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Sample Chapter: The Distraction:
Chapter 17

Ridge went directly to the office early and left a note for Joanne, just saying that he was going to London for the day and that he was taking a job car, from the pool of cars that he had access to.

He picked the car he wanted and left the police station behind him as he made for the A23 and M25. He wondered what Nikki Quintero had in store for him.

At the conference yesterday, she came across as being his kind of woman, unlikely to take shit from anybody!

He found a long-stay car park, about half a mile from Nikki’s address, and took a day-ticket from the machine.

Ridge had time on his hands, and wanted to have a look at her address from different angles.

He also wanted to satisfy himself that it was safe for him to go there. He simply was not prepared to take on trust, as it were, someone from the home country of people who were on their way to the UK to kill him.

It seemed a little unusual that Nikki Quintero was keeping clear of the Colombian Embassy. Perhaps she was just being careful.

Well, he was going to be careful as well; for all he knew, she could be the one sent over to kill him. If so, he did not want to make it easy for her.

He found the street and circled the area, looking for anything out of place.

He sat and had a coffee on the pavement of a small coffee house, from where he could watch the entrance-way to Nikki’s street.

He sat there, pretending to read a daily newspaper but really looking out for people, cars, or any small indication that something was amiss. There was nothing.

He ended up paying for his coffee and walking across the roadway and towards her address.

As he approached the building he could hear a lot of noise coming from the premises. Pressing the buzzer, he heard it ring loudly inside the building and wondered why it echoed around so much.

He took a step back and waited.

The noises from within suddenly stopped and, a few seconds later, Nikki Quintero partially opened the door.

She was dressed in her fight gear, consisting of a stunning red silk tee-shirt with a deep V-shaped neck, matched with black silk shorts and white trainers. She had one hand free, which she had used to open the door. The other hand was still inside a boxing-glove.

She was perspiring freely and was puffing, as if out of breath.

To complete every man’s ideal fantasy image of the ultimate glamour female athlete, she was wearing a white sweat-band around her head.

She smiled, a little shyly, he thought, before she stepped back and fully opened the door.

“Come on in, John, you are right on time.”

He smiled at her and said: “Nice to see you again, Nikki.”

He stepped inside what was simply a gym with a boxing ring, set up in the centre of the ground floor.

Nikki closed the door and led him across the room to where four chairs and a table were placed against the wall. She picked up a set of clothes consisting of a pair of boxing-gloves, shorts, tee-shirt and a towel, which she passed to him.

“I have a friend who has fought Fuentes on the streets of Cartagena and knows how he works.

“He is going to help us this morning and show you how to prepare yourself. So we go, yes?” She pointed with her gloved hand towards the changing room.

Ridge did not like the way this was going. He was on the outside of something, and he did not like it one bit. He felt sure that there was something that he was not being told.

He nodded to her, and then walked into the room and changed.

When he came out, he was not wearing the gloves he had been given. Nikki was inside the ring, sparring and kicking high kicks, like a kick-boxer.

She waved to him to join her. “You are not wearing gloves, my friend.”

“No,” he said, “I do not box.”

Without warning, she suddenly spun around and launched a roundhouse-style kick to his head. Ridge parried the kick with his right hand and ducked as the strike came close to his head.

Nikki reversed her stance and struck him full on the chest with a back fist.

He stepped back as the blow connected, and soaked up the force of the strike.

She was very good, but not that good.

He was waiting for the next roundhouse kick as it came in again, towards his head.

Blocking her move, he moved into her so that he was close to her and facing her as he stepped forward and, using his ankle, scooped up the ankle that she was standing on, in a judo Ko-Uchi-Gari technique.

As he pushed her backwards with the weight of his body, her foot came up off the ground, leaving her airborne for a moment, before she crashed to the ground on her shoulders and back. She lay still for a moment or two, stunned by the force and the shock of the drop to the ground. She started to sit up, apparently still dazed and surprised at his quick reaction.

He bent over towards her and offered her his hand to help pull her onto her feet.

Ridge then felt the vibration coming up through the boxing ring sprung floor, rather than hearing any sort of noise, but instinctively he turned to look and straighten up at the same time.

Suddenly he became aware of an enormous man hurtling across the ring floor towards him.

Ridge was too late. He was body-checked by the man, and completely knocked off his feet and backwards towards the ropes. He crashed against the middle rope, which then stretched upwards and outwards. His momentum carried him on through the expanding gap before he crashed onto the floor, striking his head on the concrete and losing consciousness.

He came round, smelling the astringent smell of something being wafted past his nose.

Ridge stared upwards and tried to focus. Still dazed, he could feel her astride his body and leaning over him. As his eyes focused he became very conscious of her cleavage, close to his face.

He focused on her breasts, and noticed the droplets of sweat clinging to her tanned body. He saw Nikki replace a small bottle of smelling-salts into a small plastic bag, and cut a strip of sutures into segments.

His mind was clear now and, apart from an enormous headache, he felt himself to be OK.

Ridge lay still and let Nikki place two sutures over his eyebrow.

She leaned backwards and inspected her handiwork, and appeared satisfied with her efforts. Nikki grinned at him as she stuck a further strip alongside the previous two and then sat upright and leaned back on her heels.

Her hands had been firm and confident as she had worked her first-aid routine, giving him the impression that she wasn’t a novice at sport first aid.

Nikki, feeling Ridge’s body recovering beneath her, decided it was time to move.

She flexed her ankles in such a way that she stood up without using her knees to assist the movement.

It was an impressive trick often used by martial artists when rising from floor level. It gave the impression of a single, continuous, fluid movement without the need to bend the knees or use the hands for support.

Standing above him and stepping to one side, she extended her hand towards him, to help him up.

He ignored her hand, and rolled onto his knees and stood up in the same manner that Nikki had. For a second or two he felt unsteady, but it soon passed. He fingered his newly-acquired cut and sutures.

She grinned at him, noticing his method of getting up. “Down, but not out,” she laughed.

“John, I am sorry for your injury. That was not meant to happen. I needed to show you that the man who is coming over to England to kill you will show you no mercy. He is so dangerous a person! He moves so very fast when attacking any opponent. Pablo, who jumped into the ring and attacked you, has fought Fuentes on the streets of Cartagena. He lost to him and had his arm broken by the man. He was lucky to keep his life.

“Pablo says that he never even saw the man move; he was just hit by the man, full body on and knocked over, like you were. He, too, was taken completely by surprise. The man then just broke his arm to teach him a lesson. It finished Pablo’s fight career, so he joined us at the Directorate.”

Ridge listened to Nikki explain her side of the story.

Secretly, he was furious about the way he had been completely suckered in. He had walked into a trap like a bloody novice!

If his life had depended on a quick response against such an attack he would have been taken out there and then, as he had been.

No second chance! No replay! It was win or lose!

On the streets, no one plays like a sportsman. It’s for real and he would do well to remember that.

He was as angry with himself as he was with Nikki Quintero, perhaps more so.

Ridge knew he should have been anticipating some form of action as he had approached the gym from the street. It was the first time he could be placed at an address at a particular time and it was the ideal place to lay a trap for him and take him out.

He had walked into that one quite nicely.

When he had knocked Nikki down onto the ring floor, she had cunningly allowed him to have his small success in order to distract him.

In fact he was so distracted, not only by her fighting ability, but also by her looks, he had completely failed to notice his attacker until it was too late.

Lesson learned, he thought.

Ridge, still angry, showered and changed and then wandered out of the changing room into the main gym area. He heard Nikki call him from upstairs, so he climbed the stairs to the flat above the ring. His nose took him to the kitchen lounge.

Always cautious about walking directly into a room with an open door, he paused and watched her at the kitchen sideboard.

She was working a gleaming monster coffee machine that was making all sorts of gurgling and spluttering noises.

The smell of the percolating coffee was little short of heaven in a machine.

He thought she seemed familiar with the coffee machine’s hundred-and-one gleaming controls, because she quickly produced two mugs of the delicious-smelling hot liquid and passed one to him.

She then walked over to the compact fridge and opened the door, reached inside and, as if by magic, pulled out a plate containing six apple Danish pastries which she took over to him, offering the plate and a paper tissue.

Ridge took a pastry, tasted it, and then sipped the coffee.

He didn’t look, but just felt her dark brown, stunningly liquid eyes on him.

A few seconds later, he couldn’t resist the urge for a peek any longer and glanced up at her munching her pastry.

There was a slightly cautious look on her face. He guessed that she was trying to say sorry to him for what had happened.

Ridge grinned at Nikki.

He didn’t come cheap, but on this occasion a mug of genuine Colombian coffee and a chilled Danish pastry would do!

That is all it took to put everything in its right place.

He sat back and laughed at the mental, momentary decision he had just made. A bloody mug of coffee and a Danish pastry, and all was forgiven!

Her relief was palpable; he saw the moisture in her eyes as they filled up.

She placed her pastry down on the plate and crossed to him, put her arms around him and laid her head on his shoulder. “I am so sorry for what happened to you, John; the last thing I wanted was for you to be injured!”

Ridge was embarrassed.

“Let’s forget what happened, Nikki. It was a great reminder to me to sharpen up and prepare for this man and his girlfriend. Let us be friends again!”

He felt disappointed when she released the body contact between them and sat back. Her face was a picture. She was showing quite the most beautiful smile he had ever seen. The vibes coming from her turned him on, as did the sight of her breasts rising and falling directly in front of him.

“Nikki, can I have another apple Danish, please?” he asked, not knowing whether it was really the pastry that he wanted, or her, or both!

Nikki seemed to grasp the effect she was having on him, because she stood up and moved away, and picked up another pastry for him.

She then moved over and picked up a folder from the small table and tipped the half a dozen or so large photographs out of the folder onto the table.

Ridge looked at them one by one. Each of them showed either Cristian Fuentes with Marcela Sola, or both Fuentes and Sola with a short, thickset man.

Ridge pointed to Fuentes. “He is a giant! He can obviously fight. What martial arts does he specialise in?”

Nikki looked thoughtful.

“A man his size does not need martial arts. He is a natural-born street-fighter who has proved himself on the streets. He does not fight by rules of any sort, he simply destroys his opponents. He has never lost a fight yet!”

“What about the girl? What does she do?”

“She’s his biker chick. He worships the ground she walks on. There is nothing he would not do for her. Watch her at all times, and never take your eyes off. Inside her leather jacket she carries two knives. She will use those knives and kill you without a second thought. She is one hard bitch!”

Ridge studied the photograph with Fuentes and Sola together.

Nikki knew what he was thinking. It was the same line of thought as the men in her office had. They all wondered about the same thing. Men were like that!

“Given the difference in size between the two, my photographers back in Cartagena say that when they have watched the two of them making sex together, Marcela always works from above. They have never seen her underneath her man!” She grinned at Ridge.

Ridge decided it was time to move away from that subject. He glanced at the photograph of the other man.

“Who is this man, Nikki?”

She nodded.

“He is Mateo Garcia, one of the Cartel bosses. He replaced the former European Director, Ramos Gonzales. Fuentes and his woman murdered Gonzales by cutting off his balls and stuffing them in his mouth, before tying a rope around one of his ankles and then throwing him over the edge of the patio wall at the top of his house and letting the eagles peck his eyes out. They then burnt the house down before they drove off. We know that Garcia ordered the two murders. He is one nasty hombre.”

“Are these three people in this country, now?”

“No. They are being watched. As soon as they step onto an aircraft, I will be told. I know that they are not just coming here to kill you, John; they have some other business with cocaine that is already here. I do not know where these drugs are, John, but it must be a lot of drugs for a man like Mateo Garcia to be involved. Usually, his type keeps their hands clean and allows others to do the dirty work.”

Ridge stared at the photographs for a few minutes.

“Nikki, I will need your help to stay alive. I want to work with you, but I do not want everybody knowing. Who from your Embassy knows you are helping the police?”

Nikki stared back at Ridge.

“No one from the Embassy knows that I am here. You will be safe here. You can stay now if you want?” She asked the question and her very large, brown eyes, still sparkling from the tears, opened wide.

He smiled.

“Sometimes policemen like to talk, and we have a saying over here: Loose talk costs lives.

“If anybody realised that I was staying here, it might make things difficult for both you and me. In any case, to bring this matter to a close Fuentes will need to find me, yes?”

She nodded, and looked at the ground so as not to show her disappointment.

“John, we must not let little things destroy our spirit. We will exchange cell numbers, then, is that OK?”

He smiled, and nodded in agreement as he punched Nikki’s number into his telephone.

“One more thing, Nikki. We will work together with the people you met at our conference yesterday, but no one else outside that group of people. You must not talk to anyone else and neither will I. OK?”

She smiled at him. “You do not trust many people, do you?”

He grinned. “Not everyone who says that they are on your side is on your side, so the less people who know the better.”

Nikki saw that Ridge again looked at his wristwatch and guessed that he wanted to get away from her. “Every day, John, at nine am, I will call you just to make sure that we are both still talking to each other. You must tell me anything that you know about this group of people. Yes?”

“Agreed, Nikki. You will be the first to know.” She came forward and kissed him lightly on the cheek. “Take care, my friend.”

Ridge left the premises and wandered around the streets, trying to put Nikki Quintero right out of his mind and making sure that he was not being followed.

On the journey home he devised a plan to make sure that he was streetwise fit for when the crunch came with Cristian Fuentes. He knew that he would not get a second chance with the man and his girlfriend.

At least this man’s size was a giveaway. He would spot him a mile away. It was simply a case of developing the right techniques to deal with him at the time.

Nikki Quintero, however, was a different kettle of fish.

Ridge wasn’t at all sure how he was going to deal with her. It was, he thought, his professional opinion that she would, if provoked, turn out to be a formidable adversary.

He pulled in at the next lay-by before he got too far out of town, and made a telephone call and checked his watch.

With a bit of luck he would be back in Brighton within the hour.

Ridge made for home and a quick coffee, before picking up his gear and heading to the judo club. Marie was not at home when he arrived back. He wasn’t sure where she was. It did, however, make getting in and out a quick and painless exercise.

After the day’s fiasco with Pablo what’sisname, he needed to sharpen up and focus on the future. One day soon he was going to have to face the man from Colombia who everybody thought would kill him.

Maybe he would, maybe the bastard wouldn’t.

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