Best Served Cold

a short…

Slowly, slowly catchee monkey.

When I was a boy my father used to say it to me.

He meant ‘don’t be impulsive, play the long game’.

Decades later I used the phrase in combat.

Mount Tumbledown.

My troop – all three of us – were the point force for 2 Para south of Darwin when Colonel ‘H’ (who clearly hadn’t heard the phrase) picked up an SMG and stormed a well-dug-in-and-fortified Argentine position.

While H was getting himself killed on the Ajax side of the Mount we picked off the Argies from their own left flank.

Executed them under the clear, cold, black south Atlantic night sky.

Shot them as their silhouettes, strobed by the fire-fight with the main force, highlighted every moment.

It was like shooting big, stupid, slow-witted bears.

By the time the three of us had downed 80 – who previously thought they were so securely dug-in they were invulnerable – the rest realised they were being slaughtered like animals.

So they surrendered.

The media made much of H’s sacrifice and that 1,200 Argentines surrendered to such a small British force.

But the truth was that three specialist snipers played the long game and then expended our entire stock of ammunition in thirty-five minutes.

Twenty-seven years since the Falklands and I’m still playing the long game.

My target walked across the pedestrian precinct.

Same time every Friday.

Same routine.

It’ll be his downfall.

I smiled through the window as I sat on a stool in the cafe window.

Watching.

Playing the long game.

Three years I’ve been watching.

I’m going to teach you a lesson, friend.

You don’t screw with me.

As he walked up the steps to the building I entered the date, time and event in my notebook.

For the last time I checked back to the previous week’s entry.

Nothing different.

He was met at the door with a handshake.

I imagined the conversation.

Come in.

His host waved his hand in front as if to part the air for the Great and Worthy Bastard.

How’re your children?

And your wife?

Did they catch the attacker yet?

Be patient, I’m sure they will soon.

He went inside.

I finished my cup of tea.

The irony is that I could have stopped the attack on his wife.

But it would have caused ripples.

I might have left a profile – an image on a CCTV or a security camera or in someone’s head – as I decked the adolescent mugger.

I’d been following her for an hour as she threaded her way through the shops, streets and markets.

The boy came out of the alleyway.

I saw him look her up and down, guessing her ability to fight back.

He ran down the pavement, threaded his arm through the loops on her bag, smashed hard in to her and ran off.

I was eighteen feet away, could have stopped him with a rabbit punch to the larynx.

Let him pass, said my head.

I obeyed.

She hit the pavement with a dull thud like a sack of potatoes.

Fractured her skull.

I could have stopped it.

Could have taken him out before he got to her.

I had the range, had the pace and had the ability.

But protecting her wasn’t my role; I was on surveillance.

He ran past me not knowing how near to death he’d just come.

Slowly, slowly catchee monkey.

This time, another form of assassination.

I’m going to assassinate the character of someone who loves to be at the centre of his community.

Three nights ago my target’s wife and children spent the night away; the first time in a year.

A family party; they went last year.

And the year before.

Coincidentally, three nights ago the Essex Constabulary had photographed my target’s car as it kerb-crawled around two notorious red-light areas of the county.

At noon yesterday photographs of the vehicle, its registration number and description were posted on one of those ‘goody-goody’ neighbourhood watch-type internet websites.

At 3pm yesterday The Daily Mail knew about it.

At midnight last night two undercover reporters jumped out of a Ford Transit, loaded up the target’s rubbish bins from outside his house and drove off.

I can imagine their shrieks of laughter as the Mail‘s reporters undid the rubbish bags that contained – amongst the usual household rubbish – the vilest, most horribly graphic images of child pornography.

They probably rubbed their hands with glee as they discovered the torn-up-but-easily-reassembled stories of child rape and violent incest.

As I waited for the next stage of the plan to occur I turned the car keys over in my pocket.

Keys to a duplicate car, identical to his, the same registration details, same colour and even the same slightly fractured number plate on the rear.

This evening I’ll remove the identifying marks and then torch it.

In the glove compartment will be the mobile phone I used to call The Daily Mail.

And a computer hard-disk, a clone of the PC in my target’s office.

Just like his reputation and professional career, everything will go up in flames.

That’s right my friend.

When I’m done, you won’t be able to get a job selling shirts on a market stall.

In an hour and a half, when you go to your office, the police will be there, waiting.

And they’ll find more pornography.

As well as evidence that you’ve been spying on the occupants of the ladies toilet.

And a sign-on for an on-line bookmaker’s account.

In three years – or two, whenever it is they’re going to let you out – I’ll still be here.

Watching.

Waiting.

Playing the long game.

And I’ll get you again.

And again.

Don’t screw with me.

Softly, softly catchee monkey.

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