Works in progress1 – Novel – Blue Vengeance
- apologies if the some of the spacing and formatting looks a bit askew, the text has been cut and pasted from my word doc copy and doesn’t quite transfer the same. It’s quite an old project I’ve resurrected so lots of changes and editing in the pipe-line…
CHAPTER ONE: HOME-LEAVE
Those two short words hit Reynolds with as much force as the boat-tail bullets he’d pumped into so many others before. They echoed through his brain like the reverberations of a claw hammer ripping through his skull. What the fuck had he done to deserve this he asked himself? He really didn’t know. The whole thing was unreal, a nightmare from which he’d awoken but which consciousness hadn’t changed.
A muffled sound escaped from under his breath. He wanted to say something but couldn’t… didn’t know what… nothing that would help him make sense of it all. His chest heaving, he gripped the handrail running across the front of the dock before turning to one of the police officers standing either side of him to be escorted down the twelve short steps leading to the catacomb of court custody cells below. His last sight was a look of helplessness sweeping across his wife’s face, watching as she disappeared from view above the top of the doorway leading below.
Reynolds laughed aloud at the book he was reading, Beyond Intuition by Professor Christopher Farrell, Britain’s leading pioneer of criminal psychological profiling. It wasn’t funny, just ironical. A few years down the line and he himself might well feature in such a book should the author ever decide to write a sequel? In it the professor claimed to be able to interpret patterns of criminality through the psychological traces surrounding the scene of a crime, the tell-tale patterns of behaviour to indicate the criminal’s personality, right down to his hobbies, job and address. Reynolds was sceptical; could these subtle and ambiguous shadows really reveal the hidden depths of a psychopath? An understanding of the evolution of the serial killer’s mind, to ‘maps’ of his behaviour and, ultimately, to expose the identity of such a killer, of himself perhaps..? He wondered. He didn’t want to believe it, but Farrell’s track record spoke for itself; over ten years ago back in 1983, with no prior experience of criminal investigations, he’d been called in to assist the police in catching London’s infamous Trackside Strangler. All conventional means of detection had failed and the powers that be were growing impatient. Like a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, he’d gone about his own analysis, and from the police’s pool of two thousand suspects he had produced the name of one man, Philip Lewis, who was eventually convicted for the crimes. Now, with several years’ experience and having been involved in over seventy cases alongside British and overseas police forces, he’d established himself as a formidable force in the battle against the generations old but only recently defined phenomenon, the serial killer, the occurrence of which was far more frequent than the British police cared to admit.
Peter Reynolds was lying on his bed reading when the landing screw pushed the cell door a little further ajar… “Another psychology book?” he said, stopping to stand in the half-open doorway.
“Yeah. Quite a good one, too. Nothing like a bit of light reading to stave off boredom.” Reynolds answered.
“They’ll lock you up for ever one day if the shrink ever takes a gander at the stuff you’ve started reading.”
It was true. His reading tastes had taken a dark turn, but they were all part of his recommended reading list of the Open University Criminal Psychology course he’d started two years earlier. And even if they hadn’t been, the prison library possessed more than enough relevant literature to satisfy the curiosity of all manner of murderous macabre characters. He wondered what category he fitted into. Perhaps his forthcoming home-leave would answer that question?
Reynolds was never bothered at being woken so early, it was just the manner he objected to, the abruptness of the naked light illuminating his cell, immediately followed by the annoying rattle of keys that accompanied the unlocking of his cell-door. More often than not the door would then be thrown open with such force it would strike the bed-side table alongside the adjacent wall.
“Reynolds” bellowed Porter, a young officer, new to the job, “slop out and report to the landing office … it’s your home leave today isn’t it?”
As if you didn’t know, Reynolds thought, “a whole bloody week away from you bastards,” he continued muttering as he hauled himself out of bed. Ten minutes and he was up and dressed, waiting outside the landing office for an escort to take him to reception where he’d be allowed to change back into his own own clothes.
“This way,” beckoned Porter, “Okay, wait here.”
Again Reynolds obeyed, thinking, stupid bastard, what do they think I’m going to do, make a run for it the same day I can walk out the gate? It galled him to be taking orders from some little twat whose neck he could so easily snap in the blink of an eye were the situation different.
“There’s y’gear,” Porter said, handing him a standard size cardboard property box “…get y’self’ changed in one of them empty cubicles over there … just as soon as you’ve bin’ rubbed down that is.”
Reynolds again muttered under his breath, shaking his head in sneering disbelief whilst half-heartedly raising his aims. Porter looked him up and down while going through the motions of a quick body frisk. It was not easy ignoring the screw’s sullen manner but somehow he managed.
He changed quickly, pleasantly surprised at how well his old suit seemed to fit; relieved that the passing years had not taken too much of a toll, at least not physically. If anything, he hadn’t been this fit and lean since leaving the army. His thoughts were interrupted by some other screw beckoning him to the reception desk.
“Okay Reynolds. You know the conditions of your home leave.” Reynolds nodded.
“You’re to….” the screw began, but Reynolds was oblivious to the words. He waited for the bit where he’d be asked to sign for the few bits and pieces he’d asked to take out. As expected, he had to sign in triplicate.
“Porter will escort you to the main gate.” At last, Reynolds thought, glad that he was finally getting out of the place. He smiled, wishing he had a couple of bags with him, something that would have allowed him the opportunity to return some of Porter’s sarcasm. Nothing too insulting, just something along, the lines, ‘Porter. My bags if you please!’ He thought again though how easy it would be to break his neck instead.
It was an odd sensation walking the twenty or so yards between the reception block and the obscurely disguised side-entrance adjacent to the main gates through which, except for Christmas and most Bank holidays, the prison vans arrived and left throughout the day, seven days a week, fifty two weeks a year. The feeling quickly passed once he’d stepped beyond those gates. He looked about, almost in awe of the vast space that seemed to stretch out before him, space that he was now free to roam at will, away from the dirt and grime he’d just left. Even the air seemed cleaner. He filled his lungs with one deep breath. His eyes scanned the immediate surroundings, aimlessly at first until that is, focusing on a zebra crossing just beyond the long stretch of greenery separating the prison from the adjacent main road. He felt his throat tighten, imagining that must be the spot where his wife and son had been killed. The past few years hadn’t been kind to Reynolds, in fact they had gone out of their way to truly screw him, but he was determined 1994 would be better for him … though not so good for many others. He wiped a tear from his eye before hailing a taxi, anything to be away from the sight.
“Where to mate?”
“Sefton Road, just off the Lower Richmond…”
“Yeah, I know it….just near the Cricketers’ pub innit?” Without waiting for a reply, he continued, “nice area, Putney…got me a sister living out that way, Council estate down by the river, near the bridge…”
Reynolds was happy to engage in a bit of ordinary harmless chatter, not that the cabbie had let him get a void in edgeways yet.
“’ere we are guv,” he said, pulling up just before the main gates of the small estate where Reynolds still had his flat.
It was like stepping back in time, climbing the two short flights of stairs leading to the second floor flat of where he had lived, still lived, he reminded himself. He paused outside its green front-door. He let his fingers caress the raised brass numbering, number thirty-seven, before reaching to one of his pockets. It seemed ages while his fingers fumbled about for the elusive key, but once he’d fully stepped into the small almost square hallway he knew it had been worth the wait; it was only a small place but after the confines of a prison cell it could well have been a mansion. He didn’t even try to resist the temptation to linger in each room, recalling every inch of the fading worn carpet, the rose patterned papered walls, every shelf and cupboard, right down to what Sally usually kept in them. But there was something different, still a woman’s touch but it wasn’t Sally’s. Then he remembered. His sister… Good old’ Kathy, he thought, noticing the flowers. Sally never liked flowers, at least not fresh ones like those Kathy had placed in a vase on the kitchen table, gave her hay-fever she used to say. Maybe that’s why she’d opted for the soppy flowery wallpaper that adorned the kitchen and bathroom. She’d even wanted to get the living room done out the same; the row they’d had about it had caused him to storm out at the time, probably to the pub, he thought. He regretted having shouted, and lying about the flowers, hating them that was. He regretted a lot of things. But that was a long time ago, before… he chose not to think about it. Reynolds instinctively reached for the fridge. He was surprised to find it well stocked, even down to the six-pack he used to keep on the bottom shelf. Kathy again, he thought, taking out two eggs, a packet of bacon, a bottle of milk, and the margarine (he assumed there’d be bread in the cupboard). As an after-thought, he reached back for the six-pack. Sod the tea; he’d been drinking the bloody stuff for the last five years, he thought, breaking one the cans of lager from its plastic carrying mesh. As soon as he’d finished the fry-up breakfast he run a bath. It felt good being able to just lie back and relax, not waiting for the ear-splitting two minute warning that the showers were about to be turned off. If time wasn’t so precious he would have been content to lie there for hours, replacing the sensual feel of the hot water the moment it started to cool noticeably. But time was precious, and he had to make an appearance at his local probation office at 14:00 that same afternoon. Fortunately it wasn’t too far away, and Kathy had left him the use of her car for the week. Reynolds had never been one given over to deep thought or contemplation but there were a lot of things he thought about now. Whether this was the product of so many hours alone with only his own thoughts he didn’t know; right now he was thinking about time, its very nature – like why was it that back in a cell what seemed like an incalculable amount of time could pass by, and yet when he came to look at his watch only a few minutes would have passed, only now the phenomena seemed to be in reverse, that the hours were disappearing just as fast as the minutes. It was nearly 13:00 and the whole morning seemed to have slipped by without his noticing. Even after ten years since leaving the army he still hadn’t gotten out of the habit of using the 24 hour clock when thinking about time.
Another hour and he had to be at the damned probation office. Still, perhaps it was good that he wasn’t starting off at a hundred miles an hour. Less haste, more speed, he thought, philosophically. One thing he did have to do, he remembered, was phone a couple of old pals, two in particular who he’d met inside…
“Hi, Barry, just thought I’d give you a call… let you know I got away alright.”
“Glad to ’ear it…said y’ld be bloody mad not t’take it… So what’s y’plans… Y’fancy that piss-up we promised ourselves first chance we got?”
“Wouldn’t miss it. But not til’ Monday, eh, I’ve got a lot I want to sort out over the weekend, but if you could fix something up for during the week, and maybe get together with Collins as well?”
“Yeah sure,” Barry agreed, “’ow’bout Monday night, ’bout seven or so… or just give’s ring early evening and we’ll take it from there, eh’?”
Reynolds decided not to ring anyone else, preferring to use the time having a quick drink: actually, he would have liked to have had quite a few ‘quick’ drinks but time was getting on, and after so long inside without even so much as sniff of ’real’ alcohol, thought better of it. Best to take things easy, he decided, especially as he intended to drive and enjoy the experience of being back behind the wheel of a car, another small pleasure he’d almost forgotten.
The probation appointment was a ten minute affair; he turned up, told them who he was, and signed another declaration that he would abide by the conditions of his home-leave. Some chance, he thought, thinking of his planned trip. A couple more hours, and he intended to be on a plane.
“Yes, there is a flight to Amsterdam, at seven o’clock with KLM if that’s suitable said a pleasant feminine voice at the other end of the line.
“Yes, that’ll be fine,” he replied before giving her his details. It was surprising how much he enjoyed these brief exchanges of polite conversation and civility, it had been a long time since anyone had called him sir.
Everything went smoothly until his arrival at Gatwick. He still had an hour to spare before boarding, time enough to relax with a few roll-ups until the departure time. The hour passed quickly. He strolled through passport-control into the departure lounge to await the announcement of the boarding instructions… “KLM Flight K29 will be departing in fifteen minutes, would all passengers please proceed to Gate four. Please have passport, boarding-card, and tickets ready for inspection. Thank you.” Only briefly was he reminded of what he’d left behind that very morning; he raised no objection to the pimply airport security officer patting him down as he stepped through the door-like metal-detector. It was hard not to smile though, wondering what the Officer’s reaction would have been had he known just how many times and in what circumstances he’d been through a similar but considerably more thorough routine before.
An hour later he was at Schiphol, but because of the hours’ time difference, and the train journey to Central station it was 09:45 before he finally reached Amsterdam. He wasted no time in booking into the Krasnovite hotel, a small bed and breakfast place five minutes’ walk from the station, and within walking distance from two of his favourite haunts, a pub called the Flying Dutchman, and the appropriately named Hazy Cloud coffee shop. He’d been friends with the management of both since his first visit ten years before.
By eleven he had settled comfortably into the sparsely furnished hotel room: a single bed, small bedside table, reading light, and a built-in wardrobe and mirror, but at least he could look out of the window and see the busy comings and goings of the tourists while they set about sampling the Amsterdam night-life – and with an en-suite bathroom and shower it was sheer luxury. But it was freedom he wanted to enjoy, not comfort. He didn’t fancy making a night of it, but he could still catch the last hour or so in the Flying Dutchman.
Immediately Reynolds entered the bar, memories came flooding back of this and the many other such places he’d visited in the past. He didn’t recognize any of the staff, but after more than five years it was hardly surprising.
“Half a lager, please.” Reynolds eyed the pretty young barmaid; early twenties he estimated, admiring her firm, trim, petite figure before turning from the bar. From force of habit he chose a table near the entrance, sitting with his back to the wall giving him the widest view of his surroundings. Sipping his drink, his eyes scanned the bar and the adjoining tables. The smell of cannabis hung heavily in the air, complemented by the loud beat of a James Brown track blaring from a fifties style juke box. It was a busy night judging by the crowd. Most were either smoking joints or in the process of rolling them. Apart from the openness of what was going on the atmosphere was pretty much like that of a good night in the Bakery Arms back in Fulham. He ordered another drink before climbing the short flight of stairs leading to the upper level of the pub, home to its two pool tables. Both were in use, he observed, not the he was concerned. Pool was not on his agenda. He wanted to score a smoke. Unlike most of the coffee bars, the Flying Dutchman did not actually sell cannabis from behind the bar. Sitting at a table at the far end of this upper level was a young blonde–haired man handing over two hags of glass to a rather non-descript looking tourist. He watched the exchange of money and waited for the non-descript to move away before approaching the dealer.
“Hi,” said Reynolds, “I’ve just arrived. Alright to get a smoke off you?”
“Sure thing. Grass, Rocky, or Black?”
“What types of Grass and Black’ have you got?” Reynolds knew his gear, not that he was worried about getting ripped off – selling dodgy gear from an established bar or club was strictly taboo.
“Thai, ’Sensi, or African Skunk, and Afghani Black. The Thai and Sensi you get three and half grams for twenty-five guilders, the African two and a half grams, and the Afghani, three grams. Reynolds agreed a bag of Skunk and one of the Afghani. The dealer reached into an inside pocket of his hip-length leather jacket and produced the two bags. After a momentary sniff of their contents, Reynolds nodded and handed over the fifty guilders. It was still only 23:40 – time for another drink and to sample what he’d just bought. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d smoked some decent grass, although rolling a joint was one of the few things prison life hadn’t dimmed the memory of. But it was a buzz just being to roll it openly, not having to worry about losing remission if he were caught by the screws. The few drinks he’d already had, combined with the smoke began to take effect.
He was pleased the hotel was close by, not relishing a long walk. It had been a long day, especially considering he’d normally have been locked up in a cell for the past six hours by now. All he wanted was to get back to his room, roll another joint, and drift off into a sound sleep, dreaming of the weekend ahead.
Reynolds awoke the next morning without any need for the 08.00 alarm call he’d asked for, his body clock still firmly geared to the monotonous early morning prison routine.
Since he was under no obligation to get up he lay there for the next hour, savouring yet another of the small pleasures so long denied him. Soon though the thought of the day ahead proved too much of a temptation as his natural restlessness asserted itself.
Making his way along the Demark back towards Central Station and the large open square to its front, Reynolds noticed at its centre three young musicians and a female vocalist entertaining a sizeable crowd. They were quite good he realised once he got close enough to actually hear them. He edged his way through to the front, where a number had sat down to enjoy the entertainment. He did likewise, finding himself a comfortable spot with his back to the sun.
For more than twenty minutes he listened to their performance. Eventually one of their friends made her way through the audience, politely suggesting they might like to show their appreciation. A few declined but the majority, especially those who had settled themselves as Reynolds had done, were more than happy to contribute a guilder or two. Reynolds though, no doubt still overtaken by the euphoria of his first taste of freedom in so many years placed a ten guilder note in the moth-eaten looking cloth cap, the equivalent of about three English pounds. “Thanks man,” she said, a note of mild but grateful surprise in her voice. She treated him to a broad cheerful smile before moving on through the crowd. Like many others, he complemented the music with a joint. He sat there a while longer, smoking and taking in the relaxed atmosphere. Another twenty minutes passed before the same young woman with the cap passed back towards where he was sitting. Having done her rounds a second time, she approached him.
“Don’t worry, you’ve more than earned your place for the day – for you the rest of the show’s free.”
“Thanks,” he replied, returning her smile. She sat down beside him.
“Here, try some of this,” she suggested, handing him the half-smoked joint she was holding. He accepted willingly.
“Thanks. My name’s Peter, by the way.”
“Linda – you first time in Amsterdam?”
“No, but a good five years since my last visit.”
“So, business trip or just a break?” He paused. He wasn’t used to being asked so many questions, except by screws and policemen. It wasn’t the ‘done’ thing inside to inquire into people’s business, and so came very close to ending the conversation there and then. It took him a moment to realize there was no need for his innate suspicion.
“As you say, a weekend break… relive a few nostalgic memories.”
“– and make some new ones maybe?” He smiled. He hadn’t expected some young bird, young enough to be his daughter almost, to start flirting with him but after five years in prison the attention was not unwelcome. But he had other things on his mind; he was enjoying a weekend break, but it was more than just a pleasure trip – a lot more than he was willing or able to talk about with a complete stranger.
“Who knows?” he said.
“Well, see you here tomorrow then maybe?” He nodded, still smiling. It had been fun flirting. It would have been nice to encourage their brief acquaintance, arrange something, dinner and a club perhaps. He thought about it for a second but with so much else on his mind he didn’t feel up to the facade, the continual having to stop and think about his replies to her innocent questions, of how he hated those bastards; if he had any doubts about his intentions this simple flirtation had dispelled them.
The Hazy Cloud is not one of Amsterdam’s most inviting attractions to foreign tourists hoping to sample its coffee-shop culture – dark and dingy, the epitome of how your average punter imagines a seedy little opium den to be. He was glad it hadn’t changed. This time he did recognize one of the staff. Edging his way past the lone pool table dominating the floor space he approached and sat at the bar.
“Small beer please.”
“Certainly…” she said, turning to give him his drink, “and anyth…” A look of pleasant surprise swept across her face, preventing her from finishing the sentence.
“Hi, Selina. Long time, eh?”
“You’re telling me. God, it must’ve been… I don’t know how long – where’ve you been all this time.”
“Believe me, it’s a long story – I’ll take that drink first.”
“Er… yes. Right. It went straight out of my head.”
“I don’t suppose Steffan’s about is he?”
“He shouldn’t be more than an hour or two.”
Steffan was the owner/manager of the Hazy Cloud, along with several other bars, not to mention more dubious interests along Zeedijk Street, that part of Amsterdam catering for the more bizarre tastes and explicit live sex shows considered heavy even by Amsterdam’s liberal standards. He was anxious to see Steffan for more than just social reasons; if anyone could get him what he wanted at such short notice it was him. Meanwhile, he ordered another drink before rolling a joint from the Afghani Black he still had left. What the hell, he thought, deciding to increase its potency by sprinkling the king-size rizzla paper sprawled across the bar with double the amount of gently burned hash he would normally use in a joint, along with some of the grass he had left. Salina looked at the cocktail he was making and asked jokingly if he’d left any room for some tobacco in it. He looked up and smiled, watching the end of the joint explode to life as the naked flame of his lighter burned through the twisted end of the rizzla. Slowly and deeply he drew on the mammoth joint, inhaling to the very limits of his lung capacity. Finally, and begrudgingly, he removed the joint from his mouth, still holding the smoke deep in his lungs, continuing to do so for several seconds before, again begrudgingly, allowing himself to exhale. A shiver ran through his body before the effects of the cannabis cocktail reached the brain. He felt light-headed, almost faint, but the feeling soon passed, quickly giving way to one of ease and relaxed contentment. Again he drew on the joint, fearing the loss of this rediscovered mental exhilaration. The feeling remained, although physically he was beginning to feel somewhat drained. Another shiver ran through his body, this time bringing his mind back into focus. He ordered another beer. Shouldn’t be long before Steffan gets back, he thought hopefully, taking another pull on the joint. A half hour and three beers later his hopes were fulfilled as Steffan did indeed appear through the doors.
“All quiet then?” Steffan asked as he approached the bar.
“I suppose”, Selina said, adding casually “apart from our old friend here dropping in…” Steffan turned to where Reynolds was sitting.
“Peter! Bloody hell! You’re a face from the past. I mean, how long has it been?”
“A good few years.”
“Yeah, I guess it must be – I still can’t believe it’s you. So how come you’ve left it so long… or shouldn’t I ask’?” A knowing smile crept across Reynolds’ face. They were old friends of a sort, and Steffan knew only too well some of Reynolds’ past, although not his present situation.
“Like I told Selina, it’s a long story.”
“Knowing you it probably is, but I’d still like to hear it.”
“Sure, but I’ve a favour to ask too”
“Okay, but story first, eh?” Reynolds detected a note of concern in Steffan’s voice, and quickly reassured him he wasn’t in any kind of trouble or danger. But even so it was still hard for Steffan to conceal his apprehension. The only thing Reynold’s could do was ignore it and plunge straight into telling him the story of his arrest, conviction, and imprisonment; he wanted to tell him much more besides, about the death of his wife and son and the intense hatred he had; how they would pay. But of course, he didn’t, not that he thought Steffan had been fooled into believing his edited version of the past five years was all there was to it. But it was okay. He knew Steffan wasn’t the sort to ask questions if he sensed they wouldn’t be welcome: “Down to business then”, he continued, “that favour I mentioned. I need to get hold of some acid, or better still, a few microdots – about fifty or so. Can you sort it for me?”
Steffan was surprised. He’d steeled himself for something more dramatic, a new passport maybe, ID, or a place to stay perhaps. He couldn’t see why Reynolds would need his help to get hold of a few drugs, the sort that were probably available on any South London council estate – why come all the way to Amsterdam? Reynolds could see the look of bewilderment in Steffan’s face:
“…but not just any microdots… they’re to settle a few old scores, like.” Steffan was still puzzled:
“I still don’t…”
“I want something that’s gonna do a lot more than just send someone on a bad trip.”
“Something a bit more potent than the stuff we flog the tourists?”
“You’ve got the idea – can you do it?” Steffan shrugged his shoulders, suggesting he wasn’t too happy about it. Reluctantly he said yes.
“At least it’s not a gun or anything you’re asking for,” Steffan sighed. Besides, what did it to matter to him what Reynolds had in mind, just so long as it was in London, and not Amsterdam.
“…but it won’t be until later this evening, or perhaps lunch-time tomorrow – that’s not too late for you is it’.” Reynolds agreed it wasn’t, thanking him, grateful for his ’no questions asked’ attitude to what must have seemed a strange request.
“So what are you up to tonight?” Steffan asked, changing the subject.
“Hard to say… quick bite to eat, a few drinks and a smoke, a club later on, and maybe get laid if I’m lucky”.
“Well if it’s one of my clubs you end up in you’ll have no trouble.”
“I’m sure I’ll manage one way or another, but thanks anyway.” He stayed for one more drink before setting off for the Liedesplien, Amsterdam’s equivalent of London’s Leicester Square. Rather than take a taxi he hopped on one of the city-centre trams for the five-minute journey. It was funny, he thought, that he should choose to travel by tram rather than hailing one of the numerous taxis, but there was something exhilarating about the feeling and sheer normality of being out and about among everyday people. His thoughts were interrupted by the driver’s announcement of their arrival. First things first, he decided, selecting a small Thai restaurant in which to enjoy an evening meal, something very different and a definite improvement on the corn beef, cheese, and coleslaw he could have expected had he still been back in Wandsworth prison.
It was still early in the evening by the time he’d finished and left the restaurant. Once outside, he stopped to pause alongside an enclosed square, to watch some youths roller-skating. Some of their parents and whom he assumed to be friends and relations of the youths were also watching. Seeing the youngsters and their families put him in mind of how things might have been with his own family had it not been for his imprisonment. He felt a tightening of the throat and a moistening of the eyes as he tried to visualize what his son might have looked like had he still been alive. He might well have been sitting at home with his wife and son that very moment had it not been for the treachery, deceit, and hypocrisy of those two undercover bastards, Peterson and Williams. It was more galling though to think neither of them would be the least bit bothered by what they’d done to him even if they knew. He turned and walked away…
Next stop was the Mushroom, one of Amsterdam’s biggest and most famous coffee- bars. The place was busy but not crowded, a nice mixture of the inevitable percentage of tourists to he found in any of Amsterdam’s bars, congenially balanced by an equal number of locals. He perched himself on one of the high bar-side stools that have become a feature of so many American and British cocktail and singles bars, and ordered a coffee and a sandwich. The coffee helped to clear his head of his earlier indulgences at the Hazy Cloud. Leaving his coffee and sandwich on the bar, he went downstairs to one of the two basement bars, the larger of the two being the one that housed the almost obligatory pool table forming part of the character of most of Amsterdam’s coffee-bar culture. Once again though, his visit had nothing to do with wanting to play pool – it also happened to be where the Bulldog’s resident ’dealer’ operated. He entered through the sunken basement-entrance door. In a dimly lit corner to the left sat Ally, the resident dealer selling the house drugs. Beside him was a piece of furniture not unlike the bedside locker back in Reynolds cell. Mounted on the wall, above and behind the locker was the famous Bulldog ’hash’ menu, a list of prices for various quantities of about a dozen different varieties of cannabis and grass. After a brief inspection, he selected another expensive choice, Nepalese Temple-ball, an opium-based form of hash from Nepal – as easy as buying a pack of cigarettes. A minute later he was back in the main bar with his coffee and sandwich. He looked around at the other customers. He noticed a young woman sitting across the bar, at one of the window-side tables looking out on to the Liedesplien itself. A well-dressed woman of about thirty, he estimated. She may have been a little older but if she was it was well disguised by the chic, seductive, matching black trouser-suit jacket and skirt, and the obvious degree of care and attention she undoubtedly paid to her appearance and figure. She was drinking a coffee. A joint sat burning in an ashtray beside her. The image she presented was an interesting one, definitely not one of your stereotype tourists, assuming of course that she was a tourist, which he doubted. But what then? If they had been sitting in the riverside bar of the Grand, one of Amsterdam’s premier hotels, he might have mistaken her for a high-class hooker; she had the looks and the body, but his prison-honed perception said otherwise. He watched as she slowly, but very deliberately drew on the joint that had previously been lying so innocently in the ashtray beside her coffee. It was then she caught his eye. He smiled politely toasting her as he lifted his coffee to take another sip. It was all he could think to do, not being close enough to say anything without raising his voice. It was enough though, he thought, as she returned his smile, raising her coffee cup with a subtle toast of her own, allowing her smile to linger just a fraction longer than necessary for a polite acknowledgement. Well it’s now or never, he decided, lowering himself from the barstool to approach her table. He noticed a slight adjustment of her position, but certainly no apprehension, which is more than could be said of Reynolds at the time.
“Hi,” he said softly, “would you mind if I joined you?”
“No, please do – though you might want to bring your coffee over first?” She smiled her approval of him.
“Can I get you a drink at the same time – another coffee, or something else perhaps?”
“Sure, an orange juice would be nice, thanks”. A moment later he returned with their drinks. Not wanting to appear too forward, he sat about two feet away from her, allowing a bit of space between them.
“Hello again, my name’s Peter.”
“Monique” she replied, extending her open hand. Having broken the ice, he felt more comfortable. It was a long time since he’d last played this scenario: the approach, introductions, getting things off to a good start, but fortunately he didn’t seem to have lost the art of conversation, despite his lack of recent practice:
“Monique – a French name?” he asked hesitantly. Her accent was European though not necessarily French.
“Yes,” she agreed”, “but I’m actually from Belgium – my father was French.”
“Ah, that explains it”.
“From your appearance and the name…I would have expected a more, err… ‘French’ accent.”
“Sorry to disappoint you but I’ve never spent much time in France.”
“Oh it’s not a disappointment – the lack of an accent I mean – if anything it adds something.”
“And what about you? You haven’t really said much about yourself yet”. Things were going well, better than expected, but he hadn’t prepared for the point where he’d have to start filling in a few details about himself, or at least not so early in the conversation. He stopped to consider his reply. Best to try and side-step the issue, he thought – at least for the moment:
“There’s not a great deal to tell – I’m sure you’re far more interesting – You first.”
“That’s very flattering… I have my doubts, but okay.”
It was a fascinating story. Her name was Monique Duvall, single, thirty two years of age, French father, Dutch mother, born and raised in Belgium, – and quite different from any woman he’d ever met: educated at the Sorbonne university of Paris, she had graduated in political science, not to mention her fluency in four languages – Flemish, Dutch, French and English. Not content with an academic career, she’d gone into fashion modelling during her early twenties. After that, a brief stint as a translator for the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg until she’d found her true vocation – journalism:
“So what paper are you with?”
“I’m a foreign correspondent with the Paris branch of The International Tribune.”
“Impressive – So what brings you to Amsterdam then?”
“Nothing very exciting – civil rights conference. I’m off to the Hague tomorrow.”
Reynolds was a little dumb-founded to say the least; he hadn’t known many what you would call ’professional’ people in his life, let alone an international political journalist, but to meet one smoking a joint in a Dutch coffee bar was more the stuff of fiction than his usual class of pick-up. What am I getting myself into? He thought, wondering if getting mixed up with a journalist was really such a good idea, however attractive she might be. What the hell, he’d been in prison for over five years.
“Well, that’s my life-story, what about you Peter?” He paused, still not sure what to tell her; the truth he decided. Just not all of it. Unfortunately it was the untold parts of his life that would have intrigued Monique. Otherwise there was nothing remarkable he could say about himself: thirty five years old. Parents both dead several years, only child, no other close relatives, left school at sixteen to join the army, discharged nine years later due to a temporary hearing loss (the after effects of his proximity to an explosion during a tour of Northern Ireland) then a variety of odd jobs for the next few years until such time he was informed that a surgical implant would virtually restore his hearing. Needless to say, he’d had the surgery, which proved successful and promptly got a number of security jobs. He neglected to specify the exact nature of those jobs, aware that the term ‘mercenary’ probably wouldn’t go down too well. When asked if he was married his answer was a simple ‘no’ – short, unemotional, and with no indication that further inquiry along those lines would be welcome. He was grateful she’d picked up on this and not pressed the point.
Monique had listened almost without interruption. He had been worried she had done so only out of politeness; her life seemed so much more accomplished than his – what could it possibly he that she found interesting about him? He wasn’t exactly proud of some of his past activities but he was sure they would have interested her more than the ‘edited’ biography, if only from a journalistic perspective. He was wrong. Maybe the truth, the whole truth, would have increased her interest in him, but it was beside the point – she was as attracted to him as he was to her.
It was coming up for ten, much later than he had intended to stay in the Mushroom. Another half hour passed idly by as they finished their drinks and shared one last joint. Not since Sally had Reynolds felt so totally at ease and relaxed with someone, content in the knowledge that they were both there by choice and not merely thrust together through circumstance. By now there was little need for words; the gentle subtleties of body language, a knowing smile, a meeting of the eyes, and their gradual movement towards one another – it was all there. They arrived back at Monique’s hotel just after eleven. He was not surprised she was staying at the Grand, the hotel that had sprang to mind the first time he saw her. Despite their mutual attraction, both were nervous. He felt guilty that she might think he was simply using her, ‘getting his leg over’ as he unashamedly thought of it. He tried telling himself that that wasn’t the case, but who was he kidding? He’d been in prison for over five years now. Apart from Sally and the occasional visit from Kathy he hadn’t had so much as even the scent of an attractive woman let alone the touch, the feel, the caress of one. It had been a lovely evening, for both of them he hoped, but the evening was over now, giving way, inevitably, to the night.
She too felt nervous. She found him attractive, but also a little frightening beneath the facade of his polite English manner. Had she been too agreeable with him, she wondered. Was he just using her? She already knew the answer, but then so what – she was making just as much use of him. They wanted each other so what could be wrong with that? She offered him a drink to help smooth things along.
“A Baileys if you have one?” She poured the drink, pausing a moment to operate a button on the music-centre. They relaxed to the soft melodies of a Diana Ross track. She handed him his drink. He was still standing as she did so. Taking it with his left hand, the other slipped around her waist. She allowed herself to he pulled close to him. He was no longer nervous; it felt natural with her. Still holding her close, he turned his head slightly to finish in one swallow the drink he was holding. Stooping a little, he placed the empty glass on a small side table, freeing himself to clasp her with both arms. Gently swaying to the background music he could feel the firmness of her body pressed against his own, her breasts hugging at his chest while her arms rose to encircle the upper half of his body, finally coming to rest around the back of his neck, drawing his face to hers, first to the cheeks and then his lips. Their mouths opened to each other, exchanging hot breath with the increasing rapidity of their breathing. Without separating from him, she was somehow able to steer him towards the bedroom. Slowly he undid the buttons of her blouse exposing her breasts. Once again she drew her face towards him, removing his shirt at the same time. They were now both naked from the waist up. He could feel the swollen tautness of her nipples pressing against his bare chest. Gently they lowered themselves onto the double bed dominating the centre of the luxurious bedroom. She too could feel a hardness, his hardness, the hardness of his arousal pressed firmly against her. Momentarily their bodies parted a fraction, allowing them to fumble with each other’s clothing. With both hands he raised the sides and front of her skirt, bunching it up above her thighs. Frantically she tore at the skirt’s side-clip, allowing it to be discarded completely. Clutching at his buttocks she pressed hard against him. Her hands slid between their bodies, reaching for his belt buckle, struggling to unfasten it without interrupting the frenzied rhythm of their gyrations. It was a task he was happy to assist with as his own left hand moved down to complete the task. Sliding her fingers inside the waistband of his briefs she pulled down on them, clutching and pulling at his trousers at the same time. They were soon naked, engrossed in a bout of manic thrusting, each as aggressive and enthusiastic as the other. It was all he could have wanted and hoped for as he worked towards his moment of release, the satisfaction of over nine year’s pent-up frustration. But it was no one-sided encounter – harder and deeper he penetrated but she seemed insatiable; no amount of exploration and penetration seemed to be enough, but at last his efforts began to pay dividends. Her gentle moans grew into soft screams, accompanied each time by a tightening clench of her legs with each thrust of their bodies digging her fingers into the backs of his shoulders. Twice, maybe three times she brought him to fulfillment, each time wanting more, long after he ceased to be capable of response. It was many hours before their passion subsided, giving way to exhaustion.
Despite the brevity of sleep following the sexual marathon of the previous night, Reynolds still awoke around the 07:00 mark, his body clock still entrenched in prison routine. He lay there a few minutes, aware of the subtle fragrance of her perfume. He could feel the arousal of the previous night returning but decided to leave her sleeping peacefully. Throwing aside the bed covers he got up to take a shower. During this time Monique began to stir, reaching out to Reynolds’ side of the bed. Realizing he wasn’t there, she called his name, fearing he might have already left. She was relieved to see him emerge from the en-suite bathroom.
“You’re an early riser,” she said watching him as he began to dress.
“In more ways than one.” They both smiled at his reply.
“You’re not leaving already are you?”
“Not so long as you don’t want me to – shall I call for a coffee or something?”
“Yes, that’d be nice. Thank you.” After their coffee, she took the trouble of getting dressed herself. If it hadn’t been for the fact that he was already dressed she wouldn’t have bothered, probably suggesting he re-join her in bed. Never mind, she thought, reminding herself she had a conference to cover later that afternoon. But there was nothing to stop them enjoying a pleasant breakfast together, complementing perfectly their meeting the previous night. He would have liked to spend the day with her but even if she hadn’t had her conference to attend, he had made other arrangements, his meeting with Steffan for one. He did want to see her again though, feeling sure she felt the same. That would he difficult though, particular once he was back at Wandsworth, but he would cross that bridge as and when necessary. They said their goodbyes, exchanging telephone numbers. It was at that point he had to tell her his first out-right lie in that he would be spending the next several months travelling around Europe. It was the only way he could account for her not being able to see or contact him during the remainder of his stay in prison. She was doubtful of his explanation but the years in prison had turned Reynolds into a convincing liar, as it did most inmates. She would wait and see, she thought, trying to convince herself she wasn’t that concerned. But whatever her feelings, she knew there was something different about this lean English man with the vague past. She wanted to know more…
Leaving the hotel, Reynolds made his way back to the Hazy Cloud to meet Steffan. He hoped Steffan had managed to get him what he wanted. Reynolds was reasonably confident he had, but he wouldn’t he happy until he knew for sure. He got there about nine in the morning. Laura told him that Steffan had had to leave early that morning, but had left a message saying he’d be back to see him some time around three in the afternoon. Such an arrangement suited Reynolds perfectly. Plenty of time to visit more of his old haunts, grab a few beers, and maybe enjoy a bit of sightseeing. It occurred to him how much of the city he’d never bothered to explore or get to know other than its more obvious and immediate attractions.
“Hi Steff. Laura passed on your message.”
“It didn’t put you out at all did it?”
“No, not a bit; in fact I’ve quite enjoyed myself most of the morning.”
“And last night..?” Reynolds smiled, the sly traces of a smirk clearly discernible:
“I’ve had worse – I’ll leave it to your imagination, eh?” He immediately regretted the ‘had worse,’ bit of the comment – it had been an amazing night.
“I get the picture – I got what you wanted if you just want to step into the back.”
With that, the two of them stepped into a small back-room to the rear of the bar, usually reserved for customers wanting to purchase somewhat more than the customary twenty-five guilder bag of hash or grass most of the tourists came for.
“Well here it is,” Steffan said, producing ten small plastic bags, each containing five of the microdots Reynolds had asked for, “just like you asked… something out of the ordinary.”
“Go on,” he urged.
“To start with, whoever takes even one of these is headed for a bad trip whatever the circumstances – I don’t know their exact make-up but they’re designed for exactly the effects you hinted at… I guess you’re not the only one who’s had the same idea for a bit of subtle revenge.”
“There’ll be nothing subtle about what I’ve got in mind.” A shiver ran through Steffan, sensing Reynolds’ words to be much more than just a throwaway comment. But whatever his private concerns on the matter it was a bit late for second thoughts – he’d already handed Reynolds the microdots. Other than that, Reynolds said nothing. He was more concerned with placing the ten small hags into one larger one which he then slipped into an inside pocket of his jacket. Business concluded, they returned to the front bar. He’d felt good pocketing the ‘little packets of retribution’ as he chose to think of them. Having them in his possession immediately instilled in Reynolds an urge to return to London. He was glad his weekend in Amsterdam was drawing to a close. Precisely what he intended once he got back, Reynolds didn’t know exactly; all he was sure of was that twenty four hours later, he’d be back in London – and playing by his rules…