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Authors: Gerald Seymour

No Mortal Thing: A Thriller

BOOK: No Mortal Thing: A Thriller
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About the Author

 

Gerald Seymour exploded onto the literary scene in 1975 with the massive bestseller Harry’s Game. The first major thriller to tackle the modern troubles in Northern Ireland, it was described by Frederick Forsyth as like ‘nothing else I have ever read’ and it changed the landscape of the British thriller forever.

 

 

Gerald Seymour was a reporter at ITN for fifteen years. He covered events in Vietnam, Borneo, Aden, the Munich Olympics, Israel and Northern Ireland.

 

 

 

Also by Gerald Seymour and published by Hodder & Stoughton

 

VAGABOND

THE CORPORAL’S WIFE

THE OUTSIDERS

A DENIABLE DEATH

THE DEALER AND THE DEAD

THE COLLABORATOR

TIME BOMB

THE WALKING DEAD

RAT RUN

THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

TRAITOR’S KISS

THE UNTOUCHABLE

HOLDING THE ZERO

A LINE IN THE SAND

THE WAITING TIME

KILLING GROUND

THE HEART OF DANGER

THE FIGHTING MAN

THE JOURNEYMAN TAILOR

CONDITION BLACK

HOME RUN

AT CLOSE QUARTERS

A SONG IN THE MORNING

FIELD OF BLOOD

IN HONOUR BOUND

ARCHANGEL

THE CONTRACT

RED FOX

KINGFISHER

THE GLORY BOYS

HARRY’S GAME

 

 

 

 

www.hodder.co.uk

 

 

 

First published in Great Britain in 2016 by Hodder & Stoughton

An Hachette UK company

 

1

 

Copyright © Gerald Seymour 2016

 

The right of Gerald Seymour 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

 

Hardback ISBN 978 1 444 75863 4

Trade Paperback ISBN 978 1 444 75864 1

Ebook ISBN 978 1 444 75866 5

 

Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

Carmelite House

50 Victoria Embankment

London EC4Y 0DZ

 

www.hodder.co.uk

 

 

 

For the many friends I rely on when I stray into areas beyond my experience – they know who they are – and whose patience, kindness and advice I value greatly.

Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Prologue

The boy kissed his cheeks, first the right, then the left, and Bernardo smiled. He felt a sort of happiness at the love shown him by the boy, and the respect.

He had told him that afternoon what he wanted of him. The boy was Marcantonio, his grandson. Bernardo was now seventy-four years old and owned a wealth of experience from the life he had lived, but there were matters – at present – that were beyond his powers to achieve. A few years back, ten certainly, he would not have required the assistance of his grandson, but he did now. He was slightly built, maintained a good head of hair and his arms were muscled. His stomach was without flabby rolls, and his eyesight was good. His hands were broad, and calloused from the work he did in the garden at the back of his home. But he had lost a little of his strength and his breath was shorter. He had asked his grandson to do what he would have preferred to do himself. Some four years ago he had realised he could no longer strangle a man with his bare hands when his victim had writhed and kicked and he had had to call the boy to finish the job.

His grandson grinned, then hugged him once more, touched his arm and turned on the step at the kitchen door.

A few years before, Bernardo had taken Marcantonio to a car park by the beach on the Ionian coast where they had met a man he supplied with cocaine. It had been a familiar story, a cash-flow shortage, a contract broken. There was no indication as to when the debt would be paid. The man would have believed he was dealing with an elderly
padrino
, once strong but now in failing health and with only a teenage boy in support. The man had had, in the car park and evident from the glow of the cigarettes in the darkness, an escort of three. As instructed, the boy had ambled towards the second car, taken the pistol from the back of his belt and used it to smash the windscreen. He had poked his arm inside and had held the pistol tight against the front passenger’s temple. No one had challenged him. From the interior lights on the dashboard they would have seen his face, its expression, and prayed to the Madonna. He had reached inside the car and started to squeeze the fleshy throat.

In his youth, Bernardo had been able to kill, by strangulation, in less than three minutes. He had walked the few paces across the car park, relieved his grandson of the pistol, then gestured with a jerk of his head towards the man’s car. His grandson, still at school and shaving only once a week, had gone and done the work. A minute, perhaps. One guttural croak, one last kick inside the footwell, then silence. He had thought it similar to taking the boy to a brothel, in Locri, Siderno or at Brancaleone, to lose his virginity, a rite of passage he had facilitated the year before.

The escort had gone and the body had been buried in scrub above the beach. Bernardo had driven his own car, a nine-year-old Fiat Panda City-Van, up into the foothills of the mountains while Marcantonio had driven the victim’s. After they had set fire to it, they had gone home, grandfather and grandson showing less emotion than if they had been to a football match. The boy had made no fuss, shown no excitement. It had been a job well done.

Now Bernardo stood by the door. The winter was over but it was still cold. Marcantonio paused, half turned, then gave a little wave. The light came from behind Bernardo and caught the scar – the only blemish in his grandson’s smooth skin. There had been a dispute with a shoemaker in the village; drink might have given the man more courage than was good for him because he was rude about the principal family. Marcantonio and a gang of
picciotti
had gone to his house and beaten him, then wrecked the main room. They had been leaving when a child, who had followed them out, picked up a stone and flung it after them. It had struck Marcantonio’s chin, had needed two stitches. They would have taken revenge but a
carabinieri
car had happened on the scene. Marcantonio, a handkerchief pressed to the wound, and his fellows had slid away into the darkness. The shoemaker’s family were gone by the morning, their possessions loaded into a lorry, with an escort to see them out of the village.

Further down the track that led away from the house, a car engine coughed into life.

They had talked about it in the kitchen, the radio on, and the television at the other end of the room. They had sat opposite each other at the table, their heads close. Mamma had been behind him, mixing the sauce that would go with the pasta she would serve after they had eaten slices of cured ham and spiced sausage. The boy did not interrupt but sometimes gazed out of the window at the fading view of the wooded crags behind the house and the distant peaks of the Aspromonte mountains. Bernardo had said what should be done, how and where. Then he had questioned the boy: did he understand? There had been a nod. Mamma did not comment. He did not require her opinion so she was quiet. She, though, had packed Marcantonio’s grip. The sports holdall had bulged with clothes, trainers, a well-filled washbag, and a framed picture, protected with bubble wrap, of the Madonna at the shrine of Polsi, in a steep-sided valley to the south-west. The boy smoked at the table, which irritated Bernardo’s chest but he said nothing. The boy was his future: he had killed five times already in his life, would do so twice that evening. At the end, the boy had not answered him but the delicate fingers of his right hand rested reassuringly on Bernardo’s wrist: the old man worried too much . . .

When Marcantonio had stood up, thin and sleek, Mamma had wiped her hands decisively on her apron, enveloped him in her arms, crushing him close to her, then abruptly released him. The radio had been switched off and the TV had been turned down. She had laid the table and Bernardo had poured wine from the Crotone region: a good measure for himself, another for Mamma, but half a glass for the boy, who had tasks to fulfil that evening. The bag went into Stefano’s car.

Exhaust fumes spilled from the old Lancia, and the headlights captured the path that led to the vegetable garden, the chicken coops, the shed, whose roof was unstable, and the dry stone walls, which bulged outwards. The first buds were on the trees and the branches swayed in the wind. The last autumn leaves scurried over the path and whipped against the shed door. The boy walked to the car and did not look back.

BOOK: No Mortal Thing: A Thriller
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