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Ashdown Forest, England, November.
The house was set about two hundred metres back from the road in a little copse of trees. If you didn’t know it was there you’d drive right past without spotting it. Berger turned into the mud track and immediately knew something was wrong. The strand of almost-invisible nylon he’d fixed between the two pine trees had been broken. He checked his mobile. No security message. So no one had got inside the house. Probably just fallow deer, then, of which there were plenty on the forest.
But it was best to be careful. He stopped the pick-up in the dip, from where no-one could push it out or drive past, immobilized it, climbed out and studied the ground. There were tyre marks he didn’t recognize. Not deer! He made his way through the trees. In the little clearing in front of the house there was a white van. Old but clean and well-maintained. The door to the house, at the top of a short flight of L-shaped stone steps, was open. No one was in sight. He checked his phone again then switched it off.
Cautiously Berger approached the van, keeping it between him and the house, and took a look inside. The first thing he saw was his laptop. Not the really important one but, nevertheless, one he wouldn’t want to lose. Not for the first time he cursed the day he had joined the Organization. Cursed the day his path had crossed that of Lucio ‘Lucky’ Buendia! Cursed Lucky for plucking him from the happy, irresponsible life of a ski-and-surf-bum and making him the target of dangerous men. The fact that these people had got in without triggering the alarm suggested they were more likely to be intelligence professionals than burglars. Suggested people against whom his own special talents might not be enough.