Penny settled back into her business class seat next to Steven and accepted a glass of English sparkling white wine from the British Airways stewardess. She decided that she might as well make the most of it as she didn’t know when they were getting back. She hoped it would be before Christmas Day as she really wanted to see Daniel’s face when he opened the Tag Hauer watch she had splashed out on. She had wrapped all her presents and left them with Jinnie to distribute if she wasn’t back in time. She had saved money from her bonuses for dangerous service and decided she needed to get her fiancé something really nice for the last Christmas before they were due to marry at Whitsun.
Over the past week she had seen why Jinnie was happy to work with Steven. He was capable, smart, a good soldier and a really nice person. She was amazed that he was still single as she thought he would be a great catch for someone and she had said as much to Jinnie. She had told her that he didn’t think it would be fair to marry someone when he was always on demand for dangerous missions. Penny refused a second drink but tucked into the airline lunch of roast chicken and washed it down with the little tub of water that seemed to come with every airline meal.
Coming through the doors into the arrivals hall they saw a chauffeur holding a sign saying Mr and Mrs Hollins the names on their passports. They walked over to the chauffeur and introduced themselves. The chauffeur welcomed them to Malmö and taking Penny’s hold-all told them to follow him and headed to the short-term car park. One advantage that neutral Sweden had was that both German and British cars were available and the British SIS Malmö agent in place had procured a black Mercedes limousine. 30 metres before they reached the limo, a halt was called and the chauffeur checked a small electronic box before leading them to the car and unlocking it using a remote key fob. Steven said to Penny, “He was checking to ensure the car’s magnetic field was undisturbed by a magnetic bomb or a tracker.”
The chauffeur immediately showed he wasn’t just a chauffeur for as soon as they got underway he was scanning his mirrors for a tail. He said, “I’m pretty sure no one has picked us up. However, we are going to switch cars in the Clarion Hotel underground car park.” Steven swivelled around and watched the road and vehicles behind them. After a few minutes he said, “I think you are right, we are clear behind.” The Chauffeur added, “The Nazis often have watchers on the hotels, so they don’t bother to follow our cars from the airport.”
They arrived at the city centre hotel and the car dived down into the underground car park where they pulled up alongside an identical black Mercedes limo. The chauffeur handed his cap over to the other car’s driver, who waited a few minutes before driving out. They were then led to a minibus out of which appeared two people who were dressed just like Penny and Steven and who could have been them from a distance. They headed to the stairs up to reception carrying identical luggage to Penny and Steven, even down to the airline tags. The chauffeur took off his smart jacket and, pulling on a bright red pullover, climbed into the driver’s seat. Pointing to the rear of the minibus he told the couple to get down on the floor.
He drove out of the car park, paying the parking charge at the barrier, and drove them away merging into the city centre traffic. After a mile or two he told them they were in the clear. There was no tail and he had seen the watcher looking at the decoys in reception through the glass front doors. He indicated their German clothing on the back seat and suggested it was time to change now as it would only take 50 minutes to get to Ystad. They were booked on an overnight sailing and Vauxhall Cross had really pushed the boat out having reserved them a cabin, dinner and breakfast.
The meals on the Polish ferry were instantly forgettable and the most that could be said about the cabin was that the sheets were clean. Swinoujscie was reached at 06:45 and the couple left the boat hand in hand as a recently married couple might. They could have walked the 15 minutes to the station but joined the short queue for a cab keeping an eye open for watchers. Steven thought he had identified one but the man was engaged in a mobile phone conversation and was more interested in watching a pretty blonde girl. The train took them to Berlin with a change at Züssow but was painfully slow, taking over 2hrs 30mins to cover the 230 kilometres. Penny just wanted to get to Berlin and get on with the task in hand.
Back in London, despite her exalted position, Jinnie was still in the habit of lunching in the cafeteria with Emma. She had tried the director’s dining room but she didn’t want a three-course meal every day. She much preferred a light lunch and sitting down to dinner with Paolo, and Larry, each evening. Today she was enjoying an egg and tomato sandwich followed by a large cherry Bakewell and a strong cup of tea when her mobile rang. Glancing at the display she saw it was Alberto so she said apologised to Emma and took the call.
Alberto said, “Hello Jinnie, Andrew has just been into the restaurant and delivered Belinda’s proposals for the extension. I have had a quick look at costing and it is very much what we expected and had budgeted for. But I wonder if you can pop in tonight to have a look at the drawings, the 3D visuals and the mood board? I love them and if it were up to me I would be giving her the go-ahead right now. But the whole board need to agree. I will show the others them during the day but we need your input.” Jinnie thought a moment and then replied, “OK, I will pop in after Paolo and I have had dinner tonight, say about 8 o’clock.” Alberto replied, “We have a full restaurant tonight, but how about we put a little table in the corner of the kitchen for you and Paolo? I have been toying with the idea of offering a ‘chef’s table’. Perhaps you and Paolo would like to be our testers?” Jinnie said, “Yes of course.”
Alberto showed Paolo and Jinnie to the ‘chefs table’ in the corner of the restaurant kitchen. Jinnie was impressed, it was immaculately set just like any other table in the main dining area but it gave both diners an excellent view of the bustle of the kitchen. Alberto explained that he had not yet worked out exactly how it would work, whether the table should have a dedicated waiter or if it should be part of one of the sections. But for tonight’s experiment, he would serve them so that he could also discuss Belinda’s quotation.
Alberto brought them their pre-dinner drinks and handed Jinnie Belinda’s document bundle. As she sipped her tonic water Jinnie looked at the drawings and the visuals. Like Alberto she was impressed. The extension looked wonderful and gave them over 100 extra covers. The enlarged kitchen was spacious and integrated into the recently refurbished areas well. As she digested each document she passed them on to Paolo for his opinion. Before looking at the written quotation she viewed the mood board and wasn’t really surprised as it was basically the same colour scheme and furniture as the recent refurbishment. By the time she and Paolo had reached their coffees they had read the quotation and agreed that she should vote to proceed.
As usual, the food had been wonderful and Jinnie had been intrigued to watch the kitchen staff busily preparing the meals. Although she had often been in the kitchen and knew just how professional they were, she had never actually been there during service, but it was like a well-oiled machine. Jinnie asked Paolo what he thought of the idea of a ‘chef’s table’ and he said, “Before tonight I had never really thought about it, but this is wonderful. You could charge a lot of money for this sort of experience.” Jinnie nodded and said, “The board needs to have a chat about this concept. I think Alberto has got a winner here and I think we should include it in the new restaurant as well.”
When Alberto asked Jinnie what she thought she said, “I vote to go ahead with the project but with one alteration, we simply must have a four-seat ‘chef’s table’”. Alberto replied, “Excellent, we are 100% agreed to proceed, but I wonder how everyone else will take the ‘chef’s table’ concept.” Jinnie said, “Produce a spreadsheet with a costing, selling the table at an extra £75 a serving, when then see the extra money to be made they will soon agree.”
Penny and Steven passed through the ticket barrier in Berlin and scanned the throng of bodies for their promised greeter or for Gestapo agents and just when they had decided they were on their own a voice behind them said, “Hello Magda, I would recognise you anywhere you are the image of your sister.” Penny turned and carefully said, “Hello, but I’m afraid I don’t know you.” The stranger replied, “My name is Wolfe and Hanna sent me to meet you. You’re clear to come with me to the safe house, I have three of our group watching out for us and there are no Gestapo in this part of the station. Follow me. ”Wolfe led them to an old green Audi and headed to the safe house. Steven turned and looked for a pursuit car, but saw nothing. A laughing Wolfe said, “I told you the Gestapo have no idea you are here.”
Hanna was waiting for Penny and Steven at the safe house and they got down to the mission immediately after she had handed them each a Glock and two additional loaded magazines. Hanna had a map showing, in detail the spy’s home and the nearby house they had acquired to observe from. They had used a fleet of alternating cars to follow the spy on several occasions when he left home and went to the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) building where the car disappeared into its underground car park. Hanna pointed out that, clearly, it would be virtually impossible to hit the spy in his armour-plated car or at the SD building. Therefore the hit would have to be at his home.
Hanna explained that observation showed several armed men guarded the walled estate as well as electronic devices which seemed to be deployed in the grounds. An assault on the house appeared to be very difficult. However, she said the one weakness seemed to be when the spy left home in the morning and returned in the evening he walked a few paces between his front door and his car leaving himself open to a sniper. Penny perked up on hearing this, it was her area of expertise, she was an excellent shot, maybe not as good as her big sister, but confident that, given a decent opportunity, she could take him out. She asked Hanna what rifle they had available, did they have a sniper rifle?
Hanna said that a British Army sniper system was on its way from Poland and should arrive within the hour. Penny then asked to see the rifle as soon as it arrived and sat down to clean and check her Glock while she waited. Steven said he would wait and clean his when she was done so as to one of them would have a gun available at all times. When the rifle was delivered Penny approved, it was it excellent condition and the courier said it had been zeroed in.
Extracting the laser range finder for the sniper system pack, the three set off to the observation house. Penny was shown to a bedroom window that had a view of the front door and drive. Using the laser range finder she established the range at 605 metres, well within her range. As they watched, a car pulled up and a man got out of the rear, the front door opened and he was quickly inside. Penny reckoned that from her current position he was a target for about two seconds making it a very difficult shot. Penny looked around for a better vantage point.
To her left and further back was a tower block, Penny asked if had been considered as a firing point. Hanna said it had, but had been dismissed as it was a kilometre from the target area. Penny shook her head and said, “With that rifle I can easily hit a person at 1,000 metres, in fact, that rifle in the hands of a reasonably trained sniper was good for at least 1,100 metres. For someone with my training, I can push that to 1,800 maybe 2,000 metres.” Hanna grinned and said, “Let’s go.”
From the flat roof of the tower block Penny had a far better view, she reckoned she would be able to see the spy inside the car as he was getting in and out of it as well as walking to the door. The time he was exposed would be at least doubled making it possible to fire a double tap. Penny pulled out the laser range finder and was delighted to see the range was 1,250 metres, well within her capabilities. Turning to Hanna she said, “I’ll fire from here. What time does he go out in the morning? Can you arrange to have transport ready to take us and the sniper system back to the safe house as soon as the hit has gone down?” Penny thought, ‘Perhaps we can get this job done quickly.’
Later the same evening Jinnie answered her mobile phone to Alberto who, following the usual pleasantries, said, “It’s a unanimous agreement to proceed.” “Great,” replied Jinnie, “Do you want me to tell Belinda? I guess the sooner we let her know the sooner she can get the full planning application into the local council.” “I’ve already told her,” said Alberto. “Guido and I went with her to look at the disused factory behind us this afternoon and I told her then. We also had a look at a place in Cockfosters and another in Barnet.” Jinnie said, “That was quick, what do you think?”
“Well,” said Alberto, “The place in Cockfosters was a new build and would be the easiest to convert, but on a first look at costs, I suspect it would be very expensive to operate. The builder is only interested in a straight sale, the building is not cheap and I think Enfield Council would not be happy having a kitchen on that industrial estate. They want light engineering and having delivery drivers coming and going until late in the evening is not in their plans. The one in Barnet was a better bet but there was no gas on the site so we would have to pay to get it installed and again it wasn’t cheap to lease. However,” he continued, “the old place behind us was interesting. Loads of space, a huge yard both with gas and electricity on site. Belinda said from her point of view it would be the most work to convert but it had the most possibilities for future expansion. I have spoken with the vendor and they are anxious to move it on. It has been empty over a year now and the owner has recently reduced the asking price, I think a deal could be on the cards. I spoke to someone I know in the council planning department, one of our regular customers, and he says the council want to see the building in use and a business rates holiday could be on the cards.”
Jinnie thought, ‘Well I know which one you are batting for’. “Can I see it?” Asked Jinnie. Alberto said, “Of course, I still have a set of keys from the agent. I think the other directors should have a look as well, it’s so close it’s easy. How about Saturday lunchtime? Oh, and I asked Belinda for a preliminary costing for it and the Barnet place.”
Fifteen minutes before the spy’s usual leaving time Penny and Steven were in position on the flat roof. The anemometer in the sniper system indicated virtually no wind and despite it being cold at least it was dry. Penny checked the target area through the telescopic sight and saw nothing out of the ordinary and asked Steven, who had a pair of powerful binoculars, if he had spotted anything odd. Hearing an, “All good to go,” she settled down to make her last-minute checks.
A minute before the normal leaving time, the car arrived and the rear door was opened by the driver who glanced around him before heading to knock on the front door, before retreating to one side with his hand in his pocket where Penny guessed he had a handgun. It was at this point that Penny realised that from this position she could even see inside the car. Steven’s voice said, “Any second now,” and the spy strode out of the front door. Penny fired, hitting the spy and he went down. She was not sure if it had been a kill shot but now he was still on the ground, she fired again and his head exploded.
In Chapter 12 – Goodbye Martin.
© WorthingGooner 2022