"Claire ... can you pop down the shops and grab some food and stuff." shouted Anton.

"OK let me just finish this bit of code." shouted Claire typing away on her laptop.

A few minutes passed. "Claire !!" said Anton.

"OK ... I'm done now. What do you want ?" said Claire, slightly frustrated.

"Here is a shopping list the guys made earlier." said Anton passing her a list and a comm unit.

"OK, I'll get on it." said Claire trying to take the shopping list still firmly held in Anton's hand.

"Don't forget exit and entry anti-surveillance protocols. It only takes one slip-up and we have to move." warned Anton " ... and I kinda like this place !" he added.

"OK" said Claire walking out of the apartment with the list. "Testing 1 2 3" said Claire into the comm unit.

"Read you loud and clear" said Anton into his comm unit.

Claire walked along the road and into the supermarket oblivious of the men watching. She wandered along the aisle picking up various items from her list and thinking about the program she was writing back at the apartment. She noticed a couple of men who didn't look like they were interested in shopping, but in a posh looking woman. Claire's shopping list took her close to where the posh woman was.

"Hey ! " said Claire as the men, now wearing masks, pushed past her and pointed a gun at the posh woman.

"Don't make a sound and come with us now." said one of the men to the horrified woman "And grab her too." pointing at Claire.

"What .. why me ?" asked a very confused and frightened Claire.

"You saw us unmasked." said one of the men now pointing a gun at her too.

The two women were marched outside to a waiting van and shoved in. The men closed the door and drove away. They put hoods on the two women.

Claire sized up the situation. The other woman was being kidnapped and she was simply a disposable bargaining chip. She also figured she would be searched more thoroughly when they arrived and it was vital they didn't find her comm unit. She discretely tapped ... --- ... (SOS) into the mic attached to her wrist under her sleeve knowing Anton and the guys, listening on the other end, would know what to do.

"Where are you taking us ?" asked Claire trying to steer the conversation to benefit Anton and the other guys listening in.

"Shut up." came the response.

"Claire don't annoy them, we can track you via your comm unit. The others will converge on your location shortly." said Anton knowing only Claire and the rest of Unit 5 could hear the conversation "Tap the number of hostiles" he added.

Claire counted the two men in the back and the man driving. She tapped three times on her mic.

"How many have weapons ?" asked Anton. Claire tapped twice.

"OK guys here's the situation: Claire has been kidnapped with another unrelated woman by three unknown hostiles in a van judging by the engine noise. They could be police, special forces or just some random gang. If they are police or special forces we can't let them question Claire or find her comm unit. If they are a gang they might assume Claire is police when they find her comm unit and probably kill her." said Anton hoping he had covered all the permutations.

"If they are a gang, this should be quite easy." said Dillan over the comm unit "We just take them out, 'disappear' them, get Claire and leave the other woman somewhere so she can be found."

"But if they are police or special forces, this could get very messy and complicated" said Keith over the comm unit.

"OK we need to establish which. How close are you guys ?" asked Anton.

"About five miles. They seem to be driving out of town." said Keith.

"OK. I guess we can rule out the police then." said Anton.

"Leaving gang members who will be easy to deal with, or special forces who will be very hard to deal with. We might need some help if so." said Dillan.

"OK, I'll contact Unit 4 who are nearby and see if they can help." said Anton.

The kidnapping van continued on it's way oblivious to the tailing van a few hundred yards behind which would change colour every time it went under a bridge. After a while the kidnapping van turned on to a dirt track leading to some woods. Ahead was a building.

"OK everyone, this is where it's going to happen. Dillan, drive past that turn-off so they don't see us. We will loop back in a few minutes. Heike, there are some hidden panels in the back there, open them up." said Keith.

"OK" said Heike pulling up a floor panel revealing a variety of weapons, ammo and equipment.

"OK Dillan loop back here. Don't worry Claire, we're not far away." said Keith. Their van entered a small roundabout and went back in the opposite direction. It was starting to get dark so Dillan put the lights on.

"Claire, one tap means yes, two means no and three means don't know. Have you arrived at your destination ?" said Keith.

Claire tapped once on her mic. Keith looked at the touch screen and looked at the options. Dillan turned down the same dirt track, slowed to a crawl and turned the lights off. Keith selected "Camouflage" on the touch screen. The paramagnetic paint on the van changed colour to match the dirt track and the surrounding environment.

"OK, turn into that tree line" said Keith to Dillan. The van changed colour to match the green/brown colours of the trees. All three selected a weapon and some equipment each and quietly left the van. They crept between the trees and lay down at the tree line facing the building. On Claire's comm unit they could hear some shouting.

Their weapons were fitted with silencers and night-sights which they used to survey the scene.

"Why did you bring her ?" shouted the first kidnapper.

"She saw us unmasked, she could identify us." said the second kidnapper.

"OK, take her outside and blow her brains out. We can't leave any lose ends." said the first kidnapper.

The second kidnapper dragged Claire, kicking and screaming, through the door and round the side of the building.

"Shit, they are going to shoot Claire ! Dillan, take him out now !" said Keith.

"Wait a sec, I need to remove my silencer." said Dillan.

"Why ?" asked Keith.

"They are expecting to hear one shot, so I will give them one." explained Dillan.

There were tears in Claire's eyes as she looked at the barrel levelled at her head. The second kidnapper took-up the first pressure on the trigger.

"Please ... " begged Claire hoping her lovely green eyes would connect with the protect instinct most men should have.

"Sorry honey." said the second kidnapper who's protect instinct had been burned-out by two traumatic divorces and decades of rabid feminism.

Claire closed her eyes and was surprised she could still think when she heard the bang. How could she do that with half her brain gone ? was she in heaven ? she opened her eyes and saw the second kidnapper laying on the ground with half his head missing. She looked up and saw a dark shape running towards her.

"Barbie, come with me." whispered Dillan.

"Dillan ! I thought you hated me !" said Claire remembering the time he threw her in the pool.

"I don't hate you that much. Lets go !" joked Dillan.

"And don't call me Barbie !" said Claire gathering her senses. She followed Dillan back to the tree line.

"Claire, brief us quickly. Who is the other woman ?" said Keith.

"I think her name is Amy and she is the wife of a very rich bloke, I don't know his name. They kidnapped her but I saw them unmasked, that's why they took me as well." explained Claire visibly shaking.

"Did she see your face ?" whispered Keith.

"Not really, she just glanced at me in the supermarket and she had a hood on while in the van." whispered Claire.

"So, what should we do with her and them ?" asked Dillan.

"Guys, we're missing a trick here." said Anton back at the apartment.

"What have you got in mind ?" said Keith.

"OK, these guys kidnapped this woman to get a ransom from her husband ... so why not arrange for us to get the ransom cash instead !" said Anton.

"Yes ... great ... how ?" said Keith.

"OK first things first. You have just killed one of them so you're going to have to kill the others too, but before you do, you should gather intel, like have they made contact with the husband, if so where is the ransom going to be picked-up. There is a quad-copter in the van, that should help." said Anton.

"Hang on, I have one in my case." said Heike opening the equipment case. She pulled out a tiny quad-copter and it's controller. She switched them both on. The quad-copter made a faint whirring sound and started it's journey to the building with Heike controlling it. The quad-copter landed on a window sill and directed a low-power laser onto the glass so it could sense the vibration of any conversation inside.

"OK, I can hear them talking now." said Heike. "They are wondering where the other kidnapper is." she continued.

"One of them will be coming out very soon, so get ready. Dillan, go round the side in case they make a run for it out the back." instructed Keith.

Dillan crept along the tree line until he was able to face the building about 90 degrees from the others. He lay down, put the butt of his weapon into his shoulder and looked through the night-sight.

"Ron !" shouted one of the kidnappers walking out of the door. "Ron where hell are you ? it doesn't take 10 minutes to shoot someone." he walked around the side of the building and saw a very dead Ron. He quickly realised what might have happened and ran back inside the building.

"Ron's dead and that blonde bird has gone ! the police must have done it ! Lets get out of here. " he said.

"How the fuck did the police get on this so fast ?" whispered the other kidnapper.

"I have no ..." said the other kidnapper who was unable to finish his sentence as he was now dead. Dillan quickly dispatched the other one.

"Two hostiles down. We should be clear now. I'm going to look inside." said Dillan.

"OK, we'll watch from here." said Keith.

"If this is a hostage or kidnapping, it's very odd !" said Heike.

"How so ?" said Keith.

"Well, there has been no talk of a ransom drop and I haven't heard the woman make any noise." said Heike.

"OK guys, I'm inside. Oh fuck !!" said Dillan.

"What's up ?" said Keith.

"The woman is dead. She must have been shot just before we got here !" said a surprised Dillan.

"That means this wasn't a kidnapping. Get their mobiles and go through the messages." said Anton. Keith, Heike and Claire gathered their kit, got up and walked inside the building.

"These phones don't have PINs setup, what a bunch of amateurs !" sneered Claire scrolling through the messages on one of the phones.

"Here's a message from the husband discussing payment for the disposal of his wife !" said a totally astonished Dillan.

"These guys seem to be a much cheaper, dumber version of us !!" said Keith.

"And these aren't burner phones, these are their normal phones, I just read a text from this guy's mum for fucks sake, what a bunch of plebs !" said Claire.

"That means they're too stupid to cover their tracks, so the police will be all over this place very soon. Time to bail-out. Don't forget to collect your empty cases so they can't run ballistics on them." said Keith. They all grabbed their equipment and walked to the door.

"Drop your weapons and come out with your hands up." said a police officer through a megaphone. He was accompanied by several armed police officers pointing their weapons at the building which was now illuminated by a couple of powerful lights.

"Oh fuck !" said Keith "Anton are you getting this ?" he added through the comm unit.

"Yes, stall them, just for a while." said Anton.

"Er why ? how ?" asked Keith.

"Have a little faith !" said Anton.

"How do we know you won't shoot ?" asked Keith wondering how long he could keep up this charade.

"We won't shoot if you lay down your weapons." said the megaphone.

Heike threw in a few random German insults hoping that would create more confusion and delay.

"Lay down your weapons. This is your last cha ..." the megaphone was interrupted as several weapons opened fire behind them.

"Bloody hell !!" screamed Keith as the woods lit up with explosions, flash grenades, tracer rounds and smoke.

"Members of the police. Lay down your weapons, kneel down, put your hands behind your heads and inter-lock your fingers. We don't want to kill you but we will if we have to." said a voice on another megaphone behind the police.

The police officers complied. Some hooded men walked to the police officers and pointed their weapons at them. One hooded man walked up to one of the police officers and put his hand on his shoulder and asked "Where is the top pig ?"

The officer nodded to the left and the hooded man walked in that direction.

"Are you the top pig ?" said a hooded man to a police officer who looked like he might be in charge.

"Yes. I'm DCI Roger Saward." said a very shaken and confused DCI Saward.

"It's like this. We don't want to kill any of you, we just want our colleagues to get away. If you or any of your piglets do anything stupid we will shoot. Do you understand ?" asked the hooded man.

"Yes." said DCI Saward.

"Oh, by the way, the dead woman inside the building was shot by one of the three headless idiots round the other side of the building NOT by my colleagues. Your forensics will confirm that anyway." said the hooded man.

"OK" said DCI Saward.

"Unit Five, walk this way." said the hooded man and Unit 5 walked towards him.

There was a loud bang. "What happened !" said the hooded man.

"One of the piglets wriggled ... so I fired a warning shot !" said another hooded man.

"OK. Unit 5 are you complete and accounted for ?" asked the hooded man.

"Yes." confirmed Keith.

"OK. Walk along that path. There is a friend waiting for you." said the hooded man.

"Thanks for your help and who are you ?" said Keith.

"You're welcome and mind your own business." said the hooded man "We're not supposed to make contact with each other, Remember !" he added.

"How many of you are there ? it sounded like there were dozens of you !" asked Keith.

"Just three. Our van created the acoustic impression of many weapons being fired along with ours." said the hooded man.

"Outstanding. Unit 5, follow me." said Keith who turned and started walking along the path with the rest of Unit 5.

Deborah was parked near Unit 4's vehicles and could see Keith and his team coming. She decided to have a little fun. She touched 'Camouflage' on the touch screen's menu and then touched 'Engage'. The car changed to a dark green / brown colour to match the woods at dusk.

"Hello boys !" said Deborah.

Keith looked looked around wondering where the voice was coming from. Deborah touched 'Disengage' on the touch screen and the car returned to it's normal red colour.

"I'm over here, dick-head !" laughed Deborah.

"Hi Debz !" said a very surprised and relieved Keith. "Love the camouflage. Who are the hoodies ?"

"Unit 4 of course ! Anton made the call a while back." said Deborah.

"How long will they stay. As soon as we leave the police will follow us." said Keith.

"Oh don't worry about that, Unit 4 have that covered." said Deborah "Get in your van, it's drinks at your place !"

"Cool. Lets go home." said Keith as he jumped in the front with Dillan. Heike and Claire jumped in the back, shut the door and they drove off with Deborah in pursuit.

"OK, pigs, pay attention." said the hooded man. "We are going to leave a sniper-sentry behind to watch over you. It's an automated system that will shoot anything that moves. After one hour it will self-destruct, allowing you to move but depriving you of evidence."

The hooded man and the rest of Unit 4 jumped into their van and drove away leaving the police unit wondering how they were going to phrase their reports.

Index Chapter 17 Chapter 19
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