AUGUST 31, 2016
THE BOOK STORE
Pamela had planned it down to the second. Now it was Edward’s responsibility to complete the assignment. In his socks and shorts, he stood in front of the mirror in his London hotel room, making a last minute adjustment to his hair piece. The image looking back at him had trim gray hair, a neat gray Van Dyke beard, and thick gold rimmed glasses worn over his sky blue eyes. He was pleased with what he saw, so he moved back into the bedroom.
He pulled on a pair of freshly pressed tan linen pants and a starched white shirt with French cuffs. He attached a pair of dark blue suspenders over his shoulders, put on a pair of brown and white shoes, and added a navy blazer. He checked himself in the full length mirror on the bathroom door, and after a minor adjustment to his yellow bow tie, he decided that he was ready to go.
He pulled on a pair of soft kid gloves, and sitting on the side of the bed, waited until the cell phone in his pocket vibrated. He looked briefly at the screen, and smiled. He picked up the small leather suitcase, stepped into the hall, and briskly walked the fifty feet to a bank of elevators with gleaming brass doors. He glanced at the floor indicator, and saw the middle elevator moving from the penthouse to the lobby, and he pressed the button that summoned the elevator to stop on this, the 8th floor.
The elevator door opened, and he saw three Arab men in white robes standing near the back. He stepped in, and held the door open button, he drew the silenced .22 caliber Colt Woodsman, and carefully placed three shots in each man’s head. The silencer muted the nine shots, and you could have covered the shot groupings with a silver dollar. With a gloved hand, he reached in and pressed the lobby button, tossed the Colt into the elevator, and was halfway to the stairwell before the door closed.
He went down two flights of stairs then pushed open the landing door to the fifth floor, where he walked to the elevators, and pushed the call button. As he exited the elevator into the lobby, he heard a shrill scream. When the door of the elevator she had summoned opened, a buxom matron had discovered three dead men lying on the floor. Edward turned and walked calmly through the ornate lobby of The Connaught and out on to Mount Street, where the doorman hailed a waiting cab. He told the driver to take him to the Marble Arch.
He paid the cabby, and walked leisurely down Oxford Street. He walked the five blocks to the Old Selfridge Hotel on Orchard, where he entered the lobby of the quiet little boutique inn, walked up one flight of stairs, and tapped on room 223. The door was opened by a petite brunette, dressed in jeans and a tee from London’s Hard Rock Café. She closed the door behind him.
“Well, how did it go?”
“Just as you planned,” he replied. “I was out of the lobby before anyone knew what happened. Turn on the television while I change to see if they are reporting anything yet.”
He stepped into the bath and began removing the hair piece and beard. He removed blue contact lenses, and carefully let them be carried down the drain. He washed off the make-up, and removed an unsightly mole from his cheek, and when he looked in the mirror, he saw a brown haired man in his late thirties. He was wiping his face with the hand towel, when he walked back into the bedroom in time to hear the news bulletin.
We interrupt our regularly scheduled programing to bring you this breaking news. Less than an hour ago, unknown assailants executed three men in an elevator at the Connaught Hotel near Grosvenor Square. Here is video which was filmed by a bystander.
The screen filled with a shaky image from a cell phone camera, showing the crumpled bodies of three men in white robes, lying in a spreading pool of blood.
The announcer came back on and said,
We now have confirmation that the target of this outrage was Prince Ahmed Ibn Saud, a member of the Saudi Royal Family, currently serving as Saudi Minister of the Interior. There are no other details available at this time. We will return to our regular programming, but will keep you informed of further developments.
Pamela turned the TV off and said,
“That certainly will serve as proof of success. I guess we can collect the rest of our fee.”
Edward grinned and said,
“I believe it will. Now, let’s get to Gatwick. We have a bookstore to run.”
The flight from London’s Gatwick airport to St. Louis took a little over eight hours, and it was mid-morning when Edward and Pamela drove out of Lambert Field. Pamela was behind the wheel, and she took I-70 west, crossed the Missouri, and exited on to Main Street in the City of St. Charles. She pulled into the alley behind 223 S. Main, and parked in the open space near the back door of St. Charles Rare Books. A bell tinkled as they came into the building, and a female voice asked,
“Edward, is that you and Pam?”
“It is indeed. Where are you?”
“In the front,” the voice said, and a small gray haired lady, wearing black horn rim glasses, came into the hall and asked,
“Well, I saw the news, and I assume all went as planned?”
“It did, and you can expect a wire transfer from our agent sometime today., anything going on here?”
“We got an order for The Poggio Bracciolini manuscript that you bought on your last trip to Rome. We have it priced at $250,000, and they offered $170,000.”
“Okay, counter with $225,000 and see what they do. We’ve only got $45,000, in it, so I think we can reach an agreement. By the way, I picked up a military commission signed by Queen Anne in 1705 at a shop in London. It should be arriving in the next day or so.”
Edward Oswald, Pamela Logan and Martha Long were the owners and operators of St. Charles Rare Books. They searched the world for rare books, maps, and historical documents and their buying trips were the perfect cover for their other business as international assassins. The rare book business made them a very nice living; their other work made them rich.
They received their assignments from only one source, an agent known only as Royce. Edward had been contacted five years before by Royce, who had offered him a small role in a hit on a Swiss banker. The main contractor muffed the hit, and Edward had cleaned up his mess. Since then, Royce sent him the crème de la crème of assignments. The economics were simple. Their fee was $1,000,000: half up front and non-refundable, and half upon proof of success. The video of the London elevator had served as ample proof for this assignment.
The three of them split the fees and responsibilities evenly. Pamela did the planning; Martha ran the store, kept the books, and made travel arrangements; and Edward did the wet work.
The three of them were seated around the table in the conference room going through an informal after action rundown, when Martha’s cell dinged, indicating a new text message. She glanced at the screen, looked at Edward, and said,
“It’s from Royce; he wants you to call on the secure line.”
“Well, damn. We no sooner finish one job, before another shows up. At a mil a pop, I guess we should be grateful.”
Categories: Flash Fiction