"Okay," she says. "Okay." She walks backwards down the hall, hands still in front of her. She backs into the kitchen door, swinging it fully open. You follow her through and turn on the light. She keeps walking backwards and you hold up one hand to make her stop. She sees the maid in the chair tied to the stove. You motion her to another of the red kitchen chairs. She glances at the wide-eyed maid again and then seems to come to a decision, and sits.
You move away from her towards the working surface where the roll of black masking-tape sits. You cover her with the gun as you push the balaclava away from your mouth and pull out a length of tape with your teeth. She looks calmly, steadily at the gun, some of the colour gone from her face. You keep the gun pressed into her waist as you loop the tape round her slim, gold-braceleted wrists. You keep glancing through the doorway, down the length of the hall to the dark shape crumpled at the front door, knowing you are taking an extra, unnecessary risk. Then you put the gun away and secure her dark-stockinged ankles. She smells of Paris.
You put a ten-centimetre strip across her mouth and leave the kitchen, putting the light out and closing the door.
You go back to Sir Toby. He hasn't moved. You remove the balaclava and stuff it in a jacket pocket, lift your crash helmet from behind the coat-stand and put it on, then take him under the armpits and haul him upstairs, past the framed photographs. His heels bump on each step. Your breath sounds loud inside the helmet; he's heavier than you expected. He smells of something expensive you can't identify; a strand of his long grey hair falls to one side, onto his shoulder.
You drag him into the sitting room on the first floor, shouldering the door to the hall closed as you enter. The room is lit only by the street lights outside, and in the semi-darkness you stumble and almost fall over a coffee table; something falls and breaks.
"Shit," you whisper, but keep pulling him towards the tall french windows looking out over a small balcony onto the square. You prop him against the wall by the side of the windows and look outside. A couple pass on the street; you give them two minutes to leave the square and wait for a couple of cars to pass, then you open the windows and step outside, into the warm Belgravia night. The square seems quiet; the city is a faint background roar in the orange darkness beyond. You look down at the marble steps leading to the front door and the tall, black spiked railings on either side of them, then you go back in, take him under the armpits again, lift him through the windows and prop him against the stone parapet of the waist-high balcony.
A last glance around: a car passes across the top of the square. You hoist him up so that he's sitting on the parapet; his head tips back and he moans. Sweat dribbles into your eyes. You feel him move weakly in your arms as you manoeuvre him into the right position, glancing down at the railings, three or four metres below. Then you tip him backwards over the edge.
He falls onto the railings, hitting with his head, hip and leg; there is a surprisingly dry cracking, crunching noise; his head twists to one side and one of the railing spikes appears through the socket of his right eye.
His body sags, arms hanging to each side of the railings, over the marble steps and the stairwell leading to the basement flat beneath; his right leg hangs over the steps. There is another faint crunching noise as the body spasms once and then goes limp. Blood spreads blackly from his mouth over the collar of his white shirt and starts to drip onto the pale marble of the steps. You back away from the parapet, glancing from side to side. Some people walk into the far end of the square, maybe forty metres away, approaching.
You turn and go back into the sitting room, locking the windows and avoiding the coffee table and the broken vase lying on the carpet. You go downstairs and walk through the kitchen, where the two women sit tied to their chairs; you leave via the same window you entered by, walking calmly through the small back garden into the mews where the motorbike is parked.
You hear the first faint, distant screams just as you take the bike's key from your pocket. You feel suddenly elated.
You're glad you didn't have to hurt the women.
It's a clear cold October day, fresh and bright with a few puffy little clouds scudding above the mountains on the chilly breeze. I look through the binoculars towards the shallow slant of Helensburgh's grid-pattern streets, then move the view up to the slopes and woods behind, then track left, across the hills on the far side of the loch and the mountains beyond. Further round still, towards the head of the loch, I can make out the gantries, jetties and buildings of the naval base. There are some distant shouts and the noise of hooters over the buzz of boat and helicopter engines; I look down to the little spit of shingle straight across from me, where a few hundred demonstrators and locals are gathered, stamping their feet and waving banners. A chopper clatters overhead. I look out into the firth, where another three helicopters are circling above the black mass of the submarine. The tug, escorting police launches and circling inflatables move slowly into the mass of CND boats. A Jet Ski cuts across the view on a wall of spray.
I put the glasses down and let them hang from my neck while I light another Silk Cut.
I'm standing on the roof of an empty freight container on a bit of waste ground near the shore in a village called Roseneath, looking out over the Gare Loch, watching the Vanguard arrive. I lift the binoculars again and look out at the submarine. It fills the view now, black and almost featureless, though I can just make out the different textures of the hull's sloped and upper surfaces.
The protesters" inflatables buzz round the perimeter of the sub's satellite system of escorting boats, trying to find a way through; the MOD inflatables are larger than the CND boats and they have bigger engines; the servicemen wear black berets and dark overalls while the CND people wear bright jackets and wave big yellow flags. The huge submarine in the centre moves forward in their midst, ploughing sedately towards the narrows. The RN tug is leading the submarine in, though not towing it. A grey fisheries patrol boat follows the flotilla. The big helicopters bark overhead.
"Hi you; give us a hand up, ya bastart."
I look over to the edge of the container and see the head and arms of Iain Garnet. He waves.
"Following our lead as usual, eh, Iain?" I ask him, hauling him up from the top of the same oil-drum I'd used.
"Fuck off, Colley," Garnet says amiably, bending to dust off the knees of his trousers. Iain works for our Glaswegian competitor, the Dispatch. He's late thirties, getting heavy round the waist and thin on top. He's wearing what looks like a late-'seventies skiing jacket over his crumpled grey suit. He nods at the cigarette in my mouth. "Can I take a fag?"
I offer him one. His face wrinkles with disdain when he sees the packet but he takes one anyway. "Jeez, Cameron, really; Silk Cut? The cigarette for people who like to think they're giving up? I had you down as one of the last of the serious lung abusers. What happened to the Marlboros?"
"They're for cowboys like you," I tell him, lighting his cigarette. "What happened to your fags?"
"Left them in the car," he says. We both turn and stand there, looking out across the blue-glittering waves at the small armada surrounding the giant submarine. The Vanguard is even bigger than I'd expected; huge, fat and black, like the biggest, blackest slug in all the world, with a few thin fins stuck here and there as an afterthought. It looks too big to fit through the narrows in front of us.
"Some fuckin beast, eh?" Iain says.
"Half a billion quid's worth, sixteen thousand tonnes —»
"Aye, aye," Iain says wearily. "And long as two football pitches. You got anything original though but?"