Agent 21: The Wire

Working for a shadowy government agency, special agent Zak Darke goes undercover to infiltrate a dangerous gang of 15-year-old gun dealers. But while the gang-members may be young, they aren’t so easily fooled. Has Agent 21 made his last mistake?

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1. The Wire

 

Wire (n.) – a hidden microphone, as on a person’s body or in a building.

 

 

 

 

‘Nice shoes, blood.’

 

Zak Darke looks at them. Nike. Loose laces. Fluorescent red stripes. Brand new. Then he looks up at the boy who has just complimented them. A head taller than Zak. Close-cropped hair with jagged razor marks on the right-hand side. Baggy, low-slung trousers and a loose jumper that could easily cover up anything bulky at his waist. A chunky gold bracelet on his wrist and a roll-up cigarette behind his left ear.

 

‘Are you Scott?’ Zak asks.

 

‘You want to sell ’em, blood?’ The boy removes a wad of cash from his back pocket.

 

Twenty-pound notes. Perhaps fifty of them. Used. Untraceable. ‘I’ll give you fifty . . .’

 

‘Are you Scott?’ Zak repeats, a bit more forcefully.

 

The boy inclines his head, shrugs and puts the money back in his pocket. ‘Depends who’s asking, blood,’ he says. ‘Depends whose asking.’

 

*

 

48 hours previously . . .

 

Scott Farrow,’ said Raf. ‘Age seventeen. He’s spent eighteen months in a young offenders’ institute. Worst place for him. That’s where he met up with Morton Henderson and Holden Palmer. They think of themselves as some sort of gang—’

 

They are some sort of gang, sweetie,’ Gabs interrupted.

 

Do you want to do this?’ Raf demanded.

 

Of course I don’t,’ Gabs said. She smiled endearingly. ‘Not when you’re doing such a good job.’

 

They were often like this, Raf and Gabs. Gently bickering, like an old married couple.

 

Zak called them his Guardian Angels. In fact they were a cross between his parents and his best friends. Ever since he’d been plucked from his boring, lonely life to become a part of this mysterious, unclassified government agency, and undergone the intense training that had turned him from ordinary Zak Darke into Agent 21, he’d spent more time with these twenty-something agents than with anybody else. He was now an active agent himself, sent on operations where a teenager was of more use than an adult. He was also well used to Raf’s serious face and brusque, surly nature, and to Gabs’s white-blonde hair and flippant comments. It wouldn’t do to underestimate them, though. Both Raf and Gabs were deadly weapons.

 

And so too, when he thought about it, was Zak.

 

Notice the razor marks on the right-hand side of their scalps,’ Raf continued. He had laid out three colour photographs, taken with a telephoto lens, each showing a different young man. They all had a distinctive lightning-bolt shape shaved into the side of their head.

 

Nice,’ Zak said.

 

Not really,’ Raf replied. ‘A kid of fifteen tried to copy them. He shaved the same symbol into his hair. Scott and his crew took it as an insult. This is what they did to him.’

 

A fourth photograph. It was impossible to say if it showed someone of fifteen or fifty. The boy’s face was beaten to a pulp. Thick, bloody lips. A clearly broken nose. Eyes so swollen and puffed up they couldn’t open.

 

They’re that sort of gang, sweetie,’ Gabs had said in a quiet voice. ‘Just so you know.’

 

*

 

‘Depends who’s asking.’

 

‘My name’s Harry.’ The lie slips easily off Zak’s tongue.

 

‘Oh yeah?’ Scott says. ‘Prince Harry? Harry Potter?’

 

‘Harry Gold.’

 

‘Well, here’s an idea, Harry Gold. Why don’t you take your flash trainers off my turf, before I decide to help myself to them anyway?’

 

Zak doesn’t move, and immediately he senses Scott tensing up. There is violence in the air.

 

*

 

You’ll make contact outside the school gates of Redhill Secondary School in North Acton.’

 

Why?’ Zak asked. ‘I mean, I just get the feeling this Scott bloke isn’t the sort to turn up regularly for school.’

 

Not for lessons,’ Raf agreed. ‘But he and his crew have another reason for hanging around schools in the area.’

 

Haven’t you been watching the news, sweetie?’ Gabs asked.

 

Zak shook his head. He was up at six every morning for physical training and lessons in tradecraft. By the time evening came, he was always ready to collapse into bed. His Guardian Angels worked him hard.

 

There’s been a spate of gun crime in northwest London,’ Raf explained. ‘Three dead, several injured. The victims and the gunmen have all been between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. In the UK it’s hard enough to get your hands on a weapon even when you’re of age, and these teenagers have been handling more than air pistols.’

 

Such as?’ Zak asked.

 

Browning Hi-Power, Colt .45, even an Uzi on one occasion.’ These were all heavy-duty weapons. ‘Designer guns, if you get my drift.’

 

Yeah, Zak thought. I get your drift.

 

So this Scott guy and his crew . . . They’re the ones doing the killings, right?’

 

Wrong, sweetie,’ said Gabs. ‘They’re the ones supplying the guns. And that’s where you come in.’

 

*

 

The pavement in front of Redhill Secondary School is not crowded. It is 09.08 hrs. Lessons started eight minutes ago. A few stragglers are still wandering in, satchels slung over their shoulders. None of them come within ten metres of Zak and Scott. They do glance over, however. It’s clear from the look on their faces that they know not to get involved.

 

There are two exceptions. On either side of the iron gates two other boys have appeared. Zak hadn’t noticed them before, but now they tread dangerously in his direction. He recognizes them immediately from his briefing. Or rather, he recognizes the razor marks on the side of their heads. Morton Henderson and Holden Palmer. Morton has bad acne. Holden is a giant. Neither looks like the type you want to mess with.

 

Within thirty seconds they have surrounded Zak. ‘Nice shoes,’ Morton says. Other than that, they don’t speak. They don’t need to. Their very presence is statement enough.

 

‘Like I say,’ Scott repeats. ‘Off my turf. Now.’

 

*

 

The thing about guys like this,’ Gabs explains, ‘is they’re greedy. Once they’ve experienced the thrill of making easy money for hardly any work, they can’t get enough of it. Same goes for criminals the world over. It’s their fatal flaw. They just can’t say no.’

 

So you want me to try and buy a gun off him, right?’

 

Raf flashed a grin at Gabs.

 

Do you know,’ she said, ‘I really think he might be even brighter than he looks.’

 

He’d have to be,’ Raf replied. The trace of a smile crossed his face. He winked at Zak.

 

*

 

‘I’m looking for some hardware,’ Zak says. ‘I heard you might be able to help me with that.’

 

Scott stares at him. A long, level gaze. Twenty seconds pass. ‘There’s a B&Q down the road, blood,’ he says finally. ‘Nice big one too. Get yourself down there. Hardware coming out of their ears.’

 

‘Not the kind of hardware I’m talking about,’ says Zak.

 

Scott sniffs. ‘Don’t know what you mean. We don’t know what he means, do we, boys?’

 

Morton and Holden shake their heads, but say nothing.

 

‘Fine.’ Zak shrugs. It’s his turn now to pull out a wad of notes. He flicks it ostentatiously against the palm of his free hand. ‘I’ll be going, then,’ he says.

 

He turns, but Scott’s two stooges block his way. One of them holds out his hand, as if to say: Give me the money.

 

Zak stops. He looks at the money, then back at Scott. ‘You could take it from me,’ he says. ‘But just think. After that, you’ll never see me again. Play your cards right and I become a repeat customer. You’ll earn all this and more.’ He shrugs once more. ‘Up to you,’ he says.

 

Scott might be just seventeen, but the look he gives Zak is full of experience. He is clearly weighing up the situation. Can he trust his new customer? He looks around. The stragglers have all made it into the school gates. The main road in front of the school is fairly busy, but there are no pedestrians to observe them.

 

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a police car passes. Zak hurriedly hides the wad of notes under his jacket. Out of the corner of his eye he sees a uniformed policewoman in the front passenger seat. She has white-blonde hair.

 

And then the police car is gone. Zak’s apparent nervousness in front of the law seems to have done the trick.

 

Scott nods at him, then raises the hem of his jumper, just a few centimetres. Zak sees the grey metal of a handgun tucked into his jeans. ‘Just so’s you know, blood,’ he says.

 

Zak nods back.

 

Scott looks over at his boys. ‘Bring round the car,’ he instructs.

 

Morton, the kid with acne, does as he’s told.

 

*

 

If he swallows the bait,’ said Raf, ‘he won’t make the sale there and then. Not on the street. Too dangerous. He’ll take you somewhere else. Be ready for that. And be prepared that he might not want you to see where you’re going.’

 

And a word of warning, sweetie: it’s not likely to be very nice. Don’t expect the Ritz.’

 

That’s all right,’ said Zak. ‘I don’t really like cucumber sandwiches anyway.’

 

*

 

A minute later, the car arrives. It is a white Range Rover with blacked-out windows. It throbs with muffled dance music as it pulls up by the kerb. Holden grabs Zak’s arm and guides him over to the rear door. He opens it and pushes Zak inside. Then he climbs in himself. Scott takes the front seat. The car pulls out into the traffic.

 

Conversation is out of the question. The music is ten times louder inside the Range Rover than out of it. It pounds through Zak’s body, making him physically pulse with the beat. His mouth is dry. Every time Scott looks at him in the rear-view mirror, Zak feels a chill and remembers the picture of the beaten-up boy his Guardian Angels showed him.

 

The car stops after just five minutes. They are in a side street somewhere north of the Uxbridge Road. Scott looks over his shoulder. He has removed the weapon from his waist. Browning Hi-Power. A round from that at close range wouldn’t just go through Zak. It would go through the seat as well.

 

Scott looks at Morton. ‘Do it, blood,’ he says.

 

Zak’s brain whirls. Do what? Morton reaches inside his jacket, and Zak tenses up, prepared to fight. What Morton pulls out is not a gun, however, but a narrow length of old material. He wraps it round Zak’s head and ties it much tighter than it needs to be, so the material digs uncomfortably into Zak’s eyes. The car starts up again.

 

Now that he is blind, his other senses are stronger. The pounding music travels through him. He is acutely aware of the movements of the car: a U-turn, two lefts, a right, a roundabout. He tries to keep these directions in his mind, but after twenty minutes of trying to remember them, there’s nothing he can do to stop them slipping away. He needs to hold onto them, but can’t. He’s lost.

 

They drive for forty-five minutes in all. By the time they stop, Zak’s shirt is damp with sweat, but he’s also shivering. He recognizes the symptoms of fear. That’s good, he tells himself. If you know you’re scared, you can deal with it. Isn’t that what his Guardian Angels are always telling him?

 

The engine next to him cuts out. He hears the sound of doors opening. The blindfold is ripped from his head. ‘Get out,’ says Scott.

 

He does as he’s told, and in a few seconds takes in everything he can about his surroundings. They are at the foot of a tower block that’s maybe twenty storeys high. It’s made from stained grey concrete that matches the sky. At the entrance an old lady in a headscarf, dragging a faux-leather shopping trolley, stops and stares at them. Scott and his crew pay no attention. They escort Zak into the tower block and up thirteen flights of stairs. There’s an unpleasant smell here, and the concrete draws any warmth out of the air. The stairwell is luxurious, however, compared to the flat they take him to.

 

Scott unlocks four deadlocks before he can open the door. Holden pushes Zak roughly inside. He trips over the loose carpet as he enters, but manages to keep upright. He finds himself in a studio flat. There is a kitchenette in one corner and a window opposite. The glass is so grimy that he can’t see out. There is a scurrying sound. Rodents. The air is filled with the smell of their waste. Zak thinks he sees a scaly tail slither away into the bathroom. He thinks of his mother – long dead, the same as his father. She hated rats.

 

There are four hard flight cases piled up against the right-hand wall, each the size of a large suitcase, each heavily bolted with two large padlocks.

 

Weapons and ammo, Zak thinks. Bingo.

 

*

 

It works like this,’ Raf said. ‘We tape the wire along the length of your arm. It has a tiny microphone at one end, which we’ll position five centimetres above your wrist. The transmitter unit will be taped to your stomach.’

 

Won’t that hurt when the time comes to rip the tape off?’

 

Yes,’ said Raf. ‘Quite a lot, actually. Problem?’

 

Just asking,’ said Zak, a bit defensively.

 

Targets don’t normally notice the bulge of the transmitter pack. It’s small – half the size of a smartphone – and we tape it down very thoroughly. It’s the wire itself that’s more likely to be spotted, especially if you have a loose sleeve.’

 

It’s a fashion minefield,’ Gabs added. ‘So many things for the style-conscious spy to take into account.’

 

*

 

‘So what you after, Harry Potter?’ says Scott.

 

‘Harry Gold,’ Zak corrects him.

 

‘Whatever.’

 

‘Let’s see what you got,’ Zak says.

 

‘Fair enough, blood.’ Scott nods at his two companions. They unstack the four flight cases – Zak can tell they are heavy – then accept sets of keys from Scott, which they use to unlock the bolts. Finally they open up the cases, like chefs removing silver domes from their latest creation.

 

Scott walks up to the first case, bends down and removes a handgun. ‘Colt M1911,’ he says. ‘Calibre .45. Packs a punch. Yours for five hundred, including rounds.’

 

Case number two. ‘Ruger SP-101 double-action snubnose revolver. Very small. Easy to hide.’

 

Case number three. ‘Browning Hi-Power. My own personal favourite.’

 

He grins as he approaches case number four. ‘Uzi 9mm submachine gun,’ he says. ‘For when you want to kill everybody in the room.’

 

Zak does what he can to keep his loathing for these gun-pushers off his face. ‘Let me see the Uzi,’ he says.

 

‘Pricey,’ sneers Scott. ‘Set you back a thousand.’

 

‘Let me see it.’

 

Scott nods, makes a big show of removing the magazine from the gun’s body. ‘Just in case you were thinking of killing everybody in this room,’ he jokes. At least, Zak thinks it’s a joke.

 

He takes the unloaded gun from Scott and makes a show of feeling its weight. He holds the handle in his right hand, straightens his arm and aims the weapon at the dealer.

 

A look of grudging respect crosses Scott’s face. ‘You’ve used one before. Usual idiots I sell these things to, they’ve never even fired a potato gun.’ He laughs at himself, and Zak can tell he’s relaxed slightly by the way he absent-mindedly traces the razor lines in his hair with his forefinger.

 

But he stops laughing pretty quickly.

 

Zak still has his right arm extended. Scott’s eyes narrow. He’s noticed something.

 

The dealer moves incredibly quickly. He steps forward, grabs Zak’s right sleeve and yanks it up. The wire, taped to Zak’s arm with sturdy grey duct tape, is suddenly on full display.

 

Zak closes his eyes. He knows what’s coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier to endure. The blow Scott deals to his stomach is well placed, just below the ribs, knocking the air from his lungs. He doubles over and gasps, desperately trying to suck in some oxygen. He feels Scott’s knee jab sharply into his face, and falls to the floor. Curling up into a foetal position, he hopes they’ve decided they’ve inflicted enough pain.

 

They haven’t.

 

The three boys are merciless as they start kicking Zak when he’s down. Every part of his body is battered. He holds his hands over his face to protect his nose and teeth, but that only means that the rest of him is vulnerable. The beating continues for two minutes. It feels like two hours.

 

‘Stop!’ Scott barks, just when Zak feels he can take no more.

 

There’s a sudden welcome silence in the room. Zak half opens his eyes to see Morton and Holden closing up the flight cases. Locking them. Stacking them. He feels something drip down his forehead, and it’s only when a droplet of red splashes onto the dirty carpet that he realizes it’s blood, not sweat. He’s dizzy with the pain, and wants to be sick, but he has to keep a clear head. He knows that a mistake now could be fatal.

 

He hears Scott’s voice. He’s on the phone. ‘It’s me . . . Scott . . . We’ve got a pig, trying to catch us out . . . Nah, don’t think so, just a kid. We’ve dealt with him, he ain’t going nowhere . . . Yeah, we proper sorted him . . .’

 

A pause.

 

‘All right,’ Scott says into the phone, and for the first time he sounds a little unsure of himself. ‘We’ll be there in half an hour . . . Yeah, all right, twenty minutes . . .’

 

Zak can barely move, but he doesn’t have a choice. He feels his captors pull him up into a sitting position. They rip off his jacket, and then his T-shirt, to reveal his torso and the listening equipment so carefully taped to it. After the kicking he’s received, Zak isn’t at all sure that the transmitter is still functioning. His captors aren’t taking that chance. They rip the duct tape sticking the wire to his body, and it feels to Zak as though it’s pulling his skin with it.

 

Once the transmitter is in their hands, they stamp on it, grinding the tiny device under their heels until it is clearly of no use to anyone.

 

‘Put your clothes back on, pig,’ Scott tells Zak. ‘You’re coming with us.’

 

‘Where to?’ Zak rasps.

 

An unpleasant sneer creeps its way onto Scott’s face. ‘To see Rasnovic,’ he says.

 

*

 

Anton Rasnovic. Wanted in his native Poland for three counts of murder, and two of attempted murder. Truth be told, the men he killed were the lucky ones.’ Gabs’s face was grim as she continued the briefing. ‘The two attempted murder charges relate to a pair of sisters. It’s not quite clear what they did to upset Rasnovic, but whatever it was, they paid a heavy price. There’s a basement in his house on the outskirts of Warsaw. The sisters were found hanging by their wrists from ropes attached to meat hooks in the ceiling. They’d been there for about forty-eight hours.’

 

About?’ Zak asked. Gabs was normally a lot more precise.

 

They couldn’t say. They were so traumatized by their experience that they suffered some kind of amnesia. It appears that he beat them very severely while they were hanging there. Their wounds were beginning to go septic. Any longer, and they’d have been beyond medical care.’

 

This Rasnovic character has a penchant for ropes,’ added Raf. ‘It’s a nasty way to go. So what we’re saying, Zak, is that you don’t want to end up in a situation where Rasnovic has time to get creative on you.’

 

No,’ Zak agreed. ‘I don’t think I do.’

 

*

 

They force him back into his clothes, hustle him down to the car and blindfold him again.

 

This time, Scott takes the seat next to him in the back, and for the duration of the journey, Zak can feel the butt of his captor’s Browning pressed against his raw, bruised ribs. He feels unreal. Weightless. He feels as if he is running on the hot fear in his gut. Images pass through his head. Horrific images. Women close to death, hanging from meat hooks. He tries once more to concentrate on the direction of the car, but he’s overcome by nausea and it’s impossible to know where he is.

 

This journey is shorter than the first. Fifteen minutes? Maybe twenty? Impossible to say through the pain. The car comes to a halt. His captors don’t bother removing the blindfold this time. They just manhandle him out of the vehicle. He feels himself being dragged down some steps. His shins bang against the cold stone. To take his mind off the pain, he counts each one. Fifteen steps, then a door at the bottom. He hears it open in front of him and slam shut behind him. A lock in the door. He’s alone.

 

Zak scrambles to remove his blindfold. He’s in some sort of cellar. There’s no electric light, but he can see a bit thanks to a ventilation hole by the ceiling. He listens carefully. No cars, no pedestrians. Wherever he is, it’s out of the way. He makes a quick calculation. Forty-minute car drive from Acton. Twenty minutes to here. At the very most, he’s an hour’s drive out of London.

 

But lots of places are an hour’s drive from London.

 

He isn’t given the leisure to consider it any further. The door opens. A figure appears silhouetted in the doorframe. He is tall. So tall that he needs to stoop in order to enter the room. As he does so, his features become clearer. Like Scott and his crew, this man has a shaved head, but there are no razor marks. He does not seem like the kind of man to bother with decorating himself. He is older – in his late thirties, perhaps – with sunken eyes and a pronounced Adam’s apple. He stands there for a few seconds before speaking. His voice is a high-pitched whisper, and he has a pronounced Eastern European accent. It’s not the kind of sound you want to listen to for long, especially when you know, as Zak does, that it must belong to Anton Rasnovic.

 

‘I know what you’re thinking,’ he says.

 

‘I doubt it,’ Zak replies.

 

A cold, cruel smile crosses Rasnovic’s lips. ‘You are wondering if whoever was listening in to your pathetic wire device – which my men have now completely destroyed — managed to trace you to the tower block in time to follow you here. I should tell you now that they didn’t. You were not followed, and the great advantage of our current location is that I can see anybody approaching by road from at least a mile.’

 

Silence.

 

‘You have nothing to say about that? You are still feeling brave?’

 

‘Not brave, Rasnovic. But I can’t pretend I don’t feel a little bit disgusted. Can’t you find a better way to make a living than selling guns to kids? Normal people find that distasteful, you know.’

 

Rasnovic’s smile grows broader. ‘Good. You have a little fire in your blood. I like a challenge. There is very little enjoyment to be had from questioning a subject who squeals at the very first turn of the screw.’

 

In the dim light, Zak sees a dreadful gleam in Rasnovic’s eyes. A hunger, almost.

 

‘My people will prepare you. That won’t take long. It’s the bit that comes after that will feel like it lasts for ever. You’ll be very grateful to me when I finally agree to end your life. But I won’t be doing that until you tell me who you work for, and where they are.’

 

Rasnovic steps backwards out of the door, returning to the darkness. Seconds later, Scott and his crew crowd in. They don’t speak, but for the second time in less than two hours they lay into Zak, kicking and punching his already bruised and aching body. Finally they tell him to stand up. It’s all he can do to stay on his feet as they drag him out of the cellar, and into an adjoining room.

 

There is more light in here – a fierce, blinding beam from a spotlight in the corner of the room. Along the far wall is what looks like a hospital bed. There are hooks in the ceiling, and Rasnovic – tall, thin and stooped – is there, holding a coil of rope.

 

‘It was very good of you,’ Rasnovic says, ‘to dress up in your best clothes. Scott tells me he offered to buy your shoes, and you refused.’

 

Zak juts out his chin at his tormentor, but he feels his jugular pulsing.

 

‘Take them off,’ Rasnovic says.

 

‘No.’

 

There is a dangerous silence.

 

Rasnovic steps forward, still clutching the rope. Zak sees that the end of it is tied into a hangman’s noose. And out of the corner of his eye, he sees that Scott is pointing his Browning in Zak’s direction.

 

There is nothing for it. He kicks off his shoes.

 

‘Good,’ Rasnovic breathes.

 

Scott scampers forward and grabs the trainers. Neither he nor Rasnovic nor any of the others seem to hear what Zak has been listening to for the past forty-five seconds. The distant but unmistakable thunder of a helicopter’s rotor blades.

 

And then it all starts up.

 

*

 

You need to be prepared for things to happen quickly,’ Raf told him. ‘If Rasnovic and his crew have the slightest idea that we’re on to them, we can’t predict what they’ll do. Do you know what this is?’

 

He held out a metal canister, about the size of a Coke can, with a lever along one side and a pin in the top.

 

Grenade?’ Zak asked.

 

Raf nodded. ‘But not a fragmentation grenade. It’s called a flashbang. When it detonates, it emits a blinding white flash and an extremely loud bang . . .’

 

The clue’s in the name,’ Gabs said.

 

A flashbang will totally disorientate you if you’re not expecting it. We use it to give ourselves a few seconds’ advantage when we’re forcing an entry.’

 

A pause.

 

You will be forcing an entry, won’t you?’ Zak asked quietly.

 

Gabs smiled. ‘We’ve never let you down yet, have we, sweetie?’

 

*

 

There is not one flashbang, but two. Even though he is half expecting them, the shock of them almost knocks Zak sideways.

 

The next bang comes from a gun. A round from the direction of the door smashes into the spotlight that is lighting up the room. It is plunged into darkness, but only for a second.

 

There are two figures at the door. They’re carrying assault rifles. Fitted to each rifle is a powerful Maglite torch that cuts a directional beam through the darkness.

 

Voices. One male, one female, shouting at Rasnovic and his crew to hit the ground. No more rounds are fired, but the air is suddenly filled with dull thuds as fists and boots meet stomachs and knees. After the beatings Zak has endured, he can’t help feeling a certain satisfaction that his tormentors are getting a taste of their own medicine.

 

He hears Scott whimpering on the floor. In the semi-darkness he’s aware of Morton and Holden cowering pathetically in a corner.

 

Rasnovic is also on the ground, but he appears to have other plans. He manages to jump up and, still holding the noose, makes to slip it over the head of one of the newcomers.

 

‘NO!’ Zak gets there just in time. As the rope slides over the assailant’s head, he leaps forward and places his forearm in front of their face. The noose tightens, but Zak’s arm stops it from closing around the neck.

 

And then the second of the new arrivals is there. He knocks Rasnovic to the ground with a short, stubborn jab from the barrel of his rifle. A thump as he hits the floor.

 

It is Raf loosening the noose from around Gabs’s head. Zak lowers his forearm.

 

‘I thought you’d never make it,’ he says.

 

*

 

It’s a double-camera trick,’ Raf explained. ‘You know, when you make someone think—’

 

That they’ve spotted a hidden camera so they don’t bother looking for the one that’s actually watching them. One of your favourites, isn’t it?’

 

Raf shrugged. ‘In this case, the first “camera” is the wire you’ll be wearing. It’s crucial that Rasnovic’s footsoldiers see that you’re wearing it. They’ll remove it, destroy it and assume that they’ve dealt with your tracking device before taking you to their boss. It’s Rasnovic we really want. Scott and his boys are just the heads on the hydra. Cut one off, and another will grow in its place. If we want to put a stop to this gun crime, we need to kill the monster itself. Metaphorically speaking, of course. If everything goes according to plan, Rasnovic is looking at a long spell behind bars.’

 

Then we’d better hope they don’t locate the real tracking device, right?’

 

Raf gave him a serious kind of look. ‘Right.’

 

*

 

Rasnovic, Scott, Morton and Holden have their wrists cuffed behind their backs. They have been moved to a ground-floor room while Zak, Raf and Gabs wait for a police unit to take them away.

 

Zak pads towards Scott. He removes his trainers from the gun-dealer’s feet. ‘I think these are mine,’ he says.

 

Scott gives him a hateful, narrow-eyed look as Zak takes the shoes.

 

‘How did you find me?’ Rasnovic spits out the words. He sounds like he doesn’t want to ask the question, but can’t help himself.

 

Zak smiles. He holds up one of his trainers in his left hand. With his right, he takes hold of the heel and, with a little effort, twists it a quarter-turn clockwise. The heel comes away in his hand. From inside, he removes a thumbnail-sized tracking device.

 

Rasnovic and his crew stare at him, dumbfounded.

 

In the distance, there is the sound of a second helicopter. The police are arriving.

 

Gabs sidles up to Zak, her white-blonde hair mussed from the struggle in the basement. She indicates the tracking device. ‘Put it back, sweetie,’ she says. ‘We can’t give away all our secrets.’

 

He does as he’s told. Once he has refitted the heel, he puts on the shoes again and carefully ties up the laces.

 

The police arrive, four men, flak-jacketed and armed. ‘They’re all yours,’ Raf says, before nodding at Gabs and Zak.

 

Zak understands what he means. It’s time to go. The police can take it from here. He ignores the stares from the police officers – he is unusually young to be at a scene like this, after all – and leaves the room with his Guardian Angels.

 

There is a fifth police officer guarding the main entrance to the house; female. ‘Nice shoes,’ she says as Zak passes.

 

‘Thanks,’ Agent 21 replies. ‘Thanks very much.’

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