In my first novella, The Caregiver, we follow Interpol agent Scarlett Lang through what would be the most important mission in her career so far: pose as caregiver for London’s biggest drug-lord, Armand Sayer.
This vignette is a BONUS! In this one she meets characters that will make their appearance in Book 2: Ollie, Bradley and Cat.
Read Vignette #1 , Vignette #2 , and Vignette #3.
Heaven was pissing down at us. The Bentley’s wipers weren’t enough as George drove us both to where we were heading: to meet with three of Armand’s most trusted men.
I must confess I was nervous about it. These guys weren’t known for their gentle ways. That, and the fact that George wasn’t exactly the nicest of people when it came to interacting with me, made of this endeavor one that threatened to leave the palms of my hands bleeding, with my nails dug into them.
Yeah, yeah, I’m a hitwoman, and a fucking undercover agent, but that doesn’t mean I won’t feel nervous every now and then. We’re all human after all.
All the tension vanished, however, when we met with them on a street corner in Vauxhall. Standing under two matching black umbrellas were three men in equally black coats.
“Cat. Bradley. Ollie.” George said dryly. “This is Scarlett.” He wasn’t happy I was there. We were both out when Armand called us. He’d tried to convince him it wasn’t a good idea to take me with him, to no avail.
“About time we met you!” Ollie, with his longish curls and matching bright eyes, shook my hand eagerly. He wasn’t as tall as the other two, which made me like him instantly. “We’ve heard so much about you.”
“Hope it was good.”
George cleared his throat. Heh.
The one in the middle was the tallest, Bradley. He just smiled, and, oh god, what a smile… And then there was Cat, with his dark brown skin and green eyes. He waved at me and we made our way into the hotel.
Cat led us to the lifts, while Ollie and Bradley had an animated conversation that eased all my uneasiness.
“So, I waited and waited for the couple to show up.” Ollie’s raspy voice echoed through the hotel’s lobby, “it’s a two-million-pounds property and it’s exactly what they’re asking for. Armand would murder me if I let a client like that down.”
The lift’s doors slid open and we got in. George’s facade was as stern as always, yet the other three were grinning all the way.
Nobody would’ve guessed what they were really there for.
“Did they show up?” Cat asked when Ollie paused.
“They did, yeah… with a fucking dog.”
“A dog? There’s nothing wrong with that.” Bradley’s Australian accent clashed with the Brits’, as he leaned on the back wall, his umbrella dripping on the carpet.
“Not just any dog, you muppet. A Great Dane. The thing was the size of a horse.” They all laughed, even George. “No,” he proceeded, “but that’s not it. They bring it into the house, and it has wooden floors. The thing is scuffing the wood as it sniffs around. I tell the client and he just cocks an eyebrow at me and keeps walking.”
“Armand would’ve given him a piece of his mind.” Cat commented as he held the doors open for us. “Last time I had a client with a pet in an open house I shut the door on them.”
The corridor was dimly lit and the carpet had already been stained by wet shoes.
“You guys work for Armand’s real estate firm?” I had to know.
They turned their heads slowly to me, their longer strides leaving Ollie and me a few steps behind.
“Yeah, we all do.” Ollie stayed with me once we reached the room they were looking for. “It’s our day job. Except for George, of course.”
George merely looked up, then back towards the closed door in front of us.
“Open up, Geoffrey.” Bradley knocked and received no answer. “We know you’re in there.”
“So, what happened with the dog?” I brought Ollie’s attention back to me.
“Open the door, Geoffrey. Or else,” Cat warned.
“Not only did it scuff the floor. It pissed on one of the bedroom’s carpets!”
“Liar!” Bradley swiveled towards us.
“It bloody did! And, well, you know, the buyer didn’t want no stains on it.”
“Geoffrey!” George was knocking now. “Open the fucking door.”
“I had to pay to get the carpet cleaned and the floor restored before Armand learnt about it. With me own money!”
“Bradley,” George stepped back from the door, “do your thing.”
Ollie pulled me to safety as we watched Bradley kick down the door.
Forget stealth. These men got in and rummaged through the room like rabid dogs, except no pissing on the carpet.
“Geoffrey… come out, come out and play,” Cat crooned sarcastically.
It was a small room with only a dresser with a TV on it, a bed, a wardrobe, and an equally small bathroom.
George signaled me to stay by the door by raising an open hand at me.
Bradley opened the wardrobe to find a thin man no older than thirty-five hiding behind a large coat. “There you are!” He caught him by the collar of his shirt, pulled him out with a swift movement and threw him face up on the bed. “You think you can hide from us?”
Ollie cocked his head for me join him while he thrashed the dresser, throwing its contents all over the floor. I glanced at George.
“Oh, don’t mind ‘im.” Ollie nudged me, then whispered, “he’s a bit of a stuck up, ain’t ‘e?”
“You don’t have to say that twice.” I dug my hands into the drawer and felt my way around it until my fingers hit something cold and solid.
A folding knife.
“Where’s the money?” Bradley was shaking the poor man against the mattress. “Where the fuck is it?”
“I…” He could barely answer over the manhandling he was being subjected to. “I don’t…”
One rough push threw him, face down, on the floor and Cat was on him, punching his face mercilessly.
I gave Ollie the knife and he scoffed at the sight of it.
George knelt down next to the now broken-nosed man. “The money, Geoffrey. This is your last chance. We’ve given you one too many already.”
“Look what he had hiding in a drawer.” Ollie handed the knife to George.
“I did’uh mean to use it.” Geoffrey cried, his knuckles white from his tight grip on Cat’s wrists, who was holding him down by the neck. “I don’t have the money, but I will. I swear.”
“MacGowan said he lent it to you,” George said in a nonchalant tone while holding the knife to his face. “He didn’t want to get on Armand’s bad side, since he was the one who recommended you.”
George stood, giving the man no time to retort before Bradley and Cat went back to beating the crap out of him.
A gesture from Ollie cued me to follow him to the wardrobe where the bloke had been hiding and resume our search. There was nothing there either.
“Stop! Please!” Geoffrey’s screams were muffled by Cat’s fist.
“Not until you tell us what you did with that money!” Bradley’s shitkickers landed on his ribs, getting a loud crack in response.
“He did’uh give me nofing!” He rolled to his side, his arms wrapped around his torso. “MacGowan’s a fucking liar.”
Ollie glanced at me and I had to peel my eyes from the scene unfolding in front of our eyes to meet his glance. I hadn’t realized how mesmerized I was by it.
Bradley’s leg was travelling backwards when Ollie called him out, “Oi, give her a chance.”
“No,” George snapped at him. “She shouldn’t even be here.” Then he turned his eyes to me. “Get Armand on the phone.”
The built-up momentum of Bradley’s kick wasn’t put to waste as the force of it made contact with Geoffrey’s torso once more, making him squeal.
I rang Armand’s mobile and he was quick to answer. I told him what was happening and he asked me to put him on speaker so Geoffrey could hear him.
“You’ve messed up enough times, Geoffrey.” Armand’s deep tones made everyone perk up. “Your pathetic excuses are reason enough to kill you.”
“MacGowan lied to you!”
“I have no reason to believe that.”
“It’s true! He did’uh lend me nofing. Said he did’uh care.”
Armand went silent for a moment. I kept the phone pointed towards the beat up man even when my arm was starting to shake.
All of a sudden, George had yanked the mobile from my hand, turned off the speaker and started talking into it in a low voice.
Ollie took the opportunity to push me towards the man lying on the floor. “Come on, just a couple of kicks,” he said, with an ear-to-ear smile.
Geoffrey’s eyes bulged as I approached him, my stare blank on his bleeding face. He muttered something I couldn’t comprehend.
“Excuse me?” I leaned forward, holding my hair away from my ear.
“Don’t let them kill me.”
Oh, he was begging to the only source of estrogen in the room.
A rush of adrenaline ran through my system. It made me straighten my back and kick his already aching body twice before answering:
“Sorry, pal. Boss’s orders.”
Another kick and George’s grip was on my elbow. “Enough.” He handed me my mobile before turning to Bradley and Cat. “Take him to bathtub.” He then unfolded the same knife I had retrieved from the drawer, “It’ll make it easier to clean.”