He was in the outskirts of Istanbul today, making sure that the logistics and recruitment pipeline, which began here and lanced through the bowels of Europe into those vital organs of the west; Britain, France, Germany, the Low Countries, before branching out beyond into the peripheries, was secure. The first three were the ones that really mattered though, that was where the wealth was and what remained of their moral courage, they were the ones that had frustrated them repeatedly over the centuries. Sure, Spain and Poland had had their moments, but they could not have stood without the others. The others, they were the ones who had inspired and supported the drives back to the Bosphorus and across the straits of Gibraltar; seizing the trade routes, bypassing them, and finally ruling most of the world for a time, spreading their blasphemous faith to its furthest corners. They were all but spent now, the British included. The values and energy that created the world’s greatest empire extinguished, like a supernova, in a final blaze of glory, leaving only a diminished decadent darkened rump, an amoral gravity well, indiscriminately sucking in and corrupting whatever passed.
Mohammed Badr and his team were gone, martyred, but it was only the loss of a small advance party in reality. Others were already in place, distinct from Badr’s brigade, located throughout the target countries, well dug in, with others still filtering in, weapons too.
That was the beauty of Schengen.
Once you were in you were in, free to cross borders at will, however it appeared the security agencies were still playing by the old rules. But perhaps not the British…
Of course, their government denied it, said it was a mystery who had killed the martyrs. Was it cowardice on their part or disingenuousness? The Arabs thought the latter, said they were unpredictable, back to the tactics that brought the IRA to its knees in the eighties and nineties.
He had not agreed at first, but was now coming around. They needed to be taught a simple lesson; what worked on the infidel Irish would fail against the true believers. Massive blows in their heartlands so that would make the IRA look like small town amateurs by comparison, encouraging our populations on the ground to become more assertive, accelerating the process of submission, making it clear to the Arabs who the real leaders were. The Caliphate had been Turkish for nearly nine hundred years; it was time for it to be restored.
Their allies wanted to talk, this was worrying them, an unknown force at work they said, they would have known if it were official. They had their uses, less so now, but remained helpful, mainly for intelligence purposes. Perhaps we have over-estimated their capabilities, they certainly undervalued ours. Well marriages of convenience rarely lasted; this one might not have much time to go.
How much could Badr have disclosed if he had been picked up and the rules had changed? Some, but not too much, he was a professional, cautious, experienced; most of what he knew was limited to the two aborted actions.
His wife and home? Well that was done to explain his death at the hands of the authorities. If he had given up anything they would have been rolling up the organisation, step-by-step, already, but there was no sign of anything, complete confusion, as if the authorities had simply run out of ideas. They could lie low, close it all down for a year as the Arabs wanted, wait to see if anything transpired. Their allies, on the other hand, were telling him the police and security forces knew very little. They wouldn’t be expecting anything big any time soon and consequently their guard would be down, perhaps believing that Badr’s team was it for the meantime.
Yes, push on, time usually works for the defender, speed for the attacker. Now to choose the date, outline missions were drawn up, detailed reconnaissance was underway, logistics were falling into place and foot-soldiers were no problem at all.
He picks up the phone, ah, it’s her as promised, she sounds eager, suppressing excitement at something well done, hoping to be stroked, praised.
“Pleased you could call, that’s good news. The first step. He’s signed up already has he? He’s got the message alright; I thought it might be a bit harder than that, but he’s desperate. He’s seen his chief, his mentor, going down in flames, so what choice does he have? He’s bright enough to realise what’s good for him, you say? Well done indeed. The timing’s good, very convenient, we need someone of ours even if still new and not fully one of us yet, because, as I said, she wants his chief’s head. Yes, she’s frothing, positively salivating even. Dager’s our only runner in the succession stakes, an outside bet but with your help and that of some of our other friends, perhaps we can even the odds before anyone can notice. The Commissioner’s always amenable to the right word in his ear.”
“Yes, you’ve done very well, very well indeed. You know I can’t disclose much about our allies, but I believe I can recommend that you merit more exposure to our thinking, could be a support to me in steering matters going forward. I’ll be in touch, thank you.”
Well, she certainly kept delivering, was keen and potentially loyal, one can never have enough devoted supporters; just because some of my colleagues have the same goals and motivations as I, doesn’t mean they aren’t rivals. Yes, see if we can get her a leg up, it would pay back.
“Hello, Henry, it’s me; can we talk, when, where? Ok, I’ll be there.”
Better get going, half an hour only, meet in a coffee house round the back of Victoria Coach station. Yes, there he is, back to the wall, facing the door coffee already in hand. Cool as a cucumber, hasn’t even acknowledged me. Get a tea; it’s busy, no spare tables.
“Excuse me, Sir, do you mind if I sit here? Thank you.”
“Have you heard, found any more about Sally and Josey?”
“I’m sorry, just vanished. We passed on everything we had to the local police, but they’ve got nowhere; I’m sure they’ve been talking to you. Don’t worry; we are still keeping an ear to the ground for you. Sorry to hear about the explosion by-the-way, your maker seemed to be looking after you that day… Now your turn.”
“Just as you warned, Dager and the cow from HR, he feared her, now they seem to be buddies. She’s putting him on leadership courses, neuro-linguistic programming, that sort of guff, stuff he used to run a mile from. Rumour is the chief’s upset the Home Sec really badly, maybe terminally, they might even be thinking about a replacement, office gossip for now, you know how it is, but you asked…”
“Thanks, it’s as I suspected; they’re weaving their webs too.”
“Who, who’s web-weaving, what are you talking about?”
“Are these courses run by something called United Purpose?”
“How did you know? Aren’t they just the in-favour training provider?”
“Educated guess if you like, let’s just say not all conspiracy theories are entirely groundless, rather exaggerated and misunderstood; sometimes the obvious enemy isn’t always the most dangerous one. When something gets so big and bloated along the lines of our last little chat, nasty things, parasites, can get into the decaying parts of it and grow and spread happily, eating away the host from the inside, almost undetected. It’s a common human terror, lots of science fiction films made about it; well the analogy is a good one in this instance. Thanks, very helpful. Here’s a new phone, destroy the last one. You know where to reach me.”
With that ‘Henry’ got up and left, leaving Bowson to finish his tea alone. What was all that about? This time, he thought he might be beginning to understand.
What had she been thinking of, handing over her US passport to them like that? She must have been mad; a weak moment was the best construction she could place on it. She was running out of places to go, out of friends, out of money, out of options really. She could try the embassy of course, but with her back story would they believe her, the police, with her record, skipping bail for low-level drug dealing, her family, huh, what did they care?
Now he and his friends were after her, she had fallen behind, hadn’t really started at all, and now they wanted payment in kind, she knew what that meant. She had had to resort to that on occasion, but only for herself and when desperate; it had been loathsome, utterly hideous, and she had usually chosen who.
She was keeping out of the hostels as far as she could, just the Sally Army ones from time to time when she needed a bath and some hot food. How long had she been on the streets? Six or seven years now, on and off? Her Dad was a US serviceman based at Mildenhall; her mum had left him and gone back to the States to remarry. She had had a local boyfriend and hadn’t wanted to go back to the States when her father was reposted. She had insisted on staying, ostensibly to complete her education, but had soon drifted to London to be with her boyfriend. Then, sans him, she moved from one to another, thing to thing, her visa long expired, slowing sinking lower and lower until she had started using more regularly, and dealing.
Now here she was, cold, homeless, afraid and out of options, apart from perhaps one.
One of her first boyfriends had been Matt, another lost soul on the streets, there one day and the next just gone. Didn’t say where, there was nothing unusual about that; at least he had never maltreated her. Then, over three years later, he had suddenly come back into her life, turning up at the hostel, where she was staying, with a very well-dressed woman. She had questioned him: he had said he had found a new life, the lady, an unfamiliar word to her, and her man friend had helped him get clean, provided him with a new home and family, a job, and even a new name, Sam. He was just returning for old times’ sake. His benefactor helped the organisation behind the hostel and he wanted to thank her personally. She had spoken to the ‘lady’ herself, wary of her as if still on foreign ground. She was clearly well off, smartly dressed and elegant, but she was sharp, very. She had given her a personal visiting card and had said, “If ever you have no one else to turn to Lena and you need the sort of help Sam got, call me.”
Well, what other choice did she have? Stay in a poky flat pandering to vile men until she went mad or threw herself under a tube train? She had lost the card some time ago, but had scribbled the number and name on a bit of paper; put it in a little tear in her jacket lining. Ah, there it was. What was the catch, there always was one, but it couldn’t be any worse than the one she was already caught on? Find a phone box and dial the number, hopefully she hasn’t changed her number and remembers.
“Hello, hello, hi, we met, I’m Lena, remember, a friend of Matt’s, sorry Sam’s, at the hostel last year? You gave me your card and said if I had nowhere else to turn to call you? Well I’m in real trouble, completely screwed unless you can help… I need to get away, like you did for Sam?”
“Well I didn’t for Sam, but I know what you mean. And yes, I remember you. Sam’s okay by the way, very happy in his new life apparently. Would you like to meet somewhere, say by Gloucester Road tube station at eight tonight? Will you recognise me? Ok, see you there.”
This meeting was the last thing she needed right now but it would be important to him, he was always stressing the value of individuals, one of the few things he ever seemed to get passionate about. Sometimes she was tempted to think of him as a bit like a rescue dog wandering the hills looking for the lost to bring into the shelter, and then she would think of all the other things and realise that no, he wasn’t that at all. Work was crazy; cheap money was again flooding the markets, setting in motion a further speculative investment frenzy. She, they, had bought in a long time ago and were now starting to sell down. They could see the way it was going, people had such short memories, with no real feel for inherent value, monetary or otherwise, they just ran with the herd, but it meant things were full-on.
She would have to go straight from the office, couldn’t meet the girl, Lena wasn’t it, near her home, he was always quite firm about that. Sometimes she did listen, she smiled inwardly. Take her to a little café, somewhere quiet, see what she needed, try to gain her confidence. He said she was a natural at that, it must be one of the things that made her so good in her world; well tonight it meant there would be no chance of seeing him. She hoped Lena was worth it. Better get on.
© 1642again 2018