Chain hotels are built to a reassuring pattern. Wherever you are in the world the rooms are laid out the same, the colour scheme is familiar and the furniture is made to the same pattern. Only the flourishes added at the end give a hint of locale. It was the paintings of can-can girls and Montmartre which reminded Gerry Williams that he was breakfasting within shuttle bus distance of Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.
That and the lack of a decent Full English breakfast. He liked a good croissant, and these had just the right mix of crispy shell and fluffy insides, but for the work of the day to come he felt he deserved something a touch heartier. At least the coffee was strong.
Williams sat with his back to a corner, flanked by prints of the Eiffel and Arc de Triomphe, with a good view of the whole of the restaurant area. He watched the business travellers and tourists- and those posing as business travellers or tourists- over the rim of his bowl of coffee and ran a blasphemous little prayer through his head that this would be the last time. When this deal was done he could go home and die with his family in a convenient car crash before being resurrected with a new name in a new country. Simon was young enough that the transition wouldn’t be too had for him. Karen had always known it was a possibility.
Williams spotted them as soon as they entered. Definitely fake business travellers- shirts and ties at breakfast time were a giveaway, no-one who had to do it regularly put on the noose until it was needed. They moved like thugs as well. The classier kind, but thugs nonetheless. They had businessman hair cuts, short but not crew cut, and were clean shaven but were obviously not there on a layover or between sales pitches.
The pair steered straight for Williams’ table. Most of the other patrons remained blissfully unaware of the sharks gliding past them. He let them come to him because the shorter, darker one had reached into his jacket and moved the lapel far enough back for a shoulder holstered gun to be visible. They came to a halt flanking his table and blocking his escape routes.
“Mister Williams,” said the taller of the pair, “it’s so good to meet you.”
“I’m sorry, you have the wrong man. My name’s not Wiliams.”
“You are checked in as Tony Wedgewood, I know, but let us not pretend you are not Gerry Williams. We have a proposition for you.” The shorter man had been tapping at the screen of a mobile phone and now he laid it on the table. On the screen was a photo of Simon and Karen. They both looked terrified, and with good reason. From the right of the screen the unmistakable barrel of a Desert Eagle pointed at them. Williams’ vision narrowed to the phone and the image it displayed. He could just hear the tall man say, “You are going to help us steal four million Euros. Now, if you will show us to your room, we shall discuss the details.”
Notes Starting today I bring you Irwin, my attempt at something modern yet pulpy. Fast, short adventures featuring a recurring cast of characters. Each update is a scene from the story, intended to be a few minutes’ of reading, often with a cliffhanger ending. They are also the first draft and once each tale is completed they shall be reworked and published through Kindle and other channels. For now updates are Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays, but I’ll go to every weekday if I get far enough ahead.
Some of the characters in Tiger also appeared in So Much To Answer For (available in print from Lulu.com and for the Kindle as part of the Post and Publish collection) and long, long ago in the Deputised Experts webcomic. The comic isn’t strictly canon, but I’m planning to incorporate some of the bits from So Much To Answer For into future stories.