The lights of the town suddenly disappeared as the trawler swept past a small island lying offshore. As they emerged from the lee of the island the lights appeared again, closer and brighter. A massive cruise liner festooned with coloured lights was moored against a distant quay. Captain Montaldi was at the wheel again with Scorpion now leaning against the wheelhouse door, smoking another cigarette.
Jake wished he could get out onto the deck, but when he made a move towards the door, Scorpion caught his eye and patted the box in his shirt pocket, making the glass phials rattle. His meaning was very clear.
With Scorpion at the door, escape was impossible. The air was full of cigarette smoke, but that was perhaps better than the powerful smell of fish that the others were having to endure in the hold. If he possessed Sam’s martial arts skills he might be able to tackle these two men. But he didn’t and, for all he knew, the captain might have a weapon handy, so it was best to bide his time.
They passed the end of the island and the old fortress lay in the darkness directly ahead, a few lights giving away its position.
‘This is like coming home,’ Scorpion remarked and Captain Montaldi laughed politely.
‘Ja, man, this little harbour used to be home to Venetian galleys. And it was our base ‘til we found the monastery. Right under everyone’s noses, hey?’
Jake stared ahead through the windscreen. He had been to the old fortress twice before, once on a family outing soon after they had arrived on Corfu, and more recently helping with a group from Thunder Bay on an orienteering course. It occupied an entire peninsula, hundreds of metres long, turned into an island by the excavation of a canal when the Venetians ruled Corfu five hundred years ago. There was only one road entrance, by way of a bridge from the town over the canal to the fortified main gate. Jake remembered being told on the guided tour that it had held out during a long siege by the Ottoman Turks in the 1530’s. An impressive but somewhat neglected monument to past empires, there were two prominent hills, one called the sea tower and the other the land tower, topped, surprisingly, by a small lighthouse and a giant metal cross. On the northern side of the peninsula, a narrow harbour, Mandraki, snuggled at the base of the massive masonry walls.
‘Up on the hill, there, the old British Hospital, built in eighteen hundred and whenever. Abandoned years ago, but we fixed up a little corner for ourselves and nobody noticed.’
‘The Boss make sure nobody they notice,’ the captain commented, admiration in his voice as the trawler slipped through the harbour entrance. A forest of yacht masts spiked upwards and an enormous private yacht was moored under the ancient Venetian walls. There were a few lights at low level along the quayside but the hillside behind lay in darkness.
‘She is beautiful,’ the captain remarked, eyeing the private yacht.
‘The boss’s new toy.’ Scorpion said. ‘Don’t scrape the paint,’ he cautioned as the trawler pulled in to the quay.
The yacht was magnificent. Sleek and streamlined, its modern lines contrasted starkly with the stone walls of the ancient fortress. She lay in almost total darkness, the Greek flag hanging limply from a short mast at the stern, the clear blue and white of the ensign muddied by the sodium lighting. Jake looked curiously as the name painted on the stern came into view. He could see the first four letters: SYNT.
The trawler bumped gently against the quay and the two deckhands jumped ashore with mooring ropes.
‘Carlo, let’s get these kids off here and onto the ship and then you go like hell,’ Scorpion ordered. ‘I want the trawler out of Greek waters as soon as possible.’
Jake wasn’t listening. He was staring through the side window at the name, now fully revealed: SYNTAGMA. Syntagma was a ship!
The captain encircled Jake’s wrist with his long thin fingers. ‘Come call your friends,’ he said and led him along the deck to the door in the forepeak.
‘Me and my little beauties are right behind you,’ Scorpion rumbled and the hairs on the back of Jake’s neck rose as he pictured the blowpipe.
The deckhands had secured the mooring lines and Gold Tooth hurried across to open the door. Jake called into the darkness below, ‘Hey, guys, come on out. Liv, Ruby, Doug, Sam!’
There was confusion as some of the other passengers started up the metal ladder and Greasy Hair reached through the door and pushed them down. One forced his way up until his head emerged, but shrank back when he saw Scorpion on the deck.
‘Be quiet, y’hear?’ Scorpion told them in a menacing whisper.
Doug came up first, reaching back through the door to help Sam. Eventually all four of them were standing on deck, looking curiously at their new surroundings, Sam still groggy and with an arm across Doug’s shoulders for support.
Scorpion had a sports bag in one hand and his blowpipe in the other. ‘You kids see this? I really love to use it. You saw what happened back then, so if anyone wants a sting from Scorpion, go on and give me an excuse.’
The door was secured and Scorpion, Captain Montaldi and Greasy Hair, who had armed himself with a knife, herded them off the trawler and onto the quayside. Doug and Jake helped Sam who recovered quickly in the chill pre-dawn air.
‘The hold was horrible,’ Ruby whispered to Jake as they walked along slowly.
‘They’re illegal migrants,’ Doug said quietly.
‘Yeah,’ Jake replied. ‘I should’ve worked it out before.’
‘One guy told me he paid ten thousand dollars for the trip,’ Ruby said and Jake whistled.
‘You lot be quiet, and don’t even think about running,’ Scorpion told them as he led them along the stone quayside. It was as though he could read Jake’s mind.
The gangplank was as impressive as the ship herself, with polished wooden handrails and white canvas side pieces bearing the ship’s name. Gold Tooth was carrying the cool box and as he got to the top of the gangplank, a guard holding a stubby machine gun appeared out of the shadows on the deck. He was taken aback to see the small crowd below him on the quayside.
‘Hello, Andreas,’ Scorpion called. ‘Are the captain and the rest of the crew still ashore?’
‘Yes, Scorp, the only crew here is me and him,’ Andreas called back, indicating another guard behind him in the shadows. Gold Tooth deposited the cool box on the deck and hurried back down to the quay.
‘More guests for you to look after,’ Scorpion announced as he prodded the first of them up the gangplank.
They were soon lined up on the side deck, a guard on each side. Scorpion went up the gangplank last.
‘Okay, I’ll handle it from here, Carlo,’ he called down to the trawler captain. ‘Head for Brindisi and SMS me when you get there.
‘Now, boys and girls,’ Scorpion said with false joviality as Captain Montaldi and his crewmen hurried back to the trawler, ‘you’re going on a cruise. It’s a luxury yacht as you can see, but I’m sorry to say you’ll be locked in one of the crew’s cabins. But, if I’m not mistaken, it has an en-suite shower and toilet. You’re from an adventure school, so treat this like a big adventure.’
He opened the door opposite the top of the gangplank and led the way inside with a peremptory, ‘Wipe your feet.’
Jake forgot their predicament for a few moments as he took in the ship’s interior. They were in a huge lounge that took up almost the full width of the vessel. It had been designed to impress visitors, with a cream sculpted deep-pile carpet, heavy blue curtains and cream leather sofas grouped in two areas with small potted palms behind them. Crystal light fittings adorned the ceiling and oil paintings of old sailing ships took up the free wall space.
Jake took it all in and in particular noted the doors; he was totally focussed again on escape. Andreas was standing at the door they had come through, his weapon loosely cradled in his hands. He didn’t look the type who might hesitate to use it. There was a similar door out onto the deck opposite, a door in the centre of the forward wall and finally an open door marked ‘crew only’ in the far corner. The other guard was waiting there, clearly anticipating that they would be taken that way. He was a scrawny guy with a sour face, armed with a knife hanging in a sheath on his belt. What he lacked in muscle, he made up for in a mean expression.
They heard the muted sound of the trawler engine and the ship rocked slightly as it went by.
‘I’ll show you to your cabin,’ Scorpion said sarcastically, leading the way to the crew only door. The ship was markedly less luxurious beyond the door but still spacious and well fitted. Their footsteps rang on a metal staircase and Jake noticed the bright lighting and the smell of fresh paint everywhere. They reached a corridor on the deck below with white painted doors along it at regular intervals. Were Zoë and Taki somewhere down here?
The guard followed them with a bunch of keys. As they waited for him to open one of the doors, Scorpion noticed Doug’s bruised half-shut eye. ‘Gee, some girl been giving you grief, hey?’ he asked.
Jake prayed that Doug wouldn’t unthinkingly make some comment about what had happened but after a moment Scorpion started chuckling at his own remark. Doug smiled weakly and the guard threw open the door.
‘Not enough beds,’ Liv said as she walked into the cabin. It was sparsely furnished with two pairs of bunk beds, lockers and two wardrobes. ‘Four beds for five of us.’
Jake smiled despite their dire predicament. It seemed they were about to be sold into slavery and Liv was stressing over the sleeping arrangements.
‘Get in there,’ Scorpion rumbled, the blowpipe never far from his lips.
There was a sudden loud noise as Andreas hurried down the staircase, his army-style boots clattering on the metal treads. He called out anxiously, ‘Car coming, Scorpion.’
Scorpion swore. ‘Coming here?’ he asked sharply.
‘Aye aye, sir,’ Andreas replied as he turned and thundered back up the stairs.
‘Get them all in there,’ Scorpion told the young guard. ‘Don’t waste time, slam the door and come upstairs. I’ll keep the keys.’
He hurried after Andreas muttering, ‘Who the hell can this be?’
The guard had drawn his knife and waved it to urge the last of them inside.
‘And there is someone here already,’ Liv said, noticing a sleeping figure in one of the bunks.
‘Who is it?’ Jake asked quickly.
Ruby sensed his urgent tone and pulled the bedcovering back. ‘It’s a guy,’ she reported. ‘With a bruised face.’
‘Taki!’ Jake shouted, and the person in the bunk sat up sleepily.
They were now all in the cabin and the guard was starting to close the door.
‘Don’t let him shut it,’ Jake called out and Doug, who was standing just inside the door, wrenched it open again. The guard reacted angrily and raised his knife threateningly. Doug let go of the door and backed away, but Liv, half behind the door, was holding onto the inside handle. The guard tugged at the door, baffled that it wouldn’t budge.
‘Sam, sort this guy like you did Warren,’ Jake said quickly.
Taki called out something in Greek and the guard let go of the handle and looked up, startled.
Sam raised his right knee, spun on his left heel and shot out his right leg in a tae kwondo side kick.
Because he was shorter, Sam’s foot was travelling slightly upwards as his heel impacted his opponent’s stomach. The young man collapsed like a deck chair, his knife clattering on the hard wooden floor of the cabin. Jake winced involuntarily as the guard’s head hit the doorframe as he went down.
‘That was a yop cha kee,’ Sam commented with satisfaction.
‘Brilliant, Sam and Taki,’ Jake reached up and embraced his friend. ‘What the heck did you say to him?’
‘I said ‘hands up’,’ Taki replied, his bruised face split by a wide grin.
Jake grinned too. He was so pleased to see Taki again although horrified by his bruised face and black eyes. ‘Do you know where Zoë is?’ he asked, but Taki shook his head, serious again.
‘We must get out of here and raise the alarm,’ Jake said. ‘We’re at the harbour next to the old fortress. The town centre is outside the fortress but the gates are pretty far from here.’
‘I think we’d best split up,’ said Liv. ‘That’ll give us more chances.’
‘Agreed,’ Jake said. ‘Each of you pair up with someone. Quickly help me get this bloke into the cabin and let’s go.’
Doug and Jake dragged the unconscious guard, who was lying across the door threshold, fully into the cabin. Jake checked his pockets, hoping to find a mobile phone, but there wasn’t one.
‘Come on Taki,’ Jake said urgently. The novice monk was still in his bunk with the bedclothes pulled up to his neck.
‘I’ve got no clothes on,’ Taki said sheepishly and Jake grinned again.
‘We can’t wait, okay? Follow us and slam the door locked behind you. Scorpion went off with the keys.’
They conferred at the bottom of the staircase leading up to the ‘crew only’ door. Doug pointed at Ruby who nodded assent; they were a team.
‘Okay Sam?’ Liv asked and he nodded.
‘I’ll stay on my own,’ Jake said.
‘The two heavies are up there,’ Doug said, indicating the stairs. Without another word, they set off together the only other way, down the brightly lit corridor. The doors on each side were locked except one, which was an empty cabin similar to the one they had so nearly been locked in.
‘I expect your sister is behind one of these doors,’ Ruby remarked, echoing Jake’s thoughts.
The corridor ended at another white door, and Doug carefully tried the handle. It was unlocked, and he pushed it open slowly. Satisfied that the room beyond was empty, he opened the door fully and they went through, the door closing noiselessly behind them. They were in a large kitchen, with gleaming stainless steel worktops, ranges and appliances, all looking virtually unused. There were two fluorescent lights on and eerie shadows jumped as they moved through the gleaming metallic space.
There was a door opposite the one they had entered by which took them into a stairwell. These stairs were carpeted and led both to the deck above and to another deck below. Also, two doors opened onto other spaces on the deck they were on.
‘Up has to be the way out,’ Sam said.
‘No point in all going the same way at the same time,’ Doug observed. ‘Sam, you and Liv go up. Jake, you try this door and Ruby, you and me try this other door.’
‘Good luck,’ someone called quietly as they parted company.
Scorpion and Andreas stood on the deck opposite the gangplank. The lights of the car they were watching weaved from side to side as the vehicle made its way slowly towards the harbour.
Scorpion’s eyes narrowed. ‘It’s like the driver is drunk. It can’t be the fuzz,’ he said, relieved.
‘No, is not police,’ Andreas agreed.
Scorpion continued to watch the car closely. He patted his pocket and the small tin box rattled comfortingly.
‘Andreas, the Boss is coming tomorrow, right?’
‘No, Scorpion,’ Andreas sounded alarmed. ‘The Boss is on board; didn’t you know?’
Scorpion swore. ‘When did he get here?’
‘Late last night. I thought that’s why you come. We sail after stores delivered in the morning.’
Scorpion swore again. ‘Does he know about the people below deck?’
‘No,’ Andreas sounded hurt. ‘You told me not to tell him.’
‘Good man. Keep it that way. You might have to get them more food. And call Mohammed when you get to Benghazi. I’ll contact him with the details.’
‘They are going back up the line?’
‘Ja, lucky people,’ Scorpion said grimly, squinting down the quay to check the progress of the car.
Taki climbed down from the bunk as soon as the others had gone. He stepped over the inert guard and got his jeans and a polo shirt from the wardrobe. He had been allowed to bring a small bag of clothes with him, but had forgotten his pyjamas.
He looked at his black robe hanging neatly in the wardrobe. He reached out for it hesitantly. Had he been dreaming or had he heard Scorpion’s bullying voice just before he woke up? He felt let down by the monastery. He had gone there with such high hopes but why had he been left at the mercy of Scorpion and Warren? It was all just madness.
Being woken up to find Jake and those others in his cabin was incredible. Miraculous even.
He left the robe where it was and closed the wardrobe door. As he was dressing he heard a noise behind him. He turned, alarmed, to see the guard pulling himself up using the bunk bed. He looked pale and was holding his stomach with one hand as he pulled himself to his feet with the other.
Taki eased past him to the door. He had spent hours examining the lock and knew that you needed a key to open it from either side. He turned at the doorway and spoke two words to the guard who had his back to him as he clung to the bunk bed to keep himself upright.
The guard’s hands shot up above his head and Taki grinned as he went out and slammed the door.
It took Jake only a minute to check out the storeroom. It was a substantial space, with metal racking down the walls and the centre. The shelving was loaded with boxes of tinned food and cleaning materials while a locked caged section at the end of the room was neatly stacked with different types of alcohol.
He found a hatch onto the deck above, but it was securely locked with no obvious way of getting it open.
As he returned to the stairwell, Doug and Ruby were emerging from the room opposite. They shook their heads briefly. No luck so far.
‘Down has got to be a waste of time,’ Doug commented and they set off up the stairs.
On the deck above, Sam and Liv had found themselves on a wide carpeted corridor with discrete lighting directed onto seascape paintings set at regular intervals along the walls.
‘It’s like a five star hotel,’ Ruby whispered, taking in the richly figured timber doors with oval silver plaques engraved with names in Greek and English. They tried the doors to the Ionian Suite and the Aegean Suite but they were both locked. Further along the corridor, the Adriatic Suite and the Tyrrhenian Suite were also locked.
Forward of the stairwell, there were two more doors, even more splendid than those to the four suites they had tried. The Atlantic Suite was also locked, but the door to the Pacific Suite gave when Liv turned the handle.
Jake found himself at the door to the main saloon. He opened it slowly and peered through the crack. The room was empty and the door out onto the deck was standing open. Jake’s heart lifted and he moved quickly towards it. Halfway there, Scorpion appeared through the doorway. ‘Just handle it,’ he told the guard over his shoulder.
Jake stopped and they stared at each other.
‘That stupid guard. Pay peanuts and you get monkeys,’ Scorpion said angrily as he turned his blowpipe towards Jake.
‘Geeze, you guys are giving me a run-around,’ he grumbled, walking past him and pulling open the door. Doug and Ruby were standing there, Doug holding the guard’s knife.
Scorpion put the blowpipe to his lips and gestured for them to come into the room. ‘Drop it,’ he said curtly.
Doug dropped the knife onto the carpet and Scorpion picked it up and flung it out of an open window. They all heard the splash as it hit the water.
‘Two missing,’ Scorpion observed.
Liv and Sam crept quietly into the Pacific Suite and pulled the door closed behind them, shutting out the light from the corridor.
‘We must get through here and out onto the deck,’ Sam whispered.
The space was in complete darkness and they stood stock still in the room, trying to get their bearings. Sam felt for a light switch, but before he could find one, a light snapped on. They gazed open-mouthed at the most opulent room they had ever seen. But what caught their attention was a man in the huge bed, his hand stretched out to the bedside light switch. He was looking at them, half awake and confused.
He cleared his throat to say something but they turned as one, and ran back into the corridor.
‘Let’s get out of here,’ Sam urged and they hurried down the corridor together, their feet silent on the heavy carpet.
They burst through the door at the end of the corridor, Sam in front. He took in the scene of the huge figure of Scorpion, his blowpipe in his hand and the others standing self-consciously in the centre of the room.
‘Aah, here they are,’ Scorpion remarked, and Sam brought himself to a stop. But Liv ran past him towards the open door onto the deck. She’d had enough and wanted out.
Scorpion said nothing but put the blowpipe to his lips. He followed the fleeing figure around with his head before giving a short cough. The others watched in horrified silence as Liv shrieked and clutched at her shoulder. She ran on, but her arms and legs became uncoordinated and she veered to one side and fell over onto one of the leather sofas.
Scorpion turned to the others and brandished the blowpipe that he had already reloaded. ‘Any more damn nonsense, and you’ll get the same,’ he warned. ‘Now let’s get you back to that cabin.’
Liv was groaning and thrashing her arms and legs. Scorpion pulled her onto her side and removed the dart from her shoulder. Soon her groans subsided and she lay still, as though peacefully asleep.
Andreas was standing on the deck outside the door at the top of the gangplank. He had his gun so there was no way out that way. They were trapped.
‘Come,’ Scorpion said, pulling a bunch of keys out of his pocket and jerking his head towards the crew only door. There was no choice and they moved reluctantly towards it. Ruby was crying and Jake tried to comfort her.
‘Poor Liv,’ she said, glancing at the still form on the sofa. ‘That was horrible.’
Out of the corner of his eye, Jake saw the door in the forward wall open. He turned to see who it was, expecting to see Taki appear, and wondered how he could signal to him to go back without Scorpion noticing. But it was a man in a Paisley dressing gown.
Jake stopped and stared, open mouthed.
‘Come on, man,’ Scorpion told him angrily, before turning to follow the line of Jake’s gaze.
Scorpion swore softly as the man asked, ‘What are you doing here, Scorpion?’
‘Sorry if we disturbed you, Boss. There has been a small problem that we are resolving.’
‘Some people came into my cabin and woke me up,’ he replied testily.
Jake was staring at him with incredulity. He simply could not believe his eyes. He had last seen this man with the chief of police on the terrace of their home at Thunder Bay. Nikolai Andreadis, government minister and, it seemed, the ‘Boss’.
‘What are these young people doing on my ship?’ he was saying.
‘There is a small problem,’ Scorpion repeated. ‘I’m sorting it out and I will make a full report to you in a few minutes.’ But Jake could hear from his voice that Scorpion was rattled.
‘And there is another one, sleeping on the sofa,’ Nikolai exclaimed, pointing.
‘Yes, I know,’ Scorpion said. ‘Now, you lot come along, quickly,’ he went on angrily.
But Jake had other ideas. ‘You are holding my sister a prisoner here,’ he said, staring angrily at Nikolai.
‘Your sister?’ Nikolai turned slowly to look at him. There was a flicker of recognition. ‘Aah, you are the boy from Zengounas.’ He shook his head. ‘I can assure you she is not here. I have been trying to help and this is no way to repay me.’
‘You didn’t come in your helicopter to help us,’ Jake retorted. ‘You came because it was a problem for you.’
But Nikolai wasn’t listening. ‘Perhaps my ship has been used for purposes of which I am unaware,’ he said huffily. ‘But, in the meanwhile, I don’t know who all you people are,’ his voice was icy. ‘This is my ship and I must ask you all to leave before I call the police.’
They all looked at him in silence, even Scorpion, who seemed unsure what to do.
A metallic sound, loud in the sudden stillness, made them turn. The crew only door was being pushed open gingerly and they all stared at it in silence. Taki’s head appeared and his bruised face fell as he saw them. Jake groaned inwardly; Taki was their remaining chance of raising the alarm and now this last hope was dashed.
But, hang on, Taki is Nikolai’s son.
Nikolai was staring at the newcomer with growing recognition, his mouth falling slowly open.
Scorpion swore, loudly this time, and jerked his head towards the door again with a peremptory, ‘Come!’
‘What happened to your face, Taki,’ Nikolai asked, clearly taken aback.
Scorpion spun around. ‘You know him?’ he asked in surprise before Taki could reply.
There was a long silence.
‘He’s his father,’ Jake said at last, contempt in his voice.
Scorpion slapped the flat of his hand against his forehead and uttered a single explosive swearword.
The father and son looked at each other uneasily.
‘But you know these people,’ Taki said, motioning towards Scorpion and the guard who could be seen on the deck through the glass door. ‘You must be who they call the Boss.’
Everyone looked at Nikolai.
‘Taki, I don’t know how you can say that,’ Nikolai replied, apparently hurt.
‘But it must be true…’ Taki started to say but was interrupted by a scuffle at the door.
Two people had arrived at the top of the gangplank and Andreas was trying to stop them boarding the ship. Everyone’s focus shifted to the drama unfolding at the entrance door. There was shouting and the door burst open and Andreas was pushed roughly inside. It was clear that he hadn’t been able to physically stop them without using his weapon and he didn’t feel able to do that. He turned to Scorpion in an appeal for help, but Scorpion was staring in anger and dismay at the new arrivals.
The group from Thunder Bay recognised Warren immediately even though he had discarded his robe and was wearing a tee-shirt and blue jeans. But only Jake knew the girl with him although he didn’t recognise her at first. Warren had his left arm around her neck and a long kitchen knife in his other hand. She was half walking and half being dragged, her face tear-stained and her long dark hair spilling over Warren’s arm.
Selena looked terrified. Jake was trying to work out what on earth could have happened. What about Cath and Jamal? Had they managed to raise the alarm or had Warren somehow got loose on the boat on the way back to the beach? His stomach knotted at the thought that Warren could have hurt them, possibly even throwing them off the boat before carrying on and somehow encountering Selena.
‘I had to bring her, Boss. She knows the whole story,’ Warren announced, pushing Selena roughly forward. ‘Hey, Scorp, I see you’ve got the others,’ he said approvingly. His eyes narrowed when he saw Sam across the room and he gestured at him menacingly with the knife.
‘So you really are the Boss,’ Taki said slowly.
‘There is a lot you don’t understand,’ Nikolai said.
‘Enough talking,’ Warren demanded. ‘We must get out of here before the police work out where we are.’
‘No, you shut up,’ Nikolai snarled. ‘You screwed this up. You were supposed to be acting like a monk and you kept chasing that girl.’
‘He’s the problem,’ Warren said defensively, waving his knife towards Scorpion. ‘He blitzed the wrong person and now we have this huge issue. You told him to eliminate her but he was too soft. And now look what’s happened,’ he went on, indicating the group.
‘Well, Scorpion,’ Nikolai said silkily. ‘I hired you because you were tough and ruthless. I’ve used my influence to keep the police away from you, but now you’ve got a whole damn roomful of people to eliminate.’
‘Yeah,’ Warren chimed in. ‘You told the Boss that you’d thrown the girl into the sea, but you hadn’t.’
‘I’ve had enough of this,’ Scorpion said gruffly. ‘I was hired to smuggle people, not to kill them. I’ve killed enough in Africa.’
‘I knew you’d lost it,’ Warren sneered.
‘We don’t need to eliminate them,’ Scorpion retorted. ‘We simply send them back up the line. They will never bother us again.’
‘You’re a fool, Scorpion,’ Nikolai was angry now. ‘They all know who I am now. Sending them to Africa is too much risk. What if somebody finds them? Bob Geldof or somebody, those do-gooders get everywhere. We have to eliminate them, there is no choice and it’s your fault.’ An accusing finger pointed at Scorpion. ‘This whole thing has backfired on you. We’ll do it at sea and weight the bodies. Sorry, folks,’ he added with a macabre smile.
‘You can’t do that!’ Selena exclaimed, while Ruby burst into tears.
‘No, Boss,’ Scorpion said, resolutely. ‘We’re not going to kill them.’
‘Are you defying me, Scorpion?’ Nikolai asked quietly, his voice menacing. The air in the room appeared to thicken as everyone looked in horrified fascination at the two men facing each other.
‘A scorpion that has lost his sting,’ Nikolai said dismissively.
The big man and the small man stared at each other across the carpeted space between them. Scorpion slowly brought his hand up to his face and gave a short cough, his fist apologetically to his mouth. Nikolai cried out in pain and his eyes widened in fear or anger, Jake was not sure which. He looked down and pulled a dart from his stomach. Uttering an oath in Greek, he drew a shiny silver pistol from his dressing gown pocket.
There were gasps from around the room.
Nikolai aimed at Scorpion but the drug was working fast and he staggered, his free hand to his forehead. He pulled the trigger before his eyes rolled back and he slowly crumpled to the floor.
Jake was surprised how little noise the pistol made, the deep pile carpet and heavy curtains deadening the sound. He thought Scorpion had been hit as the heavy man flung himself to one side, very nimbly for someone his size. But he quickly picked himself up from the carpet. There was another plopping sound and a tinkle of breaking glass as a second shot hit a light fitting in the ceiling. Nikolai tried to raise the gun to fire a third time but his arm fell limply back onto the carpet.
Everyone stared in shocked silence at the figure in the dressing gown as he lay on the floor, his legs twitching convulsively, the pistol moving in his hand. Would he pull the trigger again?
The silence was broken by a muffled scream from Selena. Her hands were to her mouth and everyone followed her horrified gaze. Warren was leaning against the back wall, the long bladed kitchen knife gripped firmly in his right hand. A tiny stain of bright red blood showed on his white tee-shirt marking the point where Nikolai’s first shot had caught him in the chest. He grimaced in pain as he sank slowly to his knees. Everyone in the room looked on in stunned silence, except Nikolai who was now lying completely still with his eyes closed.
Jake felt as though he was watching a film in slow motion as Warren slipped further down onto his right forearm. He seemed to be resting, hunched over, almost in a mockery of fervent prayer, while still gripping the knife, its long blade now pointing upwards. He grunted and made a supreme effort to get to his feet again, but his right forearm stayed firmly on the carpet. He got halfway up when with a deep sigh his muscular body went limp and pitched forward onto the gleaming blade of the knife.
Selena screamed again and there was confusion in the room. Scorpion strode over and pulled Warren onto his side. Jake noticed Andreas standing at the doorway staring open-mouthed at the scene in front of him, the stubby machine gun cradled loosely in his hands. As he realised that only the hilt of the knife protruded from Warren’s stomach, it looked as if he might be sick.
Jake walked unhurriedly across the room, trying to make himself inconspicuous but with his eyes fixed on the guard. Scorpion was focussed on attending to Warren and Andreas was paying no attention to anything else as he continued to gaze at the injured man. Jake simply wrenched the weapon from the guard’s limp fingers and burst out through the doorway onto the deck. Pausing only to fling the gun into the harbour, he raced down the gangplank onto the quayside.
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