It was a winter night, wet and dark: not the sort in which to be walking back to the hotel.
Christ, Nick Alum thought, I should have driven to the meeting, but it's too late now. Better to be curled around a good book and a fine bottle of Australian red or white wine. The meeting was concluded quite well, after the exchange of the manuscript he had been hired to recover for a healthy fee. However he hadn't been very impressed by the consortium of three that hired him. Namely, Van-Reeve the South Afrikaner business man, Ah Hi the Singaporean, and a female by the name of Mrs Ping. In Nick's estimation, all dubious characters without a doubt. He walked from Le Fever Terrace and up the Old Ford Road. It certainly seemed different at night thought Nick, so desolate in the absence of all the stallholders with their raucous calls and shouts. It brought back so many memories of when the East End of London was a frequent haunt for he and Laura. A long time past, during an era when the Fraser and the Kay gangs still held sway. Some thirty one-odd years back. Halfway up the Old Ford Road he came to the crossroads: Nick knew that to the left lead into Grove Road, straight on Roman Road and, down to the right, Victoria Park. Vicky Park - a place where many happy hours had been spent by he and his wife Laura. Nick's own beautiful and loving wife Laura. The woman that he had loved more than anything else on earth. His Laura!
Memories came flooding back to Nick. The memories of the love he had felt, and still felt for his wonderful wife Laura were strongly embedded down deep in his heart and soul. --A strong and binding love. Love that both had shared, from the moment that it had been their destiny to meet. They had met and fallen in love, so long ago before Laura's untimely death at the hands of vile unscrupulous rat-bags. Nick had eventually met his darling Laura at a reunion of the ex Special Air Services unit in which he had served. She was the one and only daughter, and the apple of her father's eye. Her father was of one of Nick's all time heroes. The father was the Colonel that Nick had served so diligently under, and who had guided Nicks career..He was the highly decorated Colonel Dale New**. Colonel D was a brave and fearless man, who was later destined to become a Lord. Nick could now so vividly see in his mind's eye, the face of his lovely wife Laura. Laura's face was just as he remembered seeing it at their initial meeting. The meeting when they both fallen so deeply in love at first sight. After a whirlwind courtship, Nick and Laura were married with the consent, and the blessings of her Father...They were married on the side of a mountain in Scotland, and Laura's brother Tony was their best man.
The wedding was attended by close family and friends. The guests included several ex SAS members.
All good men that had served together at one time or another. The ex-soldiers were all Nick's close and sworn friends. Friends unto death. They were of course, all now close and sworn friends to Laura. The wedding party went into the very depths of the next morning. Nick was soon to return to his Unit, and to serve on many an active duty. His career was to go from strength to strength...He loved the job he was doing NEARLY as much as he loved his adorable Laura...The beautiful Laura, although hating to be away from the man that she loved so dearly, threw herself into the busy life of being a model for top fashion names. Being so successful, had meant that sometimes she had to travel to different parts of the world. This loving and deeply in love couple, hated to be parted from each other. They tried desperately not to make a habit of being apart. They were so very very much in love.
Nick who was still lost in his own thoughts as he turned into Grove Road, he passed the old 'Duke of Edinburgh' pub on the corner. He was heading for Mile End road, where he hoped to catch a taxi.
Suddenly! He snapped out of his daydreams. Were those the same footsteps that he had heard earlier? He quickened his pace, and so did the footsteps. He slowed down, and so did the footsteps.
'Two of them' Nick imagined. But who was it and why? 'Let's find out!' At the junction of Grove Road he sprinted quickly across Mile End Road, dodging the traffic. He turned right down by Barclay's Bank and then right again. 'Oh hell,' thought Nick, 'a Cul-de-sac.' He turned to go back - too late!
The two men were on him with a rush. He could see the cold naked steel in their hands. Nick struck at the first opponent with his right hand extended, a sweeping cutting motion containing all his force: the edge of his hand connected with the assassin's Adams Apple, crushing cartilage and rupturing the windpipe. A thin gurgling scream died in the man's throat. That one wouldn't see the light of day again! Sharp burning, blinding pain cascaded down through his left shoulder and he felt the grating of steel on bone. 'I'm getting slow, ‘thought Nick. The other assailant had cut him badly. He could feel the blood soaking through his clothes. He turned quickly, ready to fight, only to be amazed by the sight that confronted him. The attacker who had knifed him hung, with his feet off the ground, a large muscular arm around his neck. Nick heard the neck snap like a dry twig. The lifeless body dropped to the ground like a wet rag doll. In a funny haze he saw the floor tilting and rotating... Did he only imagine that he saw a small man who was very quick on his feet and beside him a large man reaching out? Reaching out with two large black hands. The last thing he remembered was being caught as darkness engulfed him.
Nick spent two days and three nights in unconsciousness, with dreams and nightmares figures flitting in and out. Female voices blended with gruff male tones in a bottomless pit of darkness.
On the third day he opened his eyes to a glaring light. It was mid-morning! But where the hell was he? He went to move and a shrieking pain tore down through his left side. He groaned aloud in agony. As if he had called for help, the bedroom door opened immediately and a young woman came into the room. 'Oh!' she expounded in a surprised voice, 'You're awake then at last!' Then she turned abruptly on her heels and went out. Not one minute later two men entered the room:
One was a large and rotund elderly man. Beside him, stood a large and somewhat handsome black man. He was built like a brick outhouse. Harry Simms and his adopted son Dave. Big Dave was the man who had saved Nick's own life just three nights ago. With the sight of these two, memory upon memory came flooding back to him:
Back twenty-one years to 1978.
1978. And how it all began.
A young couple were walking along the Chelsea Embankment. It was a cold yet pleasant day, but they seemed oblivious of anything except each other. Nick Alum and his beautiful wife Laura were very much in love and enjoying each other’s company for as long as possible. Laura was about to depart to Singapore that evening on a modelling engagement, which meant that they would be parted for at least six weeks. Six weeks would be a lifetime to two people who were so very much in love.
Lieutenant Nicholas Stuart Alum, a 36 year-old serving officer in the British Army, had joined the army as a boy soldier at the age of sixteen. Now with three tours of Northern Ireland under his belt, and having passed a P Company course to qualify as a paratrooper. He had then completed an unarmed combat instructor's course, earning certificates with the highest of marks possible.
Nick had also passed a weapon instructors course. He was a marksman with various kinds of weapons, and had easily earned the prestigious 'Crossed Rifles' badge of merit. Nick was a dedicated young officer with a bright future. After having been accepted firstly into the ranks of a Company of Junior Leaders, [Or Boys-Service as it was known to some.] He then went on to serve in the Royal Green Jackets for a period of three years. After the wonderful experiences of serving with this extremely elite regiment, and attaining everything that both he and his Officer Commanding had aspired of him. Nick then applied for, and had been readily accepted into the elite ranks of the Special Air Squadron. [The S.A.S.] He was currently stationed in Stirling lines Hereford, not too far away from his own home just outside the town of Cirencester. ---He was soon to return to duty.
Both Nick and his wife darling Laura were on holiday in the city of London. Nick was on leave from the Army, for a short but much needed rest from hazardous duties. Laura was on leave of absence from her modelling job, prior to be going to the Far East for a modelling assignment. The loving and lovely couple were making the very best of their short time together. Nick and Laura were strolling along the embankment, gazing deeply into each other’s eyes like a just married couple. They were so much in love. They were more engrossed with each other, rather than noticing as to what was going on around them. The young couple had been out to lunch and decided to walk back to the hotel where they spent the last two weeks. Suddenly a scream rent the air....A woman was out wheeling a large pushchair, and had lost control of the large and unwieldy carriage containing a young girl in her teens... The extra large pushchair was freewheeling down a slope at an ever increasing speed towards the river. The young female in the pushchair had a broken leg encased in plaster. She was of about 16 years of age, and was terrified and helpless. She was screaming..'Please please help me!' 'Oh please help me!' Hitting a low wall, the pushchair upended, ejecting its passenger forward into the rushing gushing waters of the River Thames. Nick ripped off his suit jacket and without hesitation dived into the water.
It was bitterly cold, but with quick powerful strokes he swam towards the now hardly discernible figure. Suddenly it was no longer there. He dived once and then again. On the second submersion he saw in the depths of the murky waters a white shape. It was the white of the Plaster of Paris dressing on the leg of the drowning female, and it was dragging her deeper and deeper towards the strong current undertow. If she got caught in that, Nick would never be able to rescue her. He lunged strongly for the shape and grabbed her. Nick kicked quickly towards the surface. His strength was fading fast in the seeping cold, but cuddling the young nubile form to his chest, he started a one-arm stroke, all the while getting weaker. A tall young black man pushed his way through the crowd, and diving into the Thames was close to Nick side in seconds. A gift from Heaven! Aided by the strength of this newcomer, they were all soon on dry land. Laura quickly came to his side of the rescued girl, and after shooing the men away, she firstly gave the young woman mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. With a splutter, vomit gushed from the females mouth and she began to cry. She was going to be all right. Laura stripped the wet top clothes from the girl’s body, and then completely wrapped her in Nicks discarded jacket. After seeing that she was going to be looked after and returned safely home, Nick and Laura returned to the hotel by taxi minus one jacket and wallet: Nick for a hot shower and brandy, and Laura to get ready for her flight to Zurich and then Singapore. The private car from the model agency collected her on time for the trip to the airport, but not before she and Nick had made passionate love, twice in the shower and then once more on the bed. Nick and Laura climbed into the very sumptuous car provided by the Modelling agency. They were quickly and efficiently transported to Heathrow airport. They held each other in a very close embrace, each and every part of their journey. They did not want to be separated!..Not for one minute! At Heathrow it was all rush and hurry, as they were the last passengers to book in for the flight to Singapore. Amidst tears and kisses Laura departed. How would they survive six weeks apart? A very desolate Nick Alum returned to the Hotel. Nick decided that another brandy and an early night were called for. However, no sooner did he sit down with his brandy than there was a commotion in the corridor outside his suite. 'Now what?' thought a rather irate Nick?