Power and criminality at the highest level
Murderers walk free from court, juries are nobbled, spooks leak secrets, police fix investigations, prisoners escape, and the media stays silent. Zero One is dominant. One man controls it.
A lingering love affair, Harry Fingle’s discovery of the name of Zero One’s chief, and the breakout from jail of Harry’s nemesis–the feared Russian assassin Grigoriy Nabutov–make for a tense and emotional conclusion to the trilogy.
Pain sliced through every part of my body, like a surgeon dragging a scalpel slowly down my torso. No limb, organ, or sinew escaped. Words could not describe the agony. I wanted to scream, but my mouth stayed closed. Instead, I grunted and made odd, coughing noises from the back of my throat, and felt my own sticky saliva–smelling of blood and vomit–dribble from my mouth and down my cheeks. All around me seemed hazy: grey, like fog and mist. The vomit-inducing stench of disinfectant filled the air. Ghostly shapes wafted around in the blur. Sometimes they moved close and became still, then made a noise and went away. I had no idea where I was or what was happening. Nothing made any sense.
It’s the end of life. Death beckons. Yes, take me. I’ll put up no fight. No more pain…
‘His name is Harry Fingle. He’s forty-one.’
‘Are you his next of kin? Do you know his address?’
‘I’m just an old friend. He’s an investigative journalist for The Morning Times. He lives in Chiswick. I’ll check his address.
‘We’d been out on a bender. He’d just had some bad news and wanted someone to talk to. We had a lot to drink, and were crossing a road to make for a restaurant. He was walking behind me. I heard the roar of a car’s engine and turned to see this big, black car appear from nowhere, driving fast, and heading directly for us. I dived out of the way and tried to grab Harry, but was too late. It knocked him down, ran him over, and drove away. It was ghastly. There was blood everywhere.’ Max put his hand to his head then covered his mouth. ‘I need to sit down. I feel I’m goner be sick.’ He shook his head. ‘This is shit.’
‘Sure,’ the young, female doctor replied and ushered Max to a lone, plastic chair against the wall of the emergency reception bay where Harry had been rushed from the ambulance. ‘Here, take this.’ The doctor handed Max a plastic vomit bag. ‘Can I get you some water?’
Max stroked his beard, swept his hand through his curly, black hair, and rubbed his forehead. He looked the doctor in the eyes. ‘Will he live?’
The doctor, who was in her mid-twenties and had just graduated from medical school, touched the back of her tied-back, blonde hair, fumbled for a moment with the instruments in the top left pocket of her green, stained tunic, and looked at Max. She shrugged a little. ‘I hope so. We’ll do our best, but he’s in a bad way.’
Warm, fetid air met Max as he pushed back the door to his apartment an hour later. It was midnight. The outside temperature was 21° C. His flat–like most London properties–had no air conditioner and felt hot and stuffy. He didn’t seem to notice; he dumped his leather bag by the front door, made for the kitchen, poured a large whisky, gulped it down, poured another one, and stood staring out of the window at the clear night sky. After a short while, he walked back slowly to where he’d left his bag and retrieved his phone.
Harry’s two parents were dead. He didn’t have a brother or sister. Max knew of no other relatives. The hospital authorities had taken down Max’s contact details and said they would list him as the de facto next of kin until someone else–a blood relation–appeared. Until that happened, Max would be the first person the hospital would inform of any change in Harry’s condition. He didn’t like it. It felt like a huge pressure. He scrolled through his contacts for someone he could talk to about Harry.
Max had been living in the Middle East for several years and had only met up with Harry again two years earlier. He knew few of his close friends. He scratched his head, dug his hands into his pockets, and started to pace around the room again. He stopped and looked down at his phone.
‘Amie.’ He stared at her number. He’d had a long-standing relationship with her. She’s now married, but he said they’re still close friends and he still saw her a lot.
Max shook his head and scratched his beard. It’s too late to call her, he thought. It’ll have to wait ‘til the morning. He screwed up his eyes, pursed his lips, and stared at his phone.
‘Is that Amie?’ he asked a few minutes later.
‘Who’s that?’ a sleepy voice replied. ‘It’s past midnight. What is this? Who are you?’
‘Look, I’m sorry to disturb you. You don’t know me. I’m a friend of Harry’s. There’s been a terrible accident.’
‘What’s happened? Is Harry alright?’
‘No. I’m afraid not. He was knocked over by a hit-and-run driver earlier, and is in St Thomas’s Hospital. He’s in a bad way.’
‘Oh my God. Not again. I’m going to see him.’
‘I wouldn’t. He’s being operated on right now, and then will go into intensive care. He won’t be able to see any visitors for some time, if he…’
‘If he what?’
Max put his thumb and index finger up to his forehead and squeezed his skin a few times. ‘If he survives the operation. It’s touch-and-go.’
‘Oh my God, no. Wh–at’s ha–ppened to him?’ Amie asked.
‘He has broken both his legs, cracked some ribs, has a lacerated back, a broken wrist, smashed teeth, and many severe facial and head injuries.’
‘Oh, poor Harry,’ Amie sobbed. ‘Is he conscious?’
‘Just, drifting in and out, but they don’t think he knows what’s going on.’
‘When did it happen?’
‘About an hour and a half ago. We’d been out on a bit of a bender, and were crossing the road to go to an Indian restaurant. Harry had told me the news about his ex-friend Philip.’
Amie didn’t reply for a few seconds, then said, ‘Yeah, it’s terrible, isn’t it. He’s told me. After everything Harry’s been through, and now this.
‘Who am I talking to, by the way?’
‘I’m Max, an old friend of Harry’s. We used to work together on The Morning News. Then I went off to the Middle East for some years. We met up again when I came back, two years ago.’
‘Max, yes, I know you. We met at your good-bye party when Harry and I were…’ Amie didn’t finish her sentence. She burst into tears.
‘Sorry, Max. I’ve got to go,’ she sobbed. ‘Keep me informed.’