Raoul Cassi braced himself for the sudden thump he’d feel as the wheels of the airbus he was travelling on hit the tarmac. He’d flown many times and wasn’t really afraid of the experience but he knew that was always the most tricky part, the most likely to go wrong if something were to.
He felt the lumpy touchdown and breathed out, smiling at the lady sitting across the isle on the opposite row of seats. He’d been lucky for this journey. The window seat he’d obtained by booking on to the flight early on had an empty one next to it so he hadn’t been forced to talk to anyone else during the long flight across the Atlantic from Venezuela to LHR. He’d spent his time watching an in-flight movie, reading the magazine provided and the novel he’d carried on board with him, and sleeping as best he could. He didn’t really feel tired and couldn’t usually manage to drift off even on the longer flights, though he did sometimes doze a little if he’d had to take an early one and is sleeping pattern had consequently been interrupted.
He thought about his latest assignment as the plane taxied towards the tunnel that would let them finally disembark – the most frustrating part of a trip he usually found. His objective was a comparatively easy one. He already had is target’s address and other details, including a photograph. It wasn’t a very good one – somewhat blurry and taken at a distance – but it was adequate enough to identify the man from if such a need arose.
He was one of the first up when the aircraft came to a standstill and the seatbelt light clicked off. His only hand luggage was the small briefcase he now held. He’d put this under the seat in front of him for take-off, then moved it to the empty seat next to him as soon as allowed, putting it back under the seat for landing when instructed to do so.
His progress through Arrival Control had been slower than he’d have liked. The queue of people without implanted chips was slightly smaller than that for people with chips, but it also moved forward more slowly. He didn’t like these implants, much preferring to use the small card in his wallet. It wouldn’t have been difficult to get them removed again when necessary. What was hard was to do so without leaving a tell-tale scar. He had the contacts to do it, but at considerable cost. There were times though that having an implanted chip added an almost subconscious level of acceptance that the person presenting it was who he claimed to be, so he’d had it done a couple of times then removed when it was no longer needed.
When he arrived at the head of the queue he was motioned towards one of the waiting officers and handed over his card. He’d secured it back in Bolivia and had been using it for some time. Time enough, he suspected, for the authorities back there to have become interested in him. It was a fine line deciding when to change his identity. On the one hand it was important in his profession not to keep the same one too long, allowing time for the police to link it to a series of events and to therefore raise a more than passing interest in him. On the other, it was important to not just constantly keep assuming a new identity. A new ID that hadn’t really registered before, or that was suddenly behaving in a totally different way to how it had been, was just as much a cause for suspicion as one that kept recurring at similar events. There were occasions when using an ID as a ‘one off’ was appropriate, but usually Raoul liked to live the identity for a period, to create a life where transactions would appear more or less innocuous.
Faking an ID card wasn’t that difficult, or even that expensive, but the use of fake IDs was also pretty easy for the authorities to spot. It was far better to get hold of a real one, one that wouldn’t arouse questions by just suddenly appearing and where historical transactions weren’t too dissimilar to future use. Finding real people who fitted the requirement but who wouldn’t be missed if they disappeared was not easy, so getting hold of these IDs was either time consuming if he did it himself or expensive if he relied on others to do it for him. It was necessary though. He didn’t like to keep the same ID for more than three or four assignments. Any more might raise a flag if the authorities cross referenced transactions. He’d already used this one for four assignments.
The last hadn’t been an important one, but it had needed to be carried out quickly. He’d already been planning this trip and had more or less committed to using this identity for it when the other assignment had arisen. What he should have done was cancel his plans for this one and start again. It’s what he would have done if the client hadn’t insisted that things proceed as agreed. He’d changed his plans as best he could to minimise the risk but he was still a little concerned that the local police might have been alerted to his arrival.
“Visiting friends,” he answered when asked about the purpose of his visit. There was a short pause while the officer decided whether the picture brought up on her screen when she’d inserted the card matched the person stood in front of her. She obviously decided it did, as he was waved through with a cursory ‘have a nice stay’. He knew, from the manner in which it was said, that it was a phrase repeated many times before. After collecting his black suitcase from the conveyor belt and setting it on its wheels he proceeded through Customs. He wasn’t stopped, and was soon out in the main thoroughfare with the other passengers arriving and with the people waiting to meet them.
He looked idly at the line of drivers at the exit from the Arrivals Hall, each holding up cards with the names of the people they were waiting for. A few of these were properly printed out but most handwritten. One, he noticed, had been written on a small whiteboard so it could easily be changed as necessary. He hadn’t himself made arrangements to be collected, preferring to make his own way into the city and at his own pace.
He stopped at the first cash point he saw, inserting a prepaid Visa card to get money from it. The wallet he’d taken the card from was already bulging with W$ bills he’d drawn out in Bolivia so he didn’t actually need the money. Using the machine had been almost involuntary, a chance to test that the cards he had brought with him really did work here. He realised after tapping his PIN in that he’d used the wrong card. This was one he’d linked to the ID he was travelling with, rather than one of those he’d loaded specifically for this assignment. Still he’d started now, too late to stop. Trying to do so would look even more suspicious to anyone that might be observing him than completing the task he’d started.
He found a taxi at the rank outside the Arrivals Hall and gave his desired address. He’d go first to the Bolivian family that he’d prepared in advance for his arrival and that would provide his cover for the assignment. The W$5000 he’d paid for this, along with veiled threats against their relatives back in Bolivia, had ensured their co-operation.
He vastly over-tipped the taxi driver though he thought that the W$100 he’d been charged for the journey into the eastern sector of the city had already included more than a little extra. It was certainly far more than he would have expected to pay back home, or even on one of his frequent trips into the U.S.A. He wanted to be noticed though; for this part of his journey to be remembered.
He didn’t say much to Mrs. Simone when she opened the door to the tidy looking town house the taxi had deposited him at, merely handing over his suitcase and briefcase for safe keeping. He’d buy a new suitcase, and clothes to fill it, later. He got directions to the local shops and headed back out into the late afternoon sunlight.
When he arrived there, he made a big show whilst purchasing one or two small items from each store he visited. At the second, he had quite a long conversation with the lady that served him, explaining that he was here on vacation visiting friends and that this was, indeed, his first visit to the U.K.
Having made sure his arrival would be remembered, he set off as if heading back to the house he was staying at. Once out of sight of the shops though, he looked around for a taxi to take him towards the address he had for his target. When he found one, he asked to be taken to a station his research had told him was near to his final destination. When he arrived at the other end of the journey, he was careful to hand over a correctly calculated amount of money. Not so much that the tip might be considered excessive nor so little that he would be thought mean. He wanted to be thought of as just another fare, not to be remarkable or memorable for good or bad reasons.
He went more or less straight to the deposit lockers at the station, and having located them pretty much straight to the one numbered twenty eight that he was seeking. There was no need for a key. A three digit number tapped in was all that was needed to deactivate the lock and let it swing open. He didn’t pause to look at the small package he removed from it, slipping it straight into the breast pocket of the jacket he was wearing.
After re-emerging from the station, he made small purchases at several of the stores that surrounded it, again not wanting to draw attention to himself by buying too much at any one of them. He bought a couple of cheap suits and other clothing to go with it, finally buying a small suitcase from a department store. He found a fairly quiet pub at a crossroads on the same street as the department store where he could transfer what he’d bought into the case largely unobserved. He kept a low profile there, exchanging only a few words with the man who presented him with a fresh glass of the somewhat warm beer he was drinking whenever he returned an empty one, and making the chicken and chips meal he ordered last as long as possible. When it was properly dark he left the pub and moved quickly down the street, trailing the small suitcase behind him as he went.
It didn’t take long to find what he was looking for. The first two down-and-outs he approached weren’t prepared to sell him their IDs. They wanted the money he offered but penalties for doing it would be severe indeed if they got caught. He left them and moved on, waiting until he was out of sight before looking for someone else to try. He didn’t want to risk being around if one were to decide to report his attempt to one of the police officers that he saw now and then passing by.
The third man he approached was much more amenable to his offer. The W$500 he was promised for the ID number and the four digit PIN that verified he was the owner was more than the man had seen in a very long time, and would provide many little luxuries over the following days. He wasn’t even being asked to hand over the card permanently, so wouldn’t need to make excuses the next time he had cause to produce one.
Raoul slipped the card into the reader he pulled from the packet he’d collected at the station and verified that the PIN he’d been given was genuine by tapping it into the machine. It quickly allowed the transaction to continue though now he had no reason to do so. He took the card out and handed it back to the man, along with the W$500 he’d promised. The man had already disappeared into the darkness by the time he drew a new, blank, card from the same packet. Copying the read card’s details onto the blank one was easy enough, involving nothing more than slipping the new one into the same machine. He was now Mr. Adam Johnson. He had to be. He had the ID to prove it after all.
He slipped the new card into his wallet, replacing the one that had identified him as Enrico Gomez. He pushed the old card deep into the suitcase for now. Being found with two different IDs on him would be a sure way of alerting someone he was up to no good so carrying them both at once was one of the riskier times during his assignment, but he needed to have one on him at all times in case he was asked to present it, so he hadn’t left it back with the other things he’d dropped off at the Simone’s.
Finding the address he had for Riaz in the street map that had been one of his small purchases wasn’t particularly easy. He normally had no problem with using maps but in the darkness he was forced to peer at it using the inadequate lighting of the street lamps that were dotted along the road. Once he’d got his bearings though, he didn’t need to look at it again as he walked confidently to his destination. He walked straight past the building at first, then returned using the opposite side of the road to sit on a brick wall. A conveniently located hedge partially hid him from the address he was interested in, while still affording him a fairly clear view of it. A bus stop, not that many paces away, provided a credible reason for him to be there. He was rewarded soon after arriving by seeing Riaz leave. He could have taken him out there and then. He was expert in killing in many ways, and didn’t need the gun that could easily be provided by one of the local contacts he’d been given. Actually ‘given’ wasn’t really the right word. He’d paid quite steeply for the information. He preferred to do it at a distance if possible though. It was usually safer for him. The building Riaz had left comprised several flats, and the door he’d left by was a common entrance. Raoul had no way of confirming for sure which one of the flats belonged to Riaz. But the information he had been given had proved correct for the address. He had no reason to think the flat number wouldn’t be too.
Having verified his target’s location, he checked into a small hotel on a street that ran parallel, paying for several nights’ stay in cash as well as leaving a sizeable deposit. The credit cards he had were in Gomez’ name so he’d left them inside his briefcase. He made his way up to the room he’d procured. It wasn’t spectacular but would serve well enough for the few days he intended staying there. He transferred his new clothes into the wardrobe that was set into one of the walls and pushed the suitcase in at the bottom. He cast around the room for a temporary hiding place for his ‘Gomez’ ID card, deciding in the end to slip it in amongst the pile of guide books and leaflets held in a plastic stand on one of the room’s small tables. For extra safety, he carefully wiped away any trace of his finger prints before dropping it in. Worst case, he could deny any knowledge of it and assert that it must have been left by another guest.