Waterloo Bridge - An International Thriller

Tommy Boronovski Book 2

Waterloo Bridge- a famous stolen Monet masterpiece, and a gripping thriller.

When a gangster’s wife offers Tommy a lucrative contract, he grasps it with both hands. Little does he know that the risks will end up higher than the reward. And what starts off as some easy money leads him into a life of crime with a price on his head, and wanted by the French Police for murder.
The only way out is to do one big job and then disappear over the horizon. But stealing from a master thief is tougher than expected and gets him deeper in trouble.

June 2018
Alexandria: Overlooking the Med

Six months ago, I fled from England, and a gang of criminals who wanted me dead. I ended up stopping in Alexandria, on the north coast of Egypt. One of the first people I got to know was a car dealer named Farouk. When Farouk learned I’d been an engineer in a past life, he talked me into overseeing the construction of the new workshop for his BMW dealership. That’s where I first met Jo Landis. She came in to collect her new car: a black, fully-optioned Z4. She caught my eye and I seemed to have caught hers.

She came back the next day, complaining to Farouk that there was a grating noise. When he couldn’t hear anything, he called me over.

‘Take it for a run and see if you can hear it.’

She snatched the keys he held out to me, fixed me with a piercing look, and said, ‘I’ll drive; you listen.’

Farouk looked at me and shrugged as if to say ‘whatever’. I shrugged back, raised an eyebrow, and got into the passenger seat.

After exiting the showroom, she turned left and merged tightly with the heavy traffic. She drove like a German—all gas and no reaction time.

‘I have to get out of town and onto a clear road,’ she said, without looking at me.

There was no friendliness in her voice, no readable expression on her face. It was an attractive face: confident, relaxed, lightly tanned, and free of worry lines. I pushed my feet into the carpet and feigned indifference. Ten minutes later she turned onto the M40 that led west along the coast.

As the speedometer climbed past 80 mph, she turned her head and said, ‘What’s your name?’


‘Just Tommy?’

‘That’s what people call me.’ I shifted in my seat. ‘Describe the noise you heard.’

A crease formed between her brows as she thought for a moment. ‘It was sort of a…’ She puckered her lips and made a noise like the mating call of an exotic wading bird.

‘And you’re sure that came from the car? Can you do it again?’

She turned and saw my look of amusement: ‘Don’t laugh at me.’ Her tone neutral.

‘Have you heard the noise since we left Farouk’s?’

She looked back at the road, and shook her head. ‘No, not yet.’

She dropped a gear and floored the accelerator. The engine whined as the rev-counter needle entered the red zone. She pushed harder for a count of five, then shifted up and gave it full gas again.

As we passed 130 mph her head snapped around. ‘There. Did you hear it?’

I tipped my head to one side, listened, and shrugged.

She did, then I asked her to do it again.

‘There!’ she said like a child who’d found the hidden treat. ‘Did you hear it that time?’

I nodded. ‘It’s in the engine but I can’t say what. Head back to Farouk’s and he’ll give you a loan car while we sort this. It could be a few days.’

She didn’t respond. She just turned off the highway and hurtled towards town.

Fifteen minutes later we were driving along the boulevard on the outskirts of Alexandria. She slowed and pressed a small remote, then stopped and waited while a pair of white wrought-iron gates set on two-metre-high columns slid open. We drove slowly along the wide driveway, with red gravel crunching beneath the tyres, then through manicured gardens complete with statues of Egyptian cats. Fifty metres further on there was an ornate water feature set into the circular driveway in front of the house; a life-size white marble statue of Venus stood serene at its centre.

‘Tell Freddie to send it back when it’s fixed,’ she said, as she walked towards the studded timber front door. The door opened and she went inside without looking back.

That first meeting left me with the impression she was a rich brat, or someone who’d married into money and didn’t know how to handle it. I kept those thoughts to myself and only spoke to Farouk about the car, despite his subtle probing. I was a recent arrival in a city full of scammers, and wasn’t about to start making waves or acquiring enemies. I had enough of those back in London.

A week later the car had a new engine, had been road-tested and was ready for delivery. When Farouk asked me to drop it back at the Landis house, I told him that I had better things to do than deliver cars, and he should use one of his workshop staff.

‘Mrs Landis asked that you return her car.’ His expressionless face was impossible to read. ‘Her husband, Mr Landis, is a very influential man in Alexandria.’

I held his gaze waiting for more, but he was done.

There was an intercom set into the right-hand column. Before I could reach out and press the button, there was a low buzz and the gates started to open. I drove up the gravel driveway and parked in front of the house in the same spot where Jo Landis had parked before. The front door opened as I approached, and a middle-aged Egyptian woman, who I assumed was the housekeeper, led me inside. She was wearing an apron and a stern face, and clearly didn’t like the look of me. I didn’t much like the look of her either. I followed her into a sitting room where she left me standing in front of a window that looked out over the driveway. It was several minutes before the heavy door swung silently open.

Jo Landis walked into the room wearing an oversized t-shirt over a damp bikini. Her hair had just been towelled-off, and her face was free of makeup.

‘Good day to be by the pool,’ I said.

She looked at me with mild disdain, as if I’d said something crass. ‘How’s my car?’

I nodded towards the window, beyond which shards of sunlight speared off the black Z4. ‘Back where you left it and like brand new.’ I took the keys from my pocket and laid them on the half-round table under the window then walked to the door. ‘I’m sure it’ll be fine now.’

As I was about to leave, she said, ‘Would you like coffee?’

I thought about that for a moment, weighing up if I wanted to spend any time with this woman who’d been consistently rude. Then I thought, why not?

‘Sure, if it’s no trouble.’ I was in no hurry to get back, and I was kind of curious about her.

‘Rana has just made a fresh pot.’ She turned towards the door and said, ‘Come,’ much like she was talking to a dog.

I followed her down a wide marble-floored corridor, through a sunroom as hot as a sauna, then out onto a patio beside a large kidney-shaped pool. Lush vegetation surrounded the pool on three sides, and a faux waterfall towered over the far end. We sat on opposite sides of a teak table sheltering below a white triangular sail shade. Before I could think what to say, the housekeeper appeared with a tray and laid out a coffee pot, milk, cream, brown sugar, and bone china cups.

‘Shall I pour for you, Mrs Landis?’ the housekeeper asked in a tone much softer than she had used on me.

‘It’s okay thanks, Rana.’

Rana bobbed her head once at her mistress, looked down her hawk-nose at me, then left with the empty tray.

‘How do you like it?’

‘Impressive,’ I said splaying my hands to indicate the surroundings. ‘It’s like a mini oasis.’

‘Your coffee? How do you like it?’

‘Oh, cream and one sugar.’

I watched as she poured coffee then added cream and sugar to both. She placed one in front of me and said, ‘What brought you to Egypt, Tommy? You’re a recent arrival, I hear.’

I didn’t need to ask where she’d heard it, as Farouk was the only person we both knew.

‘I didn’t like the cold winters, so thought I’d give this a try.’

‘Do you like working for Farouk?’

‘It’s okay.’

Something about her and her questions made me cagey. It felt as if she was assessing me, picking away at the layers I’d put around myself since leaving England.

‘It’s unusual to see someone like yourself arrive in Alex without aims or direction. Not on the run, are you?’

‘No, not me, Mrs Landis; just looking for a change.’


‘Like I said, the cold, grey winters. How about you? What brought you here?’

‘Alex is a beautiful place, warm, friendly…’

‘And you can live very well.’

She sipped some coffee and said, ‘We do alright.’

‘More than alright from what I see.’

Her face held no discernible expression.

‘I hear Farouk hired you to help build the new showroom. What will you do when it’s finished?’

‘Who knows? Something always turns up.’ I laid the empty cup back onto its saucer, then stood and thanked her. ‘I’ll see myself out.’

Alabaster fingers slid a business card across the table. There was no name: just a phone number and email address.

‘I could have something for you when you’re ready. Think about it and call me.’

I gave a slight shrug, picked up the card and slid it into my shirt pocket. Her eyes left mine and I heard someone approach from behind me.

‘Ammon will drive you back,’ she said, nodding at the giant who’d sidled up beside me.

Ammon was six and a half feet tall and as fit as a stud rat. I followed him through the front door to a ten-year-old red Mercedes. We drove in silence back to Farouk’s. Ammon stopped long enough for me to get out, and then he was gone. I shook my head, wondering what path my life was about to take. That a change was coming seemed inevitable.

A year earlier, I’d been an engineer living in Norfolk, a husband, and a father to twin girls. Then one cold Friday night, two members of a London gang had mistaken me for a criminal named Tommy Boronovski. They kidnapped me and dragged me into the murky underworld of London gangs, forcing me to impersonate the criminal Tommy. In the end I had to run away from England, just to stay alive and keep my estranged family safe. During those months of pretending to be Tommy Boronovski—the name I now used—I’d learned a lot about criminals and liars; my hunch was that Ammon was a criminal and Mrs Jo Landis was a liar, and possibly a criminal, too.

I took the card from my shirt pocket and flicked it into the bin, then stood thinking about those months when I’d played at being Tommy, with Tommy’s money and Tommy’s girl. I remembered the rush I’d felt when danger was near, and the intoxicating allure of easy money. I recovered the card and slipped it into my wallet.


It was three months before I saw Jo Landis again. I was sitting with Farouk at a small ceramic-topped table outside Café de la Paix on El-Gaish Road when she parked on the side street, not twenty feet away from me. I returned my gaze to Al Mina' ash Sharqiyah, the Eastern Bay, with its profusion of brightly coloured fishing boats, and Qaitbay Citadel as a backdrop.

Farouk stood, gave an apologetic shrug, and walked down the same side street she’d parked in. Thirty seconds later she sat at the table, as if we’d arranged to meet. A waiter was immediately by her side. She ordered coffee, and raised her eyes questioningly at me receiving a shake of the head in return.

‘Hello, Tommy.’ She gave me a wide smile, exposing her straight white teeth.

I didn’t return her smile. ‘What brings you here, Mrs Landis?’

She’d changed her hair to deep red, and was wearing blue jeans and a bomber jacket. If it wasn’t for the black BMW, I might not have recognised her. My job with Farouk had finished a few weeks earlier, and the card she’d given me had been in and out of my wallet more times than I could count. But something had always made me hold back from calling her. I was tempted, curious, but at the same time cautious. I’d kept my ears open whenever I’d heard the name ‘Landis’ mentioned, which wasn’t often; I hadn’t asked Farouk, as I didn’t trust him. A distrust well justified given what had just happened.

What I had learned was that Landis was her married name—the wife of Vincent ‘Spider’ Landis. Vincent Landis got the nickname Spider three decades ago, based on his reputation for being a deceitful, violent little bastard. Some say the name came from a childhood nickname, Vincey, which had morphed into Incy. It doesn’t matter how it happened; it’ll be with him for the rest of his life no matter how much he hates it. As a kid he probably thought it was cool having a nickname everyone knew; now he was a businessman and wanted to be known as Mr Landis to everyone except a few close friends who called him Vincent. Behind his back he’d always be Spider. It probably suited him.

‘You didn’t call me.’ She said it as a statement, rather than a complaint or accusation.

‘Never said I would. I said I’d think about it. I thought about it and decided not to. And if you wanted to meet with me, why not just say so rather than play games using Farouk as a patsy?’

Colour rose in her cheeks. She obviously wasn’t used to people speaking to her like that.

‘Would you have come?’

I thought about it for a moment, and said, ‘Probably not. I might be new here, but I know who your husband is and something of his reputation. Having a clandestine meeting with his wife could get me in a world of trouble, no matter how innocent it is.’

‘And if he was to see us here now, or hear about it?’

‘I’d lay it directly on Farouk. Tell him exactly how it came about.’

She sat back in her seat as the waiter laid the delicate cup and saucer in front of her. As soon as he’d left, she said, ‘You’d do that to Farouk?’

‘In a heartbeat. Wouldn’t have to think about it. I owe no allegiance to him… or anyone else, come to that.’ I took the pack of cigarettes and lighter from the table and slid them into my shirt pocket. ‘I’m leaving here in one minute, so you’d better start your pitch.’

‘Work for me,’ she said. The words were laced with arrogance trying to cover uncertainty.

‘For you? Doing what?’

Coffee spilled over the top of her cup as she absently stirred in cream and sugar.

‘Farouk says you’re smart, and I can see that’s true. I need a fixer, like a personal assistant. You probably know my husband runs a large business, and I have mine too. Nothing on the same scale as his, and not in Egypt. I need someone unknown within my circle: someone who can think on their feet and make decisions.’

‘Is this business legit?’

She nodded, blinked, and sipped her coffee. I could tell she was lying.

‘Then why approach me this way? Why not phone and ask if I need a job?’ Before she could answer, the penny dropped. ‘Because your husband doesn’t know about this business of yours, right?’

I could tell from her mildly pissed-off look that I’d guessed right. She turned her head and looked out across the bay. I studied her profile in silence until she turned back and looked at me with one eyebrow arched in annoyance. My minute was about up but I stayed where I was, waiting for further explanation. All this led me to speculate that things were not well in the Landis household. Doing something that might anger Vincent ‘Spider’ Landis wasn’t a starter for me. And if it hadn’t been for her telling me her business—whatever it might be—wasn’t located in Egypt, I’d already be hailing a cab.

‘Where is it? More importantly, what is it?’

Paris, Antwerp, Berlin, London. Wherever business takes me. Are you interested?’

‘And the what?’

She didn’t answer for a long time, so long that I thought she wasn’t going to. After draining the last of her drink, she carefully laid the cup back in the saucer and said, ‘It’s a business that deals in collectables. Fine art, jewellery, that sort of thing.’

‘So, you’re a fence.’

She gave a derisive snort. ‘That’s not the word I would choose.’

‘Then what word would you choose?’

‘Dealer. Facilitator. Or perhaps expediter.’

‘You’re a fence. I know nothing about art, or jewellery, and London is the last place I need to be.’

Jo smiled. It was an alluring, almost seductive smile. ‘I could teach you.’ She held my eyes a moment too long, then asked, ‘What happened in London?’

I almost blurted it out, the whole story about how a gang had forced me to play at being a criminal, and how I’d grown to like it.

My mind reeled back over those insane few months during which I morphed from being a loving husband and father to a lying cheating criminal with a pocketful of cash, two fast women and all the trappings of that underworld life. And in the end, I’d chosen to run away to Egypt, and remain on the fringes of the criminal world: looking to hustle and make the easy money rather than earn it honestly through a solid job. Now here I was, sitting across a table from Jo Landis, who was luring me into another criminal enterprise that could lead to God knows where.

I should have walked away, taken a flight to some other anonymous city, and started over. But instead, I said, ‘What would you need me to do?’

There was victory in her eyes; it was held in check, but it was there. She looked away for a moment and waited as a truck went past with its roaring air-cooled engine. She was gathering her thoughts: perfecting her sales pitch. I wondered why she’d chosen me.

‘You’d be my envoy—the interface between a buyer and a seller who are always reluctant to meet. Let’s say a collector approaches me and is looking for a particular type of sculpture, for instance. I find one for him. Your role would be to make sure that the transaction happens smoothly, and to the liking of both parties. Ensure that the seller gets paid, and the collector gets what he paid for. Really simple, most of the time.’

‘And when it’s not simple?’

‘Problems only arise when the preparations haven’t been carried out carefully enough. I doubt that will apply to you.’

Jo Landis leaned back in her chair and put her hands in her lap, as if content she’d done and said enough. Perhaps she had.

I watched the traffic go by: the beaten-up old Mercedes taxis always on the prowl for another fare; the constant stream of mopeds and scooters weaving in and around the dusty and often dented cars. It was a scene I’d grown accustomed to over the past few months. It felt normal, as if I’d always been here, and the quiet tree-lined streets of Norfolk were fragments of an ill-remembered dream.

Jo Landis sat passively as my thoughts churned. I lit another cigarette and stared across the bay to a distant sailboat anchored snugly inside the harbour wall. What would it be like to live like that, to sail that way, moving from country to country, free of all the normal trappings? Picking up and dropping anchor as the will took you. I’d seen many such sailing yachts since I’d been here, the flag fluttering from the stern indicating their nationality: French, German, lots of Dutch, even an occasional American far from home. Free people. Lucky people. But luck alone is never enough.

Another truck roared past, killing any chance of conversation, and filling the air with noxious fumes. I crushed out the cigarette, looked back at her and said, ‘How much could I earn?’

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