Four hours later, two drone launched Hellfire missiles entered the upper stories of the house, at the same time shoulder launched anti-tank missiles blew in the front and rear doors and several windows. The Apache gunships provided covering fire with their cannon and rockets as the assault teams rushed for the house sides, entering at ground floor window level. By then the heavy weapon barrage had done its job, setting the building ablaze, bringing down ceilings and floors, shredding the defenders, leaving only a few stunned and wounded survivors incapable of serious resistance against the highly trained troopers storming through the remains of the building, shooting them out of hand.
The General’s orders had been clear, no risks to our people, to hell with the rest; he would have deployed heavy artillery if he could have got away with it. Only two severely wounded survivors were dragged out; later sixteen corpses in various states of preservation were recovered. Sifting through the rubble for shreds of intelligence was not his problem, he had written enough letters to grieving families during his career.
Andy Bowson was back in London, going through the reports of arrests, interview records and evidential analysis. Yes, the rifle was almost certainly the same and the pistol had been used in most of the Swindon killings. Why killings, not murders, why that language, a whole family died there?
So, a small group then, working their way methodically through a seemingly huge organisation, sending us the evidence we need, things they can’t deal with, as if they are our cutting-edge, our spear point. So, is it some dark arm of the State, playing by its own rules? How to find out? Do I want to? I think most of my colleagues are hoping it is. The scale of military weapons and explosives being recovered from the estate was terrifying, enough to fight a small war, enough people too. What the hell was the Border Agency playing at? Be fair, they’re overwhelmed, it’s not their fault, at least most of them. It’s those above them, like the HR bitch, Dager too, following other agendas, other paths.
I’ll give that number a call, arrange to see him, soon as I can.
“Hello, who’s calling?”
“I was given this number by one of the Director’s lieutenants, to call if I wanted to visit John in hospital. My name’s Chief Inspector Andrew Bowson.”
A woman’s voice, quite ordinary.
“Ah, yes, I was told to expect a call. He’s still in St Thomas’, would five o’clock be convenient? I’ll make arrangements at reception, just say who you are, they’ll show you through. I know he’ll be pleased to see you,” for the first time a hint of emotion in her anonymous voice, “but you may not be able to stay long; he’s more knocked about than he pretends.”
“Thanks, I’ll be there.”
“Post for you Chief Inspector.”
Lots of eyes turned to watch him receive another small Jiffy bag with a security cleared sticker on the front; he had form for receiving helpful surprises recently. A simple printed white label. Well, if it were what he suspected, it would be thoroughly analysed; not that it would do much good, after all the previous one was a blank. Yep, just another single memory stick, major high street store, little chance there then. Retrace my steps to Systems for analysis, go and talk to my new lady techie friend, she’s smiling at me as if expecting more goodies from that poor old copper, boosting her kudos among her colleagues.
“Hello again, got something nice for me?”
The others, her colleagues, were watching, smiling at some perceived innuendo.
“Well there’s over two hundred wannabe and actual murderers behind bars partly down to you. You brought me luck, thought you might be able to repeat the trick again?”
“Well then, tea as before, okay, while I get started?”
Twenty minutes later, all clean, some London Street and station plans, annotated in handwriting requiring translation, map grid reference corresponding with the estate in the Chilterns, no lists of names or numbers. Was it a disappointment? Perhaps, but that it came from the same source, was accurate, he didn’t doubt for a second. The young girl, woman, was looking at him, eyes full of questions.
He smiled, “You’re becoming my lucky charm. Thanks, I owe you.”
“You can buy me a drink sometime then.”
“Err, okay.” Consternation, confusion, no, can’t be. “Can you make copies as before? Keep it to yourself as well please?”
“Sure, give me a few minutes… Tell you what; I’ll bring them up to you.”
Why had she done that? He was nice, polite, not pushy, looked beat up, hardly surprising, most of them were well past fraying at the edges by now, but he was still pleasant to her despite everything. He probably just needed a friend, some company away from this place, his personal tragedy, that’s all. At least for now.
Dager was in the Chilterns, overseeing the evidence gathering. The incident was still leading the news, over forty dead, dozens of weapons recovered, the biggest battle on the UK mainland since Culloden. The press were baying for blood, the government’s approval ratings crashing through the floor, low level clashes on the streets becoming more widespread, fire-bombings too, all police leave was being cancelled. Dager, the man on the spot; hopefully he’ll mishandle it, wreck his prospects…
Why now so bitter about the man Andy, he’d almost seemed decent a few weeks ago? Well, a lot’s changed in that time, everyone’s comfortable illusions are being shredded by reality, the naked flame of burning truth erupting through the crust of complacent, woolly thinking that they had all assumed to be so solid. In times like these you make choices that show your real persona, all constructed artifice blown away, and his boss had made his choices, that much was clear. As for me, perhaps I don’t have the imagination to do anything other than plod on, talk to those I think I can trust, and hope, pray, that she, they, will be found.
His real boss, the Command chief, had just got back. He went straight to see him, was waved in, offered a drink, asked to sit down; how was he, any news of his family? Old school, his own people first, no wonder even the younger ones liked him.
“Chief, I’ve received another package, a stick like the other, in the post. There’s a reference to that estate in the Chilterns, annotated plans of the streets around Leicester Square, also Paddington, Waterloo and Euston stations. It’s our mole alright. Ah, there she is.”
He waved his Systems lady in, who handed over the copies and originals without a word and departed as soon as she could, just leaving him with a smile. His boss looked at the hard copies, face set, short whitening hair showing up against his darkening skin tones as his circulation responded to the gear changes in his adrenal glands.
“Someone likes you, don’t they?”
“Haven’t a clue, Sir. It’s got to be someone on our side.”
“Well, we’ll reconvene our little sub-committee straightaway, but keep this quiet for now, understood? If it is, we’re not in the loop, and neither are most of the other agencies, so I struggle to believe it. More like some ex-service people have had enough; hardly surprising really.”
Two hours later they were all there, the agency chiefs although again the Met Commissioner was missing. A collusive camaraderie was evident, the absence of politicians and their civil servants liberating the atmosphere, rivalries put aside for the moment in the heat of the chase. Gerald Clifford, the MI5 Director, was in the chair again. The discussion was short, to the point, consensual.
“In summary, ladies and gentlemen, do we agree that this latest intelligence is almost certainly genuine and from the same source as before? That these annotated plans are clearly references to major atrocities planned for central London and are linked in some way to those whom we encountered in the Chilterns?”
“That we cannot be confident that the events in the Chilterns have ended the threat to one or more of these intended targets, given our discoveries about the apparent scale of the organisation planning these attacks? And that therefore we must meet the PM and other Ministers to propose a major security increase in central London, particularly its transport hubs, but, given our lack of knowledge of timing, a full lockdown is impracticable and so we need a more sustainable and less heavy-handed approach?”
“To include closing the in-station taxi ranks, securing other service traffic access, closing most of the exits, with security on the rest, increased armed patrols and a discreet twenty-four hour military presence both above these stations and in key government buildings across the capital, yes?”
Nods and murmurs of assent.
“That we four major agency heads head over now, after first seeing the Met Commissioner to cover our friend’s back?” Chuckles all round. “Anyone want a lift?”
© 1642again 2018