Full Time, by Neil Wright

Full Time, by Neil Wright (Fiction)

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In Stokes Valley and the Hutt, Kevin Pearce's rugby achievements are legendary. Now in his forties and living in London, Kevin's son Joe still treasures the memories of the rugby, family and life experiences he shared with his dad.
Returning for a visit to his ailing father, now afflicted with Alzheimer's, Joe searches for his childhood friend, the young man Kevin protected and took under his wing – and so unwittingly triggers a deadly chain of events.
This new novel is a sequel to "Forward Pass", the vivid tale of Joe's adolescence within his 1970s Hutt Valley family, school and rugby communities.     

From: Full Time, by Neil Wright

Chapter 3

The plan was a simple one. Bale and Evans would take the Old Bailey down to Wellington, then across the Cook Strait to Tasman Bay, mooring her at Kaiteriteri Beach and then staying at the motor camp just across the road. Sutherland, Edgar and Bertram would drive down to Wellington, take the ferry across Cook Strait and drive on to Takaka, some 30 kms from Kaiteriteri, staying at prepaid rental accommodation.

Then on Sunday the 13th of September the Hounds would drive from Takaka to a place called Marahau and walk through the bush track, coming out at a small secluded bay some time around 7pm – “no later”. The dinghy would pick them up and take them back to the boat moored just offshore.

Rendezvous with Charlie’s boat would be at 22:30 “somewhere in the middle of Golden Bay”. Afterwards, the Old Bailey would drop the three back at the pickup point and motor back to Kaiteriteri for the night before setting sail for Wellington the next day with the merchandise. The P would then be transferred to car and driven by Bale back to Auckland – he wanted to get back quickly in order to distribute to his dealers and rake in the proceeds, so as to lessen the interest on the outstanding debt he now had with Charlie; leaving Evans to bring the boat up the east coast “at his leisure”.

The other three would make their way back to Auckland under their own steam and schedule. If all went well, no citizen could testify that they had seen the five men together at any time, either on land or at sea.

They left Auckland harbour on the 5th of September and proceeded down the eastern coastline, stopping on the way to fish and re-fuel. To any bystander, it looked like two mates out to enjoy a few days of fishing around the North Island. They arrived at Wellington four days later, and being lucky with the weather left the day after, crossing the 22-kilometre Cook Strait and making their way around the top of the South Island to Tasman Bay without mishap. They made anchor at Kaiteriteri Beach late afternoon on the 11th.

Bale looked out across the stern of his boat at what has been described as one of the best beaches in the world. The golden sands of Kaiteriteri Beach in the Tasman Bay surroundings were breathtaking. “Look at this vista, Mr Evans, absolutely splendid.” Evans wasn’t much into landscape or vistas, so stood quietly behind his boss as Bale breathed in the sea air as if it would cure all his ills, and then exhaled loudly. He gave the order for Evans to reel in the dinghy so that they could row ashore and take up accommodation at the motor camp nearby.

The next two days was spent doing the tourist stuff around the region, driving to Nelson in a hire car to visit the geographical central point of New Zealand, playing golf at Motueka, and taking a cruise around the Bay in the boat; Bale fascinated with Split Apple Rock, marvelling at how it had been cut in half “like a hot knife through butter”.

Eventually the night of the 13th arrived. They grabbed their fishing rods and set out down the beach to the dinghy, rowing out to the Old Bailey at around 17:00 hours for some “night fishing”. By the time they had reached the pickup point at Marahau it was dark.

“Where are the other two?” Evans whispered urgently to Edgar, as he held the bow of the dinghy in the shallow waters off the secluded bay. He had rowed in from the Old Bailey only to find Edgar waiting in the shadows alone.

“Relax, they’re coming. I walked the track ten minutes in front of them in case any hikers came in the other direction.”

It made sense. In order for the three men not to be seen together, Edgar walked the track first and, if he met with unexpected company, would simply make a phone call back to his colleagues who were ten minutes behind him so that they could hide and wait for the hikers to pass. Like the Duke, the trio were always cautious; they didn’t want to be seen together by anyone that night.

Sure enough, a few minutes later the two came out from the bushes onto the sandy shore. Few pleasantries were passed amongst them (they all remembered the night of the salt) and soon they were rowing back to the boat at good speed.

Once on board the men went about the usual drill: Evans drove the boat while the other three armed themselves with the weapons that had been hidden on board, wrapped in greaseproof paper to protect them from salt air. Each would pack a hand gun, all G30S Glocks, in their belts, but semi-automatic rifles were within easy access should the distance require any long range shooting.

Bale sat silently watching the GPS mark the trip on its green screen, the boat slowly making its way to the coordinates given by him. Charlie had already made it down to the South Island, coming down straight after the night at Little Barrier Island, and had recon­noitred the rendezvous spot earlier on, setting the coordinates and phoning these to Bale.

The plan was that Charlie and his four crew would be waiting at the spot now, having arrived in daytime to enjoy some fishing in Golden Bay. All he had to do was wait a few hours to hand over the ten kilos and then make his way back to Westport, returning the boat to its owners. The crew would disband back to their NZ homes, while Charlie drove to Christchurch airport and then home to Sydney on the next available flight. The money would follow later through a web of internet banking channels once sales had been made and the proceeds laundered.

It was now 22:00 and Bale gave the order to stop the boat. Thirty minutes to the pickup and it was time to survey the scene. They sat quietly, the lapping of water against the hull the only noise as they listened to their surroundings, trying to pick up any sound out of the ordinary. “Fools rush in” was Bale’s credo, and it was why he had remained so successful at the trade.

Fifteen minutes of silence, a nod from Bale, and then Evans started the motor, ploughing slowly into the night, the green coordinates of the GPS getting closer to the mark.

A small prick of white light shone from the dark, then the colour changed to green. It was Charlie’s boat giving his location and the all-clear.

“Show time, boys.” Bale glanced at Evans. “Moor her to the side of Charlie like before, Mr Evans, and watch those stooges.” The remark went over Edgar, Bertram and Sutherlands’ heads; they thought Bale had meant it for Charlie’s crew, not his own.

Slowly the boats came together in the darkness of Golden Bay. Evans tied his rope around the rail of the other, not for any seafaring reason, but to stop one vessel making a quick departure before the deal was over. Charlie did likewise. Old Bailey’s motor went silent.

Bale appeared from below with a bag of money. “Here’s the balance of the first instalment; Charlie: $450,000 as agreed.”

“You’re a scholar, Duke.” Charlie held out his left hand, which contained a bag of ten kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, well over seven million dollars’ worth of Hell destined for the streets of New Zealand. They simultaneously took each other’s bag and laid them on their decks.

The crews kept watch on each other. No words were spoken – what was the point in passing the time in friendly banter when the next second you could be running for your life…or theirs?

Sutherland came forward and stabbed a bag of meth with his knife. If there were to be any treachery in the deal, now would be the time it would be proven. He withdrew a small collection of crystal and rubbed it along his gum. He repeated the procedure on three more bags, and a few seconds later nodded his head.

“No salt this time, boss, this is primo.”

“Well splendid then; Mr Evans, time to unleash. Charlie, it’s been an honour. We’ll speak again no doubt about the money I owe and the interest. But till then I bid you a good night, sir.”

“Nice doing business again, Duke. Bon voyage.”

Five minutes was all it took for the deal to be done. The boats drifted apart and then motored away from each other, Bale heading east, Charlie out west through Golden Bay and down the west coast of the South Island to Westport.

It was midnight when the Old Bailey anchored off the beach at Tasman Bay. Bale hadn’t said much on the homeward trip. He sat at the back of the boat, letting the night breeze ruffle through his hair, too busy dreaming of his retirement and the millions he now had at his disposal. At last he could live his life of luxury, enjoying complete freedom from all those above and around him. He could buy a home down here, hopefully overlooking that marvellous split rock, he could fish out the rest of his days and maybe even invest in his own vineyard, call it the Seventh Estate, or maybe just do nothing but enjoy the sun and beach. So lost in his dream that he didn’t hear Edgar’s voice until too late….

“Give us the bag, Duke.”

Edgar was holding his gun level with Bale’s head, three metres away. The plan was to kill both Bale and Evans in cold blood when they got to anchor in Tasman Bay, making it look like a murder/suicide, get into the dinghy and head for shore. From here, two would start to walk back down the track while Edgar rowed the dinghy back to the Old Bailey, tied it back up and swam back. They would then simply drive away and leave two bodies for discovery some days later, when they were well on their way northwards with their booty.

But the Duke was sitting at the stern of the boat. One shot might cause the bag to go overboard with Bale still holding it. So a slight deviation in plan was needed.

“Throw the bag over here Boss…now!” repeated Edgar.

“Mr Edgar, put the gun down. I know you’re not going to shoot me, so stop being a bloody idiot.” The Duke was calm despite looking at a quick death at the hands of a trained soldier.

“Oh I’ll blast you alright, mate, if you don’t throw that bag here in three seconds.” Edgar wasn’t bluffing. He extended his arm straight out to improve his aim.

“1…2…”

“I placed blanks in the Glocks before you came on board tonight, Mr Edgar…my instincts told me to do so. Put the gun down and I’ll let you all live.” Bale then extended his left arm so that the bag was hanging over the water lapping at the stern of the boat, providing further reason for Edgar not to shoot.

Evans remained motionless at the wheel. Given the earlier warning, he had taken his Luger out from his waist band and lodged it between his right leg and the side of his driver’s seat. He rightly assumed that he would be next to die after the Duke, and the only things he had going in his favour were the dark of the night and Bale, who now had the full attention of the Hounds.

Suddenly the Duke swung the bag at Edgar’s feet. The trio were still thinking about whether their guns were loaded with blanks when the bag hit the darkened deck, spilling some of its contents out onto the floor of the boat. It was only a split second of distraction, but it was the only chance the Duke had. And he took it, grabbing for his shoulder-holstered pistol in the darkness.

Gun shots blasted out into the night. Edgar was hit in his stomach, reeling back into Sutherland and ruining his shot at Evans, who had instinctively ducked below the steering wheel and now grabbed for his own gun.

Edgar’s bullet had grazed the side of Bale’s neck, making him stumble backwards still firing into the melee where Bertram, Sutherland and the now prostrate form of Edgar were positioned. The two ducked into the cabin, blocking them from the view of Evans, who was crouched under the seat he’d occupied only seconds ago, and from Bale, who had gone over the back of the stern to take up a position on the duck board, the diver’s deck protruding from the rear.

As quickly as the violence had begun, it suddenly stopped. Complete silence prevailed; the boat, bobbing passively, the only movement on the water.

A standoff was looming, and that wasn’t in Bale’s plan. And he was bleeding profusely from the wound to his neck.

“Give it up lads. Throw the guns away and you won’t get hurt in the crossfire.” Bale cleverly alerted them to the fact that they were covered from the front and side.

“Bullshit…you’re gonna kill us, you pommie prick!” shouted Bertram from the darkness. “It was all Edgar’s idea, not ours….”

“So you have nothing to fear then, have you.” Bale was putting up a good front, his voice showing no signs of the pain his wound was causing him.

Evans remained crouched, Luger trained on the wide dark doorway to the cabin.

Bertram and Sutherland knew that they were dead men. The only way out of this mess was to shoot their way out – all on board knew that fact. They both checked their weapons and found that there weren’t blanks after all, the dull lead-tipped cartridges lined up neatly in their magazines giving the two ex-soldiers all the confidence they needed.

“You take Evans, I’ll take Bale. Empty the mag at him, okay?” whispered Bertram. He moved to one side of the doorway, Sutherland to the side closest to where Evans was crouched, their training over the years now taking over. Their best form of defence was to attack.

Bertram held up three fingers to Sutherland. “How can we trust you, Duke…how do we know you ain’t gonna blast us once we’re out on the deck?” he yelled.

One finger went down…. “Ready….”

“My good man, you are talking to an Englishman…a gentleman. My word is my bond, I swear on my mother’s life….”

“Crap, I bet you ain’t got no mother. Stand up and holster that shoulder boulder and we’ll come out peaceful like…”

Another finger went down…. “Steady….”

“Really, Mr Bertram, don’t be such a fool. I give you my word that you and your mate….”

“Go!” Both stormed out of the doorway, blasting in the direction of their respective targets. Sutherland scored a hit on Evans that knocked him backwards from a crouch to lay him sprawled out on his back. But he still managed to fire back.

And then suddenly the deck was lit up by the bright searchlights of two boats that had somehow arrived out of the darkness and were motoring at full speed towards them. A loudhailer blared out into the night….

“New Zealand Police…drop your weapons, you are surrounded. I repeat, drop your weapons….”

Confusion reigned on board the Old Bailey. Bale was a sitting duck, brightly lit by the powerful lights, crouching down on the wrong side of the stern in clear view of the three policemen and four Armed Offenders Squad personnel that occupied each police launch. Sutherland and Bertram were standing mid-deck while Evans lay sprawled out on his back, underneath the driver’s seat, shot in the leg and bleeding out over the fibreglass surface of the floor. Not one of them on board had any idea where the coppers had come from…like possums in headlights they froze, trapped.

“Drop ’em…now! This is your last warning!” The boats were slowing, and the dark garbed men of the AOS had their rifles lined up on each of the three men standing on the deck.

Bale coolly weighed up the situation. He had shot Edgar, perhaps killed him, plus a few kilos of crystal meth somewhere on the deck of his boat. Add to that the incriminating evidence at his Auckland home which the cops would eventually uncover, showing him to be the mastermind behind the whole operation. He was looking at life slammed up without bail. His mind was reeling…how could this be? And what had happened to his man on the inside?

“Boss, drop it for God’s sake.” Evans groaned in pain, holding his bleeding leg. “Give it up, Boss, we’re done.”

Evans could see Bale’s stance soften with resignation; followed by the slight dip of his shoulders as he went to drop his gun. The police boats were now within five metres, lighting up the floor of the boat as the distance shortened. Evans heard the distant thump of two guns hit the deck as Bertram and Sutherland dropped their weapons and held their hands aloft.

Through his pain Evans saw Bale look apologetically at him, as if to say sorry to his henchman as he lay wounded on the floor. Then a sudden change come over Bale, a look of utter disgust now showing clearly on his face as it turned to a snarl. Bale began to raise his pistol at him, then voices yelling, followed by more gunshots.

Evans felt the impact and agony of another bullet as it struck into his stomach. And then the darkness came over him, silent blackness. The unbearable pain was gone.

Peace at last.

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