When the notorious Brown Bag Bandit is captured in a street shoot out after robbing a New York bank, law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Atlantic seize the opportunity to use him in a last ditch bid to smash The Enterprise, an international drugs cartel bent on flooding Britain with cocaine.
Scotland Yard DS Tony Rowley and NYPD detective Vince Walker from Manhattan’s Mid Town South Precinct are assigned to the operation, but both have agendas of their own. With mad dog gangsters closing in for the kill, Rowley knows only one desperate throw of the dice can save him, and Walker is determined that, however valuable he might be to Uncle Sam, the Bandit shall not escape justice. Soon the two detectives find themselves ensnared in a web of police politics and manipulated by government agencies as they infiltrate the highest echelons of organised crime. Then, as they head for London to set the trap, simultaneously, Met Special Branch and MI5 are closing in on a shadowy assassin linked to Al Qaeda and when a multi million pound drugs hi-jack ends in a siege in Harrods Knightsbridge store and the SAS move in for the kill nothing is really what it seems. In the final act, have the street cops beaten the system and turned the tables on their scheming chiefs? Has the last gamble paid off? Can they get away with murder, in the name of the law? Thus the Cocaine chronicle, which began with a double murder on a Cornish cliff-top, (Hunter) and travelled to Hitler’s Eagles Nest high in the Bavarian Alps, (Snowman) turns full circle with a devastating finale on the streets of London. From police power politics to authentic CID procedure, the trilogy is an edge of the seat ride through the annals of organised crime. Drawing on thirty years front line police experience, Roger Busby tells it like it really is.
Hitlers Eagles Nest – Bavarian Alps
The so-called ‘Eagle’s Nest’ was built as a teahouse for Adolf Hitler’s 50th birthday. Perched on a mountain summit, its unusual position makes of the daring project a unique engineering feat. What few realise is that Hitler’s home and headquarters – the second seat of 3rd Reich power – were located at Obersalzberg, at the foot of the Eagle’s Nest mountain.
The Kehlsteinhaus is built in a chalet-style taking 13 months to construct. It was finished in the summer of 1938 before it was presented to Hitler a year later.
But he only made a few visits to the chalet partly due to his fear of heights.
Eagle’s Nest is perched on a rock wall 1834m above sea level and having cost 30m Reichsmarks to build – about £100m today (2016)
The Brown Bag Bandit was feeding OO Buck into a Sage Sidewinder. Five fat magnum shells, each containing twelve copper-jacketed pellets instead of the standard nine. On fully automatic the stubby shotgun could put sixty chunks of lead into the air with devastating firepower.
It was Thanksgiving Eve in New York City and the Bandit was sitting on a studio couch in a fifth floor apartment at the Hotel Martinique, a gloomy Empire-style monstrosity at West 32nd Street and Broadway. He was naked but for a towel wrapped around his waist, his thick black hair wet from the shower.
The Bandit held the shotgun vertical, the pistol grip braced against his knee as he picked up each of the cartridges set out beside him and slid them carefully into the pump magazine slung beneath the short barrel. The action could be racked for single shot or with the trigger held depressed each new shell would spring into the breech as the spent cartridge ejected. The shotgun was just 24 inches long, ideal for concealment.
‘I sure as hell don’t know what’s happening to this town, ‘ the girl continued her one-sided conversation as the Bandit remained absorbed in the ritual of loading the weapon. ‘l mean, I came out of the Firefly, what was it, two, two-thirty-this morning and this kid grabs me, couldn’t have been more than nine, ten years old and he’s doing rock. Little hustler, I was his momma I’d have torn his heart out.’ The girl was wearing a sheer silk blouse and a black leather miniskirt. She sat beside the bandit, her dancer’s legs drawn up under her and tossed her tawny mane in disgust. ‘I mean, kids like that running around the streets that time of night pushing crack.’ She tossed her hair again. ‘You used to know where you were around Manhattan. The gangsters were all guineas and street kids were jiving around like Westside Story: with weird names on the backs of their jackets, taking swipes at each other with switch blades. Now all you’ve got is babies messing with your life. I ought to write to the goddamn Mayor.’
The Bandit continued his silent communion. The shotgun had always had been his favourite weapon. It commanded instant respect, and if things went wrong it did not demand great skills of marksmanship to get the job done. Yes, the shotgun always delivered. ”I’ve been meaning to ask you,’ the girl said, watching him with growing fascination. ‘You doing something with Marco?’ Briefly she thought about her boss, the Colombian who owned the Firefly Club on 42nd Street where she performed as an erotic dancer. He had introduced them a month ago and right away the Bandit had moved in with her, taken her to bed without preamble, sweet and tender as a long time lover. Made her tingle. ‘Not that I’m prying, you understand she hastened on. ‘Only I ought to warn you that Marco’s a bad, bad dude, if you rub him the wrong way. You’re doing something with Marco, just watch yourself, that’s all I’m saying.’
The Bandit ran his lingers lovingly down the length of the weapon and continued his meditation.
‘Oh, and something else,’ the girl said. ‘I’ve been thinking about what you were saying about blood and all that born-again thing. OK, I’ll buy it, so maybe the Sundance Kid didn’t die at, where was it? San Vicente, only how can you tell you’re his kin? I mean, how do you know for sure?’
The Bandit finished loading the Sidewinder and turned his face to her, still holding the shotgun erect. ‘Hey,’ the girl said, entranced by the phallic appeal of the stubby weapon, ‘maybe I could use that thing in the act, sort of Annie Oakley routine, what d’you think?’
She looked into his eyes then and saw something so dangerous that she felt herself shudder as she leaned forwarded shimmied against the shotgun. The feel of the silk against the cold gunmetal as her breasts brushed the gun brought her nipples up hard. Her lips parted in a soft sigh as she reached along his thigh murmuring: ‘Baby – are you turning me on.’ Her eyes glazed and with the shotgun pressed between them she drew the bandit down on to the couch and began to work the tight miniskirt up over her hips. ‘You do this with anybody else,’ she whispered, ‘I swear I’ll kill you.’
Ten blocks north at the corner of West 42nd Street and 6th Avenue Byrne and Hennessy were setting up their hot dog stand. It was mid-morning and traffic was already heavy at the intersection under a hanging sign from which a radiator grille ensnared in a barred red circle snarled the legend: Gridlock busters Don’t block the box! Across the street the First Federal Bank rose in a stark black and white tower, etched against the surrounding high rise.
‘You ought to see this guy, this brother-in-law of mine; he was driving trucks all his life. Macs, eighteen-wheelers, and all the time he’s to hell and gone, up to
Michael Byrne kept the monologue going as he manhandled the box cart into position and Patricia Hennessy put up the gaudy red and yellow parasol emblazoned with the Frankfurter legend.
‘You’re smothering the goddamn things with ketchup is what’s wrong here. How many times have I got to tell you, Mike, you don’t do what you’re doing, which is murdering the whole thing with the lousy ketchup. Who d’you think’ going to want to eat a hot dog looks like its throat’s been cut, for Christ’s sake?’ Hennessy stood back, hands on hips, and watched Byrne crouch down, getting the gas burners started. She was wearing jeans and a blue jacket with her hair tucked under a woollen watch cap.
‘I happen to like ketchup,’ Byrne said, getting to his feet now the burners were alight and setting a jumbo sauce container in the shape of a giant tomato on the front of the narrow counter. With a grin and a flourish he said: ‘what I aim to do is go down in history as the hot dog man who turned
‘I ought to call that brother-in-law of yours,’ Hennessy said. ‘Get him to come down here and give you a few pointers.’
Byrne ripped open a packet of Frankfurters and deposited the pink sausages into the pan as the heat came up. ‘You know what would happen if you did that? All you’d do is fall in love with the guy in ten seconds flat and then he’d break your little heart.’ He danced around the stand and before she could dodge him, reached out and playfully pinched her cheek.
Looking sleek, the Brown Bag Bandit came out of the lobby of the Martinique and paused under the canopy, pockmarked with sockets from which light bulbs had long since disappeared. The first two letters of the once illuminated hotel sign, which ran across the front of the building, were also missing and trash now littered the entrance where a liveried doorman had once stood sentinel.
The Bandit had dressed carefully in a conservative grey business suit; blue button-down Brooks Brothers shirt, a striped club tie and tasselled loafers. His tan trench coat was unbuttoned and tinted Ray-bans added the final touch to the image of a Wall Street yuppie. Under the coat he carried the Sidewinder in a quick-release holster slung below his left shoulder, the butt facing forward just above his waist. As he turned towards Broadway and began to walk, the Bandit felt the pulse of the city quicken. He began to stroll leisurely uptown, reflecting that he had not always regarded himself in such flowery terms, not until some whimsical hack on the Daily News had coined the phrase when comparing him to a latter-day Robin Hood, pulling down fat cats to help the needy all because he’d cannoned into a waddling tub of lard on a fast heist and she’d grabbed a roll of greenbacks as packets of bills skittered across the sidewalk, then squawked to the press about a heaven-sent windfall. Maybe the reputation had been worth that five grand because it was after that that he began to think himself into the romantic image of a born again Sundance Kid and his inclination to pit his wits against
Strolling up Broadway on the swelling throng of sightseers, he savoured his pride in the majesty of Manhattan, the kid from jersey who had stood in the weeds of the derelict docks and stared across the Hudson at the spiky skyline dreaming of fame and fortune in that magic place across the river. The pride of an adopted son.
It was a crisp morning. The steam rising from the ornate manhole covers and billowing from the chimneys positioned over the roadworks cast a veil over the street scene. Tomorrow it would all burst into colour as Macy’s parade heralded the start of the Christmas season and he would maybe take a stroll up to Central Park to see the start of the procession, but right now the adrenalin was flowing as he neared the junction of West 42nd Street and 6th Avenue and began to psych himself up for his performance. Everything suddenly clicked into sharp focus.
Across the street from the First Federal Bank a noisy argument was taking place. A beefy Con Ed repairman, his AMC pickup angled in to the kerb, was haranguing a pair of hot dog sellers.
‘What happened to Barney?’ the repairman demanded querulously, beer belly bulging out the front of his overalls, a fur cap with earflaps perched on his head.
‘I told you, buddy, I don’t know any Barney,’ Byrne replied.
‘You stole his spot, right?’
‘Whose spot?’ Hennessy asked.
‘Barney, Barney had a gimpy leg. This was always his spot.’
‘Look, we don’t know any Barney, you got that, fella?’ Byrne said.
‘Steal a cripple’s spot.’ Jesus!’ the repairman said, ‘I ought to report you.’
‘You want a hot dog, mister?’ Hennessy said.
‘You kidding?’ The repairman was outraged. ‘Sure I wanted a hot dog. I wanted one of Barney’s hot dogs. I’ve been getting myself ready all morning for one of Barney’s Franks, melt in your mouth. So I pull over and what do I find? A couple of chiselers swiped Barney’s spot.’
A brown uniformed traffic supervisor gave up trying to unscramble the snarl up at the intersection and ambled across. She was a stocky woman with gold rimmed spectacles and a malevolent gleam in her eye.
‘Your truck, mister?’ she asked the repairman.
‘Well, it ain’t Santa’s sleigh,’ the Con Ed stalwart retorted sarcastically.
‘Move it!’ The brown suit jerked her thumb. ‘That’s a traffic violation. No standing on this street".
‘In case it’s escaped your notice,’ the repairman said, squinting down at her, ‘that says "Emergency Service" on the side of that truck there. Con Ed emergency. I can stick that baby wherever I like.’
The traffic supervisor’s expression hardened as she reached for her pad.
‘You write me up, you’re going to have to eat it.’
‘Friend, you want a hot dog or not?’ Byrne said.
‘I don’t buy hot dogs off cripple robbers. Give me a juice.’
‘For another thing, you’re in the fire lane, that’s another misdemeanour.’
‘I’ll take pineapple.’
‘You’ll take a ticket, you don’t move that truck, and I mean right now.’
‘We don’t have pineapple"
‘What do you have?’ Byrne said: ‘we have hot dogs"
‘I tell you where you can stick your hot dogs!’ the repairman exploded, and the rest of the exchange was lost as the Bandit judged his moment and stepped off the street and into the bank.
Just inside the smoked glass armoured door an overweight guard leaned against a pillar and stifled a yawn. Without hesitating, the Bandit walked across the business area to the nearest teller’s position behind which sat a black girl with a tight afro and a welcoming expression on her face. As he approached her, the Bandit glanced up and saw the eye of the security camera give him the once-over and then move on. As the lens tracked away he stood in front of the girl.
‘May I help you?’ she asked brightly and returning her smile the Bandit reached inside his trench coat with his right hand and with one smooth movement produced the Sidewinder, laying the fore stock on the desk as he used his body to shield the gun from sight. Her eyes popped.
With his left hand the Bandit proffered a folded brown paper grocery bag. Very calmly he told the girl: ‘you sure can. Just take the money out of your cash drawer there, just the bills. Leave the last few in so the spring clip doesn’t set off the alarm, put the money in the bag here and nobody’s going to get hurt.’
The girl’s eyes widened into saucers as she stared at the shotgun and the Bandit prompted her. ‘Honey, you’re looking at the Brown Bag Bandit. You’re going to be famous, you’re going to be on Eye Witness News"
He grinned. ‘Now just hand over the money like company policy.
His eyes flicked upwards as she obeyed him, scooping packs of banknotes into the paper bag, and when he saw the camera stop suddenly and snap back towards him, he moved his position to make sure they’d get his best profile.
In the street outside the bank the Con Ed repairman continued to rail against the injustice of the world. "Jesus, a working guy takes a minute to pull over for a bite, what’ she find? A couple of cheapies have stiffed his old pal. This has got td be Sick City"
Byrne grinned as the man stomped back to his pickup.’ Have a nice day!’ he called after him.
Patti Hennessy had turned and was looking across at the bank, a puzzled frown forming on her face. ‘Mick!’ she exclaimed. ‘Over there, look, the bank over there, something funny’s going on.’
The Bandit came out of the bank holding the bulging brown bag in the crook of his arm. He was crossing the street, walking diagonally towards the hot dog stand when Patti saw his face clearly. It was the face she had seen a hundred times before; a face about to be swallowed up by the crowd thronging the sidewalk. She felt her stomach knot. Inside the fringe of the hot dog parasol where a selection of mug shots were taped out of public view, she saw the very same face staring back at her from a photograph. ‘Mike!’ Byrne reacted, unzipping his body warmer to reveal the NYPD patrolman’s shield pinned to the lining as he went for the four-inch Smith and Wesson hidden in his waistband.’Hey, you!’ he challenged the Bandit who was almost abreast of them, walking briskly. ‘Police, hold it!’
The instant he saw the flash of the tin, the Bandit dropped his bag, his right hand snaked inside his coat and snatched out the Sidewinder, his left hand grasping the slider,very fast. Byrne was still tugging his revolver from its holster when he saw the trenchcoat flap open and the weapon swing around towards him.
Instinctively he shoved his partner aside with a yell:’Shotgun! Get down!’ Knowing it was already too late.The Bandit’s lips twisted into a sneer as he opened fire.On automatic the Sidewinder delivered all five shells in rapid succession, the ripple recoil jerking the Bandit into a marionette jig as his fusillade raked the hot dog stand with buckshot, shredding its flimsy panels.
Thrown off balance, the Bandit stumbled over his booty lying where he had dropped it at his feet. The bag ruptured, scattering packs of high denomination dollar bills across the pavement. Like with the fat lady, the Bandit clicked off a flash of deja vu, his feet, already running, flying from under him, and as he went down, he began to laugh.
In the same split second Patti Hennessy recovered from Byrne’s shove and found that her police issue .38 Smith was somehow in her hands, held out in front of her in a two-handed shooter’s grip, her knees bent, body crouched forward and a voice rising above the keening in her ears was shouting: ‘Police! Freeze or I’ll shoot!’ The man in the trenchcoat, sprawled in the pile of greenbacks, looked up at her, laughing.
Her head threatened to burst from the howling inside her skull and her heart hammered against her ribs. ‘Face down, spread your arms and legs! Don’t look at me!’ In astonishment as she fought down her panic, she recognized the voice as her own and discovered in equal amazement that she had unconsciously pulled the trigger through the first movement of the double action and another hairsbreadth would discharge the revolver she held steady on the man’s head. The Bandit lay still and as fright subsided she willed herself to ease off the trigger. Reality was returning and with it a new nightmare. ‘Mike!’ she called out to her partner not daring to glance away from the bandit. ‘Mike? Mike!’ Out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of Byrne’s body sprawled beside the toppled hot dog stand, unmoving, the face and chest a mass of blood. Blood everywhere! Splashed across the pavement, flecking her own clothing, thick red blood. She almost gagged at the horror of it, her legs threatening to buckle under her. The street swam in and out of focus; people scattering, running. ‘Mike! Mike? An edge of panic sharpened her voice. There was no response from her fallen partner and she felt an overwhelming vengeful rage well up within her, silently urging the man under her gun to try to make a break for it, give her the excuse to finish it right there and then.
Carefully, not fully trusting herself Patti took one hand off the pistol, reached out the radio from under her jacket and pressed the talk button. ‘Nine Eddy portable,’ she repeated their call sign trying to keep her voice from shaking,’Ten-thirteen, ten thirteen, shots fired West 42nd Street and 6th. Officer down, officer down!’ Knowing that this most dreaded of all radio codes would bring the blues suits falling out of the sky to help her.
With his cheek against the flagstones the Brown Bag Bandit was still chuckling at the irony of the moment. ‘Shut up!’ Patti Hennessy screamed at him as she edged around and kicked the shotgun away. A crowd was gathering, a circle of staring eyes keeping their distance, yet fascinated, watching her like a freak at a peepshow. In desperation she took another glance at Michael Byrne, saw that he was on his back, his face and upper body drenched red. His poor face! Less than half a minute ago they had been kidding around, and now in an instant he was dead. It was just toocruel. The chuckling bandit drove her crazy. ‘Just goddamn SHUT UP!’ she yelled at the prostrate figure. In the distance she could hear the whoops of the sirens as units responded to her 10.13. Soon they would be at her side. Soon it would be over. Hurry, please hurry! Her arm holding the gun was aching terribly and she feared she might faint now that the shock was setting in. Her peripheral vision caught a movement and she stole a glance back at Byrne and immediately her heart leaped into her throat as she believed she saw him begin to sit up. Sweet Jesus and Mary, hurry, she pleaded silently, I’m hallucinating! Before her disbelieving eyes the dead Michael Byrne slowly rose up and began to explore the sticky mess of his face. The sirens were growing louder.
On the point of swooning, Patti heard her own voice croak, ‘Mike?’
His face split into a grin as he licked a finger. ‘Ketchup,’ he said.