Wednesday, 22 July 2009

F.U.B.A.R. by Paul Grzegorezek Part 1

Uncommonly for TKnC, I've decided to post a 2 parter (to keep within the 2,000 word limit), so I hope everyone works with me on this one...

Paul Grzegorezek is an author whose debut novel is doing the rounds with the publishers. F.U.B.A.R is his work in progress and would love comments on what people think of his work. This is an exerpt from the book. Please give Paul the feedback in the usual way.


I sat in the middle of a cafe on the Carfax in Horsham, overlooking the bandstand in the middle of the paved area. I checked my watch for the third time in as many minutes and forced myself to be calm. I’d spoken to Susan earlier and arranged a meeting on the steps of the bandstand itself at 1000 hours, cautioning her to come alone. I’d then hidden Eva and the car in an unobtrusive side road almost a mile away and trekked into town more than an hour early to keep an eye on the area.
I had no doubt that she would bring friends, but that was par for the course. What concerned me was whether or not she would give me a chance to talk before she ordered me either shot or captured.
I’d arranged a public meeting in the hope that so many people around would stop her from doing anything too obvious. There’s very little you can do against a sniper in an elevated position, but the same can’t be said for a snatch squad, which was the most likely tactic in a public place.
The bandstand was set back about fifty yards from the road, which was the only vehicle access to the area, and as my watch told me I only had another fifteen minutes to wait a white van pulled in with two men sitting in the front, looking unnaturally alert for the builders that the van signage proclaimed they were.
They were so obvious, in fact, that I immediately knew that they were there to be spotted, and began to look more closely to see the real cover team.
It took me a few minutes, but eventually I found them. A woman walking a small dog was going around the square for the second time, window shopping in the same stores that she had looked at last time. It might just have been paranoia, but I was fairly sure she was in play.
A couple sat on a bench on the far side of the bandstand outside the small post office, but when they hugged each other I saw how careful their hands were not to press clothing against the body, which I presumed would give away the shape of the holstered weapons beneath their jackets.
I began to scan windows and rooftops, looking for their over watch, but a good sniper will never stick their barrel out or use binoculars the way they do in films. Instead, they will be standing well inside whatever room they are in, the angle from their weapon enough to cover the square but not close enough to be spotted from outside.
I marked the two buildings I would have used, then began a window by window search. The third floor of a pub on the far side of the road looked favourite, an open window there giving a perfect view of the bandstand.
On the way here I’d bought myself a pay as you go mobile in case I needed to call Susan again, and also bought one which now waited with Eva. If she didn’t hear from me by 1015 hours she would take the car and leave with most of my money, to do whatever she thought appropriate.
As I scanned the area, trying to pick out the rest of the team, Susan came into view from the far side of the Carfax and walked slowly towards the bandstand.
One of the reasons that I had chosen this particular cafe to watch from was that it had a rear exit, which I now used, jogging down a side alley to get myself to the far side of the square without being seen.
Once there, I walked along the pavement until I was positioned underneath the pub that I thought the sniper was in and dialled Susan’s number.
“Morgan’s”, she answered, and I saw her looking around as she did so.
“I thought you weren’t going to bring friends?”
Her head twisted this way and that for a moment, then became very still as she tried to regain control of the situation.
“You have to allow me a little insurance John, as far as I know you may be here to kill me”.
“Well I’m not, but I guess you don’t want to take my word for it. I’m currently standing outside your sniper position, behind your stooge team”, I said, referring to the men in the van.
Before she could stop herself, Susan looked directly towards my position, which confirmed my suspicions about the sniper.
“Okay John, are you coming to me or am I coming to you?”
“You come to me, and we’ll have a chat. There are a few things I think you need to know.”
She hung up without answering and began to walk towards me slowly, clearly giving time for the team to work out where she was going. I used the white van to block the rest of the team from seeing me, and waved cheerily at the mirror when I saw one of the men peering out at me. He glanced away disinterestedly as Susan approached and stopped a few feet away from me.
“So talk John”.
“Would you not prefer to grab a drink and have a chat?” I asked, motioning towards yet another cafe.
“No thanks, I don’t socialise with killers”.
“Well that’s bullshit and you know it. We’re all killers Susan, that’s why you employ us. Now can we have a civil conversation before you decide that I’m the murderer you’re making me out to be, or are you past the caring stage?”
She stared at me, her face unreadable. She must have been a demon at poker.
“Go on”.
So I told her what Eva had told me, all of it, and included exactly what had happened at the house, then at Arundel. As I spoke, I saw her expression change from nothing to hostility then finally to a grudging acceptance.
“So there you have it. The girl is alive and well, but if I go to anyone about it, we’ll end up being held at Paddington Green, then one of the other inmates will find a way to kill us. You can probably see now why I was so wary of coming out in the open with this”.
She nodded.
“I can indeed. I’ve heard of Atlantic Freight and Shipping, although few people have, which makes me more inclined to believe you. When I was in the Navy there was a standing order to leave their ships alone, no matter what. When I got into the intelligence side of things I got to know them a little better, but I just thought they sold arms direct, I had no idea they were using criminal gangs to do it. No wonder the FBI were so cagey about this case”.
“So you believe me then?”
She nodded reluctantly.
“I do, but that means I’ve been lied to by someone else”. She reached into her pocket then spoke into her lapel.
“Alpha team, stand down, stand down, Blake is no longer a target, re...”
I heard the shot at the same time as I felt an excruciating pain in my shoulder, the force of the round knocking me backwards despite having spent most of its energy tearing through Susan’s head. As I fell, I saw her face, half torn away, a look of surprise in her one remaining eye as she slumped to the ground.


  1. Well, Paul, that certainly gripped me and the 'ending' gave it the feel of a stand alone short story. Excellent stuff.
    Now for part 2...

  2. A silky smooth read, Matt. Very well written. Now for part 2.