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They Killey Joey - A Jake Collins Novel
The characters and events in this book are fictitious.
Any similarity to real persons, living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © Text Paul A. Rice
The author has asserted their moral right under the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work
Published in paperback by FeedARead.com Publishing
They Killed Joey – A Jake Collins Novel
Edition One – 2016 (Unedited)
No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written consent of the copyright holder, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
For about eighteen months I had disappeared, and by saying that, I mean I didn’t work, didn’t go and play in the ‘machine’, and made a point of keeping my contact with those who would employ me down to an absolute minimum – basically I didn’t really do much at all. No, I mostly stayed at home in Italy and simply enjoyed my life.
Bryony and I had become close, really close, and we’d spent a lot of time over the preceding months in each other’s company – her flying into Italy on several occasions, with me taking at least four trips across the Atlantic to stay with her in New York. It was cool and our relationship seemed to have found a nice, equally caring, equilibrium.
There was never any pressure from either side, with both of us just happy to have each other in our lives. It was an adventure, for sure, but not a wild and stormy one. Calm, mutually respectful and pleasurable would be how I described our time with each other.
Young Harley was sprouting up, and as I had surmised when I first met the boy, he was a little cracker. Whenever he and I were together we hit it off like nobody’s business. I knew that when he grew a bit older that young Harley and I would be able to get into a whole heap of trouble, whilst having a whole heap of fun in the process.
It was something I looked forward to immensely.
During those times when we were together in Italy, Bryony and I would spend many an hour in meandering around Pesaro. It was a pleasant town with a laid-back atmosphere and one could always be assured of somewhere nice to go, whether it was a cosy restaurant or perhaps the town square where there was always something interesting going on.
Usually it would simply be the local residents having a fun. Often times one could find three generations of the same family picnicking and having fun whilst some crazy, local guy juggled fire-sticks for the reward of a few coins dropped into his hat. We enjoyed our times spent there and the calmness of the surroundings helped form that deep bond between us.
Bryony never really pried into my past in any way that would have been intrusive. Sometimes when we were chatting, the subject of an incident that I been part of may have raised its head, and then perhaps she would ask me to elaborate.
Usually I would oblige, giving her the details of some nutty tale or another, either about my time in the military, or more lately when I had been working in some far-flung hell-hole, since having left the employment of Her Majesty.
Bryony’s reaction to such tall-tales would normally be in the shaking of her head, or perhaps she would murmur: ‘My God, JC! How the hell you made it this far in life is beyond me!’
I would nod in agreement, the realisation of my good fortune having always been a constant companion to me anyway.
‘I love these times,’ she would say, ‘you know, when you let me into your life for a little while?’
‘That’s okay,’ I replied, ‘it’s no big deal – just some crazy stuff that happened along the way, and you’re right, I guess that I am very fortunate to have stayed alive this long, stayed alive and turned out so well-balanced and normal!’ I laughed, squeezing her hand in the process.
Grinning at me, she would say ‘It has been so different to mine though, your life, so different to everyone I know, that it takes some time to realise that there are people like you in the world, living these unbelievable lives. I’m quite sure that most people haven’t a clue about what goes on out there in the real world!’
I agreed, saying I doubted that many of those people would believe even the half of it, and also that I enjoyed the opportunity to be able to share some of my past with someone special...
I’m not sure if I was in love with Bryony, but, and as much as I have made light of that particular emotion in the past, I do know that I had some deep feelings for her, and that I missed her when we were not together – maybe it was love, maybe that’s all there is to it.
Right now my life was simple. I kept myself fit as per-usual; my daily runs now becoming of half-marathon distance. Having more time on my hands had allowed me to explore Pesaro’s surrounding hills and countryside in great detail, during which time I had established some fairly-demanding running routes, upon which an old fool like me could give himself a sound, physical thrashing.
I had also taken to doing a lot of swimming in the sea, jogging down to the beach that lay just a short distance from my villa and plunging into the sparkling Adriatic Ocean. I’d swim to where my favourite espresso bar lay about two miles down the coast, and once there I would plonk my tired arse onto the end of the jetty.
Max, the owner of the Cafe, would walk over and serve me with a small cup of some sweet, black coffee. If the weather was cold, my friend would always bring me a beach robe to wrap around my shivering shoulders. If the weather was nice, which it normally was, then I would enjoy sitting in the warmth of the sun, recovering whilst gazing idly out to sea. Max and I would have a cigarette and chat for a while – he in broken English and me in shattered Italian. Then, and once I’d returned my cup to the bar, I’d dive back into the water and take the long swim home.
Thanks to all of this training I had lost weight, I was lean, muscular and tanned. I was also of clear mind. I felt at peace with myself and was, in all honesty, probably in some of the best shape I had been in for many a year. Truthfully, I think that was not only because of the physical routine I had established, but also largely in part to the stress or, in this case, the complete lack of it.
Without having to keep travelling to dangerous places in order to earn a crust whilst doing some crazy job or another, eating badly, endlessly sleeping on the floor of some shit-hole, or across the back seats of vehicles, and then constantly being on edge due to the threats that were usually ever-present on such jobs, my mind seemed to have de-cluttered itself somewhat, and that in turn allowed me to slow my whole life down.
I had plenty of money, with the interest from my savings coupled to my military pension being far more than I needed to survive every month. Yeah, at this precise moment life was good, and I was, as they say, completely chilled-out.
In my mind I wasn’t quite sure if I intended to stay ‘disappeared’ forever, and I wasn’t absolutely convinced if I was really going to be able to continue with this quiet life, or whether I needed to return to the machine and start earning a decent wage again.
It wasn’t something I dwelled upon, admittedly the thoughts did sit there quietly in the back of my mind though, but it was just that on the odd occasion I was sure I could hear them starting to fidget...
In reality it wasn’t the money that fetched about those thoughts, not really it wasn’t, because I had plenty of that. Needing to work was just an excuse, one I think I subconsciously came up to mask the fact that the habits of a lifetime are hard to break.
No, it was those habits and my damned itchy feet that led the thoughts into my head.
The bottom-dollar was that if I was to make a return to the circuit then I would need to do so, and do so soon. I was getting old, I was probably getting rusty and, knowing how this particular machine worked, I felt positive that it wouldn’t be too long before those who paid for the services of people like me would stop e-mailing me. Once that’s happened and I had to start calling them, then my slide down the ever-increasing slope would have begun.
Unbeknownst to me I would soon be receiving a call.
The only thing is that this particular message wouldn’t be one containing an offer of work. This message would be telling me that there were some people who did want to pay me, but not in cash.
No, these people wanted to pay me all right – pay me back, and pay me back in kind...
It was a Sunday, and it was late afternoon. The sun was starting its downward spiral and I was in the Porsche, taking it easy for once. The windows were down, allowing warm summer air to circulate through the car’s leather interior as I cruised back from Rimini airport.
I had just said goodbye to Bryony prior to her catching her connecting flight to Rome, before she headed back home to New York later that night. I meandered along in the summertime traffic, the 911’s engine burbling along in time with my melancholic thoughts, the latent snarl of the exhaust note being only accompanied by Bowie and his troublesome tale of one Major Tom...
As I crossed the last junction on my route, turning right to push on up the coastal road to my home town, my mobile phone received a text message, chiming away in the pocket of my jacket that I had slung casually onto the rear seats of the car. I never read text messages when I’m driving, and that rule applied to this particular one as well. The message would have to wait. Besides, I was hungry and in need of a beer. Dropping two gears, I blasted past several vehicles in front of me and let the car have her head for the last few miles on the way home.
Two hours later, having been for a shower before knocking a beef stir-fry together, I was sitting on the patio whilst casually sipping on the dregs of an ice-cold Peroni and enjoying the onset of an awesome sunset. As I contemplated taking a walk down to my local bar, merely because I missed Bry and thought that some company would be nice, the sound of my phone, chiming out its message alert tone once again, reminded me of the fact that I had forgotten to read it after arriving home.
I drained back the last of my beer, rose to my feet and taking the empty bottle headed into the kitchen for a resupply and a quick look at the message on my phone. Maybe Bry had managed to send a text from on-board the flight, which was something I doubted as she knew how much I hated receiving messages whilst driving.
‘Probably some special offer from my network provider,’ I thought disinterestedly, whilst cracking the top off a fresh beer.
Grabbing my drink and the phone, I made my way back outside to catch the last glow of the day’s sunlight as it disappeared in the west behind my house. The sea to my front had become a huge black mirror, whilst the sky above had turned into the most amazing iridescent of fiery-pink colours. It was some sight and I sat there watching the colours change for a few moments, before yet another annoying noise from that damned phone fetched my idle thoughts back to earth.
I had to read the message twice, sliding my reading glasses on for the second attempt. Staring at the screen, whilst trying to make sense of the words that lay before me, I read it again.
That was it, no more words and not even a number from whoever the text had been sent by. I scrolled back and opened the message details to see if I had missed something. There was nothing.
There were only two people I knew of who carried that name.
There was the one-legged variety of Joey Smith, my friend who now worked for one of my main employers in London, and whom I had met in the airport before deploying to Libya in 2011.
‘Joey Smith – it can’t be him,’ I thought, ‘who would want to kill Joey?’ I sat and thought about that one for a while.
Maybe he had been killed; maybe they had let him back onto the circuit and something bad had occurred. But then why would have the message been so short, why didn’t whoever sent it to me just ring instead?
Also, if it was him the message referred to, why hadn’t I read about it on one of the innumerable security groups I belonged to on the obvious, social media sites? Surely it would have been on one of those by now – those sites were pretty good a dispensing breaking news from the world’s hot-spots.
It didn’t make sense, it couldn’t have been him and that worried me. Not because I wanted that particular Joey to be dead, far from it, but because there was only one other man I knew of who carried the name ‘Joey’ in my world, and let me tell you – if he had been killed, then things were about to get very interesting.
This other man was a real person, very real, and one who also happened to be an extremely good friend of mine. In fact, he was more than a mere friend, he was a brother-in-arms, a sharer of secrets, and someone whose hands were forever stained in the same blood that lay upon my own, and also upon the hands of every other member of the team the four of us had belonged to back when we were still serving with the Special Forces.
You see, the name ‘Joey’ was a pseudonym for this man, an alias that was only ever used when we were working together, operating as a team in Northern Ireland, back in the days when the game really was brutal, back when lies were heaped upon lies and no one really knew what was going on behind the scenes – least of all us.
When we were on a task, back then, we only ever referred to each other by these aliases. It was common practice amongst us in those days, because the last thing anyone wanted was for our real names to be blurted out whilst in the middle of a contact, or ever mentioned in public whilst we were ‘across the water’, which is how most of us referred to NI back in the day.
The use of false names was done to protect us and our real identities, because some of the things that went down over there were considerably less than pleasant. We were soldiers and we were acting on behalf of the government, doing what we had been tasked to do.
Sometimes the outcomes of these missions ended in a very bloody and very brutal manner, which, should our real names have ever been known, would have had severe ramifications for all those involved. Not because what we were doing was illegal, but because public knowledge of the individuals who carried out such missions would have totally compromised us, not only as individuals, but also the unit as a whole. Any such compromise would also have put the security of future missions and our intelligence in severe jeopardy as well.
No one was ever given our real names when we were on task, and I do mean no one – not the local military unit, whose camp we would likely to be ensconced in for the duration of the task at hand, not even their Commanding Officer would know our real names.
The ever-present Police – the Royal Ulster Constabulary or RUC as they were known as back in those days. None of them would ever hear us referring to each other than anything other than our ‘team names’ and that would only ever be a first name and never a surname, which we never had anyway.
No, all anyone would ever get from us when engaged in the rare times we did mingle or have a conversation with someone outside of the team, would be: ‘Yeah, that’s no problem – go and ask Rob, or Sam, or Stevie, or...Joey.’ They knew it, we knew it, and no one cared. We endlessly practiced using those names, so much so that when we were released from the task it was sometimes quite difficult to even remember they guys’ real names.
Oh, and if you must know, I used the name ‘Sam’.
That’s how things were then, and we became experts at this particular part of the game. But, no matter what, when we were on task we remained a group of nameless, and sometimes almost faceless, individuals.
We were a force to be reckoned with back then, an extremely efficient and professional force, and we needed protecting from any and all entities that would seek to undermine us, or whatever it was that the people in charge needed us to do on their behalf.
Yeah, we had to be good all right, very good and right at the top of our game as well. All of us had to be trained and willing to do what was needed, and to do it exactly when it needed to be done.
We had to be like that because the IRA was also extremely efficient. They were probably amongst the most proficient and well organised terrorist outfit in the world, and at the time they were also amongst our most deadly of enemies.
So, if ‘Joey’ had been whacked, then there were only very few sources that could have sent me such information, and they had to be linked to my past, those crazy days spent carrying out covert operations in NI. And if this was the case, then there were only a very few people who would, or could, have been able to associate me with the aforementioned, and allegedly demised, Joey.
I placed my mobile phone onto the table and took a long swig of my latest beer. My mind was starting to whir into action, and a little bit too slowly for my liking. Taking a deep breath, I sat still for a few minutes and tried to organise my thoughts.
Deciding upon my next move, I picked up the phone and started thumbing through its electronic address book. One short call to a number in London later, and I had established that the Joey Smith, my one-legged warrior of a friend, was indeed alive and well and currently on task in Rwanda. Apparently all was in order with him and he was busy establishing himself as a bit of a specialist in that particular neck-of-the-wood.
‘Right,’ I thought, ‘that means this might be something else entirely!’
This situation had arisen so unexpectedly that I was still, mentally at least, on the back foot – I needed a plan, and fast.
However, first-things-first, Jake...
Sliding the phone into the pocket of my shorts, I rose from the table and made my way inside the villa, heading at a brisk pace for the cellar staircase. If Joey had been killed then I was heading in the only sensible direction that someone like me, who finds themselves in a situation like this, should be heading.
I was going to make sure that my weapons were in good order.
My gun cabinet lay in the cellar, right next to my wine rack.
The metal cabinet was a simple affair, and once I had twirled the correct numbers into the circular combination lock, I opened the double doors and proceeded to check out my toys.
Owning a gun legally in Italy is a fairly simple affair, and once you have the correct licences then you are good to go. I had applied for the ‘sporting licence’ several years ago, and must confess that beforehand I’d made a point of introducing myself to a relation of my friendly barman, Max, whose brother just so happened to be the head-honcho of the local Police department.
Yes, I do admit that at the time I possessed an ulterior motive, in that I wanted to purchase some guns for which I needed a licence, and since the Police Chief can be of immense help with the application process, I knew that he was the very man I needed to be nice to.
Anyway, my charm, wit and good-looks must have overwhelmed Andrea, because within two days of my firearms application form being dropped off at the police station, I was in possession of the relevant licence. I don’t think that the fact I had previously bought the guy several beers and a steak dinner, or that I let him loose in my car for an hour, held any sway in his decision to speed the process up whatsoever...
However, since then, Andrea and I had become quite good friends and we’d often meet up for a beer or two down at Max’s place. Also, Andrea always made sure that anytime that I was away from the property his men kept and extra eye on my villa for me. It was a win-win situation as far as I was concerned.
So, using my licence I had purchased two shotguns of Italian design, both of them sporting double-barrels of the over-and-under type, and I had enough cartridges for them to start a small war with. I also had plenty of ammo for my legally owned Beretta M9 automatic pistol and for my beautiful Heckler & Koch 770 .308, which is a semi-automatic hunting rifle, and an extremely reliable one at that.
To be honest, I am definitely not what could be even remotely considered as a ‘gun nut’, not in any way whatsoever. I’ve been trained endlessly in the use of firearms and I’ve had to use them on far too many occasions. But drooling over them just isn’t my scene – they’re a tool and as far I am concerned that’s the end to it.
No, I think that I just had the need to have some weapons around, as being unarmed has never been something that sat easy with me. I guess it was those old habits rearing their heads once again.
Anyway, after spending less than ten minutes checking out the guns, and making sure they were all loaded, I removed the Beretta pistol and an extra three magazines, along with two boxes of cartridges, and placed them on top of my work bench that lay on the opposite side of the gun cabinet. I locked the cabinet and returned upstairs with the pistol and cartridges in hand.
It had been a while, but I was just going to have to re-drill myself into the habit of not having a weapon at less than an arm’s distance away from me at all times, not until I had discovered what the hell this latest situation was all about.
After having retrieved my beer from the patio, I went back inside the house to sit in the darkened corner of the living room, sipping on my drink whilst letting my mind go over the situation in slow time.
In all honesty, I knew that there was really only one person I needed to call – Rory.
He had been on the same team as Joey, whose real name happened to be Chris, and me. Us three, along with Ken, had been on the same team more often than not, and the four of us had become like family, like brothers.
Reaching for my mobile, I opened the address book and started looking for Rory’s number. Having found it, and just as I was about to call him, Rory sent me a text.
That guy, he must have a mind-reader as it wasn’t the first time he’d contacted me just as I was about to call him. I knew it was Rory, because for some reason he had resorted to using his team name.
‘This is Rob. Do you still have that other phone, the one ending in 361?’ Unlike the previous message I’d received, the sender’s number was displayed this time, and it was a German number.
‘Roger, but I have to find it first...’ was the reply I sent, watching as the ‘message received’ icon flashed on my screen.
‘Okay, call me on that as soon as you can.’
‘Will do, be with you ASAP!’ I pushed the send text button, slipped the Beretta into the waistband at the back of my shorts, and headed for the upstairs to where my day-sack and all of its contents lay.
Unzipping my old friend, I dumped the contents of the day-sack onto the mattress of the spare bed – quickly rummaging through them until I found the green cloth bag with its draw cord pulled tight. Loosening the cord I slid out the plethora of phones, spare batteries and charging leads that had lain untouched therein for nearly two years.
I picked up the Nokia that I required, being ably assisted by the fact I always have the particular phone’s number taped to the back of the device, and that’s because when I was working there would always be an endless supply of clients with whom I needed to share my number, and it’s far quicker to just show them the back of the phone than trying to remember which phone I was using, and then risking an error whilst telling them the number.
The system had worked well for me for a long time, and was of a big help right now, being as there were currently five different mobile phones in a heap on the bed. Having located the correct one, I then spent a few seconds in matching up a charging lead, fiddling with the phone until I found one that fitted. With the items in hand, I headed back down stairs to the sitting room.
Amazingly, when I switched the little Nokia on the battery-life indicator showed that just over twenty-five percent of its power remained. Taking no chances, I put the device on charge anyway, and then, whilst looking at the call register on my iPhone, proceeded to key in the German telephone number that Rory had only recently texted me from.
Rory answered immediately, saying: ‘Sam, how are you?’
Catching his drift, I replied: ‘Good, Rob – what’s happening, mate?’
‘I dunno really, but it’s not good either way.’ Rory paused, before saying: ‘Listen, we need to meet – where are you right now?’
‘By the sea, you know, at the normal place?’ I knew Rory would see through my veiled speech because he’d been to Italy to stay with me on more than one occasion. In fact, when I thought about it, there was only Rory, Jim Dawson, and Bryony – alongside little Harley – who had any clue as to where I lived, and that at this precise moment was a bonus.
He did know, and with the relief almost palpable in his voice, he said: ‘That’s great, does anyone else know about that place?’
‘No, just the woman and her kid – they’ve been here. Oh, and ‘Happy Jim’, too,’ I said, chuckling.
‘Is she straight, do you trust her?’ Rory asked.
‘Yeah, about as straight as they come – I’m sure of that.’
‘Right,’ he said, ‘I can’t talk over these means, but I’ll be with you in a day or so, we need a serious chit-chat me old mate, a serious fucking chit-chat!’
‘Yeah, that would be good – do you need picking up, or something?’ I said, glancing down at my watch in the process. It was now 21:30hrs and I wondered if there were any further flights arriving at Rimini that night.
‘Nah, I’ll make own way there,’ he said, ‘I may be there tomorrow if I can get my shit together, but most likely the day after – Tuesday, yeah, that’s more likely. You know what my admin is like, mate?’ He laughed softly and I heard the stress leaving his voice.
‘Are you okay, Rob – is everything cool?’ I asked.
‘Yeah, I’m good but this one is a bit of a drama, mate. I can’t figure anything out properly. That’s why I need to come to your place, two heads will be better than one, you know?’
‘Okay, that’s good,’ I said, ‘everything is cool here and I’m lying low, just about, but that’s sometimes hard to do when you’re as good-looking as I am, you know how it is, mate?’
Rory laughed again, saying: ‘Yeah, well if being good-looking raises your profile, then you must be fucking invisible, you ugly git!’
We shared a few more seconds of banter, before the seriousness of the situation brought about an end to our frivolity.
Getting back to the issue at hand, Rory said: ‘Right, I’m off – I’ll see you in a couple of days, okay?’
‘Yeah, I look forward to that,’ I replied.
‘Make sure that you watch your back, Sam,’ he said, seriously.
‘I will do, and you do the same, Rob!’
‘Always do, mate, always do... Right, catch you later big boy, try and behave, oh yeah, and leave this phone switched on, okay?’
With that, the line went dead.
Getting up from the couch, I took a walk around my house in order to secure all of the doors and windows, which is something I am in the habit of doing as a routine anyway, but I went and made extra sure tonight. Having done that, I made my way into the cellar and once more paid a visit to the gun cabinet, retrieving one of my shotguns and a fist-full of cartridges in the process, which I proceeded to take upstairs and place in the master bedroom.
With those jobs taken care of, I helped myself to a fresh beer and went to sit at my computer desk, firing-up my laptop and then removing a few pieces of clean paper from the printer tray. I then spent the next few hours searching the internet for any news or links that would lead me to the unfortunate and mysterious death of one Chris Edmonds, otherwise known as Joey.
After two hours I gave up, there literally wasn’t one single thing anywhere on the internet relating to his demise. Even that in itself was a mystery, and one I couldn’t solve on my own. So, not being the slightest bit tired, I then decided to sit there with pen in hand and, using those few pieces of paper from the printer, I mapped each and every one of the missions that the team and I had been involved in during our time in NI.
I sometimes struggled with the dates and times as the mists of time had blurred my recollections of the various incidents somewhat. Also, if the truth is to be fully known, I’d tried really hard over the years to put some of the ghosts from my past out of my mind, and as a result the task of recalling them now, here tonight whilst sitting on my own in my silent villa with only the distant sound of the surf, thundering onto the beach a few hundred yards away, the task was an onerous one.
After all, no one ever said that raising the dead was easy...
Raising The Dead...