Their mobile command centre was off to one side of the long drive up to the main house, out of sight of both house and road. Intermittent staccato bursts of gunfire, mainly from the house could be heard, answered by the single rifle shots of military snipers. Those inside, how many they hadn’t a clue, weren’t making demands, saying anything at all, just trying to kill, not even trying to shoot their way out. Must be waiting for darkness, he thought, not that it will do them much good.
Ted Armstrong was in charge, although plenty of other big-wigs were in evidence, the local Chief Constable, a Brigadier, a special forces Lieutenant-Colonel, and a plethora of assistants and other officers, dealing with ‘helpful’ calls from those in London issuing advice, instructions, do’s and don’ts, mostly contradictory. The world’s press was gathering too, vultures sniffing at the flesh feast, appetites made ravenous by the smell of blood, real and political, being kept back by the cordon which was now trying to seal the entire estate off from the outside world.
Andy Bowson was on the edge of the group by the communications vehicle, eavesdropping on the impassioned debate about what to do, the police largely wanting to contain and negotiate, the military wanting a full-scale assault led by the pair of Apache gunships landed in what he would always think of now as the Valley of Death.
Thirty-one corpses had been recovered, plus three injured, one mortally, the other two in the balance. The Brigadier was arguing for missile strikes from the drone circling high overhead. Their political masters were almost paralysed, reflecting the developing split in the Cabinet, the Home and Defence Secretaries demanding a decisive assault, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary demanding a softly-softly approach, the diplomatic and market implications. The estate was owned by a Prince of a key Gulf ally after all.
Not much he could do here until they could gain access to the house; the prisoners were already being interviewed by specialists, their wounds being treated at the same time, a clear breaking of protocol, not surprising given the circumstances. Transcripts of the initial interviews would be available shortly, but the best news was a shredded back pack alongside two corpses at what clearly seemed to have been a hide, just large enough for one prone man. It contained the remains of water, food, some 0.5” and 9 mm ammunition that matched the spent cartridges scattered around the hide, some clothing, stimulant tablets, the hide’s cover, not much, but it should be enough. All of this had already been sent to a forensic laboratory for examination, including the spent and live ammunition. It had told him what he wanted to know though; he was almost certain that this was the same sniper, same weapon, no signs of another. Thirty-four casualties on the other side though and only one man?
He caught the eye of the Lieutenant-Colonel.
“Sir, I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but I would stake my mortgage on it being the same gun as that long range shot in Birmingham, the same marksman too, but how’s that possible, one man against over forty, accounting for at least thirty-four of them, and seemingly getting clean away?”
The military man looked at him keenly.
“Could be, seems certain that there was only one sniper, used claymore mines to cover his flanks and escape route, silenced 9 mm pistol and 0.5” sniper rifle, highly proficient with both. He made bunnies out of this lot for sure. It’s been done in the past, wartime and so on, but not to my knowledge in so a short time and so confined a space. I wonder if he was one of ours, or a Yank or Aussie, possibly Israeli or Russian? There aren’t many others good enough.”
“I think he’s native, the way he, the rest, just disappear. Do you track your veterans when they leave?”
The Colonel bristled.
“What do you mean by that? Of course we do. We’ll check through, but may not just be ex 22, could be one of several others, SBS and so on. May not even be one of ours; could just have been trained by someone with the background, less likely, but not impossible. Damn good job from a professional point of view of course.”
The Colonel turned away, irritated by his inadvertent self-disclosure: coppers trying to pin the blame on the military as always, pussy footing around with the bad guys and kicking down hard whenever a serviceman put a foot out of line. Just typical, can’t even take a decision now with bullets raining down around the English countryside.
Bowson wandered back to join Edward.
“Pretty clear to me, whether the evidence tells us anything useful is another matter of course.”
“Chief Inspector Bowson?” A civilian, early forties was by his side, “Can we talk privately please?” They wandered back up the drive a way, out of earshot, Edward’s gaze following him.
“Forgive me. Gerald, our director, whom I believe you have met, wanted you to know that Henry passed away yesterday in hospital.”
He felt shattered, he hardly knew the guy, and yet it hurt surprisingly hard.
“I’m sorry, terribly sorry, to hear that.”
“I understand. Thank you for your concern, but the Director wondered if you wanted to meet his replacement, his successor, so to speak, his name is John, perhaps tomorrow sometime? Ring this number if you wish to arrange something. I’m sure you appreciate the need for confidence.”
He handed him a corner of notepaper with a number on it.
“I don’t understand, why would his successor want to see me?”
The man was smiling broadly now.
“Henry may be gone, but as others have found, he’s not so easy to finish with: he always seems to come back somehow.”
“I see, thank you. And what are your organisation’s thoughts on this episode?”
“They’re classified of course, but, speaking purely personally, I can’t see why anyone would be surprised at all. Our friends in Hereford and Poole deny responsibility vehemently of course, and I’m sure they’re telling the truth, which one might say was a pity of course, speaking purely metaphorically. Good bye Chief Inspector.”
He wandered back to Edward, “You know what you didn’t say to me earlier? Well, a lot of other people aren’t saying it either.”
George Edward just smiled.
The Turk was watching the live satellite news feed, alerted by an angry call from the Gulf. A disaster was unfolding before him. It was the safe house and training site near London; they’d been using it for the past six months, ramping up training, there were over forty operatives at the site.
Fleets of ambulances were taking away the dead and injured under police escort, armed police and soldiers everywhere said the press, with over thirty casualties according to police reports. A full-scale battle was in progress, military helicopters and drones flying overhead, the whole place sealed off. The UK authorities were denying an unprovoked attack of course, saying they only responded to reports of heavy gunfire and explosions at the estate, coming under attack themselves when they arrived. Liars, who else could it be? He would contact their allies, not much hope there, but they might know something.
In the meantime, the whole organisation in the UK was being dismantled, annihilated, piece by piece. Another network this time, most of the one allocated for the streets of central London. His lieutenants were trying to establish which of them were still free: could something be saved from the wreckage? They were now left with just one intact network, plus the remains of this one, but for how long?
The Arabs were furious, not just the loss of their estate, but rather the establishing of a direct link to terrorist activity on the home soil of a notional ally; their sycophants and dependents in the UK media and political circles were going to be hard-pressed to explain that away. They would try of course, there were far too many snouts too deep in the trough; the banks and other businesses would be lobbying behind the scenes for a calm response. Yes, he could write the script already. But more of the somnolent populace would wake up, joining the other Islamophobes in their cacophonies of blasphemy, intensifying resistance, not just there in the UK, but across Europe, the US, elsewhere.
The pressure was intense. For the first time, he, the others, felt as if they were losing the initiative. Well, they had to wrest it back, accelerate with the resources still at hand, ideally in the next seventy-two hours. Twenty-four to assess what was left, twenty-four to re-plan and reallocate men and equipment, twenty-four to deploy and execute: after all the reconnaissance was complete. The challenge was the number of missions. They had been going with three, looked like they were down to two now, but it could still be enough if done with maximum ferocity. When all this was over, he vowed to himself, he was going to hunt down their ‘allies’, and make them into their servants on pain of, well, just pain actually.
Later, when his key contact among their allies didn’t respond to his agent’s call, he upgraded his plans for them to death.
© 1642again 2018