tagNon-EroticNot Passing Go! Ch. 04

Not Passing Go! Ch. 04


The fourth in this occasional series of self-contained stories about "Staff" Daniel Matthews and his family.


"Catch!" The four-year-old girl giggles, throwing the light beach ball from the sparkling pool.

Freddie reaches up from his electric wheelchair, easily catching the ball one-handed, his head and bare shoulders sprayed with a light shower of warm water.

"Hey, careful Mickie! I'm trying to keep my ears dry!"

"Sorry, Uncle Freddie, I forgot." She sheepishly tugs her lower lip with a hooked finger.

Grinning, Freddie tosses the ball to Mickie's quieter twin sister Tina, at the back of the shallow end. The ball lands in front and splashes her, turning her smile at Mickie's antics into a delightful giggle. Freddie checks they're safe playing, before switching his attention to the split screen on the tablet mounted on his wheelchair.

Freddie's a handsome man, always a hit with the ladies, despite losing his legs, one above, the other below the knee. In the five months since getting his carbon fibre running legs, he's escorted a string of eligible ladies to Bahamian nightspots.

Freddie was my special forces unit's comms expert when he lost his legs a decade ago and I carried him back to base. Since then he's used his Liverpool University arts degree to good effect, carving a shadowy career as a forger. Can a double amputee competently and trustworthily guard my home and family, especially when my wife is cute but dumb?

Absolutely! I trust Freddie with the lives of my wife, twin girls and me. They weren't actually "my" twins yet, the adoption papers tied up in UK red tape. But Freddie's forging skills have included the cute little mites on half a dozen of "my" passports.

Out of the corner of his eye, the first of three armed intruders, that Freddie has been monitoring on his tablet, enter the pool area.

"Signing off, Staff," Freddie says, with a wink, covering the images on his screen with wallpaper. Freddie never calls me Danny, always by my former rank.

From thousands of miles away, I view the same Bahamian CCTV images on my laptop. Freddie's in jogging bottoms, his shrapnel-scarred torso soaking up mid-morning Caribbean sun by the pool. Behind Freddie my wife Agnes, a lean, blonde Nordic beauty, is oiled up and sunning on a comfortably padded lounger. I hear my splashing girls through my left earpiece. I calmly see the drama regarding three large men armed with pistols unfolding, Freddie raising his hands aloft and Agnes gathering the terrified girls to her beside the lounger, wrapping them up over their necks in thick bath towels.

I twiddle my thumbs, waiting for the phone call, ignoring my ice-cold, non-alcoholic drink. I enjoy booze but never when working.

I'm sitting poolside too, in late afternoon sunshine, flesh sizzling beside the Black Sea, surrounded by the splashing sounds of slightly older children, with another beautiful woman sunning herself within easy reach. I still feel the residue of sunscreen on my fingers after rubbing lotion into her back twenty minutes ago. I'll give her another ten before reminding her to turn over.

I clench my fists at the villa scenes and sounds in my earpiece, before my mobile phone chirps. I let it go three rings.


"Dat Daniel Matthews?" asks a deep Russian voice through my right earpiece.

"Speaking," I reply, cheerfully.

"Mr Matthews, vu don't know me but mine name's Bogdan-"

"-Kollikov, I slightly knew your brother, Benny."

"Ah, zen you know vot dis call's about, da?"

"I guess so, but why not explain it to me anyway?"

"Mine brudder's property... is mine."

"Not so. I've paid for it in pain and time served; excepting certain provisions I've made for his immediate family."

"Ah, yes, da 'nonymous donation of title deeds to the Moscow kommunalka (apartment) of mine sister-in-law, an' monthly bearer bonds' income; much 'preciated, but..."

"There is always a 'but', Kollikov; continue."

"I want what's stolen from poor Benny and... for his death... your head, or..."

"Or?" I ask.

"We're on conference call with mine guys at Benny's villa, your wife an' babies hostage," Kollikov says, barking an order, "Make her talk, Boris!"

"Hello, dear!" Agnes says brightly. I told you she was cute but dumb.

"Hi, sweetheart, sit tight. Do what Freddie says." I view my three girls, wrapped in large bath towels over the kids' heads and up to Agnes' neck, cuddling behind the overturned lounger.

Mickie mutters in passable Russian, "My Dad's gonna be sooo pissed at you guys!"

While pleased at Freddie's admirable tutoring, he was always so much better than me at Russian and those kids' brains are like sponges, I tut-tut at her bad language.

Kollikov interrupts my thought, "You 'ave two days, Matthews. Surrender Benny's Swiss bank account an' passvord. Bring deeds to Moscow. Uzzervise your family an' your pathetic cripple vill suffer pain before slow death."

"No need for violence, Kollikov, except towards your four expendable men," I insist, adding after Freddie's whispered information in my left earphone, "And their driver. First check my email message to you and click on the URL."

"Wha'?" came back his puzzled reply.

"Now, Kollikov!" I order with a crisp bark.

Moments elapse, while I pan the laptop camera around the backyard of Kollikov's dacha, framing his three pre-teenagers at play, his sunbathing wife. I tap her shoulder and she rolls over.

"Bogdan's on the line, Sasha," I say in my best Russian, coached by Freddie, "Say 'Hi, honey', won't you, before we conduct our business in English?"

"Hi, honey!" she laughs, her only English words, echoed by Kollikov's laughing kids in the background. The young ones pick up English so quickly, so I'll have to keep my voice low.

Sasha waves her right hand before the laptop camera, displaying a ring with an enormous old fashioned square cut emerald. Twenty years ago, valued at four million roubles, according to Benny's provenance documentation found in his safety deposit box alongside the heirloom, probably worth ten times that now.

Angry Kollikov's voice is seething, but clearly defeated and deflated, he asks in a croak, "How?"

I wasn't telling him that Freddie hacked his emails, tapped phones and cell phones, discovering the assassin team's plans, plus detailed security arrangements at Kollikov's dacha. Actually, Benny's old Bahamian villa was already sold while my new one was being readied. That is on an isolated former French colony island, where my enemies wouldn't find us. Meanwhile, his dacha guards were cabled-tied to chairs in the kitchen by one of my ex-NCOs. The emerald, Benny's provenance and Freddie's coached script easily had Sasha eating out of my hand.

I hear Freddie in my left ear verbally confirming images showing on my screen that the intruders had been dealt with efficiently.

"How's unimportant," I reply to Kollikov, "I mean no harm to your family, so leave mine unharmed. Your five men in the Bahamas however, are dead, the price you pay for attempting to frighten us. All the time I have been here I have not threatened your loved ones. I came here as an old friend, and was invited in as a guest while returning your family heirloom to where it belongs. But that is all I am returning, the rest are the fortunes of war, the price Benny paid for his betrayal. Agree to a truce and I won't hunt you down and destroy your dynasty utterly."

"Mine brudder's murder must be avenged, Matthews," he seethes, "Family honour, understand?"

"I didn't murder him, Bogdan. Check the autopsy and you'll know this to be true. He was gut-shot by Dmitry 'Poppemoff', before Benny's wife Susan and both her boyfriends died in Benny's booby-trapped car. When you examine the facts you will realise that Benny avenged his own death."

"Ah," Kollikov pauses for thought. "Mr Matthews, I 'preciate returnin' our emerald, an' your... careful attention to mine family. Are mine dacha guards alive?"

"Restrained but unharmed, after all, they did not threaten me or my family. They will be released shortly, once I have your assurances. Your reaction to Benny's death was natural and expected, but once explanations are exchanged and accepted then I expect that to be an end to the matter. I'll stay here for dinner, Bogdan, it would be rude to leave your family's hospitality immediately following the completion of our... business. Meanwhile my family will safety... relocate."

"Of course." Kollikov replies.

"You should visit here more often, Bogdan; Sasha says she misses her 'Danovitch'. All rest, no play... as they say."

"I bear that in mind, Daniel. Goodbye." Click.

"Freddie?" I ask.



"Clinical, Staff, everyone's safe."

"Phew! Thanks, Freddie; any probs?"

"No. The silenced machine pistol in the wheelchair armrest released easy and effectively. My new carbon fibre legs worked brilliantly. The poolside thugs didn't even get a shot off, but Agnes kept the twins down behind the Kevlar towels and reinforced lounger until I cleaned up. They're packing upstairs now.

"What about the other Russkies?" I could replay the CCTV, but then I prefer Freddie's professional reassurance.

"I surprised and dropped the guard at the gate. Driver managed to get up into third by the time I caught up. He damaged some trees and bushes when he left the road. I'll tidy up the vegetation with the buzz saw. Corporals Howells and Davies are busy pouring concrete, completing the new boat dock for the new owners, giving Bahamas 'some corner of a foreign field that is forever Russia'."

"Ha! I forgot you read Kipling in hospital."

"Rupert Brooke, Staff. Anyway, after dragging the hire car to the crusher and removing the cameras, we'll board your yacht and sail to our new home by Thursday or Friday."

"What would I do without you, Freddie?"

"You'd be completely stuffed, Staff," he chuckles, "When you comin' home?"

"I'll pop over to the island Friday for a long weekend. I've got Probation in London tomorrow afternoon. Just three more weeks before officially released and I can apply for an official passport."

"Ah, passports. We've got three new Russian and one Ukrainian that I can er... recycle."

"Shouldn't there be five-?"

"Breast pocket, Staff, 9mm hole; scarlet staining, plus er well... I now need to replace the old pool filter before the new owners arrive."

"That's the trouble with moving house, Freddie, sometimes it can be messy."

To be continued.

Watch out for the fifth story, "Back to School".

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