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Baccara Burning by Colin Galbraith

Baccara Burning

Excerpt

Randolph grabbed his coat and kissed Stella on the forehead. He walked out of the room, closing the door quietly behind him, and headed downstairs out of the hotel. He crossed the road to where he had seen a public phone box and pulled out one of the cards. Dropping a coin into the slot, he pulled out the card and dialled the number.

The phone rang for a long time, at least twenty rings. As he began to lose patience, a lady suddenly answered. “Il Nero è Aumentato,” she said.

“Hello,” said Randolph, suddenly unsure what to say. “I wondered if I could make an appointment?”

“Certainly sir. How urgent is your problem?”

Randolph thought for a moment. “Pretty urgent,” he said.

“We can see you a week on Monday,” the lady said.

“Monday? Have you not got anything for today?”

“Of course, sir, why didn't you say? We can fit you in any time.”

She sounded like the woman Randolph had met in the bar, but he couldn't be sure. “Good,” he said. “I think we may already have met,” he added, then regretted it immediately.

“Oh, I'm sure we have, sir. What time would suit you to come down?” she said.

“As soon as possible?”

“That would be just fine.” the lady said. “I've booked your appointment for 11 o'clock this morning. How does that suit?”

Randolph looked at his watch: quarter to eleven. “Fine,” he said. “How do I find you?”

“Is this your first appointment, sir?”

“Yeah,” said Randolph.

“We'll find you. You can relax now—the hard part is done.”

The line went dead.

Randolph stared at the mouth piece, not sure whether he should be angry or not. He placed it back on the holder and turned around, looking up and down the street. His appointment was in only fifteen minutes, so their office, or clinic, or whatever it was, couldn't be that far away. His plan didn't seem quite so well thought out now, especially as he had no idea who he was dealing with or how he was supposed to get to them.

Not knowing anything made him nervous.

Randolph walked out into the open. He decided to find somewhere central where he could watch everyone and make sure he wasn't approached in any way. He headed along Princes Street, scanning around him the entire time, becoming wary of anyone he passed in the street. It crossed his mind he could be getting set up, but the idea that MI5 would go to this strange measure to get him back into their fold, seemed rather unlikely. But as he reminded himself, nothing was impossible.

As he walked along the road, he noted there nothing particularly suspicious about anything; the people, the cars, the buildings--all of which only made him more suspicious.

He sat down on a bench with his back to Prince Street Gardens so nobody could approach from the rear. In front of him, Princes Street buzzed with life: buses, taxis and cars roared in either direction. He coughed his throat clear. “They should install trams,” he muttered. “Save all this pollution.”

People walked passed from either direction: a woman with a pram, some young teenagers with a football, probably playing truant, a businessman in a suit and sports cap, a business woman with an enormous engagement ring and an Anne Summers bag, an old guy with a copy of The Sun sticking out of his jacket pocket.

Minutes passed.

He looked at his watch: it had gone five to eleven but still nothing. Randolph looked in both directions, but it was the same in both directions. Something hit his cheek and he turned round to see the old man with the copy of The Sun had returned, hit him with it and had carried on walking.

“Oi!” shouted Randolph and stood up to give chase but found he couldn't. His legs were suddenly weak and he felt distant to this thoughts. He sat back down , suddenly very dizzy, the scene before him melting in front of his eyes. Something had been on the newspaper and now it was under his skin.

Darkness came fast.