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The Galileo Project by Paddy Kelly

No. words: 129400

Style: Thrillers - Crime, Mystery / Crime Fiction - General

Published: 7 / 2019

Available Formats to Download: MOBI EPUB PDF 

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The Galileo Project

by Paddy Kelly

Technology is not inherently evil - but some men are!

STORY DESCRIPTION

In 1999 several billion internationally are invested in counter measures to combat the much anticipated, widely dreaded world-wide Y2K computer virus.

Amidst these counter measures several banks in New York and London take the daring precaution of secretly stashing several billion in cash in armored cars in secret locations around the cities in anticipation of their computers collapsing at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

When the virus doesn’t materialize and the armored vans are recalled the next day all but one of them returns. Along with the two guards assigned to babysit the £600,000,000, van № 1989 has vanished.

The crime is never solved.

Eighteen years later, when the body of one of the guards is dredged out of the Thames the case is reopened.

Inspector Harold Morrissey of the London Metropolitan Police Service and NYPD homicide detective Frank Mahone, accidently thrown into the mix via a U.S.-U.K. exchange program, are tasked with finding out what happened to the armored car and the two guards.

What appears to be a standard murder-grand larceny case is even more complicated when they find the van in a different location a week later.
With the all money still in it.

Technology is not inherently evil. But some men are!

 

EXTRACT FOR
The Galileo Project

(Paddy Kelly)


The Galileo Project

PROLOGUE

 

Tsim Sha Tsui District

Hong Kong

Friday, 31 December, 1999

22:15 Local

 

 

Fireworks had filled the black night sky over the vast expanse of Kowloon Bay since long before sundown. The continual bursts of gaily colored explosions formed a constant illuminating umbrella over the plethora of various sized boats carpeting the bay, each packed with party-goers.

Throughout the Sha Tsui district an enormous throng undulated though the avenues spilling over into every side street and back alley while the crammed piers of the bay area at the city’s edge were peppered with scurrying children in traditional costume terrorizing locales, tourists and merchants alike lighting off harmless firecrackers

The largest human mass migration in the world had peaked. The Spring Festival was in full swing.

However, not all present were in party mode.

Down on Austin Street a dishevelled Westerner in a red knock-off Puma track suit continually glanced over his shoulder as he hurriedly made his way through the packed streets of downtown. The harried man went unnoticed by everyone, everyone save one man calmly but doggedly stalking him through the melee.

The track suit suddenly turned west onto Austin Road and crossed over onto Nathan where he skirted Kowloon Park apparently heading for the waterfront.

Though still a full city block away, the younger guy in the dark jacket, blue Polo shirt, khakis and dark blazer was gradually closing the distance, almost seeming to know where his prey was heading.

Increasingly desperate but maintaining his composure the track suit ducked into the low lighting and soft music of the Pierside Bar & Restaurant, a swank dockside place where people gathered to be seen, to impress each other or to use as a means of expensive foreplay.

Disregarding the dozen people already in line he slowed his pace to maintain a low profile.

“I’m sorry sir, we’re fully book–” Ignoring the well-dressed, attractive Asian receptionist at the podium he darted around the tables, past the bar and headed into the stairwell leading down to the restrooms but the hostess signalled a member of the floor staff and he was suddenly cut off by a large waiter.

“Toilet for customer only!” The enormous Samoan waiter declared as he stepped in front of the man. The runner quickly grabbed his lower abdomen and assumed a look of agony.

“Yes, sorry. I want to have only a drinks in the bar. It is possible to have two Manhattans on the bar, yes please?” He offered the waiter a fifty pound Sterling note which only briefly saw the light of day. After showing the bank note to its new home in his hip pocket the big Polynesian looked him over then stepped aside.

Just as the track suit disappeared down the stair his pursuer stepped through the front door and quickly scanned the floor just in time to see the big waiter walking away shaking his head and, behind him, the flash of the red track suit off to the left descending the stairwell.

“The year of the rabbit! How appropriate!” The blue blazer whispered to himself.

As the receptionist was occupied escorting a party of four to their table the blazer leaned over and quickly scanned the open reservation book. She returned in time to see him but not in time catch him looking at the book.

“I’m going to grab a quick drink at the bar while I wait for the others to arrive.” He casually informed her as he stepped away.

“I’m sorry sir, may I have the name of your party?”

“Yes of course. It should be under the name of Yakura, with the Hatsutashi Corporation. Reservation’s for nine.” Hands in pockets he smiled and shrugged. “I’m early.”

Her delicate finger diligently shot to the reservation book and scanned down.

“Of course sir. Thank you. Please enjoy your drink and I’ll send someone over as soon as the rest of your Party arrives.”

“Chi chi!” With a slight koutou he thanked her. “You’re very kind.” He headed towards the bar.

Once at the bar he ordered a drink and veered off to the staircase.

At the base of the wrought iron stairs he was faced with a wall forcing him to choose left for the ladies or right for the men’s’ room. There was no way out except back up the stairs.

Additionally there were no doors on the entrances to the rest rooms proper. The required privacy was afforded by the two entrances being set back from the walled off area by a few feet.

With no one in sight he cautiously headed to the entrance of the Ladies’ Room. Suddenly a toilet flushed and he retreated. As he stood back by the staircase, a well-dressed middle-aged woman emerged, smiled at him and headed upstairs.

Quickly but silently scurrying back into the ladies he dropped to floor and scanned underneath the two rows of stalls and spotted nothing.

Chancing there was no one balanced on a toilet he ducked back into the Men’s simultaneously producing a 9mm Berretta sporting a silencer.

He quickly poked his head into the space just in time to see his prey peeking out the door of the center stall.

A sharp ‘CRACK!’ was immediately followed by a thud and the stall door slowly closed over but stopped when it hit the red track suit who had just lost the room temperature challenge. A slowly growing pool of blood seeped onto the floor.

As he holstered his pistol and moved to the body, the young man congratulated himself.

“Just like Quantico. One shot, one kill!”

With little effort he dragged the man back up into an empty stall, removed the man’s jacket and placed it over the blood stain.

“Appreciate you wearing red, fella.” He whispered to the corpse.

He propped the corpse up on the toilet and after being sure the stall door was locked he quickly rummaged through the dead man’s pockets and relieved him of his belongings.

 

*******

 

A half hour later, sitting in his 12th floor suite across town in the Hyatt Regency off Hanoi Road, a glass of scotch by his side, he inventoried the take by spreading it along the glass coffee table.

In a manila envelope there was over 1,200 Sterling, 1,700 U.S., 13,400 Yuan and an odd mixture of coins. In a large alligator skin billfold he found a three day old British Airways plane ticket, return, a boarding pass dated for the 3rd and Columbian and Venezuelan passports. Both passports contained photos of the man, the man  he had just erased, but under two different names.

He double checked the envelope, wallet and passports for anything hidden.

“SHIT! It’s not here!”

He separated and pocketed the cash, stashed the passports in the room safe and burned then flushed the travel documents before heading down to the bar for a night cap.

The first leg of his flight back to D.C. would be wheels up at 07:00 so he planned a light night.

Outside a soft drizzle had developed and a little further south, at the far end of the public rental docks in Kowloon Bay a small, open speed boat gently bobbed in the water. One of the two men sitting in it impatiently glanced at his wristwatch as the other hunched down against the cold, damp breeze.

It had just gone nine-thirty.

¡Mierda! No, no vendrá!”

“Perhaps-”

“NO! No vendrá! Vámonos.” The big guy grumbled as he fell back onto his middle seat in the boat.  

“Pero señor –” The driver insisted.

Dije vamos!”

The single engine skiff sped off into the night.

 

*******

 


CHAPTER ONE

 

Waxman’s 24 Hour Pharmco

Harlesden, Brent

NW London

31 December; 21:18 Local

 

 

Axel’s mind drifted back to the Spanish bird he’d chatted up on the weekend in that kip over on Wardour Street. He easily lost himself in memories of how the lights of the Aquarius Lounge played off her soft brown skin and how her tight fitting red silk dress accented those black eyes glossed over with booze, hash and sexual arousal . . .

“Axel!”

FUCK! Not that wanker! The voice grated through his ears and saturated his brain as it echoed off the pale, lime green tiled walls of the toilet.

Waxman’s All Night Chemist’s was a local institution slowly shifting its inventory over the years from general household products to pharmaceuticals, compliments of Sir Clive Martin’s recent support of the government’s failing methadone program.

Snapped out of his fantasy, the coarse sound of the toilet brush suddenly came into focus as he scrubbed harder and faster to dissipate his anger.

“Axel!” A man, late middle age, impeccably dressed in a rumpled, 1970’s olive green suit and blood orange tie, swung his right leg in a wide arc to facilitate his forward motion across the floor to where the youth slowly emerged from the last toilet stall on the right.

“Good evening officer Coleman.” The nineteen year old stood up in an attempt to give the false impression of respect, his condescending tone well-rehearsed. Coleman stared at Axel’s double nose ring.

“How’re we keepin’ lad?” The parole officer removed his small, sweat stained fedora to reveal a balding pate and wiped the inner head band with a discolored handkerchief. Axel idly ran the toilet brush back and forth under the rim of the crapper in sync with Coleman’s hat strokes as he automatically responded in his not-so-bright Birmingham dialect.

“Brilliant officer Coleman! How are you and the missus this fine December eve?”

The acrid smells of urine and cleaning fluid combined to form an unidentifiable odor.

“Couldn’t be better lad! Thanks fer askin’. I trust all’s in order here?” He set the accoutrement back on his head.

“She still takin’ it up the ass you old geezer?” The teen uttered under his breath as he bent to replace the tools of the trade on the small chrome trolley standing next to him.

“What’s that you say?”

“I say, is she still givin’ you a gas, you old sheik?!”

Ohh! Absolutely old boy! Thanks fer askin!” Are we in good form this evening?”

As if you give a fuck, you breathing antique!  “Sterling, officer Coleman. Simply sterling!” Coleman was well past his sell-by-date, but was no dunce by a long shot. What he lacked in ambulatory capability he more than compensated for with astuteness.

“Life back on track, is it?” Coleman baited.

Coleman had been attending Axel’s case since 1995 when the then fifteen year old was given a five year probationary sentence for being an accomplice in a carjacking. Now with less than a year to go, Coleman didn’t want Axel to form the mis-impression he was out of the woods.

The mental gymnastics continued.

“I only thank our fine Members of Parliament for passing the Juvenile Offender’s Work Release Bill. Otherwise where would I be? I’m sure it had your full support sir?” Axel baited.

“Most misguided, politically correct, sheit piece of bleedin’ heart legislation to slip through the cracks in the last ten years. Thank you for askin’.”

“Glad you feel that way, Officer Coleman.”

“We didn’t make our appointment at the parole office this afternoon now did we Axel old boy?”

What’s this we shit, geezer? You got worms?

“Had to do a double shift, sir. Bills you know.”

“Double shift is it? Very industrious. The Board will be impressed.”

“Thank you sir.” Impress this fucker!

“I suppose I should pop by and say hello to Mr. Waxman. Be rude not to.” Coleman tested.

Yeah, check out my story then get the hell outta my life!    

“You’ll excuse me if I don’t show you out officer?” Axel raised both his hands to display his oversized, pink rubber gloves. “I’m up to me elbows here.” Axel offered.

Coleman smirked to himself as he turned and limped out of the toilet.

“Shit!” Realizing he had no choice at this point in the scheme of things but to sit back and wait for the hammer to drop, Axel kicked the cleaning trolley in anger and sent it crashing into the far wall.

If it had been the first, second or third time he had lied to Coleman he might have skated out with a slap on the hand. But then . . . CRACK!

The first sound might not have been a shot at all. Maybe one of the dozens of piles of crap on wheels the Pakies used to get around this shit hole of a neighborhood.

The next two sharp reports were unmistakable.

Axel didn’t know why he ripped off his apron and latex gloves, but he wasn’t about to dwell on it as he quietly squeezed his head through the front door of the toilet into the small vestibule leading out to the main floor. The dull glare of the old fluorescent lights seeped in.

As he gingerly opened the outer door and peered up the cosmetics aisle, he could see officer Coleman, up near the front, sitting on floor near the end cap of aisle three, his hat upside down in a pile of deodorant cans.

The Lite Music orchestral rendition of Tom Jones” “Sex Bomb” crackling over the speaker system catapulted Axel into the surreal.

The old man, sitting propped up against the feminine hygiene products, looked bad. His breathing was sporadic and his blood covered left hand was clutching at his chest. Staring back he slowly tipped over, stopped breathing and stared up at the Colgate toothpaste across the aisle.

Approved by the American Dental Association.

“Bon voyage Officer Coleman!” Axel sympathetically mumbled.

A young black, his Jay-Z hat turned to the side, appeared from around the front end cap display up front while two others frantically mashed cash register buttons fruitlessly trying to open the two till cash boxes. The younger of the two peered down the aisle, saw the toilet door close over and yelled to the others.

“OY! IN THE BACK!” The crooked hat suddenly ran at a dead sprint towards the toilets. A second, the one with the gun, vaulted over the till counter and jogged behind him as the third one vanished from sight. Then, suddenly, the young one slowed to a walk as the one with the gun yelled after him.

“Oy, T. J.! Lemme at ‘em firs!” The Jay-Z hat halted at the toilet door and slowly pushed it open for the armed, older assailant, as if he were a celebrity rock star about to take the stage and perform a show.

Unknowingly this wasn’t far from the truth.

Axel wasn’t the most street wise individual in Brent, but he knew the difference between the hunters and the hunted.

By now he had ducked back into the ladies’ toilet and was moving as fast as his brain would tell his fingers to empty the liquid soap bottle all over the floor in front of the door. He grabbed an aerosol can of glass cleaner, adjusted the small yellow spray cap to wide open, hugged both the spray bottle and his cigarette lighter close to his chest and tried to press his body harder into the wall behind the door.

Carefully stepping through the lady’s room door after his brother, young T.J. told his legs to move but there was no response. It was if someone had glued his feet to the floor. His brain wouldn’t process what he his eyes were seeing.

He had never heard Gerard scream like a girl but now his high pitched, uncontrolled screams of agony filled the room as he clutched his flaming face.

That sick, mulatto boy was actually following his older brother around the floor with the improvised flame thrower until his entire head was engulfed in blue-white flames. Gerard struggled wildly to regain his footing on the slimy green, soap coated floor but without success. The crackling of his flame engulfed head was only briefly interrupted as his scull hit the concrete floor and echoed through the small toilet space.

Axel dropped the spray bottle and deftly retrieved the Glock 17 from the floor.

When the older teen’s struggles slowed to an occasional,

sporadic twitching, it was all T. J. could do to raise his hand straight out in front of him in the hope it would stop the oncoming bullets.

It didn’t.

Stepping over his second victim Axel burst out of the toilets and onto the main floor, the pistol held stiff-armed in front of him. When he saw no one he paused. Backed against the rear wall he ejected then checked the load in the magazine. Three rounds left.

His brain raced. Three rounds left meant that Coleman was probably killed with this gun. Axel’s prints now on the weapon.

Through barely controlled heavy breathing and with trembling fingers he gingerly slid the magazine back into place.

The rear of the shop looked to be clear. He prayed there were only three and the last of them had run off.

Making his way through the open office door in the rear corner, the weapon in front, his confidence now mustered, he watched the third youth continue to pommel the now unconscious Mr. Waxman with a short length of pipe.

“OY! STATISTIC!” As if choreographed, the black teen turned, stood motionless and held his breath. He dropped the pipe and, on seeing the pistol, shot his hands into the air. The two foot length of steel slowly rolled off to the side. Axel looked at Waxman’s bloody face as the old man struggled to sit up.

Time froze.

Axle, now drenched in sweat, hands quivering just enough to expose his fear, slowly lowered the gun. The black youth drew a faint smile and gingerly lowered his hands.

As the police entered through the front door of Waxman’s 24 Hour Pharmco and an andante, instrumental of Groove Armada’s Everybody Looked the Same faded into its monotonous conclusion, three shots rang out from the rear office area.

The shallow end of Brent’s gene pool had just been culled.

 

*******

 

Holborn, Central London

21:30

 

A frigid northerly howled south rattling the Christmas lights strung across the main portico of the Soho Hospital for Women. A string of similar lights with several burnt out bulbs hung halfway down an adjoining window and, as if trying to draw attention to its dilemma, banged repeatedly against the glass panes.

A black, Vauxhall Cavalier drifted through the dark, driving over the thin wisps of snow swirling down Charlton Street, past the medical facility away from the wind and towards the school on the corner.

The St. Aloysius parish grounds, only seven short years ago, was twice the size it is now. However, with the receding economy, even the church was faced with downsizing.

The acre and a half of parish property was sold for a sacrificial price, just over fifty per cent of its appraised value, thanks to Monsignor Riley’s good conscience, and was purchased in 1992 by Alex Goldman, a man with a vision.

That man has since taken up residence at the Sunhill Fields Burial Grounds, St. Luke’s, but his vision lives on.

Hamlet Security Transport Ltd, the only unlisted, unmarked and one of only three secretly licensed security transport firms in the greater London area, had remained a thorn in the side of the big boys such as Securicor, Binks and United Armor since its inception. Goldman’s brainchild was the smallest armored transport company in Europe, four vans and one 1988 black Cavalier, but was the one to turn to when money was no object.

In 1996 Hamlet were the only company to guarantee the safety of the crown jewels as they were transported across the country for the Queen Mother’s 70th birthday celebration. The royals were more than pleased, if not a little suspicious, when their Secretary of Affairs opened the sealed bid and found Goldman had bid £1. At the bottom of the page was a hand written note, “For Queen and country.”

The British subjects got their yearly dose of royal pomp and circumstance, the Queen got her much needed notoriety, and, now three years later, Hamlet’s position in London’s world of corporate security was well established.

With the church, convent and school grounds just off Phoenix Street, it was necessary for the unmarked vehicles to enter and exit the compact, high security compound through the well monitored Charlton Street security gate.

Traffic into and out of the compound was restricted to between the hours of six in the evening and the onset of the morning rush hour and the opening of the St. Aloysius school which was approximately six a.m. Regular business was handled at their off premises office in Broadgate Tower in central London.

Triggered by one of the pressure sensitive monitors buried in the road bed, four of the compound’s CCTV mini-cams automatically rotated to intercept the Vauxhall as it slowed to enter the gate.

The center camera transmitted the vehicle’s image to the main monitor in the security office for identification, the second scanned a fifteen meter radius around the car for any secondary activity while the third and fourth utilized their infra-red and Starlight night vision capabilities to reinforce the information being transferred to the night crew inside.

The mini-cam’s servos had hardly ceased their high pitched whine when all the required data had been transmitted, processed and referred back to the entrance’s custom designed auto lock system. Following a brief delay the armor plated gate ponderously swung open.

A minute later as the large gate slowly closed over behind it, the Vauxhall drove past a small warehouse, one of only two structures on the grounds. Parking in front of the adjacent structure, known as ‘the front office’, Goldman’s nephew Anakin, whose parents’ first date was at a Star Wars film, climbed out of the car and approached the office door then punched in his seven digit code, placed his chin on a tray near the door, and peered with one eye into a red peep hole. The retinal scan complete, the door clicked open and he entered.

Uncle Alex had re-invested his profits wisely.

Once inside the spacious, overly elaborate office he went straight to his Louis XIV desk, pressed a button and spoke into the intercom.

“Evening George!”

Evening Mr. Banbury.

“Have a good Christmas did you?”

Very good sir, wife spent the entire bonus check!

“That’s what they do I suppose. Anyone else around?”

Just the last two guards who’ll be with van number 1989.

“Alright. Have a good night George. And Happy New Year!”

To you as well Mr. Banbury!

Banbury flicked to another channel and again spoke into the intercom.

“Hal, are we on schedule?” A static laced voice responded immediately.

Last one’s out in twenty minutes sir.

“Well done Hal. Give me a bell when they’re through the gate.”

Will do sir. The dispatcher responded as he returned to his mini TV on the desk next to him.

 

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer has the story, a CNN exclusive.

Sergei Khrushchev, son of Soviet leader Nikita, the Soviet Premier who once removed his shoe banging it on the podium while yelling ‘we will bury you!’ to President Kennedy, will take the oath of citizenship for the U.S. in Rhode Island in three days. Following a long arduous background investigation by the intelligence services, Sergei, along with wife Valentina will become a U.S. citizen later this week.

 

Believing himself, the two guards in the warehouse  and the dispatcher the only ones in the compound Banbury was surprised when there was a knock at his office door.

“Who?”

“Me.” He recognized the voice of his GM Peter Grahams.

“Yes?” A sixty-something, heavy set man in a cable knit Cardigan and khakis entered.

“Can I have a minute?”

“Of course you can Peter! Drink?”

“Love one!” Anakin moved to the walnut wall cabinet and fixed two scotch and rocks handing one to is colleague.

“Happy New Year Peter!”

“To another profitable four quarters.” Peter offered.

“Why are you not making ready to have your annual New Year’s shag with the missus?” Anakin teased.

“I’m. . . I’m having second thoughts.”

“Well, you have been together some time now and comes a stage in a marriage when-”

“Very comical! Not about my marriage. About the company’s plans to stash so much cash around the city. If we keep the trucks here –”

“A bit late for that mate! The last one leaves directly!”

“We could recall them. It’d be a lot safer to sit on them here until Monday. Besides the Peelers are just four blocks away. If something were to happen they could be here–”

“Peter old chum, I get your concerns, I really do. I tossed and turned for the better part of a fortnight before I decided to okay it. But if you look at it- ”

“I’m still not convinced it’s worth all the risk.”

“You mean aside from the fact that the contract is worth nearly fourteen million Sterling in commission not to mention how far ahead of the game we’ll be if this Y2K thing actually does rear its ugly head? Not to mention the projected rise in rate after the Continent institutes the change over to the Euro!” Anakin argued.

“Bank of England’ll be happy enough I’d say.” Peter reluctantly reaffirmed. Grahams smiled at that prospect. “Hard to believe that all those eggheads who spent half a century giving us computer technology could overlook something like missing the potential damage that could come from not using ‘00’ just to save a bit of space.” Grahms tried to relax and took a seat. “Anakin, please don’t misunderstand, I’m completely behind you with the precaution of stowing over two billion quid in trucks around the city for a day so, and kudos for secretly selling it to the Big Four bankers, I’m just a bit nervous about not letting on to the Board that we’re doing it.”

“Peter . . . we tell the Board, who each have their little, pet stockholders, and sure as Tony Blair is lying about Afghanistan, the plan gets leaked to the public and there goes the plan. And if the Y2K does hit and we didn’t go through with it, the whole company, stockholders and all, would be fucked into a cocked hat!”

“And if it doesn’t hit?” Grahams pushed.

“If it doesn’t, a couple of billion quid sat in a couple of armored vans for a night or so, all the dosh is back nice and snug in the vaults by Monday morning and nobody’s the wiser.” Grahams still wasn’t convinced. “Besides, if it’s good enough for the Yanks and the Canadians to do it, it can’t be such a terrible idea for a little, off-the-map, independent set up like us to do it!”

“I just have a bad feeling, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Completely understandable. It’ll be alright.” He poured two more drinks. “Look if it’ll make you feel any better, you have a key to my office.”

Grahams nodded as Anakin went round behind his desk and produced a single sheet of paper. “This is a list of all the GPS locations by van numbers and drivers. These are ten digit grid coordinates, like they use in the military. Very precise! It’s the only complete copy in existence! I took the precaution of not letting even the dispatcher have the locations. Only the drivers are privy to them and then each driver was made to memorize his location and his alone.” He folded it into and envelope then locked it in the top drawer of his desk and brandished the desk key. “Now there are only two people on the planet who know of its location and existence.”

“I suppose you’re right.” They shared their second drink. Grahams threw his back in one shot. “What could go wrong?” Peter’s retort lacked  conviction.

 

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