We are excited to bring you a sample of Jo Nesbo’s latest offering MacBeth today. Enjoy!
MacBeth by Jo Nesbo
‘They’re here,’ Inspector Duff said, hoping his men in the Narcotics Unit couldn’t hear the involuntary vibrato in his voice. He had assumed the Norse Riders would send three to four, maximum five, men to get the dope. But he counted twelve motorbikes in the procession slowly emerging from the darkness. The two at the back each had a pillion rider. Fourteen men to his nine. And there was every reason to believe the Norse Riders were armed. Heavily armed. Nevertheless, it wasn’t the sight of superior numbers that had produced the tremor in his vocal cords. It was that Duff had achieved his dearest wish. It was that he was leading the convoy; finally he was within striking distance.
The man hadn’t shown himself for months, but only one person owned that helmet and the red Indian Chief motorbike. Rumour had it the bike was one of fifty the New York Police Department had manufactured in total secrecy in 1955. The steel of the curved scabbard attached to its side shone.
Some claimed he was dead, others that he had fled the country, that he had changed his identity, cut off his blond plaits and was sitting on a terrazza in Argentina enjoying his old age and pencil-thin cigarillos.
But here he was. The leader of the gang and the cop-killer who, along with his sergeant, had started up the Norse Riders some time after the Second World War. They had picked rootless young men, most of 9 them from dilapidated factory-worker houses along the sewage-fouled river, and trained them, disciplined them, brainwashed them until they were an army of fearless soldiers Sweno could use for his own purposes. To gain control of the town, to monopolise the growing dope market. And for a while it had looked as if Sweno would succeed, certainly Kenneth and police HQ hadn’t stopped him; rather the opposite, Sweno had bought in all the help he needed. It was the competition. Hecate’s home-made dope, brew, was much better, cheaper and always readily available on the market. But if the anonymous tip-off Duff had received was right, this consignment was big enough to solve the Norse Riders’ supply problems for some time. Duff had hoped, but not quite believed, what he read in the brief typewritten lines addressed to him was true. It was simply too much of a gift horse. The sort of gift that – if handled correctly – could send the head of the Narco Unit further up the ladder. Chief Commissioner Duncan still hadn’t filled all the important positions at police HQ with his own people. There was, for example, the Gang Unit, where Kenneth’s old rogue Inspector Cawdor had managed to hang on to his seat as they still had no concrete evidence of corruption, but that could only be a question of time. And Duff was one of Duncan’s men. When there were signs that Duncan might be appointed chief commissioner Duff had rung him in Capitol and clearly, if somewhat pompously, stated that if the council didn’t make Duncan the new commissioner, and chose one of Kenneth’s henchmen instead, Duff would resign. It was not beyond the bounds of possibility that Duncan had suspected a personal motive behind this unconditional declaration 10 of loyalty, but so what? Duff had a genuine desire to support Duncan’s plan for an honest police force that primarily served the people, he really did. But he also wanted an office at HQ as close to heaven as possible. Who wouldn’t? And he wanted to cut off the head of the man out there.
He was the means and the end.
Duff looked at his watch. The time tallied with what was in the letter, to the minute. He rested the tips of his fingers on the inside of his wrist. To feel his pulse. He was no longer hoping, he was about to become a believer.
‘Are there many of them, Duff?’ a voice whispered.
‘More than enough for great honour, Seyton. And one of them’s so big, when he falls, it’ll be heard all over the country.’
Duff cleaned the condensation off the window. Ten nervous, sweaty police officers in a small room. Men who didn’t usually get this type of assignment. As head of the Narco Unit it was Duff alone who had taken the decision not to show the letter to other officers; he was using only men from his unit for this raid. The tradition of corruption and leaks was too long for him to risk it. At least that is what he would tell Duncan if asked. But there wouldn’t be much cavilling. Not if they could seize the drugs and catch thirteen Norse Riders red-handed.
Thirteen, yes. Not fourteen. One of them would be left lying on the battlefield. If the chance came along.
Duff clenched his teeth. ‘You said there’d only be four or five,’ said Seyton, who had joined him at the window.
‘No, but you should be, Duff. You’ve got nine men in this room and I’m the only one with experience of a stake-out.’ He said this without raising his voice. He was a lean, sinewy, bald man. Duff wasn’t sure how long he had been in the police, only that he had been in the force when Kenneth was chief commissioner. Duff had tried to get rid of Seyton. Not because he had anything concrete on him; there was just something about him, something Duff couldn’t put his finger on, that made him feel a strong antipathy.
‘Why didn’t you bring in the SWAT team, Duff?’
‘The fewer involved the better.’
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