Authors: Stephen Leather
Table of Contents
Also by Stephen Leather
The Long Shot
The Birthday Girl
The Double Tap
The Solitary Man
The Tunnel Rats
Spider Shepherd Thrillers
Jack Nightingale Supernatural Thrillers
To find out about these and future titles, visit
About the author
Stephen Leather is one of the UK’s most successful thriller writers, a
top ten bestseller, and a top ebook bestselling author. Before becoming a novelist he was a journalist for more than ten years on newspapers such as
South China Morning
in Hong Kong. He began writing full time in 1992. His bestsellers have been translated into more than ten languages. He has also written for television shows such as
and the BBC’s
Murder in Mind
series and two of his books,
, were filmed for TV.
First published in Great Britain in 2013 by Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © Stephen Leather 2013
The right of Stephen Leather to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, 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.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library
ISBN 978 1 444 78098 7
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
338 Euston Road
London NW1 3BH
Dan ‘Spider’ Shepherd had good days, and he had bad days. One of the advantages of working for MI5 was that life was never boring, but that wasn’t always necessarily a good thing and sometimes there was a price to be paid. His day had started out as a good one but all that had changed when the men in ski masks had bundled him into the back of a Transit van. Now he was hanging by his arms in a basement and it was most definitely turning out to be a bad day. One of his worst.
They hadn’t taken him without a fight, and his jaw ached where he’d been punched and something had cracked him across the back of his skull. There was duct tape across his mouth, but even if he’d been able to shout for help he doubted that anyone would have heard him. The walls were brick and the only window was set high in the wall and composed of glass blocks that were covered in cobwebs. The floor was bare concrete, and in one corner of the room there was a small pile of what looked like rat droppings.
They had used a chain to bind his wrists together and then slung it over a metal pipe that ran across the ceiling. It was a good six inches across and made of cast iron. It was probably a waste pipe, and from time to time something gurgled inside. The pipe was strong and the brackets holding the pipe to the concrete ceiling were just as sturdy.
Shepherd’s heart was pounding as adrenalin continued to course through his system. He consciously slowed his breathing and forced himself to relax. Whatever was happening wasn’t good but at least he was still alive. He needed to think.
The chain was made up of small links, no more than half an inch long, and they had used a small brass padlock to fasten it around his wrists. His legs were free but they had yanked his arms up so high that he had to keep his legs and back straight to keep the pressure off his shoulders.
He pulled hard on the chain but the an< pipe was unyielding and all he did was hurt his wrists. The chain was so tight around his wrists that he was already losing the feeling in his fingers. He stared up at the ceiling, wondering whether there was anyone above him. He tried banging the chain against the pipe but it barely made any sound.
‘Hello!’ he shouted. ‘Is there anyone there?’ His voice echoed off the walls. Shepherd listened. He couldn’t hear anything outside the basement and he doubted that anyone would be able to hear him. If there had been any chance of his cries being heard they would probably have gagged him.
Shepherd had no idea who his captors were. The men that had bundled him into the van had been wearing ski masks and gloves and hadn’t said a word from start to finish. They had been professional, that much was clear. There had been an economy of movement that came with practice and familiarity.
He hadn’t seen them coming. He’d parked his BMW in the car park of a pub where he was due to meet a contact. It was just after ten at night and he’d deliberately parked in an unlit area, which is why he hadn’t seen the three men until they’d emerged from the shadows. Shepherd had managed to get a few punches in but then a fourth man had appeared from nowhere and smacked him in the face, and as Shepherd had turned he’d been hit across the back of the head. The next thing he remembered was waking up in the room, hanging from the pipe.
There were three cases that he was working on, any one of which could have blown up in his face. He was running an agent who had infiltrated a Somalian drugs gang that was helping fund Al-Shabaab terrorists back in their native Somalia. Ali Sharif, a London-born Somalian, had applied to join MI5 and had been immediately signed up and assigned to an undercover unit. Shepherd had been brought in to run him.
Shepherd had also recently reprised one of his regular legends, that of Garry Edwards, an arms dealer happy to sell weapons to anyone with money. It was a joint operation with the Metropolitan Police, set up to entrap a group of armed robbers who were planning a raid on a Hatton Garden jewellery firm.
The third case was mainly surveillance, tracking a Russian assassin who, according to a tip from the Russian intelligence agency, had flown in from New York intent on killing a Russian journalist who had made London her home. The assassin’s name was Viktor Tankov and according to the Russian intel he was a former special forces soldier who had carried out more than a dozen killings. Shepherd had been in charge of a surveillance unit that was keeping a close eye on the Russian since he had arrived in the country.
They had taken him for a reason, Shepherd was sure of that much at least. If they’d wanted him dead they could have put a bullet in his head and left him on the ground, or they could have strangled or knifed him in the van and dumped his body. The fact that he was gagged and bound meant that they needed something from him, probably information.
He concentrated on his active cases, trying to work out who had imprisoned him.
Somalian drug dealers generally didn’t bother gathering intelligence; they tended to shoot first and not worry about asking any questions. And if they’d realised that Ali was working for MI5 then they already knew everything.
The arms case was pretty low level and he doubted that the villains involved would risk making things worse for themselves by adding kidnapping to their crimes.
That left the Russian assassin, but all the intel that Shepherd had seen suggested that Tankov didn’t work mob-handed. It was possible that thssible the Russian had hired help in London, but if he suspected that he had been blown his best option would have been either to have gone underground or to have returned to Russia or the States. Tankov would gain nothing from abducting Shepherd – unless there was information that he needed to complete his contract.
He pulled at the chain again, not because he thought it would achieve anything but because he had to do something. It wasn’t in his nature to go out without a fight.
He gritted his teeth in frustration. Of course, his abduction might not be connected with one of his current cases. It could well be a face from his past. Over the years he’d put hundreds of men and women behind bars and more than a few in the ground. As an undercover police officer he’d wormed his way into the confidences of thieves, robbers and drug dealers only to betray them. Working for the Serious Organised Crime Agency had brought him up against major criminals and terrorists from the Real IRA to al-Qaeda, as had his work with MI5. Any one of his cases could have thrown up someone bent on revenge.
Shepherd heard a bolt scrape back and he looked across at the door. A second bolt rattled back and he tensed. The door opened slowly, and that was when Shepherd’s day went from bad to worse.
He recognised Tankov immediately. He had the build of a wrestler on steroids; overdeveloped forearms, a thick neck and a barrel-like chest. He was wearing a tight-fitting Lonsdale T-shirt revealing geometric tattoos on his bulging forearms.
Behind him was an older man with slicked-back black hair wearing a stained grey sweatshirt and cargo pants. He followed Tankov into the basement and closed the door.
The Russian put his hands on his hips and sneered at Shepherd.
‘I don’t know who you think I am but this is a terrible mistake,’ said Shepherd.
‘Really?’ said the Russian.
‘I’m just a council worker. I’ve never been in trouble with anyone. This is a mistake.’
‘You think I’m stupid, do you?’ growled Tankov in a heavy Russian accent. ‘You think I just walked in off a farm, do you?’
‘I’ve no idea who you are,’ said Shepherd. ‘I just want to go home.’
Tankov turned to look at his companion. ‘You hear that? He doesn’t know who I am.’ The Russian chuckled.
‘He knows,’ said the man. He had a Scottish accent, a deep growl that suggested he was a heavy smoker.
Tankov nodded. ‘I agree,’ he said. ‘I think he knows.’ He turned to glare at Shepherd. ‘You know,’ he said. He slapped Shepherd across the face. Hard, and the sound echoed around the room like a pistol shot.
Shepherd tasted blood in his mouth and he swallowed. ‘There’s been a mistake. I work for the council. Environmental Health.’
The Russian turned to his companion. ‘Was he searched?’
‘Of course,’ said the Scotsman. He handed the Russian a black leather wallet. The Russian flicked through it, pulling out the credit cards and tossing them on the floor one by one. ‘Garry Edwards,’ he said. He pulled out a driving licence and examined both sides. ‘Looks real,’ he said.