Anything you fancy?
I screeched to a stop outside the Waldorf in my burnt orange Aston Martin Valkyrie. What is the point in having money if you can’t flaunt it? I climbed out, straightened my Armani suit, checked my Patek watch and casually flung the keys to the doorman before striding in.
The flunkies rushed towards me, but I brushed them aside. They were expecting me and were eager. I liked that. I’d booked the penthouse suite for the week. Hopefully I’d only be in this hell-hole for a day or two.
‘Have my things brought up,’ I curtly instructed the young man on the desk, walking straight up to the front ignoring the queue, as I gestured for the pen to sign in and waited for him to present me with the key. He’d been dealing with a couple of businessmen, who he’d left high and dry. I don’t think I’d seen anybody looking more flummoxed. He was all fingers and thumbs as he sorted the key and passed it across and presented me with the book to sign. He knew who I was. The two businessmen could not have been more annoyed. They weren’t used to being treated this way. They glared at me but I ignored them, taking my time, just to wind them up a bit more. Then, with a haughty look I peered down my nose at them as if they were insects and turned my back.
‘Have a pleasant stay, sir,’ the desk clerk called after me.
I was halfway to the lift. I did not bother acknowledging.
Today was an annoyance. I was leading the official team dealing with the Saudi’s. It was a good cover for my other business though – the main affair. The Saudi’s were good customers of ours. They bought a lot of our top-end merchandise. They were usually worth a few billion. But I saw very little of it. A few back-handers here and there. I was with the government boys and they largely called the shots. They were negotiating ‘on behalf of the British tax payer and the British workers’. I actually think some of them believed that crap.
I hated Jeddah. The heat was oppressive. It was fine inside but the minute you stepped out it hit you like a blast furnace. Just walking from the car had sent sweat trickling down my back. The very last thing you needed when you’re making deals at this level was to look hot and sweaty.
I arrived at my room to find an obsequious smiling little flunky opening the door and beckoning me in. My case was already there. God knows how these guys do it. It had only taken a few minutes to sign in. Hardly time to get my things out of the car and up to my room. But they were expecting me and knew what I demanded. I handed him a big note just to ensure that I kept them all on their toes.
There was time for a quick shower, a change of shirt and a spot of lunch. One thing I would say about the Waldorf – they certainly knew how to put on a good spread. The chef was first-class.
The meeting in the afternoon went as expected. We’d already done the hard work. This was largely dotting the I’s. They had put in an order for a hundred of our latest Challenger 2s. That was quite a coup. That was one in the eye for the French with their bloody AMX’s. The real business was the missiles and aircraft. They’d decided to go with a whole range of our missiles from Hellfires and Harpoons to Meteors and Brimstones. And that was really one in the eye for the yanks. They’d also put in an order for 20 of the new Tempest fighter jets as soon as they became available. It seems that the UK was well in with the Saudis. Maybe that was the way we did business. We threw in all the trinkets, the manacles, electric prods and other interrogation equipment for free.
Of course we made them sign all the international agreements – that none of it was to be used for aggressive acts or torture. But everyone knew that was bollocks. Everyone knew they wanted the stuff to knock the hell out of the Iranis in Yemen. But that was alright with the Home Office. They not only made a killing on selling the weapons but gave Iran a bloody nose in the process – a double win. And everybody knew all this human rights bullshit was just that. As long as the Saudis kept their business quiet and we didn’t have another bloody Kasogi everyone was happy. They had to keep the lid on their own dissidents didn’t they? I just wish we could do the same with ours instead of all this pussyfooting around.
All told it was a good afternoon’s piece of work that’d put a few million into my wine account.
It was the next day that the real business was conducted and that was not going to be carried out in any conference room of any top hotel. That was going to be in some grubby backroom, probably without air-conditioning, knowing those guys. Khalifa Haftar was desperate to get his hands on some real weapons. If he was going to take Tripoli and overthrow the Libyan government he needed some heavy gear.
I liked dealing with desperate people. I reckoned this could be as lucrative as the deal I’d struck with ISIS a decade ago now. He needed the full range and I knew where to get hold of it. He needed me and was willing to pay. Just how I liked it.
I’d sent him the list of what was available along with the prices. I guessed there’d be a bit of dickering but I had them over a barrel, didn’t I?
They picked me up and I had to endure the obligatory blindfold as they escorted me to some backstreet slum. But I kept my cool.
They were all seated at the table when I walked in, surrounded by their goons, all armed to the teeth and looking surly.
I stood inside the door, slowly adjusting my tie, pulling at my cuffs, running a hand through my ruffled hair, not taking my eyes off Rashid, Haftar’s man. I could see the print-outs of the goods on offer. When I was ready I walked over and took my place.
‘See anything you fancy?’