Thin Ice(Gunnhildur Mystery Book 5)By: Quentin Bates
The hard guy in the leather jacket was big, with bulky shoulders and knotted forearms, and his jaw jutted forward as if asking to be punched.
So Magni obliged, swatting the tough guy aside with an effortless backhander. He never could resist an invitation; the big man stumbled back, emitting a high-pitched keening sound as he hit the wall, his dinnerplate hands held to his face as blood seeped through his fingers.
Magni felt no animosity towards the meathead who had been stupid enough to be in the wrong place at the right time. Or was that the wrong time, he wondered? Whatever, the guy was spitting teeth into his cupped hands and whimpering, so he only needed a casual eye to be kept on him. Nothing to worry about, Magni decided with satisfaction. At any rate, the ugly black pistol in Össur’s nervous hand was far more persuasive than mere muscles.
The old man’s face went pale, paler than it normally was, and Alli the Cornershop didn’t look like a man who spent much time in the sun. He looked sick as he handed over a carrier bag that Össur glanced into before tucking it under one arm.
‘You must know you don’t have a chance in hell of getting away with this,’ Alli snarled. ‘I’ll have the pair of you bastards brought back here trussed up in barbed wire.’
‘Good luck, grandpa.’
Even from behind the black balaclava, Össur’s nasal voice was enough to identify him. He was sweating, though he had promised himself that he would stay calm. At last he had the cash in his hands. Maybe it wasn’t enough to retire on, but it would keep him in comfort for a good few years somewhere warm and cheap, especially if he could lose the thick-headed halfwit looking sorrowfully at the big guy who was now counting his remaining teeth.
‘Come on. We’re out of here,’ Össur snapped and Magni emerged from his reverie, pushing open the door. ‘Sit yourself down, grandpa, and don’t even think of trying to come after us. All right?’ The pistol in his outstretched hand pointed at Alli’s face.
With an apologetic glance at the big man, now spluttering through the blood in his mouth, Magni followed Össur out and down the stairs, emerging into the quiet residential street of well-tended gardens in front of houses built fifty years ago. Nobody was moving and nothing was happening on this quiet afternoon with a chill in the still air. A dog barked in the distance and children could be heard playing in a garden somewhere in the tangle of old houses that made up this dog-leg street leading downhill to the town centre.
‘Where the fuck is Árni?’ Össur pulled the balaclava off his face and thrust the pistol into the pocket of his jacket, casting about for a glimpse of the souped-up Land Cruiser that should have been waiting for them, its engine idling and Árni behind the wheel, ready to roll to the end of the street, then a burst of power up the hill and they’d be on the main road and out of sight of a livid Alli the Cornershop and whatever goons he could summon at short notice.
‘He’s not here, is he?’ Magni said, stating the obvious to Össur’s irritation.
‘I can fucking see that. So where is he?’
‘I don’t know. Call him,’ Magni shrugged. ‘But I reckon we’d be best off out of here pretty quick,’ he said, setting off downhill at a smart pace and without a backward glance at the house they had just left.
Össur had to admit that for once Magni had a point and set off after him, one hand on the 9mm pistol in his pocket and the other hugging the shopping bag full of euros, with the smaller bag of Alli the Cornershop’s finest merchandize stuffed inside his jacket.
* * *
They burst through the shopping centre’s doors to find comforting but slightly distorted Christmas muzak burbling inside, even though it wasn’t yet December. It was only two minutes from the quiet street where Alli the Cornershop lived in his flat above a boarded-up shop that had been closed for years, but it seemed to be a different world to this one of families browsing through shops and teenagers cruising aimlessly between the hot-dog stand and a shop selling computer games.
‘Where the fuck is Árni?’ Össur snarled as he sat himself down in a corner of the coffee shop, glancing out of the windows as if expecting the police or worse to arrive at any moment. He stabbed at his phone and listened in frustration as the ring tone echoed from the loudspeaker until a warm voice politely informed him that the user must be out of range and invited him to try again later.
Össur tried again immediately and the result was the same.
‘Shit, shit, shit!’ Össur swore, dropping the phone on the table. ‘Fucking hell!’ he added in a savage afterthought.