A murdering bastard

Nothing more sad than a reformed licentious girl. All the ink, piercings, and mannerisms of her former proclivity still very present. Hair, platinum and purple, a great combo at the rave, not so much at this local watering hole. A pale blue, thrift store, granny sweater, buttoned only at the top, effectively disguises the cleavage otherwise revealed by her tube top.

Clyde and I observe this not so young lass as she enters the bar at our destination this evening, Harrisburg Pennsylvania, US America.

A brunette, we ascertain from her roots, giving the sheila’s hair a total of three colours. Sexy, from the chest up at least, she takes a stool at the bar. In exchange for a bag of candy, and obviously candy of another sort, gets free food, cigarettes, and all the craft beer she can handle from the oddly suave bartender. Chicks that can down pint after pint and still be attractive still amaze me. Mandy could drink me under the table, but only the hard stuff, she could barely finish a single pint, but a fifth of vodka, no problem.

Clyde’s been engaged in research on his laptop nearly constantly on the drive from West Virginia, U.S. America. “I found her!” Clyde announces triumphantly at the bar. After an exhausting search of the internet turned up nothing. Clyde turned to the dark web. I cannot wait to see what viruses will screw up my satellite phone that Clyde has been using to telnet through. Utilising contacts and connections, I don’t exactly want to be privy to, Clyde manages to track down Nelly.

“Gertrude did a job for Nelly a month ago. Said she’s been working at a Gentleman’s club in the foothills of the Berkshires in Connecticut, U.S. America. Where’s that?” Clyde asks, continuing, “She wouldn’t give up the name of the town, Assassin/client privilege she declared. I didn’t have enough ecoin to change her mind.”

Here, I can utilise some of my extensive experience to assist my friend in his quest. “Pull up an internet search browser”, I advise Clyde. He reaches for my satellite phone to make the connection. “Whoa, enough of that”, my bill is going to be extraordinary this month as it is. “There’s wi-fi here, connect with that”, I coach. I instruct Clyde to search “TUSCL”. “Wow!”, exclaims Clyde, “how do you know this?” It does get lonely on the road, and sometimes a mans needs, um, recreation. Anyway, we decide to concentrate on a fifty kilometre radius from Waterbury, Connecticut, U.S. America. That search reveals about twenty clubs. I advise Clyde that by checking the reviews of each club, he might find one for Nelly.

Returning from the loo, I notice tri-colour hair girl is now behind the bar, on her knees. Clyde is staring intently at the laptop’s monitor. His face a cold determined stone as he reads review after review. Clyde’s lips are moving, but he’s not mouthing the words on the page, rather he’s mouthing the words “I’m going to kill that bitch” over and over. Ah, the penalty for breaking the heart of a murdering bastard.

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Seated at a table against the far wall, Clyde and I enjoy our pints of an American lager. To our left, perched atop a high stool, back to the front window and playing a beat-up Black Sheep boardguitar is an aging hippie; whining out songs with familiar tunes but all the wrong words. The Black Sheep is our destination this evening. Burritos and Brews, so says the sign outside in this college town bordering Kentucky, in West Virginia, U.S. America. The food is decent and the beer strong, surprising for America; and plentiful.

We had flown in on an Empty Jets Americas’ Gulfstream 450, along with a couple dozen of Cuba’s finest cigars. The flight would have taken us all the way to Boston, but about mid flight the jet’s owner needed the bird back. The pilot, an old friend of Jaxon’s was kind enough to drop us off at a small airport about three miles south of here.

With dinner consumed and whiney having finally packed it in, we decide to hang around and drink. Clyde pauses halfway through his seventh pint to slur, “If you kill someone … you better love … to hunt them back to you…” Of course Clyde is referring to that famous saying, “If you love something, set it free, if it doesn’t come back to you, hunt it down and kill it”. Clyde’s been lamenting his lost love, Nelly.

I need to be in Boston Massachusetts by the end of the week to audit a new recruit’s performance. Since we have a few days to kill, Clyde and I decide to drive to New England, and check out some of the touristy things America has to offer.

From my observation post in this joint, I spy a young lass with long, mid back, Capri coloured hair conversing with a blonde college co-ed, both are seated at the bar. Making a mental note that after a couple more drinks in her, I’ll make a move on the blonde; blue was never my colour. I am also aware of the proliferation of bearded men; normally I don’t notice men, except to assess threats of course, that’s not my bag baby; but this is different. Never have I seen in one place, nearly every man sporting a full beard, including some outlandish follicle creations. One fellow, clearly in his early twenties, sports a Ulysses S. Grant beard. The rest of the men range from ZZ Top to Shakespeare to Duck Dynasty in their grooming; very odd indeed.

About an hour before last call, Clyde, having slightly recovered from his earlier depression, elbows me, gesturing at the two birds, blonde and blue. I nod in agreement. Before I can tell him my preference, he says he’s going after the blond. Knowing Clyde’s been having a rough time getting over that bird, Nelly, I let him go for it. Sideling up to Blue, whilst Clyde does the same to Blonde, I cannot help but notice that not only do her fingernails sport the same colour as her hair, but also the cover on her I-Phone. I look over at Clyde to check his progress, but he and Blonde are already gone; nice.

Blue takes a little more convincing, but of course, I’m able to wrangle her back to my room. I notice that the carpet and drapes do match, but the hamster suite she shares is mediocre at best. Seems Blue has been so completely burned out by recreational sex and by life in general, her body was only going through the motions of human existence. Putting Blue into the cab I rang for, I suggest to her that in order to feel alive, she should check into espionage, or perhaps the Peace Corps, as a career choice.

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The Americans, both U.S. and Canada, want us to track down and “accident” a sub-contracted leaker. This is a rush job because it has to be done before Trish gets to him. With the knowledge allegedly locked up in his pea-brain, Edward could single-handedly bring down the entire clandestine operations of all the NATO countries. Information Trish could sell to NATO’s enemies for a bundle, or worse…

Idiot that he is, the former employee of a well known management consulting firm. didn’t nail down his escape plan before his big reveal to the world. From an English speaking communist country, China’s Hong Kong, Ed made his proclamation about the U.S. America’s NSA Prism program. Seriously, who didn’t already know about that? From there he assumed, Communist, Russia would welcome him with open arms. Edward somehow forgot that the Cold War is, mostly, over. A high profile traitor’s extradition would greatly improve U.S.A / Russian Federation relations. Having learned the Cyrillic alphabet as a boy and studied the complex Russian language for several years, Eddie was really hoping to meet a nice Japanese girl and make a new life as a grey-hat hacker in Vladivostok, Russia.

An old friend from my Special Branch days, specialising in satellite communications, is stationed in Qatar. Jarli has been keeping tabs on the NSA for a couple of years, he finds it is easier to intercept the NSA’s boiled down take, from the massive amounts of collected data, being sent to their homeland than to screen the data himself. A short, “encrypted phone only please” call to Jarli reveals the Russians will extradite Edward to a, less than friendly to the U.S. America, country south of the Tropic of Capricorn by way of Cuba. I know that he must not live past Cuba. Trish, with her concentration of salacious female operatives in Havana could easily squeeze information from dummy, er, I mean Edward. A source of mine, lets just say she may or may not work in the NSA’s Prism listening post in Annecy, just 40 clicks south of Geneva, knows of an even bigger, restricted knowledge program. If Edward knows of and/or releases details about Project Back-Snake, the NSA’s intelligence gathering capabilities will revert to the stone-ages.

An NSA and CSEC joint black on black operation, Back-Snake works hand in hand with major US and Nippon electronics manufacturers to spy on first world citizens. Originally piloted as Project Hitch-Hiker, in the late 1970’s, Hitch-Hiker tried to utilise consumer electronics like tabletop radios and cable TVs, to monitor conversations in the vicinity of the device. Feedback-loading the TV speakers as rudimentary microphones, the Government was able to spy on the populace. As the technology was primitive, the data collected was deemed useless and the project mothballed.

Fast forward twenty years, unlimited data storage, high-speed processing, and the proliferation of gaming console systems. Remote-less controls mean cameras and microphones are aimed at the consumer making it all too easy for “The” spy agencies to listen in. Many terrorist organisations maintain sleepers in first world countries. By back-channelling, the American clandestine organisations are snaking, into the game networks, video networks, and hands free consol systems, monitoring a vast amount of conversations. Back-Snake is practically welcomed into the homes of first world countries.

Having boarded a company Gulfstream, to fly directly to Havana’s José Martí International Airport; it was nice to not have to fly commercial for the twenty three hour flight.

Upon landing in Cuba, I checked in with a loyal friend in Havana. I ascertain the target is to be flown by Аэрофлот to Rancho-Boyeros Airport, arriving in two days. Two days after that he will fly to one of the few second world countries willing to offer sanctuary. Here in Havana I’ll create the mishap to befall The Guardian’s favourite traitor.

With Clyde in tow, I decide to utilise the celebrated Slippery Goat on Eddie. As I’m preparing the man-trap for the ‘Goat’, Clyde bend’s my ear; “If we extract the details about Back Snake from Eddie before we kill him, we can make a bundle of cash marketing the information”. Wow, Clyde is completely off reservation; to be expected I guess, having been forced out of retirement and all. Adding, “Look, Jae doesn’t want what is in this dummy’s head, the C.I.A.A. simply has been contracted, along with half a dozen NATO exterminators no doubt, to silence him.”, Clyde continues, “If we promise protection and learn what he knows before we terminate him, we can sell that information to the highest bidder. Oh, of course we’ll sell it to the CIAA”, wink, “after we shop it around to drive up the price”.

Given the changes going on in Kathmandu, an expedited ticket to retirement sounds attractive. I decide to pretend I’m on board with Clyde’s plan; who knows when one will need a parachute. Besides, a dispute between hitmen, even lifelong friends, in this business can prove deadly. Clyde, satisfied with my commitment to his idea, relaxes his demeanour. About to return to my work, it dawns on me; how does Clyde know about Back-Snake? Heavy sigh, Tequila time!

I despise Tequila. In particular, Tequila time! If I don’t hydrate properly during a Tequila binge, the hangover is abysmal. Hydration anywhere outside the U.K. is risky; fortunately, before leaving Buenos Aires, I purchased a six-pack of Perrier. I will not be sharing. In short, Clyde learned of project Back-Snake from Trish while she was ‘vacationing’ in Argentina.

Clyde reports, while monitoring flight data in and out of Hong Kong, the island of Chek Lap Kok experienced a freak blizzard. Buried under three centimetres of snow, the airport delayed all flights until the runways are swept clean. Looks like we will be here an extra day or two until the snowed-in flight is released.

Cuba’s first National Park created in 1930, is where Edward will meet his demise. Doomed to be a permanent resident of Parque Nacional Sierra Cristal , or at least until the wild boars consume him, Edward falls to his death at 1300 kilometres while climbing Pico Cristal, the local constabulary and the news press will report.. If he was truly the world patriot he claimed to be, he could have remained anonymous, but he just wanted to get laid, poor Edward.

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The 28 hour flight from Buenos Aries to Kathmandu gives me time to reflect on Mandy and our whirlwind relationship. After returning home from Hartford, U.S. America, I learned I was one of the NSA’s few Project ‘Hitch-Hiker’ success stories. I thought I was careful, daily sweeping my hotel room for bugs and cameras, but I never suspected the Sony Trinitron would snitch on me; must have caught me practising the American accent.

I was enjoying a pint of a concoction the Officer’s Club bartender called ‘Forget’, well ‘enjoying’ might have been a stretch, Coopers Ale, Bitters, Vermouth, and local lentil whiskey; “it’ll make you forget”, was his description. Picking up the bakelite handset on an old black rotary model 302 telephone on my table, I dialled the number again on the card. “Hello, Majes?”, the voice on the phone inquired. I wondered aloud how she knew it was me. “I don’t give many people this number, and even fewer Australians, hold on a sec, yup, you are calling from South Australia, mmm, Woomera”, Mandy answers. “So… you’re CIA, NSA, DOD?”, I ask. “Not exactly, let’s just call it an independent contractor”.

In the early to mid 1990’s, the U.S. American clandestine services had been fielding a lot of heat from their public about government sanctioned assassinations. In order to create a buffer of plausible deniability, they relied on independent contractors to carry out the kills. The arrangement didn’t work as well as hoped. The U.S. government found that contractors could be easily corrupted, by their targets, into misreporting the kill confirmations. Additionally, once word spread in the subcontractor world that the U.S. was putting contracts out on contractors in order to cover their tracks, all the hitmen refused to work for them.

A strapping young man of twenty four, one hundred eighty three centimetres tall, twelve stone, healthy, fit, lightly bronzed skin, and sandy blond hair; the world was my oyster. I could have any girl that fit my fancy, and often did; and often. Talking to Mandy, my usual cool, nonchalant self was not coming as easily as normal. Something about our brief introduction about a week prior, a mysterious attraction, something ineffable; she possessed that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’.

“When can I see you”, I managed. “How about right now?”, the voice said, but not over the telephone. I turned, first my head, then my shoulders followed by my body in the swivel chair to see Mandy standing in the doorway, behind me. She was wearing a very tailored version of the women’s RAF dress uniform, regulation modest heels, and a slightly askew garrison cap. Her beautiful brunette hair, of course, secured in a bun, deep red lipstick, only a modicum of makeup otherwise, and manicured red painted, slightly longer than regulation, nails; she looked very much the part of the RAF Wing commander her shoulder boards indicated. I stood, telephone receiver still in my hand, I proceeded to walk toward her, pulling the telephone off the table. The phone hit the floor with bang and a ‘ding’ as the bell inside was jostled. Mandy giggled a little as I put the phone back together and on the table.

I went to kiss her, Mandy stopped me, saying, “ahem, uniform”. Looking around I replied that there is no one here, Mandy shook her head briefly then looked up at one of the overhead security cameras. “Come”, Mandy said, as if I needed an invitation.

Walking outside, the late afternoon sun at our backs, Mandy confessed, “Sorry about the uniform, it was the only way I could get on base. I was about to surprise you anyway, but you called just as I had gotten in”. We walked a little, chatting about the unusually warm weather for late autumn. I tried to kiss her again, again Mandy stopped me, cleared her throat and nodded to another security camera. I never realised there were so many cameras on base. We arrived at her rental car, a white late model sedan, darkly tinted windows, It looked much like a government vehicle, without the tags, obviously. “I’m taking you to dinner”, announced Mandy, “get in”.

The Eldo hotel. Dinner huh, hmmm. As if reading my thoughts, Mandy said as we got out of the car, “The restaurant here has very good food”. The food was in fact pretty good. Mandy was surprised to see kangaroo on the menu, “I thought kangaroos are protected”, she remarked. I replied that it varied, year by year, sometimes protected, sometimes for dinner. Over chicken on the barbie and shrimp on the, well you know, we got better acquainted.

Looking about as we finished our after dinner coffees, I saw we had closed the restaurant. Chairs on tables, the wait staff gone, the restaurant manager waiting patiently for the cheque, we had talked for hours. I learned among other things she has the unusual and rare tri-citizenship. Mandy’s father was a Russian diplomat, her mother a French diplomat. Arraigning to be assigned to the same countries so they could be together was a full time task. They succeeded most of the time. Both her parents were working in England when she was born, thus the tri. She and her older brother, Sam, spent a few years in Australia as teenagers when their parents were assigned to Oz and New Zealand respectively. When her parents were reassigned, her mother to Hungary, her father to U.S. America, Sam elected to stay in Australia while she went with her father to the colonies. Odd that, Sam never mentioned he had a sister.

I also learned Mandy never makes love on the first date. I argued we already had our first “date” in U.S. America about a week ago. “Good point”, her reply with a wink.

Alone, the two of us, in her room, we caress in a loving hug, deeply kissing each other. Already I am satisfied. The love between us is already expressed, though we are fully clothed, having just entered her room. While we kiss, Mandy dons her garrison cap, and releases her hair from it’s bondage. As we continue our tongue parrying, Mandy starts to unbutton her blouse, I start unbuttoning my blouse as well. Mandy then stops her task and proceeds to push my hands away from my shirt and continues to unbutton the rest of my blouse as I switch to finishing the task she started on her’s. Exposing our skin on the top portions of our bodies, we pause briefly, then resume our hug and deeper than deep of French kisses, stretching my tongue as deeply as I can, hoping to touch her soul. Already I’m wishing this moment could last forever. Breaking from our kiss, we feverously remove the remains of our chattels. We fall onto the bed and into each other as Mandy presents the most exquisite of hamster suits I have ever had the pleasure to share…

My revelry is broken when the pilot announces our imminent arrival in Doha, Qatar, time to switch planes again. Nearly sprinting to the gate to catch our connecting flight, I switch on my phone to try the number on the card again, there is an urgent message waiting, “Reroute directly to Cuba, a company charter is waiting for you, call me when on board, Jae”. “Clyde, we have work to do”.

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How I met your mandy

An otherwise blank business card with only a first name and a phone number, is something fairly common in my line of work. Mandy! Of course I dialled the number immediately, and of course the call went straight to a nondescript voicemail, but I cannot help but remember another business card; one with simply a name and a phone number.

1995, Late spring, a covert assignment for Special Branch, in U.S. America. The picturesque seaside community of Groton, Connecticut is home to one of the foremost war machine manufacturers in the world. The Americans, keen to maintain a leg up on her allies, didn’t share much of their latest technology with the U.K., particularly Australia. My task was to infiltrate Electric Boat: sort of a white on white job, and report on the U.S. Navy’s latest stealth technology.

My cover, as a consultant for a new hydrophone company the U.S. Navy was in contract negotiations with, was flawless. Having ingratiated myself with the Electric Boat’s technicians, the team decided to show me a good time. I suppose the “powdered lunches” I provided a time or two helped things along. I expected a quality steak dinner, fine wine, and, finally, getting those egg-heads drunk enough to spill the beans on their project, the Ghost Drive. A short company helicopter ride to a small airfield on the outskirts of Hartford, Connecticut. A black car waiting for us at the airfield, took us to our destination.

The non-descript building didn’t look like a steakhouse, though sometimes the best restaurants are disguised like this. Inside, the true form of the evening became rapidly apparent. The bevy of lovely ladies, eager to provide the best in horizontal entertainment, rushed to greet us. After perusing the attractive variety of females, I decided on a twenty something lass with cascades of brunette curls. Voluptuous, petite, and vivacious, Tabitha possessed both the alluring look of an innocence that didn’t belong in this type of establishment, and the cold steel of a seasoned professional. Just which profession I, initially, guessed wrong.

After expunging my body from the day’s grime, I retired with Tabitha to a small dimly lit room, typical to brothels. Tabitha locked the door to the room, only a mirror, and a small table holding up a lamp, accompany the bed; certainly, a single purpose space.

Tabitha removed her wrap, revealing the most perfectly beautiful body I have ever seen. We sat together on the bed, chatting, caressing, light kissing; the getting to know you phase. Quickly I started to wish I hadn’t met Tabitha there at a brothel, I really liked her. Tabitha’s next words, breaking from the deepest of French kisses, let me know she felt the same way. “Leave now and I’ll let you live”, Tabitha announced in a conspirator’s tone. “My name isn’t Tabitha, I’m not a whore. Look, the C.I.A. knows you are here to spy on the Ghost Drive technology. I was hired to determine how much you know and then terminate you to make sure the data you collected never leaves the country.

Redressing, not-Tabitha continued, “Bradley International Airport is about a half hour cab ride north of here. If you hurry, you can catch an international flight before the ticket counters close”. Leading me upstairs to an emergency exit reserved for police raids, not-Tabitha pressed a business card in my hand, “I’d love to see you non-professionally sometime, call me”. I shoved the card in my pocket as I stepped out into the suddenly cold night air on the brothel roof. I looked back at not-Tabitha long enough to see her mouth the word, “hurry”.

After locating the well used fire escape and bribing a cabbie to forget the fare he was waiting on, I relaxed a little in the back of the taxi cab, pondering how I got burned on the job. Remembering the card in my pocket not-Tabitha gave me, I fished it out to see a phone number, and a name: Mandy.

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The asian chick

I’m doing my best to ignore the blowhard two stools to my left as I try to enjoy my pint of Quilmes lager. I pretend to be interested in the hocky game displayed on one of the two plasma screens over the bar. Our flight is delayed, so I’m killing time in this pub at Ezeiza International Airport, waiting for the pilot to show up and Clyde to return from the men’s. The other screen shows a Rounders game, the blowhard’s focus of attention. Baseball this, Cubs that, the boisterous punter prattles on. As I conjure a plan to quiet this fifty something steelworker, his date arrives, sitting to his left; it’s the Asian chick. By the time she finishes her double martini, her date has switched from sports to romance. Just as disturbing, but at least quieter. Finally, Clyde enters the bar, reporting “They just called our flight”.


Walking past the rounders fan and the Asian chick, whom I assumed hadn’t seen me as she hadn’t acknowledged my presence when she came in, she leans back in her barstool. Wordlessly she presses a card into my hand, in a classic brush pass, as I walk behind her. I shove the card in my pocket without looking at it. Later on the plane, I dig out the card, on it is a phone number and a name; Mandy.

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Wet work

The nondescript charter flight to Buenos Aires airport is uneventful. I did this time keep my shoes and sport coat on. It isn’t difficult to locate Clyde, Winsel’s information is dead-on. I shadowed Clyde on one of his wet-work jobs. In this industry, the ‘wet’ of wet-work refers usually to blood spillage, often, all of it. At first I cannot believe the depth of the operation he is involved in. I could see Clyde was in great danger of quickly getting in over his head. I watch as Clyde executes the job with the deft precision only a seasoned professional can. His movements are swift and precise. In amazement, I observe as he meticulously removes the last traces of evidence; the entire job a work of art.

I wait for Clyde next to his ride, lest I startle him. “Majes, hi, what brings you to this lovely slice of paradise?”, calls Clyde, walking across the well manicured lawn. Pointing first at him, then to his truck, “Pool Cleaning?”, I ask incredulously. “Well, after the Hostel Habanera job in Mexico City, I couldn’t find work. By the way, do you have any idea how difficult it is to get off the Falklands without a passport? Anyway, I got to Argentina, and the town of Paraná, I hooked up with a gorgeous young lady, Nelly was her name”. Continuing, “Oh, sweet Nelly, luscious curves, the deepest brunette hair I’ve ever seen, feathered in a very 1980’s way. Nelly taught English at one of the software companies in Paraná. She stripped on the side and sang in a band in her free time. Ah, that sweet smoky voice”, Clyde laments, trailing off. Snapping back to reality, Clyde concludes, “When my money ran out, so did she, to Connecticut America I think. Man, I thought she was the one. Sheilas!”, concludes my friend with a heavy sigh.

I study Clyde, he looks good. A healthy glow to his bronzed skin, Upper body in better shape than either of us have been in years. I think this life is good for him. I seriously doubt he will respond favourably to Jae’s proposal. As he is loading the last of the hoses into the back of the Pool Cleaning truck, I begin my pitch. “Let’s go”, Clyde says, cutting me off. He drops the hose he’s clutching, climbs into my rental, leaving the truck, the hose on the street; and that chapter of his life behind.

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