Read Tracers Online

Authors: Adrian Magson

Tracers

A Selection of Recent Titles by Adrian Magson
The Harry Tate Thrillers
RED STATION
*
TRACERS
*
The Riley Gavin and Frank Palmer Series
NO PEACE FOR THE WICKED
NO HELP FOR THE DYING
NO SLEEP FOR THE DEAD
NO TEARS FOR THE LOST
NO KISS FOR THE DEVIL
*
Available from Severn House
TRACERS
A Harry Tate Novel
Adrian Magson
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
  
This first world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright © 2011 by Adrian Magson.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Magson, Adrian.
Tracers. – (A Harry Tate thriller)
1. Intelligence officers – Fiction. 2. Fugitives from
justice – Fiction. 3. Terrorism risk communication –
Fiction. 4. Baghdad (Iraq) – Fiction. 5. Suspense fiction.
I. Title II. Series
823.9′2-dc22
ISBN-13: 978-1-7801-0019-7   (ePub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8013-0   (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-338-0   (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
As ever and always, to Ann
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
With grateful thanks as always to David Headley, for his help, enthusiasm and insights; to Kate Lyall Grant, who took the punt on Harry Tate and gave him a happy home; to everyone at Severn House who made this a proper book; and to all the readers, reviewers and friends who have voiced their enthusiastic support and made this second in the series a thoroughly enjoyable must-do.
PROLOGUE
Baghdad – Al-Jamia District – August
T
he dead don’t need food, the man in the black leather jacket and dark glasses thought coldly. He plucked a tomato from the delivery of vegetables being wheeled towards the kitchen door of the heavily fortified villa in the west of the city. As he bit through the ripe skin, a burst of voices from the local
Dijla Radio
rose momentarily from inside the building, then faded abruptly as the heavy door slammed shut again.
It was time. Holding the tomato to his mouth to shield the lower half of his face, he ducked his head and left the compound through a reinforced door set in a high wall, stepping past a watchful armed guard. Glass shards and razor wire glinted atop the barricade, and the door groaned under the weight of steel plate. The guard studied him as he passed, blinked with uncertainty, but said nothing. Bolts rattled into place. The door closed behind him.
As he crossed the sun-baked square outside, he tossed the tomato aside and took from his pocket a mobile phone with a single, pre-programmed number on speed-dial. The device felt awkward through the bandage on his hand and he winced, recalling the moment he had cut it on some glass while clambering over the outside wall to dispose of incriminating papers in a brazier along the street the previous evening. He shouldn’t have bothered, he knew that, because it would soon all be gone. But old habits die hard and he was being watched too closely in the house. Only the foolhardy tempt providence by not being sufficiently prepared.
He thought about what would happen in the next few seconds. A brush of warm air – deceptively gentle at first – would turn into a lethal pressure-wave. Then a monstrous roar, invading the atmosphere and sucking the oxygen out of every space, collapsing lungs and buildings alike. Heavy objects would smash against the walls around the square and, amid the splintering glass and crumbling structures, screams would rise, some old and faint. Others young and shrill.
But that could not be helped.
Insh’allah
. It was the will of God, may His name be praised.
Next would be heard a patter of small sounds, like hard rain. Falling on the rooftops around the square, growing in intensity and tearing through thin structures and fabrics, it would bring a thick, choking dust, boiling through the narrow streets and alleyways like an angry fog. Amid the wails and shouts of alarm there would be the first signs of response from the security forces.
They would be too late.
Behind him, the door in the compound wall groaned again and a man’s voice called after him. It was the guard, recognition coming too late, duty overcoming doubts. He was asking – but respectfully – where he was going and why he did not have anyone with him.
He ignored the man and increased his pace, lips moving soundlessly in a steady, silent mantra. He was sweating profusely and his heart was pounding. But not simply because of the borrowed leather jacket. Beneath it were extra layers of clothes into which he could change at a moment’s notice, skilfully discarding one appearance for another, as surely would be needed in the minutes or hours ahead if he were to get away safely. He passed two small boys, a scavenging dog and an old man sitting in the shade of a leather goods shop. They spoke but he ignored them.
In the distance, the speck of a US helicopter gunship was circling a column of heavy, black smoke. The thud of rotors rose and faded, sunlight winking off the canopy. He ignored that, too; it was a common enough sight here and too far off to be of concern.
The guard called out again, sharper this time and shrill with concern. Or was it fear? He continued walking, heavy dust muffling his footsteps. As he reached the corner of the square and the shelter of a deserted
madrassa
, he murmured a soft, final incantation.
Then he pressed the SEND button on his mobile phone.
He did not look back.
ONE
England – September
T
he cottage lay at the end of a muddy, rutted track, surrounded by trees and bushes. To Harry Tate, it was like something out of a child’s fairytale. Only darker.
A finger of cold air slid down his neck. He looked back towards the Saab, but it was lost beyond a curve in the track. To his right lay an expanse of tall reeds, cigar-top stems rustling in the chilled breeze coming over the dunes off the north Norfolk coast. The area was slipping into shadow as the day began to fade, erasing detail and leaving a leaden dullness in the atmosphere.
He turned to face the cottage. It was a scrubby, stone-built box with a faded green door, a small porch, tiny windows and a slate roof coated with bird droppings. It might have looked quaint once, but now had a forlorn air, in need of a good coat of paint and some work on the weed-strewn flowerbeds.
Beyond the cottage, the track butted into the trees, the ruts old and overgrown. The end of the line. Appropriate, he thought, considering the reason he was here. He checked the windows for movement and the chimney for a telltale plume of grey smoke. Nothing. If there was trouble waiting, it was keeping its head down.
Checking his mobile was secure under a rubber band on the clipboard in his other hand, he flexed his shoulders beneath the UPS driver’s jacket. It was a tight fit but it would have to do. Who looked at a courier’s clothes, anyway? People wanted the goodies, not a catwalk parade.
He knocked and waited, wishing he had the comforting feel of something solid in his pocket. A 9mm Browning would have been good. But this was Norfolk, England, not downtown Baghdad or Kabul.
A scuff of footsteps and the door opened. A man blinked into the dying evening. He was dressed in a Paisley-print dressing gown tied with a silk cord, highlighting a low-slung paunch. Bare, skinny legs ended in a pair of burgundy leather slippers, and a scraggy goatee beard gave him the look of a middle-eastern potentate in a seaside pantomime.
‘Yes?’ Tired eyes flicked nervously past Harry’s shoulder.
Harry smiled genially.
Gotcha
. Abuzeid Matuq was a bit plumper than the photo in his jacket pocket portrayed, and he was wearing his hair a shade longer than a man of forty-six years who wasn’t a rock star should do. But it was definitely him.
Transferred to London just over a year ago to run a newly established branch of the General Bank of Libya, Matuq had soon slipped into bad company. Once he was out of sight of head office and his beloved Colonel Gaddafi, it hadn’t taken him long to find a whole new direction in his life, and to disappear with a large amount of Libyan money. He was now being sought by bank officials and the Serious Fraud Office. Along with, most likely, the more vengeful elements of the Libyan secret police.
‘Got a delivery.’ Harry slapped the logo on his breast pocket. The light wasn’t brilliant, but he thought Matuq had an unhealthy grey tinge for a man his age. Fat lot of good the money had done him, then, ending up in this drab, shadow-filled hideaway.
‘A delivery? Not for me.’ Matuq shifted slightly, but stayed where he was. It was a reminder for Harry that desperate people sometimes do rash things when confronted by pursuers.
And right now, Matuq was partially shielded by his front door.
Harry got ready to move. There was no telling what the Libyan might be holding in his concealed hand. As one of his old MI5 instructors would have said, even small, furry rodents have sharp teeth when cornered.
‘Uh . . . Mrs Tangmere? Stokes Cottage?’ Harry glanced at his mobile and shifted the clipboard until the white blob of Matuq’s face appeared in the centre of the screen. Not quite sharp enough, but it would do. He keyed the button, freezing the face.
‘There is nobody of that name.’ Matuq’s voice was soft, like his appearance, the accent pronounced. His eyes slipped instinctively to the large brown envelope Harry produced from under the clipboard. It was addressed to an imaginary Mrs Tangmere in bold handwriting. Another good lesson learned: it was the detail that got you in, the lack of it that got you found out.
‘Took me ages to find the place.’ He hated this part, having to go through the play-acting just to give him an excuse to leave without alerting Matuq. But finding the target’s location was just one part of the assignment, albeit a critical part; next he had to get the photo to Jennings to prove it. He gestured down the track. ‘Had to leave my wheels down the end and leg it.’
He shivered briefly and smiled again to dispel any impression of threat. Visitors promising violence or incarceration rarely comment on the weather or the state of the roads. Nor do they carry clipboards. Harry was a bit under six feet, but probably looked worryingly big to a small man on the run.
‘Sorry. I cannot help,’ Matuq murmured regretfully, beginning to close the door.
Harry let him. He’d done what he came for. Now he just had to wait for instructions.
‘No problem. Sorry to have disturbed you.’ He turned and walked away as the door closed, followed by the rattle of bolts being thrown. He squeezed a glance across the tips of the reeds in the marsh bed separating Stokes Cottage from the village of Blakeney. The air here was damp and sour, a ghost of mist adding to the chilled atmosphere. He caught a faint shine off the Saab’s roof as he rounded the curve in the track and hoped Matuq hadn’t seen it. A UPS delivery driver with a clipboard was unremarkable; the same man in a mud-spattered car was not.

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