Chinatown was quiet that night. The rain was heavy and streams of grubby water ran down Lammas Street toward Dark Gate. The few people braving the streets hurried along the gleaming pavements with their collars turned up and caps pulled down, making for the bus or railway station.
A lone figure walked down the street from The Drovers Arms and hurried across the road, pausing only to look briefly in the windows of The Waverley Cafe before continuing to the corner of Water Street. A car turned from Lammas Street, driving through a large puddle and splashing the man who cursed loudly and then, again, softly, as if ticking himself off for making a fuss. Still, there was no one about to notice, unless they were concealed in the passageway to Friars' Park, next to the Cawdor sweet shop across the road.
The lights in Water Street were supplemented, as usual, by Chinese lanterns and the scents of Szechuan spices and Peking Duck reached the man standing on the corner; his mouth watered and he wished could be cosily at home with a take-away and feet up in front of the telly, bottle of Tovali pop at his side.
No such luck.
A door opened and there was excited chattering in some Chinese dialect as a group of young people headed towards St Catherine Street, away from the man on the corner, he pulled the hood of his coat further over his face and moved slowly along Water Street to the nearest shop, the one that was once a jeweller's, donkey's years ago. There he was able to shelter from the downpour, in the recessed doorway, and keep a watch on the restaurant across the way. Aneurin tried to remember the name of the jeweller, something beginning with 'J', he thought; his mam had bought a clock there once and Aneurin still had it at home. Julian's, that was it. A long time ago.
The pubs were closing now and a few people would be bound to go to one or other of the restaurants in that street, to soak up the beer they'd been drinking. Others would let themselves into the self-service area of the bank around the corner in Lammas Street and sleep it off for a while, before going home to their angry wives.
He pressed himself into the doorway of the old shop and watched.
Running footsteps. A man, not Chinese, dashed past while trying to cover his head with a plastic carrier bag with one hand and waving at a bus with the other; the driver took pity on him and waited so he would soon be home. Aneurin settled himself back into the doorway again and pushed his hands into his pockets to keep them warm. His right hand felt the comforting shape of a revolver; smooth, cool metal with a full complement of bullets.
A group of men left the Rose and Crown in Lammas Street. One or two waved and walked down towards Blue Street but the rest, five of them, crossed the road and walked into Water Street. Between them, they decided to go to one of the restaurants on the other side of St Catherine Street and staggered on and off the narrow pavement as they went.
Aneurin flexed his calf muscles, as he'd been taught to do in the army. 'Keep the old circulation going, Aneurin bach,' he said to himself.
At last, from his dark hiding place Aneurin saw a car turn slowly into Water Street from Lammas Street. It had deeply-tinted windows so there was no chance of seeing who was inside but then it stopped outside the restaurant opposite the shop doorway. A young Chinese man got out and ran round to the other door nearest the restaurant, to open it, while holding an umbrella. A man got out, wearing a heavy overcoat and a hat and, moving slowly, as if from old age or pain, he walked into the restaurant. The car moved off quickly and turned left at the end of the street.
Aneurin put away the mobile phone he'd whipped out to film the man's arrival and spoke into his earpiece. '22.50 hours, arrival of suspect at the restaurant, accompanied by younger man. Photos to follow.' Then he took out his phone again and mailed the pictures to HQ.
Four minutes' walk away, in a corner of Guildhall square, behind and beneath a bland facade of shops, cafes and building societies, his message and photographs were received and logged. A computer managed to decipher the registration number of the car and target its GPS. Aneurin heard a voice in his ear, 'Agent Hopkins, photographs received but we really need a good face shot of the old man. Car has been spotted and is currently being tracked on its way to Johnstown. Please acknowledge.'
Aneurin acknowledged the message and, with a sigh, settled back to wait for the old man to come out again.
It could be a long, damp night.