“The disguise is carefully selected to match location and cover. There is no point dressing for a building site to try to infiltrate a corporate boardroom. Similarly there is no point wearing a tailored suit to a union meeting. Anything that stands out is a problem so research is paramount. It’s all about credibility, and that only comes from getting it right, down to the last detail. That can’t be rushed, it’s why these things take time. People don’t understand that any more, they thing it’s easy to just storm in and get the job done but that leaves no scope for finesse, for style, for the satisfaction of a job done well with a minimum of collateral damage. There was a time when professionalism actually counted for something, but those days seem nothing more than a distant memory, which is something of a shame. Anyone can go out and get one job done but to be consistent, to get the job done and get away successfully, to be able to repeat that process over and over again takes the skill of the craftsman. That’s where I tend to come in. I’m not cheap, and I’m not easy to find but if the job requires the skills that I have honed over the last thirty years then I’m worth finding because chances are fairly high that no-one else is going to be able to do the job successfully.”
I was sitting at the back table of the coffee shop, back to the wall, away from the street windows, away from the passing trade of the counter, watchful, dressed in plain beige slacks, a pale blue t-shirt and blue blazer, loafers, no socks, typical coffee shop boho chic, maybe an advertising exec on a break, maybe a creative from one of the local offices, fitting in, blending in seamlessly. I was doing most of the talking, unusually for me. I don’t remember the last time I opened up like this but I guess there comes a point when someone comes along at just the right moment with just the right angle to make it interesting. I’d done my due dilligence, naturally, my guest sitting directly opposite me was known to several of my contacts. A reporter for a local daily, on the downward leg of a career that had seen them working at the highest levels of politics and international relations, reporting fearlessly on some of the biggest stories of the last twenty five years, bringing down two governments and finishing the careers of several politicians and industrialists as well as reporting against the mainstream on several conflicts around the World. I smiled internally, wondering for a moment if I should tell her that I twice turned down contracts on her because I approved of what she was doing. Would she appreciate that degree of candour? She must know that she had been, and to an extent still was, a high value target. She had upset a lot of powerful people over the years and you don’t make enemies like she had without quickly becoming aware of it. I knew that she had been shot several times, and that it hadn’t dampened her zeal, or her passion for the truth.
She didn’t ask many questions, I’d told her I had a story to tell and she respected that, just sitting quietly drinking her black coffee, taking notes in her own shorthand rather than recording my words electronically, something I appreciated. She let me talk, at my own pace, in my own order, slightly rambling but generally coherent I think, getting my story out in my own way. I knew that what I was slowly revealing was shocking, even to her, the depths of the rabbit hole far darker than even someone who has lived that life would think unless they had really explored to the very limits of possibility. I didn’t want this to be a full warts and all biography. I’m sure there are plenty of psychologists who would love to get me on the couch and pick apart my childhood and early years to find the root causes of my particular brand of mental distress that led me down the path I ended up on, but if I’m honest with myself I think I would have ended up the way I am whatever had happened. I think I was hard wired this way, the neural connections put in place way before any environmental factors started to shift them slightly. I genuinely believe that some people are just born to do the difficult jobs, make the difficult choices and make them without compassion or fear or feeling, without hesitation. The military trainers know this, looking out for these characteristics and shaping them further to make the best snipers and point men, people who act without compassion. I think I’m just an extreme example. I never needed that extra training…..