Out of the Blue

Excerpts

Prologue

17 November 2008

The killing has become less of an enjoyment as I have grown older.

I am evil.

I do not feel evil. I do not feel anything. I have been told that I am evil and, even from this distance from my long dead accuser; I can see that it must be true.

Was I born evil, or did evil grow within me?

Believe me. The latter.

The loss of the youthful enjoyment of killing darkens my mood. Many may diagnose depression. It certainly depresses me.

At 0400 each morning I wake up living in my joyous past. Sometimes it is 0358.Once 0359. My mood turns soot black as I realize I have only been dreaming. My dreams are the undreamed nightmares of my slumbering victims.

Disturbed sleep is a symptom of depression you know. A classic symptom.

I cherish my past. If only the joy would return. The assassination business is a growth industry. I am a market leader. I name my price. I should celebrate.

Instead I am a corpse walking around.

Take now for instance. Yes? Right now.

Pay attention. Turn away if you do not want to look at me! Or, look at me in disgust if you must. Can you prevent me from doing what we have to do?

You are still here?

Of course you are. Look. Look here. Look down. “The keyboard?” you ask. Yes. The keyboard. Just the strike of one key starts the whole perfect murderous business.

I’m not writing this for me. Why should I? I know what is going to happen. Death.

Ah-yah.

Sorry. I yawned. Same old work. I’m just like the man who takes your money at the toll booth. Or the woman at the supermarket check-out. Or the check-in clerk at the hotel. We’re all the same. We carry out the same tasks, day in, day out. Such is the repetitive life in the service industries.

Back to the keyboard. Look down. Fourth row down. Look down will you! The killer key is on the right hand side. The starboard side that itch Stone would say. The letter “L” orders the kill. “L” Lima. “L” Lukasz.

That is the key to the killing. Strike it – death.

Yet again.

How rude of me. Would you like to do this one? You could lightly tap it or slam it with the vigour I used to have and that same vitriolic cheer? The choice is yours. I won’t criticize your technique.

Pull up a chair. You’ll need it. The first job can affect you.

Now you know what has to happen you’re my accomplice.

Are you so reluctant to do the deed?

I shall have to do it.

Tap.

There.

Done.

They are dying now, my friend. Can you hear them?

Turn away. Go and make some tea. I read somewhere that it is an effective cure for shock. As it brews, remember this. I know who you are. You are my accomplice.

They will come for you. Not me.

 


 

18 September 2008

Off Port Hercules, Principality of Monaco

Standing on the bridge of ‘AZUL’, surrounded by a dull red light and watching the close range display of three radar screens, captain William Sharpe received his orders from Alexander with bewilderment.

“Say again,” Sharpe asked over the yacht’s encrypted satellite telephone.

“The Boss wants you and your entire crew to go ashore tonight,” Alexander repeated.

“Alexander. I cannot leave the largest yacht in the world unmanned at anchor off Monaco! It’s the yacht show. There are over sixty superyachts out here. There are tenders, rigid inflatable, jetboats you name it buzzing all over the bay. The radar screen looks like an ant race. I can’t do it.”

“In exactly one hour you will see a target appear from the west. The target will stop and start at one minute intervals between each movement towards you. At a distance of one mile off view the target with binoculars. You will see two flashes from a handheld flashlight. The flashes are your final orders for you and your crew to go ashore. I will board ‘AZUL’ with the Boss and a riding crew. Understood?”

“Understood,” Sharpe lied.

“Good. The Boss has urgent business aboard tonight. He wants his yacht to himself.”

“Very good.” said Sharpe although he sensed there was nothing good about it. He had no more reason to trust Alexander than Alexander had to trust him. They were both, after all, hired for the same reason – trained killers with an unblemished record in following orders.

“Out!” snapped Alexander as the line went dead.

Sharpe replaced the handset. All luxury yacht captains are accustomed to erratic decisions of owners. Some fight against them usually finding themselves instantly on the dock looking for a new position. Sharpe could, until very recently, have honestly said that the Boss of ‘AZUL’ had been reasonable as to the limitations of the ship (for a ship was what ‘AZUL’ assuredly was) and considerate to the crew almost to the point on being, well, boring. What had changed? Why was the world’s most private yacht sitting at anchor outside Port Hercules, Monaco during, arguably, the most public yacht show in the superyacht calendar with three hundred underwater lights illuminating her like Times Square? She could not have been more conspicuous if she had berthed within Port Hercules (an impossibility of course at her size).

Sharpe stepped away from the radar screens and looked at the clock behind the mahogany chart table. Launch three tenders and go ashore in five trips? Ten minutes to the dock wall, two to drop off, ten back. Insufficient time. Damn Alexander.

Sharpe radioed the Chief Officer from his walkie-talkie. “Orders from the Boss, Ben. All going ashore. Me included. Launch three tenders and get the Viking sportsfisher out too. We have about forty-five minutes. Get the boats to the starboard garage door as quickly as possible”. Sharpe then added “Out” to indicate the matter was not open for discussion.

The Captain then radioed the Chief Stewardess. “Kathryn, we have all been ordered ashore within the hour. Prepare all crew please. Out.”

Sharpe imagined the excitement below his feet as news spread of the run ashore. He wished he could share in it.

A buzzer sounded and a red light flashed to the right of the bridge indicating that the starboard quarter garage door was opening towards the end of the ship. He switched the CCTV monitor to station ‘GAR02’ and watched his crew expertly maneuver the tenders one by one into the slings of the crane. Although the image was grainy, he could see the delight on their faces. Apart for runs ashore for supplies most of Sharpe’s crew had not been ashore for nearly three weeks. Each night they could see the enticing lights of Monte Carlo, but not for them. So near, yet so far. The crew of charter yachts had it far worse; Sharpe would lecture in the crew mess. Trapped aboard serving the every need, however bizarre, of the charterer. Working twenty hours a day for weeks, sometimes months on end. Our Boss just wanted privacy.

Until now.

Sharpe saw the last of the three tenders enter the water. An amber indicator light lit up indicating that the crane for the Viking Sportsfisher was drawing power. When it turned green the crane would be in operation.

Sharpe knew his ship. He knew that almost thirty kilometers of wiring had gone into her construction. The quality of the build was astonishing. Sharpe and his crew had accessed every area of the ship, however small, to maintain her. Some of the spaces were so small and remote that no Boss, however fascinated by his toy, would ever access. The story was the same wherever Sharpe went. A fastidious attention to detail. Every sole plate in the engine room crafted from aluminium diamond plate matched its neighbor to the millimeter. The marble in every head (bathroom to the Boss) had been crafted from an individual piece of marble without interrupting the intrinsic pattern, even in the crew quarters. This was without precedent. The gap around every single door and hatch in every compartment was uniform all the way around. Sharpe marveled at the workmanship. He was used to destroyers aboard which there were no aesthetics. Function over form.

Sharpe was expected to leave all of this beauty in the hands of a barely refined thug like Alexander?

Sharpe’s radio crackled. “Half of the crew is ready to disembark captain.” the Chief Stewardess informed him.

“Send them to the starboard garage and send ashore” Sharpe replied without enthusiasm. He watched as the first group boarded the tenders. He saw hands slip and slide all over his crew. Most of it was if not innocent, consensual. He saw, not for the first time, the Chief Engineer close to that stew from Florida. He was smiling too much pushing her towards the tender. She made an obvious effort to get away. Sharpe toggled the zoom control and saw the fear in her eyes. Sharpe grabbed the public announcement microphone and jabbed at ‘PA:GAR02’ on the left hand side of the CCTV screen.

“Chief Engineer to the bridge. Out.” he commanded.

Sharpe watched the relief in the stewardesses face match in equal measure the dismay in that of the Chief Engineer. He disappeared from shot as she climbed aboard the second tender.

As he waited for the Chief Engineer to reluctantly attend on the bridge, Sharpe looked again at the clock above the chart table. Alexander would never be late. He guessed that the Boss would have boarded Alexander’s boat at Beaulieu to the west. Sharpe watched the near-range radar screen. Precisely on time a target appeared on the left side of the screen. ‘AZUL’ was sitting at anchor with her bow facing southwest.

“Here we go,” Sharpe said to himself.

The Chief Engineer entered the bridge.

“Captain?”

“Just a minute Justin,” Sharpe said fixed upon the target which appeared to be heading directly for ‘AZUL’. Sharpe pressed a button alongside the screen marked “ARPA”. Instantaneously the screen was overlaid with what to the untrained eye would look like a laser show of straight lines. Sharpe followed the line from the target to ‘AZUL’ and saw it heading for his ship exactly amidships. “Nothing if not accurate” Sharpe murmured punching the ARPA button again causing the lasers lines to disappear. Recognising the target as Alexander, Sharpe watched the image intently.

“Captain?” the Chief Engineer asked again.

“Not now,” Sharpe said slowly. The target stopped moving. Sharpe noted the time on his watch. Exactly one minute later the target moved towards him again. Sharpe turned to the Chief Engineer. “Sorry Justin. I thought we had a problem. We don’t. Join the others. Go ashore”.

Sharpe raised a pair of binoculars in the direction of the target. Two flashes.

Sharpe radioed the Chief Stewardess. “All ready to go ashore?” he asked.

“Just a little,” she replied laughing. Sharpe could hear singing in the background.

As Sharpe was about to reluctantly leave the bridge the satellite phone rang.

“Captain,” he answered.

“Turn the underwater lights off under the garage door when you leave. We don’t want to be seen,” Alexander ordered.

The line went dead.

“I wonder if that man has ever done anything in daylight?” Sharpe pondered as he left his command.

 


 

Marilyn Monroe was seated next to me. She was necking a bottle of Budweiser. I watched the flexing of her Adam’s apple with each substantial gulp.

Behind Marilyn a man dressed only in a loincloth sat eating a hamburger, a python wrapped loosely around his neck.

Two tables back, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sat silently over two cups of café con leche. Ginger’s makeup had run where she had been crying. I guessed that Fred was terminating the partnership.

Three Latinas in microskirts were smoking and laughing outside. There black men were beside them trying, in vain, to convince them that they were in the music business and the next big thing.

All in all, a regular night. Four a.m. South Beach, Miami, Florida.

In between the shows put on by the local population I was trying to think through the implications of what I had learned from Francesca and her bizarre client. Marilyn stood up and demanded another beer sang in a perfect baritone voice………..

Ginger Rogers started to cry.

Marilyn burped.

Python man fed his snake a morsel of burger.

I sipped my double espresso.

What had Francesca’s client to do with my investigation?

The three Latinas entered the café giggling amongst themselves at the expense of the three hapless black boys. They were hugging themselves clearly cold from being outside. They ordered a burger to share between them.

I could not afford passengers. I already had an impossibly tight schedule. To be distracted by a man whose own naivety and greed had lead him to his own misfortune hardly seemed to be a priority. The crew of ‘AZUL’ , Natalia Youngs and Banksy had done nothing wrong. They played no part in their deaths or injuries other than to unwittingly get in the wrong way of the wrong people at the wrong time.

My head said that I should ignore Francesca and her client. My gut feeling was the opposite.

“Always gut feeling Lukasz,” I heard my mother say. “Always.”

 


 

18 May 2006

Hamburg, Germany

“Does the sun ever shine here?” Johnson whispered in Sharpe’s direction, shifting his hands in his pockets.

Standing tall above the congregation of crew, designers and yard workers gathered around dry-dock 28, Sharpe withdrew his gaze from his latest command and considered the trim, tanned, depressing man beside him. I doubt the sun ever shines within ten miles of you, Sharpe thought.

“What does the Boss make of his yacht?” Sharpe asked coolly. “I assume he isn’t here?”

“Of course he isn’t!” Jonson responded with a laugh. A metallic rattle. “To my knowledge he’s never seen ‘AZUL’.”

Sharpe looked down the line to his left and saw the architect Archer laughing with Jan the project manager. Both were filled with good spirits. Sharpe, although faintly disgusted by their behaviour, would rather have been standing with them than with Johnson.

“We’ve done it Archer, you nasty little man. We’ve done it.”

“Aye. No thanks to you, cloggy. Didn’t see you do a scrap of work in years.”

“Gin?” Jan asked needlessly, handing Archer a soft drinks can.

“Go on then.”

To Sharpe’s right he looked down the row of his crew. Justin, the Chief Engineer had managed to station himself, yet again, next to Natalia the little American Stewardess. One to watch. Closely. Sharpe made a mental note to discuss this with the Chief Stewardess.

A band started to play a tune Sharpe didn’t recognise. They had been placed near the staging that led up to the bow of ‘AZUL’. This was Sharpe’s cue to climb the steps and join Johnson and the builder’s management at the top of the stage. As he climbed the stairs Sharpe puzzled over why he felt foreboding rather than elation. It made no sense. He had been appointed master of the largest yacht in the world. Competition for the job had been formidable. Yet he had done it. Every trade magazine, newspaper, television and radio station in the world wanted to interview him. Yet he would happily have walked away from the yacht right then, in full view of the media. The sound of a champagne bottle smashing on steel startled him. It was his time to speak. But what to say?

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