The street is crowded with cops. Olrik keeps his eyes trained forward as Fred threads the Bentley through the crowded street.
“You’ll find useful items in the bag, sir.” Fred is also looking straight ahead, calm but alert. If all goes well he will deposit his dangerous charge in Brighton in a few hours. If anything at all goes wrong he will be in jail, probably for a very long time. His employer didn’t give many details, but he was very, very clear on that point.
Without looking, Olrik pulls a large paper shopping bag to his lap. Of course Delaney would think of everything. Right on top there’s a light grey felt fedora and a pair of tinted glasses. He puts them on and checks his reflection in the rearview mirror. He looks like hell, but in an unobtrusive way. Good. It’s too much to expect a complete kit, but he finds the basics, plus a notebook and pen. He can’t very well change while they drive, but he removes Soprianski’s shoes, now smashed flat at the heel, and tries the black brogues. Perfect.
“We’ll stop somewhere once we’re out of all this commotion, Sir.”
“Take your time, Fred.” In fact, Olrik cannot wait to get rid of these stolen clothes. Knowing they’ve spent time on Soprianski’s worthless skin makes him sick, but he wills himself to be still. At least Fred isn’t adding to his tension. The driver is a young man, but seems very steady, almost stolid. His square frame matches his solid demeanor. Olrik imagines that’s he’s ex-military or an ex-convict, perhaps both. Delaney tends to rehabilitate people from the edges of society, people a lot closer to the straight world than Olrik has ever stepped.
Taking the cue from his passenger, Fred takes a circuitous route, meandering through East Dulwich. He swings by Dulwich Park and comes to a stop in the lot by College Road. There are only a few other vehicles in the area, none currently occupied. Fred gets out and leans casually agains the car, sheltering the window from view. He lights a cigarette, and by the time he the time he finishes Olrik has managed to wrestle himself into his new clothes. Hearing the door open, Fred takes a second cigarette out of the pack and hands it over. His passenger looks much better. The new grey suit is a bit baggy but the trousers break correctly and the sleeves hit the wrists about right. The tan trench coat covers most of it anyway. Fred waits until the man has enjoyed his first cigarette in months before speaking.
“Be sure to leave a list of whatever we can get you, sir. Mr. Delaney was very firm on that point.”
“I will. I’ll also have a task for you later on.” They stand in silence for a minute. It’s a decent day for mid-March. Some of the trees are already greening up and the clouds skimming by don’t obscure much of the sky. It would be nice to take a long walk through the woods, maybe get a bit lost, but Fred is on the clock. They leave the park and head towards the A23 in silence.
When they’re within a few miles of The Grand, the phone number Olrik has been trying to think of the entire drive comes to him. He scrawls it down quickly along with a few instructions. As Fred pulls up to the front, Olrik hands him two sheets of notepaper. One is a list of supplies, the other just a name and number.
“Call this number on your way back and read the message exactly. You should get an answer right away, but keep trying until you do, preferably from different phones. The answer you want is “will do.” Anything else means, you’ve got the wrong person. Don’t engage.”
“Got it.” Fred gets out to open the door and signals the bellman. Olrik wraps himself up in the coat and obscures the lower half of his face with the scarf.
“Any luggage, sir?”
“Luggage will follow. Would you mind watching the car while I get Mr. Cooper here checked in?”
Cooper. Not an alias he’s used before, but easy to remember. He should have asked for these details earlier. Damn these memory lapses. He shoots Fred a questioning look.
“Paul Cooper of New York City. Banker, ” Fred keeps his voice low. “You came to London and had the misfortune to get influenza, hence the need to recover. Your luggage has disappeared mysteriously.”
American then. That’s not a problem, he can do American. “Mr. Cooper has had quite the run of bad luck.” He coughs and steadies himself against Fred’s arm, getting into character.Fred merely nods. The front desk has been expecting them and check-in goes remarkably smoothly. “Mr. Cooper” might look a bit seedy but he has one of best sea view rooms, one week paid in advance, earning him a place in the chief clerk’s heart of hearts. With everything in order Fred is eager to leave.
“Do you need anything else, Mr. Cooper?”
Olrik turns and removes the tinted glasses. “Everything seems fine, thank you, Fred. Be sure to drive safely, and let me know when you get home.”Let me know when the job is done, you mean.
Fred nods. “I’ll be sure to do that.” He watches as “Cooper” reaches the elevator. Reassuring himself that the sheets of paper are safely tucked in his breast pocket, Fred drives away as quickly as he can. He’s worked for Mr. Delaney for five years and rarely has a simple job left him feeling so chilled. He’ll make the damned call, turn over the list, and get a bottle of whiskey for company tonight. Good luck to “Cooper” whoever he might be. May they never meet again.