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Peter Collins by James Nutter

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Genre/Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
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Peter Collins by James Nutter
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The story follows the exploits of young agent Peter Collins recently seconded from the SAS. In his first mission he is dispatched to Lyon, France, a city he knows well, to discover the true intentions of GM food research being undertaken by a French food manufacturing giant. What he discovers is far more sinister and far reaching. The intention of the company is to undermine and shift world power to bring France back to the “Top Table”. The company know they have been infiltrated, but not by whom, so Peters mission becomes a race against time to stop the company in its endeavours and escape undetected and unscathed...

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His first covert mission, and Peter Collins’ was finally out of uniform, although right now he would have preferred it to the current attire of sharp suits, ties and uncomfortable shoes. He had been stationed in Lyon for three weeks, but had not been granted permission to contact his parents due to the sensitive nature of his mission, even so, he had walked passed the café and was pleased to see that they had finally plucked up the courage to extend and had bought the patisserie next door. Sergeant Peter Collins was 27, and had only been a member of the SAS for last two years.

His first regiment, The Royal Green Jackets had soon discovered that Collins had a natural aptitude as a sharpshooter and the Green Jackets honed his sniping skills so acutely that some members of the squad were chillingly calling him “The Ghost.” He enhanced his reputation further after volunteering for several combined operations, undertaking duties in Libya, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, and Afghanistan; as a sniper he was unsurpassed. Born in Richmond, North Yorkshire he had emigrated to France when he was just seven; his French Mother and English father moved to Lyon where they had opened a small street side café. It was his Gaullist mother that had given him his rich brown hair, mint green eyes, and of course, his nose. Peter’s father had served with The Royal Green Jackets in his younger years, and it seemed inevitable that Peter would follow in his father’s footsteps. He closed his eyes and conjured up images of his beautiful mother stood behind her stained mahogany counter dressed like a Bohemian princess, making the thick treacle coffee that the customers enjoyed, with a smell so strong, that he felt sure that it would strip the paint off the ceiling.

Collins had yet to taste any like that he had in Le Petite Chat Blanc, management had kindly said that once his duties had been completed he could have some leave to spend time with his mother and father.

His hair was now grown long onto his shoulders, dyed blonde and with brown contact lenses and a healthy tan, his appearance was remarkably different. To ensure that he did not slip back into English he had been speaking French solely for the last four weeks whilst acclimatising at the Legionnaire base in Aubagne. The assignment at first reading appeared straightforward; posing as a security advisor, he was going into the company to provide professional advice and approach in providing a secure environment for their genetically engineered maize fields that were currently under trial. His background was that he had been a legionnaire serving in Africa and Corsica, but now worked in the electronic surveillance division of Euro Biotech Limited, EBL. His parents were both dead and he was unmarried, he was Claude Mouchet.

Imperial Foods was a subsidiary of EBL and the biggest producer and importer of foodstuffs in France. With the government now offering its backing, the company had finally begun the experimental phase of its GE food production, its prime aim being, the creation a maize crop that could survive on minimal water and yet give sufficient yield to ease the burden of starvation in areas deeply affected by drought. The current climate within the media was to denigrate GE foods at every opportunity, but this research did seem a worthwhile task, however, this was not the only research that Imperial undertook, they were also heavily involved with a biological weapons programme on behalf of the French Military. His mission was simple, discover the nature of the research, copy the findings, and then, if necessary, destroy the research facility. The French Parliament were aware that the USA, UK, India, Pakistan and the former Soviet Republic all maintained stocks of several viruses that would have devastating results if released upon the world. It was now also common knowledge that China had started its own Bio weapons programme since obtaining a sample of smallpox from the Vector Research Laboratory near Novosibirsk in the former Soviet Union. In response to this escalation of activity, the French had now accelerated their own research to develop a hybrid form of the smallpox viruses that was also gene specific, a GSV. Collins was behind the wheel of his open top beetle making his way gingerly up a road that the French laughably deemed a D road, but behaved more like a well-used farm track, but, with the top down, the setting sun on his back and Greenday blasting out of CD player, who was he to complain. He had just spent the day touring the four maize plantations that the company was growing just to the North of St. Chamond. Imperial liked to employ retired legionnaires’ as security officers as it showed their allegiance to France and the company knew that they were well trained, unbreakable and potentially brutal.

He had rented a new apartment on the Rue Jacques Monod in the Gerland region of the city as it was close to the offices but only a short metro ride into Fourviere or the bars and eateries of La Croix Rousse.

They had selected Collins for the mission not just because of his language skills but for his knowledge of Lyon, MI6 had numerous operatives that were fluent French speakers but none that knew the city of Lyon as if it was their home. His blue tooth headset suddenly sprang to life; it was Brossolette, the head of security.

“Where are you Claude, are you going to make it back to the office?”

“Probably not Henri, is there a problem?”

“Kind of; we are holding a dinner at Paul Bocuse for some important guests, and it turns out that we are now a man down, and wondered if you could be available, you need to be there for seven thirty.”

Collins knew the food was superb and if the company were paying, he was definitely going to attend.

“It shouldn’t be a problem Henri, don’t worry I will make it.”

“Thank you Claude, and by the way your partner for the evening will be Giselle Carre.”

He finally got back to his apartment block at six; the evening traffic had been horrendous although with the lure of the weekend, the Friday night journey home was always a bumper-to-bumper affair. He checked the apartment door for signs of entry and once inside activated the sweeper to check for devices, it was clear. He had thirty minutes to get ready and forty-five minutes to get across town, north of the city. After a shower and a shave, he decided to call in; he had hidden his mobile inside the ceiling mounted air conditioning unit. The phone had an ultra secure encrypted microwave link to a dedicated server situated in the Paris headquarters, standing on the arm of the cream leather sofa Collins released the phone from behind the ventilation grille and once seated, entered the activation code. To anybody scanning his rooms it would just offer a similar signature to that of a digital radio.

“Jolly Green Giant, reporting at 6.20pm, on day three. Today I finally toured the fields at St Chamond and everything appears to be above board, there were no signs of any buildings that resembled research facilities, and I did not register any increases in radiation levels that you would normally associate with any specialist shielding or scanning. I have a feeling the research facility must be closer to the group’s headquarters, possibly even in the building itself. Hopefully the man on the inside will make contact over the next few days and I will have a better idea as to what is occurring, and over dinner this evening I will be meeting some senior employees within the Imperial and EBL network, so with luck I will have more to offer you tomorrow, and that concludes my report.”

He de-activated the device and replaced it within the fan housing then retired to the bedroom to get dressed. Suddenly there was a knock at the door, and Collins lost his balance, falling over onto the bed as he tried to ease on his left sock, his trailing foot catching the bedside table sending the lamp crashing onto the hard parquet flooring.

“Is everything alright?” A voice said from behind the door.

Collins ambled across the living room cursing his now very sore toe; and stood just in his underwear and socks, opened the door to the chain lock.

“Yes, I’m fine, stumbled that’s all.”

“Hello, I believe that you are Claude Mouchet, my partner for the evening, I am Giselle Carre, assistant to the marketing director , I thought I would meet you here rather than at the restaurant,” she said, trying not to smile at the sight of his orange boxer shorts and bright red socks. He lifted the chain from its latch and opened the door.

“You had better come in Miss Carre I won’t be a minute, just got to get some clothes on and I will be right with you,” he said without the slightest hint of embarrassment. She wandered around the apartment looking at the minimalist décor with its lack of ornaments, artwork and furniture; the room consisted simply of two leather sofas’ a large granite fireplace a large wall mounted television and standing in the corner a gleaming sunburst finished Les Paul electric guitar.

“Have a glass of wine, there should be some Soave open in the fridge,” he shouted from the bedroom.

“Thank you, I will, have you been to Paul Bocuse before?”

Collins feigned a laugh.

“Not on my wage Miss Carre, been to La tour Rose a couple of times though,” he said as he walked into the living room, struggling with his tie.

“Here let me,” she said, adjusting the red and green knot.

Collins stood like a helpless child as she corrected his tie. Now looking at the young marketing executive with her raven black hair and piercing blue eyes, he realised that she was a strikingly attractive woman and all his confidence slowly drained away onto the floor like melted butter.

She finished her wine and turned to leave.

“Come on I have a taxi waiting, the deputy president will want his employees to arrive in advance of the guests,” she said as she glided out of the apartment and pressed the call button for the lift.

“Ok, ok, I’m coming,” he said locking the door behind him and surreptitiously placing a small piece of “blue-tack” on the joint between the door and frame.

The taxi sped down the Boulevard Laurent Bonnevay the evening sun turning the Rhone into a flowing river of molten lava.

The restaurant, L’Aubarge du Pont de Collange was on the banks of the Saone near to the bridge of Collange, evidently the company had hired tables in the chimney room for a party of twenty VIP guests and employees. Giselle passed over a menu for Collins to look at and he tried desperately not to look at the prices, as he knew that because of his working class background he would feel obliged to choose the cheapest items on the menu, even though he did not have to shake the cobwebs off his wallet.

“Are we allowed to go for anything off the list, Miss Carre?”

“For God’s sake Claude, my name is Giselle, I may be a junior executive but that doesn’t mean you have to treat me like a school mistress; and yes, anything off the menu Bourgeois.”

The huge Citroen passed through the offices and businesses of Villeurbanne where every other car had a six-figure price tag and all in varying shades of black, then passed over the river and through Croix Rousse where Collins gave a little wave at the picturesque buildings and avenues as they passed by. The neon lit street cafes and bars were thriving here, everywhere you looked, you could see art students, artists, art lovers, and art critics alike. By 11.30pm, war would break out on the pavements of Lyon.