The Henchmen's Book Club

BOOK: The Henchmen's Book Club
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THE
HENCHMEN’S
BOOK CLUB

Danny King

 
 

e
.8

 
 

1.
TO READ OR DIE

“Well I thought it was bollocks,” said Mr Cooper, stunning no one. This was Mr
Cooper’s assessment of everything: films, music, museums, exhibitions or roller
coasters. In fact, if you’d thought of it, spent five years developing it,
registered patents to protect it, trademarks and copyrights, then employed a
team of highly skilled and dedicated professionals to put it all together, Mr
Cooper would take one look at it and dismiss it as bollocks without breaking
his train of thought.

In
this case we were talking about a book.

“It didn’t make sense. I mean one minute
he’s walking around being an adult, the next he’s a kid again. I didn’t know
what was going on. And what was all that stuff with his missus? She was all
over the place an’ all. One chapter she’s a girl, the next she’s a woman. And
he’s married to her? I couldn’t follow a bleeding word of it.”

“Yeah well, there was something of a clue
in the title, Mr Cooper,” Mr Chang pointed out.

Mr
Cooper looked at the cover of the book and rolled his face.


The
Time Traveler’s Wife
. Bit obvious isn’t it?” he reckoned.

There was no reasoning with Mr Cooper
when he was in this sort of mood; his mind was made up and there was nothing I,
nor anyone else, could do about it. Some people were just like this. Some
people felt uncomfortable about leaving themselves open to new experiences so
they slammed the door shut at the first sign of the unfamiliar and wedged a
chair under the handle in case they inadvertently found themselves liking
Sense and Sensibility
or
Who Framed Roger Rabbit
.

“Well what about everybody else? Did
anyone like it?” I asked the assembled lads.

“Yeah, I liked it a lot,” said Mr Smith.
“It was a really clever and romantic story. And I liked how it came full circle
and how all the strands connected to other strands. I mean, Henry and Clare’s
story wasn’t like a traditional story that unfolded bit by bit, but more a
foggy whole that gradually came into sharp focus as the book went on. I thought
it was beautiful. Really really lovely.”

“Yeah, and I liked the stuff where he was
a kid,” Mr Chang agreed. “When he goes back in time and shows himself the ropes
and tutors himself about his life to come. That was good.”

“I thought there could’ve been more of
that stuff to be honest,” Mr Petrov said. “I liked the time travelling chapters
the best but they got less and less as the book went on. It became more about
his relationship with Clare rather than about him going back in time, which I
thought was the most interesting stuff.”

“No, his relationship with Clare was the
whole story,” Mr Chang disagreed. “The time travel aspect merely set what is
basically an old fashioned love story against a… a… a… supernatural backdrop.”

“Well I just liked the time travel
stuff,” Mr Petrov maintained. “I thought there could’ve been more of it. He
talked about other trips he’d been on and said he sometimes went back and
forwards fifty years into the past and the future so I would’ve liked to have
seen more of those chapters and less of the ones with him and Clare washing the
dishes.”

“Man, you’ve got no soul,” Mr Smith told
him.

“Hey, I didn’t say I didn’t like it. I
thought it was great, but who watches
Jurassic
Park
for the kids?” Mr Petrov said.

“Who doesn’t?” Mr Schultz chuckled,
rubbing his hands together and beaming broadly to remind me of the company I
was keeping.

“Bottom line, it was a page turner…” Mr
Chang started before his beeper interrupted him. “Oh damn, I’ve got to go,” he
frowned, looking around for his stuff.

“Okay, well before we all dash off, let’s
take a vote on it. What marks are we giving it?” I asked.

“Out of five?” Mr Smith asked. “Five,” he
shrugged.

“What’s the highest, five or nothing?” Mr
Chang double-checked before committing.

“Five of course. Who’s going to base a
series of scoring on nothing being the highest?” I pointed out, imagining Mr
Chang in Blockbusters with half a dozen 0/5 turkeys under his arm.

“I’ll give it four and a half then.”

“No halves. They make it harder to tot up
the final scores.”

“Alright then five.”

“Mr Schultz?”

“Four, but mostly for the gay wanking
stuff,” he winked, making sure we all knew what page his copy would flop open
to if dropped.

“Mr Petrov?”

“Four. But it would’ve got a five if
there’d been more about the time travelling, like if he’d gone back to the
stone age and had a look around then.”

“It
wasn’t meant to be
Doctor Who
,” I
reminded him. “Mr Cooper?”

“Nothing. It was bollocks,” he grunted.

“Hey you can’t give it nothing, that’s
just stupid,” Mr Chang objected.

“I can give it what I want, it’s my
score, if I wanna give it nothing, I’ll give it nothing,” Mr Cooper insisted,
standing up to meet Mr Chang’s challenge.

“But you’re going to drag all our scores
down with your protest zero,” Mr Petrov fumed.

“Then you should’ve picked a better book,
shouldn’t you!” Mr Cooper glared, giving us a glimpse into what this was really
all about, namely our collective and unanimous veto against his suggestion,
Vinnie: My Life
by Vinnie Jones.

“He is
entitled,” it pained me to confirm, although I mentally put aside a big fat
zero for Mr Cooper’s next nomination, even if it was my own autobiography.

The
room settled down and all eyes turned to me.

“Five,” I shrugged, upping my own score
by a point to redress the injustice.

“Oh, you fucker!” Mr Cooper spat.

“Which gives
The Time Traveler’s Wife
and provisional total of… about three
point eight out of five,” I declared doing the maths on a scrap of paper. “Well
done Mr Chang, good suggestion.”

Mr Chang looked suitably pleased with
himself, then slipped his mag belt over his arm and reached for his Beretta
Model 12.

All at once my own beeper burst into
song, quickly followed by the beepers of Mr Cooper, Mr Smith, Mr Petrov and Mr
Schultz.

“Hang on a minute, what is this?” I
baulked, looking around at the equally anxious faces of my fellow readers.

“Let’s go!” Mr Cooper said, grabbing his
webbing and SPAS 12 as the rest of us tore into our equipment, pulling on our
Kevlar and lock & loading our weapons. My own choice of weapon was the
Austrian-made AUG 9 Para. It was converted from the Steyr AUG assault rifle, so
it’s a lot more accurate than most other 9-mm sub-machine guns. And this job
had been good because we’d been allowed to pick our own weapons. I hated those
jobs where they forced you carry around whatever guns they wanted you to carry
just for the aesthetic beauty of seeing fifty blokes all lined up in matching
orange boiler suits with crappy M16s.

“Come on!” Mr Chang said, kicking open
the door of the Pump House and charging out into the jungle.

“Wait,” I shouted after him. “Hold up!”

Me
and the others followed hard on Mr Chang’s heels, out of our unofficial book
club HQ and up the hill towards the main bunker network. As soon as we were
outside we heard the explosions: great big booming blasts and accompanying
cracks that were coming from the direction of the command structure and Doctor
Thalassocrat’s Tidal Generator.

Through the blasts I could also make out
the crackle of gunfire and agonised screams, so I tried to reach the Command
Centre on my radio, but there was no response.

“What are you doing? Come on!” Mr Cooper
barked at me when he saw me slowing up.

“Wait!” I insisted. “We don’t even know
what we’re running into.”

“Trouble,” growled Mr Schultz, snapping
back the shoulder stock on his M203 theatrically, like a big idiot. “And it’s
going to get its ass kicked.”

He, Mr Cooper and Mr Petrov ran on after
Mr Chang, leaving me to urge caution to Mr Smith.

“Just be careful mate. If this place has
been overrun already then there ain’t no point sprinting into a hail of
bullets.”

“I agree,” Mr Smith nodded, “but we’d
better make a show of it if we don’t want to get chiselled for our dough.” And
with that Mr Smith ran off up the hill and towards the sounds of disaster.

I made sure my Kevlar was firmly done up
before following, reaching the crest of the rise after five minutes of huffing
and puffing through the vegetation. There I found Mr Smith, Mr Schultz, Mr
Petrov and Mr Cooper, but there was no sign of Mr Chang, though I didn’t notice
this at first in light of the sight that greeted us. From the crest of the hill
we could see the whole of the island and down towards the eastern coastline I
spotted the command structure – or at least what was left of it. The
shiny steel and glass tower that had previously dominated the tree line was now
a twisted smoking heap on the jungle floor. Enormous balls of flames billowed
into the air as each of the tower’s twenty-two condenser units blasted into the
next. And way down on the coastline itself, the once dominating Tidal Generator
was completely gone, lost to the deep forever.

“Oh dear,” Mr Smith clucked. “Looks like
we’re out of work again guys.”

“But how?” Mr Schultz asked, apoplectic.

The
answer jetted over our heads a second later; Jack Tempest, agent XO-11 of the
British Secret Service, ripped away in Doctor Thalassocrat’s escape rocket with
that old bike he’d come ashore with the previous day. To add insult to injury,
as he was passing overhead, Tempest clocked us and gave us his best shit-eating
salute before disappearing out into the big wide blue of the Pacific Ocean.

“What a wanker!” Mr Cooper said, voicing
all our thoughts for us.

“Come on, let’s at least see if there’s
anything we can salvage.”

Jack Tempest was Britain’s most decorated
Executive Officer and a right royal pain in the arse to boot. He was forever
landing in other people’s ointment and ruining everything for everyone. And
some of these jobs had taken a lot of time and effort to set up. I’d been on
two outings he’d scuppered in the past, though my friend Mr Rodríguez had been
on four. Imagine that? Four jobs? I mean it wasn’t like we didn’t have
mortgages to pay but no one worried about that, did they? At least the British
government didn’t. I’d already borrowed twenty grand off Linda’s folks just to
stay afloat and I’d promised them I’d be able to pay it back by the end of the
year – with interest. Now that had gone for a Burton too.

Fucking XO-11.

I couldn’t even understand how it had
come to this. We’d had him. We’d had him banged to rights. Mr Chang and I had
personally caught him on the Tidal Generator, found the explosives he’d been
planting and taken him to see Doctor Thalassocrat.

“Well done men, excellent work,” we’d been
congratulated at the time. “Sweep the entire island and make sure Tempest
didn’t have company,” which we’d done, finding that little blonde side kick of
his with the tiny arse and distracting cleavage hiding down by the docks. We
couldn’t have done any more.

By the time we’d gone off duty, Jack
Tempest and his squeeze had been sealed inside Thalassocrat’s main water pipe,
bracing themselves for a quick swim through the turbines, which is what
Thalassocrat had been dying to do to someone for ages, the horrible bastard.
Yet here we were a few hours later, with our base in bits and our boss nowhere
to be seen – just an ominous red cloud of chum floating in the bay five
hundred yards away, driving the seagulls potty.

Worse than that we then found Mr Chang. He
was lying a hundred yards away from the rocket launch pad with his head torn
open and a look of total surprise frozen onto his face. But then what had he
expected tearing off like that in the direction of gunfire without a clue as to
what he was running into? It was so pointless. Such a waste.

“Are we still counting his score?” Mr
Cooper asked.

“Yes we are, you nasty git.”

“Just a thought.”

I went through Mr Chang’s pockets and
found his Agency ID card before cautiously pressing on.

We couldn’t get anywhere near the command
structure, it was too much of an inferno, so me, Mr Petrov and Mr Smith rounded
up what was left of the men while Mr Cooper and Mr Schultz checked out the
boats. The first one blew up the moment Mr Cooper started the engine, erasing
him and his zero from the face of the Earth, while Mr Schultz was a bit more
cautious, locating the pack of C4 connected to the second boat’s ignition, only
to take out the entire dock when he rested his rifle against the wrong rubber
ring.

“Christ almighty!” I cried as the shock
wave knocked us onto our faces. Bits of boat and berth rained back down as me
and Mr Petrov dived into a nearby cave for cover.

“Tempest has booby-trapped this whole
fucking island,” Mr Petrov said and this was further confirmed when one of our
fellow survivors, Mr Fedorov, picked up a watch he’d spotted in the wash and
paid for the lapse dearly. I raced down to the beach when I’d heard his screams
and could barely bring myself to look at what I found there.

BOOK: The Henchmen's Book Club
4.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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