalm district of Stockholm. Köhler had been in Sweden for precisely four days. Tonight he planned to kill a man. He looked up the street. Fifty meters away was the gleaming façade of the Zetterstrand Investment Bank, the largest investment bank in Scandinavia and the sixth largest in Europe. Köhler’s target was Martin Ingvarsson, the CEO of the bank.
Dieter Köhler was tall with short dark hair, steel blue eyes and horn rimmed glasses. He was in his forties, worked out regularly and was extremely fit. He was an ex member of the East German Stasi, the security police and had done extremely well under communism. Capitalism, however, had been a totally different ball game and the once well connected Köhler had floundered under the new system. Things had gone from bad to worse until one day he had called an old Russian friend who knew another Russian, who knew a third Russian and within a short period Köhler had found himself as an assassin for hire.
Dieter Köhler lived a modest life in the suburbs of the city of Stuttgart in southern Germany. Had the German tax authorities taken a look at his finances they would have found a man in very good financial shape. Köhler had 70,000 Euros in various bank accounts in Stuttgart and another 300,000 Euros in a retirement account. What the German tax authorities wouldn’t have found would be the 2.3 million Euros that Köhler had stashed in an account in Zurich in another name that matched the name on a Russian passport he never should have owned. The Russian passport listed him as Mikhail Kaspersky, a citizen of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, which up until 1945 had been part of Germany at which time Stalin had annexed it for Russia. On paper Köhler was the kind of fine upstanding citizen that Germany loves to have as part of their country. In reality he was a screwed up relic of the Cold War, a gun for hire, a man who brought chaos into the lives of those he touched.
Dieter Köhler was armed with a magnum 37 for which he carried a silencer. He also carried a wicked looking knife in his jacket pocket and another smaller knife strapped to his right ankle. Köhler was expecting Martin Ingvarsson to walk right past him sometime during the next hour on his way to Östermalmstorg Tunnelbana. If Ingvarsson was on his own then Köhler would either shoot him in the back of the head or cut his throat from behind depending on which seemed the best option at the time. If the man had security guards with him then Köhler would dispatch the guards first and then send Ingvarsson on his way to the next world immediately afterwards.
The German knew nothing about Martin Ingvarsson except what was in the file he had been given. If asked he would have had no idea of the difference between an investment banker and an ordinary run of the mill banker. Dieter Köhler was not a well read man. He was not an intelligent man nor was he particularly unintelligent. He went where he was told, he did the job he was supposed to do and then he went home and kept a low profile until the next time. He would have been surprised to know that he was very highly regarded by the organization that employed him. That is why what happened next would have been unexpected by all concerned.
Köhler heard a beeping sound and the locks on his rental car doors popped open. He was reaching for his gun when the rear door was opened behind him. He had pulled his gun out of his jacket, flipped the safety off and was moving his arm to aim the gun over his shoulder when the first bullet went into the back of his head. The first shot paralyzed the right side of his body and his gun went off as his fingers closed in a reflex motion. The bullet from his gun went through the car roof and completely missed the person behind him. Two more bullets hit Dieter Köhler in the back of the head and then he began to fall forward towards the steering wheel. The person behind him leaned into the car and shot him twice more in the head and once in the back of the neck severing his spinal column.
Dieter Köhler died quickly. He was in extreme pain and he was partially paralyzed but he had time to feel one last emotion. His last emotion was astonishment. He had glimpsed the person who shot him in the side mirror as he was aiming his gun. He was astonished and also dismayed to realize that he had been killed by a woman.
Inspector Håkan Arvidsson turned off Riddargatan left onto Nybrogatan. He parked his car just past the Asian Restaurant and walked up to the police cordon showing his pass to the police officer on duty to gain entry. Inspector Linn Brexner was already at the scene, he could see her black shoulder length hair as she talked to one of the officers at the scene. Arvidsson checked the time on his phone, it was 9:15pm. The car containing the victim was just ahead with all four doors open. A police pathologist was leaning into the car examining the victim.
Everyone in front of him was intent on their work and nobody had noticed him. Arvidsson stood in the background surveying the scene. He didn’t know much as yet. A man had been found dead in his car. There was a single bullet hole in the window but when the first police officers had arrived at the scene they had discovered what seemed like a professional hit. Arvidsson liked to speculate before he investigated. Sometimes it didn’t work, sometimes it served him well.
A rental car stood at the side of the street. That was not speculation, the first officers at the scene had run the registration. The man inside was dead, Arvidsson knew that. The word on the radio was that he had been shot multiple times. Linn Brexner looked up and registered his presence but he held a hand up and indicated he didn’t want to be disturbed. She nodded and went back to what she was doing. They worked well the two of them. Although Brexner was technically his assistant, in reality they worked more as equals and he let her make a lot of decisions on the team. She had strengths in different areas than he did and rather than feeling threatened by that as a lesser man might have done, Arvidsson welcomed her abilities on the team. He knew there would be a time when she would lead her own team and he was already preparing the ground for that by making favorable comments about her to his superiors.
There was a fair amount of blood both in and around the car. Whatever had happened to the man in the car it had certainly been traumatic. In the background Arvidsson could hear a woman bystander talking loudly, her voice so loud that it impinged on his thoughts. He tried to shut her out and return to the scene. She was talking about a little swimsuit that she had bought the previous summer. It was definitely not the weather to be talking about swimsuits. One thing was certain, the man in the car would not have the chance to see the woman behind him in her new swimsuit.
Arvidsson saw fluid under the car but it wasn’t gasoline. He recognized the color of antifreeze in the fluid under the car. If that was the case then the vehicle’s radiator had been ruptured. Since somebody shooting at a car from the front was unlikely to fire as low as the radiator, Arvidsson wondered if a bullet had gone through the victim and then gone through the radiator. Arvidsson’s breath steamed in the cold air. He wondered how long it had taken the man in the car to die and if he had felt the cold while it happened. As Arvidsson looked at the car a small amount of blood dripped off the driver’s door onto the road. At these temperatures Arvidsson knew that the blood would freeze quickly. He breathed in thoughtfully, holding the cold air in his lungs and letting it out slowly. There was no inspiration this time so he walked towards the vehicle.
Frank Kjellström, the pathologist turned towards him. He nodded at Arvidsson and began speaking. “He was shot in the head multiple times, death was quick but not instantaneous. He had time to suffer.”
Arvidsson had a good imagination, that one would come back to him when he lay down in bed tonight. Judging by the scene in front of him it would be a while before he made it to his bed. “What angle was he shot from?” he said.
“Somebody leaned in behind him and shot him in the back of the head. He had time to react because he pulled his own gun and fired it once. You can see the bullet hole in the roof of the car.”
Arvidsson immediately lost some sympathy for the victim. If he had his own gun then he certainly wasn’t an innocent victim. What Linn Brexner said removed all thoughts that the victim might have had any innocence about him.
“The victim had a silencer on his gun.”
“He had a silencer?” Arvidsson said.
“Yes and it wasn’t in his pocket, it was screwed onto the gun which has to mean he was waiting for someone.”
That was poetic justice Arvidsson thought. Here you are in your quiet little assassin’s world happily waiting for your victim and then someone leans into your car and shoots you in the back of the head. It would have been interesting if the assassin’s last thought before he died was to wonder where the police were when you needed them. Interesting he thought, he was already thinking of the man in the car as an assassin. He most certainly was, there was no doubt about that. The question was who shot him.
Arvidsson looked into the car. The back of the assassin’s head was a real mess and since he had been shot multiple times in the back of the head then that had to mean his face was even worse. Not for the first time Arvidsson realized that although he had no problems being a policeman he could never have been a pathologist. The man’s face rested against the steering wheel. Arvidsson realized that one of the spokes of the steering wheel was broken and hanging loose. That had to be from one of the bullets that had passed through the man’s head. If it did that after it had passed through his head then God knows what that must have been like for the victim. Arvidsson kept his face impassive but that was another one that would come back to haunt him in the night.
Linn Brexner looked at her boss. She knew him well and she had a good idea about the thought that had just passed through his mind. She was more impassive than her boss. In another life Arvidsson might have been a poet but in this century a man needed to keep a roof over his head and poetry as a profession did not pay as well as it might have done a few centuries ago. The man in front of them had been shot five times in the head and once in the back of the neck. It occurred to Linn Brexner that this might well have been a deliberate attempt to cut through the spinal column and paralyze the man, if that had happened then he would have died from asphyxiation if he didn’t die from his injuries first.
Frank Kjellström looked at Arvidsson and Brexner. “You can move him whenever you want. I have all I need here, the rest I’ll do in the lab.
Brexner looked over at Police Photographer Veronica Nellfors. “Did you get everything Veronica,” she said.
“Yes I did.”
Fingerprint expert Anna Strandgård nodded at Brexner to indicate that she had what she needed. Arvidsson and Brexner spent another hour looking around the body and talking about different scenarios. They were both of the opinion that the attacker had opened the door behind the driver, leaned in and shot him. The victim’s gun lay on the floor of the car where he had dropped it after firing one shot. Frank Kjellström had told them that even without a thorough examination he could tell that the victim’s brain would have been so badly damaged that he would have been unlikely to have been able to hold the gun after the first few shots.
They stepped back and watched as the body was removed from the car. Frank Kjellström would go with it and make sure it was put away properly or he might even work through the night on it. He had been known to do that in the past. Now that the body was gone Linn Brexner put some gloves on and opened the drawer in front of the passenger seat. There was blood on the glove she had used to open the drawer. Arvidsson already had his gloves on. There was a European A4 sized envelope in the drawer, she pulled it out and handed it to Arvidsson. There was more in there. He held onto the envelope while she handed him a menu. The menu was for the Hotel Urban in the Plaza de las Cortes and Huertas in Madrid. Arvidsson knew enough Spanish to read a menu, main courses were thirty Euros to sixty five Euros and the gourmet menu was two hundred and twenty Euros. He wondered if the man who had just been taken away had killed anyone after eating at that restaurant. If Arvidsson had eaten a meal that cost that much he would have wanted to savor it rather than walk outside and blow somebody away but the dead man was probably different from him. Arvidsson had seen the prices on the menu and he knew that on his Inspector’s salary even if he were on vacation then he would think twice about eating at a place where the food cost so much. He wondered how much the dead man had made in a year. He might even have made more for just one hit than Arvidsson made in two years. The next thing Linn Brexner handed him was a map provided by the rental company. Arvidsson looked at the map and an address on the map was ringed, Nybrogatan 27. They were on Nybrogatan. Arvidsson looked up the street. There at Nybrogatan 27 was the gleaming façade of the Zetterstrand Investment Bank. Zetterstrand was the biggest investment bank in Scandinavia and one of the biggest in Europe, possibly even in the top ten.
He pointed at the bank. “Our victim’s target very likely works in there,” he said.
“So if he hadn’t been shot dead tonight then we might well have been here investigating the murder of someone else,” Linn Brexner said.
“Correct,” Arvidsson said. “I’d love to open this envelope right now but let’s get it back to a safe location and have a fingerprint expert open it. We have two murders to investigate here, the one that did happen and the one that didn’t happen. The other question we have is when whoever sent this man finds out what happened to him will there be another man sitting in a car this time next week looking to kill the same person the victim was after. We have to find the man who did this.”
“Who said it has to be a man?” Brexner said.
“It couldn’t be a woman,” Arvidsson said. The words were out before he realized how stupid they sounded.
“You’re right Håkan,” Linn Brexner said. “A woman wouldn’t have had the strength to lift the gun used to kill this man.”
Arvidsson opened his mouth to reply and then thought better of it. Actually he had been going to say that a woman couldn’t have been evil enough to kill the victim.
Håkan Arvidsson moved his coffee off his desk. Inspector Linn Brexner sat with him. Anna Strandgård had just brought the envelope in that they had removed from the victim’s car. Her boss always thought ahead, it would not do to have a cup of coffee knocked over on this envelope. The chance of that happening was extremely unlikely but Arvidsson was not a man to take chances. It was one o’clock in the morning but both Arvidsson and Brexner wanted to know what was in the envelope. Anna Strandgård would personally have been quite happy to be in her bed at that moment waiting for the morning when she would go in and take fingerprints off the envelope but she had owed Håkan Arvidsson a favor for some time and this was the night he had decided to collect.
Anna laid the envelope on the desk and also the photo that had been inside. The photo was not technically a photo, it had been printed on a printer. Linn Brexner recognized the man in the photo immediately, Arvidsson did not. Having said that the man’s name was printed clearly underneath the photograph, Martin Ingvarsson, Chief Executive Officer of the Zetterstrand Investment Bank.
Arvidsson looked at Brexner. “Put a car outside his house all night whether he wants it or not.”
As Brexner got on the phone, Arvidsson leaned back in his chair. He was aware of Anna Strandgård leaving the room, her work was done for the night, his was only just beginning. By the time Brexner came off the phone Arvidsson had the website up for the Zetterstrand Investment Bank. He went to the section for the bank’s executive officers and selected Martin Ingvarsson. This was an evening for shocks and at that point he got another one.
Brexner was off the phone and standing behind him. “My God,” she said. “Whoever set up this hit lifted the photo given to the hit man from the bank’s own website. That’s a little audacious to say the least.”
“Let’s see what else is on the web about Herr Ingvarsson,” Arvidsson said. He copied Ingvarsson’s name from the list of executives, opened a new web page and pasted the name into Google. The first result was an article in Aftonbladet about Ingvarsson. Interestingly the picture in the paper was also the same one used on the bank’s website. Ingvarsson was in his fifties with gray hair that was cut very short and receding slightly. He was broad shouldered and had the face of a man who gets what he wants. Arvidsson scanned the article and Linn Brexner leaned over his shoulder.
“Interesting, I see he married the daughter of Herr Zetterstrand.”
Stefan Zetterstrand was listed as Chairman of the bank. Although he was retired he was listed as still playing a semi-active role at the bank. Martin Ingvarsson had married his daughter Camilla when they were both in their twenties three years after he had joined the bank. Marrying the boss’ daughter had been good for his career and Ingvarsson had risen rapidly in the bank. However, it was obvious he had talent because he had been running the bank on his own for a number of years now and it had gone from strength to strength under his leadership. Ingvarsson had built Zetterstrand up to be the sixth largest investment bank in Europe. Something in the article caught Arvidsson’s eye. It said that Ingvarsson was a fitness fanatic who liked to walk. He often ate at a restaurant near Östermalmstorg Tunnelbana and then caught the Tunnelbana home. Arvidsson looked at Brexner and saw that she was thinking the same thing.
“If you walked from the Zetterstrand Bank to Östermalmstorg Tunnelbana then you would have passed the spot where the assassin had been waiting. If he hadn’t been shot then it might well be Martin Ingvarsson lying in the morgue right now,” Brexner said.
“All the information needed to set up a hit on Ingvarsson is right there on the web,” Arvidsson said. “You could have set this whole thing up from a hut in the Siberian tundra if you had wanted. The question is who would have wanted him dead?”
“At the moment we have absolutely no idea about that,” Brexner said stating the obvious.
Arvidsson was quiet, sometimes comments like that helped Linn Brexner begin the process of analysis of a case. “I think we should start with who killed the assassin and who paid him or her.” After Brexner’s comments earlier he was careful to leave the possibility open for a person of either sex to have been the killer. Although he personally doubted that the assassin was killed by a woman he could feel his mind opening itself to the possibility and beginning to play with the idea.
“The obvious possibility is that Martin Ingvarsson found out he was about to be assassinated and decided to strike first,” Brexner said.
“It’s possible but not a good idea unless he is about to leave the country. The assassin was just a tool. If someone had enough money to hire one assassin then they very probably have enough to hire two. If I were Ingvarsson I wouldn’t be thinking of walking to Östermalmstorg Tunnelbana from the office anytime soon.”
At that moment the phone rang. Arvidsson picked it up listened and then thanked the person on the other end. “There is a police car outside Martin Ingvarsson’s house. I think we are done for the night. We’ll get together first thing tomorrow.”
“This is Matti Hälleström.”
“I’m going to come to your house, I’m going to knock you out and then I’m going to tie you to a table and sandpaper your balls off using my Father’s electric sander.”
The key phrase here was “my Father’s electric sander.” Hälleström realized he was talking to a teenager. The kid had to be seventeen at most. “Let’s do this outside,” he said. “There’s a quiet street near me called Tavastgatan. Do you know where it is?”
“Yes I do.”
“Good you’ll get your chance for revenge. Meet me there at ten o’clock tonight. Stand in the middle of the street and wait until you see a green car. That will be me. Raise your hand so I know it’s you and then wait for me. If you’re still alive after I’ve run you over then I’ll tie you to the back of my car and drag you though the streets of Stockholm for ten kilometers. After the road surface has scraped all your skin off I don’t think you’ll give me any trouble.”
There was silence at the other end of the line. At one time Hälleström had tried to reason with people who threatened him when they didn’t like one of his articles but that just made them worse. Now he just threatened them right back. A large hand dropped on his shoulder. Hälleström looked round. His son Erik stood behind him. He pointed at the phone which was set to speakerphone and mouthed the word “who”. Erik was Swedish on Hälleström’s side but half Irish and half Scottish on his mother’s side. His dear mother had died when he was just ten months old leaving Hälleström to care for Erik on his own. Erik was very protective of his father.
The kid tried again. “Hälleström you need to book an appointment with your dentist to get fitted for false teeth. You’ll need a full set after I’ve been to see you.”
While the kid had been talking Hälleström had pulled up the article he had written three weeks ago. In an article about a politician Hälleström had referred to threats made against him by two teens.
Erik looked at the names on the screen. “Is this Gustav Ljunggren or is it Martin Rosling I’m speaking to,” he said. Silence. “Well Gustav or Andreas, I’m assuming that I can find you at the same address as your father’s electric drill. After my friends and I have beaten you up we’ll tie you to the bed and then I’m going to sandpaper your balls off with your own electric drill.”
There was a click as the phone went down. “What’s your first class today?” Hälleström said.
Erik was very protective of his father. Sometimes the Celtic blood he had from his mother could make him aggressive and unpredictable, especially if anyone threatened his father. Father and son exchanged a glance and then a smile. “Don’t forget my sword is hanging on the wall if you need it,” Erik said.
The previous year Erik and three of his friends had taken the ferry from Norway to Scotland. While they were in Scotland they had been to the Highland Games at Inverness. All four boys had brought swords back with them that they had bought from a vendor at the Games. The swords were deliberately blunted but Erik and one of the other boys had found someone who would sharpen theirs. While Hälleström was out one day they had had a swordfight in his apartment. They had not realized how sharp the swords actually were. After he had gotten the blood cleaned out of his carpet Hälleström had sent both boys to sword fighting lessons. After several weeks both boys had lost interest but Erik still had a very sharp sword hanging on his bedroom wall. Hälleström knew that if he pressed the point Erik would just dig in and want to keep the sword anyway so he hadn’t said anything about it.
Today was an exception. Hälleström was very rarely threatened in his job. He had once worked as a journalist for Aftonbladet but when his wife Caitlin had died he had resigned from Aftonbladet and gone freelance while he cared for his son on his own. Times had been hard at first but after a few years Hälleström had built up a reputation as a journalist who could be called at short notice and could be relied upon to produce a one thousand or two thousand word article in just a couple of hours. He did that by always keeping ahead of his regular work so that he could drop everything if he needed to.
As Erik became older Hälleström could have gone back with a regular newspaper but he liked the freedom of being freelance and being his own boss. Hälleström’s name was known in publishing circles all over Stockholm. Once a year or so, Hälleström would crack a really big story and these were the stories that gave him an adrenaline rush and made it all worthwhile. The last one had been the Kristoffer Nilsson case. Five years ago Nilsson had been a rising politician who was destined for high office when his wife, Maria developed cancer. There were headlines on and off in the newspapers about Nilsson’s wife and Nilsson had received a lot of favorable press for his caring attitude. The cancer had gone into remission only to come back with a vengeance three years later. Stories began to run in the press about how Maria Nilsson was fighting her cancer and about how supportive her husband was being. Around this time Hälleström had received a tip off that Kristoffer Nilsson was carrying on an affair with a woman fifteen years younger than him. To Hälleström this did not seem right at all, in fact he became extremely angry thinking about it. It was inevitable that some people would have affairs but to have an affair while your wife is being treated for cancer was, in Hälleström’s opinion, the lowest form of selfish behavior. Hälleström determined then and there that Nilsson was going down. He built his story over a period of three months, partnered with a freelance photographer he could trust to stay silent and at the end of that period Hälleström broke the story in the quarterly magazine “Liberation”. Liberation Magazine was run by Mona Forseke, an editor Hälleström had worked with closely for many years. The story ran next to a picture of Kristoffer Nilsson kissing a very heavily pregnant Inger Mannig. Hälleström followed up the story with interviews on national television later in the day. The following day Nilsson resigned in disgrace.
Hälleström decided to get busy with the day’s work. The first job was to send an article to a magazine in England. The magazine was for women. One of the regular columns was written by “Jill” who was a busy lawyer bringing up a small girl on her own. As far as the readers knew, Jill had been widowed when her daughter was less than a year old. In actual fact, Jill had been created four years ago by the editor of the magazine, an Englishwoman in her late forties. After she had created Jill all the editor had needed to do was find a journalist to write a monthly column. Only the editor and Hälleström knew that Jill was not an English female lawyer at all but was really a Swedish man in his forties. Hälleström had been surprised to get the job, several journalists from England had submitted trial articles but he was the only applicant with any real experience of looking after a small child on his own and his articles had a depth about them that the other articles lacked. The initial contract had only been for six articles but to both Hälleström and the editor’s surprise the series had taken off. The English editor ran “Jill’s” website even going so far as to use fake pictures. Erik was quite amused to find himself described in Hälleström’s articles as a young girl called Emma and this was something he had kept very quiet about when talking to his friends. After realizing how successful his articles were, Hälleström had renegotiated his contract. At the moment he was required to produce two articles a month for the “Jill” series and he was six articles ahead. Jill’s daughter Emma was now four years old and Hälleström sat for a moment thinking about when Erik was four years old. After a couple of minutes his fingers were flashing across the keyboard. An hour and a half later, including a quick break for coffee, Hälleström had the next article in the series finished.
Taking the last sip of coffee, he pulled up his emails. The first email was from Anders Larborn, editor of Larborn Travel Magazine on Sankt Eriksgatan. Hälleström and Larborn went back a long way, Larborn was gay and one of his first acts when he and Hälleström started working together had been to ask Hälleström if he would like to go to bed with him. Hälleström had politely and gently declined explaining that while he liked Larborn he was only interested in women. After a few awkward months Hälleström and Larborn had built an excellent working relationship and had become lifelong friends. Larborn was the sort of man who seemed to know everyone in Stockholm and he was friends with many politicians including quite a few of the gay ones. Occasionally Larborn sent potential girlfriends Hälleström’s way and Hälleström had had a very close relationship with a female politician, Gabriella Halring, a few years ago. She was five years older than Hälleström, they were still good friends and occasionally she would call Hälleström and come and share his bed for the night. Hälleström had met Gabriella at one of Larborn’s legendary parties and after an introduction from Larborn they had hit it off. Meeting a woman at one of Larborn’s parties had been a novelty, usually the party goers were mostly gay men and Hälleström was usually propositioned four or five times at each party. Hälleström had two stock replies, firstly that he was straight but sometimes he found that would be a challenge and the guy would try even harder. His second stock reply was to say that he had a gay lover he was very fond of who would be heartbroken if Hälleström ever slept with another man so he was staying faithful. He had found this to be a far better reply if he really wanted to be left alone. He went to the parties simply because they were so much fun and there was usually so much gossip to be had that he often found himself with an article to write after the party, albeit from an anonymous source.
Larborn’s email said that he wanted to meet and did Hälleström have time to drive over to his office during the morning. Hälleström emailed back that he would be there in less than an hour. Grabbing his jacket and laptop he left his apartment after first making sure that Erik had a ride, he had classes at the university later in the morning. Half an hour later Hälleström was looking for a parking spot on Sankt Eriksgatan. The Larborn Travel Magazine office was located above Café Eken at Sankt Eriksgatan 9. Eken is one of the few cafes in Stockholm that never closes. At night, it turns into a hangout for taxi drivers and if they were working late, Hälleström and Larborn would often go down to the café and chat with the taxi drivers. It was amazing how much the drivers knew about who was seeing who in Stockholm. Hälleström had once had a major story dropped right into his lap just because a taxi driver at Café Eken mentioned that he had picked a rowdy prostitute up at four in the morning from the house of a captain of Swedish industry. At the time Hälleström thought nothing of it but it just so happened that the man’s wife died in a tragic accident at home a few weeks later. The wife’s death was ruled an accident but Hälleström thought otherwise and six months later he had the evidence to prove it. The man was arrested by the police just hours after Hälleström’s story broke.
Hälleström walked into the Larborn offices, he waved a greeting to Birgitta, Larborn’s ever resourceful secretary and receptionist on the front desk and then walked into Larborn’s office. Larborn was on the phone with his partner, he chatted for another minute or so before hanging up and exchanging greetings with Hälleström. Larborn was an engaging man who always acted as though he was genuinely pleased to talk to everyone who came across his path. Hälleström had noticed after a while that this was actually the case, Anders loved talking to people and he was a very congenial host.
“I know you’re familiar with Montreal, Matti. I’m looking for a gay friendly article basically aimed at both gays and straights but including information about “The Village” and then with maybe a side trip to Quebec City.”
The Village was the gay area of Montreal and was one of the best gay areas of any North American city. Whenever Hälleström was in Montreal it was always one of the places he visited, it was a very relaxed, friendly and casual place both for gays and straights.
“I can do that, I’ll mention some places to go and restaurants in the village, probably add a walk up Mont Royal and suggest they take the train to Quebec City because that’s a fun way to travel.”
“How are the trains over there?”
“The Canadian ones are great. They’re comfortable and reliable. They’re not as fast as European trains but they get there and there is some nice scenery between Montreal and Quebec City, especially as you get closer to Quebec City.”
“What’s the best time of the year to go?”
“If you go in July you can hit the Montreal Jazz Festival which I have heard is really good. The only drawback is that you have more expensive hotel rooms but Montreal has such a good metro you could stay on the outskirts of the city at a cheaper rate and just take the metro in. Each trip is about CDN$2.50 wherever you go in the city so it’s reasonably priced. Another great thing about Montreal is that it’s safe. You can walk on the streets just about anywhere at 2:30AM and you wouldn’t get mugged. Try doing that in New York and you’d be in trouble in less than ten minutes.”
“What’s the night life like?”
“It’s buzzing, I stayed on the French side of the city and one night I woke up at 4:00AM and there were still loads of people walking on the streets. When I left to go back to the airport I had an early flight so my taxi picked me up at 7:30AM. We stopped at a traffic light and there were two young French Canadian girls still dressed in their little short black party dresses sitting on a set of stairs smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee. It was a great way to remember the city. When do you need the article by?”
“Either the issue in three months or the one after that. If you happen to do it earlier then I might squeeze it into next issue but I’ve really asked you later than I should have done.”
“No I have some spare time,” Hälleström said. “If you need it I can do it. I can let you have it in two days.”
“That would be great,” Larborn said. “I was let down at the last minute by a new writer who was due to provide me an article on gay cruises. I won’t be working with him again.”
“You should have told me that earlier,” Hälleström said. “I’ll let you have the article this afternoon, I know that you are close to deadline. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want you to feel pressured,” Larborn said.
“Anders you have done a lot for me over the years. I’ve got your back when you need it. I’ll email it over this afternoon.”
Inspector Håkan Arvidsson called the meeting to order. Present was Inspector Linn Brexner who worked closely with Arvidsson and who had been with him the night before when the assassin’s body had been found. Also present was Fredrik Olofsson who was in his early fifties with short gray hair. Olofsson sat very erect and had a formal manner. He was a very good detective and Arvidsson usually worked with him when he could. The fourth member of the team was Oliver Siemsen who was in his early forties. Siemsen dressed very stylishly, had blond hair and was a little under average height. To Siemsen’s left sat Stephanie Lundström. Lundström was in her mid thirties with long blond hair and an easy smile. Outside work she was known to be a serious computer gamer and she had won several competitions.
Arvidsson had called the other three members of the team the night before. He had gotten hold of Olofsson and Siemsen and had requested they come in an hour early to get a good start. He hadn’t been able to get hold of Stephanie Lundström and had left her a message. She had seen Arvidsson and Brexner on the news pictures in the morning, listened to her messages and made it in with minutes to spare. Arvidsson had coffee on his desk. After Stephanie entered he shut the door and poured coffee.
“You have all seen the news pictures.” It was a statement not a question. They all nodded agreement. “The man who was shot was from Germany. His name was Dieter Köhler. We know that because he carried a European Union driving license in his wallet. It is very likely that Köhler was an assassin if that was his real name. He was armed with a Magnum 37 gun with a silencer and had two knives on his person. It was his bad luck that somebody got to him first. Had he shot his target and gotten away we would be looking at quite a different crime.”
“Do we know the target?” asked Stephanie Lundström.
“Yes we do.” Arvidsson opened a folder and pulled out the printout with the photograph of Martin Ingvarsson from Zetterstrand Investment Bank. His name and the address of the bank were printed under the photograph. “Essentially we have two crimes to investigate here. We need to know who shot Dieter Köhler and equally importantly if not more so, we need to know who sent a German assassin to shoot the head of the biggest investment bank in the Nordic Region.”
“Is it possible or more likely probable that Ingvarsson found out that he was going to be hit and decided that he would hit first?” Fredrik Olofsson asked.
“That is probable. The first thing Linn and I will do after this meeting is to go and interview Ingvarsson. We’ll be watching his body language very carefully.”
Linn Brexner interrupted. She looked at Arvidsson. “I didn’t have time to tell you this yet but I already called Germany this morning with the number on Köhler’s driving license. It matches a man who lives in the city of Stuttgart in southern Germany. They gave me the number of the police station down there and I spoke to a detective who will call me back and send me an email detailing what he can find out about Köhler.”
“Good work,” said Arvidsson. “As you know it’s important we make some progress quickly with this case so that we can keep Prosecutor Bergekrans off my back. He will no doubt want to hold a press conference as soon as possible. This is going to be a convoluted and complicated case and I have no doubt that we will start with one hypothesis about what happened and then end up with a different one as the case progresses.”
Arvidsson didn’t always play by the rules. He followed his instincts and sometimes went off at a complete tangent but he had the best record of any inspector in the building. He could be difficult and didn’t always care who he upset but his staff were extremely loyal and he had gone out on a limb to protect more than one of them in the past. If it wasn’t for the fact that he had such a good record on solving cases he would no doubt have been shunted off to a small police station in a quiet part of Sweden. He didn’t like it if a case he was working on appeared to be going nowhere and at times like that the team knew they better put in as many extra hours as were needed. Linn Brexner was more level headed than Arvidsson and they made a good team. She was good at seeing the whole picture and warning him when he was overstepping the mark and it drove her crazy when he ignored her advice and went ahead anyway. However, she wanted to work with no other inspector. Arvidsson was a great believer in letting his team use their own initiative, other inspectors in the building would have had her get permission from them first before calling Germany but Arvidsson trusted her enough to let her go ahead with sometimes some quite major decisions.
Arvidsson was talking again. “I’ve made a list of action items with names against them. We’ll go through them now.” He picked up another folder and gave a handout to each person in the room keeping one for himself. “The first task is to speak to Martin Ingvarsson. Linn and I will do that together, I really want to know whether he lies to us today. I’m keeping an open mind but I will not be surprised if he does. Fredrik, the car license number and the name of the car hire company are on the sheet. We found maps from the hire company in the glove box. Go and talk to them, find out what information they have on him.”
Arvidsson checked that off on his list. He spoke again. “Oliver and Stephanie, you two find out where Köhler was staying. Start with the bigger hotels near the Zetterstrand Investment Bank and work outwards. My guess is that Köhler would have gone for a larger hotel to remain more anonymous. Check if the hotel has a record of who booked the room and if they have a phone number. Köhler may have booked the room himself but it is equally possible that someone booked it for him. When you find out where he was staying get into his room and bring everything back here. Fredrik once you have got the information from the car hire company take some police officers and start knocking on doors near the assassination site to see if anyone saw anything.”
Arvidsson turned to Linn Brexner. “Can you find out when the autopsy is? If it is possible I’d like for us both to attend. If it happens before we’re finished with Ingvarsson then we’ll stop by and get the results.” He turned to the other three. “I need profiles built for Martin Ingvarsson and Dieter Köhler. As soon as Linn receives the email from Germany she will forward it to all of us. And when information starts coming in we need to build a profile for whoever shot Köhler. I think that’s it for now.”
Arvidsson put his checklist down next to the picture of Martin Ingvarsson. He noticed something. “This picture of Martin Ingvarsson, it’s a different size from the rest of the paper. It’s not standard European A4 sized.” He picked up the sheet of paper with Ingvarsson’s picture on it, he was trying to see if anyone had cut it shorter. He held it up to the light and noticed Daniel Ålund from IT walking past. “Get Ålund in here,” he said. “He might know what this means.”
Siemsen left the room and went running after Daniel Ålund. A moment later the two men stepped into the room. Ålund was in his thirties with dark hair and a muscular build. He looked more like a bodybuilder than someone who worked in IT, which in fact he was. He liked computer gaming but he would much rather spend two hours lifting iron than sitting in front of a computer. He spent his whole day in front of computers, at night he wanted something more physical.
Arvidsson showed Ålund the sheet of paper with the photograph of Martin Ingvarsson on it. “This is not A4 sized,” he said.
“Do you have a ruler?” Daniel Ålund asked.
Arvidsson opened the top drawer of his desk and took out a ruler. Ålund measured the sheet of paper. ‘This is twenty one point six centimeters by twenty seven point nine centimeters. That corresponds to eight and a half inches by eleven inches. This was printed in America.”
“Why?” asked Stephanie Lundström.
Ålund misunderstood her. “I don’t know,” he said.
“I wasn’t looking for an answer,” she said. “This case has just gotten bigger.”
“Do you need to know where in America this photograph was printed?” asked Ålund.
“That would be great. Are you going to wave a magic wand and tell us?” Arvidsson said.
“I don’t know about a magic wand but it’s quite possible I can get you the IP address of the printer that the photograph was printed on.”
“How do you propose to do that?” Arvidsson asked.
Ålund answered the question with a question of his own. He pointed at Arvidsson’s Canon printer. “Does your printer have a built in scanner?” he asked.
“Yes, it does.”
“Does your scanner scan at 600 dpi or better?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Arvidsson said.
“How long have you had your printer?”
“Less than a year.”
“In that case it should be fine. Will you put the photograph on the glass, scan it and then save it as a pdf file please.”
Arvidsson scanned the photograph as requested. The scanner warmed up, hummed and then scanned the image. He saved it as a pdf and then looked at Daniel Ålund. “What now?” he asked.
Ålund took charge, this was his area. “Okay, everybody come round and look at the image please. See that it is on 100% resolution. Look at Martin Ingvarsson’s name typed under the photograph. You will all agree that the name looks as though it is typed in black ink.”
“It looks as though it is typed in black ink because it is typed in black ink,” Siemsen said.
Linn Brexner smiled. “What you are about to tell us is that it only appears that Martin Ingvarsson’s name is typed in black ink.”
“You are absolutely right,” Ålund said. “There is almost certainly an American government security code hidden in the pixels that make up the type. It should give us the IP address of the printer that printed the photograph.”
“Why would they do that?” Brexner asked.
“Because the American government is obsessed with spying on its own citizens. However, in this case this will work to our advantage.”
“How do you know this?” Brexner asked.
“In 2005 a San Francisco based privacy organization called the Electronic Frontier Foundation found secret yellow dots on most printers they tested. They were able to decode the yellow dots on Xerox printers but not on other printers. I believe each printer manufacturer has been given a different code to use. Since then hackers and IT guys in the United States and other areas of the world have been working to decode the dots. A few years ago you had to use a blue light and a strong magnifying glass, now a good scanner will show you the codes.”
“Okay,” said Arvidsson. “Let’s have a look.”
“Change the size of the page on the pdf file to 3,200% and then move to find Ingvarsson’s name.”
Arvidsson increased the size of the display. They were looking at the top left hand corner of the page. Arvidsson scrolled down until they found Ingvarsson’s name. The screen showed different colored pixels hidden among the name with some individual pixels set slightly away from the letters. There were yellow pixels, blue pixels, brown pixels and purple pixels in among the letters.
“Are you sure that is not just the way they print the letters?” Brexner asked.
“Look at the last ‘n’ in Martin and the first ‘n’ in Ingvarsson. The colored pixels are in different places. Look at the two “s” letters together in Ingvarsson. Again the colored pixels are in different places. Look at the pixels above the “s” letters. Again they are in a different pattern. What you are looking at is the American government spy code.”
Arvidsson was big on civil liberties. I hope our government isn’t involved in this and spying on Swedish citizens,” he said. “You know if America had caught the Chinese government doing this they would be screaming about how the Chinese government was taking away the freedoms of the Chinese citizens. I hope to God the European Union does not allow this in Europe. How can the Americans force all those manufacturers to put codes on their printers? I could see them forcing American manufacturers to do it but what about the Japanese printer manufacturers. Where are their balls?”
“It’s interesting you should pick Japan,” Ålund said. “If North Korea wants to fly an aircraft over Japan who do you think they have to ask permission from?”
“The Japanese government or the Japanese Aviation Authority.”
“Wrong, the North Koreans would have to ask the American Military Governor of Japan or whatever his title is for permission. The Japanese don’t even have control of their own airspace. It is controlled by the American Government. That’s why the American government can order the Japanese printer manufacturers around although I suspect all companies importing printers into America have to have those codes.”
“Can you crack this code?” Arvidsson asked.
“I can give it a good try,” Ålund said.
“How will you crack it?” Stephanie Lundström asked.
Arvidsson held up his hand to stop the conversation. He suspected that Ålund would have to contact a hacker. He didn’t want anyone to talk about that in the meeting. Arvidsson wanted that code cracked. If they had it then they would know who sent the assassin. It might not be admissible as evidence because of the method used by Ålund but if they had a name then they could probably find other evidence. Another inspector would have played it safe and played it by the book, not Arvidsson.
“I’ll email you the file Daniel,” he said. “Get on it as fast as you can please. Then report back to me. Okay, we all have something to work on. Let’s get to it.”
Stockholm, July 1994
Anatoly Kazikov looked at the young woman who had just been shown into his office. He wondered if she knew that at most she probably had only a few hours to live. She shouldn’t even be here. She should not be in his office and she should not have gotten this far. Kazikov was going to be nice, he intended to pump her for information and when he had that information he was going to have her killed. If she was just a fool who had talked her way into his office on a whim then her death would be simple and uncomplicated. If she was in any way a police plant or associated with the Stockholm police in any way then she would die a most horrible death. Two of his men stood guard outside the door. Kazikov had decided to see her on his own, firstly he didn’t think she was dangerous and secondly, in the unlikely event she was dangerous then his GRU training would easily allow him to get the better of her. Kazikov was wrong on the first count. The woman sitting patiently in front of him was dangerous, in fact in a world where time did not exist he would have been sitting opposite the most dangerous woman in the world. However, it would be another five to seven years before she reached her full potential. On the second count Kazikov was correct, his GRU training would allow him to take this woman if she chose to attack him but that was only because he was highly trained and had been first in most of his classes. It was time to start the questioning. He planned to start slowly and gently and once she began to contradict herself he would go in hard.
“Tell me why you are sitting in front of me?” he said in Swedish.
She surprised him by replying to him in fluent Russian. “I represent a business opportunity. You can make a lot of money out of me. You should listen very carefully and pay attention to everything I say.”
Kazikov sat back in his seat. This woman was certainly confident and assured. No doubt about that and yet she couldn’t be more than twenty-two years old. She had short blonde hair but Kazikov was certain she was wearing a wig. There were two ways he could deal with this, he could belittle this woman or he could assume she was here for a legitimate reason. Kazikov was highly intelligent and he did not have much of an ego. Therefore, he did not feel insulted by the way the young woman was talking to him. He was about to reply but the woman spoke first.
“I am well aware that should you so choose I will not leave this room alive. You may have already made this decision or you may make it as we talk but I would ask one thing.”
Kazikov kept his face impassive. She was exactly right in what she said. The chances of her leaving his office alive were limited. “What is the one thing you ask?” he said.
“I would ask that you listen to what I have to say. At the end of that you may decide to kill me or you may want to employ me. All I ask is that you listen to what I say.”
“Okay,” Kazikov said. “You have the floor. Tell me why you are here and I will listen to what you have to say.”
“Since the fall of communism the Russian mafia has proliferated throughout western Europe. Crime syndicates from other communist countries have entered western cities too but the Russian mafia is by far the most well organized and the most dangerous.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“Your business is a blend between legitimate and non-legitimate. I am guessing an 80 / 20 split.”
She was close, the split was nearer 70 / 30. His non-legitimate interests helped keep his legitimate business afloat and contributed money for expansion. He had paid cash for his warehouse which was something he could never have done if his business had been solely legitimate. Unless she had something useful to give him she had just signed her own death warrant of course. The police probably suspected he was Russian mafia but they could not prove it. “Who gave you this information,” Kazikov said.
“I’m not going to tell you. Let’s just say I became his girlfriend and I tricked the information out of him. I did it because I was looking for someone like you although I did not know you existed before I began looking.”
Okay she was beginning to intrigue him. “What do you mean by that statement?”
“I mean that I was looking for a Russian in Stockholm who could connect me to the Russian mafia in Europe.”
“You are playing a very dangerous game and probably a very stupid one. Why the hell do you want to be connected to the Russian mafia in Europe?”
“I have noticed through reading the newspapers that the Russian mafia is responsible for quite a lot of deaths in Europe, especially in Italy. It is obvious from the way that most of the victims died that the Russian mafia is using professional executioners. However, it is also obvious that the Russian mafia has no female executioners.”
Instantly she had Kazikov’s attention. He saw where this was going and he also saw the potential in it. He saw now why she was here and he also saw why she needed him. She needed a Russian mafia connection. “So you want to kill men for the Russian mafia. How do you propose to do that?” Again she surprised him.
“Let’s do some role play.”
“Let’s pretend you have just been targeted by the Russian mafia in Milan and I have been selected to execute you.”
“Go on,” Kazikov said.
“The price is $2,000. For that you get sex in any position you want and I also stay the night.”
“Okay, I see how that would get you into my house. Now what.”
“You spend the night with your hooker. Twenty minutes after you fall asleep I garrote you.”
“I’m a big man. As soon as you put the rope around my neck I will punch you or throw you off.”
“No you won’t because I will have my knee in your lower back and the garrote around your neck. Even a small woman can kill you if she gets in that position.”
She was right. Get your knee at the base of a man’s back and a garrote around their neck and they are screwed. Unless you make a mistake they will never throw you off. “Is that the only way you can execute a target or are you more versatile?” he said.
“I am a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and I have studied other eastern martial arts. I know how to kill a man that way too. If necessary, I can also pick up a stool and bash a man’s head in with that too.”
“Why do you want to do this?”
“I work in a menial job and I live in a small and crappy apartment. I do not want to wait ten years before I earn enough for a halfway decent apartment and I do not want to have to marry a man just to have a better standard of living.”
“Both good reasons but I do not exactly have women swarming to me asking to be professional executioners. What makes you different?”
“I have killed three men. All three have wronged me in some way. The thrill I got from killing them was exquisite.”
Something in her eyes gave Kazikov pause. “Do you believe you are fully sane?” he said.
“How many of us are really fully sane?” she said. “And yet many of us are able to function in normal society. To answer your question if I were ever to be locked in a mental home and then assessed they might never let me out again but I am able to function as a normal member of society. Is that a problem for you?”
It was not. Kazikov had already ascertained that this woman was a little different. She was obviously intelligent, he could tell that from her speech. The question was whether she was a weapon he could shape and use or was she just an idiot who had walked in off the street. A part of Kazikov’s mind was already tending towards the former option. His plans to kill her had already been shelved, for the moment at least but he might still have to kill her. “If I send you out to kill someone in another country how do I know you won’t panic at the wrong moment?”
“You are far more formidable than most of the men I will kill. I am wary of you and I know that I could die a horrible death at your hands but you do not scare me. I doubt that is the case with any other people who have been in danger from you.”
She was right with that comment. Kazikov had killed plenty of people in his days in the GRU. He had never tortured anyone, that was not his style but if his bosses in Moscow had told him to eliminate someone he had followed orders. “What if I call my men in now and have you killed right now. Will you be so brave then?” he said.
She called his bluff. “Call your men in if you wish. I just ask one thing before they kill me?”
There was no fear in her eyes. This woman was cool as ice. “What do you ask before we kill you?”
“I ask that you put your face near mine so I can spit in your eye.” She looked him right in the eye as she said that.
Kazikov almost lost it at that point. He was within a hairsbreadth of calling his men in. His emotions said kill her but his mind took over. He slapped her once in the face. The slap was hard. Kazikov watched her reactions in astonishment. She had seen the slap coming and had begun pulling her face back and then changed her mind. Instead she put her face back in the path of his hand and took the blow on her cheek and then rolled with it. Although the sound of his slap echoed around the room he was not sure how much he had really hurt her. What did astonish him was how fast her reactions had been. He was still thinking about that when she slapped him. He didn’t even see the slap coming it was so fast. With a roar he leapt to his feet and turned the desk over. She was already on her feet dodging back. His desk missed her by inches. The door behind her burst open and his men shot into the room. One of them drew his gun. Kazikov silenced him with a look. He came round the desk and squared off against Lisa Molin. What happened next astonished both his men. For a start they had assumed Kazikov although still fit was slightly out of shape. They saw that he was not by the way he charged the girl. At the last minute they realized his charge was a feint and then he aimed a rain of blows at the girl. Some of them hit her but she blocked most of them and then she went on the attack herself. Kazikov was backed right up against the wall by the attack that was directed at him. All of a sudden he was fighting for his life. She broke through his defenses and a disabling blow came right at him that would have broken his cheekbone and quite possibly put bone fragments into his right eye. She pulled back at the last moment. Kazikov jerked back and was already on the attack only realizing that she had pulled back as his mind reviewed the situation. Then she was coming at him again and again. He blocked a rain of blows and only managed a few in return. She punched him in the liver but the blow stopped right as she connected. Kazikov knew that if she had not pulled back he would be lying on the floor in agony now. She attacked him again but she made a mistake and this time it was Kazikov’s turn to aim a disabling blow and then pull back at the last moment. She looked at him and smiled and then she stepped back and bowed. Kazikov bowed back automatically but his mind was in turmoil. If this girl had wished it he could have been lying on the floor dead or disabled right now but she had done it in such a way that his men did not even realize.
Kazikov smiled at her. “I am going to lock you in a secure room for twelve hours with food water and toilet facilities and then I am going to make some calls. If there is interest in what you have to offer then we will work out the details.”
The girl looked him in the eye. “And if there is no interest?” she said.
“Then you know what will happen,” he said.
She nodded but there was defiance in her eyes. She allowed them to lead her to a soundproofed room in the warehouse. The room was hidden and would not be noticed by anyone casually inspecting the warehouse. She was provided with food and water. The room contained bathroom facilities in one corner.
In his office Kazikov began to make phone calls to his contacts in the Russian mafia around Europe. He made eight calls over a period of three hours. He was astonished at the interest shown. It appeared that some of his colleagues had a list of very wary targets that they were having trouble getting to. At the end of that period he had one definite booking for the girl’s services and three more provisional bookings. Two other mafia bosses showed interest but wanted to see how the girl did on the first two or three hits.
When Kazikov and his men went down to the hidden room and opened it they found it was in darkness. The light bulb had been unscrewed. Kazikov signaled his men to pull back. He spoke into the darkness. “I have work for you but if you kill one of my men then I will kill you. Step out now.”
“If this is a trap you will all die.”
“You will have to take my word on that,” Kazikov said.
“If you are lying you will die first.”
The light bulb was screwed back in and Kazikov walked into the room. The bed and chair had been dismantled, broken down and turned into crude weapons. He looked at the girl in front of him and held out his hand. She took it. “You owe me for a bed and a chair,” he said. “I’ll take it out of your first pay check.”
For a moment she looked at him like she wanted to kill him and then Kazikov smiled and she hesitated a moment and then smiled back. Her smile lit up the room and it was at that moment Kazikov realized how dangerous she would be as a hired executioner.
End of excerpt from The Banker With a Face Full of Evil by Mike Ward – if you enjoyed this excerpt you can download the book from your favorite ebook retailer
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